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Written Answers

Volume 706: debated on Tuesday 13 January 2009

Written Answers

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Assisted Dying

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham of 26 November (WA 292), what is the legal position of persons who assist others to commit suicide, having regard to the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute relatives who help someone who is terminally ill to die. [HL203]

It is an offence under the Suicide Act 1961 to aid, abet, counsel or procure the suicide or attempted suicide of another person. All cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, including offences under the Suicide Act 1961, are independently reviewed on their own merits and in accordance with the code for Crown prosecutors. Where there is sufficient evidence and a prosecution is in the public interest then a prosecution will follow.

Banking: Iceland

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether information concerning conversations about the Icelandic banking sector that (a) have taken place and (b) are planned to take place between the government of Iceland, its banking industry and representatives of United Kingdom depositors in Icelandic banks can be made available under the Freedom of Information Act 2000; and when those conversations took place. [HL222]

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Myners on 25 November (WA 281), whether they would provide information to select committees on conversations by Treasury Ministers and officials concerning the Icelandic banking situation. [HL223]

The Government have taken urgent action to protect the interests of UK depositors in Icelandic banks and are actively pursuing a full resolution. The Government have and will continue to ensure that Parliament and the public are updated on developments as and when possible, without compromising negotiations with the Icelandic Government.

The Chancellor, along with the Governor of the Bank of England and the Chairman of the FSA, gave details of discussions related to the Icelandic banking situation to the Common's Treasury Committee on 3 November 2008.

Whether to release information under the Freedom of Information Act will be a matter for individual public authorities, who will need to balance the public interest in maintaining any applicable exemption against the public interest in disclosing any information they may hold.

Child Protection

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take regarding the Office for Standards in Education following its role in Haringey child protection inspections. [HL366]

Ofsted is a separate non-ministerial government department, and HM Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert, has committed to reviewing the inspection of child protection services in light of the findings of the recent Haringey inspection. The Government had already planned to change the arrangements for assessing and inspecting local authority services, to a new comprehensive area assessment from April 2009. This will include a programme of inspections specifically looking at services for safeguarding children, reporting on each local authority during a three-year period, and an annual unannounced visit to each local authority to assess frontline social care practice.

Climate Change: Building Regulations

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will take steps to achieve the agreement of the European Union's Council of Ministers to the recast of the energy performance of buildings directive. [HL493]

The European Commission published draft proposals for recasting or extending the energy performance of buildings directive on 13 November 2008. We are considering the implications of those proposals and will formally respond in due course.

Crime: Domestic Violence

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what provision is made for the assessment and care of needs such as drug addiction, mental health problems and disability in refuge centres for victims of domestic violence. [HL490]

Since 2003, administering authorities have been allocated funding through the Supporting People programme which falls under the remit of Communities and Local Government, to support the most vulnerable people in their communities, including victims of domestic violence, through the provision of housing-related support.

Housing-related support services for victims of domestic violence are commissioned by top-tier local authorities to meet local needs. Supporting People guidance and the quality assessment framework state that a needs assessment (covering issues relating to substance misuse, mental health and disability) should be undertaken for each client accessing support and used to inform individual support plans.

The Department of Health has provided practical guidance and training to healthcare professionals working with service users who may have experienced or are experiencing domestic abuse. The updated domestic abuse handbook and CD-ROM, Responding to Domestic Abuse: A Handbook for Health Professionals, which was published in December 2005, provides advice on how the health services can respond to victims of domestic abuse. A copy of the handbook has been placed in the House of Commons Library.

Equality and Human Rights Commission

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government (a) how much has been spent by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on organisation and development consultants in the current year, and (b) how much it plans to spend on them up to March 2009. [HL99]

The commission has committed to spend £138,650 on organisation and development consultants for the year ending March 2009 but no expenditure has yet been incurred.

Faith Schools

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to remove the Interim Executive Board for the John Loughborough Scheme in the London Borough of Haringey in January 2009 and allow the Seventh-Day appointed Board of Governors to resume running the school. [HL361]

We do not intend to remove the Interim Executive Board at John Loughborough School in January 2009. The interim executive board was appointed by the local authority with the approval of the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and it is for the London Borough of Haringey to plan the transition back to normal governance at the school as set out in regulations when it considers the time is appropriate.

Gulf War Illnesses

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Answer by Lord Tunnicliffe on 9 December (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 257), whether the question of poisoning by organophosphates or related compounds was addressed in the 2003 Medical Research Council review of Gulf research; and whether any comparable review has been conducted in the past five years. [HL287]

In 2003 the Medical Research Council (MRC) asked the Military Health Research Advisory Group (MHRAG) to undertake a comprehensive review of relevant Gulf research. The review made a number of recommendations on where future research might focus and provided additional advice to the Ministry of Defence. Organophosphates were one of the topics addressed and full details of the findings can be found in the published review. The MRC has not conducted subsequent co-ordinated strategic reviews on research into Gulf Veterans' illnesses.

