Written Answers to Questions
Monday 2 February 2009
Work and Pensions
Pension Credit: Savings
Tariff income rules provide a simple method of calculating the contribution people with £6,000 of capital are expected to make and does not reflect any rate of return.
80 per cent. of pension credit recipients are unaffected by the tariff income rules.
We have already invested heavily to support existing incapacity benefit customers into work, by ensuring they can volunteer for any appropriate back to work support available in Pathways to Work. Our recent White Paper announced a strong package of new initiatives to provide further support to this group, including pilots of new innovative approaches such as the ‘invest to save’ pathfinders recommended by David Freud.
Everyone who becomes unemployed has access to the thousands of jobs on the Jobcentre Plus website or through the jobs helpline. Despite the recent increases in claimants, 70 per cent. of customers are seen within three days of claiming for discussions about help in finding work.
Local Employment Partnerships are being extended to cover all unemployed customers. And from April, Jobcentre Plus will be introducing extra help for people who have been unemployed for six months or more.
Despite recent increases the number of jobseeker's allowance claimants aged 18 to 24 is still 13.3 per cent. lower than in May 1997 and long term youth claimant unemployment has fallen by 73.4 per cent.
Since (February to April) 1997 the number of 18 to 24 ILO unemployed has risen 124,000 to 614,000. The number of 18 to 24-year-olds who have been ILO unemployed for more than six months is 200,000, down 10,000 since 1997.
Of all new jobseeker’s allowance claims, over 50 per cent. leave within three months, and around 75 per cent. by six months, demonstrating the effectiveness of the JSA regime.
Based on the unemployment assumption published at the pre-Budget report, we estimate that in 2009-10 there will be an average of 190,000 claimants of jobseeker’s allowance who will have been claiming for over 12 months. These figures are planning assumptions only, and do not reflect an official view of numbers of unemployed people, or the duration of unemployment. They are based on the HM Treasury unemployment assumption, which is an average of several independent unemployment forecasts. An update to this assumption will be published at the Budget.
[holding answer 15 December 2008]: The published research available is in the Department for Work and Pensions Research Report No. 394, ‘Repeat Jobseeker’s Allowance Spells by Hannah Carpenter’ (a copy of which has been placed in the Library), which found that 54 per cent. of people who claimed jobseeker’s allowance between July 2003 and June 2004 were repeat claimants. They had spent an average one year out of the previous four on jobseeker’s allowance, although the length of spells on benefit varied widely. A quarter of repeat claimants had been on other benefits in the previous four years.
(2) what estimate he has made of the number of people flowing on to jobseeker's allowance in the last 12 months who have made (a) no, (b) between one and five, (c) between six and 10, (d) between 11 and 20 and (e) over 20 previous claims for jobseeker’s allowance.
The available information is in the table.
Number 5 years 1,630 6 years 950 7 years 680 8 years 410 9 years 560 10 years or more 990 Note: Figures have been rounded to the nearest 10. Source: DWP Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study 100 per cent. data.
10 years or more
Figures have been rounded to the nearest 10.
DWP Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study 100 per cent. data.
National Minimum Wage
The Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission took over responsibility for the Child Maintenance System on 1 November 2008.
The latest figures show that the Commission collected and arranged a record £1.1 billion maintenance in the 12 months to December 2008, and is on track to further increase the amount of maintenance collected by the end of this year.
The reforms we have already made to the child maintenance system, including the introduction of a full child maintenance disregard in April 2010, will lift around 100,000 children out of poverty. But more is needed to tackle those parents who wilfully refuse to support their children—this is why we have also introduced proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill to give the Commission the power to remove passports and driving licence from those parents who wilfully refuse to take responsibility for their children.
The number of children in households with incomes below 60 per cent. of contemporary median income (before housing costs) in the United Kingdom in 2006-07 (latest information available) is 2.9 million, down 600,000 from 1997 and expected to reduce by a further 500,000 as a result of measures already announced.
On 28 January we launched the consultation, ‘Ending Child Poverty: Making it Happen’, ahead of a child poverty Bill that will enshrine in legislation the Government's promise to eradicate child poverty by 2020. The Bill will provide a framework to guarantee that Government and delivery partners at all levels make a clear contribution towards ending child poverty.
Departmental Data Protection
Data security is taken very seriously by the Department and is a key priority for its commercial team who are in regular contact with its suppliers and contractors at both senior managerial and operational levels. The Department has incorporated the new Office of Government Commerce model contract clauses relating to data security into new contracts. All relevant suppliers have been informed of the requirements. 98 per cent. of suppliers have confirmed that they are fully compliant. The Department is actively working with the remaining suppliers and has action plans in place to achieve 100 per cent. compliance.
The names of the Department’s (a) Senior Information Risk Owner, and (b) Information Asset Owners, are as follows.
(a) Senior Information Risk Owner: R. Heaton.
(b) Information Asset Owners: N. Cheetham; J. Doherty; S. Furse; R. Ginn; P. Greening; S. McKinnon-Evans; R. Molan; J. Oliver; H. Orme; J. Perryer; K. Roberts; D. Smith; M. Whitehouse.
The Department has already achieved capability maturity model integration (CMMI) level 2 and plans to achieve level 3 for the new CMMI for Acquisition model in the next year. The new standard, applies to the management of outsourced IT services which conforms more closely to the Department’s approach. Our plans include the development of new processes and standard products at project, management and organisation unit levels, the review of existing processes, and an intensive programme of rollout and training activity.
Once level 3 is achieved the Department will review the business case for moving to higher levels.
