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15 Sept 2004 : Column 1621W—continued

Stakeholder Pensions

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment he has made of (a) the take-up of stakeholder pensions, (b) the number of employers who offer access to a stakeholder pension and (c) the proportion of employer-designated schemes that have no members; and if he will make a statement on the future development of stakeholder pensions. [188472]

Malcolm Wicks: Figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show that at 30 June 2004 2,042,864 stakeholder pensions had been sold since their introduction in April 2001. Official figures for the 2002–03 tax year confirm that 98 per cent. of sales have been to people in work and that the majority of stakeholder pensions are being bought by those on modest incomes; over three-quarters (860,000) of stakeholder pension plans with contributions in them in that year were for workers earning under £30,000 a year and around two-thirds (660,000) were for those workers earning under £20,000 a year. Stakeholder pensions are now an established product and provide an important route for people to save for their retirement.
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In total just over 500,000 employers offer their employees access to a stakeholder pension scheme. Of those around 270,000 employers have designated a stakeholder pension scheme as required by law. The remainder do so voluntarily, for example as additional or optional pension provision where a company pension scheme is in place. Many more employees now have access to a good value pension arrangement through their place of work irrespective of their position in the company.

The Employers Pension Provision 2003 survey indicates that around three quarters of employer designated schemes have no members. Research shows that an employer contribution is the most important factor in encouraging pension take-up by employees. Where there is an employer contribution, average take-up by the workforce is around 70 per cent.; compared with 13 per cent. where there is no employer contribution. We will continue to work with employers so they are aware of the important role they play in helping their employees provide for their retirement. Through our Informed Choice Programme we have a range of measures to encourage work place savings. Our initiatives will make it easier for employers to promote good schemes in the workplace, will extend the issue of combined forecasts of State, personal and occupational pension showing projected entitlement and establish the best ways of ensuring that their employees are provided with a decent standard of pension information through the workplace.

From April 2005 the stakeholder pension will become part of the Sandler stakeholder suite of savings products. The new structure will enable providers to market stakeholder pensions more actively and it will also be possible for firms to provide advice to more people. It will continue to offer a good deal for the consumer. Stakeholder pensions are part of our wider plans to help people to save for a decent income in retirement. These include our Informed Choice Programme, The Employer Task Force and the Pension Commission, all of which will assist in increasing private pension access and provision.

Unemployment Benefit

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the cost of unemployment benefits has been (a) at current prices and (b) as a percentage of gross domestic product in each year since 1979. [188956]

Mr. Pond: I refer my hon. Friend to the written answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) on 7 September 2004, Official Report, columns 1205–206W.

Work Injuries

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to promote rehabilitation services for people injured at work; and if he will make a statement. [186481R]

Jane Kennedy: The Government are taking many steps to promote rehabilitation services for people injured or sick, whether the cause is work related or not. These include the Department's work to produce and publish a Framework for Vocational Rehabilitation.
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This framework will demonstrate the Government's commitment to vocational rehabilitation, and in the short term will help to improve understanding of what vocational rehabilitation is and the support that currently exists.

In the longer term, the framework will take additional steps to further promote rehabilitation services for people injured at work.

The Health and Safety Commission in their new strategy recognised the need to strengthen their role in promoting healthier workplaces and in getting people back to work through a much greater emphasis on rehabilitation. The Health and Safety Executive has therefore developed a best practice approach to help employers and managers, in partnership with their employees and their representatives, to proactively manage long-term sickness absence and help those who are absent from work due to sickness. In addition, existing occupational health services also have a role in promoting a return to work after an accident has occurred. NHS Plus, a network of occupational health departments in the NHS, provides such services, which are particularly focused on small and medium sized enterprises.


Civil Service Recruitment

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he had with the First Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales prior to his announcement in the Spending Review of job cuts affecting National Assembly employees; and when these discussions took place. [188979]

Mr. Boateng: The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly Government have discussions from time to time on various matters.

Inland Revenue Customer Service Survey

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the cost to public funds was of the Inland Revenue's Customer Service Survey conducted by BMRB International in 2004. [188614]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) on 15 June 2004, Official Report, column 832W.

Special Measures

Mrs. Browning: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which Government Departments are subject to special measures. [185087]

Mr. Boateng [holding answer 19 July 2004]: All Government Departments are required to provide the Treasury with monthly expenditure reports. This year, as a condition for agreeing significant access to the Reserve in 2002–03, the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs have been asked to discuss their monthly expenditure reports with the Treasury. During 2003–04 both Departments have done
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so and made considerable improvements in their financial management systems. This has been welcomed by the Treasury.

As part of the normal relationship between these Departments and the Treasury there will be continued sharing of information and discussion of the issues. These measures are being refined and will become part of a common approach to sharing in-year financial information between Treasury and all Departments.


Turner and Newall

9. Hywel Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales, what discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions in respect of pensions for staff at Turner and Newall. [187929]

Mr. Hain: None. However, I am aware that Department for Work and Pensions Ministers have been in discussion with company and trade union representatives about this matter.

Further Education

10. Mr. Caton : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales, what discussions he has held with Secretaries in the Welsh Assembly Government about the impact of the 2004 spending review on further education provision in Wales. [187930]

Mr. Touhig: SR2004 marks a once in a generation step change in the Government's financing of Wales and a huge investment in our future. The Assembly's budget will rise to almost £13.5 billion a year by 2007–08, and has been welcomed by Assembly Ministers. These resources will significantly enhance the Welsh Assembly Government's ability to enable further education provision in Wales

Higher Education Act

11. Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales, what recent discussions he has had with Secretaries in the National Assembly for Wales on the Higher Education Act 2004. [187931]

Mr. Hain: Regular ones.

The Higher Education Act, transferring power for student support and the tuition fee to the Assembly, which has established an independent review under the chair of Professor Teresa Rees.

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