Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 698: debated on Tuesday 5 February 2008

Written Answers

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Armed Forces: Northern Ireland Domestic Rates

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether service personnel in Iraq receive payment of £140 towards domestic rates in Northern Ireland on the same basis as those who live in Great Britain.[HL1644]

All Service personnel, on operational deployment in Iraq and other designated operational areas, who pay rates in Northern Ireland will be eligible to claim council tax relief on the same basis as those deployed personnel who live in Great Britain.

Armed Forces: Pay

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Taylor of Bolton on 21 January (WA 2–3), whether they will provide the figures for December 2007. [HL1614]

There were no overpayments recorded on the Joint Personnel Administration system for December 2007. There were, however, two underpayments of £105.00 and £37.75 respectively, due to a 24-hour delay in the issue of payable orders. Both underpayments were paid the following day.

Bail: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they propose to issue new guidance on the granting of bail in Northern Ireland. [HL1546]

The granting of bail is a matter for the courts and it is for the judge or magistrate, acting on the basis of the information before him or her, to make decisions on individual cases.

Banking: Proof of Identity

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether financial institutions obliged to seek proof of identity from long-standing customers under money laundering regulations are required to request a counterpart driving licence in addition to a photocard licence, given that the former contains no additional information on the holder's identity. [HL1580]

The UK's money laundering regulations require firms to identify their customers and to verify that identity based on material obtained from reliable and independent sources. The UK does not specify that firms carrying out those checks must see a driving licence.

Financial services firms carrying out these checks receive practical guidance from the Joint Money Laundering Steering Group (JMLSG). The JMLSG guidance discusses the wide range of evidence of identity that firms can accept. The latest JMLSG guidance was issued in November 2007, was endorsed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in December, and is publicly available on their website at www. jmlsg.org.uk/bba/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=754.

Bloody Sunday: Saville Inquiry

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What has been the cost to date of the Saville inquiry; and when the inquiry expects to report. [HL1550]

The cost of the Saville inquiry is £181.2 million (as of December 2007).

The tribunal are currently engaged in compiling their final report. The tribunal have advised that it is not possible at this stage to give a precise indication of when the report will be submitted to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, due to the complexity and volume of evidence with which they are dealing. It is our understanding that the submission of the report is not imminent, and that recent media speculation that the report will be concluded in May 2008 has no basis in fact.

Children: Fostering

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether all local authorities are (a) assessing the suitability of privately arranged fosterings which have been notified; and (b) visiting children so placed every six weeks in their first year of placement, as required under the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/1533). [HL1638]

In the year ending 31 March 2007, the last year for which we have data, in England, out of 1,420 new private fostering arrangements, 1,410 initial visits were carried out; in Wales 57 initial visits were made in respect of 60 notified private fostering arrangements. These initial visits form part of the process for assessing the suitability of private fostering arrangements. We do not collect data on the other safeguarding checks local authorities should be conducting.

Information is not held centrally, for England or Wales, on the number of visits subsequent to initial visits.

These are devolved matters. While similar arrangements operate in Wales, where the Children Act 2004 also applies, there are different arrangements for private fostering in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Data Storage

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which persons outside the United Kingdom have or will have access to their national forensic databases. [HL1529]

Currently, the only access to fingerprint data by persons outside the United Kingdom is through the law enforcement entity of a sovereign state that has signed the accords and protocols of Interpol. Searches are undertaken by prior consent on a case-by-case basis and are managed by the UK National Central Bureau (UK NCB) of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

There are many initiatives to share DNA information internationally. However, no person or organisation outside the UK has, or will have, access to the National DNA Database (NDNAD). Any requests for information have to be processed by staff in the UK and disclosure is governed by strict guidelines.

The advent of the Schengen acquis and the Prüm Treaty may, in due time, allow further access. However, these interfaces are yet to be defined.

