Monday 23 February 2009
Armed Forces: Aircraft
To ask Her Majesty's Government when the King Air 350 aircraft undergoing conversion will be available for operational deployment. [HL517]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the cost of the King Air 350 conversion programme; and whether it is being procured as an urgent operational requirement. [HL518]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what alternatives were considered for the requirement for which King Air 350 aircraft are being converted; and which companies were issued with requests for proposals. [HL519]
Four King Air 350 aircraft have been procured at a cost in the region of £70 million, as an urgent operational requirement to support enduring operations this year. Although a range of aircraft were considered, only the King Air 350 met our key user requirements.
Armed Forces: Civilian Life
To ask Her Majesty's Government what arrangements are currently made to assist service personnel returning from active service in Iraq and Afghanistan to adjust to civilian life. [HL1256]
The Question bridges two related areas: first, enabling personnel to adjust to life back at the home base and, secondly, arrangements for resettlement to assist personnel making the transition to civilian life.
The services aim to manage in an appropriate manner the return from the rigours of active service to the very different conditions pertaining at home, acknowledging the stresses to which personnel have been subjected. The three services accord this normalisation process a high priority, although their procedures, which meet their particular needs, differ. All personnel are given a series of briefings covering a wide number of relevant issues such as driving safety, relationship expectation management and coping with stress. They are also given relevant points of contact to whom they can turn should they find themselves in need of help. Where a whole unit has been on active service, its personnel go together through a 36-48 hour decompression package in Cyprus. Bespoke arrangements are made for reservists which include interviews and specific aftercare briefs to ensure that they aware of the support available to them.
The MoD has resettlement arrangements in place for all service leavers. Those who have served six years or more are entitled to the full resettlement programme which includes: a three-day career transition workshop, use of a career consultant, a job finding service, re-training time and a re-training grant. Those who have served between four and five years are assisted with job search using career consultants while those with less than four years’ service are advised during internal unit resettlement interviews. The standard of MoD's resettlement provision was praised in the National Audit Office's July 2007 report Leaving the Services.
Armed Forces: Compensation
To ask Her Majesty's Government what legal and other costs the Ministry of Defence has already incurred and is prepared to incur in contesting the claim to the High Court for compensation of British servicemen who have suffered illnesses (including cancers, skin defects and fertility problems) due to exposure to radiation from the testing of atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons on the Australian mainland, on Christmas Island and elsewhere in the South Pacific. [HL1029]
Legal and other costs incurred up to 16 January 2009 (the latest available) were £1,599,640.43. Additional costs will be billed following the conclusion of the High Court trial on 6 February 2009. Costs thereafter will depend on the outcome of the trial.
Armed Forces: Helicopters
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the types and models of helicopter in the inventory of the Armed Forces and elsewhere in the Ministry of Defence; how many there are of each; and how they are allocated. [HL891]
Details of the types and models of helicopters in the MoD departmental fleet, their numbers and role are shown in the table below:
Aircraft type/mark MoD Departmental Fleet (as at 31/12/2008) Primary role Remarks Apache 67 Find/Attack Chinook Mk 2 34 Battlefield Support Helicopter Chinook Mk 2a 6 Battlefield Support Helicopter Chinook Mk3 8 Battlefield Support Helicopter Expected to enter service from late 2009 Lynx Mk 7 84 Utility/Battlefield Helicopter The roles of Mk 7/9 are in the main interchangeable Lynx Mk 9 24 Utility/Battlefield Helicopter The roles of Mk 7/9 are in the main interchangeable Lynx Mk 3 34 Utility/ ASW/ ASuW The roles of Mk 3/8 are in the main interchangeable Lynx Mk 8 34 Utility/ ASW/ ASuW The roles of Mk 3/8 are in the main interchangeable Merlin Mk 1 42 Anti-Submarine Warfare Merlin Mk 3 22 Battlefield Support Helicopter Merlin Mk 3a 6 Battlefield Support Helicopter Puma Mk HC1 43 Battlefield Support Helicopter Tactical movement of troops, weapons, ammunition and stores Gazelle AH 1 96 Command and Control Sea King Mk 3/3A 25 Search & Rescue Sea King Mk 4 37 Battlefield Support Helicopter Sea King Mk 5 15 Search & Rescue Sea King Mk 6CR 5 Battlefield Support Helicopter Sea King Mk 7 ASaC 13 Airborne Surveillance Agusta A 109 Mk 1/1a 4 Utility Dauphin (N3) AH Mk l 4 Utility Expected to enter service during 2009
MoD Departmental Fleet (as at 31/12/2008)
Chinook Mk 2
Battlefield Support Helicopter
Chinook Mk 2a
Battlefield Support Helicopter
Battlefield Support Helicopter
Expected to enter service from late 2009
Lynx Mk 7
The roles of Mk 7/9 are in the main interchangeable
Lynx Mk 9
The roles of Mk 7/9 are in the main interchangeable
Lynx Mk 3
Utility/ ASW/ ASuW
The roles of Mk 3/8 are in the main interchangeable
Lynx Mk 8
Utility/ ASW/ ASuW
The roles of Mk 3/8 are in the main interchangeable
Merlin Mk 1
Merlin Mk 3
Battlefield Support Helicopter
Merlin Mk 3a
Battlefield Support Helicopter
Puma Mk HC1
Battlefield Support Helicopter
Tactical movement of troops, weapons, ammunition and stores
Gazelle AH 1
Command and Control
Sea King Mk 3/3A
Search & Rescue
Sea King Mk 4
Battlefield Support Helicopter
Sea King Mk 5
Search & Rescue
Sea King Mk 6CR
Battlefield Support Helicopter
Sea King Mk 7 ASaC
Agusta A 109 Mk 1/1a
Dauphin (N3) AH Mk l
Expected to enter service during 2009
ie Commercially owned military registered (COMR) or commercially owned commercially operated (COCO)
Agusta A109E Power 3 V/VIP COMR lease AS365N2 (Dauphin) (RN) 2 Training Support COMR lease Griffin Mk l/2 (Bell 412) 15 Training/Search & Rescue COMR lease Bell 212 AH Mk 1 7 Training Support COMR lease Squirrel HT Mk 1/2 (AS350BB) 34 Training COMR lease Sikorsky S61N 2 Logistics lift COCO lease
Agusta A109E Power
AS365N2 (Dauphin) (RN)
Griffin Mk l/2 (Bell 412)
Training/Search & Rescue
Bell 212 AH Mk 1
Squirrel HT Mk 1/2 (AS350BB)
Armed Forces: Minesweepers
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the scheduled decommissioning dates for each of the Hunt class minesweepers currently in service. [HL1317]
I refer my noble friend to the Answer given by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces on 3 September 2007 (Official Report, col. 1632W) in another place to the honourable Member for Woodspring (Dr Fox).
