Wednesday 11 March 2009
Prompted by continuing exceptional instability in the global financial markets, in October the Government announced a package of support for the financial system both to support stability of the banking system and to protect savers and depositors. Part of this package is the credit guarantee scheme (CGS). The CGS provides a Government guarantee on eligible new debt to support the stability of the banking system, and to protect savers and depositors.
As part of further measures to increase confidence for banking institutions to lend, the asset protection scheme (APS) was announced in January this year, to encourage banks to lend by offering capital and asset protection to banks on assets most affected by the current economic conditions. Under the scheme, the Treasury will provide participating institutions protection against credit losses. The scheme is aimed at targeting assets with the greatest amount of uncertainty about their future performance. Participating banks also agree a lending commitment addressing lending to businesses and homeowners. As the Chancellor announced details of the scheme on 26 February it is too early to measure its effect.
To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent the remarks by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in his foreword to the White Paper Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future that the White Paper “draws on international experience, particularly from Scandinavia and the Netherlands” take account of the relative proportions of single adult unemployment benefits to average earnings in those countries and in the United Kingdom. [HL1636]
The ministerial foreword to the White Paper Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future (Cm 7506) outlines the Government's ambition for a welfare system supported by a stronger framework of rights and responsibilities. The proposals draw from international experience of conditionality regimes. For jobseeker's allowance customers, this means progressively increasing obligations in line with time on benefit and giving customers the support they need to keep and progress in work and gain relevant skills.
The United Kingdom has a comprehensive safety net scheme. Income support and other income-related benefits are available to top up flat-rate benefits where these are insufficient and the housing benefit scheme is among the most generous in the European Community.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will always use the discretion conferred by paragraph 2(e) of Schedule 1 to the British Nationality Act 1981 to waive the English language requirement for naturalisation applicants aged between 18 and 65 where it would be unreasonable to expect them to meet those requirements. [HL1890]
The use of discretion to waive the requirement is always considered when it is requested by a naturalisation applicant. However, it is not always applied as it is, in some cases, concluded that it would be reasonable for the applicant to meet the requirement.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether persons with refugee status or enjoying long-term humanitarian protection will be able to start their qualifying periods for naturalisation from the date of their entry into the United Kingdom, provided that they have complied with the conditions in Article 31 of the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. [HL1891]
The qualifying period of residence for naturalisation may begin as soon as the refugee presents him/herself to the authorities. There is an additional requirement for naturalisation that the applicant should not have been in breach of immigration law during the qualifying period. However, those who present themselves to the authorities immediately upon arrival in the United Kingdom will not be considered to be in breach of immigration law during the period in which their asylum claim is under consideration.
To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent the proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill take account of studies of the possibility that low benefits causing poor maternal and foetal nutrition lead to adverse neurological development of children. [HL1637]
Many of the proposals introduced by the Welfare Reform Bill are designed to improve employment outcomes for disadvantaged groups and thus improve the financial situation of low-income households. Work is the best and most sustainable route out of poverty. Evidence shows that employment improves individual's welfare, fosters social inclusion and is good for people's health and well-being.
Pregnant women or parents with at least one child under four years old from low-income households may also be entitled to free milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, infant formula and vitamins under the NHS Healthy Start scheme.
Driving: Car Insurance
A road side survey (Operation V79) was carried out by the Department for Transport in March 2008. 6689 vehicles were stopped at random by police and checked for compliance with driver and vehicle licensing regulations. The recorded level of uninsured drivers from this survey was 1.2 per cent.
However, comparison of the DVLA vehicle register and motor insurance database suggests the total figure of uninsured driving is likely to be higher. In 2005, a comparison of the two databases estimated that about 2.1 million licensed vehicles were being driven by uninsured drivers. The comparison looks at all vehicle keepers and motor insurance policies and does not rely on vehicles being spotted in use on the road. Further work continues on a more recent comparison of the two databases and is undergoing validity checks by departmental statisticians.
Passing the practical driving test is seen by many people as being the end of learning to drive. Our wide ranging Learning to Drive consultation paper had said that we wanted to work with both insurers and employers to create a culture where continued and life-long learning become the norm.
On 6 March 2009, the Driving Standards Agency discussed with the insurance industry how they can work together to deliver evidence and evaluate some of our proposed reforms, including new opportunities for post-test training and qualifications. We want to ensure that the improvements result in safer newly qualified drivers, and therefore fewer and less costly claims, so that insurance companies are able to incentivise and reward young people for investing in their continued learning and driving skills development.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) operates a comprehensive package of measures to combat the use of unlicensed motor vehicles on the public highway.
