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Pensions

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when private sector providers who wish to make combined pensions forecasts available to prospective pensioners will be able to do so; and what information on forecasts is available to them. [54239]

Maria Eagle: The combined pension forecasting service was launched in October 2001 at the industry's annual Pensions Show. Since that date the service has been open to all pension providers to register their interest in participating.

The service is delivered on a voluntary basis through employers and pension scheme providers with the consent of individual customers.

Customer Account Managers organise publicity of the service at industry conferences and seminars. Additionally, they support individual providers who have expressed an interest in joining the new service through one-to-one presentations and guide them through the formal registration process.

Explanatory information leaflets and guides, have also been produced for distribution to providers these are: CPF1—Take part in combined pension forecasting, CPF2—A guide to combined pension forecasting and CPF3—Combined pension forecast: Technical guide.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list those employers and pension scheme providers who have participated in pilot exercises to inform the design and development of combined pensions forecasts; and if he will make sample statements available in the Library. [54238]

Maria Eagle: Pilot exercises were conducted with the following seven companies:


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A sample statement from the Prudential has been placed in the Library.

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he has taken to inform employees whose employers have switched from final salary pensions to money purchase schemes about the impact of such changes. [55327]

Maria Eagle: Pension schemes are set up voluntarily by employers and they decide what the provisions of those schemes should be. Once a scheme is established scheme trustees are required to provide members with basic information about the scheme, including what benefits are payable and how those benefits are calculated. If employers choose to switch from a final salary to a money purchase scheme, the Government believes employers have a responsibility to make it clear to their employees if contribution rates change and what the implications of that are for their future pension provision.

TRANSPORT, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND

THE REGIONS

Directly Elected Mayors

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how much the research on Public Attitudes to Directly Elected Mayors by IFF Research Ltd, published by his Department on 14 December 2001 cost; and when the research was delivered to his Department. [53784]

Dr. Whitehead: The research on Public Attitudes to Directly Elected Mayors, commissioned to find out more about how the public perceived directly elected mayors and to establish the level of interest in local democracy generally, involved fieldwork by IFF Research Ltd, which cost £103,650, and analysis and publication by my Department. The survey data was delivered to my Department on 25 September 2001, and after analysis was published on 14 December, a date which was outside any period for restricting publicity prior to a mayoral referendum.

Fire Service

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the starting salary of a fireman is in (a) London and (b) the rest of England; and when this salary will next increase. [54176]

Dr. Whitehead: The starting salary for a firefighter aged 18 in London is £20,111 rising to £20,897 after six months. Firefighters over 18 in London start on £20,378 rising to £21,152 after six months.

Outside London the starting salary for a firefighter aged 18 is £16,941 rising to £17,727 after six months. For those over 18 the starting salary is £17,208 rising to £17,982 after six months.

After four years a firefighter in London will be on £24,701 and £21,531 outside London.

Under the national pay agreement between local authority employers and the Fire Brigades Union the operative date for pay increases for firefighting staff is 7 November.

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Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to increase the pay of fire service personnel. [54177]

Dr. Whitehead: The Government has no statutory role in the determination of fire service pay. Pay arrangements are negotiated between the local authority employers and the representatives of the staff concerned.

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the shortfall is in the number of firemen in the UK; and what measures he plans to introduce to increase numbers. [54178]

Dr. Whitehead: Based on figures taken from annual returns HM Fire Service Inspectorate, the difference between establishment and actual strength of whole-time and retained firefighters in England and Wales as at 31 March 2001, the most recent figure available, was as follows:

EstablishmentActualShortfall
Whole time33,64033,376264
Retained14,94012,0282,912

Recruitment and increases in firefighter numbers are a matter for local fire authorities.


Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many fire stations have (a) closed, (b) opened and (c) had improvements made to them since 1997. [54179]

Dr. Whitehead: This information is not collected centrally. Information on the number of fire stations in each fire authority in England and Wales at 1 January for each year from 1997 to 2002 was given in my right hon. Friend's reply to a Question from the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. Theresa May) on 19 March 2002, Official Report, columns 239–242. On the basis of these returns, six fire stations have closed and five fire stations have opened since 1997. However, these figures may not include instances where the opening of a fire station is balanced by the closure of another in the same authority within a particular year.

