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Written Answers

Volume 694: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2007

Written Answers

Tuesday 17 July 2007

Agriculture: Live Exports

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many (a) cattle or calves; (b) sheep; and (c) other livestock species were exported live from the United Kingdom for further fattening or slaughter in 2006. [HL4704]

All livestock exported from the United Kingdom are required to be accompanied by a veterinary export certificate. No such certificates were issued for the export of livestock from the UK to countries outside the European Union in 2006.

Information on exports from Northern Ireland is not routinely collected centrally, but I have asked my officials to gather it and I will write to the noble Lord when I have it. I will also arrange for a copy of the letter to be placed in the Library of the House.

The table below shows the number of cattle, sheep and other livestock species exported live, from the UK to the EU, for further fattening or slaughter in 2006:

Type of livestock species

Number exported for further fattening

Number exported for slaughter







Other livestock



Airports: Sale of Liquids

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether it is permissible for liquids purchased in a duty-free location and bottled in units of more than one litre to be carried in a passenger’s hand luggage when the passenger is in transit through a United Kingdom airport. [HL4712]

Under EU regulations, passengers transferring via EU hub airports (including those in the UK) are able to carry liquid duty-free items on to their connecting flight provided that the items have been purchased airside at an EU airport or on board an EU carrier, are supported by a receipt issued within the last 24 hours and remain in a sealed tamper-evident bag throughout the journey.

Army: Reserves

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the future Army structure is fully funded in respect of changes to the structure of the Territorial Army. [HL4596]

The Territorial Army is being rebalanced to match the structural changes that future Army structure has introduced for the Regular Army. This activity will be happening in stages over the coming years and funding exists to support both the growth in TA personnel and the regular support staff at unit, sub-unit and detachment level.

In addition to these activities, TA rebalancing endorsed a total uplift of 409 non-regular permanent staff and 238 civilian staff. Not all these additional posts were funded at the start of the rebalancing process on 1 April 2006. Of the 409 NRPS posts, 230 remain unfunded and, of the 238 civilian staff, 80 posts remain unfunded. Funding for these posts continues to be sought through the department's planning round process.

Education: 16-to-19

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What safeguards will be put in place to protect 16-to-19 funding for further education colleges when channelled through local authorities, against competition from schools wishing to protect or expand small sixth forms. [HL4751]

Subject to consultation on the details and timing—to ensure that there is no disruption to schools, colleges and training providers and the introduction of new diplomas—and the need to pass the necessary legislation, funding for school sixth forms and sixth-form colleges and the contribution of FE colleges to the 14-to-19 phase will transfer from the Learning and Skills Council to local authorities’ ring-fenced education budgets. There will be an opportunity to consider the detail of this Question through this process.

Energy: Oil

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they will develop plans for an oil-free economy in the United Kingdom. [HL4681]

The 2007 energy White Paper ( sets out the policies that the Government are putting in place to help the UK to become a low-carbon economy, including measures that will help to reduce our dependence on oil supplies.

However, while renewables and other low-carbon technologies will play an increasing role in the UK and global energy mix over the longer term, the White Paper recognises that fossil fuels such as oil will continue to be the predominant source of energy for the foreseeable future. Global fossil fuel resources are still plentiful and markets are well developed to meet future global demand and trade.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to respond to the suggestion by French President Sarkozy that the United Kingdom join the European Union single currency. [HL4745]

The Government's policy on membership of the single currency is unchanged. It remains as set out by the Chancellor in his Statement to the House of Commons in October 1997 and again in the Chancellor's Statement on the five tests assessment in June 2003.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have assessed the role which the insurance industry is playing in dealing with recent flood damage and, in particular, (a) its share of the financial burden, and (b) its assistance to policy holders and local authorities during the crisis. [HL4753]

Government Ministers met with representatives from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) on 10 July as part of discussions on the insurance industry's role in the response to recent flood damage. The ABI expects that insurance claims arising from this summer's flood events across the UK will reach £1.5 billion.

