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Written Answers

Volume 702: debated on Tuesday 24 June 2008

Written Answers

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Armed Forces: Cyber Attacks

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are satisfied that United Kingdom Armed Forces are sufficiently resourced to counter cyber attacks. [HL4295]

The MoD has deployed a range of defences to counter attacks from known threats against its networks. However, the department is not complacent and continues to develop these defences in reaction to the daily changing and increasing threat.

Aviation: Licences

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many pilots in the United Kingdom have been issued with a licence (type rating) to fly BAe 146 or Boeing 757 aircraft in the past 30 years; and of these, how many are currently flying. [HL4086]

In the past 30 years the Civil Aviation Authority has issued:

BAe 146/AVRO RJ series combined type ratings—2,055 pilots; and

Boeing 757/767 combined type ratings—5,439 pilots.

We do not have figures on how many of these pilots are in current flying practice on these aircraft or still flying; over a 30-year period it would be reasonable to expect that many will have retired, or be flying different types of aircraft.

Aviation: Ministerial Meetings

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On how many occasions Ministers and officials from the Department for Transport have met representatives of BAA Ltd since January 2006. [HL4040]

The Secretary of State for Transport has met with BAA Ltd on three occasions since January 2008. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), met with BAA Ltd on one occasion during this period. Department for Transport officials meet regularly with BAA representatives to discuss matters relating to air transport.

Bahrain

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made to the Government of Bahrain about a petition signed by more than 54,000 citizens of Bahrain calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister of Bahrain for his alleged conduct and violations of human rights and the appointment of a successor from outside the royal family. [HL4032]

Benefits: Overseas Recipients

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by Lord McKenzie of Luton on 5 June (WA 69–71) concerning benefits and pensions paid abroad, how they ensure that pensions are paid in full to entitled people in Ireland; and how they ascertain that such recipients are still alive. [HL4184]

The UK and Ireland apply EU Regulation 1408/71 which seeks to co-ordinate the various EU member states' social security schemes. The regulation protects the rights of social security claimants by providing that a claim to state pension in any member state can be treated as a claim in any other member state where entitlement might exist.

Death of a customer is normally reported to the department by relatives or executors. The department has a programme of life certification to provide an assurance that customers continue to be entitled to receive their pension. It is planned to reduce the need for life certification for Irish customers by exchanging data on mutual customers with the Irish authorities. Officials are currently addressing legal, technical and security issues to enable the agreement to be implemented.

British Coal Compensation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the decision of (a) the Solicitors Regulation Authority not to take any disciplinary action against Avalon Solicitors upon the complaint of Geoffrey Littlewood, a claimant in the British Coal respiratory disease litigation; and (b) the declaration by the Solicitors Regulation Authority that such action was not in the public interest; and whether, in determining the public interest, the authority had regard to the income of a partner of that firm of £13 million in one year. [HL4051]

Complaints about solicitors are a matter for the Legal Complaints Service and the Solicitors Regulation Authority rather than the Government, since the legal profession is independent. The Government are therefore unable to comment on individual cases.

The Law Society has taken action to deal with the complaints and to discipline those firms of solicitors whose relationship and arrangements with claims handlers operated against the interest of clients and breached the society's rules. In January 2004 the Law Society issued a policy statement warning that taking success fees could be considered inadequate professional service and in February 2004 the chief executive of the Law Society wrote to firms conducting miners' cases drawing their attention to the policy statement.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has investigated 60 firms of solicitors in respect of their work under the Coal Health Compensation Scheme; 23 firms have been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and the SRA has won the first four disciplinary cases heard there. To date, solicitors have refunded over £3.6 million to miners. This figure may rise as more investigations are completed.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the dates of hearings listed before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in respect of each of the solicitors in the British Coal litigation, including Beresfords, Raleys, Wake Smith, Ashton Morton Slack, Gorman Hamilton, Lopian Wagner, Thompsons, Watson Burton and Moss Legal LLP; and whether any arrangements have been made to provide the retired miners, their widows and families with pro bono legal representation. [HL4052]

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal is an independent judicial body and as such dates of hearings listed before the tribunal are not a matter for the Government. It is open to any one to make inquiry of the tribunal as to the current position in any particular case.

As the Solicitors Regulatory Authority is the prosecuting body, it is the solicitor who would be the defendant and as such there is no role for third parties to be represented at the proceedings. However, the MoJ fully recognises the role of pro bono help for those ineligible for legal aid or unable to fund private legal provision and while it is not responsible for the provision of such help, the dedicated pro bono website www.probono.net provides information on how such help can be accessed.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

(a) what is the total number of cases dealt with by the Legal Complaints Service in the British Coal respiratory disease litigation, British Coal vibration white finger litigation and British Coal industrial deafness litigation; (b) whether any action is being taken to provide complainants with pro bono legal representation; and (c) what is their assessment of only 2 per cent of eligible claimants in the litigation having had their cases examined by the Legal Complaints Service. [HL4054]

It is our understanding that the Legal Complaints Service has received 3,507 complaints to date, of which 2,736 have been closed. This has resulted in excess of £900,000 being recovered for former miners or their relatives. The LCS accept that to date it has only dealt with a small percentage of the potential complainants, however its role is to make people aware of where they can go to complain if they believe they have a grievance against a solicitor, rather than encourage people to make a complaint.

While the MoJ fully recognises the role of pro bono help for those ineligible for legal aid or unable to fund private legal provision it is not responsible for the provision of such help. However the dedicated pro bono web site www.probono.net provides information on how such help can be accessed.

