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Written Answers

Volume 487: debated on Thursday 29 January 2009

Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 29 January 2009

Treasury

Alcoholic Drinks: Excise Duties

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent representations he has received from (a) brewers and (b) owners of public houses on the effects of alcohol duty on their businesses; and if he will make a statement. (252957)

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

Banks: Finance

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 22 January 2009, Official Report, column 1630W, on banks: Government assistance, what the discount rates and maturities are of the Treasury Bills issued in accordance with paragraph 6.9 of the Debt and Reserves Management Report 2008-09 in order to make finance available to the Bank of England to purchase corporate assets from banks. (252892)

As announced by the Debt Management Office (DMO) in the “DMO financing remit: impact of the financial intervention package: 19 January 2009”, the financing to support the asset purchase facility will initially be raised by the DMO through a combination of Treasury bill sales and cash management operations.

Gradually, the cash management operations will be replaced by funding raised through Treasury bill issuance. The Treasury bills that will be issued to fund the asset purchase facility will be issued consistent with the Debt Management Office’s cash management objective as set out in paragraph 6.5 of the “Debt and reserves management report” for 2008-09.

Building Societies: Finance

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what consideration his Department has given to modifying the allocation of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme levies to reflect the differences in levels of risk associated with bank and building society business models; (252997)

(2) what recent assessment he has made of whether the Financial Services Compensation Scheme levies paid by (a) banks and (b) building societies reflect the relative risk associated with the two business models;

(3) what criteria are used to assess the level of risk in (a) banks and (b) building society business models in determining Financial Services Compensation Scheme levies for each.

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) levies are statutory levies. They are allocated to classes of levy payers and apportioned within those classes in accordance with rules made by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

Chelsea Building Society

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date the Chelsea Building Society approached the Financial Services Authority (FSA) for consent to establish a banking subsidiary in Guernsey; on what dates meetings were held between the building society and the FSA; what matters were discussed at each such meeting; what conditions the FSA attached to the establishment of the subsidiary; and which of these conditions provided for protection of depositors. (252768)

The matters raised in this question are the responsibility of the Financial Services Authority, whose day to day operations are independent from Government control and influence.

Credit: Interest Rates

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps the Government is taking to ensure that interest rates charged by high street credit schemes are reasonable. (242380)

I have been asked to reply.

The Government introduced reforms in statutory instruments in 2005 and in the Consumer Credit Act 2006 to strengthen the regulation of consumer credit. These ensure that consumers are given clear and transparent information to enable them to shop around with confidence and that the OFT can take targeted and effective enforcement action against rogue lenders. The Act also replaced previous provisions which gave consumers a right to challenge extortionate credit bargains with a new wide-ranging right for consumers to challenge before the courts any aspect of their relationship with a lender which is unfair. This could include, but is not limited to, the level of interest charged.

The Government recently held a summit with the credit card industry on risk based re-pricing - the practice that was leading to some consumers facing significant interest rate increases at short notice. As a result of this, the credit card industry agreed a statement of principles for risk based re-pricing. This ensures that consumers are fairly treated when a card lender seeks to increase their individual interest rate on the basis that their risk profile has deteriorated. These principles come into force on 1 January 2009.

Departmental Buildings

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the location is of each office occupied by (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies which has been (i) newly occupied and (ii) refurbished in the last 24 months; and what the floor area in square metres is of each. (251674)

EU Countries

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many of his European counterparts he has met in the last two months. (251658)

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

Gold and Foreign Exchange Reserves

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much gold the Government has sold in each year since 1997. (251657)

The Government undertook a gold sales programme from 1999 to 2002. In that time, 395 tonnes of gold have been sold: 75 tonnes in 1999; 150 tonnes in 2000; 130 tonnes in 2001; and 40 tonnes in 2002. The Government have not conducted an official gold sales programme since 2002.

Jobcentre Plus

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many visits on official business he has made to Jobcentre Plus offices in the last 12 months. (251663)

Mortgage Interest Deferral Scheme

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his estimate is of the number of households likely to (a) qualify for and (b) take up the mortgage interest deferral scheme; and what his estimate is of the cost of the scheme in (i) 2009 and (ii) 2010. (240769)

I have been asked to reply.

As part of a wider package of real help for homeowners, the Homeowner Mortgage Support Scheme, will enable ordinary hard-working households that experience a redundancy or significant loss of income to reduce their monthly payments to a more manageable level, by deferring a proportion of the interest payments on their mortgage for up to two years. The Government will guarantee to lenders they will get the payments back in return for them participating in the scheme.

Homeowners remain responsible for repaying the mortgage in the long term but the scheme will result in more affordable monthly payments. This will give them the breathing space they need to get their finances back on track, and help ensure they can stay in their homes.

This is a consumer and lender-led scheme, supported by a Government guarantee. The Government want to see this scheme help as many struggling homeowners as possible. We will publish a full impact assessment when the scheme description has been finalised.

Tax Credits: Conditions of Employment

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what guidance his Department provides to employers on whether employees on extended periods of sabbatical leave on part pay are eligible for tax credits. (251119)

Entitlement to Working Tax Credit (WTC) is dependent upon whether the claimant meets the condition of being in qualifying remunerative work. Entitlement during a period of paid sabbatical work would depend on the circumstances in the individual case.

Guidance for customers with changing working patterns is available at:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcredits/changes-work.htm

UK Financial Investments: Manpower

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many staff have been employed by UK Financial Investments Ltd in salary bands of (a) up to £25,000, (b) £25,000 to £50,000, (c) £50,000 to £75,000, (d) £75,000 to £100,000 and (e) over £100,000; (249664)

(2) what the estimated cost of remuneration for staff at UK Financial Investments Ltd, including guaranteed bonuses and pension contributions will be in the next 12 months;

(3) what the (a) salary and (b) total remuneration and title of post is of each of the five highest paid employees of UK Financial Investments Ltd;

(4) what consultancy arrangements have been entered into by (a) his Department and (b) UK Financial Investments Ltd (UKFI) in connection with UKFI’s activities; and what the (i) cost and (ii) nature of work under each contract is;

(5) how much the establishment of UK Financial Investments Ltd has cost to date, broken down by category of expenditure.

UKFI was established on 3 November 2008 under the Companies Act, with HM Treasury as sole shareholder. The UKFI board is responsible for governing the company’s activities and will, by the end of February 2009, recommend to the Treasury a budget and funding plan appropriate to ensure the fulfilment of UKFI’s remit.

The company’s annual report and audited accounts will be laid before Parliament.

Additionally, the chairman and chief executive of the company will, as required, attend meetings of relevant parliamentary committees for scrutiny and answer questions.

Valuation Office: Rent Service

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) will be permitted to access data previously available to the Rent Service upon the transfer of the Rent Service's functions to the VOA. (251722)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) on 20 November 2008, Official Report, column 776W, regarding Valuation Office Reorganisation.

VAT

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the cost to businesses of re-pricing products as a result of the reduction in value added tax to 15 per cent. (251916)

Estimated costs to businesses from re-pricing products are published in the impact assessment of changes to the standard rate of VAT. This is available on the HM Treasury website.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what expenditure his Department incurred in promulgating the 15 per cent. value added tax rate. (251917)

HMRC sent a summary guide on dealing with the temporary reduction in the VAT rate to all 2 million VAT registered businesses immediately after pre-Budget report 2008. More detailed guidance was produced and published on the HMRC website. Additional staff were made available in the National Advice Service to answer questions on the rate change. A full evaluation of all the associated costs is not readily available.

House of Commons Commission

Official Cars

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what cars are (a) owned, (b) leased, (c) hired and (d) otherwise regularly used by the House, broken down by cubic capacity of engine. (250143)

No cars are owned, leased or hired on a regular basis. Cars with drivers are hired for the Speaker and Deputy Speakers in connection with their official duties. Taxi services are regularly used for print service deliveries and under certain conditions, for example when there are late night sittings, by House officials and staff.

Parliament: Buildings

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what the (a) specifications and (b) cost of (i) carpets, (ii) office furniture, (iii) building materials and (iv) light fittings in (A) 1 Parliament Street and (B) Portcullis House are. (248233)

The information requested is as follows:

No. 1 Parliament street

The refurbishment of the buildings that now form No. 1 Parliament street was carried out by the Property Services Agency of the Department of the Environment. Details of the costs and specification are not available.

The most recent works carried out were the refurbishment of the Bellamy's Bar and Clubroom and security works at a cost of £0.86 million. Day-to-day building and furniture maintenance and minor improvements costs in 2007-08 were £0.6 million.

