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Written Answers

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 20 July 2006

Written Answers

Thursday 20 July 2006

Asylum Seekers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What mechanisms they have put in place to ensure that asylum seekers persuaded to leave the United Kingdom by payments of £3,000 do not subsequently return under other identities to claim a further payment.[HL6396]

In assessing the eligibility of any applicant for the Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP) all details are checked on Home Office systems and any duplicate claim made is identified and will be refused. To maintain the integrity of the asylum system, any individual who is found not to be in need of international protection and who does not qualify for leave on another basis is required to leave the United Kingdom. If they have been refused assistance under VARRP and subsequently fail to depart voluntarily, they will face enforced removal.

We are developing procedures to deal with those who might be intending to abuse the system by seeking to return to the United Kingdom under a different identity and then trying to claim asylum again and they include the current capture of visa applicants’ fingerprints that covers 11 countries at present.

The results have shown that the capture of biometrics is helping to counter the return of failed asylum seekers to the UK. The Biometrics Programme in UKvisas, set up in 2005, is however extending the capture of biometrics to all remaining visa-issuing posts from late this summer, with completion aimed around the end of 2007.

As part of the initial asylum process, all asylum applicants are fingerprinted with the exception of those under the age of five.

These prints are stored in the Immigration and Asylum Fingerprint Service (IAFS) database. If a failed asylum seeker applies for a new visa, their fingerprints will be taken, (if they are applying in an overseas post where biometrics are currently captured), and checked by the Immigration Fingerprinting Bureau (IFB) against the IAFS database for possible matches in any identity. If an applicant is shown to have previously claimed asylum in a different identity, the two cases are linked on the Home Office system with alias details being listed on both records.

All asylum claims are determined on their individual merits, including any claims made by those who have previously availed themselves of VARRP.

Avian Flu

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they did not support a claim for compensation from United Kingdom poultry producers in relation to avian influenza while supporting claims from poultry producers from 14 other European Union member states; and, if so, why they did not support it.[HL6810]

Recent amendments to EU Council Regulations 2777/75 and 2771/75 provide legal powers to make special support measures available to member states in the event of a significant decline in consumer confidence in poultry products as a direct result of avian influenza, causing the market to collapse.

It is a long-established government policy that accommodating market fluctuations is something for the industry to manage. It is principally for this reason that we do not propose to exercise the EC provision to provide these exceptional market support measures.

Birds

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they propose to take to help prevent the trapping and trading of song birds across the European Union.[HL6846]

Council Directive 79/409/EEC (the “Birds Directive”) lays down rules for the protection, management and control of all wild birds naturally occurring in the European Union. Member states are already required to have legislation in place that meets the directive's requirements, and ensure it is put into practice effectively.

The “Birds Directive” is available at eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX: 31979L0409: EN: HTML.

The European Commission is responsible for making sure member states comply properly with the legal requirements of the directive.

Child Support Agency

asked Her Majesty's Government:

To what extent the current Child Support Agency's information technology is working satisfactorily. [HL6875]

The new child support scheme was introduced on 3 March 2003 and it has been well publicised that there have been a number of technical problems with the performance of the new computer system (CS2) from this date. A great deal of work has been carried out to improve the stability of the new computer system (CS2) over the past three years and operational performance has improved.

We are making good progress to remedy the remaining problems with the new computer system and future IT releases are planned. In addition, there are a number of additional enhancements to the computer system that form part of the programme to implement the three-year operational improvement plan.

Civil Service: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many of the posts identified in the Northern Ireland Civil Service workforce reduction plan for the period April 2004 to March 2008 were (a) filled by temporary, seconded or casual staff when identified, or were time or policy bound posts; and (b) how many of the total posts were due to disappear in the years ending March 2005 and March 2006; and how many of these posts were abolished in each of those two years respectively.[HL6744]

At 1 April 2004, 639 of the posts identified in the Northern Ireland Civil Service workforce reduction plan (ie funded posts within the 11 Northern Ireland departments and their agencies) were filled by casual staff.

Information is not available as to the number of funded posts filled at that date by temporary or seconded staff, or the number of funded posts which were time or policy bound.

The number of planned reductions in funded posts in the 11 Northern Ireland departments and their agencies was 311 in the year ending March 2005, and 763.5 in the year ending March 2006. On the same basis, the actual reductions achieved in each of these two years were 311 and 1,198.5 respectively.

Coalfields: Regeneration

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made by the Skillsbuilder programme of the Coalfield Regeneration Trust to secure new jobs for the miners formally employed at the Prince of Wales colliery, Pontefract; and what funding is proposed to facilitate the regeneration of that former coalfield site.[HL6983]

Skillsbuilder was a programme developed around the Prince of Wales colliery closure. Training supported by a wage subsidy was provided to enable miners to transfer their skills to the constructionand engineering sectors, gaining industry standard qualifications and employment. Up to March 2006, 538 former miners had moved directly into new jobs.

The regeneration of this site is being developed by UK Coal (site owners) and Wakefield Metropolitan District Council as part of their “Five Towns” regeneration programme. A master plan for the development of the site, which includes housing, industrial job creation, sports and leisure facilities and public amenities, is at an advanced stage of preparation and discussion, with all parties concerned pulling together in a venture to create a gateway to this strategically located area of West Yorkshire.

