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Written Answers

Volume 690: debated on Wednesday 14 March 2007

Written Answers

Wednesday 14 March 2007

Afghanistan: Reconstruction

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the current concentration of British troops in Helmand province has diverted attention from reconstruction and development throughout the country; and, if so, how this can be rectified under the revised strategy. [HL2413]

The current concentration of British troops in Helmand province has not diverted DfID's attention from reconstruction and development throughout Afghanistan. Afghanistan is DfID's fifth largest programme and the UK is Afghanistan's second largest bilateral donor, with a planned spend of £102 million in 2006-07. Over 70 per cent of our assistance goes directly to the Government of Afghanistan in support of their own priorities. This includes support for the Government's national priority programmes, which operate throughout the country. For example, the national solidarity programme (NSP) operates in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan. It has helped to establish over 16,000 community development councils to identify local needs and has funded over 22,000 projects in areas including agriculture, education, health, irrigation and transport.

Helmand is a priority for the Governments of both Afghanistan and the UK. We have committed up to £20 million a year to support development in the province. This will help to build the capacity of Afghan institutions and promote economic and social development. The major obstacle to reconstruction and development in Helmand is the lack of security. The presence of the British military, in support of the Afghanistan national security forces, will help to overcome that obstacle and establish a better environment for the effective implementation of the Government of Afghanistan's national priority programmes.

Africa: G8 Investment

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they intend to present to the G8 countries to bring about increased investment and development in African Union countries. [HL2490]

The UK is working closely with German and other G8 colleagues to ensure a strong focus on Africa at the Heiligendamm summit in June. This will build on earlier G8 commitments to support investment and development in Africa, particularly those made at Gleneagles.

Africa’s prospects have improved significantly over recent years, with average growth reaching 5.5 per cent in 2005. However, longer-term projections are uncertain. We will, therefore, highlight the importance of efforts to support sustained positive growth. We will emphasise fundamental requirements such as good financial governance, strengthened financial markets and a more conducive investment climate. We will also encourage continued G8 support to related Gleneagles initiatives, such as the Investment Climate Facility, the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund and the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa.

Agriculture: Tractors

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any plans to require that agricultural tractors be subject to MoT testing. [HL2598]

Animal Welfare: Wild Birds

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 20 February (WA 213), which stated that the Government could not press for a ban on the importation of wild caught birds, how this is compatible with the Prime Minister's letter to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which stated that the United Kingdom intended to press the European Union to extend indefinitely the ban on the commercial importation of wild birds. [HL2343]

The UK Government did press other member states and the European Commission to extend indefinitely the ban on the commercial importation of wild birds, with exceptions for recognised international conservation programmes. The European Union has voted for an indefinite ban on animal health grounds. The UK could not, however, press for a ban on welfare grounds, as this would not comply with World Trade Organisation agreements.

Armed Forces: Friendly Fire

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made to the Government of the United States regarding necessary standards of military training in order to avoid further United Kingdom Armed Forces deaths and injuries from friendly fire incidents. [HL2487]

We have frequent exchanges on military channels concerning defence-related issues, including training, better collaboration on the ground and reducing friendly fire incidents. We have made regular representations to the US to encourage closer co-operation with UK inquests into deaths of British citizens in friendly fire incidents where there may have been US involvement, most recently on 8 March 2007.

Bahrain: Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What information they have received about the charges made against the chairman of the banned Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Mr Hassan Mushaima, leader of Haq Movement of Liberties and Democracy, in Bahrain; and about the right of a person whose offence consists of distributing literature criticising the Government to challenge his prosecution as a violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. [HL2290]

Mohammed Saeed Al Sahlawi and Hussain Al Habashi were convicted in January 2007 on the grounds of possessing leaflets calling on people not to vote in the November 2006 Bahraini elections. They were sentenced to custodial sentences of one year and of six months respectively. On 25 February 2007, the two men were released, following a royal pardon by the king.

The circumstances in which a prosecution can be challenged within a country depend on the laws of that country. Individuals claiming that a state has breached their rights under the covenant may submit written complaints to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, having first exhausted domestic remedies, if the state in question has signed up to this complaints mechanism. Bahrain has not done so.

