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Written Answers

Volume 697: debated on Tuesday 18 December 2007

Written Answers

Tuesday 18 December 2007

Airports: Stansted

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What assistance the Department for Transport has provided to BAA with regard to its plans for the expansion of Stansted Airport. [HL927]

The Government’s support for expansion at Stansted—including maximising the use of the current runway and the construction of a second runway—is set out in the 2003 Future of Air Transport White Paper. BAA sits as an observer on the Department for Transport’s Stansted project board and is therefore present during discussions on project progress. This group manages the work that it is necessary for the Government to undertake in order to ensure the delivery of its policies relating to increased capacity at Stansted. BAA’s director of Stansted Generation 2 regularly meets senior officials in the department to update them on BAA’s progress towards submitting its planning application for a second runway. The department has engaged with BAA to ensure that BAA’s surface access modelling work complies with the department’s standards. The respective legal and policy teams have also met to discuss timetabling and to ensure that all the necessary legal procedures are on track.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What assessment they have made of the environmental impacts of the construction and operation of a second runway at Stansted airport. [HL929]

For the 2003 Future of Air Transport White Paper, the department assessed and consulted on a range of environmental impacts associated with new runway options at Stansted. Since then, BAA has carried out a detailed appraisal of the impacts of a proposed second runway and is close to being able to submit a planning application for this. As part of this assessment, the department has worked with BAA to examine the impacts of a second runway on the strategic road and rail networks.

Asylum Seekers: Unaccompanied Children

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What arrangements are in place for the reception of returned unaccompanied asylum-seeker children; and what monitoring methods are in place. [HL792]

A case owner who is seeking to return a child will work closely with representatives of the country concerned, non-governmental organisations both in the UK and in the country of return and the local authority looking after the child in the UK to ensure that acceptable arrangements are in place for the reception and care of the child on return.

Arrangements vary from case to case and country to country but are usually that a parent, guardian or other person who can be trusted to care for the child’s welfare will be able to meet the child at the port of arrival and care for them thereafter. This case-by-case consideration means that a formal system of monitoring is not considered necessary.

Banking: Loss of Tax Revenue

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What is their estimate of the reduction in tax revenue arising from United Kingdom banks and other institutions in the current fiscal year that will result from the losses in the American mortgage market, collateralised debt obligations and similar financial instruments. [HL980]

Table B8 of the 2007 Pre-Budget Report and Comprehensive Spending Review (Cm 7227) contains an updated estimate for the main components of public sector receipts for the current fiscal year, as well as the changes to the estimates of individual taxes since Budget 2007. These changes include the allowance made in the Pre-Budget Report for the impact of financial market turbulence on receipts from corporation tax and income tax and national insurance contributions, along with other factors. Updated estimates for tax receipts will be provided in Budget 2008.

Benefits: Personal Care

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What safeguards are in place to protect recipients of personal care budgets, who thereby become employers, from contravening employment laws. [HL1032]

Individuals have been able to have a cash payment, called a direct payment, in lieu of a social care service since 1997. With a direct payment, an individual can choose to contract directly with individuals or purchase services from agencies. If someone decides to employ a personal assistant directly (even for only a few hours a week), they have the same legal responsibilities as any employer has towards their employee.

We know that these sorts of responsibilities—for example, paying tax and national insurance and arranging liability insurance and the provision of statutory leave entitlements—can be a barrier to the uptake of direct payments. Local councils should consider ways of making support mechanisms available to help direct payments recipients to manage their new responsibilities as employers.

Community Leadership Fund

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What are the assessment criteria for grants from the Community Leadership Fund; whether these include delivery impact; if so, what is meant by that term; who are the assessors; and whether they include persons who are theologically qualified and who have experience and knowledge of local Muslim and other communities. [HL907]

The assessment criteria for awarding grants from the Community Leadership Fund are:

the extent to which the proposal aligns with the stated objectives of the fund;

the level of change that the proposed work will realise and the value for money; and

the capacity of the applicant to deliver the proposed work.

All applicants will also be checked to ensure that they meet the terms of the statutory authority under which the grants are made (the Charities Act 2006) and government financial requirements.

Funding decisions are taken by the Secretary of State on the advice of a panel of civil servants. Experienced and knowledgeable advice on Islam, Muslim communities and other communities is provided by three Muslim community advisers engaged by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Each project funded by the Community Leadership Fund is evaluated individually against the project activities and the measures for effectiveness agreed at the start of that project.

