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6 Dec 2004 : Column 377W—continued

National Insurance

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 29 November 2004, Official Report, columns 43–4W, on contracted-out rebates, what his assumptions are of the number of people who are contracted out in 2004–05; and if he will make a statement. [201933]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is in the table:
Million

Type of SchemeNumber of people contracted out in 2004–05
Contracted-out Salary Related Scheme7.0
Contracted-out Money Purchase Scheme╣0.6
Contracted-out Mixed Benefit Scheme┬
Appropriate Personal Pension Scheme3.3
Total(39)11.0


(39) Numbers do not sum to total due to rounding to the nearest hundred thousand
Note:
1. The estimates are based on the numbers contracted-out in 2000–01, the latest year for which information is available; they are for Great Britain and are consistent with those used by the Government Actuary to estimate the cost of the rebate for the 2004 pre-Budget report.
2. The numbers are based on those shown in the departmental publication "Second- Tier Pension Provision" published in March 2004 but exclude:
(a) data for Northern Ireland as estimates for the pre-Budget report are based on Great Britain only; and
(b) people earning below the lower earnings limit.



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. [201810]

Mr. Pond: 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.

Pensions

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. [202751]

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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Social Fund

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;. [199577]

(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;. [199579]

(3) how many complaints have been received about the administration of the Social Fund in Edinburgh, Lothians and the Borders in each of the last five years. [199580]

(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. [199582]

Mr. Pond: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Jobcentre Plus, David Anderson. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from David Anderson to Sir Archy Kirkwood, dated 6 December 2004:


 
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