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Written Answers

Volume 685: debated on Wednesday 25 October 2006

Written Answers

Wednesday 25 October 2006

Afghanistan: Apache Helicopters

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What the spare parts availability shortfall rate is for Apache helicopter units in Afghanistan; and [HL7419]

What impact current Apache helicopter deployments to Afghanistan have had on (a) flying hours; (b) spare parts availability; (c) weapons system availability; and (d) air fleet availability for other theatres of operation on Apache units in the United Kingdom; and [HL7420]

Whether any reviews of the Apache budget for the financial year beginning April 2006 have taken place in light of operational commitments to Afghanistan; and [HL7421]

What are the flying hours for the six Apache aircraft deployed to Afghanistan. [HL7422]

There is no shortfall of spare parts for Apache helicopters in Afghanistan. The current Apache helicopter deployment to Afghanistan is our top priority. Over the timescale of the current operational deployment to Afghanistan, there has been a 4 per cent reduction in UK flying days due to the unavailability of spare parts. There has been no effect on the availability of weapons systems for UK training and there is no requirement for Apache to be available for other theatres of operation.

The budget for Apache for the financial year beginning April 2006 has been increased by £9.1 million, and an additional £1 million has been committed on urgent operational requirements. I am not releasing information on the flying hours for the eight Apache aircraft deployed to Afghanistan as to do so would prejudice the security of our Armed Forces.

Compensation: Train Operating Companies

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much compensation has been paid to each train operating company in each of the past five years by (a) Network Rail or Railtrack; and (b) the Department for Transport.[HL7660]

Any compensation payments between Network Rail or (previously) Railtrack and train operating companies are a matter for the parties in question.

The Strategic Rail Authority made payments of £15.65 million in the calendar year 2003 and £7.63 million in 2004 under its discretionary power to reimburse train operating companies (TOCs) for loss of revenue due to industrial disputes. The department has made payments of £107,135 in 2006 for similar purposes. The information for each individual TOC is commercially confidential.

Compensation: Treasury

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much HM Treasury has paid out in compensation to former employees in each of the past 10 years.[HL7661]

The Treasury's records show the following amounts of damages or compensation were paid to former employees as ex gratia payments in connection with the termination of their employment in the past 10 financial years 1996-97 to 2005-06.

Year

Amount £

1996-97

500

1997-98

-

1998-99

-

1999-2000

8,389

2000-01

-

2001-02

-

2002-03

30,000

2003-04

-

2004-05

-

2005-06

-

Consultation: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Regarding Section 75 groups recognised by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, how many consultations the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has arranged in each year since 1999; what those consultations were; and what groups they consulted; and [HL7554]

Regarding Section 75 groups recognised by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, whether the groups consulted by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure responded to any consultation; to what extent and in what form they addressed equality of opportunity issues, and whether any suggestions were made leading to a change in proposed policies.[HL7555]

Equality-related consultations arising from Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 did not begin to take place in departments until after equality schemes approved by the Equality Commission were in place, around mid-2001. Between 2001-02 and 2005-06 in the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure there were nine equality-related consultations undertaken. (Listed in table below with number of responses received for each).

For each consultation we consult groups and individuals who have requested that they be included in our Section 75 consultation list (a copy of which has been placed in the Library), which was established as part of our equality scheme for these purposes. This list is updated continuously, but at least every year. Backdated lists are not kept.

In addition to equality-related consultations, the department consults key stakeholders as part of good policy-making practices generally, and because one must consult on legislation even where no adverse equality impacts have been identified.

With regard to the noble Lord's second Question, the information on what extent and what form consultation responses addressed equality of opportunity issues could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. However, for every equality-related consultation issued, policy makers record to whom consultations were issued, who responded and what was said. A summary of consultation responses received is published (usually on the department's website). All of this information is publicly available.

