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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Attorney-General

Human Trafficking

Michael Connarty: To ask the Attorney-General what steps he is taking to improve the rate of conviction of those involved in human trafficking. [62262]

The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is taking a number of steps to improve the rate of successful prosecutions in cases of human trafficking in England and Wales. They include working with law enforcement agencies and others, both in the United Kingdom and in source countries, to improve investigation and evidence gathering to support prosecutions of trafficking cases. The CPS is also encouraging victims of human trafficking to support criminal proceedings. They have published a new public policy statement and are working with non-government organisations in the development of further measures to assist and support victims.

Energy and Climate Change

Committee on Climate Change: Finance

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what the budget is of the Committee on Climate Change for the comprehensive spending review period. [62733]

Gregory Barker: Following representations from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the Government and the CCC are engaged in discussions to agree a revised funding package for the spending review period to enable the CCC to manage the delivery of its work programme while at the same time contributing to the overall savings that all public bodies are expected to make over the next four years. The Government expect to conclude these discussions in the near future.

Departmental Allowances

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what expenses were claimed by (a) paid and (b) unpaid special advisers working in his Department in the last 12 months. [62065]

Gregory Barker: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) on 27 April 2011, Official Report, column 451W. There have been no further claims since this date.

Departmental Billing

Mr Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how many invoices received by his Department were paid (a) on time and (b) late in each month since May 2010; and what the monetary value was of invoices paid late. [62480]

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Gregory Barker: The Government have set a target for Departments to pay invoices from small and medium sized entities within five working days of the receipt of a validly rendered invoice. As it is not practical to distinguish SMEs from other suppliers, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) applies this target to all payments. From May 2010 to May 2011 DECC paid 85% of invoices with five working days. 7,729 invoices worth £551 million were paid within five working days. The remaining 1,318 invoices, worth £266 million, were paid after the five-day target and include a number of invoices from larger suppliers one of which was for £103 million. 99.9% of invoices were paid within standard commercial terms of 30 days.

Northern Ireland

Capita

Tristram Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many contracts his Department has awarded to Capita since May 2010; and what the (a) individual monetary value and (b) net worth was of those contracts. [62719]

Mr Paterson: No contracts were awarded by the Northern Ireland Office to Capita since May 2010.

Departmental Manpower

Mr Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what proportion of staff employed by the Northern Ireland Office were based in Northern Ireland on the most recent date for which figures are available. [62522]

Mr Paterson: As at 31 March, the most recent date for which figures are available, 68% of staff working in the Northern Ireland Office are based in Northern Ireland.

Security

Mr Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the reasons for the maintenance of the security restrictions in Lower Chichester street, Belfast which prevent access for buses. [62391]

Mr Paterson: Following a regular review of security, Lower Chichester street was closed to all traffic on 30 April 2010 at the request of the Minister of Justice, David Ford MLA, as an appropriate and measured response to the current threat.

The closure of Lower Chichester street was last reviewed in September 2010 and I have made a commitment to review it on a yearly basis in consultation with the Department of Justice, the Department of Regional Development, PSNI and other interested parties.

As soon as the security situation allows it is my intention to remove the road closures, once again allowing access for buses.

Prime Minister

British-Irish Council

Mr Dodds: To ask the Prime Minister what recent assessment he has made of the work of the British-Irish Council. [62511]

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The Prime Minister: A meeting of the British-Irish Council was held on 20 June 2011, when the UK delegation was led by the Deputy Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg). A copy of the communiqué published after the meeting can be found on the British-Irish Council website:

http://www.gov.je/BritishIrishCouncil/Communiques/Pages/16BICSummitLondon.aspx

Intelligence and Security Committee Annual Report

Nadine Dorries: To ask the Prime Minister when he expects the next Intelligence and Security Committee Annual Report to be published. [61880]

The Prime Minister: We expect to receive and publish the Report shortly.

Wales

Departmental Allowances

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what expenses were claimed by (a) paid and (b) unpaid special advisers working in her Department in the last 12 months. [62076]

Mr David Jones: None.

Departmental Procurement

Mr Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what provisions in respect of behavioural standards have been included in procurement contracts issued by her Department since May 2010. [61669]

Mr David Jones: My Department obtains most of its services through arrangements with the Ministry of Justice and has few contracts of its own. Those it does issue contain provisions for the performance standards expected from the contractor to ensure value for money for the taxpayer.

Human Trafficking

Mr Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussion she has had with the First Minister on cross-border trafficking of human beings between England and Wales. [62235]

Mr David Jones: The Secretary of State for Wales, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), and I have regular discussions with the First Minister on a wide range of issues.

I am a member of the Inter Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking, and the Welsh Government's Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services has also been invited to join the group. I am pleased that the UK Government and the Welsh Government will be working together as we develop a new strategy to combat human trafficking.

Culture, Media and Sport

Arts: Tourism

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport if he will assess the effects of reductions in funding from his

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Department for touring arts organisations on the

(a)

viability of arts venues and

(b)

number of staff employed by venues; and if he will make a statement. [62337]

Mr Vaizey: Arts Council England (ACE) has addressed touring arts organisations as a priority in their 10-year framework “Achieving great art for everyone” and details of how this will be met shall be set out in the autumn.

ACE will continue to fund a wide range of organisations that tour, and organisations which programme touring work in a variety of spaces, including funded and commercial arts venues, schools, village halls and outdoor spaces. Within ACE's National Portfolio, over 100 organisations identified touring as a core part of their work. An additional £18 million of lottery income a year will be invested through the National Portfolio budget to organisations for touring to engage broader audiences.

ACE recognises challenges ahead for venues which rely on local authority funding and are subject to cuts which may impact on staff infrastructure. ACE staff in the regions are working closely with local authority partners to support the touring infrastructure.

Broadband

Pat Glass: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (1) by what date he expects superfast broadband internet access to have been introduced to existing areas of poor access in North West Durham constituency; [61410]

(2) how he plans to monitor the implementation of the delivery of superfast broadband internet access across the UK by 2015; [61475]

(3) what (a) timetable and (b) plans he has to achieve the roll-out of superfast broadband internet access across the UK by 2015; [61476]

(4) what assessment he has made of the effect on (a) economic growth and (b) businesses in areas with poor broadband service of the revision of the Government's timetable for the roll-out of universal broadband; [61480]

(5) what support and assistance he plans to provide local authorities implementing the programme for delivery of superfast broadband internet access across the UK by 2015. [61488]

Mr Vaizey: The Government have allocated £530 million to ensure superfast broadband reaches at least 90% of households in each local authority. Four pilot projects were announced in October. Wiltshire, Devon and Somerset and Norfolk received second wave funding announced on 27 May. I will be announcing the allocations for the devolved Administrations and for local authorities in England in the near future.

To monitor the implementation of the delivery of superfast broadband and to determine whether the UK has the best superfast broadband network in Europe, we will be publishing a balanced scorecard which will include speed, price, choice and coverage, as well as take up. This is due to be published in the summer of 2011.

With regards to the timetable for roll out, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey

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(Mr Hunt) announced on 12 May 2011 the ambition that 90% of the UK population should have access to a superfast broadband connection and universal access to a service of at least 2Mbps by 2015.

The impact of broadband on business growth is well documented in publicly available studies. I have not made any new assessment of the impact of the revised timetable for broadband roll-out on economic growth or businesses in areas with poor broadband services.

In addition to providing a funding allocation to local authorities to support the roll-out of superfast, we have in BDUK compiled an experienced team to help authorities to manage the procurement process, including an online resource centre for local authorities and the development of a procurement framework, to which authorities will have access.

