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Written Answers

Volume 700: debated on Thursday 24 April 2008

Written Answers

Thursday 24 April 2008

British Coal Compensation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the total amount of costs repaid by solicitors in the British Coal vibration white finger litigation; which solicitors have yet to repay in full the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform; and how much is currently owed by each such firm. [HL3022]

With respect to the vibration white finger (VWF) scheme the Government had no costs to recover from the claimants' representatives.

All claimants' representatives costs were agreed before the judge in advance of payments.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which 10 firms of solicitors have been paid most in the British Coal respiratory disease litigation; and how much has been paid to date to each such firm. [HL3023]

The 10 firms of claimants' representatives who have been paid the most for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease claims under the coal health compensation schemes are shown in the table below:

Claimant's Representatives

Solicitors Costs (£m)

Beresfords Solicitors

133.1

Thompsons Solicitors

114.3

Hugh James

92.8

Raleys Solicitors

73.0

Mark Gilbert Morse

55.2

Browell Smith & Co

50.6

Avalon Solicitors

38.2

Watson Burton LLP

25.7

Union of Democratic Mineworkers

24.9

Graysons Solicitors

24.2

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which 10 firms of solicitors have been paid most in the British Coal vibration white finger litigation; and how much has been paid to date to each such firm. [HL3024]

The 10 firms of claimants' representatives who have been paid the most for vibration white finger claims under the coal health compensation schemes are shown in the table below:

Claimants' Representatives

Solicitors Costs (£m)

Thompsons Solicitors

27.5

Browell Smith & Co

13.3

Raleys Solicitors

12.8

Graysons Solicitors

11.9

Hugh James

11.8

Union of Democratic Mineworkers

10.2

Watson Burton LLP

7.6

Beresfords Solicitors

7.6

Towells Solicitors

5.7

Moss Solicitors

5.5

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the average cost of processing each successful claim, including legal, administrative, logistical and contractual costs, in (a) the British Coal respiratory disease litigation; and (b) the British Coal vibration white finger litigation; and what is the average amount of compensation paid under each scheme to claimants. [HL3025]

The Government's administrative costs cannot be broken down by scheme. However, the total administrative cost for the coal health compensation schemes as at 31 March 2008 is £570.2 million. This covers the costs of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform's contractors and external legal advice. This figure is interim and subject to change.

The additional costs with respect to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and vibration white finger (VWF) claims as at 30 March 2008 is shown below:

Cost

COPD (in billion)

VWF (in billion)

Compensation to Claimants + CRU

£2.3

£1.8

Claimants' Representatives

£0.976

£0.173

Medical

£0.398

£0.34

All the above figures are interim and subject to change.

The average damages paid to claimants and the average solicitors cost for claims settled by payment for COPD and VWF are shown in the table below as at 31 March 2008:

Average Damages Paid on Claims Settled by Payment

Average Solicitors Cost Paid on Claims Settled by Payment

COPD

£5,230

£2,257

VWF

£12,489

£1,321

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will instigate a judicial public inquiry to examine the operation and funding of the British Coal respiratory disease litigation and British Coal vibration white finger litigation and to investigate the conduct of solicitors and the performance of the Legal Complaints Service and the Solicitors Regulation Authority. [HL3060]

The Government are not planning any such public inquiry into the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and vibration white finger scheme in respect of the Coal Health Compensation Schemes. However, the Government welcome the report by the National Audit Office published in July 2007 and the recent Public Accounts Committee report examining the coal health compensation schemes.

