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Disclosure Of Files

Volume 974: debated on Thursday 29 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, pursuant to the reply to the hon. Member for Keighley of 7 November on disclosure of files, if he will now define departmental or public interest as the criterion for disclosure of social security files.

There is no definition of departmental and public interest in this context, requests for disclosure being considered on their individual merits. However, the following examples of information that may be disclosed were included in the Department's evidence to the Committee on Data Protection and are reproduced on page 60 of the committee's report—Cmnd. 7341, which was presented to Parliament in December 1978.1. Addresses may be disclosed

to the courts, on request, for the purpose of maintenance proceedings; to the police, on request, in cases where more than trivial crime is involved;
to local authority social service departments where parents have absconded;
from 1979, to occupational pension schemes for the purpose of paying pensions as required by the Social Security Pensions Act 1975;
to the Customs and Excise where they are investigating serious offences;
to the Inland Revenue where they are seeking tax arrears which include arrears of national insurance contributions;
to service Departments in cases of desertion from HM Forces.

2. Benefits information may be passed to employing central Government Departments to enable them to afford correct tax relief to civil servants who have elected not to claim sickness benefit and to the social service departments. It may also be passed to both sides in a personal injury case and to the National Coal Board in connection with the colliery workers supplementary scheme. That scheme has now been wound up, but inquiries may still arise.

3. Contributions information, including in some cases the employee's age or a woman's marital status where this affects the rate of contribution may need to be passed to employers to enable them to comply correctly with national insurance contribution requirements. Similar information may need to be passed to occupational pension schemes for the purpose of their financial requirements.

One-parent or two-parent family with

Prescribed amount from 14 November 1978

Prescribed amount from 13 November 1979

££
One child46·0056·00
Two children50·0060·50
Three children54·0065·00

The number of one-parent families receiving FIS was estimated to be about 38,700 at the end of August 1979, made up as follows:

One-parent family with

Number of families

One child20,600
Two children11,800
Three children4,400
Four or more children1,900

These, the latest available figures, have been derived from a sample of recipients of FIS and are subject to statistical error.