Digital Broadcasting

Mr Ivan Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what recent discussions he has had with the BBC on digital switchover. [62347]

Mr Jeremy Hunt [holding answer 27 June 2011]: I have not had any discussions with the BBC on digital TV switchover. However, the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, attended two ministerial group meetings along with representatives from the BBC, on digital TV switchover on 20 January and 10 May 2011.

I met with the BBC and commercial radio operators to discuss radio switchover in March. In addition, the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr Davey), has attended a number of meetings with the BBC and other representatives of the radio sector as part of the Digital Radio Action plan process.

Earls Court Exhibition Centre

Mr Slaughter: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport if he will estimate the effect on the level of revenue from (a) business and (b) tourist visitors to the UK which would result from the closure of Earls Court exhibition centre. [61351]

John Penrose: This Department is not able to estimate the overall effect of the closure of the Earls Court exhibition centre on business and tourism revenues in the UK. However, London has a significant number of other venues for conferences, exhibitions and events, including Olympia, the O2, Wembley and ExCel London, and the Olympic games and Paralympic games in 2012 presents the greatest-ever opportunity to boost London and the UK's appeal as an events destination. The business tourism and events sector will also benefit from a range of proposals included in the Government's new tourism policy, published in March.

Local Broadcasting: Television

Mike Weatherley: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what progress he has made on his proposals for the future of local television; and if he will make a statement. [61412]

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Mr Vaizey: The Government expect to publish their final proposals for local television in a statement in July 2011. This will set out the framework for viable local services, the expected timescales and processes involved.

Sports: Public Bodies

Mr Ivan Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport if he has made an assessment of the standards of governance in the UK's amateur sports governing bodies. [62346]

Mr Jeremy Hunt [holding answer 27 June 2011]: There are many excellent examples of effective governance within the sports movement in this country, where the best use is made of the principles of good corporate governance, transparency and independent scrutiny. Through Sport England and UK Sport we continue to challenge our core funded sporting bodies to create, improve and maintain the best possible governance structures.

The Sport and Recreation Alliance also published their Code on Good Governance in May this year and I whole-heartedly endorse its contents. It is in everyone's interests for those principles to be universally adopted and I am committed to support that development.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Common Agricultural Policy

Steve Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress she has made on (a) achieving a reduction in the level of common agriculture policy (CAP) subsidies and (b) her plans for their abolition following negotiations on the future of the CAP after 2013; and if she will make a statement. [61572]

Mr Paice: The European Commission is due to bring forward proposals on the EU budget from 2014-20 at the end of this month and on the CAP post-2013 later in the year. In the meantime we are continuing to work constructively with all EU partners to make the case for genuine and farsighted reform.

There must be a very substantial cut to the CAP budget during the next financial framework. In a smaller overall budget, future CAP expenditure should tackle the key objectives of encouraging a competitive, sustainable EU agriculture sector able to respond to climate change challenges, reducing reliance on subsidies and focusing resources on the provision of public goods.

Farming: Pigs

Margot James: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment her Department has made of effects of intensive pig farming on (a) animal welfare and (b) the local (i) environment and (ii) economy. [62156]

Mr Paice: All pig producers must comply with relevant environmental and animal welfare legislation, which applies equally to all livestock farms, regardless of size or production system. Poor welfare may occur in both intensive and extensive systems.

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The Animal Welfare Act 2006 protects the welfare of animals on-farm and makes it an offence to cause suffering to any animal. The Act also contains a duty of care to animals. This means that anyone responsible for an animal must take reasonable steps to ensure the animal's welfare needs are met. DEFRA has also published a pig welfare code on its website which encourages high standards of husbandry and which farmers are required by law to have access to, and be familiar with.

DEFRA has not made any specific assessment of the implications for animal welfare of intensive pig farms. It is important to recognise that poor welfare may occur in both intensive and extensive systems. This is echoed in the current scientific advice from the Farm Animal Welfare Council, that the most significant influence on the welfare of livestock is the stock-keeper, not the system in which it is reared.

Large scale pig units are subject to the integrated pollution prevention and control directive (IPPC). Implemented through the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010. This is the regulatory instrument for preventing and controlling emissions from industrial installations, including sites for the intensive rearing of poultry and pigs that reach or exceed stated thresholds. Under the IPPC directive, operators of affected installations are required to control emissions by demonstrating that the site is compliant with best available techniques (BAT). What are considered to be BAT in each case will be for the Environment Agency, as regulator, to determine.

In line with the progressive reform of the common agricultural policy, it is important for the UK pig sector to compete globally. We therefore welcome innovative and entrepreneurial efforts by farmers to improve their competitiveness while protecting the environment and meeting animal welfare standards.

Margot James: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what guidance her Department issues to the pig farming industry on meeting environmental and animal welfare standards; and whether she has any plans to review this guidance. [62163]

Mr Paice: DEFRA has published a pig welfare code on its website which encourages high standards of husbandry and emphasises the importance of good stockmanship for animal welfare. By law, farmers are required to have access to, and be familiar with this code.

'Keeping pigs—A beginners guide' was recently published on Directgov which includes links to further information such as the DEFRA publication “A Guide for New Pig Keepers”. This guidance is for all pig keepers and supplements more detailed guidance on rules for feeding of by-products to animals. Both booklets can be viewed on the DEFRA website.

Also available through links from the DEFRA website is Environment Agency guidance for operators of intensive pig rearing installations on how to meet the integrated pollution prevention and control requirements which the eponymous Directive (2008/1/EC) places upon them.

Margot James: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received on the planned intensive pig farm in Foston, Derbyshire. [62182]

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Mr Paice: We have received no recent representations on the planned intensive pig farm in Foston, Derbyshire.

Food Supply

Dr Wollaston: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what definition of locally-sourced food her Department uses. [62127]

Mr Paice: DEFRA does not have a definition of locally-sourced food. This is because there are wide variations in what is considered to be local.

A consumer survey commissioned by the Food Standards Agency and published in 2007 indicated that the term local is interpreted differently by UK consumers with some considering it a small geographic area (40 miles) and some considering it as food sourced from a wider area (e.g. county, region or country). A number of organisations have sought to define 'local food'. However these differ greatly in their criteria and on the size of geographic area considered local, making them unsuitable for an over arching definition for general use. Where it is used businesses should be able to explain what it means. If consumers have concerns about the origin of their food they can ask for details at the point of purchase.

Finally, there are EU schemes which allow for the protection of certain food and drink products which carry the name of a geographical area and which owe their distinctive characteristics and reputation to the area in which they are produced. Scotch whisky is probably the best know of these protected names but others include Cornish clotted cream, Scotch beef and Melton Mowbray pork pies. It is our policy to actively encourage more UK applications under these schemes.

Dr Wollaston: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the (a) economic, (b) environmental and (c) social value of sale and production of local food. [62161]

Mr Paice: We have not carried out a quantitative assessment of the value of local food. However, we have carried out some research on local foods which identified a commercial opportunity where value added through price premiums is available. The social and environmental value depends largely on the type of initiative—production system, added value and supply chain.

Work on attitudes showed there is a growing demand for local and regional food although this does not always translate into buying behaviour.

Wind Farms

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the effects of onshore wind farms on night-flying autumn migrant birds. [62791]

Gregory Barker: I have been asked to reply.

A considerable amount of research has been undertaken, both within the UK and elsewhere, to determine the significance of any impacts of wind farms on wildlife. Data collected from a number of existing wind farms have indicated that, for the majority of locations, there

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is little or no evidence of a significant impact on birds. Careful site selection is important to avoid potentially significant impacts, and within the planning process environmental impact assessments are prepared for proposed wind farms. The RSPB has noted in its own reports that

“the majority of studies indicated that (bird) collision mortality rates per turbine in the UK are low”

and that

“if wind farms are located away from major migration routes there is a strong possibility that they will have minimal impact on wildlife”.

