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Written Answers

Volume 685: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2006

Written Answers

Tuesday 10 October 2006

Afghanistan: Security and Stability

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What military assessments were made prior to the United Kingdom's recent deployment in Afghanistan on the strength of the Taliban and the potential reconstruction and security challenges in that country; what level of troop numbers they envisage would bring peace and development to Afghanistan; and for how long they consider this level would be required. [HL7402]

The Government's decision to deploy as part of stage 3 of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force was based on rigorous UK military planning and assessments, including a preliminary team that deployed in late 2005 to Helmand. The Government's view then, as now, was that the Taliban and other illegally armed groups represented a significant impediment to the country's near-term reconstruction, particularly in the south. That is why we deployed a robust force including attack helicopters and artillery.

The level of forces required for the ISAF operation is kept under continual review. We announced on 10 July 2006 (Official Report, col. 511-17) a number of enhancements to help accelerate the planned reconstruction activity. We are working with NATO allies and non-NATO troop contributors to ensure that commanders on the ground have access to the resources they need to carry out the ISAF mission. Bringing about reconstruction and development in Afghanistan will require substantial economic, developmental and political support for some time to come. The precise force package that will need to be deployed to support the Afghan Government in this task will evolve over time.

Agriculture: Milk Production

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What take steps they will take to aid family-run dairy farms in Cheshire who receive less money for a pint of milk than it costs them to produce it. [HL7478]

Price negotiations are private and commercial matters in which the Government cannot and should not get involved provided competition law is respected. However, the Government recognise that many farmers are affected by low farmgate prices, particularly in relation to rising production costs. Evidence shows that there is a wide disparity in the costs of production between the most and least efficient dairy farmers. An important part of the challenge, therefore, is for the least efficient producers to identify potential efficiency gains and to work towards decreasing production costs and increasing profitability.

There is widespread acceptance in the dairy sector that improved efficiency is part of the solution to the industry's difficulties along with improvements in innovation and better relationships across the supply chain. Through the Dairy Supply Chain Forum we are encouraging improvements in all these areas. Defra has also awarded a number of substantial grants under the Agriculture Development Scheme to help through, for example, benchmarking.

Armed Forces: Medals

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why veterans who served in Malaya under British rule during the emergency period up to Malaysian independence have not received a special medal while, by agreement between the Government and the Government of Malaysia, medals are to be awarded to those who served at the end of the emergency period following Malaysian independence.[HL7337]

The service of those who served in Malaya (under British rule) up to August 1957 has been recognised. The Naval General Service Medal 1915-62 and the General Service Medal 1918-62 with the clasp “Malaya” was awarded for service between 16 June 1948 and 31 July 1960, to those who met the eligibility criteria.

I believe that the special medal to which my noble friend is referring is the Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM). The PJM has been conferred by the Government of Malaysia,

“for service ... during the 2nd Emergency and Confrontation time period”.

They have established, as part of the overall eligibility criteria, the qualifying period of service for the PJM as 31 January 1957 (Independence Day) to 12 August 1966.

Banks: Unclaimed Assets

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the publication in July by the Commission on Unclaimed Assets of a consultation paper on the creation of a social investment bank to disburse unclaimed assets held in British financial institutions. [HL7475]

The Government welcome the contribution of the independent Commission on Unclaimed Assets to this issue. The commission's proposals, including those for a social investment bank, will be carefully examined by the banking industry and the Government.

The Government are committed to seeing genuinely unclaimed assets reinvested in society and we strongly welcome the banking industry's commitment to introduce such a scheme. We are clear that under any scheme individuals will retain the right to reclaim their assets at any stage. With that in mind, we will continue to assess the legal and accounting issues involved, and we welcome the industry's commitment to introduce a comprehensive reuniting programme prior to the launch of the scheme. The industry's steering group will continue to look at all the issues around reuniting, definition, operation and distribution.

Christian Festivals

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to protect the right of Christians to celebrate traditional festivals in the United Kingdom.[HL7372]

The Government made clear during passage of the Equality Act 2006 that they recognise the central historical and cultural significance of Christianity in our country's story and value the contribution Christian groups play in all aspects of national life. The Government have also given the undertaking, under the European Convention on Human Rights, to:

“guarantee freedom of thought, conscience and religion and their manifestation in worship, teaching, practice and observation”.