Portcullis House

The final cost of the construction and fitting out of Portcullis House was £23 5 million (including VAT and fees). This figure includes the loose office furniture contracts which cost £1.7 million. The cost of the light fittings cannot be readily identified as they were included in a number of contracts.

The Accommodation and Works Committee's reports recommended a long life building, which in terms of British Standards meant 150 years. This was the basis of the specifications for the individual contracts, which in turn were based on BSI or DIN standards or other appropriate industry standards.

Since the building was completed the only major works have been the replacement of the escalators at a cost of £0.45 million, and improvements to the fire alarm system to reduce the number of false alarms at £0.2 million. Day-to-day building and furnishing maintenance and minor replacement costs in 2007-08 were £0.9 million.

Culture, Media and Sport

Baseball: World Cup 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps (a) he and (b) Sport England have taken to ensure that the UK baseball team can compete in the 2009 World Cup; and if he will make a statement. (251019)

[holding answer 26 January 2009]: The issue of the GB national baseball team competing in the 2009 World Cup is a matter for UK Sport not Sport England, as Sport England does not lead or fund baseball's elite programme.

On March 10, 2008 the Secretary of State approved Sport England's outline strategy to focus resources on building the foundations of sporting success through the creation of a world leading community sports system. One of the key outcomes of this system is the development of well-defined, appropriate talent support systems to underpin NGB—national governing body—elite programmes, resulting in more talented performers moving through to world class programmes and success.

Sport England has recently announced four year funding awards to 46 national governing bodies, including the sports of baseball and softball. Sport England has advised that they will be meeting with the sport imminently to discuss the award, which interventions will be funded and to agree how the sport will contribute to Sport England's strategic outcomes, such as the above, over the next four years.

UK Sport has advised that its current investment strategy does not provide funding to baseball and has therefore made no estimate of the cost of sending a British baseball team to the final 2008 Olympics qualification event in Taiwan. The sport will not receive world class funding in the future as it is not on the competition programme for London 2012.

Departmental Buildings

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much his Department spent on works and refurbishment to offices allocated to Ministers in departmental buildings in the last 12 months. (252370)

The Department has spent £40,625 plus VAT on works and refurbishments to offices allocated to ministers in the last 12 months. This cost also includes work to offices occupied by private office staff.

Departmental Training

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport which external organisations his Department have engaged to provide training for fast stream civil service staff in the last three years; and how many civil servants in his Department have participated in provision of training for external organisations in that period. (252227)

In the last three years the National School of Government (NSG) have provided specific training for fast stream staff in DCMS.

Fast stream staff are also entitled to, apply for and attend, other learning and development interventions open to all staff in DCMS. Many of these are provided by external organisations but they are not exclusive to fast stream civil service staff.

Information is not available to say how many civil servants in DCMS have participated in the provision of training for external organisations in the last three years.

Film: Licensing

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on what grounds local licensing authorities may (a) amend the classification of a film classified by the British Board for Film Classification and (b) withhold a licence for a film to be shown. (252476)

The information requested is as follows:

(a) The only mandatory requirement imposed by the Licensing Act 2003 is the imposition of a condition to be included in the premises licence or club premises certificate requiring the admission of children to films to be restricted in accordance with the film classification given by the BBFC.

However, licensing authorities must also take into account the guidance issued under the Licensing Act which recommends that they should not duplicate the effort underpinning the BBFC’s classification, and only classify films themselves if there are good reasons for doing so.

The guidance is clear that children should not be allowed access to regulated entertainment ‘of a clearly adult or sexual nature’ and draws the licensing authorities’ attention to the BBFC’s classification scheme. The guidance recommends that:

(i) where the licensing authority itself is to make recommendations on the admission of children, the venue operator must submit the film to the licensing authority at least 28 days before it is to be shown to allow the licensing authority time to classify the film and ensure that the licence holder adheres to its own age restrictions;

(ii) the BBFC’s classification shall be shown on screen for at least five seconds before the film (or any trailers);

(iii) where a licensing authority recommends restriction of admission of children, visible notices should be displayed both inside and outside the venue.

(b) A licence or certificate for a film to be shown could be revoked or withdrawn on an application for review by an interested party (e.g. local resident or business) or responsible authority (e.g. police or local body with responsibility for child welfare) if the licence or certificate owner breached the mandatory or any additional conditions or acted in a way that contravened the objectives of the Licensing Act.

Playing Fields: Planning Permission

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport with reference to the answer of 21 October 2008, Official Report, column 244W, on playing fields: planning permission, for what reasons the statistics for 2006-07 were not published in December 2008; and when he expects them to be published. (251308)

Sport England has advised that they are still collating the statistics on planning permission affecting playing fields for 2006-07. These statistics are due to be finalised and published in the spring of 2009. The last statistics for planning applications affecting playing fields were published in spring 2008.

South Bank Centre: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much Arts Council England paid to the South Bank Centre for managing its collections in each year since 1997. (249412)

Arts Council England has advised that it has the information requested only for the years since its merger with the Regional Arts Boards in 2002-03. Before this date, the Regional Arts Boards maintained their records according to their own systems and requirements. As a result, any figures relating to periods before 2002-03 can be provided only at disproportionate cost. The figures for the period from 2002-03 are set out in the following table.

£

2002-03

149,500

2003-04

150,500

2004-05

160,000

2005-06

160,000

2006-07

257,000

2007-08

257,000

Arts Council England advises that these figures represent costs separately identified in the funding agreement with the South Bank for particular storage facilities. The ongoing general costs of the collection are covered by the overall grant in aid allocation to the South Bank. The increase in 2006-07 was due to a significant expansion of these storage facilities.

Olympics

Departmental Surveys

To ask the Minister for the Olympics how much her office’s media and communication unit has spent on public surveys since its inception. (248029)

The Government Olympic Executive (GOE) commissions an annual poll, to help inform the Government of the general public’s views on London 2012 and ensure their views are accounted for in developing plans for London 2012.

The total expenditure for each of the last three years is:

£

2006-07

1

2007-08

58,855

2008-09

53,475

1 Nil return

Mass Media

To ask the Minister for the Olympics what the cost of her Office's contracts with press monitoring services has been since it was established. (251198)

The Government Olympic Executive shares Media monitoring with DCMS provided by EDS Media through a contract that began in April 2008. The total cost to the Department to-date is £36,283.33. It is not possible to break down the exact proportion of this contract used by the Government Olympic Executive.

In addition, the Department pays an annual subscription charge to the Media Monitoring Unit (this is part of the Central Office of Information, previously part of the Cabinet Office). A breakdown of this cost is unavailable as the annual charge includes a number of services including some press monitoring.

Olympic Games 2012: Contracts

To ask the Minister for the Olympics whether contractors at the Olympic site with business continuity plans are required to comply with BS25999 on business continuity management. (250567)

The Olympic Delivery Authority applies a ‘balanced scorecard’ approach to evaluating bids. ‘Cost’, ‘delivering on time’ and ‘quality’ are paramount scorecard factors. While compliance with the BS25999 is not a specific requirement, contractors’ ability to comply with this standard for business continuity management is a consideration when reviewing contractor tenders.

Duchy of Lancaster

10 Downing Street: Internet

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many hits the 10 Downing street website has received since its most recent redesign. (249903)

I refer the right hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) on 26 November 2008, Official Report, columns 1481-82W. Further information requested is available on the Downing street YouTube channel at:

http://uk.youtube.com/user/DowningSt.

A copy of this webpage has been placed in the Library of the House.

Employment Summit

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) what the cost to the public purse of catering at the employment summit held on 12 January 2009 was; and what suppliers were used for catering at the event; (249908)

(2) if he will place in the Library a copy of the list of attendees at the employment summit held on 12 January 2009;

(3) what the cost to the public purse was of the employment summit held on 12 January 2009.

I have been asked to reply

The employment summit was held in London on 12 January. It was led by the Prime Minister and was attended by over 120 key figures from business, trade unions, academia, work-place providers and representative bodies.

The summit provided an opportunity to discuss how Government and employers could best work in partnership to help people and business through the downturn fairly and get people and business in the best possible shape for the up-turn.

The list of attendees has been placed in the Library.

The total cost of the event was £162,076.18, of which the cost of the catering was £5,641.82. The catering was provided by Mustard Catering.

