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Written Answers

Volume 456: debated on Monday 29 January 2007

Written Answers to Questions

Monday 29 January 2007

Communities and Local Government

Affordable Housing

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many new affordable houses are planned to be built in each of the next five years. (115899)

We are planning to provide 30,000 social rented homes in 2007-08 and expect to help 160,000 households to access home ownership through private or public shared equity schemes by 2010.

The number of homes to be provided each year from 2008-09 will be subject to the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007.

Energy Performance Certificates

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 19 December 2006, Official Report, column 1814W, on energy performance certificates, what the basis is for expecting the price of certificates to vary according to the location of a property. (114543)

The cost of an energy performance certificate is expected to vary according to the location of a property as this may influence things like local energy assessor labour rates and some areas may experience greater competition than others. The eventual price of an energy performance certificate will be set by the market and not by Government.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 19 December 2006, Official Report, column 1814W, on energy performance certificates, what estimate her Department has made of the (a) average cost, (b) minimum cost and (c) maximum cost of a certificate. (114544)

The statutory instrument to set out requirements for energy performance certificates is scheduled to be laid before Parliament in due course and the regulatory impact assessment to support this is in preparation. Contributing to this will be the outcome of trials undertaken to assess the indicative costs of producing certificates for a range of building types, sizes and locations. The eventual price of an energy performance certificate will be set by the market and not by Government.

Government Auctions

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government where her Department publishes information about Government auctions which it arranges or to which it contributes in (a) Blackpool, (b) Lancashire and (c) the north- west; and when the next such auction will take place in each area. (117436)

The Department does not arrange auctions in Blackpool, Lancashire or the north-west. Information about auctions that it may have contributed to could be found only at disproportionate cost.

The policy of the Department is to use the MOD Disposals Sales Agency to facilitate the sale and/or auctioning of any substantial amounts of surplus equipment.

Housing: Lancashire

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what temporary housing provision was made available to the homeless in Chorley constituency in each of the last 10 years. (117193)

Information about local authorities' actions under homelessness legislation is collected quarterly at local authority level. The constituency of Chorley covers the whole of Chorley borough council.

Information reported each quarter by local authorities about their activities under homelessness legislation includes the number of households in temporary accommodation on the last day of the quarter, and the types of temporary accommodation. The figures include both those households who have been accepted as owed the main homelessness duty, and those for which inquiries are pending.

Data are published in our quarterly statistical release on statutory homelessness, which includes a supplementary table showing the breakdown of key data, including temporary accommodation and type, by each local authority. These are published on our website each quarter (the latest—July to September 2006—can be found at the following address:

http://www.communities.gov.uk/pub/60/Supplementary tables_id1505060.xls, and the tables have also been placed in the Library of the House.

Data provided include the total number in temporary accommodation for each year, broken down between bed and breakfast, hostel, local authority/registered social landlord stock, private sector leased and other types of housing.

A summary table showing the total number of households in temporary accommodation, from 1997-98 to 2005-06, for each local authority (including Chorley) was placed in the Library in October 2006, in response to PQ 8631 (Chris Ruane)—Table B.

In January 2005 the Government set a target of halving the number of households in all forms of temporary accommodation used by local authorities to discharge their main duty under the homelessness legislation.

Local Government

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what Tamworth borough council's net budget is. (111358)

The budget requirement for Tamworth borough council in 2006-07 is £9.1 million.

Budget requirement is that part of the estimated net revenue expenditure, calculated in advance of each year by each local authority, to be met from formula grant and from council tax income.

Mental Health

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what measures she is taking to promote actively the employment within (a) her Department and (b) public sector bodies for whom she has responsibility of people with mental illnesses in line with the advice and codes of practice produced by the Disability Rights Commission. (117078)

Under the disability equality duty introduced by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the public sector bodies for which I am responsible are required to publish and implement disability equality schemes. These are plans setting out how we will carry out the disability equality duty, monitor, and report on progress. In particular this includes our arrangements for gathering information on the effect of our policies and practices on the recruitment, development and retention of our disabled employees, including those with mental health conditions, and making use of that information.

The arrangements are set out in my Department's disability equality scheme with the priority given to improving and providing correct infrastructure to enable disabled staff to work effectively. The scheme also provides guidance for the Department’s managers on how to support the needs of disabled staff.

The public sector bodies sponsored by my Department that are subject to these requirements are responsible for publishing and implementing their own disability equality schemes.

Roadside Advertisements

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what discussions she has had with local authorities on removing unauthorised roadside advertisements. (116390)

I have written to the leaders of councils where unauthorised roadside advertisements remain a problem to underline the need for action to get them removed. Officials have had three meetings and corresponded with local planning authorities about removing unlawful advertisements alongside motorways and trunk roads. Officials are working with local planning authorities to set up an unlawful advertisements and fly-posting database which will record details of successful prosecutions and help local planning authorities to successfully prosecute offenders. Phase 1 is expected to be operating by 31 March.

Social Housing

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the average grant per unit for low-cost (a) home ownership and (b) rented social housing was (i) nationally and (ii) in each region in each of the last three years. (116131)

The following table shows the average grant per unit for both low-cost home ownership and social rented homes for each region and nationally for the 2004-06 and 2006-08 Housing Corporation Affordable Housing Programmes at the time these programmes were allocated. The level of grant will be affected by the kinds of projects and units built and the extent of section 106 contributions, as well as the cost of construction.

Low-cost home ownership

£

2006-08

2004-06

East Midlands

20,252

21,690

East of England

14,864

23,230

London

42,625

46,792

North East

18,725

34,517

North West

34,114

30,506

South East

18,724

26,913

South West

18,695

18,537

West Midlands

20,278

31,605

Yorkshire and Humberside

26,643

28,619

National

26,772

29,157

Social rent

£

2006-08

2004-06

East Midlands

43,986

43,753

East of England

39,571

48,215

London

101,270

100,932

North East

60,449

57,831

North West

63,580

63,841

South East

54,637

58,939

South West

43,534

41,021

West Midlands

49,705

56,248

Yorkshire and Humberside

52,901

53,093

National

62,620

58,208

Source: Housing Corporation

Turner Village Hospital

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will make a statement on the sale of the former Turner Village Hospital in Colchester. (114595)

[holding answer 11 January 2007]: The former Turner Village Hospital in Colchester is one of the sites included in the portfolio of 96 sites acquired by English Partnerships on 6 April 2005 from the Department of Health and forms part of the agency's Hospital Sites Programme.

English Partnerships announced on 20 December 2006 its decision to select Galliford Try Partnerships as its preferred developer for this site. We anticipate completion of the sale by the end of February 2007 with construction on site expected to begin in the autumn.

The scheme will comprise 430 homes of which 107 (25 per cent.) are designated as affordable either for sale under a shared equity scheme or for rent.

All new homes on the site will meet or exceed English Partnerships’ design and quality standards, including EcoHomes "Excellent", Secured by Design and Lifetime Homes. Additionally, as part of this redevelopment, Galliford Try Partnerships Limited will provide Essex county council with a site for a much needed 330-place primary school.

Valuation Office Agency

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 6 December 2006, Official Report, column 474W, on the Valuation Office Agency, if she will give a current example of a code EF (a) functional factor and (b) economic factor associated with dwellings that have value significance. (114573)

Code EF is available to use as a Value Significant Code (VSC) within the Valuation Office Agency's (VOA's) dwellinghouse coding system. It allows members of VOA staff to flag up that a property's value might be influenced by a functional/economic factor. An example of where a code EF has been applied is where a property or group of properties is close to an industrial area, which might affect value to an extent that it/they should be differentiated from other similar properties in the wider locality.

Wales

Departmental Offices

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what area of office space his Department and its agencies used in central London in (a) 2004 and (b) 2006; and if he will make a statement. (112190)

The Wales Office occupies one building in London, Gwydyr House, which affords 675 sq m; one room on the ground floor is used by the National Assembly for Wales. From September 2004 to June 2006 we also occupied space in Dover House of 110 sq m and during that period the National Assembly used two ground floor rooms in Gwydyr House.

HM Revenue and Customs

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he last met the Paymaster General to discuss proposals to reorganise HM Revenue and Customs offices in Wales. (112038)

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State met the Paymaster General on 15 January to discuss the HM Revenue and Customs Change Programme and its impact on Wales.

Open Source Software

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what percentage of his Department's computer systems use open source software; what percentage of the systems planned to be installed use such software; and whether he plans to increase the use of open source software in his Department. (111157)

All computer systems in the Wales Office are supplied by the Department for Constitutional Affairs under its contracts. Figures for the Wales Office could be supplied only at disproportionate cost.