British Citizenship

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether children of British mothers born overseas before 1961 are excluded from British citizenship, whereas those born subsequently have rights of citizenship equal to those of the children of British fathers; and, if so, whether they have any plans to change this policy. [HL2338]

Since 1 January 1983, women have been able to pass on their citizenship to their children born overseas in the same way as men. Prior to that date, citizenship could be transmitted only through a British father. It was announced on 7 February 1979 that children aged under 18 of UK-born mothers could be registered as British citizens. In recognition of this, there is provision within the current nationality legislation for the registration of all such children born between 7 February 1961 and 1 January 1983. There are no plans to extend this provision to those born before that date.

Buses

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made an assessment of how long it would take for a quality contract for bus services to go from proposal to implementation under the process set out in Putting Passengers First; if so, whether they will set out the stages and likely timescale for each stage; and whether they will place a copy of any material in support of these assessments in the Library of the House. [HL2163]

Initial estimates informing our proposals contained within Putting Passengers First are that it might take between 14 and 20 months from consultation on a proposed quality contracts scheme to the scheme coming into operation. This is dependent on a number of variables, which are currently being discussed and developed further with stakeholders, including the traffic commissioners. The Government will publish an indicative timetable alongside the draft Road Transport Bill.

Chevening Scholarships

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have for the future allocation and funding of the Chevening scholarships. [HL2534]

Following a review of the Chevening scholarship programme last year, we have established as the objective of the programme building influence for the UK among the leaders of the future in support of the Government's international strategic priorities. Future decisions on allocations and funding will be taken in the context of the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review, but will be made against this objective. The programme will continue to operate worldwide, but with allocation weighted towards countries where we believe the Chevening programme can contribute most to support for delivery of the international strategic priorities.

Children: Physical Restraint

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will take steps to ensure that uniform records are kept of the use of restraint, including the age, gender and ethnicity of each subject, at young offender institutions, secure training centres and secure children's homes. [HL2155]

The Youth Justice Board has been working with secure accommodation providers to develop common standards for recording and reporting restraint information. It has issued new counting rules and guidance to improve the comparability of data. The revised data collection framework will include a breakdown by sex and ethnicity. Age has not been identified as a factor influencing the use of restraint. The Youth Justice Board plans to collect data under the new rules from April 2007.

Children: UN Conventions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will withdraw their reservation under Article 37(c) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. [HL1561]

Consultants

asked Her Majesty's Government:

To which items of expenditure the consultancy fee of £400 million, announced by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on 21 November 2006, will apply. [HL2130]

Within the £400 million costs outlined at the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing on 21 November 2006 are not only the costs of the delivery partner but the costs of site mobilisation; that is, the costs of getting the team on site, including site accommodation, of IT provision, and of new teams required by the ODA itself. The use of the delivery partner will help to ensure the highest levels of programme management and cost control.

Crime: EU Nationals

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 1 February (WA 72), how the Statements made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department to the House of Commons on 10 and 16 January and the press statement issued on 13 January provide information relating to the number of offences committed in England and Wales by individuals from other member states of the European Union. [HL2140]

The Written Answer on 1 February referred to the general information available about the overseas crimes issue. Comprehensive details of offences committed in England and Wales by individuals from other member states of the European Union are not collected.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they collect details of the number and type of offences committed in England and Wales by individuals from other member states of the European Union. [HL2141]

Comprehensive details are not collected. All recordable offences will be entered on the police national computer, but not all these records will include nationality.

Director of Public Prosecutions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether those responsible for the appointment of Sir Ken Macdonald as Director of Public Prosecutions were aware, when the appointment was made, of his conviction for a drug-related offence whilst a student. [HL2371]

Drivers: Working Hours Regulations

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 6 March (WA 29), how are offences brought to the notice of the administration concerned if the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency makes no record of foreign drivers breaking regulations. [HL2537]

All offences relating to the use of heavy commercial vehicles from other member states are reported to the competent authority in the home state on a monthly basis. This is in relation to the company responsible for the operation of the vehicle, not specifically the driver. Few other member states have a driving licence endorsement system like our own.

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) does not record the nationality of drivers prosecuted. VOSA does not generally prosecute non-UK resident offenders, as it cannot require the defendant to attend court, nor can any penalty given in their absence be enforced.

The Road Safety Act includes powers for the introduction of immediate financial deposits against penalties in relation to offences detected. VOSA and the Department for Transport are working to introduce these new powers by the end of 2007.

