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Written Answers

Volume 705: debated on Tuesday 25 November 2008

Written Answers

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Algeria: Religious Faith

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they will make to the Government of Algeria about the introduction of Ordinance 06–03, which limits the practice of faiths other than Islam, including public assembly for the purpose of worship and under which half the country's Protestant churches have received verbal or written orders to close. [HL6317]

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and I have not had any discussions with our Algerian counterparts on this issue.

My honourable friend the Minister of State (Bill Rammell) is due to visit Algeria on 24-25 November to participate in the third round of bilateral political dialogue. He hopes to raise this issue with his Algerian counterparts.

Our ambassador raised this issue with the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 23 July 2008. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have also held a series of meetings with a range of non-governmental organisations concerned about restrictions on the freedom of religion and belief across the world, including Algeria.

We continue to monitor the enforcement of religious laws in Algeria, raising individual cases when it is appropriate.

Armed Forces: Warships

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What were the contracted and out-turn prices and duration of refit for each of the Type 42 destroyers completed since 1997; and [HL6400]

What were the contracted and out-turn prices and duration of refit for each of the Type 22 and Type 23 frigates completed since 1997. [HL6401]

There is no requirement to keep contractual information beyond seven years, and the costs of upkeep contracts that were completed prior to 2001 are no longer held. While details of upkeep contracts that were awarded following competition or under the SSS programme are provided in the following tables, it is not possible to provide complete details of contracts awarded through the allocated programme as some of the information is held in archive. Once this has been retrieved and analysed, I will write to the noble Lord with the requested information.

Completed contracts

HM Ship

Type

Refit dates

Approx. duration (weeks)

Contracted price (£m) 1

Final cost (£m)

Gloucester

T42

Feb 02-Apr 03

63

23.4

23.4

Argyll

T23

Jun 03-Nov 03

24

5.6

5.6

Chatham

T22

Jan 04-May 04

20

6.6

6.6

Manchester

T42

Apr 04-Oct 04

28

6.9

6.6 2

Lancaster

T23

May 04-Dec 04

32

7.6

7.6

Somerset

T23

May 06-Jun 07

56

11.9

11.9

Portland

T23

May 06-Jan 07

44

8.7

8.7

Cornwall

T22

Nov 04-Dec 05

56

13.4

13.4

Richmond

T23

Aug 05-Sep 06

56

9.4

9.4

Kent

T23

Jan 05-Jun 05

24

5.8

5.8

1 Out-turn cost data are not required for completed contracts as the price is agreed as part of the contract negotiations.

2 The final cost for HMS Manchester was subject to implementation of a Target Cost Incentive Fee shareline, therefore cost underruns were shared between the MOD and the company.

Contracts placed under the SSS Programme

HM Ship

Type

Refit dates

Duration (weeks)

Contracted price incl. profit and growth (£m)

Out-turn cost excl. profit (£m)

Final cost (£m)

Liverpool

T42

Nov 06-Apr 07

22

5.6

Out-turn and final costs will not be available until final cost certificates have been submitted by the contractor.

Cumberland

T22

Dec 06-Feb 08

60

17.5

Iron Duke

T23

Feb 07-Nov 07

40

10.8

Gloucester

T42

May 07 Nov 07

30

6.4

St Albans

T23

May 07-Jul 08

60

15.4

Banking: Iceland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What conversations took place on what dates between representatives of the Government of Iceland and its banking industry and persons representing the interests of United Kingdom depositors in Icelandic banks on impending difficulties in the Icelandic banking sector; and whether they will place transcripts or reports of those conversations in the Library of the House; and [HL6455]

What discussions have taken place, are taking place, and are planned with representatives of Iceland on financial support that can be given to Iceland to help that country during its period of difficulty in the banking sector. [HL6458]

Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings and discussions with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government’s practice to provide details of all such meetings and discussions.

Broadcasting: Digital Switchover

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have received or commissioned a report on the costs of including provision for a return path in the core receiver requirements for the targeted help scheme for digital switchover. [HL6483]

Earlier this year, DCMS commissioned independent research into set-top boxes, including a return path to support bidirectional interactive services. That report did not include an estimate of costs.

However, the technical experts on the department’s Emerging technology group, which keeps the core receiver requirements under review, did arrive at an initial costing for including return-path functionality to provide for broadband capability. We are returning to the issue of the feasibility of including a return path in the switchover help scheme equipment in the context of the Digital Britain project. An interim version of the Digital Britain report will be published in January. The final report will be available in the spring.

Democratic Republic of Congo

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assistance they will provide to support the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [HL6189]

The UK contributes 7.8 per cent of the cost of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) through its assessed payments to the UN’s peacekeeping budget, which totalled £39,728,447 in the past financial year. In addition the UK currently has five personnel in MONUC occupying key staff appointments in Kinshasa and Goma. We will continue to work closely with the UN and Security Council partners to ensure that MONUC is as efficient and effective as possible.

