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29 Jan 2003 : Column 940W—continued

Occupational Pension Schemes

Miss McIntosh : To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many companies offered occupational pension schemes on (a) 1 May 1997 and (b) 1 May 2002. [93002]

Mr. McCartney: The information is not available.

Some information on the proportion of private sector employers that offer occupational pension schemes can be found from the DWP Employers1 Pension Provision survey, which has been conducted in 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000. Results from these surveys have been published and are available in the Library.

The table is a reproduction of Table 4.2 of 'Employers Pension Provision Survey 2000', by Alison Smith and Stephen McKay, DWP Research Report no. 163.

Pension provision by size of organisation, 1996, 1998 and 2000
Cell percentages

1996 1998 2000
Type of pension provisionUp to 19 employees20+ employeesUp to 19 employees20+ employeesUp to 19 employees20+ employees
Occupational scheme(50) n/a (51)n/a(51)n/a(51)n/a522
Money purchase21331029
Top Hat6831036
Closed scheme161525
Group personal pension 6 19426737
Contributions to personal pensions202721301623
Any provision367032662664
No provision643068347436

(50) Any.

(51) Information not available from published reports.

(52) Less than 0.5 per cent.


1. COMBS schemes (contracted-out on a mixed benefit basis) were not available until April 1997. Top Hat schemes are those set up for senior managers or only currently available to senior management.

2. Figures for 1997 are not available. There was no survey in 2002 but a survey for 2003 is currently being undertaken.

3. Methodological improvements to the survey between 1996 and 2000 mean that results are not strictly comparable across years. A detailed explanation of these improvements is given on pages 45–46 of the publication referred to above.

4. Data are only available in the form of proportions, rather than numbers of employers.

5. Results refer to private sector employers only.

6. Companies may offer more than one type of pension scheme.

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Pension Credit

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the likely take-up of the new pension credit; and how many questions pensioners will be required to answer to assess their eligibility. [93884]

Mr. McCartney: We have committed to a target of paying pension credit to at least three million pensioner households by 2006. We have already shortened the minimum income guarantee claim form from 40 to 10 pages. We are designing the pension credit application process to be even simpler, including use of the telephone for most applications. The number of questions that a pensioner is required to answer in order to assess their eligibility to pension credit will depend on their individual circumstances.

Pensioner Poverty

Mr. Graham Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent representations he has received about pensioner poverty. [89715]

Maria Eagle: The Department receives representations about pensioner poverty on an ongoing basis and also meets with Partnership Against Poverty group regularly.

Providing a decent income is the key to tackling pensioner poverty and from April, no pensioner will have to get by on less than £102.10 a week (£155.80 for married couples).


Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on his policy on the annual upgrading of retirement pensions for British citizens living in (a) Barbados and (b) Canada. [88792]

Mr. McCartney: We uprate State Pensions for British citizens living overseas where there is a legal requirement or a reciprocal social security agreement to do so.

The UK has a reciprocal agreement with Barbados that provides for British pensioners living in that country to be paid the same rate of State Pension as would be paid if they lived in the UK. However, although there is a social security arrangement with the Canadian Government, it does not allow for the payment of UK benefits to persons in Canada and contains no similar provision on the uprating of State Pensions.

The uprating of State Pensions abroad is the subject of a Court of Appeal hearing set for 24–25 March 2003. This is an appeal against the High Court's finding that the UK Government are not in breach of the European

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Convention on Human Rights by not annually uprating the State Pension in countries where there is no agreement to do so.

Retirement Age

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had with interested groups on plans to make the retirement age for men and women equal. [87364]

Mr. McCartney: The UK has a fixed age for eligibility to State Pension (currently 60 for women and 65 for men, although to be equalised at 65 for both sexes as from 2020). We do not have a national mandatory retirement age. Sex discrimination legislation prohibits employers from setting different retirement ages for men and women.

A variety of representations have been received from a range of organisations and individuals about the equalisation of State Pension Age, the bulk of which would have been dealt with at the time of the previous administration. A discussion document "Options for Equality in State Pension Age" was published in December 1991. A White Paper "Equality in State Pension Age" followed in December 1993.

Plans to equalise the State Pension age progressively over the period 2010 to 2020, were enacted by the 1995 Pensions Act.

We are also committed to implementing the age strand of the European Employment Directive by 2006, when domestic legislation will come into force outlawing age discrimination in employment and training. Under the Directive, employers' compulsory retirement ages are likely to be unlawful unless they are objectively justified.


Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what punitive action was provided for prior to March 2002 by (a) statute and (b) regulation against Transco for failure to fulfil its statutory obligations to reassess its engineers' qualification to the Approved Competency Standard, and to provide an emergency service to domestic premises. [91403]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: In March 1997, Transco was registered with Corgi and all its emergency service operatives were deemed to hold valid certification under the Health and Safety Commission's Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) scheme, the sole means of demonstrating safety competence then in force. As this certification was valid for five years, no action could have been taken against Transco up to March 2002.

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If Transco were to breach legal requirements in this area, there is a range of enforcement action available to HSE under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1994, ranging from the provision of advice to the serving of an enforcement notice and, ultimately, prosecution.

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the Approved Competency Standard ceased to be the qualification required by Transco for its engineers engaged in safety work in domestic premises. [91406]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Since 1998, competency standards have been incorporated in the Nationally Accredited Certification Scheme for Individual Gas Fitting Operatives (ACS). However, a new National Vocational Qualification, developed by the Gas and Water Industries National Training Organisation (GWINTO), was launched in 2002, and includes competence assessments that, with regard to gas safety matters, are aligned with those of the ACS.

Transco has a duty to meet the requirements of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 with regard to gas work downstream of the emergency control valve immediately before the meter. It has to ensure that its operatives who undertake this work are competent to do it safely. The accepted means for determining competence is for operatives to be assessed against recognised national standards on a five-yearly cycle. Standards were originally set under a Health and Safety Commission Approved Code of Practice (ACOP). All Transco engineers engaged in safety work in domestic premises hold valid certificates of competence under one or other of these schemes, and accordingly, meet the registration conditions laid down by the Council for Registered Gas Installers (CORGI).

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Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of work under the safety case is performed by non-Transco employees; and who bears statutory responsibility for the quality of that work. [91407]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The percentage of work performed by non-Transco employees may vary and is not prescribed in Transco's safety case. However, the safety case contains details of Transco's health and safety management system, which includes arrangements for the management of contractors.

Both Transco and their contractors have a statutory responsibility for ensuring work carried out is such that it will not, so far as is reasonably practicable, expose either its own employees or others to risks to their health and safety.

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