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Written Answers

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 5 June 2008

Written Answers

Thursday 5 June 2008

Animal Welfare: Wild Birds

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What were the conservation reasons which led to the choice of peregrine, merlin, saker falcon, gyr falcon, goshawk and golden eagle as the study species for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs research project on DNA sampling using fluorescent multiplexing, completed in 2006. [HL3767]

The purpose of the project was to develop fluorescent multiplexes for the golden eagle, goshawk, gyr falcon, merlin, peregrine falcon and saker falcon. The development and implementation of a fluorescent multiplex system would allow the construction of databases and allow comparisons between any sampled individuals, avoiding the need to retest them. The system should facilitate compliance checking and assist enforcement efforts.

The species were chosen to ensure that they were the most appropriate for the project, based on previous research into DNA forensic techniques involving birds of prey. The conservation status of these species was only one of the factors taken into account when considering the selection criteria for this project. The factors taken into account were:

conservation status and level of wild population within the UK and Europe;

level of captive population within the UK, taking account of the project need to be able to obtain a significant number of samples;

commercial value of individual specimens, coupled with the trend in demand for specimens;

ease or otherwise of captive propagation of the species, including the project need to obtain a number of samples from family groups; and

history of persecution and laundering of illegal birds into the captive system.

Benefits: Overseas Recipients

asked Her Majesty's Government:

To which 20 countries outside the United Kingdom they send the largest numbers of (a) social security payments and (b) pensions; and in each case how many recipients are over 90 years of age. [HL3695]

The following data are of actual payments made. The information requested is not available in the format requested for the last full year because of a system fault in July. The information is for the last full business year for which data are available, 2006-07. Such information as is available is in the table.

State pension (SP)

Incapacity benefit (IB), severe disablement allowance (SDA), bereavement benefit (BB) and widow’s benefit (WB)

Number of customers aged 90 and above

Proportion of customers in each country aged 90 and above

Australia

£391 million

£2 million

8,500

4%

Spain

£267 million

£17.5 million

800

1%

USA

£243 million

£3 million

3,080

2%

Ireland

£241 million

£17.5 million

2,340

2%

Canada

£237 million

£1.5 million

4,660

3%

France

£121 million

£9 million

560

2%

New Zealand

£78 million

£0.5 million

1,940

4%

Jamaica

£78 million

£1.5 million

820

4%

South Africa

£72 million

£1 million

1,060

3%

Italy

£57 million

£2 million

480

1%

Cyprus

£44 million

£2.5 million

160

1%

Germany

£43 million

£3.5 million

480

2%

Portugal

£21 million

£1.5 million

100

1%

Barbados

£17 million

£0.1 million

100

2%

Jersey

£16 million

£0.5 million

300

4%

Malta

£13 million

£l million

80

2%

Netherlands

£12 million

£1 million

120

2%

Guernsey

£12 million

£0.25 million

200

4%

Greece

£11 million

£l million

40

1%

Israel

£10 million

£0.1 million

220

6%

Data Source: Scan of overseas customers taken from benefit systems or International Pension Centre.

Notes:

1. This information is from a scan of overseas customers taken on 31 December 2006.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What arrangements there are to determine whether recipients outside the United Kingdom of social security benefits and pensions are alive. [HL3696]

The current measures used by the International Pension Centre (IPC) to detect unreported death on a customer base of 1.1 million are a programme of data matching, where available, and life certification where data matching is unavailable or impractical.

IPC is currently data matching with death indexes from the USA and New Zealand. These offer data on all the deaths in those countries but are the only two identified at this time. IPC is also starting to exchange data with equivalent authorities such as Centrelink in Australia and Sociale Verzekeringsbank (SVB) in the Netherlands. It is expected that IPC will exchange data with the Department for Social and Family Affairs in Ireland in the foreseeable future. Data matching with the authorities in a number of other countries where there are high numbers of UK beneficiaries is also being progressed.

