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Written Answers

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 19 July 2007

Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 19 July 2007

Defence

Afghanistan: Politics and Government

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made in improving the security situation in Afghanistan. (149467)

[holding answer 17 July 2007]: The security situation in Afghanistan remains stable if fragile in places. The Afghan army with the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) continue to undertake operations to improve the security situation and extend the authority of the Government of Afghanistan across the country. The Taliban are not able to hold territory in the face of offensive action by Afghan and International Security Assistance Forces but they are able to threaten security in parts of eastern and southern Afghanistan by means of improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers and small-scale ambushes.

In Helmand, recent operations have expanded ISAF influence around Sangin and Gereshk, enabling increased development activities, such as work on the irrigation system in Sangin.

Armed Forces: Manpower

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will arrange for a copy to be placed in the Library of each Monthly Manning Report for the Armed Forces on the date of its publication. (146009)

I have arranged for a copy of the Army Monthly Manning Report, dated 1 March 2007, to be placed in the Library of the House.

Due to the introduction of a new personnel administration system for the Army during March 2007, this report is currently suspended.

No equivalent Monthly Manning Report is produced for the naval service or Royal Air Force.

Military Bases: Wales

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the timetable is for the construction and occupation of the new military training academy at MOD St. Athan. (147283)

Metrix Consortium have been declared the preferred bidder for package 1 of the Defence training review programme. For package 2 there is a significant affordability gap and work has been ongoing to develop a whole programme solution. The scale of the facility to be constructed at St. Athan will therefore depend on the outcome of this further work with Metrix. Our current forecast indicates that construction at the St. Athan site is planned to start after contract signature in late 2008, or early 2009, with the final phase of completion scheduled for 2013.

Trident

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what expenditure has been incurred since 14 March 2007 on (a) the Trident D5 missile life extension programme and (b) the initial review of the need to replace the Vanguard-class ballistic-missile submarine platform for Trident D5 nuclear weapons systems. (150265)

[holding answer 18 July 2007]: No expenditure has been incurred since 14 March 2007 on the Trident D5 missile life extension programme. The programme to replace the Vanguard-class ballistic-missile submarine platform incurred expenditure of around £900,000 from 1 April to 30 June 2007, the most recent quarter for which information is available.

Prime Minister

Departments: Pay

To ask the Prime Minister (1) how many non-pensionable bonuses were awarded to members of staff in the former Department of the Deputy Prime Minister in the last three years; and at what total cost; (146990)

(2) how many staff in the former Department of the Deputy Prime Minister have taken (a) five or more, (b) four, (c) three and (d) two periods of sick leave of less than five days in the last 12 months.

I have been asked to reply.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s Office was established in May 2006. Because of the small number of staff involved, disclosing the information requested could breach staff confidentiality. Information for periods before May 2006 is held by The Department for Communities and Local Government.

Duchy of Lancaster

Departments: Buildings

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster pursuant to the answer of 12 July 2007, Official Report, column 1640W, on Departments: buildings, what the role is of the employees of his Department occupying each building. (151036)

Information on the role of employees is provided in our departmental reports and annual resource accounts which are published on the Cabinet Office website at:

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/reports/

Leader of the House

Departments: Disciplinary Proceedings

To ask the Leader of the House how many people in her Office have been (a) disciplined and (b) dismissed for (i) inappropriate use of the internet while at work and (ii) using work telephones to access premium rate telephone numbers in the last 12 months. (149188)

Departments: Official Visits

To ask the Leader of the House how much was spent on overnight accommodation by civil servants within her Office's areas of responsibilities in the last 12 months. (149051)

The Office of the Leader of the House of Commons spent £316.96 on overnight accommodation for civil servants in the last 12 months.

Departments: Racial Harassment

To ask the Leader of the House how many complaints of racial abuse relating to staff for which she is responsible have been (a) investigated and (b) upheld in the last 12 months. (149247)

Scotland

Departments: Advertising

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the cost effectiveness of advertising commissioned by his Department in the last 12 months; (148508)

The Scotland Office does not normally undertake advertising campaigns and in 2006-07 was involved in only a small number of advertisements for appointments.

Departments: Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many people are employed in his Department to work on ministerial correspondence. (150564)

Ministerial correspondence is processed by two clerical officers, who also undertake wider administrative functions. Drafting ministerial replies is part of the role of a pool of around 20 policy officials in addition to their other duties.

Departments: Disciplinary Proceedings

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many people in his Department have been (a) disciplined and (b) dismissed for (i) inappropriate use of the internet while at work and (ii) using work telephones to access premium rate telephone numbers in the last 12 months. (149185)

Official Visits

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland on how many occasions in the last 12 months the Secretary of State for Scotland visited Scotland in an official capacity. (147625)

[holding answer 10 July 2007]: My predecessor visited Scotland on 18 occasions in his official capacity as Secretary of State for Scotland in the 12 month period to end June 2007. In addition to this, during weekends and parliamentary recesses my right hon. Friend also executed official responsibilities in Scotland. Since my appointment on 28 June, I have visited Scotland on one occasion in my capacity as Secretary of State for Scotland when I carried out a range of official responsibilities.

Culture, Media and Sport

Basketball

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will place in the Library a copy of the Mallin report on basketball. (150991)

I will place a copy of the independent Mallin review of basketball in the House Library following its anticipated publication later this month.

Casinos

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many consultations his Department has held on the proposals for new casinos as a result of the Gambling Act 2005. (150545)

There have been two consultations on the new casinos permitted under the Gambling Act 2005. These are:

Gambling (Categories of Casino) Regulations and draft Order for the implementation of the Gambling Act 2005—Formal Consultation Exercise. The consultation closed in September 2006.

Gambling Act 2005: Gambling (Inviting competing applications for Casino Premises Licences) Regulations. The consultation closed in May 2007.

Departments: Consultants

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many (a) management consultants and (b) external consultants and advisors were employed by his Department in each year since 2000. (149003)

I am able to provide information on how many management consultants, external consultants and advisers were employed by DCMS in each year since 2000. However, the Department does not collect this information in separate categories in the format requested.

Management and external consultants

Advisers

2000

2

1

2001

12

1

2002

10

1

2003

14

1

2004

10

2

2005

13

3

2006

17

3

2007 to date

9

3

Museums and Galleries: West Midlands

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) how much funding under the Renaissance initiative has the West Midlands been allocated in each year of the programme; and if he will make a statement; (148339)

(2) how much Renaissance funding will be available for (a) Herefordshire, (b) the West Midlands and (c) England in each of the next five years;

(3) if he will make a statement on the distribution of Renaissance funding in (a) Herefordshire, (b) the West Midlands and (c) England;

(4) what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Renaissance funding within the context of the comprehensive spending review in (a) the West Midlands and (b) England; and if he will make a statement.

Investment by Renaissance in the regions in regional museums is as follows:

£ million

West Midlands region

25.1

All English regions

138.2

All English regions, plus national initiatives

149.2

The West Midlands is currently one of three English regions to have received proportionately more funding than the other six.

It is not possible to provide a complete financial breakdown at the county level for all aspects of Renaissance, as the programme focuses on need and impact at the regional level. However, to date, Herefordshire has benefited directly from the following strands of Renaissance:

£67,600 investment for a museum development officer post for Herefordshire for 2006-08;

Museum service development grants funded by the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council in the West Midlands;

Museum development funding focussed on the needs of small and medium sized museums;

The skills development programme, providing training for museum professionals and volunteers; and

Support from the five partner institutions in the West Midlands Renaissance hub which includes funding an accreditation adviser who has been working with museums in Herefordshire.

Sports: East Sussex

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many sports clubs there were in (a) Eastbourne and (b) East Sussex in each of the last 10 years. (151404)

DCMS does not hold the information requested. There is no central register for sports clubs in England.

Sports: VAT

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will discuss with the Chancellor of the Exchequer the removal of VAT on sports tuition to help schools and local councils provide sports training for young people. (150911)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has no plans to discuss the VAT treatment of tuition in sport with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is already a wide ranging exemption from VAT for education. This relief also covers most sports tuition in schools, and similar tuition by local authorities and charitable bodies that do not seek to make any profit from this activity.

Television: Scots Gaelic Language

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions he has had with Ofcom and the other strategic partners on a commitment to a date for first transmission by the Gaelic language television channel; and what the outcome of such discussions has been. (150314)

[holding answer 18 July 2007]: None, but I understand that the Gaelic Media Service, the BBC and Ofcom are working together with the intention of launching the Gaelic Digital Service as soon as possible.