Public Expenditure: Wales

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which of the schemes outlined in the New Opportunities White Paper, Cm. 7533, will entail a Barnett consequential for Wales in (a) each year to 2010-11 and (b) the period of the next comprehensive spending review; and which have been identified as entailing no such consequential payments. (252770)

I have been asked to reply.

Spending measures in the New Opportunities White Paper are funded from within departmental budgets and therefore there are no new Barnett consequentials beyond those announced in the comprehensive spending review.

Wales

Departmental Training

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales with reference to the answer of 27 October 2008, Official Report, column 600W, on departmental training, what personal training courses at public expense other Ministers in his Department have undertaken since 1 January 2008. (251322)

One Minister in the Wales Office has taken a personal training course at public expense since 1 January 2008:

Action Learning Set—National School of Government.

Departmental Travel

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what expenditure his Department has incurred in providing transport for Ministers between Parliament and departmental premises in each of the last five years. (251868)

The Wales Office does not record individual journeys made in ministerial cars. I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on 26 January 2009, Official Report, column 6W. All ministerial travel is undertaken in accordance with the ‘Ministerial Code’.

Departmental Working Hours

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales (1) what the policy of his Department and its agencies is on granting staff time off in lieu for working (a) in lunch breaks, (b) in evenings and (c) at other times outside contracted working hours; and if he will make a statement; (252007)

(2) how many days off in lieu were granted to staff in (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) its non-departmental public bodies for working (i) in lunch breaks and (ii) at other times outside contracted working hours, in the last year for which figures are available.

Wales Office employees may be given time off in lieu for any overtime taken at the individual line manager's discretion, staff are actively encouraged to take the minimum of half-hour for lunch on a daily basis.

Time off in lieu is not recorded centrally by the Wales Office. As such the answer cannot be obtained without disproportionate cost.

Mass Media

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what the cost of his Department's contracts with press monitoring services was in each of the last five years. (251217)

The Wales Office has spent the following amounts on media monitoring with the companies listed:

COI

2006-07: £8,401

2007-08: £11,045

Meltwater News UK Ltd.

2006-07: £4,136

2007-08: £3,309

TNS Media Intelligence

2005-06: £6,650

2006-07: £9,868

2007-08: £13,700.

We do not hold records in this form before 2006-07.

Official Cars

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what cars are (a) owned, (b) leased, (c) hired and (d) otherwise regularly used by his Department, broken down by cubic capacity of engine. (250134)

The Wales Office leases three vehicles from the Government Car and Dispatch Agency (GCDA). I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on 26 January 2009, Official Report, column 10W, about cars provided by the Government Car and Despatch Agency.

Prisoners: Mentally Ill

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much was spent on mental health services for prisoners in each (a) prison and (b) health authority area in Wales in each of the last five financial years; and how many prisoners received such treatment in each such year. (251942)

The Welsh Assembly Government does not collect centrally how much of the ring-fenced mental health allocation is spent in respect of prisoners in Wales.

Work and Pensions

Carers

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress his Department has made in implementing the provisions of the National Carers Strategy, published in June 2008, which relates to (a) the provision of support for carers by Jobcentre Plus, (b) flexible provision of skills training for carers and (c) a review of the benefits for which carers may be eligible. (250813)

The National Carers Strategy committed Jobcentre Plus to improvements to the support it offers to carers by improving information about flexible job vacancies; introducing Care Partnership Managers in every district; introducing specialist training for Jobcentre Plus advisers who work with carers; funding replacement care for those who are participating in approved training; ensuring carers have access to appropriate employment programmes and investigating the feasibility of providing return to work support through third sector organisations. It is expected that recruitment for the Care Partnership Managers will begin in April 2009 and that the remaining support will be available by the end of the year.

The National Carers Strategy committed the Department to providing skills training in a flexible manner so it is accessible for carers. A training pilot in the west midlands is currently looking at the best way to deliver flexible training to Jobcentre Plus customers and we are currently developing plans for a Great Britain wide roll-out.

In the National Carers Strategy, the Department also committed to examining carers’ benefits in the context of our wider ambitions for the welfare state, and the future of the care and support system.

In December, we published the White Paper, “Raising Expectations and Increasing Support: Reforming Welfare for the Future” (Cm 7506), in which we outlined our views for the future of the benefit system, and gave a commitment that the needs of carers would be a central consideration in these changes.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent progress has been made on commissioning Jobcentre Plus training programmes for carers; and if he will make a statement. (248131)

Carers currently have access to Jobcentre Plus approved training through a range of New Deal programmes. As part of the National Carers’ Strategy, Jobcentre Plus is examining the most effective ways of supporting carers into training. Some carers may need more specialist support because of their caring responsibilities or the length of time they have spent caring. It is envisaged that Jobcentre Plus staff will identify gaps in the provision and work with experienced third sector providers to meet this demand.

Disability Living Allowance: Children

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what assessment he has made for the reasons for increases in expenditure on disability living allowance for children since 1992-93; and if he will make a statement; (251976)

(2) for what purposes disability living allowance is paid in respect of children; and if he will make a statement.

Disability living allowance provides a contribution towards the extra costs faced by severely disabled people as a result of a long-term disability. Broadly, entitlement depends on the extent to which the person needs help with personal care, needs supervision or, from the age of three years, has difficulties with walking. In the case of children under the age of 16, disability living allowance can only be paid if their needs are substantially in excess of the typical requirements of a child of the same age.

The increase in expenditure on disability living allowance paid to children broadly reflects the overall increase in disability living allowance expenditure. The reasons for that increase are complex but are mainly attributable to demographic changes, greater awareness of the benefit, improvements in diagnosis for childhood conditions and an extension of the higher rate mobility component to children aged three and four in 2001.

Employment

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to undertake an assessment of employment retention assessments as referred to in his Department’s White Paper, “Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future”. (248546)

As outlined in the White Paper, “Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future”, we will work across Government and with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to consider including appropriate references to employment retention assessments in the guidance and code(s) of practice that will accompany the Equality Bill.

In addition, DWP and the Office for Disability Issues will examine options to deliver a cross-Government employment retention strategy for disabled people as part of the development of the Independent Living Strategy.

EU Grants and Loans

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what allocation of funding the UK has received from the European Social Fund (ESF) for the next 12 months; and what allocations of funding from the ESF have been made. (252127)

The allocation of funding for the UK from the European Social Fund (ESF) for 2009 is €645.93 million. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has responsibility for ESF funding in England. The €449.555 million for England for 2009 has been allocated to the Department, the Learning and Skills Council and other funding bodies within their ESF plans for 2007-10. The devolved Administrations have responsibility for ESF funding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Industrial Health and Safety: Hearing Impaired

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department takes to (a) improve employers’ understanding of deafness and (b) ensure employers do not discriminate on grounds of health and safety against (i) deaf British Sign Language users and (ii) employees who become deafened during the course of their employment. (247571)

Through the “Employ ability” programme, we are engaging with employers to improve their understanding of disability and their attitudes towards employing disabled people.

The key aims of “Employ ability” include challenging negative assumptions about the skills and talent that disabled workers, and those with long-term health conditions, have to offer, building the confidence of employers in recruiting and retaining disabled workers. “Employ ability” activity is aimed at small to medium-sized employers and is being rolled out to Scotland, Wales and seven regions between 24 March 2008 and 27 February 2009.

To ensure that employers do not discriminate against deaf people, we support and uphold the principles of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The Act provides protection from discrimination for a person who has a hearing impairment, provided that the person meets the definition of a disabled person under the Act. The Act requires an employer not to discriminate against a disabled person by treating the person less favourably for a reason related to the person’s disability, unless that treatment can be justified.

People who are deaf or who become deaf in the course of their employment, and their employers may also receive support from Access to Work. Support is tailored to the individual customer’s needs but can include funding for British Sign Language Interpreters, Lip Speakers or Palantypists; whether as support workers in the work place or for communication support at job interviews.

Access to Work could also provide indirect support to a deaf person by funding awareness training to help the person’s work colleagues, including their employer, gain a better understanding of their condition.

Jobcentre Plus: Christchurch

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the former Jobcentre Plus office at Wick lane, Christchurch, will be brought back into use; and what the liability of his Department is for empty property rates on the premises. (248850)

[holding answer 19 January 2009]: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the acting chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Mel Groves. I have asked him to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Mel Groves:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking when the former Jobcentre Plus office at Wick lane, Christchurch will be brought back into use and what the liability of his Department is for empty property rates on the premises. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

Christchurch Jobcentre Plus was closed on 28 March 2008 as a result of the review of our service delivery plans in the South West region. As a part of the review the new Bournemouth Jobcentre Plus was future proofed to cope with any downturn in the economy and consequent increase in Jobcentre Plus business volumes. There is no intention to bring the Jobcentre Plus office at Wick lane, Christchurch into use.

