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Written Answers

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2008

Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Electoral Commission Committee

Double Reporting of Donations

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what steps the Electoral Commission has taken to facilitate the end of the double reporting of donations by hon. Members. (186095)

The Electoral Administration Act 2006 contains amendments to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 which would remove the requirement on hon. Members to report certain donations and loans separately to the Electoral Commission.

However, these amendments cannot be brought into effect until the Commission is satisfied that the House has changed its own reporting procedures to require that hon. Members report the same information regarding gifts, donations and loans as they are currently required to report to the Commission under PPERA.

The Commission informs me that it has been working with the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards to achieve these changes to the reporting requirements as soon as possible.

Efficiency Savings

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what (a) cashable and (b) non-cashable efficiency savings the Electoral Commission made in each of the last three years. (186098)

The Electoral Commission informs me that, during its first six years of operations, it did not record specific cashable and non-cashable efficiency savings because it was going through a period of organisational change. However, the Commission remained within its agreed budget throughout this period.

Following a review commissioned by the Speaker's Committee, the Commission now plans and records its efficiency savings and during 2007-08 has delivered £625,000 of recurrent cashable savings.

Electoral Commission: Finance

To ask the honourable Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what budget has been set for the Electoral Commission for each of the next three financial years.[Official Report, 6 March 2008, Vol. 472, c. 26MC.] (186070)

The Speaker's Committee considered the Commission's budget for the four years 2007-08 to 2010-11 when it met in March 2007 and approved a cash flat resource budget of £3,995,000 (including the £2 million annual policy development grant budget) in each of the four years, subject to reconsideration only in the event that Parliament places new responsibilities upon the Commission during this period.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Bovine Tuberculosis: Devon

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cattle were slaughtered in Devon as a result of tuberculosis infection in each of the last five years; how much compensation was paid to the farmers affected in each year; and if he will make a statement. (189048)

The following table sets out the number of cattle slaughtered under bovine tuberculosis control measures in Devon in the last five calendar years. A breakdown of the amount of compensation paid in Devon is not available.

Cattle slaughtered under TB control measures in Devon county: 2003-071

Number

2003

3,767

2004

4,758

2005

6,660

2006

4,468

2007

5,383

1 Includes cattle slaughtered as reactors, inconclusive reactors and direct contacts. 2005-07 figures are provisional, subject to change as more data become available.

Bovine Tuberculosis: Testing

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average length of time to test a badger for tuberculosis is. (189053)

There is currently no sensitive and reliable diagnostic test for bovine TB in live badgers in the field. Bovine TB is most reliably detected by post mortem examination or by the less sensitive method of taking clinical samples (for example, blood, urine, tracheal swabs and faeces) from anaesthetised live badgers. Tissue samples are then confirmed by culture of Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis ) in the laboratory. However, M. bovis grows very slowly so culture results can take six weeks to several months to come through. Various blood tests can be used to measure the immune response to bovine TB, one of which takes about 30 minutes, and has about 80 per cent. sensitivity in detecting severely infected animals.

The drawback of these tests for live badgers is the need to anaesthetise the badger in order to sample it, hence they are suitable for research purposes only.

Departmental Official Hospitality

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much was spent by (a) his Department and (b) its agencies on (i) official hospitality and (ii) staff entertainment in each year since 1997. (185182)

DEFRA came into being in June 2001. The information requested for each of the last 10 years could be provided only at disproportionate cost. From information held centrally the amounts spent on hospitality by the core-Department are:

£

2001-02

140,588

2002-03

344,822

2003-04

576,829

2004-05

381,138

2005-06

457,523

2006-07

405,482

2007-081

291,585

1 April to December

Direct year-on-year comparisons cannot be made because of Machinery of Government changes that have occurred.

The core-Department does not hold information centrally on hospitality expenditure by its executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies. The information could be provided only at disproportionate cost. The core-Department holds no information centrally on the expenditure category of staff entertainment.

Departmental Official Residences

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many Ministerial residences were available to his Department’s Ministers and those of its predecessors in each of the last 10 years. (183189)

I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary of the Duchy of Lancaster on 19 February 2008, Official Report, column 688W.

Departmental Vehicles

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many vehicles were (a) owned and (b) purchased by his Department and its predecessor in each of the last 10 years. (183290)

DEFRA came into being in June 2001. The information requested for each of the last 10 years could be provided only at disproportionate cost. From information held centrally the numbers of fleet vehicles owned by core-DEFRA for the financial years 2001-02 to 2007-08 to date are:

Number

2001-02

289

2002-03

390

2003-04

418

2004-05

376

2005-06

306

2006-07

298

2007-08 (to date)

221

From information held centrally the numbers of pool vehicles owned by core-DEFRA and the Animal Health Agency for the financial years 2005-06 to 2007-08 to date are:

Number

2005-06

42

2006-07

41

2007-08 (to date)

42

The core-Department’s Regional Development Service (RDS) had 157 pool vehicles in 2005-06 but these became the responsibility of National England when the RDS was absorbed into the non-departmental public body.

Food: Procurement

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his Department's policy is on the purchase of food from local sources. (186435)

We have helped to support local sourcing with funding for a range of measures, which allow regional and local food producers to overcome barriers to the effective marketing of their products. Examples include “meet the buyer” events, encouragement for food hubs and shared distribution facilities, and key training seminars.

Support from DEFRA has been boosted by the regional development agencies (RDAs), helping activities to do with the promotion of quality regional and local food culture. The level and type of RDA funding reflects each region's priorities as set out in regional economic strategies. RDAs also deliver aspects of DEFRA's rural development programme for England (RDPE). Support is available under the RDPE to improve the competitiveness of a wide range of rural businesses, which can include local and regional food producers.

We have also commissioned research aimed at enabling policy makers, support organisations and the supply chain to better understand the regional and local food sector. One of these projects will investigate the practicalities and benefits of local food production. Other work will examine consumer attitudes and actual purchasing behaviour. The results will be published on our website.

Finally, DEFRA's ongoing public sector food procurement initiative (PSFPI) was launched in 2003 to help deliver the Government's sustainable farming and food strategy. This aims to increase opportunities for small and local producers to tender for contracts to supply food to the public sector. Our funding for this initiative supports workshops for buyers and suppliers, regional pilot projects to develop the supply side, and a range of guidance materials aimed at both food producers and public sector buyers. More information on the PSFPI can be found on the DEFRA website.

Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many prosecutions have been brought under the provisions of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 in the last 12 months. (185037)

The Gangmasters' Licensing Act 2004 creates two main offences: operating as a gangmaster without a licence and entering into arrangements with an unlicensed gangmaster. It also creates offences in connection with false documents, such as a licence or a document issued by the Gangmasters' Licensing Authority (GLA) in connection with a licence. The GLA enforces the 2004 Act on behalf of DEFRA.

In the last 12 months, one prosecution has been brought for the offences created by the 2004 Act. This prosecution has been brought in Scotland by the Procurator Fiscal for the offence of acting as a gangmaster without a licence. The trial date has been set for March.

In addition, the GLA is investigating 105 cases where offences under the 2004 Act may have been committed. The GLA has said that from the 2008-09 financial year it will be placing increasing emphasis on enforcing the 2004 Act now that it has completed the task of designing and implementing the licensing scheme for gangmasters.

Public Sector: Procurement

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of publicly procured food was of British origin in (a) 2005, (b) 2006 and (c) 2007. (186340)

There are no central records for the years 2005 and 2006 giving the proportion of publicly procured food of British origin. We have however published data giving the proportion of domestically produced food used by Government Departments and also supplied to hospitals and prisons under contracts negotiated by NHS Supply Chain and HM Prison Service for the period July 2006 to 30 June 2007. The report is available on the PSFPI web site at:

http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/policy/sustain/procurement/pdf/govt-food-usage.pdf

and has been placed in the Library of the House.

Road Traffic Offences

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) parking tickets and (b) speeding fines were issued for vehicles used by his Department in each of the last 10 years. (183346)

DEFRA came into being in June 2001. The information requested for each of the last 10 years could be provided only at disproportionate cost. For the calendar years 2002 to 2007 inclusive the recorded number held centrally of parking tickets and speeding fines are;

Number

2002

21

2003

68

2004

61

2005

53

2006

26

2007

60

Parking fines are not recorded separately from other fines. It is departmental policy that drivers are responsible personally for the payment of fines incurred by them while using a vehicle on departmental business.

