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Written Answers

Volume 705: debated on Monday 17 November 2008

Written Answers

Monday 17 November 2008


asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the remarks of General Sir Peter Wall about sending further troops to Afghanistan and its effects on the views of the public there. [HL6001]

As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made plain in another place on 12 December 2007 (Official Report, Commons, col. 303), our commitment to Afghanistan is for the long term.

In line with the Prime Minister's Statement, Lieutenant-General Wall was highlighting the importance of the comprehensive approach. He was explaining that there needs to be a greater recognition that Afghanistan's problems will not be solved by military means alone. Any requests for an increase in force levels will be considered very carefully in light of developments on the ground, especially in the context of our efforts to improve governance and take forward reconstruction and stabilisation in Afghanistan.

Recent polling by the Asia Foundation, while finding concerns about security and the direction of progress on their country, also found that a large majority of Afghans are content with their Government. We shall continue to work with the Afghan Government to develop their capacity.

Broadcasting: Standards

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they last sought advice from Ofcom on what constitutes an acceptable level of vulgarity in public broadcasting. [HL6018]

In relation to broadcasting, Parliament has charged Ofcom with maintaining standards, notably to protect children and to protect the general public from harmful and offensive material. Decisions on broadcast programme standards are a matter for Ofcom to determine according to the provisions of the Broadcasting and Communications Acts. It is a long-standing principle that the Government do not interfere in programme matters, either on arrangements for scheduling or on content.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will ask Ofcom to publish its guidance on good taste and decency which applies to public broadcasting. [HL6019]

Both the Ofcom broadcasting code and associated guidance are available on the Ofcom website at bcode.pdf and bguidance/guidance2.pdf.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have been informed by Ofcom if standards applied to determine whether broadcasts are offensive are related to the belief systems of those offended. [HL6020]

No. Ofcom is independent of the Government and responsible for safeguarding the public interest in broadcasting. Decisions on broadcast programme standards are a matter for Ofcom to determine according to the provisions of the Broadcasting and Communications Acts.

Disabled People: Football Grounds

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What replies they have received from the Premier League and the Football League to the letters sent by the Minister for Sport in April 2008 regarding the provision of facilities for disabled supporters at football grounds. [HL5750]

The Government have not received any replies from the Premier League or the Football League to the Minister for Sport's letter. The letters asked both leagues to remind their member clubs about their obligations under disability discrimination legislation and urged them to ensure their stadiums complied with the Accessible Stadia Guidance. The letters did not specifically request a reply. However, the Minister will raise the issue when he next meets both parties.

EU: Select Committee

asked the Chairman of Committees:

What is the annual running cost of the European Union Select Committee and its sub-committees. [HL6322]

Individual Select Committees are not budgeted for separately, but the Committee Office estimates that attributable costs of the European Union Committee and its sub-committees in financial year 2007-08 amounted to approximately £2,043,000 in resource terms. These costs exclude a number of services provided on a House-wide or Parliament-wide basis which are not apportioned to individual activity centres and cannot be allocated with any accuracy, such as accommodation, utilities, security, Members’ expenses, catering, financial and human resources functions, and ICT services.

Film Sponsorship

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have sponsored any film which features suicide; and what is their assessment of government-sponsored films on suicide. [HL6086]

Of the 128 feature films funded by the UK Film Council via its lottery funds, the following releases have, in some fashion, depicted suicide: Sylvia (2003), Control (2007) and WAZ (2007) .

The UKFC makes funding decisions based on the creative, cultural and innovative merits of the production. In addition to this, any film in receipt of funding from the government-backed UK Film Council is also required to satisfy the qualification requirements of the British Board of Film Classification for a certificate no more restrictive than “18”.

The BBFC has specific guidelines on depicting imitative techniques and would require cuts to any films in order to remove instructive detail on suicide.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the purpose of fluoridation schemes in the United Kingdom is to improve dental health; and, if so, what benefits water fluoridation brings to children within the area of a scheme. [HL6127]

Water fluoridation offers the potential to reduce inequalities in oral health amongst children and adults. A Systematic Review of Public Water Fluoridation, published by the University of York in 2000, concluded that the fluoridation of drinking water achieves a 14.8 per cent reduction in the proportion of children who are free of dental caries and that children in fluoridated areas had, on average, 2.25 fewer teeth affected by decay than children in non-fluoridated areas. This has been estimated as equivalent to an overall 40 per cent reduction in tooth decay.