Public Accounts Commission

National Audit Office: Audit Commission

Andrew Griffiths: To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission on what dates officials of the National Audit Office have dined on official business with representatives of the Audit Commission since 2007-08; in which restaurants; and at what cost to the public purse. [61767]

Mr Leigh: Officials of the National Audit Office have paid for meals with officials from the Audit Commission on three occasions since 2007-08:

On 11 June 2007 Sir John Bourn, former Comptroller and Auditor General, hosted Steve Bundred, Chief Executive of the Audit Commission, for dinner at Wiltons at a cost of £199;

On 15 January 2009, Gabrielle Cohen, Assistant Auditor General, had lunch with David Walker, MD Communications at the Audit Commission, at the Ebury Wine Bar at a cost of £41.40;

On 2 February 2011, Amyas Morse, Comptroller and Auditor General, met with Eugene Sullivan, Chief Executive of the Audit Commission, for breakfast at the Mint Hotel at a cost of £19.90.

Officials of the National Audit Office have dined with officials from the Audit Commission on six occasions since 2007-08 where the NAO did not pay:

On 1 November 2007 Gabrielle Cohen, Assistant Auditor General had lunch with the then MD, Communications at the Audit Commission. Information on the location and cost is no longer available;

On 3 December 2007 Sir John Bourn, Comptroller and Auditor General and Steve Bundred, Audit Commission Chief Executive dined at L'Escargot;

On 5 May 2009 Amyas Morse, Comptroller and Auditor General, Steve Bundred, Audit Commission Chief Executive, and Michael O'Higgins, Chairman of the Audit Commission dined at Qurinale;

On 14 September 2009 Gabrielle Cohen, Assistant Auditor General had lunch with David Walker, MD Communications at the Audit Commission at the Ebury Wine Bar;

On 6 January 2010 Martin Sinclair, Assistant Auditor General, and the Managing Director Audit at the Audit Commission had lunch at the Rex Whistler Restaurant (we understand that this was at no cost to the public purse); and,

On 7 April 2010 Gabrielle Cohen, Assistant Auditor General had lunch with David Walker, MD Communications at the Audit Commission, at the Footstool restaurant.

Transport

Aviation: Olympic Games 2012

Joseph Johnson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will ensure that any grant by Bromley council of a time-limited waiver to the terms of lease to

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Biggin Hill Airport Ltd to allow extended hours and additional flights during the period of the London 2012 Olympics does not set a precedent for future expansion of the airport. [62591]

Mr Philip Hammond: In view of the anticipated number of international visitors expected to come to London for the games, and the demands this may place on aviation operations during the peak periods, we would encourage local authorities and others to give due consideration to any requests for flexibility on an exceptional basis around airport operating conditions during this period. However, so far as Biggin Hill airport is concerned, this is a matter for the London borough of Bromley, as the landlord of the airport, to decide.

Crossrail Line: Railway Signals

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he expects a European train control system with an automatic train operation signalling system to be in place on Crossrail by December 2018. [61261]

Mrs Villiers: A formal application for derogation in respect of signalling for the Central Operating Section of the Crossrail project has been made to the European Commission and is currently being considered by them.

High Speed Two Railway Line

Steve Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much expenditure (a) his Department and (b) HS2 Ltd has incurred on the High Speed Two programme, including on compensation payments, to date; and how much each expects to incur by the date of introduction of a Bill to enable the line. [62431]

Mr Philip Hammond: HS2 Ltd spent £24.1 million (excluding VAT) between January 2009, when it was established, and the end of the 2010-11 financial year. In addition, the Department for Transport spent £9.6 million on property purchases under the exceptional hardship scheme up to the end of the 2010-11 financial year.

The funding allocated as part of the comprehensive spending review for HS2 was:

£ million

Resource spending Capital spending

2011-12

116.1

50

2012-13

163.3

50

2013-14

89.4

50

2014-15

204.2

50

Level Crossings: Safety

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the name is of each level crossing which (a) has had and (b) will have additional safety features introduced as a result of the recommendations of the Office of Rail Regulation report on the fatalities at Elsenham in 2005; and by what date he expects all such installations to have been completed. [61264]

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Mrs Villiers: Details of the specific level crossings to which safety recommendations from the Elsenham report can be applied, the nature of any changes and their installation dates, are an operational matter for Network Rail. The hon. Member may wish contact Network Rail's chief executive at the following address:

David Higgins

Chief Executive

Network Rail

Kings Place

90 York Way

London, N1 9AG

The Office of Rail Regulation, as the independent health and safety regulator of Britain's railways has a role in monitoring the progress of safety recommendations and that they are appropriately acted upon.

Motor Vehicles: Insurance

Michael Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his policy is on the availability of motor insurance to motorists over the age of 80. [62621]

Mike Penning: Any motorist irrespective of age must have statutory minimum third party insurance cover. Motor insurers are responsible for setting the terms and conditions of the policies that they offer and it is for them to decide the level of risk that they take in issuing a policy. A driver's age is one of the factors that insurers can take into account.

We would not wish to introduce any measures that would discourage elderly drivers from obtaining insurance.

Public Transport

Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Health on the role of public transport, cycling and walking in promoting better health outcomes. [59714]

Norman Baker [holding answer 15 June 2011]: The Secretary of State has had no direct discussions with the Secretary of State for Health on this issue. However, I met with the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Anne Milton), last September to discuss the role of active travel in promoting better health outcomes. This is discussed in Chapter 5 of the Local Transport White Paper: ‘Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon’, which we published in January this year. My officials also worked closely with the Department of Health and contributed to the White Paper: ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People’, published in November 2010.

Rail Delivery Group

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of the Rail Delivery Group in each year of the comprehensive spending review period. [61284]

Mrs Villiers: The cost of the Rail Delivery Group is met jointly by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and Network Rail (NR). There is no additional cost to the public purse.

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Railways

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport with reference to the Final Independent Report of the Rail Value for Money Study, whether he plans to introduce periodic reviews on the efficiency and productivity of the railway system. [61231]

Mrs Villiers: Sir Roy McNulty's recommendation was that Government, in conjunction with the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) and industry, should review periodically the efficiency and productivity of the railway system as a whole. This recommendation, alongside others in Sir Roy's final report, will be considered in preparing both the Department for Transport's detailed policy statement on rail for November 2011, and our High Level Output Specification, which will be delivered by the end of July 2012.

Railways: Finance

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress he has made on securing the derogations from EU interoperability regulations on European train control systems in respect of (a) the Crossrail project and (b) other rail projects. [61260]

Mrs Villiers: A formal application for derogation in respect of signalling for the Central Operating Section of the Crossrail project has been made to the European Commission and is currently being considered by them.

There are currently no other applications for derogation in respect of signalling for other UK rail projects.

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to produce a measurable objective for cost reductions in the rail industry. [61268]

Mrs Villiers: The Government are now considering which of the recommendations in the rail value for money study it will take forward and on what timescale. That work will complement thinking on a wider package of reforms to secure a sustainable railway at lower cost that delivers a better deal for both taxpayer and fare-payer. A detailed strategy for the reform of the industry will be published in November.

Railways: Franchises

Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the effects of longer rail franchises on the quality of service offered by train operating companies to passengers. [62464]

Mrs Villiers [holding answer 27 June 2011]: Discussions with rail operators have made clear that longer franchises are likely to increase the amount of investment and improvements to service quality that train operating companies can deliver during the franchise term.

Railways: Repairs and Maintenance

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the effect on rail maintenance costs of the suspension of engineering works on routes serving London 2012 Olympic venues between late June and early September 2012. [62616]

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Mrs Villiers: The effect on rail maintenance costs of the suspension of engineering works on routes serving London 2012 Olympic venues is a matter for Network Rail to manage within the overall targets for costs and efficiency set by the Office of Rail Regulation.

