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Written Answers

Volume 715: debated on Monday 30 November 2009

Written Answers

Monday 30 November 2009

Armed Forces: Budgets

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have for transferring the cost of the Afghan conflict from the Treasury Contingency Reserve to the Ministry of Defence budget. [HL57]

Asylum Seekers

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many asylum applicants have been placed on the detained fast track in each year since this process was introduced. [HL116]

The attached table shows information on the number of principal asylum applicants accepted at Oakington, Harmondsworth and Yarl's Wood detained fast track centres in each of the years 2000 to 2008.

Information on immigration and asylum are published annually and quarterly. Annual statistics for 2008 and the latest statistics for Q3 2009 are available from the Library of the House and from the Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration-asylum-stats.html.

Principal asylum applicants accepted at Oakington, Harmondworth and Yarl's Wood detained fast track centres, 2000 to 2008(1)

Number of principal applicants

Oakington(2)

Harmondsworth(3)

Yarl's Wood

2000(4)

3,000

:

:

2001

9,125

:

:

2002

8,360

:

:

2003(5)

5,835

580

:

2004

6,470

1,110

:

2005

5,330

1,495

230

2006

2,335

1,205

380

2007

320

745

520

2008(P)

:

1,160

515

(1) Figures rounded to the nearest 5 (- = 0, * = 1 or 2).

(2) The detained non-suspensive appeal process for males at Oakington has been moved to Harmondsworth alongside the male detained fast track process already there, this followed an earlier move of the process for females to Yarl's Wood.

(3) May include a small number of cases dealt with at other scheduled sites under the Harmondsworth Fast Track procedure.

(4) Part year March to December 2000 for Oakington as the Oakington Fast Track started in March 2000.

(5) Part year April to December 2003 for Harmondsworth as the Harmondsworth Fast Track started in April 2003.

(P) Provisional figures.

: Not applicable/not available.

Bigamy and Polygamy

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 12 November (WA 220), whether the Minister's officials have come to a conclusion as to whether changes to the UK Border Agency's Entry Clearance Guidance are required in order to prevent polygamous or bigamous marriages under United Kingdom law; and, if so, whether they will implement that conclusion. [HL101]

A letter replying to the noble Lord's Question was despatched on 24 November 2009, a copy of which will be placed in the House Library. I thank the noble Lord for his patience during the period of prorogation.

Civil Service

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what arrangements there are for senior civil servants to gain experience of the industries they supervise; and how many civil servants have benefited from such experience for periods exceeding three months. [HL96]

Departments and agencies are encouraged to arrange secondments for civil servants where this would be of benefit to the organisation and the individual. Secondment arrangements are delegated to departments and agencies.

Terms and conditions for secondments are set out in the Civil Service Management Code, a copy of which has been placed in the Library and any secondment must satisfy business appointment rules on the acceptance of outside appointments by crown servants, which are also set out in the management code.

Information on the number of secondments is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Common Agricultural Policy: Single Farm Payment

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many farmers received the single farm payment in (a) 2006, (b) 2007, (c) 2008, and (d) 2009. [HL94]

The number of farmers who received the single payment in England in respect of each scheme year are shown in the table below:

Single Payment Scheme Year

Number of farmers

2005

117,720

2006

106,979

2007

104,548

2008

104,623

Payments for the 2009 scheme year may not be made until 1 December 2009 at the earliest.

Council Tax

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the financial effect by income decile had council tax been frozen for the past two years. [HL73]

No assessment has been made of the financial effect by income decile of freezing council tax for the past two years. To undertake an assessment of this would exceed the disproportionate cost threshold.

Crime: Domestic Violence

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people (a) have applied for, and (b) been granted indefinite leave to remain, under the domestic violence rule in each of the past five years. [HL168]

In each of the past five years, indefinite leave to remain has been applied for and been granted under the domestic violence rule as follows:

Year

Total applied

Total Granted

2004

605

225

2005

600

190

2006

1,020

305

2007

1,210

260

2008

1,500

500

Total

4,935

1,480

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how long the average application takes to complete for someone applying for indefinite leave to remain under the domestic violence rule. [HL169]

The average current completion time for an application made under the domestic violence rules (paragraph 298A of the rules) is 92 working days.

The figure quoted is not provided under national statistics protocols and has been derived from local management information and is therefore provisional and subject to change.

Cycling

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the penalty for cycling on pavements; when it was set; and what it would be if it had kept pace with the cost of living index and penalties for offences of similar gravity since its introduction. [HL92]

Cycling on the pavement, legally known as the “footway”, is an offence under Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835 as amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888, and in Scotland under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.

It is an offence in England and Wales punishable by a fine of level 2 on the standard scale, currently a maximum fine of £500, if pursued through the courts. In 1999 a fixed penalty notice was introduced with the standard penalty for a non-endorsable offence. This was increased from £20 to £30 on 1 November 2000.

