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PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL

Lost/Stolen Property

Mr. Bercow: To ask the President of the Council if he will list those items valued at less than £50 each which have been stolen or lost from his Department in each of the last four years. [34218]

Mr. Robin Cook: No items have been stolen or lost from my Department during the period mentioned. More detailed information can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Publications

Mr. Bercow: To ask the President of the Council if he will list the publications issued by his Department in each of the last four years; and what the (a) circulation, (b) cost and (c) purpose of each was. [34192]

Mr. Robin Cook: This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Working Conditions and Practices

Dr. Cable: To ask the President of the Council how many cases of work-related stress have been reported in his Department; how much compensation has been paid to employees; how many work days have been lost due to work-related stress, and at what cost; what procedures have been put in place to reduce work-related stress, and at what cost, in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. [35932]

Mr. Robin Cook: No such cases have been reported in my Department. My Department recognises that it is obliged by law to provide a safe working environment for employees. It is committed to meeting targets for reducing the number of working days lost generally owing to work related injuries and illnesses arising from the Government's "Revitalising Health and Safety" initiative.

Dr. Cable: To ask the President of the Council how many people are employed in his Department on a job share contract; and what percentage of vacant positions was advertised on this basis in the last 12 months. [35366]

Mr. Robin Cook: No-one is currently employed in my Department on a job-share basis. No vacant positions have been advertised on this basis in the last 12 months, although an application on a job-share basis would always be considered.

Dr. Cable: To ask the President of the Council what assessment has been made of the effect of the working time directive on his office's employees; how many

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employees are working in excess of 48 hours per week; what steps he is taking to reduce this number; and if he will make a statement. [35884]

Mr. Robin Cook: In my Department, the working time directive has implications chiefly for employees working directly in support of Ministers. Six private office staff have signed agreements enabling them to work in excess or 48 hours per week; this compares with 14 such staff a year ago. I have recently restructured my office so as to increase the level of clerical support, and this has reduced somewhat the average number of hours worked by private secretaries. Much long hours' working arises from the need to provide support for me in my responsibilities as Leader of the House. Any decision by the House to reform its own working arrangements would be likely to have a positive impact on the working hours of the staff concerned. The working arrangements in my office and in my Department generally are constantly under review. My Department is committed to keeping long hours working to an absolute minimum commensurate with operational needs, and to promoting a proper work/life balance for its employees.

Industrial Action

Mr. Bercow: To ask the President of the Council how many days have been lost owing to industrial action by staff in his Department in each of the last four years. [36182]

Mr. Robin Cook: None.

WORK AND PENSIONS

IT Investment

Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much of the budget for modernising the delivery of the social security system will be spent on (a) the Payment Modernisation Programme, (b) the New IT for the Child Support Agency, (c) new front end systems, (d) replacement of legacy systems, (d) improvements to management information, (e) PCs for all staff, (f) modernising services to pensioners, including preparation for the pension credit and (g) his Department's work on (i) the working tax credit and (ii) the child tax credit. [22059]

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer of 12 December 2001, Official Report, column 899W, on the 2001 Departmental report, how much and what proportion of the Welfare Modernisation Fund money has been allocated to specific projects. [30136]

Mr. McCartney: Available information can be found in the document 'Department for work and pensions: approach to IT investment', a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

Jobcentre Plus

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the safety of staff in jobcentres. [33047]

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Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 4 February 2002]: Regular health and safety risk assessments and safety inspections are conducted to ensure the safety of staff in Jobcentres. These assessments are reviewed whenever new services are introduced.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will introduce screened reception areas in benefit offices after the removal of security screens for individual desks. [32967]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: [holding answer 4 February 2002]: In every Jobcentre Plus area there will continue to be screened provision for dealing with those customers and transactions known to give rise to particular risk. The precise type and location of this provision will depend on the recommendations of the risk assessments carried out in each individual Jobcentre Plus office.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the level of physical assaults that have taken place in Jobcentre Plus Pathfinder clusters compared with the level of assaults that have taken place in other centres administered by him. [32966]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 4 February 2002]: During 2000, (the latest year for which full records are held) there were 164 cases of physical contact between Benefits Agency staff and clients. In the Employment Service, which has twice as many offices as the Benefits Agency, there were 233 cases of physical contact in that year. Cases of physical contact cover any physical contact, including spitting, the throwing of small items such as paper clips or rolled up forms, or touching of any kind. Approximately 190,000 people per day visit Benefits Agency and Employment Service offices, and 100,000 people work in the two agencies.

In the Jobcentre Plus Pathfinder offices, since they opened for business on 22 October, there has been one reported case of physical contact between a member of public and a member of staff where a client trod on the foot of a member of staff, possibly by accident. In that period, well over half a million people have passed through Jobcentre Plus offices.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the results were of discussions held with the Health and Safety Executive prior to the removal of glass security screens from the new Jobcentre Plus offices; and what recommendations were made by the Health and Safety Executive. [32638]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 5 February 2002]: Officials have discussed the changes to delivery associated with Jobcentre Plus and the risk assessment measures we have put in place with the Health and Safety Executive. Overall the HSE were satisfied with the general level of management of safety issues and the areas for improvement they will cover in their report are all within the scope of our current procedures.

Full risk assessments have been carried out in every Jobcentre Plus office and all of their individual recommendations implemented in full. Safety measures implemented as a result of risk assessments include security guards, installation of closed circuit TV cameras,

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provision of safety alarm systems, controlled segregation of staff areas using coded door locks and changes to the office layout to maximise safety.

Officials continue to remain in touch with the Health and Safety Executive as we review the effectiveness of the new service arrangements.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what additional protection he will provide for Benefits Agency staff following the removal of security screens; [32969]

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the removal of screens in Benefits Agency offices. [33048]

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to carry out a review of staff safety before removing screening from Benefits Agency offices; and if he will make a statement. [32759]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answers 4 and 6 February 2002]: There are no plans to remove protective screens from Benefits Agency offices until they are converted into fully integrated offices of the new Jobcentre Plus service.

56 Jobcentre Plus pathfinder offices are already open and operating effectively—with positive feedback from staff and customers. For each of these offices a full health and safety risk assessment has been conducted and its recommendations implemented in full. These risk assessments are now in the process of being reviewed in the light of experience of live operations. The measures implemented to support the safety of staff and improved customer service as a result of the risk assessments include: closed circuit television; better management in each office to avoid difficult situations building up, for example floor managers to greet customers and guide them through their visit; where recommended by risk assessments, security guards with clear instructions as to when to intervene; in each pathfinder area screened facilities to deal with situations likely to give rise to particular risk; a clear zero tolerance policy under which determined action will be taken against anyone threatening or abusing Jobcentre Plus staff.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what training was given to his Department's staff with regard to the Social Security (Jobcentre Plus Interviews) Regulations 2001 before they came into effect on 23 October. [24218]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Some 50,000 days of training were provided for the approximately 4,000 staff in Jobcentre Plus pathfinder office before they opened in October 2001. The amount of training delivered to individual members of staff was largely dependent on their background and experience. For example, staff new

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to the personal adviser role received an average of 73 days training, whereas existing personal advisers received an average of eight days training. The requirements of the specific regulations referred to was fully covered in the training provided wherever appropriate.


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