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Written Answers

Volume 705: debated on Wednesday 12 November 2008

Written Answers

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Armed Forces: Warships

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When each (a) Type 22, (b) Type 23, (c) Type 43, and (d) Type 45 warship currently in service is scheduled for refit or extended maintenance; and how long in each case the scheduled refit is expected to take; and [HL5879]

How much time is expected to elapse in the service life of each (a) Type 22, (b) Type 23, (c) Type 43, and (d) Type 45 warship between each scheduled period of refit or extended maintenance. [HL5880]

The MoD does not normally provide details of plans for future upkeep periods for Royal Navy vessels until such time as the upkeep work has been allocated and the contract awarded. To release future upkeep plans could enable deductions to be made that could be prejudicial to the capability, effectiveness and security of the Royal Navy. The time each Type 22 or Type 23 frigate and Type 42 destroyer spends in refit depends on a number of factors, including the material state and operational deployment of the vessel, but is generally in excess of one year. The time between refits is generally in excess of four years. The first of the Type 45 destroyers is due to enter service in 2010.

Asbestos

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will conduct a national survey of asbestos in public buildings. [HL6068]

The Government have no plans for a national survey of asbestos in public buildings. Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 (Regulation 4), a duty to manage is already placed on those in control of the maintenance of public buildings, such as local authorities, to identify the likelihood of asbestos-containing materials being present, and to identify, assess and manage the risks accordingly. The Government believe that no significant benefit would be gained by duplicating the existing requirement introduced in 2004 and on which the Health and Safety Executive has issued guidance.

Bangladesh: Elections

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What matters were discussed by Lord Malloch-Brown on his recent visit to Bangladesh; in particular, what discussions were held about whether the Government of Bangladesh will lift the state of emergency before the 18 December elections and the steps to be taken to exclude those committed to trial on criminal charges from standing as candidates. [HL5875]

When I visited Bangladesh in October, I reiterated to the caretaker government, the chief of army, the main political parties, civil society and the media the UK's support for fair and credible elections. I was clear that the election on 18 December would have greater legitimacy if held without a state of emergency. I noted the Government's concern about law and order and their desire to ensure that convicted individuals would not participate in elections. I hoped that the Government and parties would be able to reach consensus on these issues so that the state of emergency could be lifted ahead of elections. I stressed that the parties should have the time and freedom to campaign effectively.

Banking

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether off-balance sheet transactions have been included in group accounts of those banks in which they have purchased ordinary or preference shares; and [HL5785]

Whether the accounts of those banks in which they have purchased ordinary or preference shares include any derivatives; and, if so, what was their value. [HL5786]

All banks must produce their annual report and accounts in accordance with applicable accounting standards in force in the UK. Current accounting standards set out rules governing the disclosure of off-balance sheet transactions, where these are not required to be consolidated into group accounts. Similarly, current standards provide for recognition and classification of transactions involving derivatives. The results of the application of these rules to the off-balance sheet items and derivative transactions engaged in by all banks are recorded in their published financial statements. The financial statements also include the auditor's opinion that on the truth and fairness of the accounts in accordance with the application of the relevant accounting standards.

Benefits: Disability Living Allowance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people are in receipt of disability living allowance for alcoholism; how many are in receipt of both components of the allowance; how many receive the care component only; how many receive the mobility component only; how much in total is received annually by such claimants; and whether they will undertake research to estimate how much of that money is spent on alcohol or its transportation; and [HL5883]

How many people who receive disability living allowance for alcoholism are in receipt of higher income support, pension credit, housing benefit, or council tax benefit; and what the annual cost of such credits or benefits is in Northern Ireland. [HL5884]

The information is not available.

Entitlement to disability living allowance is not dependent on a specific diagnosis or medical condition but on whether a severely disabled person needs personal care and/or has mobility difficulties. An award of disability living allowance would not be made on the basis of a diagnosis of alcohol abuse. The decision would be based upon someone's care needs and on the difficulty they have in getting around as a result of their alcohol dependency and any associated physical or mental conditions caused by long-term excess consumption.

We have no plans to undertake specific research in to how people with a dependence on alcohol spend their benefit.

Cycling England

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What payment Cycling England has made, or is contracted to make, to public relations consultants; and for what purposes. [HL6198]

Blue Rubicon has been contracted through the Central Office of Information since 2005 to provide PR consultancy services for Cycling England. The agency delivers a programme of activity targeting consumers and engaging stakeholders with the aim to get more people cycling, more safely, more often.

