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Written Answers

Volume 709: debated on Wednesday 1 April 2009

Written Answers

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Advertising: Deep Packet Inspection

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will review the consistency with consumers' interests of the commercial rollout of interception-based advertising that uses deep packet inspection. [HL2154]

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has made no assessment of any specific targeted online advertising system and has no plans to review the consistency with consumers' interests of any commercial rollout.

Online targeted advertising can be provided in a number of different ways. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is responsible for overseeing the data privacy issues arising from the use of communications, including those raised by targeted online advertising, and for investigating the security of personal data.

The ICO is satisfied that it is possible to operate targeted online advertising in a lawful and proper manner. The ICO is keeping the situation under review.

Agriculture: Pesticides

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they will respond to the letter written jointly by PAN UK, the Soil Association, Friends of the Earth and the CHEM Trust to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 3 February on the European Union Regulation for the Placing of Plant Protection Products on the Market. [HL2266]

My department has no record of receiving a letter dated 3 February 2009 from PAN UK, the Soil Association, Friends of the Earth and the CHEM Trust. If another copy is sent to my office I will look into the issues raised.

Armed Forces: Aircraft

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have held or plan to hold with the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) and other European nations about delays to the A400M programme. [HL2345]

We are in regular discussion with the other nations involved and with OCCAR, the appointed contracting body and management authority for the A400M, about a way forward.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the value to United Kingdom industry of the A400M programme at the current levels of commitment to purchase; and who are the principal actual and potential beneficiaries in the United Kingdom of work on design and construction of the aircraft. [HL2346]

Airbus Military, the A400M prime contractor, estimated in 2003 that the A400M programme would directly create up to 2,500 high quality jobs in the UK, notably in design and advanced manufacture. It also calculated that indirect employment could bring that figure to more than 8,000. The total investment in UK industry is reported by Airbus Military to be just over €2 billion.

The principal beneficiary of the development and production of the A400M is Airbus UK, with some 900 employees at Filton, Bristol, with a UK investment of around £750 million. Rolls-Royce is a key supplier of the TP400 engine programme, with more than 20 further companies across the UK that are directly involved in the A400M supply chain.

Commonwealth Scholarship Endowment Fund

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will contribute this financial year to the newly established Commonwealth Scholarship Endowment Fund to mark the 60th anniversary of the Commonwealth. [HL2515]

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has given £500,000 to the new Commonwealth Scholarship Endowment Fund, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.

Defence Trade Co-operation

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the government of the United States on progress on a United Kingdom–United States defence trade co-operation treaty. [HL2561]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the likely response of the United States Congress to a United Kingdom–United States defence trade co-operation treaty. [HL2562]

Her Majesty's Government continue to discuss the Defence Trade Co-operation Treaty with the US Government at all levels. The Prime Minister wrote recently to President Obama on the matter, and the Foreign and Commonwealth and Defence Secretaries have also received assurances from their US counterparts about support for early ratification. Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have also been engaged. At the working level, MoD officials in the British Defence Staff in Washington regularly discuss treaty implementation with their US colleagues in preparation for ratification. The next meeting with UK-based officials will take place later in April.

The treaty still requires the advice and consent of the US Senate, and the UK has worked hard to ensure that senators are aware of the importance the UK places on it and the benefits for both nations in operational and industrial terms. Although ratification is wholly a matter for the Senate, we understand that there are no substantive objections to the treaty. Officials are nevertheless ready to provide further clarification on certain aspects of implementation and enforcement. HMG remain hopeful that the treaty will receive advice and consent from the US Senate in the near future.

