Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 487: debated on Monday 2 February 2009

Written Answers to Questions

Monday 2 February 2009

Work and Pensions

Pension Credit: Savings

12. To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he plans to amend the 10 per cent. rule on savings when calculating pension credit. (253035)

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.

Incapacity Benefit

13. To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has for future arrangements for assistance offered by his Department to long-term recipients of incapacity benefit. (253036)

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.

Jobcentre Plus

17. To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps Jobcentre Plus is taking to help unemployed people find jobs. (253040)

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.

Youth Unemployment

18. To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent representations he has received on levels of unemployment among 18 to 24 year olds; and if he will make a statement. (253041)

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.

Jobseeker's Allowance

20. To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what projection he has made of the number of people who will have been claiming jobseeker's allowance for over 12 months by October 2009. (253043)

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.

24. To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people aged between 18 and 24 years are claiming jobseeker’s allowance in (a) Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency and (b) the UK. (253048)

The number of 18 to 24-year-olds in the UK claiming jobseeker’s allowance in December 2008 was 355,300.

In Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey the number of 18 to 24-year-olds claiming jobseeker’s allowance was 315.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to the answers of 26 November 2008, Official Report, column 1997W, on jobseeker’s allowance, what research analysis his Department has undertaken on the proportion of time jobseeker’s allowance claimants spent (a) on benefits and (b) not on benefits or in work over a set period of time, including claimants with more than one benefit claim in the last five years. (243218)

[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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the highest number of repeat claims made for jobseeker’s allowance is; (249363)

(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 information is not routinely collected and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people have claimed jobseeker’s allowance for (a) five, (b) six, (c) seven, (d) eight, (e) nine and (f) 10 or more years. (249364)

The available information is in the table.

Jobseeker’s allowance claimants at May 2008 by duration

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.

National Minimum Wage

21. To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent discussions he has had with Ministers in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on the effects of the national minimum wage on levels of unemployment. (253044)

Ministers hold regular meetings to discuss the impacts of departmental policies on the economy.

Carer's Allowance

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his Department's estimate is of the cost to the public purse of introducing a withdrawal rate for carer's allowance of (a) 10 per cent., (b) 20 per cent., (c) 30 per cent., (d) 40 per cent., (e) 50 per cent., (f) 60 per cent., (g) 70 per cent., (h) 80 per cent. and (i) 90 per cent. that would take effect at the current earnings limit in each of the next six years. (249153)

Child Support

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to improve the performance of the child support system. (253037)

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.

Child Poverty

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his most recent estimate is of the level of child poverty; and what plans he has to reduce it. (253042)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of contractors and suppliers to (a) his Department and (b) its agencies has reported compliance with the Government’s security standards following publication of the report, Data Handling Procedures in Government, and the accompanying document, Cross-departmental Actions: Mandatory Minimum Action, on 25 June 2008. (245331)

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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the Answer of 12 January 2009, Official Report, column 24W, on departmental data protection, what the names of the (a) Senior Information Risk Owner and (b) Information Asset Owners are. (248750)

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.

Departmental ICT

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has for his Department to achieve capability maturity model integration level 3 and beyond. (248938)

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.

Departmental Manpower

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to the Answer of 17 July 2008, Official Report, column 640W, on departmental personnel, how many staff without posts there are in (a) his Department and (b) its agencies; how many staff without posts were classified as such upon return from maternity leave; and how many of the staff without posts have been classified as such for at least (i) six and (ii) 12 months. (250103)

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

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.

Departmental Pay

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many bonuses to staff were paid by his Department in each year since 1998; how much was so paid in each year; and for what purposes these bonuses were awarded. (248728)

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:

Table 1: Department Total

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

Table 2: Total below SCS

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

Table 3: Total SCS

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.