As at 31 December 2008 there were 301 members of staff, in the Department for Work and Pensions, who were without a permanent post. The following table shows the number of staff in each business area of the Department. The table also details the numbers of staff who have been without a permanent post for more than six months and of that number those who have been without a permanent post for more than 12 months.
Agency/business area Staff without a permanent post For at least six months For at least 12 months Jobcentre Plus 252 122 105 Pensions, Disability and Carer Services 14 8 4 Rest of the Department 35 9 4 Total 301 139 113
Staff without a permanent post
For at least six months
For at least 12 months
Pensions, Disability and Carer Services
Rest of the Department
The number of these staff who had returned from maternity leave is not held centrally and would be available only at disproportionate cost.
Staff without permanent posts are actively engaged in delivering a range of departmental projects and duties, while seeking a new permanent position. They are given priority for posts in this Department and other Government Departments.
The Child Support Agency, figures for which were included in the response of 17 July 2008, transferred to the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission on 1 November 2008. At that time, there were no staff in the agency without permanent posts.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was formed in 2001 as a result of machinery of government changes. Therefore it is only possible to provide the information requested from the 2002-03 financial year, which is when pay arrangements including those for bonuses were harmonised for all DWP employees.
End of Year Performance Bonuses
DWP employees below the senior civil service are eligible for an annual individual performance bonus if they attain a ‘Top’, ‘Higher’ or ‘Majority’ rating under the annual performance and development system. The bonus awarded is determined by the employee’s pay band and the performance level achieved.
For the senior civil service, end of year bonuses are determined by the relevant DWP SCS Pay Committee.
* Performance awards from the year 2007-08 were payable in July of the financial year 2008-09. A total of £23.32 million has been paid. This is broken down as follows:
Financial year Total number of recipients Total paid (£ million) 2002-03 131,776 30.82 2003-04 106,123 25.29 2004-05 129,855 36.61 2005-06 123,825 42.82 2006-07 116,096 40.68 2007-08* 111,943 36.61 2008-09 107,726 23.32
Total number of recipients
Total paid (£ million)
Financial year Total number of recipients Total paid (£ million) 2002-03 131,666 30.23 2003-04 105,997 24.58 2004-05 129,648 35.64 2005-06 123,620 41.43 2006-07 115,896 39.01 2007-08 111,741 34.88 2008-09 107,518 21.50
Total number of recipients
Total paid (£ million)
Financial year Total number of recipients Total paid (£ million) 2002-03 110 0.59 2003-04 126 0.71 2004-05 207 0.97 2005-06 205 1.39 2006-07 200 1.67 2007-08 202 1.73 2008-09 208 1.82 Notes: 1. The information in tables 1 and 2 is based on the number of employees recorded on the DWP payroll systems as having received a qualifying performance mark. These are headcount. 2. Some individuals may have received more than one type of bonus payment in the year, which is why the information has been presented separately and not as an aggregated total. 3. The performance bonus is paid in the financial year following the performance year of 1 April to 31 March. 4. The total amount paid includes employers national insurance contribution (ERNIC). 5. In-year cash bonus data was previously held on a separate IT system. Data from this system can only be obtained from a third party and there would be a cost ascribed to this provision. This would bring the cost of answering this PQ to above the threshold considered proportionate.
Total number of recipients
Total paid (£ million)
1. The information in tables 1 and 2 is based on the number of employees recorded on the DWP payroll systems as having received a qualifying performance mark. These are headcount.
2. Some individuals may have received more than one type of bonus payment in the year, which is why the information has been presented separately and not as an aggregated total.
3. The performance bonus is paid in the financial year following the performance year of 1 April to 31 March.
4. The total amount paid includes employers national insurance contribution (ERNIC).
5. In-year cash bonus data was previously held on a separate IT system. Data from this system can only be obtained from a third party and there would be a cost ascribed to this provision. This would bring the cost of answering this PQ to above the threshold considered proportionate.
Special Bonus and Voucher Payments
Individuals may also be entitled to special bonus payments either as cash or retail vouchers. These are one-off recognition awards, payable at any time during the performance year and are not linked to the annual pay award. Payments are made to recognise exceptional achievements beyond what would normally be expected.
The cost for voucher payments was £0.9 million in 2006-07 (14,392 vouchers issued), £1.77 million in 2007-08 (31,237 vouchers were issued) and £1.03 million in 2008-09 (28,869 vouchers issued). Some individuals might have received more than one voucher.
It is not possible to provide separate data for in-year cash bonuses across three years. However, based on 2007-08 payments, the cost in a typical year is around £2.7 million paid to approximately 11,250 individuals.
These figures are the best available.
Income Support: Mortgages
The two year limit on payment of support for mortgage interest for income-based jobseeker’s allowance claimants will not apply to existing customers who started to receive payment of mortgage interest under the previous rules that existed before 5 January 2009.
Jobcentre Plus: Closures
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 how many Jobcentre Plus offices have closed in each of the last five years. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
The following table provides the information you have requested:
Year Jobcentre Plus offices open to the public and subsequently closed 2004 95 2005 99 2006 157 2007 49 2008 54 Source: Jobcentre Plus
Jobcentre Plus offices open to the public and subsequently closed
We have modernised our Jobcentre network to improve customer service, rationalising our estate to provide excellent high street coverage and a single, integrated customer facing office, at the same time reducing cost to the tax payer. We remain the largest office network in Government with 744 modern Jobcentres which are supported by 31 contact centres and 79 main benefit processing centres.