Electoral Commission Committee

Electoral Commission Review

26. To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what assessment the Speaker's Committee has made of the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life on the Electoral Commission; and if he will make a statement. (111478)

The Speaker's Committee supported the Committee on Standards in Public Life in undertaking this review of the role and governance of the Electoral Commission. As I told the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton on 19 January 2007, Official Report, column 1398W, the Speaker's Committee will give careful consideration to the recommendations made in the CSPL report, a number of which are specifically addressed to it. The report was, however, published only recently, and the Speaker's Committee has not yet had an opportunity to form a considered view on it.

International Development

British Food

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proportion of food served in buildings occupied by his Department was of British origin in (a) 2005 and (b) 2006. (111115)

All procurement within DFID is undertaken in line with the EC’s procurement rules and to obtain value for money for the Department. Precise records are not maintained, but taking account of seasonal variations, our caterers estimate that 60 per cent. of produce served was of British origin in both 2005 and 2006.

HIV/AIDS and TB

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to ensure that efforts to address HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are co-ordinated. (111208)

DFID supports country-led national AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) control programmes in a number of high HIV prevalence countries. DFID also made significant contributions to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria which supports country programmes for AIDS and TB. The UK has committed £359 million to the Fund for 2002-07, including £100 million for 2006 and the same for 2007, subject to performance. We have also made a long-term commitment to UNITAID, the new international drug purchase facility, scaling up to £40 million per year by 2010, subject to performance. These initiatives provide countries with access to increasing resources for scaling up HIV and TB interventions.

Most countries with HIV and TB co-epidemics already have national plans to address these epidemics in increasingly co-ordinated programmatic ways and many have also finalised universal access plans to dramatically scale up these responses. Scaling up access to antiretroviral therapy offers opportunities to better control TB and has been shown to decrease the incidence of TB by 70-80 per cent. in people already infected with HIV.

DFID is contributing to strengthening national health systems to scale up the delivery of basic services to the poor that include TB and HIV prevention and treatment. An example of this is the Malawi Emergency Human Resources Programme that is making more health workers available to deal with increasing numbers of patients who are infected with both HIV and TB.

DFID is also funding research working to identify better ways to deliver services tackling the co-epidemics. We are also supporting the work of WHO, for example the STOP TB programme, which is supporting countries to develop co-ordinated HIV and TB responses.

Indonesia

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what aid he is giving to Indonesia following the earthquake on Sulawesi Island. (111439)

On 21 January, an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale occurred under the Molucca sea, 110 miles east of Manado, Sulawesi Island. News reports, both local and international, indicate that the earthquake did not cause serious damage. Some buildings in Manado reportedly suffered cracks. Four deaths and four injuries were reported.

DFID has been monitoring the situation, and has been prepared to respond if necessary. The Indonesian Government have not requested international assistance.

Middle East

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the numbers of displaced Palestinians in (a) Iraq and (b) at temporary refugee camps at (i) Ruwayshid in Jordan, (ii) El Hol in Syria and (iii) Al Tanf on the Iraq-Syria border; and what assistance is provided to them by (A) the UN High Commission for Refugees and (B) other international bodies. (111255)

UNHCR estimate there are 15,000 Palestinians remaining in Iraq, less than half the estimated figure in 2003. We believe the majority of these are based in Baghdad. Latest reports from UNHCR estimate that there are 119 refugees in Ruwayshid camp, Jordan, 420 in Al Tanf camp, Syria and 340 in El Hol camp, Syria. UNHCR is extremely concerned by these disturbing developments and will take up the issue with the Iraqi authorities. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), with UNHCR support is preparing delivery of relief items including tents, blankets, mattresses, lanterns, kitchen sets, stoves and plastic sheets. Water, kerosene and food are already available.

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is providing schooling, medical services, and basic social services to the 352 Palestinian refugees in Al Tanf camp between Syria and Iraq. UNRWA is also providing some educational activities and contributing to a knitting workshop to the 319 refugees who are in the temporary camp of El Hol in the north-east of Syria. During 2006, the Department for International Development (DFID) provided more than £15 million in funding support to UNRWA's work among refugees in the Middle East and also signed a Memorandum of Understanding providing UNRWA with £76.6 million of funding over the next four years.

In addition, DFID has just announced a £4 million contribution to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to continue to provide emergency assistance, including water, medical supplies and rehabilitation of health infrastructure. This brings our total humanitarian contribution for Iraq to over £120 million since 2003. We are also considering the UNHCR’s appeal to help refugees in neighbouring countries. Above all the first priority of the Iraqi Government must be to end the violence that is causing this situation, with the support of the international community and the region.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the numbers of displaced Palestinians in Baghad; and what assessment he has made of their situation and humanitarian needs. (111256)

UNHCR estimate there are 15,000 Palestinians remaining in Iraq, less than half the estimated figure in 2003. We believe the majority of these are based in Baghdad where many face sectarian attacks and are increasingly vulnerable. UNHCR is extremely concerned by these disturbing developments and will take up the issue with the Iraqi authorities. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), with UNHCR support is preparing delivery of relief items including tents, blankets, mattresses, lanterns, kitchen sets, stoves and plastic sheets. Water, kerosene and food are already available.

DFID has just announced a £4 million contribution to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to continue to provide emergency assistance, including water, medical supplies and rehabilitation of health infrastructure. This brings our total humanitarian contribution for Iraq to over £120 million since 2003. We are also considering the UNHCR's appeal to help refugees in neighbouring countries. Above all the first priority of the Iraqi Government must be to end the violence that is causing this situation, with the support of the international community and the region.

Retirement Age

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 18 December 2006, Official Report, column 1466W, on retirement age, what the evidential basis is for applying age-based work force planning. (113929)

DFID does not apply age-based work force planning. Retirement dates are just one of the factors we consider in work force planning to allow managers and human resources division to plan for loss of skills and succession.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 18 December 2006, Official Report, column 1466W, on retirement age, on what grounds requests to work beyond 65 have been denied since establishment of the procedure; what criteria are used in making such decisions; and if he will make a statement. (113930)

DFID expects there to be few staff due to retire at age 65 between now and 2011. We have calculated the numbers to be less than five in each year for 2007 and 2008. DFID has not set criteria for making decisions to deny requests to work beyond age 65. To date, there has been no usage of the ‘right to request’ procedure.

Uganda

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance he has made available (a) bilaterally and (b) through the world food programme to those experiencing drought in Karamoja, Uganda. (110952)

DFID has recently pledged £6 million for the world food programme’s (WFP) emergency activities in Uganda during 2007. This money will be used by WFP to purchase food locally for distribution to drought affected people in Karamoja and people in northern Uganda who are internally displaced as a result of the conflict involving the Lord’s Resistance Army.

DFID has also recently committed £4.7 million towards a joint UN emergency health programme in both northern Uganda and in areas of Karamoja where high mortality rates have been reported. Just over £750,000 of this money has been allocated by the UN agencies for specific activities in the Karamoja region.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Biofuels

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to increase the opportunities for British farmers to produce biofuels. (111054)

The Government support the production of biofuels as part of our overall strategy for improving sustainability and reducing the impact of climate change. We are aware of the potential for agriculture and are working closely with farmers and industry to develop markets and promote uptake.

The production and use of biofuels is incentivised by a 20 pence per litre duty rate cut for biodiesel and bioethanol, which has been extended to 2008-09. To further develop the supply of biofuels, a Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) will be introduced in April 2008, which will require five per cent. of fuel sold in the UK to come from a renewable source by 2010.

A number of companies are building, or planning to build, biofuel processing plants in the UK which will use UK-grown crops such as oilseed rape, wheat and sugar beet as feedstocks. The Home-Grown Cereals Authority and the Renewable Energy Association have recently held a series of regional biofuel workshops across England aimed at helping to develop a UK biofuels industry. The workshops covered Government policy, local activities and opportunities for farmers.

Farmers can claim the Single Payment for biofuel crops grown on set-aside land or where the €45 per hectare energy aid payment is claimed for crops on non-set-aside land. The development of second generation biofuels should offer opportunities in the future to use feedstocks such as grasses and woody biomass.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the areas of unproductive agricultural land which may be suitable for growing crops to make biofuels; and what financial support or subsidies are available to land owners interested in growing feedstock for biofuels. (117275)

Agricultural land taken out of production is termed set-aside. The European Union (EU) permits the growing of crops on set-aside for industrial uses and energy production. Between 560,000 and 800,000 hectares of land have been set-aside in the UK over the last 10 years. While this may in some cases represent some of the least productive land on farms, it is all capable of supporting arable production. In 2005, 14.5 per cent. of set-aside land was used for industrial crop production, the vast majority of which was for energy end uses. It is anticipated that this figure will grow significantly as the demand for transport biofuels increases.

Farmers growing energy crops on set-aside are entitled to receive the single farm payment. In addition, where crops are grown for energy uses on non set-aside land, growers can claim the EU’s €45 per hectare energy aid payment. From 2007, under the Rural Development Programme for England, the Government have given a commitment to support energy crops.

