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Written Answers

Volume 691: debated on Monday 16 April 2007

Written Answers

Monday 16 April 2007

Agriculture: BSE

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What has been the cost to date of testing cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy infection over each of the past 10 years; and whether the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is considering moving from the regular testing of cattle over 24 months to a random testing regime. [HL2577]

The cost of testing cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Britain under the EU active surveillance programme, which was introduced in 2001, is shown in the table below.

Year

Number tested*

Costs £ million **

2001

80,444

19

2002

333,073

31

2003

394,712

32

2004

515,507

31

2005

547,386

41

2006

598,755

***60

Total

2,469,877

214

* Numbers tested per calendar year

** Costs per financial year

*** Latest forecast

These figures include laboratory costs, the costs of Meat Hygiene Service controls in abattoirs and Rural Payments Agency expenditure on the collection, brainstem sampling and disposal of cattle that have died or been killed on farm or in transit (fallen cattle). The costs of testing cattle with clinical signs of BSE are excluded.

The EU Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) Regulation (999/2001) requires the UK to test all fallen cattle aged over 24 months. An amending regulation (1923/2006), which came into force on 19 January 2007, provides for the European Commission and member states to agree either to raise the age limit for testing fallen cattle throughout the EU, or to accept an individual member state’s application to implement an alternative surveillance programme. The latter is dependent on several factors, including the agreement of harmonised criteria against which a proposal from a member state would be assessed.

Defra has asked the European Commission to raise the EU age limit for testing fallen cattle from 24 months. We are also considering how best to present an application for an alternative testing programme for fallen cattle, subject to the UK fulfilling the criteria when they are agreed. No change to the age limit for testing cattle slaughtered for human consumption (from 30 months) is envisaged at this stage.

Agriculture: Pig and Poultry Producers

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether pig and poultry producers who apply for integrated pollution prevention and control permits will have the details of their holding advertised in the public domain; and, if so, what is the reason for this. [HL2581]

The Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 require an advertisement to be placed in the local press and in the London Gazette, showing that a permit application has been made. A copy of the permit application itself and any permit issued as a result are required by the regulations to be held on the public register maintained by the Environment Agency at its relevant local office. Full details of a holding are not required to be advertised.

Animal Welfare: African Horse Sickness

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has had discussions with the British Veterinary Association or the horse industry concerning African horse sickness; and, if so, what has been the outcome. [HL2970]

My department is in regular contact with the British Veterinary Association, its equine representative body (the British Equine Veterinary Association) and the horse industry on a range of issues.

We have discussed contingency planning for a range of insect-borne equine diseases, as a consequence of possible environmental changes. Although African horse sickness (AHS) is one such disease, discussions to date have not highlighted it above the general threat of such diseases. The discovery of bluetongue (not a disease of equines) in mainland Europe has raised concerns about a possible AHS incursion, as the vectors for bluetongue and AHS are known to be similar.

Defra is keeping the situation under close review and is pleased that industry bodies are raising awareness of such a disease. Defra expects to continue to work in partnership with BEVA and the industry in this area.

Armed Forces: Bowman

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What plans they have to reduce the weight of the Bowman personal radio set to that specified by the Army for full portability by soldiers operating on foot. [HL2936]

Work is continuing to determine how best to improve the portability of the Bowman VHF manpack radio, with the current focus on the ancillaries (such as batteries, cabling and carrying system).

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What steps are being taken to reduce the time taken for the Bowman radio set to “drop in” for inter-crew communications in Army vehicles. [HL2937]

The next increment of Bowman combat infrastructure and platform (CIP) capability, due to be fielded next year, is expected to reduce the time taken for the Bowman radio set to “drop in” for inter-crew communications. This improvement will be verified during testing and trialling of the increment.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What steps they are taking to reduce the time taken for data terminals on Bowman radio sets to become operational after switch-on. [HL2938]

The Ministry of Defence is working to reduce the total time for data terminals attached to Bowman radio sets to become operational after switch-on. This is being achieved by reducing initialisation time, developing best practice standard operating procedures and delivering appropriate initialisation training.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the free channel search and the frequency-hop option on VHF on the Bowman military radio system are proving satisfactory. [HL2939]

The frequency-hopping capability afforded by the Bowman VHF radio has been satisfactorily demonstrated. The free channel search mode has been demonstrated within the constraints on use typical to this form of frequency agility.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What plans they have to prevent the Bowman Army radio system from interfering with the electronic counter-measures carried on Army vehicles. [HL2940]

The Ministry of Defence does not comment on the detail of electronic counter-measures (ECM) capability in order to safeguard the security of our Armed Forces. The interoperability of all systems that operate within the electromagnetic spectrum is an issue under constant review. The ECM capability fielded is world leading.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What has been the total cost to date of the Bowman military radio system. [HL2941]

The forecast cost to the department for the delivery of the Bowman military radio system under existing contracts, as reported in the Major Projects Report 2006, is £2.017 billion.

Armed Forces: Clansman

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What assessment the Ministry of Defence has made of its original appointment of the Archer consortium to deliver a replacement for the Clansman radio system. [HL3080]

A single-source procurement approach was adopted in 1997 when the two competing consortia formed the joint venture company Archer Communications Systems Ltd (ACSL). By July 2000, the Ministry of Defence had lost confidence in ACSL’s proposed solution, removed the company’s preferred-supplier status and launched a fresh competition.

Armed Forces: Medical Treatment

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the criticisms made of the way that many of the service men and women returning in medical need from Iraq and Afghanistan are treated in the hospitals to which they are referred; and what action they are taking. [HL2691]

We have an absolute duty to the men and women in our Armed Forces, who put themselves in harm's way on our behalf, to provide first-class medical care for them if they are injured. This is precisely what the Defence Medical Services are doing on a daily basis, both on operations overseas and—in partnership with the NHS—back in the UK.

Where concerns are expressed by individual patients about their treatment and care, we address them. Very occasionally, as in any hospital, mistakes can be made. We will, with the NHS authorities, investigate each reported case thoroughly and report back to the patient and his or her family and make sure that any mistake is corrected wherever possible.

When someone is seriously injured, our priority is to ensure that they receive the best possible treatment that is available. Military personnel who sustain a serious physical injury on operations overseas are usually taken to University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHBFT), which includes Selly Oak Hospital, and which is a centre of excellence in the medical care of the types of injuries our casualties sustain. Wherever practicable, military patients are allocated to one of the 12 military consultants who work at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM), based at Selly Oak Hospital. However, by far the largest proportion of specialist care is provided by NHS consultant staff, which reflects the range and capabilities of the knowledge, skills and resources the NHS makes available to our patients. Furthermore, RCDM will be moving to the new hospital being built in Birmingham as part of a major investment and will be the largest critical care unit in Europe.