Embryology

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 23 October (WA 100–1) and 21 November (WA 78) regarding relevant paragraphs in the Declaration of Helsinki and guidelines produced by the International Society for Stem Cell Research, whether they will seek to enshrine in primary legislation a simple prohibition of all such experiments that lack a compelling scientific rationale. [HL588]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 29 November (Official Report, col. WA 132) regarding the scope of Clause 4(2) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, whether, if this clause may cover techniques that require implantation of an embryo in a womb following injection of human embryonic stem cells into an embryo of another species in which the animal cells primarily produce extra-embryonic tissues so as to create a substantially human organism, it is envisaged that the 14-day limit may no longer necessarily apply. [HL701]

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill provides that no embryo other than a permitted embryo may be implanted in a woman. This would mean that any embryo containing any animal material, even when that animal material would be destined to become extra-embryonic tissue, is prohibited from implantation into a woman. The Home Office would not permit the implantation of such an embryo into an animal. This reflects the Government’s commitment to a ban on reproductive cloning.

If greater regulatory control over this activity was shown to be necessary in future, then the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill provides the power to extend the remit of the 1990 Act, through the regulation-making power provided by new Section 4A(5)(e).

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 29 November (WA 131) and 3 December (WA 159) regarding the need for fully informed consent on the part of women donating eggs for research, whether they will describe how the risks of adverse clinical effects associated with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome that were released by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority during its consultation in 2006 differed from those described in guidelines produced by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in September 2006; and [HL770]

Further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 29 November (WA 131) and 3 December (WA 159) regarding the need for fully informed consent on the part of women donating eggs for research, whether they will describe the incidents in which adverse clinical effects associated with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) have been recorded by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority at each respective licensed centre; and whether treatment has always been discontinued whenever OHSS was or is suspected. [HL771]

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' Green-top Guideline No.5, on the management of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), contains detailed information on the symptoms, diagnosis and classification of severity of OHSS. This is a markedly different document from the public consultation document issued by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which gave a general description of the risks associated with egg donation. The HFEA has advised me that it does not believe there is anything contradictory between the two documents.

Information on the incidents of adverse clinical effects associated with OHSS occurring in each HFEA licensed centre, and whether treatment was discontinued where OHSS was suspected, is not routinely collectedly by the HFEA. However, I have asked the HFEA to make an analysis of the incident reports referred to in my Answer given on 5 December (Official Report, col. WA196) and I will write to the noble Lord with the result, and place a copy in the Library.

Fire and Rescue Service: FiReControl

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What is the current estimated total cost for the delivery of the FiReControl project; how this figure compares to estimates made in (a) 2004; (b) 2005; and (c) 2006; and what are the reasons for any variance between these figures, other than annual inflation. [HL843]

The 2007 FiReControl business case estimates total costs for the delivery of the FiReControl project to be £1.4 billion over 15 years (2004-05 to 2019-20). The outline business case published in 2005 had previously estimated total costs to be £1 billion over 13 years (2004-05 to 2017-18). This variance is due to increased certainty on costs following the award of the IT contract and signing of the lease agreements, the addition of a further two years of running costs and annual inflation.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What is the current estimated total cost for the delivery of information technology contracts required by the FiReControl project; and how this figure relates to the earliest-made estimate. [HL844]

The current FiReControl full business case estimates the cost of procuring information technology at each regional control centre to be £11.5 million at 2006-07 prices. This compares with a figure of £9 million at 2005-06 prices in the outline business case published in 2005. The scope of the IT procurement expanded between the outline and full business case to include furniture, training, station-end equipment and implementation of an integrated risk management tool for the fire rescue and service.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

When each of the nine regional fire control centres will become operational; what is the anticipated start date for each centre; and whether each start date differs from the earliest-made estimate for each centre. [HL845]

The forecast go-live dates for each of the nine region control centres are:

October 2009—east Midlands, north-east and south-west

January 2010—West Midlands

May 2010—south-east

September 2010—north-west

November 2010—London

January 2011—Yorkshire and Humberside

May 2011—east of England.

