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Written Answers

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 21 May 2008

Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 21 May 2008

Children, Schools and Families

Assessments: Absenteeism

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what the year 9 absence rate was in each of the schools which reported an absence rate of 5 per cent. or more in respect of key stage 3 national tests; and if he will make a statement. (205311)

Children in Care

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what percentage of children in the care system are from ethnic minorities; (206927)

(2) how many children were adopted in (a) Aylesbury Vale district and (b) England in 2007;

(3) how many respite care home places were available for disabled children in (a) Aylesbury Vale district and (b) England in 2007;

(4) how many foster care placements there were in (a) Aylesbury Vale district and (b) England in 2007.

Information on Aylesbury Vale (Buckinghamshire) is not collected centrally. Where the question refers to Aylesbury Vale we have provided statistical information on Buckinghamshire as a whole.

Information on the numbers and percentages of children looked after in the care system, broken down by ethnicity over the last five years is shown in the following table. The information is taken from the Statistical First Release (SFR 27/2007) entitled ‘Children looked after in England (including adoption and care leavers) year ending 31 March 2007’. The SFR is located at

http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000741/index .shtml.

Children looked after at 31 March by ethnic origin, 2003-071,2,3, England

Number and Percentage

Number

Percentage

20034

20045

20055

20065

20075

20034

20045

20055

20065

20075

All children looked after at 31 March1,2

61,200

61,200

61,000

60,300

60,000

100

100

100

100

100

Ethnic origin

White:

White British

47,300

46,300

45,9090

45,000

44,700

77

76

75

75

74

White Irish

580

520

500

440

400

1

1

1

1

1

Any other White background

1,800

1,900

1,800

1,600

1,500

3

3

3

3

3

Mixed:

White and Black Caribbean

2,000

2,000

2,000

1,900

1,900

3

3

3

3

3

White and Black African

400

410

440

430

440

1

1

1

1

1

White and Asian

750

720

720

750

770

1

1

1

1

1

Any other mixed background

2,000

2,000

2,000

2,000

2,000

3

3

3

3

3

Asian or Asian British:

Indian

300

300

280

300

290

0

0

0

0

0

Pakistani

510

520

580

610

660

1

1

1

1

1

Bangladeshi

200

230

270

280

280

0

0

0

0

0

Any other Asian background

320

480

650

880

1,000

1

1

1

1

2

Black or Black British:

Caribbean

1,600

1,700

1,600

1,600

1,600

3

3

3

3

3

African

1,800

2,300

2,400

2,400

2,300

3

4

4

4

4

Any other Black background

870

880

900

900

880

1

1

1

1

1

Other ethnic groups:

Chinese

80

120

120

120

130

0

0

0

0

0

Any other ethnic group

750

840

900

1,000

1,200

1

1

1

2

2

1 Source: SSDA903 return on children looked after.

2 Figures exclude children looked after under an agreed series of short-term placements.

3 Historical data may differ from older publications. This is mainly due to the implementation of amendments and corrections sent by some local authorities after the publication date of previous materials.

4 Figures are derived from the SSDA 903 one-third sample survey.

5 Figures are taken from the SSDA 903 return which, since 2003-04, has covered all children looked after.

The number of children looked after that were adopted during the year ending 31 March in (a) Buckinghamshire was 10, and (b) England was 3,300.

Information on the number of respite care home places which were available for disabled children in (a) Aylesbury Vale and (b) England in 2007 is not collected centrally. However, the numbers of children looked after under an agreed series of short-term breaks (respite), who were placed in a children’s home or similar establishment at 31 March 2007, in Buckinghamshire and England, are shown in the following table.

Children looked after at 31 March 2007, in respite care by placement in care homes1,2, England

Number

Homes and hostels

Other establishments

Total

subject to Children’s Homes regulations

not subject to Children’s Homes regulations

Residential care homes

NHS Trust providing medical/nursing care

England

4,200

3,700

10

330

170

Buckinghamshire

10

10

0

0

0

1 Source: return on children looked after.

2 Figures at national level have been rounded to the nearest 100 if they exceed 1,000 and to the nearest 10 otherwise. Figures at local authority level have been rounded to the nearest five or if zero are shown as zero.

The number of looked after children in foster care placements at 31 March 2007 in (a) Buckinghamshire was 205 and (b) England was 42,300.

Children: Day-care

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps his Department is taking to ensure childcare providers have security of funding for the duration of study courses being taken by their employees; and if he will make a statement. (206906)

As set out in our children's plan we have a long-term commitment to have a world class early years system. To improve the quality and training of the early years workforce we have committed an investment of £505 million in a graduate leader. Fund of which £232 million has been allocated for settings via local authorities to introduce more graduate leadership of early years setting in the private, voluntary and independent sectors.

Funding to support training and continuous professional development for the wider workforce (for example up to Level 5 and to work with children with additional needs) is included within the Outcomes, Quality and Inclusion block of the Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare Grant (which is £439 million). The funding is not ring-fenced so that local authorities have the decision how to allocate spend depending on local needs. Section 13 of the Childcare Act 2006 however, states that local authorities have a duty to secure the provision of information, advice and training for childcare providers.

Children: Obesity

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment he has made of trends in the numbers of children diagnosed as (a) obese and (b) morbidly obese; and if he will make a statement. (205764)

I have been asked to reply.

The information is not available in the exact format requested.

Data on the prevalence of obesity among children aged two to 15 between 1995 and 2006 can be found in the ‘Health Survey for England 2006 latest trends’, published 31 January 2008. The data are presented in table 4 (obesity) of the Children trend tables 2006. This publication is available in the Library.

The classification system used for measuring obesity in children does not have a definition for morbidly obese.

Pre-School Education

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what estimate he has made of the take-up rate of the early years education entitlement in each local authority for the most recent period for which figures are available. (206905)

Information about the part-time equivalent number of free early education places filled by three and four-year-olds is shown in the following table.

All three and four-year-olds have been entitled to a free part-time early education place for 12.5 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year. From 2010, this offer will be extended from 12.5 to 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year.

The latest figures on early education places for three and four-year-olds in England were published in Statistical First Release (SFR) 19/2007 “Provision for children under five years of age in England: January 2007”, available on my Department’s website:

www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/

Part-time equivalent number of free early education places filled by three and four-year-olds England, position in January each year, 2007 data as at 22 May