Those who fail to tax their vehicles are subject to enforcement activities ranging from automatic penalties issued if the DVLA’s vehicle records show that vehicle excise duty remains unpaid, through to direct enforcement action such as the wheel clamping, removal from the road for impounding and, ultimately, disposal of the unlicensed vehicle.
Regarding uninsured driving, measures introduced in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 have given the police improved access to the motor insurance database, enabling them better to identify uninsured vehicles using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) equipment. The police were also given powers to seize, and in appropriate cases destroy, vehicles being driven uninsured. In 2008, around 185,000 vehicles were seized.
The Road Safety Act 2006 introduced a new offence of being a registered keeper of a vehicle for which there is no valid motor insurance. Further regulations are required to bring the provisions into force. We are consulting on these and the details of a proposed scheme for continuous insurance enforcement.
Rather than relying on the police to spot vehicles in use, continuous insurance enforcement would identify uninsured drivers by regularly comparing DVLA’s vehicle register with the insurance industry’s database. Those who ignored warning reminders that their insurance has expired would be sent a fixed penalty notice and fine of £100, and could be liable to court prosecution and have their vehicle clamped, impounded and disposed of.
Between July 2008 and March 2009 the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has issued 227,626 renewal reminders and 172,631 drivers have to date renewed the photograph. This is a compliance rate of 76 per cent.
Renewal reminders are sent to licence holders two months before expiry of their photograph to ensure they know when their photograph is due for renewal.
The DVLA is reviewing 10-year renewal compliance and plans to conduct market research to identify reasons for non-compliance and the most effective methods to improve compliance levels.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how much Government funding was spent, including via the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the relevant research councils, to make work with admixed embryos legal; and what other countries have introduced legislation to permit admixed animal-human hybrid embryos. [HL1854]
Other than the usual internal administrative costs incurred in the creation of a new Act of Parliament, no government funds were spent specifically to bring about new legislation concerning the creation of human admixed embryos for research purposes.
Information on legislation in other countries on the creation and use of human admixed embryos is not collected centrally.
Employment: Migrant Workers
The Government believe there are significant levels of protection for these workers already in place.
All workers are protected by the Working Time Regulations, which cover working hours and statutory holiday pay. The regulations ensure that all workers can work a maximum of 48 hours per week on average unless they sign a voluntary opt-out agreement. The regulations also provide all workers with 4.8 weeks of statutory paid annual leave per year rising to 5.6 weeks in April 2009. Rates for overtime and working unsocial hours are a contractual matter between the individual parties.
All workers are also entitled to the national minimum wage (NMW). The Government promote and enforce payment of the NMW through simple and effective means which support workers and businesses by deterring employers from underpaying their workers and removing the unfair competitive advantage that underpayment can bring. New automatic penalties of up to £5,000 for employers found not to be complying with the NMW were brought in under the Employment Act 2008. HM Revenue and Customs is responsible for enforcing the national minimum wage. In 2007-08, it helped to restore £3.9 million in arrears to over 19,000 workers.
Entitlement to the state pension scheme is based on the national insurance contributions that an individual pays, is treated as having paid or is credited with. Migrant and agency workers can build up entitlement to the state pension in the same way as other workers. Migrant workers also have the same rights as other workers when it comes to access to private pension schemes arranged by the employer. This includes stakeholder pensions, where the employer has a statutory duty to designate at least one scheme for which membership is on offer to all employees (including migrant workers) who have been employed for a continuous period of three months. Whether or not these rights apply to agency workers would depend upon whether they are treated as employees for the purpose of the stakeholder pension scheme regulations.
Following the work of the Vulnerable Workers Enforcement Forum, which reported in August 2008, the Government are also redoubling their efforts to ensure that potentially vulnerable workers are fully aware of their existing rights. We have recently launched a £l million campaign on this, with the initial focus on agency workers specifically.
We will also be launching a consultation in the near future on the implementation of the EU agency workers' directive, which will, consistent with the CBI-TUC agreement of 20 May 2008, introduce equal treatment for agency workers in respect of basic working and employment conditions after 12 weeks in a given job.
Financial Services Authority
The Financial Services Authority is funded entirely by the firms that it regulates.
While we have made no specific representations on this issue, we, along with our EU partners, continue to press the Israeli Government to reduce their restrictions on Gaza to meet humanitarian and reconstruction needs, and also to allow Gazans the opportunity to rebuild their economy. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary reinforced this message during the reconstruction conference at Shaim El-Sheikh on 2 March 2009.
Government Borrowing: Insurance
There are no precise indicators of the cost of insuring government debt against default.