I can confirm the property used in Christchurch by Jobcentre Plus was provided for the Department by Landsecurities Trillium under the PRIME contract, and upon completion of the formal vacation actions, the Department has no further liability (Landsecurities Trillium hold all the leases). The Asset manager for Trillium has confirmed the lease for part of the space has expired and it was “returned” to the landlord in the summer. The remaining part of the space is unoccupied and is currently being marketed. However, they have had no firm interest and the building remains vacant. Trillium is meeting the business rates payable on the property. The Department has had no liability for empty property rates since the property was formally disposed of on 1 July 2008.

I hope this information is helpful.

Jobcentre Plus: Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people (a) used the services of and (b) found work through the Nairn Jobcentre Plus office in each of the five years before it was closed. (251472)

Jobseeker’s Allowance

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the percentage change in the number of jobseeker's allowance claimants in each local authority area has been over the last 12 months. (249692)

Jobseeker’s Allowance: Chelmsford

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what courses his Department offered to claimants of jobseeker's allowance in Chelmsford in the last 12 months; and what the cost was per person of each course completed. (249834)

[holding answer 20 January 2009]: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the acting chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Mel Groves. I have asked him to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Mel Groves:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what courses his Department offered to claimants of Jobseeker's Allowance in Chelmsford in the last 12 months; and what the cost was per person of each course completed. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

Eligible customers in Chelmsford receiving Jobseeker's Allowance have had access to a range of training provision over the last twelve months through our training programmes including New Deals, Access to Work, Programme Centres, Workstep, Workprep and through our Rapid Response Fund. We have also purchased individually tailored training for eligible customers. Jobseeker's Allowance customers have also accessed training by other partners including The Learning and Skills Council, Local Authorities and Colleges.

Specific information is not available for all training courses completed by our Jobseeker's Allowance customers in Chelmsford, nor on what the cost was per person of each course completed.

My District Manager for Essex, Neil Brettell, will be delighted to brief you in more detail on the range of provision available in the Chelmsford area. Neil can be contacted on 01245 214242, by post at Government Buildings, Beeches Road, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 2RT or by email at:

Neil.Brettell@jobcentreplus.gsi.gov.uk

Pensioners: Carers

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate, on the basis of household surveys supported by his Department, how many people over state pension age are engaged in caring for (a) at least 20 hours per week and (b) at least 35 hours per week for a person over pension age who is in receipt of either attendance allowance or the care component of disability living allowance; and if he will make a statement. (250397)

Poverty: Children

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 22 January 2009, Official Report, column 1685W, on poverty: children, how many children were living in poverty in Scotland in January (a) 2007, (b) 2008 and (c) 2009. (252650)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 19 November 2008, Official Report, column 563W.

2006-07 data is still the latest available information.

Social Fund

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many applications for (a) grants and (b) loans from the Social Fund were (i) approved and (ii) refused in each of the last 10 years. (252610)

The available information is in the following tables.

Community care grants for Great Britain

Thousand

Initial awards

Initial refusal

1998-99

225

944

1999-2000

219

426

2000-01

225

362

2001-02

233

346

2002-03

245

346

2003-04

256

330

2004-05

261

307

2005-06

275

299

2006-07

271

324

2007-08

247

288

Budgeting loans for Great Britain

Thousand

Initial awards

Initial refusals

1998-99

935

442

1999-2000

1,017

647

2000-01

1,145

531

2001-02

1,240

460

2002-03

1,251

466

2003-04

1,250

428

2004-05

1,200

377

2005-06

1,217

371

2006-07

1,298

411

2007-08

1,168

352

Crisis loans for Great Britain

Thousand

Initial awards

Initial refusals

1998-99

866

247

1999-2000

939

336

2000-01

930

342

2001-02

991

317

Social Security Benefits: Databases

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his most recent estimate is of the error rate in benefit system data; and what factors he has identified as the most common causes of such error. (251719)

I refer the hon. Member to tables 4A, 4B and 5B, 5C, and 5E in “Fraud and Error in the Benefit System: April 2007 to March 2008” (ISBN: 978-1-84763-691-1), a DWP National Statistics publication, a copy of which is in the Library.

Social Security Benefits: Fraud

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to reduce instances of fraud and error in the benefit system which arise from cases where mail has been misdirected. (251720)

The Department and local authorities have in place an agreement with Royal Mail whereby any mail that is returned to the postal system because the customer is not, or no longer, at the delivery address is returned to the Department or local authority and not redirected to any forwarding address.

State Retirement Pensions: Overseas Residence

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will take steps to ensure that payments made by his Department in sterling to UK pensioners resident abroad can be made by direct deposits into overseas sterling accounts; and if he will make a statement. (248819)

Pension payments to UK pensioners resident abroad are paid directly into an account overseas in local currency. This is more convenient for the majority of customers and the rates the Government have negotiated to convert from sterling to the relevant currency are more competitive than those that could be obtained by individual customers.

Customers can choose to have their payments made in sterling to a UK bank account if they wish.

Take Up Taskforce: Manpower

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many full-time equivalent staff make up the Take Up Taskforce. (249452)

The taskforce membership comprises 15 representatives from local authorities and business, public and third sector bodies, and key voluntary organisations. Members are giving their time free of charge and bringing a wealth of existing expertise and research from within their organisations.

The secretariat for the Take Up Taskforce is provided by one full-time equivalent member of staff who has been seconded to the joint child poverty unit from a local authority. The secretariat also has some analytical support from within the child poverty unit.

Transport

A435

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what investigations the Highways Agency has undertaken into the state of the culvert under the A435 in Ashchurch parish; and if he will make a statement. (251920)

The A435 through Ashchurch has now been renumbered the A46. The culvert has been the subject of CCTV investigation to identify its condition. Debris which had collected at the southern outfall of the culvert has been cleared and the location is regularly monitored and clearance work undertaken as appropriate. The CCTV survey has shown that there is a problem with disjointed pipework and blockages within the culvert and a scheme is currently being costed by the Highways Agency and will be added to a future works programme.

Bus Services: Concessions

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if his Department will reimburse local authorities for the full cost to them of implementing the national concessionary bus fares scheme. (252280)

[holding answer 28 January 2009]: The Government are confident that there is sufficient funding in total for statutory concessionary fares.

The statutory concession was improved from April 2008 to provide free off-peak concessionary bus travel throughout England. An additional £212 million is being provided to local authorities by special grant in 2008-09, rising over the next two years, solely to pay for this improvement of the statutory concession.

In autumn 2007 the Department for Transport consulted widely on the formula used to distribute the grant. The distribution is based on generous assumptions about fares, bus pass take-up, extra journeys and additional costs, taking account of the likely demand in visitor hotspots such as coastal towns, urban centres and tourist destinations.

The special grant is solely to cover the additional cost of the new concession. Funding for the existing elements of the concession, which make up the bulk of the costs, will continue to be provided through Revenue Support Grant and is not separately identified.

The Department proposes to begin consulting shortly on possible changes to the way concessionary travel is administered. Any changes may provide an opportunity to consider how best to distribute the totality of funding.

Charities

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport to which (a) charities and (b) voluntary organisations his Department has provided funding in the last five years; and how much funding was provided to each. (247371)

A complete list of contributions to voluntary organisations and charities within the last five years could be made only at disproportionate cost. However, I can provide details over the last three years of contributions made within the third sector over the last three years. Tables have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Table A sets out expenditure made by the Central Department. Table B sets out expenditure made by the Department's agencies; details of expenditure of less than £100 could only be provided at disproportionate cost and these costs are therefore shown as an amalgamated total.

Dartford-Thurrock Crossing: Tolls

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much the operator of the Dartford-Thurrock crossing has made under its contract with the Department in each year since 2002; and how much revenue has accrued to the Department from the operation of the crossing in each such year. (252592)

The current operator, Le Crossing Company Ltd., has been managing the operation of the crossing since 1 April 2003. Prior to this the crossing was managed by Dartford River Crossing Ltd. Details of their accounts are available through a search at Companies House.

The Highways Agency does prepare an annual account for the Dartford-Thurrock Crossing Charging Scheme. Copies of the accounts for the years from 2003-04 to 2006-07 have been placed in the House Library and include details of the amounts paid to the managing agent for operating the crossing and the gross/net revenue. The 2007-08 accounts were laid today.