In 2002, the US Task Force on Community Preventive Services published a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine which concluded that, overall, lifelong residents of fluoridated areas had 34.6 per cent less tooth decay than lifelong residents of non-fluoridated areas.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the introduction of water fluoridation to all households in an urban area is not considered by the chief dental officer in his guidance letter of February 2008 (Gateway 9361), Appendix 2, Section 7, to be a “substantial development of the health service” or a “substantial variation in the provision of such services” within Section 4 of the Local Authority (Overview and Scrutiny Committees Health Scrutiny Functions) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/3048); and whether they have taken legal advice on this matter. [HL6128]

Our advice is that the health service referred to in Regulation 4 of the Local Authority (Overview and Scrutiny Committees Health Scrutiny Functions) Regulations 2002 is the health service which the Secretary of State for Health has a continuing duty to promote under Section 1(1) of the National Health Service Act 2006. However, the fluoridation of water supplies is an activity or service undertaken by the water undertaker under the Water Industry Act 1991 and is not a service under the NHS Act.

Government Departments: Public Relations

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Minister of State for the Ministry of Justice, Mr David Hansen, on 8 October (Official Report, Commons, 187–88W) on departmental publicity, why an external public relations consultancy was hired to undertake the media engagement instead of the work being conducted by the Ministry of Justice. [HL6199]

The Office of the Public Guardian, which is part of the Ministry of Justice, mounted a campaign to increase public awareness of the Mental Capacity Act. An external consultancy was used as the resources needed did not exist in-house at the time. The campaign ran for three months from August 2007.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Secretary of State for Transport, Geoff Hoon, on 22 October (Official Report, Commons, 418–19W) on departmental public relations, which public relations firms were used by the Department for Transport in 2007–08. [HL6201]

The following external public relations companies have worked on the Department for Transport's marketing activities in the 2007-08 fiscal year:

Central DfT—RED, Forster, Munro and Forster and Geronimo;

DVLA—Geronimo, Red Consultancy, and MGB Communications;

VOSA—Couravel; and

MCA—Kinross and Render.

Health: Cancer Drugs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, if a patient makes a top-up payment for a cancer drug, the National Health Service will continue to pay for the treatment if the patient runs out of money. [HL6161]

Any request for funding for a treatment that the National Health Service does not normally pay for would have to be considered on an exceptional basis by the relevant primary care trust. This includes circumstances where a patient who has been funding additional treatment privately runs out of money.

The draft revised guidance published by the department on NHS patients who wish to pay for additional private care, on 4 November 2008, makes it clear that “patients who pay for private care in these circumstances should not be put at any advantage or disadvantage in relation to the NHS care they receive. They are entitled to NHS services on exactly the same basis of clinical need as any other patient”.

On 4 November, the Secretary of State announced a range of measures to widen access to drugs on the NHS, which will, in fact, reduce the demand from patients for additional private care (Official Report, Commons, col. 131). For those few patients who may still wish to buy additional private care, the draft revised guidance makes it clear that no patient should lose his or her entitlement to NHS care as a result of choosing to purchase private care separately. The draft revised guidance emphasises that the NHS should never subsidise private care with public money, as this would breach core NHS principles. It also says that patients' agreement to the likely costs should be sought in advance of any private care being provided.

The Secretary of State's announcement was in response to the report, Improving Access to Medicines for NHS Patients, by Professor Mike Richards, the National Clinical Director for Cancer, which can be found at Copies of the report have already been placed in the Library.

Health: Diabetes

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in the next review of indicators in the quality and outcomes framework, they will adjust relevant indicators to support diabetes testing in patients with established risk factors for the condition. [HL6233]

Assessment of diabetes risk is included in the Government's programme of vascular checks which is being rolled out nationally on a phased basis from April 2009. With regard to future changes in the quality and outcomes framework (QOF), we launched a public consultation on the proposed new process for developing and reviewing clinical indicators in the QOF on 30 October 2008. Under these proposals, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence would oversee a new independent and transparent process for England from 1 April 2009 as part of its role in providing guidance for the National Health Service based on evidence of clinical effectiveness and cost effectiveness. At national level, NHS employers would then negotiate with the British Medical Association on which indicators should be applied nationally and what the value of those indicators should be.

A copy of the consultation document has been placed in the Library.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What systems are used to ensure effective communication between locations at which diabetic retinopathy screening takes place, specialist centres interpreting potentially positive retinal images, and general practitioners' surgeries that will manage care based on the results; and [HL6234]

What measures are used to assess the effectiveness of the reporting processes for results from the national diabetic retinopathy screening programme; and [HL6235]

What outcomes are being measured to assess the extent to which the identification of cases of diabetic retinopathy through the national screening programme are resulting in changes to patient management. [HL6236]

The English national screening programme for sight-threatening retinopathy (NSP), set up to support local delivery of diabetic retinopathy screening, has developed clear protocols for communications between screening sites, specialist grading centres and general practitioners' surgeries. Such communication is reviewed as part of quality assurance.

