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Written Answers

Volume 687: debated on Thursday 7 December 2006

Written Answers

Thursday 7 December 2006

Arms Trade: BAE Systems

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations the Attorney-General has received from BAE Systems, or from solicitors acting on its behalf, to block the investigations by the Serious Fraud Office into alleged corrupt payments made to secure arms deals with Saudi Arabia; and what response was made. [HL359]

I have received certain representations from BAE Systems in relation to this case. The SFO investigation into the case is still live and it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.

Aviation: Mixed Mode Arrangements

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the implications of mixed mode arrangements fom Heathrow airport runways on (a) noise pollution; (b) night-time flying; and (c) carbon dioxide emissions. [HL410]

Possible mixed mode operations at Heathrow are still being assessed and will be the subject of consultation next year. This will report on the noise and local air quality implications, with particular regard to the limits set out in the Air Transport White Paper. Other impacts, including CO2, will also be taken into account in the appraisal.

The Government have announced night-flight restrictions running until 2012. Further consultation is expected in due course on controls to apply from 2012. Introduction of mixed mode operation does not, of itself, imply any changes to night-flight restrictions.

Children: UN Conventions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many and which government department websites hold information on (a) the Convention on the Rights of the Child; (b) the United Nations reporting process; (c) recommendations to the United Kingdom by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child; and (d) the Government's response to those recommendations; and [HL530]

Whether information is disseminated on (a) the Convention on the Rights of the Child; (b) the United Nations reporting process; (c) recommendations to the United Kingdom by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child; and (d) the Government's response to those recommendations to schools, health centres, hospitals, courts, job centres, post offices, libraries and other similar establishments; and, if so, how.[HL531]

Information on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations reporting process and the recommendations to the United Kingdom by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is held on the Department for Education and Skills website: www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/uncrc. This website also contains the 1999 UK periodic report on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which responds to the 1995 recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The UK's response to the 2002 recommendations together with the UK's next periodic report will be published in July 2007.

Information on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child can also be found on the Government's Directgov website, as well as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

The department does not disseminate information to schools, health centres, hospitals, courts, job centres, post offices, libraries and other similar establishments. However, there are opportunities within citizenship education to learn about human rights and how they relate to young people and could include the convention. Information on the convention can also be accessed through the websites described above.

Disabled People: Blue Badge Scheme

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many current beneficiaries there are of the blue badge scheme for parking concessions for entitled disabled people travelling either as drivers or as passengers; and what recent assessment has been made of how well the scheme is working. [HL399]

The results of the Department for Transport's annual survey into the issuing of disabled persons’ parking badges by local authority was published on the DfT website on 19 October and showed that some 2,258,000 badges were on issue to disabled people in England as at 31 March 2006.

A comprehensive review of the blue badge scheme was completed in 2002. The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), the department's statutory advisers on the transport needs of disabled people, was asked to look at the responses received and to submit recommendations to Ministers. Its report was put forward to Ministers and the majority of the recommendations were accepted by the Government in 2002. The department is working on those recommendations which require changes to regulations and plans to consult on the draft regulatory package early next year.

Government Property: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which pieces of Ministry of Defence estate in Northern Ireland have been disposed of since 1994; whether they will provide details of each property; and, for each piece: (a) how long the Ministry of Defence owned it; (b) from whom and at what cost it was acquired, if acquired since 1970; (c) how the disposal was conducted; (d) who purchased it from the Ministry of Defence; (e) what were the sale prices and selling costs; and (f) where the resulting assets were placed. [HL164]

I am placing the information that is available in the Library of the House. Selling costs are not readily available and will take time to collate. I will write therefore to the noble Lord once this information is finalised. All receipts from the disposal of surplus land come to the defence budget, which is voted on a net basis.

House of Lords: Cleaners

asked the Chairman of Committees:

What proportion of cleaners are currently contracted to work outside normal office hours in the House of Lords. [HL608]

Two groups of employees provide cleaning services within the House. Housekeepers employed directly by the House are contracted to work Monday to Friday from 6.30 am to 10 am, except for the head housekeeper, who is contracted to work from 6 am to 10 am. Two members of the housekeeping staff choose to work from 6 am to 9.30 am. Different and more conventional working hours apply to a small number of housekeepers who carry out special cleaning tasks in support of the Library and the Parliamentary Archives.

The House also employs the services of 24 Mitie contract cleaning staff. Their working hours are broken down as follows.

