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Written Answers

Volume 685: debated on Monday 9 October 2006

Written Answers

Monday 9 October 2006

Afghanistan: Funding

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What oversight, influence or control they have of the use made of moneys provided by them to the Government of Afghanistan.[HL7334]

Over 50 per cent of UK development assistance has been channelled through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), a pooled fund managed by the World Bank. The ARTF has inbuilt safeguards against the risk of corruption: it reimburses money only when there is a paper trail to demonstrate it has been spent in accordance with strict controls. A full-time external oversight agent monitors these claims. We also channel aid through projects to build government capacity, and we apply rigorous compliance checks on how these are managed in line with DfID best practice, applying strict procurement guidelines and undertaking rigorous monitoring.

Afghanistan: Government

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the proposal by the Government of Afghanistan to set up, or reinstate, a Department for the Promulgation of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice, and of the remit and powers to be vested in such a department.[HL7335]

The Afghan Parliament has not yet debated the proposal to establish a Department for the Promulgation of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice nor have terms of reference been agreed.

We and our international partners are following developments closely and continue to encourage the Afghan Government to observe international human rights obligations.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What part, if any, of the cost to the Government of Afghanistan of setting up, or reinstating, and funding a Department for the Promulgation of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice could be met out of funds provided by the Government of the United Kingdom.[HL7336]

The Government have proposed that a Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice be set up under the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Hajj, which has an operating budget of $6 million this year. However, the proposal has yet to be debated by the Afghan National Assembly, and no terms of reference have been agreed.

DfID provides around half of its programme (£50 million in 2006-07) in a contribution to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). These resources allow the Afghan Government to establish their own priorities for reconstruction activities and build capacity by ensuring that the Government take the lead in implementation. Around 80 per cent of these resources are used for wages and salaries of government officials. In principle the Government could use DfID’s resources to fund any expenditure that meets the eligibility criteria of the ARTF. These criteria ensure that all expenditures are contained in the government budget and consistent with Afghan law, do not include military spending, and follow financial management standards set by the World Bank. Aid has proven to be more effective where the Government have control of their own budget and resources, and given Afghanistan’s dependence on foreign donors, this can only be done through instruments such as the ARTF.

However, DfID’s overall support to Afghanistan is governed by the 10-year development partnership arrangement signed by Tony Blair and President Karzai in January 2006, which commits Afghanistan to upholding human rights. Were we to believe that the Afghan Government were breaching this agreement through any of their actions, we would raise this politically at the highest level in Afghanistan. We also participate on the monitoring and review board for the Afghanistan Compact, which provides opportunities to address issues such as these.

Afghanistan: Helmand Province

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many aircraft are currently deployed in the Helmand province of Afghanistan; what are the aircraft types; and what are the flying hours for each type.[HL7327]

I am withholding details of where our aircraft are based and what their flying hours are as this information could severely compromise operational security and put the lives of our personnel at risk. The most appropriate type of aircraft is based at the most appropriate place to support the UK deployment to Helmand.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the overall deficit in helicopter lift in the Helmand province of Afghanistan is calculated; and what is the current overall deficit.[HL7328]

The requirements for all military resources in Afghanistan are considered by the Ministry of Defence, either as part of the formal force level review process, or as a result of receiving requests from theatre commanders.

Where a deficit is foreseen, requests for additional resources are (and have been) staffed from the operational theatre to the Permanent Joint Headquarters and then to the Ministry of Defence. Each of the recent requests from the operational theatre have been endorsed and additional resources have been allocated, as announced by the Secretary of State for Defence on 10 July. Since then, no further requests have been received from Commander UK Task Force for additional helicopters.

Afghanistan: Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What information they have received from the Women Political Participation Committee of Afghanistan concerning the proposed re-establishment of the vice and virtue department; and whether they will make representations to the Government of Afghanistan concerning the preservation of the right to freedom of religion and belief under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[HL7127]

The Government have not received any information from the Women Political Participation Committee of Afghanistan about the re-establishment of the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. The Afghan Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs' proposal for establishing a Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was considered at Cabinet on 16 July. This has now been referred to Parliament. We, and our international partners, continue to encourage the Afghan Government to observe their international human rights obligations. We will consider making representations once Parliament has deliberated and a decision has been made.

Afghanistan: Poppy Cultivation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the likely increase or decrease in poppy cultivation across Afghanistan over the next year, broken down for each province.[HL7401]

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conducts an annual survey into the level of opium poppy cultivation and production in Afghanistan. According to the executive summary of the report, which is now available on the UNODC's website (www.unodc.org), overall cultivation of opium poppy in Afghanistan rose from 104,000 hectares in 2005 to 165,000 hectares in 2006. The report also provides a full breakdown of cultivation by province. This shows that the increase is due to a substantial increase in planting in Helmand and other southern provinces. This is worrying but reflects the very difficult security situation and limited law enforcement capability in the south. Elsewhere in areas where access to governance, security and development has improved, reductions achieved last year have been sustained and in some cases fallen. It is too early to speculate on cultivation levels for 2007. We will know more following the release of UNODC's rapid assessment survey in the spring. The noble Baroness may also wish to refer to separate UK-commissioned research into the drivers behind farmers’ planting decisions which I will make available in the Library of the House.

Afghanistan: UK Aid

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the current United Kingdom aid expenditure in each province of Afghanistan; which aid agencies are being supported; how many international and Afghan aid workers are being supported in Afghanistan; and how these figures compare for each province across the past five years.[HL7400]

Since 2001, DfID has spent over £390 million on reconstruction and development in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is DfID’s fifth largest programme and we are Afghanistan's second largest bilateral donor, spending over £100 million in 2005-06. This will increase to £115 million by 2008-09.

DfID’s bilateral spend in Afghanistan over the last five financial years (from 1 April to 31 March) is as follows:

2001-02

£50 million

2002-03

£75 million

2003-04

£80 million

2004-05

£80 million

2005-06

£101 million

DfID does not have a detailed breakdown of spending in Afghanistan by province, as we put most of our money through the government budget, for example the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). In the past, we have focused particular effort in Mazar-e-Sharif, Bamyan, Kandahar, Gardez and Badakshan. Over the next three years we plan to spend up to £20 million each year in Helmand. We do not have information on the number of aid workers (international or Afghan) supported by us.

The table below illustrates where DfID provided direct financial assistance to provinces. This was largely support to provincial reconstruction teams, but also includes support to three NGOs (Aga Khan Development Network, Afghan Aid and Concern) in Badakshan.

Province

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

National

50 million

75 million

Badakshan

0.16 million

0.710 million

1.7 million

Mazar-e-Sharif

0.402 million

Gardez

_

0.126 million

Kandahar

0.811 million

0.0068 million

Bamyan

0.142 million

DfID is also providing funding of £7.4 million to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for the development of alternative livelihoods for poppy farmers in Bamiyan, Herat and Balkh provinces.

DfID has recently approved £30 million over three years to support rural and agriculture development in Helmand province. This will go towards supporting activities under the National Solidarity Programme (NSP), the National Rural Access Programme (NRAP), the Micro-finance Investment Support Facility of Afghanistan (MISFA), quick impact projects in addition to the Water and Sanitation Programme (WATSAN).

Since 2001, DfID has provided direct financial support to a number of international organisations. Details of the organisations supported are shown below. Of theses organisations, we still currently provide direct financial support to Afghan Aid, Concern, Aga Khan, Womankind, BAGG, and The Asia Foundation.

International Organisations

Action Contre La Faim

Afghan Aid

Afghan Development Association

Aga Khan

Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development

Aide Medicale International

Assisting Marsh Arabs and Refugees

BBC World Service Trust

BRAC

British Agencies Advisory Group

British Red Cross

British Refugee Council

CAFOD

Care

Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue

Christian Aid

Concern

Development initiatives

Greenshields Cowie

Halo Trust

International Rescue Committee

Islamic Relief

Mercy Corps

Merlin

Ockenden International

Oxfam

Pharmaciens Sans Frontieres

Refugee Studies Centre

Save the Children Fund

Solidarities

TearFund

The Asia Foundation

War Child UK

Womankind

In addition, over the past five years DfID has provided direct financial support to a number of national organisations. Details of the organisations supported are shown in the table below. Of these organisations, we still currently provide direct financial support to Southern Rehabilitation and Aid Committee and Helping Afghan Farmers.

Local Organisations

Afghan Fertiliser Company

Afghanistan Independence Human Rights Commission

Afghanistan Information Management Service

Afghanistan National Construction Co-ordination

Civil Service Commission

Co-operation Centre for Afghanistan

Helping Afghan Farmers Organisation

Irtiqa Development and Construction Organisation

Luqman Rehabilitation Organisation

Moqadas Reconstruction Organisation

Reconstruction Committee for Development of Afghanistan

Roshan Construction Company

Southern Afghanistan Development Association

Southern Rehabilitation and Aid Committee

Tribal Liaison Office

A significant proportion of DfID’s programme goes to NGOs indirectly through the Government of Afghanistan, who subcontract implementation of many of their national programmes (to which DfID contributes funding) to national and international NGOs, as well as other implementing partners. Other direct recipients of DfID funding, such as UN agencies, also use NGOs as implementing partners. We do not have a detailed list of these.

