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Written Answers

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 6 March 2008

Written Answers

Thursday 6 March 2008

Armed Forces: Chelsea Barracks

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the expected net proceeds to public funds from the sale of the Chelsea Barracks. [HL2199]

The sale of Chelsea Barracks completed on 31 January 2008 for a total consideration of £959 million. Payments to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will be split evenly over the five years ending 31 January 2011 with the initial two payments having already been received. Although a final cost, including legal, marketing and other professional fees, in connection with the transaction has still be determined, these are expected to be in the order of £1 million.

The MoD is retaining the full benefit of the disposal proceeds arising from the sale which is being invested in improved service accommodation.

Artists: Resale Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will continue to extend the derogation from the European Union directive on artists' resale rights, which limits the impact of the right to the work of living artists. [HL2175]

The current directive provides an option for the UK to extend the derogation from 2010 to 2012. Exercising this option would require the UK to make a formal request to the European Commission before 1 January 2009 and this issue is currently under consideration.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to ensure the provision of suitable terminal equipment on buses and in the offices of bus companies, in order that smartcards can be used efficiently in connection with the concessionary fares scheme in England. [HL2144]

We have no plans to require smart readers to be installed on all buses in England. In areas where there are no smart readers, the new concessionary bus passes can simply be shown to the bus drivers as they are now.

We have provided a total grant of £31 million to fund the distribution of around 6 million smartcard concessionary passes for April this year. We are also looking at what else can be done to incentivise both bus operators and local authorities to speed up the rollout of full smart ticketing.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether any figures are yet available for the take-up rates of concessionary bus fares; and what is the forecast uptake in 2008–09. [HL2145]

Take-up rates of concessionary travel passes for those aged 60 and over in areas of England in each of the last five years is shown in the table below:

Concessionary fare take-up by area type: England 2002-06 Source: National Travel Survey

Men and women aged 60 and over

Take-up rate (per cent)






1 London Boroughs






2 Metropolitan built-up areas






3 Other urban areas over 250,000 population






4 Urban areas over 25,000 to 250,000






5 Urban areas over 10,000 to 25,000






6 Urban areas over 3,000 to 10,000






7 Rural areas






All areas






Local authorities are responsible for forecasting likely future take-up in their area based on local knowledge. In estimating the likely cost impact of the new concession an assumption of 85 per cent pass take-up across England was used. We currently expect authorities outside London to issue around 6 million passes for the new concession.

Energy: Biofuels

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether biodiesel manufactured and used to power farm machinery in England will be subject to fuel duty; and [HL2191]

Whether biodiesel manufactured locally by farmers and used for home heating systems will be subject to fuel duty. [HL2192]

Currently, pure biodiesel used in off-road applications attracts a duty rate of 30.35p per litre, the same as biodiesel used on roads, but then users are able to claim a rebate of 27.22p per litre, giving an effective duty rate of 3.13p per litre. Where biodiesel is blended with conventional fuel for use in agricultural machinery it is also subject to a duty rate of 56.94p per litre. Pure biodiesel used as a heating fuel is not subject to duty. In addition, people who produce less than 2,500 litres of biofuel in any year pay no duty on this fuel.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer keeps all taxation under review. Any changes to fuel duty will be announced in the context of the Budget.

House of Lords: Prime Ministerial Nominations

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether personal nominations by the Prime Minister for peerages are vetted for propriety by the House of Lords Appointments Commission before their appointment. [HL2095]

All nominations for life peerages are vetted by the House of Lords Appointments Commission with the exception of new Ministers and Law Lords.

Northern Ireland: Bill of Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker (WA 45) on 19 February concerning the Northern Ireland Human Rights Forum, what is meant by the word “significant” in the phrase “not have a significant impact on equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland”. [HL2081]

“Significant” in the context of the Written Answer (WA 46) on 19 February 2008 refers to the adjudged scale of an adverse differential impact in relation to any of the categories set out in Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, following a screening exercise.

Omagh Bombing

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the judgment given by Mr Justice Weir in the case of The Queen v Sean Hoey. [HL2070]

On receipt of Mr Justice Weir's detailed judgment the Secretary of State met the chief constable and the chairman of the Policing Board. He subsequently met representatives of the Omagh families.

The implications of the judgment are far-reaching and consequently a range of steps have been taken. The Policing Board has announced an independent external overview of the investigation; Professor Brian Caddy is conducting a review of “low-template DNA analysis”; the Police Ombudsman's investigation is ongoing; and the Secretary of State has commissioned a review of the forensic science concerns raised by the judge.

Prisons: Energy Efficiency

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to promote energy efficiency in prison buildings; and what plans they have further to promote energy efficiency education among offenders, prison staff and their families following the energy efficiency project in the Severn Wye area. [HL2113]

The Prison Service will undertake an energy awareness campaign across the prison estate in April 2008. The service is working with the Carbon Trust to undertake energy surveys in three geographic areas which will be completed by March 31 2008. The report produced by the consultants Severn and Wye Energy Agency will be further considered with a view to its implementation as funds allow.

Railways: West Coast Main Line

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any proposals for passengers to benefit from the £14 million fine imposed on Network Rail by the Office of Rail Regulation in respect of the overruns of emergency work on the West Coast Main Line early this year. [HL2265]

This is a matter for the independent Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), whose investigation has concluded that the problems experienced over the New Year were part of a continuing breach by Network Rail of its network licence. The ORR is now consulting on its response.

Network Rail is exploring urgently with passenger and freight operators and user representatives the option of funding a package of customer improvements worth £14 million. If agreement can be reached by the end of the month, the ORR could decide to endorse this rather than imposing its proposed penalty on Network Rail for breaching its licence.

Roads: Litter

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 6 February (WA 193), when they expect the litter to be cleared from the A13 between the M25 and the A1089; and whether they will make representations to Thurrock Council and Essex County Council about the litter on the A13 between the A1089 and the A130. [HL2201]

Thurrock Borough Council is the litter authority, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, for the A13 within its borough. It has two crews dedicated to clearance of litter on the A13 verges within Thurrock on a daily basis. Litter clearance on the central reserve requires traffic management for safety reasons so this work is combined with highway works to minimise traffic delays. The next central reserve works are planned for 17 March.

The agency has also contacted Essex County Council, which is the highway authority for the A13 between the A176 and the A130. Essex County Council has advised that the next inspection will be on the 12 March and the next thorough litter picking is scheduled for Spring 2008 by Basildon District Council, the litter authority. Litter at lay-bys continues to be collected weekly with verges and slip roads cleared monthly.

The Highways Agency continues to monitor the trunk road section of the A13 for litter as part of its route stewardship. The agency makes representations to the relevant litter authority for clearance where needed and supports them by programming works to enable safe clearance of litter under traffic management.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland views the Ulster Scots community in Northern Ireland as having the same protection under equality legislation as the Irish community in terms funding, employment and language. [HL2063]

The sponsorship of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is a matter for the devolved administration.