Scotland

Departmental Internet

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many Wikipedia entries have been (a) created and (b) amended (i) by (A) special advisers, (B) Ministers and (C) communications officials and (ii) from IP addresses of (1) special advisers, (2) Ministers and (3) communications officials in his Department since August 2005. (185532)

Departmental Property

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what property has been lost or stolen from his Department since 1997; and at what cost to the public purse. (187471)

The Scotland Office was established on 1 July 1999.

Since that date, the following have been reported as lost or stolen.

Item

Lost

Stolen

Value at date reported lost/stolen (£)

1999-2000

Laptop

Yes

733

2000-01

2001-02

2002-03

Mobile Phone

Yes

n/a

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

Multi Media Projector

Yes

766

BlackBerry

Yes

249

2006-07

Mobile Phone

Yes

n/a

BlackBerry

Yes

141

2007 (to date)

It is not possible to determine the value of the mobile phone handsets.

Departmental Retirement

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many staff in his Department retired on grounds of stress-related illness in each of the last three years. (187498)

The staff in the Scotland Office are seconded from other Departments and the Office does not maintain personnel records of staff.

Departmental Sick Leave

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what percentage of working days lost by his Department’s staff was attributed to stress-related conditions in the most recent year for which figures are available. (187871)

The staff in the Scotland Office are seconded from other Departments and the Office does not maintain personnel records of staff.

Departmental Temporary Employment

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what average hourly rate his Department paid to employment agencies for agency staff in each year since 1999, broken down by employment agency. (187913)

Prime Minister

Efficiency in Public Services Review: Written Questions

To ask the Prime Minister if he will take steps to investigate the reasons why (a) the Home Department and (b) the Ministry of Defence have been unable to provide answers to parliamentary questions, save at disproportionate cost, on redundancies and related costs arising from the conclusions of the Gershon review; and if he will take steps to bring the practice of these Departments on answering such questions into line with the other Departments. (189419)

Practice and procedures are set out in the February 2005 Cabinet Office guidance to Departments entitled Guidance to Officials on Drafting Answers to Parliamentary Questions. Copies of the guidance are available in the Libraries of the House.

Transport

A57

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reason the A57 at Snake Pass has been closed during January 2008; when she expects the road to re-open; and if she will make a statement. (188669)

The A57 Snake Pass is the responsibility of the Derbyshire county council as local highways authority.

I understand that the road was closed in the interest of road safety for a period of three weeks following a land slip which affected the road surface.

Following a period of stabilisation the road has been reopened with a 10 mph speed limit. Derbyshire county council is continuing to monitor the situation and, if no further movement occurs, will carry out resurfacing of the road in late spring.

Aviation: Fuels

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions she has had with her foreign counterparts on the quality of fuel supplies at airports servicing British registered aircraft flying to the UK; and if she will make a statement. (187552)

The Secretary of State has not had discussions with the authorities of other states regarding the quality of fuel at airports used by aircraft flying to the UK.

UK airlines are required to use fuel which meets the detailed specifications contained in the flight manuals of their aircraft. The quality of fuel used, including that supplied by through sub-contractors, is monitored through the airlines quality system.

Biofuels

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent assessment she has made of the potential role of biomethane as a transport fuel. (186492)

During 2006, the Department part-funded a research project to assess the potential role of biomethane as a renewable transport fuel, as well as commissioning a more detailed analysis of the potential benefits of including biogas in the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO). Copies of these reports have been made available in the House Libraries. The Government are also contributing funds to an International Energy Agency working group (IEA Task 37) which is considering the issues raised by biogas.

In recognition of the environmental benefits that it offers, biomethane already qualifies for a fuel duty incentive equivalent to around 40 pence per kilogramme. From April 2008, it will also be eligible for Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation.

Bridges: River Thames

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will make a statement on the possible construction of a lower Thames crossing. (188211)

The Department for Transport has started the first phase of a study into longer-term crossing capacity in the Lower Thames.

As part of an earlier consultation on a revised charging regime for the existing Dartford Crossing, we announced our intention to commence a study to look at options for addressing rising demand in the longer-term. The start of this study fulfils that commitment.

This initial phase of the study will advise on the future need for additional crossing capacity and identify possible options. It will also update the transport models to better understand the impacts of current and future demand, and review previous work on what can be done to improve traffic flow through the existing crossing in the short to medium term.

This phase is planned to be completed around the end of this year and will ensure that we have the latest information and forecasts of demand to be able to make an assessment of potentially viable future options.

Bus Services: Concessions

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many people over 60-years-old in Stockport will be eligible for the extended free bus travel scheme to be introduced on 1 April 2008. (189047)

The number of residents in the borough of Stockport aged 60 and over who, from 1 April 2008 will be entitled to free off-peak bus travel in any part of England, is around 64,000. In the parliamentary constituency of Stockport approximately 14,000 people will be eligible.

Cycling: Accidents

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she is taking to improve the procedures for the collection of data on cycle safety to tackle the underreporting of the number of accidents. (188586)

National and local government and police forces work closely to achieve a high reporting standard for road accident data. Very few, if any, fatal accidents do not become known to the police. However, research conducted on behalf of the Department has shown that an appreciable proportion of non-fatal injury accidents are not reported to the police. There is no legal duty in Great Britain to report personal injury road accidents to the police, provided the participants exchange details at the scene.

Research has also shown that pedal cycle casualties are underrepresented in the road accident data (STATS19). In particular, accidents in which the pedal cyclist is the only participant are not likely to be reported to the Police. Recent research using Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) shows that many accidents not recorded in the police data are the result of a person (often a child) falling from a bicycle with no other vehicle involved.

This research was published by the Department in an article in Road Casualties Great Britain: 2006 annual report (pages 60-72). A copy of the report has been deposited in the Libraries of the House or can be found at the following address:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/162259/162469/221412/221549/227755/rcgb2006v1.pdf

Cycling: Safety Measures

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will bring forward legislative proposals to require all pedal bicycles to have a bell or other audible warning device fitted when being used. (188634)

Rule 66 of the Highway Code recommends the fitting and use of cycle bells. The 2003 Pedal Bicycles (Safety) Regulations introduced various requirements relating to the supply and sale of cycles, including the obligation for a bell to be fitted at point of sale. While the regulations do not compel cyclists to keep a bell fitted to the bicycle after the machine has been purchased, it seems likely that many will retain it.

In view of the results of a previous public consultation exercise (2001-02), we consider that there is insufficient justification to make retrospective fitting of a bell obligatory on cycles already in use. Neither do we believe there is a strong enough case to require compulsory use of bells, as this would be impractical and difficult to enforce.

Departmental Advertising

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what percentage of her Department’s expenditure was on advertising in each year since establishment. (182984)

The requested figures are as follows. The majority of advertising investment by the Department and agencies is in support of the THINK! Road Safety, Act on CO2 and Continuous Registration (vehicle taxation) campaigns.

Total public expenditure (£ million)

Advertising expenditure (£ million)

Percentage

2002-03

11,726

18.8

0.16

2003-04

13,086

20.9

0.16

2004-05

13,391

18.9

0.14

2005-06

13,371

21.2

0.16

2006-07

15,838

24.0

0.15

Departmental Telephone Services

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 5 February 2008, Official Report, columns 1007-8W, on departmental telephone services, how much revenue generated from 0870 telephone numbers of her Department’s agencies came from Scottish landline numbers in each year. (187459)

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Driving Standards Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency are unable to identify the geographic origin of calls to them. As a result, they are unable to provide details of revenue generated from Scottish landlines.

Departmental Vehicles

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 5 February 2008, Official Report, column 1008W, on departmental vehicles, how many vehicles were leased by (a) the Highways Agency’s Traffic Officer Service and (b) the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; and what the cost to the public purse was in each of those years. (187896)

The requested information, where available, is as follows:

Financial year

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency total leased vehicles

Highways Agency total leased vehicles

Highways Agency leased vehicle cost (£)

1998-99

1

1

1

1999-2000

1

1

1

2000-01

1

1

1

2001-02

14

1

1

2002-03

18

1

1

2003-04

47

11

140,632

2004-05

38

23

635,251

2005-06

48

166

1,639,178

2006-07

39

171

1,865,175

2007-08

41

267

1,171,038

1 No data.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is unable to provide detailed information on costs as vehicle lease information is not recorded separately within their records.

