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Written Answers

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 26 April 2007

Written Answers

Thursday 26 April 2007

Agriculture: Regulations

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which animal welfare, farming and environmental regulations on the National Farmers' Union priority list are being removed or improved as a result of the Government's better regulation and simplification policies; and what progress they have made towards the reduction target of 25 per cent less regulation by 2010. [HL2943]

Following earlier correspondence, the NFU's president for England and Wales wrote to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last autumn with a list of regulatory areas where it was believed Defra could improve on the current situation. This was submitted under the Government's simplification initiative.

The department's 2006 simplification plan, Maximising Outcomes, Minimising Burdens, identifies the simplification measures under way to deliver, by 2010, a 30 per cent reduction in the administrative burdens that Defra's regulations impose on business. The plan includes the position on those measures being taken forward that were identified by the NFU and which are expected to contribute to the 30 per cent reduction. Other NFU measures are being considered under the Government's 90-day simplification initiative and may feature in future simplification plans. The simplification plan is available from the Library of the House.

Animal Welfare: Wild Birds

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 14 March (WA 122) on a European Union ban on the commercial importation of wild birds, whether an exemption would apply under (a) GATT Article XX as a measure necessary to protect public morals, and (b) under Article XX as a measure necessary to protect animal life or health, thus meeting the requirements for non-discrimination because the trade is not allowed within the European Union. [HL3287]

The European Union (EU) has imposed an indefinite ban on the importation of wild-caught birds for animal health reasons. Therefore, the ban has been imposed as an exemption under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Article XX as a measure necessary to protect animal life or health. The exemption under the GATT Article XX as a measure necessary to protect public morals could not be applied because trade in captive-bred birds is allowed within the EU.

Armed Forces: Media Payments

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether payments made by the media to Armed Forces personnel for accounts of their experiences while on active service are liable to income tax and, where applicable, higher rate tax. [HL3251]

Income from payments made by the media for stories is liable to tax including higher rate tax where applicable. There is no exemption for Armed Forces personnel.

Armed Forces: Postage

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much the British Forces Post Office has made in profit in each of the past 10 years. [HL3228]

British Citizenship

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether, in light of the United Kingdom's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, they would register as a British citizen a minor who is born abroad in the following circumstances (a) both the father and the mother of the child are British citizens by descent by virtue of their registration under Schedule 2 to the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990; (b) both the father and mother of the child became British Dependent Territories citizens otherwise than by descent on commencement of the British Nationality Act 1981 but ceased to be such citizens by virtue of Section 2(2) of the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990; (c) both the father and the mother of the child have no nationality or citizenship other than British citizenship; (d) the child is and has always been stateless; (e) the child is not entitled to acquire the nationality or citizenship of any other country; (f) both parents consent to the registration; (g) there is no reason to refuse the application on character grounds; and (h) neither the father or mother is ordinarily resident or domiciled in the United Kingdom nor is it clear that the child's future clearly lies in the United Kingdom. [HL1365]

This is a complex matter, which will require some research into the intention behind the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990. I shall write to the noble Lord and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will register as a British citizen under Section 3(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 a child who satisfies all the requirements for registration under Section 3(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 except the requirement specified in Section 3(3)(b) because the father or mother of the parent in question became a British citizen otherwise than by descent under section 1(1) of the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990. [HL2053]

Discretion to register a child under Section 3(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 is unlikely to be exercised in the manner described while they retain an opportunity to register under Section 3(5). I am writing separately to the noble Lord regarding the reasons why beneficiaries of the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990 hold British citizenship by descent.

Consultants: National Offender Management Service

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many consultants have been employed by the National Offender Management Service during the past year; and how much they have been paid in total. [HL2102]

The number of consultants that NOMS has employed during the period 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007 is 73. The total amount paid for the provision of consultancy services in the period 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007 is £4,013,390.

Crime: DNA Database

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the answer by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 8 March (Official Report, col. 318), whether they can identify up to 12 so-called cold cases of unsolved murder or rape where a conviction was subsequently secured through interrogation of the National DNA Database. [HL2719]

The 12 following cases are among many that demonstrate the benefits of the National DNA Database.

