Monday 20 July 2009
On 29 April 2009, (Official Report, Commons, col. 871), the Prime Minister announced the way forward for UK policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Prime Minister sets out the balance between the UK’s political, development and military activities in support of the international community’s effort to tackle the insurgency and create an effective and accountable state in Afghanistan. The level of resources required to support the UK’s engagement in Afghanistan is reviewed regularly.
The Bolan Park was built in Bolan, Lashkar Gah, in 2007 at the request of the governor of Helmand and in response to an identified local need: it functions as a symbol for security and development in the area. The park is providing much needed recreational space and facilities for the people of Lashkar Gar and the surrounding area, in particular women and children. One of the first major events hosted at the park was a US-funded agricultural fair to promote legal livelihoods, attended by 1,700 Afghans. The park was also used for a successful cultural event organised by the Helmand governor, which attracted more than 2,000 local people.
The UK provided funding for the park through the provincial reconstruction team. This park is open to men, women and children with one day each week being set aside for women's exclusive use. The park cost around £420,000 and was built alongside the Helmand river. The costs of the park reflect the fact that during construction gabion walls were put in place to support the river bank, which helps prevent erosion, and to support the Bolan bridge. In addition, the park has extensive lighting which is important for improving security at night.
Armed Forces: Service
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to enable members of the Army who were recruited under the age of 18 on or before 1 January 2008 to convert their minimum term of service to four years from the first day of duty. [HL5091]
The Army has no plans to enable soldiers who were recruited under the age of 18 on or before 1 January 2008 to convert their minimum term of service to four years from their first day of duty.
Asylum Seekers: Turkey
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the United Nations Human Rights Council has informed them of the number and countries of origin of asylum seekers detained in the Kirklareli camp in Turkey; and whether they and other states will encourage Turkey to accede to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. [HL4709]
The UK has not been informed of the number of detainees at Kirklareli Guest House in Turkey. The facility has an official capacity of 400 detainees. Some human rights reports state that overcrowding is a problem in Kirklareli.
The EU has made clear that Turkey should “continue with alignment with the acquis in the field of asylum, in particular through the lifting of the geographical limitation to the Geneva Convention and through strengthening protection, social support and integration measures for refugees”.
Migrants caught transiting Turkey illegally include nationals from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Myanmar, Iraq, Somalia, Georgia, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.
Banking: Asset Protection Scheme
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether HM Treasury has conducted due diligence with regard to the former HBOS loans being entered into the asset protection scheme; and, if so, (a) whether any loans have been found to have been issued contrary to HBOS's own internal procedures, (b) whether they have identified any loans where it does not appear that the entire notional sum of the loan went to the original customer, and (c) whether HM Treasury has been informed of any concerns about misappropriation of funds or other such irregularities. [HL4844]
Those former HBOS assets proposed for inclusion in the APS are subject to due diligence by the Treasury and its advisers. This work is focused on estimating the expected losses on those assets. Further details of the results of that due diligence will be provided after it has been completed and the final terms of the participation agreed with Lloyds Banking Group, subject to restrictions on the disclosure of commercially confidential information.
Banking: Treasury and HMRC Payments
No payments have been made to either company by HMRC, DMO or OGC. Some payments were made by HM Treasury to UBS, but the disclosure of further details would involve the release of personal information, as it relates to a single individual on secondment.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether a maximum loan to value ratio for new mortgages is stipulated in the lending agreements between United Kingdom Financial Investments Ltd and (a) Lloyds Banking Group and (b) the Royal Bank of Scotland; and, if so, what it is. [HL4928]
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether a breakdown by loan to value ratio for new mortgage lending was specified in the lending agreement between United Kingdom Financial Investments Ltd and (a) Lloyds Banking Group and (b) the Royal Bank of Scotland; and, if so, what it is. [HL4929]
To ask Her Majesty's Government under what conditions it would be (a) acceptable and (b) desirable for Lloyds Banking Group or the Royal Bank of Scotland to offer new mortgages with a loan to value ratio in excess of 95 per cent. [HL4930]
To ask Her Majesty's Government in the context of the lending agreements with Lloyds Banking Group and the Royal Bank of Scotland, what criteria are used to ensure that the products offered are competitive; and how United Kingdom Financial Investments Ltd is monitoring this. [HL4931]
To ask Her Majesty's Government in the context of the lending agreements with Lloyds Banking Group and the Royal Bank of Scotland, (a) what criteria are used to measure the banks' compliance with the lending agreements, (b) how often is measurement of compliance with the lending agreements being undertaken, and (c) what the results are of latest assessment of compliance with the lending agreements. [HL4932]
To ask Her Majesty's Government how much was lent in each of the last three years by Lloyds Banking Group in the form of (a) mortgages, and (b) corporate lending; and how that compares with the figures required by the lending agreements between UK Financial Investments Limited and the banks in which Her Majesty's Government hold a share. [HL4951]
To ask Her Majesty's Government how much was lent in each of the last three years by Royal Bank of Scotland in the form of (a) mortgages, and (b) corporate lending and how that compares with the figures required by the lending agreements between UK Financial Investments Limited and the banks in which Her Majesty's Government hold a share. [HL4952]
On 26 February 2009 the Treasury announced agreement in principle with the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to participate in the asset protection scheme (APS). Agreement in principle with Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) was reached on 7 March. As part of their participation in the APS, RBS and LBG agreed specific and legally binding additional lending commitments with HM Government commencing on 1 March.
