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Written Answers

Volume 715: debated on Monday 7 December 2009

Written Answers

Monday 7 December 2009

Agriculture: Pesticides

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress is being made to reduce the use of pesticide and fertiliser compounds in United Kingdom farming through the new hazard-based approval process. [HL339]

Two new pieces of European legislation, part of the EU thematic strategy on pesticides, were adopted and published by the European Commission on 24 November 2009. These were:

Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market; and

Directive 2009/128/EC establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides.

The regulation will apply directly in all EU member states from 14 June 2011. The regulation introduces hazard criteria that will assess plant protection product active substances on their intrinsic hazard rather than their risks in use. Only substances passing these criteria will then enter the process of risk assessment. The transitional arrangements mean that these criteria will apply either when new active substances enter the regulatory system or when existing active substances are considered for renewal. It will therefore be some years before these hazard criteria have an impact on the availability of existing active substances.

EU member states are required to implement the directive into national legislation by 25 November 2011. One of the aims of this directive is to facilitate the further reduction of risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment. The directive provides member states with discretion on how this might be achieved. The Government will be consulting shortly on the approach to be taken when implementing the directive into national law. The new legislation does not apply to fertilisers.

Agriculture: Semiochemicals

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of prospects for expanding the use of semiochemicals in United Kingdom agriculture to reduce insect damage. [HL392]

Defra funds a wide-ranging research programme on alternatives to conventional pesticides as part of its long-standing pesticides research programme. This has included work on the potential use of semiochemicals in pest control for a number of years. Collaborative Government research with industry has included using semiochemicals for integrated pest management (IPM), in combination with resistant varieties, biological control and more targeted or reduced use of pesticides.

This applied work is complemented by more fundamental research funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Department for International Development on other target species at UK institutes and universities.

In terms of performance alone it is unlikely that direct use of semiochemicals as individual control tools for specific targets will match that of conventional crop protection. Their role is more likely to be as part of an integrated strategy (eg as successful monitoring tools) with any wider commercial uptake being more limited where highly effective pest control and minimal cost input is required to meet market demands.

The Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) of the Health and Safety Executive is the government body responsible for authorising plant protection products. CRD operates a biopesticides (including semiochemicals) scheme that has reduced fees for dealing with these types of substances. CRD also has a biopesticides champion who is able to help companies understand the regulatory system.

Alec Collett

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the remains of the British citizen Mr Alec Collett have been identified in Lebanon; and, if so, what plans they have for their return to his family. [HL183]

The UN has taken the lead on organising and funding this recovery operation including liaising with UK police and Mr Collett's family to ensure that his remains are returned to the UK. Our embassy in Beirut has been engaged throughout at a senior level and is assisting where required with the arrangements for the cremation and repatriation of Mr Collett's remains.

Bank of England: Monetary Policy Committee

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Treasury official attending the monthly meetings of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee is entitled to speak at those meetings; and, if so, whether he or she does so. [HL206]

The Bank of England Act 1998 sets out the statutory framework for the Bank of England, including the role and composition of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), and provides that “a representative of the Treasury may attend, and speak, at any meeting of the Committee”.

The non-voting Treasury representative plays a key role in liaison between the Treasury and the Bank to ensure appropriate co-ordination of fiscal and monetary policy. For example, the Treasury representative will brief the MPC confidentially in advance of major events such as the Budget and the Pre-Budget Report.

Carbon Tax

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what level of carbon tax and price per ton of carbon would enable the European Union to raise €50 billion of new money by 2020 were the whole sum to be raised exclusively by that method. [HL55]

The Government do not generally comment on the approach that other EU member states may take towards tax. The design, number of exemptions and whether or not a carbon tax is applied to companies in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme are just a few of the many variables that would have a significant impact on the carbon price required to raise €50 billion of additional revenue by 2020. Raising such a tax would also have second order impacts on receipts from other taxes that would differ widely across the EU. The Government are not therefore in a position to comment at this time.

Crime: Domestic Violence

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to reduce waiting lists for rehabilitation programmes for the perpetrators of domestic violence. [HL162]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to ensure that all perpetrators of domestic violence engage in mandatory rehabilitation programmes irrespective of the length of time they spend in prison. [HL163]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what extra funding and resources they are making available to agencies that provide rehabilitation programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence. [HL164]

The National Offender Management Service is working to reduce waiting times by ensuring all staff are familiar with the referral criteria for perpetrators of domestic violence, and by improved liaison between the offender manager, the programme delivery team, and the court.

Probation areas are delivering more domestic violence programmes than ever before. Also, a further three domestic abuse programmes, which are currently being piloted, will extend the range of interventions available.

