§ Mr. McGrady
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many renewal claims were made for child benefit(a) in 1997–98 and (b) from 1 April to 31 December 1998; how many (i) have been processed 192W with payments made and order books issued and (ii) are outstanding; and how long it takes to process a renewal claim. 
§ Mr. McFall
Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Social Security Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. Chris Thompson. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.
Letter from Chris Thompson to Mr. Eddie McGrady, dated 26 January 1999:I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question about the number of applications for renewal order books for child Benefit.The number of renewal order books issued for the period 1 April 1997 to 31 March 1998 was 387,636 and for the period 1 April to 31 December 1998 it was 343,356. Figures are not available for those that are outstanding.Renewal order books are normally issued automatically so there is no need for a renewal claim. While most order books are issued in time to ensure that there is no break in payment, there can be a delay in the issuing if some order books. This occurs when a customer has reported a change in their circumstances and enquiries have to be made to clarify their entitlement to benefit. I am aware that these delays can cause distress to customers and we have recently set up a special section to deal with these cases. This will ensure that the number of such cases are kept to a minimum and are processed as quickly as is possible.I hope that this explains the position to you.