Highways Agency data for 2007-08 is a year to date actual as of end of January 2008, not a full year forecast value.

Derwent Valley Railway Line

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she is taking to ensure adequate funding for the upgrading and maintenance of the Derwent Valley railway line. (188926)

This is an operational matter for Network Rail, as the owner and operator of the national rail network. The right hon. Member should contact Network Rail's chief executive at the following address for a response to his question.

Iain Coucher

Chief Executive

Network Rail

40 Melton Street

London

NW1 2EE

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency: Telephone Calls

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many calls were made to (a) the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, (b) the Driving Standards Agency and (c) the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency from Scottish landline numbers in each of the last five years. (187456)

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Driving Standards Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency are unable to identify the geographic origin of calls to them, including those from Scottish landlines.

Electric Vehicles

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what assessment she has made of the potential effect on the Government's road congestion targets of the use of electric personal assistive mobility devices; (188875)

(2) what assessment she has made of the changes to legislation necessary to permit the use of electric personal assistive mobility devices on (a) the public highway and (b) public footpaths;

(3) what discussions she has had with her counterparts in EU member states on the potential effect on (a) carbon emissions and (b) road congestion of the use of electric personal assistive mobility devices.

If, as we understand, such devices are likely to be used mainly as an alternative to walking or cycling then their potential in terms of congestion relief and of carbon emission reduction is likely to be minimal. No detailed assessment of legislative requirements has been made but primary legislation would need to be amended to permit their use on public footpaths or on the pedestrian footway alongside the public highway. There is provision in section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 that would allow the Secretary of State to permit by way of an order their use on the vehicular part of the public highway. The Secretary of State has no plans to make such an order. The Secretary of State has had no discussions with her EU counterparts on this subject.

Fuels: Renewable Energy

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she is taking to encourage the formulation of standards of specification and performance for fuels from renewable sources. (188660)

Detailed specifications and performance standards for road fuels are specified in industry standards set in Europe through the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN).

In addition to the standards for petrol and diesel (EN 228 and EN 590 respectively), standards for ethanol used for blending in petrol (EN 15376) and for Fatty Acid Methyl Ester used as pure biodiesel or for blending in diesel (EN 14214) have already been adopted. Key environmental parameters for petrol and diesel are regulated in the EU fuel quality directive (98/70/EC as amended) and transposed in the UK by the Motor Fuels (Composition and Content) Regulations 1999. The Government and their European partners are currently considering a proposal by the European Commission to increase the level of ethanol in petrol permitted by the fuel quality directive.

The Government are also keen that mandatory sustainability standards should be applied to all biofuels and are pressing for the inclusion of robust sustainability criteria in the relevant European Union legislation. The Government's intention is that only those biofuels meeting certain minimum environmental standards should qualify for credits under the Road Transport Fuels Obligation.

Government Car and Despatch Agency

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many vehicles were leased by the Government Car and Despatch Agency (GCDA) to each Government Department in 2007; and what the (a) average and (b) total cost of contracts between the GCDA and each Government Department for that year was. (187569)

I refer the hon. Member to the ministerial statement made by the Secretary of State for Transport on 26 July 2007, Official Report, columns 109-11WS. The statement gave information on the number and the contracted cost of ministerial cars and drivers provided by the Government Car and Despatch Agency (GCDA) for 2006-07, the last year for which figures are available.

The number and contracted cost of official cars and drivers provided to senior officials in 2006-07, the last year for which figures are available, are as follows:

Department

Number of cars

Contracted cost (£)

Cabinet Office1

5

268,100

Commission for Equality and Human Rights

1

27,400

Crown Prosecution Service

1

61,000

Department for Constitutional Affairs

1

24,600

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

1

63,100

Department for Education and Science

1

59,200

Department for Trade and Industry

1

63,100

Department for Transport

1

61,000

Department for Work and Pensions

1

57,700

Department of Health

3

61,400

Export Credit Guarantees Department

1

57,700

HM Court Service

1

56,300

HM Inspectorate Of Constabulary

2

61,500

HM Revenue and Customs2

2

89,600

HM Treasury2

2

92,800

Home Office

2

137,000

Northern Ireland Office

1

60,400

Olympic Delivery Authority3

1

27,200

Office of Government Commerce

1

52,800

Office of Science and Technology

1

60,700

1 Figures for the Cabinet Office include the provision of an official car and driver for the Official Leader of the Opposition. Of the five cars and drivers that were provided during the year, one car and driver was provided for three months only.

2 One allocated car and driver transferred from HMRC to HM Treasury in August 2006.

3 GCDA services were provided to the Olympic Delivery Authority for five months only.

Heavy Goods Vehicles

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport with reference to the answer of 6 July 2006, Official Report, columns 1268-69W, on heavy goods vehicles, what recent estimate she has made of the proportion of heavy goods vehicle kilometres on roads accounted for by foreign heavy goods vehicles. (188897)

Lorries: Accidents

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) deaths and (b) major injuries were caused in 2006-07 by objects from unsecured freight vehicle loads falling onto people. (188908)

M1: Milton Keynes

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment she has made of the impact of the Milton Keynes/South Midland growth area on the development of Junction 11a of the M1. (188299)

The Milton Keynes/South Midlands growth area is included within the transport model used for the assessment of the A5-M1 link scheme and accordingly M1 Junction 11a which forms part of that scheme.

M1: Speed Limits

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reason the 50 mph temporary speed limit remained in force on the M1 motorway in the vicinity of junction 32 after all lanes were re-opened to traffic. (188668)

The continued speed restrictions on the M1 Junctions 31 and 32 were kept in place until the final commissioning of the new electronic lane control signals was fully completed.

The electronic signals and signs were fully commissioned on 19 February and the speed restrictions were removed on the morning of 20 February.

Marine Management Organisation

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what licensing powers currently within her Department's responsibilities she expects to be transferred to the Marine Management Organisation, as proposed in the Marine Bill White Paper; and if she will make a statement. (188709)

We intend to transfer to the proposed Marine Management Organisation responsibility for decisions on Harbour Revision and Harbour Empowerment Orders.

Motor Vehicles: Safety

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will make the Code of Practice on Safety of Loads on Vehicles mandatory; and if she will make a statement. (188907)

While the Code is not a legal document and there are no plans to make it mandatory, it can be used as an example of good practice to support a prosecution for non compliance with regulations.

Network Rail: Portsmouth

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations she has made to Network Rail on signal failures in the Portsmouth area in 2008; what steps Network Rail has taken to prevent signalling problems during major works at Easter; and if she will make a statement. (188342)

The Secretary of State for Transport has made no representations to Network Rail on signal failures in the Portsmouth area in 2008. The prevention of signalling problems during major works at Easter is an operational matter for Network Rail as the owner and operator of the national rail network. The hon. Member should contact Network Rail’s chief executive at the following address for a response to his question:

Iain Coucher

Chief Executive

Network Rail

40 Melton Street

London, NW1 2EE.

Northern Rail: Rolling Stock

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when she expects refurbished rolling stock to be available for Northern Rail services on its Newcastle to Carlisle line; and when Pacer trains will be decommissioned. (188384)

Decisions on deployment of rolling stock rest with the franchisee, Northern Rail. The department understands there are no plans to withdraw Pacer trains from service.

Parking Tickets

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Taunton of 5 February 2008, Official Report, columns 1014-15W, on parking tickets, whether the figures provided include parking tickets issued on Government Car and Despatch Agency vehicles under lease to departments other than her Department at the time the ticket was issued. (187919)

The figures for the period 1999-2000 to 2006-07 quoted in the earlier reply include parking ticket costs for the entire Government Car and Despatch Agency’s fleet, including those vehicles allocated to other Government Departments. Information before 1999-2000 is not readily available and could be obtained only at a disproportionate cost.

