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Dr. Howells: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what factors underlie the length of time scheduled for generic design assessment work on the three nuclear reactor designs identified as suitable for construction in the UK; 
(2) if he will estimate the additional (a) staff and (b) resources required to enable the Health and Safety Executive and the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate to complete the generic design assessment work on the three nuclear reactor designs for future construction in the UK in half the time presently scheduled. 
The factors affecting the length of time that generic design assessment will take are given at paragraph 24 of the joint guidance New Nuclear Power Stations, Generic Design AssessmentA guide to the regulatory process published by HSE and the Environment Agency in August 2008. These include:
The content, quality and timeliness of the submissions;
The completeness of the design;
The introduction of design changes;
The significance of assessment issues arising;
The responsiveness of requesting parties to issues and questions;
The availability of resources to the regulators;
The ability to make best use of information from overseas nuclear regulators;
The number of designs being assessed in parallel; and
The experience of the regulators with similar reactor designs.
Given that resource is only one of these factors, the HSE does not believe that it is feasible for its Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) to complete GDA in half the time presently scheduled, irrespective of the numbers of staff or resources available.
Dr. Howells: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made on generic design assessment work proceeding on the (a) AP100, (b) economic simplified boiling water and (c) UK EPR designs for nuclear reactors; and if he will make a statement. 
The nuclear regulators have completed GDA Steps 1 and 2 for four reactor designs (AECL's ACR1000, Areva's European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR), GE-Hitachi's ESBWR and Toshiba-Westinghouse's API000) and a series of reports were published on the Health and Safety Executive's website in March 2008.
HSE's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) is currently part-way through step 3 of a four step assessment process. NII aims to publish its step 3 findings in November 2009 and its step 4 findings in June 2011.
Ms Rosie Winterton:
The funding of the Pension Protection Fund is a matter for the Board of the Pension Protection Fund, an independent statutory corporation. The PPF is funded through a pension protection levy that is charged to all eligible defined-benefit occupational pension schemes, assets from schemes that transfer in to the PPF and investment returns. The Board made a commitment in August 2007 to collect £675 million a
year for the next three years, indexed to earnings, so long as there was no significant change in risk. The Board intends to collect £700 million in 2009-10, keeping to that commitment. A consultation on the future development of the pension protection levy for 2011-12 and beyond concluded on 13 February 2009 and the Board is currently considering the responses received.
Ms Gisela Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights of the Pension Protection Fund cap and its provisions relating to reductions for early retirement. 
Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 5 March 2009]: Our assessment is that the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) cap and its provisions relating to early retirement are consistent with ECHR. It ensures consistent treatment, based on age, relative to the qualifying insolvency event, (the trigger for entry to the PPF). It also ensures that people who take early retirement before the insolvency event are not placed in a more beneficial position than people who stay in employment.
Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment his Department has made of the effect of increases in living costs on pensioners; and what steps his Department is taking to assist pensioners affected by such increases. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: There is a statutory requirement to review all social security benefits each year and to consider whether they have retained their value in relation to the general level of prices. (The standard minimum guarantee in pension credit must be reviewed against the general level of earnings). A further requirement calls for certain benefits, including the state pension, to be up-rated at least in line with the increase in prices from April of the following year.
Following the most recent review, that took place in the autumn of last year, the rate of full basic state pension that will apply from this April will be £95.25. This amounts to an increase in the current rate of £4.55, which is in line with inflation as measured last September, when the Retail Prices Index was 5 per cent. This increase, against a backdrop of falling inflation, is in line with the highest increase in inflation last year and the biggest increase in the state pension since 2001. The increase in the standard minimum guarantee in pension credit to £130 for single pensioners (£198.45 for pensioner couples) from April more than keeps pace with earnings and represents the highest up-lift since it was introduced in 2003.
Furthermore, in order to provide direct financial support through the economic downturn pensioners have also received additional winter fuel payments this year that have increased the payments to £250 for eligible households with someone aged 60 to 79 and £400 for eligible households with someone aged over 80. In addition, for this year the Department has increased the Christmas bonus from £10 to £70 and increased the cold weather payment from £8.50 to £25.
Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many requests for pension forecasts the Pension Service has received in each of the last 12 months; how many and what proportion of those forecasts were set (a) within 10 days, (b) between 10 and 20 days, (c) between 20 and 30 days, (d) between one and two months and (e) two months and longer of receipt of the request; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The information is not available to enable the separation of the number of requests for Individual Pension Forecasts from the total number of inquiries received via the Pension Forecasting IT service. Therefore the information given relates to the total number of forecasts issued.
|Within 10 days||Between 10 and 19 days||Between 20 and 30 days||Between one and two months||Over two months||Total|
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