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Written Answers

Volume 691: debated on Wednesday 25 April 2007

Written Answers

Wednesday 25 April 2007

Ambulance Service: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to provide extra capacity for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service. [HL3233]

The ambulance service’s capacity is determined by its ability to meet the required national standard response time for category A (life-threatening) calls. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, along with the Boards' Commissioning Group for Ambulance Services, continues to work with NIAS on developing and implementing measures including new technology, dynamic deployment and additional deployment points designed to enable the ambulance service to meet the national standard response time.

Animal Welfare: Captive Birds

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, further to Statutory Instrument 2007/406 amending the planning laws to cover temporary protection for poultry and other captive birds, the planning authorities will have any right to check that the proposed temporary development is in proportion to the number of poultry to be stored therein. [HL2968]

The statutory instrument specifies the maximum permitted size of the temporary development to be used to house poultry or other captive birds. It does not relate the size of the building to the number of poultry to be stored therein. The statutory instrument does not confer any specific rights on the local planning authority to verify that the temporary structure is proportionate to the number of poultry. However, local planning authorities should be able to satisfy themselves of the suitability of the development once they have been notified. If necessary, they will also be able to draw on the advice of the local animal health office on stocking densities within each structure to ensure the welfare of the birds.

Armed Forces: Illegal Drugs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Of those military personnel who tested positive for illegal drugs in 2006, how many have subsequently been required to leave the Armed Forces. [HL3039]

Of the total of 844 military personnel who tested positive in 2006, 782 (92.7 per cent) have left the Armed Forces or are in the process of being discharged.

Aviation: Liquid Explosives

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the required amount of weight and volume of liquids required to create a device that could cause destruction to an aircraft; and [HL3182]

What assessment they have made of the required amount of different liquids needed to create a device that could cause destruction to an aircraft by being strapped around the body and passing through the walk-through security apparatus undetected. [HL3183]

Data generated by tests on improvised liquid explosives in the UK and partner countries together with historical data of the effects of explosives on aircraft were reviewed by an international group of experts who provided an assessment of the amounts of material that constitute a threat. Those data and the conclusion drawn by that group of experts were used to inform the security measures implemented at airports.

Care Services: Older People

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the conclusions of the report Securing Good Care for Older People; and how they envisage that such care would be funded. [HL3262]

The number of older people, particularly those aged over 85, is expected to rise sharply over coming years with significant implications for public services, such as long-term care for the elderly. Recent reports from Derek Wanless for the King's Fund, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and others have made important contributions to the debate around the future of social care provision, which will also be informed by individual budgets, partnerships for older people projects, direct payments and the In Control programme. In assessing proposals and as part of the long-term vision of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, the Government will consider whether they are affordable, whether they are consistent with progressive universalism and whether they promote independence, dignity, well-being and control in line with Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People, the White Paper Our Health, our Care, our Say and the National Service Framework for Older People.

Children and Young People: Discipline

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have plans to introduce any forms of national service for young people in order to assist them with their development, discipline, education and skills acquisition and to reduce anti-social, delinquent behaviour. [HL3214]

Concessionary Bus Travel Bill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there is a specification for the concessionary travel passes which will be needed to comply with the provisions of the Concessionary Bus Travel Bill. [HL3217]

The department is working closely with local authorities and bus operators to finalise the concessionary travel pass specification.

Pass and logo designs have been commissioned, and initial designs have been received. These have been discussed with the department's Operations and Technology Stakeholder Group, which includes local government and industry representatives, and have undergone provisional testing by operators to assess their suitability in the bus environment. We are looking closely at whether to put in place a requirement that the new national concessionary travel pass be in a smartcard format and ITSO compliant.

The department intends to open a public consultation on the travel pass specification in early May. The consultation paper will consider all options such as whether the pass should be specified in ITSO smartcard form.

Crime: Sharp Instruments

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they propose to bring Northern Ireland legislation on the possession of sharp instruments in public places into line with the legislation in the rest of the United Kingdom. [HL2738]

The Government are determined to take knives off the streets of Northern Ireland. Over 1,500 potentially lethal weapons were taken out of circulation during the two knife amnesties and thousands of school children have been given the clear message never to carry a knife. A consultation also looked at a range of issues to combat knife crime and an announcement on the way forward will be made shortly.

