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Written Answers

Volume 691: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2007

Written Answers

Wednesday 9 May 2007

Animal Welfare: Prosecutions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

For each year since 2002 what was the total number of (a) prosecutions, and (b) convictions under Section 1 of the Protection of Animals Act 1911. [HL3309]

Data from the court proceedings database held by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform, showing the number of defendants proceeded against at a magistrates' court and found guilty at all courts for the offence of cruelty to animals under the Protection of Animals Act 1911 in England and Wales from 2002 to 2005 can be viewed in table 1.

Court proceedings data for 2006 will be available in autumn 2007.

Data from the Scottish Executive showing the number of persons proceeded against for offences under Section 1 of the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912 in Scottish courts from 2001-02 to 2005-06 can be viewed in table 2.

Data from the Northern Ireland Office showing the number of prosecutions and convictions under the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 can be viewed in table 3.

Table 1: The number of defendants proceeded against at magistrates' court and found guilty at all courts for the offence of cruelty to animals under the Protection of Animals Act 1911 in England and Wales, from 2002 to 2005(1) (2)

Prosecuted

Found guilty

2002

2003

2004

2005

2002

2003

2004

2005

1,006

999

984

1,061

768

783

787

843

(1) These data are on the principal-offence basis.

(2) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.

Our ref: PQ HL3309

Source: RDS Office for Criminal Justice Reform

Table 2: Persons proceeded against in Scottish courts for offences under Section 1 of the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912 (1), from 2001-02 to 2005-06

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

Prosecuted

38

23

24

27

22

Charge proved

33

20

21

21

20

(1). Where main offence

Source: SEJD court proceedings database

Background note from information held on the SEJD court proceedings database. The figures for a particular year will exclude the outcome of court proceedings which had not been recorded on the Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO) criminal history system at the point at which the analysis file for that year was created—generally around 12 months after the end of the year in question. For example, the figures for 2005-06 will exclude any cases not recorded on the SCRO system by the end of February 2007. As it can take more than a year for the outcome details of some court disposals (particularly in the High Court) to be recorded on the SCRO system, the figures shown are likely to be slight underestimates.

Table 3: Prosecutions and Convictions under the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 (1) (2)

2002

2003

2004

2005

Pro

Con

Pro

Con

Pro

Con

Pro

Con

Owner permitting cruelty to animals

0

0

4

4

2

2

0

0

Abandoning animal

0

0

1

1

0

0

3

2

Causing unnecessary suffering to animals

6

6

11

8

9

8

10

9

Permitting cruelty to animals

0

0

2

1

0

0

2

2

Cruelty to animals

2

2

13

10

9

8

12

9

Causing unnecessary suffering to livestock

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

Unlawful animal fighting

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

Failing to provide clean and comfortable lying area for pigs

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

10

10

31

24

20

18

28

23

(1) Data are collated on the principal-offence rule, thus only the most serious offence with which an offender is charged is included

(2) Data for 2005 are provisional.

Armed Forces: Homelessness

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What provisions exist or are planned to prevent homelessness among former members of the Armed Forces and their families. [HL3477]

The Ministry of Defence works closely with the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), other government departments, veterans' organisations and other service providers to ensure a co-ordinated and structured approach to homelessness among a small minority of ex-service personnel. Our aim is both to prevent new service leavers becoming homeless and to provide an effective safety net for existing homeless ex-service personnel. Current measures to achieve this include:

enhanced housing advice and assistance to all service personnel;

joint research to identify the extent of ex-service homelessness, to understand better the factors leading to it and to assess the effectiveness of remedial measures;

supporting a range of initiatives by the voluntary sector, particularly through the Ex-Services Action Group on Homelessness, including funding for key workers and an advisory leaflet for homeless ex-service personnel in London;

supported short-term accommodation for service leavers at risk of homelessness; and

working with the corporate, voluntary and government sectors to assist homeless ex-service personnel to return to sustained employment, through schemes such as Project Compass.

Interim findings of a current study indicate that these measures are achieving considerable success, with the proportion of rough sleepers with an Armed Forces background down by around two thirds since 2000.

Burma: Refugees

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will seek to organise, through the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or otherwise, education and access to employment for refugees from Burma now in India and Thailand. [HL3480]

Our embassies in Bangkok and Rangoon have regular discussions with the UN High Commission for Refugees in Thailand and Burma, and the Government of Thailand, about the welfare of refugees in Thailand. These discussions include access to education and employment. The UN High Commission for Refugees is denied access to Mizoram State and is therefore unable to visit the camps in India. However, we look for opportunities to raise the situation of Burmese refugees in India with the state and central governments as part of our dialogue with the Government of India on Burma.

Children: Secure Institutions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many children have attempted suicide in the past 12 months in (a) young offender institutions; (b) secure training centres; and (c) local authority secure children's homes in England and Wales; and [HL2670]

How many children have self-harmed, excluding attempted suicide, in the past 12 months in (a) young offender institutions; (b) secure training centres; and (c) local authority secure children's homes in England and Wales. [HL2671]

Her Majesty's Prison Service does not distinguish attempted suicide from self-harm. There is no definition of what constitutes an attempted suicide, as it is very difficult to measure suicidal intent.