Departmental Public Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much capital expenditure has been brought forward in response to the economic downturn by his Department, its agencies and non-departmental public bodies to (a) 2008-09, (b) 2009-10 and (c) 2010-11; from which years such expenditure has been brought forward; and if he will make a statement. (251400)

As part of the fiscal stimulus the Department for Transport has brought forward £700 million from 2010-11 to 2009-10. £400 million will be used by the Highways Agency to bring forward high value schemes on the strategic roads network. £300 million will be used for the procurement of diesel unit rolling stock as part of the Department's High Level Output Specification for Britain's rail network.

Departmental Training

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much his Department spent on digital media training courses provided by the Internet Advertising Bureau in 2008; how many such training sessions were held in 2008; and how many staff in his Department attended at least one such training course. (252272)

Departmental Written Questions

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many holding answers his Department has given in response to parliamentary questions for written answer in the last 12 months; and of those how many are still awaiting a final answer. (252678)

In the 12 months to 28 January 2009 the Department for Transport gave 363 holding answers. As of 28 January 2009 three await substantive answer.

Legal Opinion

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the cost was of external legal services engaged by his Department in (a) 2006-07 and (b) 2007-08. (251360)

In the past two years the Department for Transport (including its agencies) has spent the following on external legal fees.

2006-07: £3,143,937

2007-08: £3,285,775

M5: Land

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what land the Highways Agency owns between junctions 8 and 9 of the M5; and if he will make a statement. (251919)

Between Junctions 8 and 9 of the M5, the Highways Agency owns land within the highway boundary that was originally purchased to construct the motorway. Generally these boundaries are fenced from the adjoining land.

M5: Repairs and Maintenance

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what studies the Highways Agency has undertaken into possible improvements to the culvert of the Carrant Brook under the M5 between junctions 8 and 9; and if he will make a statement. (251918)

I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 18 December 2008, Official Report, column 1007W, to his previous question, which gave details of the work carried out by the Highways Agency to clear culverts and drains between Junctions 8 and 11a of the M5. This work identified maintenance requirements which are now being carefully monitored, but did not show a particular problem at the Carrant Brook culvert. As a result, the Highways Agency does not consider that a further specific study of this culvert is necessary at this stage.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent works to improve drainage have been undertaken between junction 8 of the M5 junction and junction 1 of the M50; and if he will make a statement. (251921)

The Highways Agency has carried out the following investigatory work at this location:

Schemes to repair damaged drainage systems have been identified and are currently being priced and will be entered into future programmes;

Problems were identified with a Severn Trent water main being located within the present drainage system and the company has been contacted. They are programming work to remove this;

Removal of tree roots within the drainage system to improve capacity; and

Liaison with local land owners has resulted in them increasing drainage capacity on their land to prevent run-off onto the motorway.

Northern Rail: Rolling Stock

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the average age of the rail rolling stock operated by Northern Rail is; and if he will make a statement. (252051)

Northern Rail can provide the most accurate answer. However, our calculations indicate the average age of the fleet is 19.78 years. The life of diesel and electric rolling stock is assumed to be around 30-35 years. During the life of the rolling stock it will undergo a number of major examinations and will normally have improvements made to the interiors of the vehicles.

Railway Stations: Crime

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the effects of staff presence at rail stations on rates of (a) ticket fraud and (b) other crimes at stations. (251909)

Whether and how to staff stations are primarily matters for individual operators. The Department for Transport has not therefore carried out any recent study of the effect of staffing on crime. However, the National Passenger Survey includes a question about how safe passengers feel when using stations. In the most recent survey, in autumn 2008, only 8 per cent. of those questioned were dissatisfied with station security.

Roads: Accidents

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many road traffic accidents resulted in a fatality in Crosby constituency in each of the last five years. (253184)

The number of fatalities resulting from personal injury road accidents in Crosby constituency in each of the last five years is given in the following table:

Number of fatalities

2003

1

2004

2

2005

1

2006

4

2007

0

Note:

Based on 2004 boundaries

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many people were (a) injured and (b) killed in road traffic accidents in the north-west in each of the last five years, broken down by police authority area. (253195)

The numbers of casualties that were (a) injured and (b) killed resulting from personal injury road accidents in the north-west in each of the last five years, broken down by police authority area are given in the following table.

Number of casualties

Policy authority area

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Cumbria

Injured

2,641

2,685

2,685

2,421

2,373

Killed

54

57

45

59

45

Lancashire

Injured

7,413

7,749

7,937

7,908

7,650

Killed

86

58

93

63

55

Merseyside

Injured

7,406

7,312

7,243

6,426

5,737

Killed

67

62

59

45

30

Greater Manchester

Injured

14,018

13,449

12,718

11,705

10,609

Killed

126

94

87

90

93

Cheshire

Injured

6,180

5,915 67

5,481

5,205

4,838

Killed

72

67

78

64

48

North West

Injured

37,658

37,110

36,064

33,665

31,207

Killed

405

338

362

321

271

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many people (a) died and (b) were injured in road accidents where the cause of the accident was drink-driving in each of the last five years, broken down by police authority. (253288)

The Department for Transport publishes estimates of the number of casualties in drink-drive accidents where one or more of the motor vehicle drivers or riders involved was over the legal alcohol limit. These estimates are calculated on a national basis. Police force area estimates are not available. Figures for Great Britain are shown in the following table.

Number of casualties

Killed

Injured

2003

580

18,410

2004

580

16,400

2005

550

14,850

2006

560

13,810

20071

460

14,020

1 Provisional data. Final figures will be published in August 2008.

The drink-drive estimates are published in an article entitled “Drinking and driving” in “Road Casualties Great Britain—Annual report 2007”. Copies of the report have been deposited in the Libraries of the House and it is also available at the following web address:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/accidents/casualtiesgbar/roadcasualtiesgreatbritain20071

Roads: Repairs and Maintenance

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which projects in the proposed public works schedule he proposes to bring forward as part of the programme of accelerating public works; and when he expects work on each accelerated project to begin. (251172)

[holding answer 26 January 2009]: In November 2008 the Chancellor announced, as part of his pre-Budget report, that £700 million of fiscal stimulus funding was being brought forward by the Department for Transport.

£400 million of this will be used by the Highways Agency in 2009-10 to bring forward high value schemes on the strategic roads network. This includes, subject to completing statutory processes and confirmation of co-funding from the region, bringing forward by two years the start of construction for the scheme to dual the A46 from Newark to Widmerpool. In addition the funding will allow us to bring forward work to strengthen hard shoulders in advance of the implementation of hard shoulder running as well as other high value structure and asset renewal projects.

The exact schemes that will benefit from the fiscal stimulus is being developed as part of developing the Highways Agency's 2009-10 Business Plan.

The remaining £300 million is to be used for the procurement of diesel unit rolling stock as part of the Department's High Level Output Specification for the British rail network. The first part of the procurement process has begun.

Transport: Employment

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many of the up to 100,000 jobs the Government expects to be created he expects will result from transport capital projects; and if he will make a statement. (251841)

Preliminary estimates suggest that approximately 37,500 jobs will be created over the next two years as a result of expenditure of £15 billion on transport capital projects. The figures are based on the Department’s evidence base of analyses of previous capital projects.

Transport: Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport in respect of which transport infrastructure projects with a forecast cost of more than £5 million the Highways Agency has carried out feasibility studies; how much these studies have cost; how many of the schemes subject to a feasibility study were approved; and if he will make a statement. (252060)

Since being established in 1994 the Highways Agency has conducted a significant number of feasibility studies which are carried out routinely for projects that are estimated to cost in excess of £5 million. This covers all major infrastructure projects categorised into widening, bypass, junction and technology schemes, consideration of high occupancy vehicle lanes and, more recently, managed motorway improvements. Historically the Highways Agency’s operating protocols and governance arrangements have not required discrete tracking of the costs associated with feasibility work but have been managed within overall resource budget allocations provided by central Government.

Taking into account the number of feasibility studies undertaken since 1994, the amount of work required and the need to access a large number of archived records, it has been concluded that the cost associated with identifying the cost of each study is considered disproportionate.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Air Pollution

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what estimate he has made of levels of (a) PM10, (b) PM2.5, (c) O3, (d) NO2 and (e) NO in each of the 20 largest cities and towns in England by population size for each year between 2005 and 2012; and if he will make a statement; (249760)

(2) which cities and towns in England are currently in breach of air quality laws on (a) nitrogen dioxide, (b) ozone and (c) other nitrogen oxides; and if he will make a statement;

(3) if he will place in the Library a copy of maps of the following air pollutants for each of the 20 largest cities and towns in England by population site showing the latest estimate he has for levels of (a) PM10, (b) PM2.5, (c) nitrogen dioxide, (d) ozone and (e) nitrogen oxide.