Embryology

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 10 February (WA 176) and 23 March (WA 93), whether the 14-day limit applies to all human embryos created in vitro except those that have been cultured for more than 14 days; and, if not, why the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority applies different criteria when classifying various entities resulting from nuclear transfer as embryos in comparison with outgrowing embryos. [HL2488]

No licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority permits centres to culture live human embryos beyond 14 days or the appearance of the primitive streak, in accordance with Sections 3(3)(a) and 3(4) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 23 March (WA 92) regarding the relative contributions of nuclear transfer and induced pluripotent stem cell technology, to what extent each of these technologies has contributed to the generation of pluripotent stem cells in humans over the past decade. [HL2489]

The development of techniques in both human and animal stem-cell research, including nuclear transfer and the generation on induced pluripotent stem cells, have not occurred in isolation from one another. It is therefore impossible to say to what extent any one aspect of this research has contributed to overall developments in the field. That is why Parliament has voted in favour of pursuing all avenues of stem-cell research in the United Kingdom.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 23 March (WA 92), whether advances in embryonic stem cell research over the past decade have contributed towards nuclear transfer technology; and, if not, why it was cited in the previous Answer regarding non-reproductive applications of nuclear transfer. [HL2491]

Advances in animal embryonic stem cell research over the past decade have contributed towards the development of nuclear transfer technology in a variety of species.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 23 March (WA 92), whether advances in nuclear transfer technology over the past decade have been essential to embryonic stem cell research; and, if not, which non-reproductive applications would benefit from nuclear transfer that have not been superseded by the use of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. [HL2516]

The Government have no view as to whether advances in nuclear transfer technology over the past decade have, or have not, been essential to embryonic stem-cell research. Parliament has voted in favour of pursuing all avenues of stem cell research in the United Kingdom.

Freedom of Information

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many Freedom of Information requests made to the Ministry of Justice are outstanding. [HL2468]

The Ministry of Justice has published quarterly reports containing statistical information on freedom of information requests. These reports include statistics on the number of outstanding requests by monitored bodies (including central government departments). The most recent published report for Quarter 3 2008 (between July and September) shows that, of the 676 requests received by the MoJ during this period, 176 were still being processed at the time the statistics were collected. This report can be found at the following address: www.justice.gov.uk/docs/foi-quarterly-stats-jul-sep-08.pdf.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many Freedom of Information requests made to the Ministry of Justice have taken longer than six months to respond to. [HL2469]

To ask Her Majesty's Government how long the Ministry of Justice takes on average to respond to Freedom of Information requests. [HL2470]

The Ministry of Justice has published quarterly reports containing statistical information on freedom of information requests. These reports include statistics on the time taken to respond to requests by monitored bodies (including central government departments). The most recent published report relates to Quarter 3 2008 (between July and September). This shows that, of the 676 requests received by the MoJ during this period, 425 (63 per cent) were answered “in time”, in that they either received a response within the standard 20-day deadline required by the Freedom of Information Act or were subject to a permitted extension to the deadline to allow additional time for considering the public interest in whether or not to disclose the information requested. Statistics are not collected on the average length of time to respond to requests or the number of requests that have taken longer than six months to respond to. The Quarter 3 2008 report can be found at the following address: www.justice.gov.uk/docs/foi-quarterly-stats-jul-sep-08.pdf.

Gaza

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they will make to the Government of Israel concerning compensation to farmers in Gaza for the loss of 5,000 acres of arable land following incursions by the Israeli Defence Force. [HL2199]

We have made clear our concerns at attacks against civilian infrastructure. Any claim for compensation would be a matter for the individuals concerned (or their relatives), and Israel.

Georgia

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Russian forces in Georgia have returned to the ceasefire line agreed in the six point ceasefire between President Sarkozy and President Medvedev; and, if not, what steps the European Union and the Government will take. [HL2169]

I refer the noble Lord to the letter from my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary to the right honourable Mr William Hague on 17 February 2009 setting out the UK's assessment of Russia's compliance with its commitments under the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreements, a copy of which was placed in the Library of the House.

The international community continues to press Russia to abide by its commitments under the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreements. On 5 February 2009, for example, the Czech Republic as EU presidency issued a statement expressing serious concern about possible Russian plans to build up its military presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. That statement referred specifically to the ceasefire agreements and urged Russia to continue to implement all its commitments.

