§ 7. Miss Geraldine Smith (Morecambe and Lunesdale)
How much central Government contributed to Lancaster city council in the year 1999–2000 for exceptional hardship payments for housing benefit. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Angela Eagle)
We made £20 million available to enable local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to make exceptional hardship payments of housing benefit during the financial year 1999–2000. Lancaster city council's share was £79, 000, of which, I am told, it spent 3.7 per cent.
§ Miss Smith
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. As she is aware, Lancaster city council spent only £1, 577 on exceptional hardship payments during 1999–2000, so the most vulnerable people in the area have missed out on those payments. What steps does her Department intend to take to make sure that exceptional hardship payments reach the people at whom they are targeted?
§ Angela Eagle
Realising that not all the money was being spent, we issued enhanced guidelines last year to encourage local authorities to use the money. They are also allowed to use another £30 million from their own resources, and clearly they are not doing that. In the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill, which is currently going through the House, we are changing the law to ensure that if local authorities do not use the money for the hardship scheme, we will take it back from them; currently, they keep it.