Monday 31 March 2008
Armed Forces: Future Rapid Effects System
The future rapid effect system utility vehicle is still in its assessment phase, with other specialist variants in the concept phase; the numbers and the balance between the categories of vehicles is yet to be finalised.
Armed Forces: Joint Strike Fighter
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have considered the concerns expressed by the United States General Accountability Office in its report of 11 March, Impact of Recent Decisions on Program Risks, in relation to the Joint Strike Fighter project; and what representations they are making to the United States authorities as to the continuance of the alternative engine programme within that project. [HL2583]
We expect the UK's requirements for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to be met through the systems development and demonstration phase of the programme, to which our contribution is fixed at $2 billion. The UK has consistently supported the continuance of a competitive engine approach for the JSF in order to de-risk the programme and reduce through-life support costs, and will closely monitor the progress of the president's budget through the US annual funding round.
Armed Forces: Pensions
asked Her Majesty’s Government:
How the net cash requirement for the Armed Forces pension scheme is calculated; and [HL2553]
What matters arose in the financial year 2007–08 which caused the cash shortfall of £150 million within the Armed Forces pension scheme; and [HL2554]
For what specific purposes the urgent expenditure within the Armed Forces pension scheme of £85 million is required; and [HL2555]
What steps they are taking to ensure that the necessary expenditure of the Armed Forces pension scheme is correctly budgeted for in future; and [HL2556]
Whether in future all the costs of the Armed Forces pension scheme will be brought within a single request for resources subject to an independent assessment before being brought before Parliament; and [HL2557]
On what date Ministers became aware of the £150 million cash shortfall within the Armed Forces pension scheme. [HL2558]
A financial plan for the Armed Forces pension scheme (AFPS) is produced six months ahead of each new financial year. The plan estimates the various costs of the scheme using historical cost data from the previous year and increased to take account of any rise in costs as detailed in Her Majesty Treasury indices, as well as factoring in the variable costs such as members joining and leaving the scheme. Once agreed, the plan becomes the main estimate for the net cash requirement for the AFPS for the following financial year. However, whenever any of the assumptions used in the main estimate are at variance with actual performance during the year, additional funds can be obtained during the course of the financial year via the winter and spring supplementary estimates process. This is an entirely normal process that is designed to allow for unpredictable variations in factors such as the inflow and outflow of scheme members.
The 2007-08 spring supplementary estimate for the AFPS sought an increase in the net cash requirement of £150 million for the 2007-08 financial year due in the main to higher actual total terminal pension payments than had been included at the main estimate. The Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Defence in his role of accounting officer was advised on 8 February 2008. As part of this request, an advance of up to £85 million was also sought from the contingencies fund to meet pension payment cash requirements predicted to arise before Royal Assent of the Armed Forces retired pay and pensions vote. The advance will be repaid following parliamentary approval to the spring supplementary estimate, expected on 20 March 2008.
In the light of this occurrence, the mechanisms for estimating the cash requirement for AFPS will be carefully examined and any improvements identified will be fed into the main estimate process. All AFPS expenditure is subject to detailed National Audit Office scrutiny.
The better-off calculator produces accurate estimates, based on information the customer provides, of potential in-work benefits and tax credits. It demonstrates the financial benefits of being in work and takes fully into account any loss or reduction in access to passported benefits.
The calculator provides written information for the customer, including advice about tax credits, housing and council tax benefits, NHS health costs, free school meals and healthy start vouchers, and this helps the customer to make an informed decision about entering work. A summary of all entitlements report is produced which includes information about the passported benefits the customer will remain entitled to in work.
The better-off calculator also provides information about financial help which may be available to the customer to help them move into work; for example, job grants.
As at May 2007, there were 35,530 claimants of incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance in the Manchester City Council area. Of these, 20,580 people had been in receipt for five years or more.
Bloody Sunday: Saville Inquiry
Costs borne by the Ministry of Defence up to February 2008 for legal support to the Saville inquiry are £32,320,101. The majority of this cost is for legal advice and representation provided by the Treasury solicitors and counsel.
The British Nationality Act 1981 contains three provisions which allow certain adult foreign citizens to register as a British citizen if they are of good character and:
they were born to a British mother between 7 February 1961 and 1 January 1983;
they renounced citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies before 1 January 1983; or
they renounced British citizenship on or after 1 January 1983.
