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Written Answers

Volume 698: debated on Thursday 31 January 2008

Written Answers

Thursday 31 January 2008

Afghanistan: Food Aid

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the recent request by the Government of Afghanistan to the United Nations World Food Programme to increase its food aid from the previously planned 180,000 to 215,000 tonnes in 2008. [HL1355]

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Government of Afghanistan (GoA) launched a joint appeal for $81.3 million on 24 January in response to rising food prices. Staple food prices in Afghanistan have been increasing since November 2006 as part of a global trend. DfID is currently evaluating the UNAMA and GoA proposal and we will consider how best to respond.

Agriculture: Cattle

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 10 December 2007 (WA 1), whether the results of the research into inherited traits affecting susceptibility to bovine tuberculosis in cattle will be made available to the dairy industry at an early stage. [HL1485]

All the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) grant-holders are expected to promote the dissemination of the results of their research, normally through publications in appropriate scientific journals. In addition, the council has recently introduced a data-sharing policy, under which research data generated as a result of BBSRC funding are expected to be made available to the scientific community in a timely and responsible manner to inform subsequent research by others. Holders of grants that pre-date this policy are encouraged to adopt its principles.

British Citizenship

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many Bolivian nationals have applied for British citizenship in the last two years; of those, how many applications were (a) accepted, and (b) refused; and on what grounds they were refused. [HL1530]

There have been 125 applications for British citizenship from Bolivian nationals that have been decided within the last two years. Of these, 110 were approved, 10 were refused and five were rejected.

The reasons for refusal include:

delay in responding to our inquiries; and

an inability to meet some of the requirements for naturalisation or registration, (namely, the applicant did not have a British citizen parent, the applicant was not free of immigration conditions on the date of application, was in breach of the immigration laws or was unable to demonstrate a knowledge of life in the United Kingdom).

Five applications were rejected because the applicant was found to be British already.

The information has been provided from local management information and is not a national statistic. As such it should be treated as provisional and therefore subject to change.

Children: Asylum Seekers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to lift the children of asylum seekers out of poverty. [HL1572]

The Border and Immigration Agency already has an effective asylum support regime in place which ensures that no child of an asylum seeker need be living in poverty.

Czech Republic: Children

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made, been associated with or are considering any representations to the Czech Republic about the use of cage beds in care homes there for children and young people with severe disabilities. [HL1419]

The UK has not made representations to authorities in the Czech Republic about the use of caged beds. Our embassy in Prague has worked closely with the Czech authorities to help exchange best practice with UK counterparts on restraint techniques in care facilities, which we believe contributed to the Czech decision to re-examine their use. The embassy continues to monitor the situation.

In January 2007, the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs tightened legislation on the use of caged and netted beds, resulting in the use of caged beds only in exceptional cases and as a last resort (where the patient's or others' lives or health are in danger), only on a doctor's recommendation, on the notification of a legal representative and/or guardian, and for as short a period as possible. In July 2004, the Ministry of Health banned the use of caged bed in psychiatric institutions although netted beds are still in use.

The Czech authorities have stated that they will investigate the issue again in the light of a recent BBC report on the use of caged beds.

Demonstrations: Filming

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 12 December 2007 (Official Report, col. WA 56), how many individuals working for the media have been arrested since 1997 for obstruction or public order offences while covering public meetings, rallies or demonstrations; and how many have been convicted for such offences. [HL1579]

Department for International Development: Personnel

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the total number of personnel serving in the Department for International Development. [HL1448]

As of the end of December 2007, there were 1,723 home civil servants (HCS) serving in the Department for International Development (DfID), and a further 857 locally engaged staff (known as staff appointed in country or SAIC) working in our network of over 50 offices overseas. SAIC are employed on local terms and conditions of service.

Economic Partnership Agreements: ACP Countries

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have received from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries unable to meet the deadline to agree economic partnership agreements or regional partnerships with the European Union; and what responses they have given.[HL1493]

Only Nigeria, which chose not to sign an economic partnership agreement (EPA), has contacted the European Commission and European Union member states to request being placed on the enhanced Generalised System of Preferences, GSP Plus.

Dr Chambas, president of the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS), asked Gareth Thomas for the UK's support in this request. The UK has made clear that we would support any African, Caribbean or Pacific (ACP) country's request for GSP Plus if the country fulfilled the criteria for being granted this preferential trading regime.

Electoral Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What has been the cost of the Electoral Commission in each year since it was established. [HL1201]

The Electoral Commission is a body wholly independent of the Government. The commission reports directly to Parliament, including through the Speaker's Committee. A member of the Speaker's Committee responds to questions about the operation of the Electoral Commission in the House of Commons.

The Electoral Commission resource accounts are in the public domain. They can be accessed at www. electoralcommission.org.uk/about-us/annualreport.cfm.