According to the ABI, 99 per cent of households and businesses have now been visited by loss adjusters. The insurance industry has assured the Government that its priority is to ensure that those who cannot remain in their homes have appropriate temporary accommodation and that as many businesses as possible are able to continue activities during this recovery period. Insurers are also making provision for early payments to help to deal with immediate hardship.

The Government and the ABI have agreed to maintain discussions on this issue to ensure that any ongoing or further concerns are resolved quickly.

Health: Junior Doctors

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they can provide an assurance that all graduates from United Kingdom medical schools will be guaranteed a foundation post in order to acquire full registration with the General Medical Council for this year and subsequent years. [HL4722]

We expect to be able to put all our medical graduates into the first year of what is now called the foundation programme, which will take them through two years of basic medical education.

House of Lords: Lifts

asked the Chairman of Committees:

Whether he has proposals to speed up the lift from the Peers’ Entrance (HoP 84). [HL4775]

The renewal of lift machinery is managed by the Parliamentary Works Services Directorate. The estate lift maintenance programme is being reviewed and revised. I will ensure that the performance of the lift from the Peers’ Entrance to the West Front is taken specifically into account during this review.

Housing: Home Information Packs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the definition of (a) a bedroom, and (b) a study in a residential property in relation to the home information pack.[HL4506]

From 1 August, owners of properties with four or more bedrooms will be required to compile a home information pack if they market their property for sale. A four-bedroom dwelling is one that is marketed and sold as having four bedrooms.

Energy performance certificates and home information packs will be phased in, starting with four-bedroom homes and larger properties and rolling out as quickly as possible to three-bedroom properties once sufficient energy inspectors are in place nationally and regionally to meet demand, taking into account market conditions.

Human Rights: Freedom of Expression

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether the statement in A Guide to the Human Rights Act: A Booklet for People with Learning Difficulties that, “You should be able to say and read what you like—as long as you respect other people”, accurately states the nature of the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. [HL4659]

The document quoted attempts to relate the complex nature of the articles of the convention to the day-to-day experience of its intended audience. It was not designed to provide legal definitions. It strives, however, not to mislead. Only one sentence is quoted in the question. Taken together, the four sentences relating to this article provide as much information as was thought to be helpful for those with learning difficulties. The full text reads:

“Article 10 Freedom of expression

You have the right to hold opinions and have your say—even if other people don’t like your views. And you have the right to read books and newspapers, if you want to. You should be able to say and read what you like—as long as you respect other people. However this right must be balanced against other people’s rights and may be altered for reasons such as public health or safety”.

Internet: Third-world Access

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

When the next internet governance forum will take place; and what suggestions will be presented by United Kingdom representatives at the forum for the promotion of enhanced internet access for third-world countries in receipt of United Kingdom aid support. [HL4702]

The next internet governance forum takes place from 12 to 15 November 2007.

The IGF provides an opportunity to look in depth at examples of good practice and approaches for addressing the digital divide. There are a number of proposals for workshops from business and non-governmental organisations looking at aspects of improving internet access in developing countries.

The Government fully support improved internet access in all countries across the developing world and we will contribute constructively to discussions in these workshops where appropriate. However, we have no plans to present suggestions in respect of countries in receipt of United Kingdom development assistance.

Mercury: Aga Ovens

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the mercury thermometers on Aga ovens will be banned by the proposed European Union regulations concerning mercury. [HL4648]

The proposed restriction prohibits the placing on the market of measuring devices containing mercury for sale to the general public. It makes no distinction on whether the measuring device is marketed on its own or part of another product, so it would apply to the sale of new mercury thermometers on Aga ovens.

However, the proposed restriction does not apply to devices already in use or sold second-hand. Therefore, there is no requirement that thermometers already attached to Aga ovens in people's homes will have to be replaced with non-mercury versions.

