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Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the arrangements are for policing the area around the Odyssey complex in Belfast; whether different arrangements are made at weekends; what plans he has to make more resources available for policing in this area; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Pearson: The Odyssey Complex has developed into a major entertainment and event centre, attracting over four million people annually throughout Northern Ireland including visitors from abroad. The PSNI have a statutory duty to police the area and ensure public safety, including the many families and young people who frequent the complex and surrounding area. In order to achieve this, East Belfast PSNI works in partnership with the management and security staff at the Odyssey, the Laganside Corporation, Belfast City Council and Translink.
In order to combat public disorder, assaults and crime, East Belfast District PSNI implements Operation Safenight every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights between the hours of 7pm and 3am. Operation Safenight is focused not only on the Odyssey complex but also the Short Strand community interface and surrounding Laganside area. This operation is resourced with 1 Sergeant and 4 Constables for East Belfast DCU supported by 23 Regional Tactical Support Group (TSG) vehicles when available. If TSG resources are unavailable, then other East Belfast anti-crime patrols would deploy in support of the Operation Safenight personnel, where necessary.
Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the recent Police Service of Northern Ireland review of the retirement age of part-time reserve officers. 
I have been informed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland that it has not conducted a review of the age retirement of part-time reserve officers. In accordance with the Police Service of Northern
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Ireland Reserve (Part-Time) Regulations 2004, part-time reserve members appointed after 8 February 2004 (the date on which the regulations came into force) shall be retired at age 65. These regulations also contain transitional arrangements for existing part-time reserve members.
These transitional arrangements will allow existing PTR members to move to the new PTR arrangements, subject to receiving appropriate training. I have been informed that the PSNI has written to existing PTR officers who would be or have been subject to possible retirement at age 62 to advise them accordingly.
Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average number of hours worked by part-time reserve police officers was during 2004, broken down by district command unit area. 
|DCU||Total hours||Number of part-time reserve officers||Yearly average||Monthly average|
|Newry and Mourne||747.00||3||249.00||20.75|
|Dungannon and South|
|Ballymoney and Moyle||2,087.75||8||260.97||21.75|
Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much was spent in the (a) Coleraine and (b) Limavady borough council areas on minor roads improvements by the roads service in 2004. 
You recently asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland a Parliamentary Question about expenditure on minor road improvements in the Coleraine and Limavady Borough Council area in 2004, I have been asked to reply as this issue falls within my responsibility as Chief Executive of Roads Service.
|Period||Council area||Spend(16) (£)|
|1 January 2004 to 31 December 2004||Coleraine borough||900,000|
|1 January 2004 to 31 December 2004||Limavady borough||300,000|
For your additional information, I would advise that the resources available for minor capital schemes are allocated to roads service's four divisions which, in turn, apportion this across district council areas on a needs-based priority approach using indicators such as population, weighted road lengths and the number of accidents. This ensures, so far as possible, an equitable distribution of funds across the country.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many days on average were taken by the Social Security Agency in (a) 200304 and (b) the current financial year to date to process a new claim for pension credit; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Spellar: In 200304 the average time taken to clear a pension credit application was 53 days. In the current financial year to December 2004 the average time taken to clear an application has been 25.9 days.
Performance against the average clearance time (target is 12 days) has been hindered because of a backlog of claims. A recovery plan has been in place since September 2004 and the backlog should be cleared within the next two months. Claims received since September 2004 are now being processed within the 12 day target.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many applications for pension credit are outstanding with the Social Security Agency; what is the date of the earliest outstanding application; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Spellar: From a backlog of over 6,500 in August 2004 there are currently 621 pension credit applications outstanding. The majority of these require further information to be provided to enable the claim to be fully assessed. The earliest outstanding application is September 2003.
Apart from those cases in the backlog, there are a further 1,100 pension credit current applications dating from November 2004 at various stages in the assessment process. These cases are also awaiting further information before the claims can be finalised.
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In overall terms the numbers of cases still to be assessed has reduced substantially over the past five months and as the backlog cases are cleared over the next month or two, resources will be redeployed to keep the current clearance times in line with the 12 day target.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the (a) number and (b) percentage of pensioners eligible for pension credit in Northern Ireland who have applied for pension credit. 
Mr. Spellar: No estimate has been made of numbers of pensioners who might be entitled to state pension credit. However, since the introduction of state pension credit in October 2003, 22,500 pension credit applications have been received in the Social Security Agency. 15,000 cases have been successful.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people in Northern Ireland who receive (a) the state retirement pension, (b) state pension credit and (c) disability living allowance in cash at post offices (i) have said that they wish their payments made into a bank or post office account after 1 April, (ii) have said that they do not wish payments made into an account and (iii) have not responded to the Social Security Agency's inquiries. 
Mr. Spellar: As a result of a major exercise to move customers to direct payment, the latest available figures show that, at 1 December 2004, 81 per cent. of retirement pension and 76 per cent. of pension credit customers (equating to 192,000 and 68,000 customers respectively) now have their payments made into a bank, building society or Post Office card account.
Mr. Spellar: The latest available figures show that, at 1 December 2004, 78 per cent. of Social Security Agency customers were being paid by direct payment. This comprised of 51 per cent. being paid via a bank or building society account and 27 per cent. via a Post Office card account.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many exception reports have been submitted in the current financial year to the Chief Executive of the Social Security Agency to indicate areas of the agency's business where an assurance that proper controls exist cannot be given; which areas of the agency's businesses are now subject to exception reports; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Spellar: Under the Social Security Agency's Certificate of Assurance reporting process there have been seven exception reports in the current financial year covering 35 areas where there has been slippage against performance targets or operational concerns. The majority of exception reports received have been in relation to delays in completion of internal performance management processes and these will be remedied before the year end. One exception report was received indicating slippage against the Public Service Agreement target in relation to overpayment recovery. All exception reports indicate the recovery action to be taken and revised targets where appropriate.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the levels of (a) fraud and (b) incorrectness were in each social security benefit for which the Social Security Agency is responsible, and in total in each financial year from 200001 to date; in (i) monetary terms and (ii) as a percentage of the total expenditure on each benefit programme in each year. 
In the three-year period from April 2001 to March 2004, 40,000 cases of suspected fraud were investigated. Of these cases, over 16,000 resulted in withdrawal of claims or changes in the rate of benefit paid totalling £9.8 million.
|Disability living allowance(17)|
|Disability living allowance(17)|
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will place in the Library copies of the monthly reports to the Social Security Agency management board on the agency's performance in meeting its programme protection plans for 200405. 
Mr. Spellar: Information on the Social Security Agency's performance against its programme protection plans is presented to the agency's management board on a quarterly basis. I will arrange for copies of the quarterly reports for 200405 and for future reports to be placed in the Library.
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