Her Majesty's Prison Service only holds estimates of the number of individuals who self-harm. The exact information requested can therefore not be provided.

The Youth Justice Board has been compiling quarterly figures of incidents of self-harm in secure training centres since March 2006. Figures up to 31 December 2006 are in the Library. Statistics relating to self-harm in local authority children's secure homes were not previously held centrally, and figures for the past 12 months could be collated only at disproportionate cost. However, on 1 April 2007, the Youth Justice Board introduced a new data collection system for all establishments in the secure estate for children and young people, which will capture information on self-harm.

China: Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have received on the lack of progress made through the United Kingdom-China and European Union-China human rights dialogues; what response they have given to the recommendations made by Amnesty International on the adoption of specific benchmarks against which to measure progress; and whether they have any other proposals for improving the productivity of these dialogues. [HL3590]

We receive and welcome regular feedback from Parliament and non-governmental organisations on the UK-China and EU-China human rights dialogues. We believe that the dialogues contribute to incremental progress on human rights in China within the context of a range of actions and representations by the UK, EU and other interested parties. They should be viewed and assessed within that wider context. We do not support the adoption of specific benchmarks against which to measure progress of individual sessions of the dialogues. We continue to assess and develop the dialogues and are working with the Chinese Government and the EU on a number of proposals.

Commission for Equality and Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they propose to give lead responsibility for the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, and for the Government's policy on equality and human rights to the Ministry of Justice; and, if not, what is the justification for dividing lead responsibility for equality and human rights between departments. [HL3435]

It is government policy for all non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) to have a lead sponsoring government department to ensure accountability to Parliament for their funding and operations. As the lead department on equality, the Department for Communities and Local Government is well placed to undertake the role of sponsorship department for the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR). In carrying out this role, the department works closely with other key government departments.

Courts: Sentencing

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have to meet the concerns expressed by the Judges' Council as to how to match sentences to available resources so that judges are not under pressure to impose sentences that they do not believe are appropriate. [HL3146]

Sentencing in individual cases is entirely a matter for the judge or magistrates dealing with it in accordance with the law and with regard to any guidelines issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council or the Court of Appeal.

Funding for courts is the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor. By virtue of Section 1 of the Courts Act 2003, he is obliged to ensure that there is an effective and efficient courts system and that appropriate services are provided. The Government believe that, as a matter of general policy, prison should be reserved for serious and dangerous offenders and that others are better punished in the community. But they do not seek to influence individual sentences, and nor will they under the new machinery of government arrangements.

Crime: Sentences

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have to improve the public's understanding of the factors taken into consideration in the sentencing of criminals in Northern Ireland. [HL3353]

During the Government’s extensive review and consultation on a new sentencing framework for Northern Ireland, a common theme that emerged was a lack of clarity in current sentencing. From the views expressed, it became clear that the cause of this lack of clarity was the existing automatic right of prisoners to 50 per cent remission, rather than any mitigating factors taken into account by the judiciary in considering individual cases.

That is why our proposals for a new sentencing framework bring an end to automatic 50 per cent remission. Dangerous violent and sexual offenders could, if necessary, be detained indefinitely, while those committing other specified offences could be detained until the end of their prison sentence. For all other offenders, the court would set a clearly defined custodial part of the sentence, which the offender must serve in full, and a clearly defined licence period to be served under supervision in the community.

We will consult fully on a set of draft legislative proposals later this year.

EU: European Council

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will place in the Library of the House copies of all correspondence between the Government and the presidency of the European Union regarding the meetings of the focal points in preparation for the European Council on 22 June.[HL3609]

At the request of the German presidency, two senior UK officials have been appointed as “focal points” to liaise with the presidency in consultations on possible ways forward on institutional reform. Discussions are currently under way. The Government do not release papers relating to ongoing discussions on such institutional issues.

EU: Treaty

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend at the next European Union summit in June to agree to an amended European Union treaty containing provisions for the creation of a full-time president of the Council, a foreign minister, a legal personality and the relinquishment of further vetoes; and, if so, whether their pledge to hold a referendum before significant changes are made to the existing treaties will be honoured. [HL3511]

There is at present no consensus among EU partners on the way forward regarding the constitutional treaty or any new treaty. These issues will be discussed at the European Council in June. It is too early to speculate on the outcome of these discussions. The Government’s approach to these discussions was set out in the Written Ministerial Statement in another place of my right honourable friend the Minister for Europe, Geoff Hoon, of 5 December 2006 (cols. 10-11WS).

Extradition: Mr Manzarpour

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the situation with regard to Mr Ali Manzarpour's extradition to the United States; and [HL3453]

Whether they remain of the opinion that Mr Ali Manzarpour has not committed any offence under European Union, Polish or United Kingdom law. [HL3454]

These Questions have been assumed to relate to an extradition request by the United States of America to Poland for Mr Manzarpour. The United Kingdom Government have no locus in this case and consequently are unable to answer the Questions.