The manufacturers of Aga ovens have confirmed that they are aware of the proposed restriction and are working with their suppliers to replace mercury thermometers with appropriate substitutes.

Mercury: Barometers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many new barometers containing mercury are made each year in the United Kingdom; how many of them are for (a) scientific and industrial use, and (b) domestic use; what is the quantity of mercury used in each case; and how much of that is from recycled sources. [HL4647]

It is estimated that some 30 kilograms of mercury are used each year in the manufacture of new barometers in the UK. As a typical barometer contains 100 to 600 grams of mercury, this equates to the production of 50 to 300 new instruments annually. No further breakdown of these figures is available.

The only mercury mine in Europe, at Almaden in Spain, ceased extraction of ore in June 2001 and production of mercury from stockpiled ore in July 2003. It is not known how much of the mercury directly produced at Almaden is still available but, increasingly, mercury for new barometers will be available only from recycled material or from mercury imported into the European Union.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 25 June (WA 79), what process was followed and what parties were involved in the dialogue with the Government prior to the European Commission adopting its proposal for banning mercury barometers and thermometers. [HL4649]

The Government sought dialogue with stakeholders in the usual ways. An explanatory memorandum on the European Commission’s proposals was prepared and went through scrutiny clearance in both Houses. A public consultation on the Commission’s proposals was conducted in 2006. Details of the consultation, including a list of consultees, consultation documents and a summary of responses, are available on the Defra website.

In addition, direct contact by telephone and/or e-mail was made with:

each of the three companies in the UK that manufacture new mercury barometers for sale to the public;

a fourth company that provides parts, tools and supplies to barometer repairers;

scientists at the National Physical Laboratory regarding the scientific use of mercury measuring instruments; and

medical experts, regarding the use of mercury in blood pressure monitoring devices (sphygmomano meters).

The proposal will not ban mercury barometers and thermometers but will prohibit the sale of new instruments to the general public. Existing domestic devices, especially antiques, will still be able to be used, repaired and traded.

Mobile Phone Charges

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Truscott on 26 June (WA 131) (a) from what sources they sought legal advice that Article 95 of the Treaty of Rome enabled mobile phone roaming charges to be fixed throughout the European Union; (b) what tests were applied to ensure that the decision to fix roaming charges was compatible with the principles of subsidiarity; and (c) whether this decision is compatible with World Trade Organisation obligations under Article XVII of the General Agreement on Trade in Services. [HL4682]

I am pleased to confirm that the EC regulation on roaming came into effect on 30 June, triggering a process that will see the offering of roaming packages complying with the regulation by the start of August. The regulation, while introducing average wholesale price caps that must be met by operators when they procure roaming capacity from one another, does not fix prices as such; instead, it introduces a tariff that has to be offered to all roaming customers (the Euro tariff) with maximum rates for incoming and outgoing calls made. Throughout the discussions and negotiation pertaining to this regulation, the Government have sought legal advice on all matters to the extent thought necessary and appropriate.

As regards subsidiarity, the national authorities responsible for regulating the telecommunications markets have found themselves unable to effect a reduction in roaming charges. This has resulted from the cross-border nature of the telecoms market in general and, in particular, the necessarily international interconnections between networks, which enable the making of roaming calls. It was also necessary to ensure that a common, Community-wide approach was adopted, so that operators could operate in a single coherent regulatory framework.

In these circumstances, it was considered appropriate for the EU to intervene and to act in order to procure the desired benefits. The Government are therefore satisfied that the principle of subsidiarity has been adhered to.

Finally, the Government take the view that the EC regulation on mobile roaming is compatible with its WTO obligations, having sought clarification on this matter when it was raised during discussions in the European Council.

