Thursday 4 February 2010
Agriculture: Dairy Farms
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the United Kingdom's share of the additional €300 million for European Union dairy farmers agreed by the Council of Ministers on 3 December 2009 will be €29.26 million; and, if so, what objective criteria they will communicate to the Commission in order to obtain that sum for United Kingdom dairy farmers. [HL1628]
I can confirm that the UK's share will be €29.26 million of the €300 million Dairy Fund, agreed in December, in the form of national envelopes determined by milk production levels. This fund will be allocated to individual farmers severely affected by low dairy prices and, as a result, encountering liquidity problems. Following discussions with the farming industry, we are currently consulting stakeholders on options as to how best to allocate this money. The option chosen will be done on the basis of providing help to farmers, in a non-discriminatory way, while keeping administrative costs to a minimum and supporting a competitive dairy sector.
Defra's consultation relates to England. However, it is part of a UK-wide consultation process within which the devolved Administrations are conducting parallel consultations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, seeking views on the same two options.
In September of each year, the UK submits a report to the European Commission on compliance with EU limit values for all pollutants in Directive 2008/50/EC and Directive 2004/107/EC. This report is prepared on the basis of monitoring data gathered during the previous year (which is ratified on a quarterly basis) and modelled data prepared following the ratification of the last quarter's data. Ratified monitoring data for the full year 2009 is not available until April 2010.
Provisional monitoring data for 2009 indicates that the NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) limit values were likely to have been exceeded in the following towns and cities: Bristol, Cambridge, Sandy, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Bury, Aberdeen, Oxford, Bath, Birmingham and Leeds. It should be noted that data from these monitored sites alone might underestimate the number of actual exceedences of the NO2 limit value. A full assessment of exceedences on the basis of both modelled and monitored data will be reported to the European Commission in September 2010.
Armed Forces: Official Residences
To ask Her Majesty's Government on how many occasions each of the 19 official service residences was used in 2007-08 to entertain (a) members of the Royal Family, (b) ministers, (c) other politicians, (d) senior representatives of the private sector, and (e) officially listed overseas representatives; and who were the guests on each occasion. [HL1021]
The information requested is not held centrally.
The process of prior authorising and reimbursing the cost of official entertainment is undertaken through the completion of forms submitted to the local finance staff. To identify how many occasions and the associated guests attending could be obtained only through a manual search of these records, which could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
The programme hosted by the University of Cambridge has built up a world-class reputation over the past 20 years, and I welcome its contribution to helping businesses grow sustainably. However, the Higher Education Funding Council for England distributes public resources to institutions rather than to individual programmes.
The amount of recycled fuel oil (RFO) used by Corus has reduced significantly in the last two years due to a combination of contractual and operational issues. Between 5 December 2008 and 25 August 2009, no RFO was used on the blast furnace and use ceased again on 12 January 2010 in preparation for mothballing of the blast furnace. The peak usage of RFO was approximately 150,000 tons in 2006 and 2007. This fell to about 16,000 tons in 2009.
The Environment Agency's pollution prevention and control (PPC) compliance team on Teesside which regulates the Corus facility is not aware of any incident involving the illegal disposal of RFO resulting from this reduction in use by Corus. If there is any evidence of such an incident the Environment Agency will investigate it fully.
Courts Service: Estate
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Bach on 14 December 2009 (WA 173), whether, in relation to each of the courts identified as alternatives, public transport is available throughout the catchment area of the original court which reaches the alternative court in time for the start of court hearings and leaves after hearings have ended. [HL1633]
Public transport arrangements from the current courts to the alternative sites were considered when identifying courts as possible candidates for closure. It is possible to travel by public transport between Louth, Gainsborough and Cullompton and their alternative courts in time for the start of court hearings and after hearings have ended. There is no regular public transport between Launceston and Bodmin that fits with court start and finish times. However, this has been the position in the East Cornwall local justice area for many years and, since the transferral of most cases to Bodmin in 2000, allowances for travel time have been made when listing cases involving someone from the Launceston area who is dependent on public transport.
Any wider issues regarding limited public transport services across the local justice area will apply equally, whether or not a decision is made to close the courts.
Education: National Pupil Database
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there have been any breaches of security on the National Pupil Database; if so, how many; when; and by whom. [HL1433]
To ask Her Majesty's Government who will have access to the National Pupil Database; what they will use the information for; and how many people will have such access. [HL1434]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what will happen to information held on the National Pupil Database when a pupil leaves school; if any of it is archived, how long it will be held in that form; who will have access to the archive; and for what purposes. [HL1435]
The safety of personal information is of paramount importance to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). The department has stringent procedures in place to safeguard the security of data from the National Pupil Database (NPD) and there have been no breaches of security.
