HC Deb 18 January 2001 vol 361 cc386-7W
Mr. Grieve

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what percentage of pensioners(a) in the United Kingdom and (b) in Scotland live in a low-income household. [145676]

Mr. Rooker

Definition of low income households vary. Such information as is available can be found in the Households Below Average Income 1994–95 to 1998–99 and the Annex to the Scottish Social Justice Annual Report 2000, copies of which are held in the Library.

Mr. O'Hara

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has for separating work relating to pensioners in Benefits Agency offices from work relating to other clients. [145109]

Mr. Darling

[holding answer 15 January 2001]: Providing a service more tailored to the requirements of the different groups of customers served by the DSS is a top priority for my Department.

I have already ensured that policy functions at the DSS are divided into three distinct divisions: children, pensioners and working age. This change has produced a greater focus in the Department's work on its three separate customer groups and their very different needs.

As the next stage in the process I am setting up a new pensions organisation—with responsibility for everything from policy development to front-line service delivery. Today's and tomorrow's pensioners will receive a distinct and responsive service, dedicated to their needs, that uses modern technology to provide the most up-to-date delivery of benefits and advice.

In parallel—as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has announced—my Department is working with the Department for Education and Employment to establish a new working age agency. This will bring together the Employment Service and those parts of the Benefits Agency which currently deal with people of working age. The new agency will have a clear focus on work— providing advice, support and assistance to help those who can work back into jobs.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what action he proposes to take to ensure that everyone has an adequate supplementary pension over and above the state pension. [145914]

Mr. Rooker

We are taking a number of steps to ensure as many people as possible retire with a decent second pension on top of their basic state pension.

In April this year, we will introduce stakeholder pensions which will increase access to private pensions for people on middle incomes who do not have access to good occupational pension schemes. In addition, in 2002, we plan to introduce the state second pension, which will result in around 18 million people building up bigger second pensions than they would have got from SERPS, including certain carers and disabled people who are currently excluded from additional pension altogether.

We have announced plans to introduce a new pension credit which will reward savings. These changes will be supported by improving pensions education, including advertising to raise awareness about pensions issues, and an improved pensions forecasting service to ensure people of working age are in a position to make informed choices about saving for their retirement.