Estimates for the regional rollout order and earliest achievable dates for all the nine regions were first published in November 2004. When this information was published, it was made clear that it was indicative and there was a high degree of uncertainty around the dates. The rollout dates have been refined as the technology and accommodation procurements have progressed.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What is the present estimated capital cost required for the creation of each regional control centre; and how this figure relates to the earliest-made estimate for each centre. [HL847]

There are no capital costs required for each regional control centre because the land and buildings for the RCCs have been procured under the private developer schemes and will be leased by the local authority companies.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they will publish a detailed list of the capital assets realised to date from the implementation of the FiReControl project. [HL848]

The FiReControl project will produce two types of capital assets: the buildings, which will be leased by the regional control centre companies, and the infrastructure, which will provide the networked call-handling and mobilising functionality. Three buildings have reached practical completion: east Midlands, north-east and south-west. We are currently working with EADS Defence & Security Systems Ltd in developing the infrastructure, and the first element—the data migration toolkit—will be completed shortly.

Government: Agencies

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What services that were delivered or provided by local authorities in 1997 are now delivered or provided by agencies or bodies at a regional level. [HL227]

Regional assemblies have been designated in accordance with the provisions of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 as the regional planning body (RPB) for the region, with a duty to prepare the regional spatial strategy, which includes the regional transport strategy and the regional waste strategy. In performing this function, they carry out elements of the former role of county councils in drawing up structure plans, which was abolished by the 2004 Act. This did not, however, represent a transfer of functions from counties to regions, as under the previous system structure plans had to be prepared in line with the strategic planning framework set in regional planning guidance.

Moreover, county councils retain their role as waste and minerals planning authorities and as a statutory body in preparing initial proposals for sub-regional aspects of the regional spatial strategy. County councils may also, where agreed with the regional planning body, undertake elements of the regional planning body function, including the monitoring of the regional spatial strategy.

No other functions that were delivered or provided by local authorities in 1997 are now delivered or provided by agencies or bodies at a regional level.

Government: Diary Secretaries

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether the Secretary of State for Scotland has a diary secretary provided at public expense. [HL813]

There is one diary secretary who provides support for both the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of State for Scotland.

Government: Secretary of State for Scotland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will list the public engagements of the Secretary of State for Scotland and of the Minister of State for Scotland respectively, for the month of November. [HL642]

Throughout the period 1 November to 30 November, the Secretary of State had various meetings in London and Scotland, including with ministerial colleagues and officials from the MoD and Scotland Office. On Thursday 1 and Friday 2 November, he was overseas visiting service personnel serving in Iraq. On Monday 5 November, he met HBOS in Scotland. On Tuesday 6 November, he attended the State Opening of Parliament. On Wednesday 7 November, he hosted the French Defence Minister for bilateral discussions in London. On Thursday 8 November, he attended the British Torch of Remembrance ceremony at Westminster Abbey and met National Grid. On Friday 9 November, he visited Diageo with the honourable Member for Ochil and South Perthshire. On Saturday 10 November, he attended the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance 2007 event and, on Sunday I1 November, he attended the Remembrance Ceremony at the Cenotaph. On Monday 12 November, he met EU ambassadors in London, hosted by the Portuguese ambassador, before attending the defence debate in the House of Commons. On Tuesday 13 November, he met separately with the National Farmers’ Union Scotland and Scottish Financial Enterprise. On Wednesday 14 November, he attended a Sailor, Soldier, Airmen and Families Association reception. On Thursday 15 November, he hosted the Romanian Defence Minister for bilateral discussions in London. On Friday 16 November, he hosted a reception in Edinburgh for Polish National Day. On Sunday 18 and Monday 19 November, he was in Brussels attending a meeting of EU Defence Ministers. On Tuesday 20 November, he met the Crown Prince of Bahrain. On Tuesday 22 November, he had a meeting with the Columbian Defence Minister and a meeting with the Turkish Chief of Defence Staff. On Friday 23 November, he addressed the State of the City Economy Conference in Glasgow. On Wednesday 28 November, he answered Oral Questions for the Scotland Office in the House of Commons. On Thursday 29 November, he hosted a reception to mark the homecoming of 12 Brigade from Iraq.

