Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 692: debated on Wednesday 13 June 2007

Written Answers

Wednesday 13 June 2007


asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will raise with the Governments of European countries the need for effective procedures to secure rapid response from police and border controls after an abduction takes place. [HL4156]

The police authorities of EU member states co-operate closely on cross-border crimes through the Schengen convention. A range of police co-operation measures were introduced under the Schengen convention in order to strengthen the response to cross-border crime when EU member states opened their borders. Mechanisms exist worldwide through Interpol systems, and the UK has tried-and-tested procedures following the introduction of the Child Abduction Act 1984.

The decision to close the borders of EU member states must be made on a case-by-case basis by the relevant national authorities.

Afghanistan: Military Casualties

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to complete the collation and reconciliation of historic data on casualties which occurred in Afghanistan before 1 January 2006.[HL3949]

Data on UK Armed Forces casualties in Afghanistan can be found on the Ministry of Defence’s website

There are four sets of data for the current deployment in Afghanistan respectively: fatalities (deaths); service personnel recorded as very seriously injured or seriously injured by the NOTICAS signal system from theatre to the joint casualty and compassionate centre; admissions to UK or coalition forces’ in-theatre “role 2 enhanced” or “role 3” medical facilities; and aero-medical casualty evacuations.

The historical casualty data covering UK service personnel who were very seriously injured or seriously injured in Iraq and Afghanistan before 2006 were published on 27 March 2007.

The data on aero-medical casualty evacuations from Afghanistan prior to January 2006 are being verified and validated. Once the information has been checked and confirmed, these data are expected to be added to the website later this year.

In-theatre hospital admission records prior to March 2006 have not been collated centrally in a format that would reliably identify personnel wounded in action and those with disease or a non-battle injury.

Armed Forces: Medical Services

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to improve the capability of the military-managed ward and the care available for military patients at the National Health Service Selly Oak Hospital. [HL4012]

First-class treatment is provided to our patients at Selly Oak by NHS and military doctors and nurses. The military-managed ward achieved initial operating capability, with 24 military nurses assigned to it, before Christmas. It will achieve full operating capability, with 39 military nurses in post, this summer.

Working together with the NHS, we have introduced a wide range of improvements to the clinical and nursing care and the welfare arrangements provided for military patients in the Birmingham area. Alongside the Defence Medical Welfare Service, which supports patients and relatives, there are two embedded military formation liaison officers, who maintain the linkage between patients, next of kin and the patient’s military unit.

We and the NHS respond to concerns expressed by patients and will make further improvements as and when necessary. We accept that military patients would prefer to be nursed together. This happens where that is clinically appropriate. The works project under way in the military-managed ward will partition off a section of the ward to help that to be achieved. The project should be completed shortly.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What targets are in place to ensure that the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine will be recognised internationally as a centre of excellence by 2010. [HL4013]

Since its establishment in 2001, the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) has made substantial progress towards the achievement of that goal, in terms of the quality of training provided, the delivery of healthcare to patients, whether civilian or military, and the research work undertaken. The association with the Birmingham New Hospital project, which is due for completion around the turn of the decade, will also make a major contribution to the development of the RCDM.

Against that background, we are considering what performance indicators or benchmarks should now be put in place to enable independent authorities, as well as ourselves, to be satisfied that our vision of the RCDM as an internationally recognised centre of excellence has been achieved. The specific targets will be published in due course.

Compensation: Terrorism

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they provide compensation or assistance to United Kingdom residents who have been injured as a result of terrorist attacks overseas; and whether this is comparable with the practice of other European countries, the United States and Canada. [HL4155]

Financial assistance for UK residents affected by terrorism overseas is available through the British Red Cross Relief Fund for UK Victims of Terrorism Abroad. The fund was launched on 17 May, following a £1 million donation from the Government. The British Red Cross makes immediate, small payments in two phases to those seriously injured or bereaved, to meet the immediate costs which may arise.