Festivals: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 25 April (WA 154) concerning the Festival Transitional Fund in Northern Ireland, what equality process will be used in the allocation of the funding; and how an organisation applies for such funding. [HL3502]

Fishing: Salmon

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which salmon rivers in England are designated as special areas of conservation under the European Habitats Directive, including rivers for which the presence of salmon is a qualifying feature rather than a primary reason for designation; and which of these (a) are currently failing to meet their conservation limits; and (b) are expected to fail their conservation limits in 2010. [HL3298]

The information requested is set out in the table below.

River in England designated as SAC with salmon as a qualifying feature

Currently failing CL (2006 data)?

Current compliance with management objective?

Predicted compliance with management objective in 2011(1)?

Itchen

Yes

Fail

Uncertain

Avon-Hants

Yes

Fail

Fail

Camel

No

Pass

Pass

Ehen

No

Uncertain

Uncertain

Derwent

No

Pass

Pass

Eden

No

Uncertain

Uncertain

Dee

No

Uncertain

Uncertain

Wye

Yes

Fail

Fail

Notes:(1) The Environment Agency's predictions of compliance are to 2011 not 2010

A river is classed as complying with the management objective if there is a high probability, more than 95 per cent, that it will exceed its conservation limit in four years out of five. Two of the eight SAC rivers, the Camel and the Derwent, fall into this category. Three other rivers, the Ehen, Eden and Dee, are less certain to comply fully with the management objective but are all tracking very close to their conservation limits and showing improving trends.

The remaining rivers are further below the management objective, but one (Itchen) shows a good improving trend while the others (Avon and Wye) have seen periods of recovery but currently show no clear long-term trends.

Flags

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 29 March (WA 310), to what department of the Government the veterinary services building on the Mall, Armagh city, belongs; and whether the Union flag is flown at this building on the appropriate dates. [HL3326]

The veterinary services building on the Mall, Armagh city, is owned by the Department of Finance and Personnel.

The Union flag is flown at the above building on the appropriate dates, as specified in the Flags Regulations.

Forensic Science Laboratory

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In what way and by whom the Forensic Science Laboratory in Carrickfergus is accredited; and what is the significance of the accreditation to the provision of evidence in criminal cases. [HL3448]

Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI) is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to the latest ISO 17025-2005 standard. UKAS accreditation is voluntary except in the case of uploading DNA profiles to the national DNA database, and, although accreditation is an assurance of a recognised standard, it is not a pre-requisite for providing forensic science evidence in criminal cases.

Some forensic science disciplines are not intrinsically suited to being UKAS accredited due to their complex and varied methodologies. FSNI's range of accreditation is, however, one of the widest of all forensic science providers.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Forensic Science Laboratory in Carrickfergus has in the past had its accreditation withdrawn; if so, for what reason; for how long; and with what effect. [HL3449]

Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI) has twice had its accreditation suspended. On the first occasion, in June 2001, FSNI voluntarily suspended accreditation for the physical methods section in the laboratory. Physical methods do glass and paint comparisons. The suspension was as a result of non-adherence to the documented quality system within that area. No other areas were suspended at that time, and UKAS accreditation for physical methods was reinstated in March 2002.

As accreditation is not a pre-requisite to practice as a forensic science provider, there was no effect on the work done by that section during suspension.

In May 2002, FSNI had the testing aspect of accreditation suspended following a UKAS inspection. Accreditation for calibration was not suspended. This was as a result of a number of quality management related issues, including using the UKAS logo on reports for physical methods cases during the time that accreditation was suspended. The process of re-accreditation began in December 2004, when those sections put forward for accreditation were successful. Full accreditation was completed in April 2006.

Freedom of Information

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in relation to possible amendments to the Freedom of Information Act 2000, they have been made aware of any national legislature which has exempted itself by conferring an immunity from the effects of freedom of information legislation. [HL3419]

Several national legislatures, including the United States Congress, are not covered by their countries' freedom of information (FOI) legislation. The Government do not have an exhaustive list, and the circumstances will depend on FOI systems in the specific countries.

Gambling: Casinos

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by Lord Davies of Oldham on 18 April (WA 65) and 26 April (WA 155), why they are unable to state within what timescale they expect to make an announcement on the action they will take following the proceedings in both Houses of Parliament on the draft Gambling (Geographical Distribution of Casino Premises Licences) Order 2007. [HL3519]

The Government are considering the implications of the proceedings in both Houses of Parliament on 28 March, in respect of the Gambling (Geographical. Distribution of Casino Premises Licenses) Order 2007, and will make a further announcement in due course.

Health: Dentistry

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people were employed to provide dental public health advice by each primary care trust in each year since 1992. [HL3121]

Data for before 2000-01 are not available. Tables have been placed in the Library showing data on consultants who provide dental public health advice, as at 30 September, for 2001-06.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the cost implications of the Chief Dental Officer's advice that all endodontic instruments should be treated as single-use; and how these will be reflected in the value of band 3 units of dental activity. [HL3431]

Analysis of historic treatment patterns suggests that, for the majority of dentists, the introduction of single-use reamers and files for endodontic treatment is likely to have a relatively small impact on overall practice expenses. Costs will vary, however, between practitioners, and the department is undertaking further work to understand better the range of potential costs.