The National Pupil Database is held at the DCSF Darlington headquarters’ data warehouse on the DCSF internal network which is connected to the Government Secure Intranet (GSI). Access to the full database is limited to a small team of seven staff in DCSF’s Darlington office, which produces extracts from the NPD to support wider analytical work.
Individual pupil information from the NPD may be disclosed only to a “prescribed person” for specific purposes defined by the Education (Individual Pupil Information) (Prescribed Persons) Regulations 2009. The data in the NPD may be shared with other government departments and agencies for these purposes. The DCSF may also disclose individual pupil information to independent researchers who have a legitimate need for it for their research, but each case will be determined on its merits and subject to the approval of the department’s chief statistician.
The data held in the NPD are used to inform, influence and improve education policy and to monitor the performance of the education service as a whole. For example, the NPD is used to calculate contextualised value added (CVA) to measure school effectiveness and is also used to compare pupils’ national curriculum assessment, GCSE and post-16 attainment by key pupil characteristics such as ethnic group, special educational needs status and free school meals eligibility to help set and measure national indicators and targets. The inclusion of postcode data allows for residency-based analyses to help target resources as effectively as possible; for example, matched data extracts are routinely provided to local authorities to help monitor indicators and targets and inform their funding formula.
The NPD is a longitudinal database and a valuable resource for research into educational achievement and participation. The information currently held allows for the tracking of pupil attainment at key stage 5 with their achievement back to key stage 1. Additionally, the NPD includes information about further education (FE) achievements and higher education (HE) entry data, matched to achievements at school. Our retention policy, including archiving data with the National Archive, is currently being developed as part of gaining accreditation to ISO 27001.
Elections: Postal Votes
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will advise returning officers to write to voters whose postal votes have not been opened and counted as a result of not providing personal identifiers or because of defects in the personal identifiers returned; and whether a list of such electors will be supplied to the local police. [HL1454]
The Electoral Commission is responsible for providing advice to returning officers in relation to the management and conduct of elections. However, there is currently no provision in electoral law for returning officers to write to postal voters in the manner suggested by the noble Lord. During the passage of the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009, the Government committed to considering, with the Electoral Commission, the Association of Chief Police Officers and other stakeholders, whether such provision should form part of the next electoral Bill.
The Electoral Commission's guidance to electoral administrators for UK parliamentary elections covers electoral integrity. It states that if any returning officer has suspicions of fraudulent activity, or receives any allegations about possible absent voting fraud, these should be reported to the police for further investigation.
EU: UK Official Staff
The European Commission’s statistical bulletin for January 2010 showed that the UK’s overall percentage of Commission staff is 5.2 per cent. I attach a table of information outlining the proportions for other member states’ nationals. The Government consider that the percentages for member states’ representation in other EU institutions, where statistics are not presently available, will be broadly similar. The Government believe that UK nationals are under-represented in the EU institutions, and are undertaking a programme of activities to resolve this. This includes the re-launch of the European Fast Stream, better co-ordination of secondments of UK officials to the EU institutions, and work to identify and address issues which may deter UK nationals who are considering a career in the EU.
Member State % of Commission staff Austria 1.7 Belgium 19.8 Bulgaria 1.4 Cyprus 0.4 Czech Republic 1.8 Denmark 1.8 Estonia 0.8 Finland 2.3 France 10.1 Germany 8 Greece 3.7 Hungary 2.4 Ireland 2.2 Italy 10 Latvia 0.8 Lithuania 1.1 Luxembourg 0.9 Malta 0.5 Netherlands 2.9 Poland 4.7 Portugal 3 Romania 2 Slovakia 1.3 Slovenia 0.9 Spain 7.2 Sweden 2.3 UK 5.2 Non-EU 0.1
% of Commission staff
European Parliament: Hereditary Peers
To ask Her Majesty's Government what response the Cabinet Office has given to the enquiries of the European Petitions Committee regarding petition 1737/2008 on the position of hereditary Peers in respect of membership of the European Parliament. [HL1456]
The response to the Committee on Petitions from Ministry of Justice officials states that we would not agree that the European Parliament (House of Lords Disqualification) Regulations 2008 are discriminatory in nature. The position of hereditary Peers was given full consideration by the House of Lords during the debate held on those regulations on 14 October 2008. The response explains that the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill that is currently before Parliament includes provision to allow a person who is a life Peer or an hereditary Peer who is a member of the House of Lords to resign at any time from the House of Lords. We consider that this provision, if it is approved by Parliament, will address the issues raised in petition 1737/2008, as it will ensure that any member of the House of Lords who is elected to the European Parliament may resign their membership of the House of Lords in order to take up his or her membership of the European Parliament.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will remove the requirement upon charity retail shops to contact donors of goods where Gift Aid is used to reclaim tax asking if the donor agrees to the charity retaining the tax contribution once the goods have been sold. [HL1692]
Gift Aid applies only to donations of money. In order for the proceeds from the sale of donated goods to qualify as a gift under the current Gift Aid legislation, the donor must know the amount for which the goods have sold and confirm that this amount is to be treated as a gift. It is only after the goods are sold that the donor can confirm that they have paid the tax which is to be repaid to the charity. Without these assurances Gift Aid cannot apply to the gift, which is why there is a requirement to contact the donor.