EU partners have also agreed that the pace and tone of negotiations on a new EU-Russia agreement will reflect Russia's actions, including in Georgia. The resumption of negotiations does not constitute a return to business as usual. In a similar vein, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear that the decision of 5 March 2009 to resume meetings of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation-Russia Council does not mean that the events of August 2008 will be overlooked. The alliance will use meetings to engage Russia, but in a hard-headed way, including on Georgia issues. Our own bilateral engagement with Russia is consistent with this international approach. We are not seeking to isolate Russia, but nor will we avoid making concerns clear. We and partners will continue to urge Russia to abide by its commitments in Georgia.

Health: Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they will publish the Final Report on Extending Professional and Occupational Regulation, covering the statutory regulation of practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. [HL2436]

Members of the Extending Professional and Occupational Regulation working group are currently reviewing drafts of the report. It is expected that it will be finalised in the next few weeks for submission to Ministers for consideration and publication.

A consultation on the regulation of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners is due to be launched once the report on extending professional and occupational regulation is published.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government in the absence of statutory regulation of practitioners of herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, what assessment they have made of the number of practitioners in those disciplines who will not qualify to be considered as "authorised health professionals" when Article 5 of European Medicines Directive 2001/83/EC comes into force in 2011, and who will therefore be unable to access traditional herbal medicinal products. [HL2437]

The ability of herbal and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners to commission the manufacture of an unlicensed herbal medicine to meet individual patient needs is one of the issues that will be covered in the forthcoming consultation on the regulation of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government in the light of the press release issued by Mr Ben Bradshaw on 13 June 2008 stating that he intended “to consult publicly for a three-month period this summer” on the regulation of acupuncturists, herbalists and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, when they will issue such a consultation paper. [HL2438]

The consultation will be launched once the report of the Extending Professional and Occupational Regulation Working Group has been published.

Health: Donor Organs

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to publicise the change in organ donation regulations to allow the next of kin of an organ donor at the time of consent to request preferential consideration of donation to a named person who is already on the transplant waiting list. [HL2590]

The department has agreed in principle to a change to existing policy whereby donated organs are allocated on the basis of clinical need to one which could allow the directed donation of an organ from a deceased donor in certain exceptional circumstances. However, there are a number of key aspects that still need to be worked through, particularly the need for United Kingdom-wide agreement to a change of policy and the development of safeguards to ensure that implementation is consistently and legally operated. The department is working with the UK health administrations, National Health Service Blood and Transplant, the Human Tissue Authority and representatives from the transplant community to obtain UK-wide support for the policy and to develop guidance for publication later this year.

Health: E. coli

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government following E. coli outbreaks in Scotland and Wales, what plans they have to implement the recommendations of Professor Hugh Pennington's report throughout the United Kingdom. [HL2540]

The report of the E.coli public inquiry set up by the National Assembly for Wales and chaired by Professor Pennington was published on 19 March 2009. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is considering its response to the report and the recommendations. The issues will be discussed further at the FSA's open board meeting in April. While the recommendations are targeted at organisations that serve people in Wales, where appropriate, action will be taken across the United Kingdom.

Health: Pharmaceutical Services

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they expect to launch the consultation on regulations relating to pharmacist supervision of the dispensing of prescribed medicines and the sale of pharmacy medicines. [HL2435]

This year, the Government will start discussions with all interested parties on initial proposals for the content of the pharmacist supervision regulations to allow their views to inform the further development of these proposals and the drafting of a formal public consultation paper. Depending on progress in these informal discussions with pharmacy interests, we hope to be in a position to launch formal consultation in early 2010.

Health: Schizophrenia

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they will support the latest National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance on schizophrenia patients. [HL2592]

We welcome the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence's (NICE) updated guidance on schizophrenia and expect it to help further improve the quality of treatment and care for people with schizophrenia.

General practitioners or consultant psychiatrists can prescribe any medicine or treatment which they consider to be necessary for the treatment of their patients under the National Health Service, provided that the local primary care trust or NHS trust agree to supply it on the NHS. It is for clinicians to decide the most appropriate form of treatment for their patients, and in doing so they are expected to take NICE guidance fully into account.

