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Pension Annuities

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many replies were received in the course of the Government's consultation on pension annuities; and how many were in favour of reform. [56414]

Ruth Kelly: I have been asked to reply.

601 responses have been received and are currently receiving careful analysis.

Employment Agencies Act

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he plans to publish draft legislation for new regulations under the Employment Agencies Act 1973 relating to agents for the acting profession and performing arts. [56875]

Alan Johnson: I have been asked to reply.

We will shortly be issuing the revised draft Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations, which will cover the private recruitment industry, including agents acting on behalf of those engaged in the entertainment sector. There will then be a consultation exercise on certain aspects of those regulations.


Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average response time was for responding to departmental correspondence; what percentage of letters took longer than one month for a response; and what percentage took longer than three months for a response in each of the last five years. [37438]

Maria Eagle: Information on correspondence received from all sources across the whole Department is not maintained in the format requested. General information on the volumes of correspondence received and on overall performance across Whitehall is published by the Cabinet Office. The figures up to 2000 were published on 6 April 2001, Official Report, columns 324–28W, and on 19 July 2001, Official Report, columns 454–56W. The combined

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DSS/DWP average response time during 2001 for letters from Members to Ministers was 18 days. 34 per cent. took longer than 20 working days for a response. In DWP only for 2001, the average response time to letters from Members to DWP Ministers was 15 days, and 29 per cent. took longer than 20 working days for a response. The Cabinet Office will be publishing further figures on the volumes and performance on correspondence shortly.

Departmental Report

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the 2002 departmental report will be published. [49578]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 15 April 2002, Official Report, column 774W.


Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will propose amendments to the Liability Discrimination Act 1995 to protect people with HIV from discrimination at the point of diagnosis. [50694]

Maria Eagle: We are considering a number of proposals for changes to the Disability Discrimination Act. We are considering our legislative strategy in the light of responses to the recent consultation on "Towards Equality and Diversity" which concerns implementation of the European Community employment directive.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he plans to take to improve access to jobcentres in rural areas under the new deal arrangements. [50845]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive, Leigh Lewis. I have asked him to reply to the hon. Member.

Letter from Leigh Lewis to Miss Anne McIntosh, dated May 2002:

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Direct Bank

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the (a) percentage and (b) amount of funding that (i) the Government and (ii) the banks will invest to establish the new direct bank. [54511]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government have recently signed contracts with Post Office Ltd. for the provision of the new card account at Post Office. This is a commercial arrangement for the provision of a service and does not constitute direct funding. The precise value of the contracts will depend on the number of card accounts.

The main UK high street banks and the Nationwide Building Society have together agreed to contribute a total of £180 million over five years towards the costs of the new card account at Post Office. They have also agreed to make their introductory bank accounts accessible through post offices.

International Social Security Agreements

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when each international reciprocal social security agreement was entered into; and what the extent of the reciprocity is in each case. [55579]

Maria Eagle: The information on reciprocal social security agreements with other countries is as follows.

The main purpose of such reciprocal agreements is to protect the social security position of workers moving between the two countries during their working lives. They prevent employees, their employers and the self-employed from having to pay social security contributions to both the home state and the state of employment at the same time and ensure that such workers' rights to certain benefits are maintained. They vary to some extent from country to country depending on the nature and scope of the other country's social security scheme. Generally, they cover contributory benefits in respect of the following contingencies: sickness, invalidity, unemployment, retirement, bereavement and industrial injuries. Workers who have contributed to both countries' schemes during their working lives can usually receive an old age pension from each country which reflects the proportionate amount or their insurance in, or contributions to, each country's scheme.

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Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many findings there have been of maladministration by ombudsmen with responsibility for agencies under the remit of his Department since 1997. [56305]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Information on the handling of complaints is set out in tabular form by the parliamentary ombudsman each year as an attachment to his annual report. For those complaints where there was evidence of maladministration which warranted full investigation, the table sets out how many complaints were upheld as being fully or partially justified. The parliamentary ombudsman's annual reports for the period 1997–98 to 2000–01 inclusive are available in the Library and can be viewed on the parliamentary ombudsman's website at

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