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Written Answers

Volume 708: debated on Thursday 26 February 2009

Written Answers

Thursday 26 February 2009

Agriculture: BSE

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether in Clause 6(1)(b) of the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (England) (Amendment) (Regulations) 2008 (SI 2008/3295) the use of the word “detain” implies that the person who has the body of a dead goat should keep it in a secure place until it is collected. [HL1441]

The purpose behind the requirement to detain the body of a dead goat (if so directed) contained in paragraph 1(1)(b) of Schedule 2 to the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (England) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1881), as amended by the above regulations, is to enable its collection for testing. However, regulation 11(4) of the Animal By-Products Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/2347), which applies to the carcases of any livestock that has not been slaughtered for human consumption, requires the person in possession of the carcase to ensure that it is held in such a way that animals and birds (including wild animals and birds) do not have access to it.

Climate Change: Earth Hour

Question

Asked by

The Government are committed to achieving a successful outcome to the negotiations in Copenhagen later in the year, and campaigns such as Earth Hour play an important part in sending a strong message to world leaders that firm public support for positive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions comes from all parts of the globe.

Common Agricultural Policy: Single Farm Payment

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many single farm payments are outstanding for the years 2005–08; and what is the total amount outstanding for the years 2005–08. [HL1427]

Ninety-one single payment scheme (SPS) claims, worth in the region of £445,660.00 remain outstanding in England for scheme years 2005-07. These are broken down by year as follows:

SPS Scheme Year

Number of payments

Amount outstanding £ (rounded)

2005

7

56,979.00

2006

16

93,217.00

2007

68

295,464.00

Total

91

445,660.00

Customers whose claims remain unpaid in more than one year are included in the data for each of the relevant years. The causes of delayed payments are predominantly the granting of probate on customers' estates and other legal reasons.

Data for 2008 have not been included in the table because claim validation is still taking place for this scheme year. At 13 February, 95,936 of an estimated 106,500 customers have received over £1.374 billion of an estimated fund of £1.63 billion. RPA will continue to update the performance on its website.

Conservation Regulations

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government in the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/6), what is meant by “surveillance” as applied to "the conservation status of each relevant habitat and species". [HL1442]

Surveillance in this context refers to a series of comparable measurements that enable us to detect changes in geographic range, extent or condition of particular habitats over time, and similarly geographic range and population size of a particular species. This enables the conservation status of those habitats or species, as defined in the habitats directive, to be determined.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government in the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) (Amendment) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/7), what is meant by “surveillance” as applied to “the conservation status of each relevant habitat and species”. [HL1443]

Surveillance in this context refers to a series of comparable measurements that enable us to detect changes in geographic range, extent or condition of particular habitats over time, and similarly geographic range and population size of a particular species. This enables the conservation status of those habitats or species, as defined in the habitats directive, to be determined.

Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are their priorities for the forthcoming Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative global conference. [HL1303]

The UK Government are a strong supporter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The Department for International Development (DfID) has committed over £14 million to EITI of which over £8 million has been provided since November 2002. Increasing transparency and knowledge of revenues from the extractive sectors empowers citizens to hold governments to account, so that mismanagement of funds away from sustainable development purposes becomes more difficult.

The UK sent a delegation of two senior civil servants, including a director general from DfID, to the EITI Global Conference in Doha on 16 to 18 February. In line with the EITI Global Conference's objectives, the UK delegation worked with other stakeholders to take stock of EITI's progress; address the challenges which EITI faces; and consider the next steps for taking forward the initiative. A UK statement delivered at the conference welcomed the achievements of the EITI over the past two years and committed the UK to continue supporting the EITI. This is available on the EITI website at http://eitransparency.org/.

Food: Eggs

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why the charge for eggs in the Charges for Residues Surveillance (Amendment) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/2999) has risen by 27.5 per cent; and what cost elements are involved. [HL1471]

The actual increase to the egg industry in 2008-09 is 2.5 per cent. This is in line with the overall increase in charges needed to fund statutory surveillance for residues of veterinary medicinal products and certain other substances in British produce.

Charges to the various industry sectors involved in the residues surveillance programme were not adjusted between 1997 and 2003. When the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), which operates the surveillance programme, calculated the changes needed to charges to recover its costs it was apparent that large increases were needed in the egg sector. This was in part owing to the administrative burden of invoicing several hundred egg producers based on their throughput.

In response to the consultation exercise, the VMD entered into an agreement with the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) to reduce the administrative burden on egg companies. The BEIC now pays the charge direct to the VMD and recovers the costs as it sees fit from the largest egg companies. This agreement has resulted in substantial savings to the egg industry in respect of residues surveillance.

