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Written Answers

Volume 704: debated on Wednesday 22 October 2008

Written Answers

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Armed Forces: Coroners' Inquest

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the reports of new service inquiry panels will be made available to the families of any deceased Armed Forces personnel and any coroner's inquest into their death. [HL5613]

Where a service inquiry is held into the circumstances surrounding a death, the Ministry of Defence recognises that the bereaved families of service personnel have an interest in its conclusions. Ministry of Defence policy will continue to be to offer a copy of the inquiry report to the next of kin. Where there is an inquest, the coroner is normally passed a copy of the full report in confidence to assist him in the preparation of his own inquiry.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether arrangements are in place for the new service inquiry panels to produce reports quicker than the single-service boards of inquiry; and, if so, what are the anticipated timescales. [HL5614]

The decision to convene a service inquiry will normally be made within five days of either the incident itself or, where applicable, receipt of the reports of other investigative agencies from which it can be determined if anything of consequence may be learned by convening a service inquiry. Service inquiries into air occurrences are convened within 48 hours of the incident. Once a service inquiry has been convened we aim to make the report available within 40 weeks. However, the length of time an inquiry takes is determined partly by the nature of the incident under investigation and partly by the complexity of the case. Service inquiries will include those into covert operations, technical investigations into aircraft crashes, and incidents in hostile environments including those at sea. The need to adjourn an inquiry pending a police investigation and difficulties securing witnesses while on operations or travelling overseas could also of course cause delay.

Armed Forces: F35 Aircraft

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What impact the proposed changes in the way the prime contractor charges the F-35 joint programme office are expected to have upon (a) the United Kingdom contribution to the programme; and (b) the unit cost of F-35B aircraft for the Armed Forces. [HL5317]

The UK position is that we have an incremental acquisition strategy where we will seek approval to purchase Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) at key points in the JSF programme consistent with technical maturity and affordability. The next decision for the purchase of three aircraft to facilitate participation in the operational test and evaluation of JSF in the USA is currently planned for January 2009. Unit production costs for JSF are dependent on the number and timing of aircraft purchases for all partner nations and the delivery profile.

Armed Forces: Operation Herrick 9

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many troops in Operation Herrick 9 who are full-time members of (a) the Royal Marines, (b) the Royal Navy, (c) the Army, (d) the Royal Air Force, and (e) Her Majesty's Reserve Forces will be deployed in the current roulement; and what in-theatre role Royal Navy personnel will fulfil. [HL5456]

The endorsed force-level figure for Operation Herrick 9 is 8,067 service personnel. The exact number of personnel in theatre will naturally fluctuate on a daily basis for a variety of reasons, including leave (rest and recuperation), temporary absence for training, evacuation for medical reasons, and the roulement of forces.

Details of the force laydown were set out in my Written Ministerial Statement on 8 July 2008 (Official Report, cols. WS 29-30). Since many units contain individual augmentees from various services, it is not possible to provide precise numbers broken down by service, as these details are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. As of 1 October 2008, there are some 690 reservists from all services deployed in Afghanistan.

Personnel from the Royal Navy fulfil a wide variety of combat support and combat service support roles in theatre. In addition members of the Royal Marines routinely deploy on land operations in the combat role. Indeed, 3 Commando Brigade took over responsibility for Taskforce Helmand on 8 October this year.

Armed Forces: Women

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many technical trades are open to women in (a) the Royal Navy, (b) the Army, and (c) the Royal Air Force; and how many women serve in technical trades in each service in absolute and proportionate terms. [HL5457]

In the Royal Navy, with the exception of submarine and Royal Marine trades, all technical trades are open to females. There are currently 10,780 female sailors employed in 14 technical trades. This equates to 12.8 per cent of the officer corps and 17.6 per cent of other ranks. All technical trades include sea appointments.