The development of second generation biofuels should offer greater opportunities to utilise crops such as grasses and woody biomass grown on marginal land.

Carbon Offsetting

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will publish benchmarks to assist those interested in choosing the most environmentally beneficial carbon offsetting schemes. (111482)

Defra launched a consultation on a voluntary code of best practice for the provision of carbon offsetting to customers on 18 January.

The Government’s standard for carbon offsetting would be based on the use of certified credits from the established Kyoto market, through sources such as the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism. These credits are backed by an international framework and institutions to ensure that real emission reductions take place, as well as providing a clear audit trail.

The code of practice proposes that offset providers supply consumers with clear information and transparent prices. Defra plans to support the standard by providing guidance to consumers on offsetting, which will also help consumers to make informed decisions about their actions.

Cloned Farm Animals

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans he has to ban the entry of cloned farm animals into the UK; what regulations he plans to put in place to control domestic production of cloned farm animals; and what consultation he proposes on this issue. (117133)

The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 restricts cloning in the UK to licensed procedures and animals protected under this Act could not be used for farming purposes. Animal welfare legislation ensures the health and welfare of all livestock reared in England by both natural and artificial breeding methods.

Products derived from cloned animals (or from animals descended from clones) are subject to the provisions of the European Commission (EC) Novel Foods Regulation. Before marketing such products, an expert assessment of their safety for the food chain must be carried out and approved at European level. To date, no such applications for assessment under this regulation have been made.

At an EC working group on 12 January 2007, member states agreed that there should be a discussion at an EC Standing Committee to clarify which sections of the EC Novel Foods Regulation apply to cloned animals and their offspring. It was also agreed that the European Food Safety Authority should be consulted on the safety of products from cloned animals and their offspring. The Commission will be producing a paper on these points for discussion at a future EC Standing Committee.

The Government are currently consulting on their response to the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) report on the ‘Welfare Implications of Animal Breeding and Breeding Technologies in Commercial Agriculture’. The outcome of this consultation will inform our position on welfare aspects and contribute to the broader consideration of whether there is a need for further regulatory controls.

Coastal Access

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans the Government have to open up coastal access for walkers in England over the next 12 months. (112174)

The Department has asked the Natural England Board to come forward with recommendations to improve access to the coast by the end of February 2007. We will then issue a consultation paper this spring setting out the facts, a range of options and the costs and benefits associated with each.

Environmental Liability Directive

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what meetings on which dates since May 2004 (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department have had with (i) industry employees, (ii) members of trade bodies and (iii) members of non-governmental organisations, in relation to the implementation of the Environmental Liability Directive in the UK; and what organisations were represented at each such meeting. (110768)

The Department has consulted extensively with members of the trade and industrial associations and non-governmental organisations from 2002 (start of negotiations) to the present. A table providing the information requested has been placed in the Library of the House.

Solicitor-General

Serious Fraud Prosecutions

To ask the Solicitor-General in what ways prosecuting authorities determine the weight which is given to (a) the national interest and (b) the rule of law when determining whether to initiate prosecutions for serious fraud. (116289)

The Code for Crown Prosecutors sets out the ways in which all prosecuting authorities weigh the relevant factors when deciding whether to initiate proceedings including the weight to be given to any factors influencing the evidence or the public interest.

While the code sets out the general principles, every case is unique and has to be considered on its own merits. Prosecuting authorities respect the rule of law by independently deciding each case in accordance with the code.

Constitutional Affairs

Freedom of Information

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs in what circumstances a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 may be considered vexatious. (111988)

My Department has published guidance on the circumstances in which a Freedom of Information request may be considered vexatious. This guidance is available on the Department's website and in the Libraries of the House.

The Information Commissioner has also published guidance on vexatious requests, which can be found on the ICO website.

Fundamental Rights Agency

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the legal base is for budgeted EU expenditure of €5,536,000 in 2007 for the Fundamental Rights Agency. (111299)

The legal base of the regulation establishing the Fundamental Rights Agency is article 308 of the treaty establishing the European Community. The existing European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) has an annual budget of €8.2 million. The Fundamental Rights Agency will have a mandate significantly wider than that of the EUMC and, for this reason, its budget has been set at €16 million in 2007 rising to €29 million in 2013.

Judicial Pensions

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the employee contribution rate is to the Judicial Pensions Scheme; and if she will make a statement. (111514)

Active members of the Judicial Pensions Scheme contribute 1.8 per cent. or 2.4 per cent. of their pensionable salary to the scheme.

Transport

A21

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to issue compulsory purchase orders for properties along the route of the proposed A21 upgrade. (111567)

The A21 programme is subject to the completion of all the statutory procedures and compliance with the Department's scheme appraisal requirements. The Highways Agency will publish draft compulsory purchase orders on behalf of the Secretary of State in accordance with the individual scheme requirements and programmes. We expect to take forward the A21 programme of schemes in the next five years.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many compulsory purchase orders have been issued along the route of the proposed A21 upgrade in each year since 2005. (111568)

No compulsory purchase orders have been published along the route of the proposed A21 upgrade since 2005.

British Transport Police

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many (a) arrests were made and (b) convictions secured by British Transport Police in (i) England, (ii) Avon and Somerset and (iii) Taunton in each of the last five years; (112031)

(2) how many (a) police officers, (b) police community support officers, (c) special constables and (d) civilian staff were employed by the British Transport Police in (i) England, (ii) Avon and Somerset and (iii) Taunton in each year since 2000;

(3) how many crimes were reported to British Transport Police in (a) England, (b) Avon and Somerset and (c) Taunton in each of the last five years; and whether the crime was reported by a member of (i) the public and (ii) rail staff in each case;

(4) how many rail enforcement officers have been recruited in (a) England and (b) Avon and Somerset in each year since 2000; and what guidance his Department has issued to promote awareness of their role among the general public.

This information is not held by the Department for Transport but by the British Transport Police who can be contacted at British Transport Police, 25 Camden Road, London NW1 9LN, e-mail: general.enquiries@btp.pnn.police.uk.

Buses: Concessionary Travel

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the draft regulatory impact assessment on the Concessionary Bus Travel Bill on the funding of concessionary bus travel schemes. (116100)

The draft regulatory impact assessment (RIA) for the Concessionary Bus Travel Bill was published simultaneously with the Bill, which was introduced on 27 November 2006. It will be updated as appropriate. The RIA is available on the Department for Transport’s website at:

www.dft.gov.uk/localtransport/cbtbill

The Government have indicated they will provide up to an extra £250 million of funding per year for the national bus travel concession. Following the introduction of the new concession, the Government will be providing approximately £1 billion a year for concessionary bus travel, and are confident that this will be sufficient to cover the total cost.

The Department for Transport, in discussions with the Department for Communities and Local Government and Her Majesty’s Treasury, is looking at a number of options for distributing the existing and future funding for providing the statutory concession.

Container Handling Capacity

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the impact of container handling capacity shortages at United Kingdom ports on economic growth; and if he will make a statement. (111783)

In May 2006, alongside our discussion document ‘Ports Policy—your views invited’, the Department's consultants, MDS Transmodal in association with DTZ Pieda, published a container port transhipment study. This report contains an assessment of the wider economic effects of various capacity scenarios, looking ahead to 2030.

Comments were received on this study in response to the discussion document and the ports policy review, currently in progress, is considering the matter further.

Cross Country Franchise

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the effect on levels of services between (a) Preston and London, (b) Lancaster and London and (c) Scotland and Birmingham between when the present Cross County Franchise ends in November 2007 and the new West Coast Enhanced Service starts in December 2008. (111502)

Faster, more regular and more reliable services will be achieved on all of these routes from the commencement of the new timetable in December 2008. Regular services will be maintained from both Preston and Lancaster to London and between Scotland and Birmingham via Lancashire in the period between November 2007 and December 2008 with a similar timetable to the one which operates currently.

M42

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 11 January 2007, Official Report, column 654W, to the hon. Member for Colchester on the M42, what contingency plans (a) his Department and (b) the Highways Agency are preparing in the event that the assessment in the autumn is in favour of hard shoulder running. (110528)

The Highways Agency is continuing to monitor the Active Traffic Management (ATM) project on the M42, which includes hard should running on parts of the network at certain times. If the trial results prove positive, subject to funding/budgetary considerations, we will consider implementing the ATM techniques where they will provide significant benefits. The Agency is reviewing the network to identify potential locations that might benefit.

In addition, I announced in December 2006 that we will work with the Highways Agency to develop the case for productivity TIF funding for the traffic management schemes on the Birmingham Motorway Box and the M62 (Leeds Bradford). The results of the Agency’s monitoring and evaluation of the M42 trial will be considered in finalising the design for these schemes, and in considering other possible applications.

Network Modelling Framework

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will place in the Library a copy of the most recent report produced by his Department from the output of the Network Modelling Framework; (110533)

(2) if he will publish the outputs from the Network Modelling Framework for the last two years.