Elections: Scotland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many individuals are registered as electors in Scotland. [HL6521]

The General Register Office for Scotland’s report on the 2008 electoral roll, available on its website, provides the latest figures i.e. as at 1 December 2007, which are as follows:

UK Parliament—3,887,571

Local Government and Scottish Parliament—3,926,262

European Parliament—3,891,523

I understand that GRO-S will publish its report on the 2009 electoral roll around March 2009 (which will provide figures as at 1 December 2008).

Equality and Human Rights Commission: Staff

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's staff and what percentage of the total staff (a) are aged under 30; (b) are aged over 60; (c) were recruited since October 2007; and (d) have disabilities. [HL6466]

The percentage of the total commission staff as listed above: a) 18.6 per cent of EHRC staff are aged under 30; b) 4.2 per cent of EHRC staff are aged over 60; c) 20 per cent were recruited since October 2007; d) 20.5 per cent of EHRC staff have declared disabilities.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many grievances have been raised formally by staff in the Equality and Human Rights Commission since October 2007; and how many employment tribunal cases against the Commission have been lodged since October 2007. [HL6467]

Five members of staff have formally raised grievances against the EHRC since October 2007.

Eight members of staff have lodged employment tribunal cases against the EHRC since October 2007.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the Equality and Human Rights Commission expects to publish the results of its staff attitude survey; and whether the survey will contain an analysis of the views of staff from the perspective of the six equality and human rights standards. [HL6468]

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has not undertaken a staff attitude survey, but has recently conducted its first comprehensive engagement survey across the commission. Analysis of this survey will be available in the new year and will include monitoring information.

Finance: Banks and Building Societies

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What assessment they have made of the effect of the requirement on bank and building society operators in the United Kingdom for prospective depositors to maintain an address in the United Kingdom so as to comply with anti-terrorism and money laundering legislation on British citizens and residents of the United Kingdom making deposits in offshore accounts. [HL6457]

Neither the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 nor other anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance legislation require prospective bank or building society depositors to maintain an address in the United Kingdom. Accordingly no assessment of the type described is or has been required or undertaken.

Subject to other relevant legislation, the terms and conditions on which products or services are offered are a matter for firms.

Government: Contractors

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which contractors of the Department for Children, Schools and Families do not pay their suppliers within 30 days; and what representations they will make to these contractors about withholding retentions from sub-contractors, in accordance with the Office of Government Commerce's fair payment charter. [HL6123]

A complete answer to this question could only be provided at disproportionate costs, as my department does not maintain a central record of this information. However, I can say that all the department’s model contracts for purchase contain a clause requiring contractors to make payments within 30 days of receipt of their supplier’s or sub-contractor’s invoice for the purposes of that contract.

Gulf War Illnesses

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What implications they anticipate for United Kingdom troops who suffered ill-health caused by service in the 1990–91 Gulf War from the report of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, mandated by the United States Congress and published on 17 November. [HL6459]

We are now assessing the US report following its publication on 17 November and will review its contents carefully. The needs of Gulf veterans and their families remain a priority for the Government. In line with our cross-government model of support to veterans, healthcare and social support are provided. Financial support is available to veterans and dependants through MoD War Pensions and Armed Forces occupational pension schemes, when appropriate.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will review their policy for research on and redress for United Kingdom Gulf War veterans following the report of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, mandated by the United States Congress and published on 17 November. [HL6460]

We are now assessing the US report following its publication on 17 November and will review its contents carefully. In 2003, the Medical Research Council (MRC) undertook a comprehensive review of relevant Gulf veterans’ research, including both UK and overseas studies. The key recommendation of the review was that future studies should focus on improving the long-term health of Gulf veterans with persisting symptoms. The focus of our research effort is, therefore, to identify suitable rehabilitative interventions for those veterans, and a contract has been awarded to a group at Cardiff University, acknowledged experts in this field. Financial support is available to veterans and dependants through MoD War Pensions and the Armed Forces occupational pension schemes.

Gypsies and Travellers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many appeals there were against refusal of planning permission for Gypsy and Traveller sites in the two years before and after the Department for Communities and Local Government issued Circular 1/2006; how many were granted; how many refused; and how many pitches there were in each case. [HL6430]

In the two-year period leading up to publication of ODPM Circular 1/2006 (Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites) on 2 February 2006, the inspectorate considered a total of 268 appeals relating to Gypsy and Traveller sites, of which 86 (32 per cent) were allowed and 182 (68 per cent) were dismissed.

In the two-year period following publication of Circular 1/2006, the inspectorate considered a total of 246 appeals, of which a higher proportion 65 per cent (160 cases) were allowed with 35 per cent (86) dismissed.

