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Written Answers

Volume 691: debated on Tuesday 24 April 2007

Written Answers

Tuesday 24 April 2007

Agriculture: Fallen Stock

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 20 February (WA 211), whether they will conduct a hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP) analysis survey to assess the environmental and biosecurity impact of the collection of fallen stock; and whether, if necessary, they will amend existing legislation in the light of this analysis to reduce the cost to the farmer. [HL3270]

No. The EU Animal By-products Regulation 1774/2002/EC, which banned the burial and on-farm burning of fallen stock, already lays down rules for the safe collection, transport, storage, handling, processing and use or disposal of animal by-products, including fallen stock. This prevents these products presenting a risk to animal or public health.

Agriculture: Feed Wheat

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What has been the average price of feed wheat received by farmers ex-farm in the United Kingdom in each of the past 10 years. [HL3197]

The table below shows the average prices of feed wheat in the UK since 1996, based on averages of weekly ex-farm prices provided by the Home Grown Cereals Authority.

Year

£/tonne ex-farm

1996

110.98

1997

85.44

1998

73.88

1999

73.13

2000

67.69

2001

74.17

2002

63.35

2003

76.40

2004

78.48

2005

63.92

2006

76.42

Agriculture: Wages

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many prosecutions have been brought, or are pending, following the 50 complaints from migrant workers to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about wages below the agricultural minimum and related abuses. [HL3225]

When dealing with complaints from workers alleging that they have been paid less than the agricultural minimum, Defra gives priority to recovering any arrears of pay owed and ensuring that the worker’s employer pays the minimum wage in future. However, where there is evidence that an employer has wilfully failed to pay the minimum wage, Defra has powers to prosecute. There is currently one such prosecution under consideration arising from the 50 complaints received from migrant workers in the past year. The remaining complaints are at various stages of the arrears recovery process.

Armed Forces: Bowman

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Ministry of Defence has made an assessment of (a) the suitability of data transmission rates; and (b) the visual situational awareness provided by the Bowman combat infrastructure platform programme. [HL3119]

The large-scale integration trial for high-capacity data radio in May 2006 and the systems readiness test in November 2006 assessed the suitability of the data transmission rates in the Bowman combat infrastructure platform and found they met the department's specifications. The department continues to work to improve situational awareness capability as part of the incremental approach to Bowman CIP.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many platforms have been converted to Bowman to date; and what estimates the Ministry of Defence has made of the impact of urgent operational requirements and operational commitments on the timescale for conversion of platforms to Bowman. [HL3203]

8,364 land platforms have been converted. Those vehicles not converted because of operational commitments will be converted when they become available. It is estimated that, instead of the planned conversion process completing in 2007, this will be by the end of 2008.

British Citizenship

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate complaints unit advised Ms TKN (ref: CM29425) by letter on 31 January and by telephone on 12 February that her citizenship application under the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997 was not the responsibility of the Home Office and that UKvisas was responsible for dealing with British citizenship applications; and whether they will clarify the circumstances under which UKvisas is authorised to grant a person British citizenship by registration or naturalisation. [HL2106]

Climate Change

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What estimate they have made of the impact that carbon emission-limiting measures currently in force in the United Kingdom will have in reducing the risks of sea flooding between the present date and 2030. [HL3170]

In 2004 the Government’s Foresight report Future Flooding estimated that, with climate change impacts and increased economic wealth, annual average flood damages could rise between two and 20 times by the end of the century. However, there is still considerable uncertainty about the extent of these changes.

The UK produces a relatively small proportion of global carbon emissions and domestic efforts alone will not have a significant effect on coastal flood risk in England between now and 2030. National action must be part of a much bigger international strategy.

A certain amount of climate change is now inevitable over the next few decades: we need to plan for and adapt to this. Climate scientists broadly agree that the UK is likely to face rising sea levels and more frequent floods and storms. For example, the Thames Barrier is already being used around five times a year; by 2030 we expect it to be closing up to 30 times a year. In addition, we need to minimise the effects of dangerous climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Defra has for many years provided guidance to the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards to help them take account of climate change impacts in the design of present-day flood and coastal erosion risk management measures.

