Previous Section Index Home Page

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the average time taken by his Department to answer (a) a named day question and (b) an ordinary written question tabled by (i) all hon. Members and (ii) the hon. Member for Northavon in (A) this and (B) the previous session. [43327]

Maria Eagle: The information for this session up to 20 March 2002 is in the table. Information for previous session is not available.

Average time to answer Parliamentary Questions (Days)
Ordinary WrittenNamed Day
All honourable Members126
Hon. Member for Northavon145

Age Discrimination

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his Department's policy is towards age discrimination. [42580]

Malcolm Wicks: We recognise the importance of tackling age discrimination in the workplace. We have already provided voluntary guidance to help employers adopt age positive employment practices. We are consulting extensively with employers, individuals, and expert groups and, by 2006 we will legislate against age discrimination in the workplace.

As an employer, the Department is committed to equality and valuing diversity within its workforce, and specifically to age diversity and non-discrimination on age grounds. In support of this policy we are working to ensure that our practices will be compliant with future age legislation. The Departmental retirement age for all staff below Senior Civil Service level was increased from 60 to 65 with effect from 1 April 2000 and staff have the choice to retire at any time between these ages. All staff are positively encouraged to take appropriate development opportunities regardless of age including promotion and change of duties. We acknowledge the skills and experience of our staff and are committed to utilising these to provide the best possible public service.

Winter Fuel Payment

Mr. Ivan Henderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate how many pensioners in the Harwich constituency are (a) entitled to and (b) have taken up the winter fuel payment. [45116]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: I refer the hon. Member to the Written Answer I gave the hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Colin Breed) on 18 March 2002, Official Report, column 153W.

26 Mar 2002 : Column 1005W

Pension-related Benefits

James Purnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of how much money would be accrued by the delay in payment of pension-related benefits, by two years in comparison to the payment of such benefits at 65 years if the retirement age were increased to 67 years. [43649]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding reply 20 March 2002]: Currently state pension age is 65 for men and between 60 and 65 for women, depending on their date of birth. From 2020 state pension age will be 65 for all.

If the state pension age were increased to 67 in 2020–21, we estimate that the gross savings on state pension expenditure in that year would be around #6.2 billion, in 2002–03 prices.

Benefit Fraud

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what lessons have been learnt from the prosecution pilots in which DSS lawyers helped local authorities to prosecute people suspected of benefit fraud; and whether the scheme will be replaced. [42514]

Malcolm Wicks: The prosecution pilots showed that provision of legal services and advice to Local Authorities can help raise the profile of Local Authority prosecutions and encourage Local Authorities to pursue prosecutions and sanctions. The assistance provided through these pilots is just one aspect of the help being provided by the Department to Local Authorities to increase the professionalism of their investigation work.

From April 2002, all Local Authorities will be participating in a new incentive scheme that provides greater financial support for prosecution-related work. We are also considering afresh what help Departmental solicitors might give Local Authorities who wish to impose sanctions on and, where appropriate, prosecute those who commit benefit fraud.

Age Discrimination

Mr. MacDougall: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans his Department has to introduce legislation on age discrimination in employment before the EU directive is implemented; [42397]

Mr. Nick Brown: The introduction of the employment related age discrimination legislation, and the consultations on its development, are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

The Department for Work and Pensions leads in challenging ageism in employment with its Age Positive campaign that is vigorously promoting the business benefits of employing an age diverse workforce. The campaign focuses on the Code of Practice on Age Diversity in Employment and a wide range of research

26 Mar 2002 : Column 1006W

and development activities with both public and private organisations to help employers develop non-ageist employment practices that will help them prepare for the future legislation. Integral to this is the Age Positive Website ( that was launched in December.

WBS Subsidies

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the National Audit Office's comments in the Appropriation Accounts, HC335, on the fall in WBS subsidies during 2000–01; and whether the Department intends to revise the weekly benefits savings rules. [42512]

Malcolm Wicks: The Weekly Benefit Savings (WBS) scheme was introduced in April 1993 to encourage Local Authorities to undertake activity to combat benefit fraud. It is based on a system of rewards and penalties for the amount of fraud detected.

Changes were made to the scheme in 1998 following concerns from the National Audit Office and Audit Commission that WBS was being inappropriately claimed in cases where fraud had not been established or a fraud investigation had not been properly undertaken. It was therefore decided to tighten the WBS claiming criteria and limit the amount of WBS claimed in certain circumstances.