The accounts are also laid annually before Parliament and are available in the Library of both Houses.

Taken from the Electoral Commission's resource accounts, the net operating cost of the Electoral Commission in each year since it was established are:

Year

Net operating costs

2006-07

£22,316,000

2005-06

£21,916,000

2004-05

£24,824,000

2003-04

£19,884,000

2002-03

£18,023,000

2001-02

£6,600,000

2000-01

£1,398,000

2000-01 figure is from appropriation account statement of outturn; figures for 2001-02 onwards are net operating costs in resource accounts.

Families: Youth Inclusion Support

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What funding there is to promote the use of family group conferences to enhance the effectiveness of youth inclusion support panels. [HL1423]

Between 2004-05 and 2006-07 the Youth Justice Board funded five youth offending teams (YOTs)—Gateshead, Newham, Southwark, Staffordshire and Swansea, to pilot family group conferencing as part of their youth inclusion and support panel (YISP) provision. Grants of up to £225,000 per YOT were made available over the three-year period. From 2007-08 no additional funding was made available for family group conference schemes as YOTs had the option of investing in family group conferences as part of a YISP by using their overall YJB prevention grant. Currently, total YJB prevention funding to YOTs in England and Wales amounts to £34 million per year. The Government have also announced ongoing funding of £18 million over 2008-11 to fund family intervention projects which work intensively with whole families. Some of the projects use family group conferencing as a way of assessing the strengths and support needs of the families they work with.

Gershon Review: Home Office

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In the case of the Home Office, how many (a) voluntary and (b) compulsory redundancies have been taken to date as a result of the Gershon review; what is the total departmental bill for each type of redundancy; and what is the natural wastage during the Gershon period to date for the department. [HL1015]

It has not been possible to extract the number of redundancies or associated costs that have occurred in the Home Office as a direct result of the Gershon review without incurring a disproportionate cost.

The wastage rate data is only available for the Home Office Headquarters and the Border and Immigration Agency; it is not available for the Criminal Records Bureau and the Identity and Passport Service.

The wastage rate has been calculated by dividing the number of permanent staff retiring and resigning by the average number of staff. Before August 2004 a different HR database was in use and it has not been possible to extract this information without incurring a disproportionate cost.

House of Lords: 1 and 2 Millbank

asked the Chairman of Committees:

What is the total cost of the work on 1 and 2 Millbank; and how much of that is in respect of accommodation in 2 Millbank currently occupied by the House of Lords; and [HL1471]

What is the estimated cost of the proposed temporary House of Lords accommodation at 14 Tothill Street (a) in total, including works and revenue costs; and (b) netted against the ordinary running costs of 1 Millbank if no changes were made. [HL1472]

The House Committee agreed on 17 April 2007 that work should be undertaken to redesign 1 Millbank to standards envisaged for the final design in 2015 when the incorporation of 5-7 Great College Street would be possible. The Committee further agreed that it would be necessary to decant the occupants of 2 Millbank during this first phase of refurbishment work.

The House Committee agreed on 4 December 2007 to adopt the final sketch plan for works to 1 and 2 Millbank at a cost of £29,298,158; and to undertake additional works at the same time to maintain the roof of the Island Site and the external facade of 1 Millbank and the internal redecoration of 2 Millbank at an additional cost of £2,532,750. The project costs were compiled on the basis of works to be undertaken to the site as a whole. It is not possible therefore to provide a breakdown of costs for the portion comprising 2 Millbank.

The rental cost of 14 Tothill Street to the House of Lords will be £1,633,437 per annum including VAT. The House will pay rates of £178,734 per annum. The design brief for the fit-out has yet to be finalised and the associated costs cannot therefore be established at this stage. All costs will require the approval of the House Committee before fit-out work can be undertaken.

Immigration: Deportation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the order of priority of the Border and Immigration Agency in pursuing the deportation of (a) foreign national prisoners; (b) visa overstayers; and (c) illegal immigrants. [HL1198]

The Enforcement Strategy published in March 2007 sets out how the Border and Immigration Agency will ensure and enforce compliance with our immigration laws, removing the most harmful people first and denying the privileges of the United Kingdom to those here illegally. Copies of the document are placed in the Libraries of both Houses. It is also available to view at www.bia. homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/managin gourborders/enforcementstrategy/

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Since the formation of the Border and Immigration Agency, how many (a) foreign national prisoners with sentences of less than one year; (b) foreign national prisoners with sentences of more than one year; (c) visa overstayers; and (d) illegal immigrants have been deported. [HL1199]

Liam Byrne announced on 14 January that over 4,200 foreign national prisoners have been removed or deported from the UK in 2007, exceeding the Prime Minister's target. This is the most robust and accurate information available on the number of foreign national prisoners that have been deported.

