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Written Answers

Volume 704: debated on Wednesday 29 October 2008

Written Answers

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Armed Forces: Complex Weapons

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether Team Complex Weapons gathers, collates and evaluates information about complex weapons being developed and deployed by other countries; and, if not, how such information is generated. [HL5404]

As an entity, Team CW does not undertake such activity. Any work undertaken by the individual companies within the construct is a matter for their own commercial judgment. The Ministry of Defence makes assessments of the world market, including sharing information on emerging military requirements and potential system solutions with international colleagues.

Armed Forces: Costs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What cost savings have been achieved this year and are forecast for next year as a result of (a) extending the readiness of Royal Navy ships; and (b) withdrawals from service without one-for-one replacement. [HL5314]

The normal operating cycle of every warship includes periods of lower readiness, typically for maintenance or refit. It is not our practice to comment on matters relating to specific readiness levels of individual ships, as to do so could enable deductions to be made that could be prejudicial to national security.

The only relevant instance of withdrawing ships from service without one-for-one replacements has arisen from the decision not to purchase further Type 45 destroyers beyond the six already on order. Hence eight Type 42 destroyers will be replaced by six Type 45s. However, the decision not to purchase the seventh and eighth Type 45s will not achieve any savings in production costs in 2008-09 or 2009-10.

Asylum Seekers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What notice and time for response the Home Office gives asylum seekers with a further right to appeal before proceeding with a re-documentation interview with the embassy of their country of origin. [HL5681]

The United Kingdom Border Agency can arrange re-documentation interviews with the embassy of asylum seekers' country of origin once a decision to refuse the application has been made. In some areas case owners will wait until the asylum seekers’ appeal rights are exhausted before seeking a re-documentation interview.

Courts Service: Budgets

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much is the shortfall in the budgets for (a) Her Majesty's Courts Service, and (b) the Tribunals Service. [HL5697]

The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) was published in November 2007. It is a public document.

As part of the agreed CSR07 settlement and as part of the Ministry of Justice-wide savings initiative, Her Majesty's Courts Service agreed to deliver savings as follows:

£82 million in 2008-09;

£46 million in 2009-10 (after an £11 million increase in fee income); and

£17 million in 2010-11 (after a further increase of £16 million in fee income).

In 2008-09, an additional £27 million saving is required due to a predicted shortfall in civil and family fee income.

As part of the agreed CSR07 settlement and as part of the Ministry of Justice-wide savings initiative, the Tribunals Service agreed to deliver as follows:

£9 million in 2008-09;

£19 million in 2009-10 (£4 million due to increase in fee income); and

£45 million in 2010-11 (£16 million due to increase in fee income).

This includes the £54 million savings agreed across the CSR period and the increase in fee income in 2009-10 and 2010-11 which will reduce our net budget requirement.

Courts Service: Public Expenditure

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will protect the right of access to civil justice in making decisions about public expenditure by the Ministry of Justice; and, if so, how. [HL5699]

The Government will maintain their commitment to access to justice through the provision of courts, tribunals, and legal aid and assistance. All areas of expenditure by government have to be in the context of delivering value for money for the taxpayer.

Crime: Drink-driving

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the research findings of University College London that reducing the limit of alcohol in the blood of drivers to 50 milligrams would reduce road deaths by 65 each year and save 230 injuries; and what policy response they are considering making to this. [HL5688]

We explained in the report of the second review of the Road Safety Strategy (February 2007) that we intend to keep the case for a reduction in the drink-drive legal limit under review. The Government are committed to public consultation on further measures to reduce alcohol-related road casualties and will publish a consultation document, which includes this subject, before the end of the year.

Embryology

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 7 January (WA 151) and 16 October (WA 67-8), how many eggs have been received and used to date under research licence R0152 since the project began in 2004; and what assessment has been made by those licence committees monitoring the efficiency of the process used if no embryonic stem cell lines have so far been derived. [HL5737]

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has informed me that it does not routinely collect data for its register on the number of eggs used in embryo research projects.