Staff member

Working hours

1 Manager

6 am to 2 pm

1 Supervisor

5 am to 12 noon

1 Supervisor

2 pm to 10 pm

19 Cleaners

5 am to 9 am

2 Janitors

5 pm to 8 pm

Judicial Review

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What policy changes they plan to make in the way judicial reviews are handled by Government in Northern Ireland. [HL367]

The policy of the Government is, and always has been, to handle judicial reviews with the high standards expected of all parties by the courts.

As I stated in my written reply to Lord Lester of Herne Hill (Official Report, col. WA 112), I have asked Mr Peter Scott QC to investigate concerns raised by Mr Justice Girvan in recent judicial review proceedings in Northern Ireland. His terms of reference include his making recommendations on how best to prevent a recurrence of any shortcomings identified.

Olympic Games: Medal Target

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When consultation took place with the British Olympic Association's director of performance to agree the medal target for the British Olympic team in Beijing 2008; and where such discussions were held. [HL351]

No consultation has taken place with the British Olympic Association's director of performance to agree the medal target for the British Olympic team in Beijing 2008. The target was set by UK Sport, the Government’s agency for elite sport, in 2005, in agreement with DCMS. It will be finalised with the Minister of Sport in spring 2008.

However, UK Sport officials have met the BOA's director of performance a number of times since his appointment in September to discuss high-performance issues.

Railways: Franchise Operator Failure

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What standby provisions they have in place to operate rail passenger franchises in the event that the incumbent operators fail. [HL439]

The Government have powers under Section 30 of the Railways Acts 1993 as amended to step in as “operator of last resort” and take over the operation of a franchise in the event that a franchise holder should be unable to deliver the service. The Department for Transport has detailed contingency plans to cater for this eventuality. The plans are kept under constant review.

Roads: Safety Legislation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether Parliament retains the power to legislate on all matters of road safety without infringing European law.[HL460]

Parliament has the power to legislate on all matters of road safety but legislation must be compatible with EU law where that applies. EU law exists in a number of areas that are relevant to road safety. The Government do not consider that there are any significant issues on which safety-related road traffic law is in conflict with EU legislation.

Roads: Warning Lights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will issue advice to road users regarding the use of coloured warning lights and other high conspicuity markings that in normal use breach the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations (SI 1989/1796).[HL467]

The Government have no plans to issue general advice on the use of special warning lights and conspicuity aids. However, the Highways Agency has produced a code of practice on the self-escorting of abnormal loads or abnormal vehicles (which includes sections on lamps and conspicuity markings), and the Highway Code (Rules 194 and 200) includes advice about emergency vehicles and flashing blue, red or green lights, and about the use of flashing amber lights.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the proliferation of warning beacons or lamps and other high conspicuity markings being used on road vehicles in breach of the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (SI 1989/1796), in particular those fitted to abnormal loads, abnormal-load escort vehicles and recovery vehicles.[HL468]

The Government are not aware of any proliferation of the use of lights or other conspicuity aids in breach of the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (RVLR) 1989 as amended. Government policies, and the RVLR, restrict special warning beacons and high-conspicuity markings to specific definitions of vehicles and uses—for example, vehicles used for emergency or abnormal-load escort purposes—so as to avoid undermining their impact and effectiveness. Use of such beacons and markings in breach of the RVLR is a matter for enforcement by the police.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which organisations applied for permission to use lamps or other high-conspicuity markings normally prohibited from use by the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (SI 1989/1796) in each of the years 2000 to 2006; and, for each of those organisations, when the permissions will expire.[HL469]

The Department for Transport receives many applications every year from organisations seeking permission to use lamps or other high-conspicuity markings normally prohibited from use by the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 as amended (RVLR). Many are refused permission. Government policy is to avoid proliferation of these aids in order to maintain their impact and effectiveness. Where such permission is granted, the organisation concerned is issued with a special order. Some orders granted have changed over time as amendments have been made to the RVLR.

The following table summarises the special orders granted, and those expiring, in each of the years 2000 to 2006. A more detailed table, giving the names of each organisation and the coming into force and expiry dates of each order, has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Numbers of Special Orders Granted Each Year

Year

No. Granted

No. Expired

2000

3

3

2001

6

6

2002

8

8

2003

9

8

2004

52

52

2005

37

37

2006

7

3

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many warning lights and high-conspicuity markings permitted in circumstances specified by the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (SI 1989/1796) are used regularly on road vehicles; and whether they have made an assessment of the potential for these markings to cause confusion to other road users.[HL470]

No count is made of the number of vehicles permitted to use these aids, but lawful use is restricted according to requirements specified in the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (RVLR) 1989 as amended, with occasional special orders to meet particular requirements (for example, for Highways Agency traffic officer vehicles). The aim is to avoid unnecessary proliferation of these aids, which could undermine their impact and effectiveness. We have not made any specific assessment of potential confusion caused to other road users by such aids; however, assessments have previously been made that demonstrate the conspicuity benefit of these lights and markings for high-risk and/or emergency vehicles.