Ian O'Callaghan In 1994, Shirley Leach, a 66 year-old widow, was sexually assaulted and murdered in a toilet at Bury bus station. In 2006, Ian O'Callaghan was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving and a DNA sample taken that matched DNA found at the crime scene. O'Callaghan was jailed for life for the murder in November 2006.

James Lloyd Between 1983 and 1986 a number of women in the Rotherham area were raped by a man who appeared to have an obsession with their shoes, which he stole. The cases were reopened in 2001. DNA taken from the crimes did not match directly with anyone on the database but did show a partial match with a woman whose DNA had been sampled when she was arrested for a drink-driving offence, showing that a close relative of hers could have been involved. This led ultimately to the conviction in 2006 of James Lloyd for four rapes and two attempted rapes.

Lee and Stephen Ainsby In 1995 a 17 year-old girl was walking home from a night out with friends in Banbury when she was forced into a car by two men, taken to an isolated rural area and repeatedly raped. In 2003 Lee Ainsby was arrested for being drunk and disorderly and a DNA sample was taken. In 2005 the evidence from the case was reanalysed and samples were loaded on the DNA database. One matched Lee Ainsby; another did not match anyone on the database but must have come from a close relative of Lee. A DNA sample was taken from Lee's brother Stephen, which matched the second sample from the crime. Lee and Stephen Ainsby were convicted and received 10 years each for rape and five years each for kidnapping.

Darren Jennings On Boxing Day 1991, a 20 year-old woman was on her way home when she was dragged into a Manchester builders' yard and raped. In 2004 the case was reopened and a DNA sample was recovered from the evidence retained. This matched Darren Jennings who was jailed for eight years for rape in October 2005.

David Kirby In 1989 an 18 year-old and her boyfriend were held up at gunpoint in a car park in Tunbridge Wells and the girl was raped. The case was reopened when technological improvements allowed DNA to be retrieved from the evidence. In April 2005, David Kirby was jailed for 13 years on one count of rape and two of false imprisonment.

Paul Collings In October 1989 a student was raped in her bedroom at the University of Sussex. Two months later, a student was raped and another indecently assaulted in their bedroom at the University of Kent. In 2004 the case was reopened and DNA taken from samples was found to match that of Paul Collings, who was found guilty of two rapes and an indecent assault in 2006.

Isse Botan A 22 year-old American tourist on her first trip abroad to London in 1993 asked a man for directions. He dragged her into a disused garage and raped her. In 2005 the case was reopened. Technical improvements allowed DNA to be retrieved from the evidence. It matched that from Isse Botan and he was jailed for 12 years for rape in January 2006.

Neville Douglas In 1991 an 18 year-old accepted a lift home after leaving a London nightclub and was raped in the car. The case was reopened and DNA was retrieved that matched that from Neville Douglas. He was jailed for nine years for rape in 2005.

David Decoteau In 1996 a woman was raped in the back office of the west London shop that she worked in. A cold-case review in 2006 matched a sample from the crime with David Decoteau, who was found guilty of rape in January 2007.

Ricky Brown In 1992 a woman agreed to go for a drink with a man she met in a launderette in Orpington. As they walked together she became suspicious and tried to escape but he raped her. Following a cold-case review, Ricky Brown was convicted of the offence in January 2007.

James Marshall In 1992 a woman was walking to a fair in Bury when she was dragged into some scrubland and raped. After a cold-case review, James Marshall was jailed for 18 years for rape in 2006.

