HC Deb 17 February 1998 vol 306 cc616-7W
Mr. Alasdair Morgan

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will review the current arrangements for the suspension of benefits during the period in which a government agency is appealing against a decision to award benefit to a claimant; how many claimants currently have their benefits suspended pending an appeal; how many claimants have had their benefits (a) upheld and (b) rejected following appeal by a government agency in each of the last five years; and if she will make a statement. [29464]

Mr. Keith Bradley

Provision for suspending payment of benefit pending resolution of a factual or legal doubt as to entitlement has existed since 1946. We are committed to the principle that benefit should go only to those entitled to it. It would be irresponsible to allow irrecoverable overpayments to accumulate during periods when entitlement is in doubt. This principle is safeguarded by the power to suspend payment in certain circumstances—a power which is being carried forward in the Social Security Bill currently before Parliament.

Regular statistics are not kept on the numbers of suspensions imposed. However, a scan of the Income Support computer system in July 1997, found that, of all those entitled to Income Support at any one time, less than 0.5 per cent. had payment of benefit suspended or withheld. Estimated numbers are significantly less for most other benefits.