The total spend to date is £2.82 million. This includes costs for: running a general press office; website development and maintenance; development and promotion of Bikeability (Cycling England's flagship award scheme, teaching children to cycle safely and responsibly); event management; commissioning research into and promoting the benefits of cycling. The estimated spend for the rest of the financial year (October 2008-March 2009) is £341,995. The contract ends in March 2009 and is due to be retendered in January.

East Midlands Development Agency

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Pat McFadden MP on 10 July (Official Report, House of Commons, col. 1741W), why salary costs for the East Midlands Development Agency rose by 101.8 per cent between 2002–03 and 2007–08 while other administration increased over the same period by 12.6 per cent. [HL6054]

The main reason for the rise of salary cost is because EMDA has taken on additional responsibilities over the five-year period. This has resulted in new posts, which in the majority of cases have been filled by the transfer of staff from their existing organisation. This has included the transfer of Business Links, East Midlands Tourism, the Modernising Rural Delivery Programme, and the Rural Development Programme for England 2007-13 and the European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007-13. EMDA's average staff complement has increased from 170 in 2002-03 to 261 in 2007-08.

In relation to other administration costs, which have increased over the period in question, due to inflationary pressures and the higher level of staff, economies of scale have meant that this increase has been proportionately less than for staff costs.

Education: Land-based Diploma

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin on 17 October (WA 78), whether the common delivery model in use across the 17 diplomas includes funding for the costs, such as for student transport, incurred outside the colleges offering these courses; and, in particular, whether colleges offering the land-based diploma will be able to claim for the additional expenses involved. [HL5923]

Details of the diploma funding model in use for 2008-09 can be found in the guidance issued to local authorities and 14-19 partnerships in December 2007. This document can be accessed through the 14-19 education and skills website at www.dcsf.gov.uk/14-19/ within the 14-19 funding section under diploma funding.

The diploma funding model in use for 2008-09 provides initial dedicated funding to support the additional costs of delivery of diplomas at KS4 which cannot be met from mainstream funding. Costs for which the grant can be used to fund include:

those required for the direct delivery of diplomas including additional costs of teaching and materials incurred by institutions in planning and delivering the curriculum; and

additional costs associated with the provision of diplomas for pupils in sparsely populated areas including transport between providers within a diploma consortium.

Additionally, in each of the 40 most rural areas we have funded the post of transport and access co-ordinator (at £75,000 per local authority for 18 months from September 2008) to allow these local authorities to investigate and arrange more effective and efficient transport for their young people accessing diplomas.

Similar guidance for the academic year 2009-10, which will include the first cohort of students taking the land-based diploma, is currently under consideration and is scheduled for publication by the end of 2008. This guidance will again provide details of the basis on which the grant has been calculated for each diploma and the scope of activities for which the grant may be used.

Energy: Oil Prices

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have to ensure that fuel companies pass to their customers as quickly as possible any drop in oil and related prices. [HL5791]

The Government believe that efficient and competitive markets for wholesale and retail fuel are the most effective means to pass through falls in global fuel prices.

Ofgem is the independent regulator of the gas and electricity supply markets, and is responsible for ensuring that those markets are competitive. Ofgem has stated that there is clear evidence of a time lag between wholesale and retail prices as energy suppliers tend to buy most of their gas in advance on the forward market. It has found no evidence that prices are passed through to a greater extent when wholesale prices rise than when they fall. Following its energy supply markets probe, Ofgem is proposing that companies produce separate regulatory accounts for their retail and generation businesses which will aid transparency on this issue.

Competition in the UK's energy supply markets has previously driven down retail prices, following wholesale price falls, more quickly than in less competitive markets in other EU states.

The Office of Fair Trading monitors the UK petrol and diesel market. It is empowered to act if the price level appears to be the result of anti-competitive behaviour.

Energy: Renewables

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Jones of Birmingham on 14 July (WA 111), why the costs of domestic photovoltaic installations and domestic solar thermal panels are based on different reports. [HL5710]

As part of the work for the renewable energy consultation document (ref) BERR commissioned a number of research reports from independent consultants to inform its estimates of the cost and potential of renewable technologies.

