Previous Section Index Home Page

19 Mar 2009 : Column 1281W—continued

Post Offices: Closures

Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many post office branches have closed in each (a) constituency, (b) local authority area and (c) region (i) since 1997 and (ii) under the Network Change programme to date. [262695]

Mr. McFadden: This is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. (POL). I have therefore asked Alan Cook, managing director of POL, to reply direct to the hon. Member.

Copies of the letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.


Mr. Doran: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will bring forward legislative proposals to govern the practice of compulsory redundancy. [261814]

Mr. McFadden: We have no plans at present to change the arrangements in relation to compulsory redundancy. The law provides clear rights and responsibilities for both employers and employees with regard to information and consultation, notice periods and statutory redundancy payments.

19 Mar 2009 : Column 1282W

Royal Mail: Pensions

Geraldine Smith: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the estimated saving to Royal Mail of suspending employer contributions to the Post Office Staff Superannuation Scheme between 1 April 1990 and 1 April 2003 was, expressed in 2008-09 prices. [263666]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 13 March 2009]: There is no single answer for the possible accumulated current value of the suspended contributions as it would involve the need to make complex assumptions over the period since 1990, based on decisions taken by a number of interested parties. The fund was judged to be in surplus in 2001.

Union Modernisation Fund

Mr. Maude: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer of 4 March 2009, Official Report, column 1700W, on the union modernisation fund, whether his Department's officials made any informal minutes or notes of the meeting. [263223]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 12 March 2009]: Officials, acting in their capacity as the secretariat to the board and in accordance with a decision of the board, kept a record of the decisions taken at the UMF Supervisory Board meetings.

Video Games: Sales

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps the Government plan to take to ensure age restrictions on purchasing video games are adhered to for online purchases. [260805]

Mr. McFadden: The needs and rights of children are central and integral to the Government and they have placed the safety of children and young people at the heart of their policies.

It is illegal to sell or supply 18 rated video games to people under age through online retailers. This falls under the remit of trading standards officers. In the Byron review action plan, the Government committed to working with trading standards on monitoring underage game sales and this work is ongoing.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Air Pollution: Greater London

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on how many days air pollution recorded on Neasden Lane, NW10, exceeded (a) moderate, (b) high and (c) very high levels in the last 12 months; and what level of such pollution poses a risk to public health. [264021]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The monitoring site at Neasden Lane is the responsibility of the local authority and is part of the London Air Quality Network (LAQN). The
19 Mar 2009 : Column 1283W
LAQN is facilitated by the Association of London Government on behalf of the 33 London Boroughs and is operated and managed by the Environmental Research Group (ERG) at Kings College London. Air quality information from the monitoring site at Neasden Lane, including historical data, can be found at:

The UK air quality strategy sets air quality objectives for the protection of human health. These objectives are reflected in the Air Quality (England) Regulations 2002 and similar regulations for devolved administrations. All local authorities are required to work towards these objectives. EU legislation sets similar limit values for air pollutants, with which the UK must comply.

For PM10 (small particles) the limits are:

For nitrogen dioxide (NO2) the limits are:

These are based on World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. Health effects of air pollutants are described in detail in the (draft) COMEAP (Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution) report “Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution: Effect on Mortality” at:

Departmental Data Protection

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what IT security strategy his Department has in place; what steps are being taken to ensure the policy is being followed; what policy is in place on the use of encryption when data are sent externally; and what sanctions are in place for use should the policy not be followed. [259005]

Huw Irranca-Davies [ h olding answer 26 February 2009]: Information is a key asset to Government and its correct handling is vital to the delivery of public services and to the integrity of HMG. The Security Policy Framework, the Data Handling Report and the National Information Assurance strategy produced by the Cabinet Office provide a strategic framework for protecting information that Government handle and put in place a set of mandatory measures to which Departments must adhere.

DEFRA’s strategy is to implement all mandatory measures and achieve compliance with the new measures as appropriate for the Department’s business purposes.

Guidance to staff is regularly updated and compliance is checked by line managers, information asset owners and internal audit as appropriate.

Secure procedures are in place for transferring protectively marked material outside of the Department.

Depending upon the circumstances, a range of sanctions are available including disciplinary or administrative action, and in extreme or persistent cases, termination of employment/services and, if appropriate, criminal proceedings.

