To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,
(1) pursuant to his answer of 20 July 2001, Official Report, column 684W, on incapacity benefit, how many incapacity reviews were undertaken in each of the last five years; and if he will estimate the annual additional number of reviews that will be undertaken once his plans for reviews every three years are fully implemented;
(2) if he will make it his policy to ensure that the average length of time to complete a review of incapacity benefit will be no higher over the three years beginning in 2002–03 than in the previous three years.
We are introducing jobcentre plus interviews in jobcentre plus pathfinder offices to enable incapacity benefit recipients to discuss with their personal adviser the help, benefits and opportunities available to them.
Jobcentre plus interviews will be conducted by a trained personal adviser who will discuss with people their skills, qualifications and ability to work, barriers which may preclude them from working, and their plans, aspirations and interests in training and taking up work in the future. This is entirely separate from the reviews undertaken as part of the incapacity benefit medical testing regime. The Department always aims to carry out such reviews as quickly as possible.