Northern Ireland

Climate Change: Legislation

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions he has had with Northern Ireland Ministers on the co-ordination of legislation on climate change across the UK. (149416)

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has not had any discussions with Northern Ireland Ministers about the co-ordination of legislation on climate change across the UK. However, Arlene Foster MLA, in her role as Northern Ireland's Environment Minister, met with David Miliband when he was Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to discuss this issue and other matters, in June of this year. Also, officials in DEFRA and DOE(NI) remain in close contact as this work develops.

Department: Legislation

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what criminal offences have been introduced by his Department in primary legislation since October 2006. (149723)

The criminal offences introduced by the Northern Ireland Office since October 2006 are shown in the following tables. For completeness both Acts and Orders in Council are included.

Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007

Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007

Offence

Section 10

Disclosing juror information without lawful authority.

Section 15

Failure to comply with a notice to provide information to NIHRC; failure to comply with an order made by a county court to provide such information; falsify anything provided or produced in accordance with a notice or order; or make a false statement in giving oral evidence in accordance with a notice.

Section 16

Failing to comply with an order of the county court requiring a person not to obstruct NIHRC in investigating a place of detention.

Section 21

Failing to stop when required to do so under that section (power of stop and question); refusing to answer a question; failing to answer a question to the best of his knowledge and ability

Paragraph 8 of Schedule 3

Knowingly failing to comply with a requirement imposed under paragraph 3; or wilfully seeking to obstruct or frustrate a search of premises.

Paragraph 9 of Schedule 3

Failing to stop when required to do so under paragraph 4 (stop and search).

Section 26

Failing to stop a vehicle when required to do so.

Section 27

Wilfully obstructing a member of Her Majesty's Forces in the exercise of a power under that section (document examination).

Section 31

Interfering with works executed in connection with the exercise of powers in sections 29 and 30; or interfering with any apparatus, equipment or other thing used in connection with the exercise of those powers.

Section 32(2)

Interfering with road closure works or road closure equipment.

Section 32(3)

Executing bypass works within 200m of road closure works, having within his possession or under his control within 200m of road closure works, materials or equipment suitable for executing bypass works; or knowingly permitting on land occupied by him the doing or occurrence of anything which is an offence under this subsection.

Paragraph 12 of Schedule 4

Offence of obtaining compensation or increased compensation by deception; and offence of knowingly making a false or misleading statement, making a statement which he does not believe to be true, or knowingly failing to disclose a material fact.

Paragraph 4 of Schedule 6

Providing or offering to provide security services for reward without a licence.

Paragraph 5 of Schedule 6

Publishing or causing to be published an advertisement for the provision for reward of security services by a person who does not hold a licence.

Paragraph 6 of Schedule 6

Paying money in respect of the provision of security services to a person who does not hold a licence.

Paragraph 8 of Schedule 6

In connection with an application for a security licence: making a statement which he knows to be false or misleading in a material particular; or recklessly making a statement which is false or misleading in a material particular.

Paragraph 19 of Schedule 6

Failing to comply with paragraph 17(provision of information about new employees) or paragraph 18 (provision of information about a change of personnel).

Paragraph 20 of Schedule 6

Failing to comply with a requirement to produce records of an employee for inspection.

Paragraph 21 of Schedule 6

Making or keeping a record of a person employed as a security guard which he knows to be false or misleading in a material particular.

Policing (Miscellaneous Provisions) (NI) Order 2007

Policing (Miscellaneous Provisions) NI) Order 2007

Offence

Article 12(2)

Interfering with works executed or interfering with any apparatus, equipment or other thing used in connection with the exercise of the road closure power provided by Article 12(1).

Schedule 5, Paragraph 2(3)

Failure to give a (community support officer) CSO name and address where the CSO has reason to believe a person has committed a relevant offence

Schedule 5, Paragraph 4(6)

Making off while subject to a requirement to wait with a CSO for a period not exceeding 30 minutes for the arrival of a constable or making off while accompanying a CSO to a police station.

Schedule 5, Paragraph 8(4)

Failure to consent to being searched after refusal to surrender alcohol or tobacco.

Schedule 5, Paragraph 9(4)

Failure to give a CSO his name and address after a CSO finds, or reasonably believes a person to be in possession of a controlled drug

Departments: Official Visits

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much was spent on overnight accommodation by civil servants within his Department’s areas of responsibilities in the last 12 months. (149052)

The cost of overnight accommodation and subsistence for civil servants within the Northern Ireland Office’s areas of responsibilities for the financial year 2006-07 was £512,000.

The cost of overnight accommodation could be separated from this figure only at disproportionate cost.

Police Service of Northern Ireland

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many temporary advances issued to police officers in Northern Ireland (a) attending courses outside Northern Ireland and (b) performing operational duty outside Northern Ireland are outstanding; and what the total value is of those advances. (148437)

The total amount of outstanding advances to police officers at 30 June 2007 was £39,333.93.

The information needed to provide a breakdown by activity is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) full-time, (b) part-time reservist and (c) full-time reservist police officers are employed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland; and what the comparable figures have been for the last 10 years for which figures are available. (150986)

The police strength figures for the last 10 years are shown in the following table:

As at 31 December each year

Regular

Full-time reserve

Part-time reserve

1997

8,485

2,982

1,324

1998

8,456

2,936

1,238

1999

8,445

2,719

1,174

2000

8,268

2,555

1,097

2001

7,149

2,256

1,032

2002

7,129

1,862

952

2003

7,323

1,645

868

2004

7,484

1,419

909

2005

7,490

1,060

844

2006

7,534

793

781

July 2007

7,413

675

863

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of (a) full-time, (b) part-time reservist and (c) full-time reservist Police Service of Northern Ireland officers are (i) Catholic and (ii) Protestant; what the comparable figures were in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. (150987)

In 1998 when Patten conducted his investigation, only 8.3 per cent. of regular officers were from the Catholic community. Under the temporary 50:50 provisions Catholic composition among regular officers has risen to 22.45 per cent. (as of 11 June 2007) with 2,699 recruits having been selected for appointment on a 50:50 basis.

I am advised by PSNI that the percentage figures for community background of regular officers, part-time reserve and full-time reserve for the last 10 years is as set out in the following table. The figures have been compiled from the Annual Monitoring Returns to the Equality Commission and relate to 1 January of each year.

Percentage non-Catholic

Percentage Catholic

Percentage not determined

Total number

(a) Full-time

1998

88.56

8.23

3.20

8,491

1999

88.32

8.33

3.34

8,462

2000

88.27

8.37

3.36

8,516

2001

88.18

8.45

3.36

8,352

2002

87.64

8.88

3.47

7,227

2003

85.04

11.68

3.28

7,193

2004

83.03

13.88

3.08

7,332

2005

80.38

16.88

2.75

7,496

2006

78.32

19.05

2.63

7,492

2007

76.36

21.06

2.59

7,542

(b) Part-time reservist

1998

93.88

4.83

1.28

1,324

1999

93.78

4.93

1.29

1,238

2000

93.84

4.88

1.28

1,168

2001

93.80

4.83

1.37

1,097

2002

93.56

5.15

1.29

1,010

2003

93.42

5.20

1.38

942

2004

93.50

5.11

1.39

861

2005

93.21

5.57

1.22

898

2006

92.62

6.05

1.33

826

2007

92.49

6.35

1.17

772

(c) Full-time reservist

1998

87.72

6.91

5.37

2,981

1999

87.47

6.91

5.62

2,936

2000

87.38

6.95

5.67

2,718

2001

87.24

7.05

5.71

2,555

2002

86.93

6.94

6.13

2,234

2003

86.96

6.63

6.41

1,856

2004

86.90

6.46

6.64

1,641

2005

86.95

6.21

6.84

1,418

2006

88.60

5.65

5.75

1,044

2007

89.96

5.08

4.95

767

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many civilian staff were employed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the RUC in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available. (150989)

The police civilian strength figures for the last 10 years are shown in the following table:

As at 31 December each year

Civilian

1997

2,930

1998

3,035

1999

2,916

2000

3,125

2001

3,293

2002

3,322

2003

3,192

2004

3,104

2005

3,001

2006

2,732

July 2007

2,676

Police Service of Northern Ireland: Injuries

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many Police Service of Northern Ireland officers were injured while on duty in Northern Ireland in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. (150988)

The following information refers to the numbers of incidents of injury on duty (IOD) reported by police officers in the specified periods. As the table shows, these are split by the organisation between those that resulted in a period of sickness absence and those that did not.

