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Work and Pensions

Joint Birth Registration

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. John Hutton): I have today published a Green Paper on the Government's commitment to take forward new proposals in joint birth registration.

In December 2006 the Government published the White Paper "A new system of child maintenance". This paper set out the Government's proposal to make joint birth registration the default position for birth registration. It is the Government's ambition to significantly decrease the number of sole registrations from the current level of around 7 per cent. of births per year. This Green Paper sets out how we might achieve this ambition while providing robust exemptions for the protection of vulnerable mothers and children. We have always been clear that we would
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only legislate on this issue once we are sure such safeguards can be put in place and any legislation will have specific exceptions.

Joint birth registration is a positive, early intervention initiative that could form part of a wider cross government programme to promote good parenting, fatherhood and parental responsibility. The point at which a birth is registered is also an ideal time for possibly vulnerable or at risk parents to be identified.

Making joint birth registration the normal requirement, and doing more to promote and explain this requirement to parents, will publicly embed an expectation that the usual course of events is for both parents to acknowledge and be involved in the upbringing of their children.

This could also lead to positive changes in the level of fathers paying maintenance for their child's upbringing or provide a starting point for single parents to claim child maintenance where there is no longer a relationship between the parents.

The Government believe joint birth registration can make a significant contribution to child welfare and are committed to actively promoting it. This Green Paper sets out proposals to achieve this aim alongside a number of further non-legislative measures designed to maximise the number of joint registrations. The Government believe that these are critical to ensuring the success of our approach. The Green Paper asks whether these measures should be advanced as complementary to the legislative approach or developed solely within the current legislative framework.

Copies of the Green Paper are available for Members from the Vote Office.

Ministerial Group on Gas Safety

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mrs. Anne McGuire): I chaired the first meeting of the gas safety and carbon monoxide (CO) awareness Ministerial Group on 14 June. The Group agreed to support a coordinated approach to raising awareness and reducing deaths and ill health caused by CO poisoning. It also intends to meet representatives of the gas industry and others in the autumn to review their progress in delivering a programme of renewed action on raising CO awareness.

The members of the Group are:

A Minister for Scotland is about to be invited to join the Group following the recent elections in Scotland.

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Pension Service (Targets/ Business Plan)

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. John Hutton): I am today able to announce the annual performance targets in 2007-08 for the Pension Service executive agency of the Department for Work and Pensions. The targets I have agreed are set out below.

Further information is contained in the Pension Service Business Plan for 2007-08 that has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Library.

The Pension Service targets 2007-08

Successful applications:

Generate a further 235,000 successful applications overall for Pension Credit, of which 166,000 should be for Guarantee Credit.

Pension traces:

Undertake 60,000 successful pension traces.

Service Delivery targets:

Answer 80 per cent. of all calls received in 45 seconds.

Achieve Pension Credit accuracy of at least 96 per cent.

Achieve State Pension accuracy of at least 98 per cent.

Issue 99 per cent. of Winter Fuel Payments for 2007-08 (automatic payments and successful claims received before 22/09/07) by Christmas 2007.

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Reduce monetary value of fraud and error in Pension Credit to 4 per cent. of Pension Credit expenditure.

Benefit Fraud Inspectorate Reports

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the BFI inspection reports on Amber Valley Council, Basildon District Council, Colchester Borough Council, North Shropshire District Council and South Bedfordshire District Council were published today 26 June 2007. Copies have been placed in the Library.

The BFI reports detail a range of strengths and weaknesses in the housing benefit services provided by councils and make recommendations to improve the security and efficiency of benefit delivery.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is considering the reports and may ask the councils for proposals in response to BFI's findings.

Financial Assistance Scheme

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. John Hutton): I lay today before Parliament the second annual report of the Financial Assistance Scheme.

This report covers the administration of the fund from 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007.

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