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the two-year time limit on claims for income support for mortgage interest for jobseeker’s allowance claimants will apply to existing claimants. (249368)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many Jobcentre Plus offices have closed in each of the last five years. (251467)

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

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many jobseekers in each region have found (a) employment and (b) sustained employment with employers who have signed-up to local employment partnerships in each quarter since local employment partnerships were established. (248440)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people have been placed in work through local employment partnerships in each year since such partnerships were established, broken down by Jobcentre Plus area. (249394)

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.

The number of people finding work through local employment partnerships by region

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the maximum amount of funding that businesses are eligible to receive when working with Jobcentre Plus in local employment partnerships is (a) per person placed in work and (b) in total; (249396)

(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.

Public Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to page 92 of the pre-Budget report (1) how much money his Department accrued in each of the last 10 years; and what proportion each year's contribution made to the stock of money not spent in earlier years; (245033)

(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

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what estimate he has made of the number of benefit claims maintained by post in each year since 1997; (249361)

(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

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many work-focused interviews for each category of benefit were conducted in each of the last five years. (244202)

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.

Work focused interviews attended broken down by year and benefit

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

Social Security Benefits: Reform

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what steps he plans to take in (a) the UK, (b) the North East, (c) Tees Valley district and (d) Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency to ensure that his policy on welfare reform policies will be effective; (245808)

(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

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to the Treasury Minute entitled Progress in tackling benefit fraud, issued in response to the Committee of Public Accounts' Thirty-first Report of Session 2007-08, when his Department expects to set recovery targets for benefit overpayments as a result of fraud. (253047)

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.

Prime Minister

Lobbying

To ask the Prime Minister if he will allow the recording and broadcast of lobby briefings given by his spokesman to lobby journalists. (253230)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my predecessor (the right hon. Tony Blair) on 2 February 2001, Official Report, column 335W.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agricultural Buildings Allowance

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the merits of reinstating the agricultural buildings allowance. (252106)

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.

Olympics

Olympic Games 2012: Facilities

To ask the Minister for the Olympics if she will consult residents of Hadleigh before any decisions are taken on the development of Hadleigh and the surrounding area to facilitate the Olympic mountain bike events; and if she will make a statement. (251063)

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 Pensions

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality how many civil servants working in the Government Equalities Office have pensions with a cash equivalent transfer value of over £1 million. (251671)

The Government Equalities Office has one civil servant who has a pension with a cash equivalent transfer value of over £1 million.

Departmental Public Expenditure

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what the budget for the Government Equalities Office is for (a) 2008-09, (b) 2009-10 and (c) 2010-11. (251678)

The budget for the Government Equalities Office can be found in the Core Tables (Annex A) of the Annual Report and Resource Accounts 2007-08 which has been laid in the House of Commons Library.

Plain English Campaign: Finance

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality how much the Government Equalities Office spent on Plain English Campaign training courses in each year since its establishment. (251652)

Culture, Media and Sport

Departmental Official Hospitality

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the cost of the dinner hosted by his Department at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool on 20 November 2008 was, broken down by category of cost. (250404)

[holding answer 22 January 2009]: The cost of the event at the Walker Art Gallery was £5,550.

ICT: Reviews

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the cost of the Digital Britain review has been to date; what estimate he has made of the (a) staff costs and (b) total costs of the review; and when he expects the review to make its final report. (249190)

[holding answer 19 January 2009]: The estimated cost of the Digital Britain review to date is £195,315, borne jointly by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Tourism

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) what the cost of (a) venue hire, (b) travel expenses and (c) food and drink was for the tourism summit hosted by his Department in Liverpool on 8 January 2009; (250251)

(2) what the cost to his Department was of the tourism summit in Liverpool on 8 January.

[holding answer 22 January 2009]: The estimated total costs to the Department for Culture Media and Sport of the tourism summit in Liverpool on 8 January is £7,745.01.

International Development

Apprentices

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development with reference to the Answer of 21 May 2008, Official Report, column 329W, on apprentices, what progress has been made on increasing the number of apprentices in his Department; and how many apprentices his Department employed at the latest date for which figures are available. (251936)

In line with the Skills Strategy—Next Steps, the Department for International Development (DFID) has committed to putting in place five apprenticeships for each of the next two years. The Department currently has no apprenticeships under way.