Similarly the US Government directly reimburse victims of international terrorism for actual out-of-pocket expenses associated with their victimhood, such as funeral or medical costs, through their international terrorism victim expense reimbursement programme. The Canadian Department of Justice offers limited financial assistance to victims of serious violent crime abroad for unanticipated and exceptional expenses resulting from their victimhood. Victims of terrorism may also be eligible for this assistance. We are not aware of any compensation scheme in the US or Canada for victims of terrorism overseas, although victims are of course able to pursue remedies through the civil courts, as did the families of the victims of Pan Am 103 (Lockerbie).

There is currently no compensation scheme for UK victims of terrorism overseas. However, the European Council Directive 2004/80/EC of 29 April 2004 entitles EU nationals who are victims of “violent intentional crime” within the EU to apply for compensation from the member state on whose territory the crime was committed. The levels of compensation are determined by the member states individually and vary considerably.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much coral imported into the United Kingdom each year is transported by air freight; and how much by shipping. [HL3931]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the health and size of coral reefs in United Kingdom waters and around the world and of the effect that the trade in coral is having on those reefs. [HL3933]

Periodic global assessments of the state of the world's coral reefs are carried out by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and others, such as the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. The effects of climate change are considered in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. UK non-governmental organisations and scientists are very active in coral reef conservation work. The Government are, therefore, aware of the particular pressures on the world’s coral reefs.

Several surveys of cold-water coral reefs in UK “home” waters have been carried out over the past decade. Large-scale reefs have been found on, for instance, Rockall and Hatton Banks. Unusual coral reef structures, known as the Darwin Mounds, have been found to the north and west of Scotland. Evidence of damage from trawlers at this site led to the Government seeking fishery management measures through the common fisheries policy. These measures are now in place, and there is evidence that fishing activity has decreased greatly as a result. Similar management measures are in place to protect coral reefs on the Rockall and Hatton Banks.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What studies they have undertaken of the extent to which the transport of live coral over long distances can cause stress to the specimens involved. [HL3934]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What estimate they have made of (a) the number of people who keep live coral in the United Kingdom; (b) the number of coral farms in the United Kingdom; (c) the number of suppliers of live coral in the United Kingdom; and (d) the proportion of those that keep stock from sustainable sources or stock propagated in the United Kingdom. [HL3962]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the average prices of (a) imported coral, and (b) coral propagated in the United Kingdom; and whether they have taken any steps to promote the propagation of sustainable stocks domestically. [HL3963]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have proposals to introduce a fiscal instrument to encourage the nascent coral farming industry in the United Kingdom on the grounds of improving sustainability. [HL3965]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What guidance they have issued to the public to improve understanding of the methods of propagation of coral and the breeding of marine fish and the benefits of these methods as alternatives to the import of wild-caught specimens. [HL3966]

Cosmetics and Herbal Products

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the cosmetic and herbal products advertised on television channels aimed at certain ethnic minorities are subject to safety tests; and, if not, whether they will consider the introduction of such tests. [HL3824]

All cosmetic products, whatever their composition or target market, sold in the UK must comply with the Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2004 as amended. That requires that cosmetics undergo an independent safety assessment to ensure that they comply with the regulations.

It is not clear what other type of herbal products apart from cosmetics are concerned. If they are medicines or healthcare products, they are regulated by the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency.

Cyprus: Annan Plan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What promises made by the United Kingdom and its European Union partners, subsequent to acceptance of the Annan plan in 2004 by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, have now been implemented. [HL4082]

At the April 2004 General Affairs and External Relations Council EU foreign Ministers expressed their commitment to ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and facilitating the reunification of Cyprus through economic development. At the council's request, the Commission produced two draft regulations to deliver on this commitment: one enabling preferential direct trade between the north and EU member states on a tariff quota system and the other disbursing €259 million of aid.

The aid regulation was agreed in February 2006, and projects funded from this package have already begun. This package represents one of the highest levels of EU aid per capita. The money will be used to fund practical projects, developed in partnership with the Turkish Cypriot community. These will improve the quality of life of ordinary Turkish Cypriots and bring them closer to the EU.

On trade, successive expansions of the Green Line regulation have allowed the export of an increasing variety and volume of Turkish Cypriot goods across the Green Line. However, despite efforts by a number of EU presidencies, there has to date been no agreement on the direct trade regulation. The German presidency, together with the Commission, continues to take this forward. We will continue to support efforts to liberalise trade between northern Cyprus and the EU.