The NSP has set 19 national quality standards for screening programmes to measure the effectiveness of all screening programmes. These can be found on the website These include standards for the timely referral of patients with retinopathy, informing general practitioners of results of screening and the timely assessment and treatment of patients with screen-positive results.

The effectiveness of screening programmes against these standards is being assessed as part of the external quality-assurance process being undertaken by the NSP.

The NSP and the national clinical director for diabetes are working closely with a number of key stakeholders, including the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the Association of British Clinical Diabetologists, to ensure screening for diabetic retinopathy is fully integrated with other aspects of diabetes and ophthalmology care.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people have been killed by the IRA and other republican groups in the United Kingdom since 1969. [HL6135]

The following figures, provided by the PSNI Central Statistics Unit, detail the number of murders attributed to republican groups within Northern Ireland. The figures do not attribute responsibility to a specific organisation.


Police Reserve












* Figures include Royal Irish Regiment (Home Service Battalions)

Licensing: Live Music

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What meetings were held or are scheduled by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport between 1 January 2008 and 31 March 2009 in which draft exemptions from the Licensing Act 2003 for small-scale performances of live music were, or are to be, discussed; and who attended, or is scheduled to attend. [HL6007]

Meetings scheduled between the department and outside bodies which included discussion of exemptions from the Licensing Act 2003 for small-scale performances, of live music as their main subject agenda during the period 1 January 2008 to 31 March 2009 were:

DCMS attendance at Camden Inner London Licensees Association (CILLA)—1 October 2008. Attended by DCMS and CILLA representatives;

Licensing Advisory Group Meeting—22 September 2008. Attended by DCMS and representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), British Hospitality Association, Business in Sport and Leisure (BISL), Working Men's Club and Institute Union and Committee of Registered Clubs Associations, Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services, London Borough of Havering, London Councils, Magistrates Association, Musicians' Union, Noctis and Patersons;

meeting between DCMS and Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS)—19 September 2008. Also attended by representative of Borough of Kensington and Chelsea;

DCMS officials met with a representative of a live music venue, located in Hertfordshire—9 September 2008;

Licensing Advisory Minor Variations Sub-Group Meeting—5 September 2008. Attended by representatives of DCMS, ACRE, ACPO/ Met Police, BBPA, BISL, Cinema UK, LACORS, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Musicians’ Union, Noctis, Civic Trust, London Borough of Havering;

DCMS meeting with representatives of two London pubs which host live music events—7 August 2008; and

DCMS meeting with the Musicians' Union (MU)— 24 July 2008.

It is likely there will be further meetings on this topic in the near future, but none has yet been arranged.

Northern Ireland Office: Official Drivers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Northern Ireland Office has oversight of the arrangements for providing Ministers in the Northern Ireland Assembly with official motor vehicles and drivers; and if so, how it exercises that oversight. [HL6213]

The Northern Ireland Office plays no role in the arrangements for the provision of motor vehicles and drivers for Northern Ireland Executive Ministers.

Northern Ireland: Parity of Esteem

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What importance they place on the assurance of equality and parity of esteem for the two communities in Northern Ireland; how that is measured; and by whom. [HL6087]

There is nothing further I can add to the Answer given on 5 November 2008 (Official Report, col. WA 69).

Orange Halls

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many Orange halls have been attacked in Northern Ireland in each year since 2002. [HL6136]

The following figures have been provided by the PSNI and record attacks on both Orange halls and apprentice boys' halls.







2008 to date:








People Trafficking

asked Her Majesty's Government:

To what extent measures to prevent the trafficking of people to and within Scotland differ from those in England; and whether any safe houses for victims of trafficking are available in Scotland. [HL6096]

The UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking is a document jointly published by the Home Office and the Scotland Government. The issues concerning trafficking are common across the UK. However, where there are Scottish specific actions—such as the need to minimise opportunities for trafficking for forced labour during the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games—the Scottish Government lead on efforts to tackle this (under the ambit of the UK action plan).

