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Written Answers

Volume 715: debated on Thursday 10 December 2009

Written Answers

Thursday 10 December 2009

Armed Forces: Armoured Fighting Vehicles

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the role and establishment of (a) the FV430, and (b) the Bulldog, range of armoured vehicles in the British Army. [HL355]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the effect on the combat effectiveness of a British armoured or mechanised brigade if it had no FV430 or Bulldog range of armoured vehicles. [HL356]

The role of the FV430/Bulldog is to provide protected transport for up to 10 soldiers, with weapons and equipment in battlefield conditions. Vehicles have also been adapted to provide engineer support, communications, recovery and repair and ambulances. The FV430 is being phased out to meet automotive legislation and a proportion of the fleet is being converted into Bulldog. The intention is to convert 900 FV430 into Bulldog. To date we have completed 744 conversions.

Bulldog is an important part of the vehicle inventory. Without it all Mechanised Brigades would be ineffective, and all Armoured Brigades would be without combat support.

Bulldog is not currently deployed in Afghanistan, but it performed well in Iraq. Land operations in Afghanistan mainly require light role forces, hence the temporary re-roling of four infantry battalions from the mechanised and armoured roles. Bulldog's utility on operations is continually considered but it is currently not the best solution for the specific protection and mobility requirements of operations in Afghanistan.

Carers

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the report by Oxfam entitled Who Cares? about protecting United Kingdom care workers from exploitation; and whether they will extend the responsibilities of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to cover the care sector. [HL541]

Workers in the care sector, as elsewhere, benefit from a legal framework of minimum workplace protections including the right to the national minimum wage, the right not to have to work more than an average of 48 hours each week, and health and safety safeguards. Employment agencies also have to comply with employment agency regulations, which are enforced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' (BIS's) Employment Agency Standards (EAS) Inspectorate. The EAS responds to all complaints, and carries out targeted, risk-based inspections. It has powers to prosecute in the civil courts, and the power to prohibit people from running employment agencies for up to 10 years.

Last year, the Government launched a £6 million, three-year information campaign to make sure that vulnerable workers are aware of their rights and of how to report abuses. As part of this work, BIS recently launched the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368. It combines the functions of five previous helplines, making it easier for vulnerable workers to report bad treatment at work, and for government to respond. Where there is evidence of care workers suffering abuse, it should be reported to the new helpline.

The Government have no current plans to extend the responsibilities of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

Children, Schools and Families Bill

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why the impact assessment for the Children, Schools and Families Bill does not include a disability impact assessment or a race impact assessment. [HL411]

As is standard practice, race and disability are covered as part of the equalities impact assessment for the Bill. It is published on the DCSF website at http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/ childrenschoolsandfamiliesbill.

Climate Change: Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the effect of the acidification of waters around the United Kingdom coastline on maritime carbon dioxide emissions. [HL493]

We share the growing concern over ocean acidification, caused by the ocean's uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by human activities, and the vulnerability of marine ecosystems to these changes. Ocean acidification provides yet further impetus to the case for urgent action on tackling and adapting to climate change because of the rapid rate of change already being measured. These issues are key to the delivery of a broad range of Defra's objectives in the marine and adaption to climate change programmes, and we have been pleased to see it coming up the IPCC's agenda.

The wider impacts of ocean acidification are not well understood at present. The recently announced UK Ocean Acidification Programme where Defra has joined together with the Natural Environment Research Council and the Department of Energy and Climate Change aims to drive forward this area of research. This £12 million, five year research programme will address the policy and societal need for a greater understanding of the implications of ocean acidification and its risks to marine biogeochemistry and biodiversity and impact on the whole earth system. Ocean acidification is also an issue highlighted in the latest Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) report launched last April (see www.mccip.org.uk/elr/default.htm).

Climate Change: Sea Temperatures

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what increases in sea surface temperatures they anticipate in (a) 2015–20, and (b) 2020–25. [HL496]

Climate model predictions made by the Met Office Hadley Centre suggest that, relative to the 1971-2000 average and based on 5-95 per cent confidence intervals, global mean sea surface temperatures will be between 0.36 and 0.53°C warmer in 2015-20 and between 0.48 and 0.64°C warmer in 2020-25.