Number of reported injuries on duty resulting in sickness absence

Number of reported injuries on duty not resulting in sickness absence

Total injuries on duty

1997-98

1,197

1,012

2,209

1998-99

1,354

1,050

2,404

1999-2000

1,625

1,175

2,800

2000-01

1,690

1,108

2,798

2001-02

1,719

1,574

3,293

2002-03

1,395

1,218

2,613

2003-04

1,082

855

1,937

2004-05

805

725

1,530

2005-06

798

1,073

1,871

2006-07

535

872

1,407

Prisons: Standards

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps will be taken to improve prison accommodation in Northern Ireland following the recent report from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. (149417)

The recent Human Rights Commission report “The Prison Within—The imprisonment of women at Hydebank Wood 2004-06” was released on 5 July 2007. The research for this report was carried out some eighteen months ago since which time there has been significant progress in taking forward facilities and services for female prisoners.

Female prisoners were relocated during 2006 while their original accommodation was refurbished and in-cell sanitation provided. They have since re-occupied the fully refurbished modern accommodation in Ash House which is now among the best in the prison estate. This unit includes a wing for long-term and enhanced prisoners and a dedicated exercise yard. Plans are underway to extend the health care centre to provide a dedicated facility for females and to build a new female reception area including a dedicated video link and drug testing unit which should be available by the end of this year.

The current facility has an increased capacity of 69 cells complete with in-cell sanitation and includes specialist safer cells, listener cells, mother and baby units and an enhanced regime unit. There are no immediate plans to provide additional capacity within the current unit as this meets the Service's on-going needs, with 48 cells occupied as of 16 July 2007. In the longer term, NIPS is working towards the provision of more appropriate accommodation for female prisoners including a more discrete, self contained women's facility on the Hydebank Wood site, as recommended within the Human Rights Commission report. This provision, of course, is subject to the availability of funding.

Rape: Sentencing

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 26 June 2007, Official Report, column 662W, on rape: sentencing, what his assessment is of the level of sentences handed down by courts in Northern Ireland; and if he will take steps to ensure longer sentences are handed down. (148489)

Sentencing in individual cases is entirely a matter for the independent judiciary. We have however announced plans for changes to the statutory sentencing framework to introduce new public protection sentences for dangerous sexual and violent offenders. Under the proposals, dangerous sexual and violent offenders could receive extended public protection sentences whereby they could be detained in custody for the full term of their prison sentence. Those committing the most serious sexual and violent offences could receive indeterminate public protection sentences and could remain in prison for an indefinite period. I will be publishing draft legislative proposals shortly.

Young Offenders: Reoffenders

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the rate of re-offending is of people who have been held in young offender institutions in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. (149415)

Information on rates of re-offending is not currently available. However, the latest published reconviction figures for those discharged from the Juvenile Justice Centre into the community show that of those discharged in 20011, 36 per cent. were reconvicted within one year and of those discharged in 20021, 42 per cent. were reconvicted within one year.

1 While juvenile reconviction rates are based on reconviction within one year, the datasets on which reconviction are calculated cover a two-year period after the end of the relevant year (e.g. for those discharged in 2002 the dataset covers the period up to the end of 2004). This is necessary to include those who are juveniles at time of discharge but who are subsequently covered by the post-juvenile dataset. Results for juvenile reconviction from the 2003 dataset will be available shortly.

Work and Pensions

Attendance Allowance: Scotland

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he has received recent representations from the Scottish Executive on the withdrawal of funding for the attendance allowance following the introduction of free personal care for the elderly. (150493)

A meeting between senior officials from this Department and the Scottish Executive was held on 22 June 2007 to discuss this issue at the Executive’s request. There will be further contact over the summer.

Child Support Agency: Telephone Services

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will undertake an assessment of the recent effectiveness of the Child Support Agency’s MPs’ Hotline; and if he will make a statement. (149339)

The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 19 July 2007:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions about the Child Support Agency the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will undertake an assessment of the recent effectiveness of the Child Support Agency’s MPS’ Hotline; and if he will make a statement. [149339]

The MP Hotline was developed in response to requests from MP’s who required faster responses on certain issues where a formal letter was not required. The system works well and feedback from MPs has been generally positive. However some issues have recently come to light as the Agency has rolled out its new complaints resolution process. Specifically, some MP Hotline telephone numbers have changed without the Agency alerting either MPs or its people to the new numbers. Also as the Agency has changed the complaints resolution process, in some cases those teams newly responsible for dealing with MP queries, have been unaware of the shorter timescales covering queries to the Hotline.

The Agency has now issued reminders to all involved on how queries to the Hotline should be dealt with and we have amended our internal directories to reflect the new numbers. In addition Lord McKenzie has recently written to all MP’s informing them of the changes to the complaints resolution process, as well as the new MP Hotline numbers.

The Agency remains committed to providing a local and high quality service to all MP’s as you work on your constituents’ behalf to resolve issues that unfortunately arise on child support cases.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

Departments: Legislation

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what legislative provisions introduced by his Department since 1997 have been repealed. (149707)

The information is as follows.

Acts introduced by DWP since 1997

Repealed

Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act 1997

Section 6

Section 12

Section 14

Social Security Act 1998

Section 35

Sections 51 and 52

Section 58

Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999

Sections 4 and 5

Section 17

Social Security Contributions (Transfer of Functions, etc.) Act 1999

Section 7

Schedule 1 paras. 3, 4, 13, 19(2), 19(3), 19(4), 60, 66(3), 67 and 68

Disability Rights Commission Act 1999

Section 11

Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000

Sections 43, 44, 45 and 46

Section 54

Schedule 3 para. 8(2)

Social Security Contributions (Share Options) Act 2001

Section 4

Departments: Pay

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many bonuses were awarded to senior civil servants working at his Department and its agencies each year between 1997 and 2006; and what the total cost of those bonuses was. (146428)

The answer is in the following table.

The table contains the total cost and number of bonus payments awarded to senior civil servants since 2001-02. There is no statutory requirement to keep accounting records longer than six years. I am therefore unable to supply information prior to 2001-02 (financial year).

Bonuses are a key element in our reward strategy for driving up high performance and are used to reward the delivery of in-year agreed personal business objectives or targets in an individual's performance agreement. Bonuses are used to reward excellent performance and are based on a judgment of how well an individual has performed relative to their peers. In making this judgment managers take into account performance against agreed priority business objectives or targets; total delivery record over the year; relative stretch; and response to unforeseen events which may have affected the performance.

Amount paid in bonuses to SCS since 2001-02 and the numbers of SCS receiving bonuses

Total paid (£ million)

Total number of non consolidated bonuses

2001-02

0.27

81

2002-03

0.59

110

2003-04

0.71

126

2004-05

0.97

207

2005-06

1.39

205

Notes: 1. The amounts shown in col. two (total paid) are rounded to the nearest £10,000.

2. The total cost and number of bonuses for 2004-05 and 2005-06 include special non consolidated bonuses paid to SCS. Retrieval of information relating to awards paid in earlier years would be disproportionate.

Departments: Publicity

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the cost effectiveness of advertising commissioned by his Department in the last 12 months. (148501)

Government policies and programmes affect the lives of millions of people and in order for them to work they must be communicated effectively. The Department runs promotional campaigns aimed at increasing awareness of rights and responsibilities where necessary and advertising is used where appropriate.

Advertising is rigorously assessed according to the individual criteria and objectives set out for each initiative, and results are used to measure effectiveness and to inform future strategy. Methods include quantitative surveys carried out before, during and after advertising campaigns, qualitative assessment of creative work, and in-depth work with samples of those targeted by advertising.

Incapacity Benefit: Mentally Ill

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what research his Department has undertaken into the reasons for recent trends in the number of incapacity claimants claiming benefit due to mental and behavioural disorders. (150047)

‘Routes onto incapacity benefits’ study (DWP, Research Report 350 (Roy Sainsbury and Jacqueline Davidson) was published in 2006 and is available in the Library. A further quantitative survey is currently being finalised and will be published in the autumn.

A review of the policies needed to improve mental health and employment outcomes was also announced in Budget 2006. The Review will report as part of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.

Pensions: Warrington

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in Warrington received pension credit in the last year for which figures are available. (150984)

As at February 2007 there were 7,940 households receiving pension credit, comprising 9,700 individual beneficiaries, in Warrington.

Notes: 1.The figures provided are early estimates. The preferred data source for figures supplied by DWP is the Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study (WPLS). However, the figure provided is the latest available figure, which is taken from the GMS scan at 2 March 2007. These are adjusted using the historical relationship between WPLS and GMS data to give an estimate of the final WPLS figure.

2. Case loads are rounded to the nearest 10.

3. Figures provided are for Warrington local authority. Local authorities are assigned by matching postcodes against the relevant postcode directory.

4. Households are those people who claim pension credit either for themselves only or on behalf of a household.

5. The number of individual beneficiaries includes both claimants and their partners.

Source:

DWP 100 per cent. data from the Generalised Matching Service (GMS) pension credit scan taken as at 2 March 2007.

