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Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times special advisers have accompanied Ministers on overseas visits in each of the last five years; which countries were visited; and what the total cost of each individual visit was. 
Mr. McCartney: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins) on 4 March 2002, Official Report, column 28W. Between 1 April 2001 and 31 March 2002, special advisers in the Department did not travel abroad on any occasion.
Maria Eagle: In its response to the Public Administration Select Committee's Second Report of Session 200001 on Ministerial Accountability and Parliamentary Questions, the Government made clear their commitment to providing prompt and accurate answers to parliamentary questions. This continues to be the Government's position.
Since the House returned in October we have received double the number of the previous session and by the end of this session we anticipate having dealt with significantly more questions than any of the last five years. This does of course have an impact on our ability to deal with questions speedily. We are confident that in deciding to table questions hon. Members take into account the impact of their requests on the ability of colleagues to secure answers to their inquiries. Many hon. Members secure information from other sources such as publications by the Department which are available in the Library.
Malcolm Wicks: The Department collates website statistics for all its sites including those for the Targeting Fraud site. The website has received more than 1.65 million hits and has generated more than 11,000 fraud referrals. The website is just one part of our campaign to raise awareness of benefit fraud and reinforce the message that committing fraud is wrong.
10 Apr 2002 : Column 227W
Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many members of staff were employed by his Department on secondment from non-governmental organisations in (a) 1999, (b) 2000 and (c) 2001. 
Maria Eagle: The table gives the number of staff recorded as having been seconded in to the Department (including Employment Service and the former Department of Social Security) from non-governmental organisations in the financial years (a) 199899, (b) 19992000 and (c) 200001.
Secondments are part of the interchange initiative promoting the exchange of people and good practice between the civil service and other organisations. Interchange is a key component of the civil service reform agenda. The Department for Work and Pensions is committed to increasing interchange, in particular bringing more people in to the Department on secondment.
|Year||Number of inward secondments|
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what proportion of the staff of his Department are (a) job sharing, (b) term working and (c) engaged in another form of flexible working. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: We have a range of alternative working practices available to all staff which aim to strike a balance between working life and personal commitments. The majority of staff work on a flexible working pattern, which allows a degree of freedom that they can tailor around their work and home life priorities.
|Number of staff employed||40,123||104,597||144,720|
|Number of job sharers||4||6||10|
|Proportion of staff employed as job sharers||0.01||0.01||0.01|
|Number of staff employed||40,123||104,597||144,720|
|Number of part-year workers||539||3,328||3,867|
|Proportion of staff employed as part-year workers||1.34||3.18||2.67|
10 Apr 2002 : Column 228W
|Number of staff employed||40,123||104,597||23.62|
|Number of staff employed on other flexible working patterns||9,477||29,770||28.46|
|Proportion of staff employed on other flexible working patterns||23.62||39,247||27.12|
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the contracts agreed by his Department with the five largest accountancy firms since May 1997; and what was the total value of contracts with each. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: The question covers a period prior to the establishment of the Department for Work and Pensions in June 2001. The information requested on contracts let by the ex-Employment Service and ex-Department of Social Security is not held centrally in the new Department and the question could be answered only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. McCartney: The minimum income guarantee was introduced in 1997. Since 1999, annual rises in the minimum income guarantee have been linked to earnings. The rises, after taking into account inflation increases and the differences in the premiums paid, are shown in the table:
10 Apr 2002 : Column 229W
|Single (per cent. increase)||Couple (per cent. increase)|
Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many claimants of the minimum income guarantee are attributed with income from private pension funds not yet annuitised; and how many claimants of MIG who were rejected were attributed with such income. 
Mr. McCartney: Information regarding the numbers of minimum income guarantee claimants with income attributed to private pension funds not yet annuitised, and unsuccessful claims to minimum income guarantee attributed with such income, is not available.
Maria Eagle: As at November 2001, there were 5,000 claimants in receipt of the minimum income guarantee in the Portsmouth local authority area. However, when we include partners, 5,500 pensioners are benefiting from the minimum income guarantee.
Over two million pensioners nationwide benefit from the minimum income guarantee. Those pensioners in receipt of minimum income guarantee are at least £15 per week better off in real terms than in 1997. From April 2002, no single pensioner will be expected to live on less than £98.15 per week and no pensioner couple on less than £149.50.
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