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Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer of 11 February 2002, Official Report, column 104W, on pensions, what his definition is of good information; and if this includes information on loss of entitlement to means-tested benefits. [38317]

Malcolm Wicks: The government objective is to provide information that is, and continues to be, accurate and relevant to enable people to plan effectively for their future income in retirement.

At the point at which such information is produced, it is not possible to forecast an individual's possible entitlement to means tested benefits at state pension age.

However, there are a number of leaflets that give information on government support to those on low incomes and the impact that other income may have on their future pension entitlement.

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These leaflets include IS20—a Guide to Income Support, MIG1L—on the Minimum Income Guarantee for people aged 60 or over, GL16—Help with your rent and GL17—Help with your council tax.

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what reports his Department publishes on public sector pension schemes. [43348]

Malcolm Wicks [holding reply 14 March 2002]: None. Responsibility for Public Sector Schemes rests with HMT.

Pension Payment

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance is given to those approaching pensionable age as to the methods of pension payment; and if he will make a statement. [35992]

Malcolm Wicks: Approximately four months before reaching State Pension age (60 for a woman, age 65 for a man) an automatic claims package is issued to prospective pensioners provided the customer's current address is held on the computer.

This contains form BR833 which sets out the options of how to make a claim for State Retirement Pension and leaflet AC1 which explains the benefits of payment straight into a bank account. The claim form gives the customer the option of payment by order book or payment straight into a bank or building society account.

We are modernising the service we offer to pensioners and since November 2000 customers can make a claim over the phone with an experienced operator to guide them through the claim form. As part of this process callers are explained the methods of payment available i.e. either order book or payment straight into a bank or building society account. The claim form is thereby tailored to the particular circumstances of that customer and is returned for them to sign and date. All they need to do then is to send the completed form to their nearest processing centre.

From 2003, payments directly into a bank or building society account will become the Department's normal method of payment. This is a more modern, secure and efficient way of paying benefits and pensions, already chosen by over 40 per cent. of all customers and 60 per cent. of new pensioners.

The Department has been aware of FRS17 throughout its development, a process that has taken several years.

Ministers and officials hold regular consultations with those involved with the pensions industry. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met representatives from the ASB on 27 February.

There are many factors tending to increase the costs and risks faced by employers who choose to offer defined benefit occupational pension schemes including longer life expectancy and lower expected future investment returns. It is not possible to isolate the effects of FRS17 from these other factors.

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what arrangements he has made to offer

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(a) state basic and (b) state second pension eligibility to workers earning less than the lower earnings limit from April. [42953]

Maria Eagle: Qualifying carers or disabled people who are earning less than the Lower Earnings Limit will be given automatic entitlement to State Second Pension. This will benefit approximately four million people.


Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance he issues to companies that offer an occupational pension scheme on including pension surpluses in payments to former employees; and if he will make a statement. [43961]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Since 1986 the Inland Revenue has required pension funds which are funded in excess of 105 per cent of their liabilities to reduce their surplus. This may be done in a variety of ways, including improved benefits to scheme members, employer or employee contribution holidays and taxable refunds to the employer sponsoring the scheme. The Pensions Act 1995 requires that, before any refund is made to an employer, all current and future pensions in payment should be increased annually in line with the Retail Prices Index up to a maximum of 5 per cent., that trustees should satisfy themselves that the use of the surplus is in the interest of the members, and that members should be notified of the proposal in the manner set out in law.

The trust deed for each pension scheme may also regulate the way that surpluses can be reduced. If the trustees propose to make a payment to the employer, and this is permitted by the trust deed, members can challenge their decision through the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (Opra) if they believe that the statutory procedures have not been followed. If the trust deed does not permit payments to the employer, the trustees may apply to Opra to change the scheme rules in order to allow payment.

My right hon. Friend has not issued formal guidance on the operation of the Pensions Act 1995. Opra issues guidance on a variety of topics. Note 3, published in 1998, deals with Opra's role in the payment of surplus.

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to allow provision for representation of pension members on pension trustee boards. [43954]

Mr Nicholas Brown: The Government is currently in the process of strengthening the law relating to the nomination and selection of trustees to ensure that every occupational pension scheme has member-nominated trustees. We do not think it was right to force schemes to have member trustees from particular categories of membership, because that would erroneously give credence to the idea that trustees have a representative role, which they do not. The duties and responsibilities of all the trustees are the same, regardless of how they come to the post.

The timing of this work will depend on the outcome of the broader simplification review being undertaken by Alan Pickering which is due to report in June, but we remain firmly committed to increasing the number of member trustees generally.

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Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people living in England and Wales are in private pension schemes. [43923]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: There are an estimated 13.2 million people of working age in England and Wales contributing to a private pension.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer of 11 July 2001, Official Report, column 566W, on the Pensions Education campaign, when the summary of the quantitative tracking research on the pensions education marketing campaign will be placed in the Library. [44201]

Malcolm Wicks: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 22 October 2001, Official Report, volume 373, column 54W, ref. 7901.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what methods his Department uses to identify the names and addresses of people four months away from state pension age, in order to contact them about claiming their retirement pension; and if he will make a statement. [45183]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Data held by the Inland Revenue on the National Insurance Recording System is used to identify people within four months of the relevant age.

The data is passed to the Department's Pensions Computer System (PSCS) and a claim package is issued.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the average pensioner income as a percentage of average earnings in (a) 1997–98, (b) 1998–99, (c) 1999–2000, (d) 2000–01 and (e) the last year for which figures are available. [43357]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 14 March 2002]: Not all the information requested is available. The information that is available is presented in the following table.

Average pensioner income as a percentage of average earnings

YearAverage pensioners' incomes (a) #Average earnings (b) #(a) as percentage of (b)
1997–98209368157 per cent
1998–99224385158 per cent
1999–2000235400159 per cent


Pensioners' Incomes Series 1999–2000, DWP, 2001, Table 1.

New Earnings Survey 2000, ONS, 2001, Table A30.


1. Average earnings estimates relate to April 1997, April 1998 and April 1999.

2. Pensioners are defined as single (non-cohabiting) people over state pension age (65 for men, 60 for women) and couples (married or cohabiting) where the man is over state pension age.

3. Average pensioners' incomes are defined as mean gross weekly income of all pensioner units in Great Britain and are expressed in current prices rounded up to the nearest one pound.

4. Average earnings figures are taken from the New Earnings Survey and are defined as mean gross weekly earnings of full-time employees on adult rates, in Great Britain, whose pay for the survey period was not affected by absence, rounded to the nearest #1.

5. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest 1 per cent.

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