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Written Answers

Volume 622: debated on Thursday 15 February 2001

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Written Answers

Thursday, 15th February 2001.

Millennium Dome: Sale

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether a decision has been reached on Legacy plc's preferred bidder status in the sale of the Dome. [HL818]

Legacy's preferred bidder status gave them exclusive negotiating rights up to 14 February. While their bid has made progress towards meeting the preferred bidder terms, they have not met them. Legacy's exclusivity has therefore expired and the Government have decided to terminate the existing competition.During the period of Legacy's preferred bidder status, the Government have not sought any alternative proposals for the Dome. The Government would now like openly to test the market and will therefore ask English Partnerships to invite any interested parties to lodge with it expressions of interest for the Dome and the regeneration of the peninsula. The Government, like the Mayor of London and the London Borough of Greenwich, believe the Dome should be retained as part of the regenerated peninsula, and offers will be invited on this basis. There have been considerable expressions of interest from other parties which have been logged by English Partnerships.Within this framework, Legacy will of course be able to put forward its proposals, which will be fully considered on merit alongside others.Expressions of interest will be assessed by an advisory team, which will report to English Partnerships, who will shortly publish details of the arrangements and rules for this process.

Race Equality

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they intend to publish the proposals for implementation of the duty to promote race equality under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, and the second annual report on progress implementing the Stephen Lawrence Action Plan. [HL820]

We have today placed in the Library a copy of the document Race Equality in Public Services. The document sets out performance data in a number of key areas which are of interest to minority ethnic communities, and provides a quantifiable way of demonstrating the Government's progress in promoting race equality.

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they intend to publish the second edition of the basket of race equality performance indicators which they have developed. [HL821]

The second annual report on progress implementing the Stephen Lawrence Action Plan and the consultation document on implementation of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 will be published on Thursday, 22 February 2001 to mark the second anniversary of the publication of the Report of the Lawrence Inquiry. Copies of these documents will be placed in the Library and the consultation document will be circulated widely amongst the public bodies that are likely to be affected and to other interested parties for comments.The consultation document will provide information about timing of the implementation of the 2000 Act. It will, in particular, seek views on the introduction of a number of specific duties to help public bodies to better fulfil their obligations under the general duty to promote race equality. It will also seek views on extending the list of public bodies that are subject to the general duty to promote race equality.

Terrorism Act 2000

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they will bring the Terrorism Act 2000 into force. [HL822]

In answer to a question in another place from the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr Miller) on 31 October last year, House of Commons Official Report, col. 419W, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary indicated that the Government were working towards an implementation date for the Terrorism Act 2000 of 19 February 2001. I can now confirm that, by virtue of a Commencement Order made under the Act, the date of implementation will be Monday 19 February 2001. On that day, the Terrorism Act 2000 will replace the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996. As a consequence of the new judicial extension of detention arrangements which will come into force on 19 February, the United Kingdom will be in a position to lift the derogations entered tinder Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and I can confirm that it is our intention to deposit notifications with the Council of Europe and the United Nations to this effect early next week. To take account of any detentions under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 made up to midnight on 18 February, these notifications will lift the derogations as of 26 February 2001.

Criminal Records Bureau: Fees

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they will announce the registration fees to be charged by the Criminal Records Bureau. [HL823]

Applications to the Criminal Records Bureau for Standard and Enhanced Disclosures need to be counter-signed by a person registered in advance with the Bureau for this purpose. Often this will be the employer or voluntary organisation. We have concluded that the fee for registration should be a one-off payment of £300, with a one-off charge of £5 for each additional counter-signatory nominated by the registered person. These fees reflect the cost to the bureau of the processes in question. Regulations will be laid accordingly.

Strategic Rail Authority

asked Her Majesty's Government:When the Strategic Rail Authority plans to publish its Strategy, as required under Section 206 of the Transport Act 2000. [HL663]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston)

The SRA plan to publish a Strategic Agenda shortly. The Strategic Plan will be published later in the year.

Rail Freight Grants

asked Her Majesty's Government:What rail freight grants have been offered during the last 12 months. [HL664]

Until an offer of grant has been accepted, negotiations remain commercially confidential. Since January 2000, the following companies have accepted offers of freight facilities grant or track access grant.