The legal profession is independent and as such complaints about solicitors are a matter for the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) and Solicitors Regulatory Authority rather than government. However the Government believe that it is important that miners who complain to the LCS about their claims under the coal health compensation schemes get the level of service and compensation that they deserve. The Government therefore seek regular updates from the LCS to ensure that progress is being made in continually improving the service.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to ensure that solicitors do not receive excessive remuneration from publicly funded schemes; and what lessons they have learnt from the two highest-earning solicitors in the British Coal respiratory disease litigation and the British Coal vibration white finger litigation receiving £14 million and £15 million per annum respectively. [HL3061]

The Government continue to challenge the fees paid to solicitors where it is right to do so and is consistent with our contractual obligations with respect to coal health compensation schemes. However, it was not the Government's role to choose a solicitor for a claimant—claimants appoint their own representatives. Under the schemes solicitors were paid for their work under an agreed tariff.

The Government have pursued reductions for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease “fast track” tariff paid to solicitors for handling claims and achieved savings of around £100 million. Savings of approximately a further £20 million have been achieved for the fees paid to solicitors for handling vibration white finger services claims.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Ministry of Justice are working closely to support the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) and Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) in their pursuit of those firms that have unfairly deducted sums from compensation. In particular the LCS is working on a plan to roll out nationally elements of their successful Rother Valley pilot which provided assistance and advice to claimants in seeking to recover deductions made from compensation unfairly.

Computer Systems: Scotland Office

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In respect of the Scotland Office, on how many occasions in the last year malicious programs have compromised its computer systems; for each occasion, how many machines were affected; how long it took to remove the programs from the system; and what the impact was on the department's activities. [HL3140]

It is not in the interests of the UK's national security for departments to confirm whether they hold information about attacks against their IT systems. This would enable individuals to deduce how successful the UK is in detecting these attacks and so assist such persons in testing the effectiveness of the UK's IT defences. This is not in the public interest.

Computer Systems: Wales Office

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In respect of the Wales Office, on how many occasions in the last year malicious programs have compromised its computer systems; for each occasion, how many machines were affected; how long it took to remove the programs from the system; and what the impact was on the department's activities. [HL3071]

It is not in the interests of the UK's national security for departments to confirm whether they hold information about attacks against their IT systems. This would enable individuals to deduce how successful the UK is in detecting these attacks and so assist such persons in testing the effectiveness of the UK's IT defences. This is not in the public interest.

Crime: Offences

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many new imprisonable offences have been created since May 1997. [HL2252]

I apologise for the delay in answering this Question.

The information requested is being collated and I will write to the noble Baroness as soon as possible.

Energy: Prices

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to adjust their estimates of future energy prices. [HL2997]

The Government do not predict energy prices, and it is for the market to decide how to respond to external pressures such as the recent rise in wholesale costs. However, BERR does regularly publish assumptions about the future trends of oil, gas, and coal prices. The most recent set can be found at www.berr.gov.uk/energy/environment/projections/index.html. Work on updating the fossil fuel assumptions is currently under way to help inform the decisions relating to the carbon budgets, as set out in the recent Climate Change Bill. In addition BERR, for its internal modelling, regularly explores possible future retail prices. The next update is expected in summer 2008.

IRA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions they have had with Sinn Fein about disbanding the IRA's Army Council. [HL2863]

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has had discussions with representatives of Sinn Fein about a wide range of subjects. He believes that all paramilitary structures from Northern Ireland's past have no place in the future of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland: Bill of Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 19 March (WA 29), how the transport and subsistence cost in the forecast budget for the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum was arrived at; and what amount has been spent to date. [HL2718]

I refer the noble Lord to my Written Answer given on 3 March (Official Report, col. WA 157). At the end of March 2008, expenditure from the transport and travel subsistence budget was £46,085.77.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 19 March (WA 30) concerning the appointment process for the chairmanship of the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum, what skills and experience the officials in the Northern Ireland Office who were responsible for assessing candidates had of human rights and management. [HL2719]

I refer the noble Lord to my previous Answer of 19 March (Official Report, col. WA 30). It is not policy or practice to disclose personal details on the skills and experience of individual officials.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 19 March (WA 29), whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the chairman of the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum's curriculum vitae as presented by him at the time of his appointment. [HL2722]

No curriculum vitae was requested from or presented by Mr Chris Sidoti at the time of his appointment.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 25 March (WA 97) concerning the expenses of the chairman of the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum, what are the details of the headings marked “Hotel/Overnight Accommodation”, “Flights”, “Allowances” and “Misc Travel Costs”. [HL2944]

“Hotel/overnight accommodation” refers to Mr Sidoti's overnight hotel costs when in Northern Ireland. “Flights” refers to his travel to work in Northern Ireland. “Allowances” refers to Mr Sidoti's daily allowance of £25 per diem and “Misc travel costs” refers to train and bus fares.

