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3 Apr 2003 : Column 841Wcontinued
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many couples going through a divorce have used the pensions sharing regulations since they were implemented in December 2000; and what proportion this represents of all couples going through a divorce. 
The information available without incurring disproportionate cost is that my Department has been monitoring orders made in the courts and is aware of 1,521 pension sharing or pension attachment orders having been made to date in England and Wales. 137,270 Decrees Absolute were made in 2001.
The new regulations apply only to those cases where a petition for divorce was filed after 1 December 2000. Many of the cases where a Decree Absolute was granted in 2001 did not, therefore, come under the new regulations. Figures for the number of divorces in 2002 are not yet available.
Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in what hours telephone advice is available from the Health and Safety Executive to the general public; how many requests for telephone advice from the general public to the Health and Safety Executive were received outside normal hours in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement on emergency advice requested by members of the public. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: HSE Infoline is the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) Contact Centre providing help and information about health and safety at work, and access to expert advice and guidance. HSE Infoline is open from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm from Monday to Friday, except Bank Holidays.
In addition HSE provides a Duty Officer system to handle calls taken outside normal working hours. In the 12 months ending 28 February 2003, 2,411 calls were received by the Duty Officer system. Of these, 618 calls were passed immediately to an inspector for action and
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investigation, 1,345 were referred the next working day and 448 were referred to other appropriate agencies including Local Authorities.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the differences are in the information sources and technology used to process individual pension forecasts upon request, and those automatically issued prior to retirement. 
Mr. McCartney: Individual pension forecasts are produced by the Retirement Pension Forecasting System. It uses information from an individual's national insurance record held on the Inland Revenue's National Insurance Recording System (NIRS). It also uses detailed information supplied by the individual on form BR19 when they apply for a forecast.
The letter entitled "About your Retirement Pension" is produced by the Pension Computer System. It also uses information from an individual's national insurance record. The data are downloaded from the NIRS system to the Pension Computer System approximately four months and eight days prior to the customer attaining pension age to enable the notification to be sent and to allow time for a benefit application to be submitted and processed.
Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether pensioners will be able to withdraw their pensions using their state pensions books from the Post Office under the new proposals by Royal Mail to introduce Direct Payment. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Department for Work and Pensions is introducing Direct Payment as the normal method of paying benefits and pensions from April this year. This means that order books are being phased out.
Customers need to take no action until they are contacted. When it is their turn to change, they will be supplied with information (including letters and leaflets) which clearly set out the account options as part of the move to Direct Payment. The information material gives the key features of the various types of accounts and explains how people can access their money at the Post Office, if they wish to do so.
We have always recognised that there will be a small number of people who cannot manage to access their benefit or pension by Direct Payment. An alternative method of payment will be used for this group and will be in place when it is needed.
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Mr. McCartney: Information specifically concerning the number of individuals taking out a stakeholder pension is not collected. However, figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show that by the end of December 2002 1,250,243 stakeholder pensions had been sold.
Stakeholder pensions were introduced as part of our long-term reforms to ensure that everyone has the chance to save for a decent income in retirement. Stakeholder pensions are intended to provide a low-charge pension option for those people who do not have access to a good company pension scheme with an employer contribution. There is no specific take-up target.
The impact of stakeholder pensions on saving for retirement extends beyond their sales alone/stakeholder pensions have driven down other personal pension charges; some employers have widened access to their occupational pension schemes; and other employers have set up group personal pensions with an employer contribution.
Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what advice he is giving to (a) blind people and (b) others with disabilities who cannot use the current PIN pads installed in post offices for access to the Post Office card account; and if he will make a statement. 
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home unseen from their medical assessment by SchlumbergerSema since May 2002; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: Of 517,806 customers who attended SchlumbergerSema's Medical Examination Centres for assessments between 1 May 2002 and 28 February 2003, 17,667 or less than 3.5 per cent. were sent home unseen. Customers may be sent home for a number of reasons, including those arriving more than 30 minutes late for their appointment and declining to wait until the doctor can see them.
Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had with SchlumbergerSema concerning performance levels since the re-awarding of its contract; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: The performance of SchlumbergerSema is formally reviewed against all contracted service levels on a monthly basis. This practice has been continuous since the original contract went live in September 1998.
Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many representations (a) his Department, (b) SchlumbergerSema, (c) the Benefits Agency and (d) Jobcentre Plus have received concerning the performance of SchlumbergerSema in conducting benefits medical assessments in each of the months since the contract was first awarded; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: Medical Services' performance is regularly monitored to ensure people's capacity for work is fairly assessed. The latest figures show that the level of complaints as a proportion of examinations completed has fallen from 0.63 per cent. for quarter ending November 2000 to 0.43 per cent. for the quarter ending February 2003.
Information is not collected on the specific point of receipt of each complaint.
Medical Provision and Contracting Team management information.
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