Crime: Homicide Figures

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will explain the difference between Home Office figures for homicide by shooting for the year ending 2005 as provided in the Written Answer by the Under-Secretary of State for Police and Security (HC Deb, col. 660W) and that provided by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on4 July (Official Report, col. 209) [HL6831]

The information provided by the Under-Secretary of State for Police and Security (Hansard 29 June 2006, col. 660W) was based on homicide index published figures and showed the apparent method of killing by year of recording, for calendar years 1990 to 1997 and financial years 1997-98 to 2004-05. Figures for shooting include cases where crossbows are used and excludes cases where firearms are used as a blunt instrument.

My reference to a 30 per cent reduction in the number of deaths resulting from the use of firearms, made during the Police and Justice Bill Committee debate on 4 July, related to provisional statistics for the year ending December 2005, published in the latest Home Office Crime in England and Wales quarterly update (Home Office Statistical Bulletin 06/06). On page seven of that document, it indicates that there were 73 offences involving firearms fired or used as a blunt instrument resulting in death between January and December 2004 compared to 51 between January and December 2005.This equates to a 30 per cent reduction.

Defence Research: QinetiQ

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether full open market valuations were applied to properties owned by the Defence Evaluation Research Agency when they were transferred to QinetiQ in 2001; and, if so, which valuer conducted the evaluations.[HL7008]

In accordance with Financial Reporting Standards, the properties were transferred to QinetiQ at fair acquisition value. This was derived from a valuation carried out by GVA Grimley LLP, with a valuation date of 30 June 2001. That was then adjusted to take account of certain additional site-specific factors, including details of lease arrangements and work carried out by environmental consultants to assess potential contamination. Valuations were carried out in accordance with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) manual of valuation and the practice statements for the valuation of properties in company accounts. The basis of the Grimley valuation was as follows:

for properties which, at the time of transfer, were seen as likely to be sold by QinetiQ, the Grimley valuation was on the basis of open market value (OMV);

for those properties which were anticipated to remain in use to support the ongoing business activities of the company, the valuation was, in accordance with accounting and Stock Exchange rules, based on the depreciated replacement cost (DRC). For technical reasons relating to specific properties, there were a small number of exceptions to this approach. These were: Alverstoke (transferred at OMV); Portsdown Technology Park (transferred at adjusted OMV to take account of certain environmental and other liabilities); Fort Halstead and Winfrith (where complex leasing arrangements required a separate assessment of fair value).

Separate clawback arrangements exist to ensure that the taxpayer shares in any excess gains from property disposals. The values used for calculating clawback are based on the unadjusted Grimley valuations and consequently may differ from the valuations used for the transfer of property from DERA to QinetiQ.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the rent payable on the South Arm explosion testing facility at Rosyth when it was transferred from the Defence Evaluation Research Agency to QinetiQ in 2001.[HL7009]

The Ministry of Defence property at South Arm Rosyth is still owned by the Ministry of Defence and was not transferred to QinetiQ inJune 2001, hence no rent was payable. QinetiQ operates the site to fulfil certain contracts that it has with the MoD.

Energy: Biomass

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the October 2005 report by the Biomass Task Force, whether the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will review the benefits accruing from the installation of a wood-chip boiler at its Worcester office.[HL6932]

Yes, we will be reviewing the benefits accruing from the installation of a wood-chip boiler at the Worcester office, as part of our action plan to reduce carbon emissions in line with targets for sustainable operations on the government estate, announced on 12 June.

We are required to reduce carbon emissions by12.5 per cent by 2010-11 and 30 per cent by 2020 (against the baseline year 1999-2000). There is also a target for the central government office estate to be carbon neutral by 2012.

As they use low-carbon technology, wood-chip boilers can make a significant contribution to achieving these targets. We are reviewing the efficiency of the Worcester boiler, in particular the flexibility to burn chips of varying moisture content and size, and plan to take forward the lessons learnt from that installation in considering similar projects at other sites on the Defra estate.

Energy: Light Bulbs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the likelihood of the retail sector promoting increases in the purchase by consumers of 11 watt compact fluorescent lamp light bulbs, which are needed for new energy savings, without government intervention.[HL6815]

The Government are already working to raise product standards and encourage consumers to use the most efficient products available. This includes light bulbs.

My department and HM Treasury are working with major retailers and the Energy Saving Trust to introduce voluntary schemes to raise the energy efficiency of the goods they sell. Initially it is expected that these schemes will focus on consumer electronics, but they may be expanded to other products.

Defra's Market Transformation Programme (MTP) supports measures such as the mandatory EU energy labelling scheme (the “A to G label”) which, for domestic light bulbs, has been mandatory since 1 January 2001. Energy labels provide clear and easily recognisable information about the energy consumption and performance of domestic products on a seven-point scale ranging from “A” (most efficient) to “G” (least efficient), thus enabling consumers to make a considered choice when purchasing energy-consuming products.