Graham Darbyshire In 1995 a woman walking her dog in Witton Park, Blackburn, was raped. Technical improvements allowed a DNA sample taken from the attack to be matched with Graham Darbyshire, who was jailed for life for this attack and another in 1993.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the answer by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 8 March (Official Report, col. 318), whether they can identify up to six so-called cold cases of murder or rape where a conviction was subsequently quashed through interrogation of the National DNA Database. [HL2720]

“Cold-case review” is a process of examining past unsolved crimes to see if new evidence can be gathered in the light of scientific advances, rather than an attempt to prove that convicted persons are in fact innocent. We cannot therefore identify cases where convictions were quashed by cold-case review. However, DNA does indeed eliminate the innocent through work done during the investigation, before the stage where charges are brought. For example, in the case of the murders of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in 1983 and 1986, a local youth confessed to the second murder. DNA testing eliminated him and later led to the conviction of Colin Pitchfork for both crimes. In the case of the murder of Caroline Dickinson on a school trip to France in 1996, a French vagrant confessed and was eliminated by DNA evidence, before the eventual conviction of Francisco Montes.

Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they intend to amend the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005 to make them compatible with the European equal treatment directive. [HL3306]

The Government intend to introduce regulations to amend the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005 with effect from 1 October 2007. This is the earliest appropriate opportunity to do so.

EU: Postal Services

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have assessed the document produced by the Communication Workers Union on European postal services in response to the European Commission's proposal to liberalise the postal services sector in Europe. [HL3289]

The Government are aware of the Communication Workers Union response to the European Commission's proposals to liberalise postal services in Europe and welcome its input to the consultation process.

The Government support the European objective of implementing a single market for postal services in 2009 by opening up the sector to competition in a gradual and controlled way within a regulatory framework that ensures the sustained provision of a universal service.

Festivals: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much funding there is in the festival transitional fund in Northern Ireland for the current year; on what basis it is allocated; and after what equality process. [HL3371]

A contingency of £100,000 has been set aside for the possibility of a reduced level of transitional funding for specified festivals in 2007.

Final decisions on the possibility of any transitional funding in 2007-08 and the basis on which it is allocated will rest with the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure.

Flooding: Sea Coast Defences

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What estimates have been made by central government and local authorities of total public expenditure on sea coastal defences against flooding over (a) the next five years, and (b) the next 10 years. [HL3169]

Effective flood risk management is a high priority for this Government and we have increased funding significantly in recent years. Future departmental funding, of which spending on flood risk management is a major part, will be considered in the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.

Gambling: Casinos

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Davies of Oldham on 18 April (WA 65), within what timescale they expect to make an announcement on the action which they will take following proceedings on the draft Gambling (Geographical Distribution of Casino Premises Licences) Order 2007. [HL3334]

Gambling: Internet

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which jurisdictions outside the European Union and the European economic area have submitted applications to be permitted to advertise their online gambling activities in the United Kingdom; and when they expect to announce their decision on which will be allowed to do so. [HL3377]

The following jurisdictions have made representations to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport seeking to be permitted to advertise gambling in Great Britain under Section 331 of the Gambling Act 2005:

Alderney

Alexander First Nation (Canada)

Antigua and Barbuda

Isle of Man

Kahnawake First Nation (Canada)

Netherlands Antilles

Tasmania.

We are currently considering these representations and the Secretary of State will announce her decision about which jurisdictions are permitted to advertise in due course.

Government Departments: Telephone Numbers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many non-geographic telephone numbers are in use by the Department for Education and Skills 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. [HL3265]

The information as requested is not readily available centrally within the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). To respond fully would involve an extensive internal and external information collection exercise which would exceed the recommended disproportionate cost threshold. DfES does not keep central telephony records for its arm’s-length bodies. However, to be helpful, the following information, relating solely to DfES headquarters, can be provided.

DfES currently employs a total of 35 non-geographic telephone numbers. These can be categorised broadly into two groups: those for use by citizens and those for use internally by DfES staff.

The DfES does not participate in revenue-share schemes associated with non-geographic telephone numbers and therefore derives no revenue from the use of these numbers.

Services used by citizens and accessed by customers calling non-geographic telephone numbers include (number of telephone lines in brackets):

Employment Service (2): citizens are able to obtain up-to-date information and advice on jobs and vacancies.

Jobcentre Plus helpline (1): citizens are able to contact Jobcentre Plus to discuss the services it offers.

Student support funding helpline (1): provides advice and guidance in connection with funding and support available for higher education services.

Career development loans helpline (1): advice and guidance on adult learning loans.