Coastal Erosion

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the recent public consultation on coastal protection schemes will be extended to cover all localities where the public has made suggestions. [HL497]

High-level strategies for managing coastal flood and erosion risk are set out in shoreline management plans (SMPs), with detailed consideration of different options for managing the coast provided in coastal strategies.

A rolling review of SMPs covering the whole of England and Wales is currently underway. Local authorities and the Environment Agency are reviewing each of the 22 SMPs and a significant part of this process is a three-month public consultation.

Coastal strategies are the next stage and look at shorter sections of coast in more detail than the SMPs. The strategies consider different options for managing the coast and are subject to significant public consultation. This provides the public with the opportunity to make suggestions and discuss the issues and proposals in more detail.

Counterterrorism

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the implications on spending on counter-terrorism of the reduction of the national terrorism threat level on 20 July. [HL539]

The change in the threat level to substantial, meaning an attack is a strong possibility, does not mean the overall threat has gone away—there remains a real and serious threat against the United Kingdom and we would ask that the public remain vigilant. Substantial continues to indicate a high level of threat and that an attack might well occur without further warning.

The decision to change the threat level is taken by JTAC independently of Ministers and is based on the very latest intelligence, considering factors such as current capability, intent and timescale.

As substantial continues to represent a high level of threat there have been no significant change to policing arrangements, and security procedures at airports and other public places remain in place.

The threat level is kept under constant review and can change—up or down—at any time in the future. Short-term changes in the threat level are therefore not a sound basis for making long-term strategic decisions about resourcing.

Digital Economy

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have sought the advice of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the adviser to the Minister for the Cabinet Office on public information delivery, on clauses 4 to 20 of the Digital Economy Bill and on any impact on access to the internet; and, if so, what was his advice. [HL441]

While we are always interested in the views of acknowledged experts, we have not directly sought the advice of Sir Tim Berners-Lee in relation to Clauses 4 to 20 of the Digital Economy Bill. The policies that these clauses implement were proposed in the Digital Britain White Paper, published in June of this year.

We have consulted fully in relation to online copyright infringement, most recently in June 2009 with an additional government statement on 25 August. We received over 200 responses by the time the consultation closed on 29 September, many of them from individual experts, and all of which we have taken into account.

In relation to internet domain names, the Bill takes reserve powers where there is a failure which is likely adversely to affect the reputation or availability of electronic communications services or the interests of consumers. Consultation will take place before the powers are used.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee is advising the Government on the Making Public Data Public project.

Education: Home Schooling

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of any campaign to harass Graham Badman or other officials or ministers associated with his Review of Elective Home Education in England. [HL431]

The department has drawn the Information Commissioner's attention to an apparent campaign to vilify and harass Mr Graham Badman and others. It released a letter sent by the department to the Information Commissioner explaining the nature of the campaign in response to an FOI request. This is available on the department's freedom of information disclosure log at http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/foischeme/subPage.cfm?action=disclosures.display&i_subcategorvyID =31&i_collectionID=345. The department recently reviewed the position and noted that the apparent campaign is continuing and that the scope has been extended to cover both Ministers and officials in both DCSF and local authorities. It will review the position again in the new year.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, under the Children, Schools and Families Bill, a local authority will have the right to refuse permission to home educate if a parent refuses to allow the local authority unaccompanied access to his or her child. [HL432]

The Children, Schools and Families Bill will give local authorities the power to make arrangements for monitoring the education being provided to home educated children in their area. These arrangements can only include seeing the child unaccompanied if the parents and child agree.

The Bill also sets out the circumstances in which a local authority can remove a child from the register and so, in effect, prevent them from being home educated. One of the circumstances is where parents refuse to co-operate with the arrangements made by the LA. LAs may be able to satisfy themselves that a child's education is adequate without seeing the child alone, but in some cases an interview with the child may be needed.