The authority has also advised me that research licence R0152 was renewed on 18 June 2008. At that time, the HFEA's executive informed the licence committee that progress with the project had been hampered by the refurbishment of the laboratories and by the availability of good-quality eggs. The centre has recently received funding from the Medical Research Council that will enable it to develop its egg sharing for research programme and it is hoped that this will enable the research to progress at a faster pace.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 16 October (WA 67–8) regarding the inspection report for research licence R0152 dated 18 June 2008, what assessment has been made of the superior compatibility with clinical application of stem cells derived by nuclear transfer, compared with induced pluripotent (iPS) cells as described in the journal Science (Volume 318, issue 5858, pages 1920–23) and in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (Volume 105, Issue 15, pages 5856–61) or iPS cells that are not derived by viral insertion as described in the journal Science (DOI:10.1126/science.1164270). [HL5738]

The scientific consensus is that it is too early to say what type of stem cell will be best for any particular clinical application. That is why the United Kingdom Government are and always have been supportive of the use of stem cells from all sources, including embryos, foetuses, adult tissue and umbilical cord.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 16 October (WA 67–8), what progress has been made in using stem cells derived by nuclear transfer to help patients with diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, spinal injuries and burns, and people who have heart attacks, as described by Professor Alison Murdoch in a BBC television interview.[HL5739]

Progress continues to be made in many areas of stem cell research, including therapeutic cloning. However, it is impossible to predict when and if patients may benefit from any type of research. That is why the United Kingdom Government are and always have been supportive of the use of stem cells from all sources, including embryos, foetuses, adult tissue and umbilical cord.

Euro

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the level of public sector debt alters their considerations about whether to apply to join the euro. [HL5821]

The Government's policy on membership of the single currency is unchanged. It remains as set out by the Chancellor in his Statement to the House of Commons in October 1997, and again in the Chancellor's Statement on the five-tests assessment in June 2003.

Fridges

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the European Commission has given them notice that it will bring forward from 2014 the date by which the topping-up of refrigeration plant with HCFC R22, whether new or recycled, will be illegal; and, if so, what the new date is. [HL5711]

The European Commission published a proposal on 11 September to revise the current EC Regulation 2037/2000 on substances that deplete the ozone layer.

The proposal makes no changes to the existing requirements to ban the use of virgin HCFCs in the maintenance and servicing of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment from 1 January 2010 and restates the further ban on the use of all HCFCs for such purposes from 1 January 2015.

Government: Online Transactions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to promote the widespread use of the government root certificate (public key infrastructure) to encourage persons to communicate only with authentic government certificates in the knowledge that the arrangements are secure; and [HL4027]

Whether all electronic correspondence between and with government bodies is made secure through the use of computerised certificates; and [HL4028]

Whether it is their policy for all government websites that solicit information to use computerised certificates; and [HL4029]

Whether any United Kingdom government certificates are stored in the United States or South Africa; if so, whether the security arrangements pertaining to them are satisfactory; and whether they have made representations to the Government of the United States about the applicability of the Patriot Acts to United Kingdom government certificates. [HL4030]

There are many different ways of securing communications between government departments and citizens. The appropriate method is adopted to suit the needs of the particular business. Such security and authentication regimes include measures such as: traditional cryptography, transport layer security, and X.509 server certificates as well as digital certificates. Many of the secure links between government departments use traditional cryptography which does not use certificates.

Where personal or sensitive information is exchanged electronically with a member of the public, this is usually secured through the use of the industry standard transport layer security (TSL) and an X.509 server certificate rather than using a HMG root certificate.

Central government departments with internet websites using personal or other sensitive information are required to implement appropriate protective measures. Normally, this would include the use of the industry standard transport layer security (TSL) one component of which would be an X.509 server certificate. In exceptional cases client certificates are also used.

Some public key certificates issued by the Government can be expected to be held overseas. For example, certificates relating to verifications of passports need to be held overseas in order to check the authenticity of UK passports.

Certificates issued to departments or their agencies contain no reference to individuals or their personal information. There is no requirement for these certificates to be treated confidentially.

Some certificates are issued to individuals and could contain personal information. In such instances, the handling of these certificates would need to comply with the relevant data protection principles.

Data stored in the UK and overseas must adhere to data protection legislation.

Health: Physiotherapy

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In light of their announcement that physiotherapists will be able to take self-referrals, whether they will afford them independent prescribing status. [HL5781]

Physiotherapists can already train to become supplementary prescribers, prescribing in partnership with a doctor.

The department has recently begun a scoping project to look at mechanisms for supply and prescribing of medicines by allied health professions.

Any profession that aspires to prescribe needs to have a robust business case, demonstrating strong benefits to patients, without compromising patient safety.