Aim Higher helpline (1): provides a complete guide to higher education services.

Childcare recruitment (2): provides information on careers and training opportunities, working in early years childcare and play work.

Attainment and achievement level tables order line (1): Schools performance tables order line.

Public communications helpline (2): DfES inquiry line. Manage inquiries from members of the public.

Main DfES switchboard number (1): will direct the inquirer to the area or team they wish to contact.

Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) (1): the main number for the public to contact OSA, which administers and manages school admission arrangements, statutory proposals from primary and secondary schools.

Child Support Agency (CSA) (1): originally set up as the initial contact point for the CSA. This number is no longer used for the CSA and will be re-allocated or ceased.

Publications helpline/fax (3): manage requests to order official publications relating to the work of the DfES.

Education maintenance allowance (3): a dedicated helpline for local partners, schools and colleges involved in delivering EMA to answer general and administrative queries.

Learning Journey (1).

Schools for Life—Get on Campaign line (1): advice and guidance on skills for life initiative which aims to improve the literacy, language and numeracy skills of adults.

Small firms training scheme (1): now a DWP equality schemes order line. The scheme helps businesses with up to 50 employees for vocational education or training.

Star award helpline (1): used by Quality Improvement Agency (for lifelong learning) from April 06.

Headship information line (1): provides information in connection with the national headship training programmes which were established to provide a range of opportunities to support the development of the skills and understanding required successfully to lead schools.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many non-geographic telephone numbers are in use by the Department for International Development 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. [HL3267]

DfID has one non-geographic telephone number—0845 300 4100—for its public inquiry point. The department received no revenue from this line between September 2004 and September 2006.

Health: Social Care Services

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether financial considerations within National Health Service trusts are having an impact on the provision of social care services provided by local authorities; and, if so, what is the nature of such impact. [HL3231]

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 which social services are not able to provide.

Health: Spinal Cord Injuries

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why National Health Service patients suffering with spinal cord injuries are required to travel to a clinic in Portugal for treatment; what comparable therapies using adult stem cells are available in the United Kingdom; and how many patients have been successfully treated for spinal cord injuries in treatments using embryonic stem cells. [HL3275]

The National Health Service has sent no patients with spinal cord injuries to Portugal for treatment. However, we are aware that some patients have undergone treatment privately in Portugal, and have claimed some improvements in sensory and voluntary motor recovery.

Currently no clinics in the United Kingdom offer therapies to treat spinal cord injuries using either adult or embryonic stem cells.

Treatment of patients with spinal cord injuries, using either embryonic or adult stem cells, is still in an experimental stage. More research will be required before clinical trials can be undertaken to assess the long-term safety and efficacy of such interventions.

Immigration: Detention

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the detention of children for the purpose of immigration control is compatible with children's right to liberty and the United Kingdom's international human rights obligations; and what action they propose to take to provide minimum safeguards to ensure that the rights of children are not infringed. [HL3307]

Children are detained under immigration Act powers in two limited circumstances: either as part of family groups whose detention is considered appropriate pending examination or removal or, very exceptionally, in the case of an unaccompanied child whilst alternative care arrangements are made, and normally then just overnight. Detention in these circumstances is in accordance with Article 5(1)(f) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The arrangements to safeguard the welfare of children we detain include the contractual requirements under which removal centres operate and are closely monitored; the professional advice of a seconded senior social worker; the regular review of the detention of each child, which seeks to identify and address any welfare concerns—and which can lead to their release in appropriate cases; the statutory scrutiny, which both HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Children's Commissioner provide; and the work of the independent monitoring boards—which have a statutory role to visit and report on the conditions for and treatment of immigration detainees.

International Development: Health

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What they have done, since the publication of the Department for International Development's 2006 White Paper, Eliminating World Poverty, to implement the commitment (mentioned in page 79) to help African partners solve their health staffing crises by expanding links between the UK National Health Service and poor countries; and what plans they have for further action. [HL3160]

The principal way that DfID supports links between the UK National Health Service and poor countries is via financial support to the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET). THET provides support and best-practice guidance for links between UK health institutions and those in developing countries.