Poverty

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will introduce a measure of severe poverty; and if he will make a statement. (148734)

Poverty is a complex and multidimensional issue and there are many measures of poverty. Experts agree that it is very difficult to measure “severe” poverty. The measurement of low income we have adopted looks at a household living on less than 60 per cent. of median income, which is an internationally recognised method and the most commonly used globally. The Department also publishes the “Households Below Average Income” report, which presents information on potential living standards as determined by disposable income, measured at 50, 60 and 70 per cent. of median income.

However poverty is about more than just low income which is why we publish “Opportunity for All” which sets out a number of indicators to demonstrate our progress in tackling poverty and social exclusion.

Social Security Benefits: Repayments

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people aged 16 to 21 were asked to repay benefits paid while they were staying in hospital in each year since 1997. (150308)

[holding answer 17 July 2007]: The information in relation to how many people aged 16 to 21 were asked to repay benefits paid while in hospital is not available.

Winter Fuel Payments

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people received the winter fuel payment in each year since its introduction; and how much they received in each year. (150053)

Information on winter fuel payments for the winters of 1997-98 and 1998-99 is not available. The information from winter 1999-2000 is in the following table.

Payments made

1999-2000

10,084,130

2000-01

11,105,750

2001-02

11,201,900

2002-03

11,348,040

2003-04

11,468,240

2004-05

11,401,170

2005-06

11,514,760

2006-07

11,659,490

Notes:

1. Figures rounded to the nearest 10.

2. Figures for 2006-07 refer only to the main payment run so they do not include the late payment run figures. We estimate that there are approximately 100,000 people in Great Britain paid in late payment runs (0.8 per cent. of all payments). Since most of the payment runs are to people who are not receiving another benefit from DWP and whose claims had not been received by the qualifying week, most are men aged 60 to 64.

3. Where couples are in receipt of pension credit or income-based jobseeker’s allowance they receive one full rate winter fuel payment which is paid to the person claiming the benefit.

Source:

Information directorate 100 per cent. data.

The amount of winter fuel payment a person receives depends on their household circumstances. People who live with other eligible people receive a shared rate which is half of the full payment. People who live alone, live with someone who does not qualify for a payment or who receive pension credit or income-based jobseeker’s allowance receive the full rate.

The current rate of the winter fuel payment is £200 for people aged 60 to 79 and £300 for people aged 80 or over. When the winter fuel payment was introduced in the winter of 1997-98 it was paid at the rate of £20 or £50 for people receiving income support or income-based jobseeker’s allowance. The payment was increased in winter 1999-2000 to £100 and further increased in winter 2000-01 to £200. In winter 2003-04 the payment was increased to £300 for people aged 80 or over.

Communities and Local Government

Council Housing

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many local authorities have retained direct ownership and management responsibilities for their housing stock; and what proportion of the overall national stock of social housing their stock represents. (150271)

During the Stock Options Appraisal exercise conducted between 2003 and 2005, 103 local authorities in England chose retained ownership and direct management for their housing stock, a further five are retaining part ownership and direct management for part of their stock, and have used ALMO transfer or PFI for parts of their housing stock.

Between them these local authorities own and directly manage 891,000 units, which accounts for 22 per cent. of all social housing in England.

Floods: Compensation

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what measures she is proposing to help those whose flood damaged houses are uninsured. (150595)

The £14 million package of immediate support for flood hit areas announced by the Prime Minister on 7 July included a fund of £10 million to local authorities to support the work being done to help recovery. On 13 July I announced a series of initial Flood Recovery Grant payments totalling £8 million to support work in 34 flood-hit local authorities to help those in greatest and most immediate need get back on their feet. We have retained around £2 million for further distribution and we intend to make additional grants to local authorities based upon the best available data as soon as possible.

The Department for Work and Pensions is helping people on income related benefits or the lowest of incomes affected by the flooding with essential costs through Community Care Grants and repayable interest-free crisis loans, administered by Jobcentre Plus. A contingency reserve of £1 million can be drawn on by Jobcentre Plus as needed to meet the extra call on Community Care Grants.

Housing: Flood Control

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will make a statement on Government policy on the building of houses on flood plains. (150590)

In December 2006 we published Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 25 “Development and flood risk”, which aims to avoid inappropriate development in flood risk areas and direct development away from high risk areas by ensuring that sites at little or no risk of flooding are developed in preference to areas at higher risk. In the 10 per cent. of England at high risk of flooding, PPS25 ensures that essential homes and services can be provided where it can be demonstrated that the need for the development outweighs the flood risk and the development will be safe and not increase risk.

PPS25 strengthens and clarifies the policy established by Planning Policy Guidance Note (PPG) 25, which was published in 2001. PPS25 is available at:

http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=l504639

Local Government: Equal Pay

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much central funding has been given to local authorities in the last 10 years to assist them to meet the cost of equal pay. (150006)

Local authorities are responsible for decisions on local pay issues, including equal pay, and they are expected to manage them in an affordable manner. Most central funding is provided through general grant and there has been no specific grant earmarked for equal pay. Central Government funding for local government has increased by 39 per cent. in real terms since 1997.

Approvals for capitalisation directions for equal pay, which permit authorities to borrow or use capital receipts to fund back-pay, are set out as follows:

Funds (£)

2003-04

4,500,000

2004-05

41,048,635

2005-06

50,089,433

2006-07

160,501,817

Following representations made by the Local Government Association and others, we have introduced a quicker process for equal pay capitalisation this year, and are considering requests in the current financial year.

Regional Government: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much Government funding was allocated to each of the regional assemblies in each year since their creation. (149403)

Total Government grant to regional assemblies between 2001 and 2008 is tabled as follows. The figures for 2007-08 indicate the maximum grant available subject to satisfactory performance.

£

Regional assembly

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

North East

500,000

600,000

1,408,000

1,708,000

1,708,000

1,899,000

2,072,653

North West

500,000

600,000

1,837,000

2,536,000

2,536,000

2,637,000

3,045,456

Yorkshire and the Humber

500,000

600,000

1,655.000

1,923,000

1,923,000

2,064,000

2,338,968

West Midlands

500,000

600,000

1,671,000

2,071,000

2,071,000

2,218,210

2,517,502

East Midlands

500,000

600,000

1,631,000

2,056,000

2,056,000

2,197,000

2,506,998

East

500,000

600,000

1,874,000

2,112,000

2,112,000

2,353,000

2,469,407

South East

500,000

600,000

2,186.000

3,280,000

3,280,000

3,381,000

3,771,142

South West

500,000

600,000

1,613,000

2,101,000

2,101,000

2,289,500

2,470,164

English regions network

1,000,000

200,000

200,000

200,000

200,000

240,000

244,000

Total

5,000,000

5,000,000

14,075,000

17,987,000

17,987,000

19,278,710

21,436,290

Transport

Exhaust Emissions: EU Action

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she is taking to ensure that technologies aimed at enabling vehicles to meet European standards for nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions are installed and maintained in optimum ways, with particular reference to selective catalytic reduction. (151144)

As I mentioned in my answer of 9 July 2007, Official Report, columns 1193-94W, from November 2007 new HGV and bus engines will be required to monitor their emission control systems and to limit engine power in the event of those emission control systems failing to operate. These provisions are essential to encourage operators to keep the emission control systems properly maintained and working, and so ensure that the intended reductions in emissions of Oxides of Nitrogen (NOX) from current and future standards are actually delivered in operation.

The provisions apply equally to all HGV and bus engines, whether they are using exhaust gas recirculation or selective catalytic reduction, but may be of particular relevance where selective catalytic reduction is being used and the effectiveness of the system could be compromised by a simple omission, on the part of the vehicle operator or driver, to top up the AdBlue reagent.

In the case of engines using selective catalytic reduction (SCR), a level indicator for the AdBlue reagent, incorporating a low level warning, will be required to be displayed on the dashboard near the fuel gauge, and the On Board Diagnostic system will be required to monitor the quality, as well as the presence, of the reagent. On Board Diagnostic systems are also required to monitor for failures which could lead to increased particulate emissions.

Using an SCR equipped vehicle with an empty AdBlue tank would be an offence under regulation 61 a of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, as amended, in that it will lead to excess emissions which could have been avoided by routine maintenance.

Public Transport: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what estimate she has made of the abstraction of rail revenue to the intercity coach network when the National Concessionary Fare Scheme is implemented in April 2008; (149651)

(2) whether free concessionary travel will be available to older and disabled passengers on intercity express coach services registered as local bus services under the proposed national scheme due to come into force in April 2008.