Both the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform will continue to work with the LCS, the LSCC, the Legal Services Ombudsman (LSO), coalfield MPs and other bodies, to ensure that all claimants under the coal health scheme understand their rights to redress through the LCS where deductions have been made wrongfully from their compensation awards.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether claimants represented by the Union of Democratic Mineworkers, Nottingham Region, and its claims handling company, Vendside Ltd, in the British Coal vibration white finger litigation and the British Coal respiratory disease litigation have available to them any complaints procedure concerning the deduction of administration fees from the compensation awarded by the Government. [HL4106]

Where claims have been handled by solicitors on behalf of the UDM and Vendside, complaints can be made to the Legal Complaints Service. Where Vendside handle claims, complaints including those about the deduction of administration fees should first be referred to Vendside under its complaint procedure required under the Compensation Act 2006, and then to the claims management regulator at the Ministry of Justice if the complaint cannot be resolved. However, the regulator can only consider complaints arising after Vendside became authorised as a claims management business in April 2007.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

(a) how many cases have been dealt with by the Union of Democratic Mineworkers, Nottingham Region, and its claims handling company, Vendside Ltd, in the British Coal vibration white finger litigation, British Coal respiratory disease litigation and the British Coal industrial deafness litigation; (b) which firms of solicitors represented such claimants; and (c) how many claims were dealt with by each firm of solicitors. [HL4107]

The following table shows the number of claims registered by the UDM and its handling company, Vendside Ltd, and UDM claims handled by solicitors in the British Coal vibration white finger (VWF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) litigation as at the 8 June 2008:

Claimants' Representatives

VWF

COPD

NIHL

Total

UDM / Vendside Ltd

11,522

16,586

10,410

38,518

Ashton Morton Slack LLP

5,220

4,423

844

10,487

Beresfords Solicitors

6,946

6,291

1,763

15,000

Latham and Co

0

8

0

8

Lloyd Green Solicitors

7

129

0

136

Moss Solicitors

5,187

4,513

15

9,715

Total

28,882

31,950

13,032

73,864

Additionally, BRM and Wake Smith Solicitors have handled some UDM claims. However, the department's claims handlers, Capita, have not been informed which claims have been passed from the UDM to them to handle and which were registered directly with BRM or Wake Smith by the claimant.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

(a) what is the total amount of costs repaid by claimants' solicitors to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform in the British Coal vibration white finger litigation; (b) how much remains outstanding; (c) which firms of solicitors have not repaid in full and what is the amount outstanding for each firm; and (d) whether action to enforce repayment has been taken. [HL4161]

No costs are due to be repaid in relation to the vibration white finger litigation. The response below relates to the OROS costs recovery in relation to the British Coal respiratory disease litigation.

(a) £75.9 million (including interest) has been recouped as at 13 June 2008.

(b) £5.78 million remains outstanding as at 13 June 2008.

(c) and (d) The firms that have not repaid in full are split into the following categories. Table l lists those firms that have not repaid and against which the department intends to seek judgment on the amounts shown, and interest thereafter at 8 per cent per annum.

Table 2 lists those firms with which the department has entered into separate negotiations in terms of consent orders and has agreed terms of payment.

In addition there is a further category involving a small number of firms where the department's legal representatives are in negotiation regarding the timing of repayment.

Table 1

Solicitor Name

Debt inc Interest as at 12/06/08

Ashington Denton with Bingley Dyson and Furey

£1,717.62

Barber Cartain Solicitors

£3,673.96

Barrie Y Jones and Co Solicitors

£1,705.98

BBH Solicitors

28,301.46

Black and Guild Solicitors

£710.15

Green Wood and McLean LLP

£3,901.63

McConville O'Neill Solicitors and Notaries

£285,940.23

Rhidian Davies and Co Solicitors

£696.31

£326,647.34

Table 2

Solicitor Name

Debt inc Interest as at 12/06/08

Atteys

£157,969.37

Avalon Solicitors

£2,170,566.12

Bailey Bravo Jobling Solicitors

£80,540.81

Barkers Solicitors

£17,784.17

Branton Bridge Solicitors

£11,916.84

Carr and Co Solicitors

£1,131.45

Collings Solicitors

£4,787.42

Delta Legal

£1,598,375.94

J M Skinner and Co Solicitors

£36.867.65

Ingrams Solicitors

£284,873.84

Kidd and Spoor Harper Solicitors

£43,999.67

Lloyd Green Solicitors

£35,194.40

MLM Solicitors

£167,061.54

Peace Revitt Solicitors

£12,934.43

PM Law Solicitors

£23,229.62

Recompense Solicitors

£445,708.53

Robinson and Murphy Solicitors

£2,376.55

Shaw and Co Solicitors

£1,575.63

Stuart Bell and Associates

£44,044.56

Clive Ashman Solicitors

£351.72

Thompsons Solicitors

£712.25

£5,142,002.51

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the current total amount of costs paid to the 10 highest-earning firms of solicitors under the two claims handling agreements in the British Coal litigation; and whether the figures exclude moneys offset by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform against the overpayment of costs in the British Coal vibration white finger litigation. [HL4162]

The total amount paid to the 10 highest-earning firms representing claimants under the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and vibration white finger under the coal health compensations schemes are shown in the table below as at 15 June 2008:

Claimants’ Representatives

COPD Costs Paid (£ million) *

VWF Costs Paid (£ million )

Total Costs Paid (£ million)

Thompsons Solicitors

116.6

29.3

145.9

Beresfords Solicitors

123.5

7.8

131.4

Hugh James

95.2

12.0

107.3

Raleys Solicitors

74.8

13.5

88.2

Browell Smith and Co

52.4

13.8

66.2

Mark Gilbert Morse

55.9

0.05

55.9

Avalon Solicitors

38.9

0.18

39.0

Graysons Solicitors

24.5

12.1

36.7

Watson Burton LLP

25.9

8.2

34.1

Union of Democratic Mineworkers

23.0

10.6

33.6

Figures do not add up due to rounding.

