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6 Nov 2002 : Column 305Wcontinued
Mr. McCartney: Equality of opportunity for all staff is a key feature of all Civil Service employment. As part of this, ageism is not tolerated. Our Diversity and Equality policy statement specifies age as an area where we ''will provide equality of opportunity''. This equality of treatment extends also to the new external recruitment system where potential recruits will be selected on the basis of competencies.
The Department includes age as part of its equality proofing of policies and procedures. Our current HR Change Programme is continuously reviewing its recruitment, development, performance management and retention policies. Alongside this work we are implementing the outcomes of the Performance and Innovation Unit's ''Winning the Generation Game'' report.
All applicants and employees are treated fairly to enable them to develop and fulfil their potential, valuing the contribution each person can make to the organisation. Vacancies are open up to everyone up to the age of 65 and a person's age is not taken into account at any stage of the selection process.
All staff in the Department, below the Senior Civil Service, are able to choose to remain beyond 60, up to the age of 65. Staff over 60 are subject to the same terms and conditions as staff under 60 with no special reviews of performance applied. The Department's flexible approach to age retirement allows staff to continue to work in their current grade and, subject to business need, to seek promotion to a higher grade or voluntarily to downgrade. Subject to business need staff may also choose to work full or part time.
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Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will list the web site links associated with his Department, including sites now dormant or closed, and indicating whether they are live, dormant or closed; what the start up costs were for each site listed; what the operating costs were in each year since start up for each site; which company hosted each site; what assessment takes place for each site; which company does the assessment; if he will place the assessment reports in the Library; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: The information on the start up and operating costs for Department's websites is only available in part. In-house staff maintain the department's websites and operation cost could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. Web hosting and provision of web services is provided by the department's IT contractor. However, Internet services are not accounted for separately.
The departmental site www.dwp.gov.uk formerly the DSS site www.dss.gov.uk, was launched in August 2000 at a production cost of #183,650 for the research, design and building of the site. In December 2001 the site was redeveloped for DWP and broadened to include information for the new department at a cost of #48,193.
Qualitative and quantitative research of sites has taken place along with weekly monitoring of statistics. The companies used have been appointed through the Central Office of Information. The qualitative and quantitative research reports have been placed in the Library.
The information in the table details website associated with DWP and includes live, dormant and closed websites, all DWP sites are hosted on servers provided by Electronic Data Systems with the exception of New Deal which is on a Youthnet server managed by a third party. Costs have been included where available:
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his Department's value for money scores in relation to the 1998 public service agreements in the Library; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McCartney: The Department's Public Service Agreement (PSA) for the period 199900 to 200102 (published as Command Paper 4315) set out a number of value for money measures. These were reported on in the Department of Social Security's 2001 Departmental Report and the Department for Work and Pensions' annual report for 2002 (Command Papers 5115 and 5424 respectively), both of which are in the Library.
Mr. McCartney: Reintroducing the earnings link does nothing to help poorer pensioners. To do so would cost around #410m net in 200304 in today's prices. However, we will be spending an extra #6bn a year in real terms on pensioners as a result of policies introduced since 1997. This includes #2.5bn more on the poorest third of pensioners. This is three times more than an earnings link since 1998 would have given them.
Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the (a) net cost of linking pensions to earnings and (b) surplus in the National Insurance Fund in (i) 2000 and (ii) 2010. 
Mr. McCartney: The net cost to Government of increasing the basic State Pension by earnings, after taking account of savings in income-related benefits would be around #410 million in 200304 in 200203 prices.
The surplus in the National Insurance Fund for the year ending 31 March 2000 was #2,161m. Long-run projections of the National Insurance Fund are contained in the report by the Government Actuary on the costs of uprating the basic retirement pension in line with the general level of earnings (CM 4920).
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winter fuel payments can continue to be paid to a non-eligible person who is in receipt of income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance on behalf of a partner who is eligible for a payment. 
Mr. McCartney: Regulations laid before Parliament on 24 October will permit winter fuel payments to be made, where Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance is in payment for a couple, to the partner who is claiming for both, even if that person is aged under 60 and it is the other member of the couple who is entitled to the winter fuel payment. This will ensure that around 15,000 households continue to receive winter fuel payments automatically and timeously, without the need to claim. Such payments to the non-eligible partner made for the last two winters (#3 million per year) were not supported by legislation and the Department's relevant accounts will be noted accordingly.
Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what information will be provided to pensioners regarding the introduction and use of Post Office card accounts; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: All customers will be supplied with information (including letters and leaflets), which clearly set out their ''account options'' so they can choose the bank or building society account (including the Post Office card account) which best meets their needs and circumstances.
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