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23 Feb 2004 : Column 320Wcontinued
Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his estimate is of the total cost of administering means-testing for pensioners in 200304; and by how much pensions could be increased if the proceeds of abolishing means tests were transferred to pensions. 
Malcolm Wicks: Information on the total cost of administering means-testing for pensioners is not currently available in the format requested. In accordance with the requirements of Resource Accounting and Budgeting the Department now accounts for its administration and benefit expenditure by Strategic Objective, as set out in its Public Service Agreements (PSA), and by individual Requests for Resources (RfRs), as set out in the Departmental Estimates and Accounts.
As a result of the Minimum Income Guarantee and now Pension Credit, the poorest third of pensioners will be around £600 per year better off on average than had the equivalent amount been spent on increasing the Basic State Pension (BSP).
If this spending was transferred to pensions, the full Basic State pension could be increased by around £25 per week in 200405. However poorer pensioners could face large losses, losing Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit as well as Pension Credit. Those not eligible for the full Basic State Pension would not get the full £25 increase, and those without any entitlement to the Basic State Pension could be left with no income or state support whatsoever.
1. The figures are from the Mid-Year population figures, 2002.
2. Figures are rounded to the nearest thousand.
3. 'Pensioner' is defined as those over state pension age.
Office for National Statistics
Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners in East Devon are dependent on benefits; and what percentage of entitled pensioners in East Devon have taken up their benefits. 
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As at the end of January 2004 there were 3,437 Pension Credit households in East Devon parliamentary constituency. Information on the number of people who are eligible for Pension Credit is not available in respect of individual constituencies.
Malcolm Wicks: Members of the ministerial team visit Scotland to discuss pension issues and have met with pensioner groups. In addition, the Department meets with representatives from pensioner groups in Scotland on a regular basis through various channelsincluding the Partnership Against Poverty Scotland group and the Pensions Forum which is held annually in Scotland and which members of the ministerial team attend, the last was held in Edinburgh in October.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners in the Twickenham constituency (a) are in receipt of winter fuel payments, (b) were in receipt of the minimum income guarantee in 2003 and (c) have applied for and been granted pension credit. 
Information on winter fuel payments for individual constituencies for 200304 will not be available until this winter's exercise is complete but will be provided to the hon. Member and placed in the Library when it becomes available.
The number of pensioner households in the Twickenham constituency in receipt of minimum income guarantee in August 2003 was 1,600 and receiving pension credit as at 31 January 2004 is 1,951. Numbers of applications for pension credit are not available at regional, county or constituency level.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to ensure that existing bank account holders do not have to open a different bank account in order to receive their benefits from the Post Office. 
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Mr. Pond: The Government want as many people as possible to be able to do their banking at Post Office branches and welcomes Post Office Ltd.'s efforts to secure agreements with other banks. The decision is ultimately a commercial one which rests with the individual institutions.
Universal banking services already provide access to the basic bank accounts of every High Street bank plus the nationwide Building Society at Post Office branches as well as the Post Office card account. In addition, more than 20 million customers of Lloyds/TSB, Barclays and Alliance and Leicester can access their accounts electronically at Post Office branches.
Also current accounts customers of Alliance and Leicester, Barclays, Lloyds/TSB the Co-operative Bank and the internet banks smile and cahoot can access paper-based banking services which enables them to cash cheques at Post Office branches, free of charge.
(3) if he will estimate the cost of waiving the frozen pension rule in each British Overseas Territory in which citizens receiving the UK state pension have their pensions frozen; 
(4) how many citizens living abroad and receiving frozen UK state pensions reside in (a) Canada and (b) the United States of America. 
Malcolm Wicks: Information on the number of people in receipt of the UK state pension in the British Overseas Territories other than those living in the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus as at January 2004 is set out in the table.
|British Antarctic Territory||0|
|British Indian Ocean Territory||0|
|British Virgin Islands||42|
|Falkland Islands (including South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands)||37|
|St. Helena and Dependencies||71|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||15|
Pensioners living in the countries set out in the table other than those living in Bermuda, Gibraltar and the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus have their UK state pension frozen. The estimated cost to unfreeze these
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pensions, without paying arrears, would be less than £500,000 for 200304 based on a 5 per cent. sample. We are unable to estimate the cost for each territory because of the numbers affected.
There are currently around 150,000 UK citizens now residing in Canada in receipt of a frozen UK state pension. UK citizens now residing in the United States of America do not have their UK state pension frozen.
Maria Eagle: Currently around 90 per cent. of employees are covered by an occupational sick pay scheme; where employers operate such a scheme, and it is more generous than Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), they do not have to keep SSP records. This makes it difficult to estimate the annual total costs for employers of compliance with the scheme.
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