Data matching with the equivalent authorities in other countries is not always possible or practical because of, for example, the absence of a suitably robust registration system. Therefore, life certificates are used to verify the life of customers who are not covered by data matching. Life certificates require customers to present themselves to the foreign authority, UK diplomatic or consular service, solicitor or barrister, magistrate or justice of the peace, or police to have their certificate signed. The customer must also present photographic evidence—for example, a passport.

Although life certificates have been in use in the IPC for some years, the programme has recently been expanded to include annual certification of all customers not covered by data matching aged 85 and above and annual certification of other customers in high-risk cohorts, which are currently being identified.

British Indian Ocean Territories

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress they have made in helping the British Indian Ocean Territories ensure it has the legislation, institutional capacity and mechanisms it needs to meet international obligations. [HL3590]

The UK is responsible for ensuring that all the overseas territories act in accordance with the UK's international obligations. In implementing any such obligations that apply to the British Indian Ocean Territory, the Government take care to ensure that necessary measures are in place to ensure full compliance.

Broadband

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the answer by the Minister for Energy, E-commerce and Postal Services, Mr Stephen Timms, on 8 July 2004 (Official Report, Commons, col. 1005), what percentage of homes and businesses (a) have access to broadband and (b) are connected to broadband in (1) market towns and (2) rural villages.[HL3826]

Data are no longer collated on broadband availability and take-up by market town and rural villages.

The 2008 Ofcom Nations & Regions Communications Market report shows that over 99.99 per cent of households in urban areas and 99.92 per cent of households in rural areas were connected to a digital subscriber line (DSL) enabled BT exchange at the end of 2007. However, some of those households will not be able to receive broadband services for a variety of reasons, including distance from the exchange and the quality of the fixed network in their vicinity. BT says that over 99.6 per cent of its network is able to support broadband services.

The 2008 Ofcom Nations & Regions Communications Market report shows that household broadband take-up in rural areas (59 per cent) has now overtaken that in urban areas (57 per cent). More granular splits can be found in the full report, which can be accessed from Ofcom's website at www.ofcom.org.uk/research/cm/cmrnr08/.

Children and Young People

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they ensure that children and young people are involved in the planning of services provided for them by primary care trusts. [HL3719]

A founding principle of the National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services is that children and young people should have a strong voice in the prioritisation and commissioning of health services and this is reflected in the standard for hospital services, the core standards and the disabled child standard. Copies of this publication are in the Library.

Further, the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 contained important measures designed to strengthen the patient and public involvement system in England, including the introduction of local involvement networks (LINks) and the updated duty on National Health Service bodies to involve users of health services.

The Act established duties on health and social care services providers—including primary care trusts—to respond to LINks when they report on the needs and experiences of local people in respect of their health and social care services.

LINks, together with the new duty on NHS bodies to involve and report on consultations, will play a vital role in encouraging and enabling a greater range of people, including children and young people, to influence the commissioning and provision of health care, bringing meaningful engagement to the whole system, from commissioning to front-line care.

Egypt: Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Malloch-Brown on 10 March (WA 199), whether their welcome of the ruling of the Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court on 10 February took account of the referral of Article 47 of the civil and personal status law to the Egyptian High Constitutional Court to determine its compatibility with Article II of the Egyptian constitution. [HL3815]

The Government are aware that the ruling has now been referred to the constitutional court. The Government regularly raise religious freedom issues with the Egyptian Government and will continue to do so. Most recently, our ambassador in Cairo raised human rights concerns with the Egyptian Minister of Interior on 22 April. We acknowledge the steps that the Egyptian Government have taken to engage with us on these issues and welcome their willingness to hold further human rights dialogue.

We recognise the difficulties that some Egyptian citizens have faced in their attempts to have religious conversion recognised under Egyptian law and will continue to urge the Government of Egypt to implement transparent and effective procedures in this respect. We look forward to these issues being discussed at the June EU-Egypt political sub-committee established under the European neighbourhood policy action plan.