Part-time equivalent funded places filled

Population estimates

Part-time equivalent funded places filled per 100 children in the population

England

1,054,800

1,150,675

91.7

North East

51,830

53,855

96.2

Darlington

2,300

2,355

97.7

Durham

9,560

10,165

94.0

Gateshead

3,805

4,040

94.2

Hartlepool

2,055

2,095

98.1

Middlesbrough

3,360

3,290

102.2

Newcastle upon Tyne

5,280

5,575

94.7

North Tyneside

4,040

4,095

98.7

Northumberland

6,045

6,220

97.2

Redcar and Cleveland

2,915

3,010

96.9

South Tyneside

2,790

2,970

93.9

Stockton-on-Tees

4,045

4,175

96.9

Sunderland

5,635

5,865

96.0

Northwest

143,885

153,545

93.7

Blackburn with Daren

3,775

4,190

90.1

Blackpool

2,735

2,950

92.8

Bolton

6,425

6,540

98.2

Bury

4,120

4,365

94.4

Cheshire

13,385

14,345

93.3

Cumbria

9,265

9,645

96.0

Halton

2,540

2,905

87.5

Knowsley

3,375

3,545

95.2

Lancashire

22,570

24,885

90.7

Liverpool

9,140

9,495

96.3

Manchester

10.380

10,735

96.7

Oldham

5,670

6,055

93.6

Rochdale

4,775

5,220

91.5

Salford

4,790

4,895

97.9

Sefton

5,395

5,600

96.4

St. Helens

3,505

3,825

91.7

Stockport

5,645

5,975

94.5

Tameside

4,520

4,930

91.7

Trafford

4,865

5,150

94.5

Warrington

4,305

4,450

96.8

Wigan

6,140

6,890

89.1

Wirral

6,555

6,965

94.1

Yorkshire and the Humber

107,915

114,650

94.1

Barnsley

4,675

4,860

96.2

Bradford

13,315

14,645

90.9

Calderdale

4,625

4,685

98.7

Doncaster

6,035

6,640

90.9

East Riding of Yorkshire

5,985

6,530

91.7

Kingston upon Hull, City of

5,225

5,395

96.8

Kirklees

9,085

10,255

88.6

Leeds

15,185

15,495

98.0

North East Lincolnshire

3,405

3,525

96.5

North Lincolnshire

3,160

3,445

91.8

North Yorkshire

11,095

11,775

94.2

Rotherham

5,355

5,740

93.3

Sheffield

10,690

11,105

96.3

Wakefield

6,715

7,005

95.8

York

3,375

3,550

95.1

East Midlands

87,865

94,710

92.8

Derby

5,655

5,565

101.6

Derbyshire

14,460

15,500

93.3

Leicester

7,295

7,895

92.4

Leicestershire

11,725

13,680

85.7

Lincolnshire

12,390

13,195

93.9

Northamptonshire

14,350

16,050

89.4

Nottingham

6,135

6,050

101.4

Nottinghamshire

15,150

16,100

94.1

Rutland

710

675

105.0

West Midlands

116,220

125,165

92.9

Birmingham

25,180

28,445

88.5

Coventry

6,825

7,175

95.2

Dudley

6,610

6,855

96.5

Herefordshire

3,125

3,445

90.7

Sandwell

6,955

7,525

92.4

Shropshire

5,725

5,670

100.9

Solihull

4,385

4,280

102.4

Staffordshire

15,470

16,885

91.6

Stoke-on-Trent

5,255

5,465

96.1

Telford and Wrekin

3,710

4,020

92.3

Walsall

6,160

6,500

94.7

Warwickshire

10,430

11,340

92.0

Wolverhampton

5,465

5,710

95.7

Worcestershire

10,925

11,850

92.2

East of England

114,385

127,180

89.9

Bedfordshire

8,630

9,610

89.8

Cambridgeshire

11,360

13,045

87.1

Essex

26,420

30,005

88.0

Hertfordshire

23,995

25,420

94.4

Luton

5,135

5,565

92.3

Norfolk

14,750

16,330

90.3

Peterborough

4,005

4,250

94.2

Southend-on-Sea

3,455

3,740

92.3

Suffolk

13,245

15,380

86.1

Thurrock

3,385

3,830

88.4

London

171,805

193,210

88.9

Inner London1

67,615

78,165

86.5

Camden

4,080

5,140

79.4

Hackney

5,685

6,930

82.0

Hammersmith and Fulham

3,590

4,030

89.1

Haringey

5,875

6,390

91.9

Islington

4,040

4,100

98:5

Kensington and Chelsea

2,515

4,110

61.2

Lambeth

6,390

7,285

87.7

Lewisham

5,680

6,475

87.7

Newham

7,735

8,410

92.0

Southwark

6,220

6,990

89.0

Tower Hamlets

6,020

6,710

89.7

Wandsworth

6,205

6.745

92.0

Westminster

3,470

4,735

73.3

Outer London

104,190

115,045

90.6

Barking and Dagenham

4,405

4,985

88.4

Barnet

7,295

8,550

85.3

Bexley

4,725

5,160

91.5

Brent

6,110

7,065

86.5

Bromley

6,215

6,960

89.3

Croydon

7,735

8,550

90.5

Ealing

7,225

7,680

94.1

Enfield

6,615

7,675

86.2

Greenwich

6,005

6,330

94.9

Harrow

4,325

5,280

81.9

Havering

4,495

4,850

92.6

Hillingdon

6,285

6,340

99.1

Hounslow

4,845

5,740

84.4

Kingston upon Thames

3,140

3,470

90.5

Merton

4,380

4,615

94.9

Redbridge

6,360

6,670

95.3

Richmond upon Thames

4,200

4,720

89.0

Sutton

3,810

4,010

95.0

Waltham Forest

6,025

6,395

94.2

Southeast

166,190

184,105

90.3

Bracknell Forest

2,380

2,660

89.4

Brighton and Hove

4,975

5,255

94.7

Buckinghamshire

10,840

11,550

93.9

East Sussex

8,760

10,075

87.0

Hampshire

24,450

27,490

88.9

Isle of Wight

2,2,10

2,510

88.0

Kent

27,675

31,215

88.7

Medway

5,710

6,235

91.6

Milton Keynes

5,525

6,005

92.0

Oxfordshire

13,170

14,345

91.8

Portsmouth

3,985

4,010

99.4

Reading

3,210

3,360

95.6

Slough

3,180

3,390

93.8

Southampton

4,210

4,550

92.5

Surrey

22,145

24,935

88.8

West Berkshire

3,065

3,475

88.2

West Sussex

14,515

16,340

88.8

Windsor and Maidenhead

2,930

3,220

91.0

Wokingham

3,240

3,485

92.9

Southwest

94,705

104,250

90.8

Bath and North East Somerset

3,135

3,370

93.0

Bournemouth

2,730

2,975

91.8

Bristol, City of

8,085

8,770

92.2

Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

9,230

10,090

91.5

Devon

12,425

13,745

90,4

Dorset

6,615

7,385

89.6

Gloucestershire

10,950

12,170

90.0

North Somerset

3,770

4,225

89.2

Plymouth

4,915

5,180

94.9

Poole

2,410

2,760

87.3

Somerset

9,670

10,675

90.6

South Gloucestershire

5,120

5,695

89.9

Swindon

4,060

4,430

91.6

Torbay

2,385

2,625

90.8

Wiltshire

9,190

10,145

90.6

1 Includes City of London

Notes:

1. A PTE place is equal to five sessions and can be filled by more than one child. A child who attends more than five sessions in any one provider is counted as doing five sessions.

2. Figures are rounded to the nearest five.

3. Rounding of components may cause discrepancies in totals.

Pre-School Education: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how much and what proportion of the Graduate Leader Fund has been spent; and what guidance has been given to local authorities about how to allocate it. (206908)

The Graduate Leader Fund (£305 million over the CSR period 2008-11) superseded the Transformation Fund on 1 April 2008. Information on the first year of spend (i.e. 2008-09) will be provided to the Department by local authorities through their audited financial statements in the autumn of 2010.

Guidelines on the Graduate Leader Fund guidelines were issued to local authorities in March 2008. The purpose of the funding is to support all PVI full daycare settings to employ graduate leaders of early years practice by 2015. In return, settings in receipt of funding commit to employing a graduate to lead learning and development within the setting in a reasonable time period.

The guidelines set out the Government's expectations as to how the fund should be used by local authorities in particular:

working with PVI providers to prioritise and allocate funding in ways which best match local demand;

passporting the grant to PVI providers;

providers being able to use funding as a contribution to salary costs and for further continuous professional development for graduates and those training towards becoming graduate early years professionals.

Schools: Computers

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what recent estimate he has made of the proportion of children in maintained schools who have access to computers at school. (206931)

Over 99 per cent. of schools report having computers available for teaching and learning. In primary schools, there is on average one computer for every 5.7 pupils, and in secondary schools one computer for every 3.2 pupils.

Schools: Cricket

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of support for cricket in state schools. (206926)

The annual School Sport Survey was introduced in 2003-04 and collects data relating to participation in PE and school sport. The latest survey found that 90 per cent. (up from 85 per cent. in 2003-04) of maintained schools in England provided cricket during the academic year. The survey also found that 56 per cent. (up from 45 per cent. in 2003-04) of schools were linked to a local cricket club.

Youth Services: Local Government Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how much funding in real terms his Department and its predecessors have provided to Lancashire county council for youth services in the last 10 years; how much of that sum was spent in West Lancashire constituency; and what percentage of the allocation to Lancashire county council that represents. (204215)

Local authorities in England are not allocated money specifically for youth services. It is up to local authorities to decide how much of their overall funding they wish to allocate to youth services based on their own individual needs and circumstances. However, the following table includes how much Lancashire LA has budgeted for youth services in each of the last nine financial years (budget data are not available prior to the inception of Section 52 for the 1999-2000 financial year). Financial data on youth services are collected at a local authority level and as such we are unable to say how much of Lancashire's budgeted funding for youth services has been spent in the West Lancashire constituency.

Budgeted net expenditure by Lancashire LA on youth services

£

Cash terms

Real terms

1999-2000

7,192,000

8,549,000

2000-01

7,610,000

8,918,000

2001-02

7,532,000

8,620,000

2002-03

7,884,000

8,750,000

2003-04

8,067,000

8,700,000

2004-05

9,440,000

9,908,000

2005-06

10,014,000

10,288,000

2008-07

12,772,000

12,772,000

2007-08

12,251,000

11,865,000

Innovation, Universities and Skills

Higher Education: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what estimate he has made of the number of UK-born British passport-holding students refused access to concessionary rates of education at UK universities as a result of residence with UK national parents temporarily based overseas for three to five year employment contracts. (206752)

There is no record kept of such cases. Generally, UK nationals who have temporarily resided overseas because their parents have undertaken temporary employment contracts are eligible to pay the capped rate of fee and to student support.

UK nationals can be treated as ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom and Islands if they would have been so resident but for the fact that they or certain family members, including their parents, were temporarily employed elsewhere; so long as they are ordinarily resident in the UK on the first day of the first academic year of their course.

Students: Grants

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many undergraduates qualified for maintenance grants of (a) £2,765, (b) £2,417, (c) £1,548, (d) £1,230, (e) £927, (f) £401 and (g) £50 for the 2007-08 academic year; and how many received no grant. (203523)

[holding answer 6 May 2008]: The number of undergraduates qualified for maintenance grants for the academic year 2007/08 is not available at the level of detail requested. However the 2007/08 mid-year provisional data were published by the Student Loans Company (SLC) in the Statistical First Release of 27 November 2007 available at

http://www.slc.co.uk/statistics/national_statistics.html

The table gives the relevant information.