Public Transport: Rural Areas

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she is taking to improve public transport links for those living in rural areas to nearby towns and cities. (188925)

Local and central government are currently spending £2.5 billion a year on bus services, including those linking rural areas with nearby towns and cities. This total includes bus service operators grant (BSOG), the costs of mandatory concessionary fares, local authority subsidy of non-commercial services and capital expenditure on bus-related infrastructure schemes.

It is for local authorities to decide which particular bus services to subsidise in their area and how much of the resources available to them to devote to supporting bus services.

These resources include funding we have provided to local authorities in the form of rural bus subsidy grant (RBSG). This grant is currently supporting some 2,000 services many of which provide the vital links to nearby towns. A total of around 38 million passenger journeys are made annually on RBSG supported services. This year's allocations total £55.6 million, bringing the grant's total to nearly £450 million since its introduction in 1998.

The Local Transport Bill, now before Parliament, will benefit rural areas and urban areas alike by modernising the regulatory framework for buses, giving local authorities a bigger role where this is necessary and providing strengthened arrangements for partnerships between local authorities and bus operators.

The Bill also contains measures to expand the role of community transport and to enable private hire vehicle operators to provide local bus services, extending the existing taxibus provisions to this sector for the first time. Both these measures are of particular relevance to meeting rural transport needs.

Rail Accident Investigation Branch

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many external contracts the Rail Accidents Investigation Branch held with public relations companies in each year for which figures are available; and what the cost of those contracts was. (187575)

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch was set up during 2005 and became fully operational from 17 October 2005. RAIB let a contract with Campaign Productions (Television Productions Ltd.) to produce a DVD for use by TV/media explaining the RAIB’s role in investigating certain rail accidents and incidents. In financial year 2006-07, the cost was £13,618.15 and in FY 2007-08, the cost was £363.82.

Railways

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what her strategy is for increasing (a) passenger and (b) freight capacity on the national rail network; and if she will make a statement. (188466)

The Department for Transport’s strategy for increasing passenger and freight capacity through record investment in the railway is set out in the 2007 White Paper, “Delivering a Sustainable Railway”. A copy of this White Paper is available in the House Library.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment she has made of the implications for heritage railways of the railways and other guided systems regulations; and if she will make a statement. (188475)

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) is considering concerns raised by heritage railways about the application of the Railway and Other Guided Transport System (Safety) Regulations 2006. I expect to receive briefing from ORR in late March on progress in resolving these concerns.

Railways: Carbon Emissions

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent assessment she has made of the potential for ultra light rail to deliver a low carbon transport option. (186494)

The Department has not made such an assessment. We are aware of the claims made for the potential benefits of ultra light rail, but in order to assess these properly we would need to see a business case supporting its application in a specific location. Local authorities are welcome to submit innovative proposals to the Department for funding as pilot or demonstration schemes within the major scheme funding regime.

Railways: Llansamelet

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many times the Office of Rail Regulation visited railway track around Llansamelet station in 2006-07; and what assessment they made of public safety following those visits. (187460)

The Office of Rail Regulation made no visits to the railway track around Llansamlet railway station during 2006 or 2007. However, a Railway Inspectorate Contact Officer did visit the station in December 2007 to consider trespass risk.

Railways: Public Participation

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will make it her policy to bring forward legislation to require Stakeholder Briefing Documents which lay out the specification against which bidders for future franchises are asked to submit their bids to include the results of a consultation exercise in which passengers have been consulted about their requirements, in accordance with the recommendations of the 14th Report of the Transport Committee on Passenger Franchising, Session 2005-06, HC 1354, para 34. (188467)

The Government’s response to the Select Committee’s report (HC 265, published on 29 January 2007) explained that the Department for Transport already has a policy of consulting with a wide range of statutory and other bodies, including passenger representatives, before inviting tenders for passenger rail franchises. That remains our approach and we have no plans to legislate in this area.

Railways: Watford

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate she has made of the number of people affected by the decision to terminate trains on the Watford to Brighton line at Clapham Junction from winter 2008; and if she will make a statement. (187084)

A recent survey showed that an average of around 70 passengers (per train operated) would require to change trains at Clapham Junction. Many times that number of people will benefit from the implementation of the full Thameslink service that is made possible by the service change.

Roads

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will publish the 1994 Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment report on trunk roads and the generation of traffic on the Department for Transport website. (188480)

This is currently only available in paper format. We will scan this study and release it on the Department's website in March. We have identified a number of further reports, released before web publishing was the norm, which we will also release in electronic format alongside this SACTRA study.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what account her Department takes of the 1994 Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment report in their assessment of individual new road proposals. (188482)

The Department has ensured that the findings of the 1994 report are reflected in assessments through advising promoters about appropriate modelling techniques. For the largest proposals, using multi-modal models means analysis takes account of the impacts of generated traffic in assessments. For smaller schemes, the Department has recommended the use of more proportionate but robust approaches.

The specific guidance for road proposals is introduced in TAG Unit 2.9, ‘Variable Demand Modelling—Advice Overview’. For the larger studies, the advice is introduced in TAG Unit 1.2.1, ‘Multimodal Studies: Introduction to Guidance on Multi Modal Studies’. These are available at:

http://www.webtag.org.uk.

Roads: Accidents

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the final report of the research study examining accident statistics on the trunk road network will be published; what assessment she has made of the results of the study for the continued use of stone mastic asphalt surfaces on roads; and if she will make a statement. (188661)

The Highways Agency publishes an annual report on the safety performance of the trunk road network based on an examination of the road traffic accident statistics contained in a database of personal injury road accidents known as STATS19. This can be found at www.dft.gov.uk. The current report, Accidents on the trunk road network - 2006, was published in October 2007.

The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) research report, 'Early Life Skid Resistance - An Assessment of Accident Risk', pertaining to the use of 'bespoke' proprietary thin surfacings on the trunk roads has been delivered to the Highways Agency to consider its recommendations and conclusions. The report will be available to the public and the highway authorities through TRL from April onwards. Stone mastic asphalt is not used on the trunk road network.

Roads: Repairs and Maintenance

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what work her Department is undertaking on the modelling criteria for (a) new and (b) widened roads; what timescale is being applied to this work; and if she will make a statement. (188476)

The Department expects modelling for schemes to be robust and advice on criteria forms part of the New Approach to Appraisal. For road schemes, the details can be found on the transport analysis website at:

http://www.webtag.org.uk/

and also in the Highways Agency's Design Manual for Roads and Bridges.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans there are to improve roads in the Dorset area; and what funds are available for such improvements. (189171)

For the South West region, the Government have provided almost £865 million, through the Regional Funding Allocation (RFA), to be spent between 2007-08 and 2015-16 for regionally significant transport schemes, including road investment.

The region undertook a prioritisation exercise and the following road schemes within Dorset are currently programmed for funding:

Scheme

Scheme sponsor

DFT contribution (£ million)

Poole Bridge Regeneration Initiative

Poole

13

A354 Wey mouth Relief Road

Dorset

71

SE Dorset Bus Showcase Corridors, potentially including some road improvements

SE Dorset

15

Additionally, the DFT has provided the following non-ringfenced capital allocations for the three years from 2008-09 to 2010-10 for routine highway maintenance in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset:

£000

Authority

2008-09

2009-10

20010-11

2008-09 to 2010-11

Bournemouth

932

1,025

1,179

3,135

Dorset

8,619

9,267

10,032

27,919

Poole

1,314

1,413

1,530

4,258

Whole of Dorset area

10,865

11,706

12,741

35,312

Percentage of regional total

9.9

10.2

10.1

10.1

The Highways Agency is responsible for the A31 and A35 through the Dorset area. There are currently no plans for improvements to the A31 within Dorset. However, on the A35 there are proposals to improve the capacity at three roundabouts before the 2012 Olympics. They are as follows:

Route

Improvement

Estimated cost (£ million)

A35

Weymouth Road Stadium roundabout

1.8

A35

Stinsford roundabout

0.7

A35

Bere Regis roundabout

0.3

Total

2.8

Salisbury Station

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when she received proposals from South West Trains under the Network Modifications (Closures) regime contained in the Railway Act 2005 to close the travel centre at Salisbury station; and when she expects to announce her decision. (187309)

The proposal was received by the Department on 20 November 2007. The decision to approve this minor modification has been made. The determination was issued on 25 February.

