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6 Feb 2006 : Column 857W—continued

New Deal

20. Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the new deal in Leicester. [48339]

Margaret Hodge: The new deal has been successful in helping 2,620 people into work in my hon. Friend's constituency. This includes more than 1,350 young people through New Deal for Young People, 84 per cent. of whom have gone into sustained employment.

Pensions Regulator

22. Sir Peter Soulsby: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the work of the new Pensions Regulator. [48341]

Mr. Timms: The Pensions Regulator opened for business in April 2005 with a new regulatory approach placing greater emphasis on identifying and tackling real risks to members' benefits and a proactive, risked-based style of regulation.

It is clear that this approach is already making itself felt. The regulator is collecting and analysing a wide range of scheme data, enabling it to build a clearer picture of the current pensions landscape.
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The Pensions Regulator is required to assess and monitor the extent to which it is meeting its statutory objectives and targets, submitting an annual report to the Secretary of State. This report is then laid before Parliament. In addition, I meet with the chair of the Pensions Regulator on a quarterly basis and officials in my Department regularly monitor to ensure that the regulator is meeting its statutory objectives and pursuing its business activities effectively.

Welfare-to-Work Green Paper

23. Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the contribution that the proposals set out in the welfare to work Green Paper will make to the Government's goal of 80 per cent. employment. [48342]

Margaret Hodge: The proposals in the Green Paper will be a key role in achieving an employment rate of 80 per cent. of the working age population. To achieve our aim we will reduce the number of people on incapacity benefits by a million, help 300,000 more lone parents into work and increase by a million the number of older workers.

Benefit Fraud

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on his Department's strategy to tackle benefit fraud. [47107]

Mr. Plaskitt: Our strategy for tackling benefit fraud was published in Reducing Fraud in the Benefit System: Achievements and Ambitions" on 13 October 2005. Copies are available in the Library.

Since 1997, we have reduced fraud in income support and jobseeker's allowance by nearly two thirds. We now estimate that we lose around £0.9 billion to fraud each year—under 1 per cent. of total benefit expenditure, and the lowest estimated levels ever recorded. However, we realise that there is more to do and will continue to drive this down further.

Benefit Payments/Provision

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many and what proportion of telephone calls for benefit claims to Jobcentre Plus offices in Wales (a) received the engaged tone, (b) disconnected during the IVR process and (c) were abandoned by the caller in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [39559]

Margaret Hodge: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Lesley Strathie, dated 6 February 2006:

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Calls offeredCalls abandonedPercentage
2004 (June to December)249,02844,21717.8
2005 (January to w/e
16 December)

Prior to June 2004 information was not collected centrally.

Anne Snelgrove: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people received (a) housing benefit, (b) council tax benefit, (c) income support and (d) incapacity benefit in the constituency of South Swindon, in each year since 1997. [47015]

Mr. Plaskitt: Housing benefit and council tax benefit figures are not available broken down by parliamentary constituency. The available information is in the table.
Housing benefit (HB), council tax benefit (CTB), income support (IS), incapacity benefit (IB) and severe disablement allowance (SDA) claimants in the areas shown

Swindon borough council
South Swindon constituency
August 199710,40012,7003,5003,300
August 199810,20012,0003,5003,700
August 199910,00011,8003,1003,300
August 20008,60010,6002,9003,300
August 20018,1009,3002,9003,300
August 20028,3009,7002,9003,400
August 20039,20011,0003,0003,400
August 20049,70011,9003,0003,600
August 200510,30012,5002,9003,500

1. The data refers to benefit units, which may be a single person or a couple.
2. Figures have been rounded to the nearest hundred.
3. CTB figures exclude any Second Adult Rebate cases.
4. HB figures exclude any Extended Payment cases.
5. For consistency, income support figures exclude minimum income guarantee (MIG) claimants. Pension credit replaced MIG on the 6 October 2003; pension credit cases are not included in the table.
6. IB/SDA figures include IB credits only cases.
7. IS and IB/SDA figures prior to May 2000 have been derived by applying 5 per cent. proportions to 100 per cent. totals.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Management Information System Quarterly 100 per cent. caseload stock-count taken in August 1997 to August 2005; DWP Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study (WPLS); Information Directorate 5 per cent. samples.

6 Feb 2006 : Column 860W

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he is taking to improve (a) the efficiency of delivery and (b) comparability of control systems of benefits paid to British citizens resident overseas. [45194]

Mr. Timms: The Pension Service International Pension Centre applies the normal departmental security rules and law to prevent both external and internal fraud and abuse. It has recently upgraded its telephony systems to improve the level of service to customers overseas. Work in the centre has now been organised by country. This is to ensure there are specialist areas covering the European Union, countries with which the Department has Reciprocal Agreements and countries where non-uprated pensions are paid.

In addition The Pension Service has a team of specialists who determine if marriages and divorces that take place under foreign legislation meet the requirements of UK Social Security legislation and we carry out a programme of certification to ensure that benefit payments continue to be appropriate. There is also technology in place that allows us to authenticate foreign documents.

The Pension Service has achieved direct payment into bank accounts for over 97 per cent. of residents where it is possible to pay benefits via the BACS system.

Following a comparison with the Dutch System The Pension Service is implementing a new approach to programme protection work based on the amount of expenditure, the number of residents and age of residents by country.

Other benefits administered by the Department for Work and Pensions, for non United Kingdom residents are entirely dependant on the entitlement conditions for each individual benefit. These conditions may be modified for EU nationals moving within the EU by the EU Regulations on Social Security for Migrant Workers and in other cases by reciprocal social security agreements between the United Kingdom and other countries.

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much was owed to the Department in overpaid benefits in each quarter of the past three years; how much was received in each quarter; and if he will make a statement on progress in recovery of the outstanding balance. [30081]

Mr. Plaskitt: Benefit overpayment balances outstanding and recoveries for the last three years are as follows:
£ million

Balance owed at quarter end1,0871,1011,1161,145
Total recovered 188.8
Balance owed at quarter end1,1241,1221,1211,157
Total recovered 181.4
Balance owed at quarter end1,1611,1741,1871,230

Total recovered 186.6
(17) The reductions in both the debt stock (Q1) and recoveries in 2003–04 were due to the transfer of child benefit from DWP to Inland Revenue.
(18) Recoveries figure reduced in quarter to reflect accounting adjustments required to balance out incorrectly posted transactions in previous three quarters.

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Within the Department, Debt Management was established in April 2001 to provide greater focus and expertise to the management and recovery of benefit overpayments within the Department. Since then, the bulk of benefit overpayment recovery work has been centralised from over 100 sites to 10 dedicated debt centres, and £750 million of overpaid benefits has been recovered up to March 2005.

Since April 2004, where DWP has been unsuccessful in seeking recovery from those no longer in receipt of benefit, the debt has been referred to our private sector partners under the Enforcement Initiative.

From August 2005, a new computer system was introduced to the debt centres to assist with the recovery and accounting processes.

These improvements will see enhanced management and recovery in future years. However, due to the circumstances of many of our customers, recovery of a debt can take several years.

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many recorded job entries there have been in the United Kingdom excluding pathways to work pilots for incapacity benefit claimants who have been claiming benefit for (a) nought to three months, (b) three to six months, (c) six to 12 months, (d) 12 to 24 months and (e) 24 months and over since 1997. [38946]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 20 December 2005]: The specific information requested is not available

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