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Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average difference in pension income between men and women in (a) the UK, (b) Scotland and (c) England was in the latest period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. 
Table 1 gives gross income, net income before housing costs, and net income after housing costs for male and female single pensioners (people over state pension age). The results are based on combined data from the three years 200001, 200102 and 200203.
21 Mar 2005 : Column 600W
|Male single pensioners|
|Net income BHC||187||194||192|
|Net income AHC||161||168||166|
|Female single pensioners|
|Net income BHC||167||165||165|
|Net income AHC||142||139||139|
|Net income BHC||20||29||27|
|Net income AHC||19||28||27|
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether his Department plans to continue to use means-testing in the calculation of pensions; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: This Government's priority when they came to office was tackling the legacy of pensioner poverty. We continue to do this by targeting help on today's poorest pensioners and by encouraging all pensioners to receive the benefits they are entitled to. At the same time the Government believe that empowering individuals to make real and informed choices about working and saving for retirement is fundamental if they are to make sure people get the income in retirement they expect.
Income-testing of benefits has existed since before and after the creation of the Welfare State in 1948. With the introduction of pension credit, and the ease by which it can be applied for, we have moved away from the stigmatising weekly means tests of the past.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what changes took place in levels of pensioner poverty between (a) 1997 and June 2001 and (b) June 2001 and 2005; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: We have taken many steps to tackle pensioner poverty, including the introduction of pension credit and winter fuel payment, and since 2000 there has been a 7 per cent. real rise in the level of the basic state pension. As a result of these measures during 200506 we will be spending extra £11 billion more on pensioners, including £5 billion more on the poorest third.
Poverty is about more than low income; it also impacts on the way people livetheir health, housing and the quality of their environment. The sixth annual 'Opportunity for all' report (Cm 6239), published in September 2004, sets out the Government's strategy for tackling poverty and social exclusion and presents information on the indicators used to measure progress against this strategy.
Analysis suggests our overall strategy to tackle pensioner poverty is having an impact on pensioner incomes. The Household Below Average Income figures present the number and proportion of pensioners living in households with incomes below fixed and relative thresholds. The latest publication shows that between 199697 and 200203, 1.8 million fewer older people lived in absolute low income on un-rounded figures. Inpercentage terms, this equated to a fall of around two thirds. Further information is presented in the following table:
|After housing costs||Before housing costs|
Information for 200304 onwards is not available. The latest available information about the number of pensioners living in relative low income, measured by households with incomes below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income, is presented in the following table:
|After housing costs||Before housing costs|
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the level of pensioner poverty (a) before and (b) after housing costs was in (i) the UK, (ii) Scotland and (iii) England in 2004; and if he will make a statement. 
| Pensioner couples||Single pensioners|
|Scotland||England||Great Britain||Scotland||England||Great Britain|
|Net income BHC||304||328||324||171||172||171|
|Net income AHC||282||307||304||147||146||146|
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average weekly amounts of (a) basic state pension, (b) additional pension and (c) income- related additions received by (i) men and (ii) women were in each year since 199798. 
| Average basic state pension|| Average additional state pension|| Average weekly rate of income-|
|As at March:||Men||Women||Men||Women||Men||Women|
Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will publish an estimate of the number of pension scheme members who have lost pension through insolvent wind up since 1997 in the same format as the estimate published on 30 June 2004. 
Malcolm Wicks: We shall not have full information on members' losses until their schemes are close to completing wind up. However, based on the information currently available, we estimate that some 80,000 non-pensioner members of schemes winding up since 1997 with insolvent employers could be facing losses of 20 per cent. or more of their expected pensions, 70,000 losses of 30 per cent. or more, 60,000 losses of 40 per cent. or more and 45,000 losses of 50 per cent. or more. These figures exclude those where the difference between the assets in their scheme and the level of losses is less than £10 a week. In addition, we estimate that a small number of pensioner members may be facing significant losses of 20 per cent. or more of their expected pensions.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what initiatives his Department has taken to encourage business investment in worker pensions; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: We have taken radical action to easethe burdens on business and encourage further investment in employees' pensions. This includes the measures in the 2004 Finance Act to simplify the tax system and provisions in the Pensions Act 2004 to make the running of pension schemes simpler. We have simplified the pensions tax system by changing eight schemes of taxation into one. Simplification measures in the Pensions Act 2004 will enable pension schemes to consolidate and simplify their rules with retrospective effect.
We set up the Employer Task Force to draw on business experience and innovation as a way of identifying and promoting good practice in occupational pensions. Following a recommendation in its report,
21 Mar 2005 : Column 604W
published in December 2004, we have set up a website aimed at employers which is dedicated to offering guidelines on good practice, with case studies and examples.
Ms Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what advice was taken from (a) the Government Actuary's Department and (b) other actuaries by the then Department for Social Security (i)in advance of the introduction of contracting-out rebates for personal pensions in the 1986 Social Security Act and (ii) on the appropriateness of the level and structure of these rebates between the introduction of the 1986 legislation and the introduction of age-related rebates in 199798. 
The contracting-out rebate rates that applied to appropriate personal pensions introduced under the Social Security Act 1986, were set out in a report laid before both Houses of Parliament in March 1987 by the then Secretary of State for Social Security. As required under the legislation, a report by the Government Actuary was laid at the same time and set out the rebate rates that, under the legislation then in force, he considered to be appropriate. Before these reports were laid, a draft of the Government Actuary's report was issued for consultation. This consultation included questions on the appropriateness of the level and structure of the rebates. The actuarial profession were among those consulted and their views were taken into account as part of the consultation process.
21 Mar 2005 : Column 605W
The Secretary of State is required to review the level of rebates at least once every five years. The same process as described above took place in 1992 to set the rebate rates from 6 April 1993 and again in 1996 to set the rates from 6 April 1997. As a result of the latest of these reviews, age-related rebates were introduced for members of appropriate personal pension schemes and members of contracted-out money purchase schemes.
Malcolm Wicks: Winter fuel payments are a significant contribution towards fuel costs but are not intended to cover the full cost of fuel bills. The payment has risen from £20 in winter 199798 to £200 from winter 200001.
Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the rates of basic state pension payable to (a) single pensioners and (b) couples were in (i) 199697 and (ii) 200405; and what the rates would have been in 200405 if they had been uprated in line with prices between 199697 and 200405. 
|Single pensioners||Pensioner couple|
|Rate of basic state pension as at April 1996||61.15||97.75|
|Rate of basic state pension rate as at April 2004||79.60||127.25|
|Rate of basic state pension as at April 2004 if it was uprated by retail prices index from 199697||74.15||118.50|
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