The inspectorate does not hold information on the number of pitches affected.

Housing Associations: Appointments

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Andrews on 6 November (WA 82–83), (a) whether the Housing Corporation has an equality scheme, as required for all public bodies; (b) whether it complies with the guidance for public authorities on ethnic monitoring; (c) why they are not aware of the ethnic identity of the three individuals appointed to the governing body of the black and minority ethnic-led Presentation Housing Association; and (d) how the corporation determines progress made when undertaking equality impact assessments and reviewing performance. [HL6219]

The Housing Corporation has a single equality scheme that outlines its arrangements for meeting its specific and general duties for race, disability and gender equality. Its current single equality scheme and previous schemes for race, gender and disability have been developed in partnership with key stakeholders in the sector as well as with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and its predecessors, including the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission.

The corporation complies with the Commission for Racial Equality’s guidance for public authorities on ethnic monitoring, and it monitors the profile of its employees. The corporation also sets out its expectations for housing associations to undertake ethnic monitoring in the regulatory code and in its Good Practice Note 8: Equality and Diversity.

The corporation does not monitor the ethnicity of statutory appointees. However, its regulatory framework requires all housing associations to monitor the composition of their board members. Therefore, collection of such data is the responsibility of housing associations.

The corporation requires its impact assessments to identify the potential adverse impacts of any of its relevant policies and practices. Information and data that support the impact assessment process considers a variety of factors, including identified trends, potential barriers and current performance. In all cases, assessments consider the impact of decisions on equality.

Iraq: Visas

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their current assessment of the security situation in the Kurdistan region of Iraq for the purposes of considering whether to extend visa issuing facilities to Erbil. [HL5589]

Compared with the rest of Iraq, the general security situation in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) administered area is relatively benign. There are, however, still isolated attacks within the KRG.

During my recent visit to Iraq, I discussed the current visa operation with the KRG, the Government of Iraq and our ambassador, and the need to reconsider the current limited service. There are ongoing discussions between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK Border Agency officials on the scope of the visa service in Iraq and our assessment of the security situation.

Ministry of Defence: Starbucks

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Ministry of Defence has any contracts with Starbucks for the supply of materials or services. [HL6486]

Information held centrally by the Ministry of Defence indicates that MoD has no direct contracts with Starbucks for the supply of materials or services.

Northern Ireland Office: Bonuses

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether bonuses paid to officials in the Northern Ireland Office are based on the volume of work undertaken or the quality of that work; and, if the latter, how that is calculated and monitored. [HL6302]

The Northern Ireland Office operates three bonus schemes, details of which were set out in my Answer given on 5 November 2008, Official Report, column WA 69.

In allocating special bonuses, consideration is given to the quality and quantity of work, as well as the circumstances of particular achievements.

For staff at grades D2 to A, individual bonus recommendations are made by line managers, who assess staff against the following criteria: performance against objectives across the reporting year; how the objectives were achieved (the behaviours and attributes displayed); and the circumstances of the achievement.

Bonuses for senior Civil Service staff are awarded in accordance with Cabinet Office guidance.

Northern Ireland Office: Redundancy

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many staff have received redundancy or severance payments in the Northern Ireland Office in the past three years; what were the grades of those staff and the reasons involved; how much was paid; and in how many cases have the posts since been filled; and [HL6412]

How many staff in the Northern Ireland Office received redundancy or severance payments in the past three years; what the grades of those staff were; what the grounds were for the redundancies; how much was paid; and whether any such posts have since been filled. [HL6435]

Northern Ireland Office: Staff Numbers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have to reduce the staff of the Northern Ireland Office; how many staff will be lost; and by when. [HL5638]

There are no targets for reducing staff numbers. The department’s administration budget has been cut by 5 per cent year on year from 2008-09 to 2010-11. Administrative budgets have been set in line with these reductions and the necessary savings will be found in a variety of ways.

Northern Ireland Office: Taxis

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 11 November (WA 123) concerning expenditure of the Northern Ireland Office on taxis, by whom each journey in the first four weeks of financial year 2007–08 was made; when it was made; to where; at what cost; and for what purpose; and [HL6440]

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 11 November (WA 123) concerning expenditure by the Northern Ireland Office on taxis, by whom each journey in the second four weeks of financial year 2007–08 was made; when it was made; to where; at what cost; and for what purpose; and [HL6488]

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 11 November (WA 123) concerning expenditure by the Northern Ireland Office on taxis, by whom each journey in the third four weeks of financial year 2007–08 was made; when; to where; at what cost; and for what purpose; and [HL6509]

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 11 November (WA 123) concerning expenditure by the Northern Ireland Office on taxis, by whom each journey in the fourth four weeks of financial year 2007–08 was made; when; to where; at what cost; and for what purpose; and [HL6510]