In the Army, all technical trades (51) are open to female soldiers. As the Army was the last service to transition to JPA the full extent of trade fields has not yet been validated and the data are not of sufficient quality to release publicly. However, there are currently 5,240 (72 per cent) female soldiers who are employed in arms and services that have a high percentage of technical trades within them. I will write to the noble Lord when this information has been validated on JPA.

All 36 technical trades in the Royal Air Force are open to female personnel. Of the 5,110 female personnel, 860 (17 per cent) are employed in technical trades.

Banking: Directors and Executives

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they will take to ensure that public money used to rescue financial institutions is not spent on excessive remuneration packages to the directors and senior executives of such companies. [HL5448]

As part of their investment, the Government have agreed a range of commitments with banks accessing the capitalisation scheme. The Government expect that no cash bonuses will be paid to directors in the current year. Going forward, and to ensure that taxpayers' interests as shareholders in the bank are protected, and the performance of the company enhanced, directors' remuneration will be linked to long-term value creation and take account of risk.

The terms have been agreed on a case-by-case basis with banks accessing the recapitalisation scheme, although elements are common to all participating banks.

Charity Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they last reviewed the powers and performance of the Charity Commission. [HL5719]

The powers of the Charity Commission for England and Wales were last formally reviewed in the development and passage of the Charities Act 2006. The Act gives the commission statutory objectives, functions and duties, and some new powers. There is also a statutory requirement for an evaluation of the Act to be commissioned by November 2011, and for the results to be reported to Parliament.

The commission has a set of key performance indicators, agreed with HM Treasury, and reports against these each year in its annual report. In addition, the commission has appeared before the Public Administration Select Committee to give evidence on its performance and specific areas of work.

Climate Change: Emissions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Phil Woolas, on 9 June (Official Report, Commons, cols. 17-18W), why the allocation of carbon dioxide emissions in European Union Emissions Trading Scheme installations in the cement and the food, drink and tobacco sectors rose by 60 per cent from 2006 to 2007 and that of the offshore sector by 52 per cent; and why actual emissions from those sectors rose by 57 per cent, 58 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. [HL5607]

For Phase 1 of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), the European Commission approved two types of opt-outs for UK installations: one for installations with climate change agreements (CCAs) and the other for installations that were already in the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS).

Within the UK, a total of 389 installations chose to opt out, 330 on the basis of their CCAs and 59 on the basis of their involvement in the UK ETS. The UK ETS opt-outs were required to enter the EU ETS on 1 January 2007, when the UK ETS ended. Seven of these were cement-sector installations, 34 offshore installations and six food-sector installations.

The allocated allowances and verified emissions of these UK ETS opt-outs account for the percentage differences from 2006 to 2007.

When comparing 2006 and 2007 EU ETS results a comparable increase in the number of installations did not occur. The reason for this is that the UK ETS installations were all given EU ETS national allocation plan IDs and assigned zero allocations and emissions in the EU ETS in 2006. In 2007 the allocated allowances and verified emissions increased while the number of installations in the sector stayed the same.

Cyprus: British Troops

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made in repairs and renovation of the Ledra Palace Hotel, Cyprus, which accommodates British troops, in the past 12 months; when expenditure on it has been incurred; and whether the accommodation is now appropriate. [HL5548]

Renovation and repair of the Ledra Palace Hotel continues. Repairs to the east and west wing roofs are complete; loose masonry on the building exterior has been removed; ground floor public areas, kitchens and dining facilities have been refurbished; electrical rewiring has been completed and the main power supply replaced; and air conditioning has been installed throughout the ground floor. Ten accommodation rooms have also been refurbished with a further 10 nearing completion. Current plans estimate that renovation work will be complete by around the end of 2009, and will meet accommodation standards for members of the Armed Forces in the UK.

The work is being carried out by the Republic of Cyprus in an arrangement with the United Nations; we do not have visibility of the associated costs, but there is no direct cost to the UK for this work.