Lord Crisp's report, Global Health Partnerships, highlighted the valuable contribution that the UK NHS can make to strengthening health capacity globally. The report made a number of recommendations on the best ways of doing this, including continued support to THET.

The inter-ministerial group on health capacity in developing countries will oversee work to take forward the report. Trained health workers are the backbone of health services around the world. DfID supports its African partners to develop strategic national plans for the training and retention of health workers and to increase investment to the health sector overall, through both co-ordinated international support and domestic resources.

Iraq: Withdrawal

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will discuss with the coalition partners a proposal for the early withdrawal of all coalition forces from Iraq. [HL3292]

We have regular consultation with our coalition partners on the situation in Iraq. The withdrawal of coalition troops will not be driven by arbitrary timetables. British forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi Government. We will leave once the conditions are right; that is when the Iraqi Government, our coalition partners and we are confident that the Iraqi security forces can operate without our support.

Israel and Palestine

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will take steps to ensure that the European Union and other quartet partners apply balanced pre-negotiation conditions to both Israel and Palestine, including cessation of settlement construction and partial withdrawal of road-block checkpoints and military presence in the occupied territories. [HL3294]

We welcome the current fortnightly meetings between Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas, which discuss “quality of life” issues such as movement and access as well as political issues. We hope that they will continue.

We, along with the EU and quartet (EU, US, UN and Russia), have no plans to impose pre-negotiation conditions on either party. We have stressed and will continue to stress to both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority the need to adhere to international law and implement their roadmap commitments. This includes freezing all settlement construction including the “natural growth” of existing settlements, and dismantling all outposts built since 2001 and easing movement and access in and between the West Bank and Gaza.

Local Government: Unitary Authorities

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which local authorities have applied for unitary authority status; when each of the applicants applied; and what is the current population of each applicant. [HL3199]

We received 26 proposals for unitary authority status by the 25 January 2007 deadline. The local authorities' populations are as follows:

Unitary ProposalsPopulation Estimates Mid-2005

(000s)

Bedford Borough Council

153

Bedfordshire County Council

397.7

Cheshire County Council

679.9

Chester City Council

118.6

Cornwall County Council

519.4

Cornwall districts

519.4

Cumbria County Council

498.9

Durham County Council

499.8

Durham districts

92.2

East Riding UA

327.4

Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough Council

80.6

Exeter City Council

117.6

Ipswich Borough Council

118.2

Lancaster City Council

138

Mid-Bedfordshire District Council and South Bedfordshire District Council

244.7

North Yorkshire County Council

582

Northumberland County Council

311.3

Northumberland districts councils

311.3

Norwich City Council

127.6

Oxford City Council

149.8

Pendle Borough Council and Burnley Borough Council

177

Preston City Council

131.3

Shropshire County Council

289

Somerset County Council

515.6

South Somerset District Council

156.1

Wiltshire County Council

446.6

Passports

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will levy an appropriate charge to cover the additional costs incurred by the Identity and Passport Service in investigating the circumstances of loss, destruction or theft of a passport for which a replacement application has been received. [HL2419]

The Identity and Passport Service already levels a full replacement fee on applications received where a passport has been lost, destroyed or stolen. Details of the original passport are entered on to a database to ensure that no future fraudulent use of the document can be made.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made to enable local passport offices to allow easier processing of applications in person in order to provide greater security. [HL3260]

Joan Ryan, Under-Secretary of State for nationality, citizenship and immigration, announced the start of passport interviews in May in a Written Ministerial Statement on 20 March 2007. A document on the introduction of passport application interview has been placed in the Library of the House.

Passport interviews will be introduced gradually, starting in a limited number of interview offices, with further offices being added progressively through to the end of 2007.

Police: Fixed Penalty Notices

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many fixed penalty notices have been issued by the Metropolitan Police in 2005 and 2006; how many of those notices have been paid; how many have gone to be determined in court; and how many have remained unanswered. [HL2018]

Information on fixed penalty notices issued for endorsable and non-endorsable motoring offences by offence groups and police force area can be found in the annual Home Office publication Offences relating to motor vehicles, England and Wales, 2004 Supplementary tables (latest available)—tables 20(a) to 20(c) refer. Copies are available in the Library. 2005 data will be available later this year; 2006 data will be available in 2008.

