Mr. Evans: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what assessment the Commission has made of the effectiveness of arrangements in place to facilitate the taking of oral evidence by select committees via video-conferencing. 
Nick Harvey: Arrangements for video-conferencing by Select Committees are monitored by the Liaison Committee. The video-conferencing projection equipment in the Committee Rooms in Portcullis House is currently being updated to enhance the picture and sound quality of transmissions.
Mr. Maude: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission whether valued added tax (VAT) is charged on VAT-liable items in each of the House restaurants, vending machines, bars and canteens; and whether retail prices on VAT-liable items have been reduced since December 2008. 
Nick Harvey: VAT is payable on the sale of all restaurant and bar services and so all prices charged in the restaurants, bars and cafeterias in the House of Commons include VAT at the prevailing rate (currently 15 per cent.). Selling prices are rounded to the nearest 5 pence, and all prices were reduced in December 2008 if the impact of the VAT rate change was more than or equal to 5p.
VAT is also payable on food and drinks dispensed from vending machines. Prices were reviewed following the reduction in VAT in December 2008 but were unchanged due to the policy of rounding prices to the nearest 5p.
Mr. Maude: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission whether the retail prices in the House of Commons gift shop for items which attract valued added tax were reduced following the December 2008 reduction in value added tax. 
Nick Harvey: Prices in the House of Commons souvenir shops are set to the nearest 5p. The selling prices of all goods on which VAT is payable were reduced in December 2008 if the impact of the VAT rate change came to 5p or more.
To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission whether hon. Members and their staff are (a) permitted
and (b) able to install Pretty Good Privacy encryption software on their computers; and what support PICT provides to hon. Members offices in this regard. 
Nick Harvey: Members and their staff do have the rights necessary to install their own software on their parliamentary computers. Members are responsible for the licensing and maintenance of any software that they install and, as the conditions of supply provide, PICT reserves the right to remove any software that is found to interfere with the proper operation of the hardware concerned, or the parliamentary network. This applies to encryption software. However, extra caution is needed with this type of product since, by its nature, it can prevent access and therefore could severely limit PICTs ability to provide support after it has been installed.
PICT has recently completed an evaluation of encryption software and Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) was found to be incompatible with Parliaments current version of VPN (remote access) software. Therefore, this product is not recommended for users of that service. As part of the evaluation PICT has identified another product that can be deployed to Members loaned machines by PICT at no cost to Members. The software can also be acquired by Members at their own cost, if they wish to have it installed on machines that they have purchased through PICT.
Mr. Maude: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Chichester of 19 February 2008, Official Report, column 546W, on trade unions, what the estimated cost to the public purse of the provision of facilities for the exclusive use of trade unions was in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Maude: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission pursuant to the answer of 26 January 2009, Official Report, column 64W, on the political levy, if he will amend the staff handbook for House of Commons staff to inform them of their right to opt out of the political levies operated by those recognised trade unions which have a political fund. 
Chris Bryant: Henry VIII clauses, which confer on Ministers the power to amend the statute itself by delegated legislation, or to amend other statutes, are included in legislation for a variety of reasons.
In some cases, such as section 6 of the Smoke Detectors Act 1991, they confer power to make significant and wide-ranging amendments to the parent Act. In other cases they may be used to make incidental and consequential amendments to existing Acts.
Ms Harman: It is up to individual hon. Members how best to engage with their constituents, using interactive digital technology as well as other means. Hon. Members may use the Communication Allowance to meet the cost of designing and running a website which is intended to inform constituents of their work as a Member, to consult with constituents or local groups, or to provide contact information.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Leader of the House how many statutory instruments subject to the (a) negative and (b) affirmative procedure have been laid before the House in each year since 1990. 
Chris Bryant: The information is only readily available on a sessional basis and is published each year in the Sessional Returns. The following table shows the number of statutory instruments laid before the House in each Session from 1990-91 to 2007-08.
|Session||Affirmative instruments||Negative instruments|
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Leader of the House how many statutory instruments subject to the (a) negative and (b) affirmative procedure have been debated in delegated legislation committees and their predecessor committees in each year since 1990. 
The total number of affirmative instruments considered in committee each Session will differ from the total number laid in that Session for a number of reasons: some instruments are considered on the Floor of the House or in a Grand Committee; some items which are not laid as instruments may be agreed by the House to be treated as such; instruments may be considered in the Session after the one in which they were laid; and instruments may be withdrawn before they are considered.
|(1) Of which, one was not laid as an instrument but was agreed by the House to be treated as such.|
(2) Of which, nine were not laid as instruments but were agreed by the House to be treated as such.
(3) Of which, two were not laid as instruments but were agreed by the House to be treated as such.
(4) Of which, four were not laid as instruments but were agreed by the House to be treated as such.
(5) Of which, three were not laid as instruments but were agreed by the House to be treated as such.
(6) Of which, one was not laid as an instrument but was agreed by the House to be treated as such.
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