It commissioned Nera consultants to model the cost of instruments to incentivise renewable heat (ref), and used data from a study by Element Energy to inform work on microgeneration (ref). This research has informed the analysis underlying the consultation document, and the Answer to the above PQ.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the total subsidy they have given for renewable energy from 1998 to 2007; and [HL5854]

How much the subsidy for renewable energy from 1998 to 2007 on average cost each household in the United Kingdom; and [HL5855]

What is the anticipated subsidy for renewable energy for the financial years 2008–09, 2009–10 and 2010–11. [HL5856]

The renewable obligation (RO) provides support to renewable electricity generators. Introduced in 2002, it is the Government's main mechanism for encouraging renewable electricity generation. It is not a direct subsidy but an obligation placed on electricity suppliers to source a specific and annually increasing percentage of the electricity sales from renewable sources. Generators are issued with 1 ROC for each MWh of generation which they can then sell to suppliers. Suppliers used the ROCs to demonstrate compliance with the obligation or pay a buyout price into a fund. Money from the buyout fund is recycled to suppliers who met their obligation from ROCs on a pro rata basis. The ROC price is therefore set by the market but a nominal value of the ROC to the supplier can be calculated by adding the buyout price to the recycled buyout fund attributable to each ROC. On this basis the level of support through the RO in the UK between 2002 and 2007 is set out below:

2002-03—£278 million;

2003-04—£416 million;

2004-05—£495 million;

2005-06—£583 million; and

2006-07—£719 million

The average cost for renewable energy through the renewable obligation on each household in the United Kingdom was £7.80 in 2005, £9.80 in 2006 and £11.90 in 2007.

The anticipated level of support through the renewable obligation for 2008-09 is £940 million, for 2009-10 is £960 million and for 2010-11 is £990 million.

The UK Environmental Transformation Fund, co-ordinated by DECC, brings together capital grant and other funding for low carbon and renewable energy technologies, with a specific focus on the demonstration and deployment phases of bringing low carbon technologies to market. It has a budget of £400 million during the period 2008-09 to 2010-11.

DIUS is stepping up efforts on energy research and development through a range of commitments from science and innovation budget investments through the research councils and the Technology Strategy Board and, more recently with the establishment of the Energy Technologies Institute in development of low carbon energy technologies and solutions.

Research council expenditure on energy related basic, strategic and applied research and postgraduate training is expected to approach £300 million during the period 2008-09 to 2010-11. The Technology Strategy Board’s current portfolio of projects in the energy innovation area amounts to a total grant value of £122 million and is expanding its portfolio in areas relating to the low carbon agenda through a range of initiatives including innovation platforms.

The regional development agencies, devolved Administrations and European Union also provide support for research into low carbon energy activities among other activities.

Energy: Scotland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Evans of Temple Guiting on 19 December 2005 (WA 203), to what extent the Department of Energy and Climate Change has responsibility in Scotland for the subject matter of Part I of the Electricity Act 1989; and to what extent it has been devolved under the Scotland Act 1998; and [HL5869]

If the consent for overhead lines above 20 kva has been devolved to the Scottish Executive, what mechanism is available for the simultaneous upgrading of any interconnectors between Scotland and England once the present programme is completed. [HL5870]

The administrative functions under the Electricity Act 1989 of consenting overhead electric lines (Section 37) and generating stations (Section 36) and associated wayleaves in Scotland (Schedule 4), previously carried out by the Secretary of State for Scotland were transferred to Scottish Ministers. There is no statutory mechanism for the simultaneous upgrading of the interconnector between Scotland and England. As with any network development, it will be for the network companies responding to need to ensure the necessary infrastructure is put in place. The internal market in electricity (IMED) rules place an obligation on operators to provide to the operator of any other system with which its system is interconnected sufficient information to ensure the secure and efficient operation, co-ordinated development and interoperability of the interconnected system.

Environment: Energy Plants

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the Department of Energy and Climate Change will ensure that decisions on the siting of energy plant, infrastructure and distribution systems accord priority to social, conservation, heritage and landscape considerations. [HL5725]

It is for developers to identify locations for infrastructure and for the appropriateness of those locations to be scrutinised as part of planning processes. In determining such applications, the full range of potential impacts of the projects in question can be taken into account, together with advice and views from local planning authorities, statutory advisers and others so that a view can be taken as to whether it is acceptable.

Freedom of Information

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What procedures are in place to ensure that Freedom of Information requests, and doubts on the part of the receiving government department over the meaning of such requests, are addressed promptly and efficiently. [HL6008]

The Freedom of Information Act, and supporting guidance on the Ministry of Justice website, states that public authorities are obliged to respond to requests for information promptly and no later than 20 working days following the date on which the request is received.

Section 16 of the Act requires public authorities to provide advice and assistance to people who have made or who propose to make requests for information, particularly where their request does not sufficiently identify the information required. Detailed guidance on the provision of advice and assistance, with examples of where the duty may arise and how public authorities might comply, is contained in the Section 45 code of practice for the discharge of public authorities' functions under the Act. The code may be viewed on the Ministry of Justice website at www.foi.gov.uk/reference/imprep/codepafunc.htm and is also available in the Libraries of both Houses. The Ministry of Justice also issues guidance on these points which can be found at www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/foi-procedural-assistance.htm.