In other cases, foreign citizens who wish to acquire British citizenship need to apply for naturalisation provided they meet certain residence and other requirements set out in the 1981 Act. Those who are married to a British citizen must be of good character and have a satisfactory knowledge of the English language and life in the United Kingdom. They must also have lived lawfully in the United Kingdom, without long absences, for at least three years and be free from immigration conditions by the time they apply.
Further information about the requirements for registration and naturalisation is available on the Home Office website at www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/britishcitizenship/information leaflets.
The cross-government review of carers now underway is a welcome opportunity to re-assess the support available to young carers. As part of the review, young carers have been consulted, and stakeholder bodies with knowledge of the issues are fully engaged. We look forward to receiving the review's final recommendations. A new national carers strategy is due to be launched later this spring.
In the interim, to secure early progress on an issue already highlighted in the review, we are providing an additional £3 million over the next three years to extend our planned Family Pathfinder programme, enabling selected areas to model and test better forms of preventive support around families with young carers. The main aim is to ensure that sufficient support is available around the person cared for and the family so that children do not fall into inappropriate caring roles. Over the next three years, the pathfinders will provide invaluable learning which will be shared across all areas.
To build capacity and improve the quality of support offered to young carers across the range of local settings, the DCSF is also currently funding the Children's Society and the Princess Royal Trust for Carers to develop new, broad-based guidance on whole family working and good practice principles in relation to young carers. Based on that guidance, training and awareness-raising events will begin shortly and will reach all regions over the next two years.
A National CCTV Strategy Programme Board has been established. The programme board is currently scoping the recommendations of the strategy and later this year Ministers will have the opportunity to approve the work of the board.
Climate Change: Emissions Trading
The carbon reduction commitment (CRC) is scheduled to begin operation in 2010. It is a mandatory emissions trading scheme that will cover around 5,000 public and private organisations, including government departments, retailers, banks and local authorities, which account for approximately 10 per cent of the UK economy's emissions.
Climate Change: Levy
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What has been the impact of the climate change levy on levels of employment in manufacturing industries; and [HL2645]
What is the relationship between the climate change levy and outsourcing of manufacturing jobs from the United Kingdom. [HL2646]
The climate change levy was introduced in 2001 as part of a package of measures to encourage business energy efficiency. The package consists of:
the climate change levy;
climate change agreements which entitle eligible firms to pay an 80 per cent discounted rate of the levy in return for emissions reduction targets agreed with Government;
a 0.3 percentage point cut in employers’ national insurance contributions;
enhanced capital allowances for energy-efficient products; and
the Carbon Trust,
Independent modelling from Cambridge Econometrics suggests that the CCL package has led to a reduction in costs for business as a whole. Because the package lowers costs for business, Cambridge Econometrics suggests the package will lead to a marginal increase in employment in the manufacturing sector.
Climate Change: Norfolk
The Environment Agency will be starting a review of the coastal strategy from Eccles to Winterton later this year. This stretch of coastline protects the Broads from tidal inundation. The review will consider a number of options over the next 100 years, allowing for climate change, to determine the best course of action.
A climate change group involving the Environment Agency, the Broads Authority and Natural England has recently been set up. This will focus on the impacts and future adaptation to climate change in the Broads. The first meeting of this group will be in April where funding and the terms of reference will be decided. The intention of this group is to gather evidence of the current status, the predictions and what could potentially be done to adapt to climate change in the long and short term.
The Environment Agency's broadland flood alleviation project is also being implemented as a public private partnership working with Broadland Environmental Services Limited. This project covers a 20-year period ending in 2021.
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 12 March (WA 235) and 13 March (WA 252) regarding representation of views on human cloning, how the relevant interests of members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority are recorded; and [HL2622]
Further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 12 March (WA 235) and 13 March (WA 252) regarding representation of views on human cloning, what percentage of licensing decisions regarding nuclear transfer involved participation of (a) those known to be in favour of reproductive cloning, whether expressed publicly or confidentially; and (b) those opposed to the creation of human embryos for such research. [HL2623]
A register of Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) members' interests is maintained and published in the HFEA's annual report. In making licence or policy decisions, as stated in my Answer of 12 March (WA 235), members of the HFEA are obliged to act within the regulatory parameters of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 and associated regulations.
The most recent edition of the report in the Library is 2004-05.
The department does not collect detailed information on the number of therapies and clinical trials involving adult stem cells or embryonic stem cells.
The biological properties of stem cells have been exploited over the past several decades to develop a number of highly successful therapies using adult stem cells including bone marrow transplants, corneal transplants, related-donor cord blood transplants and skin grafting.