Housing

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what guidance is being issued to local housing authorities concerning the allocation of new affordable housing to applicants without small children or pregnant partners which does not encourage teenage pregnancy. [HL2541]

Statutory guidance on the allocation of social housing accommodation was published in November 2002 and sets out that local authorities must allocate social housing in accordance with Part VI of the Housing Act 1996. Further statutory guidance on how local authorities should offer a choice of accommodation to their applicants was published in August 2008.

Local authorities are responsible for framing their own social housing allocation schemes for determining priorities and for defining the procedures to be followed in allocating social housing accommodation, but they must ensure that reasonable preference is given to certain categories of people as set out in the 1996 Act. These include people who are homeless; people who are occupying unsanitary, overcrowded or unsatisfactory housing conditions; people who need to move on medical or welfare grounds; or people who need to move to a particular locality, where failure to meet that need would cause hardship.

The code of guidance, Allocation of Accommodation, is available at www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/allocationaccommodationcode, and Allocation of Accommodation: Choice Based Lettings is available at www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/ lettingscodeguidance.

Human Rights

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Malloch-Brown on 11 March (WA 263) concerning human rights in the Republic of Ireland, what representations they have made to its Government concerning (a) the dedication of its police force to the Virgin Mary, and (b) the duty of the Irish army to take part in Roman Catholic services. [HL2209]

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what advice and support they have provided to the Government of the Republic of Ireland over the past 12 years on the issues of human rights and equality. [HL2320]

The Government have not offered any advice or support to the Government of Ireland over the past 12 years on the issues of human rights and equality.

Iraq

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what political and financial support they are giving to the United Kingdom defence industry in bidding for contracts for the re-equipment of the Iraqi armed forces. [HL2563]

In accordance with government policy on trade and regulation of defence exports, Her Majesty's Government are supporting the United Kingdom defence and security industry in bidding for contracts for the re-equipment of the Iraqi armed forces. This support has involved hosting delegations of senior Iraqi officials and officers in the UK, logistical support to companies visiting Iraq, inviting delegations from Iraq to attend the Farnborough international air show and defence systems and equipment international exhibition, and engaging at ministerial level.

Licensing: Music

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have assessed the implications for entertainment licensing of small-scale performances of live music of T-Mobile staging a performance of dance at Liverpool Street station with over 300 dancers, explicitly to entertain the public, without a licence under the Licensing Act 2003. [HL2425]

There are no implications that appear to arise for those parts of the Licensing Act 2003 dealing with regulated entertainment from the event at Liverpool Street Station. The application of the definitions provided in Schedule 1 to the Licensing Act is a matter for licensing authorities in the first instance. Whether a proposed activity is licensable has to be decided on a case-by-case basis. It appears from reports of the filming that the licensing authority and the police were involved in planning the event. I can see nothing that suggests that they exercised their powers inappropriately in this case.

Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill [HL]

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government who within Communities and Local Government will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of Part 1 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill; and what the estimated cost of this will be. [HL2362]

Part 1 of the Local Democracy Economic Development and Construction Bill covers a number of different policy areas, mainly arising from the White Paper Communities in Control. The implementation of Part 1 will be monitored through the management of the wider empowerment programme and our monitoring of delivery against public service agreements including PSA 21, which is concerned with building more cohesive, empowered and active communities. It is not possible to disaggregate the costs of monitoring Bill provisions from the wider empowerment programme management.

Local Government: Superannuation Schemes

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much they have paid in each of the past three years to supplement local government superannuation schemes; why they have made such payments; and under what arrangements or powers such money is paid. [HL2521]

Local government pension arrangements are financed principally by contributions paid by its employee members and employers. No government grant is hypothecated to cover local authority pension costs.