Sea Rescue: Northern Ireland

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what assessment she has made of the effects on maritime safety and rescue in and around Northern Ireland waters of the decision of the Irish Republic to close the coast guard stations in Donegal; and if she will make a statement; (188554)

(2) what assessment she has made of the effects on measures against illegal and illicit shipping in and around Northern Ireland waters of the decision of the Irish Republic to close the coast guard stations in Donegal; and if she will make a statement.

Should the Irish authorities decide to close coastguard stations in Donegal, provision of maritime search and rescue services in the waters around Northern Ireland will be unaffected. HM Coastguard will continue to provide 24 hr co-ordination of Search and Rescue in and around Northern Ireland waters from its station in Bangor.

Regular operational search and rescue liaison meetings are held between HM Coastguard and the Irish Coast Guard.

Seas and Oceans: Legislation

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when she last discussed the Marine Bill with her Cabinet colleagues; and if she will make a statement. (188710)

My right hon. Friend regularly participates in Cabinet discussions on all aspects of the legislative programme, including the Marine Bill.

South West Trains

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment her Department has made of the potential effect of decreasing the mainline express stock on the Portsmouth to Waterloo mainline outside peak hours. (188489)

The Department for Transport has made no such assessment and is not aware of any off-peak capacity issues on this particular route.

Transport: Voluntary Work

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will assess the merits of moving from a system of local authority grants for the provision of volunteer transport services to a system of contracts. (188332)

It is for local authorities to make decisions on how they procure or support volunteer transport services, taking into account the legislative framework and their local circumstances. Information is available to local authorities about volunteer transport services, including a review commissioned by the Department of voluntary transport and carried out in close association with the Community Transport Association.

Waterborne Freight Grant

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the budget was for, and what payments were made under, the waterborne freight grant in each year since its inception. (188894)

[holding answer 25 February 2008]: Prior to 2007, the Department funded both the waterborne freight grant (resource) and water freight facilities grant (capital) schemes from a budget of between £8-12 million.

In April 2007, the mode neutral sustainable distribution fund (SDF) was created to fund rail and water freight grants and road efficiency schemes. £18.5 million of resource and £7 million of capital funding has been available from the SDF this year.

No waterborne freight grants have been awarded by the Department since the scheme's inception in 2004. This is not due to a lack of available budget but to the fact that potential applicants have difficulty in satisfying constraints imposed by the European Commission when the Government sought State Aids clearance. These require schemes to be viable without grant support within a three-year period.

The Department for Transport is currently reviewing the waterborne freight grant scheme.

Duchy of Lancaster

Sub-Committee on Health and Wellbeing

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will include subjective wellbeing in the terms of reference of the Sub-Committee on Health and Wellbeing. (188285)

The terms of reference of the Sub-Committee on Health and Wellbeing already enable it to discuss subjective wellbeing.

V: Finance

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how much matching funding his Department has channelled through the charity V to date. (189110)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) on 20 February 2008, Official Report, column 743W.

Olympics

Humanitarian Aid

To ask the Minister for the Olympics how much was spent on domestic humanitarian assistance in each of the last three years, broken down by source budget. (187333)

[holding answer 20 February 2008]: In my answer of 26 February 2008, Official Report, column 136W, to the hon. Member I set out the budget for the Humanitarian Assistance Unit in each of the last three years. It is not possible to split this budget up in terms of support for domestic incidents and support for international incidents.

The funding for the Humanitarian Assistance Unit all comes from the budget allocated to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Defence

Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many unmanned aerial vehicles have been lost or destroyed in Afghanistan in the last 12 months. (187197)

A total of 27 Desert Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles operated by UK forces in Afghanistan have been lost in the past 12 months. This number reflects the high operational tasking of this system. We continue to refine our operational procedures to minimise the loss rate, but it is inevitable that some losses will occur.

Departmental Public Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the budget change in his Department will be in each year of the 2008 to 2011 Comprehensive Spending Review period in cash terms. (189414)

The near-cash budget in nominal terms (equivalent to direct resource DEL plus capital DEL) for each year of the comprehensive spending review (CSR) period is set out in table D14 of the CSR White Paper (Cm 7227), published in October 2007. For ease of reference the table is included as follows:

Financial year

Budget (£ million)

Change on previous year

2007-08 baseline

29,411

2008-09

30,763

1,352

2010-11

31,921

1,158

2011-12

33,628

1,707

Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the Answer of 22 November 2007, Official Report, column 1032W, on Iraq: peacekeeping operations, how many of the media assignments facilitated since April 2007 were for a single media outlet or organisation; and from which exclusive access to information arose. (170120)

Our records indicate that of the 52 media assignments to Iraq since April, 45 were for single individuals or media outlets. The others were group visits. All programmes take account of the operational situation at the time, security requirements and the preferences of the individual journalist or organisation and therefore differ from visit to visit.

Territorial Army: Recruitment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the decision to restrict recruiting for certain units in the Territorial Army over the next two financial years remains in place. (189183)

I have nothing to add to the answer I gave the hon. Member on 20 February 2008, Official Report, column 703W.

Northern Ireland

Members: Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with reference to the answer of 29 October 2007, Official Report, column 608W, on territorial waters: Northern Ireland, when he expects to write to the hon. Member for Thurrock; and if he will explain the reason for the delay. (187807)

I am sorry that it is taking a significant amount of time to prepare a response. The issue raised by the hon. Member are complex and cover both transferred and reserved matters.

Under Schedule 3 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 the foreshore, sea bed and subsoil and their natural resources (except so far as affecting harbours) are reserved matters. Thus, marine nature conservation in the territorial waters is the responsibility of the Secretary of State. However, at operational level, his functions are carried out by the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland (Environment and Heritage Service).

Given the delay, I would be happy to meet with the hon. Member to discuss the issue in more detail.

Wales

Armed Forces: Training

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales pursuant to the written ministerial statement by the Secretary of State for Defence on 31 January 2008, Official Report, columns 24-26WS, on the Defence Training Review Rationalisation Programme/BORONA programme, how many new net jobs Package 1 of the programme will be created in Wales. (187409)

The precise number of jobs to be created during the construction and operational phases of the project will not be known until current contractual negotiations between the MOD and Metrix have been completed.

Departmental Sick Leave

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what percentage of working days lost by his Department’s staff was attributed to stress-related conditions in the most recent year for which figures are available. (187866)

In the fiscal year 2006-07, five working days were lost by Wales Office staff to stress-related conditions.

Environment Protection

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what environmental protection matters were discussed at the British-Irish Council Meeting on 14 February; and what agreements were made. (188167)

The British-Irish Council (BIC), held its 10th summit meeting on 14 February at the Royal hospital Kilmainham, in Dublin, Ireland. It is customary for each summit to focus on a single theme. The focus of this summit was on misuse of drugs, which is a workstream led by the Irish Government. The next summit meeting will be held in Edinburgh in September 2008.

The UK leads the Environment Workstream and the last ministerial meeting was held in Northern Ireland on 1 February 2008. At that meeting, it was agreed that BIC should continue to intensify co-operation and exchange of information between the members on a number of important environmental areas including unavoidable climate change, understanding extreme weather events, integrated coastal zone management and managing radioactive waste. The next ministerial meeting of the BIC Environment will take place in Jersey in 2009.

Young People: Advisory Services

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the Welsh Assembly Government on the use of the additional funding provided by the Department for Children, Schools and Families for (a) Connexions services and (b) the Youth Opportunity and Youth Capital Funds; and if he will make a statement. (187843)

I have regular discussions with colleagues in the Welsh Assembly Government on all issues concerning education, including the provision of skills and opportunities for young people.