Duty-free Allowances

asked Her Majesty's Government:

To what level the duty-free personal travel allowance will rise from £145; and on what date; and [HL1594]

What steps they take to enforce the present duty-free personal travel allowance of £145; and how many persons from outside the European Union passing through the green customs channel with up to £1,000 worth of goods who have been stopped in the last 12 months have been (a) warned and made to pay duty; (b) made to pay duty plus penalties; and (c) prosecuted; and [HL1595]

What is the amount of customs duty (including VAT) which was collected from travellers entering the United Kingdom from outside the European Union during the last 12 months; and [HL1596]

How many customs officers are currently employed at United Kingdom points of entry; and of these how many could be released for other duties if the free personal travel allowance were raised from £145 to £1,000. [HL1597]

On 1 December 2008, the tax-free allowance for travellers entering the EU by air and sea will rise to €430. This equates to about £290, which doubles the current allowance.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have around 4,500 officers who cover UK ports and airports. The officers are employed on a multi-functional basis, working on a wide range of duties, and not solely to enforce the duty-free personal allowance. It is therefore not readily possible to assess the direct impact of raising the personal allowance to £1,000, although any increase in the allowance would lead to an overall reduction in the administrative cost in collecting and accounting for duty.

To enforce the current duty-free allowance, officers intercept and challenge passengers following risk-based profiles. They also accept payment from passengers at red points. As statistics are not currently collated in respect of activities in relation to personal allowances, figures relating to the number of travellers with up to £1,000 of goods stopped in the green channel in the last 12 months cannot be obtained except at a disproportionate cost.

The total amount of revenue collected from travellers entering the UK in 2007 was £12.8 million. However it is not possible to differentiate between customs duty, excise duty and VAT except at a disproportionate cost.

EU: Galileo Project

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the debate on 17 January (Official Report, cols. 1416–9), what were the circumstances in which the commercial backers for the European Union's Galileo project declined to proceed. [HL1599]

The European Commission's working document of May 2007 accompanying the Commission Communication Galileo at a crossroad: The implementation of the European GNSS Programmes (http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/energy_transport/galileo/doc /staff_doc_galileo_en_final_16052007.pdf), suggested that reasons for the failure included continuous unresolved disputes over the share of industrial work, unresolved negotiations on the transfer of design risk, the technical complexity of the programme, and insufficiently strong and clear public governance. Ministers at the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council in June endorsed the Commission's analysis, and concluded that the deployment phase of the programme would best be carried out with an alternative procurement model.

Falkland Islands: Unexploded Ordnance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Answer by Baroness Crawley on 29 January, whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the feasibility study relating to the removal of unexploded ordnance from the Falkland Islands. [HL1654]

On 20 November 2007 the final report of the joint working party for the carrying out of a feasibility study on the clearance of landmines in the Falkland Islands, and its two annexes, were made available on the Ottawa Convention website at www.apminebanconvention.org/meetings-of-the-states-parties/8msp/what-happened/day-1-sunday-18-november/). The Field Survey Report, produced by Cranfield University, was also made available. I will arrange for copies of all these documents to be placed in the Library of the House.

Forced Marriage

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures they have in place for preventing forced marriages, both in Britain and between British citizens or residents and persons overseas. [HL1646]

The Government's Forced Marriage Unit provides advice and assistance to British nationals facing forced marriage both in the UK and overseas. The unit also offers support to non-British nationals in the UK. The unit undertakes an extensive outreach programme to raise awareness of forced marriage issues among potential victims and relevant professionals. The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007, which is being implemented by the Ministry of Justice, will provide legislative safeguards to victims or potential victims within the UK. The Act is expected to be operational by autumn 2008. Under the Act, guidelines produced by the Forced Marriage Unit for police, health professionals, education professionals and social workers will be reissued on a statutory footing.

Gift Aid

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether their consultation with charities on measures to increase the take-up of Gift Aid is now completed; and when the report of that consultation will be available. [HL1601]

The Gift Aid consultation closed on 30 September 2007. A summary of consultation responses is available on the HM Treasury website and a further report on progress will be made in the spring.

Health: Drug Tariff

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the healthcare professionals who advised the Department of Health on reclassification of Part IX of the Drug Tariff were informed that this classification would be used as the basis of a proposed pricing system; and [HL1499]

Whether the healthcare professionals who advised the Department of Health on reclassification of Part IX of the Drug Tariff will be reconvened to consider correcting the errors, omissions and inaccuracies identified by industry; and [HL1500]

How many errors, inaccuracies and omissions were identified by industry within the Department of Health's new Part IX Drug Tariff categories; and [HL1501]