Marine Environment: Gibraltar

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the European Commission has designated an area of Gibraltar's waters to be a European Union environmentally-sensitive site under Spanish responsibility; if so, whether the United Kingdom permanent representation to the European Union was aware of this prior to the Commission's designation; if so, what representations were made to the Commission by the Government; and what representations have been made to the Commission following its decision. [HL2380]

On 12 December 2008, the European Commission adopted Decision 2009/95/EC, adopting a second updated list of sites of Community importance under the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). It has now come to our attention that, under the decision Spain has put forward, a candidate site encompasses British Gibraltar territorial waters. As the UK is the only member state competent to propose a site covering British Gibraltar territorial waters, we do not recognise the validity of the adopted site. We have already made representations to both the European Commission and Spain on this matter and are currently considering our options to redress this issue.

Ministry of Justice: Vacancies

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many vacancies they are currently advertising at the Ministry of Justice. [HL2471]

As of 25 March 2009, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) had 162 external vacancies advertised. This represents 0.19 per cent of the MoJ workforce.

NHS: Foundation Trusts

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many hospitals in England (a) are eligible to apply for Foundation Trust status, (b) have Foundation Trust status, and (c) have applied for Foundation Trust status in 2009. [HL2495]

There are 225 acute and mental health trusts eligible to apply for National Health Service foundation trust (NHS FT) status.

As at 1 March 2009 there are 115 NHS FTs.

Applications for NHS FT status must receive the support of the Secretary of State before being passed to Monitor, the independent regulator of NHS FTs, for consideration. In 2009 the following NHS trusts have asked the Secretary of State to support their applications:

George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust;

Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership NHS Trust;

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust;

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust; and

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust.

NHS: Hospital Trust Boards

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether elected members of the boards of hospital trusts are entitled to be provided with a list of the trust members who form their electorate, and to communicate with them. [HL2502]

Neither the executive nor the non-executive directors of a National Health Service trust board or NHS foundation trust board are elected.

Over half of the board of governors of an NHS foundation trust must be elected by the members of the trust, other than those members who come within the staff constituency.

Arrangements regarding the register of members are a matter for each individual NHS foundation trust subject to the general provision of data protection rules.

NHS: Pharmaceutical Services

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they will launch a formal consultation on their proposal to introduce mandatory generic substitution by pharmacists of branded medicines prescribed by the National Health Service. [HL2584]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what process will be necessary to secure parliamentary approval of their proposal to introduce mandatory generic substitution by pharmacists of branded medicines prescribed under the National Health Service. [HL2585]

Discussions on generic substitution are currently under way with key national stakeholders. It is not possible to confirm whether or not there will be a formal consultation until we have completed this discussion stage.

The department is currently considering a scheme for generic substitution that would require negative resolution secondary legislation, but this is of course subject to confirmation of final proposals.

The scheme would not be mandatory in the sense that prescribers would not be able to exercise clinical choice; provision will be made to allow the prescriber to opt out of substitution where, in his clinical judgment, it is appropriate for the patient to receive a specific branded medicine. Provision may also be made to exclude certain categories of medicines for clinical reasons in the interests of patient safety.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they received during the recent negotiations on the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme in favour of introducing mandatory generic substitution by pharmacists of branded medicines prescribed under the National Health Service; and from which persons or bodies. [HL2586]

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the department discussed generic substitution during the confidential negotiations on the 2009 Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme. Its introduction is now the subject of more widespread discussions with affected parties but it will not be mandatory.

NHS: Triage Assessment

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, following the investigation into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, all NHS trusts have been asked to confirm that the assessment and triaging of patients is undertaken by appropriately trained and supervised clinical staff. [HL2350]

It is the responsibility of every National Health Service organisation to ensure the safety and quality of the services they are responsible for on behalf of the communities they serve.

On 18 March 2009, David Nicholson, NHS chief executive, wrote to the chairs, chief executives, medical directors and nurse directors of all NHS organisations in order to ensure the recommendations in the report by the Health Care Commission into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust are fully understood by their boards and that any local actions identified as necessary are implemented immediately. In particular, he asked the boards of all primary care trusts to assure themselves that the accident and emergency services they purchase on behalf of their patients meet the standards that patients and the public rightly expect from the NHS.