Increasingly, our services (in common with most large, modern organisations) are now also delivered through the telephone and internet. New claims to benefit are predominantly taken by telephone with some taken on-line. This has brought our customer facing services together in a more coherent and integrated network.
In December, I asked the customer service directors in our regions to review their service delivery plans for every Jobcentre Plus District in the light of the current economic conditions and welfare reform changes planned for the next two to three years. As an immediate measure, I decided to suspend proposed further Jobcentre closures while the current economic uncertainties exist, which will allow us to increase our capacity to deliver services to those in need of help.
Local Employment Partnerships
Over 90,000 people have found work to date through local employment partnerships (LEPs). The following table shows the number of people who found employment through LEPs in the 2007-08 operational year ending March 2008, and for each of the three following quarters ending June, September and December. The number of people given face-to-face help in Jobcentre Plus offices is shown by Jobcentre Plus Region; those helped following telephone contact with Jobcentre Plus are shown separately in the contact centre totals. An evaluation of the policy will examine sustained employment.
Numbers finding work through local employment partnerships during: period to end-March 2008 quarter ending June 2008 quarter ending Sept 2008 quarter ending Dec 2008 Total finding work to December 2008 East Midlands 68 552 1,452 3,808 5,880 East of England 84 320 2,094 3,111 5,609 London 1,453 1,932 5,916 8,295 17,596 North East 295 632 1811 4,601 7,339 North West 210 1,222 3,097 6,371 10900 South East 132 376 1,705 3846 6,059 South West 98 412 1,473 3,455 5,438 West Midlands 248 951 3,685 5,469 10,353 Yorkshire and the Humber 255 698 3,179 4,351 8,483 Scotland 713 3,197 4,307 4,620 12,837 Wales 346 689 2,138 3,333 6,506 Contact centre total 9 23 1,043 1,884 2,959 National total 3,911 11,004 31,900 53,144 99,959 Source: Jobcentre Plus administrative data
Numbers finding work through local employment partnerships during:
period to end-March 2008
quarter ending June 2008
quarter ending Sept 2008
quarter ending Dec 2008
Total finding work to December 2008
East of England
Yorkshire and the Humber
Contact centre total
Jobcentre Plus administrative data
(2) how his Department determines the (a) amount and (b) timing of funding to businesses within a local employment partnership;
(3) how much has been paid by his Department to businesses in local employment partnerships in each year since such partnerships were established, broken down by (a) Jobcentre Plus district and (b) reason for payment.
Businesses do not receive funding through local employment partnerships. Local employment partnerships (LEPs) are an enhanced way of working between the Government and employers. Each agreement is different and arrangements for LEP measures will be responsive to local circumstances. Jobcentre Plus works in partnership with existing structures including, local authorities, Cities Strategy Pathfinders, The Learning and Skills Council, Train to Gain, training providers and further education colleges to provide opportunities for help and training to assist people make the transition from benefit into work.
(2) how much money was in his Department's stock of money not spent in earlier years, in each of the last six months.
The Department for Work and Pensions was formed in June 2001 from the Department for Social Security and parts of the former Department for Education and Employment including the Employment Service. Therefore it is not possible to provide information for 2001-02 or previous years.
Subsequent to 2001-02 the Department's stock of money not spent in earlier years increased in 2006-07 by £202 million (25 per cent. of the total stock) and in 2007-08 by £5 million (0.6 per cent. of the total stock). The increases are calculated net of stock drawn down to fund in year spend. Between 2002-03 and 2005-06 the Department's stock of unspent money was reduced.
The stock of money not spent (commonly referred to as end of year flexibility) is determined at the end of each financial year in conjunction with HM Treasury and is published in the Public Expenditure Outturn White Paper.
The stock is not accrued monthly and as such the balance does not move during the financial year.
Social Security Benefits
(2) in what circumstances a benefit claimant may maintain a claim through postal signings.
Information regarding the number of benefit claims maintained by post is not available.
Postal signing is made available to customers: who live more than one hour, door to door, by public transport, in either direction, from the nearest jobcentre; or who would be absent from home in excess of four hours if they had to attend in person; or who have a mental or physical disability, which restricts their mobility; and in other exceptional circumstances for example, the customer would have to use a form of transport they would not ordinarily be expected to use on a regular basis, i.e. an inter-city train, ferry or plane.
If no public transport is available, postal signing is not granted to customers who can reasonably be expected to walk from home to the jobcentre within one hour, taking into account their age, health and the terrain over which they must walk. No customer is expected to walk more than three miles.
Social Security Benefits: Interviews
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 how many work-focused interviews for each category of benefit were conducted in each of the last five years. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Acting Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
The information is not available prior to February 2005. The available information is in the table below.
Benefit 2004-051 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-092 Incapacity benefit 73,463 720,766 991,052 1,191,282 672,446 Jobseeker's allowance 432,317 4,519,620 6,496,398 7,353,192 5,069,839 Income support 63,172 698,958 986,895 1,222,914 895,498 1 The figures for 2004-05 are for February and March 2005. 2 The figures for 2008-09 are for April to October 2008. Source: Jobcentre Plus Business Information System
1 The figures for 2004-05 are for February and March 2005.
2 The figures for 2008-09 are for April to October 2008.
Jobcentre Plus Business Information System
Social Security Benefits: Reform
(2) what assessment he has made of the effect on families in (a) the North East and (b) Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency who have benefited from the Government’s policy on welfare reform.
Since 1997 our welfare reforms have contributed to a reduction of 26,600 people claiming out of work benefits in the North East and 864 in Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland constituency.