Information on the number of people who have been removed from the United Kingdom as visa overstayers and illegal immigrants can only be obtained by the detailed examination of individual case records at disproportionate cost.

Immigration: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking to stop illegal immigrants entering the United Kingdom through its land borders. [HL1624]

The Border and Immigration Agency has responsibility for immigration control matters throughout the UK, including Northern Ireland, and has a team of enforcement officers based in the Province who work closely with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The agency, the PSNI and the Garda National Immigration Bureau work collaboratively and run regular intelligence-led operations to counter risks to the common travel area borders. These operations have successfully prevented foreign nationals attempting to enter Northern Ireland and the Republic illegally in both directions.

Operation Gull is a periodic enforcement operation undertaken at ports to detect and remove failed asylum seekers and illegal workers. It has had a number of successes.

We also work with the Garda National Immigration Bureau in Dublin to deal with migrants who cross the land border into NI. The agency operates immigration controls at the international ports in Northern Ireland, refusing entry where appropriate, thereby preventing illegal migrants from entering by those routes.

In addition, the agency works closely with the police service in Scotland in dealing with those who are in the UK illegally and who are identified when seeking to move between the Province and Great Britain.

Northern Ireland: Good Friday Agreement

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the Northern Ireland Office Autumn Performance Report 2007 (CM7285) refers on page 39 to the “Good Friday Agreement”; whether that is a title used in other documents by the department; and to what agreement it refers. [HL1371]

The term “Good Friday Agreement” is a colloquial term that describes the agreement reached at multi-party talks on Northern Ireland signed on 10 April 1998 and set out in Command Paper 3883. The Northern Ireland Office recognise that the “Belfast Agreement” is the official title given to this agreement in the Northern Ireland Act 1998, but given the wide use of the term “Good Friday Agreement” have used both terms to describe the same agreement.

The term “Good Friday Agreement” appears in a number of Northern Ireland Office documents including the 2002 and 2004 Public Service Agreements.

Police: Databases

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether an adult may request the deletion of bioinformation stored in connection with an offence with which he or she was connected as a minor. [HL1516]

Bioinformation is understood to refer to DNA samples, DNA profiles derived from the samples, and fingerprint records. The police have the power to take and retain indefinitely bioinformation of these types from persons arrested for a recordable offence. Individuals may request the destruction or deletion of bioinformation whether or not they were under 18 at the time of the arrest in relation to which the bioinformation was taken.

The decision on whether to agree to a request from an individual to have their DNA profile removed from the National DNA Database lies with the chief officer of the force which took the sample. The Association of Chief Police Officers issued guidance to chief officers on the consideration of applications for removal at the end of January 2006. The then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Andy Burnham, made a Written Ministerial Statement on the guidance on 16 February 2006 (Official Report, col. 117WS) and placed it in the Library. The guidance makes it clear that it is expected that DNA profiles which have been taken lawfully will be removed in exceptional cases only.

ACPO has tasked a specialist unit within Hampshire Constabulary (known as ACPO Criminal Record Office) to assist chief officers in arriving at a decision, by providing examples of how requests have been dealt with in other forces and offering advice. However, the final decision rests with chief officers.

Railways: Electrification

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 11 December 2007 (WA 29) and in view of the long-term nature of a railway electrification process, what is their estimate of the effect on the business case for electrification if the median price of a barrel of oil rose to $200 by 2020 and passenger and freight train traffic continued to grow in line with the trend over the last five years. [HL1591]

The Department for Transport has made no estimate of the effect on the business case for electrification of a rise in the cost of oil to $200 by 2020.

However, the Rail Safety and Standards Board has carried out a study of the costs and benefits of electrification. This report concluded that an increase in the cost of gas oil improved the business case for electrification, although it did not address the impact of $200 a barrel.

Scotland: Constitutional Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the terms of reference of the Scottish constitutional commission announced by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Des Browne, on 15 January; and [HL1417]

Whether the terms of reference of the Scottish constitutional commission announced by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Des Browne, on 15 January will allow it to consider and report on the merits of political independence for Scotland's residents; and [HL1418]

Whether the recently announced Scottish constitutional commission will be receiving state funding; and, if so, from which department. [HL1464]

As part of the Ministry of Justice's ongoing consultation on constitutional issues, the Government have received representations and comments concerning the relationship between Scotland and the United Kingdom.

The Scottish Parliament has recently approved a review process aimed at strengthening devolution and securing Scotland's place in the Union. This reflects overwhelming public support for the Union in Scotland. The Government welcome the Scottish Parliament's support in this aim and welcome the review.

In the light of the terms of reference of that review, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will lay before Parliament a factual paper on the funding mechanisms for the devolved administrations.