We of course appreciate the importance of our patients continuing to feel part of the military family. We have created a military managed ward (MMW), located in the main body of Selly Oak Hospital, which reached initial operating capability just before Christmas 2006. A combined team of military and civilian personnel provides care for military patients whose clinical condition allows for them to be nursed in this ward.

The MMW currently consists of two six-bedded bays, with access to four additional side isolation rooms, making a potential total of 16 beds, and is part of the 34-bed S4 trauma/orthopaedic ward. The number of beds on the ward is more than sufficient to match the current levels of military casualties needing trauma/orthopaedic care, although, if necessary, further beds can be allocated. There are military managers involved at every level on the MMW, with a military ward manager responsible for all aspects of the military presence on the ward, whether staff or patient issues, and for liaising with appropriate authorities. The military ward manager is assisted by three military deputy ward managers who are responsible for the planning and delivery of patient care to both military and civilian patients, although they primarily focus on military activity. As well as the managers, there are now a further 19 qualified military nurses, and six military health care assistants allocated to ward S4 military nursing staff are now on duty on every shift on the ward, including the night shift. A military nurse team member visits every military patient being treated at a Birmingham hospital at least three times a day.

The MMW is one of several improvements we have recently made to the treatment of military patients. A military surgical consultant has been appointed as the military trauma patient co-ordinator, who liaises with colleagues to provide advice on service issues and ensures that military aspects of their treatment are taken into account. We have enhanced the military community psychiatric support to our patients in the Birmingham area and, in addition, each military patient now has a named military nurse whom he or she can contact at any time on clinical and other issues. Military patients at Selly Oak and elsewhere in the Birmingham area are supported by the work of four welfare officers of the Defence Medical Welfare Service and other welfare organisations.

The creation of the MMW has been welcomed by service chiefs. The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, said in a BBC interview on 13 March 2007: “There is nowhere better in the country, nowhere more expert at polytrauma medicine, than the hospital in Selly Oak. That's why our people are there”.

Armed Forces: Pensions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What response the Ministry of Defence will make to representations from Gulf War veteran Mark McGreevy regarding his still unresolved pension entitlement. [HL3028]

Mark McGreevy submitted an appeal to the Ministry of Defence Discretionary Awards Appeals Panel on 3 March 2007 concerning his request for an ex gratia payment and therefore it would not be appropriate to comment further. Mr McGreevy has been advised of the procedures and timescales involved.

Armed Forces: Procurement

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What changes have been made to the scrutiny and assurance processes for defence acquisition following the Enabling Acquisition Change report. [HL3034]

Changes made following the Enabling Acquisition Change report include the involvement of the Defence Management Board in the most significant investment decisions, the addition of the defence commercial director to membership of the department's investment approvals board and the delegation of the approval of the lower value lower risk projects to the new defence equipment and support organisation. Other changes that will be introduced shortly include a more streamlined scrutiny process and, for larger projects, the inclusion of support costs in main gate equipment approvals, independent cost estimates and the requirement to carry out commercial due diligence before contract signature.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Ministry of Defence will establish a programme office, as recommended by the Office of Government Commerce, to ensure coherent progress of procurement projects and programmes. [HL3081]

The Ministry of Defence manages a wide range of procurement projects and change programmes which can include elements of equipment, estate management and support. All programmes and projects are subject to appropriate scrutiny and are managed and co-ordinated at the appropriate level but, given the scale and diversity of the portfolio, there is no single programme office. The various organisations tasked with managing this portfolio have robust performance and risk management arrangements in place with agreed targets which reflect Office of Government Commerce best practice.

Aviation: Open Skies

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the reply by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 14 March (Official Report, col. 736), what progress they have made with their support for the position of Morocco under its open skies treaty with the European Union. [HL3125]

The Government support the EU-Morocco aviation agreement signed on 12 December 2006. We continue to look carefully at this issue and will take it into account as appropriate in considering the future structure of air passenger duty as part of the Budget process.

Bovine Tuburculosis

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they support the Welsh Assembly's evaluation of the problem of bovine tuberculosis and the Assembly's assessment of future action it may take in respect of bovine tuberculosis within the wildlife population. [HL2972]

Burma: Karen

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made to the Government of Burma about the increased number of attacks on villages in the Papua district of the Karen state by the Burmese Army. [HL3002]

We have made no specific representations about the increased attacks on villages in the Papun district of Karen state.

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs, Ian McCartney, raised our serious concerns about the Burmese army's offensive in Karen state when he called in the Burmese ambassador on 15 June 2006 and wrote to the Burmese Foreign Minister on 5 July 2006.

Most recently, he raised the Burmese regime's appalling human rights record at the EU/Association of South East Asian Nations ministerial meeting in Nuremberg on 15 March in the presence of the Burmese Deputy Foreign Minister.

Cameroon: Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What recent contacts they have had with the Government of Cameroon; and whether the issue of respect for human rights was discussed during such contacts. [HL3108]

The UK has frequent formal and informal contact with the Government of Cameroon on human rights issues. In March, the UK funded a workshop on security sector reform that involved the Ministries of Justice and Security (Police). The Cameroonian police are now working on introducing a code of ethics to be signed by all officers.

EU heads of mission raise human rights issues every six months in the structured EU/Cameroon political dialogue. Among the subjects recently discussed were funding for the National Human Rights Commission and the justice system.

Cash Payments

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Truscott on 19 February (WA 188), whether they will consider the implications of the decision by British Telecom to introduce a penalty charge of £18 per annum on customers who pay their bills by cash rather than by direct debit; and whether such discrimination against those who use notes and coins is legal. [HL2342]

For a number of years, BT has applied a price differential between customers who pay their accounts by direct debit and those who pay by other means. This reflects the increased processing and debt management costs associated with payments not made by direct debit. Such differentials are common practice among communications providers and utility service providers.

From 1 May 2007, BT is changing how it presents this differential from a discount for those customers paying by direct debit to a charge for those paying by other means. BT has combined this change with an increase of £1.50 a quarter in the charge (from £3 to £4.50).

The Light User Scheme, In Contact and BT Basic will not be affected by the increased charge. These are the special tariff schemes offered to vulnerable customers by BT as a result of the universal service obligation placed on the company.

I understand the concerns expressed and I have raised the matter with the chief executive officer of the independent regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom). Ofcom is considering whether any of the changes that BT has recently made raise any regulatory issues.