Our reforms have resulted in high numbers of people in work, and have put an end to the rise in the number of people claiming incapacity benefits.
Active intervention is key, at no time is this more important than in an economic downturn. If it is becoming harder to find work, it is right that we do more to help, not less. We need to learn the lessons from previous downturns, and from overseas: first, increase support, do not relax conditionality; second, do not move people onto inactive benefits; and third, maintain efforts to reduce inactivity.
Our Welfare Reform White Paper “Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future” (CM: 7506) published on 10 December 2008 drives forward the transformation of the welfare state, turning it from being essentially passive to profoundly active. The Bill to enact these proposals is now before Parliament.
Previous experience has taught us that the worst thing we can do in a downturn is to write people off, consigning them to a lifetime on benefits. We are investing an additional £1.3 billion over the next two years to support Jobcentre Plus and our employment programmes; and a further £0.5 billion to guarantee more support to people unemployed for six months or more by providing incentives for firms to hire, access to help in setting up a business, extra funding for training and opportunities for work-focused volunteering.
Welfare Tax Credits: Overpayments
We welcomed the recommendation put forward by the Public Accounts Committee and as a result undertook research to establish the best means of implementation. This work is very near to completion and there will be a recovery target in place for benefit overpayments arising as a result of fraud at the start of the next financial year.
The good news is that we have reduced fraud from around 2 per cent. of benefit expenditure in 2000-01 to 0.6 per cent. in 2007-08 and is now at its lowest level ever. I hope the hon. Gentleman welcomes that.
A recovery target for benefit overpayments arising from fraud will be in place for the next financial year.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agricultural Buildings Allowance
I have been asked to reply.
The phased withdrawal of agricultural buildings allowance (ABAs) is part of a package of measures which also saw the reduction of the main rate of corporation tax and the introduction of a £50,000 annual investment allowance (AIA), allowing 95 per cent. of businesses to write off all their expenditure on plant and machinery in the year in which it is made.
The Government considered carefully the withdrawal of the ABA as part of this package of measures to modernise and simplify corporation tax. Taken as a whole these reforms to the business and personal tax systems are designed to deliver increases in investment and growth overall.
Olympic Games 2012: Facilities
In developing the plans for the mountain biking venue the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) will work with the local authority and the venue owner to ensure that the proposals meet the sporting and operational requirements for staging the Olympic event. Further to the Town Planning process, LOCOG and Essex county council will be talking to the local community to determine how best the games-time and legacy proposals meet with the satisfaction and support of the local people. This is a genuine opportunity to showcase Hadleigh, the county of Essex and the sport of mountain biking to a global audience.
Women and Equality
Departmental Public Expenditure
Plain English Campaign: Finance
Culture, Media and Sport
Departmental Official Hospitality
(2) what the cost to his Department was of the tourism summit in Liverpool on 8 January.
Departmental Conditions of Employment
Employees working in Iraq and Afghanistan are entitled to a two week break away from post for every six weeks worked.
DFID will only cover the cost of one return flight to the UK for each breather break. If employees wish to spend a break at an alternative location they must cover any additional costs, above the equivalent of the return ticket to the UK, themselves.
Employees are not reimbursed for other expenses incurred during the breather break.
Departmental Ministerial Policy Advisers
Departmental Public Relations
The cost of the Department for International Development's contracts with public relations consultancies over the last five years was £314,242.
These data have been extracted from readily available information and may not be comprehensive. To undertake an extensive interrogation of records over the last five years would incur disproportionate cost.
The Department for International Development (DFID) advises that fast stream staff undertake at least 15 days a year on learning and development activities. The specific training for each individual is determined between the line manager of the post and the individual. Records are not maintained centrally for each individual's learning and development, but normally some external training courses would form part of the learning and development. A wide variety of external providers are used. It regularly includes courses run by the National School of Government.
Approximately 100 sub-departments and overseas offices within DFID are responsible for identifying learning and development opportunities for each staff member, including external training courses. Information on the number of staff attending external training courses is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Departmental Working Hours
The Department for International Development (DFID) employs a diverse work force and so allows employees to work a wide range of flexible working patterns to fulfil their contracted hours; this may include some evening work. However, employees who opt to work flexibly must still take a minimum lunch break of at least 30 minutes. This also applies to employees that opt to work standard hours instead of flexible hours.
DFID only permits their employees to work beyond their contracted hours in the evenings or at weekends to meet essential business needs. Where employees work overtime, it is our policy to allow them to opt for either payment or time off in lieu.
International Economic Relations: Developing Countries
The Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have consistently called for reform of the international financial institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The Government want to make these institutions more effective so that they are able to respond better to current and future global challenges. This will need to include addressing weaknesses in their legitimacy. At the October 2008 World Bank annual meetings I and other World Bank governors agreed a first package of measures to reform the Bank's governance, which included increased representation for African countries and opening up the appointment of the World Bank president. We also agreed that a second phase of reform would be taken forward to give poorer countries more say in the World Bank’s decision making.
At the Washington summit on 15 November G20 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to reforming the World Bank and the IMF to increase their legitimacy and effectiveness. My Department is working with other G20 countries to identify specific actions to take forward this agenda. I have regular discussions with the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other members of the Cabinet about these and other issues that will be discussed at the London summit.
