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Written Answers

Volume 685: debated on Monday 16 October 2006

Written Answers

Monday 16 October 2006

Afghanistan: Helmand Province

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many shooting incidents involving United Kingdom military personnel the Royal Military Police are currently investigating in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. [HL7423]

There are currently no investigations into shootings by UK service personnel. However, in Helmand province, the Royal Military Police Special Investigation Branch is currently investigating three shooting incidents which have resulted in the deaths of UK service personnel. All available evidence will be passed to Her Majesty's Coroner in due course.

Banks: Personal Loan Debts

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will open discussions with United Kingdom banks and other credit-providing institutions on ways to reduce personal loans debt totals. [HL7408]

We hold many discussions with banks and other credit-providing institutions on a variety of issues in support of our goals of creating an open and competitive consumer credit market, while minimising over-indebtedness. This includes the Advisory Group on Over-indebtedness as detailed in Annexe B of the Tackling Over-indebtedness Annual Report which was released on 16 August and is available at

Democratic Republic of Congo: Elections

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo after the elections this summer.[HL7540]

Over 17 million Congolese participated in multiparty polls for the first time in over 40 years on 30 July. Despite the unacceptable violence that followed the announcement of results on 20 August, the Congolese, with international support, continue to work towards a second round on 29 October. The political situation remains tense and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo remain insecure. We look forward to continuing our work on these and other key issues—notably poverty reduction, good governance, security sector reform and improving human rights—with a new, credibly elected Government.

Energy: Lifetime Costs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are their latest estimates for the lifetime costs per tonne of carbon saved per year, compared with average current lifetime costs of fossil fuel generation for (a) onshore wind power; (b) offshore wind power; (c) fossil fuel based combined heat and power (CHP); (d) renewable based CHP; (e) nuclear power; (f) photovoltaics; (g) coal or gas firing with carbon capture and storage; and (h) a range of energy efficiency measures; and whether those estimates changed between the publication of the Energy White Paper in 2003 and the publication of the outcome of the energy review in July. [HL7463]

The energy review modelled new large-scale technologies that have the potential over time to become less expensive and, in turn, to play a major role in UK electricity generation, including new-generation nuclear, cleaner coal, and gas and coal with carbon capture and storage. In addition, we modelled gas-fired and coal-fired plant as “base cases” for comparison.

The energy review did not publish estimates for the lifetime costs per tonne of carbon saved per year, so a direct comparison with estimates in the Energy White Paper 2003 is not possible. The issue of carbon abatement costs will be, however, looked at in the context of the forthcoming Energy White Paper.

Gulf War Illnesses

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What studies the Medical Research Council has made of the findings of research funded by the Government of the United States into the illnesses of veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War; by whom the studies were undertaken; at what cost to public funds; what the outcomes of such studies were; and whether British veterans with Gulf War illnesses and the bereaved families of those who have died since the conflict have been informed of them. [HL7441]

In 2003 the Medical Research Council, through the Military Health Research Advisory Group (MHRAG), undertook a comprehensive review of relevant Gulf research, including studies funded by the US authorities. It is not possible to give a cost of the review of the US studies in isolation but the cost of the review is estimated at between £20,000 and £25,000, the main expenses being MRC staff time, travel and hotel costs for non-MRC staff involved and administration.

The review, which was published on the MRC website1, made a number of recommendations on where future research might focus and provided additional advice to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

MRC has made the information available on its website.

1 The current url is, however the MRC is currently re-launching its site and this address will change shortly.

House of Lords: Electrical Equipment

I refer the noble Baroness to my previous Answer to her of 24 November 2005 (WA 230) about disposal of electrical equipment.

House of Lords: Internet

asked the Chairman of Committees:

Whether alterations to the internet search engine for Hansard have meant that entries from June 2006 onwards are no longer searchable by name.[HL7624]

The inability to search House of Lords Official Report entries from June 2006 onwards by Member's name was caused by a technical error which arose during alterations to improve the functioning of the search engine. A solution to the problem has been identified and will be rolled out across the computer network as soon as it has been satisfactorily tested.

asked the Chairman of Committees:

Why the online record of Questions for Written Answer are now only available alphabetically by subject and not under the name of the Member who has asked them.[HL7625]

The ability to search the online record of Questions for Written Answer by the name of a Member has been withdrawn temporarily to enable the completion of improvements to the electronic index of the House of Lords Official Report. The improvements will enable all sections of the electronic Official Report to be searched by Member, date and subject. It is intended that the new index will be available by the beginning of the next Session.

House of Lords: Water

asked the Chairman of Committees:

What is the financial cost of providing bottled water to the House of Lords as opposed to tap water.[HL7597]

The cost of providing bottled water to the House for the past three financial years was:







The cost in 2004-05 was unusually large due to the initial purchase of stock to support the new meeting rooms in Fielden House.

The provision of tap water would also incur a financial cost in terms of the staff time required for the preparation of carafes. This cost has not been estimated.

International Whaling Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in the light of reports of Japan's illegal catches of more than £1 billion worth of southern bluefin tuna, they will take action to ensure a pro-conservation majority on the International Whaling Commission. [HL7472]

My honourable friend the Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Ben Bradshaw), has recently written to the Environment Ministers of all European Union member states that are not currently members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and to all those seeking accession to the EU, to encourage support for the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling and for the UK's policies on whaling.

Defra officials also ensure that Foreign and Commonwealth Office posts in the relevant capitals are briefed and engage in discussion with their counterparts on whaling at every appropriate opportunity. This ensures that these countries are in no doubt of the importance that the UK places on whale conservation.

We shall continue to encourage more conservation minded countries to join the IWC as soon as possible, in order to reverse the pro-whaling majority. The UK and its allies have taken every opportunity to try to persuade new anti-whaling countries to join the IWC, with some success; six have joined in the past two years.