HC Deb 27 February 2001 vol 363 cc597-8W
Dr. Gibson

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will set out including statistical information relating as directly as possible to the constituency, the effect on the Norwich, North constituency of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [151141]

Mr. Rooker

The Department's policies and initiatives have made a significant contribution to the Government's overall objectives ofEradicating 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 in 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 constituency level data, but the following provides a comparative guide to the effect of the Department's policies and actions in Norwich, North since May 1997.

Measures in our first four Budgets will lift over 1 million children out of poverty. These include record increases to Child Benefit and Working Families Tax Credit, increases in the income-related benefits, 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 Norwich, North 11,145 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 Jobseekers' Allowance nationally has reduced from 1,562,400 to 1,044,900; in Norwich, North the number has reduced from 2,800 to 1,700. Since May 1997 the number of lone parents who claim Income Support has decreased from 1,013,500 to 894,100 nationally and in Norwich, North from 1,600 to 1,100.

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. Over 21,000 older people in Norwich, North have received a Winter Fuel Payment for this winter.

To demonstrate our commitment to combating pensioner poverty, this year we will spend £4.5 billion extra in real terms on pensioners. Some 19,400 pensioners in Norwich, North 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 7,800 in Norwich, North. 2,700 pensioner families in Norwich, North 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.