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State Pension (Age Additions)

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate (a) the gross cost, (b) the savings in means-tested benefits and (c) the additional income tax revenue which would result from the introduction in April 2000 of age additions to the basic state pension of £10 for those aged 80 years and over and £5 for those aged 75 to 79 years. [103148]

Mr. Rooker: The information is in the table.

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Full year expenditure and revenue effects of age additions in 2000-01
£ million (+ costs/- savings)

£10 age addition for over 80s and £5 age addition for 75-79s
Expenditure on Retirement Pension1,800
Means-tested benefit savings-600
Additional Income tax-120


1. Estimates for Retirement Pension have been provided by the Government Actuary's Department.

2. Estimates for income tax revenues have been provided by Inland Revenue.

3. Means-tested benefit offsets have been estimated using the 1999-2000 Income Support Simulation and Policy Simulation Models.

4. Estimates are in 1999-2000 prices and are rounded to the nearest £10 million.

Pensions Ombudsman

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what assessment he has made of the powers of the Pensions Ombudsman to deal with complaints; [103163]

Mr. Rooker: The Pensions Ombudsman provides an easily accessible service by which pension scheme members and those involved in the running of schemes can raise disputes of fact or law and make complaints of maladministration that have resulted in injustice. He can investigate complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and disputes of fact or law brought by members of pension schemes and their spouses and dependants against trustees managers or employers of those schemes. He can also investigate complaints made by employers against trustees or managers or vice versa, or made by the trustees or managers of one scheme against the trustees or managers of another. Further, he is able to investigate disputes of fact or law referred by employers and trustees or managers of the same scheme or disputes between the trustees or managers of different schemes.

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The consultation paper "Strengthening the Pensions Framework" contained proposals to clarify and extend the Ombudsman's remit in respect of certain types of complaint or dispute. These proposals were generally welcomed by those who responded to the consultation. It is intended to bring forward provisions to introduce these changes as soon as is practicable.

A recent Court of Appeal ruling (Thomas Edge & Ors v. The Pensions Ombudsman & Anor) found the Pensions Ombudsman's power of investigation to be limited to those cases where the interests of others not party to the dispute are not affected.

Compliance with the court's determination has the effect of removing certain cases from the Ombudsman's remit. For instance, if a death benefit has been paid to one person (for example a current partner) by the trustees and not to another (for example the legal spouse) the Pensions Ombudsman could not accept a complaint from the legal spouse as it affects the interests of the recipient of the death benefit (who currently cannot be a party) even though the complaint is about the actions of the trustees.

It also means that if groups of members are affected, their cases cannot be considered. For instance, where a complaint relates to the treatment of surplus assets and concerns all the pensioners and all the active members it would be excluded.

The Pensions Ombudsman raised this issue in the light of the potential impact it could have on the types of cases he can investigate. In order to ensure that the Pensions Ombudsman can continue to deal with the range of cases he had dealt with before the 'Edge' decision, changes are required to the procedures under which he conducts his investigations.

These procedures are amended under provisions contained in the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill. These provisions address the restriction on the Pensions Ombudsman's power to investigate and determine a complaint or dispute that affects the interests of those not party to the original complaint or dispute. These will ensure an individual can raise an issue with the Pensions Ombudsman if it affects the interests of a group of members in the same scheme. It will also require that those members have the opportunity to put their point of view. In the case of a group of members, this will be via an appointed representative. In effect, therefore, the procedural changes will establish a mechanism for consideration of group or 'class actions'.

Currently, complainants can have costs reimbursed only for attendance at an oral hearing. This process is adequate when an oral hearing is held to ascertain the facts in a case but might not be sufficient where a complaint or dispute raised intricate issues on which the complaining member might need specialist advice. Without the possibility of access to the resources of their scheme, members may be discouraged from taking valid complaints or disputes to the Pensions Ombudsman because of an inability to finance the required advice. There is, therefore, also provision in the Child Support,

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Pensions and Social Security Bill to order that legal costs be met from the resources of the scheme. It is anticipated that such orders will be made only for complex cases that involve a number of parties.

The Pensions Ombudsman holds oral hearings where the facts of a case are in dispute or where there is an issue concerning the accuracy of evidence. To require mandatory oral hearings in all instances would lengthen the process, make it more costly and adversarial for those involved and, therefore, we do not propose to change the law in this way.

We also do not propose to confer on the Pensions Ombudsman powers concerning the admissibility of documents and evidence and standards of proof comparable to those employed in courts of law. This would run counter to the principle that the Pensions Ombudsman provides an informal process by which individuals can seek to have their grievances addressed.

Pensioner Households (Wandsworth)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pensioner households there are in the London Borough of Wandsworth. [103171]

Mr. Rooker: The number of pensioner households in the London Borough of Wandsworth in 1991 was 30,274.

Tribunal Appeals

Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how much his Department paid between (a) May 1997 and April 1998 and (b) May 1998 and April 1999, in backdated claims arising from successful independent tribunal appeals against DSS adjudication decisions. [103767]

Angela Eagle: The information requested is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

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Secondary Class Sizes

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many pupils of secondary age in England were in classes of 40 or above for the last year for which figures are available; and what percentage of the total number of secondary age pupils in England this figure represents. [101682]

Ms Estelle Morris: In January 1999, there were 1,900 pupils reported as being taught in one teacher classes of 40 or more in maintained secondary schools. This represents less than 0.07 per cent. of all pupils in these classes, and includes Physical Education lessons and classes where another adult was present.

Grammar Schools

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many complaints have been received by his Department regarding campaigning literature (a) supporting the retention of grammar schools and (b) supporting the abolition of grammar schools, stating (i) the date when the complaint was first received, (ii) the date when a final decision was announced and (iii) whether the complaint was upheld. [101702]

Ms Estelle Morris [holding answer 7 December 1999]: The information requested is shown in the following table.

All complaints are considered by officials at the Department for Education and Employment. So far officials have investigated, or are investigating, 16 complaints about campaigns relating to the future of selective admissions to grammar schools. Details of these are included in the following table.

Decisions made by Ministers on complaints about petitions and ballots are in accordance with Section 107 of the Standards and Framework Act 1998, the Ballot Information Code as set out in Schedule 4 to the Education (Grammar Schools Ballots) Regulations 1998, and the Guidance to Petitions and Ballots.

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AreaDate of complaintDate of decisionOutcome
Complaints about anti-grammar school campaign literature
Ripon26 October 19992 November 1999Not upheld
Trafford12 October 1999Ongoing--
Complaints about pro-grammar school campaign literature
Kent8 September 199918 October 1999Not upheld
Kent14 September 1999Ongoing--
Kent14 September 19992 November 1999Not upheld
Kent18 October 199919 October 1999Not upheld
Kent20 October 19992 November 1999Not upheld
Kent20 October 19992 November 1999Not upheld
Kent22 October 19992 November 1999Not upheld
Ripon24 September 1999OngoingNot upheld, but the Department is engaged in providing ongoing advice during the petition period
Ripon25 October 199929 October 1999Not upheld
Ripon3 November 199911 November 1999Not upheld, but the Department is engaged in providing ongoing advice during the petition period
Ripon4 November 1999Ongoing--
Sutton15 November 1999Ongoing--
Tafford3 October 1999Ongoing--
Tafford13 October 1999Ongoing--

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