Distribution of maintenance grants to English domiciled students 207/08 (provisional early figures).

Students1

Full Maintenance Grant2

158,000

Partial Maintenance Grant

110,000

Nil Maintenance Grant

217,000

Total

485,000

1 Excludes students who do not apply to SLC for support. Excludes those not eligible for a maintenance grant because they receive an NHS bursary.

2 Full grant includes ITT students receiving the full reduced grant (£1,382).

Source:

Student Loans Company.

In July 2007 the Secretary of State announced increases to the means-testing threshold below which students are entitled to a full maintenance grant—up from £17,910 for entrants in 2007/08 to £25,000 for entrants in 2008/09. The threshold for a partial grant will increase from £38,330 for entrants in 2007/08 to £60,005 for entrants in 2008/09. These thresholds relate to household residual income. This will mean that one third of all eligible students in England entering higher education in the academic year 2008/09 are expected to be entitled to a full non-repayable grant worth £2,835 and another one third are expected to be entitled to a partial grant of between £50 and £2,835. Due to these reforms, by 2011, the number of students receiving some level of grant will increase by around 100,000. As part of this change, an extra 50,000 students will receive a full grant.

Women and Equality

Departmental Pay

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality when in 2008 the Government Equalities Office will be the subject of an equal pay audit. (204688)

The Government Equalities Office is currently working towards a single set of terms and conditions for its staff. That work will be completed in the summer and the equal pay audit will follow.

Departmental Responsibilities

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what work has been conducted by the Government Equalities Office on (a) race, (b) age, (c) sex and (d) disability discrimination since its inception, excluding work conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Women's National Commission, and the former Equalities Commissions and other Government Departments. (201427)

In his statement of 26 July 2007, the Prime Minister made clear the remit of the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and confirmed which Departments would retain responsibility for disability and race issues. The GEO has undertaken a range of work relevant to race, age, sex and disability discrimination, including consulting on proposals for a new Equality Bill, and taking lead responsibility for the Equalities PSA. Further details of the work of the GEO will be detailed in the departmental report which will be published in due course.

Equal Opportunities

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what steps she plans to take to promote good practice in employment opportunity through the report and list of good employers recently published by the Government. (201393)

In their report “Shaping a Fairer Future” (published February 2006) The Women and Work Commission recommended that the Government, with the help of partners like Opportunity Now, should build up a set of exemplar companies who would be prepared to pilot projects to tackle the causes of the gender pay gap.

The Government responded by setting up such a programme, run under contract by Opportunity Now, the gender arm of Business in the Community. A list of 113 exemplar employers was compiled and published as an online report in March 2008.

The Government Equalities Office will continue to work with Opportunity Now and other partners in sharing and disseminating lessons learned from the Exemplar Employers programme. We are presently in discussion with Opportunity Now on next steps.

Prostitution: Foreign Workers

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what estimate she has made of the number of women working as sex workers in the UK whose countries of origin are (a) other EU member states and (b) overseas states; and if she will give a breakdown of the principal countries of origin in each case. (204939)

Due to the hidden nature of prostitution, reliable statistics on the numbers involved and their countries of origin are difficult to obtain. Estimates suggest that at any one time in 2003 there were approximately 4,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution in the UK. However, no research has been undertaken which would provide either evidence or provide a basis for estimates on the number of women working as sex workers in the UK whose countries of origin are (a) other EU member states (b) other overseas states.

Solicitor-General

DNA: International Cooperation

To ask the Solicitor-General pursuant to the answer of 12 March 2008, Official Report, column 387W, on DNA: international cooperation, when the Crown Prosecution Service inquiry into the lost disc containing DNA profiles of Dutch criminals is now expected to be concluded. (204254)

[holding answer 8 May 2008]: The report on the inquiry is being published today along with a written ministerial statement.

Public Prosecution Service: Londonderry

To ask the Solicitor-General what progress has been made on the (a) plans and (b) timescale for the opening of the regional office of the Public Prosecution Service in Derry; what the proposed (i) staffing complement and (ii) service areas are; and if she will make a statement. (205592)

The proposed Public Prosecution Service, Derry Northern Regional Office is located at 35 Limavady Road, Londonderry. The building will be a three-storey office building with 30 car parking spaces on a site dedicated to the PPS.

Work commenced on the building shell in January 2008. The programme of work will be completed in September 2008 with the building becoming fully operational in October 2008.

The building will be known as Foyle Chambers and will accommodate 50 PPS staff.

At present the Northern Regional Office is being operated from offices in Coleraine and Ballymena Chambers.

The service areas for Foyle Chambers are Derry, Magherafelt and Limavady.

Public Prosecution Service: Newry

To ask the Solicitor-General what progress has been made on the (a) plans and (b) timescale for the opening of the regional office of the Public Prosecution Service in Newry; and if she will make a statement. (205591)

PPS has identified a suitable site on the Belfast Road, Newry that would enable the PPS to provide a Southern Regional Office that meets PPS office accommodation and car parking requirements within the revised PPS timescale autumn 2009.

Land and Property Services (Valuation) have agreed provisional and outline terms in respect of proposals to lease the building on this Belfast Road site. This agreement is ‘Without Prejudice and Subject to Contract’ which includes planning permission being granted.

The developer has made a submission to the planners based on the new ‘Pre Application Discussion for Strategic Projects and Major Housing, Commercial, Industrial and Public Sector Proposals’. A favourable response has been received which will permit the developer to submit a formal planning application on 21 May 2008. This new fast-tracked planning process anticipates that planning permission could be achieved in August 2008. On receipt of the planning permission the building will take nine to 12 months to become operational.

The Southern Regional Office is presently being sustained from Belfast until the Southern Regional Office is opened in Newry.

Television: Telephone Services

To ask the Solicitor-General if she will refer to the Serious Fraud Office recent allegations of television broadcaster misconduct in the use of premium rate telephone services in viewer competitions and voting. (205793)

I am aware that four allegations of television broadcaster misconduct have been considered by the SFO, although those referrals did not arise from my Office.

A decision was made by the former director of the SFO, Robert Wardle, not to commence formal investigations into two of these allegations. The remaining two allegations are still undergoing consideration. The director of the SFO will make a decision on these in due course.

To ask the Solicitor-General whether the Serious Fraud Office plans to investigate the recent cases of television broadcaster misconduct in the use of premium rate telephone services in viewer competitions and voting; and if she will make a statement. (205854)

Four separate allegations of misconduct by television broadcasters have been raised with the SFO since October 2007. A decision was made by the former Director of the SFO, Robert Wardle, not to commence formal investigations into two of these allegations. The remaining two allegations are still undergoing consideration. The Director of the SFO will make a decision on these in due course.

Culture, Media and Sport

Arts: Israel

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps he has (a) taken and (b) plans to take to improve artistic links between the United Kingdom and Israel; and if he will make a statement. (206136)

I am aware that there have been and will be strong artistic links between the UK and Israel and I welcome this. There are no unique barriers to organisations in forming artistic links between our two countries. I have not therefore taken, nor do I plan to take, any special steps to improve artistic links with Israel, over and above those normally in place.

Cultural Heritage: Shipping

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether he has powers to invoke legal measures to protect historic sea or river vessels where a registered owner does not demonstrate a duty of care. (206676)

[holding answer 19 May 2008]: The Secretary of State has no such powers in relation to historic sea or river vessels except where they are permanent land-based listed structures. Such vessels may be designated as listed buildings or scheduled ancient monuments if they meet relevant criteria.

Departmental Orders and Regulations

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many statutory instruments have been (a) made and (b) revoked by Ministers in his Department since 1997. (204770)

Since 1997 Ministers in DCMS have made the following number of statutory instruments each calendar year.

Number

1997

271

1998

23

1999

23

2000

19

200

17

2002

31

2003

28

2004

32

2005

49

2006

58

2007

65

2008

112

1 Eight prior to 1 May, 19 thereafter.

2 To 15 May 2008

The number of statutory instruments revoked by Ministers in DCMS since 1997 can be ascertained only at disproportionate cost.

Gambling: Internet

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions he has had with (a) the European Commission and (b) other EU member states on the effect of US law on EU business interests in the United States, with particular reference to (i) online gambling companies and (ii) companies providing financial services to the online gambling sector. (206564)

The UK remained in close contact with the European Commission in connection with the negotiation of an agreed compensation package following the US Administration's decision to withdraw from a World Trade Organisation commitment to provide access to the US online gambling market to non-US companies.