In practice, however, the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community can only be fully lifted through a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. As it did during the negotiations on the Annan plan, the EU continues to support the efforts of the UN to broker such a settlement.

Cyprus: Universities

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether access to education at all levels is a human right under current United Kingdom or European Union legislation; what will be the impact of the Bologna process on the recognition of third-level degrees from universities in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is precluded from membership of the Bologna process; and what impact the Lisbon recognition convention (Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications Concerning Higher Education in the European Region, Lisbon, 11.IV.1997) will have on graduates from Northern Cypriot universities in 2010 when the Bologna process ends. [HL4081]

Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights—and the UK reservation to that convention—is incorporated into the Human Rights Act 1998. Article 2 provides that UK citizens shall not be denied the right to education. There is currently no equivalent EU legislation. One of the main aims of the Bologna process is to improve the recognition of all higher education qualifications across the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

A key mechanism is the Lisbon recognition convention. The convention does not lead to automatic recognition of qualifications but requires ratifying states to ensure that there are fair processes for the assessment of qualifications from other countries. This could and should include qualifications awarded by institutions in the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Procurement Projects

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity on 1 February (Official Report, Commons, 456W), what the project Enabling IT, which was awarded in financial year 2004-05 in respect of £850 million, involves; how much was spent in 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07; and how much of the project remains to be completed. [HL4194]

The project Enabling IT, or E-nabling Defra, refers to the IT outsourcing contract awarded by Defra to International Business Machines Ltd. The figure of £850 million is arrived at by multiplying the original estimated yearly costs of £85 million (including discretionary spend on IT projects) by the life of the contract, which although initially is seven years includes an option to extend to 10 years.

Under the contract, which came into effect in October 2004, IBM provides strategic IT and business transformation services aimed at improving service provision to staff and the public. IBM also works closely with Defra to deliver an IT-enabled strategy for change while improving the department's internal processes.

IBM is managing, supporting and improving Defra’s desktop IT infrastructure and business systems, developing a range of new business systems, providing the infrastructure to help facilitate a more flexible and mobile workforce and provide a continuous source of technology and business process innovation.

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity (Barry Gardiner), in his reply to the honourable Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne), on 6 June 2007, (Official Report, col. 543W), confirmed that expenditure with IBM under the terms of this contract was as follows:


£28.26 million


£111.12 million


£147.56 million

The outturn costs have been higher than the initial estimated yearly costs, due to the increased demand for IBM services by projects in delivering Defra's strategic objectives.

Elections: Armed Forces

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Ashton of Upholland on 15 May (WA 21), when the results of the Ministry of Defence survey of December 2006 into Armed Forces electoral registration levels and registration awareness will be available. [HL4089]

The report of the survey is currently with Ministers for consideration. I will write to the noble Lord indicating our intention to publish it in due course.

Energy: Oil and Gas Fields

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have received any indication from the Scottish Executive that they propose to legislate to take control of oil and gas fields located in Scotland; and, if so, what their response is to any such proposals; and [HL4143]

Whether they will publish any information they have produced on the consequences of Scotland having control of oil and gas fields located in Scotland. [HL4144]

The Government have not received any indication from the Scottish Executive that they propose to legislate to take control of oil and gas fields located in Scotland. Subject to some very limited exceptions specified in the reservation, oil and gas is a reserved matter under the Scotland Act 1998. We have not carried out assessments of the consequences of Scotland having control of oil and gas fields located in Scotland.

Energy: Oil Refining

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the recent Petroleum Industry Association suggestion of a bilateral industry and government refining task force to examine long-term development options for the United Kingdom oil refining sector. [HL4127]

The Government set up a joint task group with the UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA) in November 2006. The task group commissioned a review of UK oil refining capacity. This was published on 23 May 2007 alongside the energy White Paper and can be found at: The Government will continue to work closely with UK refiners as they address the challenges identified in the review.