MTP also works with the Lighting Association, the Lighting Industry Federation, the Energy Saving Trust and the Energy Efficiency Partnership to promote energy-efficient lighting that is both commercially viable and acceptable to consumers.

The Energy Saving Trust endorses and vigorously promotes the best lighting products under its energy efficiency recommended scheme, and building regulations require new housing to have a minimum number of energy-efficient fittings.

Under the energy efficiency commitment, electricity and gas suppliers are required to meet targets for the promotion of improvements in domestic energy efficiency. They do this by encouraging and assisting household consumers to take up energy-efficient measures, including compact fluorescent lamps.

Environmental Protection

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why it has taken from December 2004 to May 2006 to respond to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's 25th report; and why they have not responded to recommendations 66 to 70, 72 and 73.[HL6978]

Under the terms of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's (RCEP) framework agreement with the department, a government response to their reports should be published within one year of publication. We agreed with the Royal Commission a longer timetable for the response in this case. The Royal Commission recognised that the delay enabled the response to reflect developments on the Marine Bill.

The key recommendation in the RCEP report was the need for a new framework for marine management. This could only be addressed in the Government response by including developments on the Marine Bill, after the public consultation on the Bill was launched on 29 March.

The Scottish Executive responded separately to the Royal Commission's report. We agreed that they should respond to recommendations 66 to 70, 72 and 73 on aquaculture as these recommendations were directed specifically to them.

EU: Vineyards

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What effect the European Union's policy of grubbing out vineyards and destroying or reconstituting nearly 1 billion bottles of wine will have on the growing British winemaking industry.[HL6275]

The European Union has a structural surplus of wine production which needs to be addressed to provide a sustainable future for the sector. A number of options for achieving this are set out in the Commission's communication, Towards a sustainable European wine sector, but detailed legislative proposals for reform of the current regime are not expected until early in 2007. A successful reform should allow dynamic and competitive industries to prosper in a restructured market.

Extradition

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 4 July, what are their reasons for stating that the case of the three NatWest Bank employees, awaiting extradition, is still sub judice.[HL6769]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 12 July (WA 123), whether the requirement that “warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” in the United States Bill of Rights is also a requirement under the British constitution and laws of the United Kingdom. [HL6972]

“Probable cause” does not form part of UK law, but, as I explained in my Written Answer of 12 July, this requirement is broadly comparable to the criteria for “information” set out in Section 71 of the Extradition Act 2003.

Freedom of Information

asked Her Majesty's Government:

For each month from January 2005 to June 2006 (a) how many applications for decision were received by the Information Commissioner's Office under Section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000; (b) how many information notices were issued by the Information Commissioner's Office under Section 51 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for the applications received under Section 50 in that month; and (c) how many decisions or enforcement notices were issued by the Information Commissioner's Office for the applications received under Section 50 in that month.[HL6899]

The information requested has been provided by the Information Commissioner and is set out in the table below.

Applicationsunder Section 50

Information notices issued under Section 51 for the Section 50 applications

Decision notices or enforcement notices for the Section 50 applications

January 2005

19

0

4

February 2005

133

2

28

March 2005

212

2

55

April 2005

290

7

59

May 2005

251

1

31

June 2005

201

3

23

July 2005

274

1

26

August 2005

240

1

9

September 2005

227

0

16

October 2005

190

0

6

November 2005

184

0

7

December 2005

152

0

4

January 2006

228

0

4

February 2006

234

0

0

March 2006

235

0

0

April 2006

221

0

0

May 2006

230

0

0

June 2006

197

0

0

Freud Communications: Government Contracts

asked Her Majesty's Government:

For each of the past three years, what contracts have been awarded and what payments have been made to Freud Communications by the Cabinet Office; and [HL6858]

For each of the past three years, what contracts have been awarded and what payments have been made to Freud Communications by the Prime Minister's Office.[HL6859]

The Prime Minister's Office forms an integral part of the Cabinet Office.

The Cabinet Office has not entered into any contracts with Freud Communications in the past three financial years.

Gambling: Casino Licences

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On how many occasions Ministers or officials have met each of the potential applicants for regional casino licences since 1 January 2003.[HL6757]

Under the Gambling Act 2005, local authorities acting in their capacity as licensing authorities will be responsible for issuing the one regional, eight large and eight small new casino licences permitted by the Act. Licensing authorities will be required to run the competitions for these licences in a fair and open way. These competitions are not expected to begin until mid-2007, and the identities of the bidding companies will not be known until then.

DCMS Ministers and officials have met frequently with casino and other companies that may be interested in bidding, and their representative bodies. These meetings have covered all aspects of the implementation of the Gambling Act and wider gambling policy, and are part of our regular and ongoing consultation with the gambling industry, local authorities and other stakeholders. Those meetings that have been identified to have taken place since 1 January 2006 are listed in the table, and all these meetings took place in the UK.

