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Written Answers

Volume 704: debated on Wednesday 15 October 2008

Written Answers

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Asylum Seekers: Unaccompanied Children

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What new guidance they have issued regarding the detention of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. [HL5340]

The Government's position on the detention of asylum-seeking children remains unchanged. Unaccompanied children are detained only in exceptional circumstances for short periods while alternative arrangements are made for their care and safety.

Bovine Tuberculosis

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What research there has been into whether tuberculosis in cattle shows any correlation with the presence or absence of other livestock in the vicinity. [HL5466]

While Defra has not funded any research projects which specifically investigate the association between bovine TB and the presence or absence of other livestock in the vicinity, case control studies TB99 and CCS2005, overseen by the former Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) and carried out as part of the randomised badger culling trial (RBCT), considered the presence of other farmed animals on the holding, contiguous and other neighbouring herds as risk factors for bovine tuberculosis. No associations were found.

Defence: Expenditure

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proportion of gross domestic product was spent on defence in each financial year from 1997-98 to 2007-08. [HL5459]

The percentage of UK gross domestic product spent on defence is set out in table 4.4 of HM Treasury's Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses 2008 (HC 489) as follows:

Year

Percentage of GDP (outturn)

1997-98

2.6

1998-99

2.8

1999-00

2.7

2000-01

2.6

2001-02

2.5

2002-03

2.5

2003-04

2.5

2004-05

2.5

2005-06

2.5

2006-07

2.4

2007-08 (estimated)

2.4

Fees

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Davies of Oldham on 15 July (WA 137-8), how the costs used in the calculation of fees charged by departments and agencies are monitored to ensure that (a) the work is done efficiently; and (b) the moneys spent on and by those doing the work are reasonable. [HL5537]

It is the responsibility of the accounting officer in each public sector organisation to manage that organisation and satisfy himself or herself that fees for services are reasonable. Guidance in Managing Public Money shows how public sector organisations can gain assurance of this kind.

This publication has been lodged in the Library of the House. The information is also available on HM Treasury's website at http://managingpublicmoney. treasury.gov.uk.

Government: IT Equipment

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether departments hold a reserve against future needs to replace major information technology equipment. [HL5436]

A specific reserve is not created in the accounts of departments to replace assets. It is for departments to plan their future spending requirements, including information technology expenditure, in a way that ensures it is affordable within existing budgets.

Housing: Home Information Packs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many properties for sale in August and September 2007 are still on the market; and, of those, how many have had to have a renewed home information pack. [HL5432]

The Government do not produce statistics on when properties are put on the market for sale or how long they stay on the market. There is no requirement under the home information pack (HIP) regulations for a seller to renew a HIP as long as the property they are selling remains on the market.

Immigration: Detention

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the UK Border Agency recently announced plans to increase detention capacity by 60 per cent; and whether they will consult the Refugee Council and other relevant organisations in advance of any construction. [HL5376]

The recent announcement by the Minister for Borders and Immigration to expand the capacity of the immigration removal centre estate is to ensure that we have sufficient space to detain immigration offenders in order to effect their removal from the UK.

The UK Border Agency now removes an immigration offender every eight minutes. This includes failed asylum seekers, overstayers and a record number of foreign prisoners. Challenging targets have been set to increase the rate of removals, backed up with a doubling of enforcement resources.

Detention is necessary to ensure that immigration offenders do not abscond while the final stages of their removal are being arranged. It can also be used to “fast track” new asylum claims by housing applicants in centres with dedicated teams of case workers. This allows their cases to be decided quickly, leading either to faster integration in the UK for successful applicants or faster removal for those whose claims are refused.

We have no plans to consult the Refugee Council or other relevant organisations about the construction of any new site. However, such bodies are represented on the detention users group (DUG) that meets quarterly with UK Border Agency officials. DUG members are informed of developments on matters relating to immigration detention and they are able to raise issues of concern with the UK Border Agency.

Planning

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In relation to the explanatory note to the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Mineral Permissions and Amendment) (England) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1556), how many applications made before 15 November 2000 under the Planning and Compensation Act 1991 and the Environment Act 1995 were undetermined on 22 July 2008; and to what each one referred.[HL5435]

It is estimated that there were 49 applications made before 15 November 2000 under either the 1991 Act or the 1995 Act, which were undetermined on 22 July 2008. These comprise seven known appeals awaiting determination by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and an estimated 42 applications awaiting determination by relevant mineral planning authorities.

Details on the appeals are as follows:

Somerset County Council—Development relating to three appeals by Mr Spencer involving the extraction of peat from land at Short Drove and on land adjoining Daggs Lane Drove and land adjoining London Drove;

Peak District National Park—Development by High Peak Spar and E Hinchliffe Ltd involving the extraction of fluorspar and lead on land at Smalldale Head Quarry;

Staffordshire County Council—Development by Dr Nigel Roberts, Searchlight Ltd, NGR (Land Development) Ltd and the trustees of Malcolm Wootton, involving the extraction of clay and associated minerals on land at Campions Wood Quarry;

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council—Development by Bliss Sand and Gravel Company involving the extraction of sand and gravel on land at Branton Hill Sand and Gravel Pit; and

Hertfordshire County Council—Development by Mary Pope and Gilston Activities Ltd involving the extraction of sand and gravel on land at Pole Hole Quarry.

