Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 688: debated on Tuesday 16 January 2007

Written Answers

Tuesday 16 January 2007

Agriculture: Scrapie

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the cost of the National Scrapie Plan for each year since its inception; and what is the estimated cost for this year and 2007–08.[HL1037]

The figures for National Scrapie Plan programme expenditure (that is, not including staff, information technology and capital costs) are set out in the table below:

Year

2001-2

2002-3

2003-4

2004-5

2005-6

2006-7 *

2007-8 #

£m

4.49

6.55

7.70

20.63

29.64

16.31

15.59

* Estimate at December 2006

# Current allocation for 2007-08

Armed Forces: Housing for Former Personnel

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have conducted any review over the past two years of the application of social housing policy for ex-service personnel; and, if so, what were the review's conclusions. [HL962]

The Ministry of Defence, in close co-operation with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), has been pursuing a number of initiatives to assist ex-service personnel in meeting their housing needs. These measures have included an amendment to the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, recognising that service personnel who leave at a recognised option point are not making themselves intentionally homeless, and the inclusion of service personnel into the Government's key worker scheme. We are exploring with DCLG the possibility of recognising a local connection for personnel leaving the Armed Forces. Following the success of the Galleries Hostel Project in Richmond North Yorkshire, MoD, in conjunction with DCLG and the English Churches Housing Group, is providing a 25-bed hostel for single ex-service personnel in Aldershot. The building is expected to be completed by the summer of 2007. This will offer the benefits of housing, training and support to ex-service men and women in the south. We have also developed a number of schemes to assist personnel, while they are still serving, to buy their own homes.

Aviation: Gibraltar Flight Safety

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Davies of Oldham on 15 December 2006 (WA 227), what is their response to witness reports that there was a military Chinook helicopter blocking the runway. [HL1068]

The Government have not received any witness reports that a military Chinook helicopter blocked the runway at Gibraltar Airport on 29 November causing British Airways flight BA6906 to abort its approach.

The air traffic control log for 29 November 2006 shows that one Chinook aircraft was operating from Gibraltar Airport. It also confirms that at the time the British Airways flight was conducting its approach to Gibraltar Airport, this helicopter was holding three nautical miles south of the airfield at low level over the sea, in accordance with air traffic control instructions.

The pilot of the aircraft was directed to abort the approach to the airport only because the Defence Fire Service, for reasons beyond its control, had been unable to complete the mandatory routine check of the runway in time.

Buses: Cambridge Guided Busway

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In respect of the proposed Cambridge guided busway (a) what signalling system is to be used to ensure safety at road, footpath and other crossings and between buses on the guided sections; (b) which authority will approve the safety systems proposed; (c) which authority is responsible for investigating accidents on the busway; (d) what fencing requirements there are to prevent trespass or animal incursion on to the guided sections; (e) which vehicle construction, use and approval regulations apply to the guided buses; and (f) which services are required to be diverted to avoid the guided busway sections running over them. [HL1106]

These matters are primarily for Cambridgeshire County Council as promoter of the scheme. I am grateful to it for providing information to help to respond to your questions.

(a) Public highway road crossings will be controlled by traffic signals. At access roads, vehicles will be required to give way to guided buses. Footpath and bridleway crossings will be uncontrolled. There will be no other signals controlling buses on the guided busway.

(b) Since guided busways are exempt from the requirements of the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety Regulations) 2006, Cambridgeshire County Council, as operator, is responsible for satisfying itself that safety systems are appropriate.

(c) The Health and Safety Executive, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency and the police are the authorities responsible for investigating accidents on the busway.

(d) In respect of fencing, the Cambridgeshire guided busway is similar to a new highway; boundary fencing will be provided and, where agreed with adjacent landowners, stockproof fencing will be provided. There will be no fence between the guideway and the bridleway which runs alongside the guideway.

(e) The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989, the Road Vehicles (Authorised Weight) Regulations 1998, the Public Service Vehicles (Conditions of Fitness, Equipment, Use and Certification) Regulations 1981, the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 and the Public Service Vehicles (Carrying Capacity) Regulations 1984 (SI 1984 No. 1406). (All as amended). These are the same regulations as apply for any bus used on the public road.