The Network Modelling Framework is still under development and will be used to support the high level output specification, which will be published in July. No reports setting out outputs from the Network Modelling Framework have been published by my Department.

Rail Network: Overcrowding

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received on rail network overcrowding. (111499)

Three parliamentary questions have been tabled in the last three months concerned with crowding. The Secretary of State has received 60 letters concerning crowding in the same period.

The Secretary of State has also received some 200 letters since November about First Great Western. Many of these have referred to crowding as well as other issues.

Railways

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects the zonal system for London overground railways to be introduced. (111051)

Zonal fares for peak single, peak return and off-peak return rail journeys wholly within London were introduced in January 2007. The zones are the same as those used for Underground and Travelcard fares. Zonal fares for rail-only season tickets will be introduced from January 2010.

Road Pricing

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the expected cost implications are of road pricing schemes for vehicle technology for individual motorists. (112257)

No decisions have been taken as to what technologies may be suitable to support road pricing. The Secretary of State announced last May a demonstration project to test the systems and technology for time-distance-place charging. This project will include analysis of the implications of different approaches. The road pricing feasibility study found that road pricing could be introduced at no net cost to the motorist.

Train Services

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many complaints he has received from the public on the late arrival of trains in East Sussex in the last 12 months. (110985)

For the three main train operators that provide services in East Sussex, the Department has had no complaints about late arrival of trains in the last 12 months. A number of secondary operators also operate over the East Sussex route. The Department does not keep records of late trains broken down by county areas.

Vehicle Registration Databases

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will bring forward proposals to synchronise vehicle registration databases across EU and non-EU nations. (111345)

DVLA is not aware of, or working on, any proposals to synchronise vehicle registration databases across EU and non-EU nations.

House of Commons Commission

Dining Rooms

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission whether dining room bookings made for functions in breach of rules governing the use of such facilities can be cancelled by the House authorities. (112004)

Yes. Paragraph 9.2 of the terms and conditions provides for cancellation by the House of Commons if the sponsor or organiser is in breach of the terms and conditions of the booking.

Recycling

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will arrange for signs to be mounted next to the recycling bins in communal spaces informing staff of the toner cartridge recycling facility provided by the Serjeant at Arms. (111524)

Arrangements will be made for signs to be put by the recycling bins wherever possible in the communal spaces.

The toner cartridge recycling facility, as well as the other recycling facilities, will also be publicised through available and appropriate means in the future.

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what amounts of (a) glass, (b) metal, (c) plastic and (d) paper were recycled by the parliamentary estate in each year since 2004. (111525)

The amounts of (a) glass, (b) metal, (c) plastic and (d) paper recycled by the parliamentary estate in each year since 2004 are given as follows. The only plastic products being recycled at present are drinks bottles and figures are only available from April 2006 onwards.

Recycled (tonnes)

Waste category

2004-05

2005-06

2006-071

(a) Glass

152.8

182.8

140.3

(b) Metal

6.1

77.6

31.1

(c) Plastic bottles

1.9

(d) Paper

265.7

401.9

297.8

(e) Other

136.6

159.1

185.2

Total Recycled

561.2

821.4

656.3

Total Waste

1,916.5

2,251.7

1,565.4

Percentage of total waste recycled

29.3

36.5

41.9

1 Nine months.

Theft

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how many cases of theft inside the House of Commons estate were reported in each of the last five years. (111323)

The number of cases of theft across the parliamentary estate in each of the last five years was as follows:

Number

2002

71

2003

33

2004

33

2005

20

2006

21

Union Flag

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission pursuant to the answer of 10 January 2007, Official Report, columns 504-05W, on the Union flag, what health and safety grounds prevent the use of the flagpole on Portcullis House; and what the cost would be of making access to the flagpole safe. (111869)

As I said in my reply to the right hon. Member for Warley (Mr. Spellar) on 24 January 2007, Official Report, column 1763W:

A recent health and safety report identified the following risks.

Access to the flagpole is by ladder but there is no safe means of passing the flag up the ladder; the flag raiser needs to climb over a ventilation duct; lighting is poor and there is no emergency lighting. In addition there are heavy hatch doors with no means of preventing closure and no harness anchorage points.

The flagpole has been used only once since Portcullis House was opened when it was found to be dangerous and it has been non-operational since September 2000. Means of rectifying the health and safety risks are being looked into and when the costs are known a decision will be taken on whether to fly flags from this location. If it is decided to do so, the aim will be to complete the necessary modifications by summer 2007.

Water Usage

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what volume of water was consumed by the parliamentary estate in each year since 2004. (111526)

The volume of water consumed by the parliamentary estate in each year since 2004 is as follows:

Cubic metres

Mains water

Borehole water

Total

2004-05

216,861

301,842

518,703

2005-06

186,663

393,859

580,522

2006-071

139,477

258,149

397,626

1 Nine months.

Borehole water is used primarily for cooling and toilet flushing in Portcullis House.

Defence

Afghanistan

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average tour intervals were for each unit deployed on the Helmand Task Force roulement. (110433)

Average tour intervals, from 1997, for the Royal Marines Commando units deployed on the Helmand Task Force roulement are shown in the following table:

Unit

Average tour interval (months)

42 Commando Royal Marines

14

45 Commando Royal Marines

15

Commando Logistics Regiment

32

28 Engineer Regiment

40

28 Engineer Regiment rarely deploys as a fully formed unit. Elements of the Regiment are deployed to Helmand Province and I have informed the House on 6 November 2006, Official Report, column 793W, of the tour interval for those personnel involved.

RAF units operate differently to those of the Army or Royal Marines. While a unit might be deployed for five months, RAF personnel can rotate through the unit rather than remain with it throughout. Therefore unit and personnel tour intervals are not necessarily the same.

RAF unit

Average tour interval (months)

3 Force Protection Wing

5

2 Sqn RAF Regiment

11

Aircraft Carrier Demonstration Phase

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the progress of the RN future aircraft carrier demonstration phase. (116371)

Good progress is being made on the demonstration phase work, which is aimed at maturing the risks, costs and the contractual framework for building the carriers. The culmination of this work will enable us to get a robust, affordable deal negotiated and take a decision to commit to manufacture.

Armed Forces Recruitment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Muslims were recruited to the armed forces in each month since January 2006. (117172)

The Muslim intake from civilian life to UK Regular Forces in 2006, by month is as follows:

All services1

January

10

February

5

March

2

April

5

May

2

June

5

July

10

August

5

September

2

October

2

November

35

1 Due to the introduction of a new personnel administration system, RAF data on the religion of recruits are not available from 1 April 2006, and naval service data from 1 November 2006 are provisional and subject to review.

2 Denotes fewer than 5.

3 Denotes provisional.

Notes:

1. All numbers are rounded to the nearest 5.

2. Due to the rounding methods used, totals may not always equal the sum of the parts.

Figures provided are for the 11 months from 1 January 2006 to 30 November 2006. December 2006 intake from civilian life data are not yet available.

BAE Systems

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations have been made by the US Administration to (a) officials and (b) Ministers in his Department concerning allegations of bribery by BAE Systems in the last five years; and if he will make a statement. (115158)

We have identified a record of one such representation, made on 19 July 2002 to the then Permanent Under-Secretary.

Boarding School Allowance

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the minimum distance is which an officer has to move in order to be able to claim boarding school allowance; and what steps he takes to monitor potential abuse of the allowance; (115781)

(2) how many officers of each of the armed services have (a) declared themselves mobile for the purpose of claiming boarding school allowance and (b) claimed boarding school allowance in each of the last five years.

All officers in the armed services are deemed to have a mobile commitment. However, continuity of education allowance (CEA) is only paid to a service person who is accompanied by their family at each location. Any service person claiming CEA must ensure that their family is, and continues to be, mobile and this is declared by the service person on each claim. In addition, the service person must be in possession of a valid ‘mobility certificate’, which is completed prior to an initial claim for the education allowance, when the child(ren) change school, at the beginning of each new posting, or if the certificate is more than three years old. This certificate states the service claimant is committed to their family moving with them when they are posted. If the family for any reason does not move with the service person, then their entitlement to claim CEA will be reviewed.

There are a few exceptions to the accompanied service eligibility criteria. On some postings it is inappropriate for the service person to be accompanied by their family and these postings are classified as ‘involuntarily separated’, i.e. they are separated from their family and cannot serve accompanied. Examples of this are when the service parent is serving on an operational deployment, or on a designated unaccompanied assignment or when exceptional authority has been granted for the service claimant to serve unaccompanied but retain eligibility to CEA. Examples of the circumstances under which such authority may be given are whilst the service claimant is awaiting allocation of service families accommodation at their new duty station, or when they are waiting, for up to six months, for the completion of a house sale/purchase. In these circumstances, the service person would be eligible to continue to claim CEA.

