HC Deb 20 May 2002 vol 386 c35W
26. Mr. Wiggin

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what change has taken place in the number of means-tested pensions since 1997. [55514]

Mr. McCartney

For the purposes of this question 'means tested pensions' has been taken to refer to income support and minimum income guarantee. In November 1997 the number of claims to income support was around 1.7 million. In November 2001, the number of claims to income support paid through the minimum income guarantee was around 1.74 million. This benefited over 2 million people.

In the Leominster constituency, around 2,100 pensioners are receiving the minimum income guarantee, and around 21,080 winter fuel payments were made last winter. Source: Income Support Statistics Quarterly Enquiries, November 1977 and 2001.

27. Dr. Julian Lewis

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on his assessment of trends in the value of funded pensions. [55515]

Mr. McCartney

Figures showing a rise in pension fund assets of £111 billion from 1997 to 2000 were released by the Office for National Statistics on 16 May 2002. They also show that pension fund assets stood at £776 billion in 2000, the latest year for which figures are available.

This shows that the value of pension fund assets remain strong. This is supported by figures given in the answer to the questions asked by the hon. Member for Havant, showing increases in contributions to pension funds of £27 billion from 1997 to 2001.

These figures emphasise that the basic structure of pensions in this country is right. We will continue to build on the changes we've already made, such as the introduction of state second pension, stakeholder pensions and pension Credit which are tackling pensioner poverty and widening pension saving.

And proposals we will make later this year following three wide-ranging reviews of the pension system will make it easier for people to save more for their retirement.