HC Deb 07 April 2003 vol 403 c91W
Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps are being taken to inform British people living abroad of the reduction in inherited SERPS, including the transitional arrangements and the compensation procedures. [106192]

Malcolm Wicks

For those customers living overseas and affected by the reduction in Inherited SERPS, The Pension Service wrote to embassies, expat organisations, including website editors with full details of the transitional arrangements. As part of a concerted advertising campaign on-line banner adverts on websites were introduced which were only accessible overseas. These adverts were directly linked to the SERPS information pages on The Pension Service website. Press adverts appeared in the national press and TV listings during the advertising campaign, these publications are widely read overseas, latest figures show around 800,000 a day.

The Pension Service wrote to everyone who made inquiries about compensation. The majority of people who complained they had not been told about the original changes were either over pension age already or would reach pension age before October 2002. As a result they were not affected by the revised arrangements. The availability of compensation is signposted in The Pension Service complaints leaflets and full details of the scheme are publicly available on the internet. No specific action was taken to target British people living abroad with information about the compensation procedures when executing the advertising campaign, because it would not have been effective.

There is absolutely no requirement for people, other than those receiving benefits, to report changes of address to the Department. As a result the addresses held on Departmental systems, particularly those for people of working age, are not reliable. Addresses for people abroad are even less reliable than those of people living in the UK. This meant that direct mailing to people abroad would not have been effective. The local rate call telephone number was not available to people abroad, nor was the freepost return envelope service, so any direct mailing to people abroad would have been far more complicated to run operationally We therefore considered that other channels of communication, particularly advertising and internet, would be more productive.