Embryonic stem cell trials are being planned for several conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, spinal injuries and diabetes.
The future of the Jodrell Bank Observatory is a matter for the University of Manchester.
Jodrell Bank is involved in a variety of radio astronomy activities, including the e-MERLIN project. E-MERLIN is the development of a network of seven UK radio telescopes run by the Jodrell Bank Observatory and funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in partnership with the North West Development Agency and the University of Manchester. The STFC has recently undertaken a review of all its existing programmes to make sure that they are delivering, or will deliver, the anticipated science output, and that they continue to represent value for money. The initial results of this review have been subject to consultation with the relevant scientific communities, and the STFC is currently considering the responses it has received. The STFC has yet to take a decision on its future level of support for e-MERLIN. However, the STFC has made it clear that the e-MERLIN project is part of its strategy for radio astronomy and that it is in discussion with its partners about the issues raised by the review.
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What steps they are taking to ensure that biofuels are grown in a sustainable manner and that future production targets for transportation fuels in the United Kingdom and the European Union take into account the need for sustainable production methods. [HL2659]
The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation will include a reporting mechanism under which any transport fuel supplier wishing to claim a certificate in respect of any biofuel must submit a report detailing its environmental impacts. These reports will enable the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) to report regularly on the progress being made towards meeting targets under the obligation, as well as on the carbon savings and sustainability impacts of the policy.
The level of any longer term targets will depend on the outcome of negotiations on the proposed renewable energy directive. The Government will not support any increase in biofuel targets beyond 5 per cent until effective sustainability standards are in place. We are working with the European Commission to ensure that forthcoming EU legislation includes robust mandatory sustainability criteria for biofuels.
In October 2007, the Environment Agency instructed Brabners Chaffe Street LLP, a firm of external solicitors, to act on its behalf in respect of statements made by Mr Douglas Gowan regarding an employee of the Environment Agency.
The figures below have been taken from the Environment Agency's Flood Warnings Direct database and show the number of homes at risk from fluvial and tidal flooding in East Anglia.
Fluvial Tidal Great Yarmouth 0 8,956 Norfolk 17,612 30,770 Essex 9,049 49,002 Suffolk 7,122 9,610 Cambridgeshire 22,313 0 Total 56,096 89,382
Flooding: River Yare
Over the next year, the Environment Agency will be talking to key partners about the long-term management options of Broad land. This will include the viability of a Yare barrier.
Food security is about ensuring that consumers in the UK, and internationally, have access to a stable and adequate supply of food. The Government believe that an important element in facilitating national and international food security is improved trading relationships based on more open international markets and reductions in trade distorting subsidies. Defra's role in this regard includes pressing for further common agricultural policy reform and an ambitious and successful outcome to the World Trade Organisation negotiations and the Doha development agenda. The UK currently enjoys a high level of food security, but we are not complacent and we will continue to monitor the key indicators of UK and global food security.
In 2006, Defra published a study on food security which concluded that the UK, as a rich and open economy in a temperate and northerly latitude, has a very robust and diverse food supply. However, the study also recognised the need to manage the various risks, including climate change, associated with modern food chains as well as the food security challenges facing developing countries. We will continue to monitor the key indicators of UK and global food security.
Some research indicates that the impacts of climate change and increases in the global population are unlikely to exceed the global capacity to produce staple food commodities. However, clearly there are challenges ahead in feeding a growing world population, not least in developing countries, and doing so in a way that respects the limits of the world's natural resources. In the face of climate change, the UK is working with the United Nations, the EC, the World Bank, donor Governments and other organisations to improve understanding, globally, of the risks and impacts of climate change and how it may impact on food production systems. The UK will also work with the major emerging economies to support development and growth which is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
Government: Mobile Phone Contracts
OGCbuying.solutions' framework agreement with mobile phone operators, called Mobile Solutions, enables customers to formulate their own contracts with the service providers directly. The framework was created in compliance with European regulation and public sector procurement rules. It contains the appropriate model form of contract, which can be made available if the reference to “conditions” means the contractual terms and conditions contained in the model form.
Around 91 per cent of children have completed their primary immunisation courses against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis and Hib by their first birthday and around 93 per cent by their second birthday.
Around 85 per cent of children have been immunised against mumps, measles and rubella with the combined MMR vaccine by the age of two.
This is based on immunisations completed between July and September 2007 in the United Kingdom.
Housing: Roof Gardens
The Government are committed to moving towards more sustainable low-carbon non-residential buildings which are more energy efficient, and we will continue to raise building standards to help achieve this.
