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Mr. Colin Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many people were in receipt of income related benefits in each of the last 12 years; and

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what the most recent available figure is for each constituency in England. [38337]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 4 March 2002]: The available information has been placed in the Library.

Child Benefit Centre operational targets 2002–03

Area2002–03 Target
Child Benefit claims processing95 per cent. completed in 36 days
Child Benefit claims accuracy98 per cent.
Child Benefit change of circumstances95 per cent. completed in 14 days
Child Benefit change of circumstances accuracy96.5 per cent.
Guardians Allowance claims processing95 per cent. completed in 80 days
Teleservice—proportion of available calls answered90 per cent.
Appeals processed92 per cent. completed in 90 days

Basic Pensions

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will change the practice of starting a pension from the Monday following a person's 60th or 65th birthday. [37423]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Entitlement to Retirement Pension begins with the pay-day on or following the pensioner's 60th or 65th birthday. Changes in entitlement, for example a decrease because of a prolonged stay in hospital, also takes effect from the pay-day following the change in circumstances. The same rule applies with the termination of the award. The principle of paying Retirement Pension in whole weeks stems from the fact that the benefit is traditionally paid in advance.

There are no plans to change the present arrangements for paying Retirement Pension.

Personnel Issues

Mr John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what was the (a) percentage and number of rail journeys undertaken on first class tickets, (b) average cost of a first class journey by rail and (c) total cost of rail travel in each of the past four years broken down by grade of civil servant. [37509]

Malcolm Wicks: The information requested for the percentage, number and average cost of first class journeys is not available. As part of their terms and conditions of employment, first class tickets are available for senior staff undertaking long business journeys or working en route. The department has a contract with an external agent for the provision of rail tickets over #15. Over each of the last three calendar years (1999–2001) the department has purchased an average of #7.2 million worth of tickets.


Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what assessment his Department made of the impact on occupational pensions of FRS17 prior to its implementation; [37781]

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Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 27 February 2002]: FRS17 is an accounting standard introduced by the Accounting Standards Board (ASB) which is entirely independent of Government. Financial reporting standards are introduced after a long period of public consultation which offers an opportunity for those with an interest to make representations to the ASB.

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The Department has been aware of FRS17 throughout its development, a process that has taken several years.

Ministers and officials hold regular consultations with those involved with the pensions industry. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met representatives from the ASB on 27 February.

There are many factors tending to increase the costs and risks faced by employers who choose to offer defined benefit occupational pension schemes including longer life expectancy and lower expected future investment returns. It is not possible to isolate the effects of FRS17 from these other factors.