Credit default swap (CDS) spreads are commonly used as a proxy for measuring this cost. However, the strength of this proxy is highly questionable, as default is only one of a number of credit events enshrined in sovereign CDS contracts. Other credit events include missing coupon payments and restructuring of debt.
There are also a number of other factors besides market expectations of sovereign default risk that can affect CDS spreads. The market for developed country sovereign CDS is relatively small and illiquid, as it is unlikely that a developed country will default on its sovereign debt. The illiquid nature of the market can lead to large movements in CDS spreads, simply for technical reasons. In addition, there is evidence that developed sovereign CDS contracts are used to hedge a number of other risks, aside from the risk of sovereign default.
The five-year UK sovereign credit default swap spread was quoted at 147 basis points as of Friday 27 February 2009, according to data provided by Bloomberg. This compares to 89 and 86 basis points for France and Germany respectively. This implies that it would cost $14,700 to buy protection for $1,000,000-worth of gilts. It should be noted that we have no evidence that any trades have taken place at these indicative prices.
Health: Irish Community Groups
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 24 February (WA 48), what form the discrimination has taken that has brought health inequalities to the Irish ethnic and traveller categories; how many travellers were enumerated in 2001; and whether that census information provided sufficient information on travellers not to repeat the questions in the next census. [HL1947]
There is evidence from research commissioned by the department and the South West Public Health Observatory of the problems and perceived prejudice that Gypsies and Travellers, including Irish Travellers, face in accessing primary care and other health services in England. Poor continuity of care and follow-up are compounded by the reluctance of general practitioners to register them, and by a lack of medical records. Gypsies and Travellers have a higher incidence of long-term conditions, including mental health and respiratory problems, than the general population.
The 2001 census carried out by the Office for National Statistics did not enumerate Gypsies or Travellers as there was no such category on the ethnicity question. However, there is an intention to include a category for Gypsies and Travellers for the next census in 2011. Every six months, Communities and Local Government commission a count of Gypsies' and Travellers' caravans on sites throughout the country.
In June 2007, the department published the Tuberculosis (TB) Toolkit (Tuberculosis prevention and treatment: a toolkit for planning, commissioning and delivering high-quality services in England) to help the National Health Service to implement the key elements of the TB action plan through effective commissioning and delivery of TB services. A copy of the toolkit has already been placed in the Library. The department has supported the publication with a series of regional workshops for commissioners, public health and clinical staff. The toolkit provides models of good practice for laboratory services and surveillance as well as service delivery, and recommends that TB clinicians always follow National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance on TB when treating patients.
In 2007, the department initiated the Find and Treat project to actively look for cases of TB among the homeless and other vulnerable groups in London, and to help provide supervised medication and support to patients to improve adherence to treatment. Currently, the Find and Treat team is helping over 300 people with TB who have challenging lifestyles to complete their treatment.
In 2008, the department commissioned TB Alert to develop TB awareness raising messages for people at risk of TB to increase referrals for TB testing and effective treatment as well as with primary care workers to increase awareness of TB. This will include the importance of early diagnosis and treatment completion. The awareness-raising programme will roll out later this year.
The department is also funding the Health Protection Agency to update its enhanced tuberculosis surveillance system and to develop an electronic tool to support the investigation of contacts of TB patients.
The numbers of new cases in each of these areas are provided in the following table.
Local Authority Number of cases Bradford 193 Birmingham 412 Leicester 226 Liverpool 59
Number of cases
Source: Enhanced Tuberculosis Surveillance, Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) monitors the occurrence of tuberculosis (TB) in England and Wales through the national surveillance system. In addition, clinical, microbiological and demographic data are collected, as well as information on drug resistance, the outcome of treatment, and outbreaks and incidents. By the end of 2009, the system will provide routine access to data locally to inform management decisions. Annual reports, that describe trends and geographical variation in the incidence of TB, are produced by the HPA.
The department does not have powers to take action against primary care trusts. In June 2007, the department published a TB Toolkit to help the National Health Service to implement the key elements of the action plan through effective commissioning and delivery of TB services. The department has supported the publication with a series of regional workshops for commissioners and public health and clinical staff. The toolkit provides models of good practice for laboratory services and surveillance as well as service delivery, and recommends that TB clinicians always follow National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance on TB when treating patients.
The new Care Quality Commission will ensure that TB services are monitored.
Houses of Parliament: Copyright
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the public interest justification for parliamentary copyright. [HL1562]
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will review the provisions on parliamentary copyright in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 in the light of the practice in other common law parliamentary democracies. [HL1691]
Works produced by or under the direction or control of either House of Parliament qualify for copyright protection as parliamentary copyright by virtue of Section 165 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The expression also includes copyright in Bills before Parliament, by virtue of Section 166. Before 1988, such material was covered by Crown copyright.
