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Written Answers

Volume 708: debated on Monday 2 March 2009

Written Answers

Monday 2 March 2009



Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any evidence of a movement of bank lending flows towards normal corporate and personal borrowers, rather than into passive assets, following the recent second tranche of support. [HL1226]

On 19 January, the Government announced measures designed to reinforce the stability of the financial system, to increase confidence and capacity to lend, and in turn to support the recovery of the economy. These build on measures announced on 8 October last year.

The Government intend to negotiate lending agreements with the banks participating in certain facilities. These will have specific and quantified lending commitments, and will be binding and externally audited.

These measures have helped to stabilise the credit market. This is an essential condition for banks to develop greater confidence to lend to creditworthy businesses, homeowners and consumers.

Banking: Interpal


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ask the government of the United States to remove the restrictions preventing the British-registered charity Interpal from receiving full banking services. [HL1121]

The Government recognise the importance of the issues raised and share the concern that aid should reach those who need it most.

Although the general picture on charitable assistance to Gaza is positive, many people have raised concerns about the position of the UK-registered charity Interpal following difficulties with retaining banking services in the UK.

The banking issues affecting the charity are unusual, and are not representative of the wider picture on the ability of UK charities to provide aid to those in need. However, we still share concerns about any interruption to humanitarian aid. While commercial decisions on providing accounts and clearing services are for the banks themselves, we are discussing with relevant parties how best to ensure that charities can retain access to the banking system.

The Treasury has written to the US Government to reiterate the importance we attach to the delivery of effective charitable aid and to strengthen our dialogue with the US on how best we can facilitate legitimate charitable work.

We shall consider making further representations if appropriate.

British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many reports from the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (formerly the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body) they have received in the past five years, and how many reports they have responded to in writing. [HL1377]

The Government have received 14 reports from the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body since February 2003, and have responded to two of these reports in writing. The reports responded to were:

Enquiry into Special Needs Educational Provision in Britain and Ireland, with Special Reference to Autism (February 2005); responded to on behalf of the Department for Education and Skills by Lord Adonis, November 2005, and

The Implications of the Introduction of British ID Cards for the Common Travel Area (April 2006); responded to on behalf of the Home Department by Joan Ryan MP, September 2006, Liam Byrne MP, (April 2008) and Phil Woolas MP, December 2008.

The other 12 reports were:

Links between the BIIPB and the Nordic Council (February 2004);

Delivery of health services to rural populations (April 2004);

Waste Management (June 2004);

Truth and Reconciliation for Northern Ireland (January 2005);

European Funding programmes and Developing Understanding across Borders (March 2005);

European Funding in Socially Deprived Areas of Northern Ireland (April 2006);

Challenges and Opportunities facing the Small Farm Sector (April 2006);

Life Chances for Young People from the Economically Deprived Areas of Belfast (2006);

Barriers to Trade (January 2007);

The Irish Community in Britain (2007);

Renewable Energy except Nuclear (2007); and

The Integration of Recently Arrived Migrants to Northern Ireland, Ireland and Wales (2008).

A copy of these reports and the responses of Her Majesty's Government can be found on the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body's website at

Business Support


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the increase in the availability of bank finance to businesses as a result of the recent reductions in the bank rate. [HL594]

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will encourage banks and other financial institutions to increase the finance they have available to lend to businesses by borrowing from the private sector at reasonable rates and over long periods. [HL595]

Decisions by the private sector on whether and how to raise bank finances are matters for private sector businesses and lenders. The recent cuts in interest rates announced by the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee are expected to have a positive effect on inter-bank lending and credit markets more generally. As credit conditions ease, the banks should pass on savings to their customers wherever they can. The Chancellor has met with the CEOs of the major UK banks to make this clear.

