§ Mr. Roy Hughes
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will take steps to speed up the benefits appeals procedure. 
§ Mr. Roger Evans
We have done so. The benefits appeals procedure is constantly under review and l hold regular meetings with officials.
The Independent Tribunal Service, through its change programme, continues to look for ways to improve clearance times.
We introduced regulations, which came into force on 21 October, amending the appeals process which should help to reduce the time it takes to clear appeals. Among other changes theyaim to reduce confusion by requiring a specified form to be used when appealing and specifying the information which has to be given by the appellant;streamline the administration of appeals by providing for oral hearings only at the request of an interested party or the chairman of a tribunal, otherwise paper hearings, and reducing the minimum notice of an oral hearing to seven days for all jurisdictions except child support;relieve the burden on tribunal chairman by allowing the clerk to the tribunal to make certain decisions, such as postponements, amend the circumstances in which an appeal may be struck
Number of additional pensioners in receipt of income support, as a result of the basic retirement pension not being increased annually in accordance with earnings since 1980 2000–01 2010–11 Additional pensioners in receipt of IS Additional cost to IS £ million Additional pensioners in receipt of IS Additional cost to IS £ million Basic retirement pension increasing in line with average earnings 900,000 600 600,000 400 Basic retirement pension increasing in line with higher of average earnings and prices 900,000 600 600,000 400 Estimated administration cost to nearest £1 million — 32 — 21
1. Pensioners are defined as those single aged at state pension age or above, or couples in which the husband is aged at state pension age or above.
2.Caseload figures have been rounded to the nearest 100,000. Cost figures have been rounded to the nearest £100 million.
3.Costs are at 1995–96 prices.
§ Mr. Denham
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer of 27 November,Official Report, column 316, what estimate he has made of the average weekly charge above preserved rights to income754W
out for want of prosecution and the circumstances in which these appeals may be reinstated, and allow for the issue of a summary decision, with a full decision available on request.