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Written Answers

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 11 March 2008

Written Answers

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Airports: Heathrow

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there is any requirement on BAA to give equal prominence in its signage in Heathrow Terminal 5 to London Underground services as to those operated by itself, Heathrow Connect and Heathrow Express. [HL2319]

I understand that there is a legal agreement between BAA and London Underground Limited which, among other things, requires BAA to provide equal wayfinding signage for rail and underground services in Terminal 5.

Benefits: Jobseekers Allowance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have to ensure that suitable childcare facilities are available at appropriate hours before introducing new jobseeker’s allowance rules for lone parents in October 2008. [HL2259]

In Ready for work: full employment in our generation we announced that we would amend regulations to increase Jobcentre Plus adviser discretion so that a lone parent who is claiming JSA will not be penalised if they leave a job, or fail to take up a job, because appropriate affordable childcare is not available.

Under the Childcare Act 2006, from April 2008 all local authorities in England and Wales are required to take reasonable steps to secure sufficient childcare to meet the needs of working parents. In doing so, they must have particular regard to the needs of lower-income working families. In determining an appropriate level of supply in their areas, local authorities will liaise with local Jobcentre Plus management to assess projected levels of demand from parents moving from welfare into work and to ascertain any specific requirements our customers have. The reforms announced in Ready for Work apply only to lone parents with school-aged children. In England, the aim is that all schools will offer extended school services by 2010, including for school holiday periods.

The provisions of the Childcare Act do not extend to Scotland. However, the devolved Administration has a stated objective of improving the availability of childcare for working parents and has invested significantly in this area in recent years. Following discussions, officials in the Scottish Executive have indicated that the projected levels of increased demand for childcare in Scotland resulting from these regulations can easily be absorbed by current provision.

British Citizenship

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 27 February (WA 124) concerning British citizenship, what is their definition of “Irish citizen”. [HL2275]

Those who were citizens of Eire on 1 January 1949 could opt to remain a British subject under Section 4(2) of the British Nationality Act 1948. Such people continue to have that right under the British Nationality Act 1981.

For this purpose, “citizens of Eire” were defined by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1935 and the Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1937.

Those who have no claim to British subject status would need to naturalise, in the same way as other foreign nationals, in order to become British citizens. For this purpose, the term “Irish citizen” would refer to those recognised by the Irish Government under their current legislation as being their nationals. When applying for citizenship, this would normally be demonstrated by possession of an Irish passport.

Railways: Class 142 Units

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How long passengers in the Exeter area will be expected to use class 142 (or similar) units which were built as modified Leyland National bus bodies and which are regarded as obsolete by the bus industry.[HL2268]

The length of time these trains are deployed in the Exeter area is a matter for First Great Western.

Children: Poverty

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What further steps they propose to take to meet the target of reducing child poverty by 50 per cent by 2010. [HL2257]

Since 1998-99, the Government have halted the rising trend of child poverty and 600,000 children have been lifted out of relative low-income; up to a further 300,000 will be lifted out of poverty as a result of last year's CSR and budget.

Work is the best route out of poverty. The Government are supporting families to escape poverty by increasing employment and raising incomes for those who can work.

Since 1997, the Government have radically reformed the system of financial support for families, and by April 2009, families with children will be on average £1,800 a year better off in real terms as a result of the Government's reforms to the personal tax and benefit system. Families with children in the poorest fifth of the population will be on average £4,000 a year better off in real terms.

We are discussing changes to improve the lives of families with children; improving parents' access to training in and out of work and helping lone parents with older children prepare for and actively seek work. And, through last year's Budget and the Children's Plan, we are setting out further policies and measures to improve children's life chances and investing in improving services for children.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What estimate they have made of the additional resources required to meet the child poverty target of reducing child poverty by 50 per cent by 2010. [HL2258]

There are no specific estimates available on the amount of additional resources that would be required to meet the child poverty target of reducing child poverty by 50 per cent by 2010.

Crime: Restorative Justice

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 7 January (WA 179), how many local criminal justice boards have established schemes for restorative justice. [HL2215]

All areas have restorative justice schemes in order to deliver youth justice out of court disposals and referral orders. There is no requirement on local criminal justice boards to set up adult restorative justice schemes, but a survey carried out in May 2006 showed that 13 boards were delivering a variety of adult restorative justice initiatives at all stages of the criminal justice system and 13 boards had appointed a restorative justice lead person. Since the survey, six more boards have appointed a restorative justice lead person and the conditional caution has been extended nationally, which provides a further opportunity to deliver adult restorative justice where appropriate.