* These figures reflect the costs paid minus the amounts recovered as a result of the reduction in costs paid to solicitors for claims settled under the OROS fast track scheme.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On what date the British Coal vibration white finger litigation is expected to conclude; and what will be the final cost of the scheme, broken down between (a) compensation paid to claimants; (b) costs paid to claimants' solicitors; (c) costs paid to defence lawyers; (d) payments made to each of their contractors; and (e) administrative and other expenditure incurred by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. [HL4163]

We expect to substantially complete the vibration white finger (VWF) scheme by autumn 2008. The anticipated final costs of the scheme, broken down as in the Question, are:

(a) compensation paid to claimants: £2.1 billion (estimated);

(b) cost paid to claimants' solicitors: £181 million (estimated);

(c) defendants’ legal cost: £47 million (estimated). This is a total figure and has not been broken down into schemes;

(d) Capita and other contractors: £638 million (estimated). This is a total figure and has not been broken down into schemes. Medical costs (VWF only): £31 million (estimated); and

(e) the department's internal cost: information not available at this level.

Care Services: Independent Living

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When their investigation into the impact of reforms to the benefit system, employment support programmes and charging policies within adult social care, outlined in their independent living strategy, will begin. [HL4085]

The investigation by the Office for Disability Issues outlined in the independent living strategy will begin after the publication of the Green Paper on care and support in early 2009.

Government departments have been required to carry out disability equality impact assessments on new policies since December 2006. An equality impact assessment will be provided when DWP publishes its response to the recent public consultation about proposals to reform the specialist disability employment programmes. This is due for publication in the summer.

The Green Paper on care and support, to be published in early 2009, will include an assessment of the impact on equality. Final decisions on the reform of social care funding will take account of the interaction with benefits and employment support programmes, and the impact on disability equality.

Crime: Arson

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many incidents of criminal arson have been recorded by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in the south Belfast area in the past three years; what arrangements exist between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the fire service to ensure all arson incidents attended by the fire service are reported to the police; how many individuals have been charged in relation to those acts of arson; and what profiling is carried out by the Police Service of Northern Ireland on patterns of arson in south Belfast. [HL4092]

The chief constable has provided the following Answer.

The following table details the number of incidents of arson recorded by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in the south Belfast area in the past three years. The table also shows the number of offences cleared by means of a charge or summons; it is not possible to disaggregate this statistic to show charge only.

Recorded

Number cleared by means of charge/summons

2005-06

79

3

2006-07

75

4

2007-08

115

2

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service reports all primary fires and certain categories of secondary fires to the police. The incident is then investigated by the PSNI which determine whether or not the fire was the result of an arson attack.

The definitions of those fires reported to police are detailed below:

Primary Fires

buildings including mobile homes fit for occupation;

caravans;

vehicles and other methods of transport;

outdoor storage, plant and machinery;

agricultural and forestry premises and property; and

other outdoor structures including post-boxes, tunnels, bridges etc.

Secondary Fires

if they involve casualties, rescues or escapes;

if they spread from one secondary fire location to another; and

if they are attended by five or more appliances at a location where either firefighters, appliances or equipment arrived at the fire ground and were employed in fighting the fire. Appliances are to be counted as having been used in fighting the fire if they themselves, equipment from them or persons riding on them, were employed to fight the fire.

There have been no profiles produced in the past year on patterns of criminal arson.

Crime: Fuel Laundering

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people were charged with fuel laundering offences in County Armagh in 2005, 2006 and 2007; and how many were found guilty. [HL4211]

It is not the Government's policy to disclose where individuals have been charged because this may compromise HMRC operations.

For the whole of Northern Ireland, in 2005, 2006 and 2007, the numbers of people that were: (a) charged with fuel laundering offences (or proceeded against by way of information and summons) and (b) convicted of such offences are presented in the following table.

Calendar year

Charged/proceeded against by way of information and summons

Convictions

2005

4

1

2006

2

1

2007

3

2

Data Loss: Rosemary Nelson Inquiry

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What were the circumstances that led to the loss of a disc containing confidential data by the Rosemary Nelson inquiry; whether the loss has been attributed to a member of the inquiry team or to a staff member; whether the investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland has been completed; and if so, what was the outcome. [HL3860]

The loss of this disc by the Rosemary Nelson inquiry is currently being investigated by the PSNI and it would be inappropriate for me to comment further. However initial advice from police is that the loss was accidental.

Diplomatic Status

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On how many occasions in the past 12 months civil action in respect of the commercial obligations of foreign diplomats accredited to the United Kingdom has been blocked because of the respondent's diplomatic immunity; and what were the countries concerned. [HL4135]

We are not aware of any such occasions in the past 12 months. There is no obligation on the courts or parties to a civil dispute to notify us of such cases.

The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states that diplomats should not practise any professional or commercial activity for personal profit. We would therefore not expect diplomats posted to the UK to become involved in civil cases of a commercial nature.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether accredited foreign diplomats may use diplomatic immunity to avoid enforcement of commercial debts and obligations incurred in the course of business trading; and what steps they take if such an individual abuses diplomatic immunity to avoid commercial obligations. [HL4136]

The Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964 provides that foreign diplomats do not enjoy immunity from civil or administrative jurisdiction for actions relating to any professional or commercial activity exercised by diplomats outside their official functions. It would therefore not be possible for an individual to abuse diplomatic immunity to avoid commercial obligations.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they have taken to ensure that fully accredited diplomats are present in the United Kingdom solely or principally for undertaking diplomatic activity; and whether an individual with diplomatic status may be present in the United Kingdom principally for the purpose of carrying out business activity. [HL4137]

We would take a serious view of any foreign diplomat breaching the provisions of Article 42 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that “a diplomatic agent shall not in the receiving state practice for personal profit any professional or commercial activity”.