What discussions they have had with (a) the British Association of Urology Nurses; (b) the Royal College of Nursing; and (c) the Association for Continence Advice, to assess the impact on the workload of specialist nurses if the Department of Health's proposals relating to Part IX of the Drug Tariff are implemented; and [HL1502]

What assessment they have made of the impact on specialist nurses' ability to comply with (a) the Nursing and Midwifery Council's Code of Professional Conduct; (b) national occupational standards outlined in Skills for Health; and (c) Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency standards on the use of medical devices should the Department of Health impose restrictions on follow up visits to stoma and continence patients; and [HL1503]

What assessment they have made of the risk of increased patient infections if visits from specialist nurses are capped, as proposed in the Department of Health's consultation on Part IX of the Drug Tariff. [HL1504]

The healthcare professionals who advised the department on the classification were asked to focus on whether or not products could meet similar medical need. They were not asked to consider price.

The panel will be reconvened but it will be extended to include representatives from industry and patients.

Over 5,000 items are listed in Part IX of the Drug Tariff. In relation to the proposed classification that was published in September 2007, 478 editorial changes have been requested; the majority could be considered errors, for example incorrect reference codes. In addition, 124 omissions have been identified mainly as a result of companies’ change of ownership during the course of this consultation. These will be corrected when the classification is revisited.

The role of National Health Service specialist nurses is outside the scope of this review and we do not anticipate that their workload will be affected. However, officials have met with representatives from the NHS, for example representatives from the Royal College of Nurses and the World Council of Enterostomal Therapists. They have also met with a nurse who specialises in childhood incontinence, as such patients have very special needs.

Under their terms of service, dispensing appliance contractors are not required to do anything but dispense an appliance. However, many of them employ nurses of their own; these nurses make home visits to patients at the discretion of the contractor. While we recognise the contribution these individuals make to patient care, we believe that their role is to complement the work of NHS specialist nurses. As such, we need to ensure that they are suitably qualified to deal directly with patients.

Given this, in the proposed amendments to dispensing appliance contractors' and pharmacists' terms of service it states:

“‘Specialist nurse’ means a person registered in the Nurses' Part or Specialist Community Public Health Nurses' Part of the professional register maintained by the Nursing and Midwifery Council under article 5 of the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001”.

Compliance with this proposed amendment would be the responsibility of the employer, ie the dispensing appliance contractor or the pharmacist.

As noted, the role of specialist nurses employed by the NHS is not in scope. There are no restrictions on their ability to provide follow-up visits to users of stoma and incontinence appliances. As such, we anticipate that levels of infection should not increase. However, given the role of specialist nurses employed directly by providers to complement the work of NHS specialists, we will discuss this with interested parties when we next meet.

Health: Mixed-sex Wards

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 22 January (WA 33), whether they will collect information on the number of NHS trusts which treat patients in mixed-sex wards; and [HL1581]

Whether their assurances that mixed-sex wards in NHS hospitals would be phased out have been based on information from NHS trusts on the number of patients in such wards. [HL1582]

Guidance issued to the National Health Service requires the provision of single-sex accommodation, not wards. NHS trusts may provide single rooms, single-sex bays within a mixed ward, single-sex wards or combinations of these types. We have never collected information on the number of trusts who have mixed-sex wards per se. Primary care trusts will, under the requirements of the operating framework, set, publish and implement stretching local plans for improvement, but these will again be based on the provision of single-sex accommodation, not wards.

Before including this requirement in the operating framework, we considered a range of information sources, including compliance with the department's core Standards for Better Health, Healthcare Commission inpatient survey data, and Patient Environment Action team assessments.

Health: Norovirus

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the effects on NHS hospitals of Norovirus; and what arrangements are in place to deal with any worsening of its impact. [HL1400]

The National Health Service has preparation, monitoring and intervention processes in place to successfully manage the extra pressures in the system winter always creates, including Norovirus. The NHS has systems in place to identify pressures locally as they arise and respond appropriately. However, these are local arrangements and there is no national data collection measuring Norovirus prevalence or its day-to-day impact on hospital capacity. The Health Protection Agency assessment is that while Norovirus levels rose earlier than usual in the season, overall the pattern of increase in infections is consistent with that of previous years. All strategic health authorities are continuing active local management of their organisations facing the most pressure.