For the purposes of assessing and reporting exceedences and breaches of air quality limit values, the UK is divided up into 43 agglomeration zones (areas with a contiguous population of over 250,000 as specified by the air quality directives) and non-agglomeration zones. There are 23 agglomeration zones in England and eight non-agglomeration zones; the latter are based on Government office regions in England.

The air quality framework directive (1996/62/EC) and four daughter directives (1999/30/EC, 2000/69/EC, 2002/3/EC, and 2004/107/EC) set out our current obligations in relation to various pollutants in ambient air. Of the pollutants mentioned, the limit values currently in force are for particles measured as particulate matter (PM10). There are also limit values for the protection of vegetation and ecosystems for nitrogen oxides (NOx), but these specifically do not apply to urban areas, or to areas near busy roads.

The limit values for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) do not come into force until 2010. The levels set for ozone (O3) are in the form of either target values, which do not have the same strict compliance criteria as limit values, or long term objectives, which have no compliance date. Other than those for the protection of vegetation and ecosystems, there are no additional limit values for other oxides of nitrogen. A new Council directive on ambient air and cleaner air for Europe (2008/50/EC) consolidates existing legislation and introduces new controls for PM2.5. The limit values for this pollutant are not yet in force.

Under the EU legislation set out above, the UK is required to monitor the air continuously for levels of PM10, PM2.5, N02, NOx (from which levels of NO can be derived), O3 and a number of other pollutants. These data are freely available from the National Air Quality Archive

http://www.airquality.co.uk/archive/index.php

This archive contains all the monitoring data collected for and by the Government in relation to air quality since 1962. It also contains details of the monitoring sites currently in use. In addition, the UK was one of a small number of member states to report modelled data alongside monitoring data. The national model used complies with the relevant data quality criteria set out in the various air quality directives, and is validated against monitored data. The annual report complied to accompany the UK submission to the European Commission on air quality is also held on the air quality archive:

http://www.airquality.co.uk/archive/reports/cat09/0807231621 _dd12006mapsrep_v2.pdf

This contains maps of roadside and background levels of PM10, and NO2/NOx, although these are not given on a city by city basis; such information is not readily available. Maps for O3 are held in a separate report on the same site:

http://www.airquality.co.uk/archive/reports/cat09/0807301054 _DD3_mapsrep2006_v2.pdf.

These reports also contain a map showing the location and extent of the UK agglomeration and non-agglomeration zones.

The model used to produce these reports is also used to provide projections of future air quality. This is a complex process and is generally only carried out in response to specific policy needs. In predicting future air quality, a "baseline" is constructed to show what effect currently planned measures and policies will have on air quality. Such a baseline has been prepared for 2010, 2011 and 2012 for PM10 and NO2, to support potential applications for time extensions for these pollutants, allowed under the 2008 directive, for compliance with the limit values. A consultation on the application for PM10 will be published shortly; it is planned to initiate a consultation on the application for NO2 towards the end of 2009. One of the outputs from this baseline is an assessment of the agglomeration and non-agglomeration zones predicted to contain locations where the air quality is above the relevant limit value level.

For NO2, the limit value is predicted to be exceeded in all but three zones in England in 2010, all but four in 2011 and all but five in 2012. The zones in compliance are predicted to be Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton, Blackpool Urban Area, and Preston Urban Area in 2010, additionally Bournemouth Urban Area in 2011, and additionally Coventry/Bedworth in 2012.

The outcome of the baseline assessment for PM10 was that two zones—Greater London and the West Midlands were predicted to be in exceedence in 2010, reducing to one (Greater London) in 2011 and 2012. The extent of the predicted exceedence in 2011 was a total 40km of roads, mainly in central London. However, the baseline assessment had not taken into account all of the traffic and transport measures planned for implementation by the Greater London Authority and Transport for London. Nor did the assessment use the more accurate traffic growth projections prepared by Transport for London for the London area, relying instead on national data. Sensitivity analysis including these measures reduced the total road length exceeding to around 6km, which is well within the uncertainties of the model. Using this additional analysis, there is no exceedence predicted for 2012.

Birds: Nature Conservation

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the merits of strengthening controls on the sale of those non-CITES species of birds removed from Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. (252762)

All non-CITES species of birds removed from Schedule 4 are subject to the sales controls provided in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The removal of certain species from Schedule 4 has not affected the fact that it will remain an offence to possess or sell a wild bird that has been illegally taken.

British Waterways Board: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether the £5 million spending on the infrastructure of British Waterways announced in the pre-Budget report will be included in the allocation for British Waterways for 2010-11; (251696)

(2) what budget his Department plans to provide for British Waterways in 2010-11.

The £5 million brought forward from 2010-11 to 2009-10 is a movement of indicative budget from one year to another and will not be double-counted. Final allocations for the constituent parts of the DEFRA budget for 2010-11 have not yet been made. The intention is to agree 2010-11 budgets by the spring of 2009.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of British Waterways' projected funding shortfall for 2010-11 in relation to the funding requirement identified by the steady state model. (252092)

DEFRA is working with British Waterways to agree a sustainable and affordable strategy for the waterways in order to get the best public benefits from the resources available.

The KPMG report published in September last year concluded that British Waterways has a significant funding gap in relation to the requirements of the steady state model. This has led to a review by British Waterways into its overall funding and initiatives to raise more income from a variety of sources and to see additional efficiencies and savings in its expenditure. These will feed into its consultation on future strategy later this year. We will discuss with British Waterways the conclusions of its review and its implications for future strategy and funding requirements for its waterways.

Carbon Emissions: Water

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the level of carbon dioxide emissions from (a) industrial, (b) commercial and (c) agricultural uses of water; what steps he is taking to reduce levels of carbon dioxide emissions from heavily intensive water usage in each sector; and if he will make a statement. (251692)

A carbon footprint for the UK water industry was published for the first time in 2008 in “Future Water”, the Government’s water strategy for England. The industry emits around five million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year, as carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). There are no separate figures for different end-uses, however, the non-domestic sector that includes the industrial, commercial and agricultural sectors is estimated to use 23 per cent. of the public water supply. The industrial sector also uses significant quantities of direct abstractions but it is difficult to estimate the associated carbon emissions due to variability in the extent of treatment and in pumping distances.

The Carbon Reduction Commitment will bring about reductions in carbon emissions from across the economy, including from the water industry. In addition, we have received a commitment from Water UK that the water companies will seek to ensure that at least 20 per cent. of all energy used by the UK water industry comes from renewable sources by 2020.

Departmental Contracts

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what contracts to which his Department is a party continue beyond 1 July 2010. (242150)

The Department is compiling this information for publication in its departmental report for 2009, a copy of which will be placed in the Library of the House. The report is published normally in May of the named year.

Departmental Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his Department’s average response time to a letter received from (a) an hon. Member and (b) a member of the public was in each of the last three years. (251440)

The Cabinet Office, on an annual basis, publishes a report to Parliament on the performance of Departments in replying to Members correspondence. The report for 2007 was published on 20 March 2008, Official Report, columns 71-74WS. Information for 2008 is currently being collated and will be published as soon as it is ready. Reports for earlier years are available in the Library of the House.

The 2008 DEFRA Departmental Report contains the 2006 and 2007 performance figures for the handling of all types of correspondence. The 2009 report will contain the figures for 2008 and will be published as soon as it is ready. The report can be found on the DEFRA website.

Departmental Manpower

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) external contractors and (b) other non-departmental staff were employed by his Department in London in each of the last five financial years; and at what cost were such staff employed in each year. (251074)

Information on how many external contractors and other non-departmental staff were engaged by the core-Department in London and their costs in each of the last five financial years could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The core-Department’s expenditure on consultancy and professional services for the financial years 2003-04 through to 2007-08 is set out in the following table.