Navy: Warships

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What future surface warships the United Kingdom shipbuilding industry can expect the Government to commission after the future carriers have been built. [HL4793]

Older People: Health Services

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

How they will ensure that vulnerable older people entering care homes continue to have access to primary and secondary health services. [HL4667]

Care home residents, like the rest of the population, are entitled to register with a general practitioner (GP) practice for the provision of their primary healthcare needs and where appropriate onward referral to secondary healthcare services. However, we acknowledge that there is an issue around GP practices removing care home patients from their list, following classification of their residential home as a private hospital. Residents who normally live in a hospital require a level of care and support that is usually higher than that normally provided through essential primary medical care.

The department is exploring this issue further to find out the extent of the problem and to identify local examples of good practice that have successfully resolved the problem. We are committed to developing guidance for the National Health Service, which will be discussed with the British Medical Association and care home representative organisations to ensure that all patients’ healthcare needs are appropriately met.

Olympic Games 2012: Greener and Cleaner

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What statutory powers the Mayor of London will have, under proposals set out in July in The Greater London Authority: The Government’s Final Proposals for Additional Powers and Responsibilities for the Mayor and Assembly over litter functions, under Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, to ensure a greener and cleaner Olympics. [HL4738]

The Governments Final Proposals for Additional Powers and Responsibilities for the Mayor and Assembly did not include any statutory power for the Mayor of London over litter functions under Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act. However, under Section 353(2)(b) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, the Mayor’s municipal waste management strategy may contain other proposals and policies relating to municipal waste as he considers appropriate. Therefore, the Mayor can and has included proposals on street cleansing and litter in his municipal waste management strategy.

A cleaner, greener Olympics will require action from many organisations and individuals working together. We believe that the Mayor has the right balance of powers and responsibilities, including as an Olympic Board member, to play a key strategic role in achieving this.

Plastic Bags

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they next plan to meet representatives of the United Kingdom retailing sector to discuss the elimination of plastic bags in favour of paper and textile bags in large retail outlets. [HL4789]

Ministerial colleagues and I regularly meet representatives from the retail sector to discuss waste issues, including carrier bags.

Waste Strategy for England, published on 24 May 2007, makes it clear that the Government will work with retailers to develop ways of phasing out the use of free disposable bags, both paper and plastic, in the longer term.

This will build on the momentum being created by an existing voluntary agreement signed by major retailers in February 2007 to reduce the overall environmental impact of their carrier bags by 25 per cent by the end of 2008. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is developing action plans with individual retailers and will review progress at the end of 2007.

Prisoners: Parole

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the average and longest delays in the Parole Board's consideration of the appropriateness of the decision made by a probation officer to recall a person under licence to prison. [HL4524]

Every case of a recalled offender is put before the Parole Board for review of the decision to recall, an offender's appeal against recall and consideration for re-release. Between April and June 2007, the average time taken by the Parole Board to undertake reviews and issue decisions was 10.5 working days from the date of referral to the board of the recall dossier from the post-release section in the Ministry of Justice. The maximum time recorded was 32 working days. This compares with the Parole Board's target of six working days. Maintaining improvements made towards the end of the April to June period, the board is now meeting its six-day target.

Prisoners: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Ashton of Upholland on 12 June (WA 245), which stated that prisoners have been identified as a high-risk group for sexually transmitted diseases, whether there is a case for making condoms available in prisons. [HL4728]

Above all other considerations, prisons must maintain good order and discipline for people in custody. They should not therefore take any action that can be interpreted as encouraging overt sexual behaviour by prisoners.

However, the Prison Service recognises that sex in prisons does occur and that this brings with it associated public health concerns. Prison doctors therefore have authority to prescribe condoms if, in their clinical judgment, there is a risk of HIV infection or transmission of any other sexually transmitted illness.

Condoms should not be made available to prisoners without appropriate information and guidance on sexual health education being given first.

Railways: Franchises

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What weight they give to past performance when assessing the merits of a bid for a railway franchise. [HL4807]

The past performance of bidders is assessed as part of the initial pre-qualification stage of franchise competitions. Track record in relevant service delivery and financial management represents approximately 70 per cent of the total score for this stage. Where a bidder is an existing franchisee, national rail performance data are taken into account, in addition to the evidence in the bidder’s submission.