The European Commission is now investigating the United States' ban on remote gambling and its enforcement action against UK and European companies for activities conducted in the US as a result of a complaint under the Trade Barriers Regulation made by the UK gambling industry. The UK Government welcome the European Commission's decision to investigate and we await their conclusions with interest.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions he has had with the Indian Government on the effect of US law on the operation of UK businesses in the online gambling sector; and with what other governments outside the EU he has discussed the issue. (206565)

The UK has not had discussions with the Indian Government or other governments outside the EU on the effect of US law on the operation of businesses in the online gambling sector.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what restrictions apply to US companies in the UK online gambling sector; and what assessment he has made of the development of online gambling services in the UK by US companies. (206567)

Only companies that are licensed in the UK, in an EEA state or Gibraltar, or in the jurisdictions permitted by the Secretary of State under section 331 of the Gambling Act 2005—currently the Isle of Man, Alderney and Tasmania—are permitted to advertise online gambling services in the UK.

No US jurisdictions are currently permitted to advertise online gambling services in the UK. That means that no US companies licensed in a US jurisdiction are able to advertise online gambling services here.

The UK Government have not made any assessment of the development of online gambling services in the UK by US companies.

Prime Minister

China: Earthquakes

To ask the Prime Minister what message he sent to the Government of China following the earthquake in Chongqing. (206324)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave at my monthly press conference on 15 May 2008. A transcript is available on the No. 10 website at:

http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page15580.asp

and a copy has been placed in the Library of the House.

Dalai Lama

To ask the Prime Minister what the reasons are for the choice of venue for his forthcoming meeting with the Dalai Lama. (205882)

To ask the Prime Minister (1) when the Dalai Lama has met the holder of his Office in Downing Street during the past 30 years; (206322)

(2) where he plans to meet the Dalai Lama during his forthcoming visit.

I refer the hon. Members’ to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger-Ross) at Prime Minister’s questions on 14 May 2008, Official Report, columns 1381-82.

Ministerial Policy Advisers: Data Protection

To ask the Prime Minister whether the data held by special advisers are the responsibility of the (a) Permanent Secretary of each Government Department or (b) Cabinet Secretary for the purposes of the (i) Data Protection Act 1998 and (ii) Freedom of Information Act 2000. (206593)

Special advisers are subject to the requirements of legislation in the same way as other civil servants.

Olympics

Olympic Games 2012: Education

To ask the Minister for the Olympics what discussions she has had with (a) the London Development Agency and (b) the Olympic Delivery Authority on the educational legacy of the 2012 Olympic games; and if she will make a statement. (206463)

I meet with the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and the London Development Agency (LDA) regularly to discuss a variety of issues, including the legacy of the games.

In addition, the Minister for Schools and I have also appointed Ian Stewart, an independent reviewer, to lead a review into a potential educational legacy at the Olympic stadium. He has been consulting with the ODA and LDA, among other key stakeholders, including community groups, and will report to Ministers at the end of June.

To ask the Minister for the Olympics whether the 2012 Olympic games one planet pavilion will have an educational focus; and if she will make a statement. (206464)

The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is currently considering the pavilion's content but has confirmed it will include an educational component. LOCOG will consult with the London Development Agency (LDA) and other stakeholders, including the five host boroughs, to ensure that potential legacy applications are taken into account.

Wales

Scotland Office and Northern Ireland Office: Co-ordination

8. To ask the Secretary of State for Wales whether he has had discussions with the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland on the co-ordination of the work of his Department, the Scotland Office and the Northern Ireland Office. (205957)

I have held discussions with both my territorial colleagues reflecting our wish to work closely on matters of common interest.

Post Office Network

9. To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on the post office network in Wales. (205958)

We have invested £2 billion in Post Office Ltd. since 1999, and are committed to invest a further £1.7 billion in the network over the next five years.

This Government’s proposals will ensure a truly nationwide network and recognise the important social and economic role that post offices play in communities across the country.

Housing Market Trends

10. To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment he has made of the effects of trends in the housing market in Wales on the Welsh economy. (205959)

Wales is not immune to the current slowing down in the housing market as seen in the rest of the UK and across the world. We have good reason to remain optimistic about the Welsh economy despite the present challenges facing the global economy.

Children’s Commissioners for Wales and England: Co-ordination

11. To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with Welsh Assembly Government Ministers on the co-ordination of the work of the Children’s Commissioners for Wales and England. (205961)

I have arranged a meeting with the new children’s commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, to discuss a range of issues, including co-ordination with the children’s commissioner for England.

I also have regular contact with the deputy children’s commissioner for Wales, Maria Battle.

North East Wales: Contribution to UK Economy

12. To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment he has made of the contribution of north-east Wales to the UK economy. (205962)

The continued success of and contribution made by north-east Wales is an important part, not only of the Welsh economy, but of the UK's as a whole.

Joint Ministerial Committee

13. To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what progress has been made in reinvigorating the Joint Ministerial Committee; and if he will make a statement. (205963)

I have met the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland, to discuss how best to re-establish the committee. We aim to hold a meeting of the Committee before the summer. I believe it offers a way of operating devolution arrangements in the United Kingdom better, for everyone's benefit.

Unemployment

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government on levels of unemployment in Wales. (205960)

My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with Welsh Assembly Government Ministers on a wide range of issues, including the employment situation in Wales.

Transport

Shipping: Safety

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress the Council of Ministers has made on a common framework for the permanent exclusion by member states of vessels in repeated breach of EU safety regulations. (206700)

The UK already has a framework for restricting vessel access to UK ports which is set out in The Merchant Shipping (Port State Control) Regulations 1995 [SI 1995 No. 3128 as amended] and the associated Merchant Shipping Notice 1775 (M).

The original proposal of the recast of the EU Directive on Port State Control, one of the Third Maritime Safety Package proposals, included provisions to permanently ban vessels which have been detained for a third time following inspection at a Community port. The Council was not persuaded that a permanent ban was proportionate or legally enforceable. It considered that ships which have been banned under the terms of the directive should be allowed back into Community ports once stringent safety criteria, including a further inspection of the ship concerned, have been satisfied.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment she has made of the progress made by EU member states on implementing the provisions of the Erika II legislative package enabling the competent authorities in member states to prevent ships from setting sail in very bad weather. (206810)

The UK has implemented these provisions.

Regulation 13 of the Merchant Shipping (Vessel Traffic Monitoring and Reporting Requirements) Regulations 2004 covers measures to be taken in the event of exceptionally bad weather or sea conditions.

The Government also have procedures in place so that if an incident is reported to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, a counter pollution and response officer and, if necessary, the Secretary of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SOSREP) will be alerted.

The Government have made no assessment of the progress made by other EU member states in implementing these provisions.

Tolls

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions she has had with the European Commission on the work of the CURACAO User Group; whether she has allocated resources to the project in relation to road pricing schemes; what discussions she has had with the project on advice to local authorities on road pricing; what assessment she has made of the contribution of the project to the development of proposals for road pricing schemes in England; and if she will make a statement. (206343)

CURACAO is a European Commission funded project which aims to co-ordinate research and monitor the results of the implementation of road user charging as a demand management tool in urban areas. The Department has had no direct contact with the Commission about the project, nor allocated funding, but officials have provided some input to the project at a technical level to ITS (university of Leeds) and Transport Travel and Research, two of the three UK-based project partners in CURACAO. The Department has had no discussions with them on our advice to local authorities and has made no assessment of the project.

Transport Appraisal

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reason the methodology used in the New Approach to Transport Appraisal treats a decision by an individual to leave his or her vehicle at home and use public transport as a disbenefit; and if she will take steps to change this attribution. (205161)

[holding answer 12 May 2008]: The methodology recommended in the “New Approach To Appraisal” (NATA) does not treat a decision by an individual to leave his or her vehicle at home and use public transport as a disbenefit.

Instead, an assumption of appraisal is that a decision of this sort largely reflects the individual comparing the advantages and disadvantages of the form of transport they choose, in terms of journey time, journey costs and, in some circumstances, measures of other journey characteristics such as crowding, and judging there to be an overall ‘benefit’ through changing from one mode to another.

However, costs and benefits under the NATA methodology are not assessed only from the view of the transport user as there may be further impacts on transport providers, the Government, wider society or the environment. NATA seeks to ensure that all impacts are taken into account to give a complete picture.

Treasury

Capital Gains Tax

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 26 November 2007, Official Report, column 47W, on capital gains tax, if he will estimate the revenue implications of taxing capital gains at the same marginal rates as income tax with indexation from April 2008. (206394)

A reform of this kind would result in a large behavioural response and as such estimates are susceptible to a wide margin of error.

A broad estimate of the eventual steady state impact, taking account of the likely taxpayer response to such a change, is additional receipts in the order of £2 billion a year by comparison with the capital gains tax regime contained in the Finance Bill 2008.

Child Tax Credit Helpline

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how long the standard training period for staff joining the Child Tax Credits Helpline service is. (206920)

HMRC operates the tax credits Helpline. This covers both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) on 31 January 2008, Official Report, column 683W.