The TARA project based in Glasgow provides support to women who have been trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. This project has access to a range of social housing providers and has recently received pilot funding from the Scottish Government to extend the service to other parts of Scotland.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will make representations to the Government of the United States concerning the rescue of the Ukrainian freighter, loaded with armaments for Kenya, currently held by pirates off Somalia. [HL5676]

We share the concerns of the international community regarding the increase in piracy off the coast of Somalia. The US, as a close strategic partner and a fellow member of the Combined Task Force 150 multinational coalition, has kept us informed of progress and we hope for an early resolution to this issue.

RAF: Nimrod

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What options they are considering to replace the Nimrod R1 aircraft. [HL6117]

RAF: Typhoon Aircraft

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect Paveway IV bombs to enter service on the Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft. [HL6116]

Railways Act 1993

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Adonis on 10 November (WA 107), why they used the powers under Section 54 of the Railways Act 1993 in the cases of South West Trains, Cross Country, West Midland and InterCity East Coast. [HL6335]

Railways: First Great Western

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the 40 additional vehicles which First Great Western will receive for Paddington suburban services will be new vehicles, as stated in the Department for Transport's Rolling Stock Plan of January 2008. [HL6209]

The Government’s Rolling Stock Plan of January 2008 stated that the assumed actions and numbers of vehicles were not prescriptive. The update to the plan, published in July 2008 and available on the Department for Transport website at, stated that different numbers would be announced only when the Government contracted with the operator for more or fewer vehicles. Discussions with First Great Western on detailed plans are in progress.

Railways: Open Access Operators

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether open access operators have attracted new business to the rail network. [HL6336]

Open-access operators do not make available either their loading data or details of their ticket sales, presumably for reasons of commercial confidentiality.

Railways: Performance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why two organisations monitor the performance of train operators; and whether there is scope for economy in the use of such resources. [HL6339]

Network Rail is responsible for monitoring the day-to-day operational performance of the national network. The Department for Transport monitors the performance of train operators to whom it has awarded franchises.

These activities are complementary in ensuring that passengers benefit from continuing good performance.

Sport: Cycling

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will propose the relationship between British Cycling and Cycling England as a model to be followed in other sporting areas. [HL6081]

UK Sport and Sport England support British Cycling to deliver elite success and increased participation in sport. Cycling England is the body established by the Department for Transport to get more people cycling, more safely, more often.

We support the relationship between British Cycling and Cycling England, but the Government would not seek to prescribe which governance arrangements should apply to recreational activity and competitive sports in the same field.

Sport: Swimming

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have consulted or intend to consult the Swimming Forum on their free swimming initiative. [HL6079]

The Government designed the free swimming programme in close consultation with a range of stakeholders including the Amateur Swimming Association and Sport England, both of which are members of the Swimming Forum.

The Government have not consulted the Swimming Forum itself. However, the forum has written to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, giving its support to the programme.

Sudan: Asylum Seekers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the evidence collected by Waging Peace that suggests that some Darfuri asylum seekers who were interviewed in the redocumentation interviews in March and April 2007 had an active asylum claim at that time. [HL5863]

I can confirm that all Darfuri asylum applicants interviewed for the purposes of redocumentation between March and April 2007 had received an initial adverse decision to their asylum application.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What constitutes a safe and secure environment for a redocumentation interview for asylum seekers, as mentioned in the letter of the chief executive of the UK Border Agency, Lin Homer, to Waging Peace on 26 September; and how they monitor the provision of such an environment. [HL5864]

When an applicant is interviewed by a representative from an embassy or high commission, the United Kingdom Border Agency will endeavour to ensure that interviews are conducted in a private and secure location. Whenever possible interviews are conducted in the presence of a United Kingdom Border Agency official and, when required, an independent interpreter.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What information was passed to the Sudanese official present in the redocumentation interviews of Darfuri asylum seekers in March and April 2007. [HL5865]

Disclosure of information during the period between March and April 2007 was limited to that necessary for the redocumentation process. This might include the transfer of basic information about the applicant’s identity as well as fingerprints, photographs and any other documentary evidence that supports identity and nationality.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What record was made of any disclaimers signed by Darfuri asylum seekers who were interviewed in the redocumentation interviews in March and April 2007, saying they agreed to be interviewed by the Sudanese official. [HL5866]

No disclaimers were signed by Sudanese nationals taking part in the redocumentation interviews between March and April 2007. The applicants did, however, sign forms that contained the bio-data details necessary for their redocumentation.

Viper Venom

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Department of Health has advised the Veterinary Medicines Directorate that it can no longer import viper venom antiserum for sale to veterinary surgeons; and, if so, why. [HL6242]

The department and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have agreed that the department would import European viper venom antiserum for human use only and Defra would have responsibility for importing this product for veterinary use.