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27 Feb 2007 : Column 1196W—continued

Means-tested Benefits: Council Housing

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of the means-testing of council house tenants. [122708]

Mr. Plaskitt: Information about the effect of means-testing is contained in regular data publications such as the Tax Benefit Model Tables, Households Above Average income and the Pensioners Income Series. The impact of means-testing is considered when developing new policies.

Estimates of take-up of local authority tenants for housing benefit and council tax benefit are published in Income Related Benefits: Estimates of Take-up, which is available in the Library.

New Deal

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many young people have been helped into work by the New Deal programme; and if he will make a statement. [102257]

Mr. Jim Murphy: Up to the end of May 2006, 693,830 young people had been helped into work through the new deal for young people programme.

Overpaid Benefits

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his estimate is of the amount of (a) pension credit, (b) housing benefit, (c) income support, (d) jobseeker's allowance, (e) incapacity benefit, (f) council tax benefit and (g) state pension overpaid to deceased claimants in the most recent year for which figures are available. [105818]

Mr. Plaskitt: Overpayments to deceased claimants arise in two main situations. Firstly when notification of death is received too late to stop an automated payment being made into the deceased's account. This category accounts for approximately 98 per cent. of overpayments arising after the death of a claimant.
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Secondly when a claimant dies, and it becomes apparent from probate records that the information provided in the original claim was inaccurate.

The available details of the amount overpaid during the year 2005 to 2006 for the specified benefits is in the table. Information is not available for housing benefit and council tax benefit.

Overpayments arising or identified after death, also expressed as a percentage of benefit expenditure for the benefits specified 2005 to 2006
£ million Percentage

Pension credit



Income support



Jobseeker’s allowance



Incapacity benefit



State pension






From the autumn of 2007, notifications of death will be received on a daily basis from the Office of National Statistics, as opposed to the current weekly basis. This will assist in enabling a prompt cessation of payment following death.

Parliamentary Questions

Helen Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he expects to answer question 107345, tabled by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland on 29 November 2006. [112865]

Mr. Jim Murphy: I replied to my hon. Friend’s question on 8 January 2007, Official Report, column 208W.

Public Finance Contracts

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what (a) public private partnerships and (b) private finance initiative contracts have been entered into by his Department; what assets were transferred to the private sector as part of each deal; what the value of these assets was; what the total cost is of each contract; and what estimate was made of the cost to his Department of traditional procurement over the life of each contract. [109337]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The Department has a single private finance initiative contract entered into in 1998 with Land Securities Trillium (LST) for the supply of serviced accommodation. This contract, known as the Private Sector Resource Initiative for the Management of Estate (PRIME), was expanded in 2003 to include the former Employment Service estate.

Assets valued £455 million have been transferred as part on the contract. Only 28 per cent. of the estate was freehold and could be classed as an asset. The remaining 72 per cent. was leasehold. A list of the buildings transferred was placed in the Library with PQ 33250 in December 2005.

The forecast cost for between 1998 and 2018 is £11.5 billion including rates and utilities.

The NAO report of 1998-99 estimated that this contract cost 22 per cent. less than continued public sector ownership and management of the estate.

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State Retirement Pensions

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the cost of raising the basic state pension, in real terms using 2006-07 prices, to (a) £90 in 2010, (b) £100 in 2015, (c) £105 in 2020, (d) £110 in 2025 and (e) £115 in 2030 for new claimants only; and if he will make a statement. [121485]

James Purnell [holding answer 19 February 2007]: Under our reforms, more people will be receiving state pensions based on their national insurance records, and there will be a more generous basic state pension due to the restoration of the earnings link. This provides a solid foundation for private saving. The guarantee credit will continue to provide a safety net and reforms to the savings credit will reduce the spread of means-testing and support the savings incentives that are an integral part of the reform package.

Raising the level of the basic state pension as specified would lead to a series of cliff-edges in the weekly amounts being received by different retirement cohorts in the same year. An individual who retires in 2009 with full entitlement would receive around £84 (in 2007-08 earnings terms) of weekly basic pension income. In 2012, when earnings-uprating commences, this amount of basic pension would be worth around £82 per week. This individual would then receive this amount each year of their retirement. However, another individual retiring in 2015 would receive £100 in weekly basic pension income—almost £20 more per week than an individual retiring six years earlier. This disparity would continue to grow until 2030, when new retirees would receive £115 per week.

The following table contains the cost of raising the basic state pension as specified in the hon. Member’s question. These costs are additional to the costs of pension reform set out in the regulatory impact assessment accompanying the Pensions Bill. No further policy changes have been assumed.

