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Discretionary Social Fund

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on progress in reviewing the discretionary social fund. [23055]

Mr. Plaskitt: The social fund plays an important part in helping people on the lowest incomes avoid the need to resort to high cost lenders. Significant improvements to the social fund budgeting loan scheme are being introduced in April 2006. These changes, which are being supported by an additional £210 million (net) over the three years to 2008–09, are intended to make loans more accessible and more affordable. The improvements include changes to the way in which existing budgeting loan debt affects an applicant's ability to take out a further loan, lower repayment rates, longer repayment periods and a major simplification of the way that the maximum loan amounts that can be offered to eligible applicants are calculated. The minimum amount an applicant can borrow as a budgeting loan will increase from £30 to £100 and the maximum debt available as a combination of crisis and budgeting loans will increase from £1,000 to £1,500.

It is important that people on low incomes are not penalised for saving. That is why the changes to the budgeting loan scheme will also include an increase in the capital limits. From April 2006 the amount an applicant can have in savings without it affecting their access to budgeting loans will be doubled to £1,000 for working age applicants and £2,000 for pensioners.

The aim of future changes will be to ensure that the social fund is not merely a safety net in times of need but will also help people to become self-reliant and able to take control of their spending decisions. We want to ensure that reform will contribute to improving financial inclusion for those on the lowest income.

DNA Bioscience

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times he has met representatives of DNA Bioscience since May in connection with his ministerial responsibilities. [24494]

Mr. Hutton: Neither I nor my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) have had any such meetings.

Household Statistics

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what proportion of children have lived in
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households with (a) no adult in work, (b) a single parent and (c) less than 60 per cent. of median income in each year since 1976; and if he will make a statement. [20686]

Margaret Hodge: At spring 2005 there were 15.7 per cent. of children living in a household with no adult in work and 22.1 per cent. of children living in a lone parent household.
Percentage of children in (a) households with no one in work and (b) lone parent households from 1992 to 2005

Period as at springChildren in households with no one in work Children in lone parent households

Household labour force survey

Between 1996–97 and 2003–04 the number of children who live in households with less than 60 per cent. of median income has fallen by 600,000 before housing costs and 700,000 after housing costs.
Percentage of children who have lived in households with less than 60 per cent. of median income

Before housing costs—FRS (GB)
After housing costs—FRS (GB)

1. The figures are from the households below average income (HBAI) publication, DWP.
2. Family resource survey (FRS) figures are for Great Britain. The reference period for FRS figures is single financial years.
3. In order to maintain comparability with data in different years FRS data has been used. FES data is available for years 1993--94 and earlier but is not directly comparable with FRS.
Family resource survey

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Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many wards in the Waverley borough council area have over 50 percent. of children with (a) one parent and (b) two parents receiving out of work means-tested benefits. [20841]

Margaret Hodge: There are no wards in Waverley borough council where more than 50 per cent. of children have parents in receipt of out-of-work income-related benefits.


Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he intends to allow scheme actuaries to continue to set contribution rates for occupational pension funds; and if he will make a statement. [22872]

Mr. Timms: Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 sets out the framework for the new scheme funding requirements that will apply to most private sector defined benefit occupational pension schemes and which will replace the current minimum funding requirement. The detail of the requirements will be set out in regulations to be made under part 3 of the Act. I expect these to come into force on 30 December 2005.

The new arrangements place the ultimate responsibility for funding decisions with the trustees, acting in partnership with the employer, and taking account of the advice of the scheme actuary. We firmly believe that this responsibility should rest with the trustees, given their fiduciary duty to act in the interests of scheme members.

We therefore do not consider that it is appropriate for the scheme actuary to continue to set contribution rates in the exceptional circumstances where a scheme's rules currently give the actuary this power, rather than the trustees or the employer.

In these circumstances, trustees will be required to agree the funding strategy with the employer, having regard to the recommendations of the actuary on certain key matters. In addition, the actuary's certification of the scheme's schedule of contributions must state that the rates shown are not lower than those he or she would have provided for if the actuary, rather than the trustees, had the responsibility for preparing the schedule.

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the number of people in (a) Tamworth constituency, (b) the West Midlands and (c) the UK who have lost their pensions due to firm insolvency since 1997. [22151]

Mr. Timms: The information is not available. The Government are currently inviting notifications from affected pension schemes to the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), and are therefore obtaining some information on the number of members facing pensions losses due to company insolvency. In due course, information will also be collected on individual members in schemes qualifying for FAS, including their addresses, at which point it may be possible to make some estimates of numbers affected in particular areas.
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Based on our most recent data collection for the FAS, we know of around 70,000 non-pensioner members in schemes that are potentially eligible for assistance from the FAS as a result of their schemes being wound up in circumstances of insolvency or where the employer no longer exists.

Second-hand Smoke (Asthma)

Mr. Barron: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent estimate he has made of the percentage of cases of asthma attacks that are caused by second-hand smoke in the workplace. [21513]

Caroline Flint: I have been asked to reply.

The Government have not made an estimate on the percentage of cases of asthma attacks that are caused by second-hand smoke in the workplace.

The national asthma panel is an annual survey of asthma sufferers commissioned by Asthma UK. In 2003, results from the national asthma panel showed that of the 40 per cent. of people with asthma who said things at work can worsen their asthma, 38 per cent. said cigarette smoke triggered their asthma. The national asthma panel also found that 82 per cent. of people with asthma reported that other people's smoke makes their asthma worse.

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