[holding answer 16 July 2007]: An eligible pass holder will be able to travel for free at off-peak times on any registered local bus service anywhere in England from April next year. Eligible services are defined in the Travel Concessions (Eligible Services) Order 2002—a number of criteria have to be met in order for a service to be obliged to offer the statutory concession. An intercity coach service will be obliged to provide the national bus concession on any parts of their route that provides a local service and fulfils the criteria set out in the legislation.

It is likely that many long intercity coach services will not be covered by the national bus concession in their entirety as they will not be eligible services under the 2002 Order.

No assessment has been made of the abstraction of rail revenue to the intercity coach network following the introduction of national bus concession.

It will be for operators and local authorities to assess which services are covered in accordance with the criteria set out.

The Department is keeping the issue of eligible services under review. The definition can be changed by secondary legislation.

Railways

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) Voyager, (b) Super Voyager and (c) InterCity 125 high speed trains are in use on the national rail network; and if she will make a statement on the fuel efficiency of each of these models. (150708)

Railways: EU Action

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment she has made of the financial implications for the UK rail industry of the implementation of the EU proposal 2004/0048 (COD) for a European Parliament and Council directive on the certification of train drivers operating locomotives and trains on the Community’s rail network. (151033)

Following publication of the proposals for the Third Rail Package, the Government undertook a statutory public consultation to take into account the views of stakeholders which were integral to formulating the UK negotiating line. In accordance with Cabinet Office guidelines the Government produced an initial Regulatory Impact Assessment at the time of consultation in 2004 to assess the likely effects of the directive on the UK industry and users. This was continually updated to account for changes made to the proposal by the Council and European Parliament. A partial Regulatory Impact Assessment was submitted to the Scrutiny Committee of both Houses on 14 January 2005.

The Regulatory Impact Assessment identified considerable cost to the UK industry of implementation of the licensing requirements to domestic train drivers in the UK. Negotiation of a derogation into the final text of the directive for domestic drivers means that those costs originally identified are now likely to be substantially reduced.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment her Department has made of the likelihood of the EU proposal 2004/0048 (COD) for a European Parliament and Council directive on the certification of train drivers operating locomotives and trains on the Community’s rail network being extended to include all train crews. (151034)

The final text of the proposed directive on the certification of train drivers operating locomotives and trains on the railway system in the Community, agreed during the conciliation process, contains provisions to limit application to a limited number of non-driving staff, which member states will be able to define. Although this has to be formally adopted by both the European Parliament and the Council, there is a strong expectation both will vote to accept. During negotiations between the Parliament and Council, the UK along with the majority of other member states was not in favour of the directive being extended to encompass all on-board safety related crew.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will publish the UK’s proposed derogation from the EU proposal 2004/0048 (COD) for a European Parliament and Council directive on the certification of train drivers operating locomotives and trains on the Community’s rail network. (151080)

The final text of the proposed directive on the certification of train drivers operating locomotives and trains on the railway system in the Community, agreed during the conciliation process, has not yet been formally adopted by either the European Parliament or the Council. The derogation will require member states wishing to use it to provide the Commission with a cost/benefit analysis to show why the costs of application to domestic drivers is disproportionate.

Once the final text of the directive has been adopted by the Parliament and Council, the Government in transposing the directive for the UK, will consult stakeholders, and produce and publish guidance, which will include details on how the UK intends to apply and use the derogation for domestic drivers.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions she has had in the Council of Ministers about the UK’s proposed derogation from the EU proposal 2004/0048 (COD) for a European Parliament and Council directive on the certification of train drivers operating locomotives and trains on the Community’s rail network. (151081)

The derogation allowing member states to disapply on a time-limited basis provisions in the proposed Directive on the certification of train drivers operating locomotives and trains on the railway system in the Community was discussed and agreed by the Council and by the European Parliament during negotiations that began in 2005 and are now almost complete following the successful outcome of the conciliation process. UK Ministers and officials were among a majority of member states supporting this proposed derogation, which gives greater flexibility to member states in implementing the directive and ensures that the full costs and benefits can be taken into account.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions her officials have had with the UK Permanent Representation to the EU on the UK’s proposed derogation from EU proposal 2004/0048 (COD) for a European Parliament and Council directive on the certification of train drivers operating locomotives and trains on the Community’s rail network. [R] (151082)

Throughout negotiations of the proposed directive on the certification of train drivers operating locomotives and trains on the railway system in the Community officials from the Department of Transport have had and continue to have regular discussions and meetings with members of the UK Permanent Representation primarily to agree negotiating lines and the strategic handling of negotiations.

Railways: Offensive Weapons

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many passengers were found carrying offensive weapons on trains between Poole and London in each of the last five years. (151574)

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.

Rapid Transit Systems: Hampshire

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans she has to review the proposals for the South Hampshire Rapid Transit System; and if she will make a statement. (150534)

The South Hampshire Rapid Transit scheme (SHRT) had its funding approval revoked in July 2004 due to excessive cost increases. In November 2005, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, announced that he could not support revised proposals to reinstate the scheme as the costs were still substantially higher than originally approved. Hampshire county council subsequently took the decision formally to abandon the project and the statutory powers needed to construct the scheme expired in July 2006.

Therefore the SHRT scheme does not exist in the form last submitted to the Department. It is for Hampshire county council to consider how best to meet the future transport needs for their area and bring forward proposals accordingly.

Rolling Stock

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 28 November 2006, Official Report, column 522W, to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) on rolling stock, what the age range is of the rolling stock of the franchises run by (a) Arriva Trains (Wales), (b) Virgin Cross Country, (c) First Great Western and (d) GNER; and how much of each company’s stock is (i) older than the average supplied and (ii) over 20 years old. (150622)

Transport: Air Pollution

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on measures to reduce the environmental impact of transport. (150815)

Department for Transport Ministers regularly meet with ministerial colleagues in the course of performing their ministerial duties. There is regular discussion at official level between this Department and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs regarding environment issues of mutual interest.

Transport: Tickets

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what assessment her Department has made of the likely effect of a multi-modal integrated ticketing system on demand management through differential pricing on congested parts of the transport infrastructure; (148995)

(2) what assessment her Department has made of the likely effect of a multi-modal integrated ticketing system on provision of information for transport operators on journeys and timings nationally;

(3) what steps the Government are taking to ensure that the national multi-modal integrated ticketing system operates consistently across different rail franchises.

We have not made a detailed assessment of the likely effect of a multi-modal integrated ticketing system on demand management or on the provision of information for transport operators.

However simple fares structures and easy access to tickets help to attract passengers to the public transport network. The Government believe that the introduction of ITSO smartcards on the railway will make it easier for passengers to buy their tickets at a time and place to suit them. It also opens up the opportunities to better integrate ticketing between transport modes.

Data from an ITSO ticketing system are expected to provide additional information on the number of passenger journeys and time of travel. This will enable operators to plan services better and allow them to introduce new deals that are better tailored to passengers' needs.

Train operators are required to comply with their passenger licences and franchise agreements which ensure that the railway set, retails and distributes fares as a single national network. These requirements are consistent across train operators.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reasons the Government only mandate smartcards at franchise renewal with the Integrated Transport Smartcard Organisation specification. (149001)

The introduction of ITSO smart media has been made compulsory by Government at rail franchise renewal as a first step in achieving a network wide application. This will encourage other operators to introduce ITSO.

The Government specify ITSO as it has been specifically designed to cope with complex ticketing structures, beyond those suitable for metropolitan areas. Secondly it is an open specification and will prevent the monopoly supply of proprietary systems. The Government believe that this will deliver the best value and service for passengers and tax payers alike.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when she expects smartcard ticketing to be available throughout the transport network. (149002)

In developing the ITSO specification, the Department has sought to introduce a framework that will enable interoperability between schemes. The technology is now being implemented but there are currently no plans for metering throughout the transport network.

Treasury

Average Earnings

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the answer of 10 July 2007, Official Report, column 1413W, on average earnings, whether the data refer to gross hourly earnings of full-time employees. (150762)

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated 19 July 2007:

As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question, pursuant to the answer of 10 July 2007, Official Report, column 1413W, on average earnings, whether the data refer to gross hourly earnings of full-time employees. (150762)

I confirm that the figures provided in the answer relate to full-time employees.

Bingo

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what (a) consultations he has undertaken and (b) (i) financial reports and (ii) economic forecasts he has commissioned on the state of the bingo industry. (149994)

The state of the bingo industry was incorporated into the forecast of total gambling receipts, which includes bingo duty receipts, and was published in the “Financial Statement and Budget Report”.

Casinos

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many visits by (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department have been made to casinos in (i) the UK and (ii) the rest of the world since 1997; (149990)

(2) what recent discussions he has had with representatives from the casino industry; and what plans he has for further such discussions.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not had any recent discussions with the casino industry. However, as part of the normal Budget process Ministers and officials have been in periodic contact with representatives of the casino industry since 1997.

