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21 Oct 2002 : Column 116W—continued

Disability Rights Commissioners

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the process for filling the five vacancies for Disability Rights Commissioners that will occur in April 2003. [74732]

Maria Eagle: The posts have been advertised openly in a range of national and specialist publications including the disability and ethnic minority press. The closing date was 4 October. The sift and interview processes will involve an independent assessor and the names of the successful candidates will be announced publicly by means of a press release, expected to be issued in March 2003. This process is in line with the Code of Practice for Public Appointments and guidelines issued by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA).

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Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people who have made a claim for the basic state pension have been asked to complete form BF195 on the status of their marriage during the last 12 months; how many of these people have been allowed to make a claim as a married person; and how many complaints have been received about the form. [74721]

Mr. McCartney: The information could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had with pensioner organisations about developing initiatives to encourage the take-up of the proposed state pension credit. [73311]

Mr. McCartney: Ministers and officials meet with pensioner organisations on a regular basis to discuss initiatives to encourage the take-up of pension credit.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the additional weekly amount of state second pension accrued at current rates by a person who undertakes one year of full-time caring responsibilities and is in receipt of invalid care allowance. [74839]

Mr. McCartney: Expressed in current terms, for each complete tax year that people are entitled to invalid care allowance, they will receive an additional pension of #1.08p.


Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if his Department was consulted on the recent awarding of the motability tender. [75857]

Maria Eagle: The Department was advised of two Motability tender exercises this year. The first was for inspection services for adapted vehicles, the contract for which was awarded in June 2002. The second was in relation to the future provision of powered wheelchairs and pavement scooters under the Motability scheme. A number of bids were received and the evaluation process is nearing its end, but no contract has yet been awarded. The Department has taken no part in the selection process in either exercise.

Disability Benefit

Mike Gapes: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average wait was for a disability benefit appeal hearing in the last 12 months; and what plans he has to improve the service. [73067]

Maria Eagle: The average waiting time over the 12 month period, ending August 2002, for Disability Living Allowance appeals, from date of receipt by the Appeals Service until first hearing, was 13.1 weeks. A modernisation programme is currently underway which aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness in the handling of appeals.

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Pension Rights

Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had with EU counterparts on protection of employees' pension rights. [75029]

Mr. McCartney: We regularly take the opportunity to exchange views with EU counterparts on respective national approaches to pensions issues, including exchanging information and best practice. The UK also continues to participate fully in the ongoing development of the draft EU Directive on Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision, which aims to put in place common requirements for the supervision of occupational pension schemes, including appropriate provisions for scheme members, in order to promote mobility.

Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to ensure that advancements in information collection are used to inform pension-holders of their rights and opportunities. [75030]

Mr. McCartney: Pension providers, including occupational pension schemes, are required to provide information to pension holders and members of pension schemes at certain times or following specific events. They are able to make use of developments in information technology in order to meet these requirements, provided the person to whom the information is intended has access to the technology and is able to receive the information intended for them. The Government encourages schemes to consider the most appropriate routes for distributing information to members and to make full use of the advancements in information technology.

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment has been made of the current arrangements for winding up pension schemes; and what consideration will be given to providing greater protection to pension funds. [75024]

Mr. McCartney: The current provisions for winding up occupational pension schemes set out in the Pensions Act 1995 and subsequent regulations are intended to provide a fair and equitable distribution of assets.

In April of this year the Government introduced a package of measures designed to speed up the winding up process. This legislation places greater visible accountability on those people who are involved in winding up a pension scheme and will help to ensure that the benefits that members are entitled to are secured more quickly.

The Government is determined to protect the long-term security of pensioners and other pension scheme members in occupational pension schemes.

In his report to the Government Alan Pickering proposed a number of measures designed to protect pension scheme members on wind up, and ease the administrative burden faced by trustees. These issues, along with others in the Pickering Report will be addressed in the forthcoming Green Paper on Pensions.