Fishing: Scallops

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 7 May (WA 69), on what date the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will reach its conclusions on scallop stocks. [HL3771]

It is too early to say. We will, however, be actively engaging with the newly established and Seafish-sponsored National Scallop Group and the Scallop Association to explore appropriate mechanisms to deal with the issues of both stock conservation and protection of the marine environment.

Judicial Appointments

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will consult the Judicial Appointments Commission as to whether there are minimum non-statutory entry requirements which reduce the diversity of those available for selection for judicial appointments; and[HL3818]

Whether they will amend the requirement for candidates for most salaried judicial posts to have had fee-paid experience to make it desirable but not essential, as recommended by the Judicial Appointments Commission, in order to promote diversity.[HL3819]

All measures that could help to improve the diversity of the judiciary are being considered, including the development of a comprehensive and collaborative new approach to the use of non-statutory eligibility criteria in the judicial appointments process. The Ministry of Justice continues to work very closely with the JAC and the judiciary to look at what more can be achieved.

Police: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recruits have failed to complete their training course each year since the formation of the PSNI; and what is the gender and community background of those recruits. [HL3778]

I am advised by the chief constable that, since November 2001, 96 student officers have failed to complete their training course. The following tables show the gender and community background of these recruits.

Gender

Year

Male

Female

Total

2001

0

1

1

2002

5

3

8

2003

11

3

14

2004

12

5

17

2005

8

10

18

2006

6

3

9

2007

14

5

19

2008

4

6

10

Total

60

36

96

Community Background

Year

Protestant

Catholic

Not determined

Total

2001

0

1

0

1

2002

2

6

0

8

2003

2

12

0

14

2004

5

12

0

17

2005

4

14

0

18

2006

3

6

0

9

2007

9

9

1

19

2008

3

7

0

10

Total

28

67

1

96

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to use non-police employees for office jobs in County Fermanagh in order to release police officers for other duties.[HL3835]

The chief constable has provided the following Answer:

There are currently no plans to use non-police employees for office jobs in County Fermanagh in order to release police officers for other duties.

Population

asked Her Majesty's Government:

With reference to the Met Office publication Barometer (issue 9, page 12), what is the correct proportion of the United Kingdom population who live in cities; what figure is used for rural proofing of legislation; and whether the Office for National Statistics has been consulted on this subject.[HL3821]

The figure stated in Barometer (issue 9, page 12) that 80 per cent of the UK population lives in cities refers to the percentage of the UK population that lived in urban areas as at the 1991 census, rather than to the population that lives in cities.

Using the rural and urban definition published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2004, the ONS has identified that 81 per cent of the UK population as at the 2001 census lived in built-up areas that contained 10,000 people or more. This includes those people who lived in UK cities in 2001 but also those who lived in smaller towns that had a population of over 10,000.

Using the rural and urban definition, 19 per cent of the UK population as at the 2001 census were identified as living in rural areas. These figures of 81 per cent and 19 per cent are used across government when referring to populations in urban and rural areas. The Government develop policies for the whole country, rural and urban. The relevant tool in relation to rural proofing is the rural and urban definition, which enables the outcomes of government policies to be assessed in both urban and rural areas.

The Office for National Statistics has been consulted, as it published the rural and urban definition and, using this definition, it published the statistics that stated that 81 per cent of the UK population as at the 2001 census lived in urban areas and 19 per cent lived in rural areas.

Public Spending: Equality Impact Assessments

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 19 February (WA 48) concerning equality impact assessments of public spending in Northern Ireland, what guidance, if any, is provided to public authorities on how to obtain relevant evidence and so decide what consideration they give to assessing existing and proposed funding policies for equality impact. [HL3758]

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland publishes a range of guidance for public authorities to assist them to comply with their statutory obligations. Copies of the Guide to the Statutory Duties, Practical Guidance on Equality Impact Assessment, Statement on Key Inequalities in Northern Ireland and Monitoring Guidance for Use by Public Authorities will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.