Defra, along with other government departments, has been promoting green roofs as part of wider sustainable construction and will continue their active promotion.
Immigration: Medical Treatment
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What lessons they have drawn from the case of Ama Sumani in Ghana; and whether they would allow an asylum-seeker to remain temporarily in this country for dialysis treatment, provided that sufficient funds were available for such treatment.[HL2766]
Common humanity means we all feel sympathy when dealing with individuals who face challenging medical and personal circumstances, but this in itself is not enough to entitle someone to a different process or consideration. Cases such as Ms Sumani's will continue to be assessed and reviewed by independent judicial processes on an individual basis and in accordance with existing legislation and guidance.
Individuals who make formal applications for asylum in the United Kingdom are eligible for free NHS treatment while their applications, including any appeals, are being considered. Unsuccessful applicants who have exhausted their appeal rights are expected to leave the country as soon as possible and may be charged for any new course of medical treatment. Nevertheless, immediately necessary treatment would never be withheld or delayed, regardless of chargeability or ability to pay. This would be a matter for medical decision on a case-by-case basis.
Iraq: Asylum Applications
asked Her Majesty's Government:
How many Iraqis applied for asylum in each quarter of the past 12 months; how many have been accepted as refugees; and how many in both categories applied on grounds of employment or association with British Armed Forces and civil servants. [HL2764]
Information on asylum applications, initial decisions and appeals by nationality are published quarterly and annually. Copies of asylum statistics publications are available from the Library of the House and from the Home Office Research, Development and Statistics website at www.homeoffice. gov.uk/rds/immigration1.html.
Asylum applications are decided on an individual case-by-case basis. Information on how many asylum seekers applied on grounds of employment or association with British Armed Forces and civil servants is not available and could only be made available by examination of individual records at disproportionate cost.
Olympic Games 2012: Carbon Emissions
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What is their estimate of the likely total carbon emissions from all transport connected with the 2012 Olympics, including preparation, training in the United Kingdom and abroad, tourism and access to the sites by officials, visitors and athletes. [HL2592]
There are no national or international standards on assessing the carbon footprint of public events on the scale of the 2012 Games.
LOCOG and the ODA are developing a definition and measurement for the carbon footprint of the 2012 Games, and have commissioned a study to calculate an initial estimate, which will be published later this year.
We would encourage anyone with evidence of human trafficking to report their suspicions to the police either directly or via Crimestoppers, which provides a confidential way of reporting any concerns held.
However, there are no provisions in place that are aimed specifically at those who manage or assist in the management of a brothel, which in itself is an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and is often used in cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
It is not possible to separate those whose convictions result from Pentameter and those who have been arrested and convicted outside of the timescale of that particular operation.
However, there have been 75 convictions for human trafficking offences to date.
The current rules for paying income-related social security benefits to people in a polygamous marriage have been in place since 1988 when income support was introduced. They reflect the fact that polygamy is only recognised in UK law in circumstances where the marriage ceremony has been performed in a country whose laws permit polygamy, and the parties to the marriage were domiciled there at the time of the marriage.
Contributory benefits based on spousal contributions are generally not payable where a marriage is actually polygamous.
Any member of a polygamous marriage can claim a contributory or non-contributory social security benefit in his or her own right where he or she satisfies the relevant conditions of entitlement. There is therefore no financial advantage to claiming benefit as a member of a polygamous marriage.
Prisoners: Northern Ireland
Roads: A3 Speed Camera
asked Her Majesty's Government:
How many speeding motorists were observed by the mobile speed camera located on the north-east carriageway of the A3 just before the Hook underpass during the morning of Wednesday 19 March; and how much income was raised by that camera over the same period. [HL2709]
This information is not held by the Department for Transport. Enforcement is entirely a matter for the local road safety partnership. They have the flexibility to enforce in response to community concerns or at sites where there are speeding problems and a high risk that casualties will occur.
The numbers of British-flagged or British-managed ships that have reported piracy or armed robbery incidents to the International Maritime Bureau in each of the past five years are as follows:
Year Ships Managed By UK Ships Flagged in UK 2003 19 6 2004 11 7 2005 7 4 2006 5 3 2007 7 3
Ships Managed By UK
Ships Flagged in UK
The information available from the IMB relates to ships flagged in the UK or managed by UK companies. Information relating to British-owned ships is not available.
