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17. Jeff Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what impact the action team for jobs initiative is having in severely economically deprived areas. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: Action teams are having a positive impact on the lives of disadvantaged people in the most economically deprived areas of the country. By the end of May they had helped over 34,000 people move into work. An early evaluation study also found that 80 per cent. of these jobs were sustained jobs.
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The team working in my hon. Friend's constituency has helped over 320 jobless people into work since October 2001 and, last year, contributed £100,000 towards a new child care unit in the area.
18. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he will make a statement on his long-term plans for pensions policy if the present rate of take-up of funded pensions continues. 
Mr. McCartney: I refer the hon. Member to the oral answer I gave today to the right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) at column 18.
19. Mr. Plaskitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to ensure that those in receipt of jobseeker's allowance take up appropriate job offers. 
Malcolm Wicks: It is a fundamental principle of our welfare reform programme to match rights with responsibilities.
For our part we are engaging actively with jobless people to provide them with employment opportunities. For example, our new deals for young people and 25 plus have already helped over 460,000 people to work450 in my hon. Friend's constituency. And we plan to rollout a further 225 new jobcentre plus offices by spring of next year delivering a single, integrated service to people of working age, with a clear focus on work.
In return, we expect jobless people to take up these opportunities. For the minority who choose not to participate in the new deal, or who fail to take up suitable job offers, we have a rigorous sanctions regime to reduce or suspend their jobseeker's allowance. During 200102, just over 38,000 people were subject to a Jobseeker's Allowance sanction for refusing to take up an offer of employment.
21. Mr. Mahmood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the effectiveness of employment zones in reducing unemployment. 
31. Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the effectiveness of employment zones in reducing unemployment levels. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: Employment Zones are one of a range of initiatives we have introduced to help people move into work.
The performance of the 15 Employment Zones is encouraging. By February this year they had helped over 22,000 long-term unemployed people from some of the country's most deprived areas into work.
We are currently evaluating the Zones and the results of this will feed into their ongoing improvement.
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22. Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to simplify the administration of private pensions. 
Mr. McCartney: We are continually looking for ways to improve the pension system. As the hon. Lady will know, we have already made good headway in improving access to private pensions. For exmple, we have introduced stakeholder pensions which are a straightforward way for people to save for their retirement. So far, over 800,000 stakeholder pensions have been sold. We have also improved the way the minimum funding requirement operates in advance of its replacement.
But, of course we can do more. The current pensions regime is too complicated and that is in no-one's interest. So the Government have commissioned a number of reviews to look for ways of simplifying and improving pension provision and regulation. The Pickering review is looking at how we can cut red tape whilst making sure that scheme members are properly protected. Linked to this is the Quinquennial review of the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (Opra) which is looking at how we can ensure that the regulatory rules we put in place are clearly understood by those who need to administer them and are well policed to ensure increased security and confidence. In addition, there is the Sandler review which is looking at how the commercial retail savings market might be made to operate more effectively and efficiently, to the benefit of consumers. The Inland Revenue is also carrying out a review of the tax treatment of occupational pensions and they will consult on proposals later in the year.
The Sandler and Pickering reviews will be published in the next few weeks with the Opra review publishing later in the year. We will consider the proposals in these reports once they are published as part of our deliberations on how best to simplify the administration of private pensions.
20. Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of private pension provision in the working population; and if he will make a statement. 
27. Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to extend private pension provision in the UK. 
Mr. McCartney: The introduction of stakeholder pensions has extended access of private pension provision. It is clear, however, that individuals are not saving enough and more action is needed. We have already made clear the Government's recognition of the importance of this issue and the actions we are taking to address is.
We have already extended access to private pensions in the UK with the introduction of stakeholder pensions and the requirement of employers to designate a scheme. Around 322,000 employes have already designated a stakeholder scheme and over 800,000 stakeholders have been sold. We are removing the disincentive to save for retirement that existed in the Social Security system with the introduction of the Pension Credit. We are also ensuring that individuals have the right information to
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make informed choices through the introduction of combined pensions forecasts, money purchase illustrations and our ongoing pensions education campaign.
There is a need to ensure that the regulatory system for pensions is appropriate and not unnecessarily complicated and that the retail savings market operates as it should. That is why we commissioned Alan Pickering to review pensions regulation and Ron Sandler to review the retail savings market. Both of these reviews are due to report shortly and we will respond to any proposals in the Autumn.
23. Brian White: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what types of personal advice users of Jobcentre Plus are entitled to receive. 
24. Linda Gilroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people are receiving services from Jobcentre Plus. 
26. Judy Mallaber: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to make jobcentres more responsive to the needs of those who are out of work. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: In April this year we created Jobcentre Plus to bring together the Employment Service and the working age functions of the Benefits Agency. Jobcentre Plus provides a work focused service to all benefit claimants of working age, providing services to around five million people. Jobcentre Plus aims to deliver further improvements in customer service throughout its entire network of jobcentres and social security offices.
Jobcentre Plus provides a full range of advice on employment and training opportunities combined with comprehensive benefit advice. This advice is tailored to the individual needs of the people using the service and will help them to move from welfare to work while ensuring they have the support they need while doing so.
56 new Jobcentre Plus offices are already providing the fully integrated and work-focused service which we will extend progressively to cover the whole of Great Britain over the next four years. We have already announced that we plan to open around 225 more integrated offices by April 2003. As part of this upgrade to the service, everyone of working age who is making a new or repeat claim for benefit in these offices will participate in a work-focused interview with a Personal Adviser and be offered their continuing support.
28. Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many benefit offices are Jobcentre Plus offices; and when it is expected to complete the changeover. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: In April this year we created Jobcentre Plus to bring together the Employment Service and the working age functions of the Benefits Agency. Jobcentre Plus provides a work focused service to all benefit claimants of working age, providing services to around five million people.
56 new Jobcentre Plus offices are already providing the fully integrated and work-focused service which we will extend progressively to cover the whole of Great Britain
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over the next four years. We have already announced that we plan to open around 225 more integrated offices by April 2003.
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