Directors of offender management have been appointed to commission services that meet the needs of offenders and sentencers in their area, and to further co-ordinate services across community and custody. To support commissioning a specification, benchmarking and costing exercise is under way which will help directors to maximise the effective use of resources in each of their regions. There are no additional resources being provided.

The National Offender Management Service is also working to further improve value for money by reducing administration and overheads, whilst protecting front-line services wherever possible.

There are currently no plans to make programmes mandatory for all perpetrators of domestic violence. Domestic abuse offenders have diverse needs, some of which can be met by other interventions. As such, not all perpetrators of domestic violence will be suitable for or benefit from the range of programmes that are available. However, there are a number of requirements which can be attached to community sentences or custodial licences, in addition to a supervision requirement, which may be effective for domestic abuse offenders.

Domestic abuse issues can also be addressed on a structured individual basis as well as within a domestic abuse programme. Any intervention with an offender should be completed within a framework of inter-agency collaboration and protection of known victims.

During the waiting period offenders are being supervised by offender managers, where applicable (under MAPPA arrangements), and may be subject to other requirements and are usually engaged in preparation work for the programme they are required to undertake.

Dublin: British Embassy

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead on 12 November (WA 206) concerning the cost of the British Embassy in Dublin, why the running costs have increased by approximately 40 per cent in the past five years. [HL141]

The running cost figures for our embassy in Dublin provided in the previous Answer consisted of direct administration income and expenditure for the years concerned. In 2004-05 and 2005-06 significant income, mainly for property sales proceeds, reduced the net overall running costs figures. If this income is removed from the figures the running costs for our embassy in Dublin have remained broadly consistent over the five financial years.

Eggs and Chicks (England) Regulations

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the items referred to in Regulation 20(2)(d) of the Eggs and Chicks (England) Regulations relate only to Regulation 20(2)(a) or whether they include Regulation 20(2)(b) and (c). [HL334]

The items referred to in Regulation 20(2)(d) of the Eggs and Chicks (England) Regulations 2009 relate to the items mentioned in 20(2)(b) and (c) as well as the items mentioned in 20(2)(a).

Electricity and Gas (Carbon Emissions Reduction) (Amendment) Order 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether home energy advice packages under the draft Electricity and Gas (Carbon Emissions Reduction) (Amendment) Order 2009 will cover the building concerned rather than the number of occupants and their circumstances. [HL329]

Schedule A1 to the Electricity and Gas (Carbon Emissions Reduction) (Amendment) Order 2009 requires that a package must consist of a home energy survey, home energy assistance and a written home energy report. The survey covers the building but takes account of the number of occupants.

Energy suppliers who wish to deliver home energy advice packages are required to have schemes approved in advance of delivery by the regulator, Ofgem.

Finance: Performance Pay

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will hold discussions with the Financial Services Authority to ensure that managers in the financial sector receive salary deductions if their performances produce losses. [HL87]

The FSA and the Government have already taken action on pay in the financial services sector.

The FSA Remuneration Code comes into force on 1 January 2010 and includes provisions for the deferral and clawback of remuneration. It states clearly that it is good practice for deferred compensation to be subject to performance criteria.

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) Standards, agreed by member states at the Pittsburgh G20 summit in September, require that remuneration is subject to clawback.

In addition, the Government have included measures in the Financial Services Bill, introduced on 19 November, that bestow a duty on the FSA to ensure that remuneration is consistent with effective risk management and in line with the FSB standards.

Financial Institutions: Pay

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to recent suggestions that those employed in the financial sector should be paid more than those in other sectors. [HL264]

In general, private sector remuneration arrangements are a matter for employers, employees and shareholders to agree. However the Government do have a role to play in preventing undesirable practices, such as remuneration policies in the banking sector which encourage excessive risk taking.

On 19 November the Government introduced the Financial Services Bill to Parliament. The Bill contains measures to implement both the G20 agreement on remuneration in the financial services sector and Sir David Walker's proposals to improve corporate governance. The measures in the Bill will help to ensure that remuneration policies do not contribute to excessive risk taking.

Food: Animal Health

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there are any adverse effects on humans eating animals which have routinely used antibiotics. [HL361]

Prior to being given a marketing authorisation, all veterinary medicines, including those containing antibiotics, have to be carefully assessed to ensure that they are safe for the consumer when used in food-producing animals.

The supply of antibiotic veterinary medicinal products in the UK is controlled by veterinary prescription. Like all veterinary medicines used to treat animals raised for food, maximum residue levels (MRL) are determined internationally and farmers are required to withhold animal products from the market for a period of time determined by scientific data to ensure that any residue is below the MRL. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) carries out wide-ranging surveillance of food-producing animals for residues of veterinary medicinal products including antibiotics and other substances in accordance with EU legislation to check that the MRL is not exceeded. Results of all tests are published on the VMD website. Non-compliant samples are rarely found. The Food Standards Agency is consulted when high concentrations of residues are found but has not expressed concern about the risks to human health.

