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Written Answers

Volume 689: debated on Thursday 1 March 2007

Written Answers

Thursday 1 March 2007

Airports: City of Derry

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to complete the plan to lengthen the Derry City Airport runway; and when the Government of the Republic of Ireland first offered to share the cost of this project. [HL1890]

Derry City Council is undertaking safety-related improvements at City of Derry Airport, including lengthening of the runway end safety areas, to allow full use to be made of the existing runway pavement. The council no plans to lengthen the existing runway. It expects these works to be completed by the end of 2007.

In March 2005, the Government of the Republic of Ireland agreed in principle to joint funding for this project, subject to the council meeting a number of conditions. Subsequently, on 24 January 2007, the Irish Government confirmed the total amount of their contribution, which includes increased provision to meet property price inflation and additional engineering costs.

Animal Welfare: Wild Birds

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they propose to take to safeguard the north shore of Strangford Lough for migratory birds, especially Brent geese. [HL1891]

Strangford Lough was designated as a special protection area in 1997 under the European birds directive in recognition of its international importance for both breeding seabirds and wintering waterbirds (including light-bellied Brent geese). It is also a Ramsar site (wetland of international importance) and an area of special scientific interest. All suitable land and inter-tidal areas have been included within these designations, including the north shore.

A regular programme of site monitoring assesses the effectiveness of these designations. In relation to the migratory birds (breeding seabirds and wintering waterbirds), this takes the form of targeted bird surveys at the relevant time of year.

Site designations also ensure that any proposed changes or developments within the designated site are subject to appropriate assessments to ensure that they do not have an adverse impact on the features of interest, including the internationally significant numbers of Brent geese that over-winter on the lough.

Armed Forces: Deployment

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will ensure that, apart from exceptional circumstances requiring immediate action when it is proposed to commit the United Kingdom to direct participation in any war, international armed conflict or international peacekeeping activity, they will not deploy the Armed Forces without the advice and consent of each House of Parliament. [HL2068]

As I said to the House on 7 February,

“the Government addressed this point in the House of Commons on 8 January. The position was also made clear in the Government's response to this House's Constitution Committee's report Waging War: Parliament's Role and Responsibility. The Government continue to listen to views about prerogative powers to deploy the Armed Forces and to keep their policies under review”.—[Official Report, 7/2/07, col. 705.]

I also said:

“Everyone accepts that it is inconceivable in the current climate that any Government would ever go to war without first having the support of Parliament”.

There is, however, no convention about how or when that should happen and what the circumstances would be.

Autism: Middletown Initiative

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many miles from the nearest three (a) universities, and (b) teacher training colleges the proposed Middletown autism initiative is sited. [HL1753]

The Middletown Centre for Autism is located approximately 51 miles from the Queen's University Belfast, 72 miles from the University of Ulster at Coleraine and 57 miles from the University of Ulster at Jordanstown. The distance from St Mary's University College and Stranmillis University College are 49 miles and 50 miles respectively. These distances have been sourced using the AA and RAC route planners, which both gave the same distances.

Census: Religion

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will ask the Office for National Statistics to consider a two-stage question on religion for the 2011 census, similar to the one used in Scotland at the 2001 census, asking, first, in what religion the respondent was brought up and, secondly, whether the respondent regards himself or herself as belonging to any particular religion, and, if so, which one. [HL2104]

The current form of the religion question that is being used for the census test, which is being carried out in five local authority areas in May, is the same as that used in the 2001 census. The wording of the question was decided after a lengthy consultation prior to the 2001 census with a wide range of interested parties and census users, including representatives of all the major faith organisations.

The question collects information on religious affiliation or identification, which is required by many users for monitoring equality. The question does not attempt to collect detailed information about the extent to which people practise their religion or the depth of their belief. This would require the inclusion of additional questions and/or explanations and therefore require the allocation of more space than is currently available on the census questionnaire. Responses to the consultation exercise carried out in 2005 in England and Wales on topics for the 2011 census indicated a strong requirement for information on religious affiliation or identification but not on religious practice or religion brought up in. Indications from the continuing consultation are that the majority of the user community is satisfied with the information collected in the 2001 census.