On 14 January 2009, the Government announced a package of support to address the cash flow, credit and capital needs of smaller businesses. This package implements and builds upon the commitments the Government made in the Pre-Budget Report. Details are available at

On 19 January 2009, the Government also announced a package of measures designed to reinforce the stability of the financial system, to increase confidence and capacity to lend, and in turn to support the recovery of the economy. Details are available at

Children: Domestic Violence


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether their definition of domestic violence includes violence against children; and, if not, whether they plan to change their definition in the light of the link between child protection and domestic violence. [HL1425]

Children are not covered in the current government definition because they are already covered by child protection legislation and procedures. The Government recognise the strong links between child protection concerns and domestic violence and changes to the existing definition will be considered in our national domestic violence delivery plan for 2009-10.



Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much of the recent talks with the Chinese Prime Minister was devoted to climate change issues; and how much was devoted to the world economic downturn. [HL1228]

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister had three sets of formal talks with Premier Wen and the visiting ministerial delegation. Climate change and the world economic downturn were discussed extensively at all these meetings. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister also co-chaired a breakfast meeting with leading economists to discuss the global economy and agreed a joint statement on the economic crisis which can be found at

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Ed Miliband) also covered climate change during a separate discussion with Zhang Ping, director of the National Development and Reform Commission.

Drugs: Cannabis


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why the order giving police the power to issue penalty notices for possession of cannabis was not brought forward in time to coincide with the recent upgrading of cannabis to a class B drug. [HL1176]

As the department responsible for cannabis reclassification and the associated policing response the Home Office will respond to this Question. The legislation on introducing penalty notices for disorder (PND) is owned by the Ministry of Justice.

An order adding 21 new offences to the penalty notice for disorder (PND) scheme under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 was laid before Parliament by the Ministry of Justice on 15 December 2008. This order included adding the offence of possession of cannabis to the scheme. In view of concerns raised over certain aspects of other offences, such as taxi touting, this order was withdrawn on 19 January 2009.

On 20 January 2009 the Government laid a further order that proceeded with adding cannabis possession to the PND scheme. In view of the parliamentary timetable, the earliest possible date that the offence could come into force was 28 January 2009.

Fire and Rescue Service


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many firefighter posts in England are filled on a retained basis; and what proportion that is of the total number of firefighters. [HL1648]

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many fire stations in England are crewed on a retained basis (a) wholly, and (b) in part; and what proportion that is of the total. [HL1649]

The number and type of fire stations in England is set out below.

As at 31 March 2008 there were 774 wholly retained duty system fire stations in England, 54 per cent of all fire stations. Day-crew stations may be crewed by both wholetime and retained firefighters, while wholetime—other duty system and nucleus stations utilise both wholetime and retained firefighters.

Fire stations in England as at 31 March 2008

Type of fire station


Wholetime 2:2:4 shift




Wholetime—other duty system




Retained duty system




Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many fire call-outs in England and what proportion of the total each year are by tenders and appliances that are crewed on a retained basis. [HL1650]

A total of 294,000 fires were attended, by fire and rescue services in England, in the year ending 31 March 2008.

Information on the crewing of tenders and appliances that attend fire incidents is not held centrally and can only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the position of retained firefighters under the proposals being considered by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament for amending the Working Time Directive; and what is their position on those proposals. [HL1651]

Implementation of the working time directive, by setting a 48-hour maximum to the working week, could seriously impact on firefighters working the retained duty system in view of the substantial numbers who work full time for a primary employer. The UK Government therefore place great importance on retaining their opt-out from the directive, a position that was acknowledged by the European Union Council of Ministers in June when it agreed in the common position that it should be retained, and will continue to defend it.

The amendments to the common position voted by the European Parliament on 17 December are the latest step in a complex negotiation; a process of conciliation between both parties, the presidency and the Commission is now under way. Officials from my department are in contact with a range of fire and rescue service stakeholders to ensure that the potential impact is understood; and working with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, which has the UK lead on the working time directive, to inform the ongoing debate and ensure MEPs and EU member states are briefed appropriately.



Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make representations to the Government of Israel proposing that the compensation settlement by the Government of Israel to the family of James Miller following his shooting in May 2003 should provide a precedent for similar payments to any Gazan civilian victims of the recent military action. [HL1264]

The agreement between the family of James Miller and the Government of Israel was a private settlement between the parties. Any other compensation matters are a matter for the Israeli Government.