Appointments of foreign diplomats are notified to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on forms signed by the head of mission or their designate. Where necessary, we seek further clarification on appointments from the head of mission.

Elections: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In what circumstances people in Northern Ireland are permitted to register to vote in more than one parliamentary constituency or local government area; what are the rules on where such people may vote; how many people are registered in more than one constituency or area; and whether electronic or other means are used to check for undeclared second registrations. [HL4000]

In Northern Ireland, a person may be registered to vote in more than one constituency in respect of both local and parliamentary elections if that person meets the conditions set out in statute. However a person is not permitted to vote in more than one constituency and it is an offence to do so.

The relevant statutory provisions relating to parliamentary elections are contained in the Representation of the People Act 1983 (Sections 1 and 61(2)). The relevant statutory provisions relating to local elections are contained in the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Act 1989 (Section 1) and the Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962 (paragraph 12(2) of Schedule 9).

The chief electoral officer for Northern Ireland is responsible for the registration of electors and the maintenance of the electoral register in Northern Ireland. I have forwarded your request for information relating to the number and verification of those registered in more than one constituency or area to him so that he may respond to you directly.

Embryology

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 12 May (WA 109–10) regarding culture on a collagen surface, whether the layer of feeder cells used for outgrowing embryos is always either completely free of collagen or lacking any similar nurturing effect. [HL4060]

It is up to Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) licensed centres to ensure they have protocols in place to ensure they comply with Sections 3(3)(a) and 3(4) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. This is discussed and checked on a case-by- case basis when the HFEA inspects these research centres. Methods for embryo culture and stem cell derivation will vary according to the aims and objectives of the specific research project.

The intention of embryonic stem cell research projects, which involve the culture of outgrowing embryos, is to derive stem cells from a flat layer of cells, not to nurture the development of an embryo.

Energy: Coal Mining

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures they are taking to facilitate or promote the role of the market in the revival of coal mining in the United Kingdom, including underground gasification in deep coal structures inland and under the North Sea. [HL4173]

The Energy Bill includes measures to help the market deliver secure energy supplies to the UK. It is important that such supplies can be drawn from as diverse a range of sources as possible, both from home and abroad—including UK hydrocarbon resources such as coal.

By the end of 2008 the Government expect to have paid £52.8 million in coal investment aid to support mine investment and maintain access to economically viable coal reserves. This has been in addition to £162 million paid under the UK Coal Operating Aid Scheme during 2000 to 2002. As a result of this past support, UK coal producers have been better placed to benefit from the recent recovery in market prices, to the extent that several new developments are now in progress which are wholly commercially funded.

Following the 2006 energy review, the Government have also convened the Coal Forum to bring together coal-fired generators, coal producers and suppliers, power plant suppliers, trade unions, small businesses and government representatives. The forum facilitates dialogue to help to find market solutions and the right framework, consistent with our energy policy goals, to secure the long-term contribution of coal-fired power generation and optimise the use of economical coal reserves in the UK.

The Government undertook a feasibility study of underground coal gasification (UCG) which concluded that, in conjunction with carbon capture and storage, UCG had the potential to contribute to UK energy requirements. Although significant hurdles need to be overcome, there is some appetite in the UK market to exploit such techniques. We are discussing with interested companies how the regulatory regime can accommodate this novel technology.

Energy: Enhanced Oil and Gas Recovery

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking to encourage or facilitate market-driven increases in the use of carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery and enhanced gas recovery in the United Kingdom. [HL4253]

The use of CO2 to enhance oil recovery is an established technique in onshore oil and gas. The Minister for Energy recently visited an established scheme in Mississippi. Application of EOR techniques is a key part of the Government's stewardship initiative which is designed to ensure that existing fields are produced to their full economic potential and the topic is on the agenda of the next PILOT meeting, the joint industry Government oil and gas forum, in order to identify any barriers to implementation.

In addition, the Energy Bill introduces a carbon capture and storage regime that will reduce regulatory uncertainty by providing a seamless transition between CO2 injection for enhanced oil production and injection for storage within the same geological structure.

Energy: Gas Prices

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What recent forecasts have been made of the retail price of gas in (a) six months' time, (b) one year's time, and (c) two years' time. [HL4117]

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform does not publish retail price forecasts for gas.

It publishes crude oil, wholesale gas and coal price assumptions for the period till 2020, which are used in the department's analytical work, where relevant. The updated set of future wholesale price assumptions published in May 2008 can be found using the following links:

www.berr.gov.uk/energy/environment/projections/recent/page26391.html

www.berr.gov.uk/files/file46071.pdf.

Energy: Gas Storage

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures they are taking to facilitate or promote the role of the market in using empty gas fields for inter-seasonal gas storage. [HL4174]

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is taking a number of measures to ensure that the UK has increased gas storage options, both onshore and offshore, for the future. There are now more than 10 gas storage projects in development, which, if all go forward according to schedule, could double UK gas storage capacity by 2012. The Government are also taking steps to improve and streamline the regulatory regimes for constructing gas storage and import facilities through the Planning and Energy Bills, now before Parliament. This will complement the UK petroleum licensing regime and allow for gas to be stored in depleted gas fields where technically and economically viable.