Railways: Wales

Andrea Leadsom: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to extend the proposed high speed rail link to Wales; and what recent discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on this subject. [61152]

Mr Philip Hammond [holding answer 21 June 2011]: The Government's aspiration is for a truly national high speed network. While there are no detailed plans at this stage for any extension to Wales, subject to the outcome of the current consultation, the Government would consider options for further high speed links with other parts of the UK such as Wales as the network develops over time.

The proposed first phase of the HS2 line will allow classic compatible trains to run at high speed from London to the west midlands and at conventional speed beyond. HS2 classic compatible trains running a high speed to Lichfield and then at conventional speed via Crewe could help significantly reduce journey times to Chester and North Wales from London.

Ministers regularly meet with members of the Welsh Government to discuss a range of transport issues.

Rescue Services: Belfast

Ms Ritchie: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many search and rescue operations were carried out from the Belfast Coastguard Station in each of the last five years; how many such operations were carried out during the hours of darkness; and (a) how long and (b) how many staff hours each such operation took. [62780]

Mike Penning: The number of incidents (including those categorised as alarm, distress and uncertainty) coordinated by Belfast Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Bangor from 2006 to date is shown in the following table:


Number

2006

460

2007

469

2008

444

2009

572

2010

654

2011 to end of May

236

The number and type of incidents is available on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's website at:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/mca/mcga07-home/shipsandcargoes/consultations/mcaa-consultations-archive/hm_coastguard_ proposals_for_modernisation_consultation_2010/statistics_requested.htm

Detailed information for all years about the number and duration of operations conducted during hours of darkness (broadly between 1900-0700) cannot be gathered other than at disproportionate cost. However a manual

28 Jun 2011 : Column 644W

interrogation of records in the time available shows that the number of operations during hours of darkness for 2009, 2010 and so far in 2011 was as follows:


Number

2009

160

2010

237

2011 to end of May

74

Information about staff hours is not recorded.

Ms Ritchie: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many search and rescue operations from Belfast Coastguard Station involved co-operation with the Irish Coastguard (a) in each year since 2005 and (b) in 2011 to date. [62781]

Mike Penning: The number of search and rescue incidents that have involved co-operation with the Irish Coastguard in each year since 2005 is in the following table:


Number

2005

14

2006

27

2007

31

2008

38

2009

54

2010

50

2011 to the end of May

19

These figures only include incidents where the Irish Coastguard Search and Rescue helicopters have been used.

Roads: Accidents

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many local authorities he expects to publish (a) casualty rates on local roads and (b) speed camera information; and what information his Department holds on the date on which each such authority plans to do so. [61235]

Mike Penning: I expect each English local highway authority with active cameras outside London, plus Transport for London, to arrange for the publication of speed camera information, in order to enhance transparency and local accountability. Different local highway authorities may publish this material together, for example where they share the same police force.

There is no requirement arising from the Department for Transport for local authorities to publish casualty rates on local roads. However they are able to do so. Both the Department and other organisations do publish material about the distribution of casualties between local areas.

Roads: Regulation

Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 9 June 2011, Official Report, column 406W, on roads: regulation, which regulations (a) relate to and (b) do not relate to cyclists; and for what reason some road regulations do not affect all road users. [60521]

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Norman Baker: The five regulations that specifically apply to cycling are:

Cycle Racing on Highways Regulations 1960;

Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1983;

Cycle Tacks Regulations 1984;

Cycle Racing on Highways (Tour de France 1994) Regulations 1994; and

Pedal Bicycles (Safety) Regulations 2010.

There is another regulation which although not specifically related to bicycles could be included here: Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles Regulations 1983.

Even though the above specifically relate to cycling, we do expect cyclists and other road users, to abide by all general road and traffic regulations.

Speed Limits: Cameras

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reason the section in his Department's Departmental Business Plan on speed camera data was changed in May 2011 from a commitment to working with local authorities to publish speed camera data to a commitment to issue guidance on how to publish such data. [61234]

Mike Penning: The change in wording reflects progress on this important commitment. A working group, including local authority representation, completed its work with us in April advising the Department for Transport about the data publication. The Department then undertook further work to enable guidance to be issued—hence the change in wording in May to the business plan's action.

Transport: EU Law

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his policy is on the standards to be agreed in the Intelligent Transport Systems Directive. [61273]

Mike Penning: We will seek to ensure that development of Intelligent Transport Systems standards and specifications are consistent with the principles set out in Annex II of the Intelligent Transport Systems Directive (2010/40/EU).

Vehicle and Operator Services Agency: Northern Ireland

Sammy Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many vehicles from Northern Ireland have been stopped by Vehicle and Operator Services Agency officials in England in each of the last three years. [61981]

Mike Penning: The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) holds data on the number of safety checks it conducts, rather than the number of vehicles stopped. Each vehicle is often subject to more than one type of safety check. VOSA checked the following number of Northern Ireland vehicles in England in the last three years.


2010-11 2009-10 2008-09

Mechanical checks

1,346

2,290

2,225

Drivers hours and weighing checks

2,180

3,046

2,680

28 Jun 2011 : Column 646W

Vehicle and Operator Services Agency

Sammy Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many vehicles stopped by Vehicle and Operator Services Agency officials were found to have defects in each of the last three years; [62167]

(2) how many vehicles were stopped by Vehicle and Operator Services Agency officials in each of the last three years. [62168]

Mike Penning: The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) holds data on the number of safety checks it conducts, rather than the number of vehicles stopped. Each vehicle is often subject to more than one type of safety check. The following table shows the number of checks and defects VOSA carried out in the last three years:

  2010-11 2009-10 2008-09

Number Defects Number Defects Number Defects

Mechanical checks

148,869

52,808

157,005

59,944

131,475

53,944

Drivers hours and weighing checks

142,221

28,097

160,442

38,703

121,509

35,981

High Speed Rail

Esther McVey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made on the potential effect of high speed rail on the capacity of the (a) West and (b) East Coast main lines. [62671]

Mr Philip Hammond: A national high speed rail network serving Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London would release considerable capacity on the existing network for additional services.

As well as enabling the provision of up to 14 high speed services an hour into London, the first phase of High Speed 2 (HS2) alone (the London-West Midlands line) would release sufficient capacity through the transfer of long distance services to enable more than 160 new services a day on the existing West Coast Main Line. The illustrative service specification drawn up by HS2 Ltd indicates that train frequencies could almost double at some towns—providing thousands of extra seats, along with more reliable, quicker, more frequent and less crowded trains for commuters during rush hour.

Some of the largest increases in service levels could be seen in towns such as Milton Keynes (potentially almost 90% increase in services), Northampton (46%) and Tamworth and Lichfield Trent Valley (80% each).

The second phase of HS2 (the proposed branches to Leeds and Manchester) would see these benefits spread to the East Coast and Midland Main Lines. Work on released capacity on these lines will be undertaken as part of HS2 Ltd's ongoing work on route options for Phase 2 of the network.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

British Nationality

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support and assistance his Department provides for UK nationals with dual citizenship when in the country of their other citizenship; and if he will make a statement. [62504]

28 Jun 2011 : Column 647W

Mr Jeremy Browne: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office would not normally offer consular support to a dual British national in the country of their other nationality, or get involved in dealings between a dual national and the authorities of that state. We may make an exception to this rule if, having looked at the circumstances of the case, we consider that there is a special humanitarian reason to do so. These circumstances might include cases involving minors, forced marriages or an offence which carries the death penalty. However, the help we can provide will depend on the individual's circumstances and the authorities in the state of their other nationality agreeing to this.