19 Mar 2009 : Column 1284W

Departmental Internet

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will publish a copy of his Department’s website accessibility plan. [257240]

Huw Irranca-Davies: DEFRA intends to comply with Level Double-A of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines by December 2009.

Contact details for obtaining a copy of our website accessibility policy are available on our website at:

I have asked officials responsible for the accessibility policy to send a copy to the hon. Gentleman.

Departmental Lost Property

John Mason: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what property has been lost or stolen from his Department in the last 12 months; and what the estimated cost was of replacement of such property. [263112]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Items of DEFRA property lost or stolen are all recorded as ‘losses’. The following table shows losses with an estimated value (at the time of loss) of over £50. Figures are for 2008-09 to date.

Description N umber Value (£)





CD/DVD writers


Docking stations


Hard drives




Mobile phones




Spider phone


Wacom Bamboo A5 pen and tablet





IT services were outsourced to IBM in October 2004 and all IT equipment then became the property of the new service provider.

During 2008-09, DEFRA began a programme of hardware and system upgrades which is now almost complete, including the roll-out of encrypted laptops which provides greater security of Government data assets. There have been no reported instances of protectively marked or personal data being lost in connection with these laptop losses.

Floods: Wiltshire

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent steps his Department has taken to reduce flood risk in North Wiltshire constituency. [264199]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The Environment Agency is working closely with the North Wiltshire Flood Group (a multi-agency working group) to address all forms of flooding.

19 Mar 2009 : Column 1285W

The Environment Agency is undertaking a study to look at the current standard of defence protection provided by existing defences on the Upper Avon in North Wiltshire. A pre-feasibility study has been carried out in Dauntsey to address local flooding and the Environment Agency is working with the Highways Agency and the local authority to progress the recommendations made.

The Environment Agency continues to inspect all its flood defence assets to ensure maintenance needs are identified and undertaken. The Environment Agency is continuously looking at new technology to improve the flood warning system and at Dauntsey, a more tailored localised service is now in place.

Marine Animals: Biodiversity

Ms Angela C. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what guidance his Department has issued on the application of the general duty to conserve biodiversity in section 40(1) of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 to (a) existing public authorities carrying out functions in the marine area, (b) the Marine Management Organisation and other new marine public authorities proposed in the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, (c) the new regimes proposed in the Marine and Coastal Access Bill and (d) the Infrastructure Planning Commission when licensing marine projects. [263639]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The duty in section 40(1) of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 requires every public authority, when exercising its functions, to have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity. The duty applies to public authorities in England and Wales, wherever they are carrying out their functions, including in the marine area.

The duty applies to existing public authorities, as defined in section 40(4) of the Act, and applies to any new public authorities which are created in England and Wales. The duty will therefore apply to the Infrastructure Planning Commission, and, subject to passage of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, will apply to the Marine Management Organisation and to Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities. Existing public authorities in England and Wales, which it is proposed should carry out functions under the Bill, are already subject to the biodiversity duty.

Northern Ireland


Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what reports he has received on levels of anti-Semitism in Northern Ireland since December 2008; and if he will make a statement. [263240]

Paul Goggins: The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister is responsible for matters relating to equality and community relations, including issues surrounding anti-Semitism.

I am advised that the Police Service of Northern Ireland record crimes or incidents that have a religious motivation, however these are not routinely broken
19 Mar 2009 : Column 1286W
down into different faiths. The Police Service of Northern Ireland have advised me that there have been five such crimes or incidents since December 2008, including at least one of an anti-Semitic nature.

Crime: Computers

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people were convicted of internet-related offences in Northern Ireland in the last 12 months. [254935]

Paul Goggins: There are no specific offences relating to the internet. We are, therefore, unable to separate internet offences from other non-internet offences that relates to the same or similar crimes.

Departmental Rail Travel

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the cost of travel by train by staff in his Department was in each year since 1997. [261205]

Paul Goggins: The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) is unable to provide this information in the format requested. However, the following table provides details of the Department's invoiced expenditure for travel by train, excluding Agencies and Executive non-departmental public bodies, since the 2001-02 financial year when an expenditure code for train costs was created:

Financial Year Expenditure (£)















Next Section Index Home Page