This work will enable the department to consider what advice may need to be given to primary care trusts on additional costs in 2007-08 and what proposals may need to be made in evidence to the review body on doctors' and dentists' remuneration.

Health: Hospital Treatment

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What arrangements exist with the devolved Administrations so that patients, for example in Scotland, may choose treatment in an English hospital, or vice versa. [HL3486]

Arrangements are predicated on the existence of a contract between the local commissioning authority (primary care trust in England or health board in Scotland) and the healthcare provider. However, the opportunity for a patient to choose where their primary care professional refers them for a first outpatient appointment, including access to the Choosing Your Hospital National Menu, exists only for National Health Service patients resident in England. Similar arrangements exist for NHS patients in Wales.

Health: Incontinence Items

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the anticipated annual savings in the provision of stoma and incontinence items and other related services at primary care level in the National Health Service following the implementation of the review arrangements under Part IX of the Drugs Tariff. [HL3592]

The Drug Tariff lists more than 5,800 incontinence and stoma appliances provided by 68 suppliers. The annual cost to primary care is about £169 million a year.

The proposals set out in the consultation document Arrangements for the Reimbursement Pricing of Stoma and Incontinence Appliances under Part IX of the Drug Tariff could deliver savings of £27 million per annum to primary care.

Regarding the proposals set out in Arrangements for the Remuneration of Services Relating to Appliances within Part IX of the Drug Tariff, the department is not anticipating any saving for primary care.

Health: Patients

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many male patients were treated in geriatric wards in the National Health Service in England and Wales during 2005 and 2006 respectively; and [HL3404]

How many female patients were treated in geriatric wards in the National Health Service in England and Wales during 2005 and 2006 respectively; and [HL3405]

How many male patients were treated in general surgery wards in the National Health Service in England and Wales during 2005 and 2006 respectively; and [HL3406]

How many female patients were treated in general surgery wards in the National Health Service in England and Wales during 2005 and 2006 respectively; and [HL3407]

How many male patients were treated in hospital wards in the National Health Service in England and Wales during 2005 and 2006 respectively; and [HL3382]

How many female patients were treated in hospital wards in the National Health Service in England and Wales during 2005 and 2006 respectively; and [HL3383]

How many male patients were treated in orthopaedic wards in the National Health Service in England and Wales during 2005 and 2006 respectively; and [HL3384]

How many female patients were treated in orthopaedic wards in the National Health Service in England and Wales during 2005 and 2006 respectively; and [HL3385]

How many male patients were treated in cardiac wards in the National Health Service in England and Wales during 2005 and 2006 respectively; and [HL3386]

How many female patients were treated in cardiac wards in the National Health Service in England and Wales during 2005 and 2006 respectively. [HL3387]

Data are not collected on admission to different types of hospital ward. The following table shows the number of admissions of male and female patients to the care of consultants in different specialties in the financial years 2004-05 and 2005-06.

Count of finished consultant episodes by specified main specialties and genderData for National Health Service hospitals England, data years 2004-05 and 2005-06

2004-05

Main specialty code

Main specialty

Male

Female

Unknown/unspecified

110

Trauma and orthopaedics

455,712

483,784

65

170

Cardio-thoracic

43,370

19,995

2

320

Cardiology

240,693

151,886

33

321

Paediatric cardiology

1,070

826

0

100

General surgery

721,479

746,037

119

430

Geriatric medicine

245,874

361,501

56

Other specialties

4,275,435

5,957,031

1,482

Total

5,983,633

7,721,060

1,757

Count of finished consultant episodes by specified main specialties and genderData for National Health Service hospitals England, data years 2004-05 and 2005-06

2005-06

Main specialty code

Main specialty

Male

Female

Unknown/unspecified

110

Trauma and orthopaedics

469,385

504,357

153

170

Cardio-thoracic

40,853

19,563

1

320

Cardiology

267,835

171,274

24

321

Paediatric cardiology

2,150

1,781

1

100

General surgery

744,406

774,059

190

430

Geriatric medicine

249,106

363,504

57

Other specialties

4,529,510

6,283,738

1,559

Total

6,303,245

8,118,276

1,985

Health: Prostate Cancer

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any proposals to bring in regular prostate screening for men. [HL3517]

The Government are committed to introducing a national population screening programme for prostate cancer if and when screening and treatment techniques are sufficiently well developed for such a programme to be introduced.

The department is supporting the development of screening technology for prostate cancer by having a comprehensive research strategy into all aspects of prostate cancer. We are, jointly with other National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) members, funding two NCRI prostate cancer research collaborative; the department is funding half the total £7.4 million cost. Following a review of progress by an international expert panel, the department, Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council have agreed to provide a further three years’ funding of £3.9 million.