It is difficult to identify specific changes that have occurred to a policy as a result of consultation alone. This is because, when equality is mainstreamed effectively into decision-making throughout the policy development cycle—through, for example, pre-consultation or informal consultation—there will be no negative equality impacts evident.

Consultation

Year

Number of Responses

EQIA on the provision of a Public Angling Estate & Water Recreation Facilities

2003

28

Policy Proposal on new legislation for Safety at Sports Grounds in Northern Ireland (included EQIA and Initial RIA)

2004

11

Irish Language Broadcast Fund

2004

14

EQIA of Guidance on the UK Government commitments in respect of Irish and Ulster-Scots

2004

27

PRONI Archives and Marketing Policy

2004

28

Unlocking Creativity—A Creative Region

2004

51

Libraries: A Framework for Change

2005

1,100

Consultation on the draft Safety of Sports Grounds (NI) Order and Explanatory Memorandum

2005

Nil

Community Festivals Fund

2006

16

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Regarding Section 75 groups recognised by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, how many consultations the Department of Education in Northern Ireland has arranged in each year since 1999; what those consultations were; and what groups they consulted; and [HL7556]

Regarding Section 75 groups recognised by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, whether the groups consulted by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland responded to any consultation; to what extent and in what form they addressed equality of opportunity issues, and whether any suggestions were made leading to a change in proposed policies.[HL7557]

The Department of Education has carried out a total of 26 consultations since 1999, seven of which have resulted in equality impact assessments being carried out. They are:

Review of the Northern Ireland Curriculum and its Assessment—2002;

Promotion through the Youth Service of the Personal and Social Development of Young People—2003;

Implementation of National Qualifications Framework in Schools—2005;

School Building—2005;

Recovery of Capital Grant from Schools—2005;

Change to Common Funding Formula—2006; and Proposals for a Revised Core Syllabus for Religious Education—2006.

A current list of all people and organisations consulted in line with the department's statutory equality duty has also been placed in the Library. The information requested regarding the responses of groups consulted is not readily available in the form requested and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

It is difficult to identify specific changes that have occurred to a policy as a result of consultation alone. This is because when equality is mainstreamed effectively into decision-making throughout the policy development cycle—through, for example, having advisory fora, pre-consultation or informal consultation—there will be no negative equality impacts evident.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Regarding Section 75 groups recognised by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, how many consultations the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland has arranged in each year since 1999; what those consultations were; and what groups they consulted.[HL7589]

Since the launch of its equality scheme on 8 February 2001, the Department of Environment has carried out 19 consultation exercises as part of the EQIA process. These are listed in Table A.

The department's equality scheme contains a list of Section 75 consultees. This list is updated on an annual basis and the latest version is at Table B. The equality scheme is publicly available on the department's website at www.doeni.gov.uk/uploads/doeequalityscheme.pdf and a copy has been placed in the Library.

Table A

DOE Equality Impact Assessment Consultation Exercises

Policy

Agency/Division

Taxi Driver Licensing Procedures

Driver & Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland (DVLNI)

Procedures relating to the issue of a licence to drivers with a medical condition likely to affect their fitness to drive.

Driver & Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland (DVLNI)

Application for issue of a driving licence

Driver & Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland (DVLNI)

Driving Theory Test Procedures

Driver & Vehicle Testing Agency (DVTA)

Qualifying procedures for registration as an approved driving instructor.

Driver & Vehicle Testing Agency (DVTA)

Vehicle Test

Driver & Vehicle Testing Agency (DVTA)

Practical Driving Test

Driver & Vehicle Testing Agency (DVTA)

Local Government Compensation for Redundancy and Premature Retirement Regulations. (S.R.2001 No.279)

Local Government Division

Local Government (Early Termination of Employment) (Discretionary Compensation) Regulations. (S.R.2003 No.61)

Local Government Division

Review of General Grant (Resources Element)

Local Government Division

Ards/Down Area Plan

Planning Service

Banbridge/Newry and Mourne Area Plan

Planning Service

Magherafelt Area Plan

Planning Service

Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP)

Planning Service

Northern Area Plan

Planning Service

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) Subject Plan for Belfast City Council Area 2015

Planning Service

Development Control Advice Note - (DCAN) on Hot Food Bars.