The Department for International Development (DFID) does not disaggregate spend into the categories requested. DFID currently holds records against the following categories of expenditure on conflict:
Category Total expenditure in financial years 2002-03 to 2007-08 Security system management and reform 69.4 Civilian peace-building, conflict prevention and resolution 213.6 Land mine clearance 65.2 Total 348.2
Total expenditure in financial years 2002-03 to 2007-08
Security system management and reform
Civilian peace-building, conflict prevention and resolution
Land mine clearance
Sri Lanka: Armed Conflict
The worsening humanitarian plight of some 230,000 trapped civilians following the Sri Lankan government's recent offensive causes great concern. We deplore such incidents as the recent shelling of a hospital.
We constantly monitor the situation through our high commission and other sources, supplemented by field visits by Department for International Development humanitarian staff. We have recently programmed £2.5 million humanitarian funding through the UN, Red Cross and non-government organisations. We are sending another humanitarian mission in the next few weeks and have agreed a further £2.5 million humanitarian funding.
But the problem will not be resolved by funding alone. We are resolute in pressing for better humanitarian access for aid convoys and other relief within safe humanitarian space. The Foreign Secretary repeated this to President Rajapakse on 30 January.
Sudan: Politics and Government
I have been asked to reply.
The humanitarian situation in Darfur remains precarious. Although violence is not on the scale of 2003-04, insecurity continues to hamper the delivery of aid. In 2008, a further 310,000 civilians entered internally displaced persons’ camps to bring the total to 2.7 million. 277 relief vehicles were hijacked, 192 compounds attacked and 11 humanitarian workers were killed.
Improving the humanitarian situation in Darfur remains a high priority for us. My noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, Lord Malloch Brown, discussed Darfur with Djibril Bassolé, African Union (AU)/UN Chief Mediator for Darfur, in London on 15 December 2008, and we are in regular contact with his office. Our ambassador in Khartoum and her staff maintain close contact with all main political groups in Darfur, non-governmental organisations working in the region, and the AU/UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), and visited all three states of Darfur in the last three months.
Departmental Working Hours
The Northern Ireland Office do not record centrally days taken off in lieu granted to staff in (a) the 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.
(2) what estimate his Department has made of the administrative cost to businesses in Northern Ireland of a variation in the rate at which value added tax is levied.
I am fully supportive of the Year of Homecoming and will be taking appropriate opportunities to promote it throughout the year along with my other ministerial colleagues. I have already obtained the support of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in promoting the initiative.
Channel Tunnel: Tolls
The future charges for use of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link have been subject to recent consultation and HS1 Limited is discussing these charges with train operators and industry representatives as part of its consideration of that consultation. Further details can be found on the HS1 website at:
The Government wishes to see charges set at a level which maximises use of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and encourages competition, while ensuring the market makes the fullest contribution towards the costs of constructing the railway.
Departmental Conditions of Employment
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency: Industrial Disputes
Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency: Personal Records
The procedures in place for the release of vehicle keeper details from DVLA’s vehicle register are kept under review. An announcement will be made shortly on the additional measures DVLA intend to introduce for car park enforcement companies requesting vehicle keeper details manually.
Public Transport: Complaints
Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations
I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 27 October 2008, Official Report, columns 622-23W.
Two incidents of theft of British military supplies during transit from the port of disembarkation in Pakistan to the final destination in Afghanistan have been reported to the Royal Military Police between 18 July 2008 and 26 January 2009 inclusive.
Between 1 October 2008 and 24 January 2009 one soldier from 1st Battalion The Rifles was very seriously injured, and another Rifleman was seriously injured.
(2) where the training of personnel will take place;
(3) what aspects of the flying training will be conducted.
The aspects of flying training to be conducted will be appropriate to the environmental and operational conditions in Afghanistan.
The training of RAF Merlin Force air and ground crew will take place in the UK (at RAF Benson, on Salisbury Plain and other UK training areas), with some elements likely to be overseas as part of a rolling programme prior to deployment.
Much of the theatre-specific preparation will need to take place during the four month period between completion of deployment to Iraq and commencement of deployment to Afghanistan; but some elements of training may commence earlier.
I am withholding further details as their disclosure would, or would likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.
I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr. MacNeil) on 14 October 2008, Official Report, column 1016W.
Air Force: Manpower
59 aircraft of the RAF Multi-Engine fleet that are planned to be in service on 31 March 2009 have Weapons System Officers (Navigator) (WSO(Nav)) as part of the crew. These comprise the Hercules C130K, VC10, Sentry, Sentinel, Nimrod MR2 and Nimrod R1 aircraft.
63 aircraft of the RAF Multi-Engine fleet that are planned to be in service on 31 March 2009 have Air Engineers as part of the crew. These comprise the Hercules C130K, Tristar, VC10, Sentry, Nimrod MR2 and Nimrod R1 aircraft.
Navigators form a sub-branch of the weapon system officer specialisation and flight engineers are more correctly known as air engineers. Currently there are 285 weapon system officer (navigators) and 175 air engineers available to serve in multi-engine aircraft1. These figures include personnel who are currently trained and qualified to serve in a multi-engine aircraft, those who occupy another type of flying appointment and those who occupy a non-flying post. Those in the last two categories would require refresher training before they would be available to serve in multi-engine aircraft.
1 Figures have been rounded to the nearest five.
Armed Forces: Deployment
The endorsed force levels for UK military operations are set out in the following table by location.
Location Endorsed number (at 1 January 2009)1 Afghanistan2 8,050 Southern Iraq 4,100 Baghdad3 250 At sea 1,050 Falklands/South Atlantic 1,500 Qatar 700 Cyprus 300 Kuwait 550 Kosovo 150 Bahrain 50 Bosnia <50 Other4 100 1 Rounded to 50 2 On 15 December 2008, the Prime Minister announced a temporary increase in the number of British troops deployed to Afghanistan, from just over 8,050 to 8,300, Official Report, column 816. The endorsed figure for Operation Herrick 9 remains unaffected. 3 Providing support to the Senior British Military Representative—Iraq. 4 Small scale deployments in support of EU and UN missions, and headquarters liaison officers.