The position on the estimated 42 applications awaiting determination by mineral planning authorities reflects the position on 2 January 2007, the latest date for which information is available:

Cumbria County Council—Hartley Quarry;

Dorset County Council—Portland Stone Quarries (two applications); Binnegar Quarry (two applications); Furzeyground Open Pit; Aldemoor/Greenspecks Clay Mine; Warmwell Quarry (three applications); Masters South Sand Pit; Masters North Sand Pit; Hyde Sand Pit; Arne Open Pit;

North Somerset Council—Dunford Quarry; Hyattswood Quarry;

Oxfordshire County Council—Shenington Quarry; Radley-Thrupp Farm;

Peak District National Park—Birchover Quarry; Canyards Hill Quarry; Longstone Edge (eastern section including Backdale Quarry); Shining Bank Quarry; Shire Hill Quarry; Topley Pike Quarry; Stanton Moor Quarry;

Peterborough Council—Bradley Fen Quarry; Bainton; Stanground Quarry;

Rotherham Borough Council—Swallownest Brickworks;

Shropshire County Council—Cound Quarry;

Staffordshire County Council—Apedale South Quarry; Keele Quarry; Hinksford Lane Quarry (North); Weeford Quarry; Alrewas Quarry; Elford Quarry;

Surrey County Council—Shepperton Pit; Swallow Tiles Quarry; Nutbourne Brickworks; Stanwell Quarries 2 and 3; Mercers and Chilmead Farms; and

Yorkshire Dales National Park—Horton Quarry.

Further information on these applications is not available centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Prisons: Costs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the average cost of keeping a person in prison in England for one week. [HL5527]

The overall average cost per prisoner per week in England and Wales in 2007-08 was £750. This excludes prisoners held in police and court cells under Operation Safeguard. The figure includes some estimation and is given to the nearest £50. Figures are not calculated separately for England and Wales. Expenditure met by other government departments (for example, for health and education) is not included. The prisoner escort service is included.

Sudan: Darfur

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the recent statement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees about displaced people in Darfur and refugees in Chad; and how the causes of those situations can best be addressed. [HL5374]

The UK Government remain deeply concerned about the plight of more than 2 million people internally displaced in Sudan's Darfur region and around 250,000 refugees in neighbouring Chad. We have given over £60 million in humanitarian aid to Sudan and Chad in 2008-09. This includes a direct contribution of £1.5 million to UNHCR in Chad. In Sudan, UNHCR has received almost £4 million from the UN's Common Humanitarian Fund, to which the UK is the largest donor providing £40 million this year—half of total donor contributions.

While the provision of humanitarian assistance remains a priority, peace can be achieved only through a political process. We regularly stress the need for all participants in the conflict in Darfur to cease hostilities and engage in the political process. We welcomed the appointment on 30 June of a new joint UN-AU chief mediator for the Darfur political process, Djibril Bassole, formerly the Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso. The recently launched Qatar Darfur peace initiative is also welcome but needs to be framed within the overall UN-AU process. In recognition of the importance of the regional dimension the UK Government are an observer to the Senegal/Dakar process which is helping Sudan and Chad to reach a peaceful settlement.

The Foreign Secretary and Lord Malloch-Brown took advantage of their visit to New York from 22 to 26 September for the UN General Assembly to press for progress on the Darfur political process through meetings with Sudanese Vice-President Taha and other key international partners.

Surveillance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 22 July (WA 281), what was the outcome of the recent review of official surveillance powers carried out by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Home Office. [HL5438]

I believe the noble Lord is referring to the Lord President of the Council's Written Statement (Official Report, 22 July 2008; col. WS 143) that the Government were reviewing those public authorities that had access to covert investigatory powers to ensure that they had a continuing and justifiable requirement for them. The review will be completed shortly.

Veterinary Surgeons' Qualifications

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In relation to inserted Section 5A(11) in Regulation 6 of the Veterinary Surgeons' Qualifications (European Recognition) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1824), whether a statute of limitations applying in the United Kingdom to a United Kingdom offence, or elsewhere in relation to an offence committed elsewhere, will be deemed sufficient cause to omit a declaration of that offence. [HL5433]

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 deems that certain convictions (including convictions by or before courts outside Great Britain) can be considered to be spent and do not have to be declared after a given period. That period varies according to the original penalty imposed. However, by virtue of Schedule 1, Part 1, paragraph (5) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (S.I. No. 1975/1023) and subsequent amendments, veterinary surgeons (among other professionals) are excepted from the effect of the 1974 Act. A conviction must, therefore, be declared under Article 5A(11) of the Veterinary Surgeons' Qualifications (European Recognition) Regulations (S.I. No. 2008/1824) regardless of where and when it was committed.

Weeds

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to use their powers under the Weeds Act 1959 to require the relevant authorities to control common ragwort on the verges of motorways and other trunk roads. [HL5431]

Under the Weeds Act 1959 the Secretary of State has the power to issue an enforcement notice requiring an occupier or authority, responsible for land on which ragwort is growing, to take action to prevent it spreading to neighbouring land. If an occupier has unreasonably failed to comply with an enforcement notice, the Secretary of State may take action to arrange for the weeds to be cleared and recover the cost of doing so. The Weeds Act was amended by the Ragwort Control Act 2003, which provides for the publication of a code of practice for managers of land on how to prevent the spread of ragwort.

Defra's policy under the Act is to investigate complaints about injurious weeds where there is a risk of spread to land used for horses and other livestock, for the production of conserved forage or for other agricultural activities, and where the complainant has already made an attempt to settle the matter informally. Defra's policy is to control rather than eradicate ragwort and other injurious weeds, as it is recognised that both make an important contribution to the biodiversity of the countryside.

Natural England investigates complaints under the Weeds Act on behalf of Defra and will investigate complaints in relation to common ragwort growing on the sides of roads, where the above criteria are met.