Local Authority Services

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to ensure that district authorities have the flexibility to fund and deliver high quality public services to local people. [54797]

Dr. Whitehead: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) on 7 May 2002, Official Report, column 26W.

Bus Workers (Safety)

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will require the Health and Safety Executive to take steps to improve the safety at work of bus workers. [54871]

Dr. Whitehead: Bus workers, in common with all other workers are protected by the general provisions of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and related

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legislation. The priorities for HSE are set out in the Health and safety Commission's Strategic Plan 2001–04. There are no specific plans to target the safety of bus workers at this time.

Rural Bus Challenges

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to extend rural bus challenges to non-road transport; and what his reasons for his policy are. [55078]

Ms Keeble: We have no plans to extend the rural bus challenge scheme to non-road transport. The scheme's focus on buses, and other road public transport, recognises that in the overwhelming majority of cases throughout the country they will be the means of meeting public transport needs in rural areas.

Mineral Planning Guidance

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what plans he has to issue new guidance on aggregates as a technical note to Mineral Planning Guidance Note 1; [55073] (2) when he plans to review the guidance in Mineral Planning Guidance Note 6; [55072] (3) whether minerals planning authorities may deviate from the production levels set in Mineral Planning Guidance Note 6, with particular reference to paragraph 105 of MPG 6. [55074]

Ms Keeble: Following public consultation on principles to be adopted in planning for the future supply of aggregates in 2001, revision of MPG6 was in progress at the time that the Government decided to proceed with the Planning Green Paper. Work on MPG6 was put into abeyance so that any new guidance could conform with decisions to be taken in the light of consultation on the Planning Green Paper. The Green Paper proposed that priority should be given to revising MPG1, dealing with guidance for all types of mineral working, and suggested that MPG6 should be replaced by a technical note in support of MPG1.

Subject to an announcement on the conclusions of the Planning Review, work is in hand to publish a consultation draft revision of MPG1 in the Autumn of 2002, with draft supplementary advice on aggregates following early in 2003. Meanwhile, as a matter of priority, work is proceeding to update the national and regional quantitative guidelines for aggregates provision, at present in the 1994 edition of MPG6, with a view to consulting on these in mid 2002.

The supply guidelines in MPG6 have always been flexible. Paragraph 26 of MPG6 makes it clear that "If circumstances change, requiring a change in assumptions, the provision to be actually made can be adjusted. Consequently the figures contained in these Guidelines are not targets but are indicative figures for the purposes of preparing development plans and the administration of development control." In addition, paragraph 58 of MPG6 makes it clear that the regional guidelines "provide an indication of likely demand but the apportionment figure should not be regarded as inflexible".

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"The preparation of development plans provides an important opportunity to test the practicality and environmental acceptability at the local level of the Guidelines figure. The provision to be made in each plan will need to be justified not only in relation to this Guidance, but also in relation to all other relevant considerations affecting planning for the area". In line with paragraph 105 of MPG6, the regional guidelines should always be subject to local review and updating in the light of local circumstances. The forthcoming publication of revised forecasts and guidelines will provide a good opportunity for authorities to do this in reviewing and updating their mineral development plans.

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what discussions he has had with West Sussex County Council on the provision of new aggregate sites at (a) Funtington, (b) Oving and (c) Duncton. [55075]

Ms Keeble: No such discussions have taken place.

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the status is of planning policy guidance and mineral planning guidance notes issued by his Department. [55071]

Ms Keeble: Planning Policy guidance and minerals planning guidance notes set out the Government's policies on different aspects of planning and minerals issues. Local and mineral planning authorities must take them into account, where relevant, in preparing their development plans. It has also been established that such guidance may be material to decisions on individual planning applications and appeals, depending on the circumstances of each case.


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