The original penalty for the offence was a fine not exceeding 40 shillings. There is no accurate way in which to compare the value of money in 1835 and the present day. Most offences are punished in the magistrates' court with reference to the standard scale offences. When this is revalorised it applies equally to all offences affected.

The penalty levels associated with all fixed penalty offences are kept under review by the Home Office- chaired Fixed Penalty Procedures Working Group. In reviewing the level of fixed penalties the group takes account of many different factors. Inflation is only one of these. Others include the importance of traffic control and road safety, the over-all fixed penalty structure and effect of any changes in government policy, the level of court imposed fines for the same offences, the impact on low-income groups and the need to set penalties at levels which offenders will pay without contesting, but which will also act as a deterrent.

To date the group has not considered that there is a sufficiently strong case to recommend to Ministers that there should an increase in the fixed penalty level.

Education: Special Educational Needs

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what statistics are kept centrally and in local education authorities regarding children with a statement of special education needs. [HL7]

Time series information on pupils with a statement of special educational needs is available in the Statistical First Release Special Educational Needs in England: January 2009, published in June 2009 at http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000852/index.shtml (table 1a). Further details were published at http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/STA /t000851/index.shtml.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether local education authorities have changed their special education needs (SEN) policies since 2006; and, if so, what the impact is on the recorded number of SEN statements since those policy changes. [HL9]

In 2004, the Department for Education and Skills published an SEN strategy, Removing Barriers to Achievement, which recommended greater delegation of SEN funding to schools so they could intervene earlier to meet children's SEN and set out a programme to improve mainstream schools' ability to provide for a wider range of children with SEN without the need for a statement. The Government made clear that implementation of the strategy would not lead to a reduction in children's entitlement to receive appropriate support and that local authorities' duty to draw up statements, where necessary, remained unchanged.

The number of SEN statements peaked at around 258,000 in 2001 and has steadily decreased to 221,670 in 2009.

Environment Noise

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they met the target for September 2007 set by the Environment Noise (England) Regulations 2006; and, if not, whether the target was met after September 2007 or not at all. [HL110]

The September 2007 target date for the formal identification of quiet areas in agglomerations was not met and there is no revised target date in the amended regulations. For the reasons set out below, the process has now been amended to allow more local participation and greater flexibility.

In terms of timing, the consultation on the draft noise action plans for agglomerations, which include the proposed method for identifying quiet areas, has just been completed. Subject to the review of the consultation responses, it is anticipated that the action plans will be formally adopted in the early part of next year. After that, the local nomination and formal identification of quiet areas will be implemented as part of the whole action planning process.

The environmental noise directive (END) requires the competent authorities of member states to draw up action plans for first round agglomerations (ie urban areas with more than 250,000 inhabitants). It also requires that these plans shall contain measures which aim to protect quiet areas within agglomerations against an increase in noise. The environmental noise regulations originally required the Secretary of State to identify quiet areas by 30 September 2007 for first round agglomerations, and by 30 September 2012 for second round agglomerations. In the consultation on the transposition of the END, Defra considered different criteria for identifying potential quiet areas, including relevant land use designations and acoustic thresholds.

As the process developed, however, it became evident that the centralised and mechanistic approach envisaged by the regulations for identifying quiet areas would be rather inflexible and potentially difficult to implement effectively. In addition, it became increasingly clear that making the identification of quiet areas an integral part of the action planning process—rather than being independent of it—could be beneficial in ensuring that, from a local perspective, the appropriate areas are identified.

This revised approach will enable local knowledge to be used to assist the competent authority, both in the identification of quiet areas and in ensuring that appropriate local policies are developed to protect such areas against an increase in noise. This more flexible approach will allow much greater local engagement than the process originally laid down in the regulations.

Government Regional Offices: Staff

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people each regional government office employs; and how many people work on (a) education, (b) employment, and (c) skills issues. [HL40]

The numbers of staff employed by government offices (GOs) are given in the table below.

The organisation of staff within government offices reflects the integrated nature of policy and local challenges rather than conventional policy silos; how staff are deployed therefore varies by individual government office.

The figures provided below are for children and learners groups in each government office that include staff working both on education-related priorities and the skills agenda for those under the age of 19. We cannot readily provide a breakdown of the numbers or proportion of staff time allocated to employment related issues given the way staff are deployed across government offices on the full range of activities with employment aspects.

Government Office

Overall Staff Numbers*

Children and Learners Staff*

GO North West

197

16

GO North East

192

18

GO Yorkshire and the Humber

181

22

GO West Midlands

203

18

GO East Midlands

151

13

GO South West

203

16

GO South East

200

29

GO East

176

26

GO London

199

23

GO Network

1702

181

*Figures given refer to staff in post

Immigration: Detainees

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what personal responsibility the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration takes for detainees held for longer than 28 days; and whether he has visited those held for longer than six months or one year. [HL115]

The Minister of State for Borders and Immigration, on advice, personally considers whether detention should continue in those cases involving families with children detained for 28 days or longer. In all other cases, detention is reviewed on a regular basis at increasingly senior levels within the UK Border Agency. The Minister does not undertake visits to individual detainees.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many immigration detainees have been released in each of the past three years because their medical examinations showed a serious physical or mental health condition. [HL117]

We do not hold medical data centrally. The information could be provided only by examining individual records at disproportionate cost.