RBS's total lending commitments are £25 billion- £9 billion of mortgage lending and £16 billion of business lending over the next 12 months.
LBG's total lending commitments are £14 billion- £3 billion of mortgage lending and £11 billion of business lending over the next 12 months.
Redacted versions of each bank's lending agreement deed poll were published on the HM Treasury website on 15 July in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
HM Treasury is monitoring the performance of RBS and LBG against the lending commitments and will report on progress to Parliament on an annual basis.
British Coal Compensation
To ask Her Majesty's Government on what date South Yorkshire Police and the Serious Fraud Office commenced their joint investigation into the British Coal litigation; what progress has been made; what is the cost of the investigation to date, apportioned between South Yorkshire Police and the Serious Fraud Office; and when the investigation is expected to conclude. [HL4891]
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO), together with South Yorkshire Police, is investigating allegations of serious and complex fraud in relation to the handling of claims brought under the DTI administered Coal Health Compensation Scheme.
The investigation began in July 2005 and is continuing. It would not be appropriate to give details of an ongoing investigation. The Attorney-General receives regular updates on the progress of SFO cases from Richard Alderman, and she is keen for all investigations to be concluded at the earliest possible point. This must however be balanced with the need to investigate all reasonable lines of inquiry to ensure that all relevant information has been considered fully.
The SFO investigation has cost just over £440,000 to date, from July 2005 when it began, to the present. The SFO is not able to provide a figure for the costs incurred by South Yorkshire Police in this investigation as police resources are allocated and maintained by the individual force.
There are a number of outstanding lines of enquiry to be pursued, but the SFO is working hard to conclude the investigation by the end of the year.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many complaints were lodged with the Law Society (Legal Complaints Service and Solicitors Regulation Authority) in the British Coal respiratory disease litigation and the British Coal vibration white finger litigation; what was the outcome of each complaint; how much was refunded to each complainant; and how much compensation was awarded to each complainant, broken down to awards from (a) £1 to £25, (b) £25.01 to £50, (c) £50.01 to £100, (d) £100.01 to £200, (e) £200.01 to £300, (f) £300.01 to £400, (g) £400.01 to £500, (h) £500.01 to £600, (i) £600.01 to £700, (j) £700.01 to £800, (k) £800.01 to £900, (l) £900.01 to £1000, (m) £1,000.01 to £1,500, (n) £1,500.01 to £2,000, (o) £2,000.01 to £3,000, (p) £3,000.01 to £4,000, (q) £4,000.01 to £5,000, and (r) over £5,000.01. [HL4892]
The Legal Complaints Service (LCS) has provided the following information:
Number of complaints Outcome 2,160 Complaint conciliated 673 Complaint not upheld 159 Complaint outside our jurisdiction 43 Complaint resolved without our intervention 565 Complaint upheld 6 Complaint upheld but no action 449 Complaint withdrawn by customer 139 Customer has not responded 109 Referred back to firm under Rule 15 2 Sols reasonable offer 73 Within jurisdiction but investigation declined 1 Complaint referred to SDT 67 Complaint/Allegation noted—Ongoing other action 4 Customer to pursue legal remedy 1 Customer to seek advice/gather evidence 147 closed temporarily 9 Not pursued by Instigator 21 Other 782 Ongoing 5,410 Total
Number of complaints
Complaint not upheld
Complaint outside our jurisdiction
Complaint resolved without our intervention
Complaint upheld but no action
Complaint withdrawn by customer
Customer has not responded
Referred back to firm under Rule 15
Sols reasonable offer
Within jurisdiction but investigation declined
Complaint referred to SDT
Complaint/Allegation noted—Ongoing other action
Customer to pursue legal remedy
Customer to seek advice/gather evidence
Not pursued by Instigator
Prior to 2008, the LCS did not keep specific data on the amount of individual awards. A lump sum figure of £602,414.03 was awarded over the period 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2007. Post January 2008, the breakdown is as follows:
Compensation amounts awarded from 1 Jan 2008 to 30 June 2009 £1 to £25 3 £25.01 to £50 3 £50.01 to £ 100 22 £100.01 to £200 83 £200.01 to £300 180 £300.01 to £400 219 £400.01 to £500 284 £500.01 to £600 165 £600.01 to £700 105 £700.01 to £800 110 £800.01 to £900 96 £900.01 to £ 1000 92 £1000.01 to £ 1500 244 £1500.01 to £2000 33 £2000.01 to £3000 24 £3000.01 to £4000 6 £4000.01 to £5000 3 Over £5000 2 Total 1,674
Compensation amounts awarded from 1 Jan 2008 to 30 June 2009
£1 to £25
£25.01 to £50
£50.01 to £ 100
£100.01 to £200
£200.01 to £300
£300.01 to £400
£400.01 to £500
£500.01 to £600
£600.01 to £700
£700.01 to £800
£800.01 to £900
£900.01 to £ 1000
£1000.01 to £ 1500
£1500.01 to £2000
£2000.01 to £3000
£3000.01 to £4000
£4000.01 to £5000
We understand from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that disciplinary proceedings have been concluded (subject to appeal) in 12 cases relating to 41 individuals. The details of the results are as follows
Outcome of Concluded Disciplinary Proceedings Fined £1,000 to £5,000 17 Fined £6,000 to £ 10,000 8 Fined £ 11,000 to £15,000 5 Fined £16,000 to £20,000 Fined £21,000 to £25,000 1 Reprimanded 4 Suspended for 6 months to 1 year 1 Suspended for 1 to 2 years 1 Suspended for 3 to 4 years 1 Struck off the roll 3
Outcome of Concluded Disciplinary Proceedings
Fined £1,000 to £5,000
Fined £6,000 to £ 10,000
Fined £ 11,000 to £15,000
Fined £16,000 to £20,000
Fined £21,000 to £25,000
Suspended for 6 months to 1 year
Suspended for 1 to 2 years
Suspended for 3 to 4 years
Struck off the roll
