§ Mr. George Howarth
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his estimate is of the total cost of administering means-testing for pensioners in 2003–04; and by how much pensions could be increased if the proceeds of abolishing means tests were transferred to pensions. 
§ Malcolm Wicks
Information on the total cost of administering means-testing for pensioners is not currently available in the format requested. In accordance with the requirements of Resource Accounting and Budgeting the Department now accounts for its administration and benefit expenditure by Strategic Objective, as set out in its Public Service Agreements (PSA), and by individual Requests for Resources (RfRs), as set out in the Departmental Estimates and Accounts.
This Government's priority is to target money on the poorest pensioners. Almost half of the extra money to be spent on pensioners in 2004–05 will be spent on the poorest third.
As a result of the Minimum Income Guarantee and now Pension Credit, the poorest third of pensioners will be around £600 per year better off on average than had the equivalent amount been spent on increasing the Basic State Pension (BSP).320W
§ Malcolm Wicks
Pension Credit was implemented in October 2003. The table gives numbers of recipients of Pension Credit in the North West, Lancashire and Chorley at the end of 2003 and at 31 January 2004, the latest date for which figures are available. Numbers of applications for Pension Credit are not available at regional, county or constituency level.
We are planning to spend around £12.6 billion in 2004–05 on pensioners through income-related benefits including Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.
If this spending was transferred to pensions, the full Basic State pension could be increased by around £25 per week in 2004–05. However poorer pensioners could face large losses, losing Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit as well as Pension Credit. Those not eligible for the full Basic State Pension would not get the full £25 increase, and those without any entitlement to he Basic State Pension could be left with no income or state support whatsoever.