HC Deb 18 November 2002 vol 394 cc23-4W
Mr. Viggers

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what information was given to retired civil servants prior to the transfer of their pension administration to the private firm Capita; and how many complaints have been received about(a) the change and (b) the manner in which the change was effected. [80797]

Mr. Alexander

Civil Service pensions have been paid through the private sector since the former Paymaster Agency was privatised in April 1997. The contract with Paymaster (1836) Ltd. expired on 30 September 2002 and, following a competitive procurement process, a new contract was awarded to Capita Hartshead.

As part of the procurement process, Cabinet Office consulted the Civil Service Pensioners' Alliance, the Civil Service Retirement Fellowship and the Council of Civil Service Unions. Cabinet Office also consulted pensioners at local branch meetings of the Alliance and the Fellowship. As a result of feedback from pensioners' groups and others, Cabinet Office was able to include a number of improvements in the new contract as well as tighten the performance standards.

All pensioners were advised of the change before Capita Hartshead paid their first instalment of pension. Letters to pensioners explained that: Cabinet Office had appointed Capita Hartshead to pay their pensions; they would get the same amount of pension on the same day of the month as before; their pensions would continue to be paid from public funds; Cabinet Office continue to be the managers of the Civil Service pension schemes; and Capital Hartshead abide by the Data abide by the Data Protection Act.

The letters were sent to the 550,000 pensioners in batches from 20 September, as soon as the live data, with all the details required, was available for use by Capita Hartshead. It would have been premature to make an announcement before data had transferred successfully from Paymaster, acceptance testing had been completed and a Permit to Operate issued. If these processes had not been completed successfully, pension payments would continue to have been made by Paymaster at least in the short-term.

Cabinet Office has received 27 inquiries from pensioners about the change of provider, of which nine were complaints about the manner in which the change was effected.