  • European Metal Recycling Ltd
  • Peter Colby Commercial
  • Maurice Hill Transport Ltd
  • Cleveland Potash Ltd
  • NACCO
  • Day Aggregates
  • Hepworths Properties Ltd
  • Carlisle Warehousing Ltd
  • Jaguar Cars Ltd
  • ICI
  • Lafarge Redland Aggregates
  • James Kingsberry Ltd
  • The Port of Boston
  • Murco Petroleum Ltd
  • The Port of Tyne
  • T J Thompson
  • The Port of Sheerness
  • Kent Wire Ltd
  • The British Port Company
  • English West & Scottish Railway Ltd
  • Freightliner Ltd

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the total of rail freight grants paid for each of the last five years. [HL665]

The amount paid in grants are listed below:

YearTotal Money paid for FFG and TAG £ million
1–199715.013
1–199829.11
1–199928.808
1–200023.009
1–200126.7

Note:

1. Figures for 1996–97 to 1999–2000 include payments for inland waterways grants which were recorded together with rail freight grants. Figures for 2000–2001 contain rail freight element alone.

London Underground: Escalator Replacement

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the length of time being taken to replace old escalators on London Underground is satisfactory. [HL679]

Escalators are an important part of the service on London Underground, and it is important that across the system as a whole they work smoothly and consistently, but above all safely. The management of its escalators is a matter for London Underground (LUL) and they carry out rigorous, routine checks on all escalators as part of their continuous programme of safety monitoring. They have a planned forward programme of investing in new escalators where older ones need to be replaced.LUL's escalators are subject to very heavy-duty usage, and in many cases they are specially built for each individual location and have to be installed piece by piece on site. The actual time for each renewal can therefore vary according to the location and the inherent difficulties such as space etc. However I understand from London Underground that over recent years the time taken to replace escalators has reduced because of improved practices.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will commission a report from London Transport on the length of time the downward escalators have been out of action at Notting Hill underground station. [HL680]

This is an operational matter for London Underground (LUL); I understand from LUL that because these escalators are some of the oldest still in service on the network a major three-year project to replace all six escalators at Notting Hill Gate underground station is currently in progress.There are six escalators at the station, historically numbered 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8. Works to numbers 3 and 6 have been completed and work is in progress on numbers 5 and 8. Actual and programmed completion dates for each machine are given in the following table:

StationEscalator No.Start DateCompletion DateDirection of Travel
Notting Hill Gate13 September 200115 March 2002Down
Notting Hill Gate226 August 200213 September 2002Up
Notting Hill Gate330 April 199920 July 2000Currently Up but normally Down
Notting Hill Gate59 September 200013 June 2001Currently being replaced
Notting Hill Gate64 January 200014 August 2000Currently Up but normally Down
Notting Hill Gate830 October 200028 July 2001Currently being replaced
The purpose of the project is to provide a better and more reliable escalator service at the station for the future.

London Underground: Delays To Trains

asked Her Majesty's Government:On how many occasions underground trains have been stuck between stations for times exceeding half an hour and one hour respectively during the last year; and whether there is any safety implication. [HL682]

I understand from London Underground that, whilst they gather information relating to delays to trains caused by various operational aspects, and delays caused by passenger action, passengers taken ill on trains and incidents at stations, information on the location of the train suffering the delay is not collected centrally.

Bond Street Underground Station: Line Interchange

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the prohibition on changing trains between Central Line and the new Jubilee Line before 10 a.m at Bond Street is intended to be permanent, and whether this was envisaged when the Jubilee Line was opened. [HL683]

This is an operational matter for London Underground (LUL) but I understand that the present arrangements are not intended to be permanent. There is currently a programme of planned refurbishment taking place on three of the eight escalators at Bond Street station and as a result the interchange has had to be restricted before 10 a.m. on weekdays while the work is going on.LUL have already refurbished two of the three escalators but found that the idle shaft in one of these had to be replaced. This work is due to finish at the beginning of March 2001. On completion of this, the third escalator will be refurbished, taking about 18 weeks. After the third and final escalator has been refurbished, the full interchange will be resumed.