Emergency Services: Sirens

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they plan to hold discussions with the police, fire and ambulance authorities with a view to reducing noise and light pollution from sirens and blue lights in central London, especially during the hours of darkness. [HL2311]

The use of sirens by the police and other emergency services is controlled by Regulation 99 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. This permits the use of sirens only when it is necessary or desirable to do so either to indicate to other road-users that the vehicle is responding to an urgent incident or to warn other road-users of the presence of the vehicle on the road.

Use of blue warning lights is controlled under the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989, as amended. These permit blue lights to be fitted to emergency vehicles, including vehicles used for police purposes. The aim is to prevent excessive use, as this could diminish the impact of the lights. Use of the lights is not mandatory but they may be used at emergency scenes, to indicate urgency when on the way to such scenes, or to warn others of the presence of the vehicle or a hazard on the road.

It is for the emergency services to consider how best to use sirens and lights for maximum effectiveness and minimum environmental disturbance. Subject to the regulations and any guidance from those services, drivers of emergency vehicles are expected to use their professional judgment to decide when and where the use of sirens and blue lights is appropriate. Drivers ought to be fully aware that sirens must be used with restraint, particularly at night, so as not to cause a nuisance to residents or other road users. There will, however, always be occasions when it is necessary for the emergency services to use sirens and/or blue lights in the interests of road safety and the protection of the public.

European Court of Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will seek to persuade the member states of the Council of Europe to introduce a Statute of the European Court of Human Rights to facilitate procedural reforms. [HL2270]

The immediate priority to facilitate reform of the European Court of Human Rights is the entry into force of Protocol 14. Russia is the only remaining Council of Europe member state yet to ratify the protocol. Now that the Russian presidential elections have been completed, the Government hope that Russia will ratify the protocol as soon as possible.

Immigration

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What were the contents of the 2007 agreement between the United Kingdom and China to facilitate legal migration and combat illegal immigration. [HL2212]

A Written Ministerial Statement was placed before the House on 7 March 2007. It confirms that we have signed memoranda of understanding (MoU), and have arrangements for the return of failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants with many countries, including China. The content of the MoU is confidential for operational reasons.

Immigration: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their estimate of the number of illegal immigrants currently in Northern Ireland. [HL1623]

No Government have ever been able to produce an accurate figure for the number of people who are illegally in the UK as a whole, or specifically in Northern Ireland. By its very nature, it has been impossible to quantify accurately and that remains the case.

Exit controls were phased out from 1994. As part of the Government's 10-point plan for delivery, by Christmas 2008 the majority of foreign nationals will be counted in and out of the country. This will build on the successes of our early testing of the e-borders programme (Project Semaphore) which already covers more than 30 million passenger movements and has led to 18,000 alerts and more than 1,500 arrests.

This is part of a sweeping programme of border protection which also includes the global rollout of fingerprint visas, compulsory watch-list checks for all travellers from high-risk countries before they land in Britain and ID cards for foreign nationals.

Iraq: Justice

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What evaluation they have made of the impact of their support for the administration of justice in Iraq on the people of Iraq. [HL2050]

The Government of Iraq are working to establish a system of security and justice based on the rule of law. This will only be achieved when all Iraqi citizens have confidence that justice and law enforcement institutions are empowered and capable of administering justice impartially.

We are actively working with the Iraqi Government in support of their work towards this goal, as part of wider coalition efforts. We have provided technical support to a range of justice sector institutions, including the Iraqi police service, the Iraqi correctional service and the judiciary. We are also working to involve a wider range of international partners with expertise in this field in support of the Iraqi Government.

Our work is designed to complement Iraqi and other international efforts and all our work is designed so as to be sustainable by the Iraqi authorities in the longer term. We evaluate our work carefully to ensure that we are building professional capability that will deliver real change on the ground. We seek continually to adjust our approach to respond to changing circumstances on the ground and our evaluation of what has been delivered.

Real change in how justice is administered in Iraq must be led by the Iraqi Government. While there has been some progress in building respect for the rule of law, long-term challenges remain. The parallel efforts of the UK and others to support security improvements and political reconciliation will also help create the conditions for the rule of law to operate effectively and fairly in Iraq.

Iraq: Prisoners

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Statement by Lord Malloch-Brown on 21 February (Official Report, cols. 346–8), whether any prisoners captured in Iraq have been held within 100 miles of Diego Garcia; if so, when; and by whom. [HL2093]

The UK has never held any prisoners captured in Iraq within 100 miles of Diego Garcia.

As I said in my Statement to the House on 21 February 2008 (Official Report, cols. 346-8), the US Government have assured us that no US detainees have ever been held on Diego Garcia. US investigations show no record of any other rendition through Diego Garcia, other than the two occasions notified to us by the US and reported in my Statement.