Armed Forces: Personnel
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the rank of the senior British officer in post at (a) RAF Menwith Hill, (b) Diego Garcia, and (c) RAF Mildenhall. [HL1543]
The rank of the senior British officer in post at RAF Menwith Hill is a squadron leader, in the British Indian Ocean Territory (including Diego Garcia) a commander (RN), and at RAF Mildenhall a wing commander.
Armed Forces: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many places they provide in medical facilities for service personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. [HL1257]
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there is a waiting list for places in medical facilities for service personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. [HL1258]
The provision of mental health services for service personnel is the responsibility of the Defence Medical Services (DMS). For personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment is provided on a case-by-case basis and tailored to the specific symptoms and needs of the patient. All assessments and treatments provided by the DMS are carried out in accordance with National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines.
Guidance issued by the surgeon general states that urgent mental health referrals are to be seen within 24 hours by a member of the local military Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH) team. Routine referrals are to be offered an appointment at a local DCMH within 20 working days. There are no indications that these timeframes are being exceeded. Under the MoD's in-patient contract there are no waiting lists for admission.
Information on the number of new attendances at DCMHs in 2007 for which an initial diagnosis of PTSD was given is contained within the UK Armed Forces Psychiatric Morbidity Report which is produced by Defence Analysis and Statistical Advice and is available to view on its website at www.dasa.mod.uk/. The report shows that in 2007, out of a total of 5,647 patients referred to a DCMH for initial assessment, 180 were assessed to be suffering from PTSD.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have conducted any research into the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on propensity to engage in violence. [HL1259]
The Medical Research Council (MRC) is one of the main agencies though which the Government support medical and clinical research. The MRC is currently not funding any research directly related to post-traumatic stress disorder and the propensity to engage in violence.
The MRC is however funding a programme of research relating to the regulation of emotion and emotional information. The programme aims to address: how healthy people regulate and control their emotions; how these regulation processes might break down in various mental health problems such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders and anger disorders; the ways in which people might learn to regulate their emotions better; and the brain regions involved in emotion regulation.
Armed Forces: Religions and Faiths
To ask Her Majesty's Government what religions and faiths are recognised by the British Armed Forces. [HL1352]
The Armed Forces encourage people from all faiths to practise their religious observances as far as operational and health and safety considerations allow. While religion and belief are treated as a private matter, the services place a great deal of importance on the spiritual development of their personnel. Commissioned Armed Forces chaplains are drawn from the main Christian denominations practised in the UK. The first MoD civilian chaplains to the Armed Forces from the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh faith communities were appointed in October 2005. The services have had an honorary officiating chaplain from the Jewish faith under long-standing arrangements, and action is under way to recruit a Jewish civilian chaplain.
Armed Forces: Retirement
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether every former member of the Army who retired due to disability as a result of service and who did not receive their related allowances tax-free has now had the tax-free element refunded with interest; if so, at what interest rate; if not, whether all applicable refunds will be paid; and how many cases there have been. [HL1063]
In 1998, it was discovered that a number of service invaliding pensions, paid to Army veterans, that should have been tax-free because they were attributable to service, had been taxed in error. All the identified errors have now been rectified.
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs has paid back tax to all 1,320 pensioners affected by the incorrect taxing of invaliding pensions together with simple interest at the repayment supplement rate. It is not possible to provide a definitive reply of the interest rates used as a different repayment supplement rate or rates will have been paid to each individual according to when the overpayment occurred.
It was also agreed that compensation outside the normal six-year repayment period was to be paid by applying compound interest rates, using retail prices index rates plus 2 per cent, to the tax wrongly deducted, net of the estimated repayment by the Inland Revenue.
To ask Her Majesty's Government in respect of which countries, or regions of countries, they do not carry out forced removals of refused asylum seekers, because of conflict or violence which makes it unsafe for them to be returned at the current time. [HL1363]
We do not accept that there is currently any country in the world where it is unsafe for returns to take place on a blanket basis because of conflict or generalised violence. Instead, all cases are considered on their individual merits in accordance with our obligations under the refugee convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. Those identified by the decision-making process and the independent appeals process not to be in need of international protection are expected to leave the UK voluntarily. Failed asylum seekers can and do voluntarily return to all countries of the world. Those who do not leave voluntarily may have their return enforced.
We announced in September 2006 that we would be halting enforced returns to Zimbabwe and we are not currently enforcing the return of Zimbabwean nationals.
The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal recently found that there is no barrier to us re-starting enforced returns for failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. Since 2006 hundreds of Zimbabweans have voluntarily returned home. Those found not to be in need of protection and who have not left the UK voluntarily can expect to be returned.
Enforced returns of non-Arab Darfuris to Khartoum are currently suspended pending the outcome of an upcoming country guidance case expected to be heard in the summer.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the cost of running the voucher scheme including (a) the administrative cost of appraising entitlement to Section 4 support; (b) the administrative cost of running an appeals system for those refused support under Section 4; and (c) the cost of printing, distributing and facilitating the use of vouchers around the country. [HL1366]
The way that data on the costs of providing Section 4 support are recorded does not enable the separate collation of the administrative costs of appraising entitlement to Section 4 support, as distinct from other costs such as consultancy, travel, office services and training.
Responsibility for running and funding the Asylum Support Tribunal which hears appeals by those refused asylum support or for whom asylum support is discontinued rests with the Ministry of Justice, not the Home Office. Appeals may relate to support under Sections 4 or 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
The costs of printing Section 4 vouchers and administering and distributing those vouchers is included within the unit costs paid to accommodation providers under the UK Border Agency's target contracts. It is not an additional cost.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action has been taken under the Government's Biodiversity Action Plan to protect those species of bee threatened with extinction. [HL1338]
This UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority list includes 15 species of bee, of which eight species currently occur in England. Work is under way to promote the recovery of these species and their habitats through environmental stewardship and Woodland Grant Schemes. In addition, a project has just begun which aims to reintroduce Bombus subterraneus, which is currently extinct in the UK.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in the Belfast agreement of 1998, they agreed with the Government of the Republic of Ireland the concept of equality and parity of esteem for all the people on the island of Ireland. [HL1185]
The Belfast agreement addressed the concept of parity of esteem primarily within the context of Northern Ireland—in particular the references to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (paragraph 5(e) of the strand one chapter) and the consideration by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission of the scope for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland (paragraph 4 of the chapter on rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity).