The research undertaken by the collaboratives covers all aspects of prostate cancer and has already generated the groundbreaking discovery of the overactive E2F3 gene in prostate cancer tumours. This discovery not only provides the potential to identify those at risk of developing the disease but for the first time allows prediction of how aggressive the cancer will be. Research is under way to turn this into a diagnostic test so that we can identify patients whose prostate cancers are aggressive and urgently need treatment.

It is important to note that, for a screening technology to contribute to saving lives, effective treatments for the disease detected are essential. That is why the department is funding a £20 million trial of treatments for prostate-specific antigen screen-detected early prostate cancer (the ProtecT trial).

Health: Stem Cell Therapy

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What public funding is provided for the National Health Service cord blood bank at Edgware; and whether they intend to review the level of funding it receives. [HL3278]

The funding for the NHS cord blood bank is as follows: 2006-07 £4.036 million; 2007-08 £2.636 million and 2008-09 £3.318 million. The Government will keep the necessary level of funding under review.

International Development: Health

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What timetable they have set for decisions by the interdepartmental ministerial group considering implementation of Lord Crisp's report Global Health Partnerships. [HL3158]

The inter-ministerial group will next meet in the summer to consider the detailed proposals for taking forward Lord Crisp's recommendations, currently being prepared by officials from relevant departments. Decisions on next steps will be taken in the light of these considerations.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many meetings have taken place of the group of officials who have been charged by an interdepartmental ministerial group to report back to them on the phasing and financing of the recommendations made by Lord Crisp in his report Global Health Partnerships. [HL3159]

This work is not primarily being taken forward through formal meetings. The members of the group of officials are in regular, frequent contact, on a day-to-day basis.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why they have hitherto given less support to health partnerships as contributors to international development than they have given to schools twinnings and further education links. [HL3161]

Improving poor people's access to effective health services is a priority for the United Kingdom. A critical aspect of implementing our 2005 and 2006 international development White Paper commitments to expand basic health services involves working with other international development partners, African Governments and civil society to ensure long-term predictable financing for the health sector to improve basic health services and ensure better health for the poor. Our support is instrumental in enabling countries to develop and implement plans for increasing their human resource capacity in health.

As part of the Department for International Development's (DfID) response to tackling the health staff crisis, it awarded a five-year grant to the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET), under its Civil Society Challenge Fund, in 2006 to help expand links between the UK National Health Service and poor countries. It is too soon to assess the impact and success of the THET project; the first annual report is due later this year. In addition, we will consider the report on effectiveness of links or twinning carried out by McKinsey for the Gates Foundation, which will be useful in considering our approach to this work.

In Somaliland, DfID has been working closely with a consortium of British organisations, which includes THET, to develop a proposal for building human resource for health capacity.

The proposal has been finalised, and DfID is now considering providing the necessary financial support to this pilot development scheme, which will also address regulatory issues.

Israel and Palestine

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consideration they have given to lifting the embargo on the Palestinian Authority since the formation of the new Unity Government by Hamas and Fatah. [HL3520]

There is no embargo on the Palestinian Authority, but the UK, together with other donors, has redirected its financial assistance directly to the Palestinian people. The EU does this through the temporary international mechanism. The EU has provided more financial assistance (over €680 million) to the Palestinian people in 2006 than it did in previous years. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in a Statement issued on 17 March,

“we will judge the Government by its platform and actions and respond accordingly”.

The 23 April General Affairs External Relations Council recalled,

“its readiness to work with and to resume its direct assistance to a Palestinian government whose policy and action reflect the Quartet principles (commitment to non-violence; recognition of Israel; and acceptance of previous agreements, including the Roadmap)”.

There are obvious steps that the Palestinian National Unity Government could take, such as securing the release of Corporal Shalit, halting the firing of rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants, and improving law and order in Gaza.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions they have had with the World Bank and United Nations concerning the transparency of the temporary international mechanism. [HL3521]

While the UN has endorsed the temporary international mechanism (TIM), it does not have any role in its operation. All non-salary support to key Palestinian Authority ministries is run by the World Bank under window 1 of the TIM, following World Bank procurement guidelines. The UK monitors the procurement process on a monthly basis and has provided a procurement expert to the office of the president to ensure transparency. Humanitarian payments under window 2 of the TIM are contracted and paid for directly by the European Commission (EC) and meet UK agreed EC guidelines. The UK was closely involved in the design of the social allowance element under window 3 of the TIM, ensuring it had satisfactory checks and balances in place. This includes tracking each and every payment and conducting terrorist checks on individuals receiving payment. UK officials also conduct regular meetings with the EC to ensure its guidelines are being followed. A review of the TIM will take place this month that will include an assessment of the transparency of the TIM.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What recent discussions they have had with the Government of Israel concerning freedom of movement and access to trade across the security border for Palestinians. [HL3522]

We regularly call on both parties to implement the 15 November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. We have repeatedly raised our concerns about movement and access with the Government of Israel. Israel’s closure regime has a devastating effect on the Palestinian economy. Economic hardship and unemployment contribute to the Palestinians’ frustration and make a comprehensive settlement more difficult to achieve. We therefore welcome the ongoing dialogue between Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas and their most recent meeting on 15 April to discuss movement and access issues.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary raised movement and access concerns with Israeli Defence Minister Peretz during her 5 to 7 February visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The 23 April General Affairs External Relations Council recalled,

“the utmost importance of the full implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access … It urges that Rafah and all other crossing points, notably Karni, be re-opened and remain open”.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made towards the release to the Unity Government of Palestine of the tax revenues still being withheld by Israel. [HL3523]

We welcome Israel’s transfer of US$100 million of Palestinian customs revenue to President Abbas. We hope that this will be a first step towards the resumption of full transfers to President Abbas. The 23 April General Affairs and External Relations Council reiterated its call on Israel,

“for the immediate resumption of the transfer of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues, directly or through the Temporary International Mechanism”.