Nats: Oceanic Sector Services

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have received advice from the Economic Regulation Group of the Civil Aviation Authority on the economic regulatory regime for the services which will be provided in the Oceanic sector by the National Air Traffic Services Ltd public/private partnership. [HL779]

Air Traffic services in Oceanic airspace are provided on a monopoly basis. When the National Air Traffic Services Ltd public/ private partnership is established, charges for these services will be subject to price regulation by the RPI-X method, which is the standard model for monopoly regulation in the United Kingdom. The charge cap, or "X" factor, will be set for a period of five years and will, for the first five-year period only, be set by the Government.We received advice from the CAA in August which set out how it proposed to approach the economic regulation of NATS and recommended that the "X" factor for NATS' Oceanic services be set at 10 per cent for the first year and 2 per cent for each of the next four years. We have considered the CAA's advice carefully, alongside representations from air users who will pay these charges and from NATS, which has also provided revised estimates of traffic levels and system costs which have a significant effect on the first year of the quinquennium. We have consequently decided to set a cap of 2 per cent for each of the five years, and that there should be no delay penalty term for the present.The Government regard investment in the Oceanic sector as important and believe that the approach to charge control should reflect this. I have therefore agreed with the CAA that it should be receptive to any proposals, made with the support of air users, to revisit the price cap when investment is made with a view to significant improvements in the service.

Local Authority Publicity

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they intend to lay before Parliament proposed alterations to the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. [HL819]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
(Lord Whitty)

Following consultation with the Local Government Association, we have today laid before the House a draft of the proposed alterations to the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. These proposed alterations reflect the new council constitutions and the introduction of referendums and petitions under the Local Government Act 2000.We also intend in the future further to review the code, having regard to councils' experiences of operating their new constitutions over a reasonable period of time. This further review will also cover the code's application to those authorities, such as police authorities, which are not adopting new constitutions.

Variant Cjd: Compensation Scheme

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they expect to be able to make an announcement on compensation for victims of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. [HL761]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health
(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath)

We are committed to constructing a compensation scheme that is effective and properly meets the needs of those affected. Discussions are under way with the legal representatives of the families affected. In the meantime we will be making interim payments of £25,000 when regulations have been put in place to ensure that the payments are not taken into account in the calculation of income-related social security benefits and are exempted from the provisions of the Social Security (Recovery of Benefits) Act 1997. We intend to present this legislation to Parliament as soon as possible. Details of the full compensation package are still under consideration.

Foreign And Commonwealth Office: Expenditure Limits

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether there are any proposals to amend the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Departmental Expenditure limit running cost limit for 2000–01. [HL762]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

Subject to Parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate for Class VII Vote I the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Departmental Expenditure Limit for 2000–2001 will be increased by £42,289,000 from £1,210,333,000 to £1,252,622,000 and the running cost limit has been increased by £1,797,000 from £531,982,000 to £533,779,000. This is the net effect of:

  • (i) a transfer of £16,000 to the Ministry of Defence (Class VI, Vote 2), in respect of our final contribution to the grant-in-aid to the Atlantic Council of the UK;
  • (ii) an increase of £5,441,000 in respect of an adjustment for Overseas price movements;
  • (iii) a transfer of £1,920,000 to the Cabinet Office (Class XVII, Vote 2) for drugs assistance programmes;
  • (iv) a transfer of £880,000 to the Cabinet Office (Class XVII, Vote 2) for revisions to charging regime;
  • (v) an increase in both running costs and appropriations in aid of £1,248,000 in respect of increased receipts from OGD's;
  • (vi) a transfer of £32,000 from BBC monitoring service to the Cabinet Office (Class XVII, Vote 2);
  • (vii) an increase in both running costs and appropriations in aid of £5,300,000 to reflect an increase in our VAT recovery forecast;
  • (viii) a decrease of £5,500,000 in both capital expenditure and A-in-A for FCO Estates Rationalisation;
  • (ix) a PES transfer of £1,500,000 to the MOD representing the FCO's contribution to the enhanced package for the Sierra Leone Army;
  • (x) a PES transfer of £168,000 from the war pensions agency to cover the costs of medical examinations for overseas pensioners;
  • (xi) additional provision of £39,808,000 on Section B for UK contributions to United Nations Missions in the former Yugoslavia (includes UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo) and the former Soviet Union, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Iraq), United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission, United Nations Mission for the Referendum on Western Sahara, United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor, United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, United Nations Observer Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the European Community Monitoring Mission and Western European Union Police Mission in Albania. This is partially offset by an increase of £344,000 in appropriations-in-aid in respect of non-baseline peacekeeping and by £10,761,000 from Section E, General VAT Refunds;
  • (xii) the supplementary estimate is also required to note an increase in Section C, to reflect PES transfers of £46,000 to the Cabinet Office (Class XVII, Vote 2) and £52,000 to the Cabinet Office (Class XVII, Vote 1);
  • (xiii) the supplementary estimate is also required to note an increase of £1,998,000 of Section D, in respect of an adjustment for Overseas Price Movement for the British Council.
  • Overseas Workers: Wages