Embryology

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the United Kingdom Stem Cell Initiative assisted with recommendations regarding provisions for therapeutic cloning in Australia; and to what extent members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority or officials in the Department of Health have provided advice on the regulation of such work to the Embryo Research Licensing Committee of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. [HL5590]

The United Kingdom Stem Cell Initiative was completed in 2005. Prior to that there were no links between officials working on the UK Stem Cell Initiative and the Embryo Research Licensing Committee of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Neither have Department of Health officials provided advice to the NHMRC since then.

I understand from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that members of the HFEA executive and the (then) chair, Suzi Leather, have had teleconferences with colleagues in the fertility regulatory sector in Australia including representatives from the Embryo Research Licensing Committee. These discussions have included the provision of information about the activities of a UK centre that had a cell nuclear replacement research licence.

HFEA members on the authority's Scientific and Clinical Advances Advisory Group have provided advice, at the NHMRC's request, on a proposed biological definition of embryo.

In addition, the HFEA has informed us that it is possible that authority members may also have liaised with the NHMRC's Embryo Research Licensing Committee on the regulation of work involving therapeutic cloning in their individual capacities, rather than as representatives of the authority.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 13 October (cols. WA 31-32), what assessment the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has made of the accuracy of its perceived risk to patients of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome based on a record of cancelled cycles, if it is significantly less than the actual incidence reported in the journal Human Fertility (vol. 10, issue 3, pages 183-87); and [HL5679]

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 13 October (cols. WA 31-32), why the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has not compared figures in its report of three years ago with those of a paper published a year ago, given that members of the authority were made aware of the figures described in the journal Human Fertility (vol. 10, issue 3, pages 183-87); and whether the authority will require a similar period of time to compare the figures in its report updated in August 2008. [HL5680]

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has informed me that it keeps a record of cancelled treatment cycles where the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) has been reported. As I stated in my reply on 13 October 2008 (cols. WA 31-32), in 2007 this applied to 611 out of a total of 35,946 cycles. This gives an indication of the perceived risk of OHSS across the United Kingdom. The HFEA has advised me that it is of the view that there would be minimal value in assessing those national data on perceived risk against the actual incidence of OHSS in one fertility centre, as reported in Human Fertility (vol. 10, issue 3, pages 183-87).

Professor Balen's report (published in 2005 and updated this year) compares the HFEA record of perceived risk of OHSS with larger data sets from across Europe. The HFEA commissioned Professor Balen to write a report on OHSS as part of its review of sperm, egg and embryo donation in 2004. The report provides an overview of OHSS, its incidence and the spectrum of the condition. The report is the result of an extensive literature review into OHSS, including the article in Human Fertility mentioned above. As a result, the HFEA does not intend to compare the figures in the Human Fertility article with the figures outlined in the report.

Health: Drug Tariff

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many dispensing appliance contractors dispense appliances above the cap of 50,000 proposed by the Department of Health; and to how many patients these contractors provide services; and [HL5611]

How much their ongoing review of Part IX of the Drug Tariff has cost in each year since it commenced. [HL5612]

The highest band was 30,000 to 50,000 items and two dispensing appliance contractors dispense more than 50,000 prescription items per month. The department is now analysing responses to its final consultation, including views on the proposed cap to the infrastructure payment. About 450,000 people use stoma and urology appliances.

The in-year costs for the review are shown in the table. These costs were for the services of professional advisers. The department's costs are part of its ongoing operational budget. Costs in 2005 and 2006 also covered the review of arrangements under Part IX of the Drug Tariff for the provision of chemical reagents and some dressings in primary care, as well as the provision of stoma and urology appliances and related services.

2005

£0.10 million

2006

£1.20 million

2007

£1.24 million

2008 year to date

£0.63 million

Health: Influenza Vaccines

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether any of the influenza vaccines being offered on the National Health Service to individuals aged over 65 contain thimerosal. [HL5621]

None of the influenza vaccines for the 2008-09 season contains thiomersal as an added preservative. One influenza vaccine (Fluvirin) states in its summary of product characteristics that it contains traces of thiomersal that are left over from the manufacturing process.