Connexions services are for England only. In Wales, Careers Wales, an independent organisation funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, provides this service. It has six local delivery companies providing a comprehensive careers advice and guidance service to people of all ages, operating across the Welsh regions. Similarly, the Youth Opportunity and Youth Capital Funds programmes also apply to England only. Youth service in Wales is provided through the Welsh Assembly Government via the National Youth Service Strategy, published in March last year.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with President Karzai on the appointment of a UN Secretary General Special Representative in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. (188353)

[holding answer 26 February 2008]: The appointment of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Afghanistan is primarily a matter for the UN Secretary-General.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the matter with President Karzai during his visit to Afghanistan with US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, on 8 February 2008. On 25 January 2008, in the margins of the World Economic Forum at Davos, the matter was also discussed at a meeting between President Karzai, my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said to the House in his statement on Afghanistan on 12 December 2007, Official Report, column 307,

“Britain continues to push for the next step in this process: the appointment of a strong, UN envoy to bring greater coherence across the international effort in security, governance and development—and in relations with the Afghan government.”

Afghanistan: Reconstruction

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he anticipates that a Provincial Reconstruction Team will be established in (a) Dai Kundi and (b) Nimroz provinces in Afghanistan. (188231)

[holding answer 22 February 2008]: The establishment of provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) is a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)-led process. The NATO Statement of Requirements identifies a need for PRTs in both Dai Kundi and Nimroz Provinces. There are no concrete plans at present to establish such PRTs.

Burma: Constitution

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his UN Security Council counterparts on the referendum on the constitution in Burma in May 2008; and what role the UN is likely to play in monitoring the conduct of the referendum. (189418)

The UN Security Council has not yet discussed the constitutional referendum announced by the Burmese regime for May 2008. The UN Secretary-General hosted a meeting of the Group of Friends of Burma on 13 February which discussed the announcement. During the meeting, the UK and other members of the Security Council expressed concern that the proposed referendum would not be inclusive or genuine. The Group of Friends pressed for the early return of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Burma, Professor Gambari, to help facilitate national reconciliation and a genuine democratic process.

We will continue to work with our partners in the region, and in the Security Council, to bring about genuine progress towards democracy, national reconciliation and respect for human rights in Burma.

There are currently no plans for the UN to monitor the elections.

Burma: Diplomatic Service

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the EU Special Envoy to Burma; and if he will make a statement. (189416)

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Meg Munn) met EU Special Envoy for Burma, Piero Fassino, at the margins of the EU/Association of South East Asian Nations summit on 22 November 2007 and hopes to be meeting him again in the near future, to discuss all aspects of the current situation in Burma, including the EU’s role in supporting UN efforts to bring about a genuine process of national reconciliation which includes all Burma’s opposition and ethnic groups.

Burma: Elections

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to support democratic elections in Burma. (188542)

The UK has been at the forefront of international efforts to bring about inclusive national reconciliation and the establishment of accountable, civilian government in Burma.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the UK has maintained the pressure for political change through active UN engagement and ensured that Burma remains on the Security Council’s agenda. The UK is also a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Group of Friends on Burma, which last met on 13 February. The group discussed the regime’s recent call for a referendum in May 2008 and elections in 2010. We stressed the need for the regime to demonstrate fundamental change before there could be international support for the process. The Group of Friends pressed for the early return of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Burma, Professor Gambari, to help facilitate national reconciliation and a genuine democratic process.

In the EU, we have played a leading role in securing firm language on the newly announced referendum and election process at the February General Affairs and External Relations Council. The conclusions stated that only a process that involves the full participation of the opposition and ethnic groups will lead to national reconciliation and stability in Burma. The EU reiterated its call for the release of Aung Sang Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

We keep in close contact with partners in the region, including the Association of South East Asian Nations, to build up constructive pressure on the Burmese government and their continued engagement on the Burma related issues. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has raised Burma with the Chinese and Indians on his recent visits to both countries. My right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Meg Munn, also reiterated our concerns to the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 18 February.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will hold discussions with the Government of Burma on the banning of the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from standing in the 2010 election. (189417)

We have consistently made clear that only an inclusive process of national reconciliation can bring stability and prosperity to the country. The regime’s attempts to exclude Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the political process are alarming and will exacerbate tension and instability in Burma. In our contacts with the military government, and those who have influence over them, we are stressing the need for all political actors, including Aung San Suu Kyi, to be allowed to play their full part in shaping the country’s future.

Burma: Sanctions

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the introduction of financial sanctions against companies associated with Burma’s military regime. (189420)

Discussions are ongoing, mainly at senior official level.

The EU listed companies with links to the military regime in its new package of measures agreed in October 2007.

EU member states are currently considering further restrictive measures against Burma, including a possible ban on all new investment and the imposition of restrictions on financial measures.

The UK is actively working with our EU partners to ensure a full discussion of further restrictive measures as agreed at the October 2007 General Affairs and External Relations Council.

Burma: Sequestration of Assets

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the government of Singapore on the freezing of the financial assets of Burmese leaders held in accounts in that country; and if he will make a statement. (189421)

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Meg Munn, spoke to the Singaporean Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 2nd Permanent Private Secretary Bilahari Kausikan, on 18 February to discuss recent developments in Burma.

Singapore, both nationally and in its current role as Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) chair, has made clear its concerns about the violent repression carried out by the Burmese authorities last year, its wish to see the regime engaging in genuine dialogue with Burma’s opposition parties, and its support for the UN Secretary-General’s goodwill mission. But Singapore and its ASEAN partners do not support the application of sanctions at this time. We continue to discuss this and other aspects of the Burma situation with the Singaporean government on a regular basis.

Cuba: Elections

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he intends to support the US Administration in its efforts to campaign for democratic elections in Cuba. (189189)

The UK and US share the same goal of transition to democracy in Cuba. UK policy is based on a 1996 European Common Position, which states that:

“The main objective of the European Union in its relations with Cuba is to encourage a process of peaceful transition to a pluralistic democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people”

and that

“the EU will intensify the present dialogue with the Cuban authorities and with all sectors of Cuban society”.

Cuba: Politics and Government

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the implications of the resignation of Fidel Castro. (189186)

We do not envisage the resignation of Fidel Castro leading to major change in Cuba. UK policy remains unchanged and has been based on the EU Common Position since 1996. This policy aims to encourage a peaceful transition to pluralist democracy, greater respect for human rights and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

Cuba: Sanctions

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of the sanctions imposed upon Cuba by the US Administration. (189187)

The UK does not support US economic sanctions on Cuba and makes its opposition to them clear through its Annual vote at the United Nations General Assembly. The last vote took place on 30 October 2007. The sanctions have had little positive impact on the regime. The UK and the US share the same goal over Cuba, transition to democracy, but differ on how to achieve it. The UK, through the framework of the EU Common Position, engages in dialogue with the Cuban Government and aims to encourage a peaceful transition to pluralist democracy, greater respect for human rights and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the US Administration on sanctions on Cuba. (189188)

The UK and the US discuss developments in Cuba regularly. The UK makes its opposition to the US embargo on Cuba clear through our vote every year at the United Nations General Assembly. The last vote took place on 30 October 2007. We also frequently reiterate our position through diplomatic channels with senior US representatives and will continue to do so.

Departmental Internet

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 29 January 2008, Official Report, column 1609W, on Departmental internet, what measures are in place to monitor and record the location of computers with access to his Department's intranet. (184974)

Full access to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office intranet (FCONet) is only possible using the FCO's secure IT infrastructure. This is regularly monitored, but it would be inappropriate to disclose these arrangements in detail. Staff working outside FCO buildings may also access a limited form of FCONet through the internet. Staff may use any external computer to do this and the FCO therefore does not monitor the location of these terminals. Control of this limited access is by user authentication (password) and, where necessary, checking transaction records.

Departmental Sick Leave

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what percentage of working days lost by his Department’s staff was attributed to stress-related conditions in the most recent year for which figures are available. (187869)

Stress-related illness accounted for 8.5 per cent. of all working days lost to sickness absence by staff at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 2007.

The FCO recognises the importance of identifying and reducing sources of stress in the workplace. Our occupational stress policy, which aims to protect staff health and welfare, gives detailed guidance for staff and managers. The FCO also offers welfare support for staff and families, who may be suffering from stress, including access to a 24/7 counselling service.

Diplomatic Services: Forced Marriage

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what guidelines are issued to consular and embassy staff in relation to the handling of suspected cases of (a) forced and (b) arranged marriages; and if he will make a statement. (189113)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has no role in relation to arranged marriages, where the families take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the choice whether or not to accept the arrangement remains with the spouses. But forced marriage, where one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage and some element of duress is involved, is wholly unacceptable. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office takes forced marriage very seriously. If necessary, we will assist and repatriate British nationals forced into marriage overseas.