A copy of this letter has been placed in the Library.

Northern Ireland: Equality

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon on 11 March (WA 247) concerning the concept of equality in the Republic of Ireland, whether equality is an issue monitored by them when assessing and deciding their foreign policy. [HL2207]

Open Moorland: Fencing

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have monitored the number and extent of fences that have been erected in recent years on open moorland in the northern Peak District National Park and adjacent areas; and whether they have assessed the reasons for the erection of such fences. [HL2246]

The Peak District National Park moors have suffered very significant damage e.g. wildfires, overgrazing and pollution. To enable vegetation recovery it is necessary in places to exclude stock through fencing, funded through agri-environment agreements. Routes are agreed with the National Park Authority and chosen to minimise impacts on accessibility and landscape. From 1987 to the present, an estimated 127.7km1 of fencing has been erected. Fences are being removed as soon as restoration allows e.g. 23km1 have recently been removed.

1 Peak District National Park—Northern moorland fencing extent and location. Compiled by Richard Pollitt and Jon Stewart, Natural England, 2513/09.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether fencing of open moorland in the Peak District National Park and similar areas in England is supported by funding from the common agricultural policy or other government or public sources. [HL2247]

The costs of fencing of open moorland in the Peak District National Park are supported under agri-environment agreements such as environmental stewardship and the environmentally sensitive areas scheme. These are funded through Natural England by European common agricultural policy monies supported by matched funding from the UK Government.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they or Natural England encourage the fencing of open moorland for conservation, farming (including under cross-compliance requirements of single farm payments) or other land management; and what impact such fences have on the provisions of access to open country under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and other legislation, and on the landscape objectives of national parks. [HL2248]

In some circumstances Natural England does support fencing of open moorland, where this is regarded as essential to meet nature conservation or land management objectives. Where this is the case, Natural England promotes prior consultation with stakeholders, and actively considers how impacts on the landscape and on access can be minimised.

The public access provisions in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 do not prevent the erection of fences on or around moorland or any other type of open country. Natural England would expect the access authority and the occupier to work together to ensure that suitable crossing points are included at appropriate locations along any new fences—and that where the requirement is temporary, arrangements are put in place for removal of the fencing once it has served its purpose.

In the case of open moorland which is registered common land, approval is normally required from the Secretary of State prior to the erection of any new fences.

Prisons: Kitchens

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they propose to replace the kitchen at HM Prison Liverpool. [HL2464]

The current status is that the kitchen refurbishment is being developed and work is programmed to commence on site in August 2009 and be completed around June 2010.

Railways: Franchises

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how the safety of passengers and staff has been considered in the development and awarding of rail franchises. [HL2551]

In order to achieve accredited bidder status, companies must provide satisfactory corporate safety policies, occupational health and safety policies, and health and safety policies specifically relating to the operation and maintenance of transport systems. Accreditation also includes consideration of any relevant Health and Safety Executive convictions over the previous three years.

Franchise bidders provide security plans which cover both staff and passenger safety, which are assessed as part of the franchise award. Recent franchises have included specific requirements that impact on passenger safety, including on-train CCTV, secure station accreditation, car park accreditation, new help points and increased station staffing.

Recycling

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will introduce measures to enable the United Kingdom to replicate the waste recycling and renewables ratios in Germany. [HL2298]

We are keen to learn from examples of approaches that have worked in other countries. However, there are some important differences between the way our recycling systems and those in other countries operate, and not all approaches will be appropriate.

Household recycling rates in England have more than quadrupled in the last 10 years to 35 per cent. This performance is on a par with many other European countries, but we recognise the need to do more to match the best performers.

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will delay the rollout of interception-based online advertising until its compatibility with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 has been established. [HL2157]

The Government strongly support the use of technology that supports and enhances the privacy of users' data. Both the Information Commissioner and the Home Office have offered comments to internet users and internet service providers (ISPs) on aspects of new services providing targeted advertising.