Africa: Agricultural Projects

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will initiate an objective study of the comparative effectiveness of the various agricultural projects of non-governmental organisations in Africa with a view to encouraging and advising others, including donors.[HL7347]

DfID supports many non-governmental organisations working on agricultural issues in Africa. These are usually subject to independent evaluation. Progress reports on much of DfID’s support to NGOs are made available on the DfID website (www.dfid.gov.uk). Most non-governmental organisations we support also synthesise their experience and share good practice widely.

In 2005-06 DfID provided more than £81 million of support through long-term strategic arrangements (Partnership Programme Agreements—PPAs) to 18 international non-governmental organisations. PPAs support a broad range of activities including agriculture. PPAs are reviewed annually and independent evaluations are planned for all of these arrangements.

DfID also undertook a wide range of studies on agriculture and poverty reduction, including on the role of development assistance, in preparation for the DfID policy paper Growth and poverty reduction: the role of agriculture released in December 2005. Copies of this have been laid in the Library of the House.

Age Discrimination

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures have been introduced to inform employers of the provisions to outlaw age discrimination being introduced on 1 October.[HL7222]

ACAS good practice guidance for employers and separate DTI guidance on the occupational pensions aspects of the regulations were launched at the joint DTI and DWP Opportunity Age conference in April. Last month, the Government's “Be Ready” campaign entered its second phase, distributing information to 1.4 million employers about the forthcoming legislation, age good practice, and an invitation to order further in-depth material. This and other material can be accessed through the DTI and Age Positive websites, which contain a wealth of other material about the regulations helpful to employers. As a result of the DTI's capacity-building programme, further material will be available over the coming months.

Agriculture: Chemicals

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What duties landowners have to inform neighbours as to what chemicals those landowners are spraying on their land.[HL7282]

In general, there is no legal requirement for landowners to tell neighbours about most chemical use on land owned by the landowner themselves. There are two notable exceptions:

when farmers and growers use sulphuric acid as a desiccant; and

aerial spraying.

The landowner must tell their neighbours 24 hours before they begin their treatment with sulphuric acid and they must put up signs and notices about treatment.

For aerial spraying, the operator must tell people living within 25 metres of the boundary of the land to be treated, and the person in charge of any hospital, school or other institution with boundaries lying within 150 metres of the flight path, 24 hours before the treatment. Again, signs and notices have to be used.

It is incumbent upon the user to make sure that all chemicals being applied are targeted at the land, crop, structure, material or area being treated.

The latest code of practice for using plant protection products—a statutory code giving advice and guidance to all professional users—states that it is good practice to advise people who live or work around the area to be treated of the intention to apply chemicals, giving them information about the chemicals being used. It also explains that it is good management to consider extra measures such as leaving an untreated area next to the neighbouring property, putting up signs letting people know the pesticide being used and where they can get further information, and giving out information cards (if available) to those who want them.

Agriculture: Land Ownership

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether current records on the ownership of agricultural land in England in terms of accuracy, transparency and comprehensiveness are satisfactory.[HL7338]

The main function of HM Land Registry is to maintain and develop a register of title to freehold and leasehold land in England and Wales. The Land Register currently holds 20.5 million registered titles. However, the information held on the register does not reveal the purpose for which the registered land is used—for example, whether the land is used purely for agricultural purposes.

The accuracy of the information contained in the Land Register is underpinned by a state guarantee and in 2005-06 Land Registry processed 98.8 per cent of all registrations free of error.

The Land Register has been available for public inspection since December 1990 and official copies of registers, title plans and deeds and most documents referred to on the register can be obtained by post or electronically.

Currently, 56.7 per cent of the land area of England and Wales is registered. Most urban land is registered but much rural land remains unregistered. Registration is compulsory after certain specific events—for example, sale of land or death of an owner. Land Registry cannot otherwise compel registration but does have a strategy of working towards a comprehensive land register by persuading landowners of the benefits of voluntarily registering their holdings. During 2006-07, Land Registry aims to register a further 700,000 hectares of land through voluntary registration.

Armed Forces: Harmony Guidelines

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking in the short and long term to address breaches of harmony guidelines through the roulement of United Kingdom military forces in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan and in Iraq.[HL7323]

We recognise that, given the increase in the scale of our contribution to Afghanistan in 2006 and our ongoing commitment in Iraq, harmony levels will remain under pressure, at both unit and individual levels. We have put in place a range of short and long-term measures to ameliorate this situation. In the short term this includes: training and recruitment initiatives; financial retention and re-engagement incentives; flexibility in the rank employed in some posts; the mobilisation of Reservists; some contractorisation (where appropriate); and regular reviews of force levels required for each operation.

Over the longer term, the restructuring of the Armed Forces currently under way, particularly in the Army, will help us to achieve an improvement in average tour intervals. Further improvements may come from eventual reductions in UK force levels in a range of theatres, and from appropriate contributions from our allies, which we continue to encourage.

Armed Forces: Helicopter Pilots

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many medium support helicopter pilots became unavailable for operational duties in 2005-06 through retirement, promotion, medical unfitness or other reasons; and how many new operational medium support helicopter pilots were trained in the same period.[HL7281]

The number of medium support helicopter pilots unavailable for operational duties in 2005-06 as a result of retirement, promotion, medical unfitness or other reasons is shown in the table below:

Classification

Retirement

Promotion

Medical Unfitness1

Other Reasons

RAF

12

4

1

1

RN

7

0

1

0

Total

19.

4

2

1

41 RAF and 16 RN new operational medium support helicopter pilots were trained in the same period.

1 This does not include pilots who were medically downgraded as unfit to fly for only part of a period in question.

Armed Forces: Pay Review Body

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the reasons for delay in announcing their decision about the recommendations of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body's 2006 supplementary report on the pay of service dental and medical officers.[HL7176]

Given the significant recruitment and retention difficulties experienced by service medical and dental officers, the Government wanted to carefully consider the Armed Forces Pay Review Body report in order to ensure that it delivered an appropriate package that recognises the vital contribution made by these officers.

I refer the noble and gallant Lord to the Written Ministerial Statement that we made on Monday 24 July 2006 (Official Report, col. WS 131) on Armed Forces medical and dental officers pay.

Armed Forces: Sentinel Aircraft

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the two remaining Sentinel aircraft from Raytheon will be delivered.[HL7325]

The programmed agreed with Raytheon Systems Ltd will deliver three Sentinel aircraft to the RAF Waddington before the end of this financial year (31 March 2007), with the other two following later in 2007.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they still intend to deploy three Sentinel aircraft to the Middle East by November.[HL7326]

No, there has never been a plan to deploy Sentinel aircraft to the Middle East by November 2006.

Army: Recruitment

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proportion of army recruits for the past 12 months were non-British citizens.[HL7280]

The latest figures available are from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006. The proportion of those personnel who have entered the untrained strength of the regular Army during that period and who have a non-British nationality are as follows:

Proportion of Non UK Personnel

Officers

2.6%

Soldiers

5.4%

Total

5.3%

1. The figure are for regular Army only and therefore exclude Gurkhas, Home Service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment, full-time Reserve service, mobilised Reserves, Territorial Army and all other Reserves.

2. Figures are based on untrained intake into the regular Army and for soldiers include inflows from illegal absence.

3. The nationality given above is that recorded on inflow to the untrained strength and not necessarily the same as the nationality at birth.

4. Includes inflows only from those with a nationality OTHER than UK. It therefore includes those with a nationality of Eire, UK dependency, Commonwealth (excluding UK) and other countries.

Asylum Seekers: Voluntary and Compulsory Returns

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many unsuccessful asylum applicants left the United Kingdom (a) voluntarily, and (b) under compulsion in each year from 2002 to 2005.[HL6833]

The accompanying table shows the number of asylum applicants who were removed from the UK in each year from 2002 to 2005, broken down by type of removal. It is not possible to say at what stage in the asylum process people are, at the time of their removal. Published statistics on immigration and asylum issues are available onthe Home Office's research development andstatistics website at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration1.html.

Principal asylum applicants removed from the United Kingdom, from 2002 to 2005(1)

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005(2)(P)

Total principal asylum applicants(3)

10,740

13,005

12,585

13,670

of whom:

left under assisted voluntary return programmes(4)

895

1,755

2,300

2,905

were enforced removals(5)(6)

9,845

11,250

10,285

10,760

(1) Figures rounded to the nearest five, and may not sum due to rounding.

(2) Removals in 2005 include those who it is established have left the UK without informing the immigration authorities.

(3) Persons who had sought asylum at some stage, excluding dependants.

(4) Persons leaving under assisted voluntary return programmes run by the International Organisation for Migration. May include some on-entry cases and some cases where enforcement action has been initiated.

(5) Includes persons departing “voluntarily” after enforcement action had been initiated against them.

(6) Excludes assisted voluntary returns.

(P) Provisional figures.

Audit Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the annual cost of publications published by the Audit Commission.[HL7384]

As this is an operational matter, officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government have asked the Audit Commission to reply direct to the noble Lord.

The Chief Executive subsequently replied to him on 12 September and a copy of his letter has been placed in the Library of the House.

Letter from the chief executive of the Audit Commission, Steve Bundred, dated 12 September 2006.

Your question about the annual cost of Audit Commission publications has been passed to me for reply.

