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7 Jan 2004 : Column 382W—continued


Female Prison Population

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister for Women what recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the female prison population. [146261]

Jacqui Smith: I have had no recent meetings with the Secretary of State for the Home Office on this subject.

Flexible Working

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister for Women what assessment has been made of the take-up by women of the right to request flexible working. [146256]

Jacqui Smith: Preliminary evidence, including hits on the DTI working parents website and requests for guidance, indicate that interest in the right to request flexible working by mothers, and fathers, is high. We recently published the top 10 questions asked by employees when calling the Acas helpline, and continue to gather evidence from a wide number of sources to build up a clear picture of the demand for, and uptake of, the new law.

The Department undertook an employee Work-Life Balance survey in 2003 as a baseline for comparison with a repeat survey due in 2005. The results will contribute to the review of the law that the Government are committed to initiate in 2006. Preliminary employee findings are available on the internet,, and we are expecting to publish the full report soon.

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We are working with key intermediaries, such as Working Families and Maternity Alliance, who are collating data through member/supporter surveys. These organisations are due to report their findings to coincide with the first anniversary of the new law to request flexible working in April this year. We are also working with Prima Baby magazine which is carrying out a reader survey, and aims to publish the results in the March edition.

The Department has also commissioned questions on flexible working which currently appear in the Office of National Statistics monthly Omnibus survey. The results of these can be made gender specific and will be available in spring 2004.

Gender Equality

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister for Women (1) what plans she has to introduce a public sector duty to promote gender equality; [146251]

Jacqui Smith: The Government are taking forward a significant legislative agenda on equality matters, and they have committed themselves to introduce a duty on public bodies to promote equality of opportunity for women and men generally when parliamentary time allows. In taking this forward, the Government will be considering the experience gained with the duty to promote race equality introduced in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act (2000).

Pregnancy Discrimination

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister for Women what steps are being taken to tackle pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. [146255]

Jacqui Smith: Discrimination on the ground of pregnancy or maternity is a form of direct discrimination on the ground of sex. The courts have interpreted the Sex Discrimination Act as meaning that discrimination on the ground that a woman is, or might become, pregnant is unlawful. This is reinforced by the amended Equal Treatment Directive published on 5 October 2002 which says that less favourable treatment on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity within the meaning of the Pregnant Workers Directive constitutes sex discrimination.

In 1999, the Government introduced specific protections to prevent women from suffering detriment and from being unfairly dismissed or selected for redundancy for reasons connected with their pregnancy, childbirth or maternity leave. We have also ensured a woman has a clear right to return to her job after maternity leave, on the same terms and conditions as if she had not been away.



Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister whether he or his officials have examined the transcript of the interview given by the Head of the Coalition Provisional Authority

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in Iraq, on the Dimbleby Programme on 28 December 2003, with particular reference to Mr. Bremer's comments on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction; and whether he discussed Iraqi weapons of mass destruction with Mr. Bremer in his meeting with him in Basra on 4 January. [146583]

The Prime Minister: I follow developments in Iraq closely. When I saw Ambassador Bremer in Basra on 4 January, we had a wide-ranging discussion of the challenges facing us in Iraq, including the political process, reconstruction and the security situation.


Incapacity Benefit

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make it his policy to credit full-time students with National Insurance contributions in order to provide eligibility for incapacity benefit if they become ill. [145392]

Maria Eagle: Special provisions allow young sick and disabled people, who have not had the opportunity to work and build up a contribution record, to qualify for Incapacity Benefit (IB). Since 6 April 2001 young people who become incapable of work before age 20, or before age 25 if in education or training before age 20, may receive IB without satisfying the contribution conditions.

Pension Credit

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people have called the Pension Credit Helpline more than once since April, broken down by number of people making each number of calls. [146043]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not currently available in the form requested.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many individuals received savings credit in the last period for which figures are available, broken down by declared savings of (a) less than £6,000, (b) between £6,000 and £10,000, (c) between £10,001 and £15,000, (d) between £15,001 to £30,000 and (e) over £30,000. [146052]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not currently available in the form requested.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many households have received savings credit awards since 6 October, broken down by awards of (a) less than £5 a week, (b) between £5 and £10 a week, (c) between £10 and £15 a week and (d) over £15 a week. [146084]

Malcolm Wicks: Up to 30 November 2003 there were 193,000 awards of pension credit where the savings credit only is payable. Of these, (a) 41,000 were of less than £5.00 per week, (b) 59,000 were of between £5.00 and £10.00 per week and (c) 92,000 were of over £10.00 per week. In addition, there were 83,000 awards where both savings credit and guarantee credit are payable.

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Pensioners (Hemsworth)

Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners in Hemsworth constituency are in receipt of pension credit. [145919]

Malcolm Wicks: I refer my hon. Friend to the written statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State (Andrew Smith) on 10 December 2003, Official Report, column 90WS, and to the accompanying tables placed in the Library.

Pension Schemes

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pension schemes have started the winding-up process in each quarter since 2001; and how many pension scheme members have been affected each quarter, broken down by (a) pensioners and (b) people who had not retired when the winding-up began. [146021]

Malcolm Wicks: The Pensions Schemes Registry, administered by the Occupational Pension Schemes Regulatory Authority (OPRA), holds information on the number of pension schemes which are currently in the winding up process. Figures showing the number of schemes that have entered winding up each quarter since 2001 and have not yet completed winding up are contained in the table, along with the number of members in those schemes.

It is not possible to break these figures down by pensioner and pre-retirement numbers, as the registry only provides data on total membership numbers.

Schemes that have started winding up in the relevant period and have not yet completed winding up

All scheme typesDefined-Benefit schemesonly
QuarterbeginningNumber of schemesNumber of membersNumber of schemesNumber of members
1 January 200142311,365444,744
1 April 200169919,8299411,827
1 July 200144318,1387010,805
1 October 200138417,7826410,988
1 January 200251115,760669,610
1 April 200232716,245539,745
1 July 200239414,674549,735
1 October 200242628,3409015,232
1 January 200345118,877598,118
1 April 200337517,024467,472


1. The table does not contain schemes that started winding up in the time period given and have since completed wind up. The Pensions Schemes Registry only records the present status of a scheme so only those winding up at the moment are captured. This is unlikely to bias the figures extensively as the winding up process can take many years to complete, particularly for large firms.

2. The "All scheme type" column contains Defined-Contribution, Hybrid and Unknown Type schemes as well as Defined-Benefit schemes.

3. A winding up scheme is one which has notified OPRA that it has commenced winding up procedures.

4. Schemes have up to 12 months to notify OPRA of any status change, so the data for the current year is provisional.

5. Data is not available for periods after the quarter beginning 1 April 2003.

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