Online advertising technology providers will have to be able to satisfy the appropriate regulatory authorities, in this case the Information Commissioner's Office, whenever such technology is in a position to be commercially offered to users. One of the criteria will be to establish the technology's adherence to the conditions laid down in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

Rochester Bridge

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of arrangements for maintaining Rochester Bridge. [HL2672]

Rural Payments Agency

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what interval is allowed by Rural Payments Agency inspectors between a cross-compliance event and the required resultant action; whether the interval is the same for all events; whether the interval allows for illness, holiday or bereavement affecting the farmer or a key employee; and whether the interval allows for the breakdown and repair of computerised equipment, telephone and power cables. [HL2294]

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA), as the competent control authority for a number of cross-compliance requirements and standards, has set a number of such deadlines for remedial action, which differ depending on the circumstances of the requirement or standard. If a farmer is unable to meet these deadlines owing to circumstances beyond their control, the RPA does consider amending the deadline. Such an extension would not absolve the farmer of their obligations and responsibilities in respect of any other area of cross-compliance or any other legislative requirements. In all cases, however, European Union regulations require that the deadline cannot be extended beyond the end of the year following the one in which the finding was made.

Syria and Iran

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to further relations with Syria and Iran following recent ministerial visits. [HL2595]

My honourable friend, Bill Rammell, the Minister of State for the Middle East, will visit Damascus on 1 and 2 April 2009. He will reiterate our support for inter-Arab reconciliation, encouraging Syria to recognise that its own stability and prosperity are dependent on playing a constructive role in the region, including support for engagement along all tracks in the search for a comprehensive Middle East peace.

There has not been a ministerial visit to Iran since 2003, although we continue to have contact at ministerial level. We have said consistently that we would like to have a constructive relationship with Iran, based on mutual respect, but Iran must take action to address the international community's legitimate concerns about its nuclear and regional activity and its internal repression.

Thames Barrier

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they monitor the height of the Thames Barrier as a measurement of climate change; and how many times the barrier has been closed in each month of the past five years. [HL2455]

The Thames Barrier has been closed 114 times in the 25 years that it has been operational. Twenty two of those have taken place in the past five years, with an additional five closures taking place in February this year. The table below indicates the distribution of these per month.

The Environment Agency's Thames Estuary 2100 project, which will be entering a public consultation document shortly, will indicate what actions may be needed to manage increasing tidal flood risk through to the end of the century. In understanding the effect of climate change, sea levels associated with Thames Barrier closures have been taken into account, together with the latest climate change science provided by the Met Office Hadley Centre.

Table Of Closures - March 2009

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Jan

3

1

Feb

1

2

1

Mar

5

2

Apr

1

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

1

3

Dec

2

Total

2

5

1

11

3

Tourism

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to assist the hotel and restaurant industries to improve the quality of the services and products they offer in response to the current economic climate and the fall in the value of sterling. [HL2412]

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are making additional resources available for marketing initiatives promoting the United Kingdom as a tourism destination in eurozone countries and other markets where currencies have strengthened against the pound. [HL2413]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to assist the tourism industry in capitalising on the opportunities offered by a potential increase in hotel bookings in United Kingdom cities and tourism resorts as a result of the fall in the value of the pound. [HL2415]

As part of an ongoing process of support for the tourism and hospitality industries, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has worked closely with partners across government, business, and industry to help maximise any opportunities related to the relative value of sterling.

DCMS is providing £130 million to VisitBritain between 2008 and 2012 to market Britain overseas and to the domestic market. VisitBritain has recently launched a £6.5 million marketing campaign, running in the domestic and overseas markets, highlighting the country as a value-for-money destination.

