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Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times the Post Office Ltd. computer system for administering pension payments has failed; how many pensioners were affected; and what emergency measures were implemented to pay their pensions. 
Since April 2003, when the Post Office card account system was introduced, there have been a small number of incidents that have briefly affected payments to the Department's customers. These incidents have caused some inconvenience to customers and delay in withdrawing benefit from accounts. It is not possible to say how many customers were temporarily unable to collect their pensions at the Post Office as a result. Those customers who were still unable to manage until the systems were restored, later in the day, could contact the appropriate DWP office to arrange an emergency payment.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which (a) non-departmental public bodies and (b) executive agencies within the remit of his Department have regional offices based on the Government Offices for the Regions' regional structure; and when the regional offices were established in each case. 
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what regional (a) bodies, (b) institutions, (c) taskforces, (d) panels, (e) offices and (f) organisations the Government have established since May 1997 which are the responsibility of his Department. 
The Appeals Service, an executive agency launched on 3 April 2000 to succeed the Independent Tribunal Service, has a regional structure for the administration of appeals, in line with the judicial regional structure.
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When the Pension Service, also an executive agency of the Department, was established in April 2002, the operational organisation was based around Government office regions. However, during early 2004 the regional management tier was removed and support services repositioned at national and local levels.
Maria Eagle: The DWP is committed to reducing its sickness absence levels. To help achieve this, a Managing Attendance policy was introduced in February 2003. This sets out the roles and responsibilities of managers and staff for achieving good attendance.
The Department has also produced a delivery plan in response to the recommendations of a Ministerial Task Force looking into sickness absence in the civil service and wider public sector. The task force was formed to ensure that the public sector contributes to the target of an overall reduction of 30 per cent. in the number of days lost to sickness absence by 2010.
Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what financial penalties were paid in each financial year since 199798 to training providers by the Department for training courses prepared for its staff which were subsequently cancelled at the Department's request. 
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 24 March 2005,
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Official Report, column 1042W, on vaccine damage, how much each of the payments to victims of vaccine damage was; and if he will make a statement. 
Maria Eagle: £10,000 was originally paid to each of the 75 victims of vaccine damage under the extra statutory scheme that preceded the 1979 Vaccine Damage Payment Act. In June 2000 it was decided that top-up payments would be made to past recipients of vaccine damage payments to bring the value of their payment up to the equivalent of what it would have been if they had originally received £100,000 ie £78,000 in real terms. Subsequently a payment of £68,000 was made to all the 75 claimants, bringing the total amount of each payment to £78,000.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in, and what percentage of, the workforce were aged 50 years or above in (a) 2003 and (b) 2004; what the percentage change was between those years; what his Department's policy is on numbers of workers aged 50 years or above; whether he plans changes to this policy; and if he will make a statement. 
|Year to November 2003||Year to November 2004||Percentage change(21)|
|Population aged 50 and over||18,969,000||19,127,000||+0.8|
|Population aged 50 and over as a percentage of population aged 16 and over||41.8||41.9||+0.1|
|People aged 50 and over in employment||6,977,000||7,120,000||+2.0|
|People aged 50 and over in employment as a percentage of people aged 16 and over in employment||25.7||26.0||+0.3|
In announcing the Department's five year strategy in February this year, we signalled our long term aspiration to move towards an 80 per cent. overall employment rate, and envisage 1 million more older workers in the labour force, including many who will choose to work beyond state pension age.
We have set targets to increase the employment rate of people aged 50 to state pension age, and reduce the gap between their employment rate and the overall employment rate. From April 2005 there will be an additional target to increase the employment rate of people aged 50 to 69 by 2008.
We want to increase the choices available for older workers to remain in, or rejoin, the labour market to allow them to continue contributing their skills and experience in the workplace and save towards retirement income. To support this we are changing tax and pension rules, increasing state pension deferral rates
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and options and introducing age discrimination legislation covering employment that will introduce a default retirement age of 65.
In May we will be launching a national guidance campaign to raise employers awareness of, and ability to adopt, flexible employment and retirement opportunities in order to increase the recruitment, retention and training of older workers.
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