The Minister of State for Scotland’s official engagements throughout the period 1 November to 30 November included various meetings in London and Scotland, including with ministerial colleagues and officials from the Scotland Office. On Thursday 1 November, the Minister of State was in his constituency in Scotland. On Friday 2 November, the Minister of State visited Working Links in Glasgow. That evening, the Minister of State attended the IBM Innovation Awards, Greenock. On Monday 5 November, the Minister of State attended the Prime Minister’s eve of Session reception. On Tuesday 6 November, the Minister of State attended the State Opening of Parliament. On Wednesday 7 November, the Minister of State attended the Shell UK reception in the afternoon and that evening he attended the Highland and Islands Enterprise annual dinner reception. On Friday 9 November, the Minister of State was in his constituency in Scotland. On Sunday 11 November, the Minister of State attended the Remembrance Service in Edinburgh. On Monday 12 November, the Minister of State attended the Scottish and Southern Energy board of directors’ dinner. On Tuesday 13 November, the Minister of State gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee on the Gould report. On Thursday 15 November, the Minister of State met members of Highland Council to discuss the Crown Estate working group. On Friday 16 November, the Minister of State was in Glasgow where he met LINC Scotland, followed by meetings in his constituency that afternoon. On Tuesday 20 November, the Minister of State participated in the Westminster Hall Adjournment debate on economic development in Falkirk. On Wednesday 21 November, the Minister of State participated in the SI debate on the Criminal Proceedings Etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007 (Powers of District and JP Courts) Order 2007. On Thursday 22 November, the Minister of State had a telephone conversation with the Scotland manager of Digital UK. On Friday 23 November, the Minister of State was in Edinburgh where he had a meeting with RSPB Scotland; that afternoon, he visited the Scottish Energy Centre at Napier University. On Wednesday 28 November, the Minister of State answered Scottish Questions in the House of Commons. On Thursday 29 November, the Minister of State was in Scotland, where he participated in a number of visits with Ian Pearson MP, Minister of State for Science and Innovation, including visits to the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh; Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh; Encap Drug Delivery, Livingston; and Glasgow University MRC virology unit. On Friday 30 November, the Minister of State was in his constituency in Scotland.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Further to the statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland on 25 November that the amount of time that his departmental responsibilities takes comes out of what was his private life, his family life or his constituents’ time, whether Scottish affairs are given adequate consideration in government at Westminster. [HL949]

Gypsies and Travellers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which local authorities in England have brought forward development plan documents containing Gypsy and Traveller site alterations in advance of the regional consideration of pitch members, as advised by paragraph 43 of Circular 1/06; and whether they will give the number of pitches in each of these development plan documents. [HL659]

The former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the Member for Sheffield Heeley, wrote to all local housing authorities in June 2007 asking for information on the progress made to implement Section 225 of the Housing Act 2004 and Circular ODPM 01/2006 “Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Sites” in respect of addressing the accommodation shortage of Gypsy and Traveller caravan sites.

In response to this letter, a number of planning authorities have indicated that they have started this work as listed below.

There are no adopted development plan documents containing specific land allocations for Gypsy and Traveller sites yet.

List of local authorities bringing forward specific land allocation development plan allocation documents for Gypsy and Traveller sites

Bedford

Havant

Salisbury

Bexley

Horsham

Shrewsbury and Atcham

Blaby

Hull

Slough UA

Bracknell Forest UA

Kerrier

Solihull

Brighton and Hove UA

King's Lynn and West Norfolk

South Bucks

Bristol, City of UA

Lancaster

South Cambridgeshire

Cambridge

Leicester City UA

South Derbyshire

Canterbury

Lichfield

South Gloucestershire UA

Carlisle

Maidstone

South Hams

Charnwood

Melton

South Lakeland

Cherwell

Mid Bedfordshire

Spelthorne

Chesterfield

Mid Sussex

St Albans

Chiltern

Mole Valley

St. Edmundsbury

Colchester

New Forest

Stevenage

Corby

Newark and Sherwood

Stockport

Dacorum

North Devon

Stratford-on-Avon

Dartford

North Hertfordshire

Sunderland

Derby City UA

North Kesteven

Surrey Heath

East Cambridgeshire

North Lincolnshire

Taunton Deane

East Devon

North Warwickshire

Teignbridge

East Hertfordshire

North West Leicestershire

Telford

East Lindsey

Northampton

Tendring

Eastbourne

Oadby-Wigston

Three Rivers

Eden

Oldham

Torridge

Epsom and Ewell

Oswestry

Trafford

Exeter

Penwith

Wealden

Fenland

Peterborough UA

West Devon

Forest Heath

Preston

West Lancashire

Gedling

Reading UA

West Wiltshire

Gravesham

Rugby

Wigan

Great Yarmouth

Rushcliffe

Wirral

Guildford

Rutland UA

Woking

Harborough

Salford

Wyre

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in light of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of DH and others v Czech Republic concerning access by Roma children to the ordinary state educational system, they will review their policies to ensure that more Gypsies and Travellers receive secondary education. [HL981]

The European Court of Human Rights judgment of 13 November 2007 on application no. 57325/00 found evidence of adverse discrimination by the Czech Republic because children of Roma origin were disproportionately assigned to special schools and thereby denied access to mainstream schools. This judgment has no direct relevance to England since parents have free choice of schools, and the issue is rather how to encourage greater take-up of schooling by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children, whether in mainstream or special schools.