(f) None.

Cheese

asked Her Majesty's Government:

For every year since January 2002, what has been the average consumption of cheese per person (a) daily; (b) weekly; and (c) annually. [HL1260]

The table below shows the average household purchases of cheese per person per day, week and year. These estimates are based on records of consumer purchases from the expenditure and food survey.

2001-022002-032003-042004-05

Average household purchases of cheese per person in grams

Daily

16

16

16

16

Weekly

112

112

113

110

Annually

5833

5807

5868

5720

Estimates of weekly purchases in 2005-06 will be published on 18 January at http://statistics.defra.gov .uk/esg/publications/efs/defauIt.asp

Corruption

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the reasons for the continuing delay in introducing a Corruption Bill. [HL988]

The Government are committed to reforming the law of corruption. Our aim is to replace the existing provisions, which are spread across a number of statutes and the common law, with effective up-to-date bribery offences which command wide consensus and are easy to understand but sophisticated enough to differentiate between bribery and the legitimate giving and receiving of advantages.

In 2003, based on work undertaken by the Law Commission, we introduced a draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Joint Committee which gave the Bill its pre-legislative scrutiny raised significant issues and recommended a different approach to the formulation of the offences.

We looked very carefully at the Joint Committee's recommendations. Following our response to its report in December 2003, we published a consultation paper in December 2005 setting out further options for reform. We are currently finalising the Government's response to all the comments received and will publish this shortly.

Crime: Domestic Violence

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What new initiatives are planned to deal with the serious effects of domestic violence, which it is estimated costs the United Kingdom economy in excess of £23 billion a year. [HL1123]

The Government's national delivery plan for domestic violence sets out a strategic framework for tackling domestic violence, ranging from early intervention and prevention through to the rehabilitation of perpetrators and resettlement of victims.

At the heart of the plan is the development of specialist domestic violence courts (SDVCs). We have introduced a system which puts victims' needs at the heart of proceedings and created a catalyst for the better co-ordination of services locally. The programme is being rolled out successfully and 64 court systems will be in place by April 2007.

Pivotal to the success of SDVCs are independent domestic violence advisers (IDVAs). IDVAs work from the point of crisis with a victim and offer intensive support to help assure both their short term and long term safety. In 2006-07, the Government supported the development of IDVAs in all SDVC areas.

Multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) are a recently developed tool for tackling domestic violence. MARACs usually focus on high-risk victims of domestic violence by sharing information and developing responses which are tailored to the needs of individual victims and their children. A MARAC training package, based on an evaluated model in Cardiff, has been developed, and the Government have commenced the roll out of training in SDVC areas.

By working to respond effectively to reported domestic violence and reduce the impact of domestic violence, we aim to reduce the economic and social costs of domestic violence.

Crime: False Accusations

asked Her Majesty's Government:

By what means arrangements for extending the right of Appeal Court judges to remove anonymity from false accusers could be introduced, whether by primary legislation, secondary legislation or Order in Council. [HL1218]

The rules governing complainant anonymity are set out in statute—namely, the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 as amended—and primary legislation would be required to amend them. As my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General indicated on 9 January, we are considering actively whether any amendment of the law is appropriate to take account of the remarks of the Court of Appeal in the Blackwell case.

Crime: Rape

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will provide statistics on the number of (a) reported rape allegations; (b) persons subject to charge; (c) persons subject to prosecution; and (d) persons convicted; in each of the past three years for England and Wales and, if available, Scotland.[HL526]

In the coming months we will be publishing a national action plan on sexual violence and abuse, which will include a range of key actions for the police and the CPS aimed at improving the investigation and prosecution of serious sexual offences.

The available information relates to offences of rape recorded by the police in England and Wales and is given in the first table.

Figures for the number of persons charged are not centrally collected.

Figures from the court proceedings database held by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform for the prosecutions and convictions for rape offences in England and Wales are shown in the second table.

Because recorded crime figures are for offences and court proceedings data count offenders, the two sets of data are not directly comparable.

Information for Scotland is a matter for the Scotland Office.