Departmental Buildings

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much his Department spent on works and refurbishment to offices allocated to Ministers in departmental buildings in the last 12 months. (252376)

Over the last 12 months the Department for International Development (DFID) has spent £14,146 on works to the Ministers' offices and those of their private office staff. This includes the creation of a new waiting and meeting area.

Departmental Conditions of Employment

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development with reference to his Answer of 11 November 2008, Official Report, column 986, on departmental conditions of employment, what the (a) highest, (b) lowest, (c) mean and (d) total amount was spent on (i) travel and (ii) other expenses for those who took their (A) two week break in home country and (B) two week break outside their home country in each year since 2005. (251971)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the cost of provision of Government cars to special advisers in his Department has been in the last 12 months. (251027)

The Department for International Development does not provide Government cars to special advisers.

Departmental Public Relations

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the cost of his Department's contracts with public relations consultancies was in each of the last five years. (251252)

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.

Departmental Training

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development with reference to the answer of 5 November 2008, Official Report, column 510W, on departmental training, what personal training courses at public expense other Ministers in his Department have undertaken since 1 January 2008. (251324)

Other Ministers in the Department for International Development have taken the following personal training courses at public expense since 1 January 2008:

Public Communications.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development which external organisations his Department has 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. (252221)

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.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development 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. (252271)

The Department for International Development has not used the Internet Advertising Bureau to provide any training courses in 2008.

Departmental Travel

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what expenditure his Department has incurred in providing transport for Ministers between Parliament and departmental premises in each of the last five years. (251873)

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 International Development 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. (252019)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proposals his Department has put forward for the reform of international financial institutions to meet international development objectives; what recent discussions he has had with (a) the Prime Minister and (b) the Chancellor of the Exchequer on these proposals; and if he will make a statement. (251226)

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.

Peace

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much his Department has spent on (a) peace education, (b) mediation, (c) conflict prevention, (d) conflict resolution, (e) interfaith dialogue and (f) other peace development initiatives since January 2002; and if he will make a statement. (252108)

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:

£ million

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

Sri Lanka: Armed Conflict

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka following the recent offensive by government troops on Tamil areas; and if he will make a statement. (253466)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of the humanitarian situation in Darfur; and if he will make a statement. (250815)

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.

Northern Ireland

Departmental Working Hours

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 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. (252016)

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.

VAT: Business

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what estimate his Department has made of the administrative cost to businesses in Northern Ireland of the recent temporary reduction in the rate at which value added tax is levied prior to that reduction taking place; (252309)

(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 have been asked to reply.

Estimated costs to business in the UK are published in the impact assessment of changes to the standard rate of VAT. This is available on the HM Treasury website. Reliable cost estimates cannot be produced on a regional basis.

Scotland

Homecoming Scotland

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what role the Scotland Office is playing in relation to the Homecoming Scotland 2009 initiative. (253090)

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.

Transport

Channel Tunnel: Tolls

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent assessment he has made of the train access charge regime for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, with particular reference to his policy of encouraging cross-border rail/freight movements. (253229)

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:

www.highspeed1.co.uk

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will ensure that no changes affecting the terms and conditions of staff will be made to the contractual parts of any staff handbooks within his Department without the consent of a recognised trade union. (253235)

The Department for Transport may make changes to the staff handbook following consultation or negotiation as appropriate with its recognised trade union.

Departmental Procurement

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reason the status of the tender notice entitled UK-London: Reward Strategy and Benefits Project detailed on his Department's Procurement Portal has changed to closed. (253234)

The contract notice published on 11 November 2008 changed to a closed status when the 30 day deadline for submission of applications to participate passed.

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency: Industrial Disputes

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he plans to take to recover funds due to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency identified in the Central London employment tribunal case between Mr Geoff Topliss and NCP Services Ltd. (253474)

There are no outstanding funds to recover. DVLA has receipts and appropriate documentation to show that all revenue due has been received by the agency.

Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency: Personal Records

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make it his policy to refuse paper requests to the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency for the release of driver information unless such requests meet the requirements applicable to requests submitted electronically. (253231)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will introduce an ombudsman system to deal with complaints concerning the transport system. (252903)

I have no plans to put such a system in place. A range of bodies already exist to deal with transport-related complaints.

Railways: Catering

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his policy is on the specification of restaurant car services in rail franchises let by his Department, with particular reference to franchises held by National Express. (253228)

For the recently-let rail franchises, the policy of the Department for Transport has been not to specify restaurant car services. This policy was applied to franchises now held by National Express.

Defence

Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many civilians have been killed in military action in Helmand province since February 2006. (249207)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 27 October 2008, Official Report, columns 622-23W.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many incidents of theft of British military equipment supplies during transit from the port of disembarkation in Pakistan to the final destination in Afghanistan have been reported since 18 July 2008. (251985)

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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many soldiers from the First Battalion The Rifles have been injured in Afghanistan since October 2008. (252119)

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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 26 January 2009, Official Report, column 23W, on Afghanistan: peacekeeping operations (1) how long the training will take; and what personnel will be involved in the training; (253215)

(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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many insurgents in Afghanistan were captured by British forces in each month in 2008; and how many (a) were subsequently released, (b) transferred to Afghan authorities and (c) remain in British custody. (253375)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many multi-engine aircraft in service with the Royal Air Force have (a) navigators and (b) flight engineers as part of the crew. (252389)

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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) navigators and (b) flight engineers are available to serve in multi-engine aircraft in service with the RAF. (252454)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) endorsed number, (b) actual number and (c) location was of all UK personnel deployed on operations on 1 January 2009. (249735)

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.

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many women have been recruited into the General Duties (Pilot) branch of the Royal Air Force in the last 12 months. (250025)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department has spent removing asbestos from (a) single living accommodation and (b) service families accommodation since 1997. (248658)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the manning (a) requirement and (b) level was in each unit of each service in the armed forces in each of the last five years. (252099)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many armed forces personnel are based in Pakistan; and what their role is. (250843)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many individuals in each branch of the armed forces have failed to complete successfully basic training in each year since 2000. (246701)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Ridgback armoured vehicles have been shipped to (a) Afghanistan and (b) Iraq since 2001. (251647)

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.

Army: Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much has been spent on (a) heavy infantry, (b) heavy artillery, (c) light infantry and (d) light artillery in each of the last 10 years. (252101)

The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Cyprus: Military Bases

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proportion of land in the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia is given over the private ownership for the purposes of agriculture. (252912)

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.

Defence: Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 11 December 2008, Official Report, columns 65-7WS, on defence equipment, what assessment he has made of the savings from the equipment budget required to be made in the 2009 planning round; and which programmes are being examined for savings. (253459)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the material carrying capacity is of the A400M. (250465)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of staff in his Department have been (a) investigated, (b) suspended and (c) dismissed for losing (i) memory sticks, (ii) laptop computers, (iii) desktop computers and (iv) mobile telephones belonging to his Department in each year since 1997. (248244)

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.

Departmental ICT

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many training exercises have been (a) cancelled and (b) delayed due to the recent computer virus problem affecting his Department; (253358)

(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.

Departmental Manpower

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East of 7 October 2008, Official Report, column 608W, on departmental manpower, how many staff in his Department and its agencies are in the redeployment pool; how many of them were placed in the pool after returning from maternity leave; and how many of them have been in the pool for at least (a) six months and (b) 12 months. (250095)

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.

Departmental Marketing

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many complaints about advertisements sponsored or funded by his Department were made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in each year from 1997 to 2008; and how many of these were upheld by the ASA in each year. (246648)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what expert advisers have been commissioned by his Department and its agencies since 1997; on what topic each was commissioned; and whether the adviser so appointed made a declaration of political activity in each case. (246958)

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:

www.mod.uk

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.

