Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 712: debated on Monday 13 July 2009

Written Answers

Monday 13 July 2009

Abergele: Explosion

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will release all relevant documents relating to the deaths by explosion at Abergele on the evening before the investiture of the Prince of Wales in July 1969. [HL4605]

Information of historical and national interest dating back to the time of the investiture would have been transferred to the National Archives. Some information selected for preservation by the National Archives may be retained in departments for security reasons.

The Home Office is currently searching for any information that might be held and will then assess its sensitivity to decide whether or not it can be released. I will write to the noble Lord as soon as a more substantive response is possible.

Access to Work Scheme

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether councillors are eligible for funding from the Access to Work scheme; and, if so, whether that eligibility has been communicated to Jobcentres distributing the grant. [HL4869]

Some, but not all, disabled councillors will be eligible for Access to Work support. One of the basic eligibility criteria for Access to Work is that applicants should be in or about to start paid employment. Since 2007, councillors elected to office in Scotland have been paid a salary rather than an allowance and are therefore able to claim Access to Work provided that all other eligibility conditions are satisfied.

Councillors in England and Wales receive various levels and types of allowances. Those councillors who receive only reimbursement of travel, mileage and meal allowances will continue to be treated as voluntary workers and are therefore not eligible for Access to Work. Where councillors receive allowances other than those outlined above, they may be eligible for Access to Work support, provided that they meet the other eligibility conditions including being paid at least the national minimum wage.

The Access to Work guidance was clarified from the start of 2009 and staff who administer Access to Work claims and payments were reminded of the eligibility criteria.

Alcohol

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to prevent the expansion of unlawful controlled drinking zones. [HL4782]

The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (Sections 12 and 13) provides for designated public places orders (DPPOs). These orders can be applied for by a local authority for use in areas that have experienced alcohol-related disorder or nuisance. A DPPO does not make it a criminal offence to consume alcohol within a designated area. An offence is committed if an individual refuses to comply with a constable’s request to refrain from drinking. The Home Office published guidance on DPPOs in December 2008 and this can be found by using the web link at http://www.crimereduction.homeoffice.gov.uk/alcoholorders/alcoholorders01.htm.

Banking: Asset Protection Scheme

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the value dates being used for assets entering the Asset Protection Scheme for (a) Royal Bank of Scotland, and (b) Lloyds Banking Group. [HL4842]

As set out in “Statement on the Government’s Asset Protection Scheme” published on 26 February, the eligible assets for the scheme are valued at 31 December 2008.

British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what decisions have been taken by the British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat since its creation. [HL4873]

Since its inception, the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) has met on 20 occasions. Decisions taken by British and Irish Ministers at the BIIGC are contained in the joint communiqué issued after each conference. These are published on the Northern Ireland Office website at www.nio.gov.uk.

Census

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Crawley on 24 June (WA 282), whether they will review the census question on religion which currently permits one Christian answer without denominational distinction and lists five other religions; and why that question is as it is. [HL4806]

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, National Statistician, to Lord Laird, dated July 2009.

As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your recent question asking whether the census question on religion which currently permits one Christian answer without denominational distinction and lists five other religions will be reviewed; and why that question is as it is. (HL4806)

The religion question was introduced in the 2001 census as a voluntary question and has been designed to collect information on religious affiliation, which is required by many users of census statistics for monitoring equality and planning of services.

Question development for the 2011 census began in 2005. A detailed and lengthy process of user consultation, prioritisation of user requirements and qualitative and quantitative question testing has been carried out to inform decisions on the topics, content and design of questions to he included in the 2009 census rehearsal and 2011 census.

As part of this process ONS has already considered the feasibility of an extended list of Christian denominations in the England and Wales census but rejected this approach for a number of reasons.

Testing of a question with Christian denominations indicated that some respondents may interpret and answer the expanded question differently, which would make it difficult to compare data with those from the 2001 census. Trends in religious affiliation over time are required by many census users, primarily for service planning: three-quarters of the respondents to the 2007 consultation regarded comparability with the 2001 census question as essential.

In addition, different and potentially a higher number of categories would be needed in Wales, which would make comparison across England and Wales difficult.

Furthermore, space constraints on the census questionnaire for England and Wales mean that providing detailed breakdowns of the Christian category would result in losing other questions or compromising the questionnaire design, thereby putting the quality of responses and their comparability with 2001 data at risk.

A key reason for including a question on religion in the 2001 census was to provide statistics on minority religions. This helped to provide benchmarks so that employers and public authorities, for example, could fulfil their duties under the Race Relations Act. The proposed 2011 question lists five other religions in addition to Christian: Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh. These religions are included as they are widely recognised as being the largest of the minority religions within the UK, although it is also proposed that there will be a “write-in” option, where those who wish to record themselves under any other religion may do so.

Full details of this consideration are set out in an information paper relating to the development of the 2011 census religion question, which is available on the website:

http://www.ons.gov.uk/census/2011-census/2011-census-questionnaire-content/question-and-content-recommendations-for-2011/index.html.

ONS is currently testing a revised wording to the question on religion that asks “Which of these best describes you?” with no changes to the “No religion” and pre-designated religion tick-boxes.