Climate Change: Adaptation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will take steps to accelerate the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs adaptation policy framework programme. [HL3293]

Adaptation is a vital part of our efforts to tackle climate change and a high priority for this Government. We will publish a cross-government framework on adaptation by the end of 2007. This will bring together the range of work already being taken forward and ensure a co-ordinated approach to adaptation across the UK. Adaptation is also addressed in the Climate Change Bill.

Closed-Circuit Television

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the number and use of closed-circuit television cameras in public places. [HL2997]

The Home Office does not collect figures for the number of CCTV cameras. Given the huge number of cameras, operated by a very wide range of individuals, private organisations and public bodies, it is very difficult accurately to assess the total number employed.

Common Agricultural Policy: Single Farm Payment

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions they have had with the European Commission concerning any proposed fine arising from the allegations of mismanagement of the single farm payment scheme; and what is the likely level of any proposed fine. [HL3249]

The Government are in regular contact with the European Commission regarding the administration of the single payment scheme (SPS). The European Commission’s audit of the 2005 SPS in England is ongoing and it is too early to draw any firm conclusions. No proposals have been made to date for financial corrections and, should the Commission make any in due course, the Government will continue to defend the UK’s interests with the aim of ensuring that any corrections are minimised to the fullest possible degree.

Firearms: Amnesty

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many firearms were surrendered during the firearms amnesty in 1968 and in all subsequent firearms amnesties. [HL3148]

Government: Ministerial Posts

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the current ministerial posts; in respect of each, how many different ministers have held the post since May 1997, and what has been the average number of months of ministerial tenure of each post during the period. [HL3196]

The Cabinet Office publication List of Ministerial Responsibilities sets out details of ministerial posts and names of postholders. Copies of the publications dating back to May 1997 are available in the Library for the reference of noble Lords. Information about the average number of months of ministerial tenure of each post since 1997 is not available without incurring disproportionate cost.

Immigration: Detention

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consideration they are giving to implementing arrangements for the judicial oversight of all decisions to detain asylum seekers, as practised in other European Union member states. [HL3336]

We remain firmly of the view that detention for immigration purposes under Article 5(1)(f) of the ECHR does not require judicial oversight. Detainees have access to judicial review and habeas corpus and this satisfies the Article 5(4) requirement that detained persons should be able to bring proceedings before a court to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will discontinue the detention of vulnerable immigrants, with serious mental and physical conditions, who are determined to have been previously the victims of torture. [HL3308]

Certain persons are normally considered suitable for detention only in exceptional circumstances. Elderly persons, pregnant women, those suffering from serious medical conditions or who are otherwise mentally ill and those where there is independent evidence to show that they have been tortured are included among those who would usually be considered unsuitable for detention.

Detaining officers will always consider on a case-by-case basis whether detention is appropriate in any particular case.

Immigration: Eurostar Paris

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In respect of United Kingdom immigration staff at the Eurostar terminal in Paris (a) what is the normal complement of immigration officers; (b) how many officers normally operate within the passport checking booths; (c) how many booths are provided for them; (d) what is the average and longest delay times to passengers caused by any lack of United Kingdom immigration staff; (e) whether there is any target delay time for passengers queuing for United Kingdom immigration checks; and (f) what action has been taken to request additional booths in which to deploy extra staff. [HL3164]

The information requested in (a), (b) and (c) cannot be disclosed as this could provide information of value to those seeking to circumvent immigration controls, thereby prejudicing the prevention and detection of immigration offences.

Internal performance targets on waiting times for non-EEA nationals are set at no more than 45 minutes 100 per cent of the time and no more than 30 minutes 90 per cent of the time. In Paris, passenger waiting times are within these limits. The number of booths open varies in accordance with passenger traffic levels.

The Border and Immigration Agency has signalled to Eurostar the desirability of additional control points in the event of the terminal being redeveloped.

Immigration: Independent Asylum Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will submit evidence to the Independent Asylum Commission. [HL3241]

As they would for any organisation or group wanting to question aspects of immigration or asylum policy, the Government have agreed to provide written answers to specific questions asked of them.