Planning Service

Road Safety Education, Training and Publicity

Road Safety Division

Draft Taxis (Northern Ireland) Order (previously New Taxi Regulation Policies)

Road Safety Division

Table B

DOE Section 75 Consultation List

All MLAs (109)

Limavady Borough Council

All NI Members of Parliament

Lisburn City Council

All NI Members of the European Parliament Alliance Party of NI

Local Government Staff Commission for NI (LGSC)

Antrim Borough Council

Magherafelt District Council

Age Concern Northern Ireland

Magherafelt Women's Group

An Munia Tober

MENCAP

Ards Borough Council

Men's Project

Armagh City & District Council Assembly Library

Methodist Church in Ireland

Association of Chief Officers of Voluntary Organisations (ACOVO)

Moyle District Council

Baha’is Office for NI Ballymena Borough Council

Multi-Cultural Resource Centre

Ballymoney Borough Council

Newry & Mourne District Council

Banbridge District Council

Newry & Mourne Senior Citizen's Consortium

Barnardo’s NI

Newry & Mourne Women

Barnardo’s, Tuar Ceatha Project

Newtownabbey Borough Council

Belfast Butterfly Centre

NI Anti-Poverty Network

Belfast City Council

NI Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Belfast Education and Library Board

Northern Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA)

Belfast Hebrew Congregation

NI Human Rights Commission

Belfast Traveller Education and Development Group

NI Islamic Centre

Bishop of Down and Connor

NI Unionist Party

British Deaf Association (NI)

NI Women's Aid Federation

Bryson House

NI Women's European Platform (NIWEP)

Carafriend

NIACRO

Carers Northern Ireland

NIPSA

Carrickfergus Borough Council

North Down Borough Council

Castlereagh Borough Council

North Eastern Education and Library Board

Child Poverty Action Group

North West Community Network

Children's Law Centre

North West Forum of People with Disabilities (Derry)

Chinese Welfare Association

Northern Ireland African Cultural Centre

Chrysalis Women’s Centre

Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health

Coalition on Sexual Orientation (CoSo)

Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities

Coiste na niarchimi

Northern Ireland Gay Rights

Coleraine Borough Council

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Commissioner for Children & Young People

Northern Ireland Office

Committee on the Administration of Justice

NSPCC

Community Development and Health Network (NI)

NUS-USI Northern Ireland

Community Relations Council

Office of the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland

Community Technical Aid

Omagh District Council POBAL

Confederation of British Industry (CBI)

Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Cookstown District Council

Progressive Unionist Party

Craigavon Borough Council

Queer Space

Cruse Bereavement Care (NI)

Royal National Institute for the Blind (NI)

Democratic Left

Royal National Institute for the Deaf (NI)

Democratic Unionist Party

Rural Community Network

Department for Social Development

Rural Development Council

Department of Agriculture & Rural Development

Rural Support

Department of Culture Arts & Leisure

Save the Children

Department of Education for NI

SDLP

Department of Employment & Learning

Sense NI

Department of Finance & Personnel

Sinn Fein

Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety

South Eastern Education and Library Board

Derry City Council

Southern Education and Library Board

Derry Well Woman

The Senior Citizens Consortium

Disability Action

Staff Commission for Education & Library Boards

Down District Council

Strabane District Council

Down's Syndrome Association

The Blind Centre for NI

Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough Council

The Cedar Foundation

Employers Forum on Disability

The Disability Committee of the Northern Ireland Committee

Equality Commission for NI

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

Equality Forum NI

The Rainbow Project

Falls Community Council

The Women's Centre

Falls Women Centre

Training for Women Network Ltd

Fermanagh District Council

UK Unionist Party

First Division Association

Ulster Unionist Party

Foyle Women's Information Network

ULTACH

FPA (NI)