Exposure to organophosphate pesticides during the 1990-91 Gulf conflict is of concern to some veterans and the Ministry of Defence continues to monitor ongoing research in this area through its membership of the Official Group on Organophosphates, chaired by Defra.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Answer by Lord Tunnicliffe on 9 December (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 258), why it is necessary to review and peer-review the Department of Veterans' Affairs' findings on Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans when the report contains 68 pages with 1,840 references in peer-reviewed journals. [HL288]

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Answer by Lord Tunnicliffe on 9 December (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 258), which body will be responsible for the peer-review of the Department of Veterans' Affairs' findings on Gulf War illness and the health of Gulf War veterans; and what will be the expertise of the members of that body. [HL290]

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Answer by Lord Tunnicliffe on 9 December (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 258), what expert advice the Ministry of Defence has received since the publication of the United States Research Advisory Committee on Gulf Veterans' Illness in November 2008 to substantiate the statement that the Ministry of Defence does not accept any conclusions of the report; and from whom that advice was received. [HL291]

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Answer by Lord Tunnicliffe on 9 December (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 259), what were the “slow-to-develop situations” to which the Answer referred. [HL292]

It is standard practice to peer-review all new scientific findings. Although the US Research Advisory Committee report is a review of published research it has come to its own conclusions vis-à-vis this research. The US Department of Veterans Affairs has therefore decided to ask the Institute of Medicine to review the report. Appointment of experts is a matter for the institute. We will await the outcome of this process before making any comments on the report.

Lord Tunnicliffe was referring to the complex medical and scientific issues relating to Gulf veterans' illnesses and the differing scientific views on this matter that are still formulating some 17 years after the end of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will place in the Library of the House of Lords copies of reports that provide evidence that they are monitoring the United States research into Gulf War illnesses. [HL289]

The Ministry of Defence has asked its liaison officer based in Washington to provide a report on the research undertaken in the US. This will be produced every six months and be made available on the MoD website. The reports will also be sent to the Royal British Legion Gulf War Group.

Northern Ireland Office: Taxis

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the cost of supplying information about the amount spent on taxis by the Northern Ireland Office in the last financial year. [HL131]

Expenditure on taxis is processed both via invoices and by reimbursed expenditure through staff expenses.

Detailed information on taxis journeys for a financial year could only be provided by manually extracting information from invoiced expenditure and staff expenses claims and excluding any personal information such as staff home addresses. The estimated cost of this work would exceed the financial threshold of £750 for answering Parliamentary Questions.

Olympic Games 2012

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration is being given to the use of Bisley for shooting events at the 2012 Olympics. [HL414]

KPMG was commissioned by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to test and challenge the plans for a number of temporary venues, including helping to evaluate whether holding the 2012 shooting competition at the Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich, represents best value for money compared with alternative options.

Following on from this work, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and the ODA met British Shooting on Tuesday 9 December to discuss the use of Bisley for the shooting competition in 2012. The ODA has subsequently written to British Shooting requesting further clarity on a number of issues. The work on the shooting venue is ongoing and final decisions are yet to be made by the Olympic Board.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what factors are taken into account when selecting the venue for shooting at the 2012 Olympics; and whether those factors include ranges and facilities, legacy, safety and security, transport and cost. [HL415]

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) are considering a wide range of issues in deciding the venue for shooting competition at the London 2012 Games to ensure that the venue can be delivered as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. This includes consideration of such issues as the facility requirements, the legacy benefit, safety and security issues, transport and accommodation provision.

Pirates: Kenya

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the suspected pirates apprehended by HMS Cumberland on 11 November and transferred to Kenyan custody were apprehended in Kenyan waters or had committed any offence against Kenyan persons or property. [HL471]

The suspected pirates apprehended by HMS “Cumberland” on 11 November were apprehended in international waters and had not, as far as we are aware, committed any offences against Kenyan persons or property. Kenya is nevertheless affected by piracy in the Gulf region and is keen to assist international efforts to counter piracy.

The UK requested assistance from Kenya, a regional state with which we have an excellent international relationship, and we were able to swiftly conclude arrangements enabling us to transfer the suspects to Kenya for investigation and, if appropriate, subsequent prosecution.

Piracy is a crime of universal jurisdiction which any state is entitled, as a matter of international law, to prosecute.