Environmental Information Regulations

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether port authorities are obliged to disclose information under the Environmental Information Regulations. [HL2395]

Port authorities may be obliged to consider disclosure of information under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs) only if they are listed in Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information Act or fall within the definition of “public authority” set out in the EIRs because they carry out functions of public administration or otherwise meet the definition of a public authority for EIR purposes.

Environmental Justice

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many cases involving the public interest in environmental law have had orders for no costs since the Aarhus Convention was ratified; and what has been the net change since 2000 in (a) the money spent on legal aid; (b) the average legal costs in court cases involving environmental public law; and (c) the income threshold for legal aid. [HL2393]

Information in relation to the number of orders for no costs and the average legal costs in environmental cases is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. The amount spent on legal aid is not available, as the Legal Services Commission's information systems do not go down to this level of detail.

The net change in the gross income limit for civil legal aid since it was introduced in 2001 to the present is £4,200 per annum. From December 2001 until August 2002, the limit was £24,000 per annum and, from April 2006 to date, it has been £28,200. If the applicant has income in excess of the limit, funding is refused. If income is at or below the gross income limit, the Legal Services Commission assesses the applicant's disposable income to determine whether they are eligible for civil legal aid.

For criminal legal aid, a different system is in place. From 2 October 2006, where the proceedings are in the magistrates' court, the defendant must satisfy a new means test. An individual is financially eligible for a representation order if his gross annual income, adjusted to take account of any partner or children, is £11,590 or less, and ineligible if it is £20,740 or more. Those applicants whose adjusted income falls within the two thresholds are subject to a more detailed assessment of their disposable income in order to determine their financial eligibility under the new scheme. Legal aid applications for defendants appearing before the Crown Court are not currently means-tested.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In the last two years, what proportion of environmental law judicial review challenges received public funding. [HL2394]

EU: Development Policy Funds

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What specific measures they will take to help the European Union to increase its development policy funds in the period to 2015 so as to reach the United Nations goal of 0.7 per cent of gross national product, both within the United Kingdom and within the European Union. [HL2451]

The UK is on track to deliver on its official development assistance (ODA) commitments and reach 0.7 per cent GNI. The delivery of EU commitments will be formally monitored by the EU and by the OECD DAC. We are working with other partners to encourage all the EU member states to have plans in place to reach their respective aid volume targets. The General Affairs External Relations Council (GAERC) in May and the June European Council will provide opportunities to highlight the progress towards the 2010 target. We are working with civil society groups in the UK and internationally to create support for accountability to the EU processes and to create domestic pressure in member states. The UK will focus on the key aid deliverables such as education, health and aid for trade to encourage EU states to increase their ODA and reach the 0.7 per cent target.

Fishing: Drift Nets

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why they have allowed drift-net fishing off Strathy Point to continue. [HL2340]

The fishery at Strathy Point operates bag nets, not drift nets. Drift-net fishing has been unlawful in Scotland since 1962. However, the lease of the salmon fishery at Strathy expires in November 2007, and the Scottish Executive, who own the fishing rights at Strathy, have decided not to renew the lease.

Immigration: New Asylum Model

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the target percentages for the proportion of asylum cases to be dealt with within six months at specified future dates, under the Home Office's new asylum model. [HL2491]

Our targets are to conclude (grant or remove) within six months of application: 35 per cent of new asylum applications by April 2007; 40 per cent by December 2007; 60 per cent by December 2008; 75 per cent by December 2009; and 90 per cent by December 2011.

Immigration: Treatment of Claimants

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will publish their evaluation of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 Section 9 pilot scheme. [HL2225]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have considered alternatives to the provisions in Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. [HL2226]

We continue to explore ways to encourage unsuccessful asylum-seeking families to return home as we implement our new asylum model and new regional structures. Voluntary returns are preferable to enforced returns. However, if people do not leave voluntarily, we will seek to enforce their return.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many families have been returned as a direct result of the implementation of Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. [HL2227]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many families have disappeared in the areas covered by Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. [HL2228]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many families have been denied any support in the pilot areas under Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. [HL2263]

Information will be included in the evaluation report when it is published. The response of the immigration Minister (Liam Byrne) to Annette Brooke MP (PQ 108864, 11/12/06) estimated that 30 families had had their asylum support withdrawn under Schedule 3 to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 is compatible with the United Kingdom's child welfare legislation and the Human Rights Act 1998. [HL2264]