In addition, paragraph 1(v) of the chapter on constitutional issues of the Belfast agreement (which is reproduced at Article 1(v) of the agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland) committed the two Governments to ensuring that:
“whatever choice [between remaining part of the United Kingdom or becoming part of a united Ireland] is freely exercised by the people of Northern Ireland, the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction [in Northern Ireland] shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions and shall be founded on the principles of full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from discrimination for all citizens, and of parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos, and aspirations of both communities”.
Benefits: Disability Living Allowance
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord McKenzie of Luton on 26 November 2008 (WA 296), whether they will consider non-housing benefits for single people currently dependent on alcohol or drugs if there is medical evidence that it would be in the interest of their health; and what are the health risks of paying such dependent people benefits beyond the basic level. [HL1220]
Benefits are awarded to people on the basis of them meeting the conditions of entitlement. People who are dependent on alcohol or drugs have to meet the same conditions of entitlement as any other claimant.
We have not conducted any research into the health consequences of awarding benefits to people who are dependent on alcohol or drugs. However, the measures included in the Welfare Reform Bill currently before Parliament are intended to support problem drug users to address their problems and to help them to return to work.
Bloody Sunday: Inquiry
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their latest estimate of (a) the current cost per month; and (b) the total cost to the taxpayer of the Bloody Sunday inquiry. [HL637]
The average cost per month of the inquiry between April 2008 and December 2009 is approximately £373,000.
The total cost of the Bloody Sunday inquiry to December 2009 is £186 million. The inquiry's most recent estimate of the final cost is £190 million. This incorporates a reduction of approximately 20 per cent of the inquiry's remaining budget, due to a number of additional measures which have been agreed with the inquiry to minimise the remaining costs.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what help they are offering in the current economic climate to business owners who have used their house as a loan guarantee. [HL987]
In January 2009 we announced a wide range of measures to support individuals and businesses in the current economic climate. Details can be found in the Real help now booklet, available at www.direct.gov.uk/en/campaigns/RealHelpNow/index.htm.
Business owners can additionally find information and support at www.businesslink.gov.uk/realhelp or by contacting the Business Link Helpline on 0845 6009006.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many small and medium-sized businesses went into liquidation in 2008. [HL988]
The Insolvency Service does not hold information on business size and, therefore, cannot provide an estimate of the numbers of small and medium-sized businesses that went into liquidation in 2008.
The total numbers of companies entering liquidation in 2008 have been published and are available on the Insolvency Service website at www.insolvency.gov.uk/otherinformation/statistics/insolv.htm.
Child Protection: Witchcraft
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people were (a) cautioned and (b) prosecuted for abuse of a minor related to accusations of possession or witchcraft in each of the past 10 years. [HL1350]
Information held by the Ministry of Justice cannot separately identify those cautions or prosecutions where the abuse of a minor was related to accusations of possession or witchcraft.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many refuge places were available for children in England and Wales, in the years (a) 2005–06, (b) 2006–07, and (c) 2007–08. [HL1423]
Communities and Local Government (CLG) does not record these figures for England. Housing is a devolved matter and as such this department does not hold information pertaining to Wales.
In 2003 the Government announced major investment in refuge provision in England in 2003-06. A total of £34 million capital was allocated and 511 units of accommodation were refurbished or newly built. More recently the Hostels Capital Improvement Programme (2005-07) funded six new and refurbished refuges at a cost of £4 million.
CLG has also recently commissioned new research that will identify the current housing options available to households at risk of domestic violence, and to assess whether this provision meets current need. It will involve establishing the extent and type of temporary and settled accommodation available for households at risk of domestic violence in England, including the provision of housing related support services delivered to both temporary and settled accommodation, and to households' own homes.
CLG provides essential revenue support for victims of domestic violence through the Supporting People programme—£64.5 million in 2007-08 up from £6l.6 million in 2006-07.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon on 27 January (WA 34) concerning funding of Co-operation Ireland, why the Answer referred only to the Northern Ireland Office when the Question was asked of the Government. [HL1283]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what financial support they have given to Co-operation Ireland since 1997; for what reason; and whether they will place the relevant business cases in the Library of the House. [HL1286]
Liaison with the charitable and voluntary sectors in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Administration, as is the funding of any such organisation.
As the Northern Ireland Office manages the interface between the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Administration, it was therefore the department best placed to provide an Answer to the earlier Question.
Correction to Commons Written Answer
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sadiq Khan, on 14 January (Official Report, House of Commons, 772W), why the figure for fires started by electrical appliances or wiring in 2003 is approximately one fifth of those in the succeeding four years. [HL1472]
The table provided in the reply given to the honourable Member for Eastleigh on 14 January (Official Report, col. 772W) contained an error. For the years 2004 onwards, the row containing the total number of fires in England incorrectly included non-electrical sources of ignition. Figures relating to the individual causes of fire were correct however. A correct version of the table is provided below. We have arranged for the Official Report to be corrected and have issued a revised Answer to the honourable Member for Eastleigh.
Country and source of ignition 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 England 84,802 79,500 75,983 72,451 67,882 Non electrical 69,576 63,454 60,221 56,671 52,637 Electrical 15,226 16,046 15,762 15,780 15,245 Cooking appliances 1,386 1,441 1,485 1,502 1,419 Electric space heater 140 136 126 155 190 Plugs 56 55 76 96 81 Sockets and switches 308 316 362 371 387 Leads to appliances 495 523 434 429 380 Wire and cable 3,276 3,761 3,729 3,914 3,713 Washing machine 1,075 1,028 992 910 815 Dishwasher 443 427 370 351 381 Refrigerator 628 687 633 559 565 Tumble and spin driers 853 1,021 999 886 1,005 Lighting 2,417 2,788 2,784 2,780 2,655 Blanket or bedwarmer 252 181 165 133 111 Television 425 524 455 419 438 Iron 60 39 77 85 100 AV, VDU or computer 246 271 243 247 232 Other electrical 3,166 2,848 2,832 2,943 2,773
Country and source of ignition
Electric space heater
Sockets and switches
Leads to appliances
Wire and cable
Tumble and spin driers
Blanket or bedwarmer
AV, VDU or computer
P=Provisional—Data for 2007 are provisional and subject to change
Elections: County Councils
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether county council elections in Suffolk, Norfolk and Devon will be taking place in June on current boundaries. [HL1417]
Elections to the county councils in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk will go ahead on 4 June 2009 as planned on existing boundaries.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what changes in employment law they will propose for the European Union single market following their discussions with British trade union representatives. [HL1230]
The UK has benefited from the open European single market, including free movement of workers. In responding to proposals in the area of employment law, the UK seeks to strike the right balance between necessary protection for workers and elimination of barriers to trade.
