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Incapacity Benefit

Mr. Flook: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reason service invalid pensions are classed as occupational pensions when deciding the benefit entitlement from incapacity benefit; and when this rule was introduced. [53311]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: We introduced changes to the treatment of occupational pensions in incapacity benefit in April 2001. We believe it is right to take account of pensions which duplicate the purpose of incapacity benefit, which is to provide some replacement of earnings for people of working age. Benefit is reduced by 50 per cent. of pension income in excess of £85 a week.

Pension income includes occupational pensions paid on cessation of employment. Armed forces service pensions paid on cessation of service are occupational pensions and are treated in the same way as other occupational pensions.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the written questions asked of him between (a) 1 to 30 June 2001, (b) 1 to 31 July 2001, (c) 1 to 30 September 2001, (d) 1 to 31 October 2001, (e) 1 to 30 November 2001, (f) 1 to 31 December 2001, (g) 1 to 31 January 2002, (h) 1 to 28 February 2002, (i) 1 to 31 March 2002 and (j) 1 to 30 April 2002 that had not received a substantive answer by 30 April; and if he will state (i) the name of the hon. Member asking the question and (ii) the reasons the question had not received a substantive answer. [54082]

Maria Eagle [holding answer 2 May 2002]: At 30 April there were 10 written questions from January that remained unanswered, 18 from February, 82 from March and 114 from April. Of these, 33 were not due for answer until 1 May or later. The identification numbers and the names of the hon. Members who tabled the questions have been placed in the Library. For the reasons for delay I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. John Bercow) on 10 April 2002, Official Report, column 225W.

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Pension Entitlements (Public Sector)

David Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what powers he has to intervene against public sector employers who withdraw pension entitlements from their work force. [55629]

Mr. McCartney: My right hon. Friend has no powers to intervene against public sector or private sector employers who withdraw pension entitlements (i.e. pension rights that have been accrued in an occupational pension scheme) from pension scheme members. In the exceptional circumstance where an employee may have their entitlements withdrawn (for example if the employer becomes insolvent), then the matter would be handled by the competent authority—for example the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority, Pensions Advisory Service or the Pensions Ombudsman.

Public service pension scheme benefits and conditions are the responsibility of the sponsoring Departments, and are not the responsibility of the Secretary of State.

Benefits Decision Makers

David Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the average length of time that decision makers involved on benefit entitlement have remained in their posts before being transferred to other duties has been over the last 12 months for which figures are available; [54151]

Mr. McCartney: The information is not available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Social Fund

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has for making personal advisers available for social fund applicants. [51049]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 18 April 2002]: The role of the personal adviser is to provide work-focused advice and support to people of working age to give them the opportunity to work where they are able to do so. Many social fund applicants will already have had the opportunity to see a personal adviser, for example people making new or repeat claims to benefit at integrated Jobcentre Plus offices, people claiming jobseeker's allowance and people participating in the new deals.

Staff administering the social fund aim to provide the best possible advice to their clients over the telephone or in person, and this will continue under Jobcentre Plus and the Pension Service.


Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the companies from which his Department has obtained timber and wood products and the total spent with each firm over the last five years. [43411]

15 May 2002 : Column 681W

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Current data capture systems do not enable the information to be reported in the format requested.


Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many United Kingdom companies have ended their final salary pension schemes in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999, (d) 2000, (e) 2001 and (f) 2002. [42713]

Mr. Flight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many final salary schemes have closed in each year since May 1997; how many people have been

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affected; and what estimate he has made of how many such schemes he expects to close over each of the next five years. [44683]

Mr. McCartney: The information is not available in the form requested. Such information as is available is given in the table.

Data for the 1997–98 tax year include many schemes where a change occurred at an earlier date which was not reported to the Registry. This was because many schemes were not required to pay a levy until the Pensions Act 1995 came into force in April 1997. In these cases a default date of 1 April 1997 has been used therefore artificially inflating the figures for that year.

Defined benefit schemes that have closed, frozen, started to wind up or completed winding up.

Schemes closed542113116157103
schemes frozen1,09549579837
Schemes starting to wind up1119632306228
Schemes completed winding up800917681576278
Total schemes closed, frozen, starting to wind up or completed winding up2,4481,0981,4861,137646


1. The information is based on data held by the Pension Schemes Registry (PSR). It relates to final salary schemes only. There is a large minority of schemes on the Register where the scheme type is unknown, there are also some schemes offering a mixture of salary related and money purchase benefits. None of these schemes are included in the table.

2. Closed schemes do not admit new active members, but allow existing members to continue to accrue benefits. Frozen schemes do not allow any future accruals. Schemes starting to wind up are also frozen. Schemes that have completed wind up have no members—all assets are realised and all liabilities are discharged.

3. The information relates to schemes, not employers. Some employers operate several schemes. Closure of a scheme may be due to a bulk transfer of members to another scheme.

4. The PSR system holds information on the most recent change in scheme status and the effective date of the change. Because of the way the data is held a later change will overwrite an earlier change, so data for earlier years become increasingly inaccurate. Trustees are required to report changes within 12 months so there is likely to be a lag before the data reflects what is happening currently.

Industrial Action (Jobcentre Plus)

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what research has been undertaken by his Department into the effectiveness of security screens in preventing physical assault upon staff in Benefits Agency and Employment Service offices. [32651]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 5 February 2002]: The Department has undertaken a thorough review of the impact of screens in protecting staff from physical assaults. The review has taken account of the experience of a number of major public and private sector employers, both in the UK and abroad, as well as the results of an investigation carried out by the Tavistock Institute for the Employment Service. A copy of this latter research report has been placed in the Library. The general conclusions to emerge from this work are that the presence of screens tends to make communication between staff and customers seem more unfriendly and uncaring, which is, in turn, more likely to predispose agitated or anxious people towards aggression.

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