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Written Answers

Volume 692: debated on Tuesday 12 June 2007

Written Answers

Tuesday 12 June 2007

Agriculture: Uplands Development

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will launch a new programme for uplands development, including the farming of (a) carbon from peat bogs; and (b) water in hills; and livestock expansion with new sustainable targets. [HL4128]

The Government announced in December 2006 that we would be fully integrating uplands support into environmental stewardship and that we were minded to do so by putting in place a specific uplands strand to the entry level stewardship (ELS) scheme by no later than 2010.

To ensure the fullest environmental benefit from the successor to the hill farm allowance, we are currently carrying out further scoping work with Natural England and stakeholders. This includes consideration of the key land management issues in the uplands, such as the protection of natural resources (including water and peat), and the role of upland farmers in maintaining these much-loved landscapes through sustainable livestock management. There will be a further consultation on the final scheme design prior to implementation.

British Coal Compensation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking to respond to the findings of the Lofthouse report into the British Coal respiratory disease litigation, British Coal vibration white finger litigation and British Coal industrial deafness litigation. [HL3841]

On 23 May 2007, the Minister of State for Science and Innovation announced that he will send a joint letter with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the Minister responsible for legal services at the Ministry of Justice, to all solicitors involved in the coal health compensation schemes urging them to repay any outstanding deductions taken from compensation awards. We are also working with the Legal Complaints Services (LCS) and the Legal Services Ombudsman to help continue to bring the issue to the attention of claimants. The department is also working with the LCS on a pilot exercise in Rother Valley to raise awareness of the issue and the role of LCS. The May edition of the department's Compensation for Miners newsletter features the role of the LCS, and an inserted poster with its contact details. Some 45,000 copies of the newsletter were printed and distributed to GPs, citizens advice bureaux and coalfield MPs. The newsletter is also available on the website at: www.dti.gov.uk/energy/coal-health/publications/miners-news/page17069.html.

Children: Physical Exercise

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their target for the amount of physical exercise children should take; and how many children are meeting that target. [HL4175]

The DfES and DCMS share a public service agreement (PSA) target to increase to 85 per cent by 2008 the percentage of five to 16 year-olds who participate in at least two hours high quality physical education (PE) and sport each week, within and beyond the school curriculum. The 2005-06 school sport survey found that overall, 80 per cent of pupils in schools within school sport partnerships—more than 4 million pupils—participated in at least two hours of high quality PE and school sport in a typical week. Copies of the results of the survey have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Crime: Prison Officers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why information regarding convictions and other criminal offences by prison officers is kept only in local records and not at the highest level of HM Prison Service. [HL4150]

As previously advised on 21 May 2007 (Official Report, col. WA 83), the value of central collection of information on staff prosecutions or convictions will be considered as part of the improvement plan to strengthen the Prison Service's approach to tackling corruption.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether Ministers would expect to be notified in the event of a prison officer being (a) prosecuted or convicted of corruption; or (b) convicted of any other crime related to their duty as a prison officer. [HL4151]

Ministers are not notified routinely whenever a prison officer is prosecuted or convicted of corruption or any other crime related to their duty as a prison officer. However, this position is reviewed on a case by case basis.

Crime: Vehicle Registration

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many prosecutions, by calendar year, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has been a party to against manufacturers and suppliers of vehicle registration marks that have been in breach of the Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001. [HL4069]

Until 16 March 2007, the DVLA did not have legal powers to bring proceedings under Part 2 of the Vehicles (Crime) Act. This function was limited to police and certain trading standards officers. The courts are not obliged to pass all details of convictions to the DVLA so the total number of prosecutions by calendar year is not known.

Employment: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether it is unlawful for an employer in Northern Ireland, a member or friend of whose family has been a victim of terrorism, to refuse to employ the convicted terrorist responsible when that terrorist is, on merit, the best person for the post. [HL4083]

As this Question is about the lawfulness of employers' decisions and employment law, which is now a devolved responsibility, it is for the devolved institutions to consider.

Energy: Government Buildings

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking to ensure maximum energy saving from lights, television screens and electrical and electronic equipment in government buildings. [HL4067]

Departments have adopted cross-government sustainable operations targets to reduce energy use across the central government estate. Other associated targets include making government offices carbon neutral by 2012 and reducing the Government's carbon emissions from their offices by 30 per cent by 2020.

The recently published UK Government Procurement Action Plan sets out plans about how the Government will move towards a sustainably built and managed estate that minimises carbon emissions and increases energy efficiency.