The Office for National Statistics is currently conducting further consultation focusing specifically on the topics of ethnicity, identity, religion and language, which will help to inform the development of questions. Details of this consultation can be found at www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/cn_155.asp.

It is apparent that demands for information from the census are greater than are likely to be able to be accommodated, and difficult trade-offs will need to be made. The current working assumption is that we will be using the same religion question in the 2011 census in England and Wales as in the 2001 census and the 2007 census test.

Final decisions on the content of the 2011 census will not be made until the programme of consultation and question testing is complete and formal approval is given by Parliament in 2010. A White Paper setting out the Government's proposals including the wording of any questions about ethnicity and identity is scheduled to be published in 2008.

Department of Health: Arm's-length Bodies

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which bodies were considered by the Department of Health arm's-length body review; which of these bodies existed in 1997; and which of these bodies are expected to be in existence by the end of 2007. [HL1355]

The arm's-length body (ALB) review identified 38 ALBs in existence in 2003-04 as the baseline. These bodies were:

Commission for Health Improvement (CHI);

Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH);

Council for the Regulation of Health Care Professionals (CHRP);

Dental Practice Board (DPB);

Dental Vocational Training Authority (DVTA);

Family Health Services Appeal Authority (FHSAA);

General Social Care Council (GSCC);

Health Development Agency (HDA);

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA);

Health Protection Agency (HPA);

Independent Regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts (Monitor);

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA);

Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC);

National Blood Authority (NBA);

National Biological Standards Board (NBSB);

National Clinical Assessment Authority (NCAA);

National Care Standards Commission (NCSC);

NHS Appointments Commission (NHS AC);

NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service (NHS CFSMS);

NHS Direct;

NHS Estates;

NHS Information Authority (NHS IA);

NHS Litigation Authority (NHS LA);

NHS Logistics;

NHS Modernisation Agency (NHS MA);

NHS Pensions Agency (NHS PA);

NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (NHS PASA);

NHS Professionals;

NHSU;

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE);

National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA);

National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB);

National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA);

Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS);

Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB);

Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA);

Retained Organs Commission (ROC);

UK Transplant (UKT).

Of these bodies, nine had existed in the same constituted format in 1997. These were:

Dental Vocational Training Authority (DVTA);

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA);

Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC);

National Blood Authority (NBA);

National Biological Standards Board (NBSB);

NHS Litigation Authority (NHS LA);

Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS);

Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA);

UK Transplant (UKT).

Of the 38 bodies identified in the ALB review, 16 will still be in existence at the end of 2007. They are:

General Social Care Council (GSCC);

Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH);

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA);

Health Protection Agency (HPA);

Independent Regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts (Monitor);

Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC);

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA);

NHS Appointments Commission (NHS AC);

National Biological Standards Board (NBSB);

NHS Litigation Authority (NHS LA);

NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (NHS PASA);

NHS Professionals;

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE);

National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA);

National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA);

Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB).

The ALB change programme is part of a wider programme to improve efficiency and cut bureaucracy in the management of the National Health Service. The objective is to reduce the burden on the front line and to free up more resources for the delivery of front-line services to patients.

The 2004 ALB review report made public commitments to restructure the department’s ALBs and set the following key deliverables:

a reduction in the number of ALBs from 38 to 20 by 2008;

a 25 per cent reduction in the number of posts within the ALB sector by 2008;

a redistribution to front-line services of at least £0.5 billion a year by the end of 2007-08, to be made up of £250 million savings on ALB operating costs and a further £250 million from procurement savings by the NHS PASA on behalf of NHS organisations; and

a contribution of some 1,000 posts to the Lyons agenda of moving public sector jobs outside London and the greater south-east.