In the last year, from 1 August 2005 to 31 July 2006, the Audit Commission has sent a total of 32 national reports and technical documents to its stakeholders. The production and distribution costs amounted to £306,185, not inclusive of VAT. This figure includes the cost to the commission of reports that were published jointly with other regulators.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any further information. I am copying this to Baroness Andrews, and a copy will also be placed in the House of Lords Library.

Avian Flu

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the total cost of the avian influenza outbreak in Norfolk; and how much of this was attributed to (a) clearing, and (b) cleaning.[HL7243]

The total cost of tackling the avian influenza outbreak in Norfolk was £1,181,458. This figure is subject to amendment as more data become available. £36,028 of the total cost is attributed to clearing (including incineration, rendering, transport of carcasses, landfill and destruction of clinical waste). £9,794 of the total cost is attributed to cleaning (including primary cleaning and disinfection).

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will permit precautionary vaccination of rare breeds of poultry against avian influenza, in order to maintain the gene pool.[HL7245]

Although current avian influenza vaccines are able to reduce mortality, it is possible that some vaccinated birds would still be capable of becoming infected and transmitting avian influenza without displaying symptoms of the disease. This could increase the time taken to detect and eradicate the virus.

For this reason, the Chief Veterinary Officer’s advice remains that we should not vaccinate poultry in advance of an avian influenza outbreak or as an immediate disease control response. High standards of biosecurity, separation of poultry from wild birds and careful surveillance for signs of disease are the most effective means of protection. However, we continue to keep our policy under close review in the light of scientific developments.

In view of current uncertainties in the nature and spread of the virus, we are securing access to a supply of 10 million doses of vaccine and we are developing a vaccination delivery plan with stakeholders as part of our contingency planning.

Aviation: Contaminated Air

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are aware of any payments made by British Aerospace Regional Aircraft Limited to Ansett Transport Industries Operations Limited and East West Airline Operations Limited, under an agreement dated 3 September 1993, in connection with design flaws in the BAe 146 aircraft allowing contamination of cabin air by oil and other fumes; and, in light of that agreement, what steps they took at that time to ensure that regulations pertaining to cabin air quality were enforced.[HL7230]

In the time available neither the Department for Transport nor the CAA has traced any knowledge of any agreements between British Aerospace Regional Aircraft Limited and Ansett Transport Industries Operations Limited and East West Airline Operations Limited or payments made to those airlines in connection with alleged design flaws leading to contamination of cabin air. The CAA has found a record of icing problems with a BAe 146 operated by Ansett. Altitude restrictions were imposed by the CAA and the FAA following an incident involving Ansett in 1992.

The department would not expect to have known about a commercial agreement between a UK aerospace manufacturer and its customers. But if the noble Lord has access to a document which seems relevant to government policy, we invite him to send us a copy to consider.

As the two airlines were Australian, we have contacted the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in Australia. It is not aware of any agreements or payments but says that Ansett (of which East West was a subsidiary)—now in liquidation—may have obtained a contribution for costs it incurred in investigating cabin air quality and in taking corrective action by modifying all its aircraft to incorporate improved air-flow arrangements.

Aviation: Pilots' Licences

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to amend the Air Navigation Order 2005 (S.I. 2005/1970) to extend the medical validity periods in respect of airline transport pilots' licences. [HL7199]

The validity periods of medical certificates issued to holders of air transport pilots' licences are established in the European Joint Aviation Requirements—Flight Crew Licensing. An amendment to these requirements is currently under consideration. If adopted this would increase the period of validity of medical certificates issued to air transport pilots' licence holders aged between 40 and 60 years who fly multi-pilot aircraft. The UK supports the proposal. Such changes can be implemented without amending the Air Navigation Order.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response towards proposals within the International Civil Aviation Organisation to raise the age limit for the licensing of airline transport pilots to 65 years; and whether any such decision would become mandatory in French airspace.[HL7391]

The UK welcomes the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s decision in March 2006 to amend the personnel licensing standards contained in Annex 1 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago convention) by raising the maximum age limit to 65 for commercial pilots. The increased age limit is applicable only in multi-pilot operations where the other pilot is under 60 years of age and will come into effect on 23 November 2006.

As a contracting state to the Chicago convention, France is obliged to recognise flight crew licences issued by another contracting state provided that the licence meets or exceeds the personnel licensing standards in Annex 1.

Beer Duty

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many micro-breweries have started up since the introduction of graduated beer duty.[HL7219]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What has been the effect on revenues of the introduction of graduated beer duty.[HL7220]

Small breweries relief was introduced in 2002 to help small breweries to compete with larger breweries in order to maintain diversity in the beer industry and to boost local economies. HMRC latest estimates suggest that the cost of this relief was around £20 million in 2005-06. The Society of Independent Brewers estimates that around 130 new small breweries have been established since its introduction.

Belfast Agreement

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the extent to which the Government of the Republic of Ireland are implementing the section of the Belfast Agreement of 1998 concerning equality and human rights.[HL7131]

The British and Irish Governments published a paper on 14 July 2001 entitled Achievements in Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. This paper includes details of the steps taken by the Irish Government in accordance with the “Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity” section of the agreement.

The document is available on the Northern Ireland Office website.

Benefits: Uprating

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people benefit from the provision in Regulation 4 of the Social Security Benefit Uprating Regulations 2006 (S.I. 2006/712) who would not have benefited from the similar provision in Regulation 8 of the Social Security Benefit Uprating Order 2006 (S.I. 2006/645).[HL7217]

British Citizenship

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether an application for British nationality may be made only on the prescribed application form; and, if not, what are the minimum requirements to constitute a valid application for British nationality.[HL7062]

Forms for applying for British nationality are not prescribed in law. We may treat as a valid application any request for British nationality which contains at least the basic information necessary to enable the Home Secretary either to naturalise or to register the applicant or to tell whether the applicant may already be a British national. In practical terms, this means we should treat as an application any form or request sent to us which, together with accompanying documents, appears to contain the applicant's full name, address, date and place of birth (unless on inquiry this cannot be supplied), and a declaration stating that the contents are true. Using application forms has the benefit of ensuring that current guidance is available to applicants through the accompanying guides, and that the applicant has supplied relevant information and made correct declarations.

CAFCASS

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What the percentage increase has been in the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service budget for the current financial year.[HL6950]

In 2005-06 and 2006-07, CAFCASS received baseline funding of £100.79 million. In 2006-07, CAFCASS was also given additional one-off funding of £4.69 million to implement its change programme.

Cancer: Cervical

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they are undertaking of the availability of vaccines against the causes of cervical cancer; which body is conducting such work; and to what timeframe.[HL7070]

We are aware of the two vaccines in development by GlaxoSmithKline and Merck Sharp & Dhome.

The Department of Health has worked closely with the Health Protection Agency, the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, NHS Cancer Screening Programmes and prominent researchers in the field to inform a potential strategy for the NHS when the vaccines become available.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has now set up a sub-group to consider human papilloma virus vaccination. The sub-group met firstly on 23 May 2006, and manufacturers were invited to submit material for the group to consider. The sub-group will next meet on 22 September, prior to preparing a report to go to the main JCVI meeting in October.

Child Support Agency

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What will be the total write-off cost of disbanding the Child Support Agency.[HL7353]

The Department for Work and Pensions is currently developing plans for introducing a new system of child support. As part of this, we are considering the most cost effective way of moving to a new organisation.

Children: European Convention Optional Protocol

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will ratify the optional protocol to the Convention on Rights of the Child.[HL7374]

The United Kingdom ratified the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC-OP-AC) on 24 June 2003.The United Kingdom signed the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC-OP-SC) on 7 September 2000. The Government are committed to ratifying it at the earliest opportunity. The Home Office is undertaking a review to determine the extent to which the United Kingdom complies with the articles set out in the optional protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Government want to ensure that there are no gaps in the measures which exist to protect children in the way the protocol intended. Once the Government are confident that the United Kingdom is fully compliant, the optional protocol will be ratified.

China: Cultural Connections

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they funded the reception to launch “China UK connections through culture”; who compiled the invitation list; on what basis; and whether they will place the list of those invited and those who attended in the Library of the House.[HL7205]

Connections through Culture is a new UK-China cultural initiative, co-funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the British Council and the Scottish Executive. It aims to enhance cultural co-operation between the UK and China with a view to improving overall relations, through a series of networking events and exchanges of personnel attached to cultural institutions. The departments involved in the initiative drew up the guest list for the launch event on 20 July from their existing contacts, to include those with an interest in culture and China. A list of invitees and attendees will be placed for reference in the Library of the House, and I will arrange for officials to send a copy of this list to the noble Lord.

China: Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made to the Government of China about reports by Human Rights Watch of physical abuse, harassment and interference with due legal process in the case of Chen Guangcheng.[HL7214]

The Government included Chen Guangcheng on the individual case list handed to the Chinese authorities at the last round of the UK-China human rights dialogue on 3 July 2006. The case was also raised at the EU-China human rights dialogue in May 2006. The Government will continue to make representations on this case and on our other human rights concerns.

Civil Law

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the reply by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 3 July (HL Deb, col. 10), what is the justification for splitting responsibility for English civil and criminal law between the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs.[HL6760]

The responsibility of the Home Office for the criminal law reflects its responsibility for public protection, security, and law and order. The responsibility of the Department for Constitutional Affairs for civil law reflects its responsibility for effective dispute resolution for the public. Through the National Criminal Justice Board, Ministers from all three criminal justice departments work closely together to set the strategy for the criminal justice system and to monitor its delivery.

