§ Mr. Alan Howarth
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) under what statutory powers he has placed the Benefits Agency out to tender; 
(2) if he will list the functions of the Benefits Agency which are to be contracted out. 
§ Mr. Roger Evans
The Benefits Agency has not been put out to tender.
On 19 July, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced proposals for three initiatives involving greater collaboration with the private sector as the next stage of the Department's drive to review and improve the delivery of social security.
Those concerning the Benefits Agency include, first, an invitation to the private sector to submit proposals for taking over the operation of the child benefit centre in Washington, Tyne and Wear.
The second initiative will involve three private companies—or consortiums—appointed following open competition to work in conjunction with the Benefits Agency in running benefit delivery in three of its 13 areas—Yorkshire, West Country and East London and Anglia directorates—for 12 months. All three companies will assist the Benefits Agency with the development of new business processes and information technology. They will be invited during the 12-month period to submit proposals for any elements of the agency's business which could be run differently, including the possibility of further parts of the operation being run by the private sector.
In addition, the functions of the Benefits Agency medical services will be contracted out. A contract is expected to be awarded in April 1997.
The award of contracts under these proposals will be in compliance with the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and the Public Services Contracts Regulations 1993.