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Written Answers

Volume 685: debated on Wednesday 11 October 2006

Written Answers

Wednesday 11 October 2006

Afghanistan: Opium

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the comments made by Antonio Maria Costa, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, urging NATO forces to take robust action to destroy the opium industry in southern Afghanistan. [HL7448]

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan contributes to the Afghan counter-narcotics effort by helping to provide the secure environment in which the rule of law can be applied, reconstruction can take place and legal rural livelihoods can be developed. ISAF forces are also authorised to provide training and operational support to Afghan counter-narcotics forces. But ISAF has not been deployed to take direct action against the drugs trade or to eradicate the opium poppy in the fields. That is a job for the Afghan Government.

Alcohol

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the research undertaken by Warwick University regarding the spending of child benefit on alcohol; and whether they will take steps to discourage further such misuses of the system. [HL7451]

The Government are aware of the report, entitled Who Benefits from Child Benefit, which concludes that its findings are,

“consistent with the view that parents are altruistic towards their children”.

The report suggests that the relationship between child benefit and adult goods arises because adults would cut back on the consumption of adult goods when there are falls in child benefit, thereby protecting their children from changes in family income.

Recent research by Gregg, Waldfogel and Washbrook1 has also looked at the effect of policy reforms to financial support. If finds that as incomes of low income families have risen,

“there is clear evidence of how spending is focused on child-related goods such as children's clothing, toys and books”.

Therefore the Government will continue to base financial support for families on the basis of progressive universalism, with support for all families and more support for those that need it most.

1 That's the way the money goes, in A More Equal Society?, Hills and Stewart (eds) 2005.

Armed Forces

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the decline in assessed ability to generate force elements from peacetime to immediate readiness in the last two quarters of 2005-06, as reported in the Ministry of Defence Annual Performance Report 2005/2006 (HC 1394, page 16), has continued; and, if so, what are the latest figures.[HL7276]

The latest data, covering the first quarter of 2006-07, will be published shortly on the MoD's website as part of the department's quarterly public service agreement report.

Commission for Equality and Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What stakeholder events have been held as part of the transitional arrangements for the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights. [HL7189]

As part of the transitional arrangements for the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR), the Government have set up a transition team to prepare options for the incoming board. As part of the ongoing consultation process, this team has organised a series of events in England, Scotland and Wales to hear the views of stakeholders on the ground. The events have involved representatives of all communities of interest that will covered by the CEHR. In many instances, the events were co-hosted by regional equality bodies.

This year the events took place at these locations across England: Birmingham (Midlands); York (Yorkshire); Salford (north west); Cornwall (south-west); Bristol (south-west); London; Gatwick (south-east); Peterborough (east of England); and Durham (north-east).

Scotland: Dundee; Inverness; and Glasgow.

Wales: Cardiff; Llandrindod Wells; and Llandudno.

In addition to these events around the country, the CEHR team also engage regularly with stakeholder bodies, such as the existing equality commissions (Disability Rights Commission, Equal Opportunities Commission and Commission for Racial Equality), voluntary and campaigning groups, trade unions, business representations and focus groups made up of members of the public.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What criteria have been established by the regional development agencies for invitations to stakeholder events under the transitional arrangements for the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights. [HL7190]

A series of stakeholder events took place between April and July 2006 and form part of a wide range of activities being taken forward by the team responsible for putting in place transitional arrangements for the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

The plan was to engage with a wide range of stakeholders and hear views on how the new commission can have most impact on a national/regional and local level. The events were seen as an opportunity for stakeholders from all strands to meet and understand each other’s views and to begin to share ideas.

We invited individuals or organisations that work in, or across, the following areas: age; race, religion and belief, disability, sexual orientation, gender, and human rights.

We also invited individuals or organisations working in the equality area that cover: trade unions, health, education, transport, public and private employers.

