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Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the number of disused petrol stations which do not meet the requirements of the Public Health Act 1961; how many improvement notices have been issued under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; and what further steps are planned to deal with the potential detrimental effects to the environment of disused petrol stations. 
Jane Kennedy: The local Petroleum Licensing Authority enforces the safety of disused petrol stations. There is no statutory obligation on them to keep records of how many sites do not meet the requirements of the Public Health Act 1961. There is also no statutory obligation on them to keep records on how many improvement notices they have issued under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in relation to disused petrol stations. As such, it is not possible to provide the statistics requested.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs groundwater protection code on filling stations contains advice on decommissioning underground storage tanks, and the Environment Agency has powers to enforce the code. In general, the agency expects risks to groundwater from decommissioned tanks to be lower than from active tanks since, at worst, only residual fuel would be likely to remain. The Environment Agency's risk-based approach to groundwater protection and improvement will be taken forward under the Water Framework Directive. Local authorities also have duties under Part 11A of the Environmental Protection Act to identify contaminated land and secure remediation which may involve the Environment Agency.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will make it his policy (a) to pool the remaining assets of pension schemes which fall within the scope of his financial assistance scheme and to (b) instruct such schemes not to purchase annuities with such balances; 
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to ensure that recipients of payments under the financial assistance scheme continue to receive such payments after the initial 20-year funding period has ended. 
Malcolm Wicks: The timing of payments and hence the precise funding arrangements will depend on how the financial assistance is delivered. As I said in a written ministerial statement on 2 December 2004, Official Report, columns 6466WS, options for delivery including a top-up pension, a cash lump sum, or purchase of an annuity at age 65, are still being considered.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, on how many pension schemes he has so far successfully collected data in connection with his development of a financial assistance scheme; and what percentage this represents of all the schemes for which he is collecting data. 
Malcolm Wicks: The current data collection exercise has received information from over 100 pension schemes. The exercise is not due to finish until 10 December 2004, and we expect to receive more information immediately prior to that deadline. The earlier data collection exercise received information from some 250 pension schemes. It is not possible to say what percentage this represents of all the schemes for which we are collecting data, because there is no adequate central source of data with which to identify all schemes potentially eligible for the Financial Assistance Scheme.
Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the full liability of the Financial Assistance Scheme for people whose occupational pension funds have collapsed. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Financial Assistance Scheme has no liability in respect of people whose occupational pension funds have collapsed. Through the Financial Assistance Scheme the Government have committed £400 million to provide assistance to members of pension scheme winding up under-funded prior to the introduction of the Pension Protection Fund.
Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate has been made of the level of assistance to be awarded through the financial assistance scheme to each person who has lost their occupational pension funding. 
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will establish an independent inquiry into the handling by the Pensions Ombudsman of the complaint by members of the IBM UK pension fund; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Pensions Ombudsman is an independent statutory Commissioner and I cannot comment on his determinations or on actions taken during his investigation of complaints. Copies of his determinations are available on the Pension's Ombudsman's websitewww.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk.
Complainants who are unhappy with the Pensions Ombudsman's determinations have the option of appealing to the High Court on a point of law. They must do this within 28 days of receiving the determination in England and Wales and 14 days in Scotland. They could also ask for the determination to be judicially reviewed, and must make an application within three months of the determination being issued.
If complainants are unhappy about the service received from the Pensions Ombudsman, an MP can refer the matter to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. She may review the way that the case was handled but will not consider formal decisions (i.e. determinations) made by the Pensions Ombudsman or his staff.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the criteria are for assessing the performance of staff of JobCentre Plus in respect of the payment of jobseeker's allowance. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question concerning the criteria for assessing the performance of Jobcentre Plus staff in respect of Jobseeker's Allowance. This is something, which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Jobcentre Plus performance is assessed against the levels set within the targets agreed annually with the Minister of State for Work. Underpinning these headline targets, we have a series of Key Management Indicators.
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the average time from claiming jobseeker's allowance and income support to receiving payment has been in (a) the area covered by Eston JobCentre Plus and (b) each of the other areas of the Redcar constituency not covered by the Eston JobCentre Plus in the last period for which figures are available; 
6 Dec 2004 : Column 376W
(2) what procedure is followed in processing applications for (a) jobseeker's allowance and (b) income support in the Redcar constituency; 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions concerning the processing of claims for Jobseeker's Allowance and Income Support in the Redcar constituency, and the number of financial advisers in the Redcar constituency. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Information on speed of processing is expressed as the Average Actual Clearance Time (AACT). This measures the time from when a claim to benefit is received until the processing has been completed. If a payment is due it would normally be sent to the customer on the date that processing is completed, so should be received by the customer either one or two days later.
Locally gathered information is available in different formats for Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and for Income Support (IS). JSA figures can be broken down on a site by site basis, however IS is processed by one team covering the 9 Jobcentre/Jobcentre Plus service delivery sites in the Stockton, Middlesbrough and Redcar/Cleveland areas, referred to as the Middlesbrough Site. Figures are thus only available on that basis. Figures for Tees Valley (which includes Darlington and Hartlepool) are also available, so are included for information.
The offices in the Redcar constituency are Eston, Redcar, Loftus and Guisborough. While Eston, Redcar and Loftus are Jobcentre Plus service delivery sites, Guisborough has yet to convert to the new integrated Jobcentre Plus service, so remains a standard Jobcentre, and, as such, processes claims to benefits in a different way.
Under Jobcentre Plus operations, a claim to JSA or IS usually starts with a telephone call to the Contact Centre. After obtaining initial details, Contact Centre staff call the customer back to obtain the necessary information to complete a claim to benefit. They also arrange an appointment for the customer to attend their local office to see both a Financial Assessor (FA) and a Personal Adviser (PA).
During this face-to-face interview, the FA obtains the information from the customer that is needed to process the claim to benefit. The FA also initiates requests for other information, which may also be needed to determine the benefit position, for example, details of final payments from an employer. Once all the information has been obtained, the FA produces a document, which is sent by courier to the central processing site where the benefit processing officers make the final determination and process the claim.
In Guisborough the pre-Jobcentre Plus process is in operation, and customers wanting to claim JSA usually contact a Customer Call Centre in order to make an appointment with a Personal Adviser in their local office. Benefit Processing Officers in the local office take all action to gather information and process some claims. Any they cannot deal with are sent to the central processing site for final determination and processing. Customers wanting to make a claim to IS do so by post and send their claim form directly into the processing site. For IS there is no requirement for an interview with an FA or PA.
|Number of financial advisers|
|Guisborough||2 (Benefit Processing Officers)|
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