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 11 November (WA 123) concerning expenditure by the Northern Ireland Office on taxis, by whom each journey in the fifth four weeks of financial year 2007–08 was made; when; to where; at what cost; and for what purpose; and [HL6511]

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 11 November (WA 123) concerning expenditure by the Northern Ireland Office on taxis, by whom each journey in the sixth four weeks of financial year 2007–08 was made; when; to where; at what cost; and for what purpose; and [HL6512]

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 11 November (WA 123) concerning expenditure by the Northern Ireland Office on taxis, by whom each journey in the seventh four weeks of financial year 2007–08 was made; when; to where; at what cost; and for what purpose; and [HL6513]

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 11 November (WA 123) concerning expenditure by the Northern Ireland Office on taxis, by whom each journey in the eighth four weeks of financial year 2007–08 was made; when; to where; at what cost; and for what purpose. [HL6514]

Much of the information requested constitutes personal data which, if released, would breach the first principle of the Data Protection Act 1998, namely the fair and lawful processing of personal data. As none of the conditions in Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act are met to authorise fair and lawful disclosure, the information requested is not available for release.

Northern Ireland: Human Rights Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Following the decision of the House of Lords in In Re E (a child) (Northern Ireland) (2008) UKHL 66, how much the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has spent on this case since 2001; how much the Police Service of Northern Ireland has spent defending it; and what action they will take in response to the criticism by Lord Hoffmann, of the intervention of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. [HL6410]

Decisions on litigation in this case are an operational matter for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which is independent from Government. The noble Lord may like to write to the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on this matter. The Government have no plans to take any action in response to the comments by Lord Hoffman.

I will ask the Chief Constable to write to the noble Lord, in line with the Answer of 5 November (Official Report, col. WA 70) that set out the policy for answering parliamentary Questions regarding external bodies.

Olympic Games 2012

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they favour the 2012 Olympic shooting events being held at the Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich. [HL6508]

The Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich was selected as the shooting venue for the London 2012 Games following the International Olympic Committee’s review of the Bid Committee’s applicant file. In August this year, KPMG was commissioned to test and challenge the plans for a number of temporary venues, including Woolwich, to ensure that they continue to represent the best value for money. This work on the shooting venue is ongoing and final decisions are yet to be made by the Olympic Board.

Police: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What has been the total annual cost to (a) the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and (b) the Northern Ireland Police Board, of co-operation and liaison with the Northern Ireland District Policing Partnerships (DPPs) since their inception. [HL6397]

The total annual cost of DPPs since their inception in 2002 until the end of March was as follows:

(£,000)

2002-03

£544

2003-04

£4,289

2004-05

£3,276

2005-06

£3,972

2006-07

£3,777

2007-08

£4,234

75 per cent of the cost of DPPs is funded by the Northern Ireland Policing Board, and 25 per cent by the local council.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What have been the total annual administrative and associated costs of the Police Board for Northern Ireland since the transition from the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. [HL6398]

That is an operational matter for the Northern Ireland Policing Board, which is independent of Government. The noble Lord may wish to write to Dr Debbie Donnelly, acting chief executive of the Policing Board.

Russia: Legal System

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they last raised with the government of Russia (a) the detention in psychiatric hospitals of members of opposition parties and their treatment without proper consent; (b) the use of invented criminal charges against opposition members; (c) arrests and beatings of non-violent demonstrators; (d) the unexplained deaths of 47 journalists since 1992; and (e) the new offences of extremism and humiliating national pride. [HL5959]

The Government continue to be concerned about human rights in Russia, including psychiatric detention, media freedom, journalists’ safety, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, and actively look for ways to raise them with the Russian authorities. The most recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office human rights report highlights these concerns. All of these issues were raised bilaterally in the human rights consultations held in February 2007 and we are pressing the Russian Government to agree the date of the next round of bilateral discussions. They were also raised in EU/Russia human rights consultations on 20 October 2008. The EU has previously raised individual cases of alleged politically motivated forced psychiatric treatment.

The Government have also made representations, both bilaterally and with our EU partners, on the extremist activity law, including extension of the legal definition of extremism to include “the abasement of national dignity” and “public slander of a state official”.

In addition, we currently fund the International Federation of Journalists and the Russian Union of Journalists to support media independence and the defence of journalists’ rights. In the North Caucasus we are supporting projects run by the BBC, Article 19 and the Institute of War & Peace Reporting.

Sudan: Peacekeeping

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by Lord Malloch-Brown on 30 June (WA 22–3) about the role of international peacekeepers in Sudan, what is the total annual cost of peacekeeping there. [HL4584]

The United Nations’ approved annual budget for the UN-African Union joint peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) for the period 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009 is $1,569.26 million. The approved annual budget for the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) for the same period is $858.77 million.