Data are also collected centrally on the disposal (that is, paid, fine registration certificate issued et cetera) of fixed penalty notices issued. However, because of the time taken for the procedures for payment to be enforced, the data are collected approximately nine months later than the period of issue. Tables 21 (a) and 21(b) of the above publication details data by number and percentage of fixed penalty notices by result for the previous year (2003).

In 2005, 18,047 penalty notices for disorder (PNDs) were issued by the Metropolitan Police. Of these, 7,867 were paid in full and 945 recipients elected to have their case heard in court. A further 8,786 had a fine of one and a half times the penalty amount registered against them by the courts as they both failed to pay the penalty and request a court hearing. An additional 145 PNDs were cancelled due to administrative error or mitigating circumstances and, in the remaining 304 cases, the outcome was unknown as they were still in progress at the time annual figures were submitted.

Provisional data for January to June 2006 show that 9,663 PNDs were issued by the Metropolitan Police. Provisional data for the whole of 2006 will be available in April 2007.

Information on fixed penalty notices for environmental offences and payment rates broken down by area are available via the below weblink at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/localenv/legislation/fpn/index.htm.

Railways: Level Crossings

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What further proposals they have for enhancing safety at level crossings beyond those measures which have already been enacted or are contained in secondary legislation due to be brought forward. [HL3325]

It is for the level-crossing operator—Network Rail in the majority of cases—to apply such measures as are necessary to reduce risks at individual level crossings. To assist in the discharge of these duties, the Office of Rail Regulation is reviewing and revising its guidance on level crossings to identify and link legal provisions with roles, responsibilities and required action.

There are currently no further proposals for legislative change, though the Government will be keeping the existing policy under review.

Railways: Points

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many sets of facing points there are on the high speed rail network; what plans there are to replace them with trailing points; and how frequently facing points are inspected. [HL3345]

These are operational matters for Network Rail, as the owner and operator of the national rail network.

The noble Lord should contact Network Rail's Chief Executive at the following address for a response to his question: John Armitt, Chief Executive, Network Rail, 40 Melton Street, London, NW1 2EE

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is continuing its investigation into the cause of the Grayrigg derailment, which is concentrating on a set of facing points. The RAIB will produce a full report with recommendations on preventing a similar accident.

Railways: Service Disruption

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What obligations there are on passenger train operating companies to provide information, including timetables, about bus substitutions at stations where services are affected. [HL3162]

Franchise agreements do not specifically require train operators to provide this information. It is nevertheless in their own interests to ensure that passengers are kept informed of both planned and unplanned service disruptions and of any arrangements that have been made to help them continue their journeys. The passengers' charters issued by individual operators generally include a commitment to ensure passengers are provided with information of this sort.

Schools: Learning Outside the Classroom

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assistance with travel costs they propose following the publication of the Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto in November 2006. [HL3166]

The Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto brings together more than 450 signatories, including Government, in support of its key aim: that every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development whatever their age, ability or circumstances. Many signatories have also pledged specific action. The department has pledged to work with partners to improve the quality of visits and activities, as well as helping schools through guidance and training for teachers. We are not proposing to assist with travel costs.

Sudan: Darfur

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their estimate of the number of refugees in Darfur who may now be reached by humanitarian aid workers compared with July 2005.[HL3176]

In July 2005, 86 per cent of the nearly 3 million conflict-affected and aid-reliant population were accessible to UN humanitarian aid. The latest figures available indicate that by the beginning of March 2007, the number in need of aid has reached 3,897,352 while the proportion accessible by the UN has dropped to 77 per cent.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What reports they have received concerning (a) Salaam camp, in north Darfur, which cannot take any more displaced people due to water shortages; (b) Abu Shouk camp, which has been closed to newcomers; and (c) Zam Zam, which is close to maximum capacity. [HL3178]

We are gravely concerned for the 2.1 million people displaced in Sudan. The numbers continue to rise with 267,000 newly displaced people over the past six months. The sheer scale of need is putting a great strain on the local environment and infrastructure as well as the capacity to deliver services.