Children: Custody

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they have any plans to increase informal and practical support for basic tasks for children resettled in the community after a custodial sentence. [HL2472]

The Youth Justice Board (YJB) published its youth resettlement framework for action in 2006. The framework focuses on developing the key resettlement pathways including health, education, accommodation, training and employment, and substance misuse. The YJB has also rolled out resettlement and aftercare provision schemes (RAPS) in over 50 youth offending team (YOT) areas, providing planned resettlement activities for young offenders in custody and in the community. We recognise that a number of young offenders lack fundamental social and practical skills, and YOT supervising officers address these needs through a variety of one-to-one work throughout the duration of a young person’s sentence.

Children: Secure Institutions

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What is the daily amount spent on food per child in (a) young offender institutions; (b) secure training centres; and (c) local authority secure children’s homes in England and Wales. [HL2672]

In 2005-06, the average daily amount spent on food for young offenders at Prison Service young offender institutions was £2.20.

Comparable information is not collected centrally in respect of secure training centres or secure children’s homes. The Youth Justice Board does not specify a minimum amount to be spent on food, but contracts with secure training centre operators require that each trainee will be provided with a meal that has reasonably sized portions of wholesome, nutritious, varied and good-quality food three times each day, including at least one hot main meal and a light supper snack. The board’s contracts with secure children’s homes (SCH) specify that each trainee will be provided with adequate quantities of suitably prepared food and drink, having regard to their needs and wishes. This is in accordance with the national minimum standards for children’s homes.

Trainees in all custodial establishments are given breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a snack at supper time.

Climate Change

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What steps they are taking to enforce United Kingdom flood defences against rising water levels resulting from global warming. [HL2861]

Increased flood risk, from both rivers and the sea, is one of the predicted impacts of climate change in the UK. In England, we have significantly increased spending, which will be some £590 million (on both flood and coastal erosion risk management) in 2006-07 compared to £307 million in 1996-97. These funds are prioritised to address the most pressing flood and erosion problems first.

For several years, Defra has issued guidance to the operating authorities (Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards) on allowances to be made for future climate change and, in particular, sea level rise in the design of present-day defences. We recently reviewed this guidance, which is published on the Defra website, and are working to ensure effective management of flood and coastal erosion risk. This includes taking account of the likely impacts of climate change through our Making Space for Water programme, which is bringing the Government and other stakeholders together in developing a broad range of measures to respond to the challenge.

As well as investment in building and maintaining defences, these measures include such things as:

(i) encouraging better flood resilience and resistance for buildings and emergency infrastructure;

(ii) improved management of urban drainage; and

(iii) better stakeholder and community engagement and risk mapping.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether the advice of the Government Chief Scientist that weather-forecasting capability in the United Kingdom is likely to be reduced over time by climate change will be relevant to decision-making at the 2009 water industry price review. [HL2883]

Advice on possible changes to long-term weather patterns and their likely impacts as a result of climate change will be considered carefully at the 2009 water industry price review.

From 1 April 2007, water companies have a statutory duty to prepare and maintain long-term water resource management plans. Directions will be made to ensure that these plans also consider the impact of changes in climate on the future water supply. The plans will be part of the evidence submitted to Ofwat at the next price review.

In addition, Ofwat is working with stakeholders to develop guidance for long-term sewerage plans. This will take account of developing climate change scenarios and their potential impact on future services.

Common Agricultural Policy

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the present gross cost to United Kingdom taxpayers of the common agricultural policy; how this is made up; and how much of it is returned to British farmers. [HL3126]

The United Kingdom makes its contributions to the EC budget as a whole and not to individual spending programmes within it. There is not therefore a specific United Kingdom contribution to common agricultural policy spending. In 2005—the most recent year for which outturn data are available—total common agricultural policy spending was €48.5 billion (£33.1 billion) of which the United Kingdom received €4.3 billion (£3.0 billion).

Criminal Records Bureau

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What representations they have received on the Hallé Orchestra’s concerns in relation to the risks involved for children and vulnerable adults in the Criminal Records Bureau’s current procedures; what reply they will send; and whether there is any action they will be taking. [HL2693]

The Hallé Orchestra has raised some concerns regarding the way in which the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) operates. In essence, these concerns relate to the effectiveness of the bureau being compromised in not notifying employers of any subsequent offences that may be committed by an employee and that it is therefore necessary for employers to obtain repeat clearance applications.

The CRB was set up under Part V of the Police Act 1997 to enable employers, through the use of disclosure information, to make safer recruitment decisions where a position involved regular supervision of, or caring for, children and/or vulnerable adults. Therefore, disclosure information is intended to be used as a recruitment tool in conjunction with the full range of other pre-appointment checks to ensure that a prospective employee is suitable for the post.

However, the Hallé Orchestra may be interested to hear that new legislation in the form of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 received Royal Assent on 8 November 2006. This creates a new vetting and barring scheme, led by the Department for Education and Skills, which is intended to minimise the risk of children and vulnerable adults suffering harm at the hands of those who are employed to work with them. It seeks to do this by ensuring that, where evidence suggests that an individual presents a risk of harm, he/she is barred as soon as possible from working with children and/or vulnerable adults by an Independent Barring Board (IBB).

The CRB will continually update the IBB as new relevant information comes to light, thereby ensuring that the status of the individual is kept under review. It is envisaged that, under the scheme, employers would be notified of any changes to an individual’s status. Further information on this scheme may be obtained from the Department for Education and Skills website at www.dfes.gov.uk.

I hope that this Answer proves helpful.

Cyprus: British Armed Forces

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to prevent anti-social behaviour towards local residents in Cyprus by British military personnel. [HL2996]

British Forces Cyprus has a robust discipline policy with respect to anti-social behaviour which is reviewed every six months. The policy implements out of bounds areas to all British military personnel, and all visiting troops are confined to the sovereign base areas. Those who breach this policy and are caught are dealt with appropriately. In addition, all personnel are briefed on the importance of maintaining good relations with the Republic of Cyprus and its residents.

Director of Public Prosecutions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Goldsmith on 14 March (WA 126), what level or number of criminal convictions would be a barrier to appointment to the post of Director of Public Prosecutions. [HL2944]

Appointment to the post of Director of Public Prosecutions depends on a consideration of all relevant factors concerning the qualification, experience, skills and personal characteristics of applicants and their overall suitability for this post. The person appointed must be a qualified lawyer with rights of audience, so any conviction resulting in the withdrawal of such rights would be a complete bar to appointment.

Whilst there is otherwise no formal bar to appointment based on a particular number or type of previous convictions, the fact of any such convictions, their age, nature, seriousness and circumstances would have to be carefully assessed to determine whether a particular applicant, even if otherwise the strongest candidate, should in fact not be appointed.