More information about the further question testing programme is available on the website:

http://www.ons.gov.uk/census/2011-census/news-and-events/additional-questionnaire-testing-planned/index.html.

The programme of testing is not complete and consequently no decisions have yet been made about any of the possible revisions. The draft census order, which sets out the topics and particulars to be collected by each question, is currently scheduled to be laid before Parliament for approval around mid-October.

Children: ContactPoint

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to avoid data theft or loss from the ContactPoint database. [HL4633]

ContactPoint is an online directory to enable the delivery of co-ordinated support for children and young people. It will be the quick way for practitioners to find out who else is working with the same child. ContactPoint will contain basic identifying information about all children and young people in England up to their 18th birthday and contact details for their parents/carers and for services working with the child or young person—nothing more. It does not and will not contain any financial information (such as bank details) or case information (such as case notes, assessments, medical records, exam results, comments or subjective observations).

ContactPoint was developed, and is being implemented, taking a cautious, step-by-step approach. We are implementing ContactPoint in accordance with national information security policy and standards. ContactPoint therefore has a significant set of appropriate security measures and controls in place. Our security measures and management of those are continually assessed. This includes assessment by independent bodies, including, and approved by, CESG, the UK’s National Technical Authority for Information Assurance. All ContactPoint users must state clear reasons for accessing a child’s record and all use of the system will be subject to monitoring and audit. Sanctions are in place for misuse under the provisions of the Data Protection Act and Computer Misuse Act.

Climate Change

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what process they are following to appoint a new chair of the Committee on Climate Change. [HL4864]

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have advertised for a new chair of the Committee on Climate Change. [HL4865]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the expected time commitment of the chair of the Committee on Climate Change. [HL4866]

Lord Turner was appointed as chair of the Committee on Climate Change for a five-year period from 28 January 2008. This involves an estimated time commitment of approximately four days per month.

A recruitment exercise to find a successor to Lord Turner was undertaken in summer and autumn 2008, but no candidate was considered appropriate. We are continuing to review the position and whether to undertake a further recruitment exercise. In the mean time, we are grateful to Lord Turner for agreeing to remain as chairman of the committee.

Cycling

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Department of Energy and Climate Change is implementing the Government's Cycle to Work Scheme. [HL4112]

Emergency Services: Common Talk Groups

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many officers of (a) the Metropolitan Police, (b) the City of London Police, and (c) the British Transport Police in London, have been trained to use the Common Talk Groups on the Airwave communications network. [HL4703]

All officers in the three forces are trained on how to access and use the Airwave Talk Group facility, as part of their general radio training.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many officers of the London Fire Brigade have been trained to use the Common Talk Groups on the Airwave communications network. [HL4705]

To date 69 key officers in the London Fire Brigade (LFB) have been trained and issued with Airwave radio handsets to facilitate interoperability with relevant responders. In addition, some 80 officers who operate LFB's eight incident command units have been trained in the use of the Bronze Interoperability Radios (Airwave) which are carried on LFB's command units. The main rollout of Airwave to LFB's front-line appliances is planned to commence 3 August 2009.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the Common Talk Groups on the Airwave communications network that has been provided to the emergency services. [HL4795]

Talk groups that allow inter-working between individual police forces, government agencies and blue-light services are in all police Airwave radios and are also available for use by non-police Airwave users, such as the ambulance service, where appropriate.

The sets of talk groups are: Police Hailing Group; Sharer Hailing Group; Dedicated Air to Ground Group; four “local” Police Interoperability Groups; Dedicated Firearms Unit Group; Dedicated Protection Team Group; Dedicated Immigration Service Group; Dedicated Government Agency Group; Silver Level Inter-Agency Group; three Bronze Level Inter-Agency Groups; All-User Interoperability Group; Police Mutual Aid Groups; and Multi Agency Mutual Aid Group.

Government Equalities Office

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Government Equalities Office and the non-departmental public bodies it sponsors ring-fenced funds in order to pay non-consolidated performance payments to senior staff in (a) 2007, (b) 2008, and (c) 2009; and, if so, how much was ring-fenced in those years. [HL4810]

Since the Government Equalities Office was established on 12 October 2007, it has not made provision for ring-fencing non-consolidated performance payments for senior staff. The process for the current financial year is currently under review in accordance with Cabinet Office guidance.

The Government Equalities Office sponsors the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The EHRC has not made provision for ring-fencing such payments for senior staff.

Homeless People

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will respond to the Salvation Army's report The Seeds of Exclusion 2009 concerning homeless people, with particular reference to mental illness and unemployment; and whether they will draw the report's data from Dublin to the attention of the Government of the Republic of Ireland. [HL4821]

CLG will be meeting the Salvation Army in September to discuss the Seeds of Exclusion 2009 report and closer working on homelessness. My officials will send a copy of the report to the Irish Government highlighting the references to homelessness in Dublin.

