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Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pension credit awards have been made to couples; and in how many cases the payment has been made to (a) the man and (b) the woman. 
1. Figures are rounded to the nearest five.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners in Hendon were receiving the (a) guarantee and (b) savings element pension credit on the latest date for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. 
|Pension credit total||4,085||4,855|
|Guarantee element only||2,120||2,565|
|Guarantee element and savings|
|Savings element only||515||635|
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place in the Library a copy of the appropriate printed output that is generated by the Pension Service Teleclaims Call Centre when a claimant does not want their retirement pension paid directly into an account, as set out in the Informed Choice script revised on 8 November. 
Malcolm Wicks: Following a telephone claim for state pension, a completed claim form is sent to the customer, with a covering letter, for them to check, sign and return to the appropriate pension centre. A customer who is unable to open or manage an account is then contacted to arrange payment by cheque. An anonymous example of the letter and claim form (Form BR1(S)'Claim for Retirement Pension') has been placed in the Library.
Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to ensure computerised pension and benefit payments are made over the Christmas period; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Pond: Direct payment instructions are sent electronically in advance of a customer's due date for payment of their benefit or pension. Payments are then credited direct into the customer's nominated account on the day the customer is due to receive their benefit or pension.
For customers paid by direct payment, we are maintaining the principle that if a person's benefit or pension is due on a bank holiday, they will have access to their money in advance. Customers paid direct into a bank, building society or post office card account will have their payments made available on the previous banking working day when payment is due on a bank holiday.
As financial institutions (including post offices) will be closed on 27 and 28 December 2004 and 3 January (and 4 January in Scotland) 2005, payments due over the bank holiday periods will therefore be credited into accounts at the start of the working day on Friday 24 and Friday 31 December 2004 respectively.
13 Dec 2004 : Column 860W
Malcolm Wicks: Our priority is to help the poorest pensioners. In order to do so, we will be spending around £10 billion extra in 200405 on pensioners as a result of measures, including pension credit, introduced since 1997 and nearly 50 per cent., of the extra spending will go to the poorest pensioners.
Pension credit ensures no single pensioner will have to live on less than £105.45 per week in 200405, while rewarding those with modest savings. In addition to uprating the basic state pension by more than the rate of inflation in previous years, we have also introduced winter fuel payments that are worth up to £200, with an additional payment of up to £100 where there is an eligible person aged 80 or over. Free TV licences are available to people aged 75 and over and we have introduced an additional payment of £100 for this year for eligible households with someone over the age of 70. A payment of £50 will go to similar eligible households for next year.
This means that we will have given pensioners £7 billion more than an earnings link would have given them. The practical effect of our measures is that, on average, the poorest third of pensioner households are £36 per week better off.
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the financial assistance fund announced on 14 May by his Department to assist workers who have lost out in pension wind-ups will be operational; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: Since coming to office in 1997 we have taken significant action to improve the pensions of women and we are continuing to do so. We are tackling the legacy of past inequalities in society and the pension system through Pension Credit, lifting 1.3 million women pensioners out of absolute poverty. As the Pensions Commission recognised, "a number of recent changes in the state system will improve the future position of female pensioners". We intend to continue to make progress and have undertaken to publish a report on women and pensions next year.
The Pension Service Partnership Fund is a unique scheme to enhance and build on our working relationships with the Government's partners in the voluntary and community sector, including local authorities.
13 Dec 2004 : Column 861W
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, (1) how many women claiming pension credit had inadequate contributions to their National Insurance basic state pensions in the last period for which figures are available; 
(2) for how many women claiming pension credit who had inadequate contributions to the National Insurance basic state pensions the shortfall was (a) £70-£79, (b) £60-£69, (c) £50-£59, (d) £40-£49, (e) £30-£39, (f) £20-£29, (g) £10-£19 and (h) 0-£9. 
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many (a) male and (b) female pensioners drawing the basic state pension draw the (i) full and (ii) partial amount; and what the main reasons are for (A) male and (B) female pensioners drawing less than the full amount. 
Malcolm Wicks: The number of (a) male and (b) female pensioners receiving the (i) full basic state pension and (ii) a basic state pension at less than the full rate as at 31 March 2004 is in the table:
|Full basic state pension||3,486,000||3,162,500|
|Basic state pension at less than the|
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions by what means a pensioner who receives his basic state pension payments into a bank account can begin having payments made into a different nominated account; what the target time is by which his Department aims to switch such payments to his new account; how many pensioners have requested this action in each of the last 12 months; and what (a) number and (b) percentage of these have successfully had their payments switched within (i) one week, (ii) one month, (iii) two months and (iv) three months or more of the initial request. 
Customers who receive State Pension by direct payment can change their nominated account by providing details of the new account to The Pension Service in writing, although some are able to do so by telephone. New procedures will shortly be
13 Dec 2004 : Column 862W
introduced whereby all customers can change their account details by telephone, subject to satisfactory checks as to identity. There are no targets for the time taken to change a customer's account details; guidance to staff requires that action on such changes should commence immediately and we aim to effect changes as soon as possible. Data on the numbers of changes and the time taken to effect them are not held in the form requested.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the cost in each of the 10 financial years from 200607, net of savings in means-tested benefits and additional income tax revenues, of paying from April 2006 (a) a basic state pension to all single people aged 75 or above at the rate of the guarantee credit for single people regardless of contribution record and (b) a basic state pension to all couples where one or both partners is aged 75 or above at the rate of the guarantee credit for couples, with that pension being indexed to earnings in subsequent years, and assuming that the savings credit is abolished for those aged 75 or above. 
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