The 27.5 per cent figure in the statutory instrument is the increase that would be needed if the arrangement with the BEIC ended and the VMD needed to return to collecting the charges from all eligible egg companies. The charge paid by the BEIC represents the full cost of running the statutory surveillance for residues of veterinary medicines and certain other substances in Great Britain that is required under Council Directive 96/23/EC. This includes the collection and transport of samples, analytical costs and follow-up inspections on the farm of origin of non-compliant results.

Food: Government Departments

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what data the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had obtained by the end of 2008 regarding the proportion of food used by government departments that is produced domestically; and whether they will publish each department's purchases for the year 2008 and how these compared with purchases in 2007. [HL1314]

The second report published on the PSFPI website in November 2008 gives the proportion of domestically produced food used by government departments and also supplied to hospitals and prisons between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2008. It can be seen at www.defra.gov.uk/farm/policy/sustain/procurement/pdf/psfpi-datareport0811125.pdf.

Forced Labour

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will discuss with the World Trade Organisation the promulgation of rules to ban the importing and transporting of goods produced by slaves or by forced labour; and whether they consider that the Kimberley Process for diamonds, the Cocoa Protocol (2001) or the RugMark could provide useful precedents. [HL183]

There is no consensus among the World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership for linking trade and labour issues in the WTO forum. The International Labour Organisation is recognised globally as the appropriate forum for discussions on labour issues, and is engaged in initiatives aimed at combating slavery and forced labour. The UK encourages all ILO members to improve working conditions and to work towards ratifying and implementing the ILO Core Labour Conventions, which cover forced and child labour and other issues.

There are many valuable collaborative schemes to promote labour standards. The lessons and insights from schemes such as the Ethical Trading Initiative, the Kimberley Process, Cocoa Protocol and RugMark, are shared across countries and sectors by the initiatives themselves and by the ILO and its members and partners.

In some instances there is value in including core labour standards in preferential trade agreements. For example, the EU's special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (GSP+) allows preferential access to EU markets for vulnerable countries that ratify and effectively implement key international instruments including the ILO Core Conventions.

G20: Conference

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions the Cabinet has had regarding the international development priorities at the forthcoming G20 conference. [HL1304]

The Secretary of State for International Development has regular discussions with the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other members of the Cabinet as part of ongoing HMG preparations for the 2 April London summit. These discussions have included international development issues.

It is important to recognise that the London summit is not a development summit. The London summit on stability, growth and jobs on 2 April will focus on addressing the economic and financial crisis, restoring faith in globalisation while curbing its excesses and preserving the open world economy that has helped lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. However, we know from past crises that it is the poorest who suffer most. The UK Government have been working hard to make sure that the London summit includes a focus on protecting the poorest countries and most vulnerable people.

Gaza

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they and the Middle East Quartet will seek to provide necessary supplies to Gaza by sea; and, if so, whether this will make use of the facilities offered by Cyprus since land-based deliveries have so far proved insufficient. [HL1382]

The UK Government have investigated the use of sea routes as a way of providing aid to Gaza. Current information suggests that the most effective and sustainable way to ensure those in Gaza get much needed aid supplies is by a sustained relaxation of restrictions on humanitarian and other imports into Gaza via the land crossings in Egypt and Israel. Achieving that remains our focus. The Middle East quartet representative has not discussed the use of sea routes as a way of providing aid to Gaza.

Government: Announcements to Parliament

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why the Prime Minister, rather than the responsible secretaries of state, announced the recent payments of taxpayers' money to banks and car manufacturers; and to what extent that took account of the Prime Minister's status as primus inter pares.[HL1148]

My right honourable friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform made Statements to Parliament on 19 January 2009 (Official Report, col. 483) and 27 January 2009 (Official Report, col. 177) respectively.

Health: Leprosy

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take to end discrimination against people who have been cured of leprosy and their families. [HL1093]

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 as amended (DDA) already includes provisions that provide protection from disability discrimination for people who are no longer disabled, but who have had a disability that met the Act's definition of a disability. In general, the DDA defines a disabled person as someone who has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. A person who has had leprosy which met that definition is therefore entitled to the protection afforded by the Act.