Proceedings are pending against 18 firms involving 67 individuals. Investigations are ongoing in relation to 19 firms. A further 15 firm investigations have been concluded with no disciplinary proceedings being taken. Investigations by the SRA have been conducted as a result of information received from a number of sources including, but not limited to, complaints received.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the decisions by the Industrial Disease Committee of the Legal Complaints Service on 24 June (a) to maintain its recommendation to suspend the investigation of all complaints against Raleys solicitors in the British Coal litigation; (b) to write to all complainants giving them the right to ask for their cases to be dealt with but recommending that each case investigation should remain suspended; (c) to advise each complainant that the Legal Complaints Service remains optimistic that at some future time the complaint would be conciliated by Raleys, having regard to the report of Zahida Manzoor, Legal Services Ombudsman, dated 18 June in respect of Marko Sesum (case reference 44331). [HL4893]
We understand from the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) that from 1 April 2009 all complaints against Raleys solicitors, either already in the office or received after that date, would be suspended to await confirmation of the intention of Raleys with regards to any appeal against previous Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal adjudications. Such confirmation cannot be given until publication of the written findings. As at 13 July 2009 the number of complaint investigations suspended involving this firm was believed to be about 396.
We understand that the Legal Services Ombudsman continues to press the LCS to investigate individual complaints without waiting for the written judgment and that progress has been made in this matter. The ombudsman welcomes the LCS decision to write to those who have had their complaints suspended to give them the choice of either waiting until it is known whether Raleys are going to appeal against the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal findings, or for the LCS to begin to investigate their complaint. We understand that the LCS is currently in the process of writing to all former miners or members of their families who have a complaint against Raleys to provide them with an update to the situation.
Both the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Energy and Climate Change continue to support and monitor the LCS in their programme to highlight the issue with coal health compensation claimants.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will introduce legislation to protect litigants from any misconduct by solicitors in class actions, having regard to the practices adopted by claimants' solicitors in the British Coal respiratory disease litigation and British Coal vibration white finger litigation. [HL4894]
The Government have introduced legislation which allows for proactive measures to be taken to deal more quickly and effectively with cases of widespread wrongdoing in the future. The Legal Services Act 2007, which reforms the regulation of legal services in England and Wales, makes it absolutely clear that approved regulators of legal services are able to take proactive action—short of making orders for redress—where there are a potentially large number of clients who have been affected, but who may not know they have a complaint. These regulatory arrangements will be monitored by the newly established oversight regulator, the Legal Services Board. In addition, the newly established Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) will remove complaints handling from the legal professional bodies, with oversight from the newly established Legal Services Board. The OLC will administer an ombudsman scheme that will provide consumers with a quick, fair and accessible complaints system. This new body will be empowered to make a range of orders for redress, including up to £30,000 redress.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the Law Society's not following its commitment to indemnify retired miners and widows in circumstances where solicitors had not complied with adjudication decisions awarding former clients compensation for inadequate professional service in the British Coal litigation. [HL4895]
Awards made by the LCS are not legally enforceable unless and until the matter has been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) and the SDT orders payment. Where there have been delays in bringing these matters before the SDT, we understand that the Law Society has made ex gratia advances of compensation to those who had been waiting for an extended period of time. The Law Society chose to do so because of its concern that the delays might in some cases cause hardship to those concerned.
The Government continue to press the Law Society to achieve payment in full of all inappropriately levied charges. The Ministry of Justice and the Department for Energy and Climate Change support the LCS in their work to recover deductions not yet repaid and provide data to them to enable the programme to be rolled out.
The legal profession is independent from the Government and, as such, regulatory issues for solicitors are a matter for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). That said, the SRA and the Government have been working together to determine how to best to assess lessons learned from the current health schemes. We understand that the SRA is considering writing to solicitors involved in miners knee litigation to provide them with the best practice directions in light of lessons learned from the ongoing conduct issues. Ministers are also seeking assurances that the SRA will monitor such activities closely to ensure that early action is taken if it appears necessary, and to keep both the Ministry of Justice and Department for Energy and Climate Change informed of any further developments.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will submit their observations on the admissibility and merits of Application no. 35622/04 Chagos Islanders v the United Kingdom at the European Court of Human Rights before the deadline of 17 July; and whether they are considering a friendly settlement, as suggested by the President of the Grand Chamber. [HL4854]
I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Luce, on 30 June 2009 (Official Report, col. WA31). As the noble Lord will be aware, we do not discuss the details of legal pleadings in cases to which we are a party while they are in the process of formulation. It would be inappropriate, therefore, to discuss the Government's response in advance.
Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act
Regulations are currently being drafted that will contain the detailed requirements for the service charge accounting information that landlords will be required to supply to tenants under Section 21 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
Section 152 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 made amendments to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 by replacing the provisions contained in Section 21 of that Act. Schedule 12 to the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 has made further amendments to the 1985 Act and in particular contains provisions that will replace the Section 21 provisions that were introduced by Section 152 of the 2002 Act.
Implementation of these provisions will follow after the regulations have been approved by both Houses of Parliament.
Crime: Public Transport
Further to my response on 8 May (Official Report, col. WA 150), we anticipate publishing in the autumn a summary of the research findings on the cost of crime on public transport.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of reports that the President of the European Court of Justice in the Oram case was, in 2006, awarded the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III of the Republic of Cyprus for his “sincere and strong feelings for Cyprus and its people”; and what assessment they have made of how that award may affect his having presided over the case. [HL4740]
We are aware of reports that the President of the European Court of Justice in the Orams case received this medal in 2006 from the former President of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos. The European Court of Justice is an independent judicial institution and any questions relating to the conduct of its personnel are a matter for the court.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what measures the Department of Health intends to take to address the recommendation of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee in its 21st Report (HL Paper 118) to keep the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Special Exemption) Regulations 2009 under review to ensure they maintain the policy intention in the light of technological developments. [HL4983]
The department monitors legislation through a variety of means, including by way of feedback from stakeholders. One of these stakeholders is the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which has specific functions to monitor developments in its field of interest and to advise Ministers as required. We will be in regular contact with the HFEA about the implementation and impact of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 and the related regulations.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what provisions there are in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (as amended) for keeping and examining human admixed embryos in connection with the investigation of, or proceedings for, an offence under that Act. [HL4984]
Human admixed embryos must be held at a licensed centre if they are being kept, examined or stored in connection with the investigation of, or proceedings for, an offence under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (as amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008).
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Special Exemption) Regulations 2009 do not permit human admixed embryos to be held at unlicensed premises in connection with such an investigation or procedure—as this was, unintentionally, not provided for in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. If it were necessary for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to keep a human admixed embryo in connection with a crime, it would need to be stored at licensed premises.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Triesman on 20 February 2007 (WA 239–40), whether they have conducted their detailed analysis of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; whether they have made or will make any reservations to the Convention; and when they envisage they will ratify the Convention. [HL4710]
The work being undertaken within the Government to examine the potential impact of the Convention against Enforced Disappearance on the law of the UK is ongoing.
This includes analysing the extent to which common law provisions may need to be replicated in statute law, the creation of one or more new criminal offences, and whether the UK required any reservations or declarations upon ratification. It is now clear that primary legislation would be necessary to permit ratification if the Government decide to pursue this course of action. This would be introduced when parliamentary time allowed.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have received representations from PEN, Reporters without Borders and others concerning arrests and possible disappearances or deaths in custody of journalists in Eritrea, in particular in the case of Mr Dawit Habtemichael, who was arrested in 2001 in Asmara and reported to be held in prison in 2006. [HL4823]
We have no record of any representations from PEN or Reporters without Borders concerning arrests and possible disappearances or deaths in custody of journalists in Eritrea in recent years. However we have received letters on the persecution of Christians and on human rights abuses generally.
We recently received a letter from a member of the public raising the case of Mr Dawit Habtemichael.
EU: Financial Institutions
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the answer by Lord Myners on 2 July (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 329) saying that firms are not leaving the City of London, whether they discussed with the Swiss authorities the number of firms leaving the City of London for Switzerland. [HL4999]
Treasury Ministers and officials have discussions with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government's practice to provide details of all such discussions.
Fishing: Cod and Sole
UK enforcement authorities are implementing in full the control provisions of the cod recovery programmes and the management plan for western channel sole. These include reduced margins of tolerance for recording catches in the logbook, prior notification requirements for vessels landing cod and sole, separate stowage requirements and, for cod only, designated landing port arrangements.
In addition, the UK has implemented a single area licence condition for UK vessels using regulated gear (beam trawls) in the western channel sole fishery to prevent misrecording, and therefore overfishing, of the western channel sole stock. Taken together these measures provide the necessary additional safeguards to ensure that landings of cod and sole are properly accounted for to prevent overfishing from taking place.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 20 May (WA 323–4) and 9 June (WA 143), whether the conclusion of “no clear association” between water fluoridation and cancer as distinct from “no evidence of risk” applies to (a) bone problems, and (b) infant mortality, congenital defects and IQ problems for which the York reviewers in 2000 recommended further high quality research. [HL5037]
The systematic review of water fluoridation conducted by the University of York found “no clear association” between water fluoridation and hip fracture, overall cancer incidence and mortality, osteosarcoma and bone/joint cancers and thyroid cancer. The report concluded:
“The outcomes related to infant mortality, congenital defects and Intelligence Quotient (IQ) indicate a need for further high quality research, using appropriate analytical methods to control for confounding factors”.
The department continues to fund research into the effects of fluoridation and monitor the outcome of research studies conducted elsewhere. For example, an appraisal of selected studies reporting an association between fluoride in drinking water and IQ commissioned by South Central Strategic Health Authority concluded:
“The lack of a thorough consideration of confounding as a source of bias means that, from these studies alone, it is uncertain how far fluoride is responsible for any impairment in intellectual development seen. The amount of naturally occurring fluoride in drinking water and from other sources and the socioeconomic characteristics in the areas studied is different from the United Kingdom and so these studies do not have direct application to the local population of Southampton”.