Date

DCMS Minister and/orofficial(s) present

Who attended the meeting

18 January 2006

Richard Caborn

Rank Group

6 February 2006

Official(s)

British Casino Association

7 February 2006

Official(s)

Representatives of the gambling industry, including British Casino Association and Casino Operators' Association

10 February 2006

Official(s)

Rank Group

21 March 2006

Official(s)

British Casino Association

11 April 2006

Official(s)

Representatives of the gambling industry, including the British Casino Association

20 April 2006

Official(s)

Overseas casino operators including Ameristar, Kerzner International, MGM Mirage

10 May 2006

Official(s)

British Casino Association

15 May 2006

Official(s)

Representatives of the gambling industry, including British Casino Association and Casino Operators' Association

18 May 2006

Official(s)

Rank Group

23 May 2006

Official(s)

London Clubs International

24 May 2006

Richard Caborn and official(s)

British Casino Association

Details of earlier meetings that may be relevant were included in a reply given by my right honourable friend the Minister for Sport (Richard Caborn) in his reply to the honourable Member for North-East Cambridgeshire on 20 December 2005 (cols. 2654 -6W). One further meeting has been identified, which was inadvertently omitted from that reply: Richard Caborn and DCMS officials met Detlef Kornett, managing director of the Anschutz Group in London, on 7 July 2003. The minute of this meeting was published on the DCMS website www.culture.gov.uk as part of a response dated 26 July 2005 to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act.

Details of further potentially relevant meetings with overseas casino operators which took place between 1 January 2004 and July 2005 have been published in response to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act. Where available, minutes of meetings held between these dates have been published on the DCMS website, and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Since January 2003, there have been many more meetings with different companies already operating in the UK casino market and their representative bodies. Details of all these meetings could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the contribution which a regional casino licence could make to regeneration of the Millennium Dome area.[HL6758]

Government Departments: Special Advisers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 10 July (WA 89), how many assistants currently support special advisers to Ministers in the Department of Health; and what is the nature of their services.[HL6937]

The two special advisers within the Department of Health are supported by one assistant who provides support of a non-political nature in accordance with the code of conduct for special advisers.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 10 July (WA 89), how many assistants currently support special advisers to Ministers in HM Treasury; and what is the nature of their services; and [HL7013]

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 10 July (WA 89), how many assistants currently support special advisers to Ministers in HM Revenue and Customs; and what is the nature of their services.[HL7032]

The special advisers to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury are supported by three full-time staff.

There are no special advisers to the Treasury Minister responsible for HM Revenue and Customs, the Paymaster General.

Support to special advisers is provided in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 10 July (WA 89), how many assistants currently support special advisers to Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office; and what is the nature of their services.[HL7030]

There is currently one member of staff working directly to the special advisers. This member of staff is employed to provide support of a non-political nature in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers. The special advisers also receive support from Private Office staff.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 10 July (WA 89), how many assistants currently support special advisers to Ministers in the Department for Transport; and what is the nature of their services.[HL7033]

There are three staff in the special advisers support team. Staff are employed to provide support of a non-political nature in accordance with the code of conduct for special advisers.

Immigration

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have increased or intend to increase the period required before legal migrants into the United Kingdom may settle permanently; if so, what their reasons are for making such a change; and whether any change will have retrospective effect.[HL6637]

The minimum qualifying period for settlement was increased from four years to five years on 3 April. The change to five years brings us in line with other European countries on length of residence criteria. The Government do not feel that there are any benefits to be had by maintaining a different provision in the UK from that which applies elsewhere in the EU. The Government also feel that settlement should be based on a degree of attachment to the United Kingdom similar to that currently required for citizenship, and should form the later part of a journey towards integration. We feel that the increase in the qualifying period supports this. Those who have already qualified for settlement are allowed to keep their settled status subject to continuing to be ordinarily resident here. The change only affects those who have still not qualified. The change is not therefore retrospective.

Ivory

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What views they have expressed in international bodies on the proposed ivory stockpile sales from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa; and whether they will resist all future calls to re-open the trade in ivory; and [HL6807]

What representations they have made and what steps they are taking to combat the continuing decline in the number of African elephants, particularly in respect of (a) the illegal ivorytrade conducted through London; (b) habitat degradation; and (c) the bushmeat trade. [HL6808]

The international ban on trade in ivory remains firmly in place and is fully supported by the UK Government. We remain clearly of the view that the illegal and unsustainable trade in ivory should not be permitted. We will not support any resumption in the commercial trade in ivory until we are satisfied that this will not result in an increase in the illegal killing of elephants, or undermine the conservation of elephant populations elsewhere in the world.

The UK has been closely concerned in the debate surrounding proposals for one-off sales of stockpiled ivory, through our involvement in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). CITES has placed a number of strict pre-conditions that have to be met before one-off sales of ivory stocks could take place. In addition, the proceeds would have to be used exclusively for elephant and community conservation projects within, or near, the areas where the elephants reside. The UK will not support the proposed one-off sales if we are not entirely satisfied that the strict conditions are met.

To assist any considerations, my colleague the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Biodiversity (Barry Gardiner) has asked the International Fund for Animal Welfare to prepare estimates of the cost of improving conservation measures to combat elephant poaching commensurate with ensuring that any stimulus such one-off sales of stockpiled ivory might give to the black-market trade would be more than offset by the improved conservation.

From 20 March 2006, all applications for Article 10 certificates for un-worked ivory tusks are being refused regardless of origin or acquired date, unless there are very exceptional circumstances.