Given the ongoing transition to joint personnel administration, figures are not yet available of the number of officer claimants from each service for the past five years. However, the total number of officer claimants for spring term 2005 was 3,587 and for spring term 2006 3,074, as reported in the HCDC report ‘Educating Service Children’ of 11 July 2006. Detailed figures explaining the number of officer claimants from each service for the past five years are being determined.

Campaign Medals

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what process was followed in (a) proposing and (b) developing the idea to award journalists Iraq campaign medals; how many have been (i) accepted and (ii) declined; and whether any precedents exist. (108378)

Accredited war correspondents, photographers, cameramen and sound recordists were included in eligibility proposals for the Iraq medal made by the Ministry of Defence to the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals in November 2003. These proposals were included in the criteria when the medal was announced in February 2004 (Cm 6135). Entitled journalists were invited to apply for the medal. It has not been sent to them automatically.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 7 November 2006, Official Report, column 1467W about the number of medals that have been accepted or declined by journalists.

The practice of making medals available to accredited journalists deployed alongside the British armed forces goes back to at least world war one and, more recently, happened in both the Falklands conflict and the Gulf war.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the (a) newspapers, (b) broadcasters and (c) news agencies whose journalists were given an Iraq campaign medal by his Department. (108384)

No. The information requested constitutes personal data, within the terms of section 1(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998, as provision of a list of the relevant newspapers, broadcasters and news agencies is likely to permit identification of individual journalists who have been awarded the Iraq campaign medal.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Iraq campaign medals have been awarded without clasp to journalists; and if he will make a statement. (108412)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 5 December 2006, Official Report, columns 369-70W.

Carbon Emissions

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when his Department began collecting figures on its carbon emissions; what the volume of emissions was in the most recent period for which figures are available; when the Department started to offset its emissions; how much is expected to be spent on offsetting in 2006-07; and if he will make a statement. (116376)

The Ministry of Defence has recorded energy usage since 1990-91. The most recent year for which figures detailing the volume of departmental emissions are available is financial year 2004-05. I refer the hon. Member to the figures published on 10 October 2006, Official Report, columns 652-53W. Figures for FY 2005-06 are not yet available, but will be published in the Sustainable Development in Government Report 2005-06, a copy of which will be placed in the Library of the House.

The Department does not offset its emissions derived from energy use in buildings and facilities on the defence estate. However, MOD does support the Carbon Trust’s approach to reductions in emissions where offsetting is the final element of a plan to reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint. For MOD, reduction of energy use and increased use of energy from renewable sources will take precedence over carbon offsetting.

MOD has been collecting data on official air travel booked through the Head Office Travel Service, and has agreed to make a financial contribution to Government Carbon Offsetting Fund (GCOF) relative to the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the air travel for civilian staff and service personnel in non-operational posts. The scheme started in April 2006. In 2005-06, MOD’s estimated annual financial contribution to GCOF at £151,658.67 based on a price of 10/tC. It is estimated that MOD will offset some 15,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. This will be revised using actual data from 2006-07 to establish the GCOF contribution required for this financial year.

Chinooks

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Chinooks are (a) in working use in the UK military and (b) operating in Afghanistan. (116876)

As at 18 January 2007, 40 Chinook HC2/2a are in service with the UK military. Of these, 25 are located in the Forward Fleet, involved in front-line and training activities, including eight which are currently deployed to Afghanistan.

I also refer the hon. Member to my answer of 8 January 2007, Official Report, column 87W and 24 July 2006, Official Report, column 76W, to the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox).

Conventional Weapons: Conference

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what factors prevented the Government from achieving their priority for the 3rd Review Conference on the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons of finalising a Protocol on Mines other than Anti-Personnel Mines. (110972)

The UK and other nations made concerted efforts to achieve consensus on a draft set of recommendations on Mines Other than Anti-Personnel Mines (MOTAPM) at the 3rd Review Conference on the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons. However, a few nations could not accept them and therefore a protocol could not be adopted. As an interim measure, 20 nations including the UK, made a declaratory statement agreeing to be politically bound by the principal commitments within the draft set of recommendations with a view to adopting a negotiating mandate for a legally binding protocol in the future.

Defence Medical Services

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 5 December 2006, Official Report, columns 357-58, on Defence Medical Services, what the revived manning requirement figures are for different categories of doctors. (110900)

[holding answer 23 January 2007]: The revised Defence Medical Services (DMS) manning requirement figures were submitted for endorsement last year as part of a larger body of work, and work on the details of other parts of this submission caused a delay in the endorsement of the new figures. The revised manning requirement figures for the DMS have now been endorsed and a formal announcement will be made in the near future.

Defence Training Review

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the oral statement of 17 January 2007, Official Report, columns 787-9, on the Defence Training Review, what the principal factors were which persuaded him to select Metrix as the preferred bidder for his Defence Training Rationalisation Review. (110951)

Following a robust and detailed evaluation of the bidders' proposals in response to the Defence Training Review (DTR) package one and two Invitation to Negotiate, Metrix was selected as the preferred bidder for DTR package 1 and provisional preferred bidder for DTR package 2. Their solution, examined against 65 individual requirements of response, represented the most economically advantageous outcome, providing the best combination of technical score relating to the quality, deliverability and timeliness of their proposals, their suitability as a partner and price.

Departmental Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of expenditure by his Department in each of the Government office regions in the most recent year for which figures are available. (116715)

The latest available estimates for aggregate MOD expenditure in the Government offices for the English regions, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole, are detailed in the following table:

Estimated total (£ million at current prices)

United Kingdom

15,770

England

14,050

East

1,450

East Midlands

510

London

720

North East

310

North West

1,790

South East

4,060

South West

4,000

West Midlands

650

Yorkshire and Humberside

560

Scotland

1,150

Wales

230

Northern Ireland

340

Note:

All figures are for financial year 2004-05, have been rounded to the nearest £10 million, are exclusive of VAT and expressed at current prices.

It should be noted that MOD places work where it obtains best value for money and capability for our forces. Work is placed “in” a region but not necessarily “for” that region. The location of these is not a primary concern.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much programme expenditure sponsored by his Department was spent via each of the Government offices for the regions in the most recent year for which figures are available. (116754)

Departmental Fixed Assets

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which fixed assets his Department sold for more than £10,000 in (a) 2004-05 and (b) 2005-06; and what the (i) sale value, (ii) purchaser and (iii) date of sale was of each asset. (110797)

The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Hospitality

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his Department's expenditure was on hospitality and entertainment in (a) 1996-97 and (b) 2005-06. (114045)

For 1996-97, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 20 March 2003, Official Report, column 885, to the hon. Members for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) and for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray).

For 2005-06, the information is contained in Note 10 of our annual reports and accounts (HC 1394 of 14 July 2006), copies of which are available in the Library of the House.

The figures include expenditure by MOD Ministers.

Departmental Vetting

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what additional guidance has been given to the personnel of the Defence Vetting Agency to reflect the change of threat resulting from the events of (a) September 2001 and (b) July 2005. (116683)

[holding answer 23 January 2007]: Defence Vetting Agency personnel, along with all Ministry of Defence civilian and service personnel, are made aware of the terrorist and other threats through regular security briefings.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps have been taken to explain to his departmental staff the necessity for changes in the (a) depth and (b) detail of vetting to which they are subjected. (116684)

[holding answer Tuesday 23 January 2007]: Ministry of Defence staff, in common with all applicants for security vetting carried out by the Defence Vetting Agency, are given full information about the vetting process and the enquiries that will be made. The security questionnaire includes a statement on HM Government vetting policy explaining the purpose and scope of national security vetting. This is supplemented with comprehensive notes in the security questionnaire and explanatory leaflets sent to vetting subjects. In addition, MOD staff have access to the Defence Manual of Security, which explains departmental vetting requirements and practice and includes the changes made to the developed vetting standard. It will also include advice on the new baseline personnel security standard, once this is implemented.

Executive Agencies

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which executive agencies are the responsibility of his Department; what the function is of each agency; and what the budget was of each agency in the most recent year for which figures are available. (116744)

As at 1 January 2007, the following agencies are the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence:

ABRO

Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency

British Forces Post Office

Defence Analytical Service Agency

Defence Aviation Repair Agency

Defence Bills Agency

Defence Communication Services Agency

Defence Estates

Defence Medical Education and Training Agency

Defence Procurement Agency

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

Defence Storage and Distribution Agency

Defence Transport and Movements Agency

Defence Vetting Agency

Disposal Services Agency

Duke of York’s Royal Military School

Met Office

Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency

People Pay and Pensions Agency

Service Children’s Education

UK Hydrographic Office

Veterans Agency

Information on their functions and budgets can be found in the individual agencies annual report and accounts, copies of which are available in the Library of the House.