The Government are committed to enabling all pupils, regardless of their background, to achieve their potential. Local authorities have a duty to ensure that all children of compulsory school age have access to education, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity. In a speech on 17 October 2007 the Secretary of State reaffirmed his belief that many local authorities and schools need to do more to improve school outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children. He said that some local authorities were turning around their low attainment, in particular, by involving parents in designing the services they provide, and by engaging them much earlier through children's centres; and that this should happen in every area.

The Government have developed a national programme which supports local authorities and schools to meet the needs of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children. This programme, launched in September 2006, works with parents to boost attendance, using e-learning and mobility projects to help pupils whose schooling is interrupted. The programme will be extended to involve more secondary schools, and to increase the number of local authorities. The Government would also support proposals for a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history month in June 2008 to raise awareness.

Health: Contaminated Blood Products

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 23 October, how they reconcile its claim that “no criticism of the Archer inquiry team was intended” with the assertion in the Department of Health’s letter of 14 August, prepared “using information supplied by the department’s blood policy team”, to Mrs Harriet Bullock of Southwold, Suffolk, the widow of a haemophilia patient infected with contaminated National Health Service blood products, that Lord Archer of Sandwell’s inquiry “ignored the department’s offer of a meeting with the inquiry”; on what date the department’s head of blood policy first saw the letter of 14 August; under whose supervision it was written and sent; and in how many other letters the same information was used. [HL36]

As I said in my earlier reply of 23 October, I am very sorry that the department’s letter of 14 August to Mrs Bullock was open to misinterpretation, and an apology has been sent to Mrs Bullock, copied to the Archer inquiry team. However, to avoid any possible misunderstanding, I can assure the noble Lord that at no time did anyone in the department claim that Lord Archer of Sandwell had “ignored the department’s offer of a meeting with the inquiry”.

The letter of 14 August was prepared by the department’s customer service centre, using information supplied by the blood policy team. The letter of 14 August stated:

“Department of Health officials met with members of the inquiry team on 25 April to discuss how the Department may assist. In the months since April, the Department has suggested further meetings with the inquiry team, but as yet Lord Archer’s team has not arranged to meet again”.

This was intended to convey that the department remained ready to meet Lord Archer’s team and I am sorry if any other interpretation was possible.

Mrs Bullock replied to the department on 24 August. Mrs Bullock’s letter alerted us to the possibility that our own letter may be capable of different interpretations, as Mrs Bullock’s letter of 24 August stated:

“You have written that for five months the Dep. of Health has, ‘suggested further meetings with the enquiry team’, but that these requests have been ignored or refused by Lord Archer’s team”.

Mrs Bullock requested information about contacts between the department and Lord Archer’s inquiry team and her request was brought to the attention of the blood policy team. A reply to Mrs Bullock, copied to the Archer inquiry team, was sent from a freedom of information officer in the department on 17 September and stated:

“Thank you for your further letter of 22 August requesting information on the dates the Department wrote to Lord Archer’s inquiry team suggesting a meeting. We are treating your letter as a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Your letter has been passed to me for reply.

I am sorry if our reply of 14 August to your letter of 9 July to Alan Johnson was misleading in this respect. For your information, I attach two e-mails between the inquiry team and the Department suggesting a meeting once the inquiry team has had an opportunity to hear all the evidence and review relevant documentation which we are making available. No criticism of the inquiry team was intended and I apologise for the unfortunate wording of the previous letter.

As you know, officials met with the inquiry team on 25 April. We appreciate that the inquiry team is currently occupied in hearing evidence, and will no doubt contact the Department once it has completed this process”.

During the time that this further reply was in preparation, the department’s head of blood policy received a letter from Lord Archer of 4 September, stating that his attention had been called to the department’s first reply to Mrs Bullock of 14 August and that he was concerned that the letter could be taken to imply that requests for a meeting had been ignored by the inquiry team. He asked that the department take steps to avoid repeating any misconception in future correspondence.