The report of the appraisal is available at www.southcentral.nhs.uk/fluoridation/page.php?area _id=9996&id=6.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 20 May (WA 323–4), whether the Chief Dental Officer will now remove the claim in paragraph 5 of his February 2008 letter to strategic health authorities, primary care trusts and others (Gateway 9361), that the York review confirmed that there was “no evidence of any risk to health”; and whether he will notify the original recipients of the revision. [HL5038]
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 18 May (WA 254) in which they rely on public statements made by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) about its systematic review of fluoridation, whether they also accept the public statements by scientists involved with the York review on which the NHMRC explicitly based its findings that “the review did not show water fluoridation to be safe”, and that the evidence for any reduction in dental health inequalities was “of poor quality, contradictory and unreliable”. [HL5039]
The Chief Dental Officer is considering issuing further information to the National Health Service in the light of lessons learnt from the South Central Strategic Health Authority's consultation on fluoridation, research published since the York review and statements made by the scientists involved in the review.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they have made in assessing the findings of Dr Peter Mansfield, based on the most recent published figures of population fluoride intakes by the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which were communicated to the Chief Dental Officer in December 2008 and discussed with him on 19 January 2009; whether the Chief Dental Officer or a colleague will consider associating themselves as co-authors of any resulting scientific paper; and whether they will promote the adoption of measures to screen for excessive fluoride intake, for example by means of a urine dipstick. [HL5154]
We have sought advice from the Health Protection Agency and the Food Standards Agency on Dr Mansfield's analysis and we will be letting him have our comments when we have taken their views into account.
Freedom of Information
To ask Her Majesty's Government following the publication of the report by the Campaign for Freedom of Information, Delays in Investigating Freedom of Information Complaints, what steps they will take to ensure that the Information Commissioner's Office can complete its investigations in a timely manner. [HL4851]
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Information Commissioner regularly review the resources required for the commissioner to discharge all of his freedom of information responsibilities. For this financial year, the Government have identified additional funding of £500,000 for the Information Commissioner's Office's freedom of information work, over and above the baseline funding of £5 million. We are discussing with the office how it can use this additional funding most effectively to reduce the number of outstanding cases.
In addition, the MoJ promoted a scheme last year where secondees from central government departments work for the ICO to help clear the freedom of information cases at their home departments’ expense. There are currently seven secondees working at the ICO.
Freedom of Information Act
To ask Her Majesty's Government which individuals and organisations have made requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to Government bodies about MPs and members of the House of Lords in (a) each of the last three years, and (b) 2009 to date; in each case, what were the dates of the requests; what information was sought; and which requests were met and which refused. [HL4975]
The Ministry of Justice publishes quarterly and annual statistics on information requests received by over 40 central government bodies. These statistics provide information on the volume of requests received, the timeliness of requests and the outcomes of requests. Data regarding the identity of requesters and the nature of information sought in each case are not collected.
To provide this information would require all central government bodies to conduct searches of individual case records and it would incur a disproportionate cost to do so.
Representations have been received from Mr McKinnon's solicitors, several members of the public and Members of Parliament regarding the US request for the extradition of Mr McKinnon. The representations have raised varying matters pertaining to the case.
Extradition arrangements with the United States are working well. The current treaty has ensured that a number of fugitives from justice have been brought back to the UK to face criminal proceedings on very serious charges. The treaty, along with the Extradition Act 2003, provides a fair and balanced framework in ensuring that suspected criminals are brought to justice in both jurisdictions.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people with aphasia are receiving Access to Work support; and what steps they are taking to ensure that all applicants with aphasia are assessed appropriately for Access to Work support. [HL4953]
No breakdown of the number of people with aphasia who are receiving Access to Work support is collected by the department. Each Access to Work application for support is dealt with on an individual basis, regardless of the customer's disability or health condition. Access to Work advisers take into account the customer's job role, their disability and other factors that affect the help they need at work.
Health: Contaminated Blood Products
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 1 July (WA 55), whether officials at the Department of Health were aware of the risk of vCJD that applied to infected beneficiaries supported by the Macfarlane Trust when they held their discussion with the Association of British Insurers. [HL5032]
The department was aware of the risk of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) that applied to affected beneficiaries supported by the Macfarlane Trust when we were in discussion with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) following Lord Archer’s report into National Health Service Supplied contaminated blood and blood products. However, as identified in my Written Answer on 1 July (WA 55), the CJD Incidents Panel has separately discussed with the ABI the issue of patients who might be at risk of having been infected with vCJD after receiving contaminated blood and blood products.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 29 June (WA 15), whether Department of Health officials have been advised by the Macfarlane Trust of the number of applications so far for life insurance that have been made by infected beneficiaries supported by the Macfarlane Trust. [HL5033]
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 29 June (WA 15), whether Department of Health officials have been advised by the Macfarlane Trust whether the Trust would share information in respect of how many applications for life insurance have been made by infected beneficiaries supported by the Trust; and, if so, what is their assessment of that information. [HL5034]
Department of Health officials have not been advised by the Macfarlane Trust of the number of life insurance applications made by its beneficiaries and have not been advised by the trust about possible sharing of such information.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of recent research showing that 24 per cent of general practitioners' workload is about skin conditions; and whether they will require dermatology to become a mandatory part of medical students' and general practitioners' training. [HL5168]
The department does not collect data on general practitioner workload and is unable to confirm or otherwise comment on the information regarding dermatology workload.
