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Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of changes in the workload of disability employment advisers; and what plans he has to improve resources for this activity. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 6 December 2001]: Over the past year Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) have been affected by two major developments. The new deal for disabled people network of job brokers was launched in July this year and a full network was in place by September. The Access to Work (AtW) Process Review has led to the setting up of regional AtW business centres. The AtW role previously carried out in many regions by DEAs is now delivered through specialist AtW Advisers. These changes mean that DEAs are able to place a greater focus on helping disabled people claiming jobseeker's allowance and activities such as placing, assessment and advisory work with individuals and employers.
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Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to improve training of disability employment advisers with particular reference to developments in (a) medical practice and (b) assistive technologies. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 6 December 2001]: The training needs of both Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) and Access to Work (AtW) advisers are regularly reviewed and changes made where necessary.
DEAs focus on helping disabled people get or retain work and develop close links with health professionals, including GPs and occupational health workers. The information DEAs obtain from health professionals is used to help identify what employment might be suitable for the individual. This is based on what a person can do and what they might be capable of, with appropriate support or training, and also any continuing medication needs that need to be taken into account in agreeing goals.
AtW advisers attached to the new AtW business centres are able to use and pool their knowledge and expertise, and have access to expert external advice and assessment of need in relation to assistive technologies.
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what was (a) the total expenditure of his Department and its agencies and (b) the total expenditure on counter-fraud work within his Department and its agencies in the last year for which figures are available. 
The Department set out its strategy for tackling fraud and error in the paper 'A New Contract for Welfare: Safeguarding Social Security' (Cm4276) published on 23 March 1999. The overall aim of the strategy is to have a benefit system which is secure from first claim to final payment.
The implementation of this strategy means that anti-fraud focus is integral to the work of the Department, as is dealing with the wider agenda of error and incorrectness in benefit payments. It is therefore not possible to account for the cost of anti-fraud work separately.
Maria Eagle: We welcome the progress being made in implementing the Remploy 21 strategy. We have been encouraged by Remploy's ability to adapt its business and take advantage of new opportunities, for instance in white goods recycling and call centre services. We also welcome the new emphasis on learning and development and the very encouraging increase in the numbers of disabled people being helped to progress to unsupported work outside Remploy.
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Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had with trade unions in connection with (a) delivery of the Remploy 21 strategy and (b) partnership working with management to deliver agreed objectives for that business. 
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the number of people who became newly entitled for the 200001 winter fuel payment but did not make a claim before the cut-off date. 
It is not possible to provide a reliable estimate of the numbers who have not claimed because the estimate of those newly eligible was based on sample data. It is up to the individual, where a claim is necessary, to decide whether or not to make that claim.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the number of people who became newly entitled for the 200102 winter fuel payment and made a claim before 21 September. 
Mr. McCartney: Our estimate is that some 500,000 people could be newly entitled to winter fuel payments in 200102. Of this figure, at least 255,000 are being paid automatically. By 21 September, 170,000 claims had been received. This figure had risen to 195,000 by 30 November.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the number of eligible people who have not received backdated winter fuel payments for the first three years of the scheme and the value of such payments. 
It is not possible to provide a reliable estimate of the numbers of unclaimed backdated payments, because the estimate of those eligible was based on sample data. There is no time limit on claiming backdated payments.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what is the estimated saving to the Exchequer from those who were newly entitled to the 200001 winter fuel payment and did not claim before the cut-off date. 
Mr. McCartney: It is not possible to estimate reliably the value of unclaimed winter fuel payments for this group, because the estimate of those newly eligible was based on sample data. It is up to the individual, where a claim is necessary, to decide whether or not to make that claim.
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Mr. McCartney: Subject to the agreement of the devolved Administrations and parliamentary scrutiny of the State Pension Credit Bill and the new Tax Credits Bill, we propose that recipients of the guarantee credit should be entitled to the same passported benefits as recipients of income support.
Mr. McCartney: The minimum funding requirement (MFR) was introduced from April 1997, and requires pension schemes to which it applies to correct underfunding within specified periods. During the transitional period, which ends on 5 April 2002, schemes which are underfunded on the MFR basis have until 5 April 2003 to bring funding up to 90 per cent. of the MFR level, and until 5 April 2007 to bring funding up to 100 per cent. of the MFR level.
We are currently consulting on a set of draft regulations which will introduce changes to the current MFR in advance of its replacement. One of the proposed changes will extend these periods to allow three years for schemes to reach the 90 per cent. level, and 10 years to reach the 100 per cent. level. The consultation ends on 10 December, and we plan to introduce new arrangements before April next year.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the pay gender gap; what measures he has taken to address the issue; and if he will make a statement. 
The pay gap is at its lowest ever, and has halved since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act 1970. The new Earnings Survey 2000 indicates that women currently earn 81 pence for every pound a man earns.
Earlier this year the Government asked Denise Kingsmill to examine and report on possible measures to improve women's employment prospects and so reduce the pay gap. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office and I welcome this report, published on 5 December, which examines non-legislative and cost effective measures to improve women's employment prospects and participation in the labour market and to achieve greater equality of pay.
A number of Government initiatives are already under way to tackle this important issue, including key elements of the Employment Bill. The Government's full response to the 14 recommendations made in the Deputy Competition Commissioner's report is available in the Libraries of the House.
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