Furthermore, the Suspected Adverse Reaction Surveillance Scheme (SARSS) is a national pharmacovigilance scheme run by the VMD. The scheme aims to record and monitor reports of suspected adverse reactions to veterinary medicines in both animals (any species) and humans. The VMD publishes UK SARSS reports annually in the Veterinary Record. There are no suspected adverse reactions reported as a result of antibiotics occurring in food from farmed animals.

Food: Import and Export

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the simultaneous import and export of poultry, pig-meat, and milk; and whether they will enquire into that matter. [HL358]

There has been no assessment of like-for-like import and export of poultry, pig meat and milk and milk products. International trade statistics do not break down imports and exports into the defining characteristics such as product quality or specification on which trade in such products is based. Without this information it is not possible to assess whether a product which has been imported with a particular commodity code is actually equivalent to a product with the same commodity code which has been exported.

Food: Imports

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make representations to the government of France about the animal welfare standards it applies to imported meat and home-produced meat. [HL359]

All member states have the same duty as the UK to implement and enforce EU legislation on animal welfare standards. It is for the European Commission to ensure compliance with EU welfare legislation. The European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office undertake regular missions to each member state to ensure that EU welfare legislation is being implemented and enforced correctly.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will prevent imported foods that have been processed in Britain being labelled as British. [HL362]

There is no definition of the country of origin in EU or UK law. Therefore World Trade Organisation rules are applied which mean that food products can be labelled with the name of the country in which the last substantial change was carried out.

However, we recognise that consumers are increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from, particularly meat and meat products. For this reason, the Government support the proposed EU Food Information Regulation currently under negotiation, which will address these issues. We are also meeting with representatives of food retailers, manufacturers and the food service sector to set out Defra's position and to actively encourage them to consider adopting measures on a shorter timescale on a voluntary basis.

Food: Labelling

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress is being made to ensure consistent labelling of nutritional information about food products, particularly in respect of salt content. [HL263]

Negotiations are under way in the European Parliament and Council to update European nutrition labelling legislation, with an outcome expected in 2011. In these negotiations the Government are pressing for mandatory nutrition labelling on most pre-packed foods including nutritional information on the salt content.

Currently the provision of nutrition information on foods is voluntary unless a claim is made or vitamins and minerals are voluntarily added to the food. However, legislation is in place which sets out the manner in which nutrition information can be given. These rules require that when nutritional information is provided on salt content it must be declared as sodium. However because the term is not widely understood by consumers many manufacturers choose to additionally declare the equivalent value as salt.

Health: Dementia

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what information they have on the over-prescription of antipsychotics to people with dementia; whether they are treating it as a breach of human rights causing serious side-effects and the risk of fatalities; and what further action they will be taking in response to the representations made on that issue by the Alzheimer's Society. [HL388]

Professor Sube Banerjee was asked by the Government to undertake an independent clinical review of the use of anti-psychotic drugs. Professor Banerjee's report, published on 12 November 2009, was welcomed by the Government and his recommendations were accepted. Implementation of the conclusions of the report will be led and monitored by the new National Clinical Director for Dementia who will be appointed in January 2010, and by the National Dementia Strategy Implementation Board.

Health: Malnutrition

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the level of child malnutrition in the United Kingdom. [HL50]

The most recent figures for levels of child malnutrition show that in the year 2008-09, there were 205 hospital admissions for children aged 0 to 17 with malnutrition.

Healthcare: Funding

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Thornton on 2 November (WA 11–12), why the healthcare payment by the United Kingdom to Germany went from £0 in 2007–08 to £33.3 million in 2008–09; why the payment by Germany to the United Kingdom went from £1.1 million to £0.09 million over the same years; in respect of how many residents in each country the payments were made; and what are the annual average healthcare costs in each country used to decide on the level of those payments. [HL216]

Payments made in any one year will typically involve payments for one or more previous claim years, and are not a measure of the cost of healthcare provided in that year.

Prior to 2009-10, payments to member states were not necessarily made on an annual basis. Therefore, where there was a gap of more than 12 months between payments, no payments might be recorded for a particular member state in a particular financial year. This was the case in relation to payments by the United Kingdom to Germany in 2007-08.

The variation in cash payments by Germany to the UK is a reflection of the intervals between the approval by the European Commission of the UK average costs. Average costs for 2003 were approved in 2006. Average costs for years 2004, 2005 and 2006 were approved in August 2009.

Information is not held in a form that enables the identification of the number of residents in each country. Claims comprise the aggregated costs of treatments for tourists, posted workers and E112 referrals. Claims for pensioners and members of their families, and family members of workers, are recorded in the form of person months of healthcare.

