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Parliamentary Broadcasting Ltd.

Angela Smith: To ask the President of the Council when she will announce the company appointed by the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Ltd. to operate the televising of Parliament following the expiry of the current contract. [159365]

Mrs. Beckett: With the agreement of the appropriate Committees of both Houses the PARBUL operating and maintenance contracts for the five years from 1 August 2001 have been awarded to Bowtie Television Ltd.



Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what new proposals he has to improve consultation between employees and employers. [157938]

Mr. Alan Johnson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced to the House on 18 January plans for a review of UK arrangements affecting collective redundancies. The review, which is ongoing, is examining how current provisions have operated in practice and whether more should be done to promote effective consultation with employees.

Icelandic-water Trawlermen

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when payments will be made under the compensation scheme for former Icelandic-water trawlermen; and if he will make a statement. [158768]

Mr. Byers: Over, 1,200 payments have already been made. I expect the bulk of the claims to be dealt with by the end of July.


Mr. Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the hon. Member for Walsall, North will receive a reply to his letter of 22 March to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and which was passed on to his Department. [158854]

Mr. Hain: I have answered the letter today.

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Policy Announcements

(Regional Impact Assessments)

Mr. Brake: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will list the policy announcements since March 2000 which have been subject in advance to an assessment of their impact on the regions. [158497]

Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 23 April 2001]: I have been asked to reply.

The Regional Co-ordination Unit (RCU) was established in April 2000 as the centre of operations for the Government Offices for the Regions. A key role of the RCU is to consider proposals for new or extended area based initiatives. Formal arrangements for assessing the impact of such policies on the regions came into force in November 2000. Since then the following initiatives have been subject to the 'double key' assessment involving both the RCU and the Government Offices: Children's Fund, Creative Partnerships, Neighbourhood Management, Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, Playing Fields and Community Green Spaces, Safer Communities Initiative and Sports Action Zones. The RCU has also considered a large number of other initiatives not subject to the full 'double key' procedures.


Benefit Fraud

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate's Annual report for 2000 will be published. [157484]

Mr. Rooker [holding answer 9 April 2001]: The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate's (BFI) spending for 1999-2000 and expenditure plans for 2000-01 were included in figures reported in the Department of Social Security's Departmental Report published in April 2000.

The BFI's priority is to deliver reports following inspections of individual local authorities and DSS Agencies. The BFI is nearing completion of its phase 5 programme of inspections. This is a key phase which covers the 30 local authorities with the highest spend on Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. Once the BFI has published the last of these reports, it will be in a position to provide a comprehensive report on its work to March 2001.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) for what reason the National Benefit Fraud Hotline number was not included in Level 1 of the current Targeting Fraud advertising campaign; how long each level will run for; and if the campaign will continue during a dissolution of Parliament; [157079]

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Mr. Rooker [holding answer 9 April 2001]: The Government are committed to cracking down on benefit fraud. In his report "The Informal Economy", Lord Grabiner recommended testing the use of advertising as a tool for changing public attitudes. The North West Pilot Campaign was developed during 2000 in line with this recommendation.

The overall objectives of the campaign, were to positively reinforce honest behaviour, to create a climate of intolerance to benefit fraud and to undermine the social acceptability of it. It was designed to work on two levels: Level 1, to make 'fiddling' harder to justify by showing that fraud is unfair; and Level 2, to create a climate of unease by using facts to build a fear of detection. Considerable development work was undertaken and the evaluation indicated that the campaign was effective in changing public attitudes towards benefit fraud. In taking the campaign to a national audience as part of a long-term public information programme, only minor refinements were considered necessary.

The national TV advertising did not include the hotline number because it was aimed at a wide audience and was designed to change public attitudes about the social acceptability of fraud (ie a Level 1 objective). Other material did include the hotline number because it was intended to create unease among fraudsters (ie a Level 2 objective).

The first phase of the national information campaign concluded on Saturday 31 March. The campaign will not run in the event of Parliament being dissolved under the normal rules relating to Her Majesty's Government advertising.

So far, the costs of the Targeting Fraud information programme have been £2.2 million for the north-west pilot, including production, media buying, website development and research. The costs for the March phase of the national campaign are £3.2 million for TV advertising, £0.6 million for radio advertising, £0.7 million for press advertising, and £0.2 million for other costs.