To deliver against the operations targets, departments are committed to buying energy efficient equipment, including lighting, for their buildings. Departments are also required to work with the Carbon Trust to identify energy savings and to purchase electrical equipment, including computers and televisions, that meet the recently updated list of environmental product standards (the “Quick-wins” list), which include requirements on power consumption in sleep-mode.

The DfES currently has a system in place for its offices which automatically turns off computer base units at pre-set times. Similarly, Defra is currently exploring the use of a tool automatically to shut down inactive computers at night.

Energy: Renewable Technologies

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the average length of time taken for consideration of a planning application for different renewable technologies; and what plans they have to expedite planning applications to encourage the deployment of such technologies. [HL3819]

According to the renewable energy statistics database for the United Kingdom, the average length of time taken to determine planning applications, including applications made under Section 36 of the Electricity Act, for different renewable technologies in the United Kingdom over the past five years is as follows:

2002-032003-042004-052005-062006-07

DTI technology band

No of schemes

Avg no days

No of schemes

Avg no days

No of schemes

Avg no days

No of schemes

Avg no days

No of schemes

Avg no days

Biomass—co-firing

-

-

-

-

1

140.0

-

-

-

-

Biomass—dedicated

2

318.5

4

293.8

5

259.2

4

115.5

1

62.0

Hydro

4

727.8

7

413.7

-

-

-

-

-

-

Landfill gas

23

167.9

6

130.7

15

143.1

9

104.2

-

-

Municipal & industrial waste

1

566.0

-

-

2

79.0

1

303.0

1

174.0

Photovoltaics

2

53.0

1

230.0

4

53.5

-

-

1

55.0

Wind offshore

2

367.0

-

-

-

-

5

435.4

-

-

Wind onshore

50

392.9

52

428.5

50

349.2

24

234.0

12

171.3

We have set out in our recent White Papers on energy and planning a series of initiatives and proposals aimed at reducing uncertainty and shortening the overall timescales from application to a final decision on consent. These include improving the national policy context against which individual planning decisions are made, reforming the planning system for major energy infrastructure projects and introducing more efficient and effective ways of working in the current planning regime. We are also currently consulting on proposals that would in general make householder microgeneration permitted development in England, subject to certain limitations and also subject to controls in conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.

Health: Incontinence Items

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will publish a summary of responses to the Department of Health consultation on Arrangements for the reimbursement pricing of stoma and incontinence appliances under Part IX of the Drug Tariff. [HL3941]

A summary of responses to the consultations on the arrangements under Part IX of the Drug Tariff for the provision of stoma and incontinence items to primary care will be published within three months of the date on which the consultations closed, which was 2 April 2007.

In conducting this review, a key objective has been to maintain and improve the quality of patient care. Given the volume of the responses to the consultation, the department has decided that it needs more time to analyse the information provided. Consequently, no changes will be implemented in July 2007 as proposed in the consultation documents.

Health: Rampton Hospital

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many hours per day of recreation or other activity are provided to women in Rampton Hospital; and of what is this recreation comprised. [HL4029]

The individual patient activity and clinical treatment timetables for patients vary according to their needs, interests and risk assessment, but there is an expectation that a minimum of 25 structured activity hours is provided for each patient, each week.

Each ward has an activity programme that operates on a daily basis and has been developed in conjunction with the patients. The patients have access, subject to risk assessment and safe management, to a resource centre within the service's secure perimeter.

This includes activities which support rehabilitation and provide life skills, such as information technology, education, cooking, social groups, personal care, gym and ecumenical room, and respond to therapeutic needs, such as specific individual and group treatment groups, music groups and therapy and art or graphics. Some patients also attend sessions in other parts of the hospital.

Office for National Statistics

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the answer by Lord Davies of Oldham on 4 June (Official Report, col. 877), whether the transfer of the Office for National Statistics to Newport will result in the terms and provisions of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations being applied to any employees who do not accept the invitation to transfer; and, if not, what terms of compensation will apply to any staff declared redundant in the course of this relocation. [HL4166]

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

Letter from Karen Dunnell, National Statistician and Registrar General, to Lord James of Blackheath, dated 12 June 2007.

As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your recent Question asking whether the transfer of the Office for National Statistics to Newport will result in the terms and provisions of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations being applied to any employees who do not accept the invitation to transfer; and, if not, what terms of compensation will apply to any staff declared redundant in the course of this relocation. [HL4166]

As a result of ONS contribution to government relocation, we have committed to transferring up to 600 posts by April 2008 and 250 posts by April 2010 from London and the south-east to Newport. It is our intention that between 50 and 100 posts will remain in London.