The second and final stage is the evaluation of bids submitted by the shortlisted companies. Bid evaluation focuses on the confidence in delivery of proposals for the new franchise. Bids should be supported by relevant evidence, which could include specific examples of past performance.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

In assessing franchise bids how much the environmental impact of encouraging rail travel is taken into account. [HL4811]

Encouraging travellers to choose rail instead of other modes will, in general terms, help to reduce carbon emissions. This underlies Department for Transport objectives in specifying franchised rail services. The department seeks to ensure that the specification issued to bidders will deliver an efficient service that meets passengers’ needs while being affordable for the taxpayer. In order to win the contract, bidders must demonstrate their ability to deliver the service reliably, at a price that is value for money. A successful bidder will need to take every advantage of opportunities to increase passenger usage and promote rail. We also ask bidders to put forward their plans for improving the environmental performance of the business, which are taken into account when the bid is awarded.

Railways: New Construction

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

How many (a) route kilometres, and (b) track kilometres were added to the rail network in Great Britain for each year between 1990 and 2006; and at what cost; and [HL4818]

How many grade separated junctions were added to the rail network in Great Britain for each year between 1990 and 2006; and at what cost. [HL4819]

These are operational matters for Network Rail, as the owner and operator of the national rail network. The noble Lord should contact Network Rail’s chief executive at the following address for a response to his Question: John Armitt, Chief Executive, Network Rail, 40 Melton Street, London, NW1 2EE.

Schools: Pupil Referral Units

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Adonis on 10 July (WA 214), whether the reason given for not including pupil referral units in the achievement and attainment tables or local authority averages that “they are not required to follow the national curriculum” is consistent with the inclusion of independent and special schools in the tables; and whether there is a case for recognising, encouraging and publicising the achievements of pupil referral units. [HL4827]

Though special schools are not legally required to follow the national curriculum (NC), those pupils who are able to do so are entered for tests and public examinations. In the interests of recognising that many pupils with special needs are capable of high achievement, the results of special schools are included in the tables.

Independent schools also are not legally obliged to follow the NC and are not included in the key stage 2 and key stage 3 tables. However, the vast majority of pupils in the independent sector are entered for public examinations and are included in the key stage 4 (GCSE) tables and post-16 (A-level) tables.

Pupil referral units (PRUs) are different because their purpose is not to provide a permanent place of education. The purpose of PRUs is to provide a placement for pupils temporarily displaced from mainstream schools. The majority of pupils spend less than two terms in a PRU and many never sit an exam. Any test and exam results that were published would not give a reliable picture of educational standards.

We believe that good PRUs should be recognised and encouraged, but we do not believe that publishing their results in the achievement and attainment tables would achieve that. They are inspected by Ofsted and, where a PRU is achieving well, this will be detailed in the school’s inspection report. PRUs that are judged by Ofsted to be “outstanding” appear alongside other high-performing schools on Ofsted’s annual outstanding provider list.

With the plans to include PRUs in pupil level data collection, we anticipate including their results in the LA averages once we know that the data are reliable.

Taxation: VAT

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there are any current proposals from the European Commission to end United Kingdom VAT zero rating, including on books, newspapers, periodicals and children's clothes; and, if so, whether they will seek to maintain the United Kingdom's current exemptions. [HL4768]

The European Commission recently published a communication on VAT rates other than standard VAT rates, which sets out some options for reforming the current EC agreements on the application of reduced VAT rates, as a basis for future discussion among member states. However, this communication is not a formal legislative proposal.

Changes to EC VAT agreements are subject to the unanimous agreement of all member states. The Government have always made it clear that the UK will not agree to any proposals that would harm our social objectives or undermine the fairness of the UK VAT system. The Government have a manifesto commitment not to extend VAT to food, children's clothes, books, newspapers and public transport fares.