Expenditure

£ million

Category

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

IT and Telecommunications

53

99

131

163

130

Management and Business Consultancy

20

79

44

29

17

Programme and Project Management

23

24

18

4

10

Research and Development

10

18

20

33

35

Specialist Consultancy

40

36

37

54

56

Temp Staff

9

10

10

7

5

Departmental Official Residences

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East of 9 October 2008, Official Report, columns 727-28W, on departmental official residences, whether the council tax bills for departmental residential accommodation are paid from departmental funds; and what his Department’s policy is on responsibility for paying charges for the collection of household waste associated with the property. (252210)

The Department has a limited number of dwellings used to accommodate key workers. These premises are usually let on formal tenancies which require the occupiers to discharge council tax among the usual occupational outgoings.

With regard to a policy for the responsibility for paying charges for the collection of household waste, this is yet to be considered. However as an occupier cost it would not be unreasonable for any such charges to be borne by the occupiers.

Departmental Training

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department spent on digital media training courses provided by the Internet Advertising Bureau in 2008; how many such training sessions were held in 2008; and how many staff in his Department attended at least one such training course. (252267)

From information held centrally, there is no vendor ‘Internet Advertising Bureau’ registered on the core-Department’s financial system.

Departmental Travel

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what expenditure his Department has incurred in providing transport for Ministers between Parliament and departmental premises in each of the last five years. (251878)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right. hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on 26 January 2009, Official Report, column 5W. All ministerial travel is undertaken in accordance with the ‘Ministerial Code’.

Departmental Written Questions

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on how many occasions in the last 12 months Ministers in his Department have used their discretion to rule that a parliamentary question for written answer should be answered because it would be in the public interest to do so, even though to do so would exceed the disproportionate cost threshold of £700. (249139)

The Department strives to answer all parliamentary questions with the relevant information as accurately and as concisely as possible having regard to the disproportionate cost threshold. The Department does not keep records of occasions on which Ministers have used their discretion to overrule the application of the cost threshold.

Floods: Lancashire

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether Lancashire county council has bid for funding to protect against future flooding. (247015)

The Environment Agency has received no bids for funding from Lancashire county council this financial year and the council has not applied for funding for the resilience grants pilots.

Lancashire, as a county, benefited from grant funding from the resilience grants pilot project through the Sunderland point pilot. This was run by Lancaster city council in collaboration with the Environment Agency from 2007 to 2008, with a project with a budget of £110,000. The results of this work are available in a report on the DEFRA website.

Floods: Montgomeryshire

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely effects of flooding on the Pylon development scheme in Kerry, Montgomeryshire; and if he will make a statement. (251614)

Rodents

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he plans to publish the latest English Condition Survey data on rodent presence in domestic dwellings. (252402)

My Department has published on its website the latest report on rodent presence in domestic properties as revealed by the English House Condition Survey data for 2002-03 and 2003-04. Key findings are that the occurrences of rats inside and outside properties in these years are not significantly different from those observed in 2001.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate his Department has made of the size of the rat population in the country. (252640)

My Department does not hold data on the size of the UK rat population. However, the latest report on rodent presence in domestic properties as revealed by the English House Condition Survey data for 2002-03 and 2003-04 is now available on DEFRA’s website. Key findings are that the occurrences of rats inside and outside properties in these years are not significantly different from those observed in 2001.

Water Charges

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether his Department has made an impact assessment of new site area-based charges for surface drainage on (a) sports clubs, (b) churches and (c) other voluntary groups. (252621)

Ofwat, the independent economic regulator for the water industry, is responsible for approving charging schemes. The Government are aware of the affordability issues faced by some customers as a result of the switch from charging based on rateable value to site area and are currently reviewing their position.

Water Supply

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with reference to the answer of 26 November 2008, Official Report, column 1626W, on water supply, for what reason the original timetable for water companies to prepare their statement of response to the consultation was not met. (252078)

The overriding requirement of section 37 of the Water Industry Act 1991 is that a water company must provide a coherent plan that demonstrates how it will ensure a supply and demand balance for water.

In their statements of response, water companies must respond to the representations they received and say how these have been reflected in their plans and any changes that have been made to the plan in light of the representations.

The original timetable was extended to allow water companies additional time, which they needed in order to provide the evidence required to demonstrate the impacts any changes made to the plan will have on their subsequent appraisal, and selection, of the preferred water supply and demand options necessary to maintain their statutory water supply duties over the next 25 years.

Women and Equality

Departmental Buildings

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what Government Equalities Office assets are planned to be sold in each financial year from 2007-08 to 2010-11; what the (a) description and (b) book value of each such asset is; what the expected revenue from each such sale is; and if she will make a statement. (251677)

As recorded in its Annual Report and Resource Accounts 2007-08 the Government Equalities Office does not own any fixed or intangible assets.

Departmental Internet

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what websites the Government Equalities Office (a) funds and (b) part-funds. (251670)

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has overall responsibility for one website:

www.equalities.gov.uk.

The GEO has also made a financial contribution to the Ethnic Minority Foundation to develop a website aimed towards issues of concern to young people.

Departmental Training

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality how much the Government Equalities Office spent on digital media training courses provided by the Internet Advertising Bureau in 2008; how many such training sessions were held in 2008; and how many staff in the Government Equalities Office attended at least one such training course. (252238)

Domestic Violence: Nottinghamshire

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality how many recorded incidents of domestic violence there have been in (a) Bassetlaw and (b) Nottinghamshire in each of the last three years; and how many of these resulted in a successful prosecution. (250763)

[holding answer 26 January 2009]: Government figures from 2006-07 and 2007-08 show the number of domestic violence cases being reported has increased. This is a testament to the growing confidence victims have that they will be listened to and their reports effectively investigated coupled with the specialist and practical support victims receive.

The available data on domestic violence incidents are based on domestic violence arrest rates taken from the Statutory Performance Indicators (SPI 8a) suite used in police force performance assessments for 2007-08. The following table shows the number of recorded incidents of domestic violence in Nottinghamshire for each of the last three years. The Government do not hold discrete figures for Bassetlaw.

Nottinghamshire domestic violence incidents

Number

2005-06

15,279

2006-07

17,534

2007-08

19,166

The following table shows the outcome of prosecutions for domestic violence from the records held by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The figures are for Nottinghamshire as a whole. No discrete figures are held in respect of Bassetlaw.

Nottinghamshire Crown Prosecution Service domestic violence outcomes

2006

2007

2008

Convictions

691

801

815

Unsuccessful

467

555

364

Total

1,158

1,356

1,179

The figures represent the number of defendants whose case was completed in each year and are divided into convictions, (including guilty pleas), and unsuccessful outcomes which represent all outcomes other than where a conviction is recorded.

There has been an improvement in the proportion of post-charge proceedings for domestic violence resulting in a conviction over recent years. Nationally, convictions increased from 63.5 per cent. of completed cases in 2006 to 72 per cent. in 2008. The improvement in CPS Nottinghamshire over the same period was from 59.7 per cent. to 69.1 per cent.

Domestic Violence: Victims

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what steps the Government have taken to support women and children who are subject to domestic violence in the last two years. (250058)

Independent domestic violence advisers provide invaluable support to victims of domestic violence and their families. Evidence shows that incidents of victimisation decrease and victims are less likely to withdraw from cases. This is why we have provided over £6 million this financial year to support the extension of Advisors and Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences across England and Wales. Also, in 2006-07, local authorities spent over £61 million of their funding allocated through the Supporting People programme on housing-related support services for women at risk of domestic violence. Further, last financial year we provided funding to local authorities worth £47.2 million through the Homelessness Strategy and Support Directorate's grant programmes a proportion of which can be used to develop outreach and other innovative models, such as the sanctuary scheme.

Females: Human Trafficking

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality if she will work with the Secretary of State for the Home Department to bring forward proposals for a commissioner with the remit of reducing the trafficking of women to the UK for sexual exploitation. (251266)

We believe that existing mechanisms (the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking and the Home Office NGO Stakeholder Group) provide appropriate forums for discussion and advocacy on issues surrounding trafficking for sexual exploitation, as well as allowing for close scrutiny of progress on the Action Plan and the Council of Europe Convention.

As Minister for Women and Equality, I ensure all Government departments are considering the specific concerns of vulnerable women. The Home Office and the UK Border Agency continue to work with our international partners both to raise awareness of human trafficking and further strengthen our ability to prevent this crime taking place.

Defence

Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on improving security in Afghanistan in the last year; and if he will make a statement. (252001)

In 2008 progress was made across Afghanistan but the insurgency remains resilient and 2009 will continue to present significant security challenges in certain areas of the country, particularly in the south and east.

In Helmand, successful military operations by ISAF and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have allowed more of the province to come under the control of the Afghan Government. The recent Operation SOND CHARA saw Task Force Helmand, supported by ANSF, successfully clear Taleban from the town of Nad-e-Ali and its environs creating a secure environment to promote stabilisation and economic growth.