Local Government: Audit Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many local authorities have been inspected by the Audit Commission in England during the past five years to date. [HL3392]

Under the comprehensive performance assessment introduced in 2002, the Audit Commission is required to carry out an assessment of all local authorities. The specifics of these assessments are an operational matter for the Audit Commission, and I have asked the chief executive to respond in writing. The chief executive replied on 8 May. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library.

Local Government: Council Tax

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will list the number of band G properties in each local authority, together with the percentage of the total properties the band G properties represent in each case. [HL3437]

A table giving the number of domestic properties in band G in each local authority in England and the percentage of the total number of domestic properties that they represent in each local authority has been placed in the Library.

National Insurance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord McKenzie of Luton on 29 March (HL2934), why there are 27 million more national insurance numbers on the Department for Work and Pensions customer information system than the 49 million people over the age of 16 in the United Kingdom in 2005; and [HL3127]

Further to the Written Answer by Lord McKenzie of Luton on 29 March (HL2934), what steps they are taking to remove from the customer information system of the Department for Work and Pensions the national insurance numbers of persons who have died or for other reasons have ceased to work or live in the United Kingdom. [HL3129]

There are more national insurance numbers (NINOs) on the DWP customer information system than there are persons aged over 16 in the UK because we need to retain the national insurance contribution records of those who are deceased and those who have moved abroad.

The number of NINOs held on the customer information system increases each year due to the allocation of numbers to young people reaching the age of 16 and adults from abroad who require a NINO for employment or benefit purposes.

Once a NINO is allocated, it needs to remain on the customer information system. That is because it links individuals to their contribution record, which in turn determines entitlement to benefits and pension for the individual. In the case of deceased individuals, a partner may make a claim for a contributory benefit, which is dependent on the contribution record of the deceased individual.

DWP is undertaking a significant exercise to provide an accurate breakdown of the category of national insurance numbers held on the customer information system, including accounts in active use, inactive accounts and those where a date of death is held. The work is due to report to Ministers at the end of May 2007, following examination of accounts held on Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs national insurance recording system.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What investigation is under way in the Department for Work and Pensions to establish how many of the 76,719,264 national insurance numbers currently held by the Department for Work and Pensions customer information system are in active use; what results the investigation has yielded so far; and whether a report will be made to Parliament. [HL3360]

The Department for Work and Pensions is undertaking a significant exercise to provide an accurate breakdown by category of national insurance numbers held on the customer information system, including accounts in active use, inactive accounts and those where a date of death is held. This work is due to report to Ministers at the end of May 2007 following examination of accounts held on Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs national insurance recording system.

NHS: Independent Reconfiguration Panel

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What cases, by name and area, have been referred to the National Health Service independent reconfiguration panel; and what has been the outcome of each referral. [HL3193]

The Secretary of State has referred five cases to the independent reconfiguration panel (IRP) for advice. The five cases equate to eight separate referrals from overview and scrutiny committees (OSC). Details of the cases and their outcomes are listed below. The Manchester Making it Better and Healthy Futures cases and the Gloucestershire case are currently with the IRP for consideration.

A further case in east Kent was referred to the IRP in April 2003, although this did not relate to a referral from an OSC.

Cases referred by the Secretary of State for Health to the independent reconfiguration panel:

Proposed changes to maternity services in Calderdale and Huddersfield.

Referred by: Calderdale and Kirklees joint OSC.

Outcome: IRP advice accepted in full by the Secretary of State, with a decision to support the local NHS proposals for inpatient, consultant-led maternity care to be centred on the Calderdale Royal Hospital site together with an alongside midwife-led unit. A stand-alone midwife-led unit would be provided at the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary site.

Acute services review in Hartlepool and Teesside.

Referred by: Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, Middlesbrough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council.

Outcome: IRP advice accepted in full by the Secretary of State. IRP advice was that a modern hospital should replace the existing out-of-date hospital buildings and be provided on a new site in a well situated location accessible to the people of Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees, Easington and Sedgefield. Until the new hospital is open, consultant-led maternity and paediatric services should be centralised at the University Hospital of North Tees and a midwifery-led maternity unit and a paediatric assessment unit should be provided at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, in addition to elective surgery and emergency medical services, taking into account best practice.

Making it Better consultation on the reconfiguration of in-patient services for women, babies, children and young people in Greater Manchester, East Cheshire and High Peak.

