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Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the objectives in key areas which SchlumbergerSema must meet by May 2002 in order for the company to be granted a contract extension to 2005. 
Mr. Nick Brown: [holding answer 8 January 2002]: The agreement with SchlumbergerSema contains performance and delivery conditions for a contract extension to August 2005. It emphasises the need for the company to meet and improve service standards and commits them to a programme of doctor recruitment. The amendment further requires the contractor to co-operate in the introduction of more fundamental changes in the gathering and presentation of evidence and reports together with the introduction of new processes to reduce the numbers of people who fail to turn up for examinations. It also requires them to agree and document actions to support processes around the intervention regime to be operated in Job Centre Plus as part of the Government's "Welfare to Work" agenda. The agreement to extend the contract must be confirmed or revoked before 31 May 2002.
Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he will allow the taking of annuities at any age up to 75 years for the purposes of assessing the proposed pension credit entitlement. 
Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what equipment has been stolen from his Department since 1 May 1997; and what the approximate value of each item was; 
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Mr. McCartney [holding answer 22 January 2002]: Of a total of approximately 109,224 personal computers and laptops owned by the Department 179 have been stolen in the period in questionthis represents 0.16 per cent. The total value of these items is estimated to be £217,300.
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(1) Includes such items as server cable, cassette recorders and telephones.
BFI found the council was striving to provide an efficient, secure benefits service and to maintain effective counter fraud performance against a background of staffing difficulties and re-organisation.
Overall, inspectors identified many good features in the council's performance and examples of effective work. There was a clear commitment to customer service and efforts had been made to raise levels of fraud awareness throughout the council. Additionally, the council has introduced inspectors powers and the "Do Not Redirect" scheme.
Despite this, the report notes there were a number of areas where performance fell short of requirements. Inspectors consider a key constraint to the council's performance was the high rate of staff turnover and difficulty in maintaining a fully trained complement of staff.
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Inspectors found that the work backlogs resulting from the staffing difficulties were having an adverse effect on standards of service with some delays in processing claims, changes of circumstances and applications for reviews of determinations. Inspectors found the council was addressing shortfalls in performance through a fundamental review of its organisation which included the benefits service.
BFI inspectors report that the benefit service had been through a period of considerable change prior to the inspection, including a restructure, the introduction of a document image processing (DIP) system and a change in political control. In addition, during the BFI inspection, the council was implementing the Verification Framework and managing a backlog. Overall, inspectors consider the benefit service was having difficulty in an environment of major corporate change.
Before the inspection the council had taken steps to secure the gateway to benefit with the introduction of the Verification Framework, a new claim form and a system of management checks. Although the council has service level agreements with the local BA and ES, inspectors found the management of these SLAs was limited.
The report notes that the council works hard to keep payments right with a proactive approach to the follow up of renewal claims and reminders to claimants and landlords of their duty to report changes in circumstances. However BFI considers more could be done to target visiting and tailor benefit periods using risk assessment.
In common with some authorities, the council's overall performance in the management and control of overpayments is poor. Inspectors report that prompt action to identify overpayments is negated by ineffective recovery processes.
Although inspectors found fraud investigation work was poor, the report notes that the council had already recognised this and had introduced various policies, guidance and an extensive training programme aimed at improving the quality of the fraud investigations.
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Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the Appeal Court decision in the Fairchild case; and if he will introduce legislation to reinstate the principle of apportionment in mesothelioma cases. 
Tony Baldry: To ask the Prime Minister (1) what discussions he had with the Indian Government on his recent visit concerning the BAE Systems bid to supply Hawk jets; and if he will make a statement. 
The Prime Minister: During my recent visits to India and Pakistan, I discussed a wide range of issues of mutual interest with the Governments of both countries. These covered a number of defence and security matters including defence export opportunities. The Government continue to support the proposals that BAE systems has made for the supply of Hawk jets to India.
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