This is explained in our publication “Support for British nationals abroad", which is available on our website at:

http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/publications

China: Diplomatic Service

Fabian Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the statement of 11 May 2011, Official Report, columns 1165-8, on the future diplomatic network, what the (a) purpose and (b) duties are of the new diplomatic posts in China; and whether any such posts will be dedicated to monitoring human rights in China and Tibet. [62112]

Mr Jeremy Browne: Following the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague)'s oral statement to the House on 11 May 2011, Official Report, columns 1165-8, we are working to put in place the announced increase in frontline staff in our China network.

The additional officials (up to 50) will include both UK-based and locally engaged staff. They will be deployed to reinforce our existing network in China, and to strengthen our engagement with the regions and cities outside those where we have our embassy and consulates.

All our missions in China monitor and raise human rights with host countries, as do all our missions overseas.

Fabian Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will consider the merits of recruiting a desk officer with responsibility for monitoring Tibet as part of his new diplomatic frontline staff for China. [62123]

Mr Jeremy Browne: Our embassy in Beijing and our consulate in Chongqing already have officers whose job description includes responsibility for monitoring developments in Tibet. These teams are among those that will be reinforced as part of the planned increase in frontline staff.

China: Tibet

Fabian Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the government of China to withdraw its armed forces from the monastery and town of Ngaba, Tibet, release all those detained and allow access to the monastery and region for international observers and journalists; and if he will make a statement. [62113]

28 Jun 2011 : Column 648W

Mr Jeremy Browne: We are deeply concerned by reports of violence at the Kirti Monastery in a Tibetan area of Sichuan Province. We have raised these concerns both with the Chinese embassy in London and with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, asking for information and calling for restraint. I wrote to the Chinese ambassador on 3 May 2011 raising my concerns at recent human rights developments in China, including the situation at Kirti Monastery.

At the 17th session of the UN Human Rights Council on 16 June 2011, the EU statement called on the Chinese authorities to refrain from the use of force in dealing with the situation at the Kirti monastery, and to allow independent observers to the site. Officials in our embassy in Beijing and in our consulate in Chongqing will continue to press for access to Tibet and Tibetan regions.

We remain committed to engagement with China on human rights. Long term stability in Tibet can only be achieved through respect for human rights and genuine autonomy for Tibet within the framework of the Chinese constitution. We believe that meaningful dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese authorities is the best way to make this happen.

Gilad Shalit

Andrew Percy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he (a) has taken and (b) plans to take to press for the immediate release of Corporal Gilad Shalit; and if he will make a statement. [62699]

Alistair Burt: We regularly hold discussions through our embassy in Tel Aviv about the release of Gilad Shalit with other EU and UN partners. Most recently, HMA Tel Aviv met with Gilad Shalit's family on 20 June. We continue to call for Hamas to release Gilad Shalit unconditionally. We consider it unacceptable that the International Committee of the Red Cross is denied access to him. It is unacceptable that he has been held for five years without any Red Cross access.

On the Fifth anniversary of his capture the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) released a statement and I released a video message calling for Shalit's immediate and unconditional release.

Cyprus: British Nationals Abroad

Mr Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what advice his Department provides to British citizens who own property in the north of Cyprus on the Immoveable Property Commission; and if he will make a statement. [62162]

Mr Lidington: The British High Commission's website:

www.ukincyprus.fco.gov.uk

highlights several options open to British citizens who are experiencing property problems. We have not given specific advice to British Citizens on the Immovable Property Commission. As we make clear on the site, we cannot intervene in private legal disputes or give legal guidance. We encourage anyone with a property problem to seek independent legal advice.

28 Jun 2011 : Column 649W

EU Institutions: Secondment

Mr Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many staff in the (a) European Parliament and (b) European Commission were seconded from Civil Service organisations in (i) Great Britain and (ii) Northern Ireland on the latest date for which figures are available. [60638]

Mr Lidington: The Northern Ireland Department for Enterprise, Trade and Industry (DETINI) has one secondee with the EU Commission.

The rest of the UK civil service has currently seconded:

89 members of staff to the EU Commission

two members of staff to the European Parliament

These figures are valid as of 15 June 2011.

Gilad Shalit

Jack Lopresti: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what progress he has made in efforts to secure the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit; [62688]

(2) what steps he (a) has taken and (b) plans to take to seek to ensure access for the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Corporal Gilad Shalit; and if he will make a statement. [62690]

Guto Bebb: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what recent discussions he has had with his Israeli counterpart on the captivity of Corporal Gilad Shalit; [62689]

(2) what recent reports he has received on the condition of Corporal Gilad Shalit. [62691]

Alistair Burt: We regularly hold discussions through our embassy in Tel Aviv about the release of Gilad Shalit with other EU and UN partners. Most recently, HMA Tel Aviv met with Gilad Shalit's family on 20 June. We continue to call for Hamas to release Gilad Shalit unconditionally. We consider it unacceptable that the International Committee of the Red Cross is denied access to him. It is unacceptable that he has been held for five years without any Red Cross access.

On the fifth anniversary of his capture the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), released a statement and I released a video message calling for Shalit's immediate and unconditional release.

India: Prisoners

Mr Ward: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with representatives of the Indian government on Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar. [62354]

Mr Jeremy Browne: I wrote to the Indian high commissioner on 20 June, reiterating the UK Government's strong opposition to the death penalty and urging the Government of India to reconsider Mr Bhullar's sentence. We continue to urge the Government of India to establish a formal moratorium as a first step towards the abolition of the death penalty in India.

28 Jun 2011 : Column 650W

India: Prosecutions

Mr Ward: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions his Department has had with representatives of the Indian government on prosecutions of the perpetrators of the killing of Sikhs in that country in 1984. [62530]

Mr Jeremy Browne: The Government have not had any discussions with the Indian Government on this matter. However, we maintain a dialogue with Indian officials about minority rights issues generally in India, including with regards to the Sikh community.

Israel: Prisoners

Andrew Percy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the renewal of indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on a potential prisoner swap. [62602]

Alistair Burt: We are aware that there has been much press speculation about the possibility of a potential prisoner swap, however, we have not received any official reports on this.

The UK has long called for Gilad Shalit's immediate and unconditional release. We continue to do so. On the fifth anniversary of his capture last week, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), issued a statement and I released a video message calling for Shalit's immediate and unconditional release. It is despicable that, five years on, he should still be held with the most basic of human rights denied to him.

North Africa: Democracy

Ian Lavery: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the role of the EU in supporting emerging democracies in north Africa and the middle east. [60466]

Mr Lidington: The European Neighbourhood Policy Review Communication was issued on 25 May. It is an ambitious offer to our reforming neighbours in north Africa and more widely: a new partnership with the EU based on greater economic integration, trade and increased funding for the southern neighbourhood of €750 million. It makes a clear link between levels of EU support and progress on political and economic reform.

Palestinians: Politics and Government

Mr Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking at the UN to support (a) free and democratic elections for the Palestinian Authority and (b) the establishment of the (i) right of free speech and (ii) rule of law in the area controlled by the Palestinian Authority; and if he will make a statement. [62089]

Alistair Burt: We continue to await the formation of the Palestinian Government, but as the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) set out to the House on 7 June, the new Palestinian Authority should be formed of independent figures on

28 Jun 2011 : Column 651W

the basis that President Abbas set out on 4 May. It should continue to uphold the principles of non-violence, be committed to a negotiated solution, and accept previous agreements of the PLO. We also expect a future Palestinian Government to continue to uphold basic human rights principles, such as freedom of speech and the rule of law. The UK will judge a future Palestinian Government by its actions and its readiness to work for peace.

