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Women Workers (Ethnic Minorities)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to increase the proportion of women from ethnic minorities in the labour force. [33826]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: As I explained in my reply to my hon. Member of 11 January 2002, Official Report, column 1045W, women from ethnic minorities can benefit from the range of new deals and other welfare to work initiatives that we have introduced. These initiatives, such as working families tax credit, the national minimum wage and the national child care strategy, help people overcome the barriers to employment and to make work pay. In April this year, we are also introducing a new service in five areas of the country to reach out to people from ethnic minorities who are at a disadvantage in the labour market. The outreach service will explore different ways jobless people from ethnic minority communities can be helped—from attracting people in to mainstream services like new deal to improving links to employers or providing specialist training where appropriate. We are investing £15 million in this new service.

Measures are also being introduced in the current Employment Bill that will help working mothers to remain within the work force through better balancing of their work and home commitments. This is good for parents, children and business.

Cold Weather Payments

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to include people under the age of 60, but registered disabled, in the cold weather payment scheme. [34924]

Malcolm Wicks: Cold weather payments provide extra help towards heating costs for the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society in periods of exceptionally cold weather.

People under 60 years of age who receive income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance which includes a premium for disability or long term sickness can already receive cold weather payments. We have no plans to change the eligibility conditions.

Industrial Injuries (Chemical Agents)

Mr. Lammy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he is taking on the report of the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council on Chemical Agents at Work. [37370]

Malcolm Wicks: The report of the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council on chemical agents has been laid before Parliament today (Cm 5395). Copies of the report will be placed in the Library and are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office. We are grateful to the council for their work on this subject. After careful consideration we have decided to accept all the recommendations made in the report for changes to the list of prescribed diseases

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under the industrial injuries scheme caused by exposure to chemical agents at work. The necessary regulations will be brought before Parliament in due course to implement the changes.

Pensions Statistics

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he is taking to ensure that work and pensions statistics are placed on the Office for National Statistics website on the day of release; and if he will make a commitment to release statistics in non-electronic formats when this is not possible. [28971]

Mr McCartney: National Statistics outputs published by the Department for Work and Pensions are normally made available on the departmental website on the day of release (at Paper based versions of publications are also available and almost all can be found in the library. The title and date of each output is provided in the monthly ONS National Statistics Updates release. This can be found at:

Unemployment (Greater London)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the employment prospects for the Greater London area. [32124]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The Department does not make forecasts of the future level of employment. However, despite uncertainty about the prospects for the world economy, the UK labour market is still performing well. The number of people in work in London remains at a high level and has increased by 240,000 since 1997, and is up by 75,000 over the last year.

Though unemployment in the capital has increased over the year, this is because the number of people in London's labour force has increased by more than the rise of employment. New vacancies are displayed in London Jobcentres all the time—over a thousand every working day, with many more available through other recruitment channels.

Like other regions, some areas within London have employment rates well below the national average. Initiatives such as Action Teams for Jobs and Employment Zones are supporting areas like these through new and innovative ways of helping jobless people move into work.

Pensions Downrating

Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners a year over the last four years had their pensions reduced after a six week stay in hospital; what estimate he has made of how much money was raised in that way; what estimate he has made of the costs in administration of (a) reducing and (b) reinstating those pension payments; what proportion of people whose pensions were reduced subsequently experienced delays in their benefits being reinstated when they left hospital; and what plans he has to review these rules. [31237]

Mr. McCartney: The available information is in the tables.

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Number of people as of 31 March in each individual year with their pension down-rated

YearNumber down-rated six to 52 weeks
March 199819,000
March 199920,000
March 200022,000
March 200123,000


1. Figures rounded to nearest 1,000.

2. Information is not available prior to 1997–98.

3. Administrative data only records information at an individual point in time. It is therefore not possible to give the total number of people who have their pension down-rated during the course of a year, only the total number at a particular point in time.

Reduction in state pension expenditure due to six weeks hospital downrating
£ million

YearOver six weeks


1. Cash terms

2. Rounded to the nearest £ million

The Benefit Agency's administration costs are published in the Benefits Agency Annual Report and Accounts 2000–01, copies of which are available in the Library. The costs are not classified by individual tasks but an estimate of the staff costs for administration of hospital downrating is around £0.5 million.

The information about the proportion of people whose pensions were reduced and who subsequently experienced delays in their benefits being reinstated when they left hospital is not collected.

The Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health, has looked at issues affecting hospital in-patients including rules governing the downrating of benefits.

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.

The double provision principle, is a key cornerstone of the system of national insurance introduced over 50 years ago.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer of 26 November 2001, Official Report, column 710W, on hospital downrating, what the saving to public funds was from the downrating of pensions for people staying (a) more than six weeks and (b) more than 52 weeks in hospital. [30130]

Mr. McCartney: The information is in the table.

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£ million

Downrating type
6–52 weeksOver 52 weeksTotal


1. Figures are in cash terms

2. Figures are rounded to the nearest £ million

Public Relations Consultants

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much was spent by (a) his Department and (b) bodies for which it is responsible on external public relations consultants in each of the last four years. [27399]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The Department (including the former DSS and the part of the former DfEE which are now the responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions) incurred the following expenditure on public relations consultancies since 1998–99:


(45) Includes £45,607 (rounded up to £46,000 for the new deal also included in the written answer to the hon. Member by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Young People and Learning (Mr. Lewis) on 25 January 2002, Official Report, column 1130W.

(46) To end November.


Agencies of the Department registered no expenditure on public relations consultancies over the last four years.

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