§ Mr. Alan Howarth
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his estimate of the cost of raising statutory sick pay and statutory maternity pay to the level of the lower earnings limit and of the number of people gaining from this. 
§ Mr. Heald
It is estimated that the gross cost of raising the current rate of statutory sick pay and lower rate of statutory maternity pay to the lower earnings limit would be around £135 million per annum. It is not possible to estimate the number of people who would gain from this as many people will already be covered by occupational sick or maternity pay schemes and there is no reliable current information on the extent of this cover.
Estimated expenditure is at current prices and is rounded to the nearest £5 million.