Transport: Drivers' Hours

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Davies of Oldham on 10 October 2006 (WA 133) and Lord Bassam of Brighton on 26 January (WA 269), what progress is being made with the authorities in the Republic of Ireland regarding breaches of drivers’ hours regulations whilst driving in Wales. [HL4808]

We are continuing to report offences to the Road Safety Authority in Ireland, which has advised us that it is now also taking follow-up enforcement action where appropriate.

In GB, the Department for Transport’s Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) continues to undertake a significant and sustained level of enforcement activity in order to help to deter and detect drivers’ hours offences. VOSA is now checking compliance on some 2,800 non-GB vehicles annually as they travel across Wales.

The general situation seems to be showing some sign of improvement. A random compliance survey in 2004 showed that 48 per cent of drivers of commercial vehicles registered in Ireland were committing serious road traffic offences in GB—for the most part, a contravention of drivers’ hours rules. A similar survey in 2006 showed that the average level of offending, while still high, had dropped to just under 37 per cent.

In addition to roadside enforcement, we are progressing plans to introduce on-the-spot fines for such offences; we are consulting on our proposals. This will act as an additional deterrent.

Vaccines: Border Inspection Posts

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Why the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has issued a closure notice for the border inspection post that deals with the import of intermediary products at Heathrow Airport; and what impact this closure will have on the British-based biopharmaceutical and vaccine production industries. [HL4764]

Where border inspection facilities do not meet the requirements of European Union (EU) legislation, the Secretary of State is obliged, by the Products of Animal Origin (Third Country Imports) (England) Regulations 2006 (as amended), to suspend the facility.

The report of an inspection by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the Commission of the Heathrow inspection centre in June 2004 stated that the British Airways (BA) inspection centre had a number of deficiencies. In its covering letter on the November 2006 mission on import controls, the FVO stated that in the absence of progress on new facilities it would be recommending that Heathrow be removed from the list of border inspection posts (BIP) approved to handle products not intended for human consumption (NHC).

Inspection of the facilities by animal health officials noted the following deficiencies:

inadequate storage rooms;

inadequate changing facilities for staff;

shared unloading areas for human consumption (HC) and NHC products, resulting in a risk of cross-contamination; and

inadequate access to inspection rooms.

The decision to have a BIP at a sea port or airport is purely commercial. Other airports and sea ports in the UK and the rest of the EU are approved to take NHC products (for example, Gatwick, Manchester, East Midlands, Stansted, Manston and Glasgow airports).

In reaching the decision to suspend the approval of Heathrow Airport for NHC products (with effect from 25 July 2007), Defra considered the financial impact of the decision not only on importers of non-food animal products but on the London Borough of Hillingdon, which provides the veterinary services, the airlines, handling agents, importing agents and couriers. Defra takes veterinary import controls extremely seriously and our over-riding consideration has to be protecting public and animal health in the UK.

Defra and animal health will continue to offer advice and support to any company that decides to provide new facilities in the future.

Waste Management: Elected Mayors

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Who are the elected mayors in England; and whether they have direct or strategic control over litter functions under Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. [HL4740]

The elected mayors of local authorities in England are as set out in the table below:

Local authority

Elected mayor


Frank Branston


Martin Winter


Jules Pipe


Stuart Drummond


Sir Steve Bullock


Tony Egginton


Ray Mallon


Sir Robin Wales

North Tyneside

John Harrison


Mark Meredith


Nicholas Bye


Dorothy Thornhill

In addition, the elected Mayor of London is Ken Livingstone.

Local authority elected mayors lead the executives of their councils, and responsibility for direct and strategic control of litter functions under Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is an executive matter. The Mayor of London does not have any responsibilities for litter functions.

Young Offender Institutions: Rochester

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

How many young offenders were transferred to Rochester young offender institution within the last 12 months with two weeks or less of their sentence to serve. [HL4709]

This information is not recorded centrally and to provide the information would involve the individual scrutiny of hundreds of files. This could be done only at disproportionate cost.