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Written Answers

Volume 696: debated on Monday 26 November 2007

Written Answers

Monday 26 November 2007

Alcohol: Underage Drinking

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have assessed the proposal to police the illegal sale of alcohol to underage drinkers in Northern Ireland by the systematic use of underage children as police decoys; whether this tactic constitutes entrapment; and whether they have implemented such a tactic anywhere else within the United Kingdom. [HL337]

Information received from the Northern Ireland Office states that it is currently progressing new legislative powers for test purchasing the sale of alcohol to under 18 year-olds. This legislative power is to be included within the draft Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2007. The draft 2007 order has been issued by the Northern Ireland Office for public consultation, which is due to conclude on 31 January 2008. It is anticipated that the legislative powers for “test purchase operations” will extend to off and on licence premises, including off licences at supermarkets.

The use of under 18 year-olds within test purchasing operations authorised by police will require written parental consent and be subject to strict guidelines, controls and procedures that avoid any risks to and ensure the welfare of under 18 year-olds.

The police welcome the proposed test purchasing powers as it will assist in addressing not only the sale of alcohol to under 18 year-olds, but also the closely linked problems of youth disorder and alcohol fuelled anti-social behaviour as a result of underage drinking.

Test purchasing legislative powers for the sale of alcohol to under 18 year-olds have been used for some time in England and Wales. Over recent years there have been a number of Home Office sponsored test purchase campaigns including tackling underage sales of alcohol (TUSAC) campaigns in October 2006 and more recently from May to July 2007. The advice to participating forces is to work in partnership with local trading standards officers and to refer them to the LACORS national guidance on test purchase.

Parental consent has to be obtained for young people to participate in a campaign and a full risk assessment has to be undertaken in all cases. Details of this can be found in the attached guidance which also includes a section on entrapment.

A copy of this guidance has been forwarded to the noble Lord and copies provided to the Lords Library. Alternatively it can be accessed through the following link at .aspx?id=8056.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consultation they have had with childcare authorities and children's welfare groups about making use of underage children as decoys in policing the illegal sale of alcohol. [HL338]

The Home Office has not had any consultations with childcare authorities and children's welfare groups on making use of underage decoys in policing the illegal sale of alcohol.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR) has also confirmed that it has not carried out any such consultations.

Armed Forces: DVT

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many reported incidents there have been of service personnel suffering from deep vein thrombosis in the past three years. [HL254]

Asylum Seekers: Dependent Children

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will ensure that women applying for asylum in their own right have childcare for young dependent children when their principal interview is taking place and that, if necessary, they have female interviewers and interpreters. [HL327]

A request for a gender specific case owner and interpreter for the asylum interview is accommodated where operationally possible. The Home Office does not provide childcare to those attending substantive asylum or immigration interviews. However, we are currently considering the facilitation of childcare at asylum interviews with a trial in Wales and the south-west that will be evaluated in March 2008.

Community Cohesion

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether their formal and full response in January 2008 to the Commission on Integration and Cohesion will be made by means of a Statement to Parliament. [HL324]

Her Majesty's Government will publish their formal response to the Commission on Integration and Cohesion in the new year. We will continue to keep Parliament informed.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the £50 million funding promised over the next three years to promote community cohesion and support local authorities in preventing and managing community tensions will be distributed. [HL325]

The criteria on which this finding will be allocated have yet to be decided on. Further allocation details will be announced as part of the local government settlement in December.

Crime: Domestic Abuse

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to reduce the domestic abuse of women. [HL319]

In March 2005 we developed a national domestic violence delivery plan focusing on five key outcomes:

to reduce the number of domestic violence homicides;

to reduce the prevalence of domestic violence;

to increase the rate at which domestic violence is reported;

to increase the rate of domestic violence offences brought to justice; and

to ensure that victims of domestic violence are adequately protected and supported.

Progress on the delivery of these objectives is monitored by Ministers across Government and progress reports are published annually.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What levels of funding and assistance they will guarantee to charities and voluntary bodies addressing the needs of women who have experienced domestic abuse. [HL321]

This year, the Ministry of Justice has committed £3 million to fund independent domestic violence advisers, with a commitment to provide further funding over the next two years. The majority of the recipients of this funding are from the voluntary and community sector.