Housing: VAT

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will lower the rate of value added tax on house renovations to that of other European Union member states. [HL5859]

European VAT agreements allow member states the option to apply a reduced VAT rate, of not less than 5 per cent, to certain specified supplies of goods and services. These include the provision, construction, renovation and alteration of housing, as part of a social policy.

Where 5 per cent VAT rates are available for a given supply, the UK Government have applied these only where they provide the best-targeted and most cost-effective support for their objectives.

Consistent with this, as part of the Government's policy to increase the availability of housing stock by bringing substandard housing back into use, a 5 per cent reduced rate of VAT has been applied to the renovation of residential properties that have not been lived in for two years or more.

All taxes are kept under review and any changes in this area will be considered as part of the normal Budget process.

Immigration: Removal Centres

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the authorities at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre removed the Legal Action for Women's Self-Help Guide against Detention and Deportation from a detainee on 15 October. [HL5826]

Detention centre rules entitle every detained person to retain their personal property save where such retention is contrary to the interests of safety or security.

Ministry of Defence: Commercial Logistics Operations

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to introduce commercial logistics operations using the rail facilities on the Ministry of Defence Bicester sites; and what evaluation they have made concerning the possibility of this operating in parallel with the needs of the Ministry of Defence; and [HL5363]

What is their assessment of the potential financial benefits for the Ministry of Defence of introducing commercial logistics operations at their Bicester rail-connected sites. [HL5364]

The MoD intends to engage with key industry players and interested parties. A full assessment of the opportunity for commercial logistics operations to sit alongside MoD activities and utilise the Bicester rail infrastructure and locations will be made to determine if it offers value for money to the taxpayer.

Modernising Scientific Careers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they plan to hold a formal 12-week consultation on the proposals for Modernising Scientific Careers, as set out in the government Code of Practice on Consultation; and, if so, when that consultation is likely to take place. [HL5772]

Muslims

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What procedures were followed in deciding the membership of the Young Muslim Advisory Group; what opportunities organisations had to nominate members; what opportunities young Muslims had to apply; and who chose the members. [HL5853]

The Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Children, Schools and Families worked in partnership with the Muslim Youthwork Foundation and the National Youth Agency to establish the Young Muslims Advisory Group. The National Youth Agency placed a recruitment advert on their website, which was also sent to government offices, youth work organisations, and national and regional stakeholders from both the Department for Communities and Local Government and DCSF. Interested young people had two and a half weeks to apply, and 150 application forms were received.

These initial application forms were assessed by officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government and DCSF and staff from the Muslim Youthwork Foundation against previously agreed criteria, and the 40 strongest applicants were invited to attend a three-day residential assessment centre. At this they were assessed on skills such as listening, teamwork and leadership. Officials from Communities and Local Government and DCSF and staff from the Muslim Youthwork Foundation again assessed the applicants against previously agreed criteria, using these scores as a basis from which to choose the members of the group. These decisions were then put to Ministers in both Communities and Local Government and DCSF.

NHS: Discrimination

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether National Health Service human resources policies require a member of staff responsible for acts of race discrimination or harassment of other staff to be subject to disciplinary proceedings. [HL5839]

Disciplinary and grievance issues are dealt with at a local level in line with local policies and procedures. The department would expect National Health Service organisations to adhere to best practice in human resources and to comply with legal requirements.

NHS Employers represents trusts in England on workforce issues and provides advice and guidance on a variety of employment matters.

The following link to their website refers to model policy guidance on bullying and harassment and includes reference to racial harassment: www.nhsemployers.org/practice/practice-906.cfm.

Northern Ireland: Human Rights Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the membership of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission reflects the community in Northern Ireland; and, if so, by what measurement. [HL5700]

All appointments to the commission are made under Section 68(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which states:

“In making appointments under this section, the Secretary of State shall as far as practicable secure that the Commissioners, as a group, are representative of the community in Northern Ireland”.

The Secretary of State has complied with this obligation.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In view of the reduction in funding for the Irish Human Rights Commission announced last week and the obligation in the Belfast agreement of 1998 that the Irish and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commissions should have the same level of scope and activity, what reduction in the funding of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission they propose. [HL5755]

The section of the Belfast agreement referred to by the noble Lord provides that, “the Irish Government will establish a Human Rights Commission with a mandate and remit equivalent to that within Northern Ireland”. There is no obligation in the Belfast agreement to effect a reduction in funding for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission as a result of any changes to the funding levels of the Irish Human Rights Commission. No reduction to the budget of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is planned.