Energy: Renewables

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

When the United Kingdom’s production of (a) solar power, and (b) all renewable resources, expressed as a proportion of total energy consumption, will reach the same level as that of leading solar and renewables markets in other European Union member states. [HL2479]

We make no forecast of when (a) solar power and (b) all renewables resources, expressed as a proportion of total energy consumption, will reach the same level as that of leading solar and renewables markets in other European Union member states. The renewables obligation is technology neutral and has a target of 20 per cent of UK electricity from renewables by 2020.

Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the remarks by Baroness O'Cathain on 21 March (Official Report col. 1299), whether, under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, homosexual groups will be permitted to discriminate against heterosexuals; and, if so, whether they intend to remedy this. [HL2965]

The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 will prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services, education, the disposal and management of premises and the exercise of public functions. This provides protection for everyone—heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual—on grounds of their sexual orientation, on a par with that already provided for disability, race and gender, and alongside that shortly to be provided for religion or belief.

The regulations protect people from being treated less favourably because of their sexual orientation, but provide for some exceptions from the requirement for equal treatment. For example, religious organisations that fulfil certain criteria may restrict some of their activities on grounds of sexual orientation; services to meet special needs for education, training or welfare of people of a particular sexual orientation may be provided; and private clubs will be able to restrict the benefits of membership to people of a particular sexual orientation where this is the main object of the club.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, following the implementation of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, it will be an offence for schools, religious bodies, doctors or other individuals to state publicly that certain sexual activities, practised mainly by homosexual males, are dangerous to health and statistically likely to shorten life. [HL2966]

The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 will prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services, education, the disposal and management of premises, and the exercise of public functions.

The regulations protect people from being treated less favourably because of their sexual orientation in the areas covered. The regulations will not impact on the ability of professionals to impart factual information, where this is based on evidence and is part of service provision. Nor should they affect the work of professionals—for example, teachers or doctors—acting in accordance with existing statutory guidelines and professional codes of practice.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, it will be acceptable for an adoption agency to give preference to a couple of both sexes over a same-sex couple when considering the interests of the child. [HL2973]

The decision on whether to place a child for adoption with particular prospective adopters is taken by the adoption panel of the local authority that is looking after the child. The paramount consideration in any decision on whether to place a child for adoption with particular prospective adopters is the welfare of the child throughout his or her life, taking account of the child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background.

EU: Article 308

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

On what grounds Baroness Scotland of Asthal stated on 15 March (Official Report, cols. 826-28) that “the provision (Article 308) can be used only within the Community’s competence”, bearing in mind that the European Union’s communication on its programme “Prevention, Preparedness and Consequence Management of Terrorism” relies on Article 308 because there is no legal basis for the initiative in the treaty of Nice. [HL2795]

Article 308 can be used only for the attainment of an objective attributed to the Community by member states in the treaty establishing the European Community (TEC). Civil protection is cited as a Community objective under Article 3(1)(u) of the TEC. During the course of negotiating the specific programme “Prevention, Preparedness and Consequence Management of Terrorism and other Security-related Risks”, the UK secured a number of amendments to ensure that the programme was linked to Community competence in this area.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Triesman on 15 March (WA 151), whether Article 308 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community first appeared in the 1957 Treaty of Rome as Article 235; and, if so, what was its purpose at that time. [HL2927]

Article 235 of the original Treaty of Rome is the same as Article 308 of the present treaty establishing the European Community. The European Court of Justice gave the following explanation of Article 235 in Opinion 2/94 of 28 March 1996 (paragraph 29): “Article 235 is designed to fill the gap where no specific provisions of the Treaty confer on the Community institutions express or implied powers to act, if such powers appear nonetheless to be necessary to enable the Community to carry out its functions with a view to attaining one of the objectives laid down by the Treaty”.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Triesman on 15 March (WA 151), whether they will reveal which legal instruments passed since 2004 rely on Article 308 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community as their legal base. [HL2928]

A list of legal instruments passed since 2004 which rely on Article 308 will be placed in the Library of the House.

Health: Food Supplements and Herbal Remedies

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 6 March (WA 33), what are the undertakings that have been provided by the Governments of Jersey and Guernsey that any European Union obligations concerning the composition, presentation and marketing of food supplements and herbal remedies will be met. [HL3101]

The undertakings to comply with EU obligations have been given through the chief executive’s office on behalf of the Governments of Jersey and Guernsey. Both Jersey and Guernsey have stated their intention to review relevant EU legislation and to meet any EU obligations that arise, and Guernsey is in the process of updating its legislation in relation to medicinal products.

Government: Law Officers' Advice

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Goldsmith on 27 March (WA 259), whether it is the law officers or their clients within the Executive who own the advice given by the law officers; and why it is for the law officers rather than the Executive to decide whether to consent to the disclosure of the law officers' advice to the Crown.[HL3076]

Legal advice given by the law officers is subject to legal professional privilege (LPP) like any other legal advice. It is for the client to decide whether to waive LPP. In addition, law officers' advice is subject to the requirement that the fact and content of the advice must not be disclosed outside government without their authority. This requirement is contained in the Ministerial Code, issued by the Prime Minister. It is of long standing and has applied under successive administrations.

Gulf War Illnesses

asked Her Majesty's Government:

With reference to the paper published by the Porton Down Group on their marmoset study of the health effects of exposure to pyridostigmine bromide, how the statistical analysis and display of its results can be reconciled with the group's discussion of them; and whether they will now make available to Gulf War veterans or their representatives, and place in the Library of the House, the actual data relevant to the amount of time the animals spent in (a) sleep; (b) rapid eye movement sleep; and (c) wakefulness over the 18 months of the study. [HL2994]

As I indicated in my Answer of 5 March (Official Report, col. WA 8), the outputs of the Ministry of Defence's vaccines interactions research programme have been reported in detail in open literature publications. The interpretation of the study results was the subject of oversight from an independent panel of experts and veterans representatives, and the findings have been independently reviewed as part of the peer-reviewed publication process.

Data from the marmoset study relating to sleep were the subject of independent academic statistical analysis and the findings were released in the paper: Multiple Vaccine and Pyridostigmine Interactions Effects on EEG and sleep in the common marmoset published in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior (2006 Jun; 84(2): 282-93). The Ministry of Defence is committed to openness in issues relating to Gulf veterans' illnesses and, while release of raw data alone would not be comprehensible without support from the research team, a previous offer that the team could present the findings of the marmoset study to the Royal British Legion's Gulf War Group including an explanation of the nature and interpretation of the underlying data remains open.

