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Health Service Bodies Accounts 2004–05

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Liam Byrne): Lord Warner, the Minister of State, Department of Health has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.


Community-based Restorative Justice

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. David Hanson): The Government have been seeking to develop guidelines to give effect to the recommendation in the Review of the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland relating to community-based restorative justice (rec. 168). The Review recommended that community-based restorative justice schemes could have a role to play in dealing with the types of low-level crime that most commonly concern local communities, subject to a number of conditions and safeguards. These were that such schemes should:

In line with the Review, there is no question of the Government approving a two-tier system. The guidelines will unambiguously specify the involvement of the police and other statutory criminal justice organisations in the operation of the community-based schemes. That is why the work on the guidelines is being taken forward by a group including representatives of the PSNI, the Public Prosecution Service, the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and the Youth Justice Agency as well as officials from my Department. The group has been in contact with the community-based schemes about the guidelines and aims to complete the current round of discussions with them by around 30 November 2005. Following that, in December I plan to circulate the guidelines to the main political parties in Northern Ireland as well as to the Policing Board and other key stakeholders for comment. I would expect this process to be completed in the new year, when decisions will be taken on the way forward.
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Low-carbon Buildings

The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): The low- carbon buildings capital grant programme (LCBP) will be allocated £30 million, to be spent over three years. It will replace the Clear Skies and Major PV Demonstration programmes.

I aim to launch the LCBP by April 2006. Some £1.5 million of the funding package will be brought forward to allow further funding for the two existing programmes, in order to help transition to the new programme.

The LCBP will be designed to take a holistic approach to reducing carbon emissions by using innovative combinations of microgeneration technologies and energy efficiency measures.

As well as continuing to fund single installations the programme will focus on supporting large scale developments in the public and private sectors to act as exemplars and encourage further projects. Potential community beneficiaries could include schools, leisure centres or even remote villages that are not connected to the grid. Other projects could include housing estates or business parks. The focus on larger developments is designed to engage the construction sector more widely and to help push microgeneration products further down the road towards commercial viability.

This grant programme is just one part of the Government's strategy to promote microgeneration, which will aim to remove those barriers currently hindering the development of a sustainable market for these products.


Women and Pensions

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. David Blunkett): I have today published "Women and Pensions: The Evidence", a compendium of statistics and analysis examining in detail the key influences on the level of women's retirement income. The report has been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.

The report clearly shows that inequalities of income in retirement can not be tackled in isolation from inequality during working life. The Government are committed to a holistic approach that develops social and labour market policies hand-in-hand. In this way we can tackle the gap in pay, income and assets and break the glass-ceiling for progression through working-life, as well as address the historically deep divide in retirement income which has been a product of a system predicated on a 1940s world where women were seen as dependent on their husbands.
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Since 1997 we have made significant progress in redeeming past inequality of income. Two-thirds of the 1.3 million workers benefiting from the National Minimum Wage are women and the UK now has the highest female employment rate of the major EU countries, with the gender pay gap at its lowest point for 30 years. Two-thirds of pension credit recipients are women and the UK pension system is today delivering better average retirement incomes than any previous generation has ever enjoyed—with 1.9 million lifted out of absolute poverty since 1997, of whom 1.3 million are women.

However, as today's report makes clear, in 2005, only 30 per cent. of women reach state pension age entitled to a full basic state pension compared with 85 per cent. of men. Only 24 per cent. of women reaching state pension age are entitled to a full basic state pension on the basis of their own contributions, and only 17 per cent. are actually in receipt of a full basic state pension based on these contributions.

New figures from the Government Actuary's Department contained in this report show that by 2025 women are projected to have caught up with men and both should be reaching age 65 with similar basic state pensions. This is good news but is far from the full picture. Only 38 per cent. of today's working age women are contributing to a private pension and at present, retired men receive on average £50 to £100 a week more than women of the same age.

Saving for retirement is also affected by household activities and attitudes. Child care continues to be predominantly done by women. Elder care is more evenly split but the difference is still significant—27 per cent. of women and 19 per cent. of men aged 45–64 care for another adult. Time spent out of the labour market has an effect on the ability of women to build up a retirement income. This is particularly important given that many women perceive pensions to be associated with paid employment, and therefore not applicable to them.

Furthermore, within every ethnic group, women are less likely than men to have private pension provision and there are currently no foreseeable national changes to the pattern of labour market participation for ethnic minority women to suggest a significant change to their pension accrual rates.

The comprehensive evidence in this report will inform our ongoing National Pensions Debate and in particular support the specific Women and Pensions Conference we are hosting in Manchester on Monday 7 November. It will feed into the final stages of Pension Commission's work on its own report and it will underpin our subsequent response that will shape the future of retirement provision in the UK.

I would like to thank hon. Members and noble Lords who have campaigned and developed the case for lasting change—and who have worked with us to develop a renewed focus on this crucial issue of equality. I hope that all Members will join with me in building on this evidence to put fairer outcomes for women at the heart of our consensus for a long-term solution to the pensions challenge.