The head of blood policy immediately spoke to Lord Archer to apologise for any misunderstanding. When a reply had been sent to Mrs Bullock, the head of blood policy contacted Lord Archer on 18 September to repeat his apology in the following terms:

“The department’s initial response to Mrs Bullock was written by our customer service centre and they have written again to Mrs Bullock apologising for the misleading impression they gave that your inquiry team had ignored our offer of a further meeting. I apologise that the erroneous impression was given, in the original letter, that your team had ignored our offer: this is not the case and I too was concerned when I saw the initial reply to Mrs Bullock”.

The department has now met the inquiry team again, on 19 September. The department has also copied to the inquiry team, in stages from June to October, several thousand official documents identified in the Review of Documentation relating to the Safety of Blood and Blood Products (1970-1985), which was issued in May 2007. I can therefore assure the noble Lord that our officials are co-operating fully with the inquiry team.

Officials have traced 11 pieces of correspondence in July and August that used the same information. These were received and replied to before we were aware of any possible misunderstanding from the wording used. A follow-up letter has been sent to clarify our position and prevent any further misunderstanding.

Health: Pregnant Women

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What plans they have for screening pregnant women who are infected with Group B streptococcus; whether a meeting is planned to discuss this; and, if so, when this will take place and who will be involved. [HL775]

Current policy, on advice from the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, is not to offer routine screening for Group B streptococcus carriage to all pregnant women, because there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that this would be beneficial.

The UK NSC is planning to hold a workshop during the spring of 2008 to consider the implications of the most recent research evidence on preventing Group B streptococcal infections in infancy. The widest possible stakeholder representation will be sought.

House of Lords: Energy Requirements

asked the Chairman of Committees:

What steps he will take to minimise the peak and average energy requirements of the House of Lords areas within the Parliamentary Estate while continuing to allow the House to work efficiently; and whether, in particular, he will carry out a re-examination of (a) the buildings in those areas; (b) the heating and cooling systems; and (c) the daily customs of the House of Lords, including consideration of a relaxation of its dress code in extreme hot or cold weather conditions. [HL992]

There is ongoing work to minimise the peak and average energy requirements of the House of Lords areas within the Parliamentary Estate while continuing to allow the House to work efficiently. Much work is undertaken during routine maintenance, especially to replace older-style lamps with modern low-energy lamps as carried out in the Lords Chamber during 2006. Major items of equipment, when near to the end of their lives, are always replaced with more efficient models, as was the case during replacement of the main heating boilers in the Palace in 2004.

The control of heating and cooling systems in all buildings on the Parliamentary Estate is monitored by a Building Management System which is supervised around the clock by staff in Parliamentary Works Services. A pilot survey has been commissioned to report on energy usage in one area of the Parliamentary Estate, including assessment of the efficiency of the heating and cooling systems, and to make recommendations on how energy consumption could be reduced. If successful, energy surveys of other buildings will be commissioned, including those occupied by the House of Lords.

Further energy and water conservation projects planned for 2008-09 include possible installation of lighting controls, low-energy lighting, window and door draught proofing, voltage optimisation and kitchen ventilation controls.

The Building Management System aims to maintain internal conditions at a level that provides comfortable working conditions for occupants and which does not necessitate variations from the dress code.

Housing: Flood Plains

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they have any plans to build more houses on flood plains; what consideration has been given to methods of raising these proposed houses above potential future flood levels; and what has been learnt from experience in the Netherlands. [HL498]

The Government’s policy, set out in planning policy statement 25 (PPS25), Development and Flood Risk, is that development should be located away from flood risk whenever possible. However, it is not always possible to find a location at low flood risk. Where the sequential test shows that there are no available sites at lower risk of flooding and the need for new homes outweighs the flood risk, PPS25 imposes an exception test to ensure that those that have to be built in higher-risk areas are safe and less susceptible to flood damage.

