Previous Section Index Home Page

13 Feb 2006 : Column 1694W—continued

Realising Health and Safety Strategy

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress there has been in meeting targets for major reductions in fatal accidents and severe injuries in each year since the publication of the Realising Health and Safety Strategy in 2000. [42657]

Mrs. McGuire: The information is as follows.

Progress on fatal and major injuries

The mid-point 'Revitalising' Health and Safety target (2004–05) for fatal and major injuries is to reduce the incidence rate by 5 per cent. from the base year (1999–2000).

Since 2000, HSE has concentrated on priority areas in partnership with industry. This has resulted in significant improvements in, for instance, construction and falls from height where targets have been met. This activity has not yet shown through as a clear change to the overall fatal and major injuries rate. HSE continues to prioritise its programmes, focussing on delivering targets.

The figures for each year are shown in the following table, and further detailed information is available from the HSE website.
Rate of reported fatal and major injuries to employees

Rate of reported injury (per 100,000 employees)
Fatal injuryMajor injuryFatal and major injury

13 Feb 2006 : Column 1695W

Retirement Age

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the oral answer to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley) of 9 January 2006, Official Report, column 7, whether it is the case that no one who is (a) a teacher, (b) a national health service employee and (c) in the civil service, and remains so until the age of 60 years, will be required to defer their retirement beyond the age of 60 years. [48360]

Mr. Timms: No one, in any occupation, in the private or public sector, can be required to defer their retirement beyond a particular age—individuals always retain the right to retire at a time of their choosing (subject to any compulsory maximum retirement age imposed by the employer).

I assume that the hon. Gentleman is in fact referring to normal pensionable ages, the age from which an unreduced pension is available.

Under the agreement on public sector pensions announced last October, a current teacher, NHS
13 Feb 2006 : Column 1696W
employee or civil servant who is already a member of their occupational pension scheme and who does not leave that employment at any subsequent point in their career will retain their existing normal pensionable age of 60. However, the probability is that, of public sector workers aged 20 today 90 per cent. (source: Government Actuary's Department) will not meet this criterion (i.e. they will not remain in the same employment until age 60).

Social Security Fraud

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the annual cost to the public purse resulting from social security fraud in each of the last three years. [50629]

Mr. Plaskitt: In recent years, benefit fraud has been reducing and now stands at £0.9 billion per year—less than 1 per cent. of total benefit expenditure.

The Department produces estimates for the amount overpaid through fraud across the benefits system. Previously published results are in the table.
Estimate of benefit overpaidComment
1998–99 to 2002–03£2 billion per annumFigure rounded to nearest £1.0 billion.
2003–04 revised estimate£1.0 billionFigure rounded to nearest £0.1 billion. Development work to improve the quality of the estimate suggested that the original figure of £1.5 billion was an overstatement.
2004–05£0.9 billionFigure rounded to nearest £0.1 billion.

The estimates in the table refer to fraudulent payments of benefit. Some overpayments will be subsequently recovered, so the net loss to the public purse will be less than the level of overpayments.

On 13 October 2005, the Department published our achievements in reducing levels of fraud in the benefit system and plans to reduce it further in 'Reducing fraud in the benefit system: Achievements and ambitions.' Copies are available in the Library.

Stakeholder Pensions

Mr. Dunne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the lapse rate of stakeholder pension contributors was in each year between 2000 and 2005. [50017]

Mr. Timms: This information is not available. Stakeholder pensions are designed to be flexible, with policy holders being permitted to take breaks in contributions without incurring penalty charges. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) publishes a yearly survey on persistency of life and pension policies which has a table on the levels of persistency for stakeholder pensions. The latest publication is the 2004 survey and it can be found on the FSA's website at


Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent discussions he has had with the Health and Safety Executive on the operation of unstaffed coin-operated sunbed retail outlets. [48745]

Mrs. McGuire: There have been no recent discussions with HSE on the operation of unstaffed coin-operated sunbed retail outlets; no recent concerns have been expressed to HSE regarding serious injuries at such outlets.

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidelines the Health and Safety Executive has issued to operators of unstaffed coin-operated sunbed tanning salons. [48747]

Mrs. McGuire: Leaflet INDG209, Controlling Health Risks from the use of UV Tanning Equipment applies to the risks from sunbeds generally.

No guidance has been issued specifically on unstaffed coin-operated tanning salons. However, the guidance in INDG209, including the advice aimed at customers, provides a sensible approach to controlling the risks from using such facilities.

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what inspections of sunbed tanning retail outlets the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) undertakes; and what period of notice is given by the HSE for such an inspection. [48753]

Mrs. McGuire: HSE is not responsible for the inspection of retail tanning outlets. This is a local authority responsibility. Each local authority decides on the relative priority of such inspections. Many local authorities also require these facilities to be licensed for public health purposes, and a licensing visit will be made on receipt of the necessary application.
13 Feb 2006 : Column 1697W

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the Health and Safety Executive has taken enforcement action against companies operating sunbed tanning salons since 1995; and if he will make a statement. [48759]

Mrs. McGuire: No enforcement action has been taken by HSE against companies operating tanning salons as enforcement responsibility for these premises is allocated to local authorities. HSE only holds voluntary submissions of local authority activity; these records show no enforcement against tanning outlets under health and safety legislation.

Telephone Helplines

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the response rates against targets were for telephone helplines for (a) incapacity benefit, (b) jobseekers allowance and (c) crisis loans in each region in the UK in the last period for which figures are available. [42561]

Margaret Hodge: Jobcentre plus is introducing a new approach to claiming working age benefits, including incapacity benefit and jobseeker's allowance in which customers call a contact centre to make their claim for benefit. This approach is being gradually introduced across the country.

The information provided in the following table relates only to those areas of the country where the new service has been introduced, and it details the percentage of calls answered by each contact centre during December 2005.

It is not possible to identify the response rates for calls by region as calls are not necessarily answered by the nearest geographical contact centre to the customer. We also do not hold information on the individual benefits that each call relates to and, therefore, I am unable to provide information on the response rates specifically for incapacity benefit and jobseekers allowance.

Contact centre
Region in which the
contact centre is based
Percentage of
calls answered
DerbyEast Midlands95.2
GrimsbyYorkshire and Humber98.4
HalifaxYorkshire and Humber93.5
LincolnEast of England96.7
LowestoftEast of England96.7
SheffieldYorkshire and Humber94.9
BlackburnNorth West93.4
BootleNorth West97.2
CoventryWest Midlands93.9
GarstonNorth West93.9
Marton MereNorth West97.2
TelfordWest Midlands94.1
BanburySouth East96.3
DundeeOffice for Scotland93.8
HastingsSouth East94.7
MiddlesbroughNorth East96.5
NewcastleNorth East93.0
BridgendOffice for Wales88.2
CwmbranOffice for Wales92.1
Pembroke DockOffice for Wales93.3
PooleSouth West96.3
TauntonSouth West87.7
TorquaySouth West92.5

13 Feb 2006 : Column 1698W

Our aim is to answer 90 per cent. of calls. We are aware that two contact centres are not meeting this aim. Measures have been put in place to improve performance, including temporary adjustments to our processes, further recruitment and improved training programmes. These activities have already produced positive results and we are confident that the week-on-week improvements in customer service will continue.

We do not have a specific target for answering calls to Crisis Loan helplines. Specific information on call response time is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Next Section Index Home Page