Energy: Gasification of Coal

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are considering measures that would facilitate market action to encourage the gasification of coal to replace imported natural gas in the United Kingdom. [HL4254]

The Government undertook a feasibility study of underground coal gasification (UCG) which concluded that, in conjunction with carbon capture and storage, UCG had the potential to contribute to UK energy requirements. The study was published in October 2004 and can be accessed at the following web address: www.berr.gov.uk/energy/sources/renewables/publications/page19148.html.

Although significant hurdles need to be overcome, there is some appetite in the UK market to exploit such techniques. We are discussing with interested companies how the regulatory regime can accommodate this novel technology. It is, at this stage, too early to gauge the level of contribution that UCG might be able to make to UK gas supplies as the technical, economic and environmental viability of such techniques has not been proven.

Energy: Severn Barrage

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the strategic review of proposals for a Severn Barrage will consider alternatives to a fixed barrage, such as canals, reservoirs or permanently submerged turbines and radial generators; and when the review will report. [HL4034]

The Severn Tidal Power feasibility study is considering all tidal range technologies, not just a barrage. As part of the feasibility study, Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) issued a call for proposals which closed on 13 June.

PB will appraise all known proposals over the summer, and we expect to consult publicly on a shortlist of options in the autumn. The feasibility study is expected to report in early 2010 and will be published for consultation at the time.

Fuel Poverty

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many elderly people are affected by fuel poverty in each (a) county; and (b) region in England; and what proportions of the total number of elderly people these represent. [HL4313]

Fuel poverty is calculated at a household level. The lowest level of aggregation available for fuel poverty is at Government Office Region. The latest available dataset is for 2005 and shows the following for households where the oldest member is over 60 years of age:

Government Office Region

Number of Fuel Poor Elderly Households

Total Number of Elderly Households

% of Households that are Fuel Poor

East Midlands

77,000

652,000

12%

East of England

102,000

827,000

12%

London

58,000

852,000

7%

North East

55,000

460,000

12%

North West

114,000

1,019,000

11%

South East

85,000

1,211,000

7%

South West

113,000

911,000

12%

West Midlands

104,000

853,000

12%

Yorkshire and The Humber

85,000

733,000

12%

Housing: Insulation

CLG's decent homes programme, directed at social housing and to support vulnerable households in the private sector, includes provision for effective insulation of the home.

A decent home should provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort and this includes having an effective amount of insulation. The level of insulation considered to be effective depends on the type of wall construction, the presence of a loft and the effectiveness of the home's heating system. The detailed standard is set out in A Decent Home: Definition and guidance for implementation, Communities and Local Government, June 2006 and published on the department's website.

The 2006 English House Condition Survey estimated that 3,486,000 homes across the whole of the housing stock did not have effective insulation as set out by the decent homes standard. Details are provided in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Number and per cent of homes failing the insulation component of the decent homes standard in England, 2006

Owner occupied

private rented

social sector

total

number ('000s) failing decent homes insulation component

2,170

616

700

3,486

Per cent failing decent homes insulation component

14.1

23.6

17.8

15.9

Source: 2006 English House Condition Survey, CLG

India: Social Exclusion

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress they are making with non-governmental organisations in tackling social exclusion in India; what evaluations are planned; and whether they will use this experience in their regular human rights dialogue with the Government of India, bilaterally and through the European Union. [HL3693]

Countering social exclusion, promoting equality and tackling discrimination in India remain a high UK priority. We continue to support the Government of India's efforts in these areas. We also work in active partnership with a number of non-governmental organisations, such as Action Aid. We ensure that their evaluations feed into our discussions with the relevant Indian authorities, including the National Human Rights Commission. The social exclusion of Dalits was discussed at the latest round of the EU-India Human Rights Dialogue in New Delhi on 15 February where reference was made to the Indian Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment's existing schemes for the development of scheduled castes. The Department for International Development supports several Indian government initiatives to combat caste discrimination and social exclusion in all its forms.

Maritime Architecture

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to encourage innovative investment and activity in maritime architecture in Britain, drawing on examples from the Netherlands and elsewhere. [HL3968]

The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) works across government to encourage innovation and disseminate best practice in housing design, for example through the support to the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).

However, it is for local planning authorities to plan positively for the achievement of high quality design, including considering innovative and original schemes brought forward by developers.

Northern Ireland: National Stadium

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In what circumstances they would provide funding from outside the Northern Ireland block grant for a national stadium for the Province with a memorial to IRA members who committed suicide. [HL3798]

Parades: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On what £62,220, listed in section three of the 2006–07 annual report of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission under the sub-heading “Commission's expenses”, was spent. [HL3956]

The figure includes the costs of monitors, courier services, official cars, conferences and catering.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On what £77,339, listed in section three of the annual report of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission under the sub-heading “Professional advisors' service”, was spent; who were the advisors, how they were they selected; and what services they provided. [HL3957]

The Northern Ireland Parades Commission has confirmed professional advisors' services were provided by Stakeholder Communications, which provided media consultancy advice; Moore Stevens UK, which performed the internal audit for 2006-07; and HELM Consultancy, which prepared the commission’s annual accounts for 2005-06. The selection processes for the above services were handled by the NIO procurement unit and were subject to the unit's procurement process.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On what £68,103 indicated in note 3 to the accounts in the 2006–07 annual report of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission as “travel, subsistence and hospitality” was spent. [HL4112]

I have been informed by the Northern Ireland Parades Commission that the rounded expenditure on “travel, subsistence and hospitality” for 2006-07 was as follows:

£63,000 for travel;

£3,800 for subsistence; and

£1,200 for hospitality.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What equality considerations are used by the Northern Ireland Parades Commission in appointing consultants and sub-contractors. [HL4113]

Parades Commission appointment processes are handled by the NIO procurement unit and are subject to the equality provisions contained in the Central Procurement Directorate's management consultancy framework.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the Northern Ireland Parades Commission processed only 81.1 per cent of payments during 2007 within 30 days in accordance with the Confederation of British Industry Prompt Payers Code, as noted in its annual report 2007; what invoices were not paid within 30 days during that period; and why they were not paid. [HL4240]

The figure of 81.1 per cent relates to the departmental percentage. The Parades Commission paid 94.2 per cent of invoices within 30 days. From a total of 1,153 invoices, 67 (5.8 per cent) were sent to the department’s Financial Services Division after the deadline date.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much was allocated in the Northern Ireland Office budget for the Northern Ireland Parades Commission in each year since its creation; and how much was passed to the commission. [HL4241]

This information has appeared in the Parades Commission’s annual report and financial statements since its inception. Copies of these reports are held in the Library.