Number of defendants prosecuted at magistrates' courts and found guilty at all courts, for all rape offences, in England and Wales, 2003-2005(1)(2)

Year

Proceeded against

Found guilty

2003

2,790

673

2004

2,689

751

2005

2,826

796

(1) These data are on the principal offence basis.

(2) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by court and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.

Offences of rape recorded by the police in England and Wales

Number of offences

Year

Total

2003-04

13,272

2004-05

14,042

2005-06

14,449

Disabled People: Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Prime Minister on 25 March 2002 (HC Deb, col. 618–9W) reaffirming the Government's commitment to Rehabilitation International's Charter for the Third Millennium, presented to him on 5 July 2000, what developments there have been since then in regard to the charter's call for a United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People; and what role the Government have played in giving it effect. [HL850]

I refer the noble Baroness to the answer my right honourable friend the Prime Minister gave to my right honourable friend the Member for Manchester Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) in another place on Thursday 14 December 2006, Official Report, cols. 1287-1288W.

EU: Tax

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will seek sanctions against the officials of the European Commission who were responsible for the failure to prosecute the French authorities within the six-year time limit for the illegal tax advantage given to French companies under the economic interest grouping tax scheme between 1998 and 2005. [HL1118]

No. The European Commission has the competence to launch investigations of allegations of illegal state aid. This will usually be triggered by complaints from affected businesses. Her Majesty’s Government will intervene, in support of such complaints, where appropriate.

There is no six-year time limit on the recovery of illegal state aid. The State Aid Procedural Regulation provides for a 10-year limit.

Firearms: Certificates

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the average cost of administering the issue or renewal of a firearm certificate compares with the fees charged. [HL1155]

The fees charged for granting or renewing a firearms certificate are calculated on the basis of the average costs of administration and are currently set at £50 and £40.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What procedures exist for an individual to appeal against conditions laid down by chief officers of police for the granting or holding of a firearm certificate. [HL1156]

There is no statutory right of appeal against certificate conditions although unreasonable additions may be challenged by way of judicial review.

Food: Organic

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they will take to explain the official position on organic food following the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs's most recent comments on the subject. [HL1186]

This Government are strongly supportive of organic food and will remain so, not least for its biodiversity benefits. We place significant value on the contribution made by organic production toward our sustainability objectives. We have provided considerable support to the organic sector in financial aid to organic farmers and through the organic action plan.

Government Offices of the Regions: Costs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many staff the Government Office for the East of England has employed in each year since its creation. [HL1136]

The Government Office for the East of England is one of nine offices in the Government Office network.

Figures for the number of staff it has employed within the past 10 years are detailed in the table below for March of each year.

Staff in post figures detail the numbers of permanent, fixed term and casual staff who were working in the office at that time. Total headcount figures include additional employees of the Government Office for the East of England who were out of the office for any reason such as career breaks, maternity leave and secondments.

March 1997

March 1998

March 1999

March 2000

March 2001

March 2002

March 2003

March 2004

March 2005

March 2006

Staff In Post

173

169

163

176

178

189

235

271

277

267

Total Headcount

182

183

178

195

189

201

246

290

286

278

Full Time Equivalent

182

175

175

192

170

190

239

277

266

267

Homelessness

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people in the United Kingdom were recorded as being unintentionally homeless in 1995, 2000 and 2005. [HL950]

Information about English local authorities' actions under homelessness legislation is collected by the Department for Communities and Local Government in respect of households (rather than people) at local authority level and on a quarterly basis. The department does not hold statistics for the devolved Administrations.

Households that are accepted by English local authorities as eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need are owed a main homelessness duty by the local authority. Figures for 1995, 2000 and 2005 are provided for England in the table below.

The duty owed to a household accepted as eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need is to secure suitable accommodation. If a settled home is not immediately available, the authority may secure temporary accommodation until a settled home becomes available.

Applicant households found to be unintentionally homeless and in priority need (i.e. accepted as owed a main homelessness duty)- England

1995

117,490

2000

111,340

2005 (P)

100,170

Note- (P) Provisional data

Other applicant households are found by the local authority to be homeless (some of which may be unintentionally so) but not in priority need, in which case a main homelessness duty is not owed. These are not included in the table.

