§ Mr. Cousins
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how much in total has been spent by(a) her Department's agencies and (b) centrally on (i) the Smartcard payment system, (ii) on-line data and information systems in standard and cash prices in the financial years (1) 1994–95, (2) 1995–96 and (3) 1996–97; and how much is proposed to be spent in the current and two succeeding financial years. 
§ Mr. Denham
The Department does not have a Smartcard payments system. The Benefits Agency is involved with Post Office Counters Ltd in a project to introduce a magnetic stripe Payment Card which will eventually replace order books and girocheques. This is 639W being taken forward as a Private Finance Initiative and the cost of developing and managing the new Payment Card Service is borne by the supplier.
The cost to the Benefits Agency of administrating the project is set out in table 1. These prices could change if current planning assumptions for the introduction of the Payment Card are varied. The cost of developing the Benefits Agency systems to support the new payment method is included in the total Departmental spend on its data and information systems set out in table 2.
Table 1 £ million Year Cash prices Adjusted 1994–95 1.03 1.12 1995–96 3.56 3.76 1996–97 20.76 21.32 1997–98 29.38 29.38 1998–99 34.25 32.56 1999–00 31.29 29.00
The total amount spent by the Department and its Agencies on its data and information systems in the years 1994–95, 1995–96 and 1996–97 is set out in the table in cash terms and adjusted to 1997–98 prices. An estimate for 1997–98 expenditure is included but plans for 1998–99 and 1999–2000 are yet to be finalised.
Table 2 £ million DSS agencies DSS HQ Year Cash prices Adjusted Cash prices Adjusted 1994–95 307.015 332.949 6.128 6.646 1995–96 303.526 320.356 3.740 3.947 1996–97 284.789 292.478 3.042 3.124 1997–98 279.202 (forecast) 4.094 (forecast)