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Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to reform pension law to ensure that pensioners have direct representation on boards of trustees; [69997]

Mr. McCartney: We have no such plans.

The role of a trustee is not to be a representative of a particular group or category of member. All trustees have the same responsibilities regardless of how they come to the role, and the most important thing is that they have the skills and knowledge to fulfil those responsibilities. It would be inappropriate to expect certain trustees to have responsibilities relating only to certain categories of member.

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We do, however, recognise that having ordinary scheme members on trustee boards helps to provide a balance of skills and experience and helps promote member confidence, which is why we are working toward ensuring that every scheme has at least one third member-nominated trustees.

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will amend the law relating to the management of actuarial surpluses of pension funds to ensure that pensioners are not marginalised. [69998]

Mr. McCartney: There are no plans to make changes in this area.

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to clarify the law regarding ownership of pension funds to establish pension funds as the property of the pensioners. [69999]

Mr. McCartney: Scheme assets are owned by the scheme, and managed by the scheme trustees. Scheme members have no legal rights to the assets, but have a right to benefits as laid down by the trust deed. We have no plans to change the law.

Female Staff

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of the staff of his Department are women; and what the percentage was in June 1997. [66911]

Mr. McCartney: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State (Mr. Alexander), Cabinet Office, on 5 July 2002, Official Report, column 622W.

Occupational Pension Schemes

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the clawback of the state pension by occupational pension schemes. [67836]

Mr. McCartney: Occupational pension provision is voluntary, and it is for employers to decide the nature of the scheme and the benefits provided. The decision as to whether a scheme should continue to operate on an integrated basis, or if not, how and when integration should be abolished, is a matter for employers.

Public Service Agreements

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what proportion of the public service agreements of his Department set out in the document, "Public Services for the Future 1998", have been met; and if he will make a statement. [68715]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 10 July 2002]: Information relating to the Department's public service agreement targets can be found in the Department's departmental report 2002.


Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many suspensions of benefits were

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reversed following evidence of the medical condition of the applicant in the Portsmouth, South constituency in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement; [69066]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: For information on the circumstances in which payment of benefit may be suspended, I refer the hon. Member to the answers given to the hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir) on 8 July 2002, Official Report, columns 753–54W.

No information is collected centrally on benefit suspensions, at either national or constituency level.

Youth Unemployment

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many unemployed young people there are in (a) the Glasgow Pollok constituency, (b) Glasgow, (c) Scotland and (d) the United Kingdom; what the figures were in each of the last five years; if he will list the steps that are being taken to focus help on those youngsters with the greatest difficulty in finding employment; and if he will make a statement. [69228]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The information is in the table.

Number of unemployed young people, aged 18–24(20)

Glasgow PollokGlasgowScotlandUK
May 19977587,37540,146396,734
May 19987656,57035,777331,974
May 19996455,40831,421286,485
May 20005034,52827,452251,578
May 20014574,36426,094232,995
May 20024754,27225,845233,433

(20) Seasonally unadjusted


Office for National Statistics

As these figures show, youth unemployment nationally has fallen by 40 per cent. since 1997, to around its lowest level since the mid- 1970s. Moreover, long term youth unemployment has been virtually eradicated.

The New Deal for Young People has played an important part in this success. By the end of March 2002 it had helped over 360,000 young people into jobs. This includes more than 700 young people in my hon. Friend's constituency.

Many of these young people faced significant barriers to employment. The New Deal has given them the skills and motivation to help them move into work. However, we recognise that some young people continue to face difficulties in the labour market. We are introducing a range of measures to provide even more help for these young people.

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Action Teams for Jobs are already helping disadvantaged groups in the most employment deprived areas in the country into work. The nine teams operating in Scotland have already helped nearly 1,300 young people into work so far, more than 400 of them in Glasgow.

This spring we introduced progress2work, a £40 million initiative to give unemployed people who are recovering from a drug problem the extra help they need to get into work. The first progress2work projects have started in 27 pathfinder areas, including two in Glasgow and 3 in other parts in Scotland. Phase 2 of progress2work will start in October 2002 in a further 36 areas and the programme will be rolled out to all parts of the country from 2003. In the autumn, we will extend the progress2work model to help other groups facing disadvantage in the labour market, including ex-offenders.

In April 2002, we launched StepUP, a £40million initiative providing transitional jobs for people who have not been able to find work through New Deal. Six pilots are already up and running, including one in Scotland, and we are introducing a further 14 throughout the year.

We also introduced in April a new £15 million outreach initiative to engage more effectively with, and improve the job prospects for people from ethnic minorities. This will build on the success of the New Deals, which have already helped over 63,000 people from ethnic minorities into work.

Universal Bank

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment his Department has made of the number of benefit claimants without a bank account who may wish to transfer to the services of the Universal Bank; and whether the services offered will be restricted to those currently without a bank account. [70015]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: We estimate that around 3.5 million adults in the UK do not currently have access to a bank account; the overwhelming majority of this group will be benefit recipients. Universal banking services will consist of two elements—access to the banks' basic bank accounts and the card account at the Post Office. Universal banking services will not be restricted to those currently without a bank account.

Employment Zone

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the evaluation of the Employment Zone project will be completed; and if he will recommend an extension of the scheme. [70022]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The Employment Zone contracts are subject to qualitative and quantitative evaluation. The qualitative study of Zone operations between winter 2000 and summer 2001 was published on 17 July 2002 (Working Age Evaluation Series, Number 124). A copy has been placed in the Library. A cohort study comparing characteristics and outcomes of Zone participants with those of similar long-term unemployed people will be published in late spring 2003.

Our evaluation to date shows that Employment Zones are making a positive contribution in helping long-term unemployed people in deprived areas move off benefit

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and into work. The 15 Zones have already helped over 22,300 people into jobs. We have recently extended the current Zone contracts to March 2004 and, as the Chancellor announced on 15 July, we will also be testing the Employment Zone approach with other groups such as lone parents and people returning to the New Deals for a second time.

The qualitative evaluation report highlights some encouraging findings about the Zones, recognising, for example, that they have a genuinely innovative delivery system and underlining the importance of the flexibility afforded to Personal Advisers in helping people move into jobs. We will study the report's findings closely and consider what lessons can be learnt from the Employment Zone approach.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how the employment zone scheme interacts with the work of Jobcentre Plus. [70023]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Jobcentre Plus works with Employment Zone contractors to help long-term unemployed people in 15 deprived areas move off benefit and into work. By the end of February 2002, the zones had helped over 22,300 people into jobs.

People aged 25 and over, living in a zone area and claiming income-based jobseeker's allowance, become eligible for employment zone help after either 12 or 18 months' unemployment (depending on the employment zone area). Jobcentre Plus identifies and refers eligible people to the employment zone at the appropriate time. Eligible participants who fail to attend an employment zone are brought to the attention of Jobcentre Plus by their personal adviser and may have their benefit sanctioned if there is no good cause for their non-attendance.

Jobcentre Plus and employment zone contractors have developed a strong working relationship. One of the ways they have achieved this is through the secondment of Jobcentre Plus staff to employment zones. Employment zones also have access to Jobcentre Plus premises and labour market information systems. This strong partnership ensures that payments to clients are accurate, and the zones contribute to Jobcentre Plus' achievement of the best job outcomes for clients.

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