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Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) for each of the past five years, how many people were contracted out of SERPS; and what proportion of the workforce were contracted out; [58521]

Mr. McCartney: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is set out as follows:

The number of people who were contracted out of the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme in 1995–96, the latest year for which figures are available, is 14.8 million.

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The workforce for the same year was 28.7 million; the proportion of the workforce estimated to be contracted out of the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme was 52 per cent.

Pension Service

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what advice and information will be provided by staff in the new pension centres to encourage (a) new and (b) existing pensioners to (i) claim the minimum income guarantee and (ii) receive payments directly from post offices. [58208]

Mr. McCartney: The Pension Service will provide a modern, efficient and customer focused service for both today's and future pensioners. It will play a crucial role in our aim to tackle pensioner poverty. We are committed to encouraging pensioners to claim their full entitlements. We have already conducted a very successful minimum income guarantee (MIG) campaign which resulted in an extra 134,000 pensioners making successful claims to MIG receiving on average an extra £20 a week.

We are continuing to look at more effective ways of encouraging eligible pensioners to claim the MIG. Initiatives include:

Since April 2002, all customers contacting the Retirement Pension Teleclaims Centre are offered information on MIG and asked if they would like someone to call them back with more information and pursue a claim. Those customers who do not wish to claim MIG via the RP telecentre are sent a MIG information leaflet with their RP claim pack.

Additionally, we will:

Training material for Pension Service staff includes guidance on identifying potential entitlement to MIG. If, during the course of any inquiry, it becomes evident that the pensioner might be entitled to MIG they will be encouraged to claim.

Also, the local service will work closely with local authorities, the voluntary sector and other service providers to give a proactive service and ensure that

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customers receive their full benefit entitlement. In time local service staff will be trained to provide a more joined-up service covering the broad range of services older people may need to access. The local service will include surgeries, a home visiting where there is a special need and joint benefit take-up campaigns.

At the moment, pensioners can choose to be paid by order book or have their money paid directly into a bank or building society account. From April 2003, payments directly into accounts will become the normal method of payment. People will still be able to collect their money from the post office and will be provided with information to enable them to choose the most appropriate account.

Final Salary Pension Schemes

Mr. Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the company practice of dishonouring final salary pension schemes. [58051]

Mr. McCartney: There has been a long-term decline in the coverage of final salary pension schemes, which has accelerated as a result of increased longevity and the recent fall in the stock markets. Many companies have had to consider the financial impact on their business of continuing to run a final salary scheme for all employees.

Employers should take a long-term view of pensions, rather than basing their decisions on short-term considerations. Where employers do change their pension schemes, we believe that they have a responsibility to make it absolutely clear what the implications are for employee pensions.

The Sandler review of the long-term retail savings market and Pickering review of pension regulation will report in the summer. The Inland Revenue is also reviewing the taxation of occupational pension schemes. We will issue proposals in the autumn, aimed at making pension provision more attractive for individuals and pension providers. This will build on the reforms that have been introduced since 1998. Pension Credit will ensure that it always pays to save. State second pension will benefit 14 million low and moderate earners, and four million carers and disabled people who will get a second pension for the first time. We have introduced pension forecasts to provide individuals with the right information to make an informed decision about their retirement. And the introduction of stakeholder pensions means that everyone now has access to low-charge, flexible pension provision.

E-Envoy (Contractors)

Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list by (a) date, (b) value and (c) contractor contracts for consultancy and research into (i) smart card and (ii) e-business which have been placed by or for the office of the E-Envoy by (A) competition or (B) single tender in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [56977]

Mr. Leslie: I have been asked to reply.

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(i) Smart card technology

The office of e-Envoy has had two studies over the past 12 months and the details are as follows:

(1) (a) 31 August 2001 (b) £5,000 (c) Alco Partnership. This was by single tender action.

(2) (b) 3 August 2001 (b) £69,000 (c) Logica. This was by competition.

(ii) e-Business

The office of e-Envoy has had five contracts for consultancy and research that cross over onto the e-Business sector that we have listed. Please note these are not solely e-Business as these studies cover other areas such as citizen and public sector.

(1) (a) 14 July 2001 (b) £516,000 (c) Analysis. This was a study that was to take place over a three-year period looking at international and UK benchmarking (broadband). This was by competition.

(2) (a) 24 July 2001 (b) £400,000 (c) Analysis\Booz Allen. Consultancy support to the broadband: demand and aggregation in the public sector. This was by competition.

(3) (a) 23 August 2001 (b) £47,000 (c) Hall Aitken. This was research into internet use in the voluntary and community sectors. Single tender action.

(4) (a) 11 September 20001 (b) £48,000 (c) De Montfort university. This study was looking at ISP (internet service provider) data to research the business and household internet take up. This was by single tender.

(5) (a) 13 March 2002 (b) £310,000 (c) Booz Allen. This is research into international benchmarking of the e-Economy. This was by competition.


Wrongfully Convicted Prisoners

Mr. Tony Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has concluded his consideration of the report of the working group on an advice service for wrongfully convicted prisoners; if he has made final decisions on the matter; and if he will make a statement. [59013]

Beverley Hughes: After careful consideration of the report and recommendations of the working group, I have announced today my decision to establish an advice service for such individuals. The service will operate as a pilot project for an initial period of 12 months and will be provided by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. The project will be subject to rigorous monitoring and evaluation during this pilot phase. Decisions on future service provision will be made in the light of evidence from the evaluation. To inform the evaluation process I have also decided to establish a consultative group, whose members will be drawn from a range of organisations and individuals with an interest in this issue. Expressions of interest in membership of this group are now being invited.

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