Child Tax Credits

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how long on average it takes for his Department to process an application for child tax credit. (206922)

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) aim to pay 60 per cent. of all new Child and Working Tax Credit claims in 15 calendar days and all new claims in 20 calendar days

Council Tax: Wales

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 21 April 2008, Official Report, column 1688W, on the Valuation Office, how many households in Wales received a visit from a Valuation Office Agency representative as part of the 2005 council tax revaluation. (204879)

Details as to the number of properties visited by the VOA as part of the 2005 council tax revaluation cannot be provided other than at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Pay

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the total cost was of salaries for (a) permanent civil service posts, (b) permanent non-civil service posts and (c) temporary or agency workers in his Department in each month since May 2005. (200174)

Details of the wages and salaries paid by the Department to permanent staff, Ministers and special advisors and other staff are shown in Table 6.1 of the Treasury's Annual Report and Accounts 2005-06 (HC 1344) and 2006-07 (HC 518). Copies of the documents can be found at:

hm-treasury.gov.uk

A monthly breakdown of the figures could be provided only at disproportionate costs.

Income Tax: Tax Rates and Bands

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the estimated cost would be of reintroducing the 10 pence tax band with effect from the beginning of the 2008-09 financial year. (206575)

Reintroducing the 10p starting rate for non-savings income would cost around £6.7 billion for 2008-09. This estimate assumes the personal allowance had remained at £5,435 and not been increased by £600 as announced by the Chancellor on Tuesday 13 May.

Members: Correspondence

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will reply to the letter of 12 March from the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham on the small and medium enterprises threshold for the purposes of the research and development tax credit in relation to Allergy Therapeutics in Worthing. (207141)

As I believe the hon. Member knows, the Treasury has no record of having received his letter. A copy has been requested and will be dealt with as soon as possible.

Revenue and Customs: Manpower

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many full-time equivalent staff of HM Revenue and Customs have had forensic accounting duties in each year since 2001. (206688)

This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost. A large number of HMRC staff have forensic accounting duties in a wide variety of roles.

Shares: Sales Methods

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with the Financial Services Authority on illegal share sales by boiler room operations; and if he will make a statement. (206945)

The Chancellor meets senior members of the FSA on a regular basis to discuss a wide range of economic and financial issues.

Other Treasury Ministers are also closely engaged with the FSA, other Government departments and law enforcement agencies in discussions on counter-fraud work. An inter-ministerial group met in April, for instance to discuss priorities for the National Fraud Strategic Authority.

Trusts

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate how many trusts became resident in the UK as a result of the trust modernisation programme changes effected on 6 April 2007. (206684)

Valuation Office: Surveys

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will place in the Library a copy of the Valuation Office Agency's most recent staff survey. (202820)

Welfare Tax Credits

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether requests for TC647 forms are recorded by the Tax Credit Office or HM Revenue and Customs; how many TC647 forms were sent to tax credit claimants in each year since their introduction; and how many claimants have been sent them. (205815)

[holding answer 15 May 2008]: Requests for TC647 forms are recorded on each individual customer's tax credit record and it is not possible to provide the number of requests.

The number of TC647 forms issued in the last four years was:

Number of forms TC647 issued

2004-05

58,486

2005-06

60,899

2006-07

11,619

2007-08

1,603

Information is not available for 2003-04.

The marked reduction in the numbers of TC647s issued in 2006-07 and 2007-08 illustrates the improvements made to the award notice from April 2006, which now provide the information tax credits customers need to help them better understand their awards.

This information corrects the figure provided on 29 November 2005, Official Report, column 348W

Scotland

Departmental Official Hospitality

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many receptions he has hosted and funded in his capacity as Secretary of State in the last 12 months; which individuals and organisations (a) were invited to and (b) attended each reception; and what the cost was of each reception. (203852)

The Scotland Office has published information about some hospitality events in its annual report for 2008. The Office plans to publish a full list of events in future annual reports. The Secretary of State hosted a total of nine events during financial year 2007-08 and the total cost for these in the last financial year is £28,719.95. The Office does not hold a full list of those guests invited or who attended these events.

Defence

Apprentices

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) apprenticeships and (b) advanced apprenticeships there were in (i) his Department and (ii) the agencies for which he is responsible in the most recent year for which figures are available. (206803)

All civilian apprenticeships are advanced. In 2006-07, there were 5,326 military apprentices in the Ministry of Defence. There were 1,973 advanced military apprentices, 234 advanced civilian apprentices and 282 advanced apprentices in agencies.

Armoured Fighting Vehicles: Hearing Impaired

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what dates since 1992 his Department has undertaken studies into the potential damage to hearing from prolonged driving of armoured vehicles. (201579)

There have been no studies specifically into hearing damage from prolonged driving of armoured vehicles. Noise exposure assessments are however undertaken and suitable protection provided.

Cyprus

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 12 May 2008, Official Report, column 48WS, on UN Forces (Cyprus), what the cap badge will be of the 250 reservists. (206642)

Individuals will be selected from within 2 Division, based largely upon HQ 32 Signal Regiment. The process of selection and training of reservists to serve on the next deployment for Operation Tosca with the UN in Cyprus will culminate in full notice of call-out (which is a minimum of 28 days) prior to their mobilisation. This will not need to take place until later this year, and until then, I cannot confirm which cap badges will be worn. When the units deploy they will all wear the UN blue beret and UN cap badge.

Departmental Freedom of Information

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many freedom of information requests made to his Department were (a) answered (i) within 20 days, (ii) within 40 days, (iii) within 60 days, (iv) after 60 days, (b) not answered and (c) answered citing an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as a reason not to provide the requested information in each year since the Act came into force. (201723)

The Ministry of Justice has published two annual reports containing statistical information on freedom of information requests received by monitored bodies (including central Government Departments) in 2005 and 2006. These reports can be found at the following address:

http://www.dca.gov.uk/foi/reference/statisticsAndReports.htm

The 2007 annual report is currently being drafted for publication in June 2008. However, statistics on requests received in each quarter of 2007 have been published and can be found via the MOJ website:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/freedomofinformation quarterly.htm

Information requests where deadlines were extended beyond 40 days are not collected in the form requested; however the proportion of resolvable requests the Department answered “in time” (i.e. meeting the deadline or with a permitted extension) in 2007 was 87 per cent.

For 2005 and 2006, the reports show the number of requests received by the Department which were withheld, either in full or in part, where an FOI exemption or EIR exception was applied. For 2007, the number of such requests was 390, based on aggregated quarterly statistics from 2007. Requests withheld solely under the exemption applicable to “information available by other means” are not included; statistics on these are not collected centrally because they are dealt with as routine business.

Departmental Publications

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library copies of the Ministry of Defence quarterly performance reports from each year since 1997. (206916)

The Department has published an annual performance report (since 2002-03 the annual report and accounts) setting out its end year performance since 1996-97. Copies are available in the Library of the House. The Department has also published quarterly performance reports on its website since the fourth quarter of 2003-04. These can be found at:

http://www.mod.uk/Defencelnternet/AboutDefence/CorporatePublications/FinancialReports/ModPSASD AandTechnicalNotes.htm

Where these have comprised the formal autumn or spring performance reports, copies were automatically placed in the Library of the House at the time of publication. I will arrange for copies to be placed in the Library of the House of any quarterly reports that have been published on the Department's website but not previously placed in the Library.

Military Aircraft: Helicopters

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many and what percentage of the helicopter fleet is (a) in service, (b) in the forward fleet and (c) fit for purpose, broken down by (i) service and (ii) helicopter type. (206153)

The number and type of helicopters used by the Royal Navy, Army Air Corps and Royal Air Force which are in the Forward fleet and considered fit for purpose are detailed in the following table. Forward fleet aircraft are those that are available to the front-line command for operational and training purposes (i.e. those not in depth maintenance). Aircraft defined as fit for purpose are those considered capable of carrying out their planned missions on a given date.

Helicopter type

In service (total fleet)

Average number of aircraft in Forward fleet

Percentage of total fleet in Forward fleet

Average number of aircraft fit for purpose (FFP)

FFP as a percentage of total fleet

FFP percentage of Forward fleet

Royal Navy

Sea King Mk 4/6c

42

31

74

15

36

48

Lynx Mk 3/8

63

42

67

29

46

69

Merlin Mk 1

38

24

63

20

53

83

Sea King Mk 5

15

11

73

7

47

64

Sea King Mk 7

13

9

69

7

54

78

Army Air Corps

Apache AH Mk 1

67

51

76

24

36

47

Lynx Mk 7/9

96

54

56

31

32

57

Gazelle Mk 1

67

45

67

n/a

n/a

n/a

Augusta A109

4

4

100

4

100

100

Royal Air Force

Chinook Mk 2/2a

40

29

73

19

48

66

Puma Mk 1

38

23

61

16

42

70

Merlin Mk 3/3a

27

17

63

10

37

59

SAR Sea King Mk 3/3a*

25

17

68

12

48

71

The figures shown are the average for the month of April 2008 (with the exception of the search and rescue Sea King Mk 3/3a data, which cover March 2008 due to technical problems). The number of helicopters fit for purpose will vary from day to day due, primarily, to routine maintenance requirements. Operational capability is measured in terms of flying hours rather than the number of airframes available.