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Additional costs to pension reform of increasing the basic state pension as specified, net of income-related benefit savings
£ billion (2006-07 prices)





























1. Estimates of additional expenditure are consistent with the policy detail set out in the regulatory impact assessment accompanying the Pensions Bill. Net costs include savings seen from reduced expenditure on other income-related benefits (pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit). They do not include any change in income tax revenue or national insurance.
2. The costs of raising the basic state pension as described are additional to the costs of pension reform set out in the regulatory impact assessment. They assume the basic state pension is uprated by earnings from 2012, and is set at the levels specified in the question for new retirees only. That is, an individual would retire with a given level of basic state pension, and maintain that level (in earnings terms) throughout their retirement. They would not benefit from the higher rates in later years as specified in the question.
3. Net costs assume the pension credit standard minimum guarantee is uprated by earnings from 2008, and the savings credit maximum is uprated by earnings from 2008 and then by prices from 2015.
4. Costs or savings presented in the table are based on long-term projections of United Kingdom benefit spend, consistent with the pre-Budget report 2006.
5. Figures exclude the effect of personal accounts.

State Retirement Pensions: Carers

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment his Department has made of the merits of extending the carer's credit to cover all carers who provide 20 or more hours or care per week. [119581]

Mrs. McGuire: Provisions in the Pensions Bill will allow for the introduction of a new carer's credit, which allow people reaching state pension age after April 2010 to build up entitlement to both the basic state pension and the state second pension. It is intended for those who provide care for at least 20 hours a week and as a result are prevented from building up state pension entitlement through work.

The simplest and least intrusive way of establishing eligibility to the carer's credit is by reference to the benefits awarded to people receiving care. Under our proposals the carer's credit would be available to people providing care for one or more persons awarded the middle or highest rate of disability living allowance care component, attendance allowance, or constant attendance allowance for at least 20 hours a week. People with these benefits are most likely to require at least 20 hours personal care a week.

We are continuing to explore whether there are other practicable ways of identifying people who are providing at least 20 hours care a week.

State Retirement Pensions: Personal Records

Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what led to the sending of the personal pension details of 26,000 people to incorrect recipients; what assessment he has made of the extent to which the mistake was the result of (a) human and (b) computer error; and what steps he is taking to prevent similar mistakes in the future. [123354]

James Purnell: This mistake was the result of human error. A machine was configured wrongly, resulting in two letters being placed in an envelope instead of one. This was not the result of computer system failure. The checking processes did not pick up the error.

The processes, including quality control processes, have been examined and enhanced to prevent this
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happening again. The volume of existing checks has also been increased to help provide further assurance.


Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will update leaflet INDG209 to include warnings about the use of unstaffed tanning salons. [118390]

Mrs. McGuire: The Health and Safety Executive and Department of Health have agreed to update leaflet INDG209, Controlling Health Risks from the use of UV tanning equipment, and this will include consideration of warnings about the use of unstaffed tanning salons.

Welfare Reform

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what proportion of the funds set aside for welfare reform will be spent on (a) the five broad activity strands within Pathways to Work, (b) the provision of information technology for the administration of benefits and (c) other items; and if he will make a statement. [106308]

Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 30 November 2006]: The Department has identified the sum of £360 million to invest in our Welfare Reform Green Paper proposals over the remainder of the current spending review period. This will be spent primarily on extending our successful Pathways to Work programme nationwide by 2008 and setting up, and implementing, the IT system required to deliver the new employment and support allowance. The latter is subject to parliamentary approval of spend under section 82 of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999.

Welfare Strategy

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which of the areas involved in the city strategy for welfare reform include representatives of local private and voluntary sector providers on the board or management team of their consortium. [116404]

Mr. Jim Murphy: City strategy pathfinder business plans are currently at the draft stage and many areas are still in the process of finalising proposals for their formal management structure and membership. All areas will need to set out in their business plans an appropriate mechanism for consulting with and reflecting the contribution of the private and voluntary sector, though in line with the bottom-up approach of the strategy they are not required to do this in a particular way. The robustness of each area's proposals for engaging the private and voluntary sector will form an important part of the assessment of business plans.

Wheels to Work Projects

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he is taking in conjunction with other Government Departments and agencies to sustain Wheels to Work projects for young people without access to personal transport. [104707]

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Mr. Jim Murphy: Accessibility to jobs and training opportunities is an important factor for all our customers, including young people. To ensure that suitable transport projects are sustained and accessibility issues are addressed, we are re-issuing guidance to Jobcentre Plus districts. This will encourage them to work with local partners including transport authorities, Connexions and the Learning and Skills Council. The guidance will contain good practice case studies including examples of successful Wheels to Work schemes which we support because they represent the best way of meeting our customers’ needs.

Written Questions: Administrative Delays

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he expects to answer question 108016, tabled on 5 December 2006 by the hon. Member for Portsmouth South. [121197]

Mrs. McGuire: I replied to the hon. Member's question on 19 February 2007, Official Report, column 368W.

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