This undertaking itself reflects the longstanding UK tradition of freedom of religion, and those who choose to follow their own religious or cultural traditions must be free to do so as long as they remain within the law.

Drivers: Working Hours Regulations

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Davies of Oldham on 8 March (WA 146-7), whether they are aware of any effective enforcement action taken by the Government of the Irish Republic in relation to repeated breaches of the drivers’ working hours regulations by Irish drivers in the United Kingdom. [HL7433]

Colleagues in the Department for Transport have recently met with their counterparts in Dublin. The Irish ministry is currently establishing a road safety authority which will be taking responsibility for a range of functions including road haulage enforcement. The department’s Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and the new authority will be working closely to address enforcement issues including non-compliance of drivers’ hours regulations.

European Court of Human Rights: Judgments

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When and how they intend to give effect to the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in the following cases: (a) Faulkner (30308/96 on 30/11/99); (b) Hashman and Harrup (255494/94 on 25/11/99); (c) Murray (18731/91 on 08/02/96); and (d) A (in relation to Scotland and Northern Ireland) (25599/94 on 23/09/98). [HL7469]

Further to my Answer of 10 January 2006 (WA 34-42), the latest position on implementation is as follows:

(a) Faulkner (Application no. 30308/96)

The non-statutory scheme for the provision of legal aid in Guernsey continues to operate well. Procedures are ongoing for the enactment of a statutory scheme. Tenders for the provision of criminal and civil legal aid services to the States of Guernsey have now been received. It is anticipated that the panel of legal aid providers and the appointment of an individual to the statutory office of legal aid administrator will be approved in early 2007. Subordinate legislation to give effect to these proposals will then need to be approved by the States of Guernsey. It is expected that a statutory legal aid scheme will be in place by spring 2007.

(b) Hashman and Harrup (Application no. 255494/94)

The Lord Chief Justice and the President of the Queen's Bench Division have agreed to issue a practice direction on bindovers, which is currently being prepared. It is expected that the practice direction will be issued in early 2007.

(c) Murray (Application no. 18731/91)

Public consultation on a number of amendments to police powers closed on 14 June 2006. As a result of the comments received the Northern Ireland Office is undertaking a full equality impact assessment of the proposed changes. It is anticipated that the process will be complete in spring 2007 and the statutory amendments made to the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 will be commenced.

(d) A (in relation to Scotland and Northern Ireland) (Application no. 25599/94)

Northern Ireland has introduced a provision which corresponds to Section 58 of the Children Act 2004 by abolishing the defence of reasonable chastisement in Northern Ireland in relation to all charges apart from summary charge of common assault. The relevant provision is Article 2 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 which came into operation on 20 September 2006. There has been no change in relation to Scotland since my Written Answer of 10 January 2006. However, as the noble Lord may already be aware, the Committee of Ministers did consider the implementation of this case in June 2006 and has postponed consideration until 2007 pending case law. The Government are of the view that the existing law in Scotland, namely Section 51 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, as well as the Human Rights Act 1998, are already compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will introduce an effective mechanism to secure the rapid implementation of binding judgments by the European Court of Human Rights. [HL7470]

The Government are committed to implementing all European Court of Human Rights judgments fully in accordance with the United Kingdom's international obligations. Most judgments against the UK are implemented promptly by the lead government department. Delays occur in a few cases, sometimes because of the need for legislation, or because of debate as to the action required to implement the judgment. In cases where judgments are not promptly implemented in their entirety, interim measures may be taken to prevent a recurrence of the violation. The Government do not therefore propose to introduce any new mechanism for the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights since the Government are of the view that existing procedures are already effective.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made in registering labour providers under the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004; how many labour providers have been registered; and approximately how many workers those organisations cover. [HL7462]

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority started accepting licence applications to operate in agriculture and the food processing and packaging sectors on 6 April 2006. The offence of acting as a gangmaster without a licence came into force on 1 October 2006. The authority started accepting applications to supply or use workers to gather shellfish from 1 October 2006. At 5 October, 642 labour providers had been registered by the authority.