Galileo Project

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What equipment and services are expected to be supplied by British industry to the European Space Agency's Galileo project; what benefits are expected for the United Kingdom from the system when in service; and what financial contribution to the project has been or will be made by Her Majesty's Government. [HL5881]

The EU and member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) have jointly funded the design and initial development phases of Galileo.

Up to May 2008 (the latest figures available) UK companies had contracts for goods and services in ESA's Galileosat programme for the development and validation phase. This is valued at £300.4 million out of a total budget of £1,691.6 million weighted to 2008 economic conditions. The deployment and operational phase which follows will see the Galileo programme achieve full operational capability (FOC) and is now being procured by ESA on behalf of the European Commission through an open tender competition in six work packages. A number of UK companies have been down-selected to compete in all but the launch provider work package of this tender competition. This process is on-going and it is too early to say which work packages could be won by UK companies.

A study published in December 2007 by ESYS Consulting—jointly commissioned by DFT and BNSC—concluded that the UK gross value added from downstream applications, using both GPS and Galileo, could be approximately £1.3 billion a year by 2025. Total cumulative benefits from 2013, when Galileo is expected to be in service, to 2025 are estimated to be £14.2 billion.

By the end of 2008 the UK will have provided £98.45 million, to the ESA element of the programme, leaving a balance of £69.60 million to be funded. This amounts to a total UK investment of £168.05 million. The next phase of the Galileo programme—the deployment and operation of the system (2010-13)—and all future funding for Galileo will be paid for wholly from the EU budget. No further contributions are to be made to the project via ESA.

The EU funding of Galileo between 2007 and 2013 has been capped at £3.4 billion. The European Commission estimates a further £6 billion will be needed for operation and maintenance costs from 2013-30. In terms of the EU contribution, the position is that EU member states contribute to the Community budget as a whole and not to individual programmes within it. The UK contributes around 17 per cent of the Community budget or 12.6 per cent after abatement. There is therefore no specific United Kingdom contribution to this phase of Galileo.

Immigration: Children

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will ensure that the UK Border Agency issues guidance to staff dealing with female children subject to immigration control on how to deal with an alleged threat of female genital mutilation, including referral to the on-site social worker team if the allegation concerns a child who is located in an immigration removal centre, and the completion of a rule 35 form, used to report actual or suspected evidence of torture to the UK Borders Agency case holders. [HL5717]

The UK Border Agency is committed to keeping children safe from harm. Staff are required to undertake a keeping children safe learning and development programme which includes a tested learning module on the action they should take if they suspect that a child they come into contact with may be at risk of harm.

When a person expresses a fear of return to their country of origin on the grounds that they would be subjected there to female genital mutilation this is considered by the UK Border Agency as an application for asylum and those who demonstrate a need for international protection are given it. Each application is considered individually by a trained decision maker in accordance with the United Kingdom's obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) against the background of the latest available country of origin information and guidance. Guidance for asylum decision-makers includes the Asylum Policy Instruction on Gender Issues in the Asylum Claim which makes specific reference to claims based on female genital mutilation. This can be viewed at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/asylumpolicyinstructions/.

Guidance on the procedures to be followed on making, sending and considering reports under the terms of rule 35 of the detention centre rules was issued to UK Border Agency staff in early February this year.

Immigration: Colnbrook Detention Centre

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people are in Colnbrook detention centre; and how many men have been held there for longer than three months after the end of their prison sentence. [HL5889]

Colnbrook immigration removals centre has a capacity to hold 348 single male detainees.

There are currently 122 men detained at the centre who have been detained for more than three months after the completion of their custodial prison sentence.

National Assessment Agency

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why civil servants at the National Assessment Agency are to receive bonuses; and whether such bonuses took into account the preparation for the marking of the 2008 standard assessment tests which began more than a year ago. [HL5909]

The National Assessment Agency is part of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), which is a non-departmental public body (NDPB) and is responsible for its own pay arrangements. The overall pay settlement for QCA in 2007-08 was in line with HM Treasury guidance for NDPBs and public sector workers.

Bonus payments are linked to meeting specific performance objectives set for each member of staff, many of whom work on programmes unrelated to the delivery of national curriculum tests. The performance evaluations for bonus payments relate to the last financial year ending in March 2008.