Safe housing is integral to victims' recovery from domestic violence. “Support people” funding is available to provide housing related support for victims of domestic violence. In 2005-06, more than £59 million was made available to domestic violence housing services, again predominantly from the third sector.

The Home Office also made £770,000 available in 2007-08 to part fund a range of charities to operate a matrix of helplines providing support and information to victims of domestic violence.

Crime: Fuel Laundering

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much revenue they consider they have lost during the past appropriate 12 months due to fuel laundering in County Armagh. [HL361]

Estimates of the revenue lost through the illegal consumption of diesel and petrol in County Armagh, or indeed Northern Ireland, are not available because it is not yet possible to split revenue losses between those resulting from the illicit market and those from legitimate cross-border shopping. However, estimates of the total non-UK duty paid consumption for Northern Ireland are available and are reported in Measuring Indirect Tax Losses—2007, which is published alongside the 2007 Pre-Budget Report and can be found in the Library of the House

Cultural Olympiad

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What activities and celebrations are planned to mark the beginning of the Cultural Olympiad following the Olympic handover ceremony on 24 August 2008 in Beijing; and [HL152]

What activities and celebrations are planned to mark the Cultural Olympiad during its first year; and [HL153]

What involvement they are seeking from the arts or other organisations and individuals to mark the beginning of and during the first year of the Cultural Olympiad. [HL154]

These are matters for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which is currently developing plans to launch the Cultural Olympiad in the autumn of 2008. It is also working to develop a number of projects that form the Cultural Olympiad, and which involve a range of arts and cultural organisations. Some of these projects may take place in the first year of the Cultural Olympiad. Others will develop over the four years of the programme.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by Lord Triesman on 12 November (WA 1–2), which empirical studies in either humans or other species have conclusively demonstrated the benefits of human somatic cell nuclear transfer with regard to therapies that overcome the problems of immune rejection with patient-specific embryonic stem cells as described in his earlier Answer. [HL262]

Research on the benefits of human somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is ongoing and if proved successful in the laboratory could eventually be used for the treatment of humans. In such a circumstance, nuclei would be taken from the cells of the person to be treated to generate the stem cells that would then be developed into the type of cell to be used for treatment. In this case, because the material to be used would have been derived from the person being treated, it is unlikely that the recipient would reject the implanted tissue. There is a huge body of evidence to show that when foreign tissue is injected into a person, the person raises antibodies against it and will reject the implanted tissue.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by Lord Triesman on 12 November (WA 1–2), what assessment they have made of news reports on 12 November regarding successful cloning of non-human primates, with regard to the necessity of financial incentives to recruit more and more human egg donors for reported work that has otherwise not been replicated but which might instead be performed entirely with monkeys. [HL263]

So far the work involving non-human primates has been undertaken in only two laboratories. Its success may provide the technological advances to make this somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) more feasible in humans. No animal-based cell lines could be used in therapy owing to issues around transfer of animal viruses and immune rejection.

Emergency Services: Sirens

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 19 November (Official Report, WA 79), to whom members of the public may complain if they are disturbed in the early hours of the morning by emergency service sirens when no other traffic is present; and what penalties apply to drivers who so use them. [HL370]

The use of sirens is governed by Regulation 99 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. If members of the public believe that a police officer has been using a siren in contravention of Regulation 99 they can make a formal written complaint to the chief officer of the police force concerned.

The maximum penalty for breaching Regulation 99 is a fine of £1,000 in England and Wales. Breach of Regulation 99 is also an offence for which a £30 fixed penalty can be issued.

Government: Public Perception

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have undertaken any work including polling or focus group work into the perception among the general public of (a) central government, (b) local government and (c) regional government; and whether they will provide any results accordingly. [HL225]

Communities and Local Government undertakes two major omnibus surveys of the general public's attitudes towards places, local service providers and local services: the citizenship survey and the best value performance survey of user satisfaction. The results of these are available in the Libraries of the House.

In addition, focus groups and polling are frequently used as integral parts of the process of policy formation, implementation and evaluation. Information on these exercises and their results is not held centrally.