House of Lords: Water

asked the Chairman of Committees:

How many bottles of water were purchased by the House of Lords during the past three years. [HL1305]

Bottled water purchased by the House of Lords is sold for profit in the House's refreshment outlets and provided free of charge in committee and meeting rooms. Water sold in the refreshment outlets is available in 33c1 and 75cl bottles. Water provided in committee and meeting rooms is available in 75cl bottles.

The number of bottles purchased during the past three years is as follows:

For sale in refreshment outlets

Provided free of charge in committee and meeting rooms

TOTAL

33cl

75cl

75cl

33cl + 75cl

2004

2280

23700

9360

35340

2005

1776

19500

9768

31044

2006

2424

19020

9360

30804

Light Pollution

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Andrews on 4 December (WA 103), what has been the cause of the delay in developing guidance on the avoidance of light pollution, following the announcement made by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in 2004; and by what date during 2007 the draft annex to Planning Policy Statement 23 will be published. [HL697]

The development of guidance on light pollution has had to be accommodated alongside other changes to the planning system including the review of land use planning by Kate Barker in December 2006.

The aim is to consult on a draft in summer 2007, taking into account the recommendations of the Barker review about the need to reduce the range of planning policy guidance.

Local Government: Comprehensive Performance Assessment

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is (a) the population and (b) the electorate of each of the non-metropolitan unitary authorities in England, and of each London borough; and what was the latest comprehensive performance assessment ranking of each authority. [HL1094]

Population statistics for local authorities in England, including the non-metropolitan unitary authorities, are available from the Office for National Statistics website at http://www.statistics.gov.uk/statbase/Expodata /Spreadsheets/D9394.xls.

Details of the electorate in each local authority area are also available from its website at http://www.statistics. gov.uk/statbase/Expodata/Spreadsheets/D8887.xls.

Information on the latest comprehensive performance assessment ranking of each authority is available from the Audit Commission website at http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/cpa/index.asp? page=index.asp&area=hpcpa.

Micro-Credit

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have plans to develop the micro-credit lending programme, pioneered by Professor Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, to alleviate poverty, particularly among women, in the work they are doing in other developing countries. [HL785]

I was delighted that Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Prize. Professor Yunus has inspired the growth of microfinance worldwide.

Microfinance has been shown to be very useful in reducing poverty and reaching the millennium development goals. Poor households use microfinance to raise their income, build-up their assets and protect themselves against unexpected events and shocks. I use the term “microfinance” rather than micro-credit because in addition to small loans, poor households use a variety of other financial services such as savings and remittances.

The White Paper on International Development published in 2006 commits to tackling barriers to access to financial services and to supporting microfinance initiatives in partnership with banks and regulators. DfID has supported microfinance and financial sector development projects in more than 25 countries and has contributed approximately £165 million in total to these projects. DfID also supports microfinance through global initiatives such as the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and the Financial Sector Reform and Strengthening (FIRST) Initiative.

Examples of DfID's support to microfinance include:

a £40 million seven-year “PROSPER” programme launched in 2006 in Bangladesh that will support legal and policy reform, private sector innovation, and capacity building of microfinance institutions; and

a US $1.5 million grant for the Deutsche Bank Community Microfinance Facility that leveraged US$79 million in additional investment.

It is estimated that microfinance institutions serve 200 million people globally, eight out of 10 of whom are women. DfID supports the extension of microfinance to women, for example through:

committing £20 million to the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA). MISFA has provided funding and technical assistance to microfinance institutions that has led to more than 300,000 Afghans (70 per cent of whom are women) accessing small loans; and

supporting the Kashf Foundation in Pakistan, a not-for-profit microfinance institution serving poor women, to help it extend its outreach from 75,000 to 300,000 women in the next five years.

Microfinance of course is not the only answer though, and DfID will continue to spend large resources on education, health and other programmes of direct relevance to improving the lives of poor households.

Nepal: Foreign and Home Office Visit

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 13 December (WA 210-11) regarding the visit by officials from the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to Nepal, whether they will place in the Library of the House the note that was sent to the Government of Nepal. [HL924]

The note is a draft record of a meeting that took place in Kathmandu on 22 November. It ascribes certain statements and opinions to Nepalese Ministers who attended the meeting. It would be inappropriate to publish the document before receiving confirmation from them that their position is correctly recorded and that they are content for it to be made public. We intend to publish it subject to receipt of this confirmation.