Parliament: Cost

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the cost per member for 2007–08 and the previous three financial years of (a) the House of Commons; (b) the House of Lords; and (c) the European Parliament; and [HL4100]

What is the cost for 2007–08 and the previous three financial years of maintaining (a) the House of Commons; (b) the House of Lords; and (c) the European Parliament including (i) salaries, pensions, travelling allowances and secretarial expenses for members; (ii) salaries, allowances and pensions and other costs of supporting staff; (iii) accommodation, including rent, operating costs and security; and (iv) all other administrative costs, including payments to parliamentary bodies; and [HL4101]

What was the number of sitting days of (a) the House of Commons Chamber; (b) the House of Commons, Westminster Hall; (c) the House of Lords Chamber; (d) the House of Lords Grand Committee; and (e) the European Parliament plenary sessions in the (i) 2006–07 Session; (ii) 2007 calendar year; and (iii) 2007–08 financial year. [HL4102]

Precise comparisons between the cost of the European Parliament and the Westminster Parliament are difficult. The requested information is set out below. The House of Commons and House of Lords have provided data relating to costs on a resource basis, consistent with their resource accounts. The European Parliament has not adopted resource accounting and budgeting and all its cost figures have been presented on a cash basis.

Per Capita Cost per Member

£'000s

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08 unaudited provision

House of Commons (1) (3)

449

724

572

636

House of Lords (2) (3)

125

157

138

176

Figures for the European Parliament are available on its website (8).

Annual Costs

European Parliament

The European Parliament outturn figures for calendar years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and budget figures for 2007 and 2008 can be found on the European Parliament website (8).

House of Commons

£ millions

2007-08 Provisional Unaudited Outturn

Salaries, pensions, for Members

61.1

Salaries and pensions for admin staff

87.8

Accommodation costs, including rent, operating costs and security

207.9

Other administration costs

51.0

Total

397.7

Details of previous years’ expenditure by the House of Commons can be found in the Members and administration resource accounts (4)

House of Lords

£ millions

2007-08 Provisional Unaudited Outturn

Member’s expenses, salaries and pensions for admin staff (5)

47.3

Accommodation costs, including rent, operating costs and security

99.9

Other administration costs

61.9

Total

209.1

Details of previous years’ expenditure by the House of Lords can be found in resource accounts (6).

Number of Sitting Days

Sitting Days

2006-07 Session

Calendar Year 2007

2007-08 Financial Year

European Parliament Plenary Session (7) (8)

44.5

49

43.5

House of Commons Chamber

145

149

145

House of Commons, Westminster Hall

99

85

93

House of Lords Chamber

142

148

139

House of Lords, Grand Committee (9)

2

5

4

(1) The figures are calculated on the 641 Members who actually sat in chamber for 2006-07, 659 Members for 2005-06 and 731 for 2004-05. There are 646 Members, of whom five decline to sit in the chamber.

(2) The figures are calculated on the assumption that there are 722 Members.

(3) From 2004-05 onwards the figures are based on the capital charge being 3.5 per cent.

(4) House of Commons resource accounts can be found on their website (HC419, HC420, HC67, C68, HC1239, HC1240, HC831, HC832): www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmhocpap.htm#resource.

(5) The indicative numbers held at the moment do not separate out the data for Members expenses and salaries and pensions for admin staff.

(6) House of Lords resource accounts can be found on their website (HL23, HL44, HL11, HL197, HL163): www. publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldres.htm.

(7) European Parliament Budget Information and number of Members can be found on their website: www.europa.eu.int/eur-lex/budget/www/ index-en.htm.

(8) www.europarl.org.uk/

(9) Details are for the Welsh and Northern Ireland Grand Committee only.

Police: Firearms

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many police officers employed by the Metropolitan Police are authorised to use automatic weapons. [HL4303]

Police: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 3 June (WA 45) concerning resignation from the Police Service of Northern Ireland of officers appointed on the “50–50” recruitment system, what the category of “undetermined” signifies. [HL4094]

The category of “undetermined” signifies that a community background determination could not be made for these employees based on the information they provided on their equality monitoring form.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 3 June (WA 45–6) concerning police manning in County Fermanagh, whether the officer seriously injured in a recent car bomb has been replaced for day-to-day work purposes. [HL4111]

I am pleased to report that the officer is making steady progress. The chief constable has provided me with the following Answer.

The injured officer was attached to response policing within F district. The district commander has set minimum strengths for response policing, and additional officers are deployed where necessary to ensure that these levels are maintained.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which areas of Northern Ireland have little or no night cover by the Police Service of Northern Ireland; and what steps they will take to remedy this situation. [HL4188]

The chief constable has provided me with the following Answer.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland provides a 24-hour, seven days a week response service to every area in Northern Ireland. Where analysis indicates, additional neighbourhood policing, tactical support group and roads policing officers will be deployed to support response policing or to address specific problems.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many personnel and what outside agencies are employed in public relations work for the Police Service of Northern Ireland; and what has been the service's total public relations budget in each year since 2002. [HL4189]

The chief constable has provided me with the following Answer.

