Maria Eagle [holding answer 6 December 2004]: Disposal of departmental records is undertaken as part of normal business, either internally or by approved contractors. Information on the amounts spent on shredding equipment by the Department is not available in the form requested and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Maria Eagle [holding answer 6 December 2004]: The Department for Work and Pensions continues to implement well established policies and procedures for the review and disposal of files in accordance with its administrative needs and the Public Records Act. This process is carried out under the guidance and supervision of The National Archives.
As file review in respect of registered records is undertaken on a retrospective basis, generally five to 10 years after the closure of files, the increase in the number of policy records destroyed during 200304 (almost 37 thousand files compared to 28.5 thousand in 200203) reflects the increase in number of official records created during the period in which the files were created. In DWP, as in any other large Government Department, as business changes and the organisation expands and contracts the number of policy records created will also rise and fall.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the criteria used to decide which documents and files should be shredded; and what mechanism exists to ensure that documents and files are not destroyed for other reasons. 
Maria Eagle [holding answer 6 December 2004]: The Department for Work and Pensions keeps records for as long as they are needed for administrative and business purposes. Records of enduring historical value are selected for permanent preservation under the guidance and supervision of the National Archives on the basis of guidelines which are published on the National Archives website at: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records managernent/advice/
Jane Kennedy: Since 1997 our policies have helped increase the employment rate for people aged 50 to state pension age in Scotland from over 59 per cent. to over 68 per cent., with 118,000 more people aged 50 and above in work. This increase has been faster than the increase in the overall employment rate.
People aged 50 and over who are looking for work have access to a wide range of back to work help available through Jobcentre Plus. For example Training for Work is available from day one of unemployment in recognition of the lack of skills of many in this customer group. Jobcentre Plus programmes and services have recently been extended on a voluntary basis to people in receipt of pension credit.
Evaluation has shown that four out of five people were still in work two years after starting work using New Deal 50 plus. Further (early) evaluation evidence on Employment Credits indicated that over 40 per cent. of recipients would not have taken their job without the additional financial help of the Credit.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he is taking to extend awareness of employment opportunities in the UK to EU nationals who are (a) resident in the UK and (b) resident elsewhere. 
Jane Kennedy: Employment Services throughout the European Economic Area (EEA) are connected through a network known as European Employment Services (EURES) that exists to promote sharing of vacancies and information on working and living conditions in the respective member states.
Jobcentre Plus is an active member of EURES making available some 400,000 vacancies through its own website and that of EURES. Vacancies available to EU nationals in the UK are displayed on the Jobcentre Plus website, www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk, where jobs from other member states are integrated on the Jobcentre Plus internet job bank.
Vacancies for EU nationals resident elsewhere, are advertised on the EURES website, www.erues-jobs.com. The EURES website currently has a database of some 73,000 jobs available to all EEA citizens. That number will progressively increase as more of the new member states that joined the EU on 1 May link up to
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the EURES database. From next year the information technology supporting EURES will change to allow all member states' vacancies to be visible to all EEA jobseekers through a common platform.
For those jobseekers in the UK who do not have access to the internet, Jobcentre Plus offices provide access through Jobpoints, self service kiosks that display all the vacancies shown on the internet job bank. Similar facilities are available in employment offices in many of the other member states.
Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list his official engagements over the last six months; who was present at each meeting; what the (a) date and (b) location was of each meeting; what issues were discussed; and what plans he has to establish a public register of such information. 
Maria Eagle: Ministers meet many individuals and organisations and attend many functions relating to Government business, and as part of the process of policy development. To provide the detailed information requested would incur disproportionate cost. The daily on the record briefing by the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman regularly provides details of Minister's public engagements.
Malcolm Wicks: None. The Government believe, taking account of available information on numbers involved, that £400 million should provide substantial help for those most seriously affected by failure of their pension schemes. But the size of average payments will depend on a number of factors, including the assistance levels for those facing the most urgent difficulties on which I refer the hon. Member to the Written Statement I gave on 2 December 2004, Official Report, columns 6466WS and the precise numbers and circumstances of eligible individuals.
The Department for Work and Pensions are committed to reviewing their pay policies to ensure that they are compliant with the current equal pay legislation and do not either directly or indirectly discriminate against any group of employees. Equal Pay Audits are carried out regularly to review existing policies and to inform the development of the departmental reward strategy. The most recent audit, which commenced earlier in 2004, is nearing final approval. On completion, a summary of the final report will be placed in the House of Commons Library. This report will then by used to develop an up to date equal pay action plan.
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The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) suggests that, as a general guide, any gender differences of 5 per cent. or more, or patterns of differences of 3 per cent. or more will require exploration and explanation. Early indications are that that there has been progress in closing the gap between male and female average salaries within DWP; in May 2002 (when the last equal pay audit was finalised) the overall gap was 5.7 per cent. whereas in December 2003 it had reduced to 4.8 per cent. This figure is calculated using the salaries of all staff within DWP excluding the Senior Civil Service whose remuneration is handled by Cabinet Office. The differences between male and female mean salaries change by grade. In our administrative grades, which are staffed by a greater proportion of female staff, the mean salary is higher for women than men in these grades. In our executive grades, male mean salaries are higher.
There are a number of possible reasons for the gender mix at the administrative and executive grades, for example, historical progression rates for each gender. We have recently begun to address these by consciously shortening pay scales and the Department is currently considering the recommendations in the latest draft report to identify any further action required.