Given the constraints in and around the three camps near El-Fasher, the UN is planning to open a new site nearby. Security and environmental issues make finding a suitable site difficult and UN negotiations are continuing with the Government.

DfID is contributing £40 million to the UN-administered common humanitarian fund in 2007 which allows the humanitarian co-ordinator to direct funding at the most pressing and emerging needs. DfID is also exploring ways to support the UN environment programme in Sudan, focusing on issues such as water and resource management in Darfur.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their estimate of the number of people (a) who were displaced across Darfur in February 2007, and (b) who have fled violence in the region since January 2007; and what is their assessment of the International Committee of the Red Cross report of 22 March 2007 that the plight of the most needy rural communities in Sudan's strife-torn region of Darfur is worsening. [HL3179]

The UN estimate that 30,000 people were displaced in Darfur during February 2007. These constitute part of the 107,405 people displaced between 1 January and 1 April; the majority (79,000) were in south Darfur.

We share the concerns of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the vulnerability of rural communities in Darfur. The pervasive insecurity and the growing number of attacks and car-jackings targeting humanitarian agencies, has made consistent access to rural areas very difficult in most areas and impossible in some others. We are supporting the ICRC and other humanitarian agencies with substantial and flexible funding to assist in reaching those in need while maintaining the safety of their staff.

The UK utterly condemns the continuing violence targeting civilians and humanitarian workers in Darfur and calls on all sides to cease the violence immediately, renew the ceasefire and political process, and accept the AU/UN peacekeeping force for Darfur.

Tourism: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has for genealogy as a tourism attraction. [HL3187]

A major project to make the catalogues of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) available and searchable online will be available before the end of 2007 that will open up PRONI's archives to a worldwide audience and particularly for genealogical research. All of PRONI's holdings of ordnance survey maps that will help the overseas visitor to locate where their family came from will shortly be made available online.

In addition, PRONI is currently redesigning its website, which will include specific pages on genealogy that will guide the overseas visitor to the archives available in PRONI for genealogical research. Genealogy will also feature at the Smithsonian festival in Washington in June and July this year, which will be a unique opportunity to promote genealogy.

Both PRONI as a division of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Centre for Migration Studies, partially funded by the department, as well as the Ulster Historical Foundation, will be taking part.

Ulster Historical Foundation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much the “futuresearch” genealogy conference held in Londonderry in March 2004 cost; who organised the event; how the delegates were selected; what role the Ulster Historical Foundation had in the event; and what benefit has accrued from this conference to date. [HL3186]

The “futuresearch” genealogy conference held in Londonderry in March 2004 was organised by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure with the assistance of a stakeholders planning group drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors from across the UK and Republic of Ireland. The stakeholders planning group helped to design the conference, agree the list of stakeholders to be invited and the main issues to be considered.

Selection of delegates was made through nominations listed by the stakeholders planning group from its knowledge of the sector.

The cost of the conference was £13,575.66.

The Ulster Historical Foundation was represented on the planning group and was an invitee to the conference.

The conference identified the need for a greater co-ordinated approach to genealogy in Northern Ireland and also for more quality products for both the local and overseas markets. Digitisation and the creation of a family records centre to act as a central signposting facility for anyone doing genealogical research are key to meeting these needs, both of which are being actively progressed.

UN: Human Rights Council

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the performance of the United Nations Human Rights Council over the first nine months since it was set up; and whether they have sought an explanation of why thus far it has criticised only one state for human rights violations. [HL3180]

We continue to have ambitious goals for the new UN Human Rights Council. It has taken some encouraging steps. For example, it has begun to address the situation in Darfur, most recently through a consensus resolution adopted on 30 March to follow up on recommendations made by the council's high-level assessment mission for Darfur. We were, however, disappointed by a disproportionate and unbalanced focus in the council's early months on the situation in the Middle East, while other situations were comparatively neglected. Negotiations on the council's future tools and mechanisms are due to be completed in June 2007. Their results will be key to the council's long-term potential.