    asked Her Majesty's Government:In the light of reports that skilled stonemasons from India were employed in the building of a temple in London at very low wages, what steps they are taking when granting labour permits to ensure:

  • (a) that a wage comparable with United Kingdom or European Union workers is offered;
  • (b) that the wage offered is actually paid; and
  • (c) that the employee is made aware of the wage being offered in the application. [HL306]
  • The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment
    (Baroness Blackstone)

    Work permit applications are considered against a number of criteria, including the pay and other conditions of employment. These should be at least equal to those normally given to a resident worker doing similar work. All applications must meet the national minimum wage regulations.All potential employees should be aware of the wage being offered. Both the work permit and Home Office recommendation letters (used where the individual is already in the UK) provide details of the salary which employers have indicated on the application form will be paid.Where doubts are raised about whether employers meet their undertakings, including the wage paid, the Overseas Labour Service investigates each case thoroughly, involving other departments as necessary, including the Department of Trade and Industry where there are issues relating to compliance with national minimum wage legislation.

    Prison Education And Training

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have any plans to improve prison education and training. [HL733]

    Yesterday I made a joint announcement with my right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Home Office, establishing a new partnership between DfEE and the Prison Service. From 1 April this new partnership will be responsible for securing improvements in the education, training and resettlement of prisoners.Our plans for the partnership are outlined in

    Improving Prisoners' Learning Skills, published yesterday, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

    Ecgd: Operating Policy

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is their policy that the Export Credits Guarantee Department should operate with a reasonable expectation of breaking even. [HL573]

    The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry
    (Lord Sainsbury of Turville)

    Yes. Over the years, Ministers have periodically issued assurances to Parliament that ECGD is required to break even over the long term.In support of this, since the institution of ECGD's new Business Acount in 1991–92, Ministers have set ECGD a more measurable objective. Specifically, the department is charged to maintain the ratio of its reserves (the sum of cumulative surpluses/deficits and the Underwriting Funds on its "open" years) to its estimate of Expected Loss on amounts at risk under its guarantees—this ratio is defined as the Reserve Coverage Ratio—at a value of at least 1.5.As at 31 March 2000, the Reserve Coverage Ratio achieved was 1.5.

    Maff: Regulatory Burden

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What action they propose to take to improve administration in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in response to the points made in page 63 of

    Farmers Weekly of 12 January. [HL571]

    The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
    (Baroness Hayman)

    The Government are committed to reducing the burden of regulations wherever possible. That is why we asked the industry to identify its concerns in September 1999, set up review groups to examine them and have since acted on the recommendations. The Government have taken note of the points made in the Farmers Weekly article. When the further details promised are published or made available, and clarify the concerns, we will consider whether changes can be made to benefit all producers.

    Private Bills And Human Rights Legislation

    asked Her Majesty's Government:How they plan to inform the House of the compatibility of Private Bills with the European Convention on Human Rights. [HL817]

    Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 does not apply to Private Bills. However, like all legislation, any Act resulting from the passage of such a Bill can be judged in the courts, either in the UK or in Strasbourg, for its compatibility with the ECHR. As my right honourable friend the President of the Council announced in another place on 11 January 2001, in future when Private Bills are deposited promoters will be asked to undertake a full assessment of the compatibility of their proposals with the ECHR and to make a statement setting out their conclusion as to whether the Bill is compatible or not. A Minister in the government department within whose policy responsibilities the subject matter of the Bill falls will make a formal statement saying that he believes that the promoters have undertaken a full assessment and that he does not (or, if necessary, that he does) see any need to dispute their conclusions.