Identity Security

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether any projects in the Department for Health have been suspended or delayed due to concerns about identity security; if so, which projects have been delayed; and what the impact on the overall performance and work of the department will be. [HL1565]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether any projects in the Department for Children, Schools and Families have been suspended or delayed due to concerns about identity security; if so, which projects have been delayed; and what the impact on the overall performance and work of the department will be. [HL1570]

Iran: Amputations

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are making representations to the Government of Iran concerning amputations inflicted on five prisoners in Zahedan and the hanging of 23 persons in 10 days in January. [HL1673]

We regularly raise concerns about human rights with the Iranian authorities, both bilaterally and through the EU.

On 22 January the EU presidency raised a number of human rights concerns in a meeting with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During this meeting, the EU expressed deep concern about the 13 executions which took place on 2 January 2008 and the amputations that took place on 6 January 2008.

The EU reiterated its opposition to the death penalty under all circumstances and urged the Iranian Government to abolish the use of cruel and degrading punishments, such as amputations, and give effect to the moratorium on amputations which the Iranians announced in 2003.

We monitor the human rights situation in Iran closely and will continue to raise our concerns.

Northern Ireland: Bill of Rights Forum

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What process led to the appointment of Chris Sidoti as chairman of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Forum; how many applications there were; and who carried out the interviews. [HL1547]

The Government's consultation document A Forum on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland (14 November 2006) and subsequent response to the consultation (12 December 2006) discussed the qualities and competences expected of the chair of the Bill of Rights Forum.

In view of the non-statutory nature of the post, its short and limited lifespan and the need for a chairman to be in place quickly, the post was not advertised and formal interviews were not held. Potential candidates with relevant backgrounds and experience were identified and their relative merits assessed against the criteria.

The Government are confident that Mr Sidoti, who was chosen for the post, fully met the selection criteria, which were:

experience and understanding of human rights, including international human rights instruments, particularly the European Convention on Human Rights;

a track record of leadership;

proven ability to establish consensus among politically and socially divergent group; and

proven ability to analyse and make recommendations on complex issues.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What expenses the Northern Ireland Human Rights Forum has incurred to date; for what purpose; and how they are monitored. [HL1548]

The Bill of Rights Forum is tasked with producing agreed recommendations, by 31 March 2008, to inform the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's advice to Government on the scope for defining, in Westminster legislation, rights supplementary to those in the European Convention on Human Rights, to reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland.

The forum has been provided with a budget of £441,660 directly from the Northern Ireland Office. As such it is subject to normal departmental budgeting and accounting control regimes. This includes budget setting processes, and monthly reviews of its expenditure.

Northern Ireland Office: Entertainment

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much the Northern Ireland Office has spent each year since 1997 on entertainment. [HL1262]

Expenditure relating to entertainment is held as part of the Northern Ireland Office's hospitality budgets. A wide range of external organisations use the facilities at Hillsborough Castle for a variety of events; these organisations are then charged for the services they receive.

The following table shows how much the Northern Ireland Office (excluding its agencies and NDPBs) spent on hospitality in each financial year since 1997.

Year

Expenditure

1997-98

£214,473

1998-99

£322,853

1999-00

£320,230

2000-01

£246,517

2001-02

£221,477

2002-03

£300,430

2003-04

£252,158

2004-05

£193,450

2005-06

£210,772

2006-07

£262,633

Northern Ireland: Bill of Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much funding they have made available for the cases to be made in Northern Ireland for (a) the need for a separate bill of rights; (b) the need not to have a separate bill of rights; and (c) the need not to have a bill of rights. [HL1549]

The Good Friday Agreement tasks the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission with advising the Secretary of State on “the scope for defining, in Westminster legislation, rights supplementary to those in the ECHR, to reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland”. The Secretary of State has not yet received this advice and therefore has not reached any conclusions about a bill of rights.

Pursuant to the Good Friday Agreement, the Government made a commitment at St Andrews to establish a Bill of Rights Forum to inform this advice. The forum is tasked with providing agreed recommendations to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission that will inform its advice to Government, by 31 March 2008. The forum has been given a budget of £441,660 for this purpose.

Police

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will answer Lord Dear's Question for Written Answer tabled on 27 November (HL607); and what are the reasons for the delay. [HL1279]

I replied to the noble Lord on 18 January (Official Report, WA 288).