TUPE or the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations is a form of legislation designed to protect the terms and conditions of employment if an organisation, or services of that organisation, changes hands. This will not happen as part of the relocation of posts from London and therefore TUPE does not apply.

However, employees who are unable to relocate to Newport will, where possible, transfer to other government departments or find alternative employment elsewhere in London. The office has a robust support programme in place to enable this transition. Where such solutions cannot be found, employees whose posts are redundant will be entitled to the Civil Service pension scheme terms.

Prisoners: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether men and women who are committed to prison undergo a medical examination; and, if so, whether this examination ascertains whether they carry a sexually transmitted disease, in particular HIV. [HL4132]

All prisoners undergo health reception screenings on entry into prison. This is a detailed questionnaire completed by healthcare staff interviewing the prisoner. It is designed to identify any long-term medical conditions, any use of prescribed medication, any history of alcohol or substance dependence, any mental health problems and any symptoms requiring urgent medical attention or indicating a need for review by a medical doctor.

Health reception screenings do not include a screen for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or a blood test for HIV infection.

Tests for STIs or HIV can be offered to prisoners following a risk assessment by a doctor, or other appropriately trained member of the healthcare team, if a prisoner presents with signs or symptoms of such infections or describes risk behaviour which may have exposed him or her to such infections.

Prisoners are also able to request a screen for STIs or HIV if they believe that they may have been exposed to infection.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many prisoners tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease in the most recent analysis; how many tested positive for HIV; how this number was divided between men and women; and what are the comparable figures for the past 10 years for which figures are available. [HL4133]

This information is not collected centrally.

A recent study of genital chlamydia trachomatis infection in young male inmates in the United Kingdom found that 13 per cent of new inmates tested positive for chlamydia1.

Also, data collected by the National Chlamydia Screening Programme in 49 prisons, where more than 1,100 screens were performed between April 2005-March 2006, found a similar prevalence rate of infection of 12 per cent.

This is higher than the prevalence in similar groups in the community and identifies prisoners as a high-risk group for infection.

The last major study of HIV prevalence in prisoners in England and Wales found that of 3,942 prisoners tested, 0.4 per cent were infected with HIV, 8 per cent with hepatitis B and 7 per cent with hepatitis C2.

Sources

1 The first point prevalence study of genital chlamydia trachomatis infection in young male inmates in the UK.

Menon-Johansson, A.S., Winston, A., Matthews, G., Portsmouth, S., Daniels, D.

International Journal of STD & AIDS, Volume 16, Number 12, December 2005, pp. 799-801

2 Prevalence of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C antibodies in prisoners in England and Wales: a national survey.

Weild AR, Gill ON, Bennett D, Livingstone SJM, Parry JV, Curran L. (2000). Communicable Disease and Public Health 2000;3:121-6.

Prisons: Cookham Wood

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether HM Prison Cookham Wood will close, prior to becoming a prison for young males; if so, to which institution the current women offenders will be moved; how far they will then be from their families; and what steps will be taken to maintain existing pre-release provisions for women, including assistance with bank accounts. [HL4085]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any plans to change the function of HM Prison Cookham Wood from one holding female prisoners to one holding young male prisoners. [HL4107]

A proposal to re-role Cookham Wood from female prisoners to male young people is under consideration but no decision has yet been taken.

Questions for Written Answer

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to reply to Lord James of Blackheath's Question for Written Answer (HL3577) tabled on 2 May. [HL4167]

Royal Navy: Portsmouth

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the strategic implications of any closure of Portsmouth naval base in terms of capacity for rapid and flexible deployment of the fleet and the concentration of personnel, ships and equipment in the two remaining naval bases. [HL4068]

The naval base review is not yet complete and, as such, no conclusions have yet been reached. A number of factors are being taken into account as part of the review, not least the requirement to maintain a rapidly deployable and flexible naval fleet, and the concentration of Royal Navy personnel, ships and other equipment.

Schools: ICT

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the use of information communication technology in schools to support children with literacy and personalised learning. [HL4088]

The weight of evidence shows that effective use of ICT can support both literacy and more personalised learning. This is reflected in Christine Gilbert's 2020 Vision: Report of the Teaching and Learning in 2020 Review Group (published January 2007). Use of ICT has the potential to broaden the range of learning resources, increase the pace of lessons and feedback, promote home-school links and support better collaborative learning.