Endorsed number (at 1 January 2009)1
1 Rounded to 50
2 On 15 December 2008, the Prime Minister announced a temporary increase in the number of British troops deployed to Afghanistan, from just over 8,050 to 8,300, Official Report, column 816. The endorsed figure for Operation Herrick 9 remains unaffected.
3 Providing support to the Senior British Military Representative—Iraq.
4 Small scale deployments in support of EU and UN missions, and headquarters liaison officers.
The precise number of personnel in each theatre at any one time fluctuates very significantly on a daily basis for a variety of reasons, including mid-tour rest and recuperation, temporary absence for training, evacuation for medical reasons, the roulement of forces, visits and a range of other factors. We do not therefore publish actual figures for personnel deployed in theatre.
Armed Forces: Females
In the 12 month period, ending on 31 October 2008, out of a total of just over 100 personnel recruited into the General Duties (Pilot) branch of the Royal Air Force, fewer than 10 were women.
This figure has been rounded up to the nearest 10 in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the convention on presentation of national statistics.
Armed Forces: Housing
The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Occupants of service accommodation are made aware of the location of any asbestos known to be present in their accommodation and are given appropriate health and safety advice. Reports by occupants of suspected damage to any asbestos-carrying material are investigated, and, where required, action taken in accordance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations.
Armed Forces: Manpower
Information on strengths and requirements of the armed forces by service can be found in table 1 of Tri-Service Publication (TSP) 4—UK armed forces quarterly manning report. TSP 4 is published quarterly and, the most recent publication shows figures as at 1 October 2008, can be found at:
http://www.dasa.mod.uk/applications/newWeb/www/index php ?page=48&pubType=1&thiscontent=20&PublishTime=09:30:00& date=20081127&disText=01%20Oct%202008&from=listing&top Date=2008-11-27
Requirement is not split by unit for the three services. Strengths information by unit can be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Armed Forces: Pakistan
There are currently 18 UK armed forces personnel based in Pakistan. UK personnel undertake a variety of roles, including training and liaison. In addition, some personnel undertake diplomatic duties and fill exchange posts.
Armed Forces: Training
The number of individuals in the armed forces that have failed to complete successfully basic training in each year since 2000 is not centrally held.
Information on outflow to civil life from the untrained strength of UK regular forces by sex and ethnic origin can be found in Table 7 of Tri-Service Publication (TSP) 4—UK armed forces quarterly manning report. TSP 4 is published quarterly and, the most recent publication shows figures for the 12 months to 30 September 2008, can be found at:
http://www.dasa.mod.uk/applications/newWeb/www/index.php?page=48&pubType1&thiscontent=20&PublishTime =09:30:00&date=20081127&disText=01%20Oct%202008&from= listing&topDate=2008-11-27
Outflow to civil life from the untrained strength of UK regular forces includes outflow from phase 1 (basic) and phase 2 training.
Outflow to civil life from the untrained strength of UK regular forces by branch information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Armoured Fighting Vehicles
No Ridgback vehicles have yet been shipped to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Delivery to Afghanistan is due to begin later this year and there are no plans to deploy Ridgback to Iraq.
Cyprus: Military Bases
The Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) of Akrotiri and Dhekelia cover an area of around 98 square miles. Approximately 60 per cent. of this land is privately owned. This land may be utilised by owners as they see fit within the applicable Law.
The functions of government relating to the administration and regulation of agricultural activities, as well as land registration are delegated to the Government of the Republic of Cyprus who would hold the data. The SBA Administration does not hold the information requested and it could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
As part of the Department's normal planning round we review the full scope of our future equipment programme, alongside other elements of the defence programme, so that judgments can be made on overall priorities and balance of investment to maximise defence capability within the available resources. In my written statement on 11 December 2008, Official Report, columns 65-7WS, I informed Parliament about the major decisions emerging from our examination of the equipment programme and indicated that any further significant changes would be announced following the conclusion of the planning round.
Defence: Military Aircraft
The A400M aircraft has been specified to carry a payload of 32 tonnes. It is currently forecast to meet this requirement, and exceed it under certain scenarios.
Departmental Data Protection
The information is not held centrally in the format requested. However, records held centrally of civilian staff dismissed since April 2002 include no cases of dismissal specifically for losing memory sticks, laptop computers, desktop computers and mobile telephones belonging to the Department.
(2) how many computers in his Department have been infected with the recently reported computer virus;
(3) what his estimate is of the cost to his Department of resolving the recent computer virus problem;
(4) what assessment he has made of the source of the recent computer virus problem which affected his Department;
(5) how many computers in (a) Iraq, (b) Afghanistan and (c) other UK military bases overseas have been infected with a computer virus in the last two months; and what the (i) name and (ii) location of the base is in each case.
It would not be in the interests of the UK's national security for the Ministry of Defence to release information regarding the impact of any computer virus infection on its IT systems as this would enable individuals to deduce how successful these infections are against the network and so assist such persons in establishing the effectiveness of the UK's IT defences.
As at 21 January 2009 there were 886 MOD staff in the Redeployment Pool.
The Department’s automated records do not facilitate ready identification of the number of those in the pool who were placed there on their return from maternity leave. This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
346 staff have been in the pool for at least six months and, of those, 214 have been in the pool for at least 12 months.