Government Auctions

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence where his Department publishes information about Government auctions which it arranges or to which it contributes in (a) Blackpool, (b) Lancashire and (c) the North West; and when the next such auction will take place in each area. (117430)

The Ministry of Defence's Disposal Services Agency (DSA) has responsibility for the disposal of all surplus MOD equipment. The majority of surplus items are sold through DSA's contractors, with whom it has various marketing agreements. In the UK, only memorabilia are disposed of by public auction, through the London site of Bonhams' auction house. Details of DSA's marketing activities, including those for Bonhams and other contractors, can be found at its website:

www.edisposals.com

Helicopters

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether UK force commanders have requested additional helicopters for operations in Afghanistan since 1 September 2006; and if he will make a statement. (111137)

UK force commanders have not requested additional helicopters for operations in Afghanistan since 1 September 2006.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the adequacy of helicopter numbers available to UK forces in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Iraq; and if he will make a statement. (111138)

Helicopter assets in both Afghanistan and Iraq are currently assessed by the military commanders in theatre to be sufficient to support operations successfully. We keep this under constant review.

Joint Narcotics Analysis Centre

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence who the most senior (a) UK and (b) US person is within the Joint Narcotics Analysis Centre; and what rank each holds. (103384)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 28 November 2006, Official Report, columns 624-25W.

Land Rovers and Armoured Vehicles

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many armoured vehicles replaced Land Rovers in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Iraq in each of the last 12 months; when he expects all Land Rovers in operation in each country to be replaced with armoured vehicles; and if he will make a statement. (110984)

I refer the hon. Member to the statement I made on 24 July 2006, Official Report, columns 74-76WS. The new armoured vehicles, some of which have already been delivered to our forces, will complement, not replace, vehicles within the existing operational fleet.

The new armoured vehicles, alongside Land Rovers, which will remain appropriate for some tasks, will give commanders on the ground a wider range of options to deal with the situations and threats they face.

Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much the Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency received from the US visiting forces as a stakeholder customer in each year from 2000 to 2006. (115132)

The Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency received the following amounts from US visiting forces for the period 2000-06:

£ million

MOD Police

MOD Guard Service

Total

1999-2000

4.8

Nil

4.8

2000-01

5.5

Nil

5.5

2001-02

8.0

Nil

8.0

2002-03

12.1

Nil

12.0

2003-04

11.9

Nil

11.9

2004-05

12.1

1.1

13.2

2005-06

13.9

1.2

15.1

Non-departmental Public Bodies

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which non-departmental public bodies are sponsored by his Department; what the function is of each body; and what the annual budget of each body was in the most recent year for which figures are available. (116758)

Details of the remit, Government funding and gross expenditure of public bodies sponsored by the Ministry of Defence can be found in the Cabinet Office publication Public Bodies 2006, copies of which are available in the Library of the House and also on-line at:

http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/other/agencies/publications/pdf/public-bodies/publicbodies2006.pdf

For those bodies in respect of which no information on expenditure was provided in Public Bodies 2006, their approximate expenditure in 2005-06 was as follows:

Amount (£)

Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objectors

0

Animal Welfare Advisory Committee

8,000

Central Advisory Committee on War Pensions and War Pensions Committees

37,300.

Dartmoor Steering Group

60

Defence Nuclear Safety Committee

35,000

Defence Scientific Advisory Council

200,000

Depleted Uranium Oversight Board

554,700

Independent Board of Visitors for the Military Corrective Training Centre

1,200

National Employer Advisory Board

6,900

Nuclear Research Advisory Council

30,000

Nuclear Weapons

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the operating costs of a new nuclear deterrent is projected to be 5-6 per cent. of his Department’s budget throughout its life cycle. (109887)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 19 December 2006, Official Report, column 1898W, to my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Ms Clark).

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions (a) he, (b) other departmental Ministers and (c) officials have had with the Legal Services Commission on delayed applications for compensation from retired members of the armed forces who took part in British nuclear weapons tests between 1952 and 1967; how many British nuclear test veterans have received compensation arising from exposure to radiation in such tests; and if he will make a statement. (117274)

Neither the Secretary of State for Defence nor other departmental Ministers have had discussions with the Legal Services Commission (LSC) with regard to the delayed applications for compensation from participants in the British nuclear tests of the 1950s and 1960s. The Treasury Solicitor's Department made one telephone call to the LSC in April 2005, following a stay in the legal proceedings which had been agreed between the parties pending a public funding decision for the nuclear test veterans group action. This call was made with a view to ascertaining the likely timeframe for a public funding decision to assist in planning and progressing the proposed litigation. However, contact was not made with the LSC caseholder, no information was given about the funding position, and this initial contact was not followed up.

Compensation under the war pensions scheme is paid on a no-fault basis to former members of the armed forces for disablement causally related to service before 6 April 2005. Claims can be made at any time after service termination. At 30 September 2006, 179,000 war pensions were in payment. Centrally held statistics do not identify the number of nuclear test veterans who have received such compensation for disablement arising from exposure to ionising radiation in the course of these tests.

The UK also administers its own compensation scheme for radiation-linked diseases, but no nuclear test veteran has fulfilled the relevant criteria or therefore received an award.

Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cash equivalent transfer value is of the public sector pensions of the 10 highest paid members of staff in his Department and its executive agencies; and if he will make a statement. (113819)

The total cash equivalent transfer value (CETV) for the 12 highest paid staff in the Ministry of Defence totalled £15.64 million as at 31 March 2006. Four of these individuals are named in remuneration reports that form part of the Department's resource accounts and the cash equivalent transfer value of their public sector pensions is therefore reported annually. The remuneration reports are already in the public domain. I have reported the 12 highest paid members of staff because the 10th, 11th and 12th highest paid members of staff are on the same salary rate. The CETV figure given includes both armed forces and civilian personnel.

Recruitment Agencies

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department paid to recruitment agencies for the hire of temporary staff in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. (110476)

The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Royal Navy: Morale

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on morale in the Royal Navy. (117227)

Morale in the Naval Service is high, particularly among personnel who are engaged in live operations around the world including Royal Marines and Royal Navy personnel serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Safe Houses

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence at what time and on what day in July 2003 (a) Dr. David Kelly and (b) Richard Hatfield (i) arrived at and (ii) left the safe-house in Hockley provided by his Department. (117018)

[holding answer 19 January 2007]: The Hutton Report (HC247 of 28 January 2004) and transcripts of evidence to Lord Hutton's inquiry give details of Dr. Kelly's movements during July 2003, and meetings between Dr. Kelly and Mr. Hatfield. Both meetings between Dr. Kelly and Mr. Hatfield on 4 and 7 July 2003, took place in Mr. Hatfield’s office in London. Neither Dr. Kelly nor Mr. Hatfield stayed at any accommodation at Hockley.

Service Personnel: Medical Conditions

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many individuals in band (a) A, (b) B, (c) C and (d) D were assessed as eligible for compensation under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme in its first year of operation. (117293)

For all claims registered between 6 April 2005 and 31 March 2006 under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, there were less than 10 individuals assessed as being eligible for a Guaranteed Income Payment. There are individuals in each of the bands, but to preserve confidentiality the exact numbers cannot be disclosed. An evaluation report of the first year of operation of the scheme will be published shortly.

Statistics

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the process is for deciding the date of publication of statistics prepared by or relating to the Department; and who is involved in that process. (113090)

The National Statistics Code of Practice (2002)—which serves as a model for all public sector statistical work—established the principle that “final responsibility for the content, format and timing of release of national statistics” rests with the Head of Profession for Statistics in each Department. In reaching their decisions, Heads of Profession take into consideration the detailed procedural guidance given in the “National Statistics Protocol on Release Practices”.

Copies of the code and its 12 supporting protocols are available in the Library of the House and can also be accessed using the following address:

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/about/national_statistics/cop/default.asp

Vessel Sales

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which (a) Royal Navy and (b) Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels have been sold to other countries since 1997; and what revenue was received by the Ministry of Defence in each case. (116906)

[holding answer 24 January 2007]: The following list contains all surplus HMS-named capital vessels sold on a Government-to-Government basis:

Date of the contract of sale

Sold to

Price (£)1

Financial year 1997-98

HMS Plover

2Philippines

37.5 million for all three (receipts to MOD alone)

HMS Peacock

2

3

HMS Starling

2

3

Financial year 1998-99

HMS Unseen

Canada

4

Financial year 1999-2000

Financial year 2000-01

HMS Bicester

Greece

5Sold with HMS Berkeley for a combined price of 10 million

HMS Orkney

Trinidad and Tobago

1.5 million

Financial year 2001-02

HMS Berkeley

Greece

5Sold with HMS Bicester for a combined price of 10 million

HMS Orwell

Guyana

1.5 million

Financial year 2002-03

HMS London

6Romania

7116 million for both

HMS Coventry

6

7

HMS Shetland

8Bangladesh

98.0 million for all five

HMS Alderney

8

9

HMS Anglesey

8

9

HMS Lindisfarne

8

9

HMS Guernsey

8

9

HMS Sheffield

Chile

27 million

Financial year 2003-04

Financial year 2004-05

Financial year 2005-06

HMS Marlborough

10Chile

11134 million for all three (project ongoing)

HMS Norfolk

10

11

HMS Grafton

10

11

Financial year 2006-07

HMS Sandown

12Estonia

1332 million for all three (project ongoing)

HMS Bridport

12

13

HMS Inverness

12

13

1 Where appropriate, the above figures represent the total revenue for the MOD and industry together. For those vessels sold on a Government-to-Government (G-2-G) basis in later years by the Ministry of Defence’s Disposal Services Agency (DSA), there is usually an agreement with industry for regeneration and modernisation work. Much of the information on revenue received by the MOD from the sale of each individual vessel is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Some deferred/time-related payments will still be outstanding.