Energy Demand Research Project

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the results and data obtained from the Energy Demand Research Project will be incorporated into their implementation of the European energy services directive (2006/32/EC) which is due to be implemented by May 2008. [HL3331]

Article 13 of the energy services directive requires member states to ensure that where it is,

“technically possible, financially reasonable and proportionate in relation to the energy savings”,

energy consumers are provided with meters that provide information on time of energy use. The directive also requires that, where appropriate, certain types of information relating to a consumer's energy consumption are provided on or with the bill for that energy.

The Energy Demand Research Project will involve energy companies conducting a range of trials where smart meters and feedback devices are installed in homes to test consumers' response to better information about their energy consumption. The different approaches tested in the trials will include information on displays, more accurate and informative billing and differential tariffs by time of day. This will allow the Government to develop their understanding of the cost-effectiveness of different approaches to the provision of information to consumers. This will help inform future policy development, including in relation to the ongoing requirements in Article 13 of the Energy Services Directive, which specifically recognises that cost, benefits and technologies will change over time.

Energy: Meters

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they intend to ensure that new smart metering technologies for gas and electricity energy consumption are introduced to homes throughout the United Kingdom so that households can intelligently manage their energy use and carbon savings; and [HL3327]

Whether they intend future domestic energy metering to incorporate both electricity and gas energy consumption meters; and [HL3328]

Whether they intend to set a framework for the introduction of gas and electricity smart metering for domestic energy consumption that is transferable and inter-operable between all energy suppliers; and [HL3329]

How they will address the issue of the current 20-year amortisation of domestic energy-metering equipment by energy suppliers to allow the current financial barriers to the timely introduction of smart metering to be removed; and [HL3330]

Whether they will consider requiring energy suppliers to replace existing prepayment metering with smart metering technology in order that costs to prepayment customers are reduced in a manner similar to that achieved in Northern Ireland. [HL3332]

All gas and electricity meters already measure consumption, although smart meters and associated devices can give customers additional information, as well as, among other things, improving the accuracy of billing. With the support of the industry regulator, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), and the Government, gas and electricity suppliers are holding detailed discussions about the barriers to the introduction of smart metering, including the issue of inter-operability of meters and the need to avoid stranding metering assets. The Government will set out their position on metering, including smart metering, in the forthcoming energy White Paper.

Health: Dentistry

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many redundancies from public health departments have been made by each primary care trust in the past year; and how many of these redundancies have been made within the field of dental public health. [HL3122]

The overall number of compulsory redundancies as at December 2006, the last published figure, was 1,446. Of these, 294 were made within primary care trusts. We do not collect or keep any data about public health or dental health within the redundancy data.

House of Lords: 1 Millbank

asked the Chairman of Committees:

What estimate has been made of the costs of purchasing and refurbishing accommodation in 1 Millbank for use by the House of Lords in (a) 2006-07; (b) 2007-08; (c) 2008-09; and (d) 2009-10. [HL3420]

As I announced on 22 March 2005, the cost of the acquisition of the 1 and 2 Millbank site was £65 million plus VAT on part of the premises. An initial payment was made in March 2005: the final payment of £22,181,250 plus VAT is payable in September 2007 and is included in the House's estimate for this year.

Robust estimates of the costs of refurbishment are not yet available. When the site was purchased, it was hoped that early surrender of the lease held by a third party in respect of one-third of the site would make it possible to obtain vacant possession of the entire site in order for it to be refurbished as a whole. This has not proved possible and the refurbishment strategy has had to be reviewed to enable the site to be refurbished in two stages. As a result of this work the House Committee has very recently agreed to a design option for the fit-out of 1 and 2 Millbank alone. Detailed design work will now be undertaken to take forward that work, following which the House Committee will be invited to consider estimates of works costs. It is envisaged that the first stage of the refurbishment work will begin in the second half of 2008 and will conclude to enable occupation of the site during 2010. The second stage of the refurbishment will not begin before 2015, when the lease on the last part of the site can be terminated.