In the past five years there have been 10 in-depth studies which have assessed the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in schools to support children with literacy and personalised learning. We will place copies in the House of Lords Library. These are:

Evaluation of the Primary Schools Whiteboard Expansion Project (Somekh et al, not yet published);

The Interactive Whiteboards, Pedagogy and Pupil Performance Evaluation: An Evaluation of the Schools Whiteboard Expansion Project: London Challenge (Moss et al 2007);

Embedding ICT in the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies (Higgins et al 2005);

Becta E-Learning in Schools Survey (Kitchen et al, not yet published);

The Impact of Broadband in Schools (Underwood et al 2005);

An Investigation of Personalised Learning: Approaches used by Schools (Sebba et al 2007);

Impact 2007: Personalising Learning with Technology (Underwood et al, not yet published);

Evaluation of the ICT Test Bed Project: Final Report (Somekh et al, not yet published);

Children and Young People's Home Use of ICT for Educational Purposes: The Impact on Attainment at Key Stages 1-4 (Valentine et al, 2005); and

ImpaCT2: The Impact of Information and Communication Technologies on Pupil Learning and Attainment (Harrison et al, 2002).

Schools: Teachers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they influence the practice of teachers and teaching assistants; and [HL4070]

How they ensure that all teachers in England and Wales remain up-to-date with the latest education research; and [HL4071]

How they ensure that the provision of professional development for teachers is of a high quality or is provided to a minimum standard. [HL4072]

There are a number of ways in which the Government influence the practice of teachers and teaching assistants. Education legislation provides the context in which teachers and teaching assistants work and may make specific requirements of them.

Other examples that relate specifically to influencing teachers' practice include: the school teachers' pay and conditions document which sets out the details of the teacher contract and professional standards which set out the standards teachers need to meet to progress in their careers. Examples in relation to the practice of teaching assistants include: regulations which set out the specific circumstances in which support staff, including teaching assistants, can carry out “specified work”; a set of professional standards against which teaching assistants and higher level teaching assistants can be assessed; and a variety of training support for teaching assistants, such as an induction programme and national vocational qualifications at levels 2 and 3. The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) working with the Workforce Agreement Monitoring Group, the national strategies, and other specific initiatives promote good practice and provide guidance and training and development in various ways. Ofsted's judgments about teaching and learning also influence practice in schools.

A revised framework of professional standards for teachers will be introduced from September 2007 which sets out requirements about teachers' professional attributes, their professional knowledge and understanding and their professional skills at each career stage. They include, for example, that all teachers from induction onwards should have a good, up-to-date knowledge and understanding of a range of teaching, learning and behaviour management strategies and know how to adapt and use them. Having an awareness of relevant education research would be consistent with achieving this standard. The standards for Excellent Teachers and Advanced Skills Teachers also require teachers to draw on research outcomes and other sources of external evidence to inform their own practice and that of colleagues.

The Government have given the TDA a remit for teachers' continuing professional development (CPD) that includes monitoring the quality and coverage of CPD and providing clear, high quality guidance to schools on CPD and giving leadership to local authorities. The TDA's latest advice to Ministers included proposals for a range of measures that will help schools to plan and evaluate CPD and quality assure CPD. The TDA is now taking its work forward with social partners.

Taxation: Aircrew Licences

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What revenue they expect to collect from the imposition of VAT on the fees charged by medical examiners for examinations undertaken for the issue or renewal of aircrew licences. [HL4104]

The estimated revenue yield from the changes to the VAT treatment of medical services since 1 May was published at Budget 2007 (Table A2, FSBR 2007). However, HM Revenue and Customs does not have the information required to make a specific estimate for medical services relating to aircrew licence issue and renewal.

Visas

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why, having regard to the penultimate paragraph of section 4.6 of UKvisas: Best Practice Entry Clearance Work of 8 March, the British consulate-general in Hong Kong is advising applicants that it can no longer issue visitor visas valid for more than two years; whether this two-year limit applies only in Hong Kong; and, if so, why it applies only to Hong Kong. [HL4205]

Following guidance issued to all posts on 24 August 2006 our consulate-general in Hong Kong suspended the issue of five-year and 10-year multiple entry visit visas. This was in preparation for the introduction of a world-wide biometric identification process, designed to protect an individual's identity, facilitate future entry to the UK, combat visa fraud and abuse of the UK's immigration and asylum systems. The suspension was designed to limit the number of long-term, non-biometrically enabled visas which would have validity beyond the introduction of biometrics.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether a person who is issued a two-year visit visa by the British consulate-general in Hong Kong rather than a visit visa for the period he wished to apply for will be entitled to receive a discount on a subsequent visa application on the grounds that he applied for a reduced duration visa solely because he was told to do so by the British consulate. [HL4206]

The cost of all long-term visit visas is the same irrespective of the length of validity. A person issued a two-year visit visa in the circumstances described will not be entitled to a free extension of their visa or a discount on a subsequent application.