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Written Answers

Volume 687: debated on Wednesday 29 November 2006

Written Answers

Wednesday 29 November 2006

BBC: Licence Fee

The Government expect to announce the level of the television licence fee to apply from April 2007 later this year.

British Citizenship

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 2 November (WA 49), why the average waiting time for citizenship applications under the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997 is the only category that is not tracked; and whether they will now do so and publish the average waiting time on the “Applying for British Nationality” website. [HL302]

This information is not currently readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. We are planning to improve our IT systems for dealing with these applications and one of the benefits will be the ability to publish waiting time information for these applications.

Construction Industry: Holiday Pay Schemes

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will ensure that, in any review of the centrally administered holiday pay schemes included in the Social Security (Contributions) (Amendment No. 3) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2001 (SI 2001/597), the dispensation for the construction industry will not be abandoned. [HL270]

Crime: Rape

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will amend the law so as to allow judges in the Court of Appeal considering cases referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission to the Court of the Appeal for review as unsafe convictions to have the discretion to lift reporting restrictions on names of accusers as in the Crown Court. [HL204]

The question of whether reporting restrictions should be lifted by the Court of Appeal, in cases where a complainant has anonymity, is not limited to cases in which the Criminal Cases Review Commission refers a case to the court as a possible miscarriage of justice. It could, in principle, arise in any appeal against conviction for a sexual offence.

We are considering the relevant Court of Appeal judgment further and will make our views known in due course on whether the law requires amendment.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many awards have been made to victims of rape attacks by the criminal injuries compensation scheme in each of the past five years. [HL205]

Number of awards made by the criminal injuries compensation scheme to victims of rape:












asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether further advice is being given to the judiciary on Section 41 applications in rape cases following the Criminal Cases Review Commission's referral of the Leslie Warren case to the Court of Appeal. [HL251]

In 2002, the Government commissioned an independent evaluation report into the impact of Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. The final report was published in January 2006 and the findings and recommendations were sent to the senior judiciary and the Judicial Studies Board (the report can be found at The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee, which is chaired by the Lord Chief Justice, has made new rules requiring applications to introduce evidence about a complainant's sexual behaviour to be in writing in advance of the trial. These rules came into force on 6 November 2006.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the application for compensation from the criminal injuries compensation scheme in the case of the accuser in the Warren Blackwell case was applied for as a victim of sexual assault or rape; and on what basis compensation was paid. [HL252]

Claims to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) are confidential as between applicants and the CICA. Ministers are specifically precluded by law (the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1995) from involvement in individual cases.

Under the law, the CICA is exclusively responsible for the day-to-day administration of the scheme, for interpreting the scheme rules and for all decisions on individual cases.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will review the statutory guidelines on minimum sentences for the crime of rape following the comments of Judge Hewitt in the case of Regina v Walsh. [HL254]

The maximum sentence for the offence of rape is life imprisonment. Guidelines suggest a starting point of a five-year determinate sentence if the victim is an adult and there are no aggravating features. Martin Walsh was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of six years, equivalent to a 12-year determinate sentence. As Mr Walsh has been sentenced to life, he will be released after six years only if the independent Parole Board considers that is safe.

The Government are consulting on proposals to reform the way that minimum terms for those sentenced to life imprisonment are calculated. The consultation suggests options for making this process clearer to the public so as to deal with the misperception that all offenders will be released at the end of the minimum custodial term set by the judge. Many offenders sentenced to indeterminate sentences in practice spend significantly longer in prison than the minimum term specified.

We have already announced that we want judges to have more discretion so that they no longer have to reduce the sentence they impose by up to one-third for an early guilty plea, regardless of the circumstances. The Sentencing Guidelines Council is currently reviewing its guilty plea discount guideline.

Disabled People: Education

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consideration they have given to the findings of the Snowdon Survey 2006 on continuing inequalities in further and higher educational opportunities for students with disabilities; and whether they will take any action as a result of the survey. [HL172]

I pay tribute to the work of the Snowdon Award Scheme, now in its 25th year. As the Snowdon Survey 2006 acknowledges, the majority of disabled students do now receive the additional funding and support that they need, but there is always room for improvement.