Energy: White Paper

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the reply by Lord Truscott on 23 May (Official Report, col. 669) that the Government will come back to the House in a very short space of time and set out their energy strategy for the United Kingdom, whether they will enable the House to debate the energy White Paper at an early opportunity. [HL4087]

I have already given my commitment to return to the House to set out the Government’s energy strategy for the United Kingdom and to debate the energy White Paper at the earliest opportunity. The timing of the debate will be dependent on the parliamentary Whips’ Office.

Firearms: Game Licences

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will abolish game licences for shooters of game; and, if so, when they will abolish such licences. [HL4138]

The final draft regulatory reform order was laid before Parliament for final scrutiny on 4 June 2007. The draft order has a coming-into-force date of 1 August 2007, but this is subject to the parliamentary approval process. If successful, the need for a licence to take or kill game will be abolished.

Iraq and Afghanistan: Military Inquests

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the composition of the dedicated Ministry of Defence team that supports coroners preparing for inquests; and what is its method of proceeding. [HL4189]

In addition to existing arrangements for all three services, principally through the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, based at RAF Innsworth, a dedicated team for Army-related inquests was established in February to provide support to coroners to help clear the backlog of inquests and to ensure that a further backlog does not occur. The inquest cell is based at Upavon, Wiltshire, and consists of:

1 x band B1;

1 x serving colonel;

1 x retired colonel;

1 x band C 1; and

1 x E grade support (yet to be recruited).

With a significant number of inquests into the deaths of military personnel being held at Oxfordshire Coroner's Court, the inquest cell has worked closely with the assistant deputy coroner, Mr Walker, and his team to ensure that he and bereaved families have all the necessary information for inquests to proceed.

The inquest cell has also worked with “home coroners” across England and Wales who have jurisdiction for inquests concerning military personnel. Whenever their support has been requested, team members have attended pre-inquest meetings and/or the inquest.

The team leader, in co-operation with other stakeholders, is also tasked to review the department’s processes for supporting coroners. A series of review meetings have been held, and Ministers are provided with regular updates.

Marine Environment: Wildlife

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proportion of stockists of marine animals source their stock from suppliers certified as sustainable by the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC); and whether they will consider introducing a licensing scheme for selling marine wildlife that would require MAC certification. [HL3964]

The Government do not hold the information requested. There are no current plans to introduce a licensing scheme for selling marine wildlife that would require Marine Aquarium Council certification.

National Parks

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How soon, in light of the clarification of national park legislation in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, they now expect to confirm the designation of the South Downs National Park. [HL4160]

The Government will shortly be inviting further representations on matters that were not able to be addressed by the South Downs inquiry. In the light of responses received, Ministers will consider whether it is appropriate for the inquiry to be reopened. If it is reopened, an announcement on the decision whether to create a South Downs national park is expected no later than autumn 2008. If it is not reopened, an announcement early in 2008 will be possible.

Natural England: Communication Strategy

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the cost to Natural England of sums paid to the Central Office of Information strategic consultancy for producing its communication strategy; and whether the recommendations in that strategy will be acted upon. [HL4190]

Since March 2007, Natural England has spent approximately £40,000 using the Central Office of Information (COI) for developing its communications strategy and for additional specific advice on its communications work. Between December 2006 and February 2007, Defra's modernising rural delivery programme agreed a procurement of approximately £69,000 for the COI’s services in working up the strategy advice to Natural England's board.

The Natural England board considered the report from the COI in February 2007 and made a number of comments which are now being considered as part of the final development of the communications strategy.

Official Visits: Prime Minister

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proportions of the total costs of the retiring Prime Minister's official visits overseas since 1 May have been a direct charge to United Kingdom taxpayers; and what sterling amounts have been so charged. [HL4174]

Since 1999 the Government have published an annual list of all visits overseas undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. Copies of these lists are available in the Library. Information on the number of officials accompanying Ministers on overseas visits is included in the list.

All Ministers’ travel arrangements are in accordance with the arrangements for official travel set out in chapter 10 of the Ministerial Code and the accompanying guidance document, Travel by Ministers. Information for 2007-08 will be published in the normal way.

Olympic Games 2012: Allotments

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Environment Agency is satisfied with the precautions being proposed for the replacement site for Manor Gardens allotment holders with regard to the contaminated land issues. [HL4119]

The Manor Gardens allotments are one of more than 200 existing activities currently within the proposed Olympic park boundary that are being relocated as part of the London 2012 Olympics. Where activities are being relocated outside the park, including these allotments, contamination and other issues are dealt with through the process of granting planning permission at the proposed new locations.