The content of curriculum and quality and standard of training for medical professions is the responsibility not of the department but of the appropriate professional regulatory body.
However, the department is committed to working with the professional regulatory bodies, royal colleges and others to promote high standards of education and training to ensure that students and doctors are equipped with the up-to-date knowledge, skills and attitudes essential for professional practice.
Houses of Parliament: Demonstrations
The Government have had no such discussions with the Metropolitan Police.
The Government are liaising with Westminster City Council, the Greater London Authority, the Metropolitan Police and parliamentary authorities on identifying powers that exist to deal with noise from loudhailers and the development of alternative arrangements to deal with excessive noise from protests.
It is estimated that there are 1,651,000 one-person social-sector households. Reliable estimates for council-owned homes are not available. This estimate is based on data from the 2007-08 Survey of English Housing.
The table below provides estimates of the number of one-person social sector households with one, two, three and four or more bedrooms. Reliable estimates for council owned homes are not available. These estimates are based on data from the 2007-08 Survey of English Housing.
Social sector households Number of bedrooms Number of people in household 1 2 3 4 or more Total thousands of households One 962 443 231 15 1,651
Social sector households
Number of bedrooms
Number of people in household
4 or more
thousands of households
Source: Communities and Local Government, Survey of English Housing
The work of the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) Political Directorate during 2008-09 is described in the NIO's 2008 and 2009 annual departmental reports and the 2008 autumn performance report. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses.
Human Rights Act
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Bach on 1 July (WA 57) and 8 July (WA 153–4), what is their timetable for the consultation on what constitutes a public authority under the Human Rights Act 1998. [HL4979]
The Government are committed to consulting on the scope of the Human Rights Act 1998. We intend to set a timetable for this consultation during the next Session.
Industrial Building Allowance
The phased withdrawal of the industrial buildings allowance affects all businesses (not just companies) that are claiming industrial buildings allowances.
We do not believe that the withdrawal of industrial buildings allowances will affect how buildings are maintained. Expenditure incurred in repairing and maintaining property is invariably revenue expenditure and as such not affected by the abolition of industrial buildings allowances.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Malloch-Brown on 9 July (WA 167), whether the fact that the status in the United States of the National Council of Resistance of Iran is a matter for the government of the United States prevents them from co-ordinating with that government their policies towards the National Council. [HL5011]
The US authorities are well aware of the the UK's position towards the National Council of Resistance of Iran and the People's Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MeK). However, US proscription is a matter for those authorities alone.
I refer the noble Baroness to the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on 15 June 2009 to the House of Commons, (Official Report, col. 21).
The Prime Minister announced that the membership of the Committee of Inquiry consists of highly respected, entirely non-partisan experts in their fields. The committee members were consulted before agreeing to join the inquiry. There was also consultation with the Opposition on the membership. As a Privy Counsellor Committee of Inquiry, it will be a completely independent inquiry.
NHS: Surplus Land
To ask Her Majesty's Government what systems are in place to ensure that NHS bodies declare land and buildings surplus to requirements; how those declarations are audited for accuracy and completeness; and how land and buildings declared surplus are disposed of within a reasonable period. [HL4962]
To ask Her Majesty's Government which NHS hospital trusts (including foundation trusts) and primary care trusts have declared land and buildings surplus to requirements; and which of those trusts have had those resources surplus to requirements for five years or more. [HL4963]
National Health Service trusts are responsible for the management and disposal of land and buildings in their ownership. The department does not collect information centrally on what land and buildings have been declared surplus to requirements, neither does the department audit for accuracy or completeness nor how long such property has been declared surplus by NHS bodies.
Guidance for NHS organisations on all land and property transactions, including the disposal of surplus land or buildings, is contained in the Health Building Note 00-08: Estatecode, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.
NHS foundation trusts are authorised and regulated by Monitor, the independent regulator, which does not require the reporting of surplus assets. NHS foundation trusts are restricted in their ability to dispose of assets required for the provision of services, but under their authorisation they must also be managed in an effective, efficient and economic fashion, including the effective use of their land and buildings.
Northern Ireland Office: Hire Cars
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon on 30 June (WA 37) concerning the Northern Ireland Office overstating the amount paid to suppliers of private hire cars, to what the £120,000 should have been charged. [HL4849]
The Northern Ireland Office, including the Public Prosecution Service Northern Ireland but excluding its agencies and executive NDPBs, overstated the total amount paid to suppliers of private hire cars by £120,000 in the following years:
Year £k 2003/04 4 2004/05 43 2006/07 73 Total 120
These amounts should have been charged to air travel.
Northern Ireland: Human Rights Commission
The Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland Office is ultimately responsible for advising the Secretary of State on the overall performance of the chief commissioner. The role of the chief commissioner is set out in the NIHRC Management Statement and Financial Memorandum, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon on 30 June (WA 37–8) concerning the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, what is meant by the words “so far as practicable” in connection with the selection of Commissioners. [HL4850]
It is the Northern Ireland Act 1998 that requires the Secretary of State when making appointments to the Human Rights Commission to secure “as far as practicable” that the commissioners, as a group, are representative of the community in Northern Ireland, so the requirement must be read in the context of that legislation.
