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Written Answers

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 17 October 2007

Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Aggregates Levy: Stroud

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which beneficiaries of the Aggregates Levy Sustainable Fund were based in Stroud constituency in each year since the inception of the levy. (158549)

DEFRA’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund database captures information at county-level and has details of beneficiaries from April 2004 onwards. Beneficiaries that have run projects in Gloucestershire, since April 2004, are shown in the following list.

Gloucestershire—April 2004 onwards

Bowmoor Sailing Club

British Waterways

Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre

Cotswold Canal Trust

Cotswold Water Park Society

Cotswold AONB Partnership

Drybrook Parish council

Fairford Playing Field Ltd

Fairford Town council

Gloucester city council

Gloucestershire county council

Gloucestershire Geoconservation Trust

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

Huntsmans Quarries Ltd

Kemerton Conservation Trust

MCTI Partnership

Oxford Archaeology

Pool Keynes Village Hall Committee

RSPB

Staunton Parish council

Staunton Meend Common

Stroud Valleys Project

South Gloucestershire council

Somerford Keynes Parish council

South Cerney Playgroup

The National Trust

The Jurassic Hill Geopark

University of Gloucester

Alcoholic Drinks: EU Action

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action he is taking to ensure the term cider brandy is retained and not renamed cider spirit in the draft EU regulations to replace the present EU Regulation 1576/89; and if he will make a statement. (158721)

[holding answer 16 October 2007]: DEFRA is aware that the term “cider brandy” is absent from the draft of the European Union regulation on spirit drinks. We are pressing the European Commission to find a pragmatic solution to this issue.

Animal Welfare: Shipping

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many ships departing from UK ports since 1 January 2007 carrying live animals have been subject to inspection for animal welfare purposes; and what percentage of sailings this constitutes. (157789)

Since January 2007, two specialist livestock vessels have operated out of Dover. These vessels have also had a limited number of sailings from Sheerness and Ipswich port. Animal Health carry out welfare inspections on a percentage of all the animal transport vehicles travelling on these vessels.

Combined figures for the vessels show that, of 104 sailings, 97 included physical and documentary checks on a number of the vehicles onboard. This means that over 93 per cent. of the sailings had welfare checks carried out on their vehicles.

Cattle: Transport

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cattle passport applications he expects to be received late due to the postal strike; and how many cattle he estimates this will render valueless. (157275)

BCMS receives around 49,000 applications each week for cattle passports. Passports are produced provided there is reasonable evidence to show that farmers submitted applications in good time or were prevented from doing so by factors outside their control. These factors include known postal strikes.

If applications were not submitted in reasonable time then a passport would be refused and farmers would be unable to move the animal from their holding. 0.35 per cent. of all applications received are normally refused, subject to appeal because they are late. The figures from the last postal strike show that 0.45 per cent. of applications were initially refused. Three quarters of these appealed against the decision and were successful because of the postal strike delays. This compares with 55 per cent. of such appeals during a similar period the previous year.

Departments: Public Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what accounts directions were issued by his Department in financial years (a) 2005-06 and (b) 2006-07. (156622)

Under the Government Resource and Accounts Act 2000 HM Treasury issues accounts directions to Departments, pension schemes and agencies and under the Government Trading Fund Act 1973 to trading funds.

For the years 2005-06 and 2006-07 Department has issued accounts directions for the form and content of resource and other accounts to the following sponsored bodies;

2005-06

British Potato Council

British Waterways Board

Consumer Council For Water

Covent Garden Market Authority

English Nature

Environment Agency

Food From Britain

Gangmasters Licensing Authority

Home Grown Cereals Authority

Horticultural Development Council

Meat and Livestock Commission

Milk Development Council

Royal Botanical Gardens Kew

2006-07

British Potato Council

British Waterways Board

Countryside Agency

Commission For Rural Communities

Covent Garden Market Authority

English Nature

Food From Britain

Gangmasters Licensing Authority

Home Grown Cereals Authority

Horticultural Development Council

Meat and Livestock Commission

Milk Development Council

Natural England

Royal Botanical Gardens Kew

Flood Control

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans he has to implement the recommendations of the review, Flooding Lessons Learned, chaired by Sir Michael Pitt. (158753)

The Government await the findings of the Flooding Lessons Learned review and will respond as positively as possible to the recommendations.

Food: Procurement

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he intends to assess the effectiveness of the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative in respect of small and local meat producers. (157329)

Earlier this year, DEFRA commissioned Ipsos MORI to gauge awareness of the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative (PSFPI) in schools and local authorities. The survey included questions on the proportion of tenders from small and local producers, including meat producers. The results were positive with:

three in five schools (59 per cent.) and four in five local authorities stating that they encourage tenders from small and local producers;

almost seven in 10 local authorities (69 per cent.) stating that at least half the food supplied to schools in their area is from small and local producers;

half of the schools (53 per cent.) stating that at least half of their food is supplied by small and local producers while one in ten schools (9 per cent.) say that all their food is supplied from these producers.

The report also found that in 52 per cent. of the local authorities and 44 per cent. of schools the proportion of food supplied by small and local producers during the last two to three years had increased.

A copy of the Ipsos MORI survey is on the PSFPI website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/policy/sustain/procurement/school-food.htm. It was conducted during the period March to July 2007 and covered 81 local authorities and 255 schools.

Recent research by the Meat and Livestock Commission, based on estimates provided by 126 English local authorities, suggests that 39 per cent. of their meat by volume was locally sourced. The figure may exaggerate the amount of locally farmed meat supplied as not all local authorities seek provenance.

In addition to the research mentioned above, DEFRA is currently collating data from across central Government to determine the proportion of publicly procured food that is British. We aim to publish the information before the end of this month.

Foot and Mouth Disease: Compensation

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what compensation will be made available to (a) auction marts which suffered closure owing to foot and mouth measures and (b) farmers who were unable to enter their stock for sale in such auction marts. [R] (157080)

There are no plans to compensate auction markets who suffered closure owing to foot and mouth measures, or farmers who were unable to enter their stock for sale in such auction markets.

Under the Animal Health Act 1981, compensation is paid for animals that are compulsorily slaughtered to prevent the spread of disease. For foot and mouth disease (FMD), the Act requires that compensation is paid at the full market value before the animal became infected. This is determined by an approved valuer at the time of slaughter. Compensation is also paid for other items, such as farm equipment and feed, where these are seized because they are considered to be contaminated; this includes such things as milk. However, it is a long established principle that the Government do not meet the costs of consequential losses, which must be borne by the industry. Government seek to minimise the risk of market impacts, particularly by encouraging public understanding of the issues.

We are taking a risk-based and staged approach to easing movement restrictions when the evidence indicates that it is appropriate to do so. This is the best way to facilitate the return to normal working for the industry. We are working in partnership with the industry, but eradication of foot and mouth disease remains our priority.

National Fallen Stock Collection and Disposal Scheme

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make support for the increased costs of collection available to those farmers with fallen stock in low risk areas which are now dependent upon using the National Fallen Stock Company for collection. (158161)

[holding answer 16 October 2007]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) announced on 8 October 2007, Official Report, column 39, that DEFRA would provide £1 million to raise the level of subsidy for the National Fallen Stock scheme for farmers in the foot and mouth (FMD) risk area from 10 per cent. to 100 per cent. This is targeted to help the livestock farmers that have been worst affected financially from restrictions imposed as a result of FMD and this will be available to all livestock keepers in the FMD risk area.

The National Fallen Stock scheme will continue as normal in the rest of the UK and for non-susceptible livestock in the risk area, subject to FMD licensing controls. There are no plans for any extra support to be introduced.

Women and Equality

Equality and Human Rights Commission: Manpower

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality how many staff were employed by the (a) Commission for Racial Equality, (b) Disability Rights Commission and (c) Equal Opportunities Commission prior to the establishment of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. (157110)

No staff were made redundant from any of the legacy commissions. However the three commissions ran voluntary severance schemes and the following numbers left the commissions: CRE had 78 leavers, DRC had 68 leavers and EOC had 39 leavers.

Scotland

Youth Citizenship Commission

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when the Government expect to launch the Youth Citizenship Commission, as announced in the Green Paper: The Governance of Britain; and what discussions he has had with the Scottish Executive on the involvement of young people from Scotland in the initiative. (156388)

I have been asked to reply.

The Youth Citizenship Commission will report to the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and the Secretary of State for Justice. It will be launched this autumn. There have been discussions at official level between the Secretariat for the Commission and the Scottish Executive.

Wales

Departments: Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what guidance his Department follows on the maximum time taken to respond to hon. Members’ correspondence; and what performance against that target was in the most recent period for which figures are available. (158582)

The Wales Office complies with Cabinet Office guidelines for the maximum time for responding to correspondence.

The Wales Office publishes correspondence statistics in its annual report and to the Cabinet Office for their annual report to Parliament.

The latest figures for April 2006 to March 2007 were 93 per cent. of correspondence answered within 15 days of receipt.

Departments: Manpower

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many people were employed by his Department on 1 January in each of the last five years; and how many of these staff were (a) permanent employees, (b) temporary staff and (c) contractors. (158326)

The Wales Office publishes staffing figures within the Departmental Annual Report. The 2007 Report (CM7110) provides data on staff including staff numbers, permanent and temporary staff. A copy of the report can be obtained from the Library of the House or it can be viewed on our website:

http://www.walesoffice.gov.uk/2007/AnnualReport2007.pdf.

The Wales Office has not employed any contractors in the last five years.

Departments: Official Hospitality

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much was spent by his Department on official hospitality in the last 12 months. (158906)

Wales Office records are kept in financial year.