The Bill provides for regulations to make provision for the steps to be taken by an authority when they are considering removing a child from the register and about the matters that are or are not to be taken into account when making that decision. One of the purposes of these regulations will be to set out to local authorities how they can be satisfied that a child is receiving a suitable education, which may be achieved in many cases without seeing the child with no parent present. Parents will have the right of appeal against any decision by a local authority to remove a child from the register.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the responses by Birmingham City Council to the questionnaires sent out by the Badman Review of Elective Home Education in England. [HL433]

The detailed evidence collected from Birmingham City Council will not be made available in the Library of the House as responses by local authorities contain information which might lead to individual children being identified if the data released were combined with other data that are publicly available, or which could be obtained by other means, including Freedom of Information Act requests. We are also concerned that release of the questionnaire could make local authorities reluctant to co-operate with departmental surveys in the future. In the context of the review of elective home education the department takes the view that release of such information could lead to harassment and vilification of individuals in the authority who were known to, or suspected to, have contributed to completion of the questionnaire.

Education: Post-16 Funding

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government with reference to press notice 2009/0230 issued by the Department for Children, Schools and Families on 30 November, whether they expect local authorities to ensure sixth form colleges can access Building Schools for the Future funding. [HL463]

Pursuant to the Answer of 21 July 2009 (Official Report, col. 1403W), I restate that we have made our intention clear to bring sixth-form colleges within the scope of the Building Schools for the Future programme. That remains our position. We will make the details clear as soon as we are able.

My officials are working with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and Partnerships for Schools to establish the arrangements, which we will consult upon with local authorities, through the LGA, in due course. They will be up and running to be used for any new expenditure from April 2011. The only projects that the LSC is currently approving are those which colleges fund themselves.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government which (a) schools, and (b) colleges, received funding from the 16–19 capital fund in each of the past four years for which figures are available; and what funding will be available from this source in (1) 2010–11, and (2) 2011–12. [HL465]

Details of which schools and colleges received capital funding are an operational matter and, as such, details are held by the Learning and Skills Council. I have passed the Question to the chief executive and asked that he write to the noble Baroness and place a copy of his reply in the Library of the House.

DCSF and LSC are currently reviewing the precise level of current and possible commitments against the budget for 2010-11. To ensure affordability within the current spending review any projects that can be funded must be able to complete by 31 March 2011. Funding for 2011-12 will be subject to the next spending review.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what changes have been made in the past three years to the guidance provided to local authorities when considering whether to approve an application from a school to establish a sixth form; and whether the guidance covers whether such approval should be predicated on the availability of capital funding for such a sixth form. [HL466]

The department's Expanding a Maintained Mainstream School by Enlargement or Adding a Sixth Form guidance is available from the department's school organisation website, and this also lists a history of changes to the guidance. While most changes have been minor and technical, we have made two significant and relevant changes. First, we have extended the period in which suitable schools may rely on the presumption to add a sixth form from one to two years; and, secondly, while reaffirming the right of high performing secondary schools to add post-16 provision, stressing the need for them to consider wider provision in their area and to collaborate with other 16-19 partners in drawing up plans.

The guidance also makes clear that the decision-maker should be satisfied that any capital funding required to implement proposals will be available. This is not something specific to sixth form proposals, but is a requirement common to all school organisation proposals.

Elections: Armed Forces

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that those in full-time training to serve in the Armed Forces are registered to vote. [HL550]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the requirements on those running training facilities of the Armed Forces with regard to registering on the electoral roll those undergoing full-time training to serve in the Armed Forces and resident at such facilities. [HL551]

As part of their induction to service life, trainees are encouraged to participate in the election process by registering to vote. MoD works closely with the Electoral Commission and the Ministry of Justice to help service personnel and their families understand their options for registering to vote and how they can vote. All units must appoint a unit registration officer to co-ordinate the extensive information campaign and service electoral registration day conducted annually to coincide with the autumn household canvass. This year's campaign emphasised the importance of registration in view of next year's general election.

