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4 Jun 2003 : Column 482W—continued

Jobseeker's Allowance

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average processing time is of a new claim for jobseeker's allowance between first contact and payment in each (a) jobcentre area and (b) employment region. [113064]

Malcolm Wicks: The average national processing time for a new claim to Jobseeker's Allowance is 10.14 days against a target of 12 days. Information on the average processing time by District and Region has been placed in the Library.

Pension Service

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many face-to-face meetings were requested by pensioners in Perth constituency in their dealings with the Pension Service in Dundee in each year since 1997; how many requests were granted; how many have taken place at the home of the pensioner; and what record is kept of such requests; [115556]

Maria Eagle: The matters raised are the responsibility of Alexis Cleveland, chief executive of The Pension Service. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from C. MacKinnon to Annabelle Ewing, dated 3 June 2003:

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Dundee Pension Centre Staffing Levels—Managerial

Substantive GradeStatusTotal
Unified Grade 6Full time1
Senior Executive OfficerFull time3
Higher Executive Officer (HEO)Full time10
Executive Officer (EO)Full time70
EOFull time/part year1
Total full-time managerial staff85
HEOPart time1
EOPart time6
EOPart time/part year3
Total part-time managerial staff10
Total managerial staff95

Dundee Pension Centre Staffing Levels—Non-managerial

Substantive gradeStatusTotal
Adjudication Officer (AO)Full time 366
Administrative Assistant (AA)Full time27
AA CasualFull time40
Total full-time non-managerial staff433
AOPart time37
AOPart time/part year3
Total part-time non-managerial staff40
Total non-managerial staff473

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Pensions Appeals

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many cases at Pensions Appeal Tribunal by wives claiming an increased state pension because their husband has reached 65 have (a) failed and (b) succeeded in each year since 1997; and in how many cases succeeding at Tribunal payments were not fully backdated. [113851]

Maria Eagle: This is a matter for Christina Townsend, Chief Executive of the Appeals Service. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Christina Townsend to Mrs. Lait dated, 4 June 2003:

Table 1Retirement pension appeals cleared in the calendar years shown, and whether original decision upheld or found in favour of the appellant

Appeals clearedDecision upheldFound in favour

Notes:All figures are subject to change as more up to date data becomes available. Figures for the latest months may rise significantly as information feeds through to the Appeals Service. Figures are rounded to the nearest five.Source:

100 per cent. download of the Generic Appeals Processing System.

Widowers' Pensions

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will make a statement on the factors underlying the Government's decision not to make a statement on widowers' pensions to the European Court of Human Rights on 15 May; [116294]

Malcolm Wicks: Before April 2001, there was no statutory basis to make payments of widow's benefits to men. The Government, in introducing its reform of support in bereavement from April 2001, said, following earlier findings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that similar cases were admissible, that its obligation was to future widowers. The reforms of 2001 met that obligation and went further by making the new Widowed Parent's Allowance available to existing widowers from its introduction.

4 Jun 2003 : Column 485W

In June 2002, the European Court of Human Rights found that the UK Government had violated the Convention in respect of Mr Kevin Willis by not paying him the Widowed Mother's Allowance and Widow's Payment that he would have been entitled to he been a woman in the same circumstances. The Court ordered a payment equivalent to the benefit that he would have received had he been a woman and an amount in respect of interest. The Government is not contesting that judgement.

The Court did not consider the question of widow's pension and litigation remains before the domestic and Strasbourg Courts. The Court of Appeal heard arguments in the domestic cases during week commencing 7 October 2002 and judgment was reserved. The European Court of Human Rights decided to adjourn further hearings of two applications by widowers concerning widow's pension until the completion of the domestic litigation.

There are important matters to be settled in both jurisdictions that will affect the Government's decisions in dealing with all the widowers affected. The Government is continuing to respond to the European Court of Human Rights1 requests for written observations on individual applications from widowers but, until the litigation is resolved, the Government cannot speculate about the outcomes of these cases or the decisions that it may take in the light of them.

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