Detainee Numbers

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will update the figures given on detainee numbers as set out in his letter of 17 November 2008 to the right hon. Member for North East Hampshire; and if he will make a statement (253242)

International Security Assistance Force

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with his NATO counterparts on sourcing the requirement for International Security Assistance Force’s Operational Reserve Force; and if he will make a statement. (249743)

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.

Iraq

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the UK armed forces are working as part of NATO training forces in Iraq. (253206)

Currently, there are 18 members of the UK armed forces working as part of the NATO Training Mission in Iraq.

Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what factors he will take into account when making decisions on the number of troops to be deployed in Iraq. (250903)

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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he has made of the likely effects of the withdrawal of British forces from Iraq by July 2009 on the airbridge; (251982)

(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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 26 January 2009, Official Report, column 35W, on Iraq: peace keeping operations, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of co-operation between his Department and the Department for International Development on conflict prevention immediately prior to the invasion of Iraq. (253210)

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.

Military Aircraft

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether any of the C17 aircraft operated by the armed forces have been fitted with titanium parts manufactured by Western Titanium. (251746)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average number of helicopters of each type available for training purposes was in each year since 2001. (251705)

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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average number of aircraft of each type available for training purposes was in each year since 2001. (251706)

I will write to the hon. Member and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Military Attachés

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many defence attachés work in UK embassies, high commissions and consulates overseas; and how many did so in 1998. (250842)

The number of defence attachés who work in embassies and high commissions is currently 105; the number in 1998 was 115. No defence attachés are employed in consulates.

Pirates

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what rules of engagement apply to members of the armed forces when engaging pirates; and if he will make a statement. (250676)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much was given in grants to the Project on National Security Reform in each financial year since 1997-98. (249729)

The Ministry of Defence has given no grants to the Project on National Security Reform.

Service Families

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what support his Department provides to service families remaining in the UK while service personnel are on overseas operations. (252616)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer of 26 November 2008, Official Report, columns 1742-43W, on Afghanistan: peacekeeping operations, how he plans to inform the House of the implications of the Afghan review; and if he will make a statement. (246310)

[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.

Antarctic

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many personnel there are on each of the four British research stations in the British Antarctic Territory. (247701)

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).

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what research activity the UK is conducting in the British Antarctic Territory; and what the objectives of such research are. (247702)

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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what international laws govern drilling and mineral extraction rights in the British Antarctic Territory; and what reports he has received on attempted oil exploration or research in the Antarctic by other countries. (247703)

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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what areas in the British Antarctic Territories (a) are designated and (b) receive funding from his Department as sites of special scientific interest. (247704)

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.

Antarctic: Research

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the sources of funding are for the UK's research stations in the British Antarctic Territory. (248361)

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) maintains three research stations in the British Antarctic Territory on behalf of the UK. The core funding for maintaining these bases is provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Belize

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many ministerial or state visits to Belize there have been in each of the last 20 years; and what future ministerial or state visits are planned. (250740)

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.

Brazil

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times Ministers of the government of Brazil have visited the UK in an official capacity since 2001. (250120)

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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times Ministers in his Department have made official visits to Brazil since 2001. (250121)

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).

British Council

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans there are for reductions in British Council (a) posts and (b) capital works on its estates, as referred to on page 28 of his Department's Autumn 2008 Performance Report; and which posts have been identified for closure. (246264)

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of the merits of granting full independence to (a) the British Virgin Islands, (b) Bermuda, (c) the Turks and Caicos Islands, (d) Anguilla and (e) the Cayman Islands. (250424)

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.

Burma

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government has taken through the United Nations on the arrests of democracy activists in Burma. (250799)

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.

Consulates

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps the Government has taken to improve consular services for UK citizens abroad. (248108)

[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

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his Department will next lead the UK delegation to the meeting of the members of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. (247705)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will next lead the UK delegation at the 28th annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which will take place in Hobart, Australia from 26 October to 6 November 2009.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Armed Conflict

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will hold discussions with the government of Rwanda on its role in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (250130)

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.

Departmental Buildings