Embryology

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Thornton on 1 December (HL18), whether the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority would consider that a researcher had taken reasonable steps to contact the person who originally provided cells if the researcher had no access to the necessary contact information. [HL476]

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has advised that this would be judged on a case by case basis, as indicated in my Answer of 1 December (WA 20).

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Thornton on 1 December (WA 20), what representations the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority would make to a tissue bank in order to ensure that they use contact information at their disposal so that a researcher could try to contact the person who originally provided cells. [HL484]

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has advised that it would be for the researcher to obtain information from the tissue bank in order to try to contact the person who originally provided the cells.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Thornton on 1 December (WA 21), which professional bodies have issued advice recommending that the production of 44 eggs following superovulation is appropriate when associated with the pursuit of material for research. [HL485]

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has advised that it is not aware that any guidelines have been published specifically recommending the collection of 44 eggs. The content of any professional guidance is a matter for the professional bodies themselves.

Energy: Carbon Capture and Storage

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the Health and Safety Executive about designating carbon capture and storage in the same way as dangerous fluids requiring appropriate safety measures. [HL390]

My officials have had a number of discussions with officials from the Health and Safety Executive about the arrangements that will be put in place effectively to regulate the health and safety of carbon capture and storage. As with any other technology it is important that the hazards associated with CCS are subject to an appropriate level of control. The HSE is taking part in discussions with the European Commission about including CO2 in the CCS process in the Seveso Directive, and the EC is now considering whether to make a formal proposal for its inclusion in the directive. Subject to this outcome, HSE will consider whether or not to include carbon dioxide within its onshore and offshore control of major hazard regulations. HSE is also about to consult on the pipelines safety regulations which would extend additional major accident hazard pipeline duties to carbon dioxide.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what measures they will introduce to ensure that carbon capture technology companies make adequate provision for safe storage and sealing of carbon, decommissioning of plants and minimising the costs of altering plants for other uses. [HL394]

The European directive on the geological storage of carbon dioxide (2009/31/EC) requires that operators of carbon dioxide storage sites shall ensure that the carbon dioxide will be permanently contained so as to prevent or eliminate as far as possible any risk to the environment or human health; and that the site will be sealed and the injection facilities removed after the cessation of operations. The Government's approach to such measures was set out in the response to the towards carbon capture and storage consultation (April 2009 URN 09D1532), and further consultation is currently underway to set out these requirements in greater detail. This closes on 30 December. The Energy Act 2008 ensures that the decommissioning regime of Part 4 of the Petroleum Act 1998 also applies to carbon dioxide storage installations; this regime will allow deferral of decommissioning of offshore facilities for future use for carbon dioxide storage where justified.

Energy: Nuclear Power Stations

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the financial framework for encouraging companies to invest in new nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom. [HL545]

As set out in the nuclear White Paper, the Office for Nuclear Development is taking active steps to establish and implement the right policy framework in the UK for investment in new nuclear power stations.

We published a draft nuclear national policy statement on 9 November for consultation. We have legislated to ensure developers put money aside from day one for eventual clean up. We have published the recommendations made by Dr Tim Stone on the nuclear regulatory environment. However, there is no public subsidy for new nuclear and it is up to energy companies to take a view on the economics of new nuclear power. So far energy companies have committed to build up to 16 GW of new nuclear. The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme provides a financial framework for ensuring that a price is attached to carbon emissions and thus benefits investment in low carbon technologies such as nuclear power, renewables and clean coal.

Energy: Renewables

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the commercial viability of using recovered fuel oil in place of other fuels with a greater carbon footprint. [HL444]

Waste Strategy 2007 recognises that recovered fuel oil (RFO), which is part-processed waste oil, may be used as a fuel substitute, and the energy in the RFO recovered. There are a number of operators undertaking this activity, the commercial viability of which is affected by a number of factors, including the price of fuel oil. Under the revised waste framework directive the recovery of energy from waste is placed fourth in the waste hierarchy, which shall apply as a priority order, and is above waste disposal which includes incineration without energy recovery. The regeneration of waste oil into base oil by re-refining is classed as recycling and is placed third in the waste hierarchy.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the extent of illegal dumping of waste oil; and whether the development of a market for recovered fuel oil would alleviate that practice. [HL445]