The Environment Agency (EA) is a statutory consultee with respect to certain planning matters, such as possible groundwater impacts of development proposals. I understand that it is satisfied that such matters have been adequately addressed through this process in respect of the new allotments. The EA has also been involved in developing a global remediation strategy covering land contamination throughout the park.

Olympic Games 2012: Environment Agency

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Environment Agency has raised any formal objections to any aspects of the work to be undertaken on the Olympic site; and, if so, what were those objections. [HL4117]

The Environment Agency has formally objected to the Lee interchange site, which would involve work to the proposed railway sidings to the north of the park. The objection was based on existing flood risk issues. Revised hydrology information has since been made available, and the site is being reviewed.

The Environment Agency has been working closely with both the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) project sponsor team and the ODA planning decisions team to ensure that any proposals within the park meet their requirements prior to formally responding through the planning process. Where appropriate, the agency has shared its views with the relevant local authorities, in particular, environmental health officers, regarding contaminated land issues.

Sudan: Darfur

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their current assessment of the security situation in Darfur and Chad. [HL4131]

The security situation in Darfur remains precarious, with increasing banditry and inter-tribal fighting. The Sudanese Government resumed bombing villages in Darfur in late April, killing and injuring a number of civilians. These attacks showed little regard for human life and violated UN Security Council Resolution 1591. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has strongly condemned them. We call upon the Sudanese Government to stop these attacks and on all parties to the conflict to stop attacks and other violations of the ceasefire immediately. All sides must commit to the resolution of the conflict or face further measures in the UN Security Council.

We remain very concerned about the humanitarian and security situation in eastern Chad. We are particularly concerned by increasing levels of internal displacement, due to inter-ethnic fighting and cross-border attacks from Darfur; protection of refugees and internally displaced people; the security environment for humanitarian agency operations and the fragility of the natural resource base to support displaced populations. We support renewed French efforts to get a peacekeeping force into Chad.

Sudan: Sanctions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the decision of the Government of the United States to press for new sanctions against the Government of Sudan; and what efforts they are making in the Security Council of the United Nations to press for the implementation of all existing resolutions against Sudan. [HL4130]

We welcome the extension of existing US sanctions. They are an important element in maintaining the pressure to solve the crisis in Darfur. But we, along with the US and France, remain committed to a robust UN Security Council resolution if the Government of Sudan and rebel movements do not co-operate fully. This would include further targeted sanctions against individuals engaged in violence or responsible for authorising it; expanding the arms embargo to cover the whole of Sudan; and measures to allow better monitoring of the illegal use of aircraft in Darfur.

The UN Secretariat reports regularly to the Security Council on the situation in Darfur and compliance with the council’s resolutions. We use these reports, information gathered from Sudan and our wider contacts with the international community, and our membership of the Security Council’s sanctions committee to press for improved implementation of all existing resolutions.

Train to Gain

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the budget for Train to Gain in 2006-07 in each English region; and what proportion of this budget has been spent in each region; and [HL3911]

What estimate they have made of the proportion of training undertaken as part of Train to Gain which would not otherwise have taken place; and [HL3912]

What assessment they have made of the level of employer investment as part of the Train to Gain scheme; and what proportion of this investment would have been made without assistance from the scheme; and [HL3913]

(a) how many, and (b) what proportion of, individuals in each region undertaking training as part of the Train to Gain scheme (i) were referred to a training provider by the Train to Gain brokerage service or (ii) were provider generated. [HL3914]

Train to Gain is an ongoing service and, as such, performance is updated regularly. Detailed operational information is not held centrally by the department but is collected by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). Mark Haysom, the LSC chief-executive, will write directly to the noble Baroness. A copy of his reply will be placed in the Library.

Universities: Bologna Process

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In what way the Council of Europe and the European Union are involved in the Bologna process for universities. [HL3873]

The Bologna process is conducted outside the framework of the European Union, as the 46 participating countries extend well beyond the EU. The Council of Europe is a consultative member of the process.