Debts: Developing Countries

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what processes and consultations his Department (a) has undertaken and (b) plans to undertake to promote the proposed G8 Charter on Responsible Lending; and what timetable is planned. (149857)

The UK has been a leading actor in the substantial progress made by the international community to deliver debt relief. The multilateral debt relief initiative (MDRI) and the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative have already delivered irrevocable debt relief to 22 countries, releasing resources to fund country-owned strategies for poverty reduction. Key to sustaining these benefits is to ensure that developing countries' debt management is strengthened and that all creditors' lending is responsible.

This is why the UK has been leading efforts with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to get export credit agencies (ECAs) to agree firm guidelines on responsible lending to poor countries. In April this year we were successful in persuading OECD countries to extend the scope of the OECD statement of principles on unproductive expenditure beyond just heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) to also cover all IDA-only countries. As a result, at least 26 extra developing countries will now be covered by this agreement on responsible lending.

We are now taking this work forward with G8 partners, who share our commitment to ensuring responsible lending and borrowing. It is of course critical that all large official creditors, including those outside the G8, engage in this process. We will continue dialogue on this issue in the international fora in which we participate, including the OECD, the Paris Club and the G20.

Departments: Standards

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff in his Department were formally reprimanded for failing to follow departmental procedures in relation to calculating the (a) income tax and (b) national insurance liabilities of individuals in each of the last five years for which data are available; and if he will make a statement. (150890)

HM Revenue and Customs has procedures in place for tackling poor performance wherever it occurs. Information on disciplinary proceedings related to tax and national insurance calculations is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Financial Services: Disadvantaged

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the membership is of the ministerial working group to determine detailed priorities for financial inclusion policy, announced on page 10 of the Financial inclusion: the way forward; and if he will place in the Library copies of the agendas of the group’s meetings; (150168)

(2) what the membership is of the Financial Inclusion Taskforce.

[holding answer 17 July 2007]: The ministerial working group for financial inclusion is chaired by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and includes ministers from the following Departments:

Department for Work and Pensions;

Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform;

Ministry of Justice;

Cabinet Office; and

Department for Communities and Local Government.

The first meeting of the group took place on 12 June 2007. The agenda for the meeting focused on building the evidence base for policy options to achieve the Government’s objectives for financial inclusion—to ensure that everyone has access to appropriate financial services, enabling them to:

manage their money on a day-to-day basis, effectively,

securely and confidently;

plan for the future and cope with financial pressure; and

deal effectively with financial distress.

The membership of the Financial Inclusion Taskforce is as follows:

Benny Higgins, Chief Executive Officer, Retail, HBOS Group plc;

Elaine Kempson, Professor of Personal Finance and Social Policy Research and Director of the Personal Finance Research Centre at Bristol University;

Chris Lendrum, former Vice Chairman of Barclays plc;

Mark Lyonette, Chief Executive of the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd.;

Bridget McIntyre, UK Chief Executive Officer of Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Group plc;

Bernie Morgan, Chief Executive of the Community Development Finance Association;

Nick Pearson, National Debt Advice Coordinator, Advice UK;

Teresa Perchard, Director of Policy, Citizens Advice;

Brian Pomeroy (chair), former Senior Partner of Deloitte Consulting;

Faith Reynolds, Co-ordinator, Transact, the national forum for financial inclusion;

Susan Rice, Chief Executive Officer, Lloyds TSB Scotland plc;

Danielle Walker Palmour, Director, Friends Provident Foundation;

Claire Whyley; Deputy Director of Policy, National Consumer Council.

Further information on the Financial Inclusion Taskforce can be found at:

http://www.financialinclusion-taskforce.org.uk/

Insurance: Freight

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer further to the publication of ‘Deregulating freight forwarding resource: Summary of responses, June 2007’, when he plans to bring forward the final text of the statutory instrument; and when he expects its provisions to come into force. (149557)

This measure will remove the insurance activities of freight forwarders and storage firms from the scope of Financial Services Authority regulation. The measure will be implemented by Statutory Instrument (SI) 2007/1821, which will come into force on 20 July 2007, subject to parliamentary approval. The SI is available from the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) website.

Members: Correspondence

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will reply to the letter of 6 June 2007 (PO Reference: 5/02209/2007) from the hon. Member for West Worcestershire. (150765)

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will reply to the letter of 5 June 2007 (PO Reference: 5/02199/2007) from the hon. Member for West Worcestershire. (150766)

Tax Allowances: Married People

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of whether a transferable tax allowance for married people would be compliant with the gender equality duty for public bodies. (150151)

The gender equality duty is a legal obligation on public authorities which came into force in April 2007. It is not applicable to tax policy.

Taxation: Care Homes

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take steps to enable the cost of residency in a care home to be set against the tax liability of the payer; and if he will make a statement. (149847)

Since the introduction of the National Assistance Act 1948 people have had to contribute towards the cost of their residential care. The Department of Health is committed to providing affordable care for all who need it, but those who can afford to are asked to pay.

Taxation: Invalid Vehicles

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether mobility scooters are to be classified as leisure vehicles and will be liable to extra import duty and VAT if manufactured outside the EU; and if he will make a statement. (149877)

Electric mobility scooters have been classified in the same tariff heading for customs purposes as some leisure vehicles, since at least 2002 when the World Customs Organisation published its ‘Classification Opinion’ on the subject. The World Customs Organisation is the international authority responsible for tariff classification. The European Union has set an import duty of 10 per cent. for these vehicles.

VAT and Customs are separate regimes. Classification for import duty purposes under the Customs regime has no direct bearing on VAT liability, which is determined by VAT law.

For VAT purposes, mobility scooters for disabled people may qualify for the zero-rating that can apply to equipment specifically designed to meet their needs. The Government have no plans to change the scope of this VAT relief.

Following industry representations officials from HM Revenue and Customs are advising the industry on the options available to pursue a change to this classification.

Departments: Taxation

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what his policy is on treating employee assistance programmes as taxable benefits; (151073)

(2) what discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues in the Department of Work and Pensions on taxation of employee assistance programmes operated for that Department’s staff.

All benefits in kind provided by employers to their employees are chargeable to tax unless covered by a specific exemption. Employee assistance programmes are not normally tax exempt as they often include taxable benefits in kind.

Treasury Ministers and officials have discussions with a wide range of organisations and individuals in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government's practice to provide details of all such discussions.

VAT

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects the extended verification by HM Revenue and Customs on Pars Technology Ltd, Unit 4, Newmarket Court, Chippenham Drive, Kingston, Milton Keynes, Bucks MK10 0AQ (vat number 608 7403 41) to be completed; what assessment he has made of the financial impact on the company of the time taken to complete this verification; and if he will make arrangements for interest to be paid on the amount owed to the company. (150775)

HMRC has a statutory duty of confidentiality which restricts the use and disclosure of the information it holds relating to the tax affairs of individuals, companies and other bodies.

Solicitor-General

Human Trafficking

15. To ask the Solicitor-General what progress has been made by the Crown Prosecution Service on improving prosecution rates in cases of alleged human trafficking. (150579)

The CPS is working to improve the number of prosecutions, and the number of offences prosecuted under human trafficking legislation is increasing year-on-year. Together with other Departments, the CPS is implementing the UK Action Plan on trafficking which should improve prevention, investigation, enforcement and prosecution.

BAE Systems Inquiry

18. To ask the Solicitor-General what discussions she has had with the Attorney-General, the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on the request for co-operation with the US Department of Justice’s BAE Systems corruption inquiry; and if she will make a statement. (150582)

The Home Office, which has central authority for these purposes, has received a request for mutual legal assistance from the United States in connection with its investigation. That request will be considered in the usual way.

Transnational Bribery

19. To ask the Solicitor-General how many cases of alleged transnational bribery are being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office. (150583)

The Serious Fraud Office is currently investigating 11 cases where there are allegations of transnational bribery, as well as fraud. It is not possible for operational reasons to give details of all these cases, but they include an investigation into Energy Financing Team Ltd. in Bosnia, an investigation into Kellogg Brown and Root in connection with Nigeria and a number of other countries, an investigation into the construction of the Unesco-financed Bibliotecha Alexandria in Egypt and an investigation into reinsurance involving the National Insurance Institute in Costa Rica. A number of other cases are currently being considered for investigation in the vetting process.

Prosecutions

To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on the role of the Law Officers in relation to the conduct of prosecutions. (150578)

The Law Officers have a statutory duty to superintend the main prosecution authorities. That duty incorporates the expectation that we will be briefed on all serious or sensitive cases. During the period of consultation on the role of the Attorney-General we will not make any key decisions in individual criminal cases unless national security or the law requires it.