As I made clear in my statement of 16 February 2011, the UK welcomed the announcement by the Palestine Liberation Organization that it will hold national elections by September for all Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. We, together with our EU partners, stand ready to support the electoral process.

Tibet: Politics and Government

Emma Reynolds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the Tibetan government-in-exile on its recent election of a new leader. [62398]

Mr Jeremy Browne: The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) has had no discussions with representatives of the Tibetan Government-in-exile on its recent election of a new leader.

Since 1980 the UK has not accorded recognition to Governments; we only accord recognition to states.

Emma Reynolds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the level of religious freedom in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. [62399]

Mr Jeremy Browne: As highlighted in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Human Rights Command Paper 2010, we remain deeply concerned about the level of religious freedom in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. We are particularly concerned about the restrictions placed on a number of monks and nuns by the Chinese Government, which restrict their access to religious institutions and interfere with their religious practice through “patriotic education campaigns”.

We are concerned by recent reports of unrest at the Tibetan Buddhist Kirti Monastery in Sichuan Province. We have raised our concerns with both the Chinese embassy in London and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, asking for information and calling for restraint. I wrote to the Chinese ambassador on 3 May, raising my concerns about recent human rights developments, including the situation at Kirti Monastery.

Work and Pensions

Child Maintenance

Oliver Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of developing an integrated network of local support services to help parents make maintenance arrangements on separation. [60757]

28 Jun 2011 : Column 652W

Maria Miller: The proposals set out in the Green Paper “Strengthening families, promoting parental responsibility: the future of child maintenance” seek to encourage and support parents to recognise their ongoing responsibilities following separation, and to work together to make arrangements for maintenance that are in the best interests of their children. Enabling parents to access the support already available, both through Government-provided services and through the services offered by the voluntary and community sector, is absolutely central to our proposals.

Alongside our discussions with the voluntary and community sector about how best to facilitate the integration of support, we are working principally with the Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice to build the evidence base on what support works for different families. We need to understand how to target resources more efficiently to facilitate a more cost-effective and sustainable approach to supporting parents early in the process. We are also working with the devolved administrations, where family support is a devolved matter. Once we know which forms of support are most effective for different families we will be able to make sure resources are being used to best effect.

The Department for Education is already investing £30 million in relationship support services over the next four years, including their grants funding voluntary and community sector organisations to support separating couples. DWP currently spends around £5.6 million a year on information and support provided through the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.

We will continue working with Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice—in the wider context of the independently-chaired Family Justice Review—to ensure our plans are as co-ordinated and coherent as possible.

The Government plans to publish their response to the Green Paper consultation shortly.

Departmental Allowances

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what expenses were claimed by (a) paid and (b) unpaid special advisers working in his Department in the last 12 months. [62077]

Chris Grayling: The following table details expenses paid to this Department’s special advisers during the period May 2010 to March 2011. Please note that there are no unpaid special advisers employed in Government.

Travel expenditure May 2009 to March 2010 (£) May 2010 to March 2011 (£) Percentage reduction

Rail costs

1,102

689.08

37

Air costs

8,214

277

96

Taxi costs

0

37.00

Hotel costs

652.90

79.00

87

Total

9316.00

1,082.08

88

Employment and Support Allowance

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to reduce the length of time taken between the submission of an appeal on the refusal or withdrawal of (a) employment and support allowance and (b) disability living allowance and the date of the hearing. [60831]

28 Jun 2011 : Column 653W

Chris Grayling: The Department for Work and Pensions is working closely with the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service to improve the clearance times for all social security and child support appeals.

Jobcentre Plus and the Pensions Disability and Carers Service are taking steps to improve the quality of initial decision-making and to improve the processes for reconsidering decisions before appeal so that all the relevant evidence can be obtained, and errors can be corrected and disputes resolved, at an early stage without the need for an appeal hearing.

The power in the Welfare Reform Bill to require claimants to apply for a decision to be revised before they are able to appeal to the tribunal should also enable more disputes to be resolved through the internal reconsideration process.

At the same time Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has responded strongly to the high level of appeals, which has led to increased waiting times for a hearing. HMCTS has significantly increased its capacity and 38% more social security and child support appeals were cleared in April 2011 compared to April 2010 (and 65% when compared to April 2009). It is continuing to increase its capacity through the recruitment of additional staff and judicial medical tribunal members as well as through a range of business improvements. As HMCTS continues to bring additional resources on line, the outstanding caseload is expected to continue to fall, reducing waiting times for tribunal hearings.

Source:

HMCTS nationally published management information

Employment and Support Allowance: Work Capability Assessment

Mrs Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 15 June 2011, Official Report, column 824W, on Work Capability Assessment: mental health, whether the phase of an applicant's medication cycle is taken into account during an assessment. [62760]

Chris Grayling: The medication that a claimant is receiving is one of the factors that a health care professional takes into account during a face to face assessment.

Housing Benefit

Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the number of people in Bristol who will be restricted to the housing benefit shared accommodation rate if the age threshold is increased to 35; and what assessment he has made of the availability of low-priced shared accommodation for such people. [61046]

Steve Webb: Based on analysis of the local housing allowance case load in March 2010, it is estimated that 770 claimants in Bristol would have their local housing allowance reduced to the shared accommodation rate due to the extension of the age threshold to 35. The extent to which this will affect the availability of shared accommodation will depend on how claimants and landlords respond to this reduced entitlement.

No recent assessment has been made of the supply of shared accommodation in Bristol.

28 Jun 2011 : Column 654W

Not all of the affected claimants will necessarily seek to move into shared accommodation, and some landlords may respond to any shift in demand by making more properties available on a shared basis.

Source:

Equality impact assessment of the increase to the shared accommodation rate age threshold, available on the DWP website at:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/eia-hb-shared-accommodation-age-threshold.pdf

Jobcentre Plus

Mr Umunna: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he has (a) commissioned or (b) evaluated any research on the perceptions of Jobcentre Plus users of the support available from Jobcentre Plus for those wanting to (i) become self-employed and (ii) start a business. [62053]

Chris Grayling: The Department has published qualitative and quantitative evaluation reports on support available to claimants of jobseekers allowance (JSA) under the Six-Month Offer, which was available from April 2009 to March 2011. These include sections on the support available to eligible JSA claimants who were interested in self-employment. The reports are available to download from the Research Report Series section of the DWP website (report numbers 691 and 699).

A longitudinal survey on the longer-term outcomes and experiences of claimants who accessed support under the Six-Month Offer has been undertaken and is scheduled to be published in August 2011. An initial impact analysis report on the Six-Month Offer is planned for late 2011 or early 2012 dependent on data supply and subsequent quality assurance. Later in 2012 there will be a final report on the impact analysis.

Jobcentre Plus: Scotland

Dr Whiteford: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what face-to-face client services are provided at Jobcentre Plus centres in (a) Ayr, (b) Arbroath and (c) Clydebank. [60362]

Chris Grayling: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Darra Singh. I have asked him to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Darra Singh:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what face-to-face client services are provided at Jobcentre Plus centres in (a) Ayr (b) Arbroath and (c) Clydebank. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated tome as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

Our Jobcentres in Ayr, Arbroath and Clydebank all provide the full range of face-to-face customer services. These include:

helping people find work using personal adviser support. Advisers assess and tailor the amount of support an individual needs through adviser interviews and using local provision;

conducting Fortnightly Jobsearch Reviews, where we discuss job search and ensure people remain entitled to benefit by being available for and actively seeking work;

engaging in local partnerships, enabling the private, public and voluntary sectors to bring their expertise in helping individuals find work. We tailor our services to help people gain the support and skills training they need to move from benefits into work;

providing extra support through, for example, the 'Get Britain Working' measures and help for those engaging with us for the first time;

28 Jun 2011 : Column 655W

providing advice on the range of benefits available and explaining the conditions for receiving them, helping to prevent fraud and prevent people claiming more benefits than they are entitled to; and

making payments or loans from the Social Fund when individuals need additional financial support.