This information is not held by the MOD; however, the Advertising Standards Authority report that between January 1997 and December 2008 the following complaints were made about MOD sponsored advertisements:
Royal Navy: four complaints about four cases, none of which were upheld.
Army: 92 complaints about 76 cases, none of which were upheld.
RAF: seven complaints received about seven cases, one of which remains under investigation while the remaining six were not upheld.
These statistics do not include complaints about TV or Radio broadcasts made between 1997 and 2006 as this information is not centrally held.
Departmental Ministerial Policy Advisers
The data requested are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
However public appointments to the MOD's non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are run through a visibly open, fair and rigorous recruitment and selection process under the rules of the Office of the Commissioner of Public Appointments (OCPA). Successful candidates have to declare their political activities. Information on MOD's public appointments can be found at:
In respect of information on MOD's special advisers, since 2003 their names, overall costs and the number in each pay band are published on an annual basis by the Cabinet Office.
I will shortly be updating the House on this issue.
International Security Assistance Force
I have had numerous discussions with my NATO counterparts on the subject of troops contributions. Through the force generation process, NATO is working to fill the Operational Reserve Force for ISAF. This requirement was identified on NATO’s Combined Statement of Requirement in 2006. There are in-theatre reserves available.
Currently, there are 18 members of the UK armed forces working as part of the NATO Training Mission in Iraq.
Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations
As the Prime Minister set out on 18 December 2008, Official Report, columns 1233-1235, we will complete our remaining military tasks in Iraq by 31 May 2009 and move to a normal bilateral defence relationship. As part of the future relationship, the government of Iraq have indicated that they would like the UK to continue to provide military training and education. The precise scope of this training and education will inform decisions on the number of UK service personnel in Iraq after 31 July. Decisions will also be based on advice from our military commanders and conditions on the ground. On the basis of our discussions with the Iraqi government to date, I anticipate that this future activity would involve no more than around 400 UK service personnel, which military commanders judge should be sufficient to support the delivery of these tasks safely and effectively.
(2) what estimate he has made of the number of commercial (a) planes and (b) ships to be hired to assist with the withdrawal of British forces from Iraq; and what the cost to his Department is estimated to be.
Plans have not yet been finalised for the recovery of equipment and personnel from Iraq. Until such time, it is not possible to quantify the amount of lift that will be necessary to move all the items and personnel. It is intended, however, that the majority of the recovery will be conducted by surface means using the MOD RoRo resources as far as possible in conjunction with commercial liner services. As the requirement to sustain Iraq reduces, the requirement for the lift will diminish.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development (DfID) worked together on planning for Operation TELIC, including on humanitarian and reconstruction issues, and in other areas of stabilisation and conflict prevention. The House of Commons Defence Committee recognised in its report, ‘Lessons of Iraq’, published on 16 March 2004, that DfID was a ‘key player’ in planning for the post-conflict situation in Iraq. This close co-operation has continued ever since.
RAF C-17 aircraft are fitted with titanium components manufactured by Western Titanium. There are no safety or airworthiness issues arising from the use of these components.
Military Aircraft: Training
Dedicated helicopter flying training for all services is carried out by Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury, with further training for Army personnel carried out by DHFS at Middle Wallop. The contract requires the delivery of flying hours, rather than a specific number of aircraft. It is up to the contractor to decide how many aircraft are required to deliver the required hours. The number of helicopters that the contractor has used to deliver the flying hours required in each year since 2001 under the DHFS contract is:
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 Shawbury Griffin 9 9 11 11 11 11 11 12 Squirrel 28 28 28 28 27 27 25 25 Middle Wallop Squirrel 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
Once initial training has been completed, all further training requirements are serviced by helicopters in the Forward Fleet. There are many categories of flying training which are carried out on Forward Fleet aircraft that are also used for Operational purposes. It is not therefore possible to identify aircraft used solely for training.
I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 26 January 2009, Official Report, column 37W, which provided the numbers of helicopters in the Forward Fleet.
I will write to the hon. Member and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.
Royal Navy ships participating in counter-piracy operations are trained and provided with the required rules of engagement to counter the threats they may face. Under these guidelines, HMS Cumberland successfully deterred an attack and rescued a pirated Yemeni vessel and crew last November.
I am withholding details of rules of engagement as their release would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.
Project on National Security Reform
The Ministry of Defence has given no grants to the Project on National Security Reform.
In addition to the existing, extensive welfare support provided by the Services, units receive a Families Welfare Grant to support the families of those who have deployed. Units can exercise considerable discretion in how this money is spent but typically it might be used to; pay for families briefings, to provide additional communications facilities such as internet access or to subsidise the cost of families outings. In acknowledgement of the demands placed upon our families we doubled this Grant in November last year so that each unit now receives £2.20 per week for each person deployed; for a typical battalion this amounts to about £35,000 over a six month deployment. Families also benefit from the email and telephone access, and free blueys and e-blueys provided to deployed personnel to help them keep in touch with their loved ones.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations
[holding answer 12 January 2009]: As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced to the House on 3 December 2008, Official Report, columns 28-29, a review of the Government’s Afghanistan policy is under way, involving the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, and reporting to the Prime Minister. Once completed, the findings and implications of the review will be announced to the House.