Publicity Campaigns

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what publicity campaigns his Department plans to run in the current financial year. [158713]

Mr. Rooker: Plans are in place to continue the anti-fraud campaign, following on from the start of the national activity in March. We also plan to continue the pensions education advertising campaign which began in January.

The Department also has a number of advertorials booked, which will explain the new bereavement benefits available to men.

Benefit Fraud Investigation Service

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when the last Benefit Fraud Investigation Service annual report was published; and when the next one is due to be published. [158690]

Mr. Rooker: The Benefit Fraud Investigation Service does not publish a separate annual report. Sections on safeguarding Social Security are included in both the

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Benefits Agency annual report, due to be published in July 2001, and the Departmental annual report which was published on 30 March 2001.

Benefits Information Guide

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make copies of the latest edition of the Benefits Information Guide available to hon. Members. [158689]

Mr. Rooker: The latest edition of the Benefits Information Guide is available in the Library. The 2001-02 edition will be available shortly.


Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pensioners receive (a) a partial basis state pension, (b) basic state pension increments, (c) a basic state pension increase for dependent child, d) a graduated retirement benefit and (e) SERPS. [158675]

Mr. Rooker: The information is in the table.

Retirement pensioners resident in Great Britain and overseas at 30 September 2000

All pensioners
In receipt of partial Basic State pension2,941.6
In receipt of Basic State pension increments1,156.4
In receipt of Basic State pension--
Increase for dependent child(ren)18.1
In receipt of Graduated Retirement Benefit8,690.3
In receipt of SERPS6,389.9


1. Includes all retirement pensioners resident in Great Britain and overseas.

2. Numbers with a partial basic state pension exclude those pensioners who receive 100 per cent. basic State Pension based on their own national insurance record and also those pensioners who receive 60 per cent. (full rate) basic State Pension based on a spouse's national insurance record.

3. Figures are in thousands and rounded to the nearest hundred.


Based on a 5 per cent. sample from the Pension Strategy Computer System at 30 September 2000.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the way pension funds handle grievances. [159151]

Mr. Rooker: Occupational pension schemes are required to have a two-stage internal dispute resolution procedure, which they must make known to members. The second stage written decision by the trustees or managers of the scheme must include statements about the roles of the Office for Pensions Advisory Service (OPAS), to whom they can go for assistance, and the Pensions Ombudsman, to whom they can refer grievance if they remain dissatisfied.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what plans he has to require pension trusts to give reasons for refusal (a) to reward a disability pension and (b) of arbitration following such refusal; [159054]

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Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (3) what plans he has to compel pension trusts to divulge the reason for refusal of ill-health pension applications. [159051]

Mr. Rooker: Occupational schemes are not required to pay pension benefits before the normal pension age for the scheme. Some scheme rules do provide for pension benefits to be paid earlier for reasons such as ill-health. This is usually at the discretion of the scheme trustees and there is no legal requirement for them to provide reasons where they reject an ill-health pension application, although many schemes regard it as good administrative practice to do so.

Where an ill-health pension application has been rejected, the member can ask for the matter to be reconsidered under the scheme's internal dispute resolution procedure, and can seek assistance from the Office for Pensions Advisory Service (OPAS). If he remains dissatisfied he can make a complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to require contributors to occupational pension schemes to have the rights of appeal following an ombudsman's determination. [159049]

Mr. Rooker: Determinations by the Pensions Ombudsman can be appealed against to the High Court on a point of law.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to ensure that members of pension trusts have a right to be consulted before (a) trusts are restructured and (b) members are transferred to other schemes. [159053]

Mr. Rooker: Employers who provide occupational pension schemes do so voluntarily and, ultimately, they decide the nature of the scheme and its benefit structure. Trustees are required to provide extensive information to members about the scheme and their rights to pension benefits.

Generally, members must consent to a transfer of their accrued pension rights to another pension scheme. When employers are taken over, merge, or restructure their pension provision a consequent bulk transfer of members' accrued rights can be made without consent, provided that an actuary certifies that the rights to be acquired in the receiving scheme are broadly no less favourable than the rights to be transferred.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the rules governing occupational pensions schemes and the way they are vetted to protect contributors. [159050]

Mr. Rooker: The framework of legislation governing occupational pension schemes is intended to provide protection for members without imposing undue burdens on employers who provide those schemes. Pension schemes also have their own rules which have to satisfy certain requirements for tax purposes. They may contain discretionary provisions which are exercised by the trustees.

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