UNISON

Gay & Lesbian Youth Northern Ireland

Volunteer Development Agency

Gingerbread NI

West Belfast Economic Forum

Green Party

Women's Information Group

Help the Aged, Northern Ireland

Women's Resource and Development Agency

Indian Community Centre

Women's Support Network

Institute of Directors Labour Party

Women's Forum Northern Ireland

Larne Borough Council Law Centre (NI)

Workers Party

Lesbian Line

Youthnet

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Regarding Section 75 groups recognised by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, whether the groups consulted by the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland responded to any consultation; to what extent and in what form they addressed equality of opportunity issues; and whether any suggestions were made leading to a change in proposed policies.[HL7590]

The information requested is not readily available and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Regarding Section 75 groups recognised by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, how many consultations the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland has arranged in each year since 1999; what those consultations were; and what groups they consulted; and [HL7591]

Regarding Section 75 groups recognised by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, whether the groups consulted by the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland responded to any consultation; to what extent and in what form they addressed equality of opportunity issues; and whether any suggestions were made leading to a change in proposed policies.[HL7592]

Equality-related consultations arising from Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 began after equality schemes were approved by the Equality Commission in 2001. Between 2001-02 and 2005-06, in the Department of Finance and Personnel there were approximately 26 equality-related consultations and a list of these can be found in the following table. The noble Lord may also wish to refer to the department's website at www.dfpni.gov.uk/index/about-us/publications where the department's statutory five-year review of its equality scheme and the department's annual reviews to the Equality Commission are publicly available.

For each consultation the department consults groups and individuals who have requested that they be included. The Department of Finance and Personnel Section 75 consultee database was established as part of the department's equality scheme for these purposes. This database is updated on a regular basis in consultation with those Section 75 groups.

In relation to whether and how groups respond to consultation, this information is not readily available in the form requested and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. However, the noble Lord may wish to note that for every equality-related consultation issued, officials record to whom consultations were issued, who responded and what was said. A summary of consultation responses is published (usually on the department's website).

In relation to policy changes arising from consultation, when equality is mainstreamed effectively into decision-making throughout the policy development process, there may be no changes to the policy per se at a later stage following consultation.

Consultations arranged by the department of finance and personnel since 1999

Rating Policy:

Reform of Domestic Rating Non-Domestic Vacant Rating

Phased Removal of Industrial Rating

Non-Domestic Reliefs

Charitable Exemptions

Law Reform

Civil Partnerships

Divorce

Paternity

Marriage Laws

Physical Punishment

Domestic Violence

Law Reform

EU Programmes

Location of Civil Service Jobs

Recruitment and Promotion

Building Regulations Procurement

Census

Gender Recognition Regulation

Marriage Regulations 2003

Modernisation of Registration Service

Procurement Directives

Implementation of EU Directives

E-HR Programme

Accounting Services Programme

Regulation of Legal Services

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Regarding Section 75 groups recognised by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, how many consultations the Department for Regional Development in Northern Ireland has arranged in each year since 1999; what those consultations were; and what groups they consulted; and [HL7638]

Regarding Section 75 groups recognised by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, whether the groups consulted by the Department for Regional Development in Northern Ireland responded to any consultation; to what extent and in what form they addressed equality of opportunity issues; and whether any suggestions were made leading to a change in proposed policies.[HL7639]

Since the department's equality scheme was approved by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland on 15 February 2001, the department has undertaken 20 consultations on draft equality impact assessments (EQIAs). These are listed below. The groups consulted were drawn from the consultee list set out in the equality scheme, which is updated regularly. This information has been placed in the Library. In addition, each draft EQIA records the groups consulted.

The information requested on responses to consultations cannot readily be collated in the form requested and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. However, all final EQIAs record the outcome of the consultation process, including any changes made to proposed policies. EQIAs may be accessed on the department's website at www.drdni.gov.uk/DRDwww_FOI/.