Yes. Sections 17 or 20 of the Children Act 1989 provide a legal framework for a local authority to support children if parents fail to take appropriate steps to leave the United Kingdom, and if necessary to avoid a breach of a person's European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) rights.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have considered the healthcare needs of children who are being returned under Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. [HL2265]

The cohort of families on whom the Section 9 provision was tested had been unsuccessful in their asylum claims and had been found not to be in need of international protection. Were IND to be informed of any healthcare issues at the time of removal, these would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Information Systems: DfID

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In respect of the Department for International Development, (a) on how many occasions in the last year malicious programs have compromised departmental computer systems; and, for each occasion, how many machines were affected; how long it took to remove the programs from the system; and what was the impact on the department's activities; (b) what penetration tests have been carried out of information systems over the last year and what were the results, indicating in each instance whether the tests were carried out independently of the providers of the system concerned; and (c) on how many occasions in the last year the departmental management team has considered information risk. [HL2408]

Malicious code has been identified on DfID computers on 10 different occasions in the last year, affecting one computer in each case. It took between 10 and 90 minutes to remove the programs concerned. In all cases, the users could sign on to another machine and continue working, so the impact on DfID's activities was low.

DfID does not publish information about penetration tests, on grounds of security.

DfID's management board has considered the corporate risk register on three occasions in the past year and has been satisfied that there are currently no information risks among DfID's top risks. Information risks are monitored at regular meetings of the appropriate board sub-committee.

Information Systems: Treasury

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In respect of HM Treasury, (a) on how many occasions in the last year malicious programs have compromised departmental computer systems; and, for each occasion, how many machines were affected; how long it took to remove the programs from the system; and what was the impact on the department's activities; (b) what penetration tests have been carried out of information systems over the last year and what were the results, indicating in each instance whether the tests were carried out independently of the providers of the system concerned; and (c) on how many occasions in the last year the departmental management team has considered information risk. [HL2441]

On no occasion in the last year have malicious programmes compromised Treasury computer systems. In the calendar year 2006, every information system was independently tested at least once. It would not be appropriate on grounds of security to publish the results. Information risk is considered by the Treasury's audit committee at quarterly intervals.

International Development: Azad Kashmir Earthquake

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assistance they have provided to families whose homes were destroyed in the Azad Kashmir earthquake; and whether they have made an assessment of (a) what proportion of the families whose homes were destroyed have been rehoused in new permanent structures; (b) the number of families sharing accommodation; (c) the number living in temporary structures; (d) the number living in tents; and (e) the number of families who have left Azad Kashmir. [HL2241]

DfID committed £54 million in rapid humanitarian relief, including on essential supplies for shelter, health, and water and sanitation for families affected by the earthquake. A further £70 million for reconstruction and rehabilitation has been committed. Most of this will be direct support for the highest priorities outlined by the Government of Pakistan, such as housing, social protection, health, education and livelihoods. DfID is supporting programmes through international organisations, including a disease early warning system (DEWS) to minimise the risks of any epidemics for earthquake-affected families, and work to strengthen social protection services for the most vulnerable families and individuals.

Precise figures are difficult to obtain in the post-disaster context, but estimates from the Government of Pakistan and international organisations are, for the earthquake areas as a whole, as follows:

(a) approximately 72,046 families (out of an anticipated total of 431,640) have now received the final tranche of compensation from the Government, which indicates that this number of people have completed or nearly completed the building of their homes;

(b) according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UN, there are no accurate figures on the number of families sharing accommodation;

(c) and (d) on the number living in temporary structures, IOM and the UN report that there are approximately 34,000 people currently residing in camps, either in tents or semi-permanent structures; and

(e) IOM states that the number of people who have migrated from Pakistan-administered Kashmir is approximately 10 per cent of the 116,572 affected families.

This information is, to the best of our knowledge, an accurate assessment.

IRA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have received any assurances that the Irish Republican Army Council has ceased to exist. [HL2017]

The Independent Monitoring Commission’s 14th report is unequivocal and makes it clear that, while some of the structures remain in place, the Provisional IRA has abandoned terrorism and violence, and the deterioration of terrorist capability continues.

Iraq: Airbridge

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress they have made in providing a reliable airbridge to and from Iraq to prevent the disruption of leave for service personnel; and [HL2323]

How the serviceability of Royal Air Force air transport aircraft has impacted on the airbridge to and from Iraq . [HL2325]

The Iraq airbridge is conducted by a combination of civilian charter and RAF air transport aircraft, with the RAF aircraft completing the final sector into Iraq. There has been disruption to both the charter and military sectors of the Iraq airbridge. Senior stakeholders drawn from MoD Headquarters, Permanent Joint Headquarters, Defence Supply Chain Operations and Movements and the front-line commands are actively engaged in making improvements to the airbridge.