This tightening of the criteria was followed by a large reduction in the WBS savings scored by Local Authorities in 1998–99 and 1999–2000. To address this, increased rates of additional subsidy were made payable to Local Authorities and a reduced level of penalty was introduced in April 1999.

In January 2000 the Department announced that it would replace WBS with a new anti-fraud incentive scheme over two years from April 2001. Sixty three Local Authorities took up the new scheme in 2001–02 with the remainder joining in April 2002.

Households Below Average Income Survey

Mr. Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his Answer of 6 November 2000 to the hon. Member for Havant, Official Report, column 92W, if he will estimate the same data for each region and nation of the UK; and if he will also express the estimates as a percentage of the total numbers of pensioners and children the figures represent. [37885]

Mr. Nick Brown: Such information as is available is in the tables. However, estimates of year on year change at regional level should be viewed with caution, as sampling error may be large in relation to the change itself.

Percentage of children living in households below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income by region, including the self-employed

Percentage of children 1994–951995–961996–971997–981998–99
Income before housing costs
of which
North East2931283233
North West and Merseyside2523302933
Yorkshire and the Humber2926333029
East Midlands2521232424
West Midlands2224302924
South East1315181714
South West1916222222
Income after housing costs
of which
North East3536353840
North West and Merseyside3333383740
Yorkshire and the Humber3532373536
East Midlands3129292930
West Midlands2833343631
South East2425282524
South West3028323232

26 Mar 2002 : Column 1007W

Percentage of children living in households below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income by region, excluding the self-employed

Percentage of children1994–951995–961996–971997–981998–99
Income before housing costs
of which
North East2826273031
North West and Merseyside2322292930
Yorkshire and the Humber2725322927
East Midlands2320212324
West Midlands2022272924
South East1013161511
South West1615202020
Income after housing costs
of which
North East3631353741
North West and Merseyside3133373738
Yorkshire and the Humber3331373435
East Midlands2929283031
West Midlands2732333631
South East2225292523
South West2729323031

Percentage of pensioners living in households below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income by region, including the self-employed

Percentage of pensioners 1994–951995–961996–971997–981998–99
Income before housing costs
of which
North East2328192125
North West and Merseyside2420222324
Yorkshire and the Humber2325252325
East Midlands1925242726
West Midlands2322252423
South East2018171920
South West1923222424
Income after housing costs
of which
North East3134263029
North West and Merseyside2623282627
Yorkshire and the Humber2826303030
East Midlands2226282928
West Midlands2824282727
South East2524232425
South West2526252924

26 Mar 2002 : Column 1009W

Percentage of pensioners living in households below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income by region, excluding the self-employed

Percentage of pensioners1994–951995–961996–971997–981998–99
Income before housing costs
of which
North East2127172025
North West and Merseyside2219212324
Yorkshire and the Humber2324242223
East Midlands1724232626
West Midlands2221242322
South East2018171919
South West1822192422
Income after housing costs
of which
North East2932263028
North West and Merseyside2422272626
Yorkshire and the Humber2825282929
East Midlands2126262927
West Midlands2723272726
South East2424232424
South West2525252923


1. All figures are estimates and are taken from the Households Below Average Income (HBAI) data set which is derived from the Family Resources Survey (FRS). The FRS does not include Northern Ireland.

2. The estimates are sample counts, which have been adjusted for non-response using multipurpose grossing factors that control for tenure, Council Tax band and a number of other variables. Estimates are subject to both sampling error and to variability in non-response. The income measure used is weekly net (disposable) equivalised household income (that is to say income that is adjusted to reflect the composition of the household).

3. The estimates are presented on both a Before Housing Costs (BHC) and an After Housing Costs (AHC) basis in line with HBAI conventions. Figures are also provided including and excluding the self-employed, as research suggests that, for self-employed people, income as reported in surveys is often a poor indicator of living standards.

4. Estimates for the numbers of pensioners and children living in households below 60 per cent. median income by region have not been provided as the FRS grossing regime does not permit the provision of reliable estimates of numbers, as distinct from percentages. This issue does not affect either GB level estimates of numbers nor regional estimates of percentages. The grossing methodology in the FRS is currently being reviewed with one aim being to resolve this issue.


Family Resources Survey

26 Mar 2002 : Column 1011W

Next Section Index Home Page