National Asset Register

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the National Asset Register, last published in January 2007 and containing entries up to March 2005, will next be published. [HL6035]

As part of HM Treasury's operational efficiency programme, launched in July, Gerry Grimstone has been asked to lead work on asset management across government and Lord Carter on property management.

This work will consider what scope there is to drive further efficiencies and deliver better value for money across these areas. It will make recommendations by Budget 2009, including the scope for further savings and how the Government should go about capturing them.

Northern Ireland: Human Rights Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 29 October (WA 173) on the budget of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, if the Belfast agreement of 1998 requires the Irish Government to establish a Human Rights Commission with a mandate and remit equivalent to that in Northern Ireland, how they monitor that following the reduction in funding of the Irish Human Rights Commission. [HL6050]

Funding and operational issues relating to the Irish Human Rights Commission are a matter for the Irish Government.

Questions for Written Answer

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Davies of Oldham on 27 October (WA 138), whether they will answer the Question as tabled. [HL5951]

The Chancellor's Statement of 13 October explained the basis on which support was made available. The noble Lord's Question seeks to compare two unrelated matters: the population of Scotland; and the support made available to two banks which operate throughout the United Kingdom and in many other countries.

Railways: Engineering

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Adonis on 4 November (WA 42), whether the arrangements made in the Peterborough area for people travelling towards East Anglia during the weekend of 1 and 2 November followed the usual industry process for pre-planning railway engineering work. [HL6180]

The planning of engineering works is an operational matter for Network Rail under the national possessions regime overseen by the independent Office of Rail Regulation (ORR). As part of its Periodic Review 2008 Final Determinations announced on 30 October, the Office of Rail Regulation has identified the need for Network Rail to reduce the impact of its engineering works on users of the railway.

The noble Lord should contact Network Rail’s chief executive at the following address for a response to his Question: Iain Coucher, Chief Executive, Network Rail, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG.

Railways: First Great Western

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Adonis on 4 November (WA 42–3), how they will work with First Great Western to ensure that capacity requirements for Bristol and the west of England meet the capacity standards. [HL6182]

The Government’s process for implementing capacity enhancements through train operating companies involves, first, a phase of collaboration to produce a specification which meets present and forecast capacity requirements. This is likely to be affordable within funds available, and to offer value for money.

Such discussions are in progress with First Great Western (FGW). Upon successful conclusion, the Government will issue a request for proposal to First Great Western, intended to lead to commercial negotiation and a deed of amendment to the franchise agreement to secure the changes.

Religious Freedom

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made to the Government of Kazakhstan about implementing the recommendations of the OSCE Advisory Council of Exports on Freedom of Religious Belief, in particular those recommendations relating to amendments to the current law before the Kazakhstan Senate. [HL5806]

We have made clear to the Kazakhstani authorities our concerns about the draft law, and our view that they should take on board the recommendations of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) experts. In April, our ambassador called on Ardak Doszhan, Head of the Committee on Religious Affairs under the Ministry of Justice, and raised our concerns about the law. In June, the French ambassador in his capacity as EU presidency demarched the Kazakhstani Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These concerns are also reflected in the EU's statement at the OSCE Permanent Council on 23 October 2008, which called on the Senate to reconsider the draft legislation to ensure its consistency with Kazakhstan's OSCE commitments.

Separately, the UK is funding via Freedom House a group of Kazakhstani non-governmental organisations to monitor progress on the commitments made by Kazakhstan at the OSCE ministerial in Madrid last year. This work includes legislative developments on freedom of conscience.

Somalia: Khat

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have completed their examination of the evidence of the effects of khat; and what new research they have commissioned, as foreshadowed by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, Vernon Coaker, in his letter of 21 July (reference M12715/8). [HL5848]

The Government recognise the concerns surrounding khat and this is reflected in the 2008 drug strategy action plan which made a commitment to look at the individual and social harms associated with its use.

The review of the existing evidence base (both UK and international research) is ongoing. Simultaneously we are progressing plans for new primary research to consolidate our understanding of the individual and social harms associated with khat use. This work will comprise discussions with members of the communities where khat use is prevalent, as well as with treatment providers and other practitioners. The research will seek to engage Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities in areas of the UK where these communities are concentrated. The work is due to be completed in spring 2009.

Sport: Free Swimming

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which local authorities in England have decided not to provide free swimming for the over-60s. [HL6025]

Three hundred of 354 local authorities initially confirmed their participation in the over 60s element of the Government's free swimming programme. We shall shortly be issuing details on final levels of take-up in all elements of the programme.