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David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans there are to regulate compliance with the obligations of part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; 
(2) what assessment has been made of disabled people's access to goods, services and facilities as a result of the introduction of part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 from 1 October 2004. 
Maria Eagle: We have no plans to regulate compliance with the duties under part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 beyond the enforcement provisions which are already in place in section 25 of the Act. A disabled person who believes that he or she has been unlawfully discriminated against in access to goods, facilities, services and premises may take civil proceedings against the service provider or the person responsible for the selling, letting or managing of premises.
Before considering civil proceedings, the disabled person may raise a complaint directly with the service provider, or the person responsible for the disposal of premises, to see whether the issue can be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. The disabled person may also wish to seek advice from the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) which has established an independent conciliation service for disputes arising under part 3 of the DDA, with a view to promoting the settlement of disputes without recourse to civil proceedings. The DRC also has statutory duties to monitor and keep under review the implementation and enforcement of the DDA, and to advise the Government on the operation of the Act.
No assessment has yet been made since 1 October 2004 of the impact of the new duties requiring service providers to tackle physical barriers that prevent disabled people accessing their goods, services and facilities. However, the Government have a programme of research to monitor how those with responsibilities under the DDA are responding to those duties. Research conducted in 2003 and published in 2004 (DWP Research Report 202, Disability in the Workplace: Employers' and Service Providers' Responses to the Disability Discrimination Act in 2003 and Preparation for 2004 Changes) showed that 56 per cent. of the service providers surveyed had changes to physical access in place or planned. Future research will include further assessments of the adjustments made to improve access for disabled people to goods, services and facilities.
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Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to (a) introduce a winter heating allowance for claimants in receipt of disability living allowance and (b) introduce free TV licences for claimants in receipt of disability living allowance; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: There are no plans to extend the winter fuel payment to people under age 60 in receipt of disability living allowance. Nor has the Government plans at present to extend the availability of free television licences but is considering all aspects of BBC funding, including concessions, as part of the BBC Charter review process.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people with a full employment record have been disallowed (a) sickness benefits, (b) incapacity benefits, (c) jobseeker's allowance and (d) income support supplementary benefit because they did not have adequate NI contributions over the last three years. 
Maria Eagle: Incapacity benefit and contribution based jobseeker's allowance are the only working age benefits dependent on national insurance contributions.
Contribution based benefits are intended to help those who experience periods of unemployment or sickness between jobs. Entitlement to these benefits relies upon a claimant having sufficient national insurance contributions in the two most recent tax years for which records are available. This rule reinforces the link with the labour market and strikes the right balance between ensuring people do not need a long work history to be entitled, while denying access for those who have not been in the labour market for a number of years.
Information regarding the previous employment record of claimants that failed the contribution condition is available only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reason rates of age-related national insurance rebates for members of appropriate personal pensions have been reduced since 200203. 
Malcolm Wicks: There has been no such reduction. The rates set for the period 200203 to 200607 constitute an increase in the overall cost of the rebate for all forms of contracting out of around £11 billion over the preceding five year period.
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what calculations his Department has made concerning at what age (a) a man and (b) a woman with (i) half average earnings and (ii) average earnings, with a stakeholder pension with charges of 1 per cent. of premiums which tracks movements in the stock market, should contract in to the state second pension if he makes assumptions about his life expectancy, stock
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market growth and other economic variables in line with those made by the Government Actuary's Department. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 13 January 2005]: It is for individuals to decide the point at which it would be in their best interest to contract back in taking into account their attitude to risk and their personal circumstances. The Department is however committed to ensuring that people are properly informed of the issues involved so that they can make a decision that best suits their needs. This includes the fact that when people reach the age at which the age-related rebate is capped, currently age 53, most of them would be better off contracting back in.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what limitation his Department places on the amount of pension or benefit that an individual can withdraw from a Post Office card account. 
Mr. Pond: The Department places no limitation on the amount of pension or benefit that an individual can withdraw from a Post Office card account. However, the Post Office card account has a daily limit on withdrawals of £600 unless three days notice is given. This is explained to customers in the terms and conditions when they apply to open an account.
Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many press officers are employed in the Department. 
Maria Eagle: As at Friday 17 December 2004 were 15 National Press officers (Whole Time Equivalents), and 24 Regional Press Officers employed by the Department.
Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many civil servants from his Department have (a) faced disciplinary proceedings as a result of allegations of theft, (b) been charged with theft and (c) been dismissed following theft allegations in each year since 1997. 
Maria Eagle: No information is held on Department of Work and Pensions staff who have been charged with theft.
The available information on staff who have faced disciplinary proceedings as a result of allegations of theft, and (c) been dismissed following theft allegations is in the following table:
|Number of staff who have faced disciplinary proceedings as a result of allegations of theft||Number of staff who have been dismissed following theft allegations|
|January 2003 to|
|January 2004 to|
All DWP staff are subject to the Department's Standards of Behaviour statement which is based on the Civil Service Code. This is available and publicised on the DWP intranet site.
All forms of misconduct are dealt with under the Department's disciplinary policy and procedures. The Department's disciplinary policy includes, under gross misconduct:
If anyone in the Department is charged with or convicted of a criminal offence they are required to inform their manager straight away.
Any behaviour likely to discredit the individual or the business, for example the conviction for certain criminal offences is classed as serious or gross misconduct.
When an offence comes to light consideration is given to establish whether restriction of duties, transfer or suspension from duty is appropriate and what
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disciplinary action is required. Failure to report a criminal caution can of itself be treated as a disciplinary offence.
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