PPS25 imposes new requirements to ensure that those homes that have to be built in higher-risk areas are safe and less susceptible to flood damage. In these circumstances, the raising of new houses above likely future flood levels may be a way of making them safe from and resilient to flooding, as I understand is done in the Netherlands, provided that the occupants have safe access, services such as power, water and sewerage can continue to be provided and the development does not increase flood risk elsewhere.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What assessment they have made of the impact of regeneration of inner-city and urban areas on the requirement for construction on areas designated as at high risk of flooding. [HL507]

Planning policy statement 25 (PPS25) on development and flood risk aims to locate development away from flood risk whenever possible and avoid inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding. Some inner-city and urban areas are already within areas at risk of flooding. PPS25 will ensure that, when regeneration proposals come forward for this previously developed land, it will ensure that they are safe, are less susceptible to flood damage and will not increase flood risk elsewhere. Planning applications will be determined on their individual merits, in the light of local development frameworks, supported by strategic flood risk assessments, and the principles of PPS25.

Housing: Thames Gateway

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

How many of the 160,000 homes being built in the London Thames Gateway development will be funded under the National Affordable Housing Programme (NAHP); and under which NAHP bidding round these homes have come. [HL855]

How many of the planned 160,000 homes will be funded through the NAHP 2008-11 will ultimately depend on bids for grant for schemes that both are deliverable and match regional investment priorities and efficiency targets—there is not a separate NAHP investment target within the Gateway. However, the delivery plan for the period 2008-09 to 2010-11 shows an estimated range of Housing Corporation investment of between £590 million and £850 million in the Thames Gateway, delivering between 11,500 and 14,300 new affordable homes. The programme from 2011-12 will be decided following the next Comprehensive Spending Review. Over the period to 2016, between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of the Gateway’s new homes will be affordable, funded from a combination of Section 106 planning obligations and programmed government investment.

Local Government: Unitary Councils

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the Department for Communities and Local Government deviated from the original timetable that set out the process for creating new unitary authorities and inserted an extra stage requesting additional financial information. [HL595]

The invitation to councils did not exclude the Secretary of State from seeking further information before taking her statutory decisions under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. In taking her decision on 25 July on which of the unitary proposals she was minded to implement, the Secretary of State recognised on the basis of the available information that in four cases—the proposals from Bedford Borough Council, certain district councils in Cheshire, Exeter City Council and Ipswich Borough Council—there were risks to their achieving the outcomes specified by the affordability criterion and accordingly sought additional information.

Parliamentary Ombudsman

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether a person who has no Member of Parliament representing him because he is resident outside the United Kingdom can have a complaint about unfair action or poor service by a United Kingdom government department referred to the Parliamentary Ombudsman; and, if so, by what means. [HL649]

Complainants are able to approach any Member of Parliament to request them to submit a complaint to the parliamentary commissioner for administration (Parliamentary Ombudsman), regardless of where they are resident. However, whether the ombudsman is able to consider any complaint is dependent on the provisions of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967.

Police: National Computer

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What links exist between the computer records of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the police national computer. [HL522]

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has created a new link to provide regular information to the police by electronic transmission. After a period of testing, the present arrangements, involving the transfer of tapes by secure courier, will cease early in the new year.

Prisons: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What the prison population of Northern Ireland is projected to be in 2010. [HL781]

The Prison Service currently projects a total prisoner population of around 1,697 by the end of 2010.

Quangos

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the number of quangos in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland has reduced in number in the past 10 years; and, if so, what reduction has taken place in each geographical area; and [HL676]

How many quangos there are in England; and what are the costs of these quangos individually and in total. [HL677]

The total number of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) sponsored by the UK Government has fallen from 861 in 1997 to 835 in 2006.

Information on the number and expenditure of all NDPBs sponsored by the UK Government is published annually by the Cabinet Office. Information covering the period 1997-06 appears in the Cabinet Office Public Bodies publications and can be downloaded from the Civil Service website at www.civilservice.gov.uk/about/public/bodies.asp. Departments are in the process of collating information for 2007 and a summary will be published by the Cabinet Office in due course.

Information on public bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is a matter for the devolved Administrations.

Railways: InterCity Trains

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether the rolling stock companies have been involved in preparing the invitation to tender for the supply of InterCity express trains; and who will be involved in the evaluation of the tenders received. [HL830]

Consultation on the content of the InterCity express programme’s invitation to tender was undertaken with train manufacturing and rolling stock leasing companies through the Railway Industry Association.

Evaluation of the bids received will be undertaken by Department for Transport officials and their advisers. It is also envisaged that representatives from relevant train operating companies and Network Rail will contribute to the evaluation of certain features of the bids.

Railways: Interoperability Directives

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 27 November (WA 114), which parts of the United Kingdom rail network are excluded from the interoperability directives. [HL829]

Currently, the interoperability directives apply to the high-speed network and the conventional Trans-European Networks within the United Kingdom. Everything else is excluded. The Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2006, Schedules 1 and 2, define the scope of the Trans-European Networks for member states.