£12,265 was spent on hospitality in financial year 2006-07.

Departments: Policy

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what policy changes his Department has implemented since 27 June 2007. (159285)

I was delighted to be re-appointed Secretary of State for Wales. I have pressed forward the same policies of deepening devolution in Wales, particularly under the framework set by the Government of Wales Act 2006, and championing Welsh interests.

Northern Ireland

Departments: General Elections

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what contingency preparations his Department made for the possibility of a general election in autumn 2007; and what the costs of those preparations were. (156994)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 15 October 2007, Official Report, columns 822-23W, by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office (Edward Miliband).

Departments: Internet

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many websites his Department operates; how many it operated at 1 January 2005; and what the estimated annual cost has been of running his Department's websites in the last five years. (157881)

The Northern Ireland Office operates 15 websites. On 1 January 2005 the Department operated 11 websites. The estimated annual cost of running the Department's websites in each of the last five years is detailed in the following table.

Estimated cost (£)

2002-03

28,355

2003-04

34,331

2004-05

30,374

2005-06

56,103

2006-07

39,837

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many hits the (a) most popular and (b) least popular website run by his Department has received since 1 January 2007. (157882)

The most popular website run by the Northern Ireland Office is www.nio.gov.uk; it received 8,767,572 hits between 1 January 2007 and 31 August 2007.

The website used least was www.howsecureismyhome.com; it received 5,909 hits over this same period.

Departments: Secondment

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many staff are seconded to his Department from outside Government; from which outside body each has been seconded; and what the length is of each secondment. (157880)

Electoral Commission Committee

Political Parties: Finance

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker’ Committee on the Electoral Commission if he will make a statement on steps being taken by the Electoral Commission to investigate the permissibility of the donation by Mr. Michael Brown to the Liberal Democrats. (158697)

I refer my right hon. Friend to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) on 16 May 2007, Official Report, column 748W.

Culture, Media and Sport

BBC: EU Grants and Loans

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much the BBC received in the form of (a) loans, (b) direct payments and (c) indirect payments from EU institutions in each of the last five years. (158605)

This is a matter for the BBC. The BBC Group finance director will consider the question raised by the hon. Member and write to him direct. Copies of the reply will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Departments: Internet

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many hits the (a) most and (b) least popular website run by his Department has received since 1 January 2007. (157890)

The information requested is as follows:

Visitor statistics 1 January to 31 August 2007

The following statistics refer to ‘unique visitors’ rather than ‘hits’ which is accepted as a more useful indicator of the popularity of sites.

The most popular site was the main website at:

http://www.culture.gov.uk/

Month

Number

January

141,954

February

162,029

March

155,449

April

140,659

May

107,151

June

110,018

July

100,454

August

87,734

The least popular was ‘Where We Live’ at:

http://www.wherewelive.org.uk/

Month

Number

January

520

February

520

March

478

April

415

May

585

June

479

July

396

August

426

Digital Broadcasting: Whitehaven

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what percentage of those eligible have applied for assistance with digital switchover in Whitehaven. (158568)

As of 15 October 2007, 33 per cent. of those identified as being eligible for assistance from the digital switchover help scheme in the Whitehaven area had contacted the help scheme administrator. 25 per cent. of those eligible for assistance opted to receive help; 8 per cent. of those eligible for assistance chose to opt-out of the scheme.

Internet: Copyright

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions he has had with the Secretaries of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills and Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on the implementation of recommendation 39 of the Gowers Review, on internet service providers’ responsibility for copyright theft. (158203)

As Minister with responsibility for the creative industries, I have had discussions with my hon. Friend the Minister for Intellectual Property and Quality at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and my right hon. Friend, the Minister for Competitiveness at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform in relation to progress on the implementation of a range of recommendations from the Gowers review, including recommendation 39.

Members: Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport when he will reply to the letters from the hon. Member for Forest of Dean dated 20 April and 18 July regarding the Waterways Museum in Gloucester. (158040)

[holding answer 15 October 2007]: I replied to the hon. Member's letters on 16 October. I apologise for the completely unacceptable delay in responding to this correspondence. I am taking steps to ensure that officials respond efficiently to correspondence we receive.

Television: Licensing

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many television licences have been issued to addresses in (a) Argyll and Bute constituency, (b) the STV Central region and (c) the STV North region. (158718)

[holding answer 16 October 2007]: The BBC has responsibility for the administration of the television licensing system and the maintenance of television licence records. I understand from the BBC, however, that they are not able to provide a breakdown by constituency or TV region of the number of TV licences issued, as there is no operational need for the BBC to hold the information in this way. The information is recorded at individual address level and aggregated to national level for reporting purposes.

Visit Scotland

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the locations are of the overseas offices of (a) VisitScotland and (b) VisitWales. (157303)

Neither VisitScotland nor VisitWales operates overseas offices.

However, under an agreement made between DCMS and the Scottish Executive in March 2005, VisitScotland carries out overseas marketing through VisitBritain's offices in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Eire.

VisitWales has two members of staff working in VisitBritain's New York office. These are the only representatives from VisitWales located overseas.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much funding his Department provided to (a) VisitScotland and (b) VisitWales in each of the last five years. (157304)

VisitScotland and VisitWales are fully funded by the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly respectively. Neither receives any funding from DCMS.

Children, Schools and Families

Children: Day Care

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what estimate he has made of the percentage of families who have access to affordable childcare places in England, broken down by (a) region and (b) constituency. (157729)

Information is not available in the form requested.

Ofsted have produced figures on the numbers of registered child care providers and places on a quarterly basis from March 2003. Their latest figures were published in their report “Registered Childcare Providers and Places, June 2007”, which is available on their website,

www.Ofsted.gov.uk/

Children: Poverty

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families which Secretary of State has the lead role in delivering the 2010 child poverty target; and if he will make a statement. (157600)

As stated in ‘PSA Delivery Agreement 9: Halve the number of children in poverty by 2010-11, on the way to eradicating child poverty by 2020’,

“The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will be responsible for child poverty, and in addition the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the lead Minister for this PSA.”

I refer the hon. Member to the reply of 18 July 2007, Official Report, column 92W.

Foster Care

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families if he will introduce a compulsory registration scheme for private fostering. (158256)

[holding answer 15 October 2007]: The Government have agreed that at a suitable point we will publish a report on the impact of the enhanced notification scheme introduced by the Children Act 2004, and it is on that basis that we will announce whether or not we are minded to move towards a registration scheme.

Parents: Disadvantaged

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what support his Department provides to parents in areas with high levels of gang and gun-related crime to help ensure that children do not become involved in criminal activity. (154095)

We are providing extra funding this year to areas where gun, knife and gang crime is most prevalent to accelerate the roll-out of extended schools. Parenting support is an important part of the extended schools core offer of services. There are currently over 7,000 schools providing access to the core offer of services and by 2010 all schools will be offering these services.

In addition, DCSF is leading a number of wider activities that will provide parents with support to help them steer their children away from trouble. These include launching the £34 million Parent Know How programme; establishing the National Academy for Parenting Practitioners; investing £4 million to employ Respect parenting practitioners, targeted at helping parents whose children are most at risk of engaging in antisocial behaviour; we have established a national network of 53 Family Intervention Projects supporting families facing the most problems; and we have set up, in 18 local authorities, Parenting Early Intervention Pathfinders for parents of younger children who are at risk of negative outcomes.

Play: Facilities

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what estimate he has made of the number of publicly run play areas for children available in (a) 1997 and (b) 2007. (154787)

The information requested is not collected centrally. We recognise fully the benefits of play for children and we continue to take steps to support and promote the provision of opportunities for play. For example, between 2008-09 and 2010-11, we are providing over £1.1 billion for schools so that every school will be offering access to extended services by 2010. Through this, children and families will be able to access breakfast and after-school clubs, a range of activities and community services, with areas for play an important element of the provision.

In addition, the Government are supporting improvements to the quality of parks and green spaces in all our towns and cities, especially the most deprived areas, so that everyone has access to good quality spaces close to where they live. The quality of parks and green spaces is being driven up by the Government-supported Green Flag Award Scheme; knowledge, capacity and skills within local authorities have been enhanced through the How To programme and the work of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, and many communities have improved their local spaces through support Groundwork, the Living Spaces programme and the Liveability Fund.

Video Games: Violence

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what process is to be followed by the online review into the effect of violent video games; (158561)

(2) which groups and organisations have been approached to take part in the review into the effect of violent video games;

(3) when he expects the review into the effect of violent video games will be complete; and when the results will be published;

(4) whether there are any other data collection methods the review into violent video games will use other than the online questionnaire.

The review being carried out by Dr. Tanya Byron will consider the evidence on the risks to children and young people from inappropriate or harmful content in video games and the internet and assess the effectiveness and adequacy of existing measures to protect them and support parents.

An open call for evidence was published by Dr. Byron on 9 October 2007, running until 30 November 2007. It asks respondents to respond online via the Department’s website or to email or post responses to the questions posed in the call for evidence document.

A children and young people’s call for evidence is due out in week commencing 22 October 2007 and will be promoted through a wide range of media platforms (including social networking sites and online debates).

In addition to considering responses to these two open calls for evidence, the Byron Review will draw upon a wide range of existing evidence, including published commentary and research literature, and will undertake some further research in areas where gaps in the literature have been identified.