As part of the application process, labour providers are asked to indicate how many workers they employ. The labour providers that have been licensed have indicated that, in total, they are supplying approximately 365,000 workers. This figure will double-count workers who are employed by more than one licensed labour provider.

Government Departments: Financial Reporting

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether any government departments have any arrangements to enable the staff of a department to raise, in confidence, concerns about matters of financial reporting, disclosure of other information or value for money; and, if so, whether they will give details, analysed by department, of the arrangements. [HL7418]

The information to answer this Question in full is not held centrally. As part of the annual fraud reporting process for 2005-06 departments were asked to complete questionnaires about how they managed fraud risk. The data revealed that 35 departments had whistleblowing arrangements or fraud hotlines for staff to report their suspicions of fraud.

Government: Decentralisation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to introduce legislation to decentralise the United Kingdom governmental system and structures, notwithstanding devolution in Scotland and Wales. [HL7410]

The Government are committed to continuing decentralisation and to strong and accountable local government and leadership. As well as establishing a Scottish Parliament and Assemblies for Wales and Northern Ireland, they have restored London government through the creation of the Greater London Authority. Following consultation, the Government intend to bring forward legislation to strengthen the powers of the London Mayor and Assembly.

The Government do not, however, believe in a prescriptive or “one size fits all” approach. In England, outside London, the Government will continue to support the work of the voluntary regional assemblies in scrutinising regional development agencies, as regional planning bodies, and as regional housing boards. They are also working with cities to help improve their economic performance. However, respecting the outcome of the November 2004 north-east referendum on the creation of an elected regional assembly, the Government have no current plans for the creation of directly elected regional bodies.

The Government have strengthened the authority and visibility of the government offices as a facilitator of partnership working in the regions and localities and are committed to a programme of relocating 20,000 central government posts from London and the south-east by 2010.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Minister for Housing and Planning, Yvette Cooper, (HC Deb, 1743W), how many dwellings were built in England on previously developed land; and how many were built on previously residential land in each of the years from 1994 to 2004 inclusive.[HL6975]

Estimates are as follows.

Number of new dwellings built on previously developed land

Number of new dwellings on previously residential land

Number of new dwellings built on greenfield





























































The estimates are based on total numbers of new dwellings from the completions figures supplied by local authorities and proportions of new dwellings on previously developed land and on previously residential land from the department's land use change statistics.

Housing: Licensing

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many local authorities have applied for approval to declare areas for the selective licensing of landlords; which local authorities have applied for which areas and whether they have been approved or refused; and what are the reasons for each case of refusal. [HL7430]

Housing: Valuation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many, or what percentage of, houses in the United Kingdom are currently valued at over £285,000.[HL7354]

There is no register of dwelling valuations for the United Kingdom. The most up-to-date information about the values of dwellings comes from sales data. According to information from the Land Registry, in 2005, the latest full year for which figures are available, 13.2 per cent of dwellings on the open market in England and Wales sold at over £285,000.

Iraq: Baghdad

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will encourage British officials in Iraq to make additional visits outside the green zone in Baghdad, bearing in mind that many Baghdad citizens do not enjoy comparable levels of protection. [HL7412]

Our staff work hard to speak to a broad cross-section of Iraqi opinion. They undertake trips outside the green zone only when it is operationally essential for them to do so. It would be wrong to encourage them to take unnecessary risks with their personal security and we do not do so.