Energy: Fuel Poverty
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to support those who live in fuel poverty in rural communities and are dependent on oil and liquefied petroleum gas for heating, having no access to the gas network. [HL1200]
Warm Front is the Government's flagship scheme for tackling fuel poverty in the private sector in England for vulnerable householders. The scheme currently provides grants for specified insulation and heating measures up to the value of £2,700 or £4,000 for oil central heating (including properties with no access to the gas network).
The Government recognise the specific challenge of assisting hard to treat properties in rural communities. The Warm Front Scheme Management Board considers on a regular basis whether to approve appropriate alternative technologies for the scheme, where they might prove cost-effective. The board will consider whether the technology is readily available and reliable, as well as whether there are sufficiently skilled people to install and repair the proposed measure and also how easy it is to use. One example is through Warm Front and National Energy Action and we are currently carrying out a pilot using solar thermal technology together with electric heating.
In addition, Warm Front has a networking team which operates in rural areas to help bring assistance to vulnerable households in rural communities. Pro-actively engaging with local organisations and area-based schemes, it helps to increase the take-up of grants and energy efficiency advice in rural areas.
The Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) is the Government's principal policy for driving up household energy efficiency in Britain out to 2011. Under CERT the major energy suppliers have an obligation to direct at least 40 per cent of carbon savings at priority group households. This includes important measures for hard-to-treat homes such as solid wall insulation and central heating. Suppliers installed around 80,000 heating measures through fuel switching in the previous three-year obligation period to March 2008 (Energy Efficiency Commitment Two). The Government recognised there is a high up-front cost for these measures and therefore under CERT we have introduced specific incentives to help improve the financial viability of fuel switching, with a particular focus on homes which are off the gas grid.
The principal barrier to providing new connections to communities and households beyond the mains gas network is the cost to the customer. Ofgem recognises the benefits that access to gas offers low income households and has incentivised the large gas networks to connect deprived communities under the 2008-2013 Gas Distribution Price Control. This packages a range of existing funding sources and uses independent gas transporters with an aim of ensuring the maximum number of vulnerable and fuel poor households should be connected to the gas network at least cost. Those households assisted under the scheme qualify because they either reside within the 20 per cent most deprived areas according to the index of multiple deprivation, qualify for assistance under Warm Front (or similar schemes in the Devolved Nations) or fall within the priority group under CERT.
Energy: Supply Companies
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 29 October (Official Report, 29/10/08; col. WA176), what steps they will take to encourage energy suppliers to promote the use of electrical appliances at times of low demand. [HL229]
The Government announced on 28 October their intention to roll out smart meters to all domestic customers (Official Report, 28/10/08; col. 1515) along with an indicative timetable to complete this by the end of 2020. The Government will take further decisions on the detail of a smart metering mandate in due course, including whether all smart meters should have the functionality to support the introduction of time-of-use tariffs.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether a primary care trust which has joined the campaign of the National Alliance for Equity in Dental Health to extend water fluoridation will have a conflict of interest if it promotes a local fluoridation scheme under the Water Act 2003. [HL1281]
No, we do not see any conflict. As the chief dental officer's letter of February 2008 indicates, primary care trusts (PCTs) are responsible for assessing the oral health needs of their populations and, where they judge the fluoridation of water to be the best option for meeting these needs, they may request their strategic health authorities to conduct consultations. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library. In this context, we would expect the PCTs to promote fluoridation during consultations with, where they judge it appropriate, the support of organisations knowledgeable about the arrangement of fluoridation schemes and their effects.
Gulf War Illnesses
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the work and findings of the Medical Research Council (MRC) on Gulf War illnesses, published in 2003, whether they have asked the MRC for its comments on the report and findings of the Congressionally mandated United States Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War illnesses, published on 17 November 2008; and whether and by whom the MRC's work and findings have been peer-reviewed. [HL1381]
The Ministry of Defence have noted that the report published by the US Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses has been referred by the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Institute of Medicine for review. The Ministry of Defence is awaiting the outcome of this process before making any comments on the report (or inviting the MRC to make any comments) and deciding on any action it may wish to take relating to the report.
The 2003 MRC review of research into UK Gulf veterans' illnesses was carried out by the Military Health Research Advisory Group, an independent group of experts in the area. In carrying out its work, the MHRAG conducted a series of workshops to consult directly with the wider scientific community and parties interested in the field.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ask the Congressionally-mandated United States Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses to peer review the work and findings of the Medical Research Council on Gulf War illnesses. [HL1499]
The 2003 Medical Research Council (MRC) review of research into UK Gulf veterans' illnesses was carried out by the Military Health Research Advisory Group (MHRAG), an independent group of experts in the area. Its aim was to review the published and emerging scientific findings and to advise on areas for future research. In carrying out its work, the MHRAG conducted a series of workshops to consult directly with the wider scientific community and parties interested in the field.
The primary research assessed by the MRC in its 2003 review of UK Gulf veterans' illnesses has already been peer reviewed. No further peer review of the MRC review itself is required.
Gulf War: NAPS Tablets
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Taylor of Bolton on 22 January (WA 221–22), whether they will ask the Commission on Human Medicine to review the decision not to include any restriction on co-administration in the instructions for the use of the nerve agent pre-treatment sets (NAPS) tablets, each containing pyridostigmine bromide, used for the troops deployed to the 1990–91 Gulf conflict in the light of the findings of the Congressionally-mandated United States Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses published on 17 November 2008; and whether they will arrange for a copy of the letter to be sent by Baroness Taylor of Bolton to be published in the Official Report. [HL995]
As set out in the Written Answer of 22 January 2009 (WA 221-222), it is necessary to research our records on the issue prior to providing my noble friend with a substantive reply. We will arrange for the letter to be published in the Official Report, or deposited in the Library of the House as appropriate.
House of Lords: Travel Insurance
To ask the Chairman of Committees what travel insurance, including personal medical insurance, is provided for Members of the House travelling on Select Committee or other parliamentary business; and how that compares to the insurance arrangements provided for Members of the House of Commons. [HL1378]
The House of Lords maintains an insurance policy to cover Members for accidents while on the Parliamentary Estate, while travelling between home and the House and while travelling on official parliamentary business, including Select Committee visits and parliamentary delegations. Cover is provided for Members until they have attained their 85th birthday, although medical cover does not apply from the age of 75 if the journey is in excess of 30 days. Cover is not available for Members' spouses, civil partners, or children and cover is not automatic in respect of travel to certain countries. The full policy is set out on the parliamentary intranet. Details of the travel insurance arrangements provided for Members of the House of Commons are also available on the parliamentary intranet. The most significant difference is that the arrangements for Members of the House of Commons cover spouses.