Aircraft Carriers

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons the date for the completion of the Royal Navy aircraft carriers has been delayed; and if he will make a statement. (252897)

I refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statement my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence made on 11 December 2008, Official Report, column 65WS.

Armed Forces: Married People

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number and proportion of personnel in each service who were (a) divorced and (b) separated in each year between 1997 and 2006. (251962)

For the number and proportion of divorced personnel, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to him on 28 April 2008, Official Report, column 51W.

Figures on separation rates for this time period could be provided only at disproportionate cost and no such estimates have been made.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number and proportion of personnel in each service who were (a) divorced and (b) separated in each month in (i) 2006, (ii) 2007 and (iii) 2008. (251963)

Records on the number of serving military personnel by marital status for this time period are not held centrally, following the implementation of the Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Armed Forces: Recruitment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many recruits of each sex have joined each unit of each of the armed forces at each rank in each of the last 10 years. (252098)

Information on armed forces recruitment by sex can be found in United Kingdom Defence Statistics (UKDS) 2008, Table 2.19 Intake to UK regular forces from civil life by Service and sex. UKDS is published annually; the most recent publication shows figures for the 12 months to 31 March 2008 and can be found at:

http://www.dasa.mod.uk/modintranet/UKDS2008/c2/table 219.html

Intake to UK regular forces from civil life by unit could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The majority of personnel recruited into the armed forces do so at the lowest level rank of either the officer or other ranks rank structure. Only professional personnel (for example doctors and lawyers) are recruited at any other than the lowest rank and therefore data has not been provided.

Armoured Fighting Vehicles

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the next stage in the Future Rapid Effects System procurement will be; and whether his Department has plans for off-shelf procurement of reconnaissance vehicles. (252096)

Outline plans for the procurement of the Future Rapid Effects System were announced by the Secretary of State for Defence on 11 December 2008, Official Report, column 65WS. The MOD is currently considering how to take forward the procurement of the Utility Vehicle element of the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) programme in order to ensure we provide Defence with the best possible capability at the best value for money.

The Specialist Vehicle element of the FRES programme continues to make good progress and received Initial Gate approval to enter its Assessment Phase in June 2008. A range of programme options are currently being considered for the Reconnaissance variant, FRES Scout. A recommendation as to the preferred option will be made to the Department's Investment Approvals Board upon completion of the Assessment Phase.

Army : Deployment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what occasions the (a) heavy and (b) light artillery regiments have been deployed in each of the last 10 years; and (i) to which locations and (ii) on which operations they were deployed. (252100)

The deployments of the heavy and light artillery regiments over the last 10 years are shown as follows:

Heavy artillery units

Unit

Operation name

Location

Date

1 Regt RHA

AS90 (Heavy)

Op Palatine

Bosnia

1998-99

Op Agricola

Macedonia and Kosovo

1999

Op Palatine

Bosnia

12000

Op Palatine

Bosnia

12000

Op Palatine

Bosnia

12002

Op Telic 4

Iraq

2004

Op Tosca

Cyprus

2005

Op Telic 10

Iraq

2007

3 Regt RHA

AS90 (Heavy)

Op Palatine

Bosnia

11998-99

Op Resolute

Kosovo

12001

Op Telic 1

Iraq

2003

Op Tosca

Cyprus

2003-04

Op Telic 7

Iraq

2005-06

Op Telic 11

Iraq

12007-08

Op Herrick 8

Afghanistan

12008

Op Telic 12

Iraq

12008

4 Regt RA

AS90 (Heavy)

Op Agricola

Macedonia and Kosovo

1999

Op Tosca

Cyprus

12001

Op Fresco

UK

2002-03

Op Banner

Northern Ireland

2003

Op Telic 5

Iraq

2004-05

Op Tosca

Cyprus

2006

Op Herrick 7

Afghanistan

2007-08

19 Regt RA

AS90 (Heavy)

Op Agricola

Macedonia and Kosovo

11999

Op Palatine

Bosnia

2000

Op Fingal

Afghanistan

12002

Op Banner

Northern Ireland

12003

Op Telic 6

Iraq

2005

Op Herrick 6

Afghanistan

2007

26 Regt RA

AS90 (Heavy)

Op Agricola

Kosovo

1999-2000

Op Palatine

Bosnia

12000-01

Op Agricola

Kosovo

12000-01

Op Telic 1

Iraq

12003

Op Telic 3

Iraq

2003-04

Op Tosca

Cyprus

2004-05

Op Telic 8

Iraq

12006

Op Herrick 9

Afghanistan

12008-09

Op Telic 13

Iraq

12008-09

Light artillery units

Unit

Operation name

Location

Date

29 Cdo Regt RA

L118 (Light)

Op Silkman

Sierra Leone

2000

Op Jacana

Afghanistan

2001

Op Telic 1

Iraq

2003

Op Herrick 5

Afghanistan

2006-07

Op Herrick 9

Afghanistan

2008-09

40 Regt RA

L118 (Light)

Op Banner

Bosnia

1999

Op Agricola

Macedonia and Kosovo

2001

Op Telic 1

Iraq

12003

Op Telic 2

Iraq

2003

Op Tosca

Cyprus

2004

Op Telic 9

Iraq

2006-07

7 Para RHA

L118 (Light)

Op Banner

Northern Ireland

1999-2000

Op Agricola

Macedonia and Kosovo

1999

Op Silkman

Sierra Leone

12000

Op Agricola

Macedonia and Kosovo

12001

Op Jacana

Afghanistan

2001-02

Op Telic 1

Iraq

2003

Op Agricola

Kosovo

12004-05

Op Herrick 4

Afghanistan

2006

Op Herrick 8

Afghanistan

2008

1 Elements of regiment deployed

All deployments are at Regimental Scale of Effort unless otherwise specified.

Departmental Land

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) estimated monetary value, (b) location and (c) size is of each land asset owned by his Department. (252097)

Details of all land owned by the Ministry of Defence are held on a property database, including the last valuation based on the rolling five year revaluation programme undertaken by the Department. Valuations are stated at either replacement cost or existing use value rather than market or sale value and thus do not take account of the possibility of any development potential or any costs associated with the decontamination of the land.

An extract has been taken from the database and will be placed in the Library of the House.

Departmental Public Relations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (James Duddridge) of 11 November 2008, Official Report, column 1000W, on departmental public relations, which areas of work and projects the external public relations firm worked on; and for what reasons such work was not conducted in-house. (252214)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence gave on 22 January 2009, Official Report, column 1673W.

Gulf War: Veterans

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will commission further research into the diagnosis and treatment of Gulf War veterans’ illnesses; and if he will make a statement. (251121)

The Medical Research Council (MRC) has provided independent advice on our Gulf research programme. In 2003, the Ministry of Defence asked the MRC to undertake an independent scientific review of all the UK research work that has been carried out into Gulf veterans’ illnesses in an international context and to advise on whether there are any areas appropriate for future research. The MRC’s recommendations were published on 22 May 2003 and are available at:

www.mrc.ac.uk/index.htm.

A key recommendation was that future research work should focus on improving the long-term health of veterans with persistent symptoms and proposals on rehabilitation therapies were sought. A contract for research into ways of rehabilitating unwell Gulf veterans was awarded to an expert group at Cardiff University last summer and work is expected to be complete by April 2012. In the event of any new research proposals being made that would add to our knowledge on Gulf health issues then the Ministry of Defence will consider funding any proposal for research which has been formally considered and approved by the MRC.

HMS Plymouth

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if his Department will seek to provide an open berth for HMS Plymouth in a British port. (252390)

The former HMS Plymouth is a privately owned vessel. While the Ministry of Defence would always wish to see a dignified and appropriate use for the vessel, it has no practical role in her placement or usage.

Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether HMS Richmond will be deployed to duties pertaining to the arms embargo on the Gaza Strip before Operation Telic ends. (251891)

We are considering the provision of naval resources to counter the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. No decisions have yet been taken.

Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether Lockheed Martin have been asked to postpone the completion date for the Joint Strike Fighter. (252898)

We have never asked Lockheed Martin to postpone the completion date for JSF. We have not even declared an In Service Date for this programme in the UK and will only do so when the programme is sufficiently mature. We are one of nine participant nations in the JSF programme and its completion date cannot be determined by one participant in isolation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the Joint Strike Fighter to enter service. (252899)