Civil Service: Graduate Recruitment

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many graduates are expected to be recruited by (a) the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; (b) H M Treasury; and (c) the Home Office in (i) the current financial year, and (ii) the financial year 2007–08. [HL7221]

There is no central record of the total number of graduates recruited by government departments.

The Fast Stream is the only service-wide graduate recruitment programme, and recruitment into it is managed by the Cabinet Office on behalf of the whole Civil Service. Departments are free to recruit graduates independently of the Fast Stream, either into graduate development schemes of their own or into mainstream posts.

Our records show that in the current financial year the Foreign and Commonwealth Office recruited 26 Diplomatic Service Fast Streamers.

Our records show that, in the current financial year, HM Treasury has taken 12 Fast Streamers, and the Home Office has taken 26.

Civil Service: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Rooker on 12 July (WA 121), which Northern Ireland Civil Service departments planned staff reductions in 2005-06; in each case, how many reductions were planned; and, of the 1,198 staff reductions that year, how many were casual staff; and how many new casual staff started work in the same year.[HL7252]

The planned reductions in 2005-06 relate to funded posts under the Fit for Purpose reform programme rather than actual staff (i.e. headcount) reductions. Headcount numbers will vary up and down as staff leave or when vacancies are filled, but the number of funded posts in the Fit for Purpose programme is reducing to meet targets. The planned reductions in funded posts for each of the 11 Northern Ireland departments and their agencies in 2005-06, as profiled by departments in April 2005, were as follows:

Department

2005-06 Planned Reductions in Funded Posts

Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

153

Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure

9

Department of Education

28.5

Department for Employment and Learning

20

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

15

Department of Finance and Personnel

61

Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety

29

Department of the Environment

0

Department for Regional Development

174

Department for Social Development

267

Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister

7

Total

763.5

Of the 1,198 funded posts suppressed, only one was filled by a casual member of staff. The number of new casual staff who began work in 2005-06 in the 11 Northern Ireland departments and their agencies was 753. The use of casuals to meet a temporary business need does not impact on the achieved reductions in funded posts.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Rooker on 12 July (WA 121), what form the vacancy control of the Northern Ireland Civil Service currently takes; and how it tallies with both continuing recruitment and promotion and the intention to avoid redundancies when the public administration review changes occur in 2007-09.[HL7253]

Decisions on whether to fill vacancies in the 11 Northern Ireland departments and their agencies are taken by departments in line with business need and the requirement to deliver agreed workforce reductions and in the light of the review of public administration. To ensure a corporate approach, the Department of Finance and Personnel must approve all promotion and recruitment actions.

The scope for vacancies to be filled by the redeployment of existing staff is initially considered by departments before recruitment or internal promotion. Information on current and potential staff surpluses and vacancies that departments envisage may be difficult to clear is shared between departments on a monthly basis.

Civil Unrest: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have to give additional support to victims of civil unrest in Northern Ireland.[HL7298]

Funding for victims’ and survivors’ groups and individual victims and survivors comes from a wide variety of sources. As part of her remit, Mrs Bertha McDougall, the Interim Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, is carrying out a review of how well current funding arrangements are addressing need.

In an initial report on her findings, published in June this year, the Interim Commissioner noted that, since 1998, government had provided £36.4 million in funding to victims and survivors and European funding had provided a further £7.6 million, 25 per cent or £1.9 million of which was also from government. The Interim Commissioner's final report is due around the end of this year, and her findings and recommendations will help in our consideration of any new funding arrangements that may emerge as part of the next phase of victims and survivors policy.

Commission for Social Care Inspection

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the cost of the Commission for Social Care Inspection in 2005–06; and what is its budgeted cost for the current financial year; and [HL7139]

How many staff were employed by the Commission for Social Care Inspection in 2005–06; how many staff are currently in post; and how many of these are paid more than £35,000 per annum including national insurance and pension contributions; and [HL7140]

How many posts were saved in local government as a result of the new arrangements which gave the Commission for Social Care Inspection responsibility for care home inspection; and [HL7142]

Whether any independent evaluation has been commissioned to assess whether care standards have improved since the introduction of the Commission for Social Care Inspection; and, if so, whether any preliminary results are available.[HL7143]

We understand from the chair of the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) that the revenue expenditure of the CSCI in 2005-06, excluding depreciation, was £141.153 million and the capital expenditure £7.1 million.

The budgeted revenue expenditure for the current financial year 2006-07, excluding depreciation, is £142.146 million. The capital expenditure is budgeted at £19.978 million; £12 million to fund CSCI’s information and communication technology strategy, which will help CSCI to deliver its modernisation programme to reduce its long-term costs and £8 million to reduce CSCI’s office portfolio.

There was an average number of 2,479 staff employed by CSCI in 2005-06. CSCI estimates that in the financial year 2006-07 there will be 1,600 staff who will each cost it in excess of £35,000 to employ, including national insurance and pension contributions and any pay awards up until 31 March 2007.

The number of staff transferred into CSCI in April 2004 was 2,763. CSCI was created through the Health and Social Care Act 2003, bringing together the work of the Social Service Inspectorate (SSI), the National Care Standards Commission (NCSC) and the joint review function of the Social Services Inspectorate and the Audit Commission. The establishment of CSCI created savings of £10 million compared to the cost of its predecessors. The numbers of staff transferring from each organisation are shown in the table.

Audit Commission

11

SSI

209

NCSC

2,543

Total

2,763

CSCI inspects care services at statutory intervals, to assess their quality against national minimum standards. As CSCI reported in The State of Social Care in England 2004-05, the data suggest that the quality of these services has been improving, both in terms of average performance and in the number of services meeting almost all of the national minimum standards. The pattern of improvement has continued in 2005-06. Details will be set out in CSCI's next State of Social Care report, due to be published later in the year.

CSCI has not commissioned an independent evaluation to assess whether care standards have improved since its introduction in April 2004.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proportion of the Commission for Social Care Inspection costs were charged back to care providers in 2005–06; what is the budgeted proportion that will be charged back in 2006–07 and 2007–08; and what provision they have made for helping care providers to find the funds to meet these costs.[HL7141]

The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) is funded by a combination of Government funding via grant-in-aid and regulatory fees from providers at levels set by Government. Fees for CSCI's work are set in March of each year, following a process of consultation.

CSCI is the independent inspectorate for all social care services in England. It is accountable to the Secretary of State for Health and is also required by law to report to Parliament annually. It registers, inspects and regulates social care providers in the private, local authority and voluntary sectors, all of which are required to pay fees for the services it provides. The fees reflect the work involved in registering and inspecting care establishments and contribute to providing for a safe and realistic level of inspection activity.

It is the Government's policy to move to a position where the recurrent costs of providing regulation are fully recovered from service providers. The annual fee increases are part of this process. The Government believe it is right in principle for commissioners of services, providers and service users to meet the cost of regulation, because all benefit from regulation and the assurance that the regulatory system provides about the quality of services and the protection of vulnerable people. Providers of care can, of course, take CSCI's fees into account when negotiating with those who commission its services.

The information requested on the proportions of CSCI's income which were charged back to care providers is shown in the table. For 2006-07, fees cover about 50 per cent of the overall cost of CSCI's regulatory activity, which represents about 80 per cent of its work.

Year

Grant-in-aid from the

department to CSCI

CSCI income from fees

2005-06

£82,864,000

£56,755,000

2006-07

£77,164,000

£65,000,0001

Note:

1 Estimated figure

Information on CSCI's fees for 2007-08 is not available, as the consultation process is yet to be conducted.

Common Agricultural Policy: Single Farm Payment

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Rooker on 6 June (WA 178), what is the current position on single farm payments.[HL7246]

As at 27 September 2006, 112,914 claimants had received a total of £1.497 billion in full or partial payments under the 2005 single payment scheme. Of the estimated 3,560 claimants who have yet to receive a payment, approximately 99 claimants have a claim value of more than €1,000 or £682. Work continues to complete processing of the remaining claims as soon as possible.

A statement on the likely payment timetable for the 2006 scheme will be made shortly.

Community Sentences

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the cost of the contract between the Home Office and Red Consultancy in regard to the marketing and re-branding of community sentences; when the contract started and ended; whether any analysis was subsequently undertaken as to the overall effectiveness of the exercise; and, if so, whether they will place in the Library of the House any such written appraisal.[HL7099]

The Red Consultancy was appointed through a competitive tender handled by the Central Office of Information (COI) through its purchasing framework agreements. There is, therefore, a contract between the Red Consultancy and the COI acting on behalf of the Home Office. The contract was awarded for the financial year 2004-05. It is reviewed each year and was renewed in 2005-06 and for 2006-07. The Red Consultancy received £225,000 for the first year of the campaign, including all fees and expenses for a number of projects. In the second year of the campaign, it received £265,000. This financial year, activity is planned up to the value of £275,000.

For those three years, Red Consultancy’s task has been to increase understanding of community sentences as an effective form of punishment. The work also aims to engage communities and encourage them to nominate what sort of work offenders should do. So far, the campaign is reaching on average around 30 million people each year. At the end of each financial year, a full evaluation of activity is undertaken by the Home Office’s Communication Directorate, as is the practice for all central marketing campaigns. Marketing evaluations are shared with senior officials and Ministers, but there is no legislative requirement to publish these or to place them in the House.