The Government are considering how best to take forward these discussions on the review and the Secretary of State for Scotland will bring forward proposals after consultation with other political parties.

Shipping: Irish Lights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 11 December 2007 (WA 46), whether officials of the Northern Lighthouse Board have been included in the study being carried out on the funding of Irish lighthouses. [HL1602]

Officials from the Northern Lighthouse Board have not participated in the evidence study but they have been kept informed of its progress.

Discussions have been held with Trinity House to determine the current collection process of light dues as Trinity House has responsibility for the collection of lights dues on behalf of all three general lighthouse authorities.

Surveillance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many of the 440,000 personal communications surveillance authorisations recorded between June 2005 and March 2006 led directly to convictions. [HL1291]

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 provides that specified public authorities may obtain data about individuals' private communications only when necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate aim. Detecting crime is one such aim. That includes the making of arrests to secure convictions but equally includes the elimination of suspects and the tracing of witnesses.

Other aims for which data may lawfully be obtained include safeguarding national security, where arrests and convictions may not follow; safeguarding public safety, such as investigating the causes of rail and air accidents, and obtaining data in an emergency to prevent death or injury, such as tracing vulnerable missing children and people threatening self harm.

As part of the Interception of Communications Commissioner's oversight of public authorities’ conduct, his inspectors examine why data have been obtained and what has been achieved by obtaining the data.

We do not collect information about the outcomes of each instance. That would be a significant bureaucratic undertaking. But as part of the Interception of Communications Commissioner's oversight of public authorities, his inspectors do examine why data were obtained and what was been achieved by obtaining the data. The commissioner reports annually to Parliament.

Teaching: Qualifications

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the average AS-level attainment of those commencing (a) a Bachelor of Education degree course; and (b) a Post Graduate Certificate of Education. [HL1494 ]

The average qualification level of first year trainees on undergraduate Initial Teacher Training (ITT) courses, mainly leading to a Batchelor of Education, is shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Average Qualification of Undergraduate Entrants to ITT1

Academic Year

Average A/AS level point Score2

Average Tariff score3

1998-99

15.4

n/a

1999-00

15.3

n/a

2000-01

15.1

n/a

2001-02

15.3

n/a

2002-03

-

238.7

2003-04

-

249.1

2004-05

-

255.1

2005-06

-

266.5

Source: TDA Performance Profiles

Notes

1. A/AS level scores were used to assess candidates up to 2001-02 and UCAS tariff scores from 2002-03 onwards.

2.Candidates with more than three A-levels are scored for the best three; candidates with two or more A-levels are scored; candidates with fewer than two A-levels are excluded. AS-levels are scored as half an A-level. A grade A at A-level scored 10 points, a grade B 8 points, a grade C 6 points a grade D 4 points and a grade E 2 points.

3. UCAS introduced the tariff score to take account of Curriculum 2000; it was designed to make different qualifications comparable. It is based on a number of qualifications including A/AS levels and for example a grade A at A-level scores 120 points, a grade B scores 100 points, a grade C scores 80 points, a grade D scores 60 points and a grade E scores 40 points. Tariff scores cover those entrants for which data are collected. In addition there are numbers of entrants for which tariff score data are not collected, relating to qualifications including Access courses, OND/ONC, HND/HNC, GCE, A/SCE, Higher, GNVQ/GSVQ, NVQ/SVQ level 3

4. Includes Universities and other Higher Education Institutions, Open University and employment-based ITT.

The average AS-level attainment is not available for entrants to postgraduate ITT courses, so instead we have provided the percentage of entrants on postgraduate ITT courses with a UK 1st degree classification of 2:2 and above in Table 2 below.

Table 2: Percentage of Entrants to Postgraduate ITT with UK 1st or 2nd Class Honours Degree

Academic Year

Percentage awarded 2:2 or higher for 1st degree

1998-99

92%

1999-00

92%

2000-01

92%

2001-02

92%

2002-03

92%

2003-04

92%

2004-05

92%

2005-06

93%

Source: TDA performance profiles

Notes

1. Includes Universities and other Higher Education Institutions, SCITT Open University and employment-based ITT.

2. Excludes those trainees with a UK degree for which the classification was unknown and not defined.

3. Excludes entrants with an degree-equivalent qualification or non-UK degree

Young People: Custody

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proportion of young people aged (a) 16 to 18, and (b) 19 to 21 find paid employment within six months of leaving custody; and what schemes are in place to increase this proportion. [HL1477]

The Government's strategy to help reduce reoffending by improving skills and employment opportunities for offenders, including young offenders, is set out in the 2005 Green Paper Reducing Re-Offending through Skills and Employment, jointly produced by the Department for Education and Skills, the Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions. A follow-up document Reducing Re-Offending through Skills and Employment: Next Steps was published in December 2006.