Annual average costs for the UK and Germany, based on the latest approved and published average costs, are set out in the following table.

Article 94(1)

Article 95(2)

UK 2006

£1,637.29

£3,133.50

Germany 2007

€1,153.25

€4,558.33

Notes:

(1) claims relating to family members of workers

(2) claims relating to pensioners and members of pensioners' families

Higher Education: Radicalism

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether any schools or local education authorities are currently receiving targeted support for Prevent funding and, if so, which ones. [HL134]

Currently, no schools or local education authorities are receiving funding from DCSF for preventing violent extremism.

Some local authorities receive funding for preventing violent extremism from Communities and Local Government as part of their area-based grant. Decisions on how to spend the funding are taken locally and could be used to support schools.

Prisoners: Foreign Nationals

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many foreign nationals were given a custodial sentence of over 12 months in each of the past five years. [HL173]

The following table gives figures for the numbers of prisoners received into all prison establishments in England and Wales 2004 to 2008 with a sentence over 12 months, showing UK national, foreign national, and unrecorded:

Prisoners with sentence lengths over 12 months by nationality received into prison establishments in England and Wales under immediate custodial sentence 2004-08

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

UK Nationals

24,205

22,784

23,312

23,453

25,308

Foreign Nationals

2,963

3,196

3,163

3,203

3,659

Not recorded

91

94

73

87

82

Total

27,259

26,074

26,548

26,743

29,049

For information relating to Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Prison Service can be contacted.

These figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems which, as with any large-scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing.

Internet: Broadband

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they propose for introducing new technologies to increase broadband internet access across the rural areas of the United Kingdom. [HL125]

The Government recognise the crucial importance of broadband internet access in rural areas. The delivery of the universal service commitment for broadband, making access to a line capable of delivering 2mbps possible from almost all homes across the UK, and the Next Generation Fund for super-fast broadband, are likely to use a mix of technologies, including fixed line, satellite, mobile or other wireless technologies.

Internet: Google

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether Google has any contractual arrangements of a primary supplier nature or framework nature with any NHS organisations in the United Kingdom. [HL210]

The department does not hold this information.

National Health Service organisations, strategic health authorities and trusts are separate contracting authorities responsible for their own procurement and commercial activities.

Iraq

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether members of the Iraq inquiry will decide whether Government documents provided to it will be made available to the public; and, if not, who will make the decision. [HL363]

The Prime Minister has made clear that the inquiry will have complete access to all government papers. It is for the inquiry to decide which government documents it would like to make public when publishing its final report. The information protocol agreed between the Government and the inquiry, published on the Cabinet Office website on 29 October, sets out the process for handling publication of the most sensitive documents.

Legal Aid

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many foreign nationals in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought cases in the European Court of Human Rights against Her Majesty's armed forces using legal aid paid for by the United Kingdom. [HL175]

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much legal aid was paid to the solicitor Phil Shiner or his associates for cases against Her Majesty's armed forces brought by foreign nationals in Iraq and Afghanistan in the European Court of Human Rights using legal aid paid for by the United Kingdom. [HL176]

Legal aid in England and Wales and Northern Ireland is administered by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) and the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission (NILSC) respectively. No foreign nationals in Iraq and Afghanistan have been funded by the LSC or NILSC to bring cases against Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the European Court of Human Rights, nor have any payments been made to Phil Shiner or his associates in respect of representation in such cases.

Legal aid in Scotland is a devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive.

Marine Environment: Safety

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they will take to ensure compliance with the use of the precautionary principle to offset damage to marine life. [HL180]

This Government are committed to a thriving marine environment, and we therefore use a precautionary approach, based on sound evidence and reason, as part of our sustainable development strategy. This is reflected in our decisions on marine licensing across the board, from fishing to aggregate extraction to power generation, and in our legislation, most notably the Marine and Coastal Access Act. More widely we are also working on the EU marine strategy framework directive to integrate sound science and planning with marine use, and we fund research through Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) and other centres of marine science expertise to enhance our scientific evidence base.

We are developing a marine planning system under the new Act. This includes the marine policy statement and a series of marine plans in the English inshore and offshore regions which will make responsible use of sound science in directing decision making in the marine area. We are taking action to ensure that there is compliance with our approach by creating the Marine Management Organisation, and by including provisions for marine conservation zones in the Marine and Coastal Access Act.

Media: Foreign Ownership

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what proposals they have to ensure that the owners of foreign news media groups pay United Kingdom taxes when operating press and broadcasting companies in the United Kingdom. [HL337]

Press and broadcasting companies operating in the UK are subject to tax on their profits in the same way as any other company operating in the UK.