Immigration: Detention Centres
The number of time-served foreign national prisoners held in the UK Border Agency's detention estate will vary on a daily basis as detainees are removed and new ones are transferred into establishments from prisons. On 24 January 2010 there were 1,250 in the estate, 1,168 men and 82 women.
Published national statistics on the number of adults and children held in detention solely under Immigration Act powers on a snapshot basis are published quarterly. Information on persons detained as at 30 September 2009 has been published in Tables 10-13 of Control of Immigration: Quarterly Statistical Summary, United Kingdom—Third Quarter 2009, which is available from the Library of the House and from the Home Office's Research, Development and Statistics website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration-asylum-stats.html.
The current average cost per bed at night in the UK Border Agency's detention estate is £120. This includes the operating contract costs, but also the budget for detention services, the part of the agency responsible for overseeing the estate, to provide direct services to detainees.
We do not publish statistics on the average length of detention. However, we do publish statistics on the length of detention for the snapshot statistics—that is, persons in detention in the United Kingdom solely under Immigration Act powers by length of detention as at 30 September 2009. This information is available from Table 12 of Control of Immigration: Quarterly Statistical Summary, United Kingdom—Third Quarter 2009, which is available from the Library of the House and from the Home Office's research, development and statistics website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration-asylum-stats.html.
Questions for Oral Answer
To ask the Leader of the House whether she will remind Government Ministers, spokesmen and spokeswomen that they should make their answers at Question Time short and succinct; and whether she will remind other Members that supplementary questions should be short. [HL1451]
The Companion to the Standing Orders is perfectly clear on the point. Paragraph 5.24 states:
“Ministers' initial answers should not generally exceed 75 words. Supplementary questions may be asked but they should be short and confined to not more than two points”.
Paragraph 5.25 adds that,
“when a Minister's answer contains material that is too lengthy ... to be given orally ... it may be published in Hansard”.
Ministers and Members have today been reminded of the need to adhere to this guidance.
Roads: Harlow Bypass
Plans for transport infrastructure to support Harlow's housing targets will be led by the region and local highway authorities with the involvement of the Department for Transport. The region has just commenced a series of government-supported studies for Delivering a Sustainable Transport System, including one that will consider longer-term proposals for Harlow amongst other locations.
Government funding for local and regional transport infrastructure has been delegated to the regions through the regional funding allocation process. Harlow is set to benefit from a number of transport infrastructure improvements, including those for additional rolling stock and better station facilities on the East Anglia Main Line. Highways infrastructure schemes include two community infrastructure-funded schemes, the dualling of the A414 from M11 junction 7 to the Southern Way junction (grant of £9.9 million) and the First Avenue Multi-modal Corridor (grant of £3.58 million).
Litter was last cleared on the verges of the M25 between junctions 28 to 30 on 19 November 2009 (clockwise carriageway) and between junctions 30 and 28 (anti-clockwise carriageway) on 19 January 2010. Litter clearance in this area is being undertaken during the week commencing Monday 1 February.
Litter was last cleared from Wickham Market Bypass on the A12 on 13 and 14 January 2010. Further work began on 3 February 2010.
Defra currently provides £300,000 per annum of research funding into the Institute for Animal Health (IAH), aimed at improving our ability to prevent and control African swine fever (ASF). Much of the research is centred on furthering our understanding of the pathogenesis of ASF and the host immune response, with applied aims of vaccine and diagnostic test development.
In addition to Defra support there is also funding into this programme of research from other organisations, including the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Department for International Development and the European Union. The various funding streams in effect support the co-ordination and international collaborative effort essential to make rapid progress in the effort to control this disease.
The team at IAH collaborate with researchers in South Africa, America, Spain, Portugal, France and Germany and are in contact with many countries in Africa, Europe and the Russian Federation through the World Organisation for Animal Health and National Reference Laboratory.