To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is her estimate of the additional expenditure by her Department, its agencies and other non-departmental public bodies in (a) 1997–98 and (b) 1998–99 as a consequence of higher uprating for inflation than was assumed at the time of the November 1996 Budget; if increases will be financed from the contingency reserve; and if she will make a statement. 
Higher inflation than expected in the 1996 Budget has no effect on 1997–98 benefit spending. 1998–99 benefit rates will be announced shortly. Increases in line with prices would mean an increase in benefit spending of about £600 million above that assumed in the 1996 Budget. The Government are committed to staying within their overall spending plans.