Northern Ireland: Human Rights Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What additional powers have been given to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission since its creation; when; by what means; and for what purpose. [HL2801]

Section 69 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 set out the functions of the Northern Ireland Humans Rights Commission and tasked it, at Section 69(2), with making recommendations to Government on improving its own effectiveness.

Following public consultation on recommendations made by the Commission, the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 extended new powers to the Commission, which gave it:

the power to access places of detention as part of its investigations (from 1 August 2007);

the power to compel evidence as part of its investigations (from 1 August 2007); and

the power to rely on the European Convention on Human Rights when instituting legal proceedings in its own name (from 24 May 2007).

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When and in what form they agreed to fund the work of a joint committee with the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. [HL2828]

No agreement has been made for the Government to fund the work of a joint committee with the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission reflects the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem in its selection of cases. [HL2831]

As the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission remains independent of Government, the noble Lord may wish to write to the commission directly on this matter.

Northern Ireland: Youth Justice Agency

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What has been the cost per year since its creation of the Northern Ireland Youth Justice Agency. [HL2866]

The cost per year since its creation of the Northern Ireland Youth Justice Agency is as follows:

2003-04

£12,850,000

2004-05

£14,581,000

2005-06

£19,513,000

2006-07

£26,087,000

2007-08

£22,214,000 (forecast)

Northern Rock

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the announcement by HM Treasury on 18 December 2007 that the Government's Northern Rock guarantee arrangements were being extended to “all obligations of Northern Rock plc to make payments on the repurchase of mortgages under the documentation for the ‘Granite securitisation programme’”, what that contingent liability (a) amounted to at 31 December 2007 on the basis of Northern Rock's audited accounts and (b) is estimated to amount to at 31 March 2009. [HL3072]

The guarantee arrangements in respect of Northern Rock have been reported to Parliament as an unquantifiable contingent liability, for reasons of commercial confidentiality and the inherent uncertainty in forecasting future market conditions. However, it should be noted that the guarantee arrangements remain secured against the unencumbered assets of the company, and there would only be an actual liability for the Treasury in the unlikely event of a significant deterioration in the value of those assets. In that event, the liability would only be equal to the shortfall in the assets.

Older People: Training

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are proposing action to secure adequate levels of workplace training and life-long learning for workers aged over 55. [HL2821]

We are committed to ensuring equal opportunities for all learners, and that learning serves the needs of the whole community, including older people both within and outside the workforce. Our strategy for World Class Skills and our reforms of wider adult learning are designed to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to improve their skills, prospects and quality of life.

The funding settlement announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review represents the biggest ever Government investment in skills. Of the £3 billion we are investing in each of the next three years in adult skills participation, we will invest some £1.5 billion annually in learning below level 2, to help the low-skilled and workless to learn, progress and achieve sustainable employment.

Our targets cover workers and learners of all ages and backgrounds, and our reforms balance skills and economic prosperity with fairness and inclusion. We will support individuals, including older people, into sustainable employment and progression in work and skills. We will give greater opportunity and choice to individuals over their training through skills accounts backed up by a new universal adult careers service which will promote personal advancement.

We are working with employers through Train to Gain and the skills pledge to meet skill needs and to ensure that all employees have the basic skills, including literacy and numeracy and level 2 skills, to sustain and progress in employment. We are increasing funding for Train to Gain from £440 million in 2007-08 to over £900 million in 2010-11.