Referred by: Salford OSC, Bury OSC, Rochdale OSC.

Outcome: To be confirmed.

Healthy Futures reconfiguration of hospital services in the north-east sector of Greater Manchester.

Referred by: Rochdale OSC.

Outcome: To be confirmed.

Decision by Gloucestershire Partnership NHS Trust to centralise older people's mental health inpatient facilities at Charlton Lane, Cheltenham.

Referred by: Gloucestershire OSC.

Outcome: To be confirmed.

Questions for Written Answer

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Home Office's failure to answer Lord Avebury's Question for Written Answer (HL1365), due for answer by the end of January, was caused by the department mislaying the Question; and, if not, whether they will now explain the reasons for it remaining unanswered. [HL3423]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether any advice or instruction has been given to the Home Office to improve its performance in answering Parliamentary Questions for Written Answer within the 14-day period, bearing in mind that it is responsible for more outstanding Questions than any other department. [HL3467]

Officials and Ministers in the department are informed daily by the relevant authorities of the House of those Questions that remain outstanding. In response to this ongoing performance information, the Permanent Secretary and the Minister of State for Police, Security and Community Safety continue to review the systems in place to ensure that the 14-day timeline is attained. In addition to twice weekly internal performance reports, the department has now implemented an internal performance table, which, it is anticipated, will address the unacceptable delays that can occur.

Railways: Community Rail Awards

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any plans to give financial assistance in the form of capital or prize money to community railways during 2007-08. [HL3540]

The Government will continue to provide base funding for the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) during 2007-08. They will also continue to fund community rail lines and services via franchise arrangements and grants to Network Rail. Funding for local community rail partnerships is a local responsibility.

The Government sponsored an award in the 2006 Community Rail Awards. Since then, they have sponsored additional awards for the development and implementation of marketing plans for community rail routes, and the overall winner will be announced at the 2007 awards.

Capital funding will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and there is no specific allocation for community railways.

Roads: Disqualified Drivers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether particulars of drivers who are disqualified under the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995 are available to enforcement authorities; and whether records are available of those who are (a) disqualified, or (b) prosecuted. [HL3541]

The records of all drivers are available to enforcement authorities at the roadside via the Police National Computer. These details would reflect the fact that a driving licence had been revoked.

(a) The DVLA has statistics on the number of driving licences revoked since the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995 was implemented. These are available in categories of age and gender as are the numbers who have subsequently passed another test.

(b) Revocation of a licence under the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995 does not require a prosecution. There are no records available relating to prosecutions of persons continuing to drive after revocation under the Act.

Roads: Traffic Officers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the role of traffic officers who patrol some motorways in four-wheel drive vehicles; and what is their role in enforcing or monitoring compliance with road traffic legislation. [HL3550]

The traffic officer service has been developed to enable the Highways Agency to take on a more proactive role in managing the strategic road network in England. The service has taken on a number of control-room and on-road functions traditionally undertaken by the police.

The role of traffic officers involves: managing incidents except where there is loss of life, injury or potential criminal activity, when they will support the police at the scene; setting signs and signals, and answering emergency roadside telephones; arranging the removal of damaged or broken down/abandoned vehicles in partnership with the police and removing debris and other obstructions from the carriageway.

Part 1 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 was the enabling legislation introducing the Highways Agency traffic officer service on the strategic road network in England.

Traffic officers have the power to stop and direct traffic and pedestrians and to erect temporary traffic signs.

Traffic officers do not have an enforcement role. This responsibility remains with the police. Both the Highways Agency and the police support this position. Traffic officers support the police where there are fatalities or suspected criminality at an incident. The traffic officers’ role is to manage traffic in the vicinity of an incident, and in doing this they may liaise with the police on matters of compliance with road traffic law.

Sharia Law

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their current position with regard to the appropriateness of the implementation of Sharia law in the United Kingdom. [HL3429]

Sharia law has no jurisdiction in England and Wales. There are, however, a number of Sharia councils in England and Wales that, on a private basis where the parties consent, deal with the mediation and resolution of personal and contractual disputes. These councils are not part of the court system. In all cases, parties will always have recourse to the UK courts.

Shipping: Lanes

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the introduction of compulsory shipping lanes, running north to south and some 30 miles from the coast of Norway, has been endorsed by the International Maritime Organisation; and what is the Government's policy on this matter. [HL3489]

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has indeed approved a ships’ routeing system in international waters off the coast of northern Norway.

However, whereas the original Norwegian proposal was for one mandatory traffic separation scheme of 560 nautical miles between Vardø and Røst, I understand that Norway was invited to amend its proposal to eight smaller traffic separation schemes and seven recommended routes connecting them, and that this routeing measure was formally adopted by the IMO and is due to enter into force on 1 July 2007.

The Government recognise that, in the interests of safety of life at sea and protection of the marine environment, it is accepted practice and consistent with the international law of the sea for traffic routeing measures adopted by the IMO to be established which may extend beyond the limits of a state’s territorial sea into international waters.

