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20 Dec 2004 : Column 1447W—continued

North Sea Fishing

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what regulations determine minimum fishing distance between fishing vessels and North Sea rigs. [204217]

Jane Kennedy: Sections 21–24 of the Petroleum Act 1987 prohibit vessels from entering safety zones around offshore oil and gas installations, which extend to 500 metres of any part of the installation. This prohibition includes fishing vessels while fishing.
20 Dec 2004 : Column 1448W

Pension Credit (Scotland)

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate has been made of the total number of people eligible to claim pension credit in Scotland. [205934]

Malcolm Wicks: Estimates of pension credit eligibility, based on 2002–03 Family Resources Survey data projected forward to 2004–05, are currently being revised consistent with pre-Budget report assumptions. The revised estimates will be available in January 2005.

Pension/Benefit Payments

Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what arrangements his Department has put in place to ensure cash payments to pensioners are made in the event of information technology failure. [205461]

Mr. Pond: The Department has comprehensive contingency arrangements in place to deal with such an event. These arrangements would ensure that any affected payments are regenerated and pensioners would be paid in their normal way—either directly into a named account or by cheque. Where this is not possible, for example the first payment of an entitlement, payment will be by cheque. Our systems have been designed to minimise the need for cash payments to be made to pensioners.

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will ensure that pension payments due on Christmas Eve are paid earlier. [203680]

Mr. Pond: Christmas Eve is a Friday. Banks and Post Offices will be open, so pensioners will be able to access their pension in the normal way. Only a very small number of pensioners receive their pension on a Friday.


Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in respect of how many pensions contracted-out rebates have been paid in each year since 1997; and what the average payment was. [203175]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is in the following table:

Average weekly numbers contracted out of SERPS/S2PAverage annual payment to people contracted out of SERPS/S2P (£)

1. The estimates of the numbers contracted out and the average annual payment are for Great Britain only and are consistent with the rebate estimates for the 2004 Pre-Budget Report.
2. The numbers contracted out are based on those shown in the Departmental publication "Second-Tier Pension Provision" and other information on contracting-out trends that has emerged in recent months.
3. The large increase in the average annual payment from 2002–03 is due to the increase in the level of the rebate which applied from the beginning of that tax-year.
Government Actuary's Department (GAD)

20 Dec 2004 : Column 1449W

Sickness Absence

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many days sick leave were taken by civil servants in the Department in each year since 1997; and what the sickness absence rate was in each year. [204506]

Maria Eagle: All the information requested is not available. Information for the operational years 1997–98 and 1998–99 is not available. The remaining information requested is shown as follows:
Sickness absence information for DWP and the former DSS

days lost
Average number of working days lostSickness

1. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was created in June 2001. Due to the migration of businesses into and out of the newly forming Department, and differences in calculation methods, figures for the Department as a whole are only available from April 2002.
2. The information in the table covers the years April 1999 to March 2002 relating to the former Department of Social Security (DSS), the main predecessor Department in place prior to the formation of DWP, and for DWP for April 2002 to March 2004.
3. Figures have been provided for DSS and DWP for each full operational year since 1999. Sickness absence information for the current year, April 2004 to March 2005, will be available in spring 2005.
4. As at 30 September 2004, the Department had lost 790,668.1 days to sickness absence which equated to a sickness rate of 4.8 per cent. or 12.1 average number of working days lost.

Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether departmental special advisers have made appearances before parliamentary select committees in their official capacity since May 1997. [204320]

Maria Eagle: Departmental special advisers have not made any appearances before parliamentary select committees in their official capacity since May 1997.


Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the refurbishment projects in his Department that (a) are in progress and (b) will start in the next six months; what action is being taken to ensure that these will procure timber from legal and sustainable sources; and whether guidance will be issued to contractors on each of these projects to ensure that the timber used on site during refurbishment also comes from legal and sustainable sources. [202191]

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Maria Eagle: This Department occupies approximately 1,800 buildings. The information requested about the number of refurbishment projects in progress and due to start in the next six months is not available centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

However, the majority of refurbishment projects are undertaken for the Department by our Estates Partners, Land Securities Trillium. They have been instructed that all timber used across the Department must be verified as being from legal and sustainable sources. They include this within all specifications for refurbishment work. On an annual basis a supply chain report is presented to the Department, detailing the evidence presented for all timber used. This report, and the evidence that it contains, is then independently audited to ensure that the timber does meet the required standards. Any areas of weakness are identified and the Department works closely with Land Securities Trillium to ensure that performance is improved.

Winter Fuel Payment

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners are in receipt of winter fuel payment in Coventry. [205306]

Malcolm Wicks: For winter 2003–04 there were 55,970 pensioners in Coventry who received the winter fuel payment. We would expect the number to be similar for winter 2004–05.

1. Numbers are rounded to the nearest 5. 2. Local authorities and parliamentary constituencies are assigned by matching postcodes against the relevant ONS postcode directory.

IAD Information Centre, 100 per cent. samples.

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the number of people in Scotland eligible to claim (a) the winter fuel payment of £200 and (b) the additional payment of £100; and how many claim forms have been received this winter. [205932]

Malcolm Wicks: We estimate around 60,000 people in Scotland will turn 60 and become newly entitled to receive a winter fuel payment for 2004–05. In 2003–04 around 35,000 people in Scotland aged 60 received an automatic payment. We would expect the number to be similar in 2004–05. Those people who are not in receipt of certain benefits and therefore do not receive an automatic payment, will need to claim. So far this winter we have received 38,872 claim forms from people in Scotland. Some of these may be from people who would have been paid a winter fuel payment automatically.

Almost all people in Scotland who are eligible for the additional £100 payment for those aged 70 or over will be paid automatically. So far this winter three claims for the additional £100 payment have been received and, of these, two are entitled to an automatic payment.

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