Consular staff overseas and staff of the Forced Marriage Unit, are trained to assist victims and potential victims of forced marriage. They are provided with written guidance on case handling.

Eastern Europe: Human Trafficking

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in (a) Ukraine, (b) Belarus and (c) Moldova on the combating of illegal migration and human trafficking. (189179)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not had recent discussions with his counterparts in Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova on these issues. However, we remain concerned about all forms of human trafficking globally and are committed to tackling it wherever possible. The issue is raised regularly at EU Councils and is discussed at both ministerial and official level between EU partners. In addition, UK law enforcement agencies work closely with foreign counterparts in many source and transit countries, helping them to build enforcement capacity and to facilitate information exchanges. At the recent UN-Office on Drugs and Crime's Global Initiative on Fighting Trafficking forum held in Vienna, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Coaker) represented the Government, along with participants from the UK Human Trafficking Centre and HM Revenue and Customs.

Embassies: Republic of Ireland

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the effect of the dispute concerning compulsory redundancies among the locally-engaged staff at the UK Embassy in Dublin on the UK’s reputation in Ireland; and if he will make a statement. (188017)

Irish media coverage has reflected the fact that these redundancies were driven by UK Trade and Investment’s wider restructuring of their global network in line with new strategic priorities; that our embassy in Dublin has acted in accordance with Irish Labour Law throughout; and that the redundancy package the embassy has offered reflects good employer practice.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reason HM Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland declined to attend talks at the Labour Relations Commission in connection with the proposed compulsory redundancy of locally-engaged staff at the UK Embassy in Dublin; and if he will make a statement. (188026)

The Labour Relations Commission had offered its conciliation services to discuss “proposed redundancies” at our embassy in Dublin. Since the redundancies had already been effected, our ambassador declined the offer.

Our embassy and Unite, acting on behalf of the embassy’s Local Staff Association, reached a mutually satisfactory agreement on the consequences for staff of the restructuring of the UK Trade and Investment section on 21 February.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for how long the UK Embassy in Dublin has recognised the Unite trade union for industrial relations purposes in connection with the employment of locally-engaged staff; and if he will make a statement. [R] (188027)

The procedural agreement between our embassy in Dublin and Unite trade union was signed in 2003.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of (a) the agreed negotiations procedures and (b) the recognition agreement between the UK ambassador to the Republic of Ireland and the Unite trade union in relation to the employment of and industrial relations relating to locally-engaged staff at the UK embassy in Dublin. (188028)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many staff it is proposed to make redundant at the UK embassy to the Republic of Ireland; how many of these will be compulsory redundancies; and if he will make a statement. (188034)

Three compulsory redundancies were made recently at our embassy in Dublin, as a result of UK Trade and Investment's (UKTI) wider restructuring of their global network in line with their strategic priorities.

Our embassy and Unite, acting on behalf of the embassy's Local Staff Association, reached a mutually satisfactory agreement on the consequences for staff of the restructuring of the UKTI Section on 21 February.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many years each member of locally-engaged staff proposed for redundancy at the UK embassy in Dublin has served; and if he will make a statement. (188067)

The three locally-engaged staff members at our embassy in Dublin had served for eight, six and four years when they were made redundant.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what regard was paid to (a) length of service, (b) sex, (c) opportunities for retraining and (d) other factors when considering which locally-engaged staff at the UK embassy in Dublin should be proposed for redundancy. (188068)

Three compulsory redundancies were made recently at our embassy in Dublin, as a result of UK Trade and Investment's wider restructuring of their global network in line with their strategic priorities.

The redundancy package offered reflected the different lengths of service involved. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is an equal opportunities employer: gender was not a factor. The embassy looked at the opportunities for redeployment, which might have involved retraining, but there were none.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what date and by whom the decision to make locally-engaged staff at the UK Embassy in Dublin redundant was taken; on what date this decision was first communicated to the Unite trade union; on what date consultations with the Unite trade union commenced; and if he will make a statement. (188069)

The decision of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) management in London to restructure the UKTI Section at our Embassy in Dublin was confirmed to the staff involved by the Ambassador on 11 January. Staff contacted the Unite trade union the same day and consultations began on 22 January.

Our Embassy and Unite, the union acting on behalf of the Embassy's Local Staff Association, reached a mutually satisfactory agreement on the consequences for staff of the restructuring of the UKTI Section on 21 February.

Entry Clearances

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what guidance he has issued to visa sections on queue management of visa applicants and the prevention of unauthorised and unofficial queue managers, brokers and agents. (187422)

[holding answer 26 February 2008]: The Operating Standards and Instructions issued by UKvisas to our posts abroad do not contain specific guidance on queue management, but instead offer suggestions on how procedures can be implemented and how problems should be addressed depending upon conditions and circumstances. Several ideas are mentioned to help alleviate the problems associated with queues, such as use of ticketing machines. UKvisas has recently expanded its commercial partnerships overseas. Most applications are now submitted at Visa Application Centres, in many cases by appointment. The need for applicants to arrive early to queue has been significantly reduced and, in some cases, removed.

Additionally, entry clearance managers are advised to monitor public reception areas regularly to ensure the best possible standards of customer service and conduct are maintained and to identify sudden surges in the volume of visa applications so that prompt action can be taken to avoid a build up of queues. All staff are required to sign the code of conduct which states that staff must

“behave in a manner that demonstrates their complete impartiality and professionalism in dealing with visa applications”

so that, among other things, no favouritism is shown to one applicant above another.

A copy of these instructions is available on the UKvisas website, www.ukvisas.gov.uk

Equatorial Guinea: Simon Mann

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how often it is planned that Simon Mann’s welfare in Black Beach prison will be monitored by visits from UK representatives. (188530)

[holding answer 22 February 2008]: Our deputy high commission in Lagos provides consular assistance to British nationals in Equatorial Guinea. In line with our consular policy, consular officials from Lagos will aim to visit Mr. Mann regularly and we are ready to provide further consular assistance to Mr. Mann including with regard to his treatment and welfare.

Eritrea: Religious Freedom

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the treatment of religious minorities in Eritrea; and if he will make a statement. (188014)

[holding answer 26 February 2008]: We monitor events in Eritrea closely and remain deeply concerned by reports of detentions of members of minority churches. While Orthodox Christians, Catholics and the major Protestant Churches (who make up an estimated 40-50 per cent. of the population of Eritrea) are usually able to worship openly, some church activities can be restricted and members of smaller churches are not free to pursue their faith.

This is unacceptable and contravenes international human rights agreements to which Eritrea is a party. Eritrea should allow all its citizens to worship as they wish, as set out in Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Our ambassador in Asmara raises these issues with the Eritrean government at every suitable opportunity. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials do likewise with the Eritrean embassy in the UK. My noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, the right hon. Lord Malloch-Brown, personally raised the issue of human rights abuses in Eritrea with the Eritrean ambassador on 18 February.

European External Action Service

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what preparatory work has been undertaken by his Department on the European External Action Service since 1 June 2005; (186719)

(2) what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the European External Action Service; and if he will make a statement;

(3) pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Castle Point of 5 February 2008, Official Report, column 968W, on the European External Action Service, whether any meetings on the organisation and funding of the European External Action Service have taken place;

(4) what meetings he plans to hold with European counterparts to discuss the organisation and funding of the European external action service in 2008; and if he will make a statement;

(5) how many of his Department's staff will be seconded to the European External Action Service in each of the next three years; and if he will make a statement;

(6) what criteria will be used to nominate staff from his Department for secondment to the European External Action Service;

(7) what role personnel from his Department will play in the establishment and work of the European External Action Service;

(8) what estimate he has made of the size of the (a) staff establishment and (b) budget of the European External Action Service in each of the next three years.

There have been no discussions at ministerial or working level on the detailed organisation and functioning of the European External Action Service (EEAS). The functioning and organisation of the EEAS will be the subject of negotiation among the member states before a final, unanimous decision to launch the service, after the Lisbon treaty enters force.

Negotiations are due to start later this year and no decision has been taken on the size, structure or funding of the EEAS, or of the criteria used to nominate staff for secondment to the EEAS.

