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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform (Stephen Timms) has made the following Statement.
On behalf of the Secretary of State, I have signed regulations made under Part 1 of the Welfare Reform Act 2007, which are laid before the House today.This is an important set of regulations, which provide the benefit structure and rules for the new employment and support allowance (ESA), which will be introduced from 27 October 2008.
This is a further significant step in the Governments welfare reform strategy and addresses a key area for simplification by providing a single income replacement benefit for people who are not working and have a health condition or disability.
The Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 prescribe the conditions of entitlement and benefit regulations for those who claim on the basis that their capability for work is limited by their physical or mental condition. ESA will be payable in respect of new claims arising from 27 October and will replace incapacity benefit and income support paid on the grounds of incapacity or disability. Incapacity benefit and income support will continue in payment to existing customers.
For ESA, new medical and capability assessments, collectively to be known as the work capability assessment, will focus on what a person can do and identify what steps they might take towards taking up work. We intend to apply the new medical test to existing claimants as their benefit entitlement comes up for reassessment, starting in 2010. We expect all existing claimants to have been assessed using the new test by 2013.
For the majority of new claimants, ESA will provide, through a series of six mandatory work-focused interviews, the necessary personal adviser and other support to enable them to realise their potential and gain independence by moving into the job market. This will be delivered through the successful Pathways to Work
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ESA will be payable to those with the most severe health conditions or disabilities without them having to undertake any mandatory work-focused interviewsthey will be part of the support group. However, no one in the support group will be written off. They will be able to volunteer to receive the same support as the majority of claimants, who will be in the work-related activity group.
The regulations set out the rates of new benefit and ensure that a single person in the support group claiming income-related ESA will be guaranteed an income of at least £102.10 a week£17.60 a week more than the long-term rate of incapacity benefit. This will be done by automatically passporting them to the enhanced disability premium, as part of our commitment to fairness for the most severely disabled.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Pensions Reform (Mike OBrien) has made the following Statement.
The consultation for the first package of draft regulations finished on 20 March. Subject to parliamentary passage, those regulations will increase FAS payments to 90 per cent of accrued pension and will enable us to pay people from their normal retirement age, subject to a lower limit of age 60. We are now considering the responses that we have had to the consultation.
We have also consulted on changes that we are proposing to annuity factors used in certain circumstances to convert cash sums into rates of notional pension to facilitate the calculation of assistance. This consultation is open until 18 April.
The second set of regulations contain provision for early reduced payment for certain qualifying members who are unable to work due to ill health; for extending the FAS to members of certain schemes that wound up underfunded with a solvent employer; for speeding up initial payments; for enabling the board of the Pension Protection Fund to advise in the development of the new FAS arrangements; and for removing the option to apply for reinstatement into the state additional pension for those eligible for FAS.
To reflect the particular nature of the content, the written consultation period for these draft regulations will be a period of six weeks. Although less than the customary 12 weeks, we consider that a six-week period for written consultation provides an appropriate time for stakeholders to consider and respond fully and will allow us to make the changes as quickly as we reasonably can. We have been in regular contact with stakeholders, including the Pensions Action Group, and will be sending the consultation document directly to relevant pension scheme trustees.
The consultation documents are available on the departments website at www.dwp.gov.uk/publications /dwp/2008/FinancialAssistanceScheme (MiscellaneousAmendments)2_Regulations2008.pdf or alternatively via the FAS website.
In the first two packages of draft regulations, we have focused on introducing the key parts of the reforms to FAS announced on 17 December 2007: payment at 90 per cent from normal retirement age; allowing early reduced payment for those scheme members unable to work due to ill health; and allowing certain pension schemes with solvent employers to qualify for FAS.
There will be a third package of regulations, published for consultation later in the year, aimed at delivering all the remaining parts of the extension, which will move FAS to a position where financial assistance payments are calculated on a basis that is broadly comparable to that of the PPF.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The latest report on the implementation of the Sino-British joint declaration on Hong Kong was published today. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House. A copy of the report is also available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at www.fco.gov.uk. The report covers the period from 1 July to 31 December 2007. I commend the report to the House.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Nicholas Hardwick has been chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission since 1 February 2003, at which time it was operating as a shadow organisation prior to its replacing the Police Complaints Authority with effect from 1 April 2004; the period of the reappointment is for a further five years, the maximum permitted period.
The role of chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission is a challenging one and I am sure that Nicholas Hardwick will continue to rise to those challenges to ensure that the Independent Police Complaints Commission is effective and plays a full part in further increasing public confidence in the police complaints system.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
It is proposed to serve a defence on 28 March 2008 in response to the claim brought in the High Court against the Ministry of Defence by Dawood Salim Musa Al-Maliki (on his own behalf and as executor of the estate of Baha Mousa), admitting a substantive
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It is also proposed to serve defences in the similar High Court claims brought against the Ministry of Defence, admitting a substantive breach of Article 3, prohibition of torture, of the European Convention on Human Rights in the following cases:Mohammed Dhahir Abdulah;Maitham Mohammed Ameen Challab Al-Waz;Satar Shukri Abdullah;Joad Kadhim Jamal Al-Faeaz;Dhahir Abdullah Ali Al-Mansori;Radif Tahir Muslem Alhawan; Baha Hashim Mohamed; andAhmed Taha Mosah.
The Cabinet Office has today published Public Bodies 2007, which lists all non-departmental public bodies (NDPB) sponsored by the UK Government as at 31 March 2007. Public Bodies 2007 also provides summary information on the size and expenditure of the NDPB sector and statistical information on public appointments.
Public Bodies 2007 can be downloaded from the Civil Service website at www.civilservice.gov.uk/about/public/bodies.asp. Copies have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
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