The department will be looking closely at the Snowdon survey and will be using the findings to inform a new cross-government strategy for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LLDD) to be launched in spring 2007.

EU: Accounts

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to assist the European Commission's fight against fraud by reinforcing procedures to reduce misuse of European Union and United Kingdom matching funds by United Kingdom recipients, following the auditor's refusal to certify the European Union budget for the 12th year running. [HL291]

The Government work closely with the European Commission to reduce any misuse of European Union and United Kingdom match funding, taking action to improve the management of funding wherever necessary.

EU: Tobacco Subsidies

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the United Kingdom's share of the cost of European Union subsidies for tobacco farmers. [HL245]

The EU budget for tobacco premiums was €920 million in 2006. As member states contribute to the EU budget as a whole, and not to any particular part, we cannot say how much the UK contributed in subsidies for tobacco farmers.

As a non-producer, the UK has concerns about the cost and health implications of the tobacco regime; subsidies are at odds with the Community-sponsored “Europe Against Cancer” programme. The UK has always been critical of the regime and welcomed the 2004 reform, whereby direct support for tobacco will be brought to an end by 2010.

EU: UK Net Contributing Cost

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the net contributing cost of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union after all rebates and funds received from the European Union for (a) the last full financial year, and (b) the past 10 financial years. [HL311]

The United Kingdom's net contribution to the EC budget in financial year 2005-06 can be found at footnote 1 to Table 7 (page 15) of the Public Expenditure 2005-06 Provisional Outturn White Paper (Cm 6883) published in July 2006. Net contributions figures for the financial years 2000-01 to 2004-05 can be found in Table 3.2 (page 17) of the annual European Community Finances White Paper (Cm 6770) published in May 2006. Equivalent figures for the years 1996-97 to 1999-2000 can be found in copies of this White Paper for the years 2002 to 2005.

Gulf War Illnesses

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by Lord Drayson on 9 October (WA 47) and 22 June (WA 99), what information the Ministry of Defence has received from its liaison officer in Washington DC on the range, scope and cost in the current financial year of federally funded research at the Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas into Gulf War veterans’ illnesses; when the information was received; and what assessment the department has made of its possible relevance among British veterans of the conflict. [HL23]

Our liaison officer in Washington forwarded on 5 May 2006 a publicly available report of the earmarking of $75 million over five years from financial year 2006 for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre to carry out further work to investigate the possibility of neurological abnormalities in the brains and nervous systems of Gulf War veterans. He continued to monitor the position and on 15 November reported that a contract between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre had been signed. Details, including those of costs, have yet to be released. We take a close interest in this research in relation to our wider work to investigate the causes of Gulf War veterans’ illnesses. However, we will not be in a position to make a detailed assessment of its possible relevance to British veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict until further details are released in the new year by the US authorities.

Gypsies and Travellers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will commission a research study to ascertain whether there is a correlation between changes in the Department for Communities and Local Government count figures for Gypsy and Traveller caravans, and the corresponding accommodation needs assessments; and, if so, what steps they will take to ensure that less thorough needs assessments do not result in lower obligations for the local authorities in the regional spatial strategies. [HL113]

Accommodation needs assessments are intended to be an in-depth look across the range of Gypsies and Travellers residing in or resorting to a local authority's area. The assessment should include, where possible, Gypsies and Travellers living in bricks and mortar accommodation and travelling show people. It may also look at future migration into and out of the area. The caravan count on the other hand is a twice yearly “snapshot” of the number of caravans occupied by Gypsies and Travellers within the area, whether on authorised or unauthorised sites. While the set of data can act as a reference point for the other, there are many reasons why their respective results might not coincide.

The department has issued interim guidance on conducting accommodation needs assessments, which will be finalised next spring. It is also supporting research to assist regional assemblies in determining patterns of provision at regional level. On this basis, we do not see a need for additional research. Regional assemblies will need to take account of all relevant information in developing their strategies, which will also be subject to consultation and examination in public.

