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Volume 468: debated on Thursday 29 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made in developing arrangements for (a) sickness certification and (b) payment of benefits as preparation for dealing with any future pandemic influenza outbreak; and if he will make a statement. (164972)

The precise characteristics and impact of an influenza pandemic will only become apparent as the virus emerges, so that the pandemic threat and the UK's level of preparedness are constantly evolving. DWP continues to be involved in drawing up and revising the UK pandemic flu plan, along with other Government Departments. Plans aim for the continuation of everyday activities as far as practicable, including the availability of sick pay and state benefits.

Appropriate changes to sickness certification, which balance the interests of patients, employers and the NHS, will be introduced as and when necessary to help achieve that aim. During an influenza pandemic, DWP will aim to continue services that support people into work, but will give priority to maintaining financial support. Customer payments, which are largely automated, will continue to be paid. DWP and HMRC have robust business continuity plans in place to ensure that the administration and key services that support these payments can be maintained during a pandemic.