Israel and Palestine: Abu Dis Boys School

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made to the Government of Israel following events at Abu Dis Boys School on 14 February when many pupils were assaulted. [HL2496]

We are concerned about the impact of Israel's military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel, like all states, has the right to defend itself against terrorism. The UK condemns all forms of terrorism. However, Israel must ensure that its actions comply with international humanitarian law and minimise the impact on civilians. Our embassy in Tel Aviv regularly raises our concerns regarding the impact of military incursions in the West Bank with the Israeli Defence Forces.

We have not yet made a representation to the Government of Israel regarding events at the Abu Dis Boys School. Officials at our consulate-general in Jerusalem have arranged to visit the school in the coming weeks.

Legal Aid

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What percentage of cases in which legal aid is disbursed are non-criminal cases; how much money has been disbursed in legal aid in non-criminal cases since 2000; and what proportion of this money was of overall spending on legal aid in each of the years since 2000. [HL2429]

The Legal Services Commission does not record cases; it records acts of assistance. These represent the various stages that a person may go through under legal aid, such as initial advice and assistance followed by representation in a civil court; this would score as two acts of assistance. Currently, around 38 per cent of acts of assistance are non-criminal. The amount spent on non-criminal legal aid (including immigration) and the proportion of total legal aid spend that this represented since 2000 are set out below:

Expenditure (£m)

Proportion of total legal aid spend

2000-01

791

48%

2001-02

734

43%

2002-03

813

43%

2003-04

898

43%

2004-05

846

42%

2005-06

831

41%

The figures given are expressed in cash terms for the sake of consistency, since prior to 2004 resource figures are not available. Current estimates suggest that resource expenditure on non-criminal legal aid will be around 20 per cent higher in 2006-07 than in 2004-05. The cash consequences of that increase in resources follow later.

Muslims

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their estimate of the proportions of Sunni and Shia Muslims respectively who are ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom. [HL2454]

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, National Statistician, dated 14 March 2007.

As National Statistician, I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking for an estimate of the proportions of Sunni and Shia Muslims respectively who are ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom. [HL2454]

The information requested is not available.

The number of persons who gave their religion as Muslim in the 2001 census in Great Britain was 1,588,890. Figures are not available for Northern Ireland because a separate tick-box for Muslims was not included on its version of the 2001 census form.

Nepal: UN Mission

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to reductions in the United States budget for assistance to the United Nations Mission in Nepal. [HL2415]

The United Kingdom drafted and sponsored Security Council Resolution 1740 establishing a special United Nations political mission to Nepal. We strongly support the work of United Nations Mission in Nepal. The United Nations Mission in Nepal is an expression of the whole international community's commitment to help Nepal to recover from conflict and to establish a peaceful, stable democracy.

We understand that the United States assistance to the United Nations Mission in Nepal is channelled through the United Nations Security Council. There is no indication of reductions to the United Nations Mission in Nepal at this stage. The overall US assistance to Nepal during 2005-06 was US$50 million and is likely to be in the range of US$38 million to US$40 million in 2007-08, with possibilities of further commitments later.

The United Kingdom support to the United Nations Mission in Nepal has been through the Global Conflict Prevention Pool and we have committed £1.4 million. Our contributions will support the peace process, verification of Maoist combatants, arms monitoring, constitutional support and technical assistance.

NHS: Primary Care Trust Finance

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

How much each primary care trust currently owes its respective local authority in the east of England region; and [HL1727]

How many local authorities currently, or in the last year, have lent their respective primary care trust money. [HL2189]

Olympic Games 2012: Construction

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made an assessment of the report published on 16 February in Building magazine on construction work for the 2012 Olympic Games and the availability of quantity surveyors and project managers. [HL2171]

The Government are committed to ensuring that the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games maximise the potential for job creation, training and business growth so that the Games leave a lasting social and economic, as well as physical, legacy for London and the UK.

The Government are aware of evidence, as outlined in Building magazine, to suggest a shortage of quantity surveying skills in the UK, and the DTI is working with Work Permits UK and industry bodies to establish a clear picture of the recruitment (skills) position in a number of construction sectors. The Public Sector Construction Clients’ Forum and the Strategic Forum for Construction are also looking at supply and demand for project management skills and driving through improvements.