Prosecutions: Smoking

To ask the Solicitor-General how many prosecutions have been brought for breach of the smoking ban; and if she will make a statement. (150814)

I have been asked to reply.

Although data are not yet available from enforcement authorities, the Department understands that due to high compliance there have not been any prosecutions brought in England for any of the offences set out in Part 1, Chapter 1 of the Health Act 2006.

The Department will routinely publish data on levels of compliance with smokefree legislation. The first report will be published in August 2007 on the Smokefree England website at:

www.smokefreeengland.co.uk.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Packaging Waste

9. To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action the Government are taking to reduce packaging waste; and if he will make a statement. (150597)

Encouraged by this Government, all the major retailers have agreed to reduce the amount of packaging they use.

Marine Bill

10. To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he plans to publish a draft marine Bill. (150598)

It is the Government's intention to publish a draft marine Bill in the next parliamentary Session, probably in early 2008. The Government remain committed to meeting their manifesto commitment of delivering a marine Act in this Parliament.

Bovine Tuberculosis: Badgers

11. To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a statement on the Independent Scientific Group's report on badgers. (150600)

12. To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the final report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB and the efficacy of a badger cull in tackling this disease. (150601)

We have already made clear that we are grateful to the ISG for their work on the randomised badger culling trial. We welcome their final report which further improves the evidence base. We are carefully considering the issues that the report raises, and will continue to work with industry, Government advisers and scientific experts in reaching policy decisions on these issues.

Bovine Tuberculosis

13. To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans he has to reduce cattle-to-cattle transmission of bovine tuberculosis. (150602)

Reducing cattle to cattle transmission of bovine TB is crucial to achieving our aim of reducing TB in cattle overall and preventing its spread into new areas. We have introduced zero tolerance of overdue tests, pre-movement testing of cattle from high risk herds, extended the use of the gamma interferon test alongside the TB skin test and produced updated advice on husbandry best practice. We will continue to consider how these measures might be strengthened, taking account of the recommendations in the final report from the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB.

Agriculture: Education

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to assist the education of school children in the West Midlands in nature and farming. (150081)

[holding answer 18 July 2007]: My Department is committed to helping all school children in England learn more about food and farming in a sustainable countryside. DEFRA provides approximately £1 million a year in payments to farmers who provide schools with free educational visits to their farms as part of their agri-environment scheme agreements. In addition, in the current financial year, DEFRA will provide £146,000 to support the Countryside Educational Visits Accreditation Scheme (CEVAS), which provides training to farmers who provide educational access visits. This amounts to 50 per cent. of the scheme’s funding.

DEFRA has worked closely with the Department for Education and Skills (now the Department for Children, Schools, and Families), the Department of Health, and other stakeholders to support the Year of Food and Farming in education. This is a campaign to promote healthy living by giving children direct experience of food, farming and the countryside. It is an industry-led initiative, fully endorsed by Government, which will run throughout the academic year, September 2007 to July 2008. DEFRA has contributed financial support amounting to £130,000 to develop the programme. In addition, DEFRA has lent a member of staff to the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) to work on the initiative.

Agriculture: Land Use

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research his Department has conducted into the relative efficiency, in terms of land use, of producing organic and non-organic crops. (150114)

[holding answer 18 July 2007]: DEFRA has not funded research specifically to look in overall terms at the relative efficiency, in terms of land use, of producing organic and non-organic crops. However, the following DEFRA-funded projects involve some element of comparison between organic and conventional farming:

OFO 145/301—Testing the sustainability of stockless arable organic farming on a fertile soil

OF0165—Factors influencing biodiversity within organic and conventional systems of arable farming

OFO 319/OFO 326—Sustainable organic hill and upland farming—A collaborative case study approach

OFO 370—Farm practice and soil health

OFO 189/OFO 190/OFO 373—Economics of organic farming

Further information on these projects can be found on the research pages of the DEFRA website.

Agriculture: Single Payment Scheme

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many claimants he estimates will receive interest on their 2006 Single Farm Payments for sums paid after 30 June 2007; what he estimates the total amount of interest paid will be; and if he will make a statement. (148725)

The Secretary of State reported to the House on 2 July that about 2,900 claimants under the 2006 Single Payment Scheme had received a partial payment and were due a payment of the outstanding balance. In addition, the RPA had yet to complete work on about 2,000 claims to determine whether a payment is due in each case and the amounts of such payments. As the Secretary of State announced, the RPA will pay interest on payments made after 30 June. However, the Agency is not able to provide a robust estimate of the amount of interest due until the work on the outstanding cases has progressed.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made by the Rural Payments Agency in the implementation of the Single Payment Scheme; and if he will make a statement. (150592)

I reported progress on the Single Payment Scheme to the House on 2 July. The Rural Payments Agency continues to work on the remaining SPS 2006 claims. However, most of the Agency’s resources have been switched to reviewing SPS cases where entitlements may need to be adjusted.

Animal Welfare

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he plans to take to tackle the silo mentality identified in the Eves Review on animal health and welfare within his Department. (149664)

In his review of the Animal Health and Welfare delivery landscape, David Eves made wide-ranging recommendations. The need for greater co-ordination is a significant issue, leading to the recommendation for a pivotal role for Animal Health (formerly the State Veterinary Service). DEFRA accepts his recommendations and has considered how to act on them with Animal Health and Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services in particular. Animal Health is developing a lead role in co-ordinating Animal Health and Welfare delivery. At the same time, Animal Health is conducting, with local authority representatives, a review of the efficacy of the current delivery arrangements.

We have now begun consultation on our proposed approach to take these issues forward. The consultation is available on the DEFRA website and will run until 14 September 2007.

Animals: Transport

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will take steps to establish a uniform checking procedure for animals entering the UK by air, sea and rail; and what the reason is for the different procedure for those arriving by air. (150171)

[holding answer 17 July 2007]: European legislation requires that commercially imported animals from third countries are checked at Border Inspection Posts. In the UK, all live animal Border Inspection Posts are at airports. Commercial imports from other EU member states may be checked at the point of destination but this is not required.

All non-commercial imports of pet dogs, cats and ferrets into the UK are subject to the same identity and paperwork checks required under pet travel rules. Pets arriving by sea and rail are usually checked at the point of embarkation. Pets entering by air are checked when they enter the country for logistical reasons.

Biofuels

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with local community councils and Action for Communities in Rural England on the potential impact of a substantial take-up by farmers of energy bio-crops on rural communities. (149414)

I have held no specific discussions with Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) on this subject.

Energy crops can make a valuable contribution to Government’s climate change and overall sustainability objectives, by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and stimulating economic activity in rural areas.

The recently published UK Biomass Strategy provides a framework for a major expansion in the sustainable use of biomass as a source of electricity, heat and power, and to make transport biofuels and renewable materials for industry. It estimates that there is potential to use up to 350,000 hectares of land across the UK by 2020 to grow perennial energy crops, without any detrimental effect on food supplies. This would provide important opportunities for agriculture and land based sectors and those involved throughout the bioenergy supply chains.

Government will establish appropriate environmental safeguards to deliver an expansion of biomass production in a sustainable way. Crops planted under DEFRA’s Energy Crops Scheme are already subject to an environmental assessment before planting to include landscape, archaeology and wildlife considerations.

We will continue to work with stakeholders, including farming, industry and environmental interests as well as regional bodies and local community groups to deliver the policies set out in the Biomass Strategy.

Biofuels: South West Region

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the changes to the use of land in South West England in the last five years; and what estimate he has made of the change in the amount of land used for energy bio-crops. (149663)

The following table shows agricultural land use in South West England in the last five years.

Arable

Other arable

Set aside

Grass

Woodland

Horticulture

Rough grazing

2006

29,3987

9,354

57,764

1,148,977

69,882

11,809

90,826

2005

29,7628

7,234

62,324

1,104,922

66,965

12,549

90,117

2004

32,0963

5,084

65,110

1,077,265

62,684

11,781

94,706

2003

31,2656

4,168

75,537

1,072,491

59,886

12,907

91,538

2002

33,6270

3,343

66,997

1,027,766

59,922

12,669

98,505

The next table shows the amount of land used to produce bio-energy crops in the South West of England in the last five years. The land represented in this table has been used to grow short rotation coppice and miscanthus under the energy crops scheme and oil seed rape under the EU energy aid payment scheme.

Land (hectares)

2006

2,396.82

2005

1,631.44

2004

84.41

2003

0

2002

0

In addition to these figures there has been 158 hectares of miscanthus planted in the region under the European Objective One programme which ran from 2000 to 2006. Unfortunately a yearly breakdown of this figure is not available.