It is difficult to identify changes made to policies as a result of consultation as with the mainstreaming of equality pre-consultation with relevant groups helps to ensure that policy proposals take account of Section 75 issues from the outset. However, pages 28 to 30 of the five-year review of the equality scheme identify a number of changes made to policies as a result of consultation. These policies include: the regional transportation strategy, water reform, the regional planning policy statement on housing, the accessible transport strategy and the Blue Badge Scheme. The five-year review may be accessed on the department's website at www.drdni.gov.uk/DRDwww_FOISearch/document.asp?doc=9764.

DRD Draft Equality Impact Assessment Consultation Exercises

2001-02

Proposed Regional Discontinuance of Services on Antrim Knockmore Railway Line Transportation Strategy

2002-03

Regional Planning Policy Statement on Transportation and Land Use (PPS 13)

Review of Blue Badge Scheme

Provision of Pedestrian Facilities

2003-04

Review of Concessionary Fares

Regional Planning Policy Statement on Housing (PPS 12)

Operation and management of car parks

Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan

Transport Programme for People with Disabilities

2004-05

Regional Strategic Transport Network Transport Plan

Regional Development StrategyHousing Growth Indicators

Accessible Transport Strategy

Water Service Reform

Rural Transport Fund

2005-06

Sub-Regional Transport Plan

Reform and Rationalisation of Water Service

2006-07

Regional Planning Policy Statement on Retailing and Town Centres (PPS 5)

Regional Planning Policy Statement on Planning in the Countryside (PPS 14)

All-Ireland Free Travel Scheme

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Regarding Section 75 groups recognised by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, how many consultations the Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland has arranged in each year since 1999; what those consultations were; and what groups they consulted; and [HL7640]

Regarding Section 75 groups recognised by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, whether the groups consulted by the Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland responded to any consultation; to what extent and in what form they addressed equality of opportunity issues; and whether any suggestions were made leading to a change in proposed policies.[HL7641]

The Equality Commission formally approved the Departments Equality Scheme in March 2001. Since then, the department has formally consulted on 14 equality impact assessments as follows:

Provision of relevant, accurate and timely information and advice about Social Security benefits.

Private Sector Housing Grants.

Accommodation for Travellers.

Unauthorised Encampments.

District Council's Community Support Programme.

Child Support Northern Ireland Field Operations.

41 Compact between Government and Voluntary and Community Sector.

Urban Regeneration—Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy.

Urban Regeneration—Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy for Belfast.

Urban Regeneration—Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy for other Regional Towns and Cities.

Urban Regeneration—Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy for the North West.

Uptake of Social Security Benefits.

Customer Service (access to Social Security Benefits).

Town/City centre reinvigoration.

The department consults a variety of groups and individuals who have requested that they be included in our equality consultee mailing list. The list is available on the department's website at www.dsdni.gov.uk.

In relation to whether and how groups respond to consultation, this information is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. However, for every equality-related consultation issued, policy makers record to whom consultation documents are issued, who responded and what was said. A summary of consultation responses and more lately an analysis of these are published at the end of each individual consultation exercise. Information on the department’s annual progress report to the Equality Commission and the five-year review of the equality scheme is available on the website at www.dsdni.gov.uk.

In relation to policy changes, consultation is just one stage in the equality impact-assessment process. When equality is effectively mainstreamed into decision-making from the outset of the policy development process, it is very difficult to attribute specific developments or changes to any particular aspect of the policy development process.

Electoral Law: Review

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the review of electoral systems will report before the end of 2006; and whether the report will be published.[HL7819]

The Government review of the experiences of the new UK voting systems introduced for the devolved Administrations, the European Parliament and London Assembly elections being conducted by officials within the DCA is under way. Any decisions on any next steps, if necessary, will be taken in due course.