Atlantic Philanthropies is an independent organisation and the noble Lord may wish to write to it if he wants to know its reasons for making the grant to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
Other public bodies may be able to access external funding where and in the circumstances in which their governing arrangements allow them to do so.
Northern Ireland: Youth Justice Agency
To ask Her Majesty's Government why the Youth Justice Agency of Northern Ireland includes in its consultations members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and councillors in Northern Ireland but not members of the House of Commons or the House of Lords. [HL4674]
In developing its policies and services, the Youth Justice Agency will consult with and obtain feedback from a broad range of key stakeholders and partners, and in particular, children, their families, victims of youth crime and those organisations representing them. It will also take into account developments and best practice in other jurisdictions. Where appropriate, the agency will also consult Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, local councillors and Members of both Houses of Parliament.
The agency will also continue to strengthen engagement and links with other statutory bodies and devolved departments with responsibility for cross-cutting issues such as education and social services, which are relevant to the work of the agency.
In preparation for the devolution of policing and justice functions to the Northern Ireland Executive, the agency recently undertook a process of engagement with locally elected representatives and Members of Parliament. This consisted of briefings and visits to Youth Justice Agency premises and events with the purpose of raising awareness of the work of the agency. To date, this has not included any Members of the House of Lords. However any requests from noble Lords interested in participating would be welcomed.
Personal passport interviews are conducted through the interview office network of the Identity and Passport Service. The recorded number of personal passport interviews conducted since the scheme was established in July 2007 up until the end of June 2009 was 454,973.
Personal passport interviews are conducted through the interview office network of the Identity and Passport Service. The recorded number of personal passport interviews carried out by the interview office network in 2008 was 286,444.
Personal passport interviews are conducted through the interview office network of the Identity and Passport Service. The cost of the personal passport interview scheme since it was established and became operational in July 2007 to the end of June 2009 has been £50.2 million. The full costs of the interview office network are met by passport fees.
Planning: Plants, Hedges and Trees
To ask Her Majesty's Government in respect of conditions attached to the granting of planning permission for landscaping with plants, hedges and trees that specify that it must take place during a particular “planting season”, what that means in relation to the months during which it is to take place. [HL4946]
Clarification of the terms of a condition attached to a planning permission is best sought from the decision-maker—usually a local planning authority—who granted the permission. In setting conditions, local planning authorities should ensure that they satisfy the six tests set out in DoE Circular 11/95 (Use of Conditions in Planning Permission), that they are necessary, relevant to planning, relevant to the development to be permitted, enforceable, precise and reasonable in all other respects.
Police: Northern Ireland
The Government are committed to providing the resources necessary to ensure the effective policing of Northern Ireland. It is principally a matter for the Chief Constable to determine the size and composition of the police service within the available resources. He has recently confirmed his intention that the full time reserve should be wound down in line with the existing severance programme by March 2011. The Government are committed to the commissioning of an independent review of policing numbers and structures during 2009-10.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the senior commander establishment for the Police Service of Northern Ireland; how many senior commander posts are vacant; and what are the qualifications and lengths of service (including service with other constabularies) of each senior commander in post. [HL5057]
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.
Public Expenditure: Regions
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the needs criteria used in England to fund public expenditure in the regions. [HL4933]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the criteria they use to assess regional needs in England when allocating expenditure to the regions. [HL4934]
Her Majesty's Treasury allocates spending on a department-by-department basis. Allocations by region for each department's programmes are designated by the department concerned. For example, the regional development agencies' single programme budget is divided between regions using a funding formula which takes into account the needs of the region including skills, worklessness and productivity.
Roads: Fatal Accidents
Figures available centrally show the numbers of casualties and degree of injury in road traffic collisions involving police vehicles in emergency/pursuit.
Figures for 2007-08 have been provided for 38 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales. They show that there were (a) 11 fatal injuries and (b) 87 serious injuries.
Figures for 2006-07 have been provided for 41 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales. They show that there were (a) 19 fatal injuries and (b) 136 serious injuries.
Figures for 2005-06 have been provided for 42 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales. They show that there were (a) 26 fatal injuries and (b) 85 serious injuries.
The data provided here are a supplementary series collected on behalf and released with the approval of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). These data are normally used for inspection purposes only.
We are working to develop a statutory code of practice on the management of police pursuits. Pending issue of such a code, we put out on 13 July to chief officers of police a Home Office circular announcing our intention and urging, in the mean time, compliance with the existing guidance issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers from which we propose to develop the code.
The safety standards applicable to the loading, storage, transport and use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) are published and publicly available. The standards are of the following types:
3. Regulations, approved codes of practice and guidance published by HSE. These tend to apply to hazardous flammable substances that include, but are not restricted to, LPG. These standards are available in full from HSE Books at PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 2WA or telephone 01787 88165. HSE's website at www.hse.gov.uk also contains summaries of some of this guidance and leaflets which can be freely downloaded.
4. Standards published by industry associations. The main ones have been produced by UKLPG (the trade association for the UK onshore LPG industry), the Energy Institute in the UK and the American Petroleum Institute in America.
A full list of the main safety standards applicable to the loading, storage, transport and use of LPG and UKPLG codes of practice have been placed in the Library.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have estimated what the difference in grant size would be between the Scottish Block Grant under the Barnett Formula and a needs-based grant system for Scotland; and, if so, what is their estimate. [HL4917]
The Government do not have any current plans to change the Barnett formula and therefore are not in a position to provide such an estimate.