Housing: HomeBuy Direct

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many households have used or applied for the HomeBuy Direct scheme. [HL4656]

Northern Ireland Office: Staff

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many staff were employed in the press office of the Northern Ireland Office on 1 January in each year since 1998. [HL4675]

The Northern Ireland Information Service (NIIS) conducts all press office work on behalf of the Northern Ireland Office. In addition, it has since 1999 provided an in-house media monitoring service for Ministers, senior officials in the Northern Ireland Civil Service and a range of external stakeholders.

Over this period, staff within the service have also had responsibility for any premises-related issues that concern Block B, Castle Buildings.

Details of staffing levels within NIIS on 1 January of each year since 1998 are listed in the following table.

Year

NIIS staff

1998

29

1999

45.5

2000

44

2001

30

2002

34

2003

41

2004

36

2005

37

2006

36.5

2007

36.5

2008

30.5

2009

29.5

Northern Ireland: Weapons

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the recent decommissioning of weapons by loyalist groups in Northern Ireland is assisting progress towards the devolution of criminal justice and penal administration. [HL4694]

The Government welcome the confirmation by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning of a major decommissioning event by the UVF/Red Hand Commandos and a significant move on decommissioning by the UDA/UFF in Northern Ireland. While a decision on the timing of the devolution of policing and justice remains for the Assembly to make, such steps send a clear signal that all sides of the community in Northern Ireland are committed to the political process.

Police: Northern Ireland

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they have made in providing a new police college in Northern Ireland; where it is to be located; at what stage it is in the planning process; when tenders will be invited; what is the expected date for beginning construction; and whether a budget has been agreed. [HL4836]

The design for the new combined police, fire and prison service college has commenced and is presently at concept design stage. The design and business case are due to be completed in autumn 2009.

The college will be located at Desertcreat in Cookstown. A full planning application is due to be submitted in November 2009. The tendering process is due to take place in mid to late 2010. Construction is planned to commence by end 2010 and completed by end 2012 or early 2013. The cost of the project is estimated at £150 million.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Police Service of Northern Ireland will provide e-mail addresses which the public can use to contact the service when seeking information about particular incidents. [HL4972]

That is an operational matter for the chief constable. I have asked him to reply directly to the noble Lord, and a copy of his letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Schools: Specialist Services

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that children and young people are able to access school-based specialist or targeted services without it being recorded on ContactPoint. [HL4630]

ContactPoint is a tool to help to improve the well-being of all children, help to keep them safe and ensure that no child slips through the net of support services. It provides a quick way for authorised practitioners in different services to find out who else is working with the same child, which will enable them to work together and provide faster, more co-ordinated support to meet a child's needs. ContactPoint will contain basic identifying information about all children and young people in England up to their 18th birthday and contact details for their parents/carers and for services working with the child or young person—nothing more.

In order to provide the service for which it is designed, it will be important that ContactPoint contains contact details of practitioners, in schools and elsewhere, who work with a child in order to offer them additional services. The department has worked with partners to determine what constitutes an involvement that should be recorded on ContactPoint as a specialist or targeted service. ContactPoint guidance offers examples of when it is appropriate for a practitioner to record their contact details on a child’s record. It is not our intention to capture every minor interaction with a school pupil. Accordingly, membership of a music, chess or running club, for example, would not warrant the inclusion of practitioner contact details on ContactPoint. Schools will need to exercise some discretion and professional judgment.

Sport: Swimming

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Carter of Barnes on 19 June (WA 238), how they will ensure that all relevant persons or bodies, including schools, swimming pools managed or owned by independent (non-local authority controlled) trusts or charities and independent school swimming pools, are made aware of the recently revised criteria for capital funding of swimming pools. [HL4677]

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Carter of Barnes on 19 June (WA 238), whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the recently revised criteria for the capital funding of swimming pools. [HL4678]

The recently revised copy of the Amateur Swimming Association's capital funding of swimming pools has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Carter of Barnes on 19 June (WA 238), whether they will place in the Library of the House copies of the conditions of Sport England's funding agreement and Sport England's guidance to national governing bodies on managing their capital funding. [HL4679]

The 2009-13 National Governing Body Funding Memorandum of Agreement for Capital Build has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Carter of Barnes on 19 June (WA 238), whether the previous requirement in Sport England's Whole Sports Plan 2009-13 Capital Fund for swimming pool facility funding, which stated that to fit the selection criteria for the fund swimming pools were required to “buy and utilise ASA products and services”, constituted a breach of the conditions of Sport England’s funding agreement or Sport England’s guidance to national governing bodies on managing their capital funding. [HL4680]

Sport England has been informed that the ASA has withdrawn this requirement from its criteria for capital guidance.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Carter of Barnes on 19 June (WA 238), what procedures are in place to monitor whether the conditions of Sport England's funding agreement and Sport England's guidance to national governing bodies on managing their capital funding are breached; and what processes are in place for Sport England to deal with such complaints. [HL4681]

Sport England has advised that the 2009-13 National Governing Body Funding Memorandum of Agreement for Capital Build sets out sanctions should capital funding agreements be breached. Section 9 (Books, accounts and records) and Section 10 (Review of the 2009-13 National Governing Body Funding Memorandum of Agreement for Capital Build) set out procedures that are in place if conditions of the funding agreement are breached.