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Pensioner Incomes

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the income that two pensioners in examples 1 and 2 of page 122 of the Opportunities for All report could expect to receive from the minimum income guarantee, assuming that benefit is increased in line with income. [105811]

Mr. Rooker: The examples shown in "Opportunities for All" demonstrate how the State Second Pension and Stakeholder Pension will help those with low or interrupted earnings. The estimated weekly incomes of £84 and £91 in the two examples should be set against the current minimum income guarantee of £75 a week.

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of (a) average pensioner income and (b) average earnings in (a) Tamworth, (b) Staffordshire and (c) the United Kingdom in the last year for which figures are available. [105153]

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Mr. Rooker: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is in the tables.

Average pensioner unit income 1996-97

Mean income prices
United Kingdom175

(20) Not available


1. Pensioner units are defined as single (non-cohabiting) people over State Pension age (65 for men, 60 for women) and couples (married or cohabiting) where the man is over State Pension age.

2. Income is defined as weekly net income before housing costs of the benefit unit.

3. All money amounts are expressed in £ per week at July 1996 prices.

4. Reliable estimates for Staffordshire and Tamworth are not available due to small sample sizes.


Family Expenditure Survey

Average earnings, April 1996 and April 1999

April 1996April 1999
United Kingdom350399

(21) Not available


1. The figures shown are average gross weekly earnings of full-time employees on adult rates, whose pay for the survey pay period was not affected by absence.

2. April 1996 figures are expressed in April 1996 prices; April 1999 figures are expressed in April 1999 prices.

3. Reliable estimates for Tamworth are not available in either year.

4. In 1999 the county of Staffordshire figure excludes Stoke-on-Trent UA. This Unitary Authority was not created until 1997.


New Earnings Survey

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what targets he has set for (a) the reduction in the number of pensioners living below the poverty line and what is his definition of this term and (b) the reduction in the number of pensioners reliant on means-tested benefits. [105473]

Mr. Rooker: We have set out our strategy for tackling poverty and social exclusion in "Opportunity for All" (Cm 4445). The indicators of success, against which we shall monitor our progress, covers the position of pensioners living on low incomes. Our Green Paper "Partnership in Pensions" describes how State Second Pension and Stakeholder Pensions will over the long term reduce pensioner reliance on means-tested benefits.

Benefit Payment Methods

Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what arrangements he has made to ensure that recipients of pensions and benefits are aware that they may be paid in cash after 2003. [105331]

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Mr. Rooker: The majority of benefit customers are paid by girocheque, order book or automated credit transfer (ACT) to a bank account. In some cases, the Department makes payment in cash to the customer.

Following the move to ACT from 2003 customers will have their benefits paid into a bank account but will continue to have a choice of where they access their cash, with those who wish to collect at post offices still being able to do so. Our information leaflets and forms will be updated in line with the revised payment arrangements. Arrangements to meet other information needs of our customers arising from the change are being developed.

Councillors (Incapacity Benefit)

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what incidental costs can be offset from a councillor's basic allowance when assessing their entitlement to incapacity benefit. [105517]

Mr. Bayley: The benefit rules permit limited work to be undertaken by people in certain circumstances without affecting their right to claim incapacity benefits. Work undertaken as a councillor is disregarded for the purposes of determining whether a person is incapable of work. However, Incapacity Benefit is reduced pound for pound where the net amount of the councillor's allowance exceeds a set limit, currently £49.50. In assessing the net amount of the councillor's allowance to be taken into account any expenses incurred in connection with the person's membership of the council are ignored. Such expenses are not specified in regulations but may include items such as clothes, travel costs and telephone calls.

We propose to bring forward regulations in April as part of the annual up-rating exercise to increase the councillor's allowance limit from £49.50 to £58.50. This significant increase will align it with the therapeutic earnings limit in Incapacity Benefit.

Departmental Smoking Policy

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what action he is taking to reduce smoking in his Department. [105794]

Mr. Rooker: In general, this Department has developed a range of initiatives that address issues around the ill-effects of smoking. Smoking is restricted to designated areas throughout the Department. A review of the policies is planned in the business year 2000-01, with a view to further reducing smoking within the Department as a whole.

More specifically, Agencies within the Department have taken the following action.

Local Benefits Agency managers have authority to organise local initiatives on health, including quitting smoking, and Benefits Agency Central Services regularly distribute literature on smoking and how to give up to all Benefits Agency staff.

In Headquarters staff are given the opportunity to attend regular Health Fair days which address a number of healthy living issues, including the benefits of non-smoking. They are also invited to attend Quit Smoking clinics which support staff through the quitting

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process by means of follow up group meetings. Written advice on the ill-effects of smoking and giving up is made widely available to all staff in Headquarters.

The War Pensions Agency have developed a range of initiatives in line with Cabinet Office recommendations. These include health and welfare initiatives such as awareness exhibitions that have included exhibits on the ill-effects of smoking. The Agency intends to issue literature to staff this year on specific health issues that will include the benefits of non-smoking.

Future action on smoking and quitting the habit within the Child Support Agency will be influenced by the outcome of the Agency's recent stress audit, which is currently being evaluated and the provisional findings of the audit are due in early March.

Pensions (Non-residents)

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what action he proposes to take to ensure that UK citizens whose entitlement to a British state pension is partially based on contributions made abroad are not prevented from receiving their full pension if they retire in an EU member state; [105488]

Mr. Rooker: Where a person has paid contributions to the Social Security scheme of a country outside the UK, any pension entitlement from those contributions is decided and paid by the country concerned. No UK pension is paid on such contributions.

A UK pension based entirely on National Insurance contributions is not affected if a person goes to live elsewhere in the EU. However, UK State Pension can be based wholly or partly on residence in Australia, Canada or New Zealand under the UK's Social Security agreements with those three countries. They have residence-based pensions which are not always payable if a person comes to live in the UK. If they go to live elsewhere the amount of pension derived from the agreement is no longer paid.

There are no plans to change the provisions of these arrangements.

Reliable estimates are not available of the cost of paying any UK pension derived from residence in Australia, Canada or New Zealand to pensioners who cease to be ordinarily resident in the UK.

Some 9,000 pensioners in the UK receive State Pensions based wholly or partly on residence in Canada.

Some 24,000 pensioners in the UK receive State Pensions based wholly or partly on residence in Australia or New Zealand.

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