Since the review was announced on 8 September 2007, the review has met with groups, organisations and individuals representing parents; children and young people; those involved in the welfare, education and safety of children; the academic and research community; the video gaming industry; gamers; the internet industry (including producers, content aggregators, web hosts, internet service providers, search and navigation providers, consumer device manufacturers and retailers); advertising and retail bodies; government agencies; other statutory and non-statutory public bodies and third sector organisations. Dr. Byron and her team will continue to meet with key stakeholders throughout the period of the review, and they welcome input from any interested person or organisation.

The final report (due to be published in March 2008) will make recommendations to the Secretaries of State for Children’s Schools and Families and Culture Media and Sport. This will include a list of individuals and groups that have contributed to the Review.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Alisher Usmanov

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish reports received from British embassies relating to Alisher Usmanov. (158765)

Such information would constitute personal data. A request for personal information brings into play the relevant legislative provisions on data release by the Government and would require the consent of the individual concerned.

Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which Ministers from his Department attended the Defence Systems and Equipment International exhibition in September. (158779)

I can confirm to my hon. Friend that no Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Ministers attended the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) event in September to which he refers.

However, the FCO did jointly sponsor a seminar at the DSEi event with the Defence Manufacturers Association. The seminar aimed to raise awareness and build support for an International Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) among the defence and military equipment industry. John Duncan, UK ambassador for Multilateral and Disarmament Affairs in Geneva, gave a speech about the UK’s approach to an ATT and responded to questions on the subject.

Departments: Recruitment

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much the Department paid in fees to recruitment agencies for (a) temporary and (b) permanent staff in each year since 1997. (151664)

The recorded expenditure for agency staff for each financial year since 1997 is as follows:

£

1997-98

451,207

1998-99

799,523

1999-2000

971,657

2000-01

1,584,850

2001-02

2,434,202

2002-03

3,230,264

2003-04

2,357,123

2004-05

1,110,154

2005-06

2,298,906

2006-07

3,344,461

Expenditure in respect of temporary and permanent agency staff is not recorded separately. The increase in expenditure in 2006-07 arose from the need to recruit temporary staff to assist Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Services to move to Trading Fund status, and to enable the FCO’s account to be signed off earlier than in previous years.

Gaza: Travel Restrictions

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have made to the Israeli authorities in the case of Khaled Mudallel on his return from Gaza to his business studies course at Bradford university. (158826)

We raised this issue with the Israeli embassy in London on 15 October. The embassy told us that Mr. Mudallel has been advised that he can leave Gaza via the Nitzana Border Terminal.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of British residency permit holders unable to leave Gaza due to official action. (158827)

We have made no formal estimate. However, we are currently discussing the problem with our EU colleagues. We continue to raise concerns about movement and access with the Government for Israel.

Indian Sub-Continent: Entry Clearances

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many visa offices are operated by his Department in (a) Bangladesh, (b) India and (c) Pakistan; and how many staff are employed in each of those offices to process visa applications. (158287)

UKvisas has one Visa Section in Bangladesh, located at our high commission in Dhaka. There are four Visa Sections in India, located at our high commission in New Delhi and our deputy high commissions in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. There are two Visa Sections in Pakistan, located at our high commission in Islamabad and our deputy high commission in Karachi.

The following table displays the total number of staff employed at each of these Visa Sections to process visa applications. The figures include entry clearance managers, officers, assistants, local support staff and those on short-term contracts.

Staff employed at UK Visa Sections in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan

Number

New Delhi

100

Mumbai

84

Chennai

58

Kolkata

6

Dhaka

74

Islamabad

206

Karachi

13

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many visa applications were processed by his Department in (a) Bangladesh, (b) India and (c) Pakistan in each (i) year and (ii) month since 2001. (158288)

The following table displays the total number of UK visa applications processed by our visa sections in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in each year and month since April 2001.

Number of UK visa applications processed by our visa sections in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan

April

May

June

July

August

September

Bangladesh

2001-02

1,994

2,809

2,817

3,595

2,978

2,750

2002-03

1,914

2,473

2,477

3,309

3,419

3,712

2003-04

2,324

2,881

3,590

4,215

3,881

4,274

2004-05

3,285

3,920

5,144

4,996

4,822

4,133

2005-06

2,915

3,691

4,176

3,358

4,246

3,554

2006-07

4,011

4,500

4,195

4,297

4,530

3,633

India

2001-02

24,462

27,376

21,688

21,702

20,281

16,659

2002-03

25,084

35,102

16,970

28,668

29,416

23,648

2003-04

27,707

33,922

29,524

28,919

26,695

28,262

2004-05

39,940

37,991

36,083

31,551

31,894

29,892

2005-06

43,767

47,499

43,090

32,142

35,028

32,787

2006-07

47,034

56,617

47,139

41,803

42,531

36,078

Pakistan

2001-02

11,637

17,214

17,250

15,043

12,819

8,099

2002-03

4,717

9,403

473

8,091

5,959

6,113

2003-04

9,245

11,057

10,289

11,897

9,151

8,992

2004-05

17,831

24,621

29,556

19,010

17,592

12,612

2005-06

15,674

18,932

21,297

15,721

14,948

13,215

2006-07

17,047

22,538

25,726

22,611

22,332

16,346

October

November

December

January

February

March

Total

Bangladesh

2001-02

1,772

1,959

1,545

2,247

1,451

2,086

28,003

2002-03

2,288

1,876

2,275

2,974

1,897

2,470

31,084

2003-04

3,601

2,721

2,817

2,970

2,786

3,931

39,991

2004-05

2,750

2,608

3,123

2,313

2,347

3,121

42,562

2005-06

2,844

2,274

3,091

2,580

2,786

3,905

39,420

2006-07

2,661

3,168

3,905

3,180

3,079

3,487

44,646

India

2001-02

11,232

10,498

9,468

12,308

14,020

19,465

209,159

2002-03

17,760

12,297

12,938

16,369

14,228

19,270

251,750

2003-04

21,093

15,205

17,918

19,061

21,849

33,080

303,235

2004-05

20,396

17,660

19,884

18,606

24,559

37,123

345,579

2005-06

24,231

21,703

20,205

24,314

28,131

42,478

395,375

2006-07

26,812

25,836

22,887

28,201

30,300

48,761

453,999

Pakistan

2001-02

3,113

2,676

2,045

5,235

6,151

7,901

109,183

2002-03

7,762

5,837

6,487

7,526

5,120

6,312

73,800

2003-04

8,781

7,407

10,611

11,733

10,442

15,281

124,886

2004-05

9,787

9,692

12,250

9,251

12,691

15,838

190,731

2005-06

9,395

10,741

13,164

11,586

11,499

16,212

172,384

2006-07

12,035

15,623

16,792

13,005

13,645

16,328

214,028

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many visas have been (a) issued and (b) refused by his Department in (i) Bangladesh, (ii) India and (iii) Pakistan since 2001. (158289)

The following table displays the total number of UK visa applications issued and refused by our visa sections in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan since 2001.

2001-022002-032003-042004-052005-06

Issued

Refused

Issued

Refused

Issued

Refused

Issued

Refused

Issued

Refused

Chennai

40,646

3,460

46,193

8,653

55,944

12,526

68,675

13,712

81,526

13,659

Kolkata

9,907

199

10,776

329

11,813

880

13,155

1,101

14,923

979

Mumbai

66,108

7,960

71,776

10,907

91,070

20,216

109,845

25,728

119,130

28,953

New Delhi

64,343

12,517

67,948

19,753

81,479

25,013

88,862

32,363

100,893

33,079

India

181,004

24,136

196,693

39,642

240,306

58,635

280,537

72,904

316,472

76,670

Dhaka

19,896

7,671

21,504

10,658

21,748

11,914

20,837

19,153

27,554

16,543

Bangladesh

19,896

7,671

21,504

10,658

21,748

11,914

20,837

19,153

27,554

16,543

Islamabad

56,182

24,420

42,844

7,670

92,189

21,768

91,446

76,640

89,821

61,044

Lahore1

8,289

2,549

Karachi

28,634

7,904

9,788

2,503

1,793

7

11,505

5,003

20,665

7,568

Pakistan

93,105

34,873

52,632

10,173

93,982

21,775

102,951

81,643

110,486

68,612

1 The visa section at the British Trade Office in Lahore closed in 2002.

Source:

UK Visas Published Entry Clearance Statistics from 2001-02 to 2005-06

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what targets are set for the processing of visa applications by consular staff in (a) Bangladesh, (b) India and (c) Pakistan. (158290)

UKvisas does not set targets for its staff to process visa applications. Instead, UKvisas measures performance at all of its missions abroad against the following public service agreement (PSA) standards.

PSA 1: 90 per cent. of straightforward non-settlement applications to be processed within 24-hours.

PSA 2: 90 per cent. of non-settlement applications requiring further enquiries or interview to be processed within 15 days.

PSA 3: 90 per cent of settlement applications to be processed within 12 weeks.

Iran: Religious Freedom

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of Iran on the persecution of the Baha’i community, with particular reference to young Baha’i people being allowed to attend university; and if he will make a statement. (158551)

We remain concerned about the treatment of religious minorities in Iran. The Baha’i faith is not formally recognised under the Iranian Constitution and as a result Baha’is routinely face persecution and discrimination. In recent years Baha’is have been subject to arbitrary arrests, confiscation of property and restrictions on employment. Denial of access to higher education has been a long-term problem for Baha’i students.

After the religious identifier was removed from the national university entrance examination in 2006, a number of Baha’i students sat the exam for last academic year (2006-07). Over 250 Baha’i students were admitted to campuses across Iran, but 120 were expelled throughout the year as the universities discovered their religion. This year, students applying to study at technical and vocational institutes were required to complete a form stating their religion. The options did not include the Baha’i religion, so Baha’i students were once again effectively excluded from applying to these institutions. We do not yet know the situation facing Baha’i university students this academic year, but we remain concerned that more Baha’is may be prevented from applying to university or expelled in the future.