Gypsies and Travellers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have approved the methodology proposed in the review of regional spatial strategy regarding Gypsies and Travellers by regional planning bodies; and by what date they expect regional planning boards to have conducted these reviews and published the results. [HL2857]

The research undertaken by a group of researchers—led by the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, University of Birmingham—entitled Preparing Regional Spatial Strategy Reviews on Gypsies and Travellers by Regional Planning Bodies was part-funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. It is intended as a useful tool to help regional planning bodies to determine regional pitch requirements at local authority level. While we would commend the methodology to regional assemblies in considering the allocation of pitch numbers, each will need to take into account the circumstances in its area in coming to final decisions.

Currently, all regions are undertaking preliminary work to review Gypsy and Traveller issues in their regions. In the east, south-east and south-west single-issue reviews of the regional spatial strategies are under way. In the East Midlands the current regional spatial strategy review already includes interim additional pitch requirements for each local authority. The east of England is the most advanced in its process, with publication of its Issues and Options consultation document due on 8 May. In the Yorkshire and Humber region, the issue of accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers was considered at the examination in public into the draft regional spatial strategy carried out in October and November 2006. The panel report is expected to be published shortly. The need for further assessment work by the regional planning body will be considered in the light of the panel report. Revisions in the remaining areas are expected to start within two years.

Health: Dyspepsia

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made an assessment of potential changes to the model for dyspepsia/gastro-oesophageal management in primary care to achieve a more efficient use of all drug therapies indicated for dyspepsia. [HL3105]

We have made no assessment of the potential changes to the model for dyspepsia/gastro-oesophageal management in primary care. It is the responsibility of local health bodies to review their existing practice for the management of people with these conditions to ensure the most efficient use of drug therapies in light of the most recent clinical guidance.

Health: Independent Clinical Assessment Treatment Centres

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the role of independent clinical assessment treatment centres; and how they deliver effective services to the local health economy. [HL2714]

Independent sector clinical assessment, treatment and support services will provide diagnostic tests, treatments and therapies as an alternative to traditional hospital outpatient services. They have been designed to improve services for patients by reducing waiting times by increasing National Health Service capacity for diagnostic tests and procedures and improving patient care by offering more one-stop diagnostic services with a fast return of results.

Health: Osteoporosis

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any plans to collect information on the number and geographical location of primary care trusts routinely offering dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans to either (a) women patients over 60 years of age, or (b) women patients over 60 assessed as being at risk of developing osteoporosis; and [HL3106]

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 7 March (WA 54), why they decided not to ringfence the capital provision of £17 million to improve National Health Service capacity in dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scanning provision. [HL3107]

The capital provision of £17 million to improve the National Health Service capacity for dual X-ray absorptiometry scanning was allocated via strategic capital because it was considered that strategic health authorities would be best placed to distribute this funding. Strategic capital allocations are not ringfenced.

We have no plans to collect information on those primary care trusts that routinely offer dual energy X-ray absorptiometry scans.

House of Lords: Smoking

asked the Chairman of Committees:

What assistance is being offered to Members and staff of the House of Lords who wish to give up smoking. [HL3149]

The Occupational Health and Welfare Service offers advice and practical support to Members and staff who wish to stop smoking. Individuals are provided with an information pack that includes an advice booklet on how to stop smoking, an action plan, and a confidential health form. A carbon monoxide breath test is offered to measure the level of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by the smoking of cigarettes. Individuals receive advice on products that may help them to stop smoking and are invited to attend weekly support sessions to monitor progress and to assist them in their efforts.

Immigration: Detention Centres

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

How many incidents of damage to immigration centres have occurred since December 2005; and whether they have been attributable in any way to any lack of reasonable care and attention given to detainees by the centre’s management and staff. [HL2832]

Since December 2005, there have been two incidents of damage to immigration centres: Harmondsworth on 28 to 29 November 2006; and Campsfield House on 14 March 2007.

Mr Robert Whalley is currently carrying out an investigation into the disturbance at Harmondsworth immigration removal centre. This will establish the lessons to be learnt for the management of the immigration detainees and for the immigration detention estate. He is extending his investigation to cover the incident at Campsfield House.

Immigration: Electronic Tags

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

In what circumstances asylum seekers must wear electronic tags. [HL2663]

The use of tagging in an asylum context focuses on cases where there is a higher risk of non-compliance. The circumstances are:

asylum seekers who have previously claimed in another country;

where there is no further right of appeal or where the right of appeal may be exercised only from abroad;

those who make late and opportunistic claims to asylum; and

those who are not documented or who express a reluctance to comply with the documentation process.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

How many asylum seekers are currently required to wear tags; and in which areas. [HL2664]

Immigration: Points-based System

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they will publish a list of the members of the employers’ task force that has been established to advise on the new points-based system of immigration control; and why no Chinese employers have been invited to participate in this body. [HL2617]

The employers’ task force membership list will be published on the IND website together with the terms of reference as agreed with the employers’ task force.

Members represent both large and small employers, all of whom employ migrants and have an interest in working in partnership with the Home Office to shape migration policy. This is a representative body with interests in the migration system that are strategically important for boosting Britain’s economy.

No specific communities are represented on the task force, as the view was taken that their interests would be represented by task force members who are drawn from the wider business community. Membership is regularly reviewed and supplemented with bilateral and other meetings with other interested bodies.

Immigration: Victims of Torture

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What mechanism has been, or will be, put in place so that an asylum applicant who claims to have suffered torture is promptly referred to the Medical Foundation. [HL1968]

It is not for the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) to judge whether a referral would be in the best interests of the claimant. Legal representatives, general practitioners and other health professionals, social workers, refugee agencies and others can help with that decision. NHS services are available to all asylum seekers whose claims are under consideration. Where appropriate, the IND will advise the claimant of the existence of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

Immigration: Wages

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has received complaints from migrant workers about wages of less than the agricultural minimum, or about abuses relating to accommodation, debts or non-existent agencies; and, if so, how many complaints have been received. [HL3095]

Defra has received 50 complaints from migrant workers about treatment under the agricultural wages legislation since the beginning of March 2006. These complaints are dealt with by the agricultural wages team within Defra. However, the agricultural wages team does not compile detailed statistics on the precise nature of the complaints it receives and to do so would incur disproportionate cost.

Iraq: Khamisiyah

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Answer by Lord Drayson on 22 March (Official Report, col. 1335) about the amount of sarin released in the fallout at Khamisiyah in March 1991, how much sarin was involved in the fallout. [HL2993]

I refer my noble friend to the Answer that my noble friend Lord Bach gave him on 5 April 2005 (Official Report, col. WA 99). On 27 January 2005 (Official Report, col. WS 58) the Ministry of Defence published the paper Review of Modelling of the Demolitions at Khamisiyah in March 1991 and Implications for UK Personnel. Copies of the paper have been placed in the Library of the House.