The DDA was not intended to provide protection from discrimination based on a person's association with a disabled person. However, following the European Court of Justice's (ECJ) judgment in the case of Coleman v Attridge Law, an employment tribunal has decided that the DDA can be interpreted so as to provide protection in employment and vocational training for a person who is directly discriminated against or harassed on the basis of their association with a disabled person. The employment tribunal's decision in Coleman has been appealed by the employer in question. The Government are considering the impact of the ECJ's decision for domestic discrimination law in the context of preparing for the forthcoming equality Bill.

Health: Motor Neurone Disease

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will produce guidance on the use of non-invasive ventilation (NIV) for Motor Neurone Disease without delay. [HL1429]

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has been asked by the department to develop a short clinical guideline on non-invasive ventilation for the treatment of motor neurone disease. NICE will schedule this topic onto its work programme at the earliest opportunity and currently expects to issue final guidance to the National Health Service in early 2011.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill [HL]

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government which river estuaries in England come within the definition of rivers in Clause 291 of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill. [HL1290]

Clause 291 of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill sets out the how the coastal access duty applies where the English coast is interrupted by a river. It allows Natural England to exercise its functions as if references in the coastal access provisions to the sea included the relevant upstream waters of the river.

Natural England will look at each river estuary individually and decide what the most appropriate treatment is for that estuary. Following consultation, Natural England will make proposals for an estuary in its report, which it must submit to the Secretary of State under Clause 292 of the Bill, for each section of the English coast where there is an estuary.

Northern Ireland Office: Travel

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much was paid by the Northern Ireland Office during the first four weeks of the 2007–08 financial year for officials to travel between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. [HL1467]

Costs relating to staff travel between Northern Ireland and Great Britain are held in a variety of expenditure codes within the travel heading. As these codes show costs for all travel, including travel within Northern Ireland, the isolation of costs for journeys between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would involve a manual investigation of payments. The cost of this exercise would be higher than the disproportionate cost threshold of £750.

Northern Ireland: Human Rights Commission

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon on 3 February (WA 111), when the remit of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission became an operational matter for the Commission. [HL1368]

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the remit of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission allows the commission to sponsor a member of staff to undertake academic study. [HL1370]

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and its functions are defined in that Act. The Commission operates independently of government and decisions regarding staff training and development are an operational matter for the Commission subject to their staff terms and conditions.

The noble Lord may wish to contact the Commission directly should he wish to pursue this matter further.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon on 29 January (WA 77) concerning the membership of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, on what grounds and in whose judgment the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has complied with the obligation to ensure that every appointment to the Commission represents the entire community. [HL1398]

I have nothing further to add to the Answer given to the noble Lord on 29 January (Official Report, col. WA 77).

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon on 29 January (WA 78) concerning the status of non-departmental public bodies, whether they have different relationships with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. [HL1399]

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent body in Northern Ireland sponsored by the Northern Ireland Office. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is an independent body for England, Scotland and Wales, sponsored by the Government Equalities Office.

The Northern Ireland Office has no direct relationship with the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Pensions

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the failure of five public sector pension schemes to take account of the guaranteed minimum pension element in 95,000 overpayment cases was due to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) not advising the schemes, to a failure of the schemes to act on HMRC advice, or to design failure in the schemes' computer systems. [HL1224]

The Written Statement by my right honourable friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office on 16 December (Official Report, col. 111 WS-113WS) explained the circumstances in which pension overpayments occurred and the further steps the Government are taking to identify the causes of the problem. As my right honourable friend’s Statement explained, he has commissioned the National Audit Office (NAO) to carry out a review of the end-to-end process in order to pinpoint accountabilities. It is not appropriate to comment on the causes of the error until the NAO's work has concluded. The House will be updated in due course.

Police: Northern Ireland

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are proposing to make policing more effective in East Belfast; and whether they will make extra resources available. [HL1189]

The Northern Ireland Policing Board is responsible for securing the efficiency and effectiveness of the PSNI. It in turn sponsors the DPPs, which operate at a local level.

The DPP holds a number of public meetings to monitor police performance. These meetings provide an opportunity for the police commander to report to the subgroup in the district, to respond to questions from the public about how policing services are provided in the district and to deal with any issues the local community is concerned about.

The chief constable has provided the following additional information:

In order to establish a more effective and responsive policing structure for the local East Belfast community the neighbourhood policing programme was introduced to Victoria and Pottinger in 2007. These are closely aligned to the service delivery areas of the other statutory organisations within Belfast. The establishment levels within these neighbourhood units have also increased and officers are committed to serve for a minimum of two years. This will provide consistent points of contact and a good opportunity to build strong relationships with the community.