There are six personnel employed in the public relations branch of the Department of Media and PR within the PSNI. The outside agencies used are Whitenoise Design Ltd and Genesis Advertising Ltd. Information specific to the total PR budget is not available; the budget for that area also includes News/Press, Media Monitoring, Public Affairs, Administration and Information Management.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people are employed in the Police Ombudsman's Northern Ireland office and what is the cost of that office in the current year. [HL4192]

145 staff are currently employed in the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. The budget for the office in the current year is £9,977,000.

Post Offices: Card Account

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What their plans are for the future of the Post Office card account after the current contract expires. [HL4312]

The existing Post Office card account contract ends on 31 March 2010 as always planned. We are currently in the process of procuring a successor to the existing Post Office card account. An announcement will be made as soon as possible, in accordance with appropriate procurement rules, once a decision has been reached.

Prisoners: Freshstart

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many prisoners in England and Wales had a Freshstart meeting to arrange a jobseeker interview upon release in (a) 2005–06, (b) 2006–07 and (c) 2007–08. [HL4151]

The available information on the number of interviews booked is in the table.

Number of Jobseeker's interviews booked through Freshstart

England and Wales

Period

Number of interviews booked

April 2005 to March 2006

35,457

April 2006 to March 2007

34,011

April 2007 to November 20071

16,013

Source: DWP Information Directorate

Note:

1. Central collection of Freshstart statistics was suspended by DWP in December 2007 due to data security issues arising from the HMRC data loss. Individual prison data are no longer collated centrally.

Prisons: Drugs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many times illegal drugs were found in prisons in Northern Ireland in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007; and what convictions there were as a result. [HL4214]

The total number of illegal drugs finds in Northern Ireland prisons in these years was:

2004

355

2005

360

2006

336

2007

405

The figures include all finds, whether on visitors or inside the establishment; they also include prescription medicines issued within the establishment but in unauthorised possession. Where a visitor to a prison is found to be in possession of illegal drugs they are handed over to the police with a view to prosecution.

The case of any prisoner found in possession of drugs is also carefully considered; more serious cases will be brought to the attention of the police. Any other case will be dealt with through adjudication under the prison rules. The imposition of closed visits, or the banning of a visitor from the prison, may be considered in addition to any award made to the prisoner.

The Prison Service does not hold information on the outcome of cases handed over to the police.

Radiators

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures they are taking to encourage users of central heating to flush radiators regularly in order to avoid build-up of deposits. [HL4070]

An amendment to the building regulations in 2006 introduced new provisions and guidance for the cleaning, flushing and water treatment of new and replacement central heating systems to help avoid build-up of deposits. We have no plans to introduce requirements for the regular flushing of existing central heating systems.

Religious Extremism

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their reaction to the Centre for Social Cohesion's report Virtual caliphate: Islamic extremists and their websites. [HL4203]

The Government welcome the report and have noted the recommendations made. Ww are aware that the internet is used by terrorists and violent extremists in the ways outlined by the Centre for Social Cohesion's report. A cross-government strategy is in place with the explicit aim of tackling terrorist and violent extremist use of the internet.

As part of this strategy, we are working both to reduce the amount of terrorist and violent extremist content available online and to work with and through the communities to use the internet as a platform to counter the terrorist and violent extremist message.

Religious Tolerance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to promote tolerant understanding of Islam on the internet. [HL4202]

Supporting mainstream voices is a key part of the Government’s strategy for preventing terrorism and violent extremism. There are a number of projects supported by government funding aimed at promoting tolerant understanding of Islam on the internet.

Roads: Northern Ireland M1

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many drivers were stopped and penalised on the M1 motorway in Northern Ireland between Balmoral and Black's Road for driving over 30 miles per hour when the temporary speed limit was 50 miles per hour; and, of these, how many have had their fines, penalty points or court summons cancelled. [HL4190]

The chief constable has provided me with the following Answer.

Records show that 16 drivers were given fixed penalty notices on the M1 motorway between Balmoral and Black's Road for driving over 30 miles per hour when the temporary speed limit was 50 miles per hour. All 16 fixed penalty notices were cancelled. The motorists' driving licences were either returned to them unendorsed or, where points had been added to the licence, these were replaced at no cost to the driver.

A total of three motorists were dealt with via the prosecution process—no summons was issued with regard to any of these motorists.

Taxation: Road Fuel

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What yield they now expect from road fuel tax in 2008–09; and what was the yield in 1998–99 and in 2003–04; and [HL4127]

What yield they now expect from value added tax on road fuels in 2008–09 and what was the yield in 1998–99 and in 2003–04. [HL4128]

The forecast revenue for 2008-09 from fuel duty is £25.7 billion. This is published in table C.6 of the 2008 Financial Statement and Budget Report. The full table can be found at: www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/budget/budget_08/report/bud_bud08 _repindex.cfm.

Historic excise duty from road fuels revenues in previous years are published in the Hydrocarbon Oils Bulletin. The revenue raised from road fuel in 1998-99 was £21.6 billion and in 2003-04 it was £22.8 billion. The full bulletin can be found at: www.uktradeinfo.com/index.cfm?task=bulloil.

Updated projections will be published in the Pre-Budget Report later this year.

HM Revenue and Customs do not collect data on the amount of VAT paid on individual goods and services.