Passports

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much each of the passport personal interview offices cost from 31 July 2007 to 31 July 2008. [HL5450]

The total operating costs for the interview office network of 68 offices during the period from 1 August 2007 to 31 July 2008 was £24.7 million, which excludes the cost of depreciation of relevant set-up capital expenditure.

There are a number of central costs within the £24.7 million such as call centre appointments and IT maintenance which makes it impossible to give meaningful comprehensive monthly costs for each individual office.

This gives a notional overall unit cost of £114.05 over the period. However, many of the offices were still coming up to full capacity during the period in question and were not fully operational until later in the 2007 calendar year. The unit cost per interview for the network in July 2008 was £76.43.

Planning: Stansted Airport

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Statement by Lord Adonis on 9 October (WS 20–22) about the increase in the number of flights from Stansted, what plans they have to provide improved surface access to the airport. [HL5814]

The issue of surface access to Stansted Airport was addressed in some detail in the planning inquiry which informed the Government's decision to grant permission for an increase in the number of flights and passengers there. The planning inspector considered matters such as the ability of the road network to accommodate the increased traffic that would arise from the expansion of the airport, and the adequacy and capacity of rail and coach access to the airport. In the light of his recommendations, the Government have attached a number of surface access-related obligations and conditions to the planning permission, the details of which are set out in the decision letter of 8 October. Copies of the decision letter and the planning inspector's report are available in the House Libraries.

As Lord Bassam of Brighton informed the House in a Written Ministerial Statement on 3 March 2008 (col. WS 92), the department is currently undertaking further work on the long-term road and rail capacity improvements that might be needed to take account of forecast population and employment growth in the East of England region as well as the potential expansion of Stansted Airport. We aim to report progress on this matter shortly.

Prisons: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the average cost of keeping a person in prison in England for one week in the last year for which figures are available. [HL5847]

The latest year for which figures are available is 2007-08. I refer the noble Lord to my Answer of 15 October (Official Report, col. WA 55). 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 (eg for health and education) is not included. The prisoner escort service is included.

Railways: Noise

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the effect of the European Commission's proposals on rail noise, in particular the difference between composite braking systems and cast iron brakes in reducing noise levels and the fitting of spark guards on wagons fitted with composite brakes. [HL5766]

The European Commission estimates that fitting composite brake systems can reduce noise from freight wagons by up to eight decibels. A substantial number of UK freight wagons are already fitted with such systems.

European Union rules governing the construction of freight wagons, provided for in the Freight Wagon Technical Specifications for Interoperability, require the fitment of spark guards to all wagons including those fitted with composite brake systems where the floor of the wagon does not provide such protection. This reflects the widespread use of cast iron brake blocks in continental Europe. The Freight Wagon Technical Specification for Interoperability is currently being revised and the European Railway Agency has indicated that this issue could be addressed as part of that revision.

Railways: Northern Rail

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to conclude their discussions with Northern Rail about additional carriages. [HL5770]

Discussions with Northern Rail are at a very early stage. Our current view is that they should conclude during 2010, although this is clearly subject to the progress of the commercial negotiations between the parties.

Railways: Rolling Stock

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 29 September (WA 419), whether the words “still to deliver” in the Minister's Answer imply that 1,300 new railway vehicles are to be delivered in control period 4. [HL5646]

Roads: A55

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many accidents were reported to North Wales Police on the A55 in Wales in (a) 1990, (b) 1995, (c) 2000, (d) 2005, and (e) 2007. [HL5652]

Personal injury accidents reported to North Wales police on the A55 in the years requested are as follows:

Year

Number of Accidents

1990

153

1995

97

2000

112

2005

98

2007

107

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many fatalities on the A55 there were in Wales in (a) 1990, (b) 1995, (c) 2000, (d) 2005, and (e) 2007. [HL5653]

Fatalities reported to North Wales Police on the A55 in the years requested are as follows:

Year

Number of Fatalities

1990

6

1995

2

2000

3

2005

4

2007

7

Roads: Fatal Accidents

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they intend to improve the record of United Kingdom road accident fatalities; and what assessment they have made of their rate of improvement over the past 10 years compared with other countries in the European Union. [HL5686]

Figures from 2007 show a decrease in road accident fatalities in the UK of 18 per cent from the 1994-98 average. While the UK remains among the very best performing EU countries for road death rates, our rate of improvement in reducing numbers of fatalities over the past 10 years has not been as strong as some other European countries.

