|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to change the rules that exclude disabled people from protection under the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act 1995 if they have been dismissed from a company employing less than 15 employees; and if he will make a statement; 
Maria Eagle: Our proposals to amend the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) are set out in our response to the Disability Rights Task Force, "Towards Inclusioncivil rights for disabled people", which was published on 5 March. Copies are held in the Library.
Eight consultation documents were issued.
Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what action has been taken since 8 October against employers who have not made a stakeholder pension scheme available to their employees; 
23 Oct 2001 : Column: 180W
(3) what estimate he has made of the proportion of employers required to make stakeholder pensions available to their staff who have not yet done so. 
Mr. McCartney: We estimate that there are between 350,000 and 400,000 employers who need to designate a stakeholder pension scheme for their employees. The latest available figures show that around 147,000 employers had designated a scheme by the end of August 2001. Reports from the pensions industry indicate a late surge of designation activity in September and early October leading up to the 8 October designation deadline.
The regulation of compliance with the stakeholder pension terms and conditions is a matter for the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (Opra). At 19 October Opra had received 211 reports of alleged non-compliance with the requirement on employers to offer their work force access to a stakeholder pension scheme. It will make contact with each employer to provide education material and guidance, and to establish the facts of the case.
If Opra's inquiries indicate that the employer has failed to comply, Opra will send out a statement of facts to which the employer can add any relevant mitigating factors. An agreed statement of facts will then be placed for determination before a committee of the Opra board. The board will then decide if a breach of the legislation has occurred, and if so, what penalty is to be imposed.
Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to what extent discretion may be exercised by those charged with taking decisions on the application of the social security legislation such that not only the facts of a particular case may be taken into account, but general circumstances; and under what powers he grants such discretion. 
Malcolm Wicks: In the application of social security legislation to social security benefits, decision makers make their decision by considering all the evidence and applying the law, including any relevant case law, to the facts of the case. Discretion does not feature in the decision making process in determining claims and applications for benefit other than in relation to the discretionary social fund. The powers for that Scheme are found in the Social Security Contribution and Benefits Act 1992, the Social Security Administration Act 1992, and in the directions issued by the Secretary of State.
Decisions affecting the administration of benefit, such as suspending payment of benefit where a doubt as to entitlement arises and the making of interim payments where administrative processes are delayed are subject to a certain degree of discretion, but only within the constraints of the legislation. The powers are to be found in the Social Security Administration Act 1992 and the Social Security Act 1998 respectively.
23 Oct 2001 : Column: 181W
efficiency of the service offered to child support claimants by the Office of the Independent Case Examiner; and if he will made a statement; 
(3) what the budget is for the office of the Independent Case Examiner for child support cases in the current financial year; 
(4) what the average waiting time was before a child support case is examined by the Independent Case Examiner in the last three months; 
(5) if he will make a statement on the delays experienced by child support claimants in having cases examined by the Independent Care Examiner; 
(6) what plans he has to recruit staff to the office of the Independent Case Examiner for child support cases. 
The time between a case being received by the ICE and bringing it into action was, on average, 23 weeks for the three-month period ending in September 2001. There are currently 114 such cases awaiting action.
The ICE shares our concerns about the length of time it has taken to deal with cases in the past. A recent review of working practices has led to changes in case processing methods. This, together with the additional staff and financial resources already made available, will enable cases to be dealt with more efficiently. The delays currently experienced by parents awaiting action on their case will be reduced.
Malcolm Wicks: Following advice from the Meteorological Office, the annual review of the cold weather payments scheme has now been completed. Amending regulations were laid on 11 October and will come into force on 1 November, in time for the beginning of the winter period.
23 Oct 2001 : Column: 182W
The Care Standards Act will require the National Care Standards Commission to register and inspect local authority care homes for the first time from 1 April 2002. As this legislation has not yet been implemented there should not have been any impact on local authority homes. The Care Standards Act will regard local authority homes as "existing homes" for purposes of compliance with national minimum standards. This means that local authorities will have until 2007 to comply with the room size and shared room standards. This longer lead in time was set in order to avoid any closures in care homes once the National Care Standards Commission begins to apply the standards. It allows local authorities sufficient time to comply with the standards.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many ministerial decisions were made where authority for the same derived from the royal prerogative for the most recent calendar month for which information is available. 
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|