The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) maintains three research stations in the British Antarctic Territory on behalf of the UK. Two operate year-round (Rothera, Adelaide Island and Halley, Coats Land) and the third is a summer-only base (Signy, South Orkney Islands). Numbers of personnel at each of the bases are as follows:
Rothera—between 80-120 in summer and 21 in winter
Halley—up to 70 (summer) and 16 (winter)
Signy—up to nine (summer only)
In addition, BAS also operates two year-round research stations in the UK Overseas Territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. These are at King Edward Point, South Georgia and Bird Island. Numbers of personnel at these bases are:
King Edward Point—up to 22 (summer) and 10 (winter)
Bird Island—up to 10 (summer) and four (winter).
The UK is committed to maintaining its leading role in Antarctic science and research and is conducting an extensive, multi-disciplinary programme of activities in the British Antarctic Territory and more widely within the Antarctic. These include areas such as climate change, sea level rise and the sustainable use of natural resources. The contribution of UK scientists, especially those at the British Antarctic Survey (a research institute of the Natural Environment Research Council), not only helps increase our understanding of the complex natural systems that are vital to the health of the planet but also underpins the UK’s high profile within the Antarctic Treaty System.
The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty sets out a comprehensive regime for the protection of the Antarctic environment and prohibits any activity relating to mineral resources, other than scientific research. We have received no reports on attempted oil exploration or research in the Antarctic by other countries.
There are 70 Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs) in the Antarctic of which 14 were proposed solely or jointly by the UK.
None of the ASP As for which the UK is responsible within the British Antarctic Territory receive funding, other than that needed to prepare and update management plans. Direct funding of the above ASP As is unnecessary as all such designated areas are given comprehensive protection via the Antarctic Treaty System and all states parties to the treaty are required to control access and entry strictly.
Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh last visited Belize in February 1994. HRH the Princess Royal subsequently visited in April 2001, and HRH the Duke of York in March 2002.
Ministerial visits to Belize, in the last 15 years, have included:
February 1998 Tony Lloyd, then Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister;
January 2000 Peter Kilfoyle, then Ministry of Defence Minister;
July 2000 John Battle, then FCO Minister
May 2002 Dr. Denis MacShane, then FCO Minister
January 2004 Bill Rammell, then FCO Minister;
April 2004 Meg Munn, then FCO Minister.
There are no current plans for FCO Ministers to visit Belize and it is not practice to announce Royal Visits until all parties concerned have agreed they can proceed, and all arrangements are in place.
Information about ministerial travel to Belize in years preceding 1994 is not available and could be provided only at a disproportionate cost.
Foreign and Commonwealth office records show that visits by Brazilian Government Ministers to the UK since 2001 include those of President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, who made a state visit to the UK in 2006, and also visited in 2003, the Brazilian Foreign Minister, Secretary of the Treasury, and the Ministers for Agriculture, Development, Planning, Finance and Justice.
We do not hold comprehensive records on visits by Ministers of the Brazilian Government organised or facilitated by other Government Departments since 2001.
I visited Brazil in December 2008. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers have made nine other official visits to Brazil since 2001. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett) visited Brazil in July 2006 when Foreign Secretary, and there have also been ministerial visits by my right hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), my noble Friend Lord Triesman, and my hon. Friends the Members for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), Dudley, South (Ian Pearson) and Harlow (Bill Rammell).
The ‘post reductions’ referred to in the Department’s Performance Report relate to jobs within the British Council’s global support services. Decisions on particular jobs will be determined by a review of the British Council’s support services, which will report in summer 2009. The review will consider how best to maximise efficiency and effectiveness from the Council’s support services through the consolidation of these activities into a small number of global hubs. The British Council’s capital expenditure related to its Global Estates will be reviewed within the same timescale.
British Overseas Territories
The 1999 White Paper on the Overseas Territories (Partnership for Progress and Prosperity) made clear that it is for the citizens of each territory to determine whether they wish to stay linked to Britain or not. Our policy remains to give every help and encouragement to those territories that wish to proceed to independence, where it is an option. Since the White Paper, no territory has opted for independence, we have therefore not made a recent assessment of the merits of granting independence to any overseas territory.
The UK has consistently supported firm action in all UN bodies on the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burmese regime. The UK supported a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly on 21 November 2008 which called on Burma to release, without delay and conditions, opposition activists who have been arrested arbitrarily. It also condemned the ongoing, systematic violations of civil, political, economic and social rights of the people of Burma.
Our ambassador in Burma has made clear to Burmese Ministers that all political prisoners must be released in line with UN Security Council demands. We will continue to work to keep the issue of Burma on the agenda of the UN Security Council.
[holding answer 19 January 2009]: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office continually seeks to improve on the service delivered to British Nationals overseas. Our overarching approach is set out in the Consular Strategy 2007-2010, a copy of which I will place in the Library of the House.
Examples of recent steps the FCO has taken to improve the service we offer includes: an increase of over 100 per cent. in the number of Missions which can take payment for services by credit card; passport applications and the majority of consular forms are now available on the internet; the public can register with our online crisis registration tool, LOCATE, supporting our consular response during a crisis; internet enabled computers have been installed in some consular waiting rooms; registered British nationals resident in a some countries can now receive SMS updates with important information; and we have modernised and improved on the training package for consular officials—including a requirement for staff to pass a customer care skills assessment.
We have improved and increased our monitoring of the service we provide to British nationals, and will use that information to identify how we can still further improve on the services we provide.
Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Resources
Democratic Republic of Congo: Armed Conflict
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister discussed the part Rwanda might play in resolving the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with President Kagame in December 2008. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown, also discussed the issue with President Kagame during their visits to Kigali in November 2008. We continue to urge the Governments of the DRC and Rwanda to co-operate in efforts to settle the issues at the root of the conflict. I am encouraged by the progress they have made in recent months.