Minimum Wage

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many (a) complaints about, and (b) investigations into payment of wages of less than the national minimum have been received and initiated by HM Revenue and Customs in each year since the minimum wage came into force; whether they are able to distinguish complaints by United Kingdom citizens from those made by migrant workers; and how many prosecutions have taken place following investigations. [HL3279]

The numbers of complaints about and investigations into payment of wages of less than the national minimum wage are as follows:

Complaints Received

Investigations

1999-00

4,682

6041

2000-01

2,365

7256

2001-02

1,722

5368

2002-03

1,998

6238

2003-04

1,969

5541

2004-05

1,946

5155

2005-06

2,141

4904

2006-07

2,210

4235

HM Revenue and Customs does not collect information which would allow it to distinguish between complaints made by UK citizens and those made by migrant workers.

To date there have been no criminal prosecutions in relation to underpayment of the minimum wage.

Muslims

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Andrews on 26 March (WA 247–8), what is their understanding of the characteristics of the different sub-categories of Muslim communities in the United Kingdom, such as Brelwi, Deobandi and Imami, and cross-cutting trends such as Sufism. [HL3026]

Although there are no specific data for denominational allegiances of Muslims in the UK, or on issues facing denominational groups, the Government's understanding is that, of the many Islamic schools of thought in the UK, the majority of UK Muslims are Sunni Brelwi or Sunni Deobandi.

Surveys such as the census provide data only by broader religious affiliation, such as Muslim, Christian or Hindu. The Government are continuing to work with a range of partners to broaden our knowledge of faith communities.

Pensions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In respect of employees with multiple jobs, the earnings from each of which is below the lower earnings limit but from which the total combined pay is above the lower earnings limit, what estimate they have made of (a) the likely gross and net cost in 2025 and 2050, were credits to be made into (i) national insurance for the basic state pension only, and (ii) for the basic state pension and the state second pension; and (b) how many employees would be eligible for such a credit. [HL2921]

Evidence from the Labour Force Survey 2004-06 shows that there are around 15,000 women and around 5,000 men who have two jobs each paying below the lower earnings limit but when aggregated their earnings are at least equal to the lower earnings limit, who do not otherwise qualify for the basic state pension.

These are point-in-time data and people may not remain in this position for lengthy periods and may well have other opportunities to build up qualifying years during their working lives. The reforms proposed in the Pensions Bill, including the reduction in the number of qualifying years to 30 for a basic state pension, mean that people reaching pension age from 2010 will have far greater opportunity to build improved state pension entitlement over their working life.

Table 1 below shows the estimated cost of providing a national insurance credit, from 2010, to people whose earnings would exceed the LEL if aggregated. Estimated numbers of people who would be eligible for such a credit are based on the above figures and take into account, for example, the projected increase in the working age population.

However, such a national insurance credit would not be awarded on any form of self-certification basis without any evidence. All national insurance credits and the proposed new carer's credit are awarded on the basis of evidence. To satisfy the evidence requirement it would fall to employers to collect and aggregate earnings information to provide that evidence base, and we have ruled out aggregating earnings information in this way because of the burdens on business.

If earnings information were to be collected on an aggregate basis by a collective of relevant employers and earnings exceeded the national insurance thresholds then national insurance contributions would be payable. It would be only right and fair to expect individuals and employers to pay national insurance on those earnings where a liability arises. It would be unfair to give people a free pass for pension purposes but exempt them from their national insurance liability.

Table 1

2025

2050

BSP only

Gross cost (£m)

0-5

0-5

Net cost (£m)

0-5

0-5

Number of eligible people

35,000

35,000

BSP and S2P

Gross cost (£m)

20

110

Net cost (£m)

15

80

Number of eligible people

40,000

40,000

Source: DWP estimates based on evidence from the Labour Force Survey 2004-06 and demographic projections.

Notes for tables:

1. Estimated costs are presented in £ million, 2006-07 price terms and include overseas cases.

2. Gross costs refer to the estimated expenditure associated with this credit, in addition to estimated expenditure on reforms to coverage set out in the Pensions Bill. They take into account, for example, the reduction in qualifying years required for a full basic state pension. They do not include other reforms that affect basic state pension, such as earnings uprating.

3. Net costs include savings seen from reduced expenditure on income-related benefits (pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit) and from changes to state pension age.

4. Estimates of eligible people show the number of people in the given year who could be awarded the credit.

5. Estimated costs have been rounded, according to the scale of the figure. Figures below £5 million are shown as £0-5 million. Estimated numbers of people eligible have been rounded to the nearest 5,000.

