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24 July 2006 : Column 889W—continued

Jobseeker's Allowance

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the waiting time is for jobseeker's allowance claims to be processed in (a) the South-West and (b) Somerset from (i) contacting the contact centre and being given an appointment for interview and (ii) interview to receipt of benefit; and if he will make a statement. [63378]

Mr. Jim Murphy: In June 2006, the average clearance time for jobseeker’s allowance claims in the south-west region was 17 days, and for Somerset claims was
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17 days. The average time taken for the contact centres to return a customer's call was within the target 48 hours within the region. The average time between contacting the contact centre and the claim being taken in the Jobcentre was two days.

We recognise that the delivery of jobseeker’s allowance in the south-west and Somerset are not as we would want and that is why we have put additional measures in place to improve performance. These include the recruitment of additional staffing and increased telephony capacity. These measures along with closer working within Jobcentre Plus have resulted in an improvement in average clearance time for the south-west and Somerset. Jobseeker’s allowance claims are now being actioned on the day of receipt in all processing centres. We anticipate the improving trend to continue.

We are also operating a fast track system for those customers in urgent need. Details of this have been shared with local stakeholders.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what special considerations are given to women wearing the veil regarding their suitability for employment when they apply for jobseeker’s allowance; and if he will make a statement. [85016]

Mr. Jim Murphy: There are no special considerations given to a woman’s suitability for employment when wearing a veil or any other specific item of clothing.

Means Testing

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to ask the Government Actuary’s Department to make an assessment of the assumptions underlying the projections of (a) public spending and (b) the extent of means testing in Cm 6841; and if he will make a statement. [83807]

James Purnell: The assumptions and modelling techniques underpinning the analysis contained in Security in Retirement: towards a new pensions system (Cm 6841) have been developed and refined over a number of years through a process of regular contact and validation with a range of expert organisations. In the past year these have also been scrutinised by the independent Pensions Commission who found them to be broadly comparable with their own analysis.

As part of the consultation process on Cm 6841 we will continue to engage with such organisations, including the Government Actuary’s Department, to set out and explain in detail the analysis it contained, including our projections on future public expenditure and eligibility for pension credit. We also intend to publish, prior to the introduction of legislation, the research on which our proposals are based.

National Insurance Numbers

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people with no recourse to public funds because of their immigration status have national insurance numbers. [84346]

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Mr. Plaskitt: The information is not available.

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many new national insurance numbers were issued in the Peterborough city council area in the 12 months to 31 March (a) 2004, (b) 2005 and (c) 2006; and if he will make a statement. [86882]

Mr. Plaskitt: The information is not available in the format requested.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he was informed that national insurance numbers were being issued to (a) illegal immigrants, (b) immigrants with false papers and (c) immigrants whose visas had expired; when the review into this matter was begun; and if he will make a statement. [75917]

Mr. Plaskitt: National insurance numbers (NINOs) are only ever allocated when an individual has proved their identity. Individuals who present false documentation would not be allocated a NINO as we would not be satisfied as to their identity.

In May 2006 DWP undertook a review of the NINO allocation rules to see whether DWP systems could be tightened to protect the security of the NINO.

As a result of this review on Monday 5 June 2006 I announced changes to improve the NINO allocation process. These changes were introduced during July 2006 and will introduce a “right to work” pre-condition for employment-related NINO applications. This will prevent illegal workers being allocated a NINO.

Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 30 January 2006, Official Report, column 287W, on national insurance numbers, how many national insurance numbers in issue are allocated to (a) deceased people, (b) those in receipt of benefit outside the UK and (c) others who are abroad. [76025]

Mr. Plaskitt: In order to maintain the integrity of the system (and for benefit purposes) national insurance numbers (NINOs) are not removed. For example, they are retained after a person dies or moves abroad. This is because individuals who move abroad may at some point have a call upon contributions paid while in the UK. In the case of deceased individuals, a partner may make a claim for a contributory benefit, which is dependant on the contribution record of the deceased individual.

The information is in the table.

Allocation of NINOs to deceased people, those in receipt of benefit outside the UK, and others who are abroad

NINOs in issue to deceased people


NINOs in issue to those in receipt of benefits outside the UK


NINOs in issue to others abroad


These figures are from 2003 and relate to the total number of NINOs in issue at the time.

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New Deal

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much has been spent on travel passes for young people on the new deal in each year since 1997; how many passes were issued in each year; and if he will make a statement. [85468]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The New Deal Reduced Rail Fare Scheme was established in 1997 and, in England and Wales, is jointly operated by Jobcentre Plus and the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC). The scheme was set up to provide new deal participants with reduced travel costs whilst on the New Deal programme.

New deal participants are advised about the availability of the Reduced Rail Fare Scheme either in their first invitation letter or at the initial gateway interview. Rail fare reductions can be made available, at adviser discretion, to eligible new deal for young people participants travelling in England and Wales throughout their time on new deal, on all trains participating in the scheme. In addition, ATOC have agreed to provide further reductions for the first three months of rail travel once participants have left new deal for a sustained job. In this instance, all travel tickets must be bought whilst the participant is on the new deal programme.