Health: Wales

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What funding is available for patients from Wales requiring specialised treatment only available in hospitals in England. [HL5335]

The Welsh Assembly Government provide local health boards with funding to meet the needs of the local population, and the Health Commission Wales (HCW) with funding to meet the needs of those requiring specialised care in Wales. The funding is allocated directly to these organisations to provide services based upon the principle of ensuring that patients receive the most appropriate level of care irrespective of where it is provided. Consequently, there is no specific funding allocated for patients requiring specialised treatment in hospitals in England that is not available in Wales.

Revenue is provided to local health boards (LHBs) and the HCW annually to purchase the necessary care (specialist and non-specialist) for the residents of Wales. LHBs and the HCW have contracts with both Welsh and English providers to service the needs of the population. The way in which the money is spent is no different in either country—that is, in general, services are provided by block or cost and volume contracts for that care. Where there are requirements outside the block or cost and volume contract, individual patient contracts are used (with English providers requiring prior authorisation from Welsh LHBs).

For instance, patients from north Wales who require cardiac surgery will have it carried out in the cardiothoracic centre in Liverpool, but it is paid for by the Health Commission Wales as part of the overall contract that the HCW has with the various providers in England.

It is important to reiterate the key principle: there is no difference in the way the money is spent, irrespective of which side of the border, Wales or England, it is delivered. It is based on patient need and the most appropriate place for that to be met.

Immigration: A8 Nationals

All A8 nationals may access generic jobsearch services on exactly the same basis as other groups of employed or unemployed people as soon as they arrive in the country. Generic services include the job points located in Jobcentre Plus offices and the Jobseeker Direct telephone service. All Jobcentre Plus vacancies are also advertised on the internet.

Once they have completed 12 months' continuous employment as a registered worker, A8 nationals who remain in the labour market have the same rights to access further Jobcentre Plus services, including benefit and personal adviser support, as other EEA and UK nationals.

Modernising Scientific Careers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

(a) whether any independent research has been undertaken on the evidence base for the Modernising Scientific Careers proposals; and (b) if so, whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of this research. [HL5629]

Building on recent publications, Modernising Scientific Careers is set in the context of a vision for a National Health Service that empowers patients and the public, works in partnership with staff, and has quality as the organising principle. The case for change was made in the next-stage review documents published in June 2008, High Quality Care for All and A High Quality Workforce, which set out the need to modernise healthcare careers as the NHS addresses the challenges for the future around:

the changing nature of demand for healthcare services, including the effects of demography, changing public and patient expectations, more community-based care and technological advance;

the changing nature of the supply of healthcare services, including changes driven by improvements to technology, changes in the composition of the workforce, their desired working patterns, and improvements to productivity, which also include the drive to promote more and better self-care and better use of the workforce; and

the changing nature of professional practice and the need to develop new skills and more team working, changes in accountability, leadership and independent practice and changes in the relationships between clinician and manager.

Four key questions were at the heart of developing these proposals.

First, how will the roles played by healthcare professionals change and what will be the implications for career frameworks? This has included looking at changing roles and career structures.

Secondly, how should workforce planning be carried out to deliver trainees and a workforce of the right size, structure and skill? In answering this we have had to look at our core assumptions, the roles of different organisations as well as skills and resources.

Thirdly, how should education be commissioned and funded to deliver trainees and a workforce of the right size, structure and skills? This has involved a review of how we commission and fund education and training as well as the capacity and capability required.

Fourthly, how should we change the infrastructure and content of education to ensure the future workforce has the right skills? We have looked at education structures, regulatory structures and changes to selection processes.