Iraq: US Armed Forces

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the impact on safety and security in Iraq of the first two months of the increase in United States military patrols. [HL3047]

As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made clear in another place on 21 February, we welcome the Iraqi-led Baghdad security plan and recognise the critical importance of security in the capital to the future of the country (Official Report, cols. 262-63). It is too soon to judge the plan's impact, alhough some of the early indications are that the increase in US troops is having a positive effect and the performance of the Iraqi security forces is encouraging.

Israel and Palestine: Abu Dis Boys School

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to receive a report from the British consulate-general in Jerusalem concerning events at the Abu Dis Boys' School on 14 February. [HL3000]

We were concerned to learn of the events at Abu Dis Boys School on 14 February. Officials from our consulate-general in Jerusalem visited the school on 21 March and produced a report of the events. The report contains an assessment of events from staff at the school, including the actions of the Israeli border police, which school staff claim resulted in six pupils receiving hospital treatment for minor injuries. Our embassy in Tel Aviv raised our concerns with the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs on 22 March, which has confirmed that the matter is being investigated by the Israeli Police Complaints Bureau at the Ministry of Justice. A special investigator from the Israeli Police Complaints Bureau has also arranged to collect the testimonies from the school principal and Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association at a checkpoint instead of Ma'ale Adumim police station.

Israel and Palestine: Har Homa

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made to the Government of Israel concerning the promotion for sale or rent of property in Har Homa in the Occupied Territories of Palestine at the real estate exhibition at Alexandra Palace on Sunday 18 March. [HL3001]

We have made no representations to the Israeli Government about this matter. We regard all settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as illegal under international law and have repeatedly raised our concerns about settlement activity with the Israeli Government.

Local Government: Scrutiny

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will place a duty on government agencies and non-departmental public bodies to participate in the local authority scrutiny process.[HL2885]

The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill provides for certain government agencies and non-departmental public bodies to provide information to local authority overview and scrutiny committees. These include the Highways Agency, the Environment Agency and the Learning and Skills Council for England.

Muslims

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Andrews on 26 March (WA 247–8), why it is not relevant to their foreign policy decisions in relation to Muslim countries to know approximately the proportion of Sunni and Shia Muslims in the United Kingdom. [HL3027]

The Government listen to a range of opinion in the course of the formulation of their foreign policy, including from British Muslims. However, decisions on foreign policy are taken on the basis of UK national interests and are not dependent on the views of any one group within British society.

NHS: Finances

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they intend to respond to a recent Local Government Association survey which found that financial problems within the National Health Service are having an impact on local authority social care budgets. [HL2884]

Putting the entire National Health Service in a financially sound position has been a key priority in 2006-07. The NHS and social services have a duty to work together locally, in collaboration with other partners and individuals, to provide high quality health and social care services that both meet the needs of their local population and make the best use of available resources. The NHS has a legal responsibility to provide health and nursing care that social services are not able to provide.

NHS: Hospital Car Parking

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have evidence that hospitals are implementing the Government's recommendation, as set out in Income Generation: Car Parking Charges—Best Practice for Implementation in December 2006, that patients requiring regular treatment should be offered free or reduced price car parking; what steps they are taking to monitor implementation by hospitals of all variable charging recommendations; and what impact the updated guidance will have in improving the number of hospitals offering car parking concessions for patients requiring regular treatment. [HL2718]

Under income generation rules it is for each individual National Health Service body to manage any car parking scheme on its premises, including what charges to impose and what concessions to offer, taking into consideration all of the relevant local factors. The document Income Generation: Car Parking Charges—Best Practice for Implementation is intended to provide advice and support in carrying out that function. Whilst I would expect NHS bodies to consider and take account of the recommendations set out in the document, they are not obliged to adhere to them unconditionally.

The estates related information collection (ERIC) database monitors some transport and car parking related activities. However, it does not monitor implementation of any of the recommendations in this best practice document.

Olympic Games 2012: Consultancy

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there has been an increase in the consultancy fee of £400 million for the 2012 Olympic Games announced by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on 21 November 2006 in evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport; and whether any increase has been included in the revised Olympic budget announced on 15 March. [HL2897]

In her response, published on the 26 March 2007, to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee's report, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said the total cost of the Olympic Delivery Authority's (ODA) programme delivery budget, including administrative costs and around £400 million of further expenditure referred to in her evidence to the committee in November 2006, is £570 million. This sum represents around 10 per cent of the total costs of the ODA programme of £5,254 million, net of tax, and is consistent with industry norms for a project of this scale, complexity and concentration.

Of this the combined staffing, accommodation and IT cost of ODA and the delivery partner, CLM, is £476 million. The balance of £94 million is to cover the establishment on the Olympic Park site of the necessary provision for up to 9,000 construction workers, including health and canteen facilities and transportation.

Olympic Games 2012: Travellers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will take steps to avoid spending money allocated for the 2012 London Olympic Games on legal fees arising from the decision to rescind the original offer of alternative accommodation to Travellers who need to be relocated because their present site is required for purposes connected with the Olympic Games; and whether they will invite the parties concerned to revert to the original offer. [HL2804]

The London Development Agency (LDA) has worked with the London Borough of Newham for many months to prepare relocation options for the Traveller groups that live within the Olympic Park site in the Lower Lea Valley. Initially agreed options were a site at Major Road and a site at Leyton Road (Chobham Farm), both in Stratford.

The Newham Travellers expressed a strong desire to move together to one new site, and their preferred location was Chobham Farm. However, the landowner indicated that they would resist an application for a Travellers’ site in this locality. This would have made the site undeliverable within the timeframe required. The LDA therefore focused on Newham Council's preferred site at Major Road.

One Traveller lodged a judicial review (JR) challenging the LDA for not applying for planning permission for the relocation site at Chobham Farm. The JR was heard on 27 February 2007 and the judge delivered his decision in favour of the LDA on 1 March 2007. Legal costs were met from the LDA's approved budget of £1.4 billion for the acquisition and remediation of land for the games.

The London Borough of Newham resolved to grant planning permission for the Major Road on 1 March 2007. Development will begin shortly.