4 HMS Unseen was leased to Canada with an option to purchase, which has subsequently been exercised. The lease covers four submarines, the remaining three, HMS Unicorn, HMS Ursula and HMS Upholder are still under lease until 2008. The total value of this lease is Canadian $360 million for all four submarines—future exchange rate fluctuations make it impossible to estimate a final return in sterling at this time.

5 HMS Bicester and HMS Berkeley were transferred to the Hellenic Navy. This transfer involved the vessels being sold to Vosper Thorneycroft (VT) for £5 million each. VT prepared the vessels for transfer resulting in the MOD incurring minimum transfer costs. Although not transferred directly on a G-2-G basis, they are highlighted because of the significance of the sale. The Acquisition Agreement for HMS London and HMS Coventry for Romania covered the acquisition of these ships with UK MOD procuring their regeneration and modernisation through a “back-to-back” contract. The ships were already decommissioned, no longer in operational condition and were in need of major regeneration. The value to the UK of the project is £116 million including a return for the MOD of between £1.5 million and £2 million for the hulls (£200,000) and the provision of services.

No RFAs were sold on a Government-to-Government basis during this period.

Veterans Badge

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number of people entitled to the Veterans Badge; how many claimed the badge in each month since its introduction, broken down by parliamentary constituency; and if he will make a statement. (116470)

[holding answer 22 January 2007]: The Ministry of Defence has insufficient information to make an accurate assessment of the number of people entitled to the HM Armed Forces Veterans Lapel Badge but estimates that the total number is around 5 million.

The Veterans Badge was administered in London between May 2004 and 17 April 2005. During this period, 82,000 badges were issued; however, detailed records of monthly application numbers were not kept.

Since 18 April 2005, the Veterans Agency has been responsible for the Badge’s administration. During this period, it has received 300,493 applications and issued 277,465 badges. The applications have been received as follows:

Application

2005

April

2,453

May

11,117

June

8,459

July

9,742

August

6,786

September

8,099

October

8,389

November

9,295

December

18,826

2006

January

19,322

February

20,762

March

18,700

April

13,378

May

13,455

June

19,091

July

20,581

August

19,132

September

15,007

October

14,345

November

23,051

December

20,503

The databases for the scheme do not have the capability to extract records of applicants by individual parliamentary constituencies.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghan Refugees

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the implications of comments of the Pakistani Prime Minister on Afghan refugees living in Pakistan on the achievement of aims of the London compact. (111590)

We support the principle of closing the refugee camps in Pakistan, in an orderly, carefully managed way that respects the rights of the refugees and international agreements. We are in close touch with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in both Geneva and Islamabad and are discussing with them their strategy for 2007. The Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan are due to meet with the UNHCR in Lahore on 6 February to discuss how they can work together to create the conditions necessary for significant returns in 2007.

The Afghan Government and the international community continue towards the benchmarks agreed in the Afghanistan compact in 2006.

African Union: Sudan

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether she has made representations to the African Union on whether Sudan should assume its presidency for 2007-08. (112231)

The African Union (AU) is an important partner for the UK and the wider international community on key issues that affect African development. It has a major role to play in helping to prevent and resolve conflict in conjunction with the United Nations and others.

The choice of the next AU Chairperson is a matter for AU member states. We expect the AU to ensure that whomever is chosen will be in a position to continue to build the capacity and credibility of the organisation, across the range of its activities.

Bangladesh

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the freedom of the press in Bangladesh and its implications for the observance of human rights by the Government of that country. (111623)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) on 27 November 2006, Official Report, columns 460-461W.

The Constitution of Bangladesh gives the state wide powers under a state of emergency, which can be used to restrict freedom of speech. We nevertheless look to the caretaker Government to observe human rights standards for all citizens. A vibrant and diverse media plays an important role in democratic life in the country.

British Citizens: Convictions Abroad

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 19 January 2007, Official Report, column 1403W, on British citizens’ convictions abroad, for how many individuals convicted and given a custodial sentence her Department’s database holds passport details. (112200)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office consular assistance database—Compass—does not incorporate a function to generate statistics on the number of British nationals under custodial sentence overseas for whom it holds passport details. This is primarily because such statistics are not needed for our principal function of ensuring the welfare of British nationals in detention overseas.

Burma

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the implications of recent ASEAN criticism of the Burmese regime for achieving (a) national reconciliation and (b) the release of political prisoners; and what representations she has made to counterparts in ASEAN member states on a charter for the association establishing common standards of governance among members. (111536)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to him on 22 January 2007, Official Report, column 1448W.

At the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, held in the Philippines on 13 and 14 January, ASEAN encouraged Burma to make greater progress towards national reconciliation and called for the release of those placed under detention. I believe ASEAN can play an important role in encouraging positive change in Burma. The UK, therefore, welcomed the stance ASEAN has taken.

Cameroon

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made by the British high commission in Yaoundé concerning the arrest and holding of Dr. Nfor Ngala Nfor and other members of the Southern Cameroon National Council at a press conference in the town of Bamenda on 20 January. (111207)

Our high commission in Yaoundé has not made any representations to the Cameroon authorities regarding this incident. However, they have been in contact with the National Human Rights Commission representative in Bamenda to discuss whether any human rights violations occurred. Their comprehensive report of the events is expected imminently, we will give it careful consideration and take forward any representations that are necessary.

Departmental Contracts: Iraq

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contracts have been awarded to ArmorGroup by her Department for work in Iraq; what the start and end dates of each contract were; what the purpose of each contract was; and how many people were employed under the terms of each contract. (111388)

ArmorGroup have been awarded three Foreign and Commonwealth Office contracts for work in Iraq.

The first was for provision of static guarding of our embassy office in Basra. It started on 1 July 2004, ran to 30 June 2006 and employed a maximum of 93 personnel. These figures varied during the course of the contract.

The second was for the provision of static guarding at our embassy in Baghdad. This contract also started on 1 July 2004 and ran to 30 June 2006. It employed a maximum of 113 personnel. Again, these figures varied during the course of the contract.

The third is to provide police mentors to work on policing projects in Baghdad and southern Iraq. This contract started on 4 June 2004 and is due to expire in June 2007. There are currently 711 people employed on this contract and the maximum employed at any time during the course of the contract has been 91.

1 The figure of 71 in this case means that there are 71 police mentors on the ground at any one time. To ensure these positions are constantly filled, extra personnel are used to provide leave cover. This means the actual number of personnel currently staffing the contract is usually 25 per cent. higher than the ‘on the ground figure’.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contracts let by her Department for work in Iraq were in relation to projects funded in part or wholly by the (a) Japanese and (b) Dutch Governments. (111392)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has one contract in Iraq which is directly related to a project funded by the Dutch Government. In August 2005 the FCO extended its contract with ArmorGroup, which provides police mentors to Iraq, to include an additional 17 mentors to carry out training and mentoring in Al-Muthanna province. This additional capacity was funded in full by the Dutch Government and lasted until February 2006.

We have not let any contracts in Iraq in relation to projects funded partly or wholly by the Japanese Government.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how often and when the contract awarded to ArmorGroup for training the Iraqi police in June 2004 was (a) reviewed and (b) extended; and whether ArmorGroup was paid per day or per person employed. (111395)

The contract originally awarded to ArmorGroup in June 2004 for police training and mentoring in Iraq was for an initial five months and has been extended a total of five times. The extensions were for the following periods:

November 2004-December 2004

January 2005-August 2005

September 2005-March 2006

April 2006-September 2006

October 2006-June 2007

Each extension has included a review of prices to ensure value for money. The policing work carried out by ArmorGroup is under the command and direction of a senior serving British policeman, with whom Foreign and Commonwealth Office works in raising issues relating to the performance or staffing of the ArmorGroup contract. We have also commissioned independent reviews of our policing programme to assess its effectiveness including the security sector development advisory team in May 2005, Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s assessment of the UK’s policing programme in January 2006 and chief constable Paul Kernaghan’s progress assessment visit on 4-7 October 2006.