Carbon Emissions: Publicity

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to increase awareness and understanding of the impact everyday actions have on carbon dioxide emissions and to help people to identify what they can do about it. (150589)

We support a considerable amount of work to help individuals think about the impacts of their behaviours. As part of our Act on CO2 campaign, we recently launched a web-based CO2 calculator which allows people and households to find out their CO2 footprint and receive a tailored action plan.

Coastal Areas: Access

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he plans to take to make access to coastal lands available to walkers. (150604)

On 19 June we issued ‘Consultation on proposals to improve access to the English coast’. It seeks views on a number of different options to improve access including the proposal to allow Natural England to designate a ‘coastal access corridor’ allowing people to enjoy unbroken access to the coast. A decision on which approach to take will be made following the consultation.

Departments: Disciplinary Proceedings

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many people in his Department have been (a) disciplined and (b) dismissed for (i) inappropriate use of the internet while at work and (ii) using work telephones to access premium rate telephone numbers in the last 12 months. (149193)

No officers have been disciplined or dismissed in the last 12 months for either inappropriate use of the internet while at work or for using work telephones to access premium rate telephone numbers.

The policy on IT misuse is included in the Department’s ‘Golden Rules of Office Working’ which are detailed on the staff intranet. The Department has blocks placed on the telecoms system preventing access to premium rate telephone numbers.

EAGA: Contracts

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will urgently investigate the reasons why Eaga have suspended their contract with J and L National Energy Saver Ltd. (149809)

My officials have commissioned White Young Green, the independent quality assessors for the Warm Front scheme, to undertake a review of the circumstances surrounding the suspension of work allocation to J and L National Energy Saver Ltd.

This will ensure that it has been carried out in accordance with Eaga’s contractual obligations. The review is due for completion in mid-August.

Environment Agency: Equal Opportunities

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many and what proportion of people with disabilities employed by the Southern Regional Office of the Environment Agency have left employment within one year of joining. (149544)

As required by the Disability Discrimination Acts 1995 and 2005, Environment Agency applicants are invited to declare if they have a disability, however this is entirely voluntary.

170 staff are employed by the Environment Agency in its Southern Regional Office. In the last 12 months 27 staff have left the Environment Agency. They did not declare themselves as being disabled.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what mechanisms are in place in the Southern Regional Office of the Environment Agency to recruit and retain (a) people with disabilities and (b) people from a black or minority ethnic background; and if he will make a statement. (149545)

The Environment Agency's Southern Regional Office complies with the national diversity policy and actively seeks to improve its recruitment and selection process to fully represent the population it serves.

Farms

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his Department's most recent estimate is of the number of farms in the UK, broken down by region. (150082)

[holding answer 18 July 2007]: Numbers of registered holdings by region in England at June 2006 are shown in the following table. Figures for the other UK countries fall under the jurisdiction of the devolved authorities.

Region

Number of holdings

North East

6,922

North West

23,437

Yorkshire and the Humber

21,599

East Midlands

21,573

West Midland

26,211

East of England

22,679

London

531

South East

26,335

South West

51,094

England

200,381

Source: June Agricultural Survey

Fisheries: EU Law

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the cost to the UK of implementing the European rules on the electronic recording and reporting of fishing activities; and if he will make a statement. (150460)

Fisheries Departments estimate that the capital costs to central Government will be approximately £90,000 for the purchase of equipment needed to receive the data messages sent by fishermen. In addition about £280,000 will be needed for the costs of developing the software needed to process the data.

Costs to industry cannot yet be quantified but are expected to be low. Discussions with information technology (IT) developers tell us that those with existing on-board systems should only need to make minor changes. For those without suitable equipment the estimated costs are in the region of £1,000-£1,500 per vessel to install the required equipment. Transmission costs are estimated at £0.60-£2.00 per message depending on the communication means used, with annual transmission costs per vessel estimated at around £147-£525.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects the European rules on the electronic recording and reporting of fishing activities to be fully implemented; and if he will make a statement. (150464)

We expect this to be 1 January 2009 for the submission of electronic sales notes by buyers and sellers and 1 July 2009 for the submission of electronic logbooks and landing declarations by vessels over 24 metres in overall length and 1 January 2011 for the submission of electronic logbooks and landing declarations by vessels over 15 metres in overall length. These dates are included in the current proposed Commission Regulation on the implementing rules for electronic recording and reporting of fishing activities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with (a) his European counterparts and (b) the fishing industry on the implementation of the European rules on electronic recording and reporting of fishing activities; and if he will make a statement. (150465)

Initial discussions were held at ministerial level during November council last year when the council regulation was agreed. Since then discussions on the detailed implementing rules have been held between member states.

My officials have circulated copies of the proposed implementing rules to licence holders of vessels over 10 metres in overall length and registered buyers and sellers of first sale fish. There have also been meetings held with individuals and companies responsible for auction sales in Plymouth and Newlyn and representatives of the NFFO to discuss the possible implications of the proposal. Further discussions will take place once the detailed rules have been agreed.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he has estimated the (a) cost and (b) benefits of introducing EU rules for the remote sensing of fishing vessels in UK fisheries. (150471)

There will be an initial cost to Government of about £40,000 to allow the integration of remote sensing images with other monitoring data. The cost for an individual Satellite Image Radar picture is between £450-£1,100.

Remote sensing of fishing vessels is not a stand alone enforcement tool and must be used along side other resources like satellite monitoring records, aerial and surface surveillance means. It can nevertheless lead to increased effectiveness in the deployment of those resources and could be particularly useful in monitoring remote closed areas. This will however need to be considered on a case-by-case basis and only used, as the Council Regulation states, where there is clear evidence of a cost benefit in relation to the traditional control means in the detection of fishing vessels operating illegally.

Fisheries: Subsidies

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps (a) have been taken and (b) are planned to ensure that fishing industry stakeholders are (i) informed about and (ii) included in the management of the European Fisheries Fund. (150090)

The four Fisheries Administrations in the UK have consulted with fishing industry stakeholders on the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) National Strategic Plan, and have also held a number of coastal meetings to inform them of proposals. Fisheries Administrations aim to consult on the EFF Operational Programme later this year. The extent to which industry and other stakeholders are involved in the management of the fund will be decided following that consultation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what timetable has been set for the (a) programming and (b) commencement of the European Fisheries Fund in the UK. (150091)

We aim to consult on the European Fisheries Fund Operational programme later this year. The date that the first applications for grant will be accepted will be announced following the consultation.

Floods

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will assess the effectiveness of pumps in pumping stations during the recent flooding of Hull, Doncaster, Sheffield and other areas. (148952)

I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by the Secretary of State to the House on 2 July 2007, Official Report, column 689, when he said that if there are lessons to be learnt, we will need to learn and apply them. We are finalising the terms of a full lessons learned exercise across all those with responsibility for managing and responding to flooding. This will consider all the relevant issues raised in the course of recent events.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations he has received on measures to assist those affected by recent flooding. (150603)

I have received many representations from individuals and organisations on this important issue. My hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government is leading Government efforts to assist those in the flooded areas in their efforts to return to normality as soon as possible.

Oil: Storage

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he intends to review the effectiveness of the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001. (150401)

The Environment Agency is currently reviewing the number of reported oil pollution incidents since the regulations were introduced across England, looking at the incidents from exempt and non-exempt oil stores.

Their analysis will inform consideration of whether the regulations need to be strengthened to further reduce the numbers of oil pollution incidents where no downward trend is in evidence. The Agency intends to publish its findings in the autumn.

The Environment Agency is also working with industry and trade associations to address the most common causes of oil pollution highlighted by the 2005 Oil Care Campaign report on Analysis of Inland Oil and Fuel Incidents in England and Wales.

Poultry: Animal Welfare

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to ensure egg production complies with animal welfare requirements. (150072)

[holding answer 17 July 2007]: There is specific legislation in place to fulfil EU obligations to ensure the welfare of laying hens kept for egg production. In addition there is a DEFRA welfare code providing detailed guidance specifically on laying hens.

Animal Health (formerly the State Veterinary Service), enforces this animal welfare legislation and conducts a regular programme of inspections on farms to check the welfare of poultry. The Egg Marketing Inspectorate (now part of Animal Health) also takes note of any welfare concerns during its inspection of premises in respect of Egg Marketing Regulations.

Animal Health investigates all complaints and allegations about poor welfare on-farm and takes appropriate action, which may include a recommendation to prosecute. The Government give priority to such complaints and allegations from, for example, private veterinary surgeons, welfare organisations and members of the public. We do not hesitate to take action against anyone failing to comply with the law.