Sport: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What were the criteria used in the selection of the Maze site for a national stadium for Northern Ireland; who drew up the criteria; and what body judged the application of these criteria. [HL3354]

The evaluation criteria used in the selection of the Maze/Long Kesh site were: acceptability to the three tenant sports; deliverability in terms of cost, timescale, planning, infrastructure and clearance; and potential economic benefits (revenue generation). These criteria were developed by the Strategic Investment Board (SIB) and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and were clearly laid out in the original “site selection expressions of interest” advertisement published in May 2004. SIB and DCAL are also responsible for judging the application of these criteria.

This matter is now the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Administration.

Telephone Numbers: Defra

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many non-geographic telephone numbers are in use by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 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. [HL3299]

My department and our agencies have a number of non-geographical telephone numbers in use, provided by a variety of service providers, dependent on location. The current count equates to 28 made up of 0870, 0845 and 08459 prefixes, all of which provide helpline services to our customers. The department does not collect any revenue for their use.

Telephone Numbers: DWP

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many non-geographic telephone numbers are in use by the Department for Work and Pensions 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. [HL3264]

Under arrangements with our telephony supplier, the DWP has 2,299 non-geographic telephone numbers in use for a variety of purposes.

The department delegates the administration and management of non-geographic telephone numbers to local management at operational level. The information on services linked to individual telephone numbers broken down by departmental units and its agencies is not available.

Obtaining the revenue information for the total period requested would incur disproportionate costs. However, figures for January to September 2006 are available: the revenue received amounted to £321,948, which was offset against DWP telephony costs.

Terrorism: Funding

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they are making to petrol companies in the light of allegations in recent press reports that some of their staff in the United Kingdom have been committing credit and debit card fraud in order to fund terrorism. [HL3441]

The police are investigating all aspects of the allegations to which the noble Lord refers, and we would not wish to prejudge the outcome of those investigations by commenting at this stage.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking against sympathisers for the Tamil Tigers terrorist cause active in the United Kingdom. [HL3442]

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers, was proscribed by the then Home Secretary in 2001. There are a range of offences relating to this proscription, including to have or profess membership of the organisation, to raise funds for the organisation, to invite support for it, to organise or speak at a meeting whose purpose is to encourage support for it, and to wear or display clothing or articles likely to arouse suspicions that the wearer is a member or supporter of the organisation.

The police and Crown Prosecution Service are responsible for, respectively, investigating and prosecuting offences under this legislation.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to prevent the funding from United Kingdom sources of Tamil Tigers terrorist activity in Sri Lanka. [HL3443]

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers, was proscribed as an organisation concerned in terrorism by the then Home Secretary in 2001. The Terrorism Act 2000 contains a number of offences relating to the funding of terrorism (which includes funding for proscribed organisations). The investigation and prosecution of these offences is a matter for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What estimates they have made of the extent of fraud by credit card cloning by persons working on behalf of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, particularly through petrol stations; and what additional measures they are considering to end this practice. [HL3506]

The police are investigating the allegations to which the noble Lord refers. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on this issue at this time.

Tourism: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why, in the publication Northern Ireland—The CS Lewis Story, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board referred to CS Lewis as being from an Irish background and not from an Ulster-Scots background. [HL3481]

Northern Ireland—The CS Lewis Story was developed and published in December 2005 to coincide with the release of the Disney/Walden Media film ”The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe”.

An expert on CS Lewis’s life and work was commissioned by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to write copy for the publication. One of the opening lines of the publication is a direct quotation from CS Lewis in 1958, on being informed that his heavy breathing was causing problems with a radio broadcast recording session. The quotation is as follows:

“I'm Irish not English. Did you ever know an Irishman who didn't puff and blow?”

The purpose of the inclusion of this direct quotation from CS Lewis was to highlight the fact that Lewis was not English, as is the common misconception among the general public, but in fact, in his own words, of an Irish background.

This matter is now the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Administration.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 25 April (WA 165) concerning genealogy as a Northern Ireland tourism attraction, what future role they envisage for the Ulster Historical Foundation; and how the foundation will be funded. [HL3503]

Working Hours

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What estimate they have made of the average number of hours worked in the United Kingdom by people who work more than 48 hours in a week. [HL3572]

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

Letter from Colin Mowl, Director of Macroeconomics and Labour Market, to Lord Leach of Fairford, dated 9 May 2007, in the absence of the National Statistician.

The National Statistician has been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question about the average number of hours worked in the United Kingdom by people in employment who work more than 48 hours per week. I am replying in her absence. (HL3572)

The estimate of the average number of hours of people in employment who usually work more than 48 hours per week is 56.7 hours, for the three months ending December 2006. This estimate includes both paid and unpaid overtime and is not seasonally adjusted.

Estimates are taken from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). As with any sample survey, estimates from the LFS are subject to a margin of uncertainty.

World War II: Bevin Boys

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether a decision has been taken regarding recognition for the war effort of the Bevin Boys from 1939 to 1945. [HL3552]

Following the Prime Minister's Statement on 24 January 2007 (Official Report, col. 1419-20) that the Government would give further recognition to the Bevin Boys, a decision will be made in due course on precisely what form it should take.