This marketing investment works in tandem with investments focused on upgrading facilities—from the £3.5 million allocation to regional development agencies for tourism support through to the £45 million DCMS sea change initiative upgrading coastal towns. We are also working with other partners to improve the visitor hospitality package by investment in services at regional, sub-regional and local level, which can be seen in work on the National Quality Accreditation Scheme, operated by Visit Britain, the Automobile Association (AA), Visit Scotland and Visit Wales.

In addition, we have been working across government and with the Sector Skills Council and the industry on initiatives to improve professional skills—such as the development of new customer service qualifications, the development of the new National Skills Academy for Hospitality and the delivery of the National Skills Strategy.

We are also working to strengthen the partnership between the tourism industry and government, by establishing an industry advisory group to identify challenges and opportunities for recovery and an inter-ministerial group to address relevant regulatory and fiscal issues. DCMS is also working with partners to harness the maximum potential from the Britain brand using its strategic position in overseeing the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the range of cultural and sporting events taking place before and after.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what resources they are making available to promote eco-friendly tourism in the United Kingdom. [HL2414]

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) launched on 26 March a new sustainable tourism framework Sustainable Tourism in England: A framework for action, copies of which will be made available in the Libraries of the House.

This framework identifies six key challenges:

minimising environmental impact and resource use;

addressing the impact of tourism transport;

ensuring quality and making holidays accessible to all;

improving the quality of tourism jobs;

maintaining and enhancing community prosperity and quality of life; and

reducing short-term seasonal demand.

Further detail on each of these strands can be found within the framework document, which is available online at www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library /publications/6003.aspx.

In addition, DCMS, through VisitBritain, has delivered the Green Start programme, and the department is also actively encouraging membership of the Green Tourism Business Scheme, the David Bellamy Conservation awards, and participation from across the industry in schemes provided by the Carbon Trust.

United States

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To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the nature of the special relationship which they have with the United States; on what basis it occurred; and what are its current benefits. [HL2210]

Our relationship with the US is our single most important bilateral relationship. It is based on shared values, working together to tackle threats to international security, advancing global stability and encouraging freedom and democracy. We are close partners in addressing a wide range of issues including the current economic downturn, counterterrorism, homeland security, nuclear non-proliferation and the Middle East peace process.

War Crimes

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To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are receiving progress reports on the Israeli investigations into alleged war crimes committed in the recent conflict in Gaza by the Israeli defence forces. [HL2594]

The Israeli Government are currently carrying out internal investigations into a wide range of allegations. The Israelis have not provided us with progress reports, and as these are internal Israeli investigations we would not expect any such reports until the investigations are completed and the results made known.

We will consider very carefully the results of investigations once they are available. At that stage, the parties and the international community will need to decide on any further action.

Waste Management

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To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the statutory duties on local authorities with regard to the collection of domestic waste. [HL2513]

Section 45(1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA) places a duty on the local waste collection authority (WCA) to make arrangements for the collection of household waste in its area, except where the waste is so isolated or inaccessible that the cost of collection would be unreasonably high and the local authority is satisfied that adequate arrangements for its disposal have been made by the holder of the waste.

Section 46 of the EPA entitles the local waste collection authority to stipulate the conditions of the service. These conditions are set out in a Section 46 notice, which the authority must issue to recipients of the service prior to their introduction.

The Climate Change Act 2008 amended the EPA by adding a subsection to Section 46 which clarifies that local authorities need not collect waste that is placed for collection in contravention of a requirement in the Section 46 notice.

Water Supply: Charges

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To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Answer by Lord Davies of Oldham on 17 March (House of Lords, Official Report, col. 114), when they expect to announce a separate arrangement for churches, charities and amateur sports clubs in relation to surface water drainage charges. [HL2339]

United Utilities has announced that it will set its surface water drainage charges for 2009-10 at 2007-08 levels for faith buildings, community amateur sports clubs (or clubs with similar attributes) and properties owned by Scouts and Guides associations. It has recently written to these customers to inform them of this. Further details can be found at www.unitedutilities.com/sitearea.htm or by calling United Utilities on 0800 074 0171. United Utilities is working with Ofwat to develop a long term solution for 2010-11 and beyond.