Electoral Registration: Postal Voting

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the following documents will be open to public inspection: (a) postal vote applications and the signatures provided as personal identifiers; and (b) the statements of identity, including signatures, provided by persons voting by post.[HL7701]

The draft Representation of the People (England and Wales) (Amendment)(No. 2) Regulations 2006 that have been laid before Parliament include provisions that implement the absent voting personal identifiers provisions in the Electoral Administration Act 2006. The draft regulations do not provide for postal vote application forms and the signatures provided on them to be open to public inspection. However, under the draft regulations, postal voting statements may be made available for public inspection after the election, on similar terms to the inspection of certain other election documents.

Fire Services: Firelink and FiReControl

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How implementation of the Firelink and FiReControl projects is progressing.[HL7560]

The Firelink contract was signed on 29 March 2006 and extended to include Scotland and Wales in June. After completion of detailed implementation plans by the contractor, infrastructure work is expected to commence in the first region—the south-west—before the end of 2006. Firelink will then be rolled out on a regional basis over a two-and-half-year period. As fire vehicles are converted to Firelink they will be able to use the system for voice communications. Once FiReControl is in place in a region there will be an ordered transition by each fire and rescue service to the fully integrated system.

On FiReControl the construction of the first four regional control centres (RCCs) is well under way with contracts let for four others. Procurement of the London RCC site is in progress. Over the coming months we expect to appoint the prime contractor to deliver the IT solution and the first local authority controlled companies that will manage RCCs to be established. A draft of the full business case will be published in October and we will publish another version in the new year after contracts are signed with the IT suppliers.

Government Departments: Financial Reporting

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Cabinet Office has any arrangements to enable staff of that 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 of the arrangements.[HL7611]

In line with the Civil Service Code the Cabinet Office has in place a process that enables members of staff to raise in confidence any issues of concern. That process extends to include concerns about financial reporting, disclosure of other information or value for money.

The Cabinet Office has a fraud and negligence policy that is clearly communicated to all staff and includes details of how to report concerns. The main point of reporting is the “central contact” that is located in the financial management division. On receipt of information raising a concern the central contact would take appropriate action to notify all concerned authorities.

Additionally, individual members of staff may approach the accounting officer or the finance director to raise concerns about matters of financial reporting, disclosure of other information or value for money. The department routinely carries out a number of internal audits on a range of activities all of which members of staff may contribute to.

The Civil Service Code states:

“15. If you believe that you are being required to act in a way which conflicts with this Code, your department or agency must consider your concern, and make sure that you are not penalised for raising it.

“16. If you have a concern, you should start by talking to your line manager or someone else in your line management chain. If, for any reason, you would find this difficult, you should raise the matter with your department’s nominated officers who have been appointed to advise staff on the Code.

“17. If you become aware of actions by others which you believe conflict with this Code you should report this to your line manager or someone else in your line management chain; alternatively you may wish to seek advice from your nominated officer. You should report evidence of criminal or unlawful activity to the police or other appropriate authorities.

“18. If you have raised a matter covered in paragraphs 15 to 17, in accordance with the relevant procedures, and do not receive what you consider to be a reasonable response, you may report the matter to the Civil Service Commissioners”.

Government Departments: Special Advisers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the total cost to departments incurred in answering individual Questions for Written Answer from the Lord Lester of Herne Hill on the support given to special advisers; and what would have been the cost of providing an answer based on information obtained centrally. [HL7602]

The Cabinet Office does not hold the information requested in respect of the total cost to departments of answering individual Questions for Written Answer from the noble Lord on the support given to special advisers. The only information held centrally by the Cabinet Office related to its own special advisers.

Parliamentary Ombudsman

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the total cost to departments incurred in answering individual Questions for Written Answer from the Lord Lester of Herne Hill on government compliance with recommendations of the Parliamentary Ombudsman; and what would have been the cost of providing an answer based on information obtained centrally.[HL7658]

The Cabinet Office does not hold the information requested in respect of the cost to departments of answering individual Questions for Written Answer from the noble Lord on government compliance with recommendations of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The only information held centrally by the Cabinet Office related to its own cases and information contained in reports of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, which was not necessarily the complete picture.