National Lottery: Top Goods

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On what occasions since 2003 Top Goods has been in receipt of government or lottery funding; what was the value of each award made; and whether these awards were subject to competitive tendering. [HL96]

The Youth Sports Trust has confirmed that Top Goods has never received government funding.

According to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's lottery grants database, which uses information supplied by the National Lottery distributing bodies, Top Goods has never received a lottery award.

NHS: Recovery of VAT

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What will be the cost to National Health Service trusts of the decision by HM Revenue and Customs to disallow recovery of VAT charges on registered medical professionals employed through agencies; and [HL171]

What is the rationale behind the decision of HM Revenue and Customs not to allow recovery of VAT by National Health Service trusts on professionals employed through agencies, including doctors, radiographers and physiotherapists, while continuing to allow such recovery for nurses and administrative and clerical staff. [HL226]

Government departments and NHS bodies can, under special refund arrangements, reclaim the VAT they are charged on certain contracted-out services. This refund scheme is designed to ensure that VAT costs do not create a disincentive for these bodies to contract services out.

This VAT refund scheme is an exception to the normal principles of public funding; that departmental and NHS spending allocations are calculated to take into account VAT costs incurred in the course of delivering public services. As with any such exception, eligibility and definitions are applied strictly.

The services for which VAT refunds are available are specified in an HM Treasury direction. There have been no recent changes to this direction in respect of staff provided through agencies, although HM Revenue and Customs, which administers the refund scheme, has recently clarified the rules in this area. VAT has been reclaimable on nursing services, agency nursing staff and certain administrative and clerical services, since the early days of this VAT refund scheme. In contrast, VAT incurred on the supply of administrative and clerical staff, and the supply of health professionals such as doctors, radiographers and physiotherapists, has never been eligible for refund under the terms of the direction.

The direction is amended periodically and new services are added where a sufficiently strong case has been made for inclusion. HM Treasury recently invited government departments to submit suggestions for the next revision, which we expect to implement early in 2007.

Government departments do not hold any central records of the VAT amounts that have been charged to NHS trusts on the supply of registered medical professionals through agencies.

Olympic Games 2012: Lottery Scratch Cards

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the estimated income from the Olympic scratch card lottery programme for each of the years between 2006 and 2012 inclusive. [HL69]

Although the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has the information requested, it is of a commercially sensitive nature and was provided in confidence. However, sales performance to date is in line with original estimates.

Olympic Games 2012: Transport Plan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the estimated cost of the Olympic transport plan; and whether the plan is covered by the original estimate of £2.74 billion for the public cost of the building and infrastructure of venues to service the 2012 London Olympic Games. [HL68]

The Olympic transport plan refers to a wide range of transport improvements, only a small element of which will be funded directly from the Olympic programme and the rest of which are covered by non-Olympic programmes. We expect to provide financial details of the Olympic programme next year, when the Government's discussions about costs have been concluded. These details will cover the transport costs included in the Olympic budget, which will be met partly from public funds and partly from the funds of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Police: Arrests

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many arrests have been made under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005; and by which police authorities.[HL106]

The information requested on arrests is not available centrally. Information on arrests held by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform is based on persons arrested for recorded crime “modifiable offences” by main offence group (i.e. sexual offences, theft and handling stolen goods, violence against the person, burglary etc.) within England and Wales only.

Police: Shared Intelligence System

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consultation they have had with the current intelligence providers to law enforcement agencies regarding the delivery of a shared police intelligence system. [HL257]

The IMPACT programme is engaging widely within the Police Service and partner agencies including the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the Immigration Service, HM Revenue and Customs, and the National Co-ordinator of Special Branch. Through these engagements, the IMPACT programme is ensuring that implementation of the proposed police national database (PND) properly reflects the business requirements of the Police Service and its partner agencies.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the latest timetable and budget for the delivery of recommendation 1 of the Bichard inquiry. [HL259]

We are planning to deliver the police national database in stages between 2009 and 2010 as stated in the third progress report on the Bichard inquiry recommendations.

