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14 Jan 2003 : Column 601W—continued


Documents (King Edward VIII)

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when she will make a decision on the release of documents relating to King Edward VIII. [90626]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I refer the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside to the written statement I made on 18 December 2002, Official Report, column 64WS.

EU Applicant Countries

Keith Vaz: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many visits to EU applicant countries he made in 2002. [90104]

Ms Rosie Winterton: My right hon. Friends the Lord Chancellor and Baroness Scotland both visited a number of EU applicant countries during 2002. The dates are provided in the table.

MinisterCountry visitedDate
Baroness ScotlandPoland24–25 January 2002
Baroness ScotlandBulgaria29–31 May 2002
Lord ChancellorCzech Republic9–10 September 2002
Lord ChancellorHungary10–13 September 2002
Lord ChancellorPoland13–17 September 2002
Lord ChancellorSlovenia17–18 September 2002
Baroness ScotlandPoland7–8 November 2002


Mr. Lidington: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what guidance the Department gives to magistrates about sentences for fly-tipping and other breaches of waste legislation; if she plans to review that guidance; and if she will make a statement. [89619]

Yvette Cooper: No specific guidance is provided by the Lord Chancellor's Department to magistrates on sentences for fly-tipping and other breaches of waste legislation, but an Information Toolkit for Magistrates on Environmental Crime was produced jointly by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Magistrates' Association in November 2002.

The Magistrates Court Sentencing Guidelines, produced by the Magistrates' Association, provide a sentencing structure for magistrates including an indication of levels of seriousness and aggravating and mitigating features for offences that are most commonly presented before magistrates. For offences that appear in the magistrates courts less frequently magistrates will seek the advice of their legal adviser, who has access to up to date information on the relevant case law.


New Deal (Personal Adviser Discretion Fund)

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the levels are of (a) payments in

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error and (b) fraud in respect of the Adviser Discretion Fund; and if he will make a statement. [88473]

Malcolm Wicks: The Adviser Discretion Fund was introduced to give personal advisers more flexibility in the help they can offer their new deal clients. Advisers have the discretion to make awards from the fund, normally up to a maximum of #300, to pay for any goods and services needed to help an individual overcome the barriers preventing them applying for or taking up a job.

The Adviser Discretion Fund cannot be used: as a cash inducement to take up a job; to pay for things funded in other ways under the new deal; to pay for Criminal Records Bureau disclosure certificates; or once a client has taken up a job. Payments can be made in error if an adviser mistakenly makes awards for these purposes, or in cases where the total monetary value of the awards made to an individual exceeds #300 (without prior authorisation from the Jobcentre Plus business manager). Information on the level of such erroneous payments is not available.

Since the launch of the Adviser Discretion Fund in July 2001, 56 allegations of fraud have been or are currently being investigated, involving a total of #10,921. This represents 0.03 per cent. of awards made and 0.07 per cent. of their total monetary value.

Benefit Applicants (Hardship Cases)

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many (a) discretionary payments on account and (b) Crisis Loan alignment payments were made to applicants for benefit who faced hardship while their benefit application was being considered in the last four years for which figures are available; and what the total expenditure was on these payments. [85152]

Malcolm Wicks: We recognise that many people making a claim to benefit will be in need of immediate financial support. To avoid unnecessary hardship, discretionary payments on account of benefit (interim payments) can be made where a claim has not been determined but the Decision Maker is satisfied that the basic conditions of entitlement for the benefit are likely to be met. The amount of any interim payment is automatically recoverable from the main benefit when it is awarded. No record is kept of the number or value of interim payments made.

Crisis Loan alignment payments can be made to people awaiting their first payment of benefit which is paid in arrears, or their first payment of wages. Crisis Loans made to people awaiting benefit payments will cover their needs until their first benefit pay-day, following which full or interim payments of benefit can be made. In the main, these payments are made to people of working age (as pensioners are generally paid in advance). Information is not collected separately on the number or value of alignment payments made to people awaiting a first payment of benefit.

The available information is in the table. The figures show the total number and value of Crisis Loan alignment payments made, including those made to people awaiting payment of their first wage.

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Social Fund Crisis Loan alignment payments

YearNumber of paymentsExpenditure (# million)


1. Expenditure figures are rounded to the nearest # million.

2. Awards including alignment payments may include other items.

3. Technical problems with the Social Fund Policy, Budget and Management Information System mean that figures for 1998–99 may be subject to a margin of error of 5 per cent. to 10 per cent. and should therefore be treated as a guide only.


Annual Reports by the Secretary of State on the Social Fund 1998–99 to 2001–02; and the Social Fund Policy, Budget and Management Information System.


Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) whether a divorced woman can claim a full category A retirement pension on the basis of her ex-husband's contributions when she reaches the age of 60; [90498]

Mr. McCartney: The following women whose marriages ended by divorce or annulment, may use the record of qualifying years of their former husband instead of their own, if their category A state pension does not reach the full rate:

The above conditions can apply irrespective of whether the woman was paying the married womens' reduced contributions, or full rate contributions as they are entitlements which accrue as a consequence of marriage.

However, this may not necessarily mean a woman will get a full category A state pension. The amount of state pension she gets will depend on her former husband's and her own national insurance records.

Ethical Banking

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what contracts have been concluded as a result of the Government's commitment to support ethical banking. [89921]

Mr. McCartney: The Department has not concluded any contracts as a result of a Government commitment to support ethical banking. There is nothing currently within the Department's procurement policy that would prevent such contracts from being let. The Government believe it is important for consumers to have choice in financial products, including the availability of Xethical" products. However, it would not be appropriate for the Government exclusively to support

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the development of one specific group of financial service providers. It is for individual consumers to decide the attributes they most value from their financial services and for financial services firms to be transparent about their use of funds and investments.

Maternity Pay

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to increase maternity pay to parents of premature babies. [87151]

Maria Eagle: We are improving maternity benefits as part of our drive to help pregnant women and parents financially and to achieve a better balance between their work and home lives.

Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance were raised to #75 a week from April 2002. From April 2003, the standard rate for both payments will be increased further; a woman will receive the lesser of #100 a week or 90 per cent. of her average earnings. This is the largest increase since maternity benefits were introduced. We are also extending the payment period from 18 to 26 weeks for women expecting their babies on or after 6 April 2003—this will apply regardless of when the baby is actually born.

Women can choose to receive these benefits from up to 11 weeks before their baby is due. However, when a baby is born earlier than the date the mother has nominated or before the start of the 11-week period, benefit is automatically paid.

We have no plans to make separate provision for women who have their babies prematurely, as the current rules ensure that they receive their full entitlement to maternity benefits.

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