6. Estimated costs relate only to benefit expenditure and do not take account of administration costs.

7. Estimates assume that the earnings of the people concerned rise at the same rate as the lower earnings limit.

8. Estimates are based on survey data and are subject to sampling variability. Information relating to third or fourth jobs is not collected in the Labour Force Survey. Consequently estimates may exclude people whose total earnings from their first and second jobs are below the lower earnings limit, but total earnings including any additional jobs are above the lower earnings limit. Similarly, information in the Labour Force Survey does not permit precise identification of people who are already qualifying for state pension, and so proxies have been used. For example, women with dependant children below 12 years are assumed to be qualifying through contributions credits for those caring for children.

People Trafficking

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress is being made on the joint European Union-International Organization for Migration project aimed at eliminating human trafficking originating in the Ukraine and Moldova. [HL3171]

While the UK Government are aware of this project, it is being led and implemented by the International Organization for Migration. We recommend that interested parties should approach it for further information.

Telephone Numbers: DCMS

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many non-geographic telephone numbers are in use by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and its agencies; what services can be accessed by calling each of them; and what revenue has been received from them between September 2004 and September 2006. [HL3268]

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport operates one non-geographic telephone number for staff voicemail. The number is not used for public services and no revenue is made from it.

Waste Management: Landfill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What estimate they have made of the total potential liability for landfill allowance trading scheme fines for all London boroughs combined in (a) 2010; (b) 2013; and (c) 2020. [HL3151]

Defra has not estimated the total potential for landfill allowance trading scheme (LATS) liability for all London boroughs.

Waste disposal authorities (WDAs) have a duty to hold sufficient landfill allowances to cover the amount of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) they landfill in any LATS year. The flexibilities provided by LATS enable WDAs to meet their obligations under the scheme in the most cost effective way. They can do this by reducing the amount of waste landfilled, purchasing additional allowances, borrowing allowances from future scheme years (with restrictions) or a combination of these approaches.

Without financial penalties, there would be no incentive for authorities to keep within the rules of LATS and the trading mechanism would not operate effectively. The penalty for landfilling more BMW than permitted by the number of allowances held in a scheme year is £150 per tonne of BMW.

The landfill allowances scheme regulations provide powers for the Secretary of State to impose supplementary penalties on waste disposal authorities that contribute to any national breach of targets. Any WDAs that failed to meet their obligations under LATS in landfill directive target years would also be liable to a supplementary penalty.

The flexibilities included in the scheme, including the Secretary of State's power to waive or suspend penalties in given circumstances and the reconciliation period at the end of each scheme year, means that no authority should face penalties unless it takes the conscious decision to do so.

If the UK were not to comply with European Union landfill directive targets to reduce the amount of BMW landfilled, it may be liable to fines. An adverse ruling against the UK in the European Court of Justice could result in fines of up to £180 million per year. These would ultimately be paid by council tax payers in those authorities that had failed to meet their landfill obligations. If all London boroughs failed to meet their obligations, the combined liability could be as much as 5 per cent of council tax bills. If a subset of London boroughs were to fail to meet their obligations, the liabilities on those individual boroughs could be higher.

Waste Management: Recycling

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What the household recycling rates were for each region in England for each year since 1997. [HL3153]

The information requested is shown in the following table:

Household waste recycled or composted as a percentage of total collected

Region

1997-98

1998-99

1999-00

2000-01

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

North East

4.4

3.7

3.6

4.1

5.2

6.6

12.2

15.4

21.1

North West

5.4

6.0

6.9

7.5

9.2

11.3

14.2

19.2

23.8

Yorkshire and the Humber

5.1

6.0

6.8

7.3

8.9

11.2

14.5

18.6

21.8

East Midlands

7.2

8.6

10.5

13.1

13.7

15.1

19.3

26.3

31.8

West Midlands

6.3

6.9

8.8

9.1

10.2

13.0

15.7

19.9

25.1

East

10.5

11.9

14.1

15.2

17.4

19.4

23.4

29.8

34.1

London

7.0

7.6

9.0

9.0

9.3

10.9

13.3

17.6

20.7

South East

12.2

13.3

14.9

16.4

17.7

19.6

22.8

26.1

29.2

South West

12.3

13.6

13.7

14.9

16.6

18.6

21.4

26.6

31.4

England

8.2

9.0

10.3

11.2

12.5

14.5

17.8

22.5

26.7

Source: Defra Municipal Waste Statistics