Ministry of Defence: Redundancy

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people were made redundant by the Ministry of Defence and its agencies in each of the last three years for which figures are available; and what the associated costs were in each year. [HL70]

The information on costs that has been requested is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Departmental records do not differentiate between voluntary and compulsory redundancies. The over- whelming majority of redundancies are achieved through voluntary means and the table below gives the numbers of all redundancies over the past three financial years:

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

Total of voluntary and compulsory redundancies

2,035

2,560

1,365

Although in-year costs for redundancy payments are recorded, such costs do not reflect the number of redundancies actually made in the same year. This is because redundancy costs, especially where the compensation takes the form of the early payment of pension, may be spread over a number of years. Consequently, the costs recorded in any one year may reflect in large part redundancy activity from earlier years.

Money: Counterfeit Coins

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many counterfeit one pound and fifty pence coins they estimate are in circulation; and what steps they are taking to withdraw them. [HL143]

The most recent survey conducted by the Royal Mint found that its sample contained a £1 coin counterfeit rate of 2.52 per cent, or approximately £37 million.

The Royal Mint does not currently undertake regular surveys for other denominations. It is widely believed (by the Royal Mint, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and industry partners) that there is not a significant counterfeit issue with any other denominations.

The Royal Mint is working with banks, the Post Office, cash handling and sorting businesses, the police and the vending industry to remove counterfeit £1 coins from circulation before they reach the pockets of members of the public. Coin handling businesses, such as banks and the Post Office, handle over three billion £1 coins every year. They use high-speed, automated systems to process customer deposits and prepare coin for reissue. These automated systems are capable of detecting and withdrawing a significant number of counterfeit coins. All counterfeit coins detected from coin processing are sent to the Royal Mint for disposal.

The Royal Mint holds awareness seminars to educate the public and the coin handling industry on how to identify counterfeits, and has issued educational leaflets and posters.

The Royal Mint is also working with other validator and coin sorting manufacturers to help improve the counterfeit detection rate.

Motoring: Fines

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many (a) speeding fines, (b) London congestion charge fines, and (c) parking fines were incurred by the Government Car and Despatch Agency in each year since 1997; and what the value was of fines incurred in each category. [HL150]

The Government Car and Despatch Agency (GCDA) have paid the following fines:

Year

Total Parking Fines

Congestion Charge Fines

2003-04

£7,570

£160

2004-05

£5,610

£160

2005-06

£7,470

Nil

2006-07

£5,900

£50

2007-08

£15,930

Nil

2008-09

£16,830

Nil

The agency has paid no speeding fines.

Parking restrictions within central London may make it impossible sometimes to deliver secure or sensitive documents to buildings or allow people with a high public profile to attend or leave buildings without putting themselves or secure documents at risk. In these cases GCDA will pay the fine and recharge these costs to the customer as appropriate.

Armed Forces: Compensation

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much compensation for death and injury has been paid to British troops and civilians over the past five years by the Government of Iraq for activities carried out in support of civilian authorities there. [HL285]

We are not aware of any instances of the Government of Iraq paying compensation. The Ministry of Defence administers the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, which provides benefits for illness, injury or death sustained by troops during the course of their duties on or after 6 April 2005. This scheme has replaced the War Pensions Scheme and Armed Forces Pension Scheme's 75 attributable benefits. Any civilians injured in the course of their employment in Iraq or the next of kin of those who have been killed should discuss the issue of compensation with their employer.

National Identity Register

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether any (a) foreign intelligence agencies, and (b) foreign law enforcement agencies have authorised access to the National Identity Register; and whether they are considering granting such agencies access to it in future. [HL197]

No foreign intelligence agencies or foreign law enforcement agencies will have direct access to information held on the National Identity Register, and there are no plans to grant such access.

Nepal

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead on 12 November (WA 223), what assessment they have made of whether the interim constitution of Nepal protects a citizen's right to “have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice” as outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and, if not, whether they will urge the Government of Nepal to honour that obligation in their new constitution. [HL317]

The UK strongly supports the right to freedom of religion or belief. We are disappointed that the interim constitution of Nepal does not guarantee a person's right to choose or change their religion. We will, however, urge the Government of Nepal to ensure that the new constitution provides this right. We are providing technical and financial assistance to the Constituent Assembly to assist it in the drafting of the new constitution. This includes raising its awareness of Nepal's obligations under international treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to protect human rights, including the freedom of religion.

Pakistan: Torture

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider prosecuting under international law those accused of torture of British citizens in Pakistan. [HL289]

Torture is prohibited under UK and international law and perpetrators can be prosecuted in the UK regardless of where the crime was committed. This is in accordance with the UK's obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and enacted through Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Any decision to bring prosecutions against those accused of torture in Pakistan is a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service and requires the Attorney-General's consent.