Constitution

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the publication Inside Britain: A Guide to the UK Constitution, produced by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, was subject to independent academic peer review. [HL7163]

Inside Britain: A Guide to the UK Constitution was produced by the Citizenship Foundation, an independent charity which aims to empower individuals to engage in the wider community through education about the law, democracy and society. The guide was funded by the DCA and is aimed at engaging young people by showing that constitutional issues are relevant to them. It does not attempt to be an academic textbook about the constitution. The book was developed after trials that included focus groups of students in schools, an advisory group that included constitutional experts, and a discussion forum with constitutional lawyers.

Consultants: Executive Coaching

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which government Ministers and permanent secretaries have received executive coaching or other consultancy on a one-to-one basis from ER Consultants or Praesta at taxpayers' expense over the past year.[HL7272]

Consultants: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has employed consultants since 1 January; if so, for what purpose; and at what cost.[HL7300]

The following information relates to consultancy expenditure incurred by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure since 1 January, 2006:

Expenditure

Subject of Consultancy

£280.00

Executive Team Meeting

£407.68

Child Protection Workshop

£15,760.50

Electronic Document Records Management

£2,608.00

Project Advisor for Capital Projects

£350.00

Editorial Services on Architecture Policy

£3,968.00

Strategy for Sport

£2,750.00

Strategy for Sport

£5,737.26

Strategy for Sport

£14,395.23

Eel Research Project

£5,545.15

Article 4 and 10, tendering and site visit checks for EU angling and water recreation development programmes

£7,875.00

Exercise to identify DCAL IWIF land and property assets and to scope the work and costs involved in proving legal title

£29,600.00

Research on the social and economic impact of recreation fisheries, angling and NI angling resources

£1,000.00

Otter and whopper swan survey at Tiraroe, Derrylin

£2,000.00

Green Book economic appraisal on South Lough Neagh Regeneration Association

£850.00

Flora and Fauna survey on Upper Lough Macnean

£4,858.50

Report on Fisheries Conservancy Board financial projections to March 2007

£260.00

Boat Inspection (Ardmore boat yard)

£1,000.00

Irish Language Act NI and the European Charter for regional or minority languages

£5,178.42

Business Continuity Plan

£29,107.31

Internal Audit

£1,041.35

Risk Management review

£2,065.00

Review of Statement of Internal Control

£10,268.65

Internal Audit

£1,180.00

Internal Audit

£6,805.65

Internal Audit Services

£9,500.00

Accountancy Services

£75.00

Public Survey Quality Group Survey

£9,020.00

PRONI new accommodation project business case

£7,368.75

Facilitation of Strategic Planning Exercise

£1,475.00

Internal Audit Fees for - key performance validation

£5,600.00

Annual Accounts preparation 05-06

£1,410.00

Charter Mark Assessment Fees

Consultants: Review of Ministers' Private Offices

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which department commissioned Praesta to review the effectiveness and cost of Ministers and their private offices, as described on the Praesta—Leaders in Executive Coaching website; what was the cost of the review; whether a report covering the political implications of a change in the number of Ministers in the team represents an appropriate use of public money; and whether they will place a copy of the report in the Library of the House.[HL7273]

In July 2004, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office asked the Change Partnership, which was then part of Whitbread Mann, to review the working of our ministerial offices and their staffing. Since then, most of those who worked for the Change Partnership have moved to Praesta Partners.

On the other points raised, I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given in another place by my right honourable friend the then Foreign Secretary (Mr Jack Straw) on 7 March (Official Report, House of Commons, 7/3/06; cols. 1344-45W).

Controlled Drugs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, following the guidance on safety management of controlled drugs issued in June, they will clarify the procedures for the prescription of drugs by private medical and dental practitioners to (a) specific patients, and (b) practice store areas for use when appropriate.[HL7314]

FP10PCD prescription forms are for use by all prescribers (including medical and dental practitioners) issuing private prescriptions to patients for Schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs, where these drugs are to be dispensed by a community pharmacist. This has been a statutory requirement since 7 July 2006. Detailed guidance is available on the Department of Health website at www.dh.gov.uk/controlleddrugs

Procedures for ordering and using controlled drugs from stores or stock remain unchanged. They are governed by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 and subsequent amendments. The department and the Home Office have consulted on the principle of introducing a standard form (for use in the public and private sectors) for any requisition for controlled drugs for stores or stock. Development work on this initiative is under way.

Cost of Living

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the estimated increase in the cost of living over the past one, three and five years for United Kingdom households with incomes in the lowest quintile.[HL7275]

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from the Director of Macroeconomics and Labour Market, Colin Mowl, dated 14 September 2006.

The National Statistician has been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question (HL7275) asking what is the estimated increase in the cost of living over the past one, three and five years for United Kingdom households with incomes in the lowest quintile. I am replying in her absence.

Information in the form requested is not readily available. Calculation of weights for households with incomes in the lowest quintile for the retail prices index (RPI) would require special calculations using data from the Office for National Statistics' expenditure and food survey, from which the RPI weights are derived. Specifically, the process would involve returning to each year's survey at the household level and removing all observations from respondents above the lowest quintile. The remaining responses would then need to be aggregated to national levels before embarking on the detailed process of producing RPI expenditure weights. The removal of such a large amount of the responses means that it is likely that a number of years would need to be averaged to provide an acceptable sample size. Special calculations would also be required to derive the weights for certain housing components whose weights are modelled (that is, mortgage interest payments and depreciation costs). Taken together, this means that the Question can be answered only at disproportionate cost.

Consumer prices index (CPI) weights are derived from whole economy estimates of household expenditure taken from the national accounts. The source data come from a variety of sources, including non-household surveys, and are therefore not amenable to the calculation of weights for households with incomes in the lowest quintile.

Courts: Sentencing Guidance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the replies by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 19 July (HL Deb, col. 1282) concerning sentencing guidance given to judges dealing with convicted female defendants with family responsibilities, whether they intend to amend such guidance to deal with male defendants who, alone, or in company with another male co-parent, have charge of children. [HL7196]

The Judicial Studies Board publication I referred to in my previous Aswer is not a Home Office publication and we have no plans to issue specific guidance to courts when sentencing parents. However, the National Offender Management Service is developing a framework for the children and families of offenders. The welfare of dependent children when single parents are given custody will form part of this.

Crime: Fuel Laundering

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many prosecutions have been brought for fuel laundering in Northern Ireland since 1 January; and how many have been successful.[HL7302]

Prosecution figures for 2006 will be published in HMRC’s annual report later this year. The number of convictions secured in Northern Ireland, which are related to all forms of illegal fuel activity, including laundering, during the past five years, is set out in the table below:

2000-

2001

2001-

2002

2002-

2003

2003-

2004

2004-

2005

Number of Convictions

5

15

3

4

0

There is a range of sanctions, of which prosecution is one, that can be taken when illicit fuel is detected. Each case is rigorously investigated and the most effective sanction is then applied.

Diabetes

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the report and guidance issued by Diabetes UK and others entitled Diabetes and the Police Officer.[HL7160]

We are considering the report Diabetes and the Police Officer and the need for further guidance to forces.

In October, we will issue updated guidance to forces in England and Wales on disability and the police, in line with the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, which comes into force on 5 December 2006. The guidance will take account of good practice in relation to diabetes.

Divorce

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will consult the adherents of faiths other than Judaism on the possible extension of the Divorce (Religious Marriage) Act 2002 to protect the rights and interests of those married in accordance with prescribed religious usages other than those of persons of the Jewish faith.[HL7319]

Energy: Fuel Ethanol

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the impact on food supply and prices in the United Kingdom of the worldwide diversion of significant volumes of wheat and other crops to the production of fuel ethanol; and [HL7343]

What assessment they have made of the impact on agricultural policy in the United Kingdom of the worldwide diversion of significant volumes of wheat and other crops to the production of fuel ethanol.[HL7344]

The primary market for wheat and other crops is still the food market despite the recent increases in their use for biofuels. The availability and price of the feedstocks have played an important role in the development of the biofuel sector. The most rapid development of the bioethanol market has been in countries with large surplus production in crops that can be used to produce bioethanol. In the UK, biofuel production offers new markets for the UK cereals and oilseeds surpluses. However, in practice, it is likely that the UK sector will use a mixture of home-grown and imported crops, recycled waste vegetable oils and tallow, and imported biofuels.

In the short term, bioethanol production will mainly use cereals and other food crops as feedstock. The market, through the price mechanism, will guide the allocation of the crops to the different sectors.

Over the medium to long term, it is likely that second generation biofuels derived from cheaper and more abundant feedstocks, such as straw or waste products, will play an important role in meeting the increased ethanol demand. Rising prices for food crops would give additional impetus to the development of technologies for the production of biofuels based on alternative feedstocks.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the impact on the supply of food aid of the worldwide diversion of significant volumes of wheat and other crops to the production of fuel ethanol.[HL7345]

DfID is in the early stages of weighing up the arguments and evidence on how production of biofuels, including ethanol and biodiesel, could impact on food production and food aid. Overall, more evidence, including on the right balance between food and fuel production in different regions, is needed. We will continue to monitor the situation carefully.

