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Health Spending

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his target of increasing health spending to the EU average includes raising non-Government health spending to average EU levels. [9925]

Mr. Hutton: I have been asked to reply.

We aim to increase total health expenditure in the United Kingdom up to the average of the countries of the European Union, which is around 8 per cent. of gross domestic product. By the end of the present spending review period (2003–04), we expect that total UK expenditure on health will have reached 7.7 per cent. of gross domestic product. This assumes private sector spending will remain at around 1 per cent. of GDP. Expenditure beyond this period will be decided in future spending reviews.


Policy Announcements

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what changes in policy relating to (a) issuing press notices and (b) making other forms of announcements he has put into effect since 11 September. [10711]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: We have not put into place any new arrangements for issuing press notices or making any other forms of announcements since 11 September. There has been no change in policy.

Jobcentre Plus

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what criteria he used to determine the pathfinder areas for the introduction of the Jobcentre Plus work- focused interviewing scheme. [10803]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The Jobcentre Plus pathfinder offices were chosen to provide a mixture of rural, urban and inner city offices. Other criteria used included having the capacity for the staff processing claims to be close to the staff giving work-focused interviews; having the capacity for Jobpoints to be installed by October; being in clusters linked to a single Benefits Agency district or office within a district; having sufficient office space to cope with more customers; having a high level of performance and good working relationships with stakeholders; and having boundaries which matched local authority boundaries.

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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what specific measures he has proposed to allow those living in rural constituencies without a jobcentre nearby access to personal advice from his Department. [8273]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: From April next year, the Employment Service and the parts of the Benefits Agency that support people of working age will come together to form a new business, Jobcentre Plus. We are aiming to launch 15 of the 17 Jobcentre Plus pathfinder areas this month, comprising around 50 pathfinder offices. We anticipate that the remaining two pathfinder areas will be operating by the end of the year, once building work is completed. As the service rolls out, we will deliver an integrated service to employers and benefit claimants of working age nationally.

Jobcentre Plus will offer a significantly enhanced telephone service that will improve access to the service for those who do not live near a Jobcentre Plus office. Each Jobcentre Plus pathfinder office will have a dedicated telephone contact centre open from 8.30 am to 6.00 pm. Customers will be able to make their initial claim to benefit through this service and book appointments with personal advisers. Customers will also be able to access job vacancies over the telephone through Employment Service Direct.

Jobcentre Plus will also have its own internet site with information on the service and links to the Employment Service Job Bank and Worktrain sites, which offer a vast range of job and training opportunities and advice on job searching.

There are several Jobcentre Plus pathfinder offices in rural locations, and the managers in those places will be further developing the service they offer to meet the needs of rural communities.

The development of services for people in rural communities is not confined to the Jobcentre Plus pathfinders, with both the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service already undertaking valuable outreach work. In north Yorkshire for example, the Northallerton and Richmond Jobcentres are engaged in outreach work to some of their outlying rural areas. Vacancy lists are put on display in a large number of local post offices and Jobcentre "clinics" are held in three locations—Hawes, Leyburn and Catterick—for half a day each week.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received regarding his plans to remove protective screens for Benefits Agency staff; what risk assessment has been undertaken and by whom; what consultation he has had with the relevant trade unions; and what account he has taken of the views expressed. [10802]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Jobcentre Plus is a new service which brings together the Employment Service and those parts of the Benefits Agency which deal with people of working age. Jobcentre Plus will provide a far more personalised, customer friendly and work-focused service for both employers and individuals. The first 49 Jobcentre Plus pathfinder offices opened on 22 October.

Central to the new service is our ability to provide face-to-face advice to members of the public. That can be done only in a predominantly unscreened environment. To

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that end we have invested considerable sums of money in building a far more friendly and safer environment than any we have had in the past. In particular we take the issue of the safety of both the public and our staff very seriously. We have therefore been involved in discussions with the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) about some of their members' concerns about the new working arrangements, both at national and local level.

Employment Service and Land Securities Trillium risk assessors have carried out risk assessments in each pathfinder office. Drawing on those assessments, and following consultation with local trade union health and safety representatives, we have introduced a series of extra security measures. These include: wide coverage by closed circuit television; training for staff in how to handle difficult situations; better management in each office to avoid difficult situations building up; panic alarms; and more visible and more effective security guards. Additionally, in each pathfinder area there are screened facilities to deal with individuals and parts of the business which pose a greater risk. We believe that these measures demonstrate that we are taking security even more seriously than we have done in the past.

Benefits Take-up

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on what date he received the 'Take-up of Income Related Benefits: Statistics for 1999–2000' report which was published on 27 September; and what arrangements he made for the publication of the report on receiving it. [10799]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The report 'Take-up of Income Related Benefits: 1999–2000' was published in line with departmental protocol for the release of national statistics. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State received an advance copy of the report 48 hours before the publication date. The publication date was set by DWP statisticians and pre-announced in the Office for National Statistics' series "Updates" on 10 September.


Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place in the Library a copy of the financial accounts made to him by Motability Finance Ltd. for each of the last five years; and if he will make it his policy that in future years the financing of the Motability scheme be undertaken on a not-for-profit basis. [10804]

Maria Eagle: Copies of the financial accounts of Motability Finance Ltd. for each of the five years to 30 September 2000 have been placed in the Library. The level of the profit margin allowed to Motability Finance Ltd. is a matter for negotiation between Motability and Motability Finance Ltd. The allowed profit margin since 1 March 1999 has been 0.85 per cent. per annum.

New Deal (Young People)

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many persons left the new deal for young people for (a) unsubsidised jobs and (b) sustained unsubsidised jobs in small and medium enterprises according to the most recent available figures; and if he

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will give a breakdown of this figure as a proportion of those leaving the gateway period and each of the four options; [7983]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The results of the new deal for young people are contained in the monthly Statistical First Releases which are placed in the Library.

Pension Credit

Mr. Flight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what research he has undertaken to ensure that the pension credit is sufficiently easy to understand by the target market. [9744]

Mr. McCartney: The Department has taken into consideration results from a range of research, including "Overcoming Barriers: Older People and Income Support" (DSS Research Report No 100, 1999) and "Attitudes and Aspirations of Older People: A Qualitative Study" (DSS Research Report 102, 1999), and responses to the consultation exercise, "The Pension Credit: a consultation paper" (Cm 4900, November 2000), in the design of pension credit.

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