The budget for delivering recommendation 1 cannot be accurately disaggregated from the IMPACT programme budget as a whole as other parts of the programme, including measures to implement the cross-regional information-sharing project (IMPACT CRISP), contribute to delivery of this recommendation. The latest estimated cost of the IMPACT programme is £366 million over the period 2005-06 to 2015-16.

Railways: Community Rail Awards

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will increase the amount of sponsorship given to the Community Rail Awards in 2007, bearing in mind that these are in recognition of largely voluntary effort. [HL314]

The Department for Transport will consider any requests for increased levels of sponsorship it receives from the Association of Community Rail Partnerships.

Roads: Deaths

asked Her Majesty's Government:

For the past five years for which data are available, what is the number of deaths, serious injuries and slight injuries for drivers aged 17 to 19; and [HL317]

For the past five years for which data are available, what is the death rate per 100,000 population among 17 to 19 year-old drivers. [HL318]

During the past five years, the number of (a) fatalities, serious injuries and slight injuries and (b) death rate per 100,000 population for drivers aged 17 to 19 in personal injury road accidents reported to the police are given in the table below.

Number of casualties for drivers aged 17 to 19 and fatality rate per 100,000 population: GB 2001-05

(a) Number of casualties

(b)Fatality rate per 100,000 population






























These figures exclude riders of motorcycles, pedal cycles and horses, and drivers of non-motor vehicles.

Schools: Sport

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made an assessment of the statistic that over 50 per cent of British Olympic medal winners attended schools in the independent sector; and whether they will take steps to address this issue. [HL87]

No formal assessment has been made of the number of British Olympic medal winners who have attended schools in the independent sector. Through the National School Sport Strategy, the Government are committed to increasing both the quality and quantity of PE and school sport for all pupils. Our main aim—a public service agreement target shared by DCMS and DfES—is to increase the percentage of five to 16 year-olds who take part in at least two hours high-quality PE and sport each week, within and beyond the curriculum, to 75 per cent by 2006 and on to 85 per cent by 2008. With 80 per cent of pupils in partnership schools spending at least two hours in a typical week on high-quality PE and school sport, the 2006 target has been exceeded. As part of this strategy, the “Gifted and Talented” workstrand offers targeted opportunities to support and nurture pupils with talent in PE and school sport. The programme focuses on pupils with clear potential as well as those who may be at risk of underachieving.

In addition, the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) supports young people to pursue their sporting interests while continuing in higher and further education. So far, 2,600 young people have been supported by the scheme.

Over 1,200 talented young athletes took part in five different sports at the inaugural UK School Games staged in Glasgow in September 2006. Competitors were selected—based on ability—by the national governing bodies of the sports and their school sports associations. Competitors came from both the maintained and the independent sectors. It is planned to stage this event annually up to 2011.

UK Sport and the Home Country Sports Councils have developed and adopted the equality standard to guide governing bodies towards equitable provision to seek to widen participation by targeting under represented groups. Many sports have already developed schemes specifically for schools in disadvantaged areas where the aim is that individuals with talent and desire will be able to progress to performance sport regardless of their background.

Security Industry: Approved Contractor Status

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What initiatives are envisaged to encourage the 2,000 security companies which have not sought approved contractor status to do so. [HL82]

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) continues to raise awareness of the approved contractor scheme (ACS) with security companies through its website, literature and campaigns in the trade press. As of 17 November, out of an estimated 2,100 private security companies that are eligible to apply, 816 have requested an application pack and 400 have submitted applications for approval. The number of those approved continues to grow at a higher rate than initially forecast.

The SIA plans to focus on promoting the benefits of the scheme to purchasers during 2007 and to continue running seminars for potential applicants to the ACS to help them understand and meet the requirements of the scheme.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they can indicate which of the 267 companies with approved contractor status are satisfied with the performance of the Security Industry Authority. [HL83]

To date, the Security Industry Authority (SIA) has not conducted research to determine the level of satisfaction of approved contractors with the performance of the SIA. During November, the SIA will commence research focused on the level of satisfaction with the approved contractor scheme itself.