The correct disposal of hazardous waste, including waste oil, is a legal requirement and there are controls in place to prevent illegal dumping. The Environment Agency gathers information on oil-related incidents. From its records, there appears to be no increase in the oil-related incidents that it deals with regarding illegal disposal. Similarly, data collected under the Flycapture scheme from local authorities on the number of fly tips cleared by the local authority show no increase in the amount of such waste being fly tipped between 2007 and 2008.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether recovered fuel oil is exported from the United Kingdom for use as a fuel in other European Union member states. [HL446]

Information on the transfrontier shipment of waste oils from England and Wales is collected by the Environment Agency. This information shows that in 2008, the latest year for which data are available, 9,298 tonnes of waste oils were exported from England and Wales for recovery. This included a proportion of waste oil for energy recovery in the EU.

Equality: Life Expectancy

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon on 2 December (WA 46) stating that specific groups experience disadvantage based upon their innate characteristics, whether they intend to address the inequality of life expectation between men and women. [HL543]

Tackling health inequalities is a government priority, including the health differences between men and women. The latest data for 2006-08 show a 4.1 years difference between the life expectancy of men and women in England—82 years for women and 77.9 for men—with lower levels of life expectancy in disadvantaged areas.

The Secretary of State for Health has asked Professor Sir Michael Marmot of University College London to review the latest global evidence on health inequalities and identify possible policy options for the future. The review is exploring avoidable health differences in the population through an approach that emphasises the social determinants of health. This includes socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity and disability. Sir Michael is expected to publish his independent report in the new year and his findings will inform the development of a post-2010 cross-government health inequalities strategy.

Flooding

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they expect to see a reduction in the number of United Kingdom domestic properties at risk from river, sea and surface water flooding. [HL566]

The Government target is to move 145,000 households to a lower flood probability category by March 2011.

The Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards are on track to exceed this target and provide better protection to 160,000 homes.

However, the Environment Agency's long term investment strategy, published in June, suggests that investment will need to increase by 80 per cent by 2035 to counter the future effects of climate change.

Food: Salt

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider methods for reducing the salt content of children's food below 3 grams for five year-olds, 5 grams for seven-to-ten year-olds, and 6 grams for those over 11, following recent findings. [HL391]

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has set voluntary salt reduction targets for around 80 categories of food to be met by the food industry by 2010; and an additional, stricter set of targets to be achieved by 2012. Foods that contribute to children's diets are generally the same as those that contribute to adults diets. As the FSA's salt targets apply to all foods within the defined categories, whether these are aimed at adults or children, achievement of these targets by the food industry will help to secure a reduction in children's intakes.

Government Network Office

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Minister of State at Communities and Local Government, Ms Rosie Winterton, on 12 June (Official Report, House of Commons, cols. 1062–4), why the reorganisation of the Government Office Network resulted in the centralisation of accommodation costs; where those costs are now reported; how many years' costs are included; and what savings are expected as a result of the reorganisation. [HL384]

Reorganisation of the Government Office Network's corporate services is part of the Government's continuing operational efficiencies programme and shared service agenda. The Government Office Network and Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG)'s integration of finance, human relations and information technology, as well as estates and accommodation, aims to achieve efficiencies and savings.

Accommodation costs are included in the Government Office Network accounts which are consolidated into the CLG accounts laid before Parliament annually. Savings and efficiencies will be reported as part of the whole shared services reorganisation once it is complete.

Gurkhas

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the annual cost of welfare payments to (a) Gurkha ex-servicemen settled in the United Kingdom, (b) dependants of such soldiers who have emigrated to the United Kingdom following the recent change in policy, and (c) Gurkha servicemen yet to retire who would be eligible to settle in the United Kingdom. [HL279]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (a) the cost of providing welfare payments to those Gurkha ex-servicemen who retired before 1 July 1997, and (b) the cost of providing pensions to those Gurkha ex-servicemen who retired before 1 July 1997. [HL280]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their forecast of the cost of welfare provision over the next 20 years for 10,000 to 15,000 Gurkhas and their dependants settling in the United Kingdom. [HL281]

The Government's position on settlement rights for those who retired from the Brigade of Gurkhas before July 1997 was set out in the Home Secretary's Statement on 21 May 2009. On the basis that 36,000 Gurkhas and their dependants settled in the United Kingdom, the Government estimated that the annual cost would be approximately £1.4 billion. On the basis that 10,000 to 15,000 applicants plus their dependants chose to settle in the UK, the Government estimate that the costs are likely to be £300 million to £400 million a year. This does not include service related pensions.