We continue to monitor the situation and raise concerns about the treatment of the Baha’is with the Iranian authorities, bilaterally and through the EU. The EU presidency raised specific concerns about the issue of Baha’i access to higher education in meetings with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 1 September and 10 October.

Iraq: Overseas Workers

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) how many UK citizens were employed by non-UK-based private contractors in Iraq not concerned with security matters in each of the last five years; (158257)

(2) how many UK citizens were employed by non UK-based private security contractors in Iraq in each of the last five years;

(3) how many UK citizens were employed by UK-based private contractors in Iraq not concerned with security matters in each of the last five years.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not hold the information requested by the hon. Member.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) how many UK citizens working for UK-based private security contractors in Iraq were (a) killed and (b) injured in each of the last five years; (158259)

(2) how many UK citizens working for non UK-based private security contractors in Iraq were (a) killed and (b) injured in each of the last five years;

(3) how many people employed by UK-based security contractors in Iraq were (a) killed and (b) injured in each of the last five years;

(4) how many people employed by UK-based contractors in Iraq not concerned with security matters were (a) killed and (b) injured in each of the last five years;

(5) how many UK citizens working for non UK-based contractors in Iraq not concerned with security matters were (a) killed and (b) injured in each of the last five years;

(6) how many UK citizens working for UK-based contractors in Iraq not concerned with security matters were (a) killed and (b) injured in each of the last five years.

Our consular records show that at least 72 British civilians have died in Iraq since March 2003.

2003—6

2004—23

2005—12

2006—22

2007—9

This number includes deaths from natural causes but is not a definitive figure as records include only those cases where consular assistance has been sought. The figure does not include British dual nationals or unrepresented foreign nationals.

We also have records of 78 British civilians who have been injured in Iraq over the same period.

2003—7

2004—30

2005—15

2006—1

2007—15

We do not collect data in a form which would enable us to distinguish between private security companies or other contractors nor the country of origin of those employers. Consular officials do not have accurate figures on non-British nationals in the above categories.

Iraq: Resettlement

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 9 October 2007, Official Report, columns 27-8WS, on Iraq: assistance to locally employed staff, what his estimate is of the number of Iraqi nationals who (a) work and (b) have worked in Iraq as (i) direct employees of the UK armed forces or the Ministry of Defence, (ii) on letters of appointment from HM embassy Baghdad or the British embassy offices in Basra and the Kurdistan region and (iii) as direct employees of the Department for International Development or the British Council. (157993)

[holding answer 15 October 2007]: About 500 locally engaged staff currently work in Iraq as direct employees of the UK armed forces or the Ministry of Defence and a further 43 work on letters of appointment from our embassy in Baghdad and our embassy Offices in Basra or Erbil, the Department for International Development (DFID) and the British Council.

About 20,000 have worked for the UK armed forces or the Ministry of Defence and a further 140 have worked on letters of appointment from our embassy in Baghdad, our embassy Offices in Basra or Erbil, DFID and the British Council.

Middle East: Peace Negotiations

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress is being made towards a peace settlement in the Middle East. (158658)

In the run up to the November international meeting I believe that a window of opportunity now exists with: a continuing Israeli Prime Minister Olmert/Palestinian President Abbas dialogue; the right hon. Tony Blair’s engagement; and a rejuvenated Arab Peace Initiative. We will continue to work with international partners to develop these proposals and move us closer to a two-state solution.

We would like to see at the US-hosted November meeting, an agreement that puts the Israelis and Palestinians on a path to real negotiations in 2008 leading to a final settlement of two states living side by side in peace and security.

Saudi Arabia: Human Rights

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of the signing of human rights agreements by Saudi Arabia on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia; and if he will make a statement. (158029)

Saudi Arabia is party to the following international instruments:

Convention on the Rights of the Child;

Convention on the Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination;

Convention against torture; and

International convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is poor but improving. Complete implementation of these instruments continues to be a challenge. It is the role of the UN treaty monitoring bodies to assess how well a country is fulfilling its obligations under a treaty. The Government continue to work both bilaterally and with EU partners to encourage Saudi Arabia to fulfil its obligations and report on time.

From April 2008 the UN Human Rights Council will be implementing periodic reviews on all the human rights records of all Member States.

Ukraine: Work Permits

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the average price was of a UK work visa from Ukraine in each year since 2003. (157957)

The current fee for a Work Permit Holder visa application at our Visa Section in Kiev is £200. From 1 July 2005 to 31 March 2007, the fee for a Work Permit Holder visa was £85. Prior to this, Work Permit Holders paid the long-term non-settlement fee of £75.

Transport

A358

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 25 April 2007, Official Report, column 1109W, on the A358, what discussions she has had with the (a) Highways Agency and (b) Regional Fire Control Centre at Blackbrook on the proposed scheme to link the A358 and M5 at Blackbrook in Taunton constituency; and what the outcome of those discussions was. (158625)

The Highways Agency had a constructive meeting with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and their consultants on 31 August 2007 to discuss the impact of the A303/A358 South Petherton to M5 Taunton Improvement scheme on the Fire Control Centre at Blackbrook.

It was agreed that both parties should work together to resolve any issues. The Highways Agency have sent further information to DCLG to allow their consultants to update the risk assessment of the site.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 25 April 2007, Official Report, column 1109W, on the A358, if she will take steps to make the Highways Agency report into alternative schemes to link the A358 and M5 at Blackbrook in Taunton constituency available to local residents; if she will undertake a further public consultation on the alternative schemes; and if she will place a copy of the report in the Library. (158626)

In response to public feedback received during consultation, the Highways Agency is currently considering two alternative options to connect the M5 northbound and the A358 eastbound (Blackbrook loop). The outcome of this additional work will be included in an addendum to the public consultation report, which would be published in due course.

Should it be considered necessary to amend the proposed scheme as a result of this further work then it is likely that further limited consultation would be undertaken.

When the report is published it will be posted on the Highways Agency's website and be deposited in the local area for the public to view.

Airports: Passengers

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many passengers passed through (a) Heathrow and (b) Gatwick airports between April and September 2007; and if she will make a statement. (159355)

The following table shows the number of terminal passengers at Heathrow and Gatwick airport in each month between April and September 2007.

Terminal passengers at Heathrow and Gatwick, April-September 2007

Thousand

Heathrow

Gatwick

April

5,667

2,722

May

5,611

3,012

June

6,014

3,359

July

6,419

3,787

August1

6,378

3,969

September1

6,022

3,550

Total

36,111

20,400

1 August and September figures are provisional.

Source:

CAA airport statistics.

Bus Services: Concessions

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how much has been allocated to Chorley borough council to fund the free local concessionary bus travel scheme in 2007-08; (158729)

(2) what increase in the rate support grant Chorley borough council will receive to fund free national off-peak travel for pensioners and disabled people for 2008-09.

From April 2006, older and disabled people have been guaranteed free off-peak local bus travel within their local authority area. The existing funding for statutory concessionary fares is supported through Formula Grant, which comprises Revenue Support Grant, Redistributed Business Rates and Principal Formula Police Grant.

Formula Grant is an unhypothecated block grant i.e. authorities are free to spend the money on any service. Because of this and the method of calculation, particularly floor damping (which guarantees local authorities at least a minimum percentage increase by scaling back increases for other authorities), it is not possible to say how much of the total Formula Grant funding is for any particular service.

Local authorities have the discretion to offer (and fund from their own resources) enhancements to the statutory minimum, such as peak bus travel and/or concessions on other modes.

The £212 million of extra funding to English authorities for the national bus concession from April 2008 will be distributed by a non-ringfenced special grant via a formula. The Department has recently published a consultation paper on the formula basis for distribution of the special grant. This new consultation supersedes the Department for Communities and Local Government’s consultation on the formula grant options for concessionary fares. Local authorities have been asked to respond to the special grant consultation by 23 November.

In addition, we have announced that we will be providing local authorities with approximately £30 million for the issuing of the national pass; it is likely that Chorley borough council will receive around £69,000 of this additional funding.

Cars: Hire Services

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) accidents and (b) traffic offences occurred involving hire cars in Peterborough constituency in each of the last five years. (158962)

Crossrail Line

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether a financing agreement is in place for the Crossrail project. (158495)

[holding answer 16 October 2007]: I refer the right hon. Member to the White Paper for the 2007 pre-Budget report and Comprehensive Spending Review presented to Parliament by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 9 October 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will place a copy in the Library of the financial agreement on Crossrail. (158492)

Subject to commercial confidentiality, the Secretary of State expects to place relevant agreements in the Library in due course.

Departments: General Elections

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what contingency preparations her Department made for the possibility of a general election in autumn 2007; and what the costs were of those preparations. (156993)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend, the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Edward Miliband) on 15 October 2007, Official Report, columns 822-23W.

Motorcycles: Accidents

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many accidents there have been involving (a) motorcyclists, (b) bicycles and (c) only motorcyclists and bicyclists in each year since 1997. (158672)

The number of reported personal injury road accidents involving at least (a) one motorcyclist, (b) one pedal cyclist and (c) no other vehicles or pedestrians but at least one motorcyclist and at least one pedal cyclist, in each year since 1997 is shown in the table—note that (c) is included in both (a) and (b).