Military Bases: Long Marston

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the Royal Engineer Depot at Long Marston was sold; what price was received; and whether there was a development uplift clause in the sale contract under which a portion of any gain in value from a grant of planning permission is to be paid to the public purse. (203654)

[holding answer 6 May 2008]: The Central Engineer Resource Depot was sold in November 2004 for just over £11 million.

The contract contains a clawback clause whereby if enhanced development worth more than £12 million is given planning approval within 20 years of the date of sale, the Ministry of Defence will receive 50 per cent. of any uplift in value.

Navy: Repairs and Maintenance

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on whose authority a Royal Navy maintenance team was recently sent to Dubai; for what reasons it did not complete its scheduled job; and what the cost was. (206903)

Based on the information provided, I am unable to identify the occasion to which the hon. Member refers. Should he wish to write to me with more details, I will investigate this matter further.

Radioactive Wastes

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many used fuel cores from naval reactors are stored at (a) the Naval Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay, (b) Devonport Dockyard, (c) Rosyth Dockyard and (d) Sellafield. (206529)

I am withholding the information as its release would, or would be likely to, prejudice national security. Ultimately, all used fuel cores will be stored at Sellafield.

RAF Weston on the Green

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department plans to sell RAF Weston on the Green to Parkridge Holdings if proposals for the Weston Otmoor eco-town proceed; and if he will make a statement. (203800)

Defence Estates officials have held informal exploratory meetings with Parkridge Holdings.

No undertakings have been given and further discussions would be necessary were Weston-on-the-Green to be included on the final shortlist of proposed eco-towns.

Smoking

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many smoking shelters were built at each of his Department's London buildings in each of the last five years. (205044)

Main Building, Old War Office and St. Georges Court are smokefree. No smoking shelters have been constructed at these sites.

UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library a copy of his speech delivered at the launch of the UKTI Defence and Security Organisation at Lancaster House on 8 May 2008. (207046)

The launch of the UKTI Defence and Security Organisation took place at Lancaster House on 8 April 2008. In the event, I spoke without notes, loosely based around a prepared speech, a copy of which will be placed in the Library of the House.

Northern Ireland

Departmental Equality

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether his Department met the civil service diversity targets set out on page 51 of Cabinet Office Annual Report 2007 by April 2008. (204712)

The following tables set out how the Northern Ireland Office has performed against the civil service diversity targets set out in page 51 of Cabinet Office Annual Report 2007 by April 2008. The Northern Ireland Office continues to work closely with Cabinet Office colleagues to achieve a diverse civil service, representative of the communities we serve.

SCS—Diversity

Percentage

Women

Proportion

Target

Shortfall

Top management

March 2008

16.7

30

13.3

All SCS

March 2008

36.4

37

0.6

Ethnicity

March 2008

2.3

4

1.7

Disability

March 2008

0

3.2

3.2

SCS feeder grades

Percentage

Proportion

Target

Shortfall

Women

March 2008

45.7

47.5

1.8

Ethnicity

March 2008

0

4

4

Disability

March 2008

3.2

3.2

0

Prisoners: Foreigners

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many foreign nationals were sentenced to a term of imprisonment in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. (206894)

Data relating to the number of foreign nationals (i.e. individuals recorded as citizens of countries other than the UK or the Republic of Ireland) sentenced to immediate custody are only available for 2006. During this period there were 35 individuals recorded as foreign nationals who were sentenced to immediate custody in Northern Ireland.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many foreign nationals were sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. (206895)

Data relating to the number of foreign nationals (i.e. individuals recorded as citizens of countries other than the UK or the Republic of Ireland) sentenced to immediate custody are only available for 2006. During this period there were five individuals recorded as foreign nationals who were sentenced to a term of custody of 12 months or more in Northern Ireland.

Probation

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what resources he is providing for the Probation Service of Northern Ireland following the entry into force of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008. (206816)

The outcome of the CSR 2007 exercise provides the following resources to PBNI, and takes account of the changes arising from the Criminal Justice Order 2008:

£ million

Programme

Capital

200-09

16.778

3

2009-10

18.597

1.798

2010-11

19.997

1.803

Public Inquiries

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 1 May 2008, Official Report, columns 625-6W, on public inquiries, what the cost of (a) the Saville Inquiry, (b) each of the other ongoing public inquiries in Northern Ireland and (c) the Historic Enquiries Team investigations was in each of the last six months for which figures are available. (205424)

The costs for the last six months for which figures are available for each public inquiry under way in Northern Ireland are shown in the following tables.

The Robert Hamill inquiry

£

2007-08

Spend

October

237,869

November

339,931

December

260,159

January

330,257

February

362,068

March

1,175,066

Total

2,705,350

The Rosemary Nelson inquiry

£

2007-08

Spend

October

1,103,919

November

1,244,301

December

65,047

January

1,139,430

February

805,001

March

1,340,937

Total

5,698,636

The Billy Wright inquiry

£

2007-08

Spend

October

-385,450

November

750,679

December

566,304

January

491,246

February

777,436

March

1,710,872

Total

3,911,088

These figures remain provisional until the 2007-08 financial year accounts are completed.

The Bloody Sunday inquiry

£

2007-08

Actuals cash

October

234,884

November

462,529

December

239,949

January

453,054

February

599,295

March

365,839

Total

2,355,549

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry figures are cash spend.

The Historical Enquiries Team

£

2007-08

PSNI HET Spend

FSNI HET Spend

OPONI HET Spend

Total

October

489,000

28,669

63,000

580,669

November

476,000

102,932

69,000

647,932

December

388,000

13,912

74,000

475,912

January

686,000

22,000

56,000

764,000

February

919,000

32,066

62,000

1,013,066

March

228,000

30,588

66,000

324,588

Total

3,186,000

230,167

390,000

3,806,167

Security Guards: Licensing

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether a person with a conviction for membership of a proscribed paramilitary organisation in Northern Ireland has been granted a licence to run a private security firm since 1998. (203659)

To establish whether a licence has been granted to any individual with a conviction for membership of a proscribed paramilitary organisation would incur disproportionate cost.

Young Offenders: Females

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many females between the ages of 10 and 17 years were prosecuted in Northern Ireland in each of the last three years for which figures are available. (206918)

The following table gives the number of females aged 10 to 17 years prosecuted in Northern Ireland for the calendar years 2004 to 2006 (the latest available years). If a person is prosecuted more than once on separate occasions in the same year, each separate prosecution will be included in the figures.

Number of females aged 10 to 17 years prosecuted 2004-06

Number prosecuted

2004

242

2005

236

2006

232

Communities and Local Government

Community Relations

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what new resources she plans to make available to local authorities to assist the delivery of extended community empowerment under the proposed Community Empowerment Housing and Regeneration Bill, as set out in summary on pages 66 to 68 of the Government’s draft legislative programme, Cm 7372. (206578)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on 5 March that she would publish a White Paper on empowerment in the summer. On 14 May the Prime Minister announced that the Government intend to introduce a Bill on Community Empowerment, Housing and Economic Regeneration in the fourth Session. Any net additional costs for local authorities in England arising in this context will be funded in full.

Departmental Data Protection

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether any officials in (a) her Department and (b) its agencies were disciplined or dismissed for (i) alleged breaches of data protection requirements and (ii) inappropriate use of personal or sensitive data in each of the last three years for which figures are available. (205904)

No such breaches, or instances of inappropriate use of personal or sensitive data, have been identified in either the central Department or its Agencies during the past three years.

Disadvantaged

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which 10 local authorities have the (a) highest and (b) lowest levels of deprivation; and if she will make a statement. (205992)

The Indices of Deprivation do not provide a single overall measure of deprivation at the local authority level thus making it difficult to identify a single list of the most or least deprived authorities.

Homelessness: Young People

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what recent steps the Government have taken to reduce youth homelessness; (206523)

(2) what recent steps the Government have taken to work with schools to prevent youth homelessness.

In November 2006, my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State announced a package of measures to further prevent and tackle youth homelessness. This included: a commitment that by 2010, no 16 or 17 year olds should be placed in bed and breakfast accommodation by a local authority under the homelessness legislation, except in an emergency; improving access to family mediation; and establishing supported lodgings schemes for young people across the country. Since then significant progress has been made:

6390 young people were accepted as homeless in 2006-07 (young people are 16-17 year olds, or 18-20 year old care leavers). This is down from 8350 in 2005-06.

Around 530 16 and 17 year olds were placed in bed and breakfast by housing authorities at the end of December 2008, down from around 1000 in September 2006.

We have provided significant investment for homelessness prevention. This includes £200 million homelessness grant funding for local authorities and the voluntary sector over the next three years. This represents the biggest ever cash injection for homelessness services. We are aware that some local authorities will use their grant to target schools making pupils aware of the impact of homelessness, For example, the London borough of Lambeth will be using some of their homelessness grant towards the establishment of an educational trust to develop their innovative, young people led homelessness prevention resource, entitled ‘The Prodigals’ into a national preventative programme.