Plant Health Regulations

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why the inspection fees listed in Schedule 2 to the Plant Health (Import Inspection Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations (SI 2009/2053) have been raised for countries supplying dianthus and rosa; and why they have been reduced for countries supplying the listed fruit and vegetables. [HL332]

The inspection fees listed in Schedule 2 to the Plant Health (Import Inspection Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations (SI 2009/2053) are set according to the level of checks required under the plant health directive (2000/29 EC) to provide assurance that the imported plants or plant produce are free from quarantine plant pests and diseases.

An annual review by the European Commission determines the trades eligible for levels of inspection below 100 per cent, based on records of inspections and interceptions over the previous three years. A working group held in June this year agreed the addition of one new trade, the removal of two trades, and changes to the levels of inspection on 11 trades to take account of new data on compliance. Member states reported an increase in the number of interceptions of quarantine pests and diseases associated with imports of dianthus from Israel and Kenya and roses from India, Uganda and Zambia, resulting in an increase in the level of inspection on those trades and a corresponding increase to the fees. Conversely, there was a reduction in the number of interceptions associated with some other trades (eg citrus fruit from Honduras and Israel) which resulted in a reduction in the level of inspection and fees for those trades.

These inspections are undertaken by the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), which supports the risk-based approach to such inspections adopted by the Commission.

Post Office

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many functions of the Post Office in Scotland generate income for the Scottish Government and Scottish local authorities; what that income is; and how the costs of collection are accounted. [HL328]

Post Office Limited provides both automated and manual transcash bill payment services through its nationwide network of branches and many local authorities use the Post Office to allow their customers to make payments such as council tax, rent payments and other miscellaneous payments. In Scotland, customers of all 32 local authorities can use the Post Office for specific bill payments—the income and costs for these services is commercially confidential information.

Prisoners: Ethnicity and Religion

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the ethnic and religious composition of those serving prison sentences; and what it was 10 years ago. [HL89]

Data for 2008 was published in July 2009 in Offender Management Caseload Statistics on the MoJ website. (http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications /prisonandprobation.htm).

Data for 1999 was published in July 2000 in Prison Statistics England and Wales. A copy may be found at the following website: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/prischap6.html.

Both publications may also be found in House Libraries.

The religious composition of all prisoners in June 1999 and June 2008 is in the table below. Religion is self-declared.

1999

2008

All Christian

39,547

41,839

Anglican

27,095

23,039

Free Church

1,144

1,213

Roman Catholic

11,308

14,296

Other Christian

*

3,291

Buddhist

307

1,737

Hindu

256

434

Jewish

185

220

Muslim

4,339

9,795

Sikh

437

648

Other religious groups

1,294

448

Non recognised

*

347

No religion

18,157

27,710

Not recorded

7

17

Total

64,529

83,194

* Data not categorised in this way in 1999.

The ethnic composition of all prisoners in June 1999 and June 2008 are in the tables below. Data on ethnicity of prisoners in 1999 was based on 1991 census categories. Since 2004, the categories in the 2001 census have been used. The figures are therefore not strictly comparable. Ethnicity is self-declared.

1999

White

52,377

Black

7,964

South Asian

1,929

Chinese & Other

2,225

Unrecorded

34

Total

64,529

2008

White

60,196

Mixed

2,691

Asian or Asian British

5,804

Black or Black British

12,557

Chinese or Other ethnic group

1,354

Not Stated

312

Unrecorded

36

1991 Census ethnic codes

244

Total

83,194

These figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems, which, as with any large-scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing.

Prisoners: Literature

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how often members of the public can send fictional or educational books to convicted prisoners. [HL99]

The type of items and the frequency with which they may be received by prisoners whilst in custody are decided by individual prison governors. Their decision will be based on what is considered appropriate for their local circumstances and to fit in with their locally devised incentives and earned privileges scheme (a scheme which allows prisoners to earn privileges through constructive participation in purposeful activity).

Prisons: Chaplains

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why there has been a delay in confirming the appointment of the Buddhist chaplain nominated for HM Prison Bedford. [HL224]

I understand that the delay in confirming the appointment of the Buddhist chaplain at HMP Bedford was caused by a misunderstanding of the security vetting process and how this enabled the new chaplain to be paid as a sessional worker. Payment arrangements will be initiated shortly.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the average time between the nomination of a non-Christian, non-Muslim chaplain to an appointment in HM Prison Service and the start date of the appointment. [HL225]

For all directly employed chaplains the average time would vary between 20 and 25 weeks, including all stages of the recruitment, vetting and appointment process.

Retail: Employment

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to proposals from the retail sector regarding green infrastructure, skills and employment in United Kingdom retailing. [HL182]

Ministers and officials in my department have frequent discussions with retailers and their representative organisations on all these issues and will continue to do so. In addition, the Retail Policy Forum, which is broadly representative of the sector, meets regularly to engage with the Government on emerging policy challenges and opportunities.

