HC Deb 09 April 2001 vol 366 cc478-9W
Mr. Ian Stewart

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will set out, including statistical information relating as directly as possible to the Eccles constituency, the effects on Eccles of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [157289]

Mr. Rooker

The Department's policies and initiatives have made a significant contribution to the Government's overall objectives of: eradicating child poverty in 20 years, and halving it within 10; promoting work as the best form of welfare for people of working age while protecting the position of those it greatest need; and combating poverty and promoting security and independence in retirement for today's and tomorrow's pensioners.

These goals are being pursued nationwide and our achievements are set out in our annual "Opportunity for all" reports. Our second report, "Opportunity for all—One year on: making a difference" (CM4865, September 2000), sets out what progress has been made in the past year, as well as highlighting what more needs to be done. Nationwide statistical information is necessarily more complete than data at a local authority level, but the following provides a comparative guide to the effect of the Department's policies and actions in Eccles since May 1997.

Measures in our five Budgets so far will lift over 1.2 million children nationally out of poverty. These include record increases to Child Benefit, the introduction of the Working Families Tax Credit, increases in the income-related be refits, the minimum wage and tax changes.

Child Benefit will be worth £15.50 a week for the eldest child and £10.35 a week for other children from April 2001: nationally about 7 million families receive Child Benefit, and in Eccles 11,761 families benefit.

We now have the lowest unemployment rate in 25 years. The New Deals have helped lone parents, the young unemployed, the long-term unemployed, the over 50s and partners of the unemployed to move from benefit into work. In the period since May 1997 the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance nationally has reduced from 1,562,400 to 960,600; in Eccles the number has reduced from 2,200 to 1,300. Since May 1997 the number of lone parents who claim Income Support has decreased from 1,013,500 to 894,100 nationally and in Eccles from 2,400 to 2,100.

Older people are disproportionately affected by fuel poverty. So we have introduced Winter Fuel Payments to help with their heaviest fuel bill. This winter, the payment is £200 for households who qualify. A round 18,400 older people in Eccles have received a Winter Fuel Payment for this winter (2000–01).

To demonstrate our commitment to combating pensioner poverty, this year we will spend £4.5 billion extra in real terms on pensioners. Some 17.500 pensioners in Eccles will benefit from the substantial increases in the basic state pension this April and next; this year's increase is £5 a week for single pensioners and £8 for couples. In addition we have introduced free TV licences for the over 75s of whom we estimate there are about 7,500 in Eccles. 3,900 pensioner families in Eccles are receiving the Minimum Income Guarantee, which we introduced in April 1999 to help our poorest pensioners. From April they will be at least £15 a week, or £800 a year, better off in real terms as a result of Government measures since 1997.

Other reforms in the pipeline include: the new Pension Credit in 2003 designed to ensure that pensioners benefit from their savings; the launch of Stakeholder Pensions in April this year; and the introduction of the State Second Pension in April 2002 both of which will help provide greater security for tomorrow's pensioners.