Previous Section Index Home Page

8 Nov 2004 : Column 474W—continued

Pension Offices (Backlogs)

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on backlogs in local pension offices. [196341]

8 Nov 2004 : Column 475W

Malcolm Wicks: The current Pension Service workloads are within the normal parameters for intake and clearance and are closely monitored at a local level ensuring a consistent service is provided nationally. Where there are problems at individual pension centres, action is taken to remedy this as soon as possible.

Pension Service

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many and what percentage of calls made to the Pension Service in each month since January (a) were answered, (b) were abandoned and (c) received an engaged tone; [193926]
8 Nov 2004 : Column 476W

(2) how many calls were made to the pension credit application line in each month since July; and how many and what percentage of calls (a) were answered within 30 seconds, (b) received an engaged tone or recorded message that all agents are busy and (c) were abandoned. [193988]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is given in tables 1 and 2 as follows. The figures are comparable with private sector norms of 90 per cent. of calls answered and 80 per cent. answered within 20 seconds. The pension credit application line, in particular, aims to answer 95 per cent. of calls and has achieved that standard for the period since it became operational.
Table 1: Calls to the Pension Service, January-August 2004

Calls answered
Calls abandoned
Calls blocked

Table 2: Calls to the pension credit application line, July-August 2004

Calls received239,990151,540
Calls answered within 30 seconds
Calls receiving engaged tone or recorded message
Calls abandoned

1. Numbers of calls are rounded to the nearest 10.
2. Table 1 does not include calls to the pension credit application line.
3. In both tables, the numbers of calls answered, abandoned and engaged (blocked) are not calculated on precisely the same basis and in some cases the rows will not add up to exactly 100 per cent.
4. The number of calls to the application line which received the engaged tone or a recorded message was high in August as a result of the telephone system being down for a time.
5. The number of calls received by the application line is a measure of the total number of calls from customers made to the application line number 0800 99 1234. The number of calls answered within 30 seconds is a measure of all calls answered in application line sites and excludes any calls abandoned by the customer.
6. The number of calls to the application line abandoned includes only calls abandoned after the customer has received the recorded message.

Personal Injury Claims

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress he has made on his plans for a pilot scheme for personal injury claims handling; and if he will make a statement. [193867]

Jane Kennedy: The Department is working with insurers, lawyers, employers and employee representatives to develop a specification for a pilot scheme for resolving ELCI claims cost effectively, more transparently and quickly. The Department is about to produce a third version of the pilot specification which addresses all the issues and concerns raised by stakeholders to date. Once stakeholders agree a specification, the first pilots can be launched.

Select Committees

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many recommendations by parliamentary select committees have been adopted by his Department since June 2001. [196293]

Alan Johnson: The information requested is not collected centrally.

The Government are required to respond formally to reports produced by select committees. In doing so the Government set out their views on the recommendations made by select committees, including whether or not it proposes to adopt a particular recommendation.

Copies of all Government responses are available in the Library.

State Second Pension

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to move state second pension to a flat rate. [196436]

Malcolm Wicks: No decision has been taken as yet regarding whether and when to make the state second pension a flat-rate scheme.
8 Nov 2004 : Column 477W


Adam Smith Institute

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much the Government have spent on funding to the Adam Smith Institute for research into utilities in developing countries in 2004. [195919]

Hilary Benn: DFID has not funded any research by the Adam Smith Institute into utilities in developing countries. The consultancy company Adam Smith International Ltd. have provided advice to development partners this year on reform of public enterprises, including utilities, in Ghana, South Africa, Iraq and the West Bank and Gaza.


Mr. Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment has been made of viable crop alternatives to poppy cultivation in Afghanistan; and whether alternative crops would be predominantly (a) supplied to domestic markets and (b) exported. [196264]

Hilary Benn: The Department for International Development is funding practical research into alternative ways for those cultivating the opium poppy production to earn a living. This research is generating a variety of alternative and improved products to supply both the domestic and export markets.

DFID has established a Research in Alternative Livelihoods Fund for Afghanistan. The fund is providing £3 million over three years for applied research into natural resource-based livelihoods, including crops, livestock, natural products, post-harvest processing and rural services.

The fund is presently supporting seven projects. Three projects aim to identify local, national and international market opportunities for alternative crop varieties and test a variety of agro enterprises and marketing strategies including an organic export feasibility study. Other projects include improved forage and milk production and the introduction of legumes and vegetable crops as viable alternatives to opium poppy cultivation.

DFID is also funding the development of viable crop alternatives to poppy cultivation in Badakhshan. This includes the establishment of nurseries and greenhouses for fruit and vegetable production, apricot drying, honey bee keeping, poultry farms, cashmere and silk production and a tthan-weaving programme.


Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the effects of the floods in Bangladesh on (a) the Bhairab Bridge project and (b) the Road Rehabilitation II and III projects funded by his Department; and what plans he has to secure further funding for projects funded by his Department and devastated by the floods. [195987]

8 Nov 2004 : Column 478W

Mr. Gareth Thomas: The UK was the first bilateral donor to announce support for the flood-affected people of Bangladesh. On 26 July 2004, the UK Government allocated £10 million through DFID to meet immediate flood emergency needs. On 18 August 2004, I announced a further £15 million in response to the UN Consolidated Appeal. On 26 October 2004, I approved a further £4 million to be disbursed through the World Food Programme. The UK's overall contribution has been channelled through several agencies to address both the food and non-food emergency needs of the worst affected poor people.

Bhairab Bridge was opened in 2002. DFID continues to provide technical assistance to the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) of the Government of Bangladesh to help with the maintenance of the bridge.

Between mid-July 2004 and the end of August 2004, the bridge experienced the first extensive flood since its completion. The landscaped area surrounding the bridge was submerged by one foot of water and the jetty road at Bhairab was submerged to a depth of approximately three feet. However, the flood did not cause any major damage to the bridge apart from some top soil sliding on the embankments. Where minor damage has taken place the operator has taken immediate steps to repair the damage.

The roads constructed with World Bank loans under the Road Rehabilitation and Maintenance Projects (RRMP2 and RRMP3) survived the floods without serious damage. DFID has not directly financed the construction of roads under these projects; UK support has been restricted to developing capacity in the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) and Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) of the Ministry of Communications.

Within the £29 million emergency response to the floods, DFID approved £3.9 million in September for emergency repairs to roads and bridges. RHD has decided that this should be spent on road repairs in Dhaka Zone, one of the worst flood affected areas. RHD has, with the help of a DFID-funded consultant, rapidly agreed a set of criteria for selecting those roads most in need of repair.

The monsoon season is now over and the flood situation continues to improve. All the emergency food shelters have closed. DFID's aid framework for Bangladesh continues to grow, but the emphasis is now shifting from emergency assistance to long-term development.

Next Section Index Home Page