The Government fully recognise the important role retail can play in developing and implementing environmental priorities, and welcome the input of retailers and their trade bodies. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills announced on 23 September that BIS is working with the retail sector to develop a low carbon action plan for retail, which will be in place by spring next year.

The UK Low Carbon Industrial Strategy sets out our plans to help industry to maximise the economic opportunities and minimise the costs of the transition to a low carbon economy. Our national skills strategy “Skills for Growth” and the higher education strategy “Higher Ambitions” take fully into account the need for a greater number of skilled technicians to work with the new and emerging green technologies, of which retailers will be an extensive user. We are also working closely with Skillsmart Retail to develop a retail skills strategy to explore levers for and barriers to maximising retail skills provision.

Royal Mail

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much capital will be needed to fund their proposals to reform Royal Mail. [HL259]

Royal Mail has said that its transformation plans will cost around £2.1 billion. The company will use retained profits to fund the investment and the Government have also made available £1.2 billion of debt facilities to help Royal Mail implement its plans.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the Compass Group report on the Hooper report on Royal Mail. [HL260]

The depth of analysis in the Compass report did not bear serious comparison with Hooper.

Richard Hooper carried out a robust and thorough analysis with access to commercially confidential information provided by Royal Mail and its competitors and taking evidence from many organisations and individuals with an interest in the future of the postal sector.

We believe the Compass report on Hooper and its subsequent report on alternatives did not seem to be driven by evidence, but by an ideological imperative to identify any solution that avoided a partner taking a stake of even 1 per cent in Royal Mail.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are continuing to seek a new part purchaser of Royal Mail. [HL261]

As announced in July, market conditions made it impossible to conclude the process to identify a partner for the Royal Mail on terms that we could be confident would secure value for the taxpayer.

When market conditions improve we will return to the issue.

Rural Areas: Economy

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the proportion of small businesses in rural areas who now consider broadband internet access to be critical to their continued development. [HL127]

Rwanda

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the answer by Lord Brett on 23 November (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 137), what steps they are taking to bring charges of genocide against the alleged perpetrators of Rwandan genocide at Murambi College of Technology who have been resident in the United Kingdom; when they will commence the relevant provisions of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 permitting such charges to be brought; and what steps they are taking to ensure that the alleged perpetrators do not evade justice. [HL256]

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that the Coroners and Justice Bill that would allow for prosecution in the UK for cases of genocide perpetrated overseas has been enacted and is scheduled to come in to force on 1 February 2010.

Whilst I am unable to go into the details of individual cases, I can confirm that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Counter Terrorism Division is responsible for national prosecutions of war crimes and crimes against humanity and the Crimes against Humanity Unit of the Counter Terrorism Command of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has the national mandate to investigate these types of crime. When the evidence is passed to the CPS Counter Terrorism Division, it is reviewed in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. If there is sufficient evidence of a war crime or crime against humanity, it is highly likely that a prosecution would meet the public interest test. In anticipation of retrospective legislation introduced in the Coroners and Justice Bill, the MPS continues to consult with the Crown Prosecution Service and partnership agencies in respect of any alleged perpetrator that could potentially be prosecuted under this new legislation.

Sea Fishing (Landing and Weighing of Herring, Mackerel and Horse Mackerel) Order 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why only four ports were designated for the landing of mackerel and horse mackerel under article 4(c) of the Sea Fishing (Landing and Weighing of Herring, Mackerel and Horse Mackerel) Order 2009 (SI 2009/1850); and whether no other port can accept mackerel or horse mackerel in any circumstances. [HL331]

The Sea Fishing (Landing and Weighing of Herring, Mackerel and Horse Mackerel) Order 2009 (SI 2009/1850) implements the provisions of Commission Regulation 1542/2007 on landing and weighing procedures for herring, mackerel and horse mackerel. That regulation sets out special measures necessary for the effective monitoring and control of high volume landings of pelagic species. It applies only to landings in excess of 10 tonnes. The use of designated ports is a crucial part of the control arrangements. The decision on which ports to designate took into account existing industry practice, whether the port had the necessary infrastructure in place to be able to comply with the requirements of the regulation and the potential impact of designating a port on the overall levels of control needed to monitor pelagic landings effectively. Landings of quantities of less than 10 tonnes of herring, mackerel and horse mackerel may continue to be made at any other port, subject to any further limitations in the vessel's fishing licence.

Severn Bridge: Tolls

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will freeze the toll on the Severn Bridge until 2011, as has been done on the Humber Bridge. [HL251]

It is not possible to compare the two bridges as they have different characteristics which need to be considered when setting the toll levels.