The events were co-ordinated in consultation with the government offices, regional development agencies or their nominated delivery unit as these events were seen as a follow up to the Green and White Paper events originally developed by the DTI Equality Bill team.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the budget for setting up the Commission for Equality and Human Rights. [HL7191]

The total budget for setting up the Commission for Equality and Human Rights is £24.1 million, spread over four financial years from 2005 to 2009. The budget for 2005-06 is £0.8 million; 2006-07 is £7.1 million; 2007-08 is £11.4 million; and 2008-09 is £4.8 million.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the budget for setting up the Commission for Equality and Human Rights includes European Union funding intended to help celebrate the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All. [HL7192]

The budget for setting up the Commission for Equality and Human Rights does not include any European Union funding intended to help celebrate the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is the lead department for setting up the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights, which will have responsibility for combating discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, gender, religion or belief, race and sexual orientation as well as promoting human rights.

DCLG will also co-ordinate the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All. The two initiatives are distinct, but the department will seek to ensure that, given the CEHR will be launched in 2007, the European year celebrations are closely aligned with promotion of the new commission. The year will also be an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission, all of which will be dissolved in 2007 when the CEHR will take over their responsibilities and functions.

Crime: Car Boot Sales

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking to combat crime associated with car boot sales. [HL7432]

Although we are aware that many people greatly enjoy attending car boot sales, they are one of the places used by criminals to profit from crime. A number of enforcement agencies, including the police and trading standards, routinely act to tackle crime at car boot sales, but we recognise that it can be difficult to assert consumer and other rights in such informal channels.

In recognition of those difficulties, the Government are seeking to amend the Enterprise Act 2002 which will reinforce consumer rights and enhance the protection of intellectual property rights.

We are also proposing to consult widely on how best to work with traders in second-hand goods to disrupt markets for stolen goods. That consultation will also seek views on how best to work with the organisers of occasional sales such as car boot sales to reduce the opportunities for criminals to benefit from attending such events.

Housing: Domestic Rents

asked Her Majesty's Government:

By how much domestic rents have increased(a) by sector, to include council, other registered social landlord and private; and (b) by region of England over the latest three years for which figures are available. [HL7460]

Average weekly rents by region are published for the local authority sector and the registered social landlord sector on the website of the Department for Communities and Local Government in Tables 701 and 703 respectively. The links for these tables are: www.communities.gov.uk/pub/264/Table701Excel32Kb_id1156264.xls and www.communities.gov.uk/pub/267/Table703_id1156267.xls.

The percentage changes in average weekly rent by sector and region are given in the table below. These figures are based on nominal prices.

Percentage change in average weekly rent, by sector and region, England

Percentage change over past three years (for which data are available)

Social renters

Private renters3

Government Office Region

Local Authority housing1

RSL housing2

2002-05

2003-06

2001-02 & 2002-03 to 2004-05& 2005-06

Per cent

North-east

9.3

15.0

4.3

North-west

6.6

13.3

8.3

Yorkshire and the Humber

10.9

9.9

10.6

East Midlands

10.1

15.2

7.9

West Midlands

10.0

14.5

8.2

East

10.9

12.2

27.1

London

7.3

15.7

-2.4

South East

9.5

14.3

0.8

South West

7.9

13.2

13.6

England

10.4

13.8

6.3

Notes

1 Rents calculated at April. LA data based on unaudited local authority returns from DCLG's second subsidy claim form and are provisional for 2005.

2 Registered Social Landlords. Rents calculated at 31 March. Data derived from the annual regulatory and statistical return, administered by the Housing Corporation.

3 Data based on average rents for assured and assured shorthold tenancies as derived from DCLG's Survey of English Housing. Unlike the LA and RSL rental data, which are based on administrative data, the SEH is a sample survey of just 20,000 households per annum—yielding a sample of only around 2,000 private tenancies each year. Because of this relatively small sample size and in order to determine average rents by region, data from two successive surveys are combined together. Hence the figures above are derived by comparing the average rental figures for 2004-05 and 2005-06 with the figures for 2001-02 and 2002-03.