Number of accidents involving at least one:

Motorcycle

Pedal cycle

Motorcycle and pedal cycle only

1997

24,928

24,705

5,850

1998

23,188

24,969

5,649

1999

23,221

26,537

5,945

2000

20,866

28,635

6,051

2001

19,316

29,398

6,067

2002

17,373

28,825

5,691

2003

17,300

28,721

5,931

2004

16,922

26,151

5,526

2005

16,856

25,204

4,799

2006

16,440

23,730

4,734

Railways: Rolling Stock

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many of the extra rail carriages announced by her Department in the five-year plan published on 24 July have been introduced; and on which lines. (156923)

Roads: Accidents

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many road traffic accidents in each of the last five years involved children; and if she will make a statement. (159262)

The number of reported personal injury road accidents involving at least one child casualty (aged 0 to 15) for each of the last five years is:

Number

2002

30,430

2003

28,264

2004

27,253

2005

24,837

2006

22,676

In 2000, the Government set a PSA target to achieve a 50 per cent. reduction in the number of children aged 0 to 15 killed or seriously injured by 2010, compared with the average for 1994-98. 3,294 children were killed or seriously injured in Great Britain in 2006, which is 52 per cent. below the 1994-98 average of 6,860. In February 2007 we issued a new child road safety strategy, which sets out further measures to improve child road safety.

Work and Pensions

Child Support Agency: Debt Collection

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many liability orders the Child Support Agency has applied for in each month since January 2003; how many of these were inaccurate in any particular; and how many were (a) withdrawn and (b) dismissed. (146178)

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 17 October 2007:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions regarding 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, how many liability orders the Child Support Agency has applied for in each month since January 2003; how many of these were inaccurate in any particular; and how many were (a) withdrawn and (b) dismissed. (146178)

Such information as is available is set out in the attached table. The Agency holds information on; the number of liability orders it has applied for, the numbers subsequently granted as well as information on the numbers of applications withdrawn by the Agency pre and post hearing and the numbers of cases dismissed by the Courts. This information is recorded and validated on a yearly basis only. The Agency currently does not hold management information on the accuracy of individual elements of child maintenance cases such as the liability order process.

Information on a range of enforcement actions is routinely published in the Quarterly Summary of Statistics (QSS). A copy of this is available in the House of Commons Library and is also available on the Internet via the following link:

www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/child_support/csa_quarterly_jun07.asp

The Agency seeks liability orders in cases where the non-resident parent is failing to meet their responsibilities to maintain their children. In many cases, as the non-resident parent may not have co-operated fully in the assessment and calculation of their maintenance liability, the Agency will proceed on the basis of the information available. As the Agency will continue to correspond with the non-resident parent throughout the time taken for a liability order to be granted, the non-resident parent can at any time supply information which may lead to a review of the maintenance assessment, or indeed make payments to comply with the maintenance liability. In addition, in some cases the parent with care can request that any maintenance owed directly to them not be recovered, the Agency will then consider withdrawing the liability order application prior to the court hearing.

Once a liability order is being actively considered by the Court, the non-resident parent can make representations for the Court to dismiss the liability order. The Courts currently dismiss less than one per cent of applications. The Agency believes that this is a good indication of the robustness of the checking regime currently in place. Finally, once a liability order has been awarded, the non-resident parent can again bring forward additional information, or indeed settle their arrears and the Agency may again consider whether it is appropriate to proceed with the application.

It should therefore be noted that there are many reasons that the Agency may withdraw a liability order application, however the Agency currently does not record individual reasons an application may be withdrawn. The most relevant measure of the accuracy of the Agency’s process is therefore the low numbers of cases dismissed by the Courts, following representations from the non-resident parent.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

Applied for

Withdrawn pre-hearing

Dismissed

Granted

Withdrawn post-hearing

2002-03

5,540

202

69

2,383

2003-04

6,719

285

71

3,885

2004-05

10,483

467

16

7,760

199

2005-06

11,926

882

49

*11,245

262

2006-07

15,309

1,212

50

*13,335

232

Notes:

1. A liability order is a document obtained from the court showing that they legally recognise the debt. This is the same in both England and Wales, and Scotland and is required before the Agency can use litigation powers (Diligence in Scotland).

2. The figures marked with an asterix* are sourced from the Agency’s Quarterly Summary of Statistics. All other figures have been clerically collated and are actual figures, not subject to rounding.

3. Figures sourced from the Agency’s Quarterly Summary Statistics are rounded to the nearest five.

4. Robust information on the numbers of liability order withdrawn post-hearing is unavailable prior to April 2004.

5. Due to differences in the Scottish legal system, cases classified by the Agency as withdrawn pre-hearing are classified by the courts as dismissed.

6. It should be noted that for any period, the number of liability orders applied for will not directly relate to the number of applications granted as the process can take many weeks to complete. Liability orders applied for in one period may not be granted until the following period.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the total value is of the contracts the Child Support Agency (CSA) has with external debt collectors; how much has been paid to date under such contracts; with which debt collectors the CSA has contracts; how many cases they are handling; what the average debt outstanding on transfer to the external debt collectors is; how many cases they have successfully recovered outstanding debt from (a) in full and (b) in part; and what average sum has been recovered. (155937)

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 17 October 2007:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question 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, what the total value is of the contracts the Child Support Agency (CSA) has with external debt collectors; how much has been paid to date under such contracts; with which debt collectors the CSA has contracts; how many cases they are handling; what the average debt outstanding on transfer to the external debt collectors is; how many cases they have successfully recovered outstanding debt from (a) in full and (b) in part; and what average sum has been recovered. [155937]

The Agency has a current contract with two debt collection agencies, Eversheds LLP and iQor. The contract with both of these debt collection agencies has been let on a commission basis and the final value of the contract will be dependent on the amount of debt collected by them. Up to 31 August 2007, the Agency has paid over £360,000 to the debt collection agencies under this contract.

As at 31 August 2007, the Agency has referred over 59,000 cases to the debt collection agencies with an average debt value of £5,250. Of these, the agencies have collected debt in over 12,000 cases, from which 2,003 non-resident parents have paid their child support maintenance debt in full, with the average collection being £444.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

Child Support Agency: Manpower

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the likely impact of proposed reductions in staffing of the Child Support Agency (CSA) on the effectiveness of the CSA and its successor the Child Maintenance and Support Commission. (155614)

The Agency is committed to meeting both the departmentally agreed headcount target of 9,547 by March 2008 and the Secretary of State performance targets for the coming year. Computer system improvements as part of the Agency’s Operational Improvement Plan will ensure client service in both CSA, and later C-MEC, will not be affected by this reduction in headcount.

Child Support Agency: Standards

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment has been made of the effectiveness of the Belfast unit of the Child Support Agency over the last (a) six months and (b) year in handling claims involving children from Northamptonshire. (154969)

[holding answer 10 September 2007]: 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 17 October 2007:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question 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, what recent assessment has been made of the effectiveness of the Belfast unit of the Child Support Agency over the last (a) six months and (b) year in handling claims involving children from Northamptonshire. [154969]

Such information as is available for Northamptonshire cases is set out in tables S1a to S4b of the Child Support Agency Quarterly Summary of Statistics (QSS). Unfortunately, these tables have recently been added and only give information back to December 2006. These tables show that at end of June 2007 the compliance rate for the Nottinghamshire area is 67%, slightly above that of the national average of 66%. The Child Support Agency Quarterly Summary of Statistics is available in the House of Commons Library or on the Internet via the following link: www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/child_support/csa_quarterly_jun07.asp.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

Children: Maintenance

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the proportion of HM Revenue and Customs gross income data which will be (a) less than one year out of date, (b) more than one year out of date and (c) more than two years out of date when calculating child maintenance under the new Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission; and if he will make a statement. (154619)

Under the proposed scheme, non-resident parents’ maintenance liabilities will be based on their gross income for the latest tax year available from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs at the time that a case is opened or is subject to an annual review.

With the increased focus on parents agreeing to voluntary arrangements and the ending of the requirement that parents with care on benefit be treated as applying for child maintenance, not all of the current Child Support Agency case load will choose to use the statutory maintenance service. Since we do not know the precise composition of the resulting case load, no estimates have been made on the proportion of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs gross income data which will be (a) less than one year out of date, (b) more than one year out of date and (c) more than two years out of date when calculating child maintenance under the new Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps the Department is taking to enable the recovery of historical debt of non-resident parents by the new Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. (156491)

[holding answer 8 October 2007]: We want to take firm action at the earliest opportunity against non-resident parents who do not fulfil their responsibility to pay maintenance.

The Child Support Agency has already begun to improve the recovery of debt as part of the Operational Improvement Plan and is committed to recovering over £200 million historic debt by 2009.

The Commission will build on the current Child Support Agency debt strategy and the success of the Operational Improvement Plan. Through the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill we intend to strengthen the range of enforcement and debt management powers that will be at the disposal of the Commission. The Bill proposes new and streamlined enforcement provisions such as administrative liability orders, disqualification from holding or obtaining a travel authorisation, collection of maintenance directly from accounts held by financial institutions, enforcing the surrender of a non-resident parent’s passport and imposing a curfew.

New debt management powers, such as the ability to accept part payment of arrears in full and final settlement, will, where appropriate, take account of the wishes of the parent with care. These powers will help the Commission manage debt, including interim maintenance assessment debt. The new debt management and enforcement measures will be used both to encourage ongoing compliance to prevent the new debt building up, and to enable more of the accumulated debt to be recovered.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many children he estimates will be taken out of poverty when the new £40 disregard for child maintenance is introduced. (158797)

We estimate that around 50,000 children will be lifted out of poverty by increasing the child maintenance disregard to £40 a week from April 2010.