Last year officials prepared a specific guidance note for antique dealers, in consultation with the British Antique Dealers Association, concerning the control of trade in endangered species. It contains information concerning the requirements that must be complied with by dealers when they are engaged in the sale of antique items in the UK or their export overseas, and the ramifications of non-compliance with the regulations. This was distributed to trade associations and to applicants and enquirers with antique queries.

The findings of Care for the Wild's report, Ivory Markets in Europe, produced by Dr Esmond Martin and Dr Daniel Stiles last year, states there is no evidence of a large illegal market in ivory products in the UK or Europe as a whole. Although the scale of the UK’s worked ivory market was ranked ninth out of 33 countries surveyed, the report concluded that most of this ivory trade was legal.

Statistics from the Elephant Trade Information System (a global monitoring system established to track and assess the scale of illegal trade in ivory) have not revealed any significant problems of illegal ivory trade in the UK. We believe that there are far more serious ivory issues than that represented by the UK trade.

We are working, within the context of the UK’s commitment to reduce poverty in developing countries, to secure public and animal health here, and to meet a commitment to stem the loss of biodiversity globally. An interdepartmental ministerial body on biodiversity issues has commissioned a study into the importance of bushmeat to poverty alleviation and biodiversity loss. It is expected to report in Summer 2006. Improved forest governance and reduction in illegal logging are also seen as key to the sustainable management of forests and forest resources, which include bushmeat.

Lower Earnings Limit

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many women who have a part-time job earn less than the lower earnings limit; and how many adults caring for a disabled person on any disability benefit for more than 20 hours per week have a part-time job and earn less than the lower earnings limit.[HL6697]

Evidence from the Family Resources Survey (FRS) suggests that around 1.4 million women working part-time in 2003-04 earned less than the lower earnings limit (LEL) from their main or only job. This figure includes women covered by national insurance credits and women protected by home responsibilities protection who may be building up entitlement to basic state pension (BSP) and state second pension (S2P).

We estimate that there may be fewer than 50,000 adults reporting themselves as caring for 20 or more hours per week, who also have a part-time job and earn less than the LEL in their main or only job.

The FRS, on which the information provided is based, is “point in time” analysis, so only provides a snapshot of the number of people in these particular circumstances at the time the data are collected. Individuals may not, of course, be in these circumstances all of their working lives.

As a result of our proposed reforms to the BSP, including the reduction in the number of qualifying years to 30, we estimate that by 2025, over 90 per cent of women and men reaching state pension age will be entitled to a full BSP. The extension of childcare credits in S2P to parents until their youngest child turns 12 means that from 2010 around an extra 780,000 women and 30,000 men will be accruing S2P.

People reaching pension age from 2010 will have far greater opportunity to build BSP and S2P entitlement over their working life. Provision of care or spells of employment with earnings below the LEL should no longer compromise this opportunity.

Notes:

1 Source: Family Resources Survey 2003-04.

2 Figures include both employed and self-employed people.

3 Due to small sample sizes these figures are subject to a high degree of variability and should be treated as indicative only.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many women currently receive home responsibility protection (HRP) for a youngest child over the age of 12 years; and how many women currently eligible for, or in receipt of, HRP are in jobs which pay them (a) less than the lower earnings limit (LEL); and (b) more than the LEL; and [HL6698]

How many women currently in receipt of home responsibility protection for children over 12 years are in jobs which pay them (a) less than the lower earnings limit (LEL); and (b) more than the LEL. [HL6699]

Evidence from the Family Resources Survey (FRS) suggests that approximately 300,000 women currently have their basic state pension (BSP) position protected through home responsibilities protection (HRP) for the youngest child over the age of 12 years.

This evidence also suggests that there may be around 600,000 women in jobs that pay below the lower earnings limit (LEL) who have their state pension position protected through HRP for caring and parenting responsibilities.

Around 100,000 women have their BSP position protected through HRP for children over 12 years and who are in jobs which pay them less than the LEL.

Women in jobs which pay them more than the LEL qualify for BSP and state second pension (S2P) through their earnings, and so do not require HRP.

The FRS, on which the information provided is based, is “point in time” analysis, so only provides a snapshot of the number of people in these particular circumstances at the time the data are collected. Individuals may not, of course, be in these circumstances all of their working lives.

As a result of our proposed reforms to the BSP, including the reduction in the number of qualifying years to 30, we estimate that by 2025, over 90 per cent of women and men reaching state pension age will be entitled to a full BSP. The extension of childcare credits in S2P to parents until their youngest child turns 12 means that from 2010 around an extra 780,000 women and 30,000 men will be accruing S2P.

People reaching pension age from 2010 will have far greater opportunity to build BSP and S2P entitlement over their working life. Provision of care or spells of employment with earnings below the LEL should no longer compromise this opportunity.

Notes:

1 Source: Family Resource Survey 2003-04.

2 Due to small sample sizes, these figures are subject to a high degree of variability and should be treated as indicative only.

3 Figure rounded to nearest 100,000.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many women have two or more jobs which each pay less than the lower earnings limit (LEL), but which added together pay more than the LEL; and, of these, how many (a) have a youngest child under 12; (b) have a youngest child between 12 and 16 years; and (c) do not have a dependent child.[HL6729]

The information requested is not available.