Good progress has been make to achieve these targets:

improvements to ALB operating efficiency have helped to deliver a reduction in 2006-07 recurrent grant in aid of over £125 million compared to 2005-06, which comes on top of a reduction in 2005-06 of over £150 million compared to 2003-04;

the number of ALBs has been reduced from 38 to 26 and will fall to 19 by 2008;

a major work programme is under way to deliver the full range of restructurings and savings set out in the ALB review;

a small permanent team, the ALB business support unit, has been established to complete the delivery of the ALB review targets and to ensure that the positive changes generated by the change programme are maintained after the ALB review.

Health and Safety Executive: Furniture

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a notice in its meeting rooms warning of the risks of moving furniture and requesting 48 hours’ notice before furniture is moved; and whether the HSE will require other government offices to issue the same notice. [HL2058]

The HSE's approach to moving furniture in its offices is based on its own assessment of the risks from manual handling—one of the main causes of work-related absence among its staff. Where furniture needs to be moved regularly, it is mounted on lockable wheels so that any staff can move it easily. For other, bulky and cumbersome furniture, arrangements have been made with porters to move it safely; signs have therefore been posted in some meeting rooms advising staff of this arrangement.

The relevant legislation, the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, is goal-setting and requires organisations to find and implement arrangements that are appropriate to their particular circumstances. There is no intention that the solution adopted by HSE should be imposed inflexibly on other government offices.

Health and Safety: Workplace Accidents

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the accident rate for workplace accidents per 100,000 people in 2005-06 in relation to (a) each industry subject to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Rules; and (b) the Health and Safety Executive head office. [HL2059]

The information requested is set out below.

Rates of all reported injuries to workers under RIDDOR for 2005-06

Rate of RIDDOR reported injury per 100,000 workers

Standard Industrial Classification (SIC92)

Agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing (SIC A, B) 1

360

Construction (SIC F)

640

Transport, storage and communications (SIC I) 2

1,390

Manufacturing (SIC D)

920

Extractive and utility supply industries (SIC C, E)

1,050

Other services (SIC O)

270

Public administration (SIC L)

1,320

Health and social work (SIC N)

450

Wholesale/retail/hotels (SIC G, H)

340

Education (SIC M)

150

Finance/business (SIC J, K)

180

All industries

500

1 Excludes sea fishing.

2 Only transport injuries arising from shore-based services are included. Excludes incidents reported under merchant shipping legislation.

For 2005-06, the rate of RIDDOR reportable injuries to HSE staff members in HSE head offices was 107 per 100,000. In the HSE there is a high level of reporting of injuries, particularly of RIDDOR reportable incidents, so these figures are likely to be as close to reality as practicable.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether HSE guidelines on workplace risks place an onus on workers to take reasonable care of themselves. [HL2060]

Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 imposes a general duty on every employee while at work to take reasonable care for his own health and safety and that of other people who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work. This general duty is supplemented by Regulation 14 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which requires employees to use work equipment properly and to inform their employer of any serious danger to health and safety in the workplace. HSE guidance aimed at employees reminds them of their responsibilities.

Health: Therapy

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to ensure that therapy is available, particularly for the elderly, following hospital treatment. [HL2081]

Through the provision of intermediate care services, patients who would otherwise be required to remain in hospital for long periods have access to a short period of community-based intensive rehabilitation and treatment or intensive care. The NHS Plan set clear targets for the expansion of intermediate care services and since 1999-2000 the National Health Service has delivered an extra 18,253 beds and places in intermediate care.

Housing: Mobile Homes

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will bring forward amendments to the Mobile Homes Act 1983 to eliminate the incompatibility of the present arrangements with the European Convention on Human Rights as found by the European Court of Human Rights in Connors v UK. [HL2161]

Following the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Connors v United Kingdom, the Government are seeking a legislative opportunity to improve the security of tenure of Gypsies and Travellers on local authority sites, to prevent residents on these sites from being evicted without good cause.

Iraq: Militias

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have been consulted by the United States authorities in Baghdad on what response should be given by the allied coalition to the offer of negotiations by militant resistance groups leading to peace talks and the end of fighting. [HL2118]

We are working in close consultation with the Iraqi and US Governments and with coalition military authorities in planning how best to encourage national reconciliation and the demobilisation of militant forces.

