To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what progress his Department has made in establishing the social security Benefits Agency.
I announced earlier today the appointment of Michael Bichard as chief executive of the Benefits Agency following selection by open competition. This is a major step in setting up the agency which will come into being next April and which will be the largest executive agency in Government. Mr. Bichard is currently chief executive of Gloucestershire county council. He has wide experience of management and will, I am sure, make a first-rate leader of the new agency. He is being appointed for a five-year period.