Official Gifts: Deputy Prime Minister

asked Her Majesty's Government:

For each gift received overseas and subsequently purchased in a personal capacity by the Deputy Prime Minister over the normal travellers' allowance, how much tax and duty was paid.[HL6922]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What presents, gifts or mementoes purchased with public funds the Deputy Prime Minister has given to foreign dignitaries either while overseas or within the United Kingdom in each of the past nine years; and, in each case, what was the name of the recipient, the nature of the gift and its approximate value; and [HL7179]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What presents, gifts or mementoes purchased with public funds the Deputy Prime Minister has given to Mr Philip Anschutz or any of his associates during the course of their various meetings, including the Deputy Prime Minister's visit to Mr Anschutz's ranch in July 2005. [HL7181]

Official Gifts: Mr Philip Anschutz

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much tax and duty was paid on those gifts given to the Deputy Prime Minister by Mr Philip Anschutz in July 2005 that were over the normal travellers' allowance and that were subsequently brought back into the United Kingdom; and by whom any payment was made: and [HL7224]

Whether those gifts received by the Deputy Prime Minister from Mr Philip Anschutz while overseas, which were over the normal travellers' allowance, have been declared to HM Revenue and Customs.[HL7225]

Official Travel: Deputy Prime Minister

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which officials stayed with the Deputy Prime Minister at Mr Philip Anschutz's ranch in 2005; and what were their official responsibilities at that time.[HL6759]

I refer the noble Lord to the letter written by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister to the honourable Member for East Devon (Hugo Swire) on Tuesday 4 July 2006, a copy of which is appended to the memorandum from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to the Standards and Privileges Committee. The memorandum is available in the 13th report of the Standards and Privileges Committee which is available in the Library for the reference of noble Lords.

Police: Reorganisation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which police authorities have put in a claim for expenditure incurred during the recent restructuring process initiated by the Home Office; which authorities have been refunded; and how soon the claims of other authorities will be settled and paid. [HL7457]

At the Home Office's invitation, 41 of the 43 police forces and authorities have submitted claims to the Home Office for a contribution towards reimbursement of the additional costs associated with restructuring, the exceptions being the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police. No reimbursements have yet been made. An announcement on how much of the claims will be reimbursed will be made shortly.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to reimburse police authorities for the costs incurred in the reorganisation consultation which was withdrawn by the Government. [HL7467]

Police forces and police authorities in England and Wales were invited by the Home Office on 24 July to submit claims for a contribution towards the additional costs incurred by them on the preparations for restructuring. These claims have now been received and we expect to make an announcement shortly on how much of the claims will be reimbursed.

Public Bodies: Sir Alistair Graham

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the current paid public appointments of Sir Alistair Graham and the remuneration in each case. [HL7484]

Information regarding the current paid public appointments of Sir Alistair Graham and the remuneration in each case is shown in the table. The information relates to those bodies referred to in the annual Cabinet Office publication Public Bodies.




Appeals Panel for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, Learning and Skills Council

Northern Chairman

£600 per appeal hearing chaired

British Transport Police Authority


£25,800 per annum

Committee on Standards In Public Life


£440 per day

Employment Appeals Tribunal


£279 per day

Railways: Community Railways

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What recent actions they have taken to support community railways. [HL7431]

The Government pay for community rail services through the franchising system and provide core funding for the Association of Community Rail Partnerships. They also sponsor specific events such as a workshop for community rail officers in November and, within the Department for Transport, have a team of three working full time to implement the community rail development strategy. Twelve lines and services have been designated under the strategy, and three more are currently the subject of local consultation.

Revenue and Customs: Sir David Varney

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On what terms and conditions Sir David Varney was employed as chairman of HM Revenue and Customs; and in what respect those terms and conditions will change as a result of his new role as an adviser to the Government. [HL7415]

Sir David Varney continues to be employed on Civil Service terms and conditions as the Chancellor's senior adviser on transformational government. Details of his remuneration will be included in the Treasury's 2006-07 resource accounts.

Shipping: Cruise Liner Crews

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have had discussions with United Kingdom companies operating cruise liners about the welfare of their below-decks crews recruited from developing countries; and whether they have discussed with these companies the activities of manning agents who may charge such crew members to get such employment. [HL7446]

Speed Cameras: High Wycombe

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many fines have been levied in the past three years for infringements of speed restrictions by the Marlow Hill, High Wycombe speed camera. [HL7458]

Information on the number of fines from offences detected by individual speed cameras is not collected centrally.