It has been estimated that the cost of providing retired Gurkhas with Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) equivalent pension benefits for all pensionable service before one July 1997 would be a one-off cost of £500 million and then £1 billion spread over 20 years. The £1.5 billion would benefit a small group of mainly officers where the pension difference between Gurkha Pension Scheme and AFPS is significant.

No estimates have been made of the annual cost of welfare payments to include Gurkhas who retired after 1997 or the future cost relating to those still serving and who choose to settle in the UK upon discharge.

Health: Autologous Therapy

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress is being made in developing autologous therapy for NHS patients, particularly in heart attack and similar cases. [HL564]

Autologous therapy, using a patient's own stem cells, has been used with increasing success to treat a range of conditions, such as burns to the skin or damage to the cornea. A number of research trials have investigated bone marrow stem cells to treat damage to the heart following a heart attack. While these studies are ongoing, to date any benefits for patients appear to be marginal and transient in nature. More clinical research will be required to establish with confidence whether or not there really are any clinical benefits from this approach.

Health: Cancer

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take to make it a requirement to provide ovarian cancer screening for women. [HL477]

As stated in the Cancer Reform Strategy published in 2007, the cancer research community is committed to investigating screening approaches in cancers where we do not currently have national screening programmes. The National Health Service Constitution (January 2009) also commits the NHS to providing screening programmes as recommended by the United Kingdom National Screening Committee.

The department, the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK are currently funding the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening. The trial began in 2000 and final results are expected in 2015. Over the next five years, the researchers will be looking at whether an ovarian cancer screening programme using these tests can reduce deaths from ovarian cancer.

We will continue to monitor this research and evaluate the potential for new screening technologies as the evidence develops, working closely with the UK National Screening Committee.

Health: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is categorised as a non-organic disease; whether they plan to review that categorisation; and what are the treatments available to sufferers of ME. [HL379]

Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is categorised as a long-term neurological condition of unknown cause.

Although there is currently no effective treatment for CFS/ME, cognitive behavioural therapy, graded exercise therapy, pacing and other lifestyle changes, as well as medication to relieve pain and depression have proved useful for some patients.

Homelessness

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assistance is available to destitute people who are not allowed to access benefits. [HL347]

Homelessness charities are often able to assist people who are destitute and not eligible for benefits. In the case of destitute eastern Europeans, we have provided funding to support local authorities in helping destitute eastern Europeans return to their home countries.

Housing

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at Communities and Local Government, Mr Ian Austin, on 12 October (Official Report, House of Commons, cols. 1503–4W), why the sums granted to each housing market renewal pathfinder result in variable numbers of new houses built, existing houses refurbished and houses demolished; why the £270 million allocated to East Lancashire resulted in 16 new homes, 4,300 refurbishments and 2,000 demolitions; and why the £245 million allocated to South Yorkshire resulted in 538 new homes, 9,000 refurbishments and 3,100 demolitions. [HL382]

It is not possible to make direct comparisons between the outputs of HMR pathfinders as there are wide variations in the value of projects, local priorities and local markets. The HMR programme is also aimed at attracting interest from developers to their areas and the projects undertaken by pathfinders will therefore vary in relation to investor plans.

Allocations to HMR pathfinders are made for the totality of their programmes, and not for individual elements, on the basis of strategies set out in their business plans. It is for individual pathfinders to judge how much should be spent on particular activities, taking into account the stage of the regeneration process in their area and local market conditions.