Health: Drugs


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action will be taken following the claim in the Daily Mail of Professor David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, that “taking ecstasy is no more risky than riding a horse”. [HL1395]

As stated in the other place on Monday 9 February, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary spoke to Professor David Nutt, Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, to express her considerable concern about his recent article published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. Professor Nutt apologised for these comments and at my right honourable friend's request, subsequently issued a public apology for any offence the article may have caused and to those who have lost friends and family due to ecstasy misuse.

House of Lords: Pensions


Asked by

To ask the Chairman of Committees whether, in view of the decision of the Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests in 2006 (Priv 2006–07/1), the debate on 19 July 2007 (Official Report, House of Lords, cols. 402–18) and recent events, he will re-submit to the Committee for Privileges the suggestion that members of the House of Lords in receipt of a European Union pension should declare that interest in debates about European Union matters. [HL1753]

No. However, if the noble Lord writes to me with a specific proposal, and explaining why he thinks the committee should now revisit its previous decisions on this matter, I shall be happy to put his letter before the committee.



Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much borrowing by local authorities will be permitted for the provision of newly built or acquired social housing for letting in 2009–10 and subsequent years up to 2012. [HL1613]

Under the prudential system, local authorities are free to borrow for any kind of capital spending without government permission, provided that they and their auditors are satisfied that they can afford to service the debt.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the total number of new homes built in 2008; what was the number built in the Eastern region; and how this is broken down on a county basis in the Eastern region. [HL1627]

The table below shows the number of house building completions in England and in the east of England broken down by county and unitary authority in the 2008 calendar year.

New build completions 2008

East of England


Luton Borough Council UA


Peterborough City Council UA


Southend-on-Sea Council UA


Thurrock Council UA

incomplete data

Bedfordshire County Council


Cambridgeshire County Council

incomplete data

Essex County Council

incomplete data

Hertfordshire County Council

incomplete data

Norfolk County Council


Suffolk County Council




Source: Local authority P2 quarterly house building and National House-Building Council returns submitted to CLG.

The regional and national totals include imputation for missing local authority returns. The county and unitary authority figures are as reported by local authorities and the National House-Building Council; no figure is given where a county or unitary authority has one or more missing (local authority) quarterly returns as the full level of housebuilding activity in the local area is not known.

Housing: Affordable Homes


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the total number of properties classified as affordable homes built in 2008; and what percentage of these homes remain unoccupied. [HL1628]

New affordable homes are additional housing units (or bed spaces) provided to specified eligible households whose needs are not met by the market, and include social rent, intermediate rent and low cost home ownership.

There were 43,560 new affordable homes built in England in 2007-08. Not all affordable housing is provided by new build completions, as some supply can come from acquisitions. A total of 53,730 affordable homes were provided in England in 2007-08.

The affordable housing figures are collected by CLG on a financial year basis, the latest figures being 2007-08.

CLG do not collect figures showing the number of affordable homes provided in 2007-08 that remain unoccupied. The Housing Strategy Statistical Return (HSSA) includes figures on the total number of vacant local authority and registered social landlord social rented homes, but these cannot be broken down to show how many of these were newly provided affordable homes in 2007-08.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many properties not classified as affordable homes which were unsold on the open market they have bought from developers to be used for social housing. [HL1629]

In May 2008, the Government announced a plan to take advantage of market opportunities to bring private sector developer stock into the affordable housing sector by providing £200 million of funding through the Housing Corporation's national affordable housing programme (AHP) for the purchase of homes from house builders.

To the end of January 2009 around £198 million had been allocated from the initial £200 million. This funding is expected to deliver 5,700 affordable homes around 4,000 of which will be for social rent.

Housing: Black and Ethnic Minority Housing Associations


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Andrews on 23 October 2008 (WA 124–25), what are the (a) ethnicities, and (b) faiths of the 65 Black and Minority Ethnic Housing Associations. [HL1704]

This information is not available. The Tenant Services Authority does not register housing associations as being either ethnic-based or faith-based. Its role is to ensure that all housing associations respond effectively to the needs of the diverse communities that they serve.



Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many current immigration or asylum detainees are either de jure or de facto stateless. [HL1183]

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill is compatible with Protocol 4 to the European Convention of Human Rights which guarantees the right of nationals to enter their country of nationality. [HL1567]

The right of British Nationals to enter the UK and any compatible rights under Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights is not an issue that is covered by the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill.

Only persons with the right of abode in the UK under Section 2 of the Immigration Act 1971, being British citizens and certain Commonwealth citizens, are free to enter and remain in the UK without being subject to immigration control.

British nationals without the right of abode do not enjoy a right as set out in the Protocol 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This is because the UK has signed but not ratified Article 3 of Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights. The protocol was signed in 1963 but not subsequently ratified because of the potential conflict with our domestic law in relation to the issue of British passports and the acquisition of a right of abode by categories of British nationals who do not currently have that right.

British nationals continue to be admitted freely to the United Kingdom on production of a United Kingdom passport issued in the United Kingdom and Islands or the Republic of Ireland prior to 1 January 1973, unless their passport has been endorsed to show that they are subject to immigration control. British nationals may also naturalise or register as a British citizen under the British Nationality Act 1981 and therefore acquire the right of abode in the UK under the Immigration Act 1971.

Immigration: Repatriation


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they are ensuring that facilities for repatriation are made known to migrants, particularly from eastern Europe, who are unemployed or destitute. [HL1684]

We have already provided funding to support local authorities in helping destitute eastern European migrants return home or to find work. In London, councils are working with homelessness charities to voluntarily repatriate those eastern European migrants who become destitute. We continue to work with Homeless Link, the national umbrella organisation for homelessness charities, on tackling rough sleeping by eastern European migrants.

National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what funds have been allocated to the Muslim Women's Advisory Group for the three years from 2008–09. [HL1657]

The following funds have been allocated to the National Muslim Women's Advisory Group (NM WAG) for the three years from 2008-09:




Running costs








NHS Branding


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they have taken against individuals who have used NHS branding without authority to give a misleading impression about NHS commissioning policy on homeopathy; and what steps they will take to prevent any recurrence. [HL1565]

The department has provided clarification and advice on the use of the National Health Service logo to those who originated the document entitled Homeopathic Services. They have also been asked not to circulate the document bearing the logo any further, and to ensure that the logo is not used on any future documents without prior permission from the department.

NHS: Health Informatics


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government when the Health Informatics Review implementation report will be published; and how they intend to support primary care trusts in implementing the recommendations of the Health Informatics Review. [HL1326]

The second stage of the health informatics review will be published by the end of March 2009.

Primary care trust chief executives will continue to lead local health informatics programmes to ensure that informatics underpins the implementation of service transformation. Guidance and more detailed expectations are provided in Informatics Planning Guidance 2009-10, published alongside the NHS Operating Framework 2009-10.

Both documents, published on 8 December 2008, have already been placed in the Library and can also be accessed from the department's website at



Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they gave approval to the pension benefits paid to Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland; and, if so, what were their reasons. [HL1759]

The Government were not involved in negotiating and did not give approval to the pension benefits paid to Sir Fred Goodwin. The Government understand that the financial arrangements were agreed by then directors of the Royal Bank of Scotland and Sir Fred Goodwin.

Schengen Area


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 2 February (WA 98–99), whether they will obtain the prior consent of Parliament before applying to enter the Schengen acquis in full. [HL1240]

The UK has not applied to participate in the full Schengen acquis as that would require the lifting of internal border controls and it would also undermine our immigration controls overseas. Those controls are central to our ability to manage migration. Any decision to change our position would involve full parliamentary scrutiny in both Houses.

Vessels: Detection


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they plan to improve detection of vessels in the territorial waters of St Helena in order to better protect local fisheries in line with the detection system in operation in the Falkland Islands. [HL1235]

The Government advise the St Helena Government on measures which may be introduced to improve detection of vessels in the island's territorial waters and to combat illegal fishing. Such measures are proportionate to the scale of fishing activities in St Helena's waters. However, responsibility for the introduction of any measures rests with the St Helena Government. Unlike in the Falkland Islands, fishing in St Helena waters is artisanal and generates minimal income for St Helena.