Houses of Parliament: Old Palace Yard

asked the Chairman of Committees:

What action is being taken to repair the damaged blockwork road sections in Old Palace Yard; and who will fund the work. [HL3316]

Discussions are being held with Westminster City Council to plan for the repair of the damaged blockwork road sections in Old Palace Yard during implementation of phase 3 of the Corus barrier scheme this year. Maintenance of the road in Old Palace Yard and the funding of associated costs are the responsibility of Westminster City Council.

asked the Chairman of Committees:

Whether the blockwork sections of road in Old Palace Yard were designed to carry the current levels of traffic. [HL3317]

The design of the blockwork used in Old Palace Yard exceeds the British Standard; however, the level of blockwork maintenance required is affected by the volume of traffic carried.

Housing: Fuel Poverty

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What estimate they have made of the level of fuel poverty by 2010 in (a) the United Kingdom, and (b) each of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. [HL3155]

As fuel poverty is a devolved issue, monitoring of progress is taken forward on a country-by-country basis.

Projections of the number of vulnerable households in fuel poverty in 2010 in England can be found in the UK Fuel Poverty Strategy 4th Annual Progress Report (www.dti.gov.uk/files/file29688.pdf). Estimates show that approximately 1.2 million vulnerable households will remain in fuel poverty in England in 2010. Under the high-case scenario, 2.1 million vulnerable households are estimated to be in fuel poverty, with 700,000 vulnerable households remaining in fuel poverty under the low-case scenario. These estimates exclude the effect of energy efficiency measures available under our programmes.

Updated projections of fuel poverty in England in 2010 will be published in the Government's energy White Paper later this year. No similar information is available for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, or for the UK as a whole.

Local Government: Council Tax

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will implement a rolling revision of council tax valuations to avoid the turbulence of periodic reviews. [HL3263]

The Government will stand by their commitment not to revalue during the lifetime of this Parliament. With the forthcoming three-year settlement for local government concluding in 2010-11, they would not expect to consider revaluation before that date. Even at this point there would need to be clear benefits given the costs to households that could be involved.

Nor do the Government believe that there is sufficient justification at this stage for committing to a regular cycle of revaluation for council tax. It is preferable to maintain the advantage of flexibility in judging the case for any revaluation in the light of all the circumstances.

Local Government: Unitary Authorities

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many unitary authorities there are in the United Kingdom; when each was created; and what is the current population of each. [HL3198]

All principal local authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are unitary. The 32 in Scotland and the 22 in Wales were created in 1996 and the 26 in Northern Ireland in 1972. Local government matters therein are matters for the devolved Administrations.

In England, this responsibility falls to the Department for Communities and Local Government. Unitary authorities here were created at different times. There are a total of 115, including the 32 London boroughs and the 36 metropolitan district councils created in 1986; others were created between the years 1995 and 1998. A table with the names and the populations of the relevant local authorities has been placed in the Library of the House.

National Parks: Quarrying

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will take steps to stop permanently quarrying at Backdale Quarry in the Peak District National Park. [HL3210]

It is for mineral planning authorities in the first instance to consider whether quarrying at any particular mineral site should be stopped permanently. This may be done at working mineral sites by the making, subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State, of an order revoking the mineral planning permission. Because extant planning permissions are property rights, they cannot be removed without the payment of compensation for lost mineral production. This can be very substantial.

As the noble Lord may be aware, mineral extraction at Backdale Quarry is currently temporarily stopped by a notice issued by the Peak District National Park Authority, the mineral planning authority for the park. It is my understanding that this notice will remain in place until the outcome of current enforcement action in respect of the extent of limestone extraction.

It remains open to the Peak District National Park Authority to decide whether this particular permission, or any other, should be revoked to stop mineral extraction permanently. Decisions about revocation of mineral permissions must be made on the basis of all the relevant facts and planning issues, including consideration of the contribution the many mineral sites in our national parks make to our national mineral supply. The authority would also need to consider the resource consequences of any revocation.