The licensing of parliamentary copyright material is managed on behalf of the two Houses by the Office of Public Sector Information under the terms of a service level agreement. It may be reproduced without charge under the terms of a click-use licence, which can be found online at www.opsi.gove.uk/advice/parliamentary-copyright/index.
It is for the authorities of the two Houses to comment on the detailed conditions governing the use of parliamentary copyright material.
Housing: Regional Housing Strategies
To ask Her Majesty's Government what will be the role, purpose and format of regional housing strategies following the creation of regional strategies under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill; who will be responsible for agreeing regional housing strategies; who will be responsible for owning and implementing them; and what is their relationship to regional strategies. [HL2004]
As we indicated in our Policy Document on Regional Strategies (published January 2009) we expect the content of former regional housing strategies to be incorporated into regional strategies, as defined in Part 5 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill. Each regional strategy will be developed, implemented and monitored jointly by the regional development agency and the local authority leaders' board for the region and will be approved by the Secretary of State.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last December. We are determined to continue to ensure that this landmark document is as powerful in practice as it is in aspiration.
The promotion of democracy and human rights is integral to what the FCO does. They are essential to the delivery of our strategic goals whether in combating the global scourge of terrorism and its causes; preventing conflict and fostering its resolution; promoting a high-growth, low-carbon global economy; or strengthening institutions such as the UN, EU and the Commonwealth, through which the international community can most effectively come together to make a difference in the world.
Integrating human rights in our overall foreign policy goals sends a powerful message that human rights and democracy are fundamental to progress in tackling today's global challenges.
Justice: European Courts
For the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR):
The UK has made third-party submissions before the ECtHR in one case, Markovic (1398/03), brought against Italy.
The UK has made third-party submissions before the ECtHR in seven cases:
Saramati (78166/01), brought against France and Norway;
Behrami (71412/01), brought against France;
A (4900/06), brought against the Netherlands;
Saadi (37201/06), brought against Italy;
Schalk and Kopf (30141/04), brought against Austria;
TV Vest (21132/05), brought against Norway; and
Beric (36357/04), brought against Bosnia.
The UK has made no third-party submissions before the ECtHR.
For the European Court of Justice:
The UK has made third-party submissions before the European Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance in 54 cases.
The UK has made third-party submissions before the European Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance in 74 cases.
The UK has made third-party submissions before the European Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance in 63 cases.
In view of the number of cases, I have instructed my officials to write to the noble Lord with the names of these cases and to place a copy of that letter in the Library of the House.
Marks and Spencer
Revenue and Customs Brief 05/09, on the judgment of the House of Lords in Marks and Spencer Plc v Commissioners for Revenue and Customs handed down on 4 February 2009, was published on the commissioners' website on 18 February 2009 at www.hmrc.gov.uk/briefs/vat/brief0509.htm. It is now also available at the web address cited above by the noble Lord.
Northern Ireland Office: Bonuses
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon on 9 February (WA 165) concerning bonus payments to staff in the Northern Ireland Office, what was the result of the consultation with the trade unions about the bonus schemes. [HL1592]
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 9 February (WA 165) concerning bonus payments to staff in the Northern Ireland Office, what was the result of the consultation with the trade unions about the bonus schemes. [HL1666]
The trade union side (PCS and NIPSA) did not endorse the arrangements for the payment of non-consolidated performance-related payments or special bonuses to staff in the Northern Ireland Office. The FDA submits its own evidence to the Senior Salaries Review Body.
Northern Ireland Office: Overtime
The Northern Ireland Office (excluding agencies and executive NDPBs) spent the following on overtime payments to staff in each of the past nine years for which information is available:
Year £'000s 2007-08 961 2006-07 935 2005-06 994 2004-05 1,070 2003-04 872 2002-03 1,032 2001-02 917 2000-01 935 1999-00 994
Northern Ireland Office: Telecommunications
The Northern Ireland Office (excluding agencies and executive NDPBs) spent the following on telecommunications in each of the past five years:
Year £'000s 2007-08 1,362 2006-07 1,421 2005-06 1,365 2004-05 1,653 2003-04 1,648
These figures include all telecommunications-related spend, including secure telecommunications charges, and mobile and pager charges.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Myners on 5 February (WA 139), whether the continuation of the previous consent of the European Commission to the rescue of Northern Rock has taken full account of the decision to allow Northern Rock to resume active mortgage lending. [HL1489]
The previous consent of the European Commission to the rescue of the bank under its competition rules continues while the European Commission is considering Northern Rock's restructuring. Treasury officials have informed the European Commission of the decision to allow Northern Rock to resume active mortgage lending and remain in close contact with the European Commission.
