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Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 29 November 2004, Official Report, columns 434W, on contracted-out rebates, what his assumptions are of the number of people who are contracted out in 200405; and if he will make a statement. 
|Type of Scheme||Number of people contracted out in 200405|
|Contracted-out Salary Related Scheme||7.0|
|Contracted-out Money Purchase Scheme╣||0.6|
|Contracted-out Mixed Benefit Scheme┬|
|Appropriate Personal Pension Scheme||3.3|
Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether immigrants to the UK are entitled to be issued with national insurance numbers if they (a) have entered the UK on false passports, (b) have had their applications under the regularisation of overstayers scheme refused with no right of appeal and (c) have had their applications under the Home Office's marriage policy refused. 
Possession of a national insurance number (NINO) does not constitute proof of the right to work, and the onus for establishing right to work rests with employers. The 1996 Asylum and Immigration Act prohibits the use of
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illegal migrant labour and requires employers to carry out certain specified document checks on prospective employees. The NINO is only acceptable as evidence of entitlement to work if produced in combination with other specified documents. Alternatively, job applicants can demonstrate their entitlement to work by producing specified secure documentation, such as the British passport, EEA passports and other foreign passports endorsed to show the holder can work in the UK.
The allocation of NINOs to adults affects almost exclusively people entering the UK from abroad. People who have entered the UK on false passports; have had their applications under the regularisation of overstayers scheme refused with no right of appeal; and have had their applications under the Home Office's marriage policy refused, but have met the criteria for a NINO to be allocated, would be issued with a NINO.
We have well established processes in place to notify the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate where it becomes apparent that an individual requesting a NINO has immigration restrictions. This process protects the benefit systems from undue loss when a person's immigration status excludes the right to access public funds and provides the Immigration Service with up to date information on the individual.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will strengthen the powers of the pensions ombudsman to take action against providers of pension schemes when he finds evidence of malpractice or poor service; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: The pensions ombudsman is an independent statutory commissioner. His powers are quite wide ranging. He can investigate complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and disputes of fact or law brought by members of occupational pension schemes, and their spouses and dependants, against trustees, managers or administrators of those schemes or employers. He may direct any person responsible for the management of the scheme to take or refrain from taking such steps as are specified in his determination. His determination is final and binding and is enforceable in a county court as if it was a judgement or order of the court.
The pensions ombudsman can also investigate complaints of injustice from members of personal pension schemes, who have suffered as a result of maladministration carried out by people responsible for provisions in the scheme's administration.
The Pensions Act 2004 further strengthens the pensions ombudsman's powers by ensuring that where the management or administration of the scheme is outsourced, those with such responsibility should be subject to the pensions ombudsman's jurisdiction. This provision will come into force shortly.
This will enable him to deal with complaints or disputes relating to "one off" acts of administration. An example of this would be an insurance company carrying out a single act, e.g. calculating a transfer value for an insurance policy.
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Sir Archy Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many full-time staff equivalents have worked on the administration of the Social Fund for Edinburgh, Lothians and the Borders district in each of the last five years; what the ratio of staff to relevant potential claimants was in each of the last five years; and what the ratio of staff to claims was in each of the last five years;. 
(2) how many telephone lines there are at Bathgate to receive calls about Social Fund crisis loans; what the average length of time taken to answer a call is; how many and what percentage of calls were abandoned by the caller in the last period for which figures are available; and how many calls a day on average were received in the last period for which figures are available;. 
(4) whether the telephony system used for the administration of the Social Fund is part of the Customer Management Services IT project; how many (a) errors and (b) change requests have been reported to the supplier of the system; what criticisms have been made to the supplier about the telephony system; what changes have been made to improve the telephony system; whether payments for the telephony system have been withheld; and if he will make a statement. 
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your questions concerning the Social Fund delivery in Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Jobcentre Plus district. This is something, which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
It may be helpful if I first explain that Jobcentre Plus Direct uses an advanced call centre telephony system to support the customer services delivered by Jobcentre Plus Direct Contact Centres. These services, which include first customer contact in making claims for working age benefits, do not include the administration of the Social Fund. The administration of the Social Fund is currently delivered from within the district field network, using standard telephony, which is available in almost all Jobcentre Plus local offices. The telephony used to deliver the Social Fund is not part of the Customer Management System IT project.
I am in a position to provide the statistical information you request only for the periods 200304 and 200405. This is partly because of the district restructuring which occurred in April 2004 and merged the former separate Edinburgh and Lothian and Borders districts and makes earlier data comparison invalid, and also our staff information database which would have confirmed staffing levels only came into operation in April 2003.
By way of background, Crisis Loan applications by telephone was introduced in Bathgate Jobcentre Plus office on 18 November 2002 and subsequently rolled out to the remainder of the old Lothian and Borders district by August 2004. In what is now the new restructured district, crisis loan applications by telephone have been in operation for approximately one year.
Turning to your specific questions, firstly, during the operational year 20032004, 59.9 full time equivalent staff were engaged in the administration of Social Fund and this figure has been increased to 61.4 for 2004/05. I regret I am unable to estimate the potential number of Social Fund customers, this is because applications are open to non-Jobcentre Plus customers. However, the actual number of Social Fund Claims received claims received in 200304 was 89278, and this year to date, we have received 52172. I am also pleased to say that additional staff are currently working on Crisis Loans in the District to help deal with this volume of activity. In terms of a staff to claims ratio, I regret that data is not available which would fully reflect all aspects of Social Fund activity, for example appeals or abortive claims. I should like to mention that Crisis Loan productivity in Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders District is the highest in Scotland, and above the Jobcentre Plus national average.
There are currently 9 telephone lines available within Bathgate Jobcentre Plus office to deal with Crisis Loan applications. The average time taken for the end to end process from the point of call receipt is between 30 to 45 minutes. Unfortunately due to the nature of the telecommunication system in place, I am not able to answer your other call-type questions.
Finally, during 2003/04, 30 formal complaints were received through our official channels. This number has fallen to 17 complaints this year to date. Unfortunately, at present, I am unable to provide figures for complaints received direct to the district. I will, however, forward this information to you as soon as it is available.
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