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Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will report progress on the requirements for reporting by third party administrators and insurers of pension schemes without trustees. [61908]

Mr. McCartney: From 1 April 2002, we introduced a range of measures to help speed up the process of winding-up pension schemes and to increase the accountability of those involved in running schemes. These measures include a requirement for those involved in the administration of pension schemes to report to the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority within 1 month of becoming aware that a scheme has no trustees.

As at 14 June 2002, 340 reports had been received by the Authority. These are under investigation.

Local Government Councillors

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what impact being an elected local government councillor has on an individual's ability to claim incapacity benefit; and if he will make a statement. [61948]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Incapacity benefit is intended for people who are unable to work due to their illness or disability. Benefit is not therefore normally payable to people who work and receive an income.

There is, however, an exception for local authority councillors. This special provision recognises the particular obligations placed on councillors by disregarding all work carried out in connection with their elected office in deciding entitlement to incapacity benefit. Any allowances paid are only taken into account if they exceed the permitted work rules limit of £66.00 in any week. In this event, benefit is reduced by the amount that the allowance exceeds the limit.

Overseas Patients (Benefit Entitlement)

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if it is his policy to treat persons sent abroad for hospital or other medical treatment under the National Health Service as having uninterrupted residence in the United Kingdom as regards their entitlement to benefits; and in what circumstances in relation to health condition and country involved such treatment extends to those seeking overseas treatment in the private sector. [61909]

Malcolm Wicks: As announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Pensions on 23 May 2002, Official Report, column 461, people in receipt of Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance or the new Pension Credit who travel abroad for medical treatment funded by the National Health Service will be treated as being resident in the United Kingdom.

For all other benefits, and for those who go overseas to seek private medical treatment, the existing rules on periods of temporary absence abroad will continue to apply.

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Universal Bank

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when it will be possible for benefit recipients to open accounts with the proposed universal bank. [60846]

Malcolm Wicks: Introduction of universal banking services by the Post Office is a matter for them. They tell us they are on schedule for introduction in April 2003.

Permitted Work Scheme

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent representations he has received on the implications and operation of the new permitted work scheme; how many (a) gainers and (b) losers she estimates there are (i) in this scheme and (ii) the previous therapeutic earnings arrangements; and if he will make a statement. [56588]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: We consulted widely on the permitted work rules for people receiving incapacity benefits and the new arrangements which took effect from 8 April have been generally welcomed by disability organisations.

We want to give people on these benefits the opportunity to ease their way back into work without it affecting their benefit. Under the old rules, people had to show that the work would be beneficial to their medical condition. This was sometimes difficult to prove. The new rules help to open up employment opportunities for people of working age claiming a benefit because of their illness or disability. Both therapeutic work and the new permitted work rules allow people to try out some work without losing benefit.

We estimate that between 27,000 and 54,000 people receiving an incapacity benefit were undertaking therapeutic work at 8 April. People already doing therapeutic work when the rules changed can carry on doing it until April 2003, after which they can apply to do permitted work and will be subject to the new permitted work rules. These allow work for 16 hours a week on average and earnings of up to £66 a week for a 26 week period which can be extended for a further 26 weeks in certain circumstances.

We anticipate that the numbers doing permitted work will increase to around 70,000 in the first year of the new scheme and to around 110,000 over the next four years. In addition everyone receiving an incapacity benefit will be able to earn up to £20 a week indefinitely.

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These changes, together with our other measures to support people in finding suitable work, will help more people to move off benefits and into employment.

Benefit Payments

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many persons in receipt of benefits, other than retirement pension, in each parliamentary constituency in (a) Scotland and (b) Wales receive payment of their benefits (i) through local sub-post offices and (ii) directly into their bank accounts. [58126]

Malcolm Wicks: Information on how many persons in receipt of benefits other than Retirement Pension in each parliamentary constituency in Scotland and Wales is only available for certain benefits, and this has been placed in the Library.


Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will reply to the letter of 31 December 2001 from the hon. Member for Torbay in response to his letter ref MOS(W)01/0038. [58748]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: I replied to the hon. Member on 14 June.


Mr. Pound: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many firms of external consultants have been engaged by Remploy between April 2001 and March 2002; and if he will list them; [59246]

Maria Eagle: In the period April 2001 to March 2002, Remploy has engaged 13 sets of consultants from 11 firms at a cost of £723,000. This represents 0.3 per cent. of Remploy's turnover in that year. The consultants were engaged to assist Remploy in the delivery of its modernisation strategy. Remploy currently has no consultancy support.

The further information requested is in the table.

ConsultantProject detailsCost (£)
OCP(32)Refocus on growth areas/key accounts and develop a flatter organisational structure/ reduced level of management layers.193,000
OCP(32)A separate piece of work to reorganise Interwork into a more efficient, flatter structure better able to deliver WORKSTEP support and to enable more people to progress to unsupported jobs outside of Remploy.137,000
Peter Whittaker/Russam GSMRefocusing packaging project to encourage growth of the business.25,000
Ray EmptageImprove the business planning process and help Remploy become more market focused in looking at its skills and strengths/abilities. Involved an in-depth study of market places to identify new areas of business and strategies to strengthen market penetration.87,000
Flaxman BrosRecommend site improvements at Barking.10,000
Paul ClarkRecycling project, developing a new area of business.31,000
Life Cycle SolutionsRecycling project, related to the above.2,000
Deloitte Touche(33)Improving financial control systems in furniture business.6,000
Deloitte Touche(33)Developing operational systems to support delivery of Interwork.26,000
AshridgeProductivity and continuous improvement project aimed at removing bottlenecks and barriers—process and attitudinal. A team of Remploy people has been trained in Ashridge methodology and is rolling out the programme. This is improving significantly employee involvement, morale and productivity in those sites where the programme has been run.172,000
Bryan HarrisonDeveloping new areas of business for Interwork—links with NHS.2,000
FulcrumProperty portfolio review.6,000
Quantum EdgeDeveloping new processes for the WORKSTEP programme—development plans and profiling.26,000

(32) Organisation, Consulting Partnership

(33) Remploy's external auditors

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