Planning Gain Supplement

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the impact on farm businesses of the proposed planning gain supplement on development needed to meet environmental, animal welfare and food safety requirements; and [HL3008]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the effect of the proposed planning gain supplement on the ability of farm businesses to respond to the Government's encouragement to diversify their enterprises in respect of (a) owner occupied holdings, and (b) holdings farmed by agricultural tenants. [HL3009]

The Government have consulted twice on their proposals for a planning gain supplement (PGS) and have met a broad range of stakeholders, including representatives of farm businesses. The latest round of consultation closed on 28 February 2007 and the Government are evaluating the responses and carefully considering stakeholder views. The Government will continue to work with stakeholders in order to better understand the impact of PGS on businesses.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress they have made on setting a de minimis threshold below which business development would not attract the proposed planning gain supplement. [HL3010]

As announced in the 2006 Pre-Budget Report (Cm 6984), the Government are considering the thresholds for small-scale development for a planning gain supplement.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend that the proposed planning gain supplement will apply to agricultural developments that are approved by prior notification schemes to local planning authorities. [HL3050]

As announced at the 2005 Pre-Budget Report and consulted on in both 2005 and 2006, the planning gain supplement (PGS) would apply only to developments that require full planning permission, subject to minimum thresholds. The Government are keeping the scope of PGS under review.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What professional advice they have sought on the valuation of farm businesses for planning gain supplement purposes. [HL3051]

The Government have consulted a wide range of stakeholders during the development of the planning gain supplement (PGS), including those involved in specialist agricultural valuations. The Valuation Office Agency, an executive agency of HM Revenue and Customs, gives advice to the Government on valuation matters and has led work on valuations for PGS.

Schools: Sport

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will take action to assess young people early in their school careers, so that those with particular sporting skill can be properly nurtured; and [HL2905]

What steps they are taking to widen the range of sports available in schools by maximising the use of coaches and facilities available at local sports clubs; and [HL2906]

What steps they are taking to integrate local sports clubs more closely with schools; and [HL2907]

How their strategies relating to school sport are enhancing opportunities for ethnic minorities and those with special needs. [HL2909]

The 2005-06 national school sport survey found that some 189,000 pupils in schools in school sport partnerships (SSPs) are registered as being gifted and talented because of their ability in physical education or sport. Those with exceptional talent are encouraged to join local sports clubs accredited by the relevant national governing bodies for the sports in question.

As part of the national school sport strategy, £18 million has been set aside from 2004 to 2008 for the School Club Links programme, to encourage and strengthen links between schools and accredited sports clubs. Through this programme, schools are working with the national governing bodies of sport to provide a safe environment for young people to take part in sport beyond school in accredited sports clubs, with access to their facilities and their coaches.

The School Club Links programme is a key work strand within the national school sport strategy. The aim of this work strand is to increase the percentage of five to 16 year-olds from school sport partnership schools who are members of, or participate in, governing body or otherwise accredited sports clubs. Currently, 27 per cent of pupils in partnership schools participate in at least one sports club linked to their school—up from 19 per cent two years ago. The most common club-linked sports are football (78 per cent), cricket (52 per cent), rugby union (46 per cent), dance (40 per cent) and athletics (38 per cent). On average, schools have club links with approximately six sports.

The national school sport strategy aims to increase both the quantity and quality of PE and school sport for all pupils, whatever their particular needs or circumstances. This includes pupils with special needs and those from minority ethnic backgrounds. School sport partnerships are encouraged to target their available resources towards those with special needs or from ethnic minorities.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What steps they are taking to improve the initial teacher education of prospective primary teachers in respect of their competence and confidence to teach physical education. [HL2908]

Under the current standards for qualified teacher status, every primary trainee needs to demonstrate subject knowledge and teaching ability in physical education (PE). Under the previous standards, replaced in 2002, primary trainees were able to opt out of PE.

Initial teacher training providers have been supported for the last three years by a project funded by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) to support the delivery of high-quality PE training. To date, the project has delivered individual support for teacher trainers, web-based resources, DVD resources, printed training manuals, and regional and national conferences for training providers. Primary PE has been one of the focus areas of this support.

Sport: Ministerial Visits

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What costs were incurred by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport's visit to Australia during the second test match of the Ashes series; and what benefit was gained from this visit. [HL2893]

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport did not visit Australia during the second test match of the Ashes series and therefore no costs were incurred.

Sudan: Darfur

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are implementing personal sanctions on individuals who are impeding the peace process in Darfur or who have been responsible for violations of international law in that context. [HL3058]

The UK was instrumental in pushing for the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1591 (2005) calling for targeted sanctions, a travel ban and an assets freeze on individuals from the conflict in Darfur. UNSCR 1672 (2006) gave effect to UNSCR 1591 by imposing targeted sanctions on four individuals from all sides of the conflict.

It is completely unacceptable that there is no ceasefire in Darfur. We are working with our international partners to target further individuals responsible for atrocities and impeding the peace process, by listing them on the UN sanctions list. We are pushing for action on this issue in the UN Security Council.

Sudan: Oil Exports

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they, in conjunction with the Government of the United States, the member states of the African Union and other neighbouring states, are continuing to press the Government of Sudan to accept an African Union-United Nations hybrid force to comply with the no-fly zone and to implement the existing ceasefire agreement. [HL3056]

The Government of Sudan have consistently failed to make good on their promises agreed at the UN high- level meeting on 16 November 2006 in Addis Ababa. This included the need for a strengthened African Union (AU)-UN hybrid force for Darfur. We are continuing to press the Government of Sudan to accept this force and are calling on our international partners to do the same.

The implementation of the existing ceasefire agreement remains a UK priority. We are looking at tougher measures, including sanctions, extension of the existing arms embargo and monitoring of military flights, to get the Government of Sudan to comply with their promises made to the international community. We are continuing to talk to international partners including the US, EU, UN and AU about this.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are acting in concert with the Government of the United States to block receipt of money for oil exports from the Sudan in whatever currencies may be involved. [HL3057]

We are not taking steps to block receipt of money for oil exports from Sudan. We want to ensure that any sanctions do not impact on the comprehensive peace agreement between north and south Sudan, or those who have no responsibility for violence in Darfur.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister wrote to Chancellor Merkel and other EU leaders on 21 March to make the case for further targeted sanctions against individuals responsible for committing atrocities in Darfur, and an extension to the UN arms embargo to the whole of Sudan, in line with the current EU embargo. We are now taking this forward with the US, other UN Security Council members and key partners.

Trade: Deficit

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they intend to take to reduce the United Kingdom's trade deficit of £55.8 billion in 2006. [HL2999]

The Government’s strategy continues to be ensuring 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.

Despite the UK trade deficit reaching 4.2 per cent of GDP in 2006, the economy is very different from when the deficit last peaked at 4.1 per cent in 1989. In 2006 the current account deficit was just 3.4 per cent of GDP, compared with 5.1 per cent in 1989, and, moreover, the current account can be readily financed.