The Government, through our embassy in Belgrade, is engaged, alongside a number of partners, in encouraging the Serbian Government to improve the conditions of the Roma minority in Serbia.
The Department for International Development office in Serbia is working with the European Bank for Development and Reconstruction (EBRD), European Investment Bank (EIB), the City of Belgrade and Roma representatives to draw up a sustainable relocation plan for the informal Roma settlements located under the arterial Gazela bridge, in order to allow for its complete overhaul. EBRD and EIB funds will not be released for the overhaul of the bridge until the resettlement plan has been agreed. The intention is that the plan will serve as a model for use by the government authorities in handling similar situations involving relocation of Roma communities, helping to ensure that situations similar to Blok 67 are avoided in future.
The European Commission (EC) delegation in Belgrade supports the rights of minorities in Serbia, including the Roma, through its Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance. The EC assists registration and return of displaced persons, durable solutions for housing and employment, legal assistance and income support. EC funds also assist the Commissariat for Refugees, minority national councils, the Agency for Human and Minority Rights and non-governmental organisations in order to support vulnerable groups' rights.
Serious Organised Crime and Police Act
Sixty-four sites have been designated under Section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.
A full list of all these sites can be found on the Home Office website at http://security.homeoffice.gov. uk/legislation/current-legislation/terrorism-act-2006/criminal-trespass-sites.
Shipping: Irish Lights
Her Majesty's Government and the Irish Government are actively engaged in discussions to agree a long-term funding arrangement for the provision of marine aids to navigation in the Republic of Ireland.
To enable a more informed consideration of the matter, the two Governments are carrying out an overall assessment of the provision of these aids to all regions in the UK and Ireland, including their financing. While the assessment is being carried out, negotiations between the two Governments will continue.
The review of the provision of aids to navigation will commence shortly and is due to report in the spring 2010. The proposals it makes, including the timescale for their implementation, will then be considered by Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland.
Shipping: Light Dues
As stated in the report, the study drew on published port tariff data from the ports of Milford Haven, Felixstowe and Dublin.
In addition, the reports drew data from direct contacts with the industry—shipping companies, terminal operators and service providers, augmented by materials from websites such as Clarkson's for the vessel size details and of the relevant port authorities.
The UK is a signatory of the International Labour Organisation's Convention ILO 108 of 1958. Under this convention, seafarers from all signatory states on board any vessel docking in the UK are, upon presentation of a recognised seafarers' identity document, allowed ashore for leave and transit purposes.
Sufi Muslim Council
The Home Office, its agencies, and non-departmental public bodies have not made any payments directly to the Sufi Muslim Council. However, it is possible that the Sufi Muslim Council may have benefited indirectly under the department's grant funding of other recipients. This information is not held by the department.
As the CONTEST strategy, published in March 2009 says “much Prevent activity takes place with Muslim communities. But the principles which are the basis for this work can apply to different contexts too”. Channel, the police-led, multi-agency process to identify and support those vulnerable to violent extremism is intended to support those vulnerable to radicalisation by right-wing extremist groups as well as others.
Similarly, other projects and interventions to support the vulnerable, such as those sponsored by the Youth Justice Board, do not discriminate on the type of extremism to which an individual might be vulnerable.
Transport: Heavy Goods Vehicles
The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency introduced graduated fixed penalty deposits on 29 May 2009. It is still too early to form accurate statistical analysis on enforcement levels as a result of these changes.
Turks and Caicos Islands
On 18 May 2009, my honourable friend, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs responsible for the Overseas Territories, Gillian Merron, met Premier Galmo Williams during his visit to London.
Ms Merron welcomed the Premier’s stated commitment to reform, but explained that the situation in the Turks and Caicos Islands was very serious. The severity of the interim report of the Commission of Inquiry was such that the UK had no choice but to take decisive action if the final report did not significantly alter our assessment of the situation.
UN: Procurement Task Force
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking, in view of the United Nations' closure of their anti-corruption unit, to ensure that the Office of Internal Oversight Services secures the expertise and capacity necessary to complete the outstanding investigations of the United Nations Procurement Task Force on allegations of corruption from the Oil-for-Food programme. [HL4957]
The absorption of the functions of the Procurement Task Force into the investigations division of the Office of Internal Oversight Services in December 2008 secured permanent capacity to deal with outstanding investigations specifically related to the Oil for Food programme. We will work with the Secretary-General to ensure adequate resource provision to enable completion of remaining investigations into allegations of corruption in the Oil for Food programme.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to support the acquisition by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services of the capacity and the broad mandate of the United Nations Procurement Task Force to permit it to investigate allegations and sanction staff and contractors who engage in bribery, collusion or fraud in procurement of United Nations funds. [HL4958]
The United Kingdom supported the absorption of the functions of the Procurement Task Force into the investigations division of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services in December 2008. This anti-corruption unit has now become a permanent part of the oversight structures of the Office of Internal Oversight Services.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what advice the UK Border Agency's visa service gives to women in the later stages of pregnancy who wish to visit the United Kingdom for less than three months as private patients to give birth on whether to seek entry as a visitor or for private medical treatment. [HL4618]
There is provision in the Immigration Rules for entry as a general visitor and in various categories of special visitor, including as a visitor for private medical treatment. This would be the appropriate entry category for a woman who wishes to enter the UK in order to give birth in a private medical establishment.