Payment to ArmorGroup is made on a per person per day in country basis.

Guantanamo Bay

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact of the indefinite detention of British residents in Guantanamo Bay on the UK’s foreign relations. (111488)

Indefinite detention of detainees in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, regardless of their nationality or place of former residence, is a matter of concern to us, on human rights grounds rather than for its effect on our relations with other states. As we have made clear, the detention facility should be closed. We therefore welcome President Bush’s public statements expressing a wish to close Guantanamo Bay and the US Administration’s efforts to reduce numbers at the camp. But we recognise the need for careful consideration on how numbers at the camp are reduced to ensure international security is maintained and the human rights of detainees respected.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations she has made to the US Administration asking for the immediate release of British residents who remain detained in Guantanamo Bay. (111696)

It is long-standing policy that the Government are not in a position to provide consular assistance or diplomatic protection to foreign nationals, including those held at Guantanamo Bay, except where we have a specific agreement with another state to do so.

We discuss a range of detainee issues, including Guantanamo Bay, with the US Administration but our focus is on the situation of all detainees at Guantanamo, including those formerly resident in the UK. We have raised humanitarian issues relating to detainees who were formerly resident in the UK with the US on a number of occasions, as part of these regular exchanges.

We agreed in March 2006 to make representations to the US Government for the release of Bisher Al-Rawi from Guantanamo Bay and his return to the UK. That decision was based on the particular circumstances in his case. On 6 April 2006 my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary (Mr. Straw) wrote to the US Secretary of State to ask formally for Mr. Al-Rawi’s release and return. Detailed discussions between our Governments have continued ever since. While these are sensitive and complicated issues that take time, we are committed to securing Mr. Al-Rawi’s release from Guantanamo Bay and his return to the UK.

Hans Blix: Report

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when her Department received copies of the report prepared by Dr. Hans Blix entitled Weapons of Terror - Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms; and if she will make a statement. (111789)

Dr. Blix handed over a copy of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission report to the Government at a meeting with officials in London on 12 June 2006. He had earlier briefed ambassadors from EU member states on 9 June 2006 in Brussels, where he had also handed over copies of the report.

Iraq

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the latest figures available to her Department on the population of Iraq are in each year from 1998-99 to January 2007; and if she will make a statement. (111684)

There has been no official census in Iraq since 1997. The result of that census gave a population of 22,017,983, but these data were deemed unreliable by the international community at the time. The Government of Iraq are planning a fresh census when conditions allow.

Mercenaries

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will take steps to prevent any security services company (a) suspected of mercenary activity and (b) whose management personnel have expressed in public views approving of illegal actions or practices from being invited to tender for security contracts by Government departments. (112127)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office issues open advertisements for its major security service contracts. These advertisements highlight the relevant pre-qualification criteria for companies wishing to be considered to tender for those contracts. Public procurement guidelines oblige us to invite tenders from companies who meet the relevant qualification criteria, subject to certain limits on the overall number of companies who are invited to tender.

Middle East

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with (a) the UN and (b) other agencies on the situation of (i) the Palestinian community living in Iraq and (ii) those Palestinians who have been displaced or fled from Iraq; and if she will make a statement. (111257)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not discussed the situation of the Palestinian community in Iraq with the UN or other agencies. However, the Government are concerned about the unacceptable number of internally displaced people and refugees in Iraq and are closely monitoring the situation.

We are working with coalition forces and international organisations to ensure that those affected are protected and that their basic needs are met, and have just announced a £4 million contribution to the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide emergency assistance, including water, medical supplies and rehabilitation of health infrastructure. We are also in regular contact with the Government of Iraq as they develop their response to the humanitarian situation in Iraq.

Venezuela

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the effect on the flow of illegal drugs to the (a) UK and (b) EU of Venezuela’s lack of co-operation in counter-narcotics operations with (i) neighbouring countries and (ii) the United States. (111615)

We estimate that a significant proportion of cocaine transiting Venezuela is destined for Europe and the UK. Intelligence and seizures suggest that cocaine flows through Venezuela are increasing.

It is important therefore that the UK, EU and Venezuela’s neighbours are able to co-operate closely with the Venezuelan authorities in countering the flow of narcotics through the country. Preventing the importation of cocaine into the UK from Venezuela is a top priority for the UK’s international counter-narcotics efforts. We are already working with Venezuela on counter-narcotics and are keen to increase our engagement. We welcome President Chavez’s election pledge to tackle corruption. This will be an important element in developing the counter-narcotics effort in Venezuela. I visited Venezuela recently to understand the nature and extent of the drug problems encountered in that country.

Co-operation between Venezuela and its regional neighbours is a matter for the Governments concerned.

Northern Ireland

Bullying

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps the Government are taking to address the issue of bullying in schools in Northern Ireland. (110670)

The Department recognises that bullying in whatever form and for whatever reason, has no place in schools. The Department has taken proactive steps to tackle bullying through development and publication of guidance. Furthermore, the Education and Libraries (NI) Order 2003, which came into operation on 1 April 2003, places a duty on all grant-aided schools to have an anti-bullying policy and to draw up measures to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils.

In 2004 the Department in partnership with voluntary organisations, including Save the Children, established an Anti-bullying Forum to enable a collaborative and co-ordinated approach to tackling bullying in schools. The forum enables members to share models of best practice, disseminate information, to develop and co-ordinate joint initiatives and to ensure that schools and organisations working with children and young people are able to develop appropriate strategies to prevent and deal with bullying behaviours.

From early 2006 the Department has been funding a co-ordinator post attached to the NI Anti-Bullying Forum. She is currently involved in developing a regional anti-bullying strategy based on good practice here and elsewhere and in developing a support network for schools. In addition she will be researching best practice solutions to emerging problems such as cyber-bullying.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many reports of bullying were made in (a) primary and (b) secondary schools in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. (110671)

The Department of Education does not collect the information requested.

The Department has commissioned research into bullying, in all its forms, and the results are expected to be ready for publication by mid-2007.

Carbon Emissions

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when his Office began to measure its carbon emissions; what the volume of those emissions was in the last period for which figures are available; when his Office started to offset those emissions; what the cost is expected to be of offsetting his Office’s emissions; and if he will make a statement. (116383)

The Government set a target in the NI Sustainable Development Strategy of carbon neutrality for the Government estate by 2015.

At the end of November I announced the publication of the Northern Ireland Sustainable Development Implementation Plan, “A Positive Step”. A copy can be downloaded at:

http://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/economic-policy-and-effectiveness.htm

The plan sets out the key actions for achieving carbon neutrality including: reducing the size of the Government estate through the Workplace 2010 Project; reductions in carbon emissions through investment in renewable energy sources, again through the Workplace 2010 Project; increased use of electricity generated from green sources; and investing in energy efficiency through the Central Energy Efficiency Fund.

The NIO occupies a number of buildings on agreement from the Department of Finance and Personnel. We will be working with colleagues in DFP and across the Northern Ireland Departments to ensure we play our part in achieving this target. In addition we are currently working on the installation of biomass heating and solar panels at Hillsborough Castle, the only building we occupy as owners.

The NIO is also participating in the DEFRA run Government Carbon Offsetting Fund. All central Government ministerial and official air travel is being offset from 1 April 2006. Departmental aviation emissions are calculated on an annual basis and subsequently offset through payments to a central fund. The fund purchases Certified Emissions Reductions credits from energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with sustainable development benefits, located in developing countries.

Children's Commissioner

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 15 January 2007, Official Report, column 951W, on the Northern Ireland Children's Commissioner, if he will break down the number of applicants by (a) gender and (b) religious affiliation; and how many of the applicants were (i) shortlisted and (ii) interviewed. (111369)

Out of the 46 applicants for the post of Commissioner for Children and Young People for Northern Ireland:

(a) There were 17 male and 29 female applicants.

(b) 14 were from a Protestant community background, 24 from a Roman Catholic community background and eight other. 14 were short-listed for interview. Two candidates withdrew from the competition prior to the interviews being conducted, resulting in 12 candidates being interviewed.

Coronary Heart Disease

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people in each health board area have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease in each of the last five years. (111662)

Official estimates of the number of people diagnosed with coronary heart disease in each year are not available. However, under the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) of the General Medical Services contract, the total number of GP-registered patients with coronary heart disease is recorded. There are two years of data available as follows.

Table 1: Prevalence of Coronary Heart Disease

Number of patients on QOF coronary heart disease register as at 14 February:

2005

2006

Eastern HSSB

32,018

32,180

Northern HSSB

18,840

19,052

Southern HSSB

13,102

13,534

Western HSSB

10,961

11,222

Source:

Payment Calculation and Analysis System.

Fuel Procurement

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he plans to use public transport fuel procurement as a means of creating a market in Northern Ireland for bio-diesel and bio-ethanol for transport purposes. (111668)