While every effort is made to respond to Written Questions tabled by noble Members within the deadlines set it is not always possible to do so and I am sorry that this has happened in relation to the Question tabled on 27 November [HL607].

Police: Databases

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many individuals' data are stored on the National DNA Database; and, of those, how many (a) are convicted criminals; (b) are currently serving a sentence; (c) have not been convicted of a crime; and (d) have never been charged with a recordable offence. [HL1307]

On 31 December 2007, there were 4,264,451 individuals with a DNA profile retained on the National DNA Database (NDNAD). Of these, an estimated 4,011,954 were sampled by police forces in England and Wales.

The most recent figures available on the number of convictions of those on the NDNAD were published in an Answer given in another place, (Official Report, Commons, 13 December 2007, col. 761W).

It is not possible to provide details of people who are currently serving sentences except at disproportionate cost. It is not possible to provide details of those who have never been charged with a recordable offence.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In the past year, how many sets of fingerprints and biological samples have been taken without consent by each police force in England and Wales. [HL1309]

Data on the number of sets of fingerprints taken without consent are not held centrally by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and cannot therefore be provided.

Available information relating to DNA samples indicates that approximately 690,000 DNA samples were taken without consent by police forces in England and Wales in 2006-07. The numbers of profiles derived from these samples which were actually loaded on to the DNA database, broken down by force, are shown in the attached table. (Three forces did not return data and figures for these have been estimated). The numbers of samples taken and profiles loaded are higher than the number of persons involved, as some persons are sampled more than once.

Police Force

No. of subject sample profiles loaded to the NDNAD in 2007

Avon and Somerset

13,800

Bedfordshire

5,682

British Transport

7,759

Cambridgeshire

7,343

Cheshire

9,230

City of London Police

2,192

Cleveland

6,460

Cumbria

5,060

Derbyshire

11,361

Devon and Cornwall

13,322

Dorset

5,976

Durham

5,938

Dyfed-Powys

4,824

Essex

16,890

Gloucestershire

4,675

Greater Manchester Police

26,477

Gwent

5,448

Hampshire

19,473

Hertfordshire

9,197

Humberside

7,166

Kent

16,118

Lancashire

14,415

Leicestershire

7,210

Lincolnshire

6,926

Merseyside

17,186

Metropolitan Police

88,935

Norfolk

6,626

North Wales

6,428

North Yorkshire

7,305

Northamptonshire

4,949

Northumbria

19,212

Nottinghamshire

9,839

South Wales Constabulary

10,575

South Yorkshire

13,868

Staffordshire

11,284

Suffolk

5,637

Surrey

7,791

Sussex

15,595

Thames Valley

21,461

Warwickshire Police

5,050

West Mercia

9,106

West Midlands

36,206

West Yorkshire

25,569

Wiltshire

4,868

Total

560,432

asked Her Majesty's Government:

For how many individuals aged 10 to 18 they have bioinformation stored. [HL1515]

As at 21 January 2008, the National DNA Database (NDNAD) held 362,812 profiles from individuals between the ages of 10 and 18 (up to their 18th birthday), from all forces in the United Kingdom, (this includes England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands). The number of profiles held on the database is not indicative of the number of individuals. As it is possible for a profile to be loaded on to the NDNAD on more than one occasion, some profiles held on the NDNAD are replicates. This can occur, for example, if the person provided different names, or different versions of their name, on separate arrests.

At present, the replication rate is 13.3 per cent, that is, the number of people whose details are loaded is 13.3 per cent fewer than the number of profiles. Therefore, the estimated number of individuals between the ages of 10 and 18 as at 21 January 2008 is 314,558. Individuals who were under 18 at the time that a DNA sample was taken from them, but were over 18 on this date, are not included in the figures.

The IDENT1 database, which holds fingerprints records, cannot provide information on the ages of individuals.

Police: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland have been forced to leave their homes due to intimidation in the past six months. [HL1609]

I have been advised by the PSNI that five police officers have been forced to move home during the past six months compared to 10 officers during the same period in the previous year.

Owing to security implications I am unable to provide details on the cases in question.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many terrorist attacks against Police Service of Northern Ireland officers there have been in the past six months. [HL1610]

The Chief Constable has confirmed that seven terrorist attacks against the Police Service of Northern Ireland have taken place in the past six months. Attacks of this nature are to be deplored and I urge anyone with any information to contact the police.