To ask the Chairman of Committees what travel insurance, including personal medical insurance, is provided for staff of the House travelling on Select Committee or other parliamentary business; and how that compares to the insurance arrangements provided for staff of the House of Commons. [HL1379]
For staff travelling with Select Committees, the House reimburses the costs of any reasonable insurance required, and would also reimburse reasonable losses if not covered by an insurance policy. Staff travelling outside the EU are advised to take out insurance; staff travelling within the EU are advised to carry the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
The House of Lords Staff Handbook makes provision for staff travelling on official business other than with Select Committees as follows:
“30. Staff travelling overseas (and in the UK) are covered for death and injury benefits under the House of Lords Staff Pension scheme.
31. Illness not arising from an accident is not covered by these arrangements. Staff are expected to pay their own medical or dental charges which will be reimbursed by the House on production of receipted bills.
32. It is sometimes difficult to obtain medical treatment overseas without evidence of private health insurance. Staff travelling overseas are therefore advised to take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover health and other insurable losses - money, baggage etc. The cost of the premiums is deemed to be covered by the elements within the subsistence allowances”.
The House of Commons offers personal accident and travel insurance cover to staff travelling on parliamentary business outside Great Britain. The House of Commons Staff Handbook provides that “Staff who travel overseas on official business will be covered by the House's personal accident insurance policy”.
Housing North West
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the constitution and purpose of Housing North West; how often it meets; who its members are and how they were appointed; what is its budget; and how it is serviced and funded. [HL1392]
Housing North West is a voluntary partnership between major housing organisations in the region. Its aim is to provide professional training for housing practitioners in the north-west. It usually organises four or five conferences a year, plus a similar number of technical seminars. These events are almost all free of charge to enable all local authorities and housing providers, regardless of size, to access good practice in the region. The membership currently consists of the Government Office for the North West, the North West Leaders Forum, the North West Housing Forum, the National Housing Federation and the Chartered Institute of Housing. It is funded by voluntary contributions by member organisations. In the current year the organisation received £20,000. Member organisations also provide staff time and good will to help run the events at minimum cost.
Housing: Energy Performance Certificates
To ask Her Majesty's Government what evidence they have received on the influence of the introduction of energy performance certificates on the behaviour of buyers when choosing homes. [HL1419]
We have commissioned research to evaluate the implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. As part of this work, the extent to which energy performance certificates have influenced the behaviour of buyers when choosing homes will be considered. The research is due to be completed in September 2009.
Housing: Home Information Packs
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the introduction of Home Information Packs on the housing market. [HL1418]
I refer the noble Baroness to the Answer given by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing on 14 October 2008 (Official Report, col. 1089W).
Immigration: Detention and Removal Centres
To ask Her Majesty's Government for how long each illegal immigrant detainee who has expressed a wish to return home has been held in detention centres. [HL648]
The assisted voluntary return of irregular migrants (AVRIM) programme introduced in November 2004 is available to those who have entered the UK unlawfully or those who have breached their conditions of leave to enter or leave to remain. AVRIM is operated on behalf of the Home Office by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), an independent intergovernmental organisation.
We expedite as quickly as possible the removal of those who are held in detention and who then apply to return under the AVRIM programme. However, individuals may have been detained for some length of time before making an application under AVRIM and are subject to the normal requirement to be in possession of a valid passport or travel document before they can travel.
Currently, seven individuals who have applied under the programme are detained in the agency detention estate while approval for their return is pending. The table below gives details of the first date of detention and the length of detention since the application under AVRIM was received.
Date detained Date of application under AVRIM Number of days detained since the date of application 31 August 2008 29 September 2008 113 11 October 2008 20 October 2008 92 19 August 2008 26 November 2008 55 11 September 2008 1 December 2008 50 5 December 2008 6 January 2009 14 25 November 2008 8 January 2009 12 28 November 2005 9 January 2009 11
Date of application under AVRIM
Number of days detained since the date of application
31 August 2008
29 September 2008
11 October 2008
20 October 2008
19 August 2008
26 November 2008
11 September 2008
1 December 2008
5 December 2008
6 January 2009
25 November 2008
8 January 2009
28 November 2005
9 January 2009
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they had with the Government of France regarding the establishment of the immigration centre in northern France, particularly about expectations of the illegal immigrants who would be housed in it. [HL846]
The situation in Calais has been the subject of discussion between Ministers at several bilateral meetings. There is also regular contact between officials on the provision of services to illegal migrants in northern France. The opening and administration of shelters remains a matter for the French authorities. Alongside the French authorities, we remain firmly opposed to any accommodation centre that would attract illegal immigrants and the traffickers who prey on them.
Immigration: Heathrow Airport
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether all issues raised in the first annual report of the independent monitoring board on the short-term holding facilities at Heathrow Airport in April 2008 have been addressed. [HL649]
The IMB annual report highlighted 11 main issues of concern about the management and operation of the short-term holding facilities at Heathrow Airport. All of these issues have been addressed or are in the process of being so by the UK Border Agency or Group Four Securicor (G4S), who manage the facilities under contract to the agency. Outstanding issues will be addressed by the opening in spring 2009 of the new facility at Heathrow Airport to replace Queen's Building.
The IMB is kept informed of actions taken through regular meetings with the agency’s detention services directorate.
Joint Economic Commission
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the constitution and purpose of the Joint Economic Commission for the North West; how often it meets; who its members are and how they were appointed; what is its budget; and how it is serviced and funded. [HL1391]
The Joint Economic Commission (JEC) is set up on a time limited basis to meet as often as required to:
assess and monitor the performance of the NW economy;
agree actions to address the challenges facing the region and to ensure that the north-west economy emerges from the current downturn stronger than before; and
enable the regional Minister to ensure that decisions of the National Economic Council (NEC) can be implemented and that information on impacts in the NW can be fed back to the NEC.
It is jointly chaired by the regional Minister, the right honourable Beverley Hughes MP and the chair of the NWDA, Bryan Gray. Membership comprises representation from:
Government Office for the North West;
Voluntary Sector North West;
NW Learning and Skills Council;
Homes and Communities Agency;
Job Centre Plus NW;
North West Business Leadership Team;
NW Confederation of British Industry;
Private Sector Partners;
Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce;
Federation of Small Businesses;
Environment Agency; and
Members were appointed from key regional stakeholders to ensure that public, private and third sectors were all represented.
The secretariat is provided jointly by Government Office North West and the North West Development Agency. There is no budget attached to the commission. Member organisations cover the costs of agreed actions and the Government Office for the North West covers costs attached to the meetings.
Local Authorities: London Snowfall
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will hold an inquiry into the response of local authorities in London to snowfall on 1 February. [HL1278]
It is for the Mayor of London to review the performance of Transport for London during the recent snowfall and to look at its relationship with London's boroughs over their response to clearing the road network of snow. Beyond this the London Regional Resilience Forum, on which the Mayor is the deputy chair, will be considering the extent to which lessons can be learnt from the response to the recent snow in London.
Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill [HL]
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many officials have been involved in the preparation of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill; and what they estimate to be the cost of preparing the Bill up to the date of its First Reading in the House. [HL1420]
A team of four policy officials and two lawyers worked full-time preparing the Bill from July 2008 until introduction in December. The cost of this team for this period is estimated at £108,000. In addition, a significant number of officials have been involved on a range of policy issues, including specialists as part of their regular job functions. Cost estimates for their time are not estimated or collected.
Local Involvement Networks
To ask Her Majesty's Government how children and young people, as citizens, are expected to be involved in local involvement networks. [HL1407]
Local involvement networks (LINks) have been established to seek and capture the views and experiences of all members of the community about their local health and social care services. There is no single way in which LINks go about this; they need to employ a variety of methods to allow as many different people as possible to get involved and have their say in ways that suit them. The Government have, however, emphasised to LINks the importance of actively engaging with people who have traditionally felt excluded and/or have found it difficult to make their voice heard.
Ministry of Defence: Sale of Accommodation
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have for the future of the old War Office building; and whether they are considering (a) disposal to the private sector, or (b) conversion for private use. [HL1544]
The Ministry of Defence plans to vacate the old War Office building by the end of 2010, and for it to become fully surplus to requirements by 2013. Options for the building's future are currently being developed, and will include potential commercial sale and public sector re-use.
NHS: Patient Records
To ask Her Majesty's Government why the updating of NHS patients records increased in cost from £2.3 billion to £12.7 billion, as a result of information technology cost over-runs. [HL1375]
£2.3 billion was the budget agreed under the Comprehensive Spending Review for the first three years of a programme that was always expected to take at least 10 years to deliver in full. In its latest report on the programme, published on 16 May 2008, the National Audit Office made it clear that there have been no cost increases on the original contracts and that the increase in the eventual total cost from an estimated £12.4 billion in 2006 to £12.7 billion in 2008 was attributable to the procurement of additional systems and services. Of this total, some £3.5 billion has been spent to date, as suppliers are paid only when systems have been successfully deployed and are working satisfactorily.
NHS: Revenue Allocations
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Statement by Lord Darzi of Denham on 26 January (WS 2–5), whether the revised “weighted capitation target per weighted head” was the result of an error or the completion of the review by the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation whose figures for 2009–10 were published on 12 January. [HL1347]
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Statement by Lord Darzi of Denham on 26 January (WS 2–5), why the revised “weighted capitation target per weighted head” reflects a change from a range of £1,402 to £1,896 per head to a range of £1,535 to £1,595; and why 64 out of 153 primary care trusts have a revised capitation target of £1,535. [HL1348]
The Written Statement on 26 January (WS 2-5) included revised weighted capitation target figures per weighted head for primary care trusts (PCTs). The revision was required because of an administrative error in the preparation of the Answer to a Parliamentary Question on 12 January (Official Report, col. 178W). It was not due to the completion of the review of the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation. PCT allocations for 2009 to 2010 and 2010 to 2011 based on the new weighted capitation formula recommended by the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation were announced on 8 December (WS 34-44).
The weighted capitation formula determines PCTs' target allocations based on the weighted needs of each PCT's population. Weighted needs reflect the need for healthcare due to age and additional need over and above that due to age. The measure weighted capitation target per weighted head gives a very similar figure for each PCT to the average for England. This is because each PCT's weighted need is included in both their weighted target and weighted population. The alternative measure of weighted capitation target per unweighted head gives a wider range across PCTs, reflecting PCTs' populations' relative needs for healthcare services.
North West Regional Strategy
To ask Her Majesty's Government from which budget the North West Regional Strategy branding work RS2010 and brand guidelines were produced; who was commissioned to produce it; and what it cost. [HL1390]
The Regional Strategy (RS2010) branding, RS 2010 logo and RS2010 guidelines were produced in-house by NWDA marketing staff. All costs for producing this piece of work came from within existing staff budgets (no additional staff were employed for this work).
No part of this work was commissioned elsewhere and therefore no extra costs were incurred internally or externally to produce the 2010 logo, branding or guidance.
Northern Ireland Office: Events
To ask Her Majesty's Government what events the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland attended in Northern Ireland during the month of January 2009. [HL1287]
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Shaun Woodward) regularly attends a wide range of private and public events and meetings in Northern Ireland consistent with the role of Secretary of State following devolution.
Northern Ireland Parades Commission
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon on 3 February (WA 111) concerning the Northern Ireland Parades Commission, why a request for information was not passed to the commission for reply. [HL1369]
I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave on 29 January 2009 (Official Report, col. WA 78), which makes clear that, where questions are of an operational nature, noble Lords will be referred to the public body concerned.
Palace of Westminster: Post
To ask the Chairman of Committees how many items of post were received in the Palace of Westminster in 2008; and what proportion of the total was received in the House of Lords. [HL1458]
In total, 4,135,144 items of post were received by the Houses of Parliament in 2008. The House of Lords received an estimated 15 per cent of this number, or approximately 620,271 items. These figures do not include parcels, courier items or internal mail.
Places of Religious Worship
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many places of religious worship are registered for marriages under the Marriage Act 1949, broken down by faith and denomination. [HL1356]
There are currently 24,883 places of meeting for religious worship which have been registered by the Registrar General for the solemnisation of marriages under Section 41 of the Marriage Act 1949. This number is broken down by denomination as follows:
Roman Catholic 3291 Methodist 6265 Congregationalist 1240 Baptist 3060 United Reformed Church 1566 Calvinistic Methodist 1052 Brethren 737 Salvation Army 721 Unitarian 159 Jehovah's Witnesses 832 Other Christian bodies 4348 Muslim 186 Sikh 163 Other 1263
United Reformed Church
Other Christian bodies
“Other Christian bodies” includes those who describe themselves as Christian but do not designate themselves further. Examples of “Other” include Assemblies of God, Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventist, Greek Orthodox and Pentecostal.
The Registrar General has also registered 123 naval, military or air force chapels for the solemnisation of marriages, otherwise than according to the rites of the Church of England, under Section 70 of the Marriage Act 1949. No denomination is stated with these registrations.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many places of worship are registered in England and Wales pursuant to the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855. [HL1380]
There are currently 29,774 certified places of meeting for religious worship registered by the Registrar General under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Taylor of Bolton on 11 December 2008 (WA 10), whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the agreement with a commercial operator which guarantees landing slots at RAF Northolt. [HL1177]
Yes, I will place a copy of the lease in the Library of the House. The rental level will be redacted from the lease document as its release would, or would be likely to, prejudice commercial interests.