Sport: Anti-doping

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much the chairman and chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust have been paid on an annual basis since the formation of the Youth Sport Trust. [HL353]

The Youth Sport Trust is a registered charity established since 1994. Details of individual salaries are therefore not held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Sport: Community Club Development Programme

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which sports facilities are currently supported by the Community Club Development Programme; and how much financial support each facility has received since the inception of the programme. [HL348]

Since 2003, more than 1,000 sports facility projects have received Community Club Development Programme awards. I am arranging for lists of the facilities and awards to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Sport: Ms Sue Campbell

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Following the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's press release on 26 August 2003 announcing the appointment of Ms Sue Campbell as interim chair of UK Sport, whether the appropriate safeguards were put in place to ensure no conflict of interest between this role and her advisory role to the Department for Education and Skills. [HL354]

Sport: Talented Athlete Scholarships

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many individuals have received talented athlete scholarships; and how many of those individuals have achieved Olympic, world or European medal success. [HL349]

It is predicted that 2,729 athletes will have received talented athlete scholarships through the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) by the end of 2006-07. These figures break down as follows:

2004-05

920 athletes supported

2005-06

1,109 additional athletes supported

2006-07

Approximately 700 additional athletes supported (awaiting final confirmation of numbers)

Athletes on the TASS programme are not generally at the performance level to be competing at Olympic, world or European championship level. There are notable exceptions, however; for example, the silver medal won by Shelley Rudman during the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics; the three European Athletics Championship medals won at Gothenburg 2006; and the 21 medals won by TASS athletes during the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Additionally, we have seen significant performances from TASS athletes at world and European junior championships; for example, the gold medals won by Harry Aikines Aryeetey at both the 100 metres and 200 metres at the 2005 World Youth Championships.

Sport: UK Sport

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will ask UK Sport to approach sponsorship agencies to assist in raising the £100 million sponsorship fund to support aspiring Olympians. [HL358]

The Government, supported by UK Sport, are currently exploring a number of options to raise £100 million from the private sector to help support our most talented athletes. We are also considering what external assistance may be required.

Sport: Youth Sport Trust

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What expertise was demonstrated by the Youth Sport Trust to secure funding for its Start Clean drug-free sport outreach programme; and when the competitive tendering process for the award of funding was initiated. [HL357]

Start Clean was the drug-free sport education programme set up by UK Sport in 2004. This was superseded by its 100 per cent ME programme in 2005. The Youth Sport Trust has not secured funding for, nor has any involvement in, either of these programmes.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much the Youth Sport Trust has received each year from public funds since January 2000. [HL356]

For work related to sports colleges and the joint DfES/DCMS school sport strategy, the following amounts have been paid to the Youth Sport Trust.

Financial year

DfES (£)

DCMS (£)

Total (£)

2000-01

938,695

-

938,695,

2001-02

1,135,624

-

1,135,624

2002-03

1,842,368

1,041,150

2,883,518

2003-04

4,841,881

1,394,000

6,235,881

2004-05

9,040,225

2,187,000

11,227,225

2005-06

15,959,487

2,534,500

18,493,987

2006-07

10,151,296 to date

1,880,189 to date

12,031,485 to date

Information on other government departments' expenditure is not held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Suicide

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they will respond to the call by the charity Papyrus for amendment of the Suicide Act 1961 which has the effect of banning internet sites which may incite people to, or advise people on how to, commit suicide. [HL162]

The Government take this difficult problem seriously and are taking a range of non-legislative steps to tackle it, including raising awareness of the potential dangers of suicide websites being accessed by vulnerable people; encouraging search engine companies to ensure that search results give prominence to sites offering help and support to people contemplating suicide; and working with internet service providers to discourage them from hosting sites which may encourage suicide. The Department of Health is also continuing to explore what more non-legislative action might be possible in the context of its Suicide Prevention Strategy.

At the Government's request, the Law Commission has considered the law as it applies to suicide websites as part of its work on participation in crime. It concludes (in annexe B to its report Inchoate Liability for Assisting and Encouraging Crime, published on 11 July and available on its website) that the problems posed by suicide websites can be adequately addressed without reform to the Suicide Act 1961. But it recommends that the language of the legislation could be updated, and that consideration should be given to applying its proposed provisions on extra-territorial jurisdiction to the offence of assisting suicide. We will consider these recommendations carefully.