Housing: Gardens

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether domestic gardens are designated as brownfield land for planning purposes; and, if so, whether they will alter that designation. [HL578]

The Government's definition of brownfield land is set out in Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3). This definition states that “previously developed land is that which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land and any associated fixed structure”, so does include domestic gardens.

On 2 April 2009 the Government announced a review of evidence to establish whether there is a clear and genuine problem with the extent of housing development on garden land. We committed to considering action if the evidence confirms a problem, provided that any changes should not have the effect of undermining our objectives on housing. Our aim is to conclude the review and make a further announcement shortly alongside the publication of the findings and evidence.

Immigration: General Perez Musharraf

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the immigration application of General Pervez Musharraf has followed the standard process. [HL290]

Immigration: Detention Centres

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to end the practice of holding children in immigration detention centres. [HL128]

We would rather not detain families with children and would prefer that they left the UK voluntarily where the courts have upheld a decision of the UK Border Agency that they must leave the country. However, where they fail to leave after being given every opportunity and incentive to do so, the agency has no other option, other than to separate the family, but to detain in order to enforce their departure. Where detention is prolonged, it is normally because the family has made a last minute application to the court to frustrate the removal.

However, we are investigating approaches which would reduce the need to use detention to enforce removal for families with children. We promote the assisted voluntary return scheme with the International Organization for Migration throughout the asylum process to provide assisted voluntary returns which cater for families' needs and allow a return that is dignified and sustainable.

The agency is working in partnership with Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government to pilot an initiative in Glasgow to offer temporary housing and a package of support to a selection of families whom the UK Border Agency and the courts agree do not require international protection.

Unaccompanied children are, exceptionally, detained in very limited circumstances. These are primarily for their safety and only overnight while alternative arrangements with the local children's services are made for their care.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have for releasing Eritrean nationals held in immigration detention centres, in particular those who have claimed asylum. [HL402]

Detention is an essential component in maintaining an effective immigration control. It is usually appropriate in the following circumstances: initially, while a person's identity or basis of claim is being established; where there are reasonable grounds for believing that a person will fail to comply with the conditions attached to the grant of temporary admission or release; as part of a fast-track asylum process; or to effect removal.

The decision to detain, or to maintain detention, including those of Eritrean nationals, is made on a case by case basis taking account of the individual circumstances in each case. Imminence of removal and risk of harm to the public are among the factors considered in reaching a decision. There is no policy precluding the return of Eritrean nationals either to third countries or to Eritrea. Nor are there any plans to move away from a case by case approach to Eritreans who are held in immigration detention centres, whether or not they have claimed asylum.

Detention is kept to the minimum period necessary for the purpose for which it was authorised and is not unduly prolonged. Individuals may prolong their own detention by, for example, refusing to co-operate with the redocumentation process or by frustrating lawful attempts at removal.

Detention in each individual case is subject to review at increasingly senior levels within the UK Border Agency to ensure that it lasts only as long as it continues to be justified and necessary.

We believe that the current policies support a requirement to enforce our immigration laws and we therefore have no intention of changing them at this time.

Interception of Communications

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their timetable for taking forward the Interception Modernisation Programme and the Mastering the Internet programme. [HL552]

As a result of this year's communications data consultation the Government will continue to develop their proposed approach. This approach will require legislation to ensure that the data required by public authorities to protect the public are collected and retained by communications service providers. Plans for legislation are not developed sufficiently for it to be included in this Session of Parliament.

Separately, as outlined in its public statement on 3 May 2009, GCHQ has an ongoing programme of investment in the technology and skills needed to keep one step ahead of the threats facing the UK.

Internet: Deep Packet Inspection

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead on 12 October (WA 12), whether they are still considering how Deep Packet Inspection technologies might support the lawful acquisition of communications data; and, if so, what that role will be. [HL553]

The Government are considering how deep packet inspection technologies might support the lawful acquisition of communications data.

It is the long established policy of successive governments not to comment in detail on the role of technologies that may be used to carry out lawful interception of communications or communications data acquisition. Deep packet inspection is such a technology.