The Severn is run by a private sector consortium and the legislation seeks to apply a clear structure to give the concessionaire confidence that it would be able to meet its liabilities in relation to the large risk it took on board. The legislation requires an increase in the tolls each year calculated in line with the retail prices index (RPI). The Secretary of State does not have the power to set an increase at a different rate without the agreement of the concessionaire.

The Humber Bridge is run by a company made up of the four relevant local authorities who borrowed significant public money to enable the bridge to be built. The legislation is concerned with ensuring the Bridge Board meets its obligations for managing the bridge and repaying the debt, but because of the different risks does not restrict the Secretary of State to annual RPI increases.

Taxation: Non-domiciled Residents

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what would be the effect on public finances of charging all individuals who indicate they are non-domiciled for tax purposes a flat fee of £25,000 per annum instead of their measures for such people. [HL75]

The overall net Exchequer yield of introducing a flat £25,000 annual levy on all resident non-domiciled individuals is displayed in the table below.

Column one shows the additional amount raised above the changes introduced at the 2007 Pre-Budget Report. Column 2 shows the amount this would raise if the Government had not introduced the 2007 Pre-Budget Report package.

Tax year

Exchequer yield relative to the post FA 2008 position

Exchequer yield relative to the pre-2008 position

2008-09

0

0

2009-10

350

1050

2010-11

150

650

2011-12

100

600

2012-13

50

550

£m nearest £50m

These figures are based on self-assessment returns for the tax year 2006-07.

It is assumed that the charge would be levied only on non-domiciled individuals who chose to pay tax on the remittance basis (as under the current FA08 rules). The remittance basis means that individuals are only liable to tax on their foreign income and gains to the extent that they are remitted to the UK. Those not wishing to pay the £25,000 charge for access to the remittance basis would be able to opt for the arising basis and pay income tax on all their foreign income whether remitted to the UK or not.

Secondly, it is assumed that the £25,000 charge will not replace all other tax liabilities on remitted foreign income and that resident non-domiciles on the remittance basis will continue to pay tax on income and gains remitted to the UK.

The revenue effect of levying a charge on all non-domiciled, both resident and non-resident, individuals is not available.

Taxation: Overseas Territories

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what proposals they have to amend taxation arrangements in Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories. [HL338]

Taxation: Residential Property

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many spare rooms would be removed from taxation if the limit above which tax is paid on the rental income from them was raised from the current £4,250 to £9,000; and what would be the cost to the exchequer. [HL130]

HM Revenue and Customs' administrative systems do not hold detailed information about the number of rooms which are rented out. It is estimated that if the current rent a room relief limit was raised from £4,250 to £9,000, around 10,000 individuals would receive some benefit from the change at a cost to the exchequer of around £10 million.

Thames Barrier: Sewage

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there are overflow pipes that discharge into the River Thames between the Thames Barrier and the source of the Thames in relation to which spills are not required to be reported to the Environment Agency. [HL209]

Holders of consents to discharge storm sewage to the River Thames between its source and the Thames Barrier are not required, as a condition of their consent, to report spills to the Environment Agency.

Under the terms of an agreement made with the Environment Agency, Thames Water notifies the Environment Agency of discharges of storm sewage from the storm tanks at Crossness Sewage Treatment Works and of significant discharges from Western, Lots Road, Hammersmith and Abbey Mills pumping stations. Thames Water also notifies the Environment Agency when it anticipates discharges from the storm tanks at Mogden Sewage Treatment Works. These are all direct discharges to the Thames Estuary, with the exception of those from Abbey Mills Pumping Station, which discharges to Bow Creek in the lower River Lee.

Universities: Admissions

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government in the light of statistics recently published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service showing an increase in applications for university places for the academic year 2010–11, whether they will discuss with the Higher Education Funding Council the level of financial sanctions for over-recruitment. [HL218]

In his grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for 2009 the Secretary of State made clear that over-recruitment by universities could have consequences for the level of grant allocated to the council in future years. We will discuss this with HEFCE when more information comes available on 2009-10 enrolments.

Vehicles: Tyre Noise

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are planning to reduce vehicle tyre noise, following recent European Union legislative proposals. [HL393]

The European Union legislative proposals on reducing tyre noise were adopted as Regulation EC No 661/2009, published on 31 July 2009 in the Official Journal of the European Union. The regulation has direct legal force and consequently does not require transposition into UK law. The regulation requires that from 1 November 2014 tyres fitted to all new vehicles and replacement tyres must meet the noise standards in the regulation. Her Majesty's Government will, however, put in place enforcement powers and penalty provisions to ensure the requirements of the regulation relating to tyre noise can be adequately enforced in the UK.

Waterways: British Waterways Board

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they plan to dispose of a substantive part of the assets of the British Waterways Board. [HL449]