These questions were considered and addressed by four working groups made up of key stakeholders and leading thinkers. The output from these groups resulted in the commitments set out in High Quality Care for All and A High Quality Workforce. These documents also provide further reference to background evidence and research and both have already been placed in the Library.

NHS: Dental Services

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the seniority top-up fees scheme for NHS dentists began; how much has been subtracted from dentist fees each year to provide funding for it; and what they are proposing to do with the sums received after April 2009 when it is suggested that the scheme be abolished. [HL5726]

Seniority payments were part of the remuneration arrangements introduced in 1990. An interim scheme was included in the 2006 statement of financial entitlements, when remuneration arrangements for general dental practitioners changed from a fee-based system to one based on annual contract values agreed between primary care trusts (PCTs) and dental providers. The interim scheme has run for the three years of the transition to local commissioning. Seniority payments are a direct charge against PCTs' financial allocations for primary dental services. With effect from April 2009, it is proposed there will be no new entrants to the scheme but those dentists already entitled to payments will continue to receive them. There will be no immediate savings as a result, as the change will not affect allocations to PCTs.

Official Documents

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the answer by Lord Rooker on 15 July (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 1095), whether they will request all departments and agencies to produce graphs using a variety of structures rather than colours to differentiate lines, to make them intelligible when faxed or printed using only black ink.[HL5536]

Parliamentary Ombudsman

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they last reviewed the powers of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. [HL5673]

The Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 was last amended in July 2007, to enable the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Health Service Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman to undertake joint investigations. The Cabinet Office is in regular dialogue with the Parliamentary Ombudsman, and keeps her powers under review.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Answer by Lord Davies of Oldham on 13 October (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 489), on how many occasions since 1997 they have not given effect to the recommendations of the parliamentary commissioner for administration; and what were their reasons. [HL5696]

The noble Lord has received information from individual departments for the period from 1997 up to May 2006. Unfortunately, information from May 2006 to date is not held centrally.

Recycling: IT Equipment

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Over what period information technology equipment purchased by departments and agencies is written off; whether it normally remains in use until fully depreciated; whether there are controls over the replacement of equipment before it is fully written off; and whether equipment that is replaced is recycled. [HL5627]

Accounting for information technology equipment is covered by the financial reporting standard (FRS) 15 tangible fixed assets. Central government applies this standard with only minor adaptations and interpretations as detailed in the Government Financial Reporting Manual (FReM).

Under FRS 15, departments as the user of the asset are responsible for assessing fixed asset lives—ie, the period over which the asset is to be depreciated. FRS 15 also requires that the useful life of an asset should be reviewed at the end of each reporting period.

Controls over equipment in use, the replacement of that equipment and whether to recycle are decided by individual departments.

Schools: Academies

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in the event that a preferred academy sponsor withdraws during the expression of interest or feasibility stage, government funding for the rebuilding of the school concerned will be withdrawn. [HL5635]

Academy buildings are now procured by local authorities (LAs) either as part of their Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme or through the Partnerships for Schools national framework. Funding for the building project is not usually allocated for a project until it has moved beyond the feasibility stage and is in the implementation stage. However, were a sponsor to withdraw from an academy project once funding had been allocated, the LA, Partnership for Schools and the DCSF would decide whether to proceed with the refurbishment or new build for the academy either for the benefit of the predecessor school or schools, or for use by another academy or school project.

Taxation: VAT

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will support at the November Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting the European Commission's proposal to amend VAT directive 2006/112/EC to allow member states flexibility on VAT rates for labour-intensive services. [HL5513]

The Government are generally supportive of the legislative proposal adopted by the Commission, consistent with its position of supporting the flexibility of member states to apply their own choice of VAT rates to further their domestic priorities and social objectives, provided that this does not materially affect the functioning of the internal market.

Member states are currently discussing the Commission proposal, and whether any amendments should be made before it is considered by Ministers, at official level in Council working groups. The Government will take a view on the final text when it is submitted to Ministers by the presidency.