Evidence from the Labour Force Survey suggests that in 2005 there were fewer than 50,000 women who had two or more jobs that each pay less than the lower earnings limit (LEL) but which added together pay more than the LEL.

Due to the small sample sizes available in this dataset, we are unable to provide the additional information about this group.

The Labour Force Survey on which the information provided is based on “point in time” analysis, so only provides a snapshot of the number of people in these particular circumstances at the time the data are collected. Individuals may not, of course, be in these circumstances all of their working lives.

As a result of our proposed reforms to the basic state pension (BSP), including the reduction in the number of qualifying years to 30, we estimate that by 2025, over 90 per cent of women and men reaching state pension age will be entitled to a full BSP. The extension of childcare credits in state second pension (S2P) to parents until their youngest child turns 12 means that from 2010 around an extra 780,000 women and 30,000 men will be accruing S2P.

People reaching pension age from 2010 will have far greater opportunity to build BSP and S2P entitlement over their working life. Provision of care or spells of employment with earnings below the LEL should no longer compromise this opportunity.

Notes:

1 Source: Labour Force Survey Data—Four Quarter average: Spring to Winter 05.

2 Due to small sample sizes, these figures are subject to a high degree of variability and should be treated as indicative only.

Marine Safety: Navigation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the responsibilities of a competent harbour authority whose port is adjacent to marine enhanced high risk areas and whose access channel runs between such areas or through particularly sensitive sea areas in respect to changes to the navigational safety regime of that authority; and whether the Department for Transport would expect to be consulted on any proposed changes to this regime.[HL6979]

The fact that a port is adjacent to marine environmental high risk areas, or that its access channel runs between such areas or through a particularly sensitive sea area, does not add to the responsibilities of that port's competent harbour authority.

There is no requirement for my department to be consulted on proposed changes to harbour authorities' navigational safety regimes. Harbour authorities are, however, expected to ensure that any changes are consistent with the Port Marine Safety Code.

NHS: Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Rooker on 4 July (WA 35) concerning the Royal Victoria Hospital, what is the expected percentage of joint units of telephone and entertainment for patients’ bedsides which should be working at any one time.[HL6892]

As I stated in my reply of 4 July, the equipment is currently provided by Patientline UK Ltd, which is responsible for its maintenance. There is no clause in the contract which specifies what percentage of units should be working at any one time.

Northern Ireland: Festivals

asked Her Majesty's Government:

From what source transitional funding for nationalist festivals announced on 10 July is being provided.[HL6906]

The transitional funding announced on 10 July for Feile an Phobail, West Belfast, Ardoyne Fleadh Cheoil and the Greater New Lodge Festival will be provided by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

Pensions: Autocredits

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What additional savings, both gross and net, would come from abolishing autocredits by 2010, if men and women were to continue to be eligible for the five years before state pension age.[HL6730]

Women are not eligible for autocredits. The additional savings against our proposal to phase out autocredits for men in line with the increase in state pension age for women are estimated to be negligible.

Our proposal to phase out autocredits between 2010 and 2020 is designed to align the availability of autocredits with the availability of pension credit under the current regime.

The retention of autocredits is inappropriate in a society where someone aged 60 can now expect to live, on average, for another 25 years or more. As the state pension age for women rises in 2010, we will increasingly treat men and women aged 60-64 as active labour-market participants. The proposal to reduce the number of qualifying years required to achieve a full basic state pension to 30 will, in any event, mean that few could benefit from the continued availability of autocredits.

Police: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether Patten ecommendations 132, 133, 143, 144, 146, 148 and 149 relating to training, education and development of the Police Service of Northern Ireland have been implemented in full; and, if not, whether this is having any negative impact on policing in Northern Ireland.[HL6658]

I am advised by the PSNI that although full compliance with recommendations 132, 133, 143, 144, 146, 148 and 149 has not yet been totally achieved, the progress to date has been significant and has had a cumulative positive impact on policing in Northern Ireland.

The Oversight Commissioner will, however, continue to monitor each recommendation for the remainder of his oversight mandate.

Prisons: Consecrated Buildings

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consecrated buildings or land are used by the Church of England in prisons or detention centres.[HL6986]

There is no consecrated land on the prison or immigration estate. There are no consecrated buildings in the immigration estate. It is possible that a very few prison chapels may have been consecrated, but information on this would need to be obtained from local Church of England diocesan records.

Prisons: Deaths in Custody

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the names, ages, locations, ethnicity, marital status and prison sentences of the people who have died in custody in the past five years.[HL6916]

As publishing such details can cause distress to the families of those bereaved by a death in custody, I will write separately to the noble Lord with the information available.

Prisons: Needle Exchange

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there are any plans to introduce a needle exchange system for drug users in prisons, such as operates in Switzerland and Spain.[HL6710]

The Prison Service has no present plans to introduce a needle exchange scheme. It continues to monitor developments in the field both at home and abroad, including existing practice in the community here, policy and practice in custodial settings abroad and the effectiveness of needle exchange schemes over other harm minimisation measures in the comprehensive management of substance misusers in prison.