Government: Regional Committees

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the current timetable for the proposed establishment of regional select committees; and whether they envisage that local authority leaders will form part of their membership. [HL223]

The question of how to take forward the commitment in the Governance of Britain Green Paper (Cm 7170) for the establishment of regional committees is under active consideration. The Modernisation Select Committee of the House of Commons announced an inquiry into regional accountability on 11 October and the Government expect to submit a memorandum to that committee.

Health: Food Supplements and Herbal Remedies

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the annual cost to the Exchequer of low-value consignment relief available to businesses based in the Channel Islands for the import into the United Kingdom of food supplements and herbal remedies that contain illegal ingredients or are marketed with illegal claims; and what steps they intend to take to ensure that HM Revenue and Customs addresses this issue. [HL416]

No estimate has been made. HM Revenue and Customs continues to enforce its border controls to prevent the import of prohibited goods.

Air Quality

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which local authorities have not submitted an action plan to improve air quality as required by Part IV of the Environment Act 1995. [HL239]

Local authorities have statutory duties for local air quality management (LAQM) under the Environment Act 1995.

Local authorities are required to carry out regular reviews and assessments of air quality in their areas against objectives in the national air quality strategy, which have been prescribed in regulations. Where it is found that these objectives are unlikely to be met, authorities must designate air quality management areas (AQMAs) and prepare and implement remedial action plans to tackle the problem. Defra requires local authorities that have AQMAs to produce an action plan between 12 and 18 months following designation of their AQMA, as set out in policy guidance LAQM.PG(03). Authorities have been required to take account of the guidance in carrying out their duties since February 2003.

Defra also encourages authorities whose draft action plan primarily relates to local road transport to integrate them into their local transport plan (LTP). A number of local authorities have taken the opportunity to do so.

Most local authorities have met the deadlines and have submitted their action plan to Defra. To date Defra has received 157 action plans from local authorities. However, 18 authorities have yet to produce an action plan.

Where local authorities are late in providing plans, Defra officials seek explanations for the delay. My officials have maintained correspondence with the authorities and recently contacted the authorities to remind them about their overdue action plans requesting that they update Defra on progress.

My department will continue to work to ensure that local authorities fulfil their responsibilities under the local air quality management process effectively and within the specified deadlines as far as possible.

I have arranged for a table, detailing progress to date, to be placed in the House Library. In some cases, the department has agreed to extensions to the original deadlines.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their estimate of the impact on gross domestic product per capita of immigration over the past five years. [HL211]

The impact of immigration on gross domestic product per capita has been small but positive. It is, however, difficult specifically to quantify. The impact of immigration on gross domestic product per capita is discussed in more detail in a cross-departmental report1 in sections 3.3 and 3.4.

1 Home Office and Department of Work and Pensions (2007). The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration: A Cross-Departmental Submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs.

Immigration: Haslar Removal Centre

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many male asylum-seekers and others have been in immigration detention in Haslar immigration removal centre for (a) six months, and (b) one year; and what proportion of inmates are ex-foreign nationals awaiting removal. [HL205]

The immigration removal centre at Haslar holds male detainees only, the majority of whom will have been detained for the purposes of administrative removal or deportation action.

The available information shows that on 14 November, 18 detainees were detained at Haslar for six months or more (but less than 12 months) and three for 12 months or more. This information is based on internal management information, is provisional and subject to change, and as such is not published within official statistics.

Immigration: Removals

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What arrangements are in place to ensure that those people found to be in the United Kingdom illegally and who are taken straight to police custody and thence to a port of embarkation in order to be removed from the United Kingdom are enabled to take their personal possessions with them. [HL277]

If someone is arrested in their home they are given sufficient time to pack a reasonable amount of luggage (determined by baggage flight allowances). If someone is arrested outside their home it is the responsibility of the local enforcement office to liaise with the departure port regarding arrangements for baggage delivery. Normally a minimum of 72 hours (including at least two working days) must be allowed between notification of removal directions to the person being removed and the removal itself. Immigration officers are instructed that although adequate time should be allowed for a person to obtain his baggage, not to delay removal unduly because of this.

Guidance on the retrieval of personal effects is available in the operational enforcement manual, a copy of which is available in the House Library and on the Border and Immigration Agency website at

Immigration: Temporary Residency

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people employed by the Home Office or its agencies are in the United Kingdom with legal temporary residency. [HL298]

None. The Home Office, which includes the Border and Immigration Agency, the Identity and Passport Service, and the Criminal Records Bureau, does not knowingly employ anyone who is not permanently resident in the UK.