Regulators: Criminal Prosecutions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 29 January (WA 112) on “Regulators: Criminal Prosecution”, what were the categories of offences for which the prosecutions were brought. [HL2155]

The Information Commissioner's office has confirmed that prosecutions it has brought are for offences under one or more sections of the Data Protection Act 1998 as detailed below:

offences under Section 17 relate to individuals and organisations that are processing personal data without being notified with the Information Commissioner;

offences under Section 47 relate to a failure to comply with an information notice, enforcement notice, or a special information notice; and

offences under Section 55 relate to the unlawful obtaining, disclosing or procuring of the disclosure of personal data.

The number of offences for which prosecutions were made in each of the past three years is detailed in the table below:

Year

Section 17

Section 47

Section 55

2004-05

4

0

48

2005-06

11

0

22

2006-07

11

1

41

2007-08 (to date)

3

7

168*

* In one case, two defendants faced 44 offences each; in another case, two defendants faced 39 offences.

Subject Access Requests

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether government departments are achieving the time limits set under the Data Protection Act 1998 for responding to subject access requests. [HL2162]

The information requested is not held centrally and could only be obtained at a disproportionate cost. There is no obligation for departments to record whether they are achieving the time limits in question.

Transport: Heavy Goods Vehicles

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, Mr Tom Harris, on 15 January (Official Report, 1090W), why carbon dioxide emissions from heavy goods vehicles have risen from 817 kilotonnes per billion kilometres in 1991 to 920 in 2005; what are the equivalent figures per billion tonne/kilometres of goods carried; and what steps they are taking to ensure that carbon emissions from heavy goods vehicles will be reduced. [HL2194]

The GB and NI traffic census data used to provide HGV kilometres does not record tonnes of goods lifted.  It also includes types of heavy vehicles which do not carry goods, therefore it is not possible to derive an equivalent value of tonne kilometre of goods carried.

The variation in tonnes of CO2 per billion vehicle kilometres between 1990 and 2005 in the previous answer is a result of changes to the composition of the vehicle fleet and increases in the amount of goods carried.  Changes in European standards on emission limits for wider air quality benefits may also have resulted in small increases in fuel consumption. Increasing the load on a vehicle will increase its fuel consumption and resultant CO2 emission, but the overall effect is to increase efficiency and reduce the amount of CO2 emitted per tonne kilometre travelled.

The Government will continue to work with the logistics industry to encourage and support the use of appropriate modes of transport and provide practical advice and guidance in the form of the “Freight Best Practice and Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving” schemes to minimise CO2 emission.

Trespass

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much has been spent on court proceedings against individuals trespassing on government property in each of the past 10 years; and in respect of which sites have such proceedings been brought; and [HL2213]

How much has been spent obtaining injunctions against individuals trespassing on government property in each of the past 10 years; and in respect of which locations have such injunctions been obtained. [HL2214]

Waste Management: Landfill Tax

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much was paid in landfill tax in (a) England and (b) Wales in each of the past five years (i) in total and (ii) by local authorities; and what are the projected amounts for the next three years; and [HL2368]

How much of the landfill tax that has been raised in the past five years in (a) England and (b) Wales has been returned to local authorities; by what mechanisms; for what purposes; and what are their proposals in this regard for the next three years. [HL2369]

Landfill tax receipts data does not provide a regional breakdown for landfill tax paid in England and Wales or provide information on how much revenue is received from local authorities. This is because registered landfill site operators pay the tax to HM Revenue and Customs and pass on the cost to their customers through the disposal charges they set. The origin of the landfilled waste is not recorded on the tax return.

Latest landfill tax receipts for the UK are published by HM Revenue and Customs at www.uktradeinfo.com/index.cfm?task=bulllandfill.

Forecast landfill tax receipts for 2008-09 are published in Table B8 of the 2007 Pre-Budget Report and Comprehensive Spending Review available at www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/F/9/pbr_csr07_annexb_305.pdf.

The Government have always recognised the impact of the landfill tax on local government. The costs of landfill tax, including the increase in the landfill tax escalator, were taken into account when agreeing the size of the revenue support grant for local government CSR settlement.

Welfare to Work

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to ensure that the new commissioning arrangements from private sector and voluntary sector providers tendering for welfare to work contracts in future deliver support to enable homeless people to find and hold down jobs. [HL2345]

The aim of the new commissioning strategy is to bring a distinctive approach to service delivery based on specialist knowledge, skills and experience using the private, public and third sectors. This approach will harness the innovation and expertise of the private and voluntary sector to help us improve the service we deliver to our customers. In doing this, we will support the development of the wider market to ensure that high-quality, high-performing, specialist providers are involved in our contracts.

We have made it clear that, in assessing bids from potential prime contractors, we will look for evidence that demonstrates a specialist understanding of sources of disadvantage and strategies to overcome them for all customer groups. This will include homeless people.