Speed Limits: Carbon Savings

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What carbon savings they estimate would result from (a) full compliance with current speed limits; and (b) a reduction of speed limits by 10 miles per hour. [HL7459]

We do not have estimates for the total carbon emissions from vehicles travelling in excess of 70 miles per hour for each of the past five years. As part of the review of the UK climate change programme, however, the Government have looked at the potential carbon savings that might result in the year 2010 under a wide range of different policy scenarios. These included one scenario under which no vehicles exceeded the speed limits on motorways and dual carriageways. Our estimates suggest that savings in the region of 0.5 million tonnes of carbon per annum could theoretically occur under such a scenario. In practice, however, it would be virtually impossible to enforce blanket compliance with the 70 miles per hour speed limit, and the Government have no intention of introducing such a policy. With regard to the effect of carbon emissions as a result of a reduction in speed limits, I would refer the noble Lord to my Answer of 5 July 2006 (Official Report, col. WA 43).

Sudan: Darfur

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress is being made on the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to Darfur; what is their current assessment of the security and humanitarian situation in Darfur; and what are their current assessments of total numbers of fatalities and displaced people since the conflict began.[HL7465]

The UN Security Council has a range of resolutions to address the appalling situation in Darfur. The council adopted UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1591 in March 2005 to sanction individuals who are impeding the peace process and violating human rights in Darfur. It established a panel of experts to make recommendations in this respect. The council adopted UNSCR 1672 in April 2006 to impose sanctions on a first group of individuals. We strongly support the panel of experts’ continuing work. We agreed to extend its mandate in UNSCR 1713, adopted on 29 September 2006.

In UNSCR 1564, the council established an international commission of inquiry to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties. This body reported in January 2005. In March 2005, we helped secure UNSCR 1593, referring the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC). We continue to work with our international partners to maintain pressure on all parties, including the Government of Sudan, to provide full co-operation to the ICC as it carries out its investigative work.

In May 2006, UNSCR 1679 called for the full and rapid implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) signed on 5 May in Abuja, and on the non-signatories to join the peace process. Progress here has been slow and insufficient. We are working actively in Darfur, with the Government of Sudan, and with our international partners to ensure the parties to the DPA implement their commitments and to bring non-signatories to sign the accord.

On 31 August 2006, the council authorised a UN Mission for Darfur to replace the current African Union (AU) Mission (AMIS). We are working with the UN Secretary-General, Security Council partners, the AU and the League of Arab States to secure Sudanese consent and co-operation for that mission. In the mean time, the United Nations will provide additional support to help bolster AMIS until a UN mission can deploy.

The security situation in Darfur remains critical. The Sudanese armed forces launched a major offensive against rebels in Darfur in late August, which has also resulted in civilian deaths and displacements. Rebel violence has also affected humanitarian operations. We are calling urgently for an end to these military offensives.

The humanitarian situation is precarious and has the potential to deteriorate very rapidly. Access for humanitarian agencies is already severely hampered by banditry, fighting and attacks on aid workers and hijacking of their vehicles. Any significant change in the security situation could result in a sharp decline in humanitarian conditions. For example, the withdrawal of agencies from Gereida in south Darfur, following prolonged interfactional fighting last weekend, has left an extremely vulnerable population of over 100,000. The number of persons displaced since the conflict began is estimated to be around 2 million. Since April 2004, we have contributed over £190 million in humanitarian assistance to Sudan. We are supporting the World Food Programme through the Common Humanitarian Fund, to which we have contributed £49 million in 2006, making up approximately 66 per cent of its total. £24 million of bilateral aid in 2006 is in support of the International Committee of the Red Cross and non-governmental organisations.

Estimates of the number of those who have died as a result of the conflict in Darfur vary widely. The most commonly cited figure is around 200,000 but this remains an estimate based on extrapolation from limited available data.

Terrorism: Attila Ahmet

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made any assessment of whether Abu Abdullah, whose real name is Attila Ahmet, should be prosecuted under laws concerning the glorification of terrorism. [HL7456]

The decision to prosecute any individual is a matter for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. The Metropolitan Police press release of 13 September 2006 details the offences that Atilla Ahmet has been charged with, including encouragement of terrorism.