Over the past nine months, the council has held four special sessions devoted to country situations: three on the Middle East and one on Sudan. In addition to resolutions passed on the Middle East, it has also adopted three resolutions on Darfur and two decisions on Nepal and Afghanistan.

Vehicles: Licensing

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Northern Ireland vehicle licensing section requires a date of birth on any of its forms; and, if so, why. [HL3236]

When making an application to register a vehicle for the first time, an applicant is required to furnish such particulars as may be required by the Secretary of State. In order to enable checks to be carried out, where necessary, to confirm the name and address given by an applicant to register a vehicle, forms used throughout the UK require the completion of the applicant's date of birth.

In addition, applicants for other services, such as the renewal of a tax disc, are also asked to provide their date of birth, but it is pointed out that the provision of the information is entirely voluntary. Having the date of birth enables cross-checks to be made with the driver licensing database, where date of birth is one of the indexes used. This cross-referencing means that changes of address notified on vehicle licensing forms can be used to update the driver licensing record.

Waste Management

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made an assessment of the 1970 pollution summary by Monsanto in St Louis, now in the public domain, in which Monsanto stated that they were jointly responsible with Monsanto Chemicals Limited for the United Kingdom problem. [HL3209]

No assessment of the pollution summary referred to has been undertaken by Defra.

The question of responsibility or liability for pollution concerning individual companies or locations are, in the first instance, matters for the relevant regulatory body.

Waste Management: Landfill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proportion of London's waste was sent to landfill sites in each of the past three years; and to which sites. [HL3152]

The information requested is not held by Defra or the Environment Agency (EA). However, the EA does hold some information on the tonnage of London waste sent to landfill, detailed in the following tables:

London waste to Landfill—tonnes

Landfill Site

2003

2004

2005

Appleford, Oxfordshire

273,142

485,732

523,477

Arlesley, Bedfordshire

177,814

172,558

173,839

Brogborough Extension, Bedford

-

2,050,246

2,245,817

Brogborough Landfill, Bedford

1,876,880

2,166,649

-

Brookhurstwood Warnharm, West Sussex

360,000

400,896

259,490

Calvert Pit 4 Bucks

834,594

841,775

843,259

Mucking Landfill, Thurrock

655,928

669,416

714,043

Pitsea, Essex

867,720

925,106

1,304,114

Rainham Landfill

792,266

1,673,675

1,510,191

Stewartby (L Field), Bedford

428,459

453,324

106,308

Total

6,266,803

9,839,377

7,680,538

London municipal waste sent to landfill (thousand tonnes)

2000-01

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

Landfill

3,207

3,244

3,163

3,021

2,856

2,692

(percentage)

72%

73%

71%

70%

65%

64%

Whilst the total amount of waste produced by London has remained fairly stable between 2000 and 2005, the proportion recycled has almost doubled.

Waste Management: WEEE Directive

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have made for the implementation of individual producer responsibility for electrical and electronic products placed on the market later than 13 August 2005, as required by article 8.2 of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive. [HL3284]

The Government are committed to the principles of individual producer responsibility and will continue to work with producers of electrical and electronic equipment to establish a workable and cost-effective process for IPR in the UK.

The Government will also be considering how IPR is being addressed by other member states as part of the review of the WEEE directive by the European Commission due to begin in 2008.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consideration they have given to the effect that implementation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive in the United Kingdom will have upon product design. [HL3285]

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive encourage producers of electrical and electronic equipment to consider the design of new products to facilitate environmentally sound treatment and reprocessing when the equipment reaches its end of life.

The UK has addressed this issue through Regulation 59 of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2006 (SI 3289).

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What actions they have taken to encourage the design and production of electrical and electronic equipment which take into account and facilitate dismantling and recovery, as required by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive. [HL3286]

Article 4 of the directive is implemented through Regulation 59 of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2006 (SI 3289).

The Government recognise the importance of design in the sustainability agenda and will be monitoring the position closely.