We established the National Youth Homelessness scheme (NYHS) jointly led by Centrepoint and YMCA England. NYHS, has established nine regional centres of excellence to offer practical examples to neighbouring authorities of effective service models, and a website and knowledge base to offer accessible information and practical initiatives on preventing and tackling youth homelessness.

Through this Department's specialist advisers on youth homelessness, NYHS has supported local authorities to achieve these reductions in homelessness acceptances amongst young people and the use of bed and breakfast accommodation via four workstreams: local authority strategy and partnership; homelessness prevention; accommodation and support pathways; and addressing wider needs.

On 9 May 2008, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Children, Schools and Families launched good practice guidance on joint working between housing authorities and children's services to prevent and respond to homelessness and the wider support needs of young people.

Housing: Carbon Emissions

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the capability of UK manufacturers to supply technologies required to (a) construct and (b) operate zero-carbon homes. (206369)

The Renewables Advisory Board, an independent, non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, has been considering the implications of the zero carbon policy for the supply of microgeneration technologies, including the opportunities for UK industry. Its report, “The Role of Onsite Energy Generation in Delivering Zero Carbon Homes: A Study” can be found at:

www.renewables-advisory-board.org.uk/vBulletin/show thread.php?p=123#post123

Through the 2016 Task Force, the Department will continue to work with industry to identify issues which may affect the capacity of industry to respond to the demands for zero carbon homes.

Housing: Economic Situation

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the effect of the credit crunch on (a) the borrowing power of housing associations and (b) the building of affordable and social housing. (206050)

[holding answer 16 May 2008]: The Housing Corporation has analysed the borrowing capacity of the sector to deliver housing associations’ current business plans. It published its assessment of the housing association funding and development market on 12 May 2008. The “Affordable Homes Developers Report” is available on their website at:

www.housingcorp.gov.uk

The corporation believes that the ability to obtain finance at a reasonable price is not an immediate concern for housing associations and the longer-term outlook for private finance for affordable housing remains positive. The Department and the Housing Corporation continue to liaise with lenders and their representatives to discuss the regulatory and funding environment and its implications for lenders in the housing association sector.

Infrastructure Planning Commission: EC Law

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what regard the Infrastructure Planning Commission will have to the provisions of the European Directives on (a) Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe and (b) Environmental Noise in making decisions on major infrastructure projects. (206447)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave her on 13 May 2008, Official Report, columns 1443-444W.

Infrastructure Planning Commission: Public Appointments

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what regard she will have to relevant (a) expertise and (b) knowledge in making appointments to the proposed Infrastructure Planning Commission. (206446)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave her on 13 May 2008, Official Report, column 1444W.

Landfill Tax

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much the Government paid to local authorities as a landfill tax rebate in each year since 2003. (204519)

Local authorities’ costs incurred on their waste management responsibilities are funded mainly through Formula Grant (Revenue Support Grant and National Non Domestic Rates) in relation to household waste and mainly through fees and charges in relation to commercial and industrial waste. In determining the local government settlement, the Government took into account pressures on local government spending, including their landfill tax liability and the increased costs resulting from the rise in the standard rate escalator from 2008-09. The Government have provided significant investment in local services since taking office and by 2010-11 will have provided an overall increase in Government grant of 45 per cent. since 1997.

Local Authorities: Fees and Charges

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps her Department has taken to assist local authorities to meet the increased fees payable in public law care proceedings. (206756)

As I made clear in the debate on the Local Government Finance Report 2008-09 on 4 February this year, Official Report, column 729, the spending pressure on councils as a result of the transfer to local authorities of the full funding for family law cases, is included within the Formula Grant for authorities. Overall Government grant to local authorities increases by 1.5 per cent. a year in real terms over the CSR07 period, taking the investment in local services since we took office to 45 per cent. in real terms up to 2010-11.

Local Government Finance: Social Services

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what mechanisms her Department has in place to monitor local authorities’ expenditure of funding allocated through local involvement networks for social care. (206248)

The level of the local authority contribution to the local involvement networks (LINks) is a matter for individual councils. Government funding for local authorities’ responsibilities in this area has been added into Area Based Grant which is administered by my Department. Area based Grant is a non-ringfenced general grant and as such there are no requirements for local authorities to report separately on how the grant is utilised.

Local Government Task Force: Pay

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what information her Department holds on the expenses of board members of the Local Government Task Force. (206917)

The Department does not hold information on the expenses of board members of the Local Government Task Force.

Regional Planning and Development: East of England

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for what reason hon. Members for constituencies in the East of England were not informed of the (a) launch and (b) publication of the East of England plan until the morning of publication; and if she will make a statement. (206882)

A revision to a regional spatial strategy should be published through the laying of a ministerial statement in the House. This publication statement was laid in the House at 9:30am on Monday 12 May and an event to launch the East of England plan was held in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, at noon on Monday 12 May. However, I understand that hon. Members in the East of England are very interested in how their constituencies are affected by the policies in the plan.

With that in mind, the Government Office for the East of England (GO-East) made every effort to ensure that hon. Members were invited to attend the event on Monday 12 May. GO-East officials first telephoned the offices of all hon. Members for the East of England on Friday 9 May to invite members to hear “a regionally significant announcement on planning in the East of England”. This was followed with an email to those offices which were not contactable by telephone.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which persons were advised of the date of (a) launch and (b) publication of the East of England plan prior to 12 May 2008; who was invited to the launch; when the invitation to each was sent; and if she will make a statement. (206883)

A revision to a regional spatial strategy should be published through the laying of a ministerial statement in the House. This publication statement was laid in the House at 9:30am on Monday 12 May and an event to launch the East of England plan was held in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, at noon on Monday 12 May.

The Government Office for the East of England (GO-East) invited hon. Members for the East of England and representatives of all local authorities in the region, the East of England Regional Assembly, the East of England Development Agency, the Environment Agency, the Highways Agency, Natural England, English Heritage and local delivery vehicles to attend an event with “a regionally significant announcement on planning in the East of England”, GO-East telephoned all the invitees on Friday 9 May.

Social Rented Housing: Evictions

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many possession actions were brought by registered social landlords (RSLs) in England under the Housing Act 1988 in each year since 2000; and what percentage this total comprised in each year of the number of possession actions brought by RSLs on the grounds of rent arrears. (203296)

I have been asked to reply.

The following table shows the number of court orders for possession (including suspended orders) granted to registered social landlords (RSLs) by the county courts in England since 2003 and also a breakdown of orders by the broad grounds for possession as recorded in court databases.

However, it is not possible to provide a breakdown of possessions resulting from specific legislation because this information is not collected by county court administrative systems.

Orders for possession (including suspended orders) granted to registered social landlords (RSLs) by county courts in England, 2003-2007

Grounds for possession

Total possession orders granted to RSLs

Arrears

Antisocial behaviour

Arrears and antisocial behaviour

Other

2003

45,133

44,035

162

61

875

2004

44,260

43,433

139

60

628

2005

41,907

41,129

138

66

574

20061

39,023

38,290

108

38

587

20071

36,390

35,778

126

61

425

1 Certain figures for 2006 and 2007 have been estimated. This follows the rollout of the Possession Claims On- Line (PCOL) system in late 2006, which has affected the availability of detailed information about possession claims in central departmental databases.

Notes:

1. This table presents figures for RSLs only and excludes orders that could be identified as having been made by local authorities. However, this process relied on searching for known local authority titles in the claimant name field, and there may therefore be some inaccuracies as a result of typing errors, use of abbreviations, etc.

2. The figures exclude orders obtained using the accelerated procedure.

Data are not available for earlier years. The figures include all orders relating to ‘social landlords’ except those identified as having been granted to local authorities. They do not indicate how many properties have actually been repossessed, since not all the orders will have resulted in the issue and execution of warrants of possession.

Suspended possession orders allow the tenant to remain in their home as long as they keep up repayment of arrears. If the terms are not met then the landlord can obtain an eviction warrant without the need for a further court hearing.

Social Rented Housing: Foreigners

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which 20 foreign nationalities obtained the most social housing tenancies in each year since information on nationality in regard to tenancies began to be collected; and how many foreign nationals obtained such tenancies in each of those years. (206259)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 16 May 2008, Official Report, column 1800W.

A question on nationality was first introduced to the Continuous Recording of Lettings form (CORE) for the 2006-07 data collection period. From this information it is possible to identify separately new tenants who are UK nationals and nationals of each of the A8 Eastern European accession states. It is not possible to separately identify the nationality of tenants recorded as from “other European Economic Area countries” or from “any other countries”.

Due to gaps in local authority data, the Department will not be making overall estimates for the number of new social housing lettings made to each of the recorded nationalities.

However, information provided by Registered Social Landlords during 2006-07 on tenant’s nationality can be found on the CORE website at:

www.core.ac.uk

in table 6 of the ‘CORE Annual Digest for Housing Associations 2006-07’.