Prisoners: Voting Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Statement by the Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 2 February (WS 26) and the Written Answer by the Baroness Ashton of Upholland on 9 October (WA 96), what are the reasons for the continuing delay in publishing their consultation paper on the implementation of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on prisoners' voting rights.[HL7601]

I refer the noble Lord to my previous Answer of 9 October (WA 96), which stated that a specific date has not been set and that careful consideration has to be given to the consultation paper's contents before publication. That position has not changed.

Railways: Greater Manchester

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In view of the overcrowding experienced by rail passengers in the northern part of Greater Manchester, what plans they have to encourage the procurement of additional rolling stock.[HL7748]

Options in the recently published Department for Transport (DfT) north-west regional planning assessment include lengthening trains to accommodate passenger growth. DfT is also working with Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive on their integrated transport strategy, which includes public transport enhancements, and may include rail proposals.

Rally Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have received a business case or other communications concerning a proposed event in 2007 from Rally Ireland; and, if so, how much of the activity is proposed for Northern Ireland.[HL7678]

A business case for the proposed 2007 Rally Ireland event has yet to be received. However, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has held initial discussions with Rally Ireland on the way forward for its 2007 event. Rally Ireland is a crucial event to demonstrate to a multinational worldwide audience the tremendous benefits of visiting Northern Ireland.

Roads

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What response they have made to the recent claims by the Road Users Alliance that £45 billion is collected in taxes from road users and £7 billion is spent on roads.[HL7703]

The Treasury does not recognise the £45 billion figure quoted. The cost of motoring in real terms is now cheaper than it was in 1997. For example, fuel duty is now 16 per cent lower in real terms than it was in 2000.

The Government are committed to addressing decades of under-investment in the UK's transport infrastructure through modernisation programmes such as upgrading the UK's road network with£17.5 billion of investment. The Government have delivered 37 new motorways and major roads since 2001, with another 18 to be completed by 2008. In addition, the Government are committed to ensuring that motoring taxes support both the Government's objective to modernise the UK's roads and also protect the environment by reducing polluting emissions.

Roads: Improvement Schemes

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Following the recent announcement that the Hindhead bypass and tunnel will now cost£371 million compared with £107 million in 2001, whether they are taking any action to improve the accuracy of their cost estimating of trunk road schemes.[HL7680]

The Highways Agency has already taken steps to improve estimating by moving, in 2003, to full outturn estimates which include allowances for inflation and optimism bias in the tendency to underestimate project cost, duration and VAT. It has further actions in hand to develop its approach to cost estimating and project management. The Secretary of State for Transport has asked the Nichols Group to review the Highways Agency's approach and to make recommendations, including on how the agency should best assess, monitor and report on risks to its cost estimates.

Schools

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their estimate of the number of children being educated in sub-standard primary and secondary schools.[HL7760]

The effectiveness of a school is judged by Ofsted on a common grading scale. Grade 1 is outstanding, grade 2 good, grade 3 satisfactory and grade 4 inadequate. Grade 4 inadequate is divided into two categories; schools requiring special measures and schools requiring significant improvement. In both categories a school would be judged not to be providing an acceptable standard of education. Placing a school in one or other category requires further consideration of whether the capacity for improvement is demonstrated by the school. If it is, a school may be judged to require significant improvement and if not the school may be placed in special measures.

Ofsted's most recent published information sets out the total number of schools in each category as of 31 August. Based on those figures we estimate that there are approximately 272,000 pupils attending inadequate primary and secondary schools in England, as set out in the table below.