Commission for Equality and Human Rights: Manpower

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received on staffing levels at the Commission for Equality and Human Rights; and if he will make a statement. (157817)

[holding answer 15 October 2007]: The Equality and Human Rights Commission currently plans to employ approximately 500 staff. There is no intention to make a statement.

Departments: Consultants

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which private consultancy firms (a) his Department and (b) agencies which report to his Department engaged in each of the last three years; which programmes or projects each firm worked on; and what the approximate cost to the Department or agency concerned was of each engagement. (155875)

The details of consultancy engagements and related costs by all projects across the Department for Work and Pensions and all its agencies over the last three years are not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. A particular exercise to obtain this information for the 12 projects with the largest engagement with consultancy firms over the last three years has been conducted and the results are shown in the following table.

Consultancy firm

Project title

Approximate value (£ million)

IBM

Finance Transformation Programme

63

Booz Allen Hamilton

Pensions Transformation Programme

55

Capgemini

Programme and Systems Delivery Transformation

26

PA Consulting

Payment Modernisation Programme

25

Capgemini

HR Modernisation

17

Capgemini

DCS Change Programme

16

Capgemini

DWP Change Programme

7

Deloitte

PSD Transformation Support—network services integration

7

Deloitte

PSD Transformation Support—network services integration

6

Atos Origin

Finance Transformation/Procurement Modernisation

6

PA Consulting

JCP and DCS Integrated Delivery

6

Deloitte

Central Payment System Programme

5

Departments: Dismissal

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many departmental staff have been dismissed for gross misconduct in each of the last five years. (157175)

The information on the number of people dismissed for gross misconduct for the period July 2003 to March 2007 is shown in the following table.

No information is available for the period before July 2003.

Information for the period from April 2007 to March 2008 is not available.

Number of employees dismissed in Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for gross misconduct

Number of employees

July 2003 to March 2004

53

April 2004 to March 2005

223

April 2005 to March 2006

227

April 2006 to March 2007

121

Jobcentre Plus: Doctors

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many complaints were received about doctors contracted to Jobcentre Plus to carry out incapacity benefit assessments, in each of the last five years, broken down by local benefits agency; and if he will make a statement. (154866)

[holding answer 10 September 2007]: Medical services are provided to DWP under contract by Atos Healthcare. Doctors carrying out incapacity benefit (IB) assessments are engaged by Atos Healthcare not Jobcentre Plus.

Atos Healthcare only began keeping records of complaints received by local benefits office in 2004 and by Jobcentre Plus region in 2005. Information about the number of complaints received per Medical Services Centre, relating to IB is in the following table.

Number of complaints received per Medical Services Centre relating to IB

Medical Services Centre

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

20071

Grand total

Birmingham

62

71

78

88

23

27

349

Bootle

105

114

91

89

51

33

483

Bristol

54

70

47

43

29

28

271

Croydon

116

89

95

71

45

37

453

Cardiff

49

60

56

32

25

22

244

Edinburgh

36

21

31

36

9

14

147

Glasgow

98

78

67

50

27

28

348

Leeds

102

116

113

89

59

41

520

Manchester

77

61

50

37

25

15

265

Newcastle

78

82

105

63

40

25

393

Nottingham

89

56

63

60

70

50

388

Wembley

107

138

125

110

50

49

579

Customer relations team

86

35

32

37

33

20

243

Total complaints

1,059

991

953

805

486

389

4,653

Total IB examinations

522,803

507,479

461,000

485,237

499,895

358,207

2,834,621

Percentage complaints/examinations

0.20

0.19

0.21

0.17

0.10

0.11

0.16

1 January to August

Note:

The last row of the table indicates the number of ‘Official Correspondence’ complaints that the Customer Relations Team received, which are not differentiated by Medical Services Centre.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many doctors contracted to Jobcentre Plus to carry out incapacity benefit assessments were removed from their role in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement; (154867)

(2) how many doctors contracted to Jobcentre Plus to carry out incapacity benefit assessments resigned in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement.

[holding answer 10 September 2007]: Medical services are provided to DWP under contract by Atos Healthcare. Doctors carrying out incapacity benefit (IB) assessments are engaged by Atos Healthcare not Jobcentre Plus. The available information is in the following table.

Number of doctors carrying out IB assessments who have resigned, retired or whose approval has been revoked

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Resigned

22

68

93

65

47

Retire

4

21

13

8

6

Approval revoked

10

31

15

16

7

National Insurance

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the surplus is in the National Insurance Fund; what surplus he expects to be in that fund for each of the next five years; and if he will make a statement. (157342)

I have been asked to reply.

The information requested is shown in paragraph 4 and Appendix 9 of the Report by the Government Actuary on the drafts of the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2007 and the Social Security (Contributions) (Re-rating and National insurance Funds Payments) Order 2007.

National Insurance: Bexleyheath

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many national insurance numbers were issued to residents of Bexleyheath and Crayford in 2006-07. (153897)

2,731 national insurance numbers were issued to residents of Bexleyheath and Crayford between 1 April 2006 and 31 March 2007.

National Insurance: Foreigners

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many foreign nationals in the Shepway district were issued with national insurance numbers in (a) the last year for which figures are available and (b) each of the preceding four years. (156611)

Information is not available on how many national insurance numbers were issued. The available information on the numbers of registrations for national insurance numbers is in the following table.

Number of national insurance numbers registered to foreign nationals in Shepway local authority area

Year of registration

Number of registrations

2004-05

410

2005-06

670

2006-07

900

Notes:

1. Numbers are rounded to the nearest 10.

2. Totals may not sum due to rounding.

3. Local authority is assigned by matching postcodes against the relevant postcode directory.

4. Local authority counts are based on the most recently recorded addresses of the NINO recipient.

5. Information is not available prior to 2004-05.

Source:

100 per cent. sample at 25 June 2005, 17 June 2006 and 14 May 2007 from the National Insurance Recording System

Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the yearly value in absolute terms was of the standard basic state pension for (a) a pensioner couple and (b) a single pensioner, excluding winter fuel and over-75 payments, in each year since 1997-98. (158142)

The information is in the following table.

Pensioner couple

Single pensioner

1997-98

5,189.60

3,247.40

1998-99

5,376.80

3,364.40

1999-2000

5,548.40

3,471.00

2000-01

5,610.80

3,510.00

2001-02

6,026.80

3,770.00

2002-03

6,276.40

3,926.00

2003-04

6,437.60

4,027.40

2004-05

6,617.00

4,139.20

2005-06

6,822.40

4,266.60

2006-07

7,007.00

4,381.00

2007-08

7,259.20

4,539.60

Notes:

1. The figure for each year is its cash value.

2. There are no singles or couples rates as such. The basic state pension is an individual benefit; although the Category A rate is commonly referred to as the singles rate, and the combination of the Category A and Category B rate is commonly referred to as the couples rate.

Home Department

Animal Experiments

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department at how many of the establishments in the UK with a certificate of designation under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 there is at least one member of the animal care staff or licensee constantly on site. (158152)

[holding answer 15 October 2007]: The information requested is not held by the Home Office.

Primary responsibility for animals used in regulated procedures rests with the personal licensee concerned. Under personal licence standard conditions 12 and 15 set out in Appendix E to the published Guidance on the Operation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (HC321) the personal licensee must ensure that animals are properly monitored and cared for and that suitable arrangements exist for the care and welfare of any animals during any period when the personal licensee is not in attendance.

In addition, certificate of designation standard conditions 4 and 9 set out in Appendix B to the guidance require that establishments must be appropriately staffed at all times to ensure the well-being of the protected animals and that they must be provided with adequate care and accommodation appropriate to their type or species. Further requirements are set out in certificate of designation standard conditions 10 and 12.

In practice, professional judgment is exercised on a case-by-case basis by the personal licensee, named veterinary surgeon and named animal care and welfare officer to decide the level of care to be provided, which could involve 24-hour monitoring.

Antisocial Behaviour Orders

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people have been sentenced to custody for breach of an antisocial behaviour order. (156304)

The latest data available on sentencing for breach of an ASBO relate to 2000 to 2003. These show that of the 793 people found guilty of breach of ASBO 134 were sentenced to custody for breach of ASBO alone—in all other cases, they were convicted for other offences at the same time.

Asylum

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) principal applicants and (b) dependants have been admitted to the United Kingdom under the Gateway Refugee Resettlement Programme in each year since the scheme commenced. (157967)

[holding answer 15 October 2007]: The Gateway Protection Programme became operational in the financial year 2004-05 when 64 principal applicants and 86 dependants were admitted to the UK. In 2005-06 56 principal applicants and 192 dependants were admitted and in 2006-07 139 principal applicants and 368 dependants were admitted to the UK under the Gateway resettlement programme.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what quota the Government set for the maximum number of admissions under the Gateway Refugee Resettlement Programme in each year since the scheme commenced; and what quotas have been set for future years. (157968)

[holding answer 15 October 2007]: Since the Gateway Protection Programme commenced in 2004 the Government have set the quota at 500 refugees per financial year. The Government have not yet set the quota for future years.

Asylum: Iraq

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance she has issued to the Borders and Immigration Agency on how to handle applications for exceptional leave to remain in Britain from Iraqi nationals who have worked in Iraq for the UK armed forces or the British Government in one or more of the categories set out in the written statement by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of 9 October 2007, Official Report, columns 27-8WS, on Iraq: assistance to locally employed staff. (157969)

[holding answer 15 October 2007]: The Foreign Secretary announced on 8 October 2007 the criteria under which current locally engaged staff who had worked for HMG in Iraq would be eligible for referral for exceptional leave to enter the UK. Officials are currently working up the guidance to be issued to the Border and Immigration Agency staff dealing with the cases.