Public Expenditure

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they define “spending” and “investment” in relation to public expenditure. [HL473]

The definitions of PSCE and PSNI are available from HMT's PESA publication. The definitions as included in PESA are:

Public sector current expenditure:

is the sum of the current expenditure of general government and certain distributive transactions (interest and rent) paid by public corporations to the private sector and abroad;

does not include expenditure incurred in producing goods and services for sale where undertaken by public corporations—rather the surplus of sale receipts over operating costs for public corporations is scored as a public sector receipt and does not affect the expenditure measure;

is net of certain receipts such as: grants within the public sector; interest flows within the public sector; receipts of contributions to public sector occupational pension schemes; receipts of grants from abroad including the EC abatement; and

includes non-trading capital consumption. This is the depreciation of the fixed assets of public bodies within general government. It excludes depreciation on assets used to produce goods and services for sale including the assets of public corporations and local authority housing.

Public sector net investment is all public sector capital expenditure less an amount representing all public sector depreciation. Broadly, the amount of capital expenditure that equals the depreciation charge could be seen as keeping the stock of assets stable. Net investment therefore represents the increase in the asset base after allowing for depreciation.

Schools: Examinations

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what measures they propose regarding the quality of personnel and management responsible for examination testing and procedures in any company taking over from ETS UK. [HL485]

The Qualifications Curriculum Authority (QCA) is responsible for the delivery of national curriculum tests. On 15 December 2008 the QCA announced that Edexcel was its preferred bidder for a one year contract to administer key stage 2 tests for 2009.

The contract requires the successful bidder to identify key personnel who will be involved with the operation and to provide a CV for each such individual. The QCA will make an informed judgment on the suitability of the personnel based on the CV and, where appropriate, previous experience of working with the individuals identified. The contract also requires the successful bidder to advise the QCA of any change in key personnel.

Schools: Male Teachers

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin on 12 December (WA 14), whether they will take steps to increase the number of male teachers in primary schools; if so, when; and whether they will take steps to arrest the decline in the number of male teachers in secondary schools. [HL416]

The department has asked the Training and Development Agency for Schools to prioritise recruitment of males to train to teach in primary schools. The TDA has a range of actions designed to encourage men to train to be primary teachers. These include taster courses addressing issues faced by men and targeted recruitment material to encourage timely applications. We have no plans to set male and female workforce targets in schools.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin on 12 December (WA 14), why information on the gender of teaching assistants is not collected centrally; and whether they will conduct research to ascertain how many male teaching assistants are employed in state schools. [HL417]

The department's existing annual data collections do not collect the gender of school support staff, including teaching assistants. However, a new school workforce census is under development and this will address the situation. The new data collection is currently being piloted and it is hoped will be rolled out fully in January 2010. This will provide comprehensive information about the gender and other characteristics of the wider school workforce.

Although there are no national statistics about the gender of support staff, some information is available from occasional sample surveys. The ongoing research project Deployment and Impact of Support Staff in Schools (DfES, 2006) found, in 2004, that an estimated 89 per cent of support staff are female. This includes an estimated 98 per cent of teaching assistants, 88 per cent of pupil welfare support, 68 per cent of technicians, 94 per cent of other pupil support, 95 per cent of facilities staff, 90 per cent of administrative staff and 22 per cent of site staff. In addition, although an estimated 89 per cent of support staff were female, this varied by phase with an estimated 93 per cent of support staff in primary schools being female, and an estimated 83 per cent of support staff in secondary schools being female.

Schools: National Curriculum

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take to ensure that all children are taught the full national curriculum. [HL395]

All maintained schools are required to teach the national curriculum. However, this requirement does not extend to academies, pupil referral units and pupils educated in contracted alternative provision. Academies are frequently established in areas of disadvantage where schools and their communities face multiple barriers to success. Pupil referral units and alternative education providers arrange education for pupils who are unable to attend mainstream or special schools for reasons such as exclusion, medical needs and awaiting a school place. However, academies, pupil referral units and alternative education providers are expected to teach a broad and balanced curriculum, tailored to meet the particular needs of their pupils.

We remain committed to ensuring that all pupils in state sector schools, including in academies and pupil referral units, receive a curriculum that fully meets their needs. Academies established after July 2007 are required to follow the national curriculum programmes of study in the core subjects of English, mathematics, science, and information and communication technology. We plan to publish guidance early next year which sets ambitious and unequivocal expectations that the vast majority of pupils in pupil referral units or other alternative provision should receive a full-time education that includes at least functional English, maths, ICT and personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE).

Wealth Distribution

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Answer by Lord Myners on 18 November (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 1011), what is the basis for his saying that 2 million people have come out of poverty since 1997. [HL117]

My statement was based on poverty indicators for different demographic groups which are included in Households Below Average Income (HBAI), published annually by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

From 1998-99 to 2006-07 the number of pensioners in relative and absolute low-income poverty has declined respectively by 900,000 and 1.9 million after housing costs. During the same period, the number of children in relative and absolute low-income poverty has declined by 600,000 and 1.7 million respectively before housing costs. Measures announced since Budget 2007 will lift around a further 500,000 children out of poverty.