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Occupational Pensions

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to discuss recent trends in occupational pension provision with the occupational pension industry; and if he will make a statement. [12441]

Mr. McCartney: The Department holds regular meetings with representatives of the pensions industry. These discussions include an assessment of trends in occupational pension schemes and other forms of retirement savings and the role Government can play in supporting and encouraging pension provision.

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The Government acknowledge the contribution that occupational pension schemes play in the provision of income in retirement and want to encourage continued employer involvement. As part of the process of reform and support, we have already announced the replacement of the minimum funding requirement and the simplification review of pensions regulation, led by Alan Pickering.

Social Security Regulations

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what reason was given to him by the Social Security Advisory Committee for its decision not to examine the Social Security (Jobcentre Plus Interviews) Regulations 2001; what discussions he had with the Social Security Advisory Committee prior to that decision; and if he will publish the minutes of such discussions. [12159]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 2 November 2001]: The Social Security Advisory Committee considered these regulations and decided, under section 173 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, that these regulations need not be formally referred to them. Under the Act the committee is not obliged to give my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State a reason for its decision and does not normally do so. My right hon. Friend had no discussions with the committee prior to that decision.

Social Security (Scotland)

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what was the level of spending on social security in Scotland in each of the last five years (a) in total and (b) as a percentage of the United Kingdom total, broken down to show spending on (i) benefit payments, (ii) Scotland's pro-rata share of United Kingdom administration costs and (iii) actual spending on central and local administration and the branch network for facilities in Scotland. [12193]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 2 November 2001]: Information is not available in the format requested. However, analysis of social security expenditure by country, region and per head of population for the years 1995–96 to 1999–2000 is available in HM Treasury's publication "Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses (PESA) 2001–02", published in April 2001 under Command Number 5101.

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many cases of forgery of the standard acknowledgement letters issued to asylum seekers have been detected in the last 12 months; and what the value of benefits involved was. [11743]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 1 November 2001]: The information is as follows.

1. Figures are not kept centrally within the Immigration and Nationality Directorate for forgery of Standard Acknowledgement Letters (SALs). The Immigration Service National Forgery Section (NFS) is a national unit specialising in document fraud. In the last 12 months (from 31 October 2000 to 31 October 2001), the NFS was asked by the Immigration Service and other enforcement agencies or departments to examine 121 SALs of which 111 were found to be fraudulent. Of these, 104 were counterfeit and seven forged.

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2. Many of the documents examined by NFS were examples of large batches of suspected fraudulent SALs detected in various operations conducted by the police and Immigration Service. Four such operations alone, conducted in various parts of the country during the past 12 months, are known to have involved over 2,000 counterfeit SALs, with more detections expected as operations continue.

3. In the operations which the NFS was associated with, the most frequent use of fraudulent SALs was to obtain illegal employment. While a limited number of examinations of SALs were conducted of documents presented at Benefits Agency offices, the NFS does not have information about the value of any benefits that might have been involved.


HMS Fearless

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the new date for the withdrawal of HMS Fearless is; and if he will make a statement. [13282]

Mr. Ingram: There is no new date for the withdrawal of HMS Fearless. I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the then Minister of State for the Armed Forces to the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) on 19 December 2000, Official Report, column 93W.

Tanks (Desert Conditions)

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the cost of converting the tanks of 1 UK Armoured Division for desert conditions. [13272]

Dr. Moonie: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) on 5 November 2001, Official Report, columns 24–25W, which sets out the estimated cost of converting Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks (CR2 MBTs) for desert conditions. The establishment for one (UK) Armoured Division, post Strategic Defence Review, is 174 CR2 MBTs. Depending on which desertation option were used, the estimated cost for 174 CR2 MBTs would therefore be either £24.36 million or £43.5 million.

Exercise Saif Sareea

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the type and number of UK armoured vehicles and tanks that were in Oman for Saif Sareea II, stating in each case the percentage of those vehicles that were considered (a) fully serviceable and (b) unserviceable during the exercise; and if he will make a statement. [11768]

Mr. Ingram: The types and number of each UK armoured vehicle, including tanks, that were in Oman for Saif Sareea II, are as follows: 65 Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks; 49 Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicles; 12 AS90 self propelled artillery; and 269 reconnaissance and other armoured vehicles.

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The serviceability of these vehicles varied through the exercise as they passed through operational and maintenance cycles. The average percentage availability of each armoured vehicle type throughout the main period of the exercise was as follows: Challenger 2 83 per cent.; Warrior 83 per cent.; AS90 71 per cent.; and reconnaissance and other armoured vehicles 80 per cent.

Overall the armoured vehicle fleet, and indeed the rest of the UK military equipment deployed on Saif Sareea, performed very effectively.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the percentage rate of serviceability of helicopters on exercise Saif Sareea was; what the principal cause of helicopter non-serviceability was; and if he will make a statement. [13293]

Mr. Hoon: The average rate of helicopter serviceability achieved during the whole period of Exercise Saif Sareea was 54.5 per cent. The overall serviceability of helicopters on the exercise was affected by the requirement to conduct non-exercise related maintenance on a number of airframes. More generally, Exercise Saif Sareea provided our aviation assets with valuable experience of operating in a demanding desert environment. The impact on overall serviceability was one of a number of key factors. There was no single, principal cause of helicopter unserviceability.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to publish the conclusions of the evaluation of equipment deployed in Operation Saif Sareea. [13279]

Mr. Hoon: The process of evaluating performance during Exercise Saif Sareea and identifying lessons for our future operations and exercises is already under way, and will address equipment serviceability. Much of the information captured in this process will be of an operationally sensitive nature. Accordingly, there are no plans to publish it.

Sea Harriers

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received from ground support staff at Yeovilton about the proposal to relocate the Sea Harriers; and if he will make a statement. [13425]

Mr. Ingram: No representations have been received about the proposal to relocate the Sea Harriers.

Nuclear Installations (Security)

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to deploy (a) armed forces personnel and (b) reservists for key point duty to guard nuclear power stations; and if he will estimate the full cost of such a deployment over one year. [13278]

Mr. Ingram: Security at nuclear power stations is a matter for the Department of Trade and Industry and the police, who can request the support of the armed forces to guard these and other key points should other resources prove insufficient. There have been no such requests during the last year and costs would, in the event, fall to the requesting authority.

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Mr. Collins: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with the US Defence Secretary on the issue of air exclusion zones over civil nuclear plants; whether there is to be a joint US-UK policy on this issue; and if he will make a statement on current RAF plans to defend the Sellafield nuclear site from aerial attack. [13235]

Mr. Hoon: Since 11 September, Ministers and officials in a number of Government Departments have been in discussions with their US counterparts on a range of domestic security issues, though not specifically about air exclusion zones over civil nuclear plants.

The Royal Air Force has an established and well-practised air defence capability which is ready to detect, deter and destroy any aircraft intending to attack any target within the UK, including civil nuclear plants. Some improvements have been made to our air defence posture since 11 September. I am withholding details of these improvements in accordance with Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. Nor can I disclose the details of security measures taken at individual civil nuclear sites.

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