Below is the text of Mr Major’s written Parliamentary Answer on Computers on 6th May 1986.
Mr. Meacher Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what guidelines Her Majesty’s Government is issuing on inter-departmentally linked computer-held information in the light of the White Paper plans for up-dating the Department of Health and Social Security system; and who will have access to the up-dated computers in the Department of Health and Social Security and under what circumstances.
Mr. Major There are no current plans to issue guidelines on inter-departmentally linked computer-held information in the light of the White Paper plans to update the Department’s computer systems. We have firm plans to link with only one other Department – the Department of Employment. The two Departments already work closely together, using computerised systems, for the provision of social security benefits. The Department of Employment acts as agent for the DHSS in the payment of unemployment benefit and supplementary allowance for the unemployed and this Department has responsibility for the two unemployment benefit computer centres at Reading and Livingston.
The new computerisation plans involving the two Departments include the provision of terminals and visual display units in local unemployment benefit offices, providing staff there with a direct link to these two mainframe computers –previously they were linked by the overnight telegraph system. The terminals and VDUs are currently being installed, in an average of 10 new offices a week, on a rolling programme stretching into 1987. This new facility allows unemployment benefit staff to input, amend and update claims immediately, and gives them instant information to answer benefit claimants’ inquiries.
This system also provides access to the DHSS general index for the purpose of tracing national insurance numbers necessary in the processing of an unemployment benefit claim. This facility will be retained when the general index is absorbed into the new departmental central index which is to be developed from 1988.