Iraq: Smuggling of Explosives

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Government of Iraq have provided the Government with an update on their initiatives to press Iran to cut off links with armed groups operating in Iraq, and to improve border security to help to stem the smuggling of improvised explosive devices. [HL2135]

The multinational force in Iraq co-operates closely with the Iraqi security forces in their efforts to stem the flow of weapons entering the country. On 15 February 2007, the Government of Iraq closed their border crossing points with Iran. This pause in operations was used to improve search facilities and crossing procedures at six of these crossing points, all of which have now reopened. The remaining crossing points will be closed indefinitely. In parallel, the Government of Iraq have engaged politically with the Iranian Government, to urge Iran to help to prevent the smuggling of material that might be used to attack Iraqi or multinational forces.

Lebanon: Reconstruction

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much money pledged by the Government and their international partners for reconstruction in Lebanon has so far been made available; how much has been spent; whether there is a timetable for the balance of contributions; and whether soft loans included in the total will be used to reduce existing debt. [HL2191]

The international community pledged collectively US$7.6 billion in loans and grants to Lebanon at the Paris III conference on 25 January. The commitments span several years. Precise figures for the sums already spent by donors in Lebanon do not yet exist and there is no single timetable. The Government of Lebanon announced last week that they intended to form a committee of major donor countries and other organisations in March to help to monitor the spending of funds pledged at the Paris III conference.

The soft loans will not reduce the overall debt, but some of the loans are intended to help to ease Lebanon's debt service obligations; for example, a US$300 million loan from United Arab Emirates was issued on 20 February and will be used to pay annual debt service. The Government of Lebanon intend to reduce the overall amount of debt by implementing their economic reform programme.

NHS: GP Earnings

asked Her Majesty's Government:

By how much the increase in earnings of general practitioners from the National Health Service over the past three years has increased the capital value of their pension entitlements. [HL1964]

Under the general practitioner dynamisation settlement decided by the Secretary of State for 2003-08, it is estimated that the increase in the overall scheme liability has been limited to £1.5 billion, of which approximately £1 billion is attributable to the years 2003-06, within estimated total scheme liabilities of approximately £165 billion.

Planning: Canatxx and Byley

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why there was a delay in the ministerial decisions following the planning inquiries in respect of Canatxx and Byley. [HL2238]

The Canatxx inquiry closed on 5 May 2006, and the timetable set for the decision to be issued is on or before 19 October 2007. The Byley inquiry closed on 19 December 2002, with a joint DTI/ODPM decision being issued on 19 May 2004. The timetables in both cases reflect the fact that these are extremely unusual, technical and complex cases.

Police: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many complaints have been made by members of the public or serving police officers against the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland since the office was established; who investigated these complaints; and what was the outcome of each. [HL1489]

The chief executive of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is responsible for addressing all complaints coming to the office and ensures that all such matters are examined within the satisfaction policy and procedures in place. In matters relating to investigations, managers or directors who have had no involvement in the case in question will review or reinvestigate complaints. A total of 44 complaints have been received over the past six years, 30 of these from members of the public and 14 from police officers. Six complaints are still under examination, nine were resolved to the complainant's satisfaction, two apologies were accepted by complainants, one apology was not accepted by the complainant, one member of staff resigned following complaint, one member of staff was dismissed following proceedings, 21 complaints were closed following explanation or clarification given, and three were found to be vexatious complaints.

Trade

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What special measures they will take to reduce the United Kingdom trade deficit of £56 billion in 2006. [HL2116]

The Government's strategy continues to be to ensure that there is strong competition in every UK market by promoting openness to free trade, minimising product market regulation and ensuring that the UK's competition enforcement authorities are world class. Similarly, the Government actively engage trading partners to promote best practice of free trade and the reduction of international trade barriers.

The economy is very different from when the deficit last peaked in 1989. The current account deficit was 5.1 per cent in 1989, whereas it was just 2.4 per cent of GDP in 2005. Moreover, the current account can be readily financed.