Israel and Lebanon

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why they did not ask the Government of Israel to contribute funds to the repairs of infrastructure damage in Lebanon. [HL7413]

We have discussed with the Israelis the issue of reconstruction of Lebanon following the conflict. We continue to attach great importance to this and have contributed £22.3 million for humanitarian assistance and early recovery projects in Lebanon. At the Stockholm conference on 31 August, donors pledged more than US $940 million for humanitarian and reconstruction work in Lebanon, well in excess of the US $530 million target required by the Government of Lebanon's early recovery plan.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What actions they are taking to promote future prospects for a peace treaty between Lebanon and Israel. [HL7437]

The UK believes that the prospects for peace between Israel and Lebanon are best served by the effective implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which we worked hard with our international partners to secure. The resolution's objectives are to bring about a full cessation of hostilities; to create the space for an urgent humanitarian relief effort; and to begin a process leading to a permanent ceasefire and a durable peace. The UK is now working with our international partners to implement these resolutions, in particular by strengthening the ability of the democratically elected Lebanese Government to exercise control throughout Lebanon, and ensuring that militias, supported and supplied from outside Lebanon, can never again plunge the region into crisis.

Lebanon: Hezbollah Weapon Stocks

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What efforts they have made to persuade the Governments of Syria and Iran not to replenish the stock of missiles held by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. [HL7436]

The Government have repeatedly called on Syria and Iran not to supply arms to Hezbollah. During the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah we summoned both the Syrian and Iranian ambassadors in London to raise our concerns with them about the supply of arms. The UK also worked hard with our international partners in securing the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for an embargo on all arms sales to Lebanon unless authorised by the Government of Lebanon or by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. The UK is now working with our international partners to implement Resolution 1701, in particular by strengthening the ability of the democratically elected Lebanese Government to exercise control throughout Lebanon and ensuring that militias, supported and supplied from outside Lebanon, can never again plunge the region into crisis.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What estimates they have made of the current stock of long and short range missiles held by Hezbollah in Lebanon. [HL7438]

Using a definition of a missile as a surface-to-surface rocket, we can make the following estimate. Before the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel that began on 12 July, Hezbollah claimed, and Israel agreed, that Hezbollah had approximately 12,000 rockets. We have no way of independently verifying this figure, but have no reason to think it was false. During the conflict Hezbollah fired approximately 4,000 of its rockets, reducing its stockpile by about one third. We therefore broadly assess that there are about 8,000 rockets remaining in Hezbollah's arsenal. There are no estimates available on the division between short and long range rockets. However, around 90 per cent of rockets fired were short range and this ratio is possibly reflected in the remaining stockpile.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their estimate of the number of rockets in the Hezbollah arsenal. [HL7453]

Before the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel that began on 12 July, Hezbollah claimed, and Israel agreed, that Hezbollah had approximately 12,000 rockets. We have no way of independently verifying this figure, but have no reason to think it was false. During the conflict Hezbollah fired approximately 4,000 of its rockets, reducing its stockpile by about one third. We therefore broadly assess that there are about 8,000 rockets remaining in Hezbollah's arsenal.

Living Wills

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will introduce a scheme for the registration of advance directives, also known as living wills. [HL7471]

People can make a decision in advance to refuse treatment in case they lose capacity to make such decisions in the future. There are a wide range of advance decisions that people will want to make, including written and oral decisions, those made a long time before a person loses capacity and those made, for example, just before an operation takes place.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) sets out statutory rules governing advance decisions and introduces clear safeguards that are flexible enough to cover all these situations. A registration scheme would impose unnecessary bureaucracy on such decisions. The MCA code of practice will make clear that if an advance decision is not recorded on someone's medical record, they will need to think about what steps they will take to alert others to its existence.

Official Travel: Mr Philip Anschutz

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether Mr Philip Anschutz or any of his associates has had the use of, or travelled in, a government car; and, if so, what was the nature of each journey, including the start and end destinations.[HL7226]

The Government Car Service (GCS) is responsible for providing ministerial transport. No GCS car has ever been booked specifically for Mr Philip Anschutz or any of his associates. Furthermore, there is no record of Mr Anschutz or any of his associates ever travelling as passengers in any ministerial car provided by GCS.