FCO Services

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he plans to take if the FCO Services Trading Fund does not attract sufficient third party income. (188025)

Income from third parties is a relatively small proportion of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Services business. It is considered unlikely that FCO Services will not attract sufficient third party income; however, if projected growth is not achieved, FCO Services has well conceived contingency plans for cost reduction and can scale down investment plans if necessary to meet down turns in third party opportunities.

FCO Services: Data Protection

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures he has put in place to ensure that personal data held by the FCO Services Trading Fund are kept securely. (188024)

Data security in Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Services receives the closest attention and care. The FCO and FCO Services have implemented the latest Cabinet Office guidance on storing personal data. FCO Services makes a unique selling point of its secure services, so security is at the heart of everything it does.

The organisation holds and processes personal data for a number of reasons and strong measures are in place to protect all data. Systems are only deployed after Government security accreditation has been completed.

Security measures and accreditation include, but are not limited to, the following:

All sensitive data are held in secure conditions.

Systems are managed according to Government protective data marking.

Data transmission is minimised to essential levels and takes place across encrypted and protected networks.

In limited circumstances, data are transported by disk, but only when passwords or data encryption techniques are applied. Carriage is consistent with FCO policy.

Legitimate access to systems is restricted to authorised users by electronic and physical assurance processes.

Audit processes are in place to oversee the effectiveness of the information security policy and data access is monitored by an independent security function.

Laptops and hand held devices used for confidential data are installed with especially accredited and encrypted disks and secure communications facilities. Other laptops with unencrypted discs are used only for less sensitive material.

Human Trafficking

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government have taken to work with other governments to reduce levels of human trafficking. (182003)

We remain concerned about all forms of human trafficking globally and are committed to tackling it wherever possible. The issue is raised regularly at EU Councils and is discussed at both ministerial and official level between EU partners. The Government's ratification of Albania's EU Stabilisation and Association Agreement, which will help reduce human trafficking and smuggling in the Balkans region, is a good example of our commitment to working with other governments. In addition, UK law enforcement agencies work closely with foreign counterparts in many source and transit countries, helping them to build enforcement capacity and to facilitate information exchanges; an initiative is currently taking place in a number of EU countries, led by the UK and Poland, under the auspices of the G6. The Government also part-funded the secondment of two Romanian police officers into a Metropolitan Police joint unit to exchange experience, skills and knowledge in the fight against the criminal exploitation and trafficking of Romanian children to the UK.

The Government raise human trafficking issues more widely at bilateral and international meetings beyond the EU. At the recent UN-Office on Drugs and Crime's Global Initiative on Fighting Trafficking forum held in Vienna, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Coaker) represented the Government, along with participants from the UK Human Trafficking Centre and HM Revenue and Customs.

Iran: Capital Punishment

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have made to the government of Iran in respect of human rights arising from specific instance of capital punishment carried out in Iran in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. (187809)

The Government remain deeply concerned by the increasing use of capital punishment in Iran. We regularly make representations to the Government of Iran, in our bilateral contacts and through the EU, to express general concern about the use of the death penalty in Iran and to raise individual execution cases. In 2007, the EU presidency did this on more than 20 occasions in both meetings and public statements. The EU has issued two further declarations on the death penalty in Iran already this year. We also discuss human rights issues bilaterally with Iranian officials in London and Tehran. In the last 12 months we have raised serious concerns about the use of death penalty on seven separate occasions. This has included specific instances when capital punishment has been carried out in Iran, for example the executions of Mohammad Moussavi, Jafar Kiani, Makwan Moloudzadeh and Mohammad Reza Tork.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the circumstances surrounding executions conducted in Iran in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. (187810)

We are extremely worried by the growing numbers of executions taking place in Iran. We understand that approximately 300 executions were carried out in 2007, compared with 177 in 2006 and 94 in 2005. This has included growing numbers of public and collective executions (eg the execution of two men in central Tehran in August 2007), and the first confirmed execution by stoning for five years in July 2007. Iran continues to execute juvenile offenders—at least four were put to death in 2007. We have concerns that not all death sentences are the result of a fair trial and that capital punishment continues to be applied for charges such as adultery, rape and drug related offences. The Government will continue to raise concerns with the Iranian authorities about executions and the use of the death penalty in Iran. We will continue to press Iran to uphold its international human rights obligations including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states that

“in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, the sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes”

and that

“no-one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

The EU presidency, with strong UK support, has issued two statements about the use of the death penalty in Iran this year.

Kenya: Security

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the safety of UK citizens living and working in Kenya following recent events in that country. (188665)

[holding answer 25 February 2008]: While calm has returned to most areas in Kenya, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) assesses that the security situation in the country remains highly volatile. The unpredictable nature of the current situation could lead to further outbreaks of violence. The FCO travel advice for Kenya remains under constant review. A full copy of the latest FCO travel advice is available at:

www.fco.gov.uk/travel/kenya.

We are advising British nationals in Kenya to exercise extreme caution and avoid all public gatherings and meetings. British nationals intending to travel to Kenya should regularly check the travel advice. An easy way to do this is to subscribe at:

www.fco.gov.uk/travel

to receive free travel advice updates via email alerts. To ensure we can effectively communicate any changes in travel advice and other relevant information, British nationals in Kenya are urged to register with our high commission in Nairobi. The FCO has been in regular contact with British tour operators about the situation in Kenya and our travel advice.

Like many other British diplomatic missions, our high commission in Nairobi holds a civil contingency plan. In compiling civil contingency plans, the FCO's objective is to protect British nationals in a situation that poses a serious threat to their safety and, in a worst case scenario, to assist their departure to a place of safety. As part of this process, FCO missions continually assess the risk to British nationals and plan accordingly. Our high commission in Nairobi's civil contingency plan was reviewed and updated in February 2008.

Maldives: Politics and Government

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the constitutional and democratic reform process in the Maldives; and if he will make a statement. (187561)

My noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, the right hon. Lord Malloch-Brown, has personally emphasised to President Gayoom the need to keep the reform process on track and the importance of the elections due this year being seen as free, fair, inclusive and enjoying the support of all the people of Maldives. As I made clear to the House during a debate on Maldives on 17 October 2007, Official Report, columns 935-42, we do not underestimate the challenges Maldives faces moving from a political system based heavily on patronage and state control to multi-party liberal democracy.

Officials from our High Commission resident in Colombo visit Maldives periodically. The UK has made clear our continued support for the reform process and willingness to provide practical support if that is the wish of the political parties in Maldives. We continue to underline the need for good faith among all political parties and for all to redouble efforts to implement democratic change in Maldives.

Overseas Trade

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to promote UK industry and business through UK Trade and Industry in the Caribbean, Central America and South East Asia. (189190)

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) operates an extensive network overseas that offers a full range of services to help British companies access business opportunities including in the Caribbean, Latin America and South East Asia. In line with UKTI’s five-year strategy “Prosperity in a Changing World”, key high-growth markets in South East Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam) have benefited from additional resources to help achieve a step change in the UK’s profile.

Pakistan: Elections

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) whether he has received representations on the number of candidates from religious minorities in the elections in Pakistan; and if he will make a statement; (188022)

(2) whether he has had discussions with the Pakistani government on the political representation of minorities in Pakistan.

[holding answer 26 February 2008]: In our regular contact with the Government of Pakistan at ministerial and official level, bilaterally and through the EU, we have stressed the need for free and fair elections. The elections, which took place on 18 February, were an opportunity for the people of Pakistan to exercise their democratic voice and participate fully in the process of electing their new government. We welcome the EU electoral observer mission (EOM) report, released on 20 February, which assessed that the elections were competitive, despite the well-documented procedural problems.

We will want to work with the new government to help build the institutional framework necessary for a sustained democratic transition and ensure that the fundamental rights of all Pakistani citizens particularly the most vulnerable (women, minorities and children) are guaranteed as laid down in the Constitution of Pakistan and in accordance with international human rights standards. An important part of this will be addressing the weaknesses in the electoral system identified in the EU EOM's report.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials recently met with representatives from the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, a non-governmental organisation working on behalf of Christians in Pakistan, as part of our ongoing engagement with stakeholder communities. Officials remain in regular contact with them on minority religious rights issues.