Terrorism: Promotion and Glorification

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What systems they have in place for identifying websites that distribute Islamic extremist material; and what resources and personnel they have devoted to this task. [HL4195]

The PREVENT element of the Government's CONTEST strategy recognises the important role that extremist websites play in the radicalisation process. The identification and monitoring of such sites is part of our overall PREVENT delivery plan. It would not be in the interest of national security to provide specific detail of the resources and personnel devoted to this task.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the contribution of online libraries containing Islamic extremist material to the radicalisation of British Muslims. [HL4199]

The Government are concerned about the presence of violent extremist and terrorist material on online libraries in the same way as they are concerned about all forms of terrorist and violent extremist material on the internet.

Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006 allows for the service of a notice by a constable where he or she is of the opinion that unlawfully terrorism-related material is available on an electronic service such as a website, on the person(s) responsible for that material. The notice requires that the unlawfully terrorism-related material is removed or modified within two working days. To date, no Section 3 notices have been issued, as the preferred route for removing such material from the internet is informal contact between the police and the ISP and this has so far always been effective.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether internet service providers are accountable for hosting websites with content that promotes terrorism; and if so, how. [HL4200]

Internet service providers are not responsible for monitoring the content that they host. However if they are found to be hosting material that encourages terrorism they can be asked to remove it, either informally by the police or formally through the issue of a notice under Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006.

Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006 allows for the service of a notice by a constable where he or she is of the opinion that unlawfully terrorism-related material is available on an electronic service such as a website, on the person(s) responsible for that material. The notice requires that the unlawfully terrorism-related material is removed or modified within two working days. To date, no Section 3 notices have been issued, as the preferred route for removing such material from the internet is informal contact between the police and the ISP and this has so far always been effective.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the effectiveness of requiring internet service providers to block websites with extremist content in reducing Islamic extremism. [HL4201]

Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006 provides an effective mechanism for the removal of unlawfully terrorism-related material from the internet when it is hosted in the UK. It is more difficult to remove material that is hosted overseas and we are currently at the initial stages of exploring whether asking ISPs to block access to such material would be an effective option for restricting the availability of such material in the UK.

Trade: Francophone Countries

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What they are doing to encourage United Kingdom interests to engage with commercial opportunities in non-Commonwealth Francophone countries. [HL4292]

UK Trade and Investment provides tailored services that assist UK companies to exploit opportunities in overseas markets. It does this through dedicated UKTI resources in diplomatic posts in 99 markets:

Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium/Lux, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Rep, Denmark, Dominican Rep, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Occupied Palestine, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, UAE (Abu Dhabi & Dubai), USA, Venezuela, Vietnam and Yemen.

Additionally, lobbying and political support by heads of mission continues to be available to UK businesses in response to routine trade and investment inquiries in other countries on a case-by-case basis.

Transport: Fuel Prices

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What recent forecasts have been made of the retail price of unleaded vehicle fuel in (a) six months' time, (b) one year's time, and (c) two years' time. [HL4118]

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform does not publish retail price forecasts for oil, including unleaded vehicle fuel.

It publishes oil, gas and coal price assumptions for the period till 2020, which are used in the department's analytical work, where relevant. The updated set of future oil price assumptions published in May 2008 can be found using the following links:

www.berr.gov.uk/energy/environment/projections/recent/page26391.html

www.berr.gov.uk/files/file46071.pdf

Transport: Heavy Goods Vehicles

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Jim Fitzpatrick, on 16 May (Official Report, Commons, 1841W), to what they attribute the regular increase in vehicle prohibitions relating to heavy goods vehicles. [HL4261]

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) attributes the increase in numbers of prohibitions relating to heavy goods vehicles (HGV) to three main factors:

there is evidence that the rates of non-compliance among foreign HGVs are rising. In the last VOSA random compliance survey in 2006, 22 per cent of foreign vehicles were found to have prohibitable defects compared with 9 per cent two years earlier;

VOSA has developed better targeting over recent years. Use of ANPR technology and weigh in motion sensors have enabled VOSA to concentrate efforts on vehicles and drivers more likely to be non-compliant; and

the Government have given VOSA additional examiners at the roadside to combat the rise in non-compliance. Thirty-six additional front-line examiners have been recruited since 2005-06, and a further 100 are being recruited under the £24 million enforcement package announced by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Jim Fitzpatrick, earlier this year.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Jim Fitzpatrick, on 16 May (Official Report, Commons, 1841W), what proportion of the lorries referred to under the heavy goods vehicles heading for each of the years in question was not registered in the United Kingdom. [HL4262]

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) issued the following number of prohibitions to foreign registered heavy goods vehicles (HGVs):

Foreign HGVs Prohibitions

All HGVs Prohibitions

Percentage of foreign HGVs Prohibitions

2007-08

Overweight

3,379

7,709

43.83%

Drivers' hours

7,321

14,840

49.33%

Mechanical all

19,730

34,094(*)

57.87%

Accidents

-

-

-

2006-07

Overweight

2,620

5,945

44.07%

Drivers' hours

6,376

11,277

56.54%

Mechanical all

13,279

33,295

37.88%

Accidents

-

-

-

2005-06

Overweight

1,423

4,932

28.85%

Drivers' hours

4,403

10,585

41.60%

Mechanical all

5,396

26,729

20.19%

Accidents

-

-

2004-05

Overweight

1,070

4,080

26.23%

Drivers' hours

3,255

8,671

37.54%

Mechanical all

4,388

25,841

16.98%

Accidents

-

-

-

2003-04

Overweight

718

3,785

18.97%

Drivers' hours

2,282

6,918

32.99%

Mechanical all

1,936

24,022

8.06%

Accidents

-

-

-

(*) For 2007-08 figures for mechanical defects are not yet finalised. Those shown are provisional ones.

Mechanical prohibitions for HGVs are for both motor vehicles and trailers.