Maria Eagle: The Department has undertaken some feasibility work into a research project on the incidence and demography of BSL use. This involved discussions with research organisations, academics, and a meeting with representatives of organisations of and for deaf people. The work identified concerns about the robustness of the data which such a project might produce, its
10 Jun 2002 : Column 878W
acceptability to stakeholders including deaf people themselves and the length of time it would take. We are considering what other research might be undertaken which would add to our understanding of the extent of BSL use and demography.
Maria Eagle: There is no central record of the number of people working as British Sign Language interpreters in the UK. The Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People, The Association of Sign Language Interpreters, and the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters all maintain directories of BSL interpreters registered with their respective organisations. These do not, however, provide a comprehensive record of interpreters both active and available for assignment. The Department will shortly publish a research report that includes an examination of BSL interpreter provision in England, Scotland and Wales. The field work was undertaken in 1999 and 2000. Preliminary estimates are that 257 qualified and trainee interpreters were available for work in England and Wales and 27 in Scotland.
Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to pay state benefits weekly into bank or building society accounts; and if he will make a statement on his policy in this regard. 
Malcolm Wicks: From 2003, customers will be able to receive payments into their bank/building society accounts on a weekly, fortnightly, four-weekly, 13-weekly or yearly basis. The precise frequency will depend on the payment rules which apply to the particular benefit they are receiving.
Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what representations he has received to review the operation of housing benefit rules, with specific reference to the clawback threshold; 
Malcolm Wicks: When a homeless person in temporary accommodation provided by a local authority claims housing benefit, the local authority must pay the full amount of benefit in respect of the rent for which the homeless person is liable. However, the amount of subsidy paid to reimburse local authorities for benefit paid in these circumstances is subject to a threshold above which only a proportion of benefit is reimbursed, and a cap, above which nothing is reimbursed. These limits are intended to ensure that the tax-payer does not subsidise unreasonably expensive accommodation. However, there are no circumstances in which we will "claw back" subsidy.
10 Jun 2002 : Column 879W
From April 2002, we introduced changes to the subsidy limits to encourage local authorities to use better quality accommodation in housing homeless people, and to ensure that even more families have the chance of a more permanent home. From that date, the subsidy rate for privately-leased accommodation was increased, while the rate for board and lodging accommodation remained the same.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to the answer of 20 May 2002, Official Report, column 48W, on the New Direct Bank, what the basis was for the statement by Baroness Hollis on 23 April, regarding benefits being paid via new direct banks. 
Malcolm Wicks: This was a convenient turn of phrase used by my noble Friend the Minister for Children and the Family (Baroness Hollis), during the Second Reading of the Tax Credits Bill in another place. It was not intended to intimate an official name change for the universal banking services package currently being developed by the Post Office.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (David Cairns) of 20 May 2002, Official Report, column 32W, on the Pension Service, if he will list the areas in which a direct local service has been introduced since 1 April. 
Mr. McCartney: The local service is being introduced on a phased basis from 1 April 2002 and, on current planning assumptions, will be in place nationwide by October 2002. In the meantime we will continue to provide a full service to our customers as we do currently, for example home visits, caller services in DWP offices, local information/outreach work and the central claims lines. Our customers will continue to deal with their local social security office until the national service is in place.
At this early stage, we are undertaking preparatory work and are making good progress. Recruitment is well under way and a full training programme is also in place to ensure that our staff are equipped with the necessary tools to provide an improved and dedicated service to our customers.
10 Jun 2002 : Column 880W
state pension in (a) 2010, (b) 2020, (c) 2030, (d) 2040 and (e) 2050 if increased in line with (i) prices and (ii) earnings. 
1. Price up-rating column is consistent with Government policy of up-rating by 2.5 per cent. or inflation, whichever is the greater.
2. 200203 price terms.
3. Figures rounded to nearest £0.5 billion.
4. Based on figures supplied by Government Actuary's Department.
5. Real earnings growth from 201213 is assumed to be 1.75 per cent.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much was spent by his Department on paying pensions to retired employees of his Department in 200102; if he will estimate the corresponding amounts to be spent in (a) five years' time, (b) 10 years' time, (c) 20 years' time and (d) 30 years' time; if he will estimate in each case the proportion of such liabilities which will arise from (i) unfunded pension schemes and (ii) pre-funded pension schemes; and in the case of pre-funded schemes, if he will estimate the value of the corresponding pre-funded funds in each of these years. 
Mr. McCartney [holding answer 20 May 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Leslie) on 23 May 2002, Official Report, columns 56163W.
Mr. McCartney [holding answer 23 May 2002]: The function of decision making is delegated by the Secretary of State to people in the Department who are suitably trained and have the requisite skills and experience to do the job. The salary for people making decisions is not decided directly by their role but by the normal rules governing salary progression. The salaries of people undertaking decision making duties will therefore depend upon their level of seniority and length of service and could be at any point on the salary scale.
|National pay range
|Outer London pay range
|Inner London pay range
10 Jun 2002 : Column 881W