During this period of temporary public ownership, Northern Rock is managed by its board at arm's length from the Government on commercial principles. It is a matter for the company's management to release specific business updates or provide any required disclosures in their audited annual report and accounts.
Northern Rock published its 2008 report and accounts on 3 March 2009, which set out details of remuneration for senior management of the company. A copy of the report has been laid in the Library of the House.
To ask Her Majesty's Government which applications for planning permission in England in 2008 (a) on land, and (b) in the inshore and offshore marine areas, would have required an application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission for development consent if the relevant provisions of the Planning Act 2008 were in force. [HL1816]
The Planning Act 2008 rationalises eight different consent regimes into a new single consent regime.
We have identified 34 cases during 2008 that would have required reference to the Infrastructure Planning Commission. We do not hold information on applications to local planning authorities which have not been called in, as it is not held centrally. A comprehensive list could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Details of the above cases have been deposited in the House Library.
Post Office: Card Account
Some savings accounts at the Post Office are provided through a joint venture with the Bank of Ireland Group. Those deposits are covered up to a level of €100,000 by the Irish Deposit Guarantee Scheme, under the terms of the deposit guarantee schemes directive. In addition to the protection of the Irish Deposit Guarantee Scheme, the Irish Government announced on 30 September 2008 that they would guarantee certain deposits with Irish banks, including all retail deposits, until 29 September 2010. Other savings accounts are provided by FSA-authorised firms and are guaranteed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Depositors have been informed about the guarantee arrangements.
Post Office Ltd is implementing a programme to install up to 4,000 free-to-use ATMs at Crown and sub-post offices across the country. As at 31 January 2009 Post Office Ltd had installed 1,545 ATMs, of which 932 are located on the outside of branches thus allowing for access 24 hours a day.
Where it is not viable to install a free-to-use ATM, subpostmasters, in their capacity as independent businesspeople, are able to enter into an agreement with an ATM supplier for either a free-to-use or surcharge ATM. There will be no charge for withdrawals at ATMs in directly managed Crown post offices.
To ask Her Majesty's Government which members of the House of Lords are appointees to the non-departmental public bodies listed under “Cabinet Office” in annex A to the report of the Cabinet Office entitled Public Bodies 2008; and what was their appointment and individual remuneration. [HL1795]
To ask Her Majesty's Government which members of the House of Lords are appointees to the non-departmental public bodies listed under “Department of Transport” in annex A to the report of the Cabinet Office entitled Public Bodies 2008; and what was their appointment and individual remuneration. [HL1805]
This information is not held centrally. Information on board memberships and remuneration is published in individual bodies’ annual reports and accounts.
The table below provides the total number of company liquidations in the United Kingdom in 2007 and 2008.
2007 2008 England and Wales 12,507 15,535 Scotland 539 524 Northern Ireland 164 209 United Kingdom 13,210 16,268
England and Wales
1) These figures comprise compulsory liquidations (an order obtained from the court by a creditor, shareholder or director) and creditors’ voluntary liquidations (whereby a resolution is passed, subject to the approval of a creditors' meeting that the company be wound up voluntarily).
2) Other corporate insolvency procedures such as administration, receivership and company voluntary arrangements are not included in these figures. These procedures are aimed at business rescue and hence may not result in ultimate business failure.
Republic of Ireland: Treaties
Our officials work on the treaties on a regular basis, which enables them to monitor their effectiveness. This co-operation has not given us cause for concern with regard to implementation.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they will take regarding VAT claims made on or before 31 March 2009, in the light of the judgment of the House of Lords in Marks and Spencer plc v Her Majesty's Commissioners of Customs and Excise (UKHL 8). [HL1954]
As a result of the House of Lords decision, claims made before 26 May 2005 will not be subject to the unjust enrichment defence. Following a change in the law, claims made on or after 26 May 2005 will be refused if the payment would lead to the unjust enrichment of the claimant.
Transport: Workplace Parking Levy
The Transport Act 2000 provides powers for local traffic authorities to introduce workplace parking levy (WPL) schemes, but requires the schemes to be confirmed by the appropriate national authority before they can come into effect. Nottingham City Council has made a scheme order, and the Department for Transport is currently undertaking the process of assessing whether the order should be confirmed. No decision on the Nottingham scheme has yet been taken.
We do not have data detailing the number of people working in Israeli-controlled businesses in the West Bank.
We will continue to urge the Israeli Government to freeze all settlement activity and immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary reinforced this message during his visit in November 2008, and I also did during my visit in December 2008.