In Scotland, First ScotRail, SPT, GNER and Virgin Trains offer free and reduced rate travel to all new deal customers in certain geographical locations. This provision is available to new deal customers from their first day on the programme until their first wage is received.

Local agreements are also in operation with some bus companies for the provision of reduced rate fares for new deal customers and, in certain circumstances, travel costs are paid through other sources such as the Adviser’s Discretion Fund or the Travel to Interview Scheme.

Data is not held on the number of travel passes issued, and expenditure has not been accounted for at the level of detail required to separately identify the costs of the New Deal Reduced Fare Scheme, or the costs of funding travel for new deal customers through other sources. However, no subsidy is paid to train or bus companies by Jobcentre Plus for the Reduced Fare Scheme and the only costs incurred by the Department are the administrative costs involved in managing any necessary paperwork.

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much was spent in each year since 1998 on the nationwide network of mentors to advise young people on getting back into work; how many advisers were employed in each year; and how many young people they assisted into work in each year. [85550]

Mr. Jim Murphy: Mentoring was introduced into new deal provision to help those people who may need additional support to that offered by their new deal personal adviser. New deal mentoring is available at
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Jobcentre Plus District Manager's discretion, depending on the needs of the local labour market, and can supplement and complement new deal personal adviser support given to new deal participants.

Young people on new deal for young people can access mentoring support on a voluntary basis. It is provided by independent volunteers who use their skills, experience and expertise to help unemployed people break down the barriers preventing them from working. Young people with a health condition or disability who are participants on New Deal for Disabled People (NDDP) may also access mentoring support if their NDDP job broker identifies this as being appropriate in helping them into employment. Mentoring support is also available to eligible lone parents and partners.

Information is not available on the number of people providing independent mentoring support, or on the number of young people they assist into work each year. Information is also not available on the cost of providing mentoring support as new deal financial data is not broken down in that way.

Occupational Pensions

Derek Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions why he applied for a temporal limitation procedure in relation to the Amicus-Community trade union European Court of Justice occupational pensions case. [78019]

James Purnell [holding answer 16 June 2006]: The Government’s position is that the United Kingdom’s interpretation of article 8 of directive 80/987/EEC is consistent with the text of the directive, the legislative history, the case law of the European Court of Justice and, until recently represented, the view of the European Commission.

In the event of the European Court’s judgment being that article 8 requires a higher level of protection than provided in the UK, the Government asked the Court, in the interests of legal certainty, to consider imposing a temporal limitation on its judgment.

It is usual practice to ask for a temporal limitation on the judgment in a case such as this, where the relevant criteria that the Court has set down for imposing a temporal limitation are met.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many parliamentary questions tabled to his Department were awaiting a reply on 10 July 2006; which of those had been waiting longer than (a) two and (b) three weeks for a reply; and what the reason for the delay was in each case. [85209]

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Mrs. McGuire: The Department received 4,124 ordinary, named day and Lords parliamentary questions in the 12 month period to 30 June.

A total of 190 parliamentary questions to the Department of Work and Pensions were awaiting answer on 10 July 2006, of which 10 had been outstanding for more than two weeks but less than three weeks and 85 were outstanding for more than three weeks.

The reasons for delay in each case are not collated centrally and the information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. The Department endeavours to answer named day questions on the day named and to reply to ordinary written questions within a working week.

Pension Credit

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 5 July 2006, Official Report, column 1171W, on pension credit, why production of the pension credit wallets ceased. [85915]

James Purnell: Production of the pension credit plastic wallets ceased because there was sufficient stock to meet likely demand.

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether all pensioners are entitled to have their pension credit paid into a Post Office card account. [86066]

Mr. Plaskitt: Pensioners who satisfy the terms and conditions set by Post Office Ltd. for opening a Post Office card account can have their pension credit payments made this way.

In order for pensioners to make an informed choice about the type of account they should have their pension credit paid into, they are being advised that the contract which supports the Post Office card account ends in March 2010 and that if they choose to be paid into a Post Office card account now, they will need to switch to a different type of account at some point in the next few years.

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many individual beneficiaries of pension credit there were in each ward of Newcastle upon Tyne in November (a) 2003, (b) 2004 and (c) 2005; and what the average weekly payment was in each case. [86859]

James Purnell: The information requested is in the following table.

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Pension credit individual beneficiaries and average weekly payments for wards in Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central
November 2003 November 2004 November 2005
Ward name Individual beneficiaries Average weekly payments (£) Individual beneficiaries Average weekly payments (£) Individual beneficiaries Average weekly payments (£)











































South Gosforth














Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central constituency total







1. The number of recipients are rounded to a multiple of five and average payments to the nearest penny therefore ward totals do not always sum to area totals.
2. Wards are based on 2003 ward boundaries.
3. The number of individual beneficiaries includes both claimants and their partners.
DWP Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study (WPLS) 100 per cent. data.

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