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Widows (SERPS)

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the average amount of SERPS paid to widows at present; and what is the expected average payment to a widow whose husband dies (a) on 5 April 2000 and (b) on 6 April 2000. [58262]

Angela Eagle: The average amount of SERPS paid to widows under pension age at 31 March 1998 was £15.30.

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The estimated average payment to a widow whose husband dies on 5 April 2000 is £33. For a widow whose husband dies on 6 April 2000, the average is £12. This is because of changes in the calculation of SERPS introduced by the Social Security Act 1986, including the 50 per cent, reduction in entitlement for widows.



    1. Figures for March 1998 are based on net additional pension for all widows' benefit recipients and are for Great Britain and overseas.


    2. Estimates for April 2000 averages are over the total number of widows in the population and are rounded to the nearest pound.


    Sources:


    1. A 5 per cent. sample of the Pensions Strategy Computer System.


    2. April 2000 estimates: Government Actuary's Department.

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what measures have been taken to publicise the halving of SERPS for widowers and widows whose spouse dies on or after 6 April 2000; and when his Department's (a) leaflets and (b) other literature first referred to this change. [58263]

Mr. Denham: The Department arranged publicity about the Pensions Act 1995 with an advertising and direct mailing campaign in the Autumn of that year.

Information on the halving of the Additional Pension from the State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) featured in leaflet PEC3, "The 1995 Pensions Act", which was part of this campaign and available to the public until August 1997.

The Benefits Agency supported this campaign in Spring 1996 by issuing leaflet EQP 201, "Changes To Your Future", to answer simple inquiries about changes arising from the Pensions Act 1995. More detailed information featured in leaflets NP46, "A Guide To Retirement", and NP45, "A Guide To Widows' Benefit", from Spring 1996 and remains there to date. Where appropriate, other more general publicity and information on pensions and widows' benefit also refers customers to these more detailed leaflets.

The Benefits Agency leaflets always advise customers to check with their local Social Security office if they require more detail or up-to-date information about individual cases.

Budget Savings

Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list the categories of current recipients from whom benefits will be withdrawn or reduced in order to make the savings in the social security budget specified in his oral statement of 28 October 1998, Official Report, columns 339-42, indicating the aggregate and average amounts of reduction that will apply in each category. [58024]

Mr. Timms: At the point of change, no current recipient will lose benefit as a result of changes to entitlement rules from the reforms we are making.

Child Support Agency

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the typical period between a person becoming a lone parent and that person first contacting the Child Support Agency. [57077]

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Angela Eagle: It is difficult to make generalisations in this area. There is evidence to suggest that many lone parents who claim Income Support do so soon after separation or the birth of a child. However, applications for child maintenance are received from parents with care who may or may not be claiming benefits and who may or may not have recently become lone parents. Under arrangements introduced from April this year lone parents claiming Income Support are helped to complete a maintenance application form when visited by Benefits Agency staff at the start of the claim. Similarly awards of Family Credit or Disability Working Allowance will prompt the issue of child support forms. Lone parents not on benefit are free to contact the Child Support Agency at any time.

WALES

Council House Sales

Mr. Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much money will be allocated to (a) Wales and (b) Denbighshire in the Government's distribution of funds released from money raised from the sale of council houses in the last year and each of the next four years. [56408]

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: £33.38m is available to Wales under the Capital Receipts Initiative in the current financial year (including the revenue consequences of the higher borrowing). Of this £708,000 has been allocated to Denbighshire.

My right hon. Friend is currently consulting on spending plans for Welsh Office programmes for the next three financial years and on changes to the local authority housing capital distribution arrangements. He will announce his decisions later in the year.

Steel Industry

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the prospects for the steel industry in Wales, with particular reference to steel dumping into the UK from Asian producers and to energy costs. [57451]

Mr. Hain: The steel industry, like other parts of the manufacturing sector in Wales, is being affected by the international economic situation, but is continuing to take steps to reduce its cost base to ensure it remains profitable. Allegations of dumping and energy costs are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Mental Health

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has to improve mental health provision. [57442]

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: My plans will be influenced by two complementary Welsh Office projects whose findings will shortly be available to me. The first address the future direction of adult mental health services in Wales. And the second assesses the effectiveness of the present Mental Health Strategy. These reports will help inform the development of services in Wales.

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Departmental officials also remain in close touch with the Department of Health on work being carried out on the National Strategic Framework on Mental Health in England.

Community Pharmacists

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on his policy concerning community pharmacists in North East Wales. [57445]

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: The Government recognise the contribution made by community pharmacists to the health of the people of Wales. We will seek to maintain an appropriate level of service. The Welsh Office has funded 18 projects under "Delivering Care, Meeting Need"--6 in North Wales--for developing the range of services that can be provided by pharmacists in the community.

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is his assessment of the impact of the opening of pharmacies in supermarkets upon community pharmacies; and if he will make a statement. [57446]

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: The number of community pharmacies in Wales rose slightly from 702 in 1989 to 712 at 31 March 1998. Although the numbers do fluctuate, changes of ownership over this period appear to have had very little effect on the overall numbers of establishments.

Aerospace and Steel Industries

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is his assessment of the benefits of the current assisted area status for the aerospace and steel industries in Alyn and Deeside; and if he will make a statement. [57448]

Mr. Hain: Since the new Assisted Areas came into force in 1993 aerospace firms in Alyn and Deeside have accepted offers of RSA grants totalling £1,055,000 which are expected to create 122 new jobs and to safeguard 63 jobs. Steel production is subject to special state aid restrictions, and is not eligible for aid under Assisted Areas.

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what involvement he has in the restructuring of the aerospace industry; and if he will make a statement. [57449]

Mr. Hain: The restructuring of the aerospace industry is a matter for the industry itself. I take a keen interest in its future and have met a number of aerospace companies in Wales. The Department also has regular meetings with the South Wales aerospace companies to discuss issues that affect the industry.

Welsh-medium Schools

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many (i) nursery, (ii) infant, (iii) primary and (iv) secondary Welsh-medium schools there are; and if he will make a statement. [57439]

Mr. Hain: No information is available centrally about the medium of instruction at maintained nursery schools. At January 1998, there were 445 primary schools where

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most pupils were in classes where Welsh was the sole or main medium of instruction. Of these schools, 8 were infant schools and 3 juniors. 50 secondary schools were Welsh speaking schools as defined in Section 354(8) of the Education Act 1996.


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