We will continue to prioritise funds towards programmes that improve skills but we recognise too the need to protect courses that do not necessarily lead to qualifications and progression but which do offer a wide range of personal, family, social, health and community benefits. We have safeguarded funding for Personal and Community Development Learning (PCDL) at £210 million per annum through to 2010-11. This figure has been constant since the introduction of PCDL in 2005-06.

In January we announced a wide-ranging consultation on informal adult learning with the publication of Informal Adult Learning—shaping the way ahead. The consultation will gather proposals for securing modern, attractive, inclusive and joined-up informal adult learning opportunities which make effective use of public resources.

Police: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions they have had with the Government of the Republic of Ireland about the problem for police serving in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland of arresting persons suspected of having committed crimes in one jurisdiction who have since crossed the border, in the absence of Schengen arrangements; and [HL2488]

How they intend to address the legal obstacles for the Police Service of Northern Ireland of arresting persons suspected of having committed crimes in the Republic of Ireland who have since gone to Northern Ireland, in the absence of Schengen arrangements. [HL2489]

North/South policing issues are discussed with the Government of the Republic of Ireland on a regular basis. The Government are currently considering how best to enhance the legal framework governing co-operation between the PSNI and An Garda Siochana.

Republic of Ireland: Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 12 March (WA 243–4) concerning human rights in the Republic of Ireland, whether the requirement on the Government of the Republic of Ireland to undertake human rights measures was discussed at the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference; and if so, on what dates and with what results. [HL2589]

Security Forces: Londonderry

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many members of the security forces have been murdered in Londonderry since 1969; on what dates; how many of the culprits have been convicted; and what are their names. [HL2758]

The following table shows that 102 members of the security forces have been murdered in Londonderry since 1969. Details regarding convictions for such cases are not recorded.