Northern Ireland Office: Block Grant

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 6 March (WA 25), whether the Northern Ireland Office departmental expenditure limit has replaced the Northern Ireland Office block grant. [HL2602]

The term “block grant” refers to cash funding drawn down from HM Treasury by the NIO which is paid directly on to the Department of Finance and Personnel to fund NI departments. The NIO has a separate, resource-based budget allocated by HM Treasury referred to as the departmental expenditure limit. The Bloody Sunday inquiry is funded from this budget.

Northern Ireland: Place Names

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel uses the word Derry in the return address for the collection of rates; and, if so, why it uses this word. [HL3184]

Rates demands issued in April 2007 for Derry, Strabane, Limavady and Coleraine district council areas include the word Derry in the return address. This error will be corrected in all future communications.

Olympic Games 2012: Security

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are their current estimates of the cost of providing security for the London Olympic Games in 2012. [HL2894]

I refer the noble Lord to the Statement made to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on 15 March (Official Report, col. 450) on progress towards the Olympic Games and the Paralympics in 2012. This included reference to an allocation of £600 million within the overall budget for wider security on top of the ODA budget for site security.

The Home Office and Olympic security co-ordinator are developing and costing the security planning and operation for London 2012. This will be published when appropriate.

Questions for Written Answer

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has so far been unable to answer Lord James of Blackheath's Question for Written Answer of 22 March (HL2959) which was due for answer on 5 April. [HL3192]

Railways: Leatherhead Station

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which train operator is responsible for providing information and timetables when buses are substituted for trains at Leatherhead station; and what action they will take in the event that this information is not provided. [HL3163]

Leatherhead station is owned by Network Rail and is served by Southern and South West Trains. The lead operator at the station is Southern and it is responsible for providing information to passengers who use the station.

Where engineering works affect services at the station, Southern will ensure that all relevant information is displayed at the station including details of any replacement bus services. This information will also be available on its website and National Rail Enquiries. If the department becomes aware of instances where this does not occur, enquiries will be made of the train operating company to ascertain why information was not provided and what steps are to be taken to prevent a recurrence.

Regional Development Agencies

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many new jobs have been created by each regional development agency in each of the last three years. [HL3157]

Regional development agencies report on new jobs created and jobs safeguarded together. The following table gives the numbers of new and safeguarded jobs created and sustained by each regional development agency for the past three years.

RDAs/Years

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07 (half year)

AWM

11,760

11,500

8,730

EEDA

2,577

4,299

974

EMDA

7,059

8,193

5,351

LDA

17,050

21,287

3,256

NWDA

11,208

15,738

7,225

ONE

17,007

16,004

7,277

SEEDA

5,121

4,240

2,041

SWRDA

6,060

6,301

1,289

YF

27,312

23,810

7,000

The figures for 2006-07 are half-year figures only. Full-year figures will be laid before both Houses in July and will be available in their Libraries.

Roads: Belfast

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to provide traffic-calming measures in the Ballyhackamore area of Belfast; and what is the timescale for such measures. [HL3232]

The chief executive of Roads Service (Dr Malcolm McKibbin) has been asked to write to the noble Lord in response to these questions.

Letter from Dr Malcolm McKibbin to Lord Laird dated April/May 2007.

You recently asked Her Majesty's Government a Parliamentary Question regarding, what plans they have to provide traffic-calming measures in the Ballyhackamore area of Belfast; and what is the timescale for such measures. As this issue falls within my responsibility as chief executive of Roads Service, I have been asked to reply.

In my letter dated 6 November 2006, in response to your previous Parliamentary Question relating to this issue (HL 8130), I listed the streets in the Ballyhackamore area that our local officials had assessed for traffic-calming measures.

I am pleased to advise that the consultative and legislative processes have now been successfully completed for Holland Drive, Kirkliston Park, Hewitt Parade, Enid Drive and Enid Parade. Traffic-calming measures on these streets are programmed for completion before the end of May 2007.

There are, however, a number of outstanding objections relating to the provision of traffic-calming measures on Earlswood Road, Belmont Church Road and Sydenham Avenue, and at present no decision has been taken whether to proceed with traffic-calming measures on these streets.