In 2005 production of fuel ethanol rose by 19 per cent, driven largely by rising oil prices. There is no evidence that this has so far affected the supply of food aid. Food shortage and famine are more related to poor distribution and a shortage of disposable income to buy food rather than agricultural production or provision of food aid.

Expansion of the area under biofuel crops is likely to happen in countries with the right growing conditions and sufficient land. This could reduce the area of land devoted to food production. However some energy crops can be grown on degraded land too marginal for food crops; others can promote land restoration.

There are ways that the trade-offs between food and biofuel production can be managed. Increasing the productivity of both food and energy crops can promote economic growth and poverty reduction. Crops can be developed that yield much higher quantities of energy per unit of land or water, or that generate by-products that can be used for bioenergy.

DfID plans to support the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP), announced at the G8 in Gleneagles in 2005 and launched this year. This will promote collaboration between developed and developing countries. We will continue to support international efforts to increase food production, for example through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, and to increase poor people’s access to food.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the carbon dioxide release arising from the production of fuel ethanol and bio-ethanol compared with the carbon dioxide reduction resulting from using ethanol instead of petrol or diesel, taking into account the net volume of carbon dioxide released in the course of growing and harvesting a crop such as wheat or sugar beet.[HL7346]

The amount of carbon emitted during production, and saved through substituting bioethanol for petrol, depends on the feedstock used, the way the crop is cultivated, the way it is processed, how that processor is powered, and the mode and mileage travelled by the feedstock and the bioethanol before it is used. The following table gives average figures for the net lifecycle reduction in carbon dioxide emissions for various feedstocks:

Feedstock

Processing Technique

Average reduction in carbon emissions compared to fossil fuel

Sugar Cane

Sugar Distillation

89 per cent

Sugar Beet

Sugar Distillation

40 per cent

Wheat

Starch Distillation

40 per cent

Emissions can be further reduced if low input methods of cultivation are used and renewable energy replaces fossil fuels in the production process. In the longer-term, second generation technologies offer opportunities for even greater reductions in emissions.

Energy: Nuclear Waste

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to reassure the public that the choice of location for an underground repository for the United Kingdom's long-term nuclear waste will be made solely on its technical merits and that there will be no presumption in favour of or against siting it in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.[HL7349]

The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has undertaken an extensive programme of work and rigorous assessment of all the options for the long-term management of the UK's, radioactive waste. CoRWM announced an integrated package of draft recommendations on 31 July 2006.

The package included recommendations that geological disposal is the best option for the long-term management for the UK's higher activity, radioactive waste and that the Government should look to develop partnership arrangements, linked to appropriate involvement and benefit packages with local authorities and communities as a means of securing facility siting.

The Government welcome the report and will issue a full response as soon as practicable after the respective Parliaments and the Welsh Assembly have reconvened.

Equality: Age Discriminiation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will defer the implementation of the age discrimination regulations pending further representations from the Confederation of British Industry and other parties.[HL7292]

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations come into force on 1 October 2006 as planned. However, in response to feedback from CBI and others, amending regulations laid on 8 September mean that the pension provisions in the age regulations will not now come into force until 1 December, to give more time for schemes to adjust and for consideration of any further representations.

EU: Candidate Countries

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On what occasions in the last year they have raised (a) religious freedoms, and (b) freedom of speech, with the three candidate countries for membership of the European Union, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey; and what were the outcomes of these discussions.[HL7247]

We have not raised religious freedoms or freedom of speech with Romania or Bulgaria in the last year. We have, however, raised our concerns on a number of occasions in the last year with the Turkish Government on these issues and continue to press for further progress. Turkey remains committed to meeting the Copenhagen political criteria and will be subject to intense scrutiny throughout accession negotiations.

EU: Council of Ministers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Triesman on 18 July (WA 173), which stated that “there are no decisions now taken in the legal fora of the United Kingdom which were formerly taken in the legal fora of the European Union”, when they became aware that the answer on 6 June (Official Report, col. 1131) that “there has been a certain ebb and flow between decisions taken in the legal fora of Europe and those taken here” was not wholly correct.[HL7104]

The Government became aware on 15 June 2006, following the noble Lord’s Question, that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, had understood my intervention in the debate in the House of 6 June differently from the way in which I had. As I said on 6 June, there is a strong desire under the provisions for subsidiarity to see our Parliament take as many decisions as it can, and we have argued strenuously that those decisions that we regard as being within our sovereign right should remain in the UK. We will continue to do so. My reference to the “ebb and flow” of decisions had, of course, to be understood in the context that I provided in the debate and which I have repeated here and in my Answer to the noble Lord on 18 July (WA 173).

EU: Legal Basis of Initiatives

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which current European Union initiatives depend for their legal basis on Articles 94, 95 and 308 of the Treaty Establishing the European Communities; and what is their assessment of the justification of such legal basis.[HL7120]

The information requested could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

In assessing the legal basis of proposals brought forward by the Commission, the Government follow tests laid down by the European Court of Justice in case law dating back to the 1980s and consider the proposal as a whole, and in particular its aim and content. In the case of Article 308 and in order for it to be used as a legal base for action, the article requires that a proposal be necessary for the attainment of a Community objective, and have unanimous support at the Council. The Government have given an undertaking that where the Commission puts forward a legislative proposal citing Article 308 as its legal base, the Commission’s justification of this choice of legal base will be provided to the Scrutiny Committee.

European Court of Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many cases at the European Court of Human Rights have been judged against the United Kingdom since the appeals procedure was introduced; and how many of these judgments were appealed successfully.[HL6747]

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not hold the information which the noble Lord has requested. Some of this information is, however, available from the annual reports of the European Court of Human Rights, which can be found on the Court's website at: http://www.echr.coe.int/ECHR/EN/Header/Reports+and+Statistics/Reports/Annual+surveys+of+activity/.

Extradition

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 12 July (WA 123), in what respects there is a relevant lack of reciprocity between the legal systems of the United States and the United Kingdom as regards rules or evidence and case law in relation to extradition.[HL6973]

As I explained in my Written Answer of 12 July, the position is that the legal systems of the UK and US are broadly comparable for the purposes of extradition.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

For each of the last 30 years for which records are available, how many extradition requests have been made to the United States authorities in respect of persons wanted in connection with allegations of terrorist crimes connected with Northern Ireland; and how many of those were granted.[HL7103]

From the records available, seven extradition requests were made to the United States authorities in respect of persons wanted in connection with allegations of terrorist crimes connected with Northern Ireland. Of these seven requests, three were granted. None of these requests, however, was in the past 11 years.

Extradition: Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 24 July (WA 224), whether the Answer means that the powers conferred upon the Secretary of State by the Extradition Act 2003 must be exercised compatibly with Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998.[HL7232]

Yes. The powers conferred upon the Secretary of State by the Extradition Act 2003 must be exercised compatibly with Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Family Breakdown

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Andrews on 28 June (WA 160), whether it is their view that family breakdown is not a major feature of deprivation.[HL7036]

The Government recognise that family breakdown is a serious matter and can be a major cause of deprivation or disadvantage. We have policies in place to help tackle the consequences. But while it can be a driver of other forms of deprivation, it is not a direct measure of deprivation in its own right. Family breakdown may have negative effects on family members but conversely it may have positive effects (such as if the relationship involved violence). Measuring the negative effects of family breakdown and expressing these at an area level is therefore not possible.

Firearms: Licensing

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made with the Beta pilot tests of the National Firearms Licensing Management System, required by Section 39 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997; and what is now the date by which they expect the system to be become fully operational.[HL7263]

Live pilot testing has been successfully completed and rollout to all forces has now begun. The National Firearms Licensing Management System is currently operational in three forces and the aim is to complete the rollout by March 2007.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps are being taken to ensure that the National Firearms Licensing Management System is online to the police national computer.[HL7264]

The National Firearms Licensing Management System is currently being rolled out to all forces. The aim is to complete this process by March 2007. The data cleansing exercise which is needed before an interface with PNC can be successfully made will be carried out on a force by force basis after each has been migrated to NFLMS.

First Aid

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the British Red Cross proposal, Life. Live it. The case for first aid education in UK schools, published in September. [HL7474]

There is scope in the non-statutory personal social and health education framework for schools to explore safety and emergency procedures as part of the curriculum. At key stage 3, the framework suggests pupils should be taught “basic emergency procedures and where to get help and support”. At key stage 4, pupils should be taught to “develop basic skills to cope with emergency situations that require basic aid procedures, including resuscitation techniques”.

As personal social and health education is non-statutory, the implementation of the subject is decided by schools on an individual basis. However, we welcome the development of the “Life. Live it” resources by the British Red Cross, which will help teachers in addressing these areas of the framework.

Fish

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why they have not compensated the 33 fish farmers in Yorkshire who have been affected by movement restrictions due to viral haemorrhagic septicaemia, when only one farm was found to be infected, bearing in mind that other European Union countries have offered compensation in similar circumstances.[HL7244]

It is not this department’s policy to pay compensation to fish farmers affected by movement restrictions due to an outbreak of serious fish disease. When viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS) was confirmed on a farm in North Yorkshire on 26 May, movement controls were placed on the area we considered initially to be at risk from the spread of the disease. Following an extensive round of sampling and testing of farmed and wild fish and other epidemiological investigations, we were able to announce a reduction in the size of the area under restriction on 10 August. The immediate effect of this was to enable the majority of the 33 farms originally affected by the controls to resume normal trade in live fish. Throughout this period we worked closely with fish farmers and their representatives to minimise the impact of controls by allowing certain movements where scientific evidence suggested that it was safe to do so.