Similar information for those local authorities who did provide returns during 2006-07 is also available in table 6 of the ‘CORE Annual Digest for Local Authorities 2006-07’. It should however be noted that not all local authorities provided information during 2006-07 and for those that did, not all provided complete information. As a result the local authority information is not complete across England and should not be used to provide a national estimate.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Admiralty House

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 22 April 2008, Official Report, column 1969W, on Admiralty House, what the cost to the public purse was of the (a) washer dryer, (b) tumble dryer and (c) fridge freezer purchased for Lord Malloch-Brown’s ministerial residence; and what the energy efficiency rating was of each appliance. (205512)

The cost (including value added tax) to supply, install and take away the old appliance and energy efficiency rating for the appliances were as follows:

washer dryer—£736.02—energy rating B;

tumble dryer—£366.60—energy rating C; and

fridge freezer—£786.78—energy rating A.

Asylum

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the length of time an individual accepted for the Gateway resettlement programme will wait before resettlement; and whether they will receive financial assistance from his Department between acceptance on to the programme and resettlement. (205908)

The length of time between acceptance by the UK Border Agency and resettlement can vary. Accepted refugees are moved to the UK in groups once a receiving local authority has agreed to accommodate them. Therefore movement times vary according to the voluntary participation by each local authority.

Staff being considered for resettlement under the Gateway programme will be provided with financial assistance to allow them to support themselves during the screening process in a third country.

Eritrea: Refugees

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the safety of refugees returned to Eritrea. (204341)

I have been asked to reply.

Conditions in Eritrea are continuously monitored from a wide range of reliable sources including intergovernmental organisations (such as the UN), governmental sources (including Foreign and Commonwealth Office posts abroad) and human rights organisations (for example Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch). This information is published in Country of Origin Information (COI) reports on the Home Office website. The latest COI report on Eritrea was published in February 2008 and can be found at the following link:

http://w ww.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/country_reports.html

Iraq: Asylum

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether Iraqis formerly employed by the British government are excluded from resettlement under the Locally Employed Staff Assistance Scheme when they do not qualify as refugees under the 1951 Convention. (205909)

I refer to my statement to Parliament on 30 October 2007, Official Report, columns 30-33WS. To be eligible for resettlement under the Gateway Protection Programme, former staff must be recognised as refugees by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which occupations constitute a similarly skilled or professional role necessitating the regular use of written or spoken English for those Iraqis formerly employed by the British Government as interpreters in Iraq. (205910)

Staff assessing applications for assistance under the scheme treat each case on its merits, based on the roles or duties of the individual concerned while employed with us. Some employing Departments, such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, employ or have employed local staff who are not specifically designated as interpreters, but who operate alongside UK-based colleagues in skilled or professional roles which require the regular use of English and may involve some interpretation or translation duties. We do not, however, maintain an exhaustive list of occupations that would necessarily qualify or disqualify an individual, but seek to make fair and reasonable judgments which meet both the letter and the spirit of the relevant criterion.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether Iraqi citizens (a) serving and (b) employed formerly by the British Government in Iraq are eligible for one of the places set aside under the UK’s Gateway refugee resettlement programme. (205915)

I refer to my written statement to Parliament on 30 October 2007, Official Report, columns 30-33WS. Provision for up to 600 places has been made within the Gateway programme over the next two years for staff and their dependants who meet the criteria. The 600 spaces are open to both former and serving staff (including dependants) as defined by the scheme. In practice, however, we expect most serving staff who are eligible and wish to come to the UK to avail themselves of exceptional leave outside the immigration rules and travel directly to the UK from Iraq.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether former Iraqi employees of the British Government who have been rejected by the Gateway programme will be offered a one-off package of financial assistance. (205916)

If an individual who had been assessed as eligible for assistance under the scheme were subsequently determined not to be eligible for resettlement in the UK under the Gateway programme, in principle there would be no obstacle to that individual receiving the one-off package of financial assistance instead. We would, however, need to consider carefully the circumstances of the case, in particular the reasons for ineligibility under Gateway.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether former Iraqi interpreters and their families accepted onto the Locally Employed Staff Assistance scheme will receive the package of financial assistance available to those being considered under the Gateway refugee resettlement programme. (205917)

I refer to my written statement to Parliament on 30 October 2007, Official Report columns 30-33WS. Financial support is provided to all those staff who are considered for resettlement under the Gateway programme specifically in order to allow them to support themselves during the screening process in a third country. This is separate from, and less than, the one-off package of financial assistance offered to all staff as an alternative to resettlement in the UK.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how long Iraqi interpreters accepted on to the Locally Employed Staff Assistance scheme have waited on average before applications under the Gateway programme are determined. (205918)

There are a number of stages in the process of considering applications from former Iraqi locally engaged (LE) staff for resettlement under the Gateway programme. Applicants must first be assessed as eligible in principle for assistance under the LE staff assistance scheme. Those who are still in Iraq then need to move to a third country, a process which involves obtaining the consent of the country concerned, and then be screened by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to determine whether they should be recognised as refugees in need of resettlement. Finally, they are screened by the UK Border Agency for admission to the UK under Gateway. The length of time needed for each of these stages can vary according to the circumstances of each case.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many former Iraqi employees have been admitted to the UK under the Locally Employed Staff Assistance scheme. (205924)

No former staff, as defined by the scheme, have yet been admitted to the UK for resettlement. The UK Border Agency is working with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to process the first group of staff who have moved to a third country to undergo the screening process.

The first group of serving staff and their families (three principal applicants and 15 dependants) were welcomed to the UK in April under the scheme with indefinite leave to enter, outside the Immigration Rules.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many applicants under the Locally Employed Staff Assistance scheme were awaiting determination of their applications for resettlement at the latest date for which figures are available. (205925)

Applications for assistance under the scheme are assessed in line with the eligibility criteria which are set out in my statement to Parliament on 30 October 2007, Official Report, columns 30-33WS. Once applicants have been informed they are eligible they declare which type of assistance they would like. At 8 May there were 80 applications where a decision on eligibility had not yet been taken.

Eligible applicants who choose the opportunity to be resettled in the UK under the Gateway programme must undergo screening by both the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, to determine that they qualify as a refugee under the 1951 Convention, and by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to ensure that any individual who might pose a threat to the UK, or whose presence here is undesirable, is prevented from entering the country. Eligible serving staff (as defined under the scheme) who opt for exceptional leave to enter the UK directly also need to undergo screening by UKBA. At 8 May, 185 principal applicants were being considered under these processes.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the degree of risk faced by former Iraqi employees is relevant to (a) admittance to the locally employed staff assistance scheme and (b) the determination of who should be allocated a resettlement place. (205926)

Eligibility for assistance is determined by whether the applicant meets the objective criteria which I announced on 9 October 2008, Official Report, columns 27-28WS and 30 October, Official Report, columns 30-33WS. These do not include the degree of risk faced by an individual. But the introduction of the scheme was grounded in a recognition that the circumstances in which our Iraqi locally engaged staff have served have been uniquely difficult.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether Iraqi nationals who are serving employees of the British Government in Iraq who apply for resettlement under the locally employed staff assistance scheme are accorded priority over Iraqi former employees. (205927)

It is our general policy to process applications for assistance under the scheme from former and serving staff on a first come first served basis. Neither group is given priority over the other.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many places have been allocated to date under the locally employed staff assistance scheme for Iraqi refugees in third countries. (205928)

We have received around 20 applications for assistance under the scheme from staff in third countries that have been assessed as eligible. To qualify for consideration for resettlement to the UK under the Gateway programme, former staff must by definition first be recognised by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as refugees in need of resettlement.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether dependants of successful applicants to the Locally Employed Staff Assistance Scheme will count towards the total of 600 places on the scheme. (205929)

I refer to my written statement to Parliament on 30 October 2007, Official Report, columns 30WS-33WS. The 600 Gateway places are for both former staff and their dependants.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what criteria his Department uses to prioritise applications received under the locally employed staff assistance scheme. (205930)

Our general policy is to treat applications for assistance under the scheme on a first come first served basis. However, we are willing to consider expediting applications where there are specific reasons for doing so.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the management of applicants who qualify for the Gateway programme but apply after the 600 places on the Locally Employed Staff Assistance Scheme have been allocated. (205931)

There is no indication at this stage that the 600 places that have been allocated under Gateway over the next two years will be oversubscribed.

Employing Departments and the UK Border Agency are carefully monitoring the number of staff who are eligible and the option they have chosen. Current statistics show that over half of former staff eligible for assistance have opted for the financial package of assistance.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many applications have been received under the Locally Employed Staff Assistance Scheme; how many have been rejected; and how many have been accepted. (205932)

Our latest figures (at 8 May) show that we have received 1,138 applications for assistance under the scheme. Of those, 503 of our former and current staff have been assessed as eligible for assistance and 555 have been assessed as ineligible. A decision is pending in the remaining 80 cases.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many of those former employees of the British Government in Iraq accepted under the Locally Employed Staff Assistance Scheme have opted for the Gateway resettlement programme. (205933)