The closure of the contact centres will not affect face to face services and face-to-face centres are unaffected. The rationalisation of Jobcentre Plus offices can be completed without impacting on the service offered to customers. The contact centre network is virtual, meaning that calls are routed to the next available agent no matter where they are in the country. Similarly, customers do not actually have direct contact with benefit processing sites - benefit enquiry telephone calls are dealt with in the contact centre network.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many rapid reclaims for jobseeker's allowance were made in the last five years because the claimant had gone abroad for a short period. [61994]

Chris Grayling: The information requested is not available. The reasons for repeat claims are not collated centrally.

Members: Correspondence

Sir John Stanley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he plans to reply to the letter of (a) 14 September 2010 and (b) 17 March 2011 from the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling on behalf of his constituents, Mr and Mrs Green. [61592]

Chris Grayling: In respect of his letter of 14 September 2010, a reply was sent to my right hon. Friend on 27 September 2010.

Despite an extensive search, I am afraid the Department has no trace of the letter of 17 March 2011. If my right hon. Friend would send a copy, I will arrange for a reply to be sent as a matter of urgency.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he plans to reply to the letter of 12 May 2011 from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Ms S Prior. [62737]

Chris Grayling: A reply was sent to the right hon. Member on 25 May 2011.

Older Workers

Mr MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of levels of discrimination against older people in (a) recruitment and (b) the workplace. [61781]

Chris Grayling: Levels of age discrimination in recruitment and the workplace are difficult to assess because discriminatory policies and practices can be hidden rather than being overt.

However the Department has undertaken a range of research to identify whether age discrimination does occur and, if so, its potential causes. Most comprehensively have been two large Surveys of Employers Policies, Practices and Preferences Relating to Age. The surveys

28 Jun 2011 : Column 656W

were undertaken in 2006 and 2010 and are based on a sample of approximately 2,000 employers. The subsequent reports provide detail on a range of employment equal opportunity and recruitment practices. The reports are available on:

http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rports2005-2006/rrep325.pdf

and

http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rports2009-2010/rrep682.pdf

Pathways to Work

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the months of reduced specialist service between the closure of the Pathways to Work programme and the commencement of the Work programme will contribute to the period for which those entitled to claim may claim contributory employment and support allowance once the changes scheduled for April 2012 are implemented; and if he will make a statement. [61813]

Chris Grayling: There has been no reduction of specialist support to help people with disabilities and health conditions move into employment. In April 2011 the Department put in place a new Jobcentre Plus based support regime for those with health conditions and disabilities, including those in receipt of incapacity benefits. This offered a much more flexible, tailored approach to support based on individual needs, not the rigid system of work focused interviews delivered through Pathways to Work. In the transition to the Work programme, the Department worked hard to ensure there were no gaps in provision. Now that the programme is live, people are receiving the more intensive, personalised support it offers.

The introduction of a one-year time-limit for people receiving contributory employment and support allowance in the work related activity group is scheduled for implementation in April 2012. For those claimants in the work-related activity group, time already spent on contributory employment and support allowance before the change is introduced will count towards the 365 day time limit. This is not affected by the level of support that was available to claimants through Pathways to Work or that is now available through the Work programme.

Personal Care Services: Industrial Health and Safety

Mr Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what legislation currently regulates the operation of (a) nail bars and (b) beauty salons; what changes have been made to such legislation since its enactment; whether any changes are planned in the next two years; and if he will make a statement. [62015]

Chris Grayling: The principal legislation applying to nail bars and hair salons is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. This places duties on operators of nail bars and hair salons to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees and ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that customers are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

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The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002 also place a duty on operators to prevent or control the exposure of their employees to hazardous substances including hazardous chemicals and micro-organisms. They also have a duty to prevent or control, so far as is reasonably practicable, exposure of customers to such substances.

There have been some amendments to this legislation since its original enactment although none which apply specifically or exclusively to nail bars or beauty salons.

There are no plans to introduce new health and safety legislation for nail bars or beauty salons.

Mr Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment he has made of the potential health risks of (a) (i) inhalation of and (ii) skin contact with (A) solvents, (B) lacquers and (C) acrylic polymers and (b) other activities undertaken during nail enhancement work; what guidance (1) his Department and (2) the Health and Safety Executive issue to nail salons and beauty salons about the use and safety of chemicals; and if he will make a statement. [62016]

Chris Grayling: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been aware for some time of the potential health risks to employees and customers from exposure to hazardous substances including chemicals and dust during nail enhancement work. HSE is also aware that nail technicians may experience musculoskeletal problems as a result of maintaining awkward working postures and performing highly repetitive tasks.

This was confirmed by recent research conducted by the Health and Safety Laboratory on behalf of HSE which surveyed practices and reported on health effects within the sector.

Operators of nail bars and beauty salons have a duty to assess these risks and take reasonably practicable measures to prevent or control them. To assist them in this, HSE has published guidance which sets out sensible and proportionate measures, which can be taken, to control both the risk of exposure to hazardous substances and of staff developing musculoskeletal disorders as a result of their work.

This guidance is freely downloadable from the HSE website.

Mr Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will bring forward regulations to require (a) nail bars and (b) hair salons to ensure that nail tools are cleaned in between every use; what recent representations he has received on this issue; and if he will make a statement. [62087]

Chris Grayling: The existing Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002 place a duty on operators of nail bars and hair salons to prevent or control the exposure of their employees to hazardous substances including microbiological organisms. Operators also have a duty to prevent or control, so far as is reasonably practicable, exposure of their customers, to such substances.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that reusable equipment which comes into contact with the body should be decontaminated between clients. Nail tools would fall in to this category. This is a key way to prevent cross contamination of pathogens.

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Social Security Benefits

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in each five-year age group from 65 upwards receive (a) attendance allowance, (b) disability living allowance including the higher rate mobility component, (c) disability living allowance including the lower rate mobility component and (d) disability living allowance including only the care component; and what estimates his Department has made of the change in such figures consequent upon each planned increase in pension age. [60547]

Maria Miller: Tables 1 to 3, as follows, show the number of people in each five-year age group from the age of 65 upwards who received (a) attendance allowance, (b) disability living allowance by care award type, (c) disability living allowance by mobility award type in November 2010. Notes on all three tables are located in table 3.

Table 1: Attendance allowance—cases in payment by age and award type: November 2010
Age Total Higher rate Lower rate Nil rate

65 and over

1,626,910

925,200

701,710

65 to 69

55,170

31,930

23,240

70 to 74

178,150

102,750

75,400

75 to 79

303,020

173,590

129,430

80 to 84

416,750

235,430

181,320

85 to 89

404,390

225,820

178,570

90 and over

269,390

155,670

113,720

Table 2: Disability living allowance—cases in payment by age and care award type: November 2010
Age Total Higher rate Middle rate Lower rate Nil rate

65 to 69

351,350

75,230

91,920

113,730

70,470

70 to 74

257,960

59,690

69,710

67,750

60,800

75 to 79

154,490

41,180

42,520

28,190

42,600

80 to 84

63,370

19,220

18,290

5,800

20,060

85 to 89

12,900

3,280

3,100

30

6,490

90 and over

1,890

450

440

990

Table 3: Disability living allowance—cases in payment by age and mobility award type: November 2010
Age Total Higher rate Lower rate Nil rate

65 to 69

351,350

273,840

42,600

34,910

70 to 74

257,960

208,740

24,800

24,410

75 to 79

154,490

130,170

12,230

12,090

80 to 84

63,370

56,100

4,010

3,270

85 to 89

12,900

12,880

10

10

90 and over

1,890

1,880

“—” Denotes nil or negligible. Notes: 1. Figures are rounded to the nearest 10. 2. Figures show the number of people in receipt of an allowance, and exclude people with entitlement where the payment has been suspended, for example if they are in hospital. 3. Figures are published at: http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/index.php?page=tabtool Source: DWP Information Directorate: Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study, 100% data

Amendments to the Pensions Act 1995 made by the Pensions Act 2007 and through provisions in the current Pensions Bill will align the age limits for disability living allowance and attendance allowance with the state pension age from the date those changes take effect. This change

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will also be reflected in the qualifying criteria for personal independence payment and the consequence of those changes is that more people will be able to claim and receive personal independence payment and continue receipt of that benefit through beyond state pension age if they continue to satisfy the conditions of entitlement.