Number of Security Force Members Murdered in Londonderry Since 1969

Date of Murder

Type of Security Force Personnel

1

10-Aug-71

Army

2

14-Sep-71

Army

3

11-Oct-71

Army

4

16-Oct-71

Army

5

27-Oct-71

Army

6

27-Oct-71

Army

7

9-Nov-71

Army

8

29-Dec-71

Army

9

27-Jan-72

RUC

10

27-Jan-72

RUC

11

30-Jan-72

Army

12

16-Feb-72

UDR P/T

13

4-Mar-72

UDR

14

20-Mar-72

Army

15

10-Apr-72

Army

16

10-Apr-72

Army

17

16-Apr-72

Army

18

16-Apr-72

Army

19

21-May-72

Army

20

9-Jun-72

UDR

21

11-Jun-72

Army

22

21-Jun-72

Army

23

26-Jun-72

Army

24

11-Jul-72

Army

25

25-Aug-72

Army

26

27-Aug-72

Army

27

15-Sep-72

Army

28

18-Sep-72

Army

29

26-Sep-72

Army

30

28-Oct-72

Army

31

28-Nov-72

Army

32

20-Dec-72

UDR

33

24-Dec-72

Army

34

14-Jan-73

RUC

35

14-Jan-73

RUC

36

3-Mar-73

UDR

37

11-Apr-73

Army

38

27-Apr-73

Army

39

28-Apr-73

Army

40

2-May-73

Army

41

21-Jun-73

Army

42

3-Oct-73

Army

43

25-Nov-73

Army

44

25-Nov-73

Army

45

21-Jan-74

Army

46

30-Jan-74

RUCR P/T

47

17-Mar-74

Army

48

14-Apr-74

Army

49

23-Oct-74

Army

50

10-May-75

RUC

51

10-Oct-75

Army

52

25-Nov-75

UDR P/T

53

18-Dec-75

Army

54

18-Dec-75

Army

55

17-Jan-76

Army

56

2-Jun-76

RUCR P/T

57

3-Jul-76

Army

58

21-Jul-76

Army

59

7-Nov-76

UDR

60

18-Nov-76

UDR P/T

61

11-Dec-76

Army

62

27-Jan-77

RUC

63

23-Feb-77

UDR P/T

64

6-Apr-77

UDR P/T

65

15-Apr-77

Army

66

28-Feb-78

RUC

67

16-Jun-78

RUCR P/T

68

11-Aug-78

Army

69

14-Feb-79

Army

70

20-May-79

RUCR P/T

71

19-Jul-80

Army

72

11-Nov-80

Army

73

20-Jan-81

Army

74

10-Feb-81

UDR P/T

75

28-Mar-82

RUC

76

1-Apr-82

Army

77

1-Apr-82

Army

78

27-Apr-82

UDR P/T

79

4-May-82

RUC

80

24-May-82

Army

81

11-Jun-82

RUC

82

5-Oct-82

RUCR P/T

83

18-Jan-83

RUCR P/T

84

15-Oct-83

Army

85

28-Oct-83

RUC

86

23-Apr-84

Army

87

22-Sep-85

Army

88

18-Nov-85

UDR

89

23-Mar-87

RUC

90

23-Mar-87

RUC

91

23-Apr-87

RUC

92

21-Mar-88

RUC

93

22-Feb-89

Army

94

8-Mar-89

Army

95

8-Mar-89

Army

96

24-Oct-90

Army

97

24-Oct-90

Army

98

24-Oct-90

Army

99

24-Oct-90

Army

100

24-Oct-90

Army

101

23-Jan-93

RUC

102

20-Apr-94

RUC

Source: Central Statistics Unit, Police Service of Northern Ireland, Lisnasharragh.

Footnotes

1. Figures are based on the following station areas (Strand Road, Waterside, Shantallow and Rosemount) in order to represent the city of Londonderry (Cityside and Waterside) as opposed to the wider Police Division or the later Police District area.

2. Ex members of the security forces are excluded (eg Ex RUC/RUCR/Army/UDR/RIR).

3. Members of the Prison Service are not deemed to be members of the Security Forces and are excluded.

4. Civilian support staff for the RUC/PSNI or Army/UDR/RIR are also excluded.

5. Figures relate to murders and not deaths. Other members of the security forces may have been killed in this period but may not have involved murders (eg accidental gun discharges).

6. Figures relate only to murders of security forces related to the security situation. There could be murders of security force personnel that were not deemed security related (eg domestic murders).

7. Includes murders of the security forces while they were either on duty or off duty.

8. Includes members of the RUC/RUCR/PSNI/Army and UDR/RIR (part time and full time).

Transport: Car Usage

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will introduce robust advertising and publicity programmes by central, regional and local government to persuade motorists to reduce their car usage. [HL2960]

The Department for Transport (DfT) is pursuing a range of policies, which includes the Smarter Choices programme of work—which, among other activities, promotes travel planning to encourage more sustainable travel choices—by both individuals and organisations—such as use of public transport, walking and cycling as alternatives to single occupancy car use.

In addition, the department launched a major advertising campaign under the Act on CO2 brand last year. This campaign is being jointly developed with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and DfT is responsible for encouraging motorists to adopt smarter driving techniques and to take environmental considerations into account when buying new cars. These strands of the campaign have an annual budget of approximately £5 million.

The department also provides funding for the Energy Saving Trust (EST) to give advice to businesses on “greening” their transport fleet through green fleet reviews and telephone consultancy advice. The EST advice centres also provide energy efficiency advice to consumers on their transport choices. The EST manages its own advertising and publicity activities in agreement with the DfT.

Transport: Heavy Goods Vehicles

asked Her Majesty's Government:

With regard to “on the spot” penalties for drivers of lorries registered outside the United Kingdom, what levels of penalty will be available for (a) serious breaches of the drivers hours regulations; (b) overloading; and (c) defective mechanical condition. [HL3063]

There will be a further consultation on these details later this year, including on the financial penalty and deposit levels.