As a general policy on animal health issues, we are moving towards greater cost-sharing with industry. In line with this principle, we have asked industry to consider the establishment of a hardship fund to assist farmers most acutely affected by disease control arrangements. We will look closely at any such initiative, including the possibility of providing some form of assistance to help pump prime a fund.

Fluoridation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the study of fluoride bioavailability conducted in the School of Dental Sciences at the University of Newcastle, which they cited in support of their policy of water fluoridation in the Written Answer by the Lord Warner on 28 June 2004 (WA 6), was reported in two separate publications with different analyses and conclusions; and [HL7403]

Why the study of fluoride bioavailability conducted in the School of Dental Sciences at the University of Newcastle, which they stated in a Written Answer by the Lord Warner on 28 June 2004 (WA 6) as having found “no evidence for any differences” in the bioavailability of naturally and artificially fluoridated water, has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal; and [HL7404]

What is their response to the second publication on the study of fluoride bioavailability conducted in the School of Dental Sciences at the University of Newcastle, which appeared in the Journal of Dental Research in November 2005 without reference to the earlier publication and with the conclusion that “any differences of bioavailability of fluoride between drinking waters were small compared with the large within- and between-subject variation”; and [HL7405]

What is their assessment of the accuracy with which the two publications on the study of fluoride bioavailability conducted in the School of Dental Sciences at the University of Newcastle represent the findings of that study.[HL7406]

The report Bioavailability of fluoride in drinking-water—a human experimental study, Report for the UK Department of Health, June 2004 was published on the website of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In line with normal practice, a more succinct account of the principal results of the study was prepared by the authors as a scientific paper and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Dental Research in November 2005: Maguire A, Zohouri FV, Mathers JC, Steen IN, Hindmarch PN, Moynihan PJ. Bioavailability of fluoride in drinking water: a human experimental study. J Dent Res. 2005 Nov;84(11):989-93. This paper acknowledged the funding from the Department of Health. These are the only published reports of this study. The Department of Health believes that they are consistent and accurate reports of the study and its findings. We accept the authors’ conclusions stated in the full report that; “There was no statistically significant difference between artificially fluoridated and naturally fluoridated water, or between hard and soft water for Tmax, Cmax, or Area under the Curve for plasma fluoride concentration following water ingestion in healthy young adults. Based on the power of the study to detect differences, some caution is necessary when interpreting the results, but within the limits imposed by the small number of subjects, this study found no evidence for any differences between the absorption of fluoride ingested in artificially fluoridated drinking water, and in drinking water in which the fluoride is present naturally, or between the absorption of fluoride from hard and soft waters, at fluoride concentrations close to 1 part per million”. We also accept the conclusion reached in the paper published in the Journal of Dental research that: “any differences in bioavailability of fluoride between drinking waters in which the fluoride is present naturally or added artificially, or the waters are hard or soft, are small compared with the large within-and between-subject variation in F absorption following ingestion of drinking waters with F concentrations close to 1 part per million”.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Warner on 2 February (WA 69), (a) when they will produce guidance on how strategic health authorities should monitor the health of populations receiving fluoridated water; and (b) whether this will take account of actual health outcomes and not simply the proxy measure of intakes of fluoride.[HL7407]

Section 90A(1) (a) of the Water Industry Act 1991, as inserted by Section 58 of the Water Industry Act 2003, requires strategic health authorities (SHAs) with fluoridation schemes to monitor the effects on the health of persons living in their areas. Section 90A(3) requires an SHA to publish a report on their findings within the period of four years from the commencement of this section of the Act. We will be issuing guidance during 2007, which we intend should involve the monitoring of appropriate health indices in relation to water fluoridation.

Food: Polluted Whale and Dolphin Meat

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the effects to human health of consuming polluted whale and dolphin products, especially in children or women that are pregnant or breastfeeding..[HL7307]

Her Majesty's Government have made no assessment of the effects to human health of consuming polluted whale and dolphin products. Nevertheless, we are aware that the presence of organochlorines (such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and dioxin) and heavy metals (such as methylmercury) in whales have led to several Japanese and other international toxicologists voicing concerns about the health risks associated with eating contaminated whale meat.

It is widely known that north Atlantic minke whales caught by Norway have such high levels of PCBs in their blubber that, under Japanese law, it would be illegal for Japan to import and sell them for human consumption.

Norway's Food Safety Authority and Iceland's Directorate of Health have advised pregnant and nursing women to reduce, or stop eating whale meat because of high levels of contaminants.

The negative effects on human health through consumption of cetacean products is an emerging issue that the UK believes the International Whaling Commission is wholly competent to address.

Foot and Mouth Disease

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Foot and Mouth Disease (England) Order 2006 (S.I. 2006/182), what information the signs indicating boundary zones referred to in Article 44 should contain; whether the signs should be of a standard size and construction; and whether local authorities will be responsible for the construction of the signs and for meeting the costs of their erection.[HL7089]

Local authorities have responsibility for erecting road signs under the Foot and Mouth Disease Order. Although local authorities will have to work within their existing budgets during any animal disease outbreak, central government may finance any additional resource or equipment requirements. The process to support this is subject to ongoing discussion.

Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Service (LACORS) have produced guidance on the erection of road signs during a notifiable disease situation, in consultation with Defra, the State Veterinary Service and the Department for Transport. The guidance was produced as a result of the recent focus on avian influenza.

The broad aspects referred to in the Question are already covered within the following guidance: guidance on public rights of way and other access signs in a disease situation; Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 animal disease template (Diagram 574 of Schedule 1); additional guidance on the animal disease template; public rights of way sign template; template for restricting access to land other than public rights of way.

Copies of these have been left in the House Library.

Forced Marriages

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by the Lord Triesman on 20 June (WA 73) and 28 June (WA 160) and in view of statements reported in the Times of 24 July, whether they will reconsider their decision not to create a criminal offence of forcing someone into wedlock without consent. [HL7168]

We have made clear, as the Times article cited by the noble Lord acknowledges, that forced marriage is an unacceptable abuse of fundamental rights and a form of domestic violence.

While we have decided, at this point, not to create a specific criminal offence of forcing someone into marriage, we have not ruled out the possibility of developing new legislation to tackle the issue in the future. We believe, however, that this should only be done if gaps are identified where existing legislation is not sufficient to deal with specific aspects of forced marriage. We shall look carefully at this issue.

We remain fully committed to making clear that forced marriage is unacceptable and to ensuring that everyone has the right to enter into marriage freely and with their full consent. We believe that, in order to tackle forced marriage more effectively, we need to take forward the recommendations for non-legislative action made by respondents to the recent public consultation. We agree that training of professionals alone will not suffice, and will be following up the recommendations, favoured by the majority of respondents, for further awareness-raising campaigns and education as key tools in maximising the effect of existing laws.

I refer the noble Lord to the document Forced Marriage: A Wrong Not A Right, which contains a synthesis of the responses by stakeholders to the public consultation, a copy of which rests in the Library of the House. The document’s findings reflect the views of respondents, many of whom are intimately involved in dealing with forced marriage, on the issues raised in the Times article.

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 Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and its successor departments.[HL6860]

The directorate of communications has no record of any payments being made to Freud Communications by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister or its successor departments.

Gambling: Casino Licences

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What investigations they have made to ensure that evidence concerning casino applications, especially from religious bodies, is authentic and does not misrepresent the views of the organisations concerned.[HL7377]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has established the Casino Advisory Panel to recommend to her the local authority areas where the 17 new casinos permitted under the Gambling Act 2005 should be located. All representations on the casino applications have been made to the panel. It is for the panel to assess the evidence that it receives.

Government

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they propose to take any action with regard to the extent to which the Government represent the community which they serve.[HL7393]

The Government believe they are representing the community they serve by introducing the minimum wage, running a sound economy, raising standards in schools and hospitals and upholding our responsibility in the world and will continue to do so.

Government Appointments: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which appointments to government positions in Northern Ireland are not governed by open competition rules; and, if any exist, how the appointments are made. [HL7204]

Appointments to the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) are made on the basis of merit in fair and open competition. The principles underpinning the merit principle are outlined in the Northern Ireland Civil Service Commissioners’ recruitment code.

There may be specific circumstances in which there exist strong and compelling grounds to depart from the merit principle, and they are also set out in the commissioners’ code as “Exceptions to the Merit Principle”. They are: where a person is appointed on secondment; where a person holds a situation in another Civil Service of the Crown; where a person is or has recently been employed on functions that are being or have been transferred to the Crown; where the appointment is justified for reasons relating to the needs of the Civil Service and the person proposed for appointment is of proven distinction; and where a person has been selected for an appointment under government programmes to assist the unemployed and the total period of employment does not exceed three years.

Government Departments

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What were the total central costs of supporting the Northern Ireland Office, the Scotland Office, and the Wales Office over the past three years.[HL7355]

The costs of running the Northern Ireland Office, the Scotland Office and the Wales Office over the past three years are disclosed in the table below. Costs represent resource outturn as disclosed in the Northern Ireland Office’s resource accounts (for Northern Ireland) and the Department for Constitutional Affairs’ resource accounts (for the Scotland and Wales Offices).