Asylum: Parents

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many cases remain to be determined under the initiative announced on 24 October 2003 on the right to remain of asylum seekers with children. (158197)

The number of cases identified for consideration up to 31 March 2007 (the last quarter for which information is available) was 61,485 of which 61,135 were determined leaving 350 cases outstanding.

BAE Systems: USA

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason her Department has not yet complied with the request for mutual legal assistance from the United States in relation to its investigation into BAE Systems; and when she expects her Department to comply with this request. (158357)

[holding answer 15 October 2007]: The request is receiving careful consideration. It is not appropriate to speculate on a time scale for a decision on its execution.

Border and Immigration Agency: Information Officers

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) national and (b) regional press officers were employed by the Border and Immigration Agency and its predecessor, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, in each of the last 10 years. (158700)

Between 2000 and 2004, one Chief Immigration Officer was usually attached to the Home Office press office as part of a rolling secondment programme.

In 2004, the secondment programme was discontinued and instead IND funded until January 2007 the salary of an additional permanent Government information officer based in the Home Office press office to work on immigration issues.

Since February 2007, IND/BIA has funded the salaries of three Government information officers based in the Home Office press office.

BIA has since April 2007 funded the recruitment and appointment of five new information officers and one senior information officer to work to each of the regional directors.

Consultants: Costs

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which private consultancy firms (a) her Department and (b) agencies which report to her Department engaged in each of the last three years; which programmes or projects each firm worked on; and what the approximate cost to the Department or agency concerned was of each engagement. (155899)

The Home Department engages consultancy firms to support and augment civil servants in the delivery of a specific range of work, including large IT development programmes and where more cost-effective, longer term service delivery programmes.

The Department’s expenditure on these services is allocated across a very wide range of firms, ranging from small, specialist companies with niche expertise and few employees, to global multinational organisations offering a broad spectrum and substantial depth of consultancy expertise.

The Department awards contracts in competition according to the EU procurement regulations based on best value for money. The Department uses OGC framework agreements where appropriate. The use of external consultants in the Home Office provides the Department with specialist knowledge, skills, capacity and technical expertise that would not otherwise be available to it. Some of the expenditure is on consultants to whom we have outsourced services, such as IT.

The information held by the Home Department on its spend on consultancy and professional legal services is as follows:

2004-05: centrally held data are not available on a like-for-like basis, owing to a change in financial recording systems in that period.

2005-06: consultancy: £137 million; legal; £21 million: total: £158 million.

2006-07: consultancy: £148 million; legal: £28 million; total: £176 million.

2007-08: during the current financial year, the Home Department is refining and improving its approach to the management of consultancy spend including a more rigorous demand management and approval process. Year to date figures indicate a reduction in spend which we are forecasting to be maintained throughout the current financial year.

The breakdown across agencies and the Department are as follows.

A breakdown of expenditure by engagement by company is not held centrally and to attempt to assemble it would incur disproportionate cost. The top 10 companies by total expenditure across the Home Office in the last three years are as follows. The companies are listed in alphabetical order; the amount spent with each company is not shown on grounds of commercial confidentiality.

Table 1: Home Department expenditure with consultancy companies for 2005-06 and 2006-07

Borders and Immigration Agency

Home Office

Identity and Passport Service

Total

2005-06

Consultancy

54

74

9

137

Legal

17

4

0

21

Total

71

78

9

158

2006-07

Consultancy

44

74

30

148

Legal

23

5

0

28

Total

67

79

30

176

Top 10 companies by total expenditure across the Home Office in the last three years

Cap Gemini

Capita Resourcing Ltd.

Deloitte

Drivers Jonas

Hedra BearingPoint

IBM

LogicaCMG

PA Consulting Group

Parity Resources

Siemens Business Services Ltd.

Detention Centres: Hunger Strikes

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many detainees in immigration detention centres went on hunger strike in each of the last five years; (154572)

(2) what guidance has been issued to immigration detention centres on how to deal with those on hunger strike.

We only record detainees who have refused to eat the meals provided. The information requested is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

It is normal procedure to place a detainee on a missed meals log if they have missed four consecutive meals, not including breakfast, as this allows staff to monitor their health and welfare to ensure they receive appropriate treatment where necessary.

Detention Services Order 07-2004 was issued to immigration removal centres on how to deal with those on hunger strike. A copy has been placed in the House Library.

European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if she will make a statement on the timetable for the UK’s ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Trafficking of Human Beings. (158533)

The Government are determined to ratify the Convention as soon as we can but are determined to get the arrangements right before doing so. We need to be compliant with the Convention before formal ratification. Some of the other signatories to the Convention have legal systems that allow or require ratification before implementation—ours does not. The UK is already largely compliant with the Convention but some amendments to primary/secondary legislation will be required, as will the development of guidance and the institution of new processes. A dedicated project team within the Border and Immigration Agency is leading delivery of the changes needed to comply with the Convention and is reporting regularly to a cross-government official project board and Ministerial Group. Action against trafficking is continuing and is not on hold pending ratification. During the ongoing, police-led anti-trafficking operation, Pentameter 2 we are piloting an identification process and a 30-day reflection period, as required by Article 10 and 13 of the Convention.

Forensic Science Service

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps she is taking to re-organise the Government’s Forensic Service. (157533)

The Forensic Science Service was an Executive agency of the Home Office until December 2005 when it was vested as a Government-owned limited company (GovCo). In accordance with commitments given to Parliament in March 2006, I am currently considering whether there should be a further change of status, and if so, what that status should be. I hope to be in a position to make an in principle decision by the end of the year.

Immigration Officers: Airports

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether she has plans to increase the number of staff on duty at immigration counters at UK airports. (158536)

We are currently recruiting 118 additional immigration officers at UK airports.

We deploy staff based on published flight schedules and anticipated passenger loads as this is the most effective way to ensure prudent spending of public money. We do not allocate resources based on the number of desks a port operator makes available as this would lead to staff being completely unoccupied for significant periods of their working day. We take a number of measures at peak times to ensure that maximum numbers of staff are available.

This year these measures include:

The re-deployment of mobile search teams to the front-line;

The re-deployment of staff from support functions such as passenger caseworking

Legislation

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criminal offences have been created by each Act sponsored by her Department since May 1997. (156309)

In the period since 1997, the Home Office has had responsibility for a wide range of subjects, including electoral law, data protection, licensing, police, prisons, criminal law and criminal justice, as well as immigration, serious crime and terrorism, and brought forward legislation on these issues as appropriate. In some cases, the legislation created new offences; in other cases, it re-enacted, or gave statutory form to, existing offences, sometimes with modifications to their extent or scope.

A list of all criminal offences created in all Acts sponsored by the Home Office since 1997 is not held centrally, and could be produced only at disproportionate cost in time and resources.

Members: Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when she plans to answer the letter of 9 August from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton on Mr. Larry Allen. (156904)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when she plans to answer the letter of 6 August from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton on Mr. M. Sultan. (156905)

Police: South West Region

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the Government funding provision was (a) in total and (b) per capita for police services in (i) Devon and Cornwall and (ii) England and Wales in each year since 1979. (156359)

The information requested where available is set out in the following table.

Information from before 1995-96 is unreliable due to the changed structures of police authorities.

We do not distribute grant to police authorities purely on the basis of population. The police funding formula uses a range of socio-demographic data to reflect the relative needs of each authority. Grant allocations also take into account the relative resources of each authority. Grant allocations are stabilised by damping changes to limit year-on-year variations. Devon and Cornwall actually receives £1.9 million more than it would on a strict application of the funding formula.

Government funding provision for police services from 1995-96 to 2006-07

£ million

Police authority

Funding provision

Devon and Cornwall

England and Wales1

Government grant2,3

1995-96

122.92

5,538.60

1996-97

129.31

5,746.29

1997-98

132.97

5,861.23

1998-99

141.09

6,050.55

1999-2000

146.70

6,185.59

2000-01

152.88

4,737.60

2001-02

163.44

5,038.79

2002-03

167.49

5,173.15

2003-04

174.26

5,548.65

2004-05

180.29

5,770.08

2005-06

189.16

6,075.37

Government grant2,3,4

2006-07

190.95

6,215.54

2007-08

199.38

6,425.25

1 The data for Metropolitan Police Authority from 2000-01 onwards are not available as they are collected as consolidated data from GLA.

2 Revenue funding includes all grants inside Aggregate External Finance (AEF) (i.e. revenue grants paid for councils’ core services), and includes formula grant and all specific grants.

3 Welsh Government Grant includes Home Office Police Grant, floor funding and additional support provided to ensure Welsh police authorities receive at least a minimum in grant in line with English authorities.

4 2006-07 Government grant figures are provisional outturn figures. 2007-08 figures are budget figures.

Source:

DCLG—English Police Authorities/WAG—Welsh Police Authorities.

Population figures sourced by DCLG from ONS (2006-07 and 2007-08 figures are projected).

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the gross revenue expenditure for police authorities per capita was in (a) Devon and Cornwall and (b) England and Wales in (i) 2005-06, (ii) 2006-07 and (iii) 2007-08. (156360)

We do not distribute grant to police authorities purely on the basis of population. The police funding formula uses a range of socio- demographic data to reflect the relative needs of each authority. Grant allocations also take into account the relative resources of each authority. Grant allocations are stabilised by damping changes to limit year-on-year variations. Devon and Cornwall actually receives £1.9 million more than it would on a strict application of the funding formula.