To assist with the process of community engagement PACT (Partners and Community Together) meetings have been introduced in Pottinger with Victoria due to commence in March 2009. These meetings provide regular opportunities for the local community to meet police and other statutory organisations to discuss issues that cause them concern within their respective neighbourhood.

In addition to the dedicated neighbourhood teams, other resources within the district have now been realigned on a neighbourhood basis. This means that 24-hour patrol officers, in addition to their normal response duties, have neighbourhood responsibilities for dedicated areas. Other units—ie, CID, Community Safety—now also reflect this neighbourhood emphasis.

In a drive to introduce more visible policing across the district in January 2009, 18 extra officers were trained and fully equipped for cycle patrols which have already received favourable comments from the community. Neighbourhood shift systems within East Belfast have also been modified to ensure that neighbourhood officers are more readily available and visible each day.

In order to build, broaden and sustain confidence in the police a victim care line is to be established within East Belfast. This will provide a facility whereby victims of crime can contact a free phone number and will receive up-to-date information on the current state of their investigations. This initiative has been developed in partnership with the local district policing partnership and is due to commence in March 2009.

Police in East Belfast recognise that more can always be done to encourage local communities to assist police and the support and contribution of local elected representatives is necessary to achieve this.

Prisoners: Dyslexia

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what percentage of prisoners in Northern Ireland prisons are classified as dyslexic. [HL1469]

The Northern Ireland Prison Service does not routinely screen prisoners for dyslexia, although individual prisoners are screened if the prisoner or the education staff identify a need to do so.

At Hydebank Wood young offenders centre, however, every inmate is screened for indicators of dyslexia on committal. In the past three years, some 30 per cent have shown some indications for dyslexia.

Smoking

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have figures on how much tobacco companies have spent on marketing their product within the United Kingdom in the past five years; and whether these figures are based on estimates, were collected by the Government or supplied by the tobacco companies. [HL1448]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the tobacco companies on the amount they spend on marketing within the United Kingdom. [HL1449]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration they have given to requiring tobacco companies to disclose publicly the amount of money they spend on marketing their products in the United Kingdom, including the amount paid to retailers; and whether they have assessed the impact such a law has had in Canada. [HL1450]

We understand from international evidence that tobacco companies invest in marketing activities to promote tobacco products, including payments to retailers to display tobacco products advantageously. During the development of the department's Consultation on the Future of Tobacco Control that was published in May 2008, the department requested information from the tobacco industry on its payments to retailers for the display of tobacco products in shops. The tobacco industry has refused to provide such information. A copy of the consultation has already been placed in the Library.

The Government do not have powers to require tobacco companies to report marketing expenditure, and therefore hold no such information. We have made no specific assessment of the impact of Canadian laws requiring the disclosure of marketing expenditure by tobacco companies.

Zoonoses Regulations

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government in the Zoonoses and Animal By-Products (Fees) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/3196), why, in the same year that fees were last set, it has been necessary to raise the charge for taking official samples from £45 to £55; and what are the cost elements involved. [HL1444]

The base charge of £55 is a fixed fee that covers costs that are associated with the supervision of, or the taking of, official control samples on all holdings. Costs are derived on estimates of the time taken to process an application (eg organising visits, systems inputs, checking test results et cetara) by the various grades of staff involved. These estimates of time have been multiplied by the Animal Health charge out rate.

The animal health charge out rates are based upon the average employment costs for each grade of Animal Health staff (includes salary, employer's NIC and employer's pension contributions) plus overheads and notional costs (taken from the Animal Health budgets for 2007-08). These rates are then adjusted for productivity. An hourly rate is then calculated by dividing the annual rate by 215 working days and 7.4 hours per day. The 215 working days are arrived at by taking 260 weekdays and adjusting for holiday and estimated other non-delivery time (eg training).

The other costs relating to the base fee are based upon estimates from Defra Shared Service Division (SSD) which provides most of Animal Health's back office functions including: accounts receivable, accounts payable, human resources costs, et cetera Due to changes in the mechanism for government accounting between Defra and Animal Health, the overall SSD charge to Animal Health has increased to £2.9 million from £900,000 in 2007 (322 per cent increase). This change provides a more accurate reflection of the costs to Animal Health in providing these services as costs are no longer subsumed/subsidised by core Defra.

Analysis of base fee by cost factors

£

1.

Salaries, overtime, national insurance and superannuation costs

16

2.

Recruitment and training costs

1

3.

Travel and incidental expenses

-

4.

Office accommodation, equipment and services

3

5 & 6.

Protective clothing and equipment

-

7.

Sampling and analysis costs

-

8.

Shared service costs

35

Total

55