The London Employment and Skills Taskforce action plan (2006) highlighted that the construction skills needs of the Games would represent only a fraction of the overall requirements in the region. The Olympic Delivery Authority is determined to ensure that requirements for construction and project management skills are met for the 2012 Games.

Parliament Square: Tents

asked Her Majesty's Government:

By what authority tents have been erected on the grass in Parliament Square; how many people they are intended to accommodate; what rental charge is being levied for the use of the site; what conditions have been written into any agreement; and when the consent for these tents will expire; and [HL2416]

To whom application should be made for consent to erect tents, or other methods of camping, on the grass in Parliament Square; and what categories of persons are qualified to apply. [HL2417]

Parliament Square Garden is managed by the Greater London Authority (GLA) under the GLA Act 1999. The perimeter pavements to the east and south of the square are managed by Westminster City Council.

We understand that the tents erected on the grass area of Parliament Square Garden have been erected without the permission that is required under the Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square Garden Byelaws 1999.

Passports

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What secure delivery service is used for the issue of new passports; and how many of the 298,172 replacement passports issued during 2006 related to the failure of the original passport to reach the applicant. [HL2420]

Delivery of new passports is carried out by Secure Mail Services. This company replaced services previously provided by the Royal Mail after a competitive tendering exercise in 2003. These new arrangements commenced in February 2004.

Under these arrangements, passports can be tracked throughout the delivery process, and in high-risk areas signatures are collected as proof of delivery. Losses have reduced from 3,593 in the last year of the Royal Mail contract to an estimated 740 for 2006. This represents a reduction of over 80 per cent in the rate of loss.

The figure of 740 is an estimate, as investigations into reported losses for the end of last year are still ongoing. This figure comprises 635 passports reported by customers as not received where the audit trail shows a delivery, and 105 instances of passports being stolen from couriers or from their vehicles.

Where passports are lost or stolen during delivery, the original passports are cancelled and replacements are issued, which are included in the total number of replacement passports issued.

People Trafficking

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will consult the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women about measures to prevent trafficking; and whether they will make the coalition’s resource pack widely available. [HL2065]

The Government published a consultation paper on proposals for a UK action plan on tackling human trafficking in January 2006, which included a chapter on prevention work. A wide range of organisations responded to the consultation, but the list of respondents does not include the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.

The Government are in the process of finalising a UK action plan on human trafficking, which includes measures specifically designed to prevent human trafficking and actively engages with non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders with expertise in this area.

Police: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the investigatory powers of the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman extend to matters of United Kingdom national security; and, if so, what are the implications of this for the war against international terrorism. [HL2339]

The investigatory powers of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland do not extend to matters of United Kingdom national security except in so far as the powers relate to the conduct of police officers.

Police: Paddington Green

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the Metropolitan Police will facilitate the request for a visit by the Joint Committee on Human Rights to Paddington Green police station. [HL2372]

The originally scheduled visit had to be cancelled for operational reasons and a new date is to be arranged between the Metropolitan Police and the office of the JCHR.

Railways: Great North Eastern Franchise

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 20 February (WA 235), whether they will accept bids from new operators offering lower standards of on-board service than those currently offered by the Great North Eastern Railway. [HL2178]

The Department for Transport will review the bids submitted from the four pre-qualified bidders with respect to the level of on-board service. Bidders are entitled to propose the level of on-board service that they consider appropriate, and this will form part of their overall bid. The department believes that the market is best placed to determine this aspect of the InterCity East Coast business. The Department for Transport did not specify the standard of on-board services for the last franchise and has not done so for the new franchise.

Railways: High-speed Train

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How fuel efficiency and emissions are factored into the procurement process for the replacement high-speed train, for which they are now responsible. [HL2511]

One of the objectives of the InterCity Express Programme to procure the replacement of the high-speed train is to achieve an environmentally sustainable solution in support of the Department for Transport's policy of reducing the impact of travel on the environment. To this end, the technical specification will include the following:

a realistic target weight for the train which would deliver the objectives of better energy efficiency, reduced emissions and improved performance;

a more demanding desirable target train weight which, if provided, would further enhance delivery of such objectives;

proposals for the use of diesel-powered trains as part of the solution must fully comply with the Class IIIB emission requirements set out in European Directive 2004/26/EC;

any self-powered train sets are to demonstrate a reduction in CO2 emissions per seat km;

trains are to be required to be fitted with a braking system which, when obtaining power from the overhead supply, shall be capable of regenerating energy back into the overhead line;

a desirable requirement is that the self-powered train set shall employ energy recovery systems; and

the fitting of energy metering systems are to provide real-time advice to the driver to allow him to optimise energy consumption, consistent with maintaining punctuality.