Gross revenue expenditure per capita 2005-06 to 2007-08

Devon and Cornwall

England and Wales

2005-06

177.76

234.20

2006-07

164.37

230.77

2007-08

174.83

234.53

Source:

Gross Revenue Expenditure—Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Police Statistics (Estimates for 2006-07 and 2007-08) Resident Population—Department for Communities and Local Government.

Work Permits

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 9 October 2007, to question 149263, on work permits, if she will give a breakdown of the 20 non-EU nationalities receiving the most work permits for (i) doctors and (ii) nurses in each of the last 10 years. (158339)

The tables show the number of approved work permit applications that were issued to the top 20 non-EU nationality recipients of work permits (and others) for (i) doctors (table 1) and (ii) nurses (table 2) during the period 1999 to 2006. Data for 1997 and 1998 are not available. There have been no approvals for auxiliary nurses during this period.

The figures quoted are not provided under National Statistics protocols and have been derived from local management information and are therefore provisional and subject to change.

Table 1: work permits issued to doctors in the top 20 non-EU countries from 1999-2006

Non-EU state

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Total

India

60

200

610

955

1,585

2,325

2,060

1,740

9,535

South Africa

40

95

370

1,005

755

565

300

265

3,390

Pakistan

15

60

140

215

290

475

425

375

1,995

China Peoples Republic of

5

40

110

140

170

160

200

215

1,040

Egypt

10

20

100

115

115

120

85

85

655

Nigeria

5

30

55

65

80

95

100

125

550

Sri Lanka

*

*

20

55

65

110

110

120

485

Australia

*

10

60

75

85

80

60

65

435

Malaysia

*

5

20

55

55

65

75

135

405

Libya

5

20

35

55

60

45

50

30

300

Syrian Arab Republic

0

5

25

30

55

55

55

40

265

Myanmar

0

*

15

15

55

50

75

35

255

Trinidad and Tobago

*

5

20

35

45

45

30

40

230

Sudan

5

15

20

35

45

45

35

30

230

Iran

0

0

5

10

20

40

40

55

170

New Zealand

0

5

25

25

30

20

15

15

135

Bangladesh

5

5

10

20

20

20

20

30

125

Jordan

*

0

5

10

20

30

30

30

125

Zimbabwe

0

*

5

15

20

30

25

20

120

Iraq

5

5

5

10

25

15

25

30

120

Others

10

65

145

180

230

295

255

350

1,525

Total

170

580

1,805

3,120

3,820

4,690

4,070

3,830

22,090

* = Indicates one or two.

Notes:

1. Figures are rounded to nearest five.

2. Because of rounding, figures may not add up to totals shown.

Table 2: work permits issued to nurses in the top 20 non-EU countries from 1999-2006

Non-EU state

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Total

Philippines

575

6,760

10,440

11,145

10,960

8,875

4,870

2,840

56,460

India

70

915

2,790

3,935

5,475

7,265

7,230

4,440

32,120

South Africa

415

1,755

2,750

3,410

3,365

2,895

2,010

1,135

17,730

Zimbabwe

275

1,165

1,915

2,700

2,730

2,980

2,330

1,610

15,705

Nigeria

250

925

1,165

1,720

1,335

1,345

1,165

600

8,505

Ghana

50

310

530

635

770

745

650

290

3,980

Australia

80

505

620

555

530

440

370

300

3,400

Pakistan

10

85

410

455

415

515

515

290

2,700

Mauritius

55

200

320

375

430

460

350

175

2,365

Zambia

25

150

345

430

430

385

350

195

2,315

Trinidad and Tobago

165

440

390

360

310

255

190

110

2,215

Kenya

20

115

275

395

385

390

255

145

1,980

Jamaica

85

320

310

260

190

220

240

145

1,775

New Zealand

45

235

285

265

220

180

115

85

1,430

Guyana

10

35

80

120

160

295

225

180

1,110

China Peoples Republic of

5

60

105

90

130

160

130

105

790

Botswana

*

35

115

110

105

125

140

70

705

Malawi

10

40

95

115

120

115

125

70

700

Malaysia

40

140

135

120

75

70

60

40

685

Nepal

5

15

45

70

90

155

150

150

680

Others

235

925

1,230

1,465

1,370

1,305

1,200

705

8,435

Total

2,430

15,130

24,355

28,740

29,590

29,180

22,670

13,685

165,780

* = Indicates one or two.

Notes:

1. Figures are rounded to nearest five.

2. Because of rounding, figures may not add up to totals shown.

Leader of the House

Departments: General Elections

To ask the Leader of the House what contingency preparations her Office made for the possibility of a general election in autumn 2007; and what the costs of those preparations were. (156995)

The guidance covering the conduct of official business during a general election was last issued in May 2005. This guidance, and other relevant procedures and processes, are kept under constant review by the Cabinet Office and other relevant departments so that they are ready to be put in place when a general election is called.

Defence

Armed Forces: Council Tax

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the armed forces are entitled to the council tax exemption on his Department's homes. (158109)

Based on current deployment numbers, it is estimated that some 3,000 Service personnel with Service Families Accommodation will initially be eligible for the council tax relief payment, increasing to some 5,000 next year when the relief will cover those on operational deployments beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the armed forces will be entitled to the new council tax discount on homes not owned by his Department for troops serving abroad. (158110)

Based on current deployment numbers, it is estimated that some 5,000 Service personnel with private accommodation will initially be eligible for the council tax relief payment, increasing to some 7,500 next year when the relief will cover those on operational deployments beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he plans to increase the level of the discount for members of the armed forces serving abroad on operational duty each year in line with council tax inflation. (158111)

The level of payment will be updated annually based on the average council tax per dwelling in England.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the council tax rebate for serving personnel in the armed forces will come into effect. (158615)

Armed Forces: Deployment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what units down to company level formed the Spearhead Land Element in 2005. (158394)

The Spearhead Land Element was rostered, during 2005, as follows:

Unit

Dates

1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles

1 January to 5 March

1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets (now 2nd Battalion The Rifles)

5 March to 7 July

1st Battalion The Green Howards (now 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment)

7 July to 1 December

2nd Battalion The Light Infantry (now part of The Rifles)

1 December to 31 December

The Spearhead Land Element is a battalion size commitment. It is up to each battalion to manage this commitment between its available companies or sub units.

Armed Forces: Housing

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has had from former service personnel groups regarding the supply of affordable housing; and if he will make a statement. (155833)

The Department for Communities and Local Government and the devolved Administrations lead on social housing matters but the Ministry of Defence is in regular contact with them on veterans' housing issues. As Minister for Veterans, I have frequent contact with ex-service organisations. Various initiatives to reduce the risk of homelessness among service leavers and veterans have been discussed but neither my officials nor I recall the specific subject of the supply of affordable housing being raised. The Joint Services Housing Advice Office provides practical advice on access to affordable housing to current armed forces personnel and those who are soon to leave the services.

Armed Forces: Pay

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many and what proportion of members of the armed forces who served on the front line in each of the last five years received bonus payments in each of those years; what the (a) amount of bonuses paid and (b) largest single payment was in each year; and if he will make a statement. (157426)

[holding answer 15 October 2007]: Members of the armed forces do not receive bonus payments as part of their basic pay package. However all personnel who meet the eligibility criteria are paid the tax free Operational Allowance. The tax free Operational Allowance was effective from 1 April 2006 and came into payment in November 2006.

The amount of the largest single payment is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

For financial year 2006-07 35,983 armed forces personnel received payment of the Operational Allowance, totalling £44.77 million. As a proportion of the strength of the armed forces at 1 April 2006 this represents about 18 per cent.

For financial year 2007-08 to 30 September 2007,28,114 armed forces personnel received payment of the Operational Allowance, totalling £14.13 million. As a proportion of the provisional strength of the armed forces at 1 April 2007 this represents about 15 per cent. The marked difference in value between financial year 2006-07 and financial year 2007-08 to date is due to a smaller entitled population and a number of payments being made in advance at the end of financial year 2006-07, prior to closedown of the system for army implementation of JPA.

Army: Officers

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many officers in the Army are surplus to requirement; and what plans there are to reduce this number. (158372)

Officer strength is measured against the April 2008 Regular Army Liability (RAL), and on 1 March 2007, a surplus of 628 was recorded. However, the RAL only accounts for permanent posts, and there are currently more than 1,000 temporary posts for officers in addition to the RAL total for other requirements including support to operations. Therefore, even taking account of the RAL surplus, the total officer requirement is not being met and, as a result, there are currently no plans to reduce officer numbers.

Ballistic Missile Defence: USA

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what discussions his Department has had with the US Administration on plans to develop missile silos and x-band radar on land or sea bases in the UK; (158620)

(2) what discussions he and officials from his Department have had with the US Administration on plans to site interceptor missiles or related equipment in the UK.

[holding answer 16 October 2007]: The Ministry of Defence continues to discuss ballistic missile defence issues with the US Administration. It is not the practice of the Government to make public details of all discussions with foreign Governments as this would, or would be likely to, prejudice international relations. As I set out in my statement of 25 July 2007, Official Report column 72WS, we have no plans to site missile interceptors in the UK.

Defence

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with his French counterpart on (a) European Security and Defence Policy and (b) NATO. (154253)

I attended the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris on 14 July, where I met the French Defence Minister for bilateral discussions. I also had the opportunity to meet him at the end of September in the course of the EU Defence Ministers' informal meeting in Portugal.

On both occasions we discussed a range of issues, including the European Security and Defence Policy and NATO.

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