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State Pension

Mr. Plaskitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners had a reduction in their state retirement benefit as a result of a stay in hospital; by what amount the state retirement benefit is reduced in these circumstances; and how much was saved by his Department as a result of reduced benefit payments in the last full year for which figures are available. [8678]

Mr. McCartney: At 31 March 2001, there were about 33,000 retirement pensioners with reductions in their retirement pension due to a stay in hospital 1 .

The hospital downrating rules led to an estimated £57 million reduction on expenditure on the basic state pension in 2000–01.

From 9 April 2001, a £14.50 reduction for a person with a dependant applies after a six-week stay in hospital. This reduction was £13.50 at 31 March 2001.

From 9 April 2001, a £28.30 reduction for a person with no dependant applies after a six-weeks stay in hospital. This reduction was £27.00 at 31 March 2001.

After 52 weeks retirement pension recipients get the £14.50 "pocket money" rate.



Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent discussions he has had with Age Concern about the equalisation of state pensions; and if he will make a statement. [9381]

Mr. McCartney: We have discussions with a variety of pension organisations from time to time. These discussions generally cover wide-ranging issues which are of concern to them.

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Residential Care

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate for each local authority how many residents in (a) nursing homes and under 65-years-old, (b) nursing homes and over 65-years-old, (c) residential care and under 65-years-old and (d) residential care and over 65-years-old, will be covered by preserved rights in April 2003. [10507]

Mr. McCartney: There will be no residents covered by preserved rights in April 2003. From 8 April 2002 people who had preserved rights to the higher rates of income support and all new customers going into residential care or nursing homes will receive normal income support or minimum income guarantee allowances and premiums.

No one will lose out as a result of these changes as local authorities will be able to make up any shortfalls in fees. At the moment about half of all preserved rights customers do not have enough public support to cover their fees. Many have to pay some of their personal expenses allowance, currently £16.05 a week, towards their fees. The new arrangements will mean customers will no longer have to do this.

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to amend the industrial injuries disablement benefit qualifications to include those unable to work through conditions caused through work processes but which are not the result of an accident or prescribed disease; and if he will make a statement. [13041]

Malcolm Wicks: The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council considered the question of injury by process in 1981. At that time it felt unable to recommend any changes to the industrial injuries scheme to allow claims in these circumstances, because the medical knowledge which could connect a process with a non-prescribed disease is not generally available. The council looked again at the issue in 1995 but was still unable to recommend any changes to the scheme.

The council continues to monitor the position but we have no current plans to change the existing legislation.

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many applications for industrial injuries disablement benefit have been refused each year since 1995 as a result of the applicant's condition being caused through work processes and not as a result of an accident or prescribed disease; and if he will make a statement. [13042]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available.

"Removing the Barriers"

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how his Department ensured that the report "Removing the Barriers" published by the Local Government Association, was taken into account during the 1997–98 comprehensive spending review; and which of its recommendations have been implemented. [8051]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 12 October 2001]: Since the report "Removing the Barriers" was published in 1997 we have made, and continue to make, radical

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changes to the mechanisms through which welfare is delivered. Many of the improvements introduced by our reforms address concerns set out in the report.

We are taking a single approach to work and benefits designed to make work pay, make work possible and to support those who are unable to work. The jobcentre plus pathfinder offices are now delivering a single, integrated service to benefit recipients of working age with a clear focus on work.

From April 2002, the Pension Service will provide a dedicated service for pensioners, working in partnership with local agencies and acting as a gateway to other services pensioners receive.

PRIME MINISTER

International Anti-terrorist Coalition

Mr. Kenneth Clarke: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the political, diplomatic, financial and commercial commitments that have been given on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to the Governments of other states in the course of assembling and strengthening the international coalition to combat terrorism. [10898]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 29 October 2001]: The international coalition to combat terrorism has come together out of a shared recognition that only a global response can succeed. Governments across the world have willingly taken on commitments, for example of military help, or the obligation to tackle terrorism imposed by the UN Security Council Resolution 1373, because all have recognised the essential nature of the task.

Of course, the act of building the coalition has strengthened our relationship with several countries. But the British Government have not offered financial or commercial commitments to states explicitly to reward adherence to the international coalition. That coalition has been built because its members recognise the need for a determined and united response by the international community.

House of Lords

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister what further plans he has to reform the basis of membership of the House of Lords. [11809]

The Prime Minister: We shall publish our proposals for completing the reform of the House of Lords on Wednesday 7 November 2001.

Conflict (Northern Ireland)

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the necessity of a visible demonstration that the conflict is over in Northern Ireland. [12674]

The Prime Minister: Securing an end to politically motivated violence and the stable operation of democratically based institutions of Government commanding cross- community support will provide the most visible demonstration that Northern Ireland has put the past behind it.

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Decommissioning, verified by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, is a key part of achieving that goal.

Afghanistan

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Prime Minister which Muslim leaders in the United Kingdom have expressed support for the coalition's military action against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. [12931]

The Prime Minister: All the main British Muslim organisation have condemned the attacks in the USA on 11 September. They and other Muslim leaders around the world have declared that such acts of infamy are wholly contrary to the Islamic or any other world religion.

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Modernisation

48. Ms Coffey: To ask the President of the Council what plans he has for wider consultation of the public on modernisation of the House. [10358]

50. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the President of the Council if he will make a statement on progress in the modernisation of the House. [10360]

53. Anne Picking: To ask the President of the Council what plans he has to improve the parliamentary scrutiny of Bills. [10363]

55. Joan Ryan: To ask the President of the Council what plans he has to make proposals for greater involvement of Select Committees in pre-legislative scrutiny. [10365]

Mr. Robin Cook: During its current investigations into Select Committees, the Modernisation Committee has decided, for the first time, to take evidence in public. It has already heard from the Hansard Society, Professor the Lord Norton of Louth and from Lord Sheldon, the Chair of the Liaison Committee in the previous Parliament.

The Modernisation Committee has asked me to provide a strategy paper setting out the broader objectives for Commons reform, which I will present to the Committee at the end of the month.

I hope that the Modernisation Committee's proposals for reform will result in a Parliament that is relevant to voters, reflects their concerns and re-engages the public with the political process.


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