In Clonlee Drive and Irwin Avenue, scores from assessments were sufficient to merit the inclusion of schemes in the 2007-08 traffic-calming programme. However, as with all works of this nature, implementation of any proposal is subject to the successful completion of the consultative and legislative processes. I am therefore unable to confirm at this time whether these schemes will be implemented.

Preliminary assessment scores of Dundela Avenue, Dundela Gardens, Belmont Avenue and Halstein Drive indicate that schemes at these locations would not be as high a priority when compared to other competing sites in our eastern division. While we do not have any plans at present to provide traffic-calming measures at these locations, they will however remain on our list for possible inclusion in future years.

Roads: Congestion

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What changes have occurred in the levels of congestion on roads in England since 2001. [HL3156]

For urban roads managed by local authorities congestion is measured as person journey time per mile on a set of key routes into urban centres in the 10 largest urban areas in England. The first performance information showing change against the 2004-05 baseline will be included in the Department for Transport autumn performance report to be published at the end of 2007.

For strategic roads managed by the Highways Agency congestion is measured in terms of delay on the worst 10 per cent of journeys. The first performance information, relating to a subset of the network, was published in the last autumn performance report, in December 2006. The next performance information will be published in the department's annual report in about a month's time.

Data for earlier years are not available on the same basis.

Royal Air Force: Board of Inquiry

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there will be an inquiry into the deaths of a father and his two children in a fire at their home on a Royal Air Force base in Cyprus on 18 March. [HL2903]

Yes. A board of inquiry was convened on Monday, 19 March, and was adjourned pending the outcome of a police and fire service investigation into the cause and the coroner's inquest.

Smoking: NHS Residential Care

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What restrictions on the right to smoke cigarettes apply in the case of mentally confused persons who reside on a permanent basis in residential care facilities managed by the National Health Service either directly or indirectly through sub-contractors. [HL3248]

The Smoke-free (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulations 2007 set out how the smoke-free provisions within the Health Act 2006 (c.28) will apply to mental health units. In addition to requirements set out in smoke-free regulations, mental health units may wish to implement their own policies on smoking on a voluntary basis.

Ulster Historical Foundation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much funding has been provided to the Ulster Historical Foundation in each financial year since 2000-01; what consultation was carried out on the level of funding; and whether they will place in the Library of the House copies of all documents relating to any such consultation. [HL3185]

Funding provided to the Ulster Historical Foundation by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure was: £125,000 in 2000-01; £137,000 in 2001-02; £90,000 in 2002-03; £33,000 in 2003-04; £62,000 in 2004-05; £38,000 in 2005-06; £38,000 in 2006-07.

The DCAL museums budget is included in the annual priorities and budget consultation process. Information on this can be accessed at www.pfgbudgetni.gov.uk.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they propose to take to develop relations between the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and the Ulster Historical Foundation. [HL3188]

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is committed to working in partnership with others where there are opportunities to help deliver an improved service both on and off-site which PRONI is currently exploring. A wide range of genealogical research organisations of a commercial and non-commercial nature exist both within Northern Ireland and elsewhere with which PRONI might collaborate.

As a division of a government department, PRONI cannot be seen to develop close relations with any one commercial genealogy research organisation such as the Ulster Historical Foundation, or to give one commercial organisation a potential advantage over another. Any proposals to commercial organisations are on the basis of open competition and any proposals from commercial organisations are judged on merit as to what benefits would accrue to PRONI.

Currently, PRONI advertises the services of all commercial genealogy organisations, including the Ulster Historical Foundation, by means of a leaflet which is available within PRONI and which is sent to all enquirers who want a comprehensive genealogy service which PRONI cannot provide. This information is also available on the PRONI website. The Ulster Historical Foundation, like any other commercial genealogy organisation which chooses to use this service, benefits from free publicity through PRONI. Also, each year PRONI supports the annual conference of the Ulster Historical Foundation by providing one or two speakers and is host to delegates who attend. In terms of promoting genealogy, PRONI and the Ulster Historical Foundation are working together, for example at the Smithsonian Festival in Washington this summer.

It should be noted that PRONI's counterparts in the National Archives in London and the National Archives of Scotland have no formal relations with commercial research bodies such as the Ulster Historical Foundation for exploiting and promoting their resources.