Table 4 shows the estimates of the impacts of the change in the state pension age (SPA) from 65 to 66 for both men and women between December 2018 and April 2020 in each financial year up to 2025-26 on the attendance allowance caseload. The impacts presented here were included in the overall impacts presented in Annex A of the Pensions Bill 2011 Impact Assessment(1).

(1) Note:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/pensions-bill-2011-ia-annexa.pdf

Estimates of the change in the SPA from 66 to 67 between 2034 and 2036 and 67 to 68 between 2044 and 2046 are not provided, as forecasts do not extend that far into the future. Estimates of the impact of subsequent rises to 67 and 68 will be available after the OBR publish their Fiscal Sustainability Report on 13 July, and this may mean revisions to figures included here.

The design of personal independence payment is currently being developed and tested. Part of this testing will include longer-term projections for the personal independence payment caseload and these will reflect changes to the state pension age.

Table 4: The change in the number of individuals aged 65 and over receiving the benefit as a result of the change in state pension age from 65 to 66 between December 2018 and April 2020
Thousand
Financial year AA

2018-19

-1

2019-20

-4

2020-21

-8

2021-22

-13

2022-23

-18

2023-24

-23

2024-25

-25

2025-26

-24

Notes: 1. Following the increase in state pension age, it is assumed that the proportion of the population taking up AA at the new qualifying age is equivalent to that taking it up at the previous (lower) qualifying age. Thus if x% of those aged 64 are projected to claim AA when the state pension age was 65, when the latter rises to 66, x% of those aged 65 are assumed to claim AA. Since these individuals would continue to claim the benefit after reaching the new SPA, the impact on caseload of an increase in the qualifying age is likely to increase over time. 2. Estimates relate only to the period up to 2025-26, as this is also the end of the Impact Assessment period. 3. A positive number means an increase in the caseload and a negative number a decrease in projected caseload for the particular year. Source: DWP analysis

Mr Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many active benefit claimants claim (a) only jobseeker's allowance, (b) only employment and support allowance in the work-related activity group, (c) housing benefit in addition to an active benefit and (d) council tax benefit in addition to an active benefit. [62290]

Chris Grayling: The information requested in respect of parts (b), (c) and (d) is not available in the form requested and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

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The information we do have to answer part (a) on claimants receiving jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) only, is shown in the following table.

We have also included in the tables further information that we can provide. Although this does not give a full answer to parts (b), (c) or (d) it does show the total number of employment and support allowance (ESA) cases only and in addition the number of housing benefit/council tax benefit (HB/CTB) recipients receiving JSA (income based).

Working age client group for jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and employment support allowance ESA only—November 2010

Number

JSA only

1,294,280

ESA only

431,720

Notes: 1. Case load figures are rounded to the nearest ten; some additional disclosure control has also been supplied. 2. State pension age: The age at which women reach state pension age will gradually increase from 60 to 65 between April 2010 and April 2020. This will introduce a small increase to the number of working age benefit recipients and a small reduction to the number of pension age recipients. Figures from May 2010 onwards reflect this change. For more information see http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/espa.pdf 3. These figures are of claimants receiving JSA or ESA and no other key DWP benefit (not including HB/CTB). 4. The data included in the table is available from the Department's tabulation tool at http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/index.php?page=tabtool Source: DWP Information Directorate: Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study.
Housing benefit and council tax benefit claimants in receipt of JSA (IB)—March 2011

Housing benefit Council tax benefit

In receipt of JSA (IB)

611,710

605,230

Notes: 1. The data refers to benefit units, which may be a single person or a couple 2. Recipients are as at second Thursday of the month. 3. SHBE is a monthly electronic scan of claimant level data direct from local authority computer systems. It replaces quarterly aggregate clerical returns. The data is available monthly from November 2008 and March 2011 is the most recent available. 4. We have taken active benefit to be jobseeker’s allowance. 5. The data included in the table is available from the Department's tabulation tool at http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/index.php?page=tabtool Source: Single Housing Benefit Extract (SHBE)

Universal Credit

Mrs Hodgson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what options he is considering for the administration of free school meals entitlement through the proposed universal credit; and if he will make a statement. [62438]

Chris Grayling: Defining entitlement to certain passported benefits is the responsibility of other Government Departments and devolved Administrations. Free school meals are the responsibility of Department for Education.

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) have been commissioned to carry out an independent review on passported benefits on behalf of the Government and will present advice in a non-binding report by the end of January 2012.

SSAC have launched a public consultation looking at passported benefits and this can be found on the SSAC website:

http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/consult.shtml

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Work Capability Assessment: Appeals

Simon Hart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many work capability assessments received zero points on initial assessment and were passed on appeal in the latest period for which figures are available; [61405]

(2) how many people received between zero and six points in a work capability assessment and were passed on appeal in the latest period for which figures are available. [61406]

Chris Grayling: Decisions on entitlement to employment and support allowance (ESA) rest solely with the Department's decision-makers who take into account the medical assessment reports from Atos and any other relevant information.

At the work capability assessment (WCA), a claimant's physical function and mental, cognitive and intellectual

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function is assessed. Within these categories there are a series of descriptors, scoring between 0 and 15 points. Claimants scoring 15 points in any category or combination of categories will be assessed as having a limited capability for work and placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).

If a claimant appeals against a fit for work decision at initial assessment and the appeal subsequently finds in favour of the appellant, this does not necessarily mean that the original decision was incorrect. In many cases new or additional evidence is provided to the tribunal which was not available to the decision-maker, or the tribunal weighs the evidence differently.

The following table presents the points scored and appeal outcomes for ESA claims received between October 2008 and February 2010, who were found fit for work at the initial WCA and subsequently appealed the decision. Figures are only available for appeals that have been completed and not those that are currently under way.

Points scored at initial WCA, for claims found fit for work where an appeal has been heard by the Tribunals Service
Points scored at initial WCA Claims found fit for work at initial WCA Appeals finding in favour of claimant Appeals upholding DWP decision All appeals heard

0 points

246,700

29,000

56,100

85,000

Between 0 and 6 points

57,000

11,100

12,500

23,600

Over 6 points

25,500

7,600

4,300

11,900

Unknown

6,800

400

1,600

2,000

Total

335,900

48,000

74,400

122,500

The data presented above come from benefit claims data held by the Department for Work and Pensions, functional assessment data from Atos Healthcare and appeals data from the Tribunals Service. The “unknown” category refers to claims where no assessment data are recorded—this may be because the WCA was performed clerically. All figures have been rounded to the nearest 100. Appeals data are only available for claims starting up to February 2010.

The above data are consistent with that published in the recent official statistics report: ‘Employment and Support Allowance: Work Capability Assessment By Health Condition and Functional Impairment’. This report is available on the departmental website at the following link:

http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/workingage/esa_wca/index.php?page=esa_wca_arc