Olympic Games 2012: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made by the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in the implementation of the report, Benefiting from the London Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012—a strategic plan for Northern Ireland.[HL7130]

The members of the Northern Ireland Olympic Task Force have met twice and are currently working on implementing the strategy.

Palestine: Refugees

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they and other member states have increased their contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees since 1 January; and, if so, by how much.[HL6680]

Total commitments from the European Community and from EU member states to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in 2006 amount to $200.3 million. This compares with total EU commitments in 2005 of $192 million.

The Department for International Development has fully paid its 2006 contribution to UNRWA of £15 million ($27 million). This will help UNRWA to provide essential services such as education, housing and healthcare for Palestinian refugees.

Racism

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will introduce further practical measures to reduce the incidence of racism in Britain. [HL7409]

Activity to combat racism takes a number of forms, including actions against discrimination and racist crime and positive efforts to improve community cohesion.

The discrimination law review, which is currently under way, will address long-held concerns about inconsistencies in the current anti-discrimination legislative framework, including the Race Relations Act 1976, which deals with discrimination on the ground of race. It is also considering opportunities for creating a clearer and more streamlined legislative framework having due regard to better regulation principles, which will be more “user-friendly” for employers and employees, as well as the providers and consumers of services. We will also consider the report of Trevor Phillips’s equalities review, which is examining the underlying causes of inequality, which we expect to be published early next year. In addition to tackling racial discrimination, the Government are funding projects that are working with people from different communities to overcome racist attitudes and violence.

As we outline in our first annual progress report on our race equality and community cohesion strategy Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society, we are also working to ensure that hate crime (whether race, faith or homophobic) is tackled more effectively. We are improving the local response to hate crime; increasing victims’ confidence in the criminal justice system; increasing the proportion of crimes that are brought to justice; and improving the evidence base on hate crime so that action can be taken against perpetrators.

Railways: Leeds Commuter Services

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the reasons for the withdrawal of government funding for the fourth carriage in the class 333 electric trains on the Leeds northern triangle commuter services linking Leeds and Bradford with towns in the Aire and Wharfe valleys; what is their assessment of the amount of overcrowding that will occur as a result of the removal of these vehicles; and what discussions they are holding with operators and the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority on this matter. [HL7428]

The funding has not been withdrawn. It has been extended to March 2007 and the department is discussing the aspirations of Northern Rail and the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive to extend the use of carriages beyond that date.

Rally Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Rooker on 4 July (WA 40) concerning Rally Ireland, what issues will be considered about the decision to release the reports on the Rally Ireland event.[HL6849]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the business case for the sponsorship of Rally Ireland was supplied; and when the decision to sponsor the event was taken.[HL6890]

A business case/economic appraisal for the Rally Ireland World Rally Championship bid was supplied to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) on 14 September 2005. On 20 September 2005, DCAL made a decision to authorise the Northern Ireland Events Company (NIEC) to provide funding for Rally Ireland's 2005 pilot event.

On 4 January 2006 DCAL received a revised business case/economic appraisal for the World Rally Championship bid and on 20 January 2006 it decided in principle to approve the release of funding for Rally Ireland's 2006 pilot event, subject to the agreement of NIEC and Rally Ireland on a contract for the 2006 event.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much funding the promoters indicated they would put into the event in the business cases for Rally Ireland in 2005 and 2006.[HL7066]

No funding from the promoters was indicated in the business cases for Rally Ireland 2005 and 2006 events.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the grant funding for Rally Ireland was given on the understanding that it would be given back if the event made money in the future.[HL7067]

The grant funding for Rally Ireland was not given on the understanding that it would be given back if the event made money in the future.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What percentage of the sponsorship for Rally Ireland in (a) 2006, and (b) 2005 was spent in Northern Ireland.[HL7113]

