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Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners received the winter fuel allowance in 2000; and how many will receive it this winter in (a) the UK and (b) South Tyneside. 
Mr. McCartney: Over 11 million people received a winter fuel payment for winter 200001, around 32,900 of whom were in the South Tyneside local authority area. Figures for this winter are expected to be similar.
(3) how many firms in (a) Wales and (b) the other regions of the UK, have made provision for stakeholder pensions for their work force. 
Number of employers who have designated stakeholder pension schemes: 284,821
The ABI has reported that over three-quarters of those employers required to do so had designated a stakeholder pension scheme for their staff by the end of October. We know that other designations were in progress at that time.
We should also remember that stakeholder pensions have led to other improvements in pension provision. Charges on personal pensions have fallen as a result of stakeholder pensions, and employers have also widened their schemes to cover more of their work forces. This means more people are able to save for their retirement.
8 Jan 2002 : Column: 700W
Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many formal notices his Department has received in the last year from the Parliamentary Ombudsman expressing an intention to carry out an investigation; and in respect of each notice, how long it took to respond. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 27 November 2001]: The Department received 234 statements of complaint from the Parliamentary Ombudsman in the last financial year April 2000 to March 2001. The average length of time taken to respond to the statement of complaint is 25.51 working days.
Malcolm Wicks: In line with the findings of the National Audit Office, the public sector comparator for PRIME estimated that the Department will save £560 million over the life of the 20-year contract. This is some 22 per cent. less than it would have cost the Department had we continued with our previous estate management arrangements.
In addition to this significant reduction in our running costs, the financial benefit of many innovative ideas in the PRIME contract such as the sharing of gains on disposal of properties and various contractor incentivisation and benefit sharing provisions, are now being realised. The first three full years of the contract with Land Securities Trillium has brought about the following returns:
|Centralisation of CILOR (Contribution In Lieu Of Rates) Control||3.000|
|Release of surplus space @ 1.4.98||10.000|
|Release of space||1.000|
|Credits from CILOR appeals||12.488|
|Release of space||.856|
|Business rate corrections with LAs||8.000|
|Development Gain pool||1.000|
Mr. Flight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will provide a breakdown of average pensioner incomes for each year between 1979 and the last year for which information is available. 
8 Jan 2002 : Column: 701W
|All pensioners||Pensioner couples||Single pensioners|
1. All incomes are £ per week and at July prices.
2. FRS information is only available from 1994. Prior to this, FES based estimates have been used.
3. Pensioners are defined as:
Single (non cohabiting) people over State pension age (65 for men and 60 for women).
Couples (married or cohabiting) where the man, who is defined as the head of a couple, is aged 65 and over.
4. The income quoted is the net mean income before housing costs. It includes all types of income including benefit income, occupational pensions, investment income and earnings.
(42) The Family Resources Survey (FRS) 1994/791999/2000
The Family Expenditure Survey (FES) 19791992/93
Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made in establishing a Post Office card account system; and what factors underlay the decision as to who will receive these accounts. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 19 December 2001]: There are clearly benefits to be gained by offering Freecall and Local Call Rate services to Benefits Agency customers, but this has to be weighed against the cost to provide such services.
Where services are provided through a call centre, our policy is to offer telephone numbers which are chargeable at local call rates. This allows customers to be charged for the call at a local rate, regardless of the actual destination of that call within the UK. The Department meets the balance of the call cost. Further, where customers are likely to face significant difficulties in affording such charges, a Freecall number has indeed been provided. Customers are also able to ask for a call back from the Department rather than incurring personal call costs.
8 Jan 2002 : Column: 702W
The Department is currently modernising the delivery of its services to customers. Both Jobcentre Plus and the Pensions Organisation are in the process of assessing the best use of the telephone for customer contact. We are exploring the use of a single Local Call Rate number for initial contact with the Department. Calls could then be directed automatically to the most appropriate contact point, based on the originating dialling code. We are still in the early stages of this assessment.
Mr. Nicholas Brown: We have in the current year invested £122 million in establishing the new Jobcentre Plus pathfinder offices and in preparing for the wider integration of the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service more generally. We expect substantial savings to accrue from the creation of Jobcentre Plus over the next five years as we implement the new Jobcentre Plus network nationwide.
This rule prevents double provision from public funds as the publicly funded NHS maintains people while they stay in hospital as well as providing free treatment. Social security maintenance benefits are also paid from state funds. They are therefore not paid in full indefinitely where a person is in a NHS hospital and having their day-to-day living expenses met through the NHS.
Mr. Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners, affected by the hospital downrating rules, have had demands to pay back to the Pensions Service sums of (a) between £25 and £50, (b) between £51 and £100, (c) between £101 and £200 and (d) more than £200, in the last year for which figures are available. 
Mr. Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average value was of pension reduction applied to pensioners who had hospital stays of (a) more than six and (b) more than 52 weeks, in the last year for which figures are available. 
8 Jan 2002 : Column: 703W
Mr. Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners, affected by the hospital downrating rules, had their pensions reduced after (a) six and (b) 52 weeks in hospital in the last year for which figures are available. 
|Category of hospital reduction||Number of retirement pensioners|
|Reduced after 6 weeks||23,000|
|Reduced after 52 weeks||10,000|
March 2001 Administrative Sample
Mr. Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will quantify the cost of administrating the task of (a) reducing the pensions of pensioners and (b) collecting retrospective deductions from pensioners who have been in hospital for more than (i) six and (ii) 52 weeks. 
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