Railways: Rolling Stock
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have undertaken any research into the potential for a further extension of the life of the present fleet of high-speed diesel passenger trains, including improving the doors and toilets. [HL1490]
Prior to issuing the Intercity Express specification, the Department for Transport assessed the costs and technical feasibility of extending the life of the existing high-speed diesel train fleet.
Given the age of the vehicles, and the need for major structural modifications to meet accessibility legislation and the provision of modern safety features for staff and retention toilets, it was not considered cost-effective to extend their lives compared with procuring a new train.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many representations from organisations funded in whole or in part by the Government they have received in favour of a ban on the open display of tobacco products in shops, and how many individuals are represented by those organisations. [HL1292]
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many representations from organisations they have received against a ban on the open display of tobacco products in shops; and how many individuals are represented by those organisations. [HL1293]
The Consultation on the Future of Tobacco Control, published July 2008, is available in the Library.
The department received around 10,000 responses from small retailers, including pre-prepared postcards and emails made available to respondents by third parties, 11 responses from individual larger retailers and 21 responses from retail industry representative organisations, including trade associations.
The department received seven responses from organisations that receive funding directly from the department for programmes of work related to smoking. Identification of respondents that receive funding from the department for other purposes could not be provided without incurring disproportionate cost.
The department received over 85,000 responses from members of the public, including pre-prepared postcards and e-mails made available to respondents by third parties.
Various organisations which responded to the consultation claim to represent certain numbers of members and/or supporters. The department has no way of verifying the accuracy of such claims.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what evidence they have received on the effect on smoking by young people of the ban on the open display of tobacco products in shops in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada. [HL1291]
There is evidence from jurisdictions that have removed tobacco displays at the point of sale that such measures can make an important contribution to reducing smoking prevalence among children and younger adults.
Data on smoking prevalence among young people in each Canadian province over the period 1999 to 2007 are available in the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey (CTUMS). The CTUMS has been placed in the Library.
In 2008, the department received information from the Government of Saskatchewan about smoking rates among young people since legislation removing tobacco display at the point of sale came into force in that province. Tobacco display legislation came into force in Saskatchewan in 2002, and apart from a 15 month break as a result of legal challenge, has been in force ever since. At the point that legislation came into force, smoking prevalence among 15-19 year-olds in Saskatchewan was 29 per cent. The latest smoking rate for 15-19 year-olds in Saskatchewan is 22 per cent, 2007 data. The Saskatchewan Government advised that the removal of tobacco displays has made an important contribution to this reduction in smoking prevalence among young people.
The department has not received any specific information from the Government of Manitoba.
Social Workers: Children
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the average length of service for children's social workers; and what was that average in each of the past 12 years. [HL1267]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the rate of retention for children's social workers; and how this compares with other public bodies including (a) the police, (b) adult social carers, and (c) civil servants in government departments. [HL1268]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the figures for absenteeism for children's social workers (a) nationally, (b) for each region and (c) for each local authority. [HL1269]
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many children's social worker places are currently vacant; how many have remained vacant for a period of (a) three months, (b) six months, and (c) longer; and how this breaks down on a regional basis. [HL1271]
Social workers are directly employed by local authorities and other organisations. The Department for Children, Schools and Families does not centrally collect information on social worker length of service, retention rate, absenteeism or vacancy rate.
In the Children's, Young People's and Families' Social Care Workforce Survey 2006, a survey of 88 local authorities, the Local Authority Workforce Intelligence Group (LAWIG), estimated that the turnover rate for children’s and families' social workers was 9.6 per cent down from 11 per cent the previous year. LAWIG estimated that 2 per cent of the overall workforce left social work all together, either to retire or to move on to another destination.
LAWIG also estimated vacancy rates for children's social workers to be 9.5 per cent, down from 11.8 per cent the previous year.
The regional breakdown was as follows:
Region Vacancy Rates for Children's Field Social Workers in 2005 Vacancy Rates for Children's Field Social Workers in 2006 East Midlands 6.9% 4.9% Eastern 10.2% 11.7% London 17.5% 11.4% North East 7.8% 4.8% North West 12.0% 7.2% South East 7.5% 11.6% South West 5.4% 4.8% West Midlands 17.6% 12.8% Yorkshire and Humberside 13.2% 10.4% England 11.8% 9.5%
Vacancy Rates for Children's Field Social Workers in 2005
Vacancy Rates for Children's Field Social Workers in 2006
Yorkshire and Humberside
The Children's, Young People's and Families' Social Care Workforce Survey 2006 can be found at www.lga.gov.uk/lga/aio/1098172.
Southern African Development Community
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to increase trade with the Southern African Development Community Free Trade Area. [HL1237]
Her Majesty's Government's vehicle for increasing trade is UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), which currently has teams based in the SADC FTA countries of South Africa, Tanzania, Angola and Mozambique. These teams assist UK companies to do business in these markets, and also encourage potential investors into the UK. The amount of trade fluctuates with the level of interest shown by British companies in the area and, more usually, with specific opportunities in individual countries. UKTI keeps the deployment of its teams throughout the world under regular review to ensure they offer government support to trading relationships where it is most effective.
Information is provided on all markets via the UKTI portal www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what sports facilities are provided at the current and proposed academies in London. [HL1335]
There are 42 open academies in London, seven with a sports specialism. Of these, 24 are already in their new or refurbished buildings, and our current target is that all academies will have their capital work completed within three years of opening.
The 24 academies with completed capital work have new or refurbished sports halls and new sporting equipment. Where space is available they have all-weather pitches or enhanced outdoor sporting areas too. This is the case for all of the seven academies with a sports specialism.
All academies delivered through Building Schools for the Future (BSF) have a standard provision for sports facilities which meet the Building Bulletin 98 building guidelines for new schools. Partnerships for Schools, which manages all BSF projects, also liaises with Sport England through the statutory consultation process in order to ensure that all playing field provision is maintained or improved in any new development.
In 2007, the Government removed the VAT requirement on the use of academy facilities. This has opened up new academy sports facilities for much wider use by their local communities.
Sport: Swimming Pools
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many swimming pools have been constructed under the Building Schools for the Future policy. [HL1336]
The department does not collect information about which sports facilities have been provided through Building Schools for the Future (BSF). It is for each local authority to decide how to make the best use of its overall BSF funding allocation across the schools in a particular project and the scope of works at each school. An authority can choose to use some of its BSF allocation to refurbish an existing pool where it considers this to be the best use of the available funding. There is also the option of exploring other sources of funding (eg DCMS/Sport England) to supplement that from BSF.
