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Pension Entitlement

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what discussions he has had with organisations

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concerned with pension reforms on the subject of widows and divorcees who in remarrying are disadvantaged in terms of their pension entitlement; [143570]

Mr. Rooker: Pension entitlement is determined when a claim is made at state pension age. An individual's contributions do not constitute a personal fund either for themselves or a spouse. The rules on remarriage do not, therefore, cause disadvantage.

Minimum Income Guarantee

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many (a) women over the age of 60 years and (b) men over the age of 65 years were in receipt of Income Support in each month since May 1997; [143391]

Mr. Rooker [holding answer 18 December 2000]: The information is in the table.

Income Support/Minimum Income Guarantee recipients by age and gender, May 1997 to August 2000

QuarterMen aged 65 and overWomen aged 60 and over
May 1997358.71,173.9
August 1997357.91,168.7
November 1997354.21,159.5
February 1998350.71,146.3
May 1998341.51,131.5
August 1998338.71,125.9
November 1998336.41,118.2
February 1999331.31,101.7
May 1999334.61,102.2
August 1999337.71,101.1
November 1999338.01,098.4
February 2000333.51,082.2
May 2000338.31,087.0
August 2000346.01,100.6

Notes:

1. Figures are based on a 5 per cent. sample and are therefore subject to a degree of sampling error.

2. Figures are rounded to the nearest hundred.

3. Pensioner figures refer to male claimants aged 65 and over, and female claimants aged 60 and over.

4. Minimum Income Guarantee commenced in April 1999.

Source:

Income Support Quarterly Statistical Enquiries, May 1997 to August 2000


The table shows a downward trend until May 1999 due to pensioners receiving higher average retirement incomes. The downward trend was halted at this point due to the introduction of the Minimum Income Guarantee and its more generous uprating formula.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pensioners have applied

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(a) successfully and (b) unsuccessfully for the Minimum Income Guarantee since the start of the take-up campaign in each Benefits Agency area. [143524]

Mr. Rooker: The effect of the Minimum Income Guarantee take-up campaign will not be known until it comes to a conclusion. There are thousands more claims in the pipeline, and the effects of the last stage of the campaign will impact on claims processed up to January next year.

Winter Fuel Payments

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many calls have been received by the Winter Fuel Payment Helpline since the Chancellor's pre-Budget statement; and if he will estimate the maximum number of people who were on hold during such calls at any one time. [143093]

Mr. Rooker: The administration of benefits is a matter for Alexis Cleveland, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Mr. Steve Webb, dated 18 December 2000:





Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people have contacted the Benefits Agency this year regarding (a) overpayment and (b) underpayment of winter fuel payments; and of these, how many were from widows who have received only half of their entitlement. [143092]

Angela Eagle: The administration of benefits is a matter for Alexis Cleveland, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Mr. Steve Webb, dated 18 December 2000:




Social Security Conferences

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how frequently senior civil servants in national departments of social security in English-speaking countries meet together in conference; when and where the last three such meetings were held; which of his officials attended those meetings; and at what cost to

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public funds; what subjects were discussed; and if he will place a copy of the minutes of those meetings in the Library. [141341]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 11 December 2000]: Meetings between the heads of social security departments in the UK, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United States of America and Ireland take place every 18 months. The last three meetings took place in the UK (September 2000), New Zealand (March 1999) and Ireland (September 1997).

The Department's Permanent Secretary generally attends the meetings outside the UK, together with two senior officials who hold responsibility for the areas of work to be discussed. The UK hosted this year's meeting and additional officials attended relevant discussions. The subjects discussed vary but are generally wide-ranging.

The cost of hosting the UK meeting was just under £60,000, which is broadly in line with the costs incurred by other countries for these meetings.

Due to the informal nature of the meetings, and to promote frankness and candour during discussions, formal minutes are not published. This falls within Exception 2 of the Code of Practice of Access to Government Information.

EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT

Student Finances

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) when he will publish the triennial survey of student finances; [143183]

Mr. Wicks: "Changing student finances: income, expenditure and the take-up of student loans among full and part-time higher education students in 1998-99" by Claire Callender and Martin Kemp of South Bank University is due to be published on 20 December. This is the fourth in a series of roughly triennial reports on students' income and expenditure, and the first since the Dearing report. A copy will be placed in the House of Commons Library.

The Department has also published "Students in the labour market--nature, extent and implications of term-time employment among University of Northumbria undergraduates" by Dr. Mike Barke, Paul Braidford et al of University of Northumbria in July 2000. In addition, two studies are currently under way and are expected to be completed in early 2001--"Participation in higher education by mature students" (together with Universities UK, Higher Education Funding Council for England, Higher Statistics Agency and Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) and "Participation in higher education by students from lower socio-economic groups".

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The Department is currently developing its research programme for 2001-02 which may include further research on students in higher education.

Education (Voluntary Provision)

Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many voluntary sector providers of education there are. [142827]

Jacqui Smith: The responsibility for educating pupils who are unable to attend school rests with local education authorities. They are increasingly working with a range of both national and local voluntary sector partners in order to ensure that pupils unable to attend school receive a suitable education. We welcome this partnership approach and see it as an important element in meeting the target for providing a full-time education for all pupils excluded from school by 2002. We do not collect information centrally on the number of voluntary providers.


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