HC Deb 16 September 2004 vol 424 cc1745-7WS
Llew Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment has been made by(a) Ministers and (b) officials of his Department of the research published by the TUC in June on pension take-up, with particular reference to Wales. [189107]

Mr. Pond

The TUC has published new research showing which groups of employees have been the most likely to lose membership of a pensions scheme. We welcome the research that the TUC has undertaken on membership of occupational pensions. This draws substantively on data produced by the Government and underscores the importance of the measures we are taking forward through our pension reforms.

The Pensions Bill will rebuild confidence in occupational pensions, it will strengthen the partnership between employers, individuals and the state in pension provision. The introduction of the Pension Protection Fund (supported by a Pensions regulator) will enhance protection for pension scheme members. The Bill also protects employees transferring from one employer to another with a minimum level of pension provision. In addition it will encourage individuals to build up pension savings by offering a cash transfer sum when leaving a pension scheme.

Through our informed choice agenda we will work with our pension partners to explore and test different approaches aimed at maximising membership of employer-provided schemes. One of these is automatic enrolment where new employees automatically become members of their employer's pension scheme unless an individual opts out.

The TUC research does not contain specific information relating to Wales. However, based on the data that is available, Wales does not appear to be significantly different to the rest of the United Kingdom in terms of trends in occupational pensions.

Mr. Best

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the operation of the new direct payment scheme for pensioners; and if he will make a statement. [189134]

Mr. Pond

Independent research commissioned by DWP which is soon to be published shows that there are very high levels of satisfaction among benefit and pensions customers who have transferred to direct payment and those who have started claiming and chose to receive direct payments. Overall 91 per cent. of customers were happy with the process of setting up direct payments (the figure for pensioners was 88 per cent.). Similarly, overall 93 per cent. of customers were happy with the process of having payments made into an account (the figure for pensioners was 92 per cent.).

The main benefits of direct payment were seen to be the increased convenience and security. Some people also feel it helps them manage their money more effectively. Most customers felt there were no disadvantages to receiving their benefit or pension by direct payment.

The full research report will be published shortly.

Chris Ruane

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what arrangements are being made to ensure that carers with an existing power of attorney may continue to withdraw pensions from the Post Office. [188004]

Mr. Pond

[holding answer 13 September 2004]: Payment direct into a bank or building society account including Post Office card account is the normal method of payment for benefits, pensions and allowances.

The Post Office has arrangements with a wide variety of banks and building societies and depending on the account held, customers including those with power of attorney, are able to withdraw money across the counter at any post office branch.

The Post Office card account is also available for the payment of pensions but does not support power of attorney. A power of attorney is unable to open a card account in their own name to receive pensions. However they can make use of the DWP appointee procedure to obtain pension as the carer.

The Department is in the process of contacting all customers, including those with an existing power of attorney, who have not provided account details and asking them to do so. Customers including those holding power of attorney are being provided with all the information they need on all of their account options, including which accounts can be used at post office branches. It will be for them to decide which type of account best suits their individual needs and circumstances.