2003-042004-052005-06

£000s

£000s

£000s

The Northern Ireland Office

1,039,185

1,092,677

1,292,038

The Scotland Office

6,283

4,050

3,638*

The Wales Office

3,591

3,883

4,308*

The Northern Ireland Office is a department in its own right and has responsibility for Northern Ireland’s constitutional and security issues, in particular law and order, political affairs, policing and criminal justice. Since the Northern Ireland Executive was suspended in October 2002 the Northern Ireland Office also assumed responsibility for economic and social matters. The executive functions that were previously the responsibility of the Scotland and Wales Offices transferred to the devolved Assemblies on 1 July 1999.

*The Department for Constitutional Affairs’ 2005-06 resource accounts are currently subject to final audit. The costs of running the Scotland and Wales Offices are not expected to change.

Government Departments: Independent Expert Reports

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What reports of independent experts have been commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during the current session of Parliament; and, in each case, on what date the draft report was (a) received; (b) approved for grammar, spelling and syntax; (c) first submitted for Ministerial approval; and (d) published.[HL7269]

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) commissioned Aisha Gill of Roehampton University to produce an analysis of responses to forced marriage consultation, following a single tender process in November/December 2005. The draft report was received on 24 February and approved for grammar, spelling and syntax on 18 May. The report was first submitted for ministerial approval on1 March and published by the Central Office of Information on 7 June 2006.

The FCO also commissioned David Mansfield to produce Exploring the Shades of Grey: Understanding the Process of Change in Factors that Influence Households in their Decision to Cultivate Opium Poppy in the 2005/06 Growing Season. The draft report was received at the beginning of February and approved for grammar, spelling and syntax in mid-February. It was first submitted for ministerial approval in late February and published on the FCO website on 2 March 2006.

No other reports of independent experts have been published in this period.

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 Home Office; and what is the nature of their services.[HL6938]

2.5 members of staff currently support the special advisers to Ministers in the Home Office. Staff are employed to provide 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 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and what is the nature of their services.[HL6940]

Four members of staff currently provide support to the special advisers to Ministers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office among other duties. Staff provide general administrative support to special advisers including diary management, filing and arranging meetings. This support is of a nonpolitical 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 the Department for Communities and Local Government; and what is the nature of their services.[HL6941]

Two members of staff are employed to support special advisers to Ministers in the Department for Communities and Local Government. These staff provide 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 the Department for International Development; and what is the nature of their services.[HL7017]

Special advisers in the Department for International Development are supported by one assistant, who is employed to provide 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 Davies of Oldham on 20 July (WA 204), what is the nature of the services provided by each of the three assistants to special advisers within the Department for Transport.  [HL7164]

Staff provide general administrative support to special advisers, including diary management, filing and arranging meetings.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Warner on 20 July (WA 203), what is the nature of the services provided by each of the two assistants to special advisers within the Department of Health. [HL7165]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord McKenzie of Luton on 20 July (WA 204), what is the nature of the services provided by each of the three full-time assistants to special advisers to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.[HL7166]

As set out in paragraph 11 of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers, business support staff are employed “to provide support of a non-political nature”.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Rooker on 20 July (WA 204), what is the nature of the services provided by the member of staff and the Private Office staff to the special advisers within the Northern Ireland Office. [HL7167]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the role of Mr Phil Taylor, political adviser to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; on whose authority he makes decisions; and whether he has a role in the selection and transmission of information from senior civil servants to the Secretary of State. [HL7202]

The special adviser’s role and relationships with departments and officials are in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers issued by the Cabinet Office’s Propriety and Ethics Team.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Adonis on 24 July (WA 226), what is the nature of the services provided by each of the four assistants to special advisers within the Department for Education and Skills.[HL7233]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Rooker on 24 July (WA 226), what is the nature of the services provided by each of the three assistants to special advisers within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. [HL7234]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 24 July (WA 226), what is the nature of the services provided by the assistant to special advisers within the Cabinet Office.[HL7235]

Administrative support of a non-political nature is provided to special advisers within the Cabinet Office.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Sainsbury of Turville on 24 July (WA 226), what is the nature of the services provided by the two assistants to special advisers within the Department of Trade and Industry.[HL7236]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Davies of Oldham on 25 July (WA 260), what is the nature of the services provided by the assistant to the special advisers within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.[HL7320]

Staff provide general administrative support to special advisers including diary management, filing and arranging meetings.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 25 July (WA 286), what is the nature of the services provided by each of the two assistants to the special advisers within the Department for Work and Pensions.[HL7321]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Ashton of Upholland on 25 July (WA 259), what is the nature of the services provided by each of the two assistants to the special advisers in the Department for Constitutional Affairs.[HL7322]

Government Documents

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether any government files or records were destroyed in the fire on the 13th and 14th July at the paper records warehouse in Twelvetrees Crescent, Bow, London; and, if so, what those files or records contained. [HL7177]

The National Archives (TNA) did not store any files or other records at the paper warehouse in Twelvetrees Crescent, Bow, London. We are asking government departments if they have lost records. I will write to the noble Lord with this information shortly.

Gulf War Illnesses

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether any research funded by the Ministry of Defence into the illnesses of veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War has caused the Ministry to question the findings of research funded by the Government of the United States into the number of troops exposed to fall-out from the demolition by United States forces of the Iraqi chemical arms stored at Khamisiyah and elsewhere in southern Iraq in March 1991; and what is their estimate of the number of British troops exposed to the fall-out.[HL7283]

The key finding of epidemiological studies by US authorities into the demolitions carried out at Khamisiyah in March 1991 was that there was no evidence of significant health differences between exposed and non-exposed servicemen. Research funded by the Ministry of Defence into the ill health reported by UK veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf conflict has given us no reason to question the basic findings of this or other related research by US authorities. We published a Written Statement on 27 January 2005 (Official Report, column WS58) setting out the estimated number of UK service personnel who may have been within the area of possible exposure (with the closest some 130 kilometres from Khamisiyah). A copy of our paper Review of Modelling of the Demolitions at Khamisiyah in March 1991 and Implications for UK personnel is available in the Library of the House and on the Ministry of Defence website at www.mod.uk.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the total funding to date on research into the illnesses of veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War; and whether they have received information on the cost to date of similar research funded by the Government of the United States and on any projected increases in such funding.[HL7284]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they have taken to ensure that British veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War are kept informed of research into Gulf War illnesses funded by the Government of the United States; and what was the most recent date on which veterans were updated on its findings.[HL7285]

The Government does not routinely publicise the findings of research into Gulf veterans' illnesses sponsored by other nations because, in common with other scientific research, findings are generally published by the authors. In the case of US Government funded research, the findings are accessible on the Department of Veterans Affairs' website. The research in question is therefore already publicly accessible.

Food Safety: Ports

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the duties of local authorities with regard to food cover airports and airfields within their jurisdiction; and, if so, why ports have separate health authorities as indicated in the Contaminants in Food (England) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/1464).[HL6976]

We have been advised by the Food Standards Agency that local authorities are responsible for enforcement of food safety legislation at airports and airfields and seaports within their jurisdiction under Section 6(2) of the Food Safety Act 1990.

Port health authorities (PHAs) are designated by the Department of Health for the purposes of administering a range of environmental health functions at docks and seaports. PHAs can comprise single local authorities or joint boards, covering more than one local authority. PHAs cannot be constituted at airports as airports do not fall within the definition of a port in the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

The Food Safety Act 1990, at Section 5(3)(a), stipulates that where functions under the Act have been assigned by other legislation to a PHA, references in the Act to a food authority are to be read as references to a PHA. That division of responsibilities is preserved in regulations made under the Act (such as the Contaminants in Food (England) Regulations 2006).

Home Office: Deportations

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 26 June (WA 131–32), whether any update to the House on the organisational failings of the Home Office will include an answer to the question of what action has been taken against those who have failed to effect lawful deportations of convicted foreign nationals.[HL6664]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department has asked the director-general of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to oversee a specific review of the failings which led to the release of 1,013 foreign national prisoners without deportation consideration. The review will commence once the Immigration and Nationality Directorate has addressed our main priority of dealing fully with all these 1,013 cases.

Home Office: Immigration and Nationality Directorate

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many persons are currently employed by the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate; and, of these, how many are United Kingdom nationals. [HL7207]

The number of persons currently employed by the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate on 30 June 2006 was 18,248, which amounts to 17,380 full-time equivalents. The Home Office does not centrally record information on the nationality of employees who fulfil our nationality entry requirements, so this information could only be provided at disproportionate cost. The only exceptions are records of those foreign nationals who are employed under the exceptional circumstances set out in the Aliens' Employment Act 1955. The Immigration and Nationality Directorate currently employs no foreign nationals under the terms of that Act.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What vetting procedures are currently applied to staff recruited to the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate; and whether existing staff who have not been subjected to the current procedures will be re-vetted. [HL7208]

It is longstanding procedure that all staff are required to have a national security clearance to the appropriate level commensurate to the duties they will be undertaking. Security clearance is valid for a maximum period of 10 years, depending on the level, and requires renewal or upgrading if the individual moves to a post which requires a higher level.