People Trafficking

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the names and qualifications of the members of the independent advisory group of the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre. [HL1085]

The membership and qualifications of the independent advisory group to the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) is a matter solely for the UKHTC, which is an independent organisation.

Planning: Barker Review

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Andrews on 19 December (WA 304), whether the proposals outlined in the Barker review of land use planning can be properly evaluated without the financial implications being considered. [HL1112]

In developing their proposals for legislative or policy change in the light of the Barker recommendations, the Government will carefully consider all the implications, including financial implications. We have set out our intention to produce a White Paper on planning later in the year which will be subject to consultation.

Post Office

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Statement by Lord Truscott on 21 November 2006 (WS 32), why £10 million of end-year flexibility (EYF) entitlement in respect of the modernisation of the post office network remained unspent; what is meant by “Royal Mail representation”; what was the original budget for this; and why £630,000 of the EYF entitlement in respect of it remained unspent. [HL1264]

Under the Post Office Network Urban Reinvention programme, up to £30 million was allocated for an investment grant scheme to improve sub post offices on a matched funding basis. There was an unspent balance of £10 million from this funding allocation at the start of the current financial year, which is being used in 2006-7 for further investment grant applications.

Royal Mail representation relates to the use of commercial financial and legal advisers who have been employed on work on the future financing of Royal Mail and Post Office Limited. The estimate requests additional money from central DTI funds that were unspent in 2005-6 to be used for this purpose.

Prisoners: Resettlement

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the concept and practice of community chaplaincy, as it has so far been developed, for resettling offenders after custodial sentences and for preventing their re-offending. [HL1084]

We welcome community chaplaincy schemes as an invaluable part of the Reducing Re-offending Faith and Voluntary and Community Sector Alliance. As stated in the Government's Five Year Strategy for Protecting the Public and Reducing Re-offending, we want to build on work such as the successful community chaplaincy projects which bring in faith groups to work with prisoners before and after their release. Such schemes are an excellent example of the contribution that faith communities and volunteers can make. NOMS Chaplaincy is supporting a two-year post to assist with the development of community chaplaincy, working with stakeholders including prisons, probation and regional offender managers.

Retirement Age

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the adoption by the Department for Communities and Local Government of the national default retirement age of 65 is compatible with its responsibility as the lead department for equality and human rights; and [HL1176]

How the Department for Communities and Local Government can fulfil its commitment to promoting economic and social inclusion in its adoption of the national retirement age of 65. [HL1177]

Within Communities and Local Government there is no default age for retirement for staff below the Senior Civil Service grades, allowing an individual to continue work provided they receive satisfactory reports and have a good attendance and conduct record.

In the Senior Civil Service the retirement age is set by the Cabinet Office at 65.

Rural Payments Agency

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made changes to the Rural Payments Agency payments system for farmers to allow for HM Treasury's accounting rule changes; and whether they have explained the changes to all stakeholders. [HL1073]

The Rural Payments Agency has an accounting system based on Oracle financials that meets all standards as set out by HM Treasury in the Financial Reporting Manual and has received unqualified audit opinions on its accounts for all financial years since its creation up to and including 2005-06.

Stakeholders are advised as appropriate of requirements.

Schools: PSHE

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether support to be given in schools to the institution of marriage will be confined to marriage between persons of the opposite sex, or whether it will be extended to other lasting relationships between persons of the opposite or same sex.[HL1199]

Department for Education and Skills guidance issued to schools on sex and relationship education asks schools to teach children about the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of society. Schools have a legal duty to have regard to this guidance.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is currently reviewing the secondary curriculum, including provision for personal, social and health education where issues to do with parenting, family life and relationships are usually taught. This review will be subject to a public consultation shortly.