Railways: Journey Times

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they have carried out studies comparing the train times that are taken to travel between (a) London St Pancras and Lille, and (b) London Waterloo and Yeovil; and, if so, whether they will publish their conclusions. [HL815]

No such study has been carried out and Her Majesty’s Government cannot see the need for such a specific study. Current journey times are obtainable from publicly available timetables.

Religious Organisations

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they will seek to obtain information as to whether and to what extent mosques in the United Kingdom promote Wahhabism. [HL909]

The Government do not hold information on the number of mosques in the UK or their denominations. The Government are working with a range of partners to develop further their understanding of Muslim communities in the UK and their infrastructure.

Roads: Humps

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they have any evidence that road humps may cause a hazard to car drivers and passengers who have spinal injuries. [HL951]

In 2004, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) published TRL Report 614, Impact of Road Humps on Vehicles and their Occupants (available via the TRL website at www.trl.co.uk), which was commissioned by the Department for Transport.

The report concluded that for vehicle occupants levels of discomfort were, generally speaking, acceptable if speeds did not exceed 15 to 20 mph. Expert medical opinion following this research was that damage to healthy bones, discs, ligaments or muscles was very unlikely. It was noted that excessive exposure to repeated loading from humps could lead to the prolapse of an unhealthy disc. However, “excessive exposure” would have to be more than that expected from even a busy taxi driver in an urban environment.

We have no evidence of specific hazards relating to people with other sorts of spinal injuries.

Social Services

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What is their response to reports that 57 per cent of local authorities are rationing social services. [HL643]

It is for individual local authorities to decide on the eligibility criteria for receiving adult social care services. Local authorities manage and direct their own resources in accordance with local priorities and the needs of the communities to which they are accountable.

Transport: Delays

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What assumptions the Department for Transport makes when determining policy regarding the cost of delay per vehicle hour. [HL734]

When determining policy, the cost of delay is valued using assumptions about the value of time. The values of time recommended by the Department for Transport for use in the economic appraisal of transport projects are presented in Transport Analysis Guidance, Unit 3.5.6, “Values of Time and Operating Costs”. This is available at www.webtag.org.uk/webdocuments/3_ Expert/5_Economy_Objective/3.5.6.htm.

Transport: Heavy Goods Vehicles

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the study commissioned by the Department for Transport into the benefits of using 60-tonne super lorries was let by competitive tender; and [HL597]

Which Minister authorised the study commissioned by the Department for Transport into the benefits of using 60-tonne super lorries; and [HL598]

Whether there has been any review of the finding of the previous study by Heriot-Watt University into the use of 44-tonne lorries; and whether all the benefits claimed have been achieved; and [HL599]

With reference to the study commissioned by the Department for Transport into the benefits of using 60-tonne super lorries, whether heavier lorries will be driven by foreign operators and drivers; and what contribution such lorries will make towards British taxation; and [HL600]

With reference to the study commissioned by the Department for Transport into the benefits of using 60-tonne super lorries, how it is proposed that such lorries will use only roads classed as suitable; and [HL601]

With reference to the study commissioned by the Department for Transport into the benefits of using 60-tonne super lorries, whether the road safety implications of using 60-tonne lorries in terms of the number of people who might be killed or seriously injured have been assessed. [HL602]

A study of longer, heavier vehicles was commissioned in December 2005 by the then Minister of State for Transport (the honourable Member for South Thanet). The study is due to report shortly, but the Secretary of State has previously made clear that it would take a great deal of persuasion for the Government to allow 60-tonne super lorries in the UK.

The study was let by competitive tender and I refer the noble Lord to my response to his earlier Question on this subject (Official Report, 19 June 2007, col. WA 47) which provides further details. It is looking at many issues including road safety and how any route compliance could be assured if such lorries were to be permitted. It will also assess the implications arising from the European single market if these vehicles were to be allowed, although it is not considering whether heavier lorries will be driven by foreign operators and drivers, nor is it looking at taxation which is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The benefits of the move to 44 tonnes were reviewed in 2004 by Heriot-Watt University, who compared the effects of increasing the maximum weight of lorries from 41 tonnes with their forecasts made for the Commission for Integrated Transport in 2001. The results showed that the benefits were greater than predicted.