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Private Medical Insurance

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many employees in (a) his Department and (b) his Department's agencies and non-departmental public bodies have had private medical insurance provided for them in each year since 1997–98; what the total cost is; and if he will make a statement. [32329]

Mr. McCartney: The Department of Work and Pensions has no policy which would allow employees to have medical insurance provided for them. Therefore, no employee has had medical insurance provided for them since 1997 to date.

Personal Capability Assessments

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many successful appeals there have

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been in each of the last four years against personal capability assessments involving people whose medical condition fluctuates or varies in severity; and what proportion this represents of the total number of successful appeals. [32664]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: It was not possible to obtain specific information detailing cases where an appellant's medical condition fluctuates or varies in severity.

Pensions Schemes Registry

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the work of the Pensions Schemes Registry in tracing lost pensions contributions. [33718]

Mr. McCartney: The Pension Schemes Registry helps people trace the contributions they have paid to occupational or personal pension schemes that they have lost touch with. The registry does this by providing—at no cost—the current name and address of the relevant pension scheme. The person concerned can then contact the scheme to find out what pension they may have.

In 2000–01 the registry received over 21,000 tracing requests and found a contact name and address in 92 per cent. of cases, responding to 100 per cent. of requests within four days.

State Second Pension

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if the decision by an employer whether to contract-out from the state second pension scheme is (a) a matter of negotiation between the parties involved in that employment and (b) is subject to fiduciary duties to maximise benefit to employees. [33720]

Mr. McCartney: The decision on whether or not an employer wishes to set up an occupational pension scheme through which his employees may contract out of the state second pension, is entirely a matter for the employer. Any subsequent change in the contracting-out status of the scheme would require a change to the scheme rules. Such a change could only be made if an actuary certified to the trustees that, in his opinion, the change would not adversely affect any member of the scheme, without his or her consent, in respect of his or her entitlement.

Cold Weather Payments

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many cold weather payments have been triggered this winter as a result of low temperatures, broken down by (a) weather station and (b) nation and region of the United Kingdom. [25948]

Malcolm Wicks [pursuant to his reply, 21 January 2002, c. 631–32W; holding answer 11 January 2002]: Cold weather payments are a key part of our strategy to tackle fuel poverty. They provide extra help towards heating costs for the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society in periods of exceptionally cold weather. They are paid to pensioners receiving the minimum income guarantee, and to people receiving income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance who have children under the age of five or who have a premium for disability or long term sickness.

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The payments are made automatically and are triggered when the average temperature is recorded as, or forecast to be, 0 degrees centigrade or below over seven consecutive days at the weather station linked to the customer's postcode. So far this year we estimate that payments to the value of almost £16.8 million have been triggered. Available information on the breakdown of the payments is in the tables.

Estimated number and value of cold weather payments triggered by weather station

Weather stationEstimated number of payments triggered from 1 November 2001 to 14 January 2002Estimated value of payments triggered (£)
Andrewsfield39,790338,215.00
Aviemore3,09926,341.50
Bedford60,529514,496.50
Bingley86,283733,405.50
Bishopton178,5251,517,462.50
Boltshope Park9,37079,645.00
Boulmer10,79391,740.50
Bracknell53,193452,140.50
Braemar2281,938
Brize Norton22,139188,181.50
Carlisle9,89684,116.00
Cassley2081,768.00
Coleshill249,1302,117,605.00
Coltishall34,663294,635.50
Dumfries5,12843,588.00
Dyce22,024187,204.00
Edinburgh Gogarbank65,607557,659.50
Eskdalemuir8,71274,052
Fylingdales25,142213,707.00
Great Malvern37,578319,413.00
Lake Vyrnwy1,39811,883.00
Leeds143,9641,223,694.00
Lerwick8297,046.50
Leuchars32,244274,074.00
Linton on Ouse62,637532,414.50
Loch Glascarnoch5254,462.50
Lyneham24,040204,340.00
Marham14,914126,769.00
Newcastle122,6571,042,584.50
Nottingham147,8611,256,818.50
Redhill32,551276,683.50
Ringway199,2911,693,973.50
Salsburgh12,027102,229.50
Sennybridge47,119400,511.50
Shawbury48,288410,448.00
Tulloch Bridge1,93116,413.50
Waddington95,223809,395.50
Wattisham35,582302,447.00
Wick Airport1,95616,626.00
Wittering30,163256,385.50
Total1,977,23716,806,514.50

Estimated number and value of cold weather payments triggered by country

CountryEstimated number of payments triggered from 1 November 2001 to 14 January 2002Estimated value of payments triggered (£)
England1,595,67713,563,254.50
Scotland333,0432,830,865.50
Wales48,517412,394.50
Total1,977,23716,806,514.50

Notes:

1. Figures are not available by Government office region.

2. Those weather stations where cold weather payments have not been triggered are excluded from the tables.

3. Cold weather payments are payable for periods of cold weather between 1 November and 31 March each winter.

4. Social security matters in Northern Ireland are the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

5. The figures provided are estimates. The final number and value of actual payments made will be reconciled after 31 March 2002.

Source:

Estimates are based on a scan in November 2001 of income support and jobseeker's allowance live load linked to weather station postcodes.


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LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

EU Policy

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what recent meetings Ministers in his Department have held bilaterally on European union policy with representatives of other EU Governments. [32594]

Mr. Wills: Baroness Scotland and I met Jose Maria Michavila, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice in Spain on 1 November 2001. Baroness Scotland also met Diogo Machado, the Portuguese Secretary of State for Justice, on 30 July 2001.

The Lord Chancellor has not had any recent meetings with representatives of other EU Governments.

Crown Dependencies

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what his estimate is of the cost of his Department's responsibilities for the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. [32047]

Mr. Wills: The estimated costs incurred since my Department assumed responsibility in connection with the Crown Dependencies on 8 June 2001 are as follows:

£
Staff costs, including legal advice240,428
Visits by Ministers and senior officials5,985
Other (non-pay) running costs213,369
Total costs459,782

Law Commission

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department who (a) sits on and (b) appoints those who sit on the Law Commission; and what criteria are used to select those who sit on it. [32566]

Mr. Wills: The Law Commission is an advisory non-departmental public body which is governed by the Law Commissions Act 1965. The 1965 Act requires the Lord Chancellor to appoint five Commissioners of which one is the Chairman. Currently the Chairman is Lord Justice Carnwath CVO, and the Commissioners are: Professor Hugh Beale; Judge Alan Wilkie QC; Professor Martin Partington and Mr. Stuart Bridge.

The 1965 Act further requires that the Commissioners be chosen from those who are either a holder of judicial office, or a barrister, or a solicitor or a teacher of law in a university. The Lord Chancellor also considers the

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specialist skills, experience and expertise of prospective Commissioners against the requirements of the Commission's programme of work.


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