Secure Children's Homes: Physical Restraint

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On how many occasions physical restraint occurred at Sutton Place local authority secure children's home in relation to, respectively, male and female black and ethnic minority clients during each of the 12 months prior to 1 November; and [HL797]

On how many occasions physical restraint occurred at Red Bank local authority secure children's home in relation to, respectively, male and female black and ethnic minority clients during each of the 12 months prior to 1 November.[HL798]

Incidents of restraint in secure children's homes (SCHs) have been reported centrally to the Youth Justice Board (YJB) since February 2006. At present, information is not collected about the use of restraint by gender and ethnicity but the YJB will also be collecting these additional data from February 2007. In this context, restraint refers to occasions when “force is used to overpower a young person”.

The numbers of incidents of restraints reported to the YJB in Redbank and Sutton Place SCHs are listed in the table.

2006

Feb

March

April

May

June

July

Aug.

Sept

Oct.

Redbank

40

29

28

29

21

32

20

15

28

Sutton Place

9

8

7

14

38

25

18

6

11

Shipping: Irish Lights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made in the past year on transferring the responsibility for funding the Irish lights to the Government of the Irish Republic. [HL1109]

Consideration of the Irish Government's role in part-funding the Commissioners of Irish Lights’ operations needs to reflect the increased reliance in the past year on joint support services for the three general lighthouse authorities, such as the fleet of ships, now reduced in size. A bilateral, official-level meeting this month will assess the scope for progress in the light of that trend and take account of possible impacts on the institutional framework arising from the St Andrews agreement.

Shipping: Liners

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many liners operated from United Kingdom ports in the past three years; and under which countries' flags those liners operated. [HL1131]

In the past three years 101 cruise ships have operated from United Kingdom ports under the following flags:

39 x Bahamas, 8 x Italy, 7 x UK, 7 x Bermuda, 6 x Marshall Islands, 6 x Netherlands, 5 x Portugal, 5 x Malta, 4 x Panama, 2 x Liberia, 2 x St Vincent & Grenadines, 2 x Japan, 1 x Finland, 1 x Cyprus, 1 x Barbados, 1 x Germany, 1 x France, 1 x Ukraine, 1 x Russian Federation and 1 x Dutch Antilles.

Shipping: Roll-on Roll-off Ferries

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many roll-on roll-off ferries operate from English Channel ports. [HL1132]

Fifty-five roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferries operate from English Channel ports. Forty-nine are conventional ro-ro ferries and six are high speed craft.

Pensions: Occupational Schemes

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether members of an occupational scheme that is in wind up may receive assistance from both the financial assistance scheme and the Pension Protection Fund. [HL961]

It is not possible for a single pension scheme to be eligible for assistance from both the financial assistance scheme (FAS) and the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

The financial assistance scheme provides assistance to members of qualifying pension schemes that commenced winding up between 1 January 1997 and 5 April 2005.

To be eligible for the Pension Protection Fund, a scheme must not have commenced wind up before 6 April 2005. The PPF was established to pay compensation to members of eligible defined benefit pension schemes where there is a qualifying insolvency event in relation to the employer and where there are insufficient assets in the pension scheme to cover the PPF levels of compensation.

Transport: Heavy Goods Vehicles

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many serious accidents involving heavy goods vehicles have taken place in conditions of poor visibility or darkness which might have been avoided through the use of high conspicuity tape. [HL1212]

This analysis is not routinely undertaken. High conspicuity retro-reflective tape, when used, is applied to the rear and sides of heavy vehicles and trailers to improve conspicuity, particularly in the hours of darkness and in poor visibility conditions such as heavy rain. The tape is likely to have most effect, therefore, on side or rear impact accidents occurring in those conditions.

In 2005 (the latest year for which figures are available) in Great Britain there were seven fatal and 25 serious accidents involving HGVs of 7.5 tonnes or over, hit in the rear or side, in rainy daylight conditions, and 40 fatal and 138 serious in fine or rainy conditions during the hours of darkness. Using the estimates of effectiveness set out in the Loughborough University report on retro-reflective tape, such tape might have helped to avoid 10 fatal and 36 serious HGV accidents in 2005. However, the report also pointed out that its findings are subject to very considerable uncertainty. For example, results were based on research comparing vehicles having no conspicuity markings at all with vehicles fitted with retro-reflective tape. In this country HGVs are already equipped with side marker lamps, side retro-reflectors and retro-reflective rear marker plates. Therefore the effect of the tape might not be as great here as in some other countries.