Railways: Aldergrove Airport

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have carried out a study into the possibility of a rail link to Aldergrove airport; if so, when and what were the results; and, if not, whether they propose to undertake such a study.[HL7020]

No study into the possibility of a rail link to Belfast International Airport has been undertaken. An airport is considered to need at least 10 million passengers per annum throughput to sustain a viable rail link. As current passenger figures at BIA are around 5 million, there are no plans to undertake such a study in the foreseeable future.

Rally Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced the sponsorship of Rally Ireland; and, if so, when and where the announcement was made.[HL6850]

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has not made any announcement regarding the sponsorship of Rally Ireland.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the role of the political adviser to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Philip Taylor, in the sponsorship arrangement for Rally Ireland.[HL6851]

Philip Taylor is one of two special advisers employed within the Northern Ireland Office. His role and relationship with departments and officials is in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers issued by the Cabinet Office. The special adviser has never had any contact of any kind with Rally Ireland or anyone acting for it.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether Rally Ireland has been asked to repay funding supplied to it for the 2006 event.[HL6904]

The Northern Ireland Events Company is processing Rally Ireland claims for its 2006 pilot event. Rally Ireland has not been asked to repay any funding given to it for the 2006 event.

River Lagan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which authority is responsible for the walkways along the River Lagan upstream from Governor's Bridge; why and when the vegetation on either side of the walkways was recently cut back; how many fires have since been set among the resulting stubble; and what is the frequency and purpose of cutting back vegetation when the walkways are hard surfaced.[HL6779]

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), is the authority responsible for 16 miles of pathways on the River Lagan.

In May 2006, DARD Rivers Agency under a service-level agreement with DCAL, cut back encroaching vegetation on both sides of the pathway from Stranmillis upstream, as part of a planned programme of maintenance to protect public safety, maximise towpath width and improve shared-use access for walkers, cyclists, disabled users and others for passive recreation. Neither DCAL nor the Rivers Agency received complaints of burnt stubble or fires from the resulting cuttings. Further towpath maintenance is programmed as necessary.

Laganside Corporation is responsible for the fishing stand pathway upstream of Governor's Bridge to Annadale Embankment lay-by on the east bank of the River Lagan. Laganside has not cut vegetation alongside the pathway this year.

Two other government departments, with responsibility for pathways along the River Lagan, confirm that no fires were reported as a result of pathway maintenance. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service was called out on three occasions recently to grass fires in the area. These were not, however, on the River Lagan pathways.

There are a number of pathways in private and local authority ownership. I am unable to comment on these pathways.

Roads: Bridges

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many road bridges in north-west England have been rebuilt or renewed in each of the years 2003–05.[HL6632]

This information is not held centrally. The table below shows the local transport plan indicative allocations for bridge work to authorities in the Government Office North West region in 2003-04 and 2004-05, in £ million.

Year

Formulaic

Primary Route Network

Total

2003-04

12.620

9.935

22.555

2004-05

17.168

11.087

28.255

Royal Travel

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why they have agreed to change the basis for reporting individual journeys funded by the royal travel grant-in-aid in the annual report of royal public finances 2005–06 from £2,500 to £10,000; and whether this change complies with their commitment to open government.[HL6733]

Her Majesty's Government agreed to a request from the Royal Household that the threshold for listing full details of journeys should be increased to £10,000 in the royal public finances annual report. This change sought to ensure that reporting arrangements for royal travel were more consistent with other grants-in-aid and royal expenditure where figures in the annual report are rounded to the nearest £100,000. The increase in threshold has also resulted in a reduction in the size of the report.

In agreeing to this request, Her Majesty's Government required the household to maintain full details of all journeys funded by the grant-in-aid. The household would provide detailed journey information to Her Majesty's Government to enable HMG to carry out its stewardship responsibilities for the grant-in-aid.

Sheep Shearers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has ruled that sheep shearers from overseas working in the United Kingdom, either on a work permit or on a working holiday visa, will be subject to licensing under gangmaster legislation; and whether the department has previously indicated to the National Association of Agricultural Contractors that such workers would be exempt from the legislation.[HL6934]

Direct employment of sheep shearers by a labour user is outside the scope of the Gangmasters Licensing Act 2004. The Act does apply where sheep shearers are supplied to a labour user by a third party, such as a sheep shearing contractor.

However, after reviewing the terms of the Gangmasters Licensing (Exclusions) Regulations 2006, we have concluded that the exemption applicable to the use of a worker by an agricultural machinery service provider in order to deliver a machinery service (paragraph 8 of the schedule to the regulations) also applies to sheep shearers. This conclusion is based on the view that the clippers supplied for use by the shearers are defined as machinery for the purpose of interpreting the terms of this provision. In view of this, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) has confirmed that contractors who supply sheep shearers and provide the machinery they use do not need to obtain a gangmasters licence.

The GLA will be monitoring the terms of this exemption to ensure that it is not exploited by unscrupulous labour providers determined to avoid the licensing requirement. If it is deemed necessary to revise the terms of the exemption to close any potential loophole, we will ensure that the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) and other interested parties are consulted on the proposals brought forward for this purpose.