As part of the pre-qualification process, the accreditation questionnaire will test suppliers' ability to address these environmental and fuel economy issues. Their responses will be scored and will be part of the process for the selection both of potential suppliers and, following evaluation of final bids, of the winning tender.

Railways: Passenger Numbers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 7 March (WA 58), whether they will alter their assessment of the annual passenger growth rate over the next 10 years, bearing in mind that the train operating companies operating long-distance services increased their carryings by 9.7 per cent in 2006. [HL2538]

We are continuing to evaluate projected growth in passenger numbers as part of the preparation of the forthcoming high-level output specification. This evaluation will take account of evidence provided from recent trends in numbers of passengers carried.

Railways: Removal of Trees

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the powers of Network Rail to remove trees or other potential obstructions to railway lines extend beyond the boundaries of the railway or whether it is the responsibility of the relevant landowner to remove such obstructions. [HL2509]

This is an operational matter for Network Rail, as the owner and operator of the national rail network. The noble Lord should contact Network Rail's chief executive at the following address for a response to his question: John Armitt, Chief Executive, Network Rail, 40 Melton Street, London, NW1 2EE.

Secure Training Centres: Hassockfield

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What the reasons were for the lapse of 18 months between the inspection by the Commission for Social Care Inspection of Hassockfield secure training centre and the publication of the commission's report in February 2007. [HL2435]

The time that elapsed between the inspection and publication of the report was taken up with preparing the draft report, discussions between the commission, the operator of Hassockfield and the Youth Justice Board to establish its factual accuracy—that is standard practice and is provided for in the commission’s protocol with the board—and some subsequent processing delay in the Home Office. The commission, the Home Office and the Youth Justice Board are drawing up a new protocol, which we believe will expedite the process of publishing inspection reports. Our primary concern is to ensure that the inspection process is rigorous and accurate.

Security Services

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether members of the security services routinely monitor the movements of senior public officials. [HL2486]

The Security Service only investigates individuals whose activities fall within the statutory provisions of Section 1 of the Security Service Act 1989.

Sport: Football Hooligans

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any proposals to bring the legislation in Northern Ireland on football hooligans inside football stadia in line with that for the rest of the United Kingdom. [HL2444]

Officials from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and the NIO have prepared a range of proposals on sports grounds-related public order issues, which include football hooliganism inside football grounds. These proposals are currently being considered by Ministers.

Sudan: Darfur

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What factors underlay the finding of the Home Office position paper, published in May 2006, that “ordinary non-Arab ethnic Darfuris are not at risk of persecution outside the Darfur States and … it is not unduly harsh to expect them to relocate to an area within Sudan in which they will be safe”. [HL1621]

The country information element of the Sudan operational guidance note (OGN) is drawn from a wide range of publicly available governmental and non-governmental sources cited in the Home Office Sudan country of origin information (COI) report.

The information in the Sudan COI report, as well as the leading tribunal case law, indicates that tribal leaders, prominent activists and intellectuals of non-Arab ethnic Darfuri origin are at increasing risk of treatment amounting to persecution outside of the Darfur regions. While we consider that in these cases the grant of asylum will normally be appropriate, the information does not indicate that ordinary non-Arab ethnic Darfuris are likely to be at risk of treatment amounting to persecution outside Darfur. In these cases, therefore, the grant of asylum will not normally be appropriate.

The Sudan OGN was reviewed in November 2006 to reflect the updated Sudan COI report issued in October 2006. The overall guidance for the non-Arab ethnic Darfuri category of claim remains unchanged.

Taxation: Immigrants

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether immigrants to the United Kingdom pay income tax and national insurance on earned income in their first full year; and, if not, under which Act they qualify for this exemption. [HL2529]

If an immigrant comes to the UK to work, tax and national insurance contributions (NICs) should be deducted from their pay from when they start work.