Vehicles: Excise Duty

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are planning to increase vehicle excise duty on four-wheel drive and two-wheel drive pick-ups and vans in the near future. [HL3049]

Budget 2007 announced VED rates for this year and the next two years. In 2008-09 the rate for the most polluting cars in band G will increase to £400, with a freeze in the following year, rates for cars in bands C to E will increase by £5 in each of 2008-09 and 2009-10, as will band F rates.

The band A rate introduced in Budget 2006 for the very lowest carbon cars will remain zero and will continue to encourage take-up and assist development of the low carbon car market. The new lower £35 band B rate for low carbon cars will remain frozen until 2010-11. Rates for pre-March 2001 cars and all light goods vehicles will increase by £5 in each of 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Waste Management: Toxic Dumping

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 8 March (WA 75), what was the depth of Brofiscin quarry prior to the commencement of dumping in 1965; which was the last portion of the quarry to be filled; whether the quarry was full when it was capped in about 1972; and, if so, whether they will reconsider the basis for their calculations of the volume of toxic waste contained in the quarry. [HL2767]

The original depth of the Brofiscin quarry would have been approximately 6 metres below current surface levels.

The last portion of the quarry to be filled was the eastern end. The quarry was not entirely filled and a properly engineered cap was not fitted. The ground is now covered with patchy scrub, grass and trees.

I am advised that the total area of contaminated land is around 1.26 hectares and that it contains some 72,000 cubic metres of waste material. As this estimate is based on the best available information, revision of these figures is not thought to be necessary at this time.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 8 March (WA 75), whether the site at Brofiscin quarry is designated a special site; whether such a designation would be appropriate if the volume of toxic waste stated is correct; what the expenditure has been on investigations of the toxic waste to date; and what is the projected total expenditure. [HL2768]

The Brofiscin quarry has been designated as a special site because of the substances present and the specific geology of the site (carboniferous limestone). This is not related to the volume of waste that was accepted at the site.

The costs incurred to date by the Environment Agency (EA), which include site investigation, drilling, monitoring, analytical costs and interpretation, are approximately £800,000. Additional legal costs have been incurred for counsel and advice with regard to the proceedings in the United States, to the sum of £17,000.

The EA is also conducting extensive inquiries to determine who should bear responsibility for remedial actions and associated costs.

A full interpretative report is due to be published by the EA in April. The report will bring together the findings of the recent drilling work and monitoring to present a three-dimensional picture of the quarry. This will help us to understand the extent to which contamination is migrating into the surrounding rock, groundwater and surface waters. The EA, Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council and the Welsh Assembly Government will be liaising on possible further work at the quarry based on the findings of the April report. It is not, therefore, currently possible to assess the likely total expenditure.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 8 March (WA 75) on waste management and toxic dumping at specific locations, whether they will indicate which analytical reports and civil engineering reports they have considered. [HL2772]

In Wales, responsibility for policy on waste management and contaminated land lies with the National Assembly, which receives specialist advice from the Environment Agency (EA) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA). In relation to Brofiscin quarry, the EA has looked at all the available reports—including those listed in my Written Answer to the noble Countess on 8 March (WA 72)—in developing a conceptual site model. The Welsh Assembly Government are providing funding for the development of the model to aid in the assessment of potential remediation options.

In relation to the Maendy site, consideration was given to the report of a study carried out by the Department of the Environment in 1975.

In respect of the Solutia site at Newport, a report was produced in 2005, which included the assessment of opportunities for bio-accumulation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) within the food chain due to releases to the Severn estuary. The FSA reviewed this assessment and concluded that the operation was unlikely to have any unacceptable effects on the food chain.

The EA has no information in its records concerning the origins of any wastes deposited at the Rayleigh site. This site was operated and closed prior to 1974 and neither the EA nor the predecessor authority for waste (Essex County Council) was responsible for the day-to-day regulation of the site. The information that the EA holds on pre-1974 landfills is provided to it by the district council that authorised such sites, usually by way of planning permission.

For the landfill site known as Bennett Bank, near Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, a pollution prevention and control (PPC) application was submitted on 7 May 2004 and contained an environmental setting and installation design report (ESID) together with a hydrogeological risk assessment (HRA), a stability risk assessment (SRA), a landfill gas risk assessment (GRA) and a habitats impact assessment. These reports would have all contained analytical data that the EA used in considering the application for a PPC permit for the Bennett Bank landfill sites.

During the permitting process, further questions were asked in support of the technical aspects of the application on 9 and 16 July 2004. The responses to these contained further analytical data and were material considerations used by the EA in deciding to grant a PPC permit for the facility, a decision made on 7 November 2005.

Water Supply

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to issue guidance to the Environment Agency as a result of the European Union Commission amendment to Directive 2000/60/EC to replace paragraph 3 of Article 8 with the following: “3. The Commission shall adopt technical specifications and standardised methods for analysis and monitoring of water status. Those measures, designed to amend nonessentials elements of this Directive by supplementing it, shall be adopted in accordance with the regulatory procedure with scrutiny referred to in Article 21 (3).”; and by what date they expect to adopt a common standard of good ecological status of water bodies. [HL2964]

My department currently has no plans to issue guidance to the Environment Agency as a result of the amendment from the European Commission to paragraph 3 of Article 8 of the EC Water Framework Directive (WFD)(2000/60/EC).

The amendment changes procedures for the Article 21 committee of the WFD (and introduces the new regulatory procedure with scrutiny) including that for adopting technical specifications and standardised methods for the analysis and monitoring of water status. The Environment Agency (alongside other UK competent authorities) will continue to advise the UK Government through the UK Technical Advisory Group on the WFD on technical matters which arise in the Article 21 committee.

The intercalibration process required by the WFD should lead to a common understanding across the European Union of good ecological status in water bodies. It is expected that the Article 21 committee will be asked to adopt a Commission decision on the results of the intercalibration exercise for the first river basin planning cycle during autumn 2007.

It is envisaged that the classification scheme in various parts of the UK will be finalised in the months following the adoption of the intercalibration decision by the Article 21 committee.

Water Supply: Ofwat Price Review

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What ministerial guidance they will offer to Ofwat for PR09, the 2009 price review. [HL2882]

Preparations for the next periodic review of water price limits are currently in the early stages. Defra will be working with Ofwat and other stakeholders throughout the review.

This summer, Defra will be publishing a water strategy document outlining the Government’s priorities for the water sector. Later on this year, we expect to clarify for water companies the obligations that they must meet. Early in 2008, we will issue general guidance to Ofwat on its contribution towards the attainment of social and environmental policies.