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20 Dec 2000 : Column: 222W
Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to change the rules governing asylum seekers' ability to undertake (a) voluntary work and (b) paid employment; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. Roche [pursuant to her reply, 11 December 2000, c. 51W]: The answer should have read that I have no plans to limit the ability of asylum seekers to undertake unpaid voluntary work rather than "paid" voluntary work as given in my original reply.
Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer of 13 December 2000, Official Report, columns 132-33W, for each month between April 1999 and November 2000 to how many pensioners arrears were paid; what was the amount of arrears paid; and what was the average number of weeks of arrears that fell to be paid to each pensioner. 
|Month||Pension arrears paid (£)||Number of pensioners|
Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answers of 13 December 2000, Official Report, columns 132-33W, what the total amount of interest foregone by pensioners on late payment of pensions was in each six month period from January 1997 assuming Bank of England base rate of interest on deposits had been obtained. 
20 Dec 2000 : Column: 223W
|Period||Value of lost interest (£)|
|April 1999--September 1999||700,000|
|October 1999--March 2000||900,000|
|April 2000--September 2000||200,000|
|October 2000--November 2000||100,000|
The potential loss of interest of £1.9 million has been redressed by the payment of compensation of over £2.7 million under the special £10 scheme announced in February 1999 and the DSS Special Payments Scheme.
Angela Eagle: I refer my hon. Friend to the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 16 March 2000, Official Report, columns 257-58W, that the Working Age Agency will be established during 2001.
Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what directions overriding a note of dissent by an accounting officer have been given since May 1997 by the boards of non-departmental public bodies within his Department's remit; and if he will place details of such directions in the Library. 
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what action he will take to ensure local authorities are allowed to offer stakeholder pensions to employees within the local government pension scheme. 
Mr. Rooker: The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is responsible for the regulation of the Local Government Pension Scheme. As every local government employee has the right to join the Local Government Pension Scheme, participating employers are not required to offer their employees access to a stakeholder pension. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will consider any proposals from local government to give Local Government Pension Scheme employers the choice of offering their employees access to a stakeholder pension under the rules relating to concurrency. It is of course possible for members of the Local Government Pension Scheme to take out Stakeholder Pensions individually within the same rules.
20 Dec 2000 : Column: 224W
(3) how many of this year's winter fuel payments were sent out to pensioners by 18 December; and how many were outstanding. 
All automatic payments have been issued, where a clear entitlement has been established, as have payments in respect of claims determined by 9 November. Claims can be made at any time and payment will be made thereafter.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assumptions he has made about the level of next year's Winter Fuel Payment in calculating next year's planned expenditure. 
Mr. Rooker: The level of the Winter Fuel Payment for next winter (2001-02) is set out in The Social Fund Winter Fuel Payment and Maternity and Funeral Expenses (General) Amendment Regulations 2000, and is included in the Government's spending plans.
Mr. Butterfill: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people have contracted back into SERPS from COMPS--contracted out money purchase schemes--and approved personal pensions in each of the last three years; and how many COMPS there were in each of the last three years. 
|Date||Number of COMP schemes|
|1 November 1998||6,472|
|1 November 1999||4,254|
|1 November 2000||3,189|
Inland Revenue National Insurance Contributions Office.
20 Dec 2000 : Column: 225W
Mr. Rooker: The cap on age-related rebates to those in Contracted-out Money Purchase Schemes and Appropriate Personal Pensions is one of the issues my hon. Friend the Secretary of State will address in his report on the level of rebates for the five years beginning April 2002 which will be published next year.
Mr. Rooker: Age-related National Insurance rebates to members of Contracted-out Money Purchase Schemes and to Appropriate Personal Pensions are currently capped at 9 per cent. of earnings between the Lower and Upper Earnings Limits to restrain the costs to public finances. At that level it enables most people who were already contracted-out when age-related rebates were introduced to continue to stay in their pension scheme.
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