St Andrews Agreement
The 2006 St Andrews agreement was published jointly at St Andrews on 13 October 2006 by the British and Irish Governments. All parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly have endorsed the St Andrews agreement.
A copy of the full text has been placed in the Library of the House.
In contrast to dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were manufactured in large quantities and found a wide range of applications due to their high thermal, chemical and electrical stability. They were first produced commercially around 1930 and approximately 66,500 tonnes were manufactured in the UK between 1951 and 1976. Of this, around 27,000 tonnes were exported to other countries where it would have been used in a range of products. There are no figures available on quantities of PCBs imported into the UK.
Monsanto (Solutia) was the only known producer of PCBs until 1976, based at Newport.
Commercial PCBs were manufactured by the direct chlorination of biphenyl leading to the production of oils containing mixtures of PCB congeners with between 21 per cent and 60 per cent chlorine. Commercial PCB mixtures were sold under a variety of trade names, the most common in the UK being the “Arochlor” range. While most literature focuses on only those PCB congeners with “dioxin-like” properties, sources will release a range of congeners, many of which will not possess such properties.
Waste Management: Chemical Waste
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether municipal waste disposal sites in England and Wales have received chemical wastes from Monsanto; if so, how many such sites there are; and whether these sites include Bradford, Milton Keynes and Abergavenny. [HL2532]
Wastes are categorised as hazardous, non-hazardous or inert. Specific waste streams are then sub-categorised using the European Waste Catalogue. The term “chemical waste” is not a category that is currently in use.
The Environment Agency authorises waste types that are appropriate for landfilling but does not normally authorise individual and specific waste sources. The Environment Agency is therefore not able to state categorically which of 1,500-plus operational and closed landfill sites (including Bradford, Milton Keynes and Abergavenny) in England and Wales have received chemical waste from Monsanto.
Consignment notes held by waste management facilities would record the source of the waste. Prior to 2005, the Environment Agency was sent copies of these consignment notes, but the cost of extracting the required information from these records would be disproportionate. The Environment Agency retains these records for four years, so would not be able to provide a full account of wastes deposited by Monsanto even if data were readily available.
The Government have commissioned Professor Martin Cave to carry out an independent review of competition and innovation in water and sewerage markets. Professor Cave will advise Ministers on the scope to deliver benefits and drive innovation through developing competition and contestability in all aspects of the supply chain in the water and sewerage sector, and will recommend changes to the legislative and regulatory frameworks needed to deliver those benefits. It would therefore not be appropriate for the Government to speculate on any outcomes at this time.
Women: Personal Violence
The Government recognise that rape crisis centres face significant challenges.
In the longer term, we need to consider what more can be done to assist in increasing their capacity and stability, but we need also to respond to the funding crisis in the short term. The Government announced an emergency funding package of £1 million on 18 March to enable centres to stay open while we consider what more can be done to build capacity and stability in the sector.
We also want to ensure that mainstream agencies and generic counselling and support services, such as Relate, are also equipped to deal with sexual violence disclosures.
The Government have invested around £10 million over the past four years in specialist services for victims of sexual violence; this supplements funding provided locally. This year alone we have already invested £3 million; this includes more than £1 million to rape crisis centres and a further £1 million to support the establishment of sexual assault referral centres and independent sexual violence advisers.
We have also provided £150,000 core funding to umbrella organisations, Rape Crisis England and Wales and the Survivors' Trust.
The Government are committed to tackling all forms of violence against women, and we recognise the difficulties that women who have no recourse to public funds face. We have been working within the statutory and voluntary sectors to find solutions to provide adequate support for this group of women.
In February 2006, a letter was sent out from the Home Office to all local authority chief executives outlining the position of women who have no recourse to public funds and how local authorities can help and support these women within existing legislation. This was accompanied by a fact sheet, the purpose of which was to spell out the specific dynamics of domestic violence to assessors so that they are aware of the factors and circumstances that women can find themselves in.
This was followed by an announcement, at the Home Affairs Select Committee this month, of a new scheme under which victims of domestic violence whose applications for indefinite leave to remain are successful may qualify for a contribution towards their housing and living costs. The proposals under the new scheme will strengthen the way in which domestic violence cases are considered, enabling those victims who are vulnerable to access additional support. Further details on this programme of work will be available later in the spring.
In relation to women who are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, the Government recently made a commitment to ratify the Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking in Human Beings by the end of 2008. This will enhance existing measures and provide victims of trafficking with support, including access to temporary residence permits.
The Government will continue to work with agencies in order to find a long-term solution to support this group of women.