Internet: Google Earth

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Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they authorised Google Earth to photograph streets in the United Kingdom for publication on the internet; and, if so, whether it was a requirement of that authorisation that Google Earth obtains the permission of local residents before photographing their property or street. [HL318]

I am replying as the Ministry of Justice is responsible for data protection policy.

No authorisation is required for taking photographs of streets in the United Kingdom for publication on the internet.

The Data Protection Act 1998 is administered and enforced by the Information Commissioner's Office independently of government.

The Information Commissioner has issued advice about Google Street View, one of Google Earth's features. The commissioner's view is that Google Street View is very unlikely to breach the Data Protection Act 1998. The full document: can be accessed at the Commissioner's website at http://www.ico.gov.uk/global/search.aspx?collection=ico&keywords=street+ view.

NHS: Foundation Trusts

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To ask Her Majesty's Government on how may occasions in the tax year 2008–2009 ministers rejected recommendations by competent NHS appointed bodies to remove (a) a chairman, or (b) a chief executive from (1) an NHS trust, and (2) a foundation hospital. [HL519]

NHS: Race and Equality

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To ask Her Majesty's Government which NHS organisations in the south east coast region have not met their obligations under the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Equality Act 2006. [HL532]

The department has been informed by the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority (SHA) that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has served three trusts in its region with compliance notices: NHS Surrey, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust and Frimley Park NHS Foundation Trust. These notices set out the steps that need to be taken to meet requirements under the Race Relations Act 1976 (Statutory Duties) Order 2001.

The SHA has assured the department that it is working positively with the ERHC to help all trusts in its region to achieve and maintain compliance with equality legislation.

Pakistan: Torture

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To ask Her Majesty's Government whether immigration applications of Pakistanis who have been victims of torture have followed the standard process. [HL291]

It is the Government's policy that all claims for asylum, including those from Pakistani nationals, are considered on their individual merits in accordance with the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights, against the background of the latest accurate, objective, sourced and up-to-date information on asylum seekers' countries of origin produced by the UK Border Agency country of origin information service.

Police: Tasers

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government on what grounds they allow the import of electroshock guns (Tasers) by the police from the United States and other countries, in view of them and their components being banned for export from the United Kingdom and classified as instruments of torture. [HL450]

The import of tasers into the UK is very closely controlled by legislation. Such conducted energy devices are classified as “prohibited weapons” by virtue of Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968. The police service are the only body in the UK with authority to import taser. When used according to the stringent and rigorous guidelines applied by the police, taser has proved to be a valuable less lethal option to conventional weapons.

Taser has been banned from being exported from the UK since July 1997. Not all countries have the same level of regulation as the UK. The UK Government are concerned that, in the wrong hands, taser may be misused.

Prisons: HMP Wayland

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will increase the resources provided for healthcare at Her Majesty's Prison Wayland following the increase in the population of prisoners there since 2006. [HL516]

No new capacity places opened at Her Majesty's Prison (HMP) Wayland during 2006-07. However, 300 new capacity places were approved by the National Offender Management Service and made operational during 2007-08.

Part-year funding of £223,000 was issued by the department to East of England Strategic Health Authority to cover health and set-up costs associated with these places.

In 2008-09, £437,000 was added to the baseline healthcare funding that the department allocated to HMP Wayland, increasing the annual provision from £868,000 to £1,305,000.

Sport and Recreation: Funding

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Communities and Local Government provided for local authority sporting and recreational provision in each year from 2004 to 2009. [HL480]

The only direct grant to local authorities during the requested period relating specifically to sporting and recreational provision is the £5 million funding for free swimming in 2009-10 that this department is contributing to a DCMS programme.

This department, and its predecessor departments, are responsible for paying revenue support grant and national non-domestic rates (which together with principal formula police grant comprise formula grant) to local government. This is the main general grant paid to councils on behalf of Government as a whole and covers all local authority services, including sport and recreation. However, the grant is unhypothecated and decisions on the use of this funding are for local authorities.

There are other unhypothecated grants paid to local authorities mainly paid under Section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003 such as area based grant, where decisions on the use of this funding are also for local authorities.