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17 Mar 2003 : Column 600W—continued

Benefits (Hospital Stays)

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate for the next three years the number of people in receipt of retirement benefit and likely to benefit from recent changes in the hospital downrating provisions who will be affected by withdrawal of (a) attendance allowance and (b) other benefits because of hospital stays of below 13 weeks. [101725]

Mr. McCartney: The total number of people affected by suspensions over a given year are not available. The forecast number of cases affected by hospital suspensions at a particular point in time are given in the following table.



1. Figures are rounded to the nearest 1,000.

2. Based on 5 per cent. extracts taken from the November 2002, 5 per cent. extracts from the DLA and AA computer systems, and 1999 Hospital Episodes Statistics.

3. Caseloads projected in line with forecasts for the pre-budget report.

Child Support

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to backdate eligibility for the child maintenance disregard for parents with care to the original planned implementation date of the new child support computer system; and if he will make a statement. [97102]

Malcolm Wicks: None.

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Laptop Computers

Dr. Vincent Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many laptop computers were used by (a) Ministers and special advisers and (b) officials in his Department in each year since 1995; how many were (i) lost and (ii) stolen; what their cost was; and if he will make a statement. [98701]

Malcolm Wicks: The Table is a summary of the information available relating to laptops. Information is not available in the form requested. Such information that is recorded centrally relates specifically to theft.

YearMinisters and AdvisorsOfficialsTotalNumber stolenPercentage of totalTotal value (£000)

Minimum Income Guarantee

Mr. Flight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the estimated take-up rate for the minimum income guarantee is in (a) 2002–03 and (b) 2003–04. [102588]

Mr. McCartney: The information requested is not available.

The latest available estimate of take-up of Minimum Income Guarantee relates to financial year 1999–2000 and is presented in the report "Income Related Benefits: Estimates of Take Up in 1999–2000". A copy of the publication is available in the Library. The next edition of the report containing statistics for 2000–01 will be released on 27 March 2003.

National Insurance Numbers

Mr. John MacDougall: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how the combination of letters and numbers in national insurance numbers are arrived at. [103072]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 14 March 2003]: The current system of National Insurance number prefixes was introduced through the departmental central index (DCI) in 1988.

A National Insurance number (NINO) consists of a two letter prefix followed by six numbers between 0 and 9, and a one letter suffix.There is no particular reason for the format of a particular NINO, nor does it carry any particular meaning. Only the first two prefixes, provide an indication of when the number was created. The number itself bears no relation to the individual it is allocated to and contains no geographical or personal significance. Allocations are made on a last digit numerical sequence (e.g. AB000001A would be followed by AB000002A).

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Certain letters, such as D, F and I are not used as there is the potential for confusion with other letters if badly formed. Likewise, the letter O is not used as the second letter as it might be confused with the number 0 (zero).

Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority

Mr. Flight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions officials from his Department have had with (a) the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority and (b) representatives of the Pensions industry concerning revisions of rules regarding members leaving occupational pension schemes. [102586]

Mr. McCartney: We were aware of the temporary measure outlined by the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority in update 1 pending changes to the regulations relating to the calculation of transfer values. The proposed amendments to those regulations were prompted by representations from the pensions industry, Faculty and Institute of Actuaries and the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority.

Mr. Flight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when revised rules introduced by the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority, regarding members leaving occupational pension schemes, will come into force; and how long they will remain in force. [102587]

Mr. McCartney: The Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (Opra) are not introducing any changes to the rules regarding members leaving pension schemes. However, they have indicated that they do not intend to sanction trustees who, acting on the advice of scheme actuary, delay quoting transfer value to protect the interests of remaining members. Opra have stressed that this is a temporary measure until amendments to the Transfer Value regulations come into force. Views are currently being sought on the amendments. The consultation period ends on 28 March and we will seek to bring these changes into force as soon as possible once responses have been considered and any necessary redrafting in the light of them completed.

Overseas Trips

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the overseas trips made by himself and other members of his Ministerial team in 2002; and what the (a) purpose and (b) cost was in each case. [101490]

Mr. McCartney: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Mr. Alexander) to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) on 22 January 2003, Official Report, column 334W.

Pension Forecasts

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many reassessments have been requested in each of the last five years for which figures are available to pension entitlement on the basis of (a) pensions forecasts provided on request and (b) pension forecasts sent out automatically prior to retirement; and what proportion of those receiving forecasts this represents. [99956]

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Mr. McCartney: The information is not available in the form requested.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what additional information is made available to individuals requesting a pension forecast more than six months before reaching pensionable age compared with those who receive the standard notification, About your Retirement Pension prior to retirement. [99960]

Mr. McCartney: There are two different notices available for issue to individuals regarding their retirement pension. One notice is issued automatically four months before retirement to advise people of their likely pension entitlement. The second notice is issued on request to people of working age to help inform their pension planning.

A letter entitled "About your Retirement Pension" is issued approximately four months prior to the customer attaining pension age. This contains provisional rates of the customer's individual pension components based on the National Insurance contribution information available at that time. The annual process required to collect National Insurance contributions and post them to the National Insurance Recording System means that in a number of cases details covering the final income tax year are not available when the provisional rates are issued. Where an Occupational Pension is involved, details are required from the employer or pension provider before the Additional Pension component can be calculated. There are occasions when this information is not available when the provisional rates are issued.

The second notification—the Retirement Pension Forecast for people of working age—gives a full breakdown of qualifying years for basic pension. It explains how to achieve the maximum state pension by paying voluntary contributions/arrears in the last six years if necessary, including a break down of Additional Pension and Contracted Out Deductions amounts and information on how it has been worked out. Where appropriate, it informs the customer of occasions where Home Responsibilities Protection has been applied. Further, in divorced and widowed cases, the forecast shows where a spouse's contributions have been used to calculate an individual's likely state pension. All the information used is exact information on state pension at "today's" rates based on current national insurance record(s) at the time the forecast is provided.

In addition, the forecast of expected state pension at retirement age is provided. This is a projection based on the same, current record(s), which assumes that contributions will continue at the same level. Further information is supplied in the BR19L leaflet that is sent out with the forecast, it provides the customer all the extra information they need to decide on the best way to achieve the best Pension available to them.

The purpose of providing the calculation at "today's" rates and at retirement age is to provide information to individuals to help inform their pension planning and enable them to make informed choices with regard to their retirement income levels.

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