Sustainable Communities Plan
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the construction methods for new homes in the United Kingdom comply with the 2003 Sustainable Communities Plan; and, if not, what plans they have to ensure compliance. [HL1527]
The Sustainable Communities Plan, published in 2003, set out a long-term vision and programme of action to create decent homes in good quality local environments across England. As part of this plan, the Government set out actions related to construction methods. This included actions to promote modern methods of construction (MMC). MMC can be defined as construction that uses modern processes to provide more, better quality houses in less time. It can apply to homes built on and off-site.
The Sustainable Communities Plan set out that some 25 per cent of the homes funded by the (then) Housing Corporation in the south-east would be built using MMC. In the two years following publication of the Sustainable Communities Plan (2004-05 and 2005-06) the Housing Corporation approved investment in London and the south-east which is resulting in the construction and delivery of 13,297 MMC units. This represents some 40 per cent of the total number of homes delivered in both regions.
The vision set out in the Sustainable Communities Plan was for new housing to be more sustainable. It proposed that building regulations would be kept under review with this in mind, and set a new requirement that, as a condition of grant, all new homes funded by the public sector should achieve the Eco-Homes pass standard. This was put in place. However, since 2003, the Government have taken more steps to improve further the sustainability of new homes. The Code for Sustainable Homes (the code) became operational in 2007 and replaced Eco-Homes as the sustainable standard in house building. All homes supported by funding from the Homes and Communities Agency must now be built to code level 3. The code, like building regulations, is outcome based and does not require a particular construction method. However, using MMC may be useful to achieve code levels.
Steps have also been taken to strengthen building regulations. In 2006, the Government published revisions to part L of the building regulations which set higher standards for energy performance. A policy commitment was published in July 2007 to control the water efficiency of new dwellings through changes to the building regulations. And in 2008 a consultation was launched on proposed changes that would add to part G of these regulations a requirement for new homes to be built to a water efficiency standard of 1251itres/person/day. We plan to publish a final revised version of part G and the accompanying guidance later in 2009 with the intention of it coming into force before the end of this calendar year.
In July 2007, the Government confirmed their objective for all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016, to be achieved through a progressive tightening of the building regulations from the 2006 standard. And in their 2008 Budget, the Government set out an ambition for all new non-domestic buildings to be zero carbon from 2019, with an earlier target (2018) for new public sector buildings. The Definition of Zero Carbon Homes and Non-Domestic Buildings consultation, published on 17 December 2008, sets out the Government's current thinking in this area and calls for further evidence in anticipation of an in-depth consultation on new non-domestic buildings in 2009. This document is accessible on the department's website at www. communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/zerocarbondefinition.
Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (No. 2) (England) Order 2008
To ask Her Majesty's Government why the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (No. 2) (England) Order 2008 (SI 2008/2362) was accompanied by an explanatory memorandum running to 39 pages when the order appears to be solely a correction of typing errors. [HL1470]
The schedule to Statutory Instrument 2008/2362 comprises substantive legislative amendments to the order which introduces significant changes to householder permitted development rights. The order is accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum and three impact assessments which cover the changes to householder permitted development rights, the restriction on front garden paving and making World Heritage Sites article 1(5) land.
Widows and Widowers
To ask Her Majesty's Government in each of the past 10 years, how many women became widows; how many men became widowers; how many requests to Government were made by widows and widowers for financial support; how much was spent by Government on support to widows and widowers; and what were the ages at which the women were widowed. [HL1110]
The information requested is not available.
However, data are available on the number of bereavement benefit claims from May 2002 to May 2008, broken down by gender and age group.
Gender of claimant Total Female Male May-02 41,490 25,840 15,660 May-03 47,680 30,750 16,930 May-04 51,180 34,330 16,840 May-05 55,240 37,640 17,600 May-06 57,660 39,690 17,970 May-07 58,540 40,770 17,770 May-08 59,850 42,040 17,820
Gender of claimant
Source: DWP Information Directorate: Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study.
1. Caseload figures are rounded to the nearest 10; some additional disclosure control has also been applied.
2. Average amounts are shown as pounds per week and rounded to the nearest penny. Totals may not sum due to rounding.
3. Time Series: bereavement benefit was introduced in April 2001. Figures are available from May 2002 onwards.
Bereavement benefit claims from May 2002 to May 2008 by age
Unknown age 18-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 May-00 170 110 910 3,550 8,220 May-01 150 110 800 3,170 7,790 May-02 160 60 520 2,330 6,420 May-03 90 30 340 1,670 5,070 May-04 20 20 190 1,150 3,910 May-05 10 - 110 780 2,910 May-06 10 - 60 520 2,120 May-07 20 - 40 320 1,530 May-08 - - 20 200 1,080
Total 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 May-00 265,110 13,400 26,020 65,210 117,160 30,370 May-01 254,970 12,690 24,610 62,620 113,680 29,340 May-02 223,410 10,790 20,050 50,220 103,370 29,470 May-03 191,500 9,060 16,300 40,640 90,860 27,440 May-04 163,430 7,500 13,220 33,330 77,650 26,430 May-05 138,960 6,090 10,950 26,920 66,850 24,340 May-06 117,650 4,910 9,060 21,830 57,330 21,800 May-07 96,890 3,930 7,580 17,690 45,780 20,010 May-08 77,900 3,040 6,260 14,420 36,860 16,010
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their advice to United Kingdom school fundraisers who wish to send donations to help schools in Zimbabwe. [HL1233]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their advice to United Kingdom schools which wish to arrange twinnings with schools in Zimbabwe. [HL1234]
The department does not give specific advice on fundraising related to any particular country. General advice to schools on fundraising for schools abroad is made available on the Global Gateway, the department's website for international links and partnerships for schools (see www.globalgateway.org/default.aspx?page=2798). The Government recommend that any assistance from the UK to Zimbabwean schools should be channelled through registered non-governmental organisations working in the education sector in Zimbabwe.
UK schools seeking to establish a partnership with a school abroad can do so through the Global Gateway (www.globalgateway.org), which includes a database of all schools that have registered an interest in establishing international school partnerships. The Global Gateway is available to all schools throughout the world wherever there is an internet connection and includes general advice on creating and maintaining sustainable school partnerships. More detailed advice to schools may be given on a case-by-case basis.
Schools can also form partnerships through DfID's Global School Partnerships programme. This promotes partnerships between schools in the UK and schools in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean (see www.globalgateway.org/default.aspx?page=3124). There are currently no active Global School Partnerships with Zimbabwe.
Teachers arranging study visits as part of their partnership are advised to check Foreign Office travel advice before they travel. Current travel advice for Zimbabwe is against all travel to high density, low-income suburban areas at any time; and all but essential travel to Harare city centre, rural Manicaland and farming areas.