Sport: UK Sport

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When UK Sport last reviewed its role and responsibilities under the Royal Charter. [HL94]

Since its establishment in 1996, UK Sport's roles and responsibilities under the Royal Charter have not been formally reviewed. However, from 1 April 2006 a number of elements of elite athlete support were transferred to UK Sport from Sport England following a review of the sporting landscape. This reaffirmed UK Sport as the sole non-departmental public body responsible for funding elite sport.

UK Sport holds regular operational reviews as part of its annual business planning process, based on its published four-year business plan. Furthermore, UK Sport jointly agrees and reviews its funding agreement targets with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

UK Sport also conducted a formal review of its internal structure and governance in 2004.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether paid advisers to the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are eligible to chair lottery fund distribution panels; and, if so, what procedures have been put in place to ensure the distribution of lottery funds is independent of government influence. [HL95]

There are no rules that would prohibit such an appointment. All non-departmental public bodies should have in place arrangements for identifying and managing real or perceived conflicts of interest. Provided potential conflicts of interest are declared and arrangements are put in place to manage them, they need not present an obstacle. Funding decisions are entirely for lottery distributing bodies to make and under the National Lottery Act 2006, they are required, in their annual reports, to set out their policy and practice in relation to the principle that the proceeds of the National Lottery should be used to fund projects, or aspects of projects, for which funds would be unlikely to be made available by Government.

Sport: UK Sport and Youth Sports Trust

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures under the National Lottery Act 1993 have been put in place to ensure that the chairman of UK Sport avoids any conflict of interest in discharging her responsibilities in that role with her chairmanship of the Youth Sports Trust. [HL92]

All DCMS non-departmental public bodies are required to make and maintain a register of interests and should have in place arrangements for identifying and managing real or perceived conflicts of interest. All UK Sport board members, including the chair, are required to maintain their entries in the register of interests, and these are published on the UK Sport website at Members are also required to declare any conflicts of interest at the start of board meetings.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the regulatory impact assessment for the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 (SI 2006/2657) was signed by a Minister from HM Treasury; and [HL221]

What is their estimate of the costs for businesses of compliance with the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 (SI 2006/2657), and the assumptions on which their costs estimates are based; and [HL222]

Whether they will quantify the amount by which the benefits of the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 (SI 2006/2657) exceed its costs, which forms the basis of the Minister's declaration in the regulatory impact assessment. [HL223]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury signed the regulatory impact assessment for the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 on 3 October 2006.

Alongside other counter-terrorist tools, financial sanctions play an important role in helping to prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks and member states are obliged by United Nations Security Council resolutions and directly applicable EC regulations to freeze the assets of suspected terrorists and al-Qaeda associates without delay. Businesses are already under an obligation to comply with these requirements. It is on this basis that Treasury Ministers have judged that the benefits of the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 outweigh the costs.

The regulatory impact assessment sets out that the impact of the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 on compliance costs is minimal because financial institutions already have to check whether they hold funds in the name of designated persons. None the less, the Government are mindful that compliance costs do arise from financial sanctions and they seek to reduce these as far as possible by ensuring that financial sanctions are well targeted and based on good identifying information. The Treasury will shortly be publishing data on the administration costs associated with financial sanctions in the UK.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will consider issuing guidance to Ministry of Defence police that where a person trespasses on land in the open air with the intention of observing what takes place there, but without doing anything which is intended to have any of the effects specified in Section 69(1) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, they should not submit a case to the Crown Prosecution Service under that section. [HL13]

It would not be appropriate for Her Majesty's Government to issue guidance to the Ministry of Defence police on the enforcement of criminal law. Operational policing is entirely a matter for the chief constable of the force and the individual officers involved in specific incidents. The Crown Prosecution Service in turn decides whether prosecutions should take place.

Waterways: Canals

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 1 November (WA 42), about the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ immediate funding pressures, whether the British Waterways Boards’ canal development programme will receive any long-term funding. [HL75]

It is for British Waterways to prioritise its expenditure in the light of competing demands, including maintenance, major works and the support it gives to canal restoration projects. The department has been having on-going discussions with British Waterways over its funding for 2007-08 and beyond.