I can confirm that I wrote to the NAAC in July to inform them of the GLA's approach to sheep shearing contractors.

Rally Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Who agreed the business case for 2006 Rally Ireland; on what basis the business case was agreed; whether economists were involved in its consideration; and what consideration was given to the guidance in the Green Book, Appraisal and evaluation in central government.[HL6907]

The business case for the 2006 Rally Ireland event was considered in accordance with the agreed procedures, between the Northern Ireland Events Company, the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and the Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP); economists were involved in its consideration and guidance in the HM Treasury Green Book, Appraisal and evaluation in central government was taken into account

Terrorism: London Underground

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What recent assessment they have made of safety measures on the London Underground in respect of the threat of terrorism.[HL6881]

The Department for Transport keeps the preventative transport security measures we require under regular review. Industry implementation of the measures is subject to an ongoing programme of compliance monitoring and enforcement by its inspectors.

Tourism: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What grant applications are still outstanding from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board for which the application was made more than one year ago; what is the value of each grant; what is the cause of each delay; and what steps they are taking to speed up the process.[HL6827]

There are four outstanding applications for grants, received more than one year ago that are still pending; that is, have not either received a letter of offer, been withdrawn or been rejected.The following table shows the projects involved.

Project

Value of grant

Cause of delay

Steps taken to speed process

Carrick Son et Lumière

£93,750

Project promoters need to address issues raised by economic appraisal in connection with funding of the project.

Correspondence issued to promoter explaining the position and asking them to respond to the issues.

Glenarm Harbour

£155,250

Awaiting business plans and other information from project promoters.

Ongoing communications with project promoters.

Benburb Valley Heritage Centre

£76,600

Project promoter has to provide information regarding the project's viability.

Ongoing communications with the project promoters.

Shankill Local Information Office

£167,202

Delays occurred during economic appraisal and statutory approvals.

Delays now overcome and project should receive letter of offer shortly.

Transport: Very Tall People

asked Her Majesty's Government:

To what extent their transport policy in the United Kingdom has taken account of the needs of very tall people in the past five years; whether such people have been consulted as a user group; and what improvements there have been in the design of new trains and buses in particular.[HL6958]

The department aims to obtain the views of the widest range of stakeholders during its consultations. However, we are not aware of any specific consultation with user groups representing people of very tall stature.

Regulations specifying minimum gangway height and seat spacing for buses and on trains have existed for a number of years, to ensure that the majority of passengers can travel in safety and in reasonable comfort.

The regulations necessarily represent a compromise between providing safety and access for a broad range of passengers, while ensuring that the vehicles are compatible with the road and rail infrastructure and remain viable for the manufacturing and operating industries.

Ulster-Scots Agency

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What were the first indicatory budgets given to the Ulster-Scots Agency by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in each year since 2000.[HL6825]

The agency's budgets, approved by Ministers, include an indicative budget for the following year. Indicative budgets are included purely for forward planning purposes and on the clear understanding that they are liable to change. Indicative budgets are shown below.

Indicative budget 2001

none

Indicative budget 2002

£1.43 million

Indicative budget 2003

£1.57 million

Indicative budget 2004

£1.38 million

Indicative budget 2005

£1.769 million

Indicative budget 2006

£1.82 million

Indicative budget 2007

£2.177 million

Water Supply: Consumption

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the average total consumption of water in cubic metres of the average household in England and Wales in each of the past five years.[HL6921]

Ofwat provides the Government with water consumption figures for England and Wales via the annual Security of supply, leakage and the efficient use of water report. Household water consumption is expressed in litres per head per day.

The table below provides company estimates of average household consumption for the past five years.

Water and sewerage companies (WaSC)

2000-01

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

Anglian

138

137

143

146

143

Dwr Cymru

146

150

150

149

151

Northumbrian North

147

147

145

150

146

Northumbrian South

157

161

155

164

158

Severn Trent

139

139

130

136

132

South West

150

151

153

160

161

Southern

155

161

159

162

157

Thames

165

159

162

162

159

United Utilities

140

142

146

148

142

Wessex

140

143

142

151

146

Yorkshire

139

147

144

147

145

WaSC Average

147

147

147

150

147

Water only Companies (W0C)

Bournemouth & W Hampshire

161

161

160

169

167

Bristol

147

151

151

158

153

Cambridge

139

141

142

151

148

Dee Valley

143

143

147

151

145

Folkestone & Dover

157

163

158

167

159

Mid Kent

162

160

162

173

167

Portsmouth

157

159

157

162

159

South East

160

163

166

178

173

South Staffordshire

143

145

146

151

146

Sutton & East Surrey

162

172

172

185

173

Tendring Hundred

124

127

128

129

125

Three Valleys

174

178

174

185

178

WoC Average

159

163

162

171

165

Industry Average

149

150

150

154

150

Notes: Averages are weighted by population of unmeasured households. Excludes underground supply pipe leakage

The 2004-05 report can be accessed on the Ofwat website at: www.ofwat.qov.uk/aptrix/ofwat/publish.nsf/AttachmentsByTitle/leakage 04-05.pdf/$FILE/leakage 04-05.pdf