    Law Officers' Departments: Expenditure Limits

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether there are any proposals to amend the Law Officers' Departments' departmental expenditure limit and running costs limit for 2000–01. [HL778]

    Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimates for Class V, Vote 4 (The Crown Prosecution Service), Class V, Vote 5 (Serious Fraud Office) and Class V, Vote 6 (HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor) the Attorney-General's departments' Departmental Expenditure Limit for 2000–01 will be increased by £8,823,000 from £369,547,000 to £378,370,000.The Crown Prosecution Service's Departmental Expenditure limit will increase by £4,438,000 from £343,790,000 to £348,228,000. The running costs limit will be increased by £2,504,000 from £245,165,000 to £247,669,000. This increase is required to fund delivery of the pledge on persistent youth offenders, deployment of Higher Court Advocates in the Crown Court and diversity and equality issues and to achieve improvements against CPS and CJS targets. An increase in capital expenditure of £500,000 will be used to fund the introduction of joint CPS/Police criminal justice and trial units.The Serious Fraud Office's Departmental Expenditure limit will increase by £17,486,000 from £1,833,000 to £19,319,000. The running costs limit will increase by £611,000 from £11,324,000 to £11,935,000. The increase is required to fund the impact in 2000–01 of the decision to increase the office's targeted caseload to 110 cases in 2003–04; to meet the cost of trials held over from 1999–2000; and to offset reductions in police resources available to combat serious and complex fraud. Capital expenditure will increase by £34,000.HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor's Departmental Expenditure limit will increase by £552,000 from £8,271,000 to £8,823,000. The running costs limit will increase by £1,550,000 from £6,432,000 to £7,982,000. The increase in net running costs is due to an increase in capital charge following a revaluation of TDS's premises (Queen Anne's Chambers). The increase is offset by a matching non-running cost receipt. Capital expenditure will increase by £294,000.A transfer of £250,000 will be made to the Attorney-General's Departments Departmental Unallocated Provision from the Modernising Government Fund and a transfer of £1,750,000 will be made to the Attorney-General's departments' Departmental Unallocated Provision from the Capital Modernisation Fund.The increases will be partly offset by transfers totalling £1,206,000 from the Home Office, surrender of £4,565,000 of the Attorney-General's departments' end year flexibility, an allocation of £500,000 from the Capital Modernisation Fund and an allocation of £250,000 from the Modernising Government Fund.The remainder of the expenditure will be charged to the Reserve and will not, therefore, add to the planned total of public expenditure.

    War Widow's Pension

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 30 January (

    WA 56), how it is determined by the War Pensions Agency that a war widow is "living with a man as his wife"; and [HL629]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 30 January ( WA 56), on what evidence and from what source, in each case, the War Pensions Agency decided to stop the war widow's pensions of five war widows for "living with a man as his wife"; and [HL630]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 30 January ( WA 56), who was involved in giving evidence on the five war widows whose war widow's pensions were stopped between April 2000–January 2001 for "living with a man as his wife"; and [HL631]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 30 January ( WA 56), what was the cost to public funds of identifying each of the five war widows whose war widow's pensions were stopped between April 2000–January 2001 for "living with a man as his wife"; and [HL632]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 30 January ( WA 56), how many war widows are now entitled to cohabit, or remarry, without losing their war widow's pensions; and how many are not so entitled; and [HL633]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 30 January ( WA 56), whether those war widows whose war widow's pensions were stopped have any right of appeal. [HL634]

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security
    (Baroness Hollis of Heigham)

    No recipient is entitled to keep her war widow's pension if she remarries or lives with a man as his wife. War pensions legislation differs from the Armed Forces Attributable Pension Scheme, in that Ministry of Defence legislation has, since 31 October 2000, allowed a widow to keep her attributable pension if she remarries or starts to live with a man as his wife. When a question arises whether a war widow is living with a man as his wife, the War Pensions Agency normally uses the services of the Benefits Agency to investigate the case. Trained staff follow established procedures, including interviewing the widow and, if possible, the person who may be living with her as her husband. A specially trained officer of the War Pensions Agency considers the information gathered, and any other relevant evidence, when deciding whether war widow's pension should remain in payment.In each of the five cases referred to by the noble Lord, the evidence used comprised the record of the interview(s), including detailed accounts of the living arrangements and financial arrangements of the household. The information was provided by the widow, and where possible, by her partner. The cost of each individual investigation is not available. None of the five decisions was appealable to an independent tribunal. However, subject to the approval of Parliament, changes being introduced as a result of the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 will provide a right of appeal to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal on such decisions made from 9 April 2001.