Taxation: VAT Carousel Fraud

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are aware of any missing trader and carousel fraud outside the mobile phone industry; and [HL2569]

Whether HM Revenue and Customs have withheld VAT repayments to the majority of mobile phone traders since March 2006; and [HL2570]

How many mobile phone traders have sought judicial review of the withholding of VAT payments; how many cases have been initiated; and how many are pending; and [HL2571]

Whether they have taken action in respect of missing trader and carousel fraud against any mobile phone traders; and, if so, in respect of how many traders. [HL2573]

Although the majority of all MTIC fraud seen so far has been perpetrated using mobile phones and computer chips, a wide range of other goods have been, and continue to be, used. HMRC has also seen evidence of traders historically linked with the mobile phone sector diversifying their trading into goods as disparate as cosmetics and soft drinks.

HMRC has a duty to protect tax revenues, and does so through a multi-faceted strategy using a range of interventions, including taking steps to counter inaccurate, fraudulent or abusive repayment claims. HMRC is entitled to verify VAT repayment claims to ensure that they are properly payable. Decisions to verify repayment claims or to take other action to improve taxpayer compliance are made on the basis of perceived risk and are applied across the whole VAT register.

Last year, the level of VAT repayment claims from those suspected of trading in supply chains associated with MTIC fraud rose very rapidly, without known economic or commercial reason. As a result, HMRC is verifying a greater proportion of VAT repayment claims from such traders, regardless of the nature of their trading activity. In order to ensure that its action is proportionate, HMRC has deployed an additional 700 staff to enable these verification checks to be carried out efficiently and effectively. However, HMRC does not collate information by specific products, and to do so would incur disproportionate costs.

HMRC has received a number of challenges to its in-depth verification of repayment claims from those suspected of trading in transaction chains affected by MTIC fraud. HMRC has received over 170 letters before claim, the first stage in the judicial review process. Subsequently, HMRC has been served with 42 judicial review claim forms. Of these, 19 cases are awaiting a decision from the administrative court as to permission, and two substantive and two permission renewal hearings are pending. The courts, to date, have supported HMRC's policy and practice.

Terrorism

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to ensure that the rule of law will be applied in all terrorist suspect cases and that detainees will not be held indefinitely without charge. [HL2275]

There are no terrorist suspects detained indefinitely without charge in the UK. Prosecution is the Government's preferred way of dealing with terrorist suspects. Individuals detained under immigration powers for reasons of national security are subject to deportation proceedings and the timeframes that this entails. The individuals subject to control orders under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 are not in detention.

Wales Office: Translation Costs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much it costs per word for the Wales Office to translate English into Welsh. [HL2445]

The Wales Office pays for translation from English into Welsh at a rate of £80 plus VAT for each 1,000 words or part thereof, with a minimum charge of £35 plus VAT for shorter documents.

Waterways: Royal Canal

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much the repairs to the Royal Canal Longford and Begnagh bridges have cost; who carried out the work; and after what selection process. [HL2446]

I understand from Waterways Ireland that both bridges were publicly advertised for tenders. In each case, the tenders were assessed from a suitability questionnaire first and, having been judged suitable, contracts were then awarded on price. Jons Civil Engineering Co Ltd won both contracts. The tender price, including VAT, for Longford Bridge is €2,754,186.85. The scheme is now substantially complete, but the final cost is not yet available. The tender price, including VAT, for Begnagh Bridge is €2,197,533.00. The scheme is expected to be completed in April 2007 and the final cost will not be available until after that date.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much the work on the Royal Canal bridges at Lyneen and Mosstown and Lock 45 and associated culverts has cost; who carried out the work; and after what selection process. [HL2447]

I understand from Waterways Ireland that works have not yet commenced on the three projects. Therefore, the cost is not yet available. Proposals for both Lyneen and Mosstown bridges have been submitted to Longford County Council for planning permission. Detailed design is ongoing and, on receipt of planning permission, Waterways Ireland's intention is to publicly advertise the tenders as separate schemes. Lock 45 was publicly advertised and tenders were received on Wednesday 28 February 2007. They are currently being assessed, and it would not be appropriate to comment further until this process has been completed and the contract awarded.

Young Offender Institutions: Personal Officers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to ensure the role of personal officer in young offender institutions is effectively implemented. [HL2458]

All young offender institutions operate a personal officer scheme. A key audit baseline requires that prisoners have support from a specified member of staff for advice and guidance, and help with personal problems.