Immigration: Yarl's Wood

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have received representations from the Black Women's Rape Action Project concerning women detained at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre; and, if so, how they are responding. [HL328]

We have received a number of representations from the Black Women's Rape Action Project concerning women detained at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre.

All representations are treated very seriously and have been referred to the Border and Immigration Agency officials at the centre for investigation. On receipt of their findings a full response has been sent to the Black Women's Rape Action Project in line with Home Office guidelines.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether a woman has been detained at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre for 11 months, even though she cannot be returned to Somalia; and, if so, what action they propose to take. [HL329]

It is not our policy to comment on individual cases in the public domain. If the noble Lord would like further details about this case I would be happy to consider this if he wrote to me.

National Insurance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why employers who have paid the lower “contracted out” national insurance contributions for an employee are then required to pay the higher full rate if the employee chooses to remain at work beyond state pension age. [HL249]

Reduced rate employer and employee national insurance contributions (NICs) are payable in respect of individuals under state pension age who have contracted out of the state second pension. Once individuals reach state pension age they no longer pay NICs or accrue further entitlement to the state second pension. Employer NICs are therefore payable at the full rate for individuals working beyond state pension age, regardless of whether they were previously contracted out.

Olympic Games 2012: Contaminated Waste

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the area to the north of the Stratford International railway station, which is due to form part of the Olympic village, was previously used as a waste disposal site for contaminated radiation material from London hospitals; and, if so, what steps they have taken to eliminate any related risk. [HL234]

We have been informed by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), which is leading on the remediation of the Olympic park site, that current records and desktop investigations have revealed no specific evidence of hospital waste of any type being dumped in any of the sites north of the Stratford International station which comprise the site of the Olympic village.

The ODA is aware of a former unlicensed tip that was located to the north-east of the Stratford International station and is constantly vigilant to the potential remediation challenges of the site. Any significant findings will be recorded and reported and appropriate remediation undertaken.

Pensions: Early Retirement

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether it was their intention, when drafting the Pensions Act 2004 under which the Pension Protection Fund was established, to transfer all early retirees from their existing status to that of a capped deferred pensioner. [HL377]

Yes, the intention was to ensure that, apart from those people who retire early on grounds of severe ill health, early retirees in schemes that transferred into the Pension Protection Fund were treated no better than those who had chosen not to retire early or had not had the opportunity to do so.

Security Industry Authority

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will instruct the Security Industry Authority to publish figures regularly on (a) the number of applications it receives for licences; (b) the outcome of those applications, whether rejected or agreed; and (c) details of those applications which were found to have been made illegally. [HL311]

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) publishes a weekly update of its licensing statistics. This is available on the SIA's website at:

Details of licence holders are held on the SIA's website, which enable a check to be made on whether a particular individual holds a licence, and if so for what sector, using the licence number and other details of the holder.

The SIA also publishes a register of revoked and suspended licences. This is available at:

Following her Statement in another place on 13 November my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has undertaken to make a further Statement about SIA licensing checks and the issue of entitlement to work in the United Kingdom when the further checks referred to in my right honourable friend’s Statement are complete.

Official Reserves: US Dollars

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will initiate urgent talks between HM Treasury and the Bank of England on a possible reduction in United Kingdom official reserves of United States dollars. [HL418]

The Treasury has no plans to undertake a reduction in the UK's official reserve holdings of United States dollars.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have received on the effects for the Open University (OU) of their decision no longer to fund institutions for students studying for any qualification at a level equivalent to or lower than one they have already obtained; what estimate they have made of the annual cost of this decision to the OU; and what action they will take. [HL356]

We have received a number of representations about our decision but our policy not only responds to the challenge in the Leitch report to increase the proportion of the workforce with higher level skills from under 30 per cent now to more than 40 per cent by 2020 but is also fairer to both taxpayers and students who have not yet entered higher education. The overall effect of these changes on the income of individual institutions will depend on how successful they are in attracting students who meet our priorities, but no institution will lose grant in cash terms as a result of these changes. The future can be a bright one for the Open University if it develops new approaches to attract more of the millions of people who have not yet obtained a first higher education qualification and all the benefits it brings.