Detainees are seen by a nurse within two hours of arrival for a medical screening examination. Any particular concerns are reported to the GP straight away. In any case, detainees are given an appointment to see a GP within 24 hours. Thereafter, detainees can access healthcare services on demand or following referral by a member of staff if there are particular concerns.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many convicted offenders are currently in immigration detention pending deportation; and in which centres they are held. [HL119]

As at 1 August 2009 there were approximately 1,800 foreign national offenders detained beyond completion of their sentence under immigration powers who the UK Border Agency was seeking to deport from the UK. Around 500 of those were held in UK prisons, with the remainder in immigration removal centres within the UK Border Agency detention estate.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, when a person is first held in immigration detention, the written reasons for detention are always provided in a language that the detained person understands. [HL120]

Every detained person is provided with written reasons for his/her detention at the point of initial detention. Reasons are provided in English but are explained to the detainee, using an interpreter where needed.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in order to allow independent nurse and pharmacist independent prescribers to access the whole of the British National Formulary, including all controlled drugs. [HL121]

The Government plan to amend the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (as amended) imminently in order to expand the range of controlled drugs that can be prescribed independently by nurse independent prescribers and to enable pharmacist independent prescribers independently to prescribe controlled drugs.

National Heritage: Protection

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will publish a draft Heritage Protection Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny. [HL69]

The draft Heritage Protection Bill was published in April 2008. The Bill was subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Select Committee, which published its report on 30 July 2008. This report is available on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's website at http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/publications/5075.aspx.

The Government published their response to the committee's findings in October 2008. This is also available on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's website at http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/gov_responseCm7472.pdf.

Pensions

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord McKenzie of Luton on 6 November (WA 97–8), what is the cost to the taxpayer of not applying deflation to benefits and pensions in 2010–11; and whether if deflation continues they will review relevant legislation that does not permit such reductions. [HL105]

I refer the noble Lord to my Answer of 6 November 2009 (WA 97) to Parliamentary Question HL 5803 and my noble friend Lord Patel of Bradford's Answer of 3 March 2009 (WA 141) to Parliamentary Questions HL918 and HL1108.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether rate increases will be applied to public sector pensions in 2010–11; what is the estimated cost of public sector pension schemes not taking account of deflation of 1.4 per cent in the September retail prices index; and whether any public sector pension scheme's rate changes are governed by the September retail prices index figure. [HL108]

I refer the noble Lord to my Answer of 6 November 2009 (WA 97) to Parliamentary Question HL 5803 and my noble friend Lord Patel of Bradford's Answer of 3 March 2009 (WA 141) to Parliamentary Questions HL918 and HL1108.

Planning

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how long Lord McKenzie of Luton had been in post when he determined the planning applications for the Hartland distribution depot at Pyestock in Farnborough, Hampshire; whether he visited the site prior to determination of the application; and why many elements of the documentation provided under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to the campaign group SPLAT (Stop Pyestock b Lot Act Today) have been redacted. [HL16]

I had been in post for 11 weeks and five days as Parliamentary Under-Secretary in Communities and Local Government when the decision on the Hartland distribution depot at Pyestock in Farnborough, Hampshire was issued. In accordance with normal practice, I did not visit the site.

The letter sent by CLG officials on 19 October 2009 in response to requests for information under the Environmental Impact Regulations 2004 explained the reasons for redacting certain elements of the information. This reply has subsequently been subject to an internal review, which upheld those reasons, and has now been referred to the Information Commissioner for independent review.

Rural Areas: Economy

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to support and promote existing economic development in rural areas throughout the United Kingdom. [HL122]

The Government's policies support economic development at regional, sub-regional and local levels: this includes all rural areas.

However, the Government carries out specific research into the effects of the economic downturn in rural areas, and all rural economic factors are considered when new policies undergo policy appraisal.

Rural Areas: Employment

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to develop additional employment opportunities in rural areas throughout the United Kingdom. [HL123]

Our employment policies and programmes primarily target support at individuals, to help them overcome the personal constraints they face in obtaining work. This commitment is not dependent on where the individual resides—it is our aim to support each individual out of work, no matter where they live. Job Centre Plus has offices across the country, including in rural areas, which ensure that customers can access its services.

Taxation: Holiday Accommodation

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, if the tax regime applicable to furnished holiday accommodation is repealed, those who offer such accommodation on their property can use the room rental allowances as per those who run a bed-and-breakfast business in their own homes. [HL109]

Rent-a-room relief is available to all individuals who have income from providing furnished residential accommodation in their only or main home. Furnished holiday accommodation will not normally be an individual's normal or main home, but where it is the individual may claim rent-a-room relief.