Data as of 31 August 2006

Pupils attending schools in special measures (numbers of schools)

Pupils attending schools in other Ofsted categories of concern (numbers of schools)

Primary

35,000 (137)

77,000 (299)

Secondary

51,000 (54)

109,000 (123)

Total

86,000 (191)

186,000 (422)

Schools: International Development Studies

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made regarding the introduction of international development studies into the national curriculum.[HL7747]

As part of the national curriculum in geography, all pupils between the ages of 11 and 14 must learn about ways of identifying differences in development between countries, the factors that influence development and the impact differences in development have on quality of life. They must study countries in different states of economic development and how and why each country may be judged to be more or less developed.

Citizenship is part of the national curriculum for all pupils aged between 11 and 16 and provides many opportunities for schools to teach about international development. Pupils are taught about the political, social, economic and environmental implications of the world as a global community and the opportunities for groups and individuals to bring about social change both nationally and internationally.

Schools: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consultation process is taking place about the proposed closure of Groomsport Integrated Primary School in County Down.[HL7674]

On 19 September 2006, the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) published Development Proposal No. 178 for the closure of Groomsport Primary School with effect from 31 August 2007 or as soon as possible thereafter. The publication of the development proposal initiates a two-month statutory consultation period during which representations in support of or against the proposal can be made to the Department of Education. The two-month consultation period ends on 20 November 2006. Following the consultation period, the Minister with responsibility for education will make a decision on the development proposal in light of all the information provided.

Prior to the publication of the development proposal, the SEELB carried out its statutory requirement to consult the school's board of governors, parents and teachers as well as consulting all schools likely to be affected by the proposal. In addition, the commissioners appointed by the Department of Education to carry out the SEELB's functions met a delegation from Groomsport Primary School to hear directly their views and concerns on the proposed school closure.

Taxation: Inheritance Tax

asked Her Majesty's Government:

To what level the exemptions from inheritance tax for gifts in consideration of marriage would have to be raised in order to match in real terms the values of the original exemptions introduced in March 1974.[HL7795]

An exemption for gifts in consideration of marriage (and now civil partnerships) dates from the introduction of the capital transfer tax regime, and is set at £1,000, £2,500 or £5,000 depending on the relationship between the parties involved. The retail prices index increased by 670 per cent between March 1974 and September 2006.

Transport: Heavy Goods Vehicles

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in calculating the cost of road damage, they take into account overloading of the axles of heavy goods vehicles, including those registered abroad.[HL7752]

For roads, the cost of road damage by overloaded heavy goods vehicle is not calculated separately from the cost of the overall road maintenance. Funds for road maintenance in England are related to the actual road condition and this will be a reflection of the deterioration caused by all vehicles.

Waterways Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Rooker on 9 October (WA 123), whether the appointment of the director of marketing and communications at Waterways Ireland in April 2002 involved a promotion; and, if so, whether this is permissible under the enabling legislation.[HL7687]

The appointment in question represented a promotion for the person involved. However, this matter is subject to ongoing legal action and it would not be appropriate for me to add anything further to my Answer of 9 October (WA 123).

Waterways: Safety Measures

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What safety measures have been introduced on the River Thames during the past five years.[HL7727]

From 2001, the following measures have been introduced.

2001

Four RNLI lifeboats commissioned.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) introduces a requirement for all domestic passenger ships to have a safety management system.

Since 2001 PLA introduces progressive improvement and enhancement of Vessel Traffic Services capabilities, including improvements to isophase lights.

2002

MCA takes over co-ordination of search and rescue on the tidal river, from a new station at Thames Barrier Navigation Centre.

2003

MCA introduces new working time regulations for inland waterways vessels. MCA issues new guidance on the training of crew on passenger ships.

2004

PLA formally adopts the new national Inland Waters Small Passenger Boat Code.

2005

MCA issues new guidance on passenger ships manning levels

PLA formally adopts the new national fitness for purpose standard.

2006

PLA develops local byelaws (subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State) requiring the carriage of transponder technology (automatic identification system—AIS) on passenger vessels and other large commercial vessels in central London and the upper reaches of the Thames.

EC Directive 76/135 used to confirm UK may continue to require higher safety standards for UK and EU registered vessels operating on the Thames and other specified waterways.