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Asylum Accommodation

Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many Government stars were awarded to hospitals within the NHS trusts whose boundaries include the proposed asylum accommodation centre sites; and how

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many such stars were awarded to hospitals covering the short-listed asylum accommodation centre sites not chosen. [74522]

Mr. Lammy: The table below identifies the main local acute National Health Service Trusts and their current star rating in the areas which the Home Office has identified as potential sites for accommodation centres for asylum seekers. Performance ratings published by the Department do not cover hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

Non-statutory public local planning
inquiry to be heldLocal TrustRating
Defence & Storage Distribution Centre,
Bicester, OxfordshireOxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust1*
RAF Newton, NottsQueens Medical Centre, Nottingham University
Hospitals NHS Trust/Nottingham City
Hospital NHS Trust3*/2*
Planning notification to be submitted/Local TrustRating
Throckmorton Airfield, Pershore, Worcs.Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust3*
Decision on whether to proceed to planning
notification stage still to be takenLocal TrustRating
Hemswell Cliff, LincolnshireNorthern Lincolnshire & Goole
Hospitals NHS Trust3*
Airwest, EdinburghN/AN/A
Sully Park Hospital, CardiffN/AN/A
Decision taken not to proceed with proposed siteLocal TrustRating
Hooton Park, Ellesmere Port, CheshireWirral Hospitals NHS Trust3*
Killingholme, North LincolnshireNorthern Lincolnshire & Goole
Hospitals NHS Trust3*

Care Homes

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many private care homes do not comply with the equivalent standard of care provided by public authorities; if he will specify the improved conditions he has now abandoned; and if he will encourage local authorities to re-open or open premises providing after-care services for the elderly. [74469]

Jacqui Smith: The degree to which individual care homes conform to national standards cannot be quantified in detail at the moment. The National Care Standards Commission will form a more detailed picture of care homes' compliance with the national standards as it completes its first cycle of inspections of providers in England during 2002–03.

We have not abandoned standards. We are simply proposing to change a few of the more challenging physical environment standards so that care homes which existed before 1 April 2002 which do not already meet these standards will not be expected to meet higher standards than those they already meet. National standards will continue to apply to new care homes and extensions and will be regarded as best practice to which all care homes should aspire.

The standards proposed for amendment are as follows:

Care homes for older peopleCare homes for younger adults
1.2 users' guide1.2 users' guide
20.1/20.4: communal space24.2: living space
21.3: assisted baths24.9: wheelchair access
22.2: passenger lifts25.3: single rooms
22.5: doorways25.5: shared bedrooms
23.3/23.4: single room floor space27.2/27.4 toilets & bathrooms
23.11: single rooms28.2 shared space

As part of the additional investment for intermediate care and related services announced in the NHS Plan, #66 million has been made available over two years (2002–03 and 2003–04) for intermediate care capital development schemes. All but #4 million of this funding has now been allocated. Some of this funding is being used to develop council premises to increase intermediate care capacity.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures he is putting in place to compensate care homes which have already complied with the national minimum standards on room sizes. [74530]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 16 October 2002]: Under the Care Standards Act the Government is able to review standards at any time and all national standards are due to be reviewed within three years of their introduction. Many home owners meet or exceed the national standards and have no reason to be concerned about them.

We have no plans to provide financial assistance to those providers who needed to improve their care homes to meet national standards, including those standards which we are now consulting on. Care homes are independent businesses. Any improvements they make should be viewed as adding to the value of their property. However, in contracting with independent sector providers of care we expect local authorities to take into account a range of provider costs such as

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implementing national standards. Providers will also be able to detail the facilities they offer in their prospectuses, so that those purchasing or using the services can make an informed choice.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the change in the requirements of the national minimum standard on room sizes for care homes. [74534]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 16 October 2002]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made a statement to the House on 23 July 2002 explaining the policy context for the consultation now underway. The consultation document published on 16 August 2002 also sets out the issues, which are to ensure that:

Copies of the consultation document are available from Department publications or on the Department's internet website at:

The consultation exercise runs until 8 November 2002 and we will carefully consider all representations we receive, and the full implications of any changes to the national standards for the care home sector, before coming to conclusions. We will publish our conclusions as soon as possible.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he proposes to publish his response to the consultation exercise on interpretation of regulations for care homes under the Care Standards Act 2000; and if he will place copies of the consultation responses in the Library. [75519]

Jacqui Smith: The consultation document issued on 16 August sets out proposals to change certain national minimum standards for care homes for older people and care homes for younger adults (18–65) which relate to the physical environment. The consultation does not propose making any changes to the Care Homes Regulations 2001 issued under the Care Standards Act.

The consultation exercise ends on 8 November. We will carefully consider all the comments we receive and publish revised national minimum standards for care homes for older people and for care homes for younger adults (18–65) as soon as possible.

A report summarising the responses to the consultation exercise will be placed in the Library.

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