Details of expenses for the Rally Ireland 2006 event remain to be finalised. However, Rally Ireland has been accredited World Rally Championship status in the 2007 calendar and this will bring significant economic and social benefits to Northern Ireland, due in part to the success of the 2006 event.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In connection with Rally Ireland 2006, what are the details of the payments to the marshals for accommodation, meals and gifts.[HL7114]

Details of expenses for the Rally Ireland 2006 event remain to be finalised. However, Rally Ireland has been accredited World Rally Championship status in the 2007 calendar and this will bring significant economic and social benefits to Northern Ireland, due in part to the success of the 2006 event.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much public funding was given in 2005 and 2006 to (a) the Circuit of Ireland; and (b) Rally Ireland.[HL7128]

The Northern Ireland Events Company offered the Circuit of Ireland up to £6,000 for its 2005 event and up to £70,000 for its 2006 event.

The Northern Ireland Events Company offered Rally Ireland up to £368,931.13 for its 2005 event and up to £647,953.20 for its 2006 event.

Schools: Yellow Bus System

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to continue with the pilot yellow bus school transport system. [HL7468]

We are providing £18.7 million over three years to purchase 150 dedicated buses for West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive’s Mybus school bus scheme. The evaluation of this scheme should be completed next year but the initial signs are that there has been some impact in reducing the number of children travelling to school by car and other non-transport benefits have also been reported.

Individual local authorities and passenger transport executives are encouraged to consider these and other dedicated school bus schemes as part of broader local transport planning and decide if they would be appropriate to their area.

The Education and Inspections Bill includes provisions to improve home-to-school transport, including enabling a small number of local authorities to propose pathfinder schemes to pilot innovative approaches to home-to-school transport which would focus on better school bus provision for more pupils and which could include trialling yellow bus schemes.

The Department for Education and Skills has policy responsibility for home-to-school transport and has published the School Travel Pathfinder Draft Prospectus and Guidance alongside the Education and Inspections Bill. This includes details of the criteria that the Secretary of State for Education and Skills will apply in deciding which schemes to approve (www.teachernet.gov.uk/docbank/index.cfm?id=9800).

Taxation: Corporation Tax

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Following the decision on 12 September by the European Court of Justice in the case brought by Cadbury Schweppes plc, what is their estimate of (a) the amount of corporation tax in respect of years up to and including 2005-06 that will not now be payable by United Kingdom resident companies; and (b) the impact on estimated corporation tax receipts for years after 2005-06 compared with the estimates included in the last Budget Statement. [HL7416]

The Government confirmed on 12 September that they are studying the detail of the judgment carefully and will announce as soon as possible what, if any, changes to the UK’s controlled foreign companies rules are needed to sustain their effectiveness in protecting tax revenues.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have assessed the impact of the present rate of corporation tax on investment by the financial services and manufacturing industries. [HL7445]

The UK has the lowest headline corporation tax rate among the G7 leading industrial economies. The UK remains a highly competitive location for investment, based on both tax and other factors, receiving more foreign direct investment than any other country apart from the US.

Taxation: Inheritance Tax

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much they raised in the last financial year for which records are available through inheritance tax; how much extra income tax would need to be collected to replace that amount of money; and what effect it would have on rates of income tax. [HL7466]

Inheritance tax receipts are published on the HMRC website at www.hmrc.gov.uk/stats/tax_receipts/table1-2.xls. The total estimated receipts for 2006-07 are broadly equivalent to what would be raised by increasing the basic rate of income tax by 1 pence as shown in the relevant tax ready reckoner. www.hmrc.gov.uk/stats/tax_expenditures/1_6_apr06.xls. The results cover only the direct effects of tax changes on tax receipts. In practice, changes to the tax regime will affect economic variables which in turn would have further effects on tax receipts.

Trees

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Minister of State for Communities and Local Government, Yvette Cooper, on 26 June (HC Deb, 153W), when they will publish the report, received at the beginning of June, on Trees in Towns II. [HL7489]