The department intends to publish later this year a consultation on ways of improving compliance with key road safety laws, including drink-driving and speeding. The department is also developing a new road safety strategy for beyond 2010, when the current strategy expires, and this process has included discussions with other leading EU nations in the field of road safety.

Smart Meters

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the introduction of smart meters in homes will be accompanied by a tariff that encourages the use of electrical appliances at times of low demand. [HL5572]

The Government's intention is to take a decision by the end of the year on whether to roll out smart metering to domestic customers. Depending on the exact specification, smart meters could help facilitate the introduction of a wider range of tariffs by energy suppliers. However, if there is a positive decision to mandate smart metering for domestic customers, it will be for energy suppliers to take commercial decisions on the introduction of new tariffs for their customers.

St Andrews Agreement

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether any undertakings were made at the St Andrews conference in 2006 about a specific date for the devolution of policing to the Northern Ireland Assembly. [HL5694]

The St Andrews agreement states that it was the Government’s view that implementation of the agreement should be sufficient to build the community confidence necessary for the Assembly to request the devolution of criminal justice and policing by May 2008.

Sudan: Asylum Seekers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Home Office received any complaints from lawyers of Darfuri asylum seekers with active cases and who had been interviewed by a Sudanese embassy official in Home Office facilities in March or April 2008. [HL5682]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will publish the content of the disclaimers allegedly signed by Darfuri asylum seekers in March and April 2008, saying they agreed to be interviewed by a Sudanese official. [HL5683]

No disclaimers were used or signed by Darfuri asylum seekers in relation to the documentation interviews that took place between March and April 2007. A standard bio-data form was used where the applicants confirmed their bio-data. Publication of the content of the bio-data forms would breach confidentiality.

Transport: Heavy Goods Vehicles

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the fees payable under the Goods Vehicles (Authorisation for International Journeys) (Fees) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1576), having not been uprated since 2004, are increased for five licence types by fewer than 10 per cent, while two are increased by 14.3 per cent and one by 33.3 per cent. [HL5658]

The broad level of increase in the fees payable under the Goods Vehicles (Authorisation for International Journeys) (Fees) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1576), resulted because fees are normally rounded to the nearest pound to minimise the effects of customer errors in calculating total payment for multiple applications. High percentage increases, such as 14.3 per cent and 33.3 per cent, are the result of raising low fees by full pounds. Individual fees which have had such high percentage rises in one fee round are less likely to rise in the next review.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the fees set by the Goods Vehicles (Authorisation for International Journeys) (Fees) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1576) were calculated; and what factors were taken into account in determining the increases. [HL5659]

The fees set by the Goods Vehicles (Authorisation for International Journeys) (Fees) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1576) are calculated in line with Treasury policy on fees and charges set out in Managing Public Money and qualified or supplemented by the Department of Transport (Fees) Order 1988 Schedule 1, Table II, item A, and Schedule 2, paragraphs 1 to 7.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

After the proposed registrations come into effect, how many heavy goods vehicles will be on the roads of the United Kingdom which do not comply with the requirement to have an adequate display of mirrors to enable the driver clearly to see cyclists behind or alongside them. [HL5687]

Proposed national legislation which takes effect from March 2009 will require improved mirrors to be fitted to existing large goods vehicles first used from 1 January 2000. From the available vehicle registration statistics the Department for Transport estimates that around 100,000 vehicles will not be required to comply because they were registered prior to January 2000. None the less, we understand that some of these vehicles are already equipped with mirrors that will comply with the new requirements.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the draft European Union regulation on further implementation of the European satellite navigation programmes (EGNOS and Galileo) will improve the accuracy and reliability of devices used by drivers of heavy goods vehicles. [HL5768]

Regulation 683/2008 on the further implementation of the European satellite navigation programmes (EGNOS and Galileo) entered into force on 24 July 2008. It provides a financial and legal basis for Galileo, which will offer better availability and accuracy than the current generation of GPS. The regulation also provides for the operation of EGNOS, which is designed to enhance and assure the accuracy of GPS signals. It is expected that all users of satellite navigation devices, including drivers of heavy goods vehicles, will see significant benefit from the programmes once complete. However, the availability of specialist software for HGV routing is key and will be a matter for the commercial market to deliver.