12 Jun 2012 : Column 391W

Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Wales

Disclosure of Information

Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much her Department spent on the updating of published data in line with the Government's transparency agenda in each month since September 2011. [110723]

Mr David Jones: The Wales Office transparency publications has been subsumed into the duties of existing staff, and as such has not been seen as an extra cost.

Mutual Societies

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate she has made of the number of full-time equivalent staff who will transfer from her Department's workforce to a mutual in (a) 2011-12 and (b) 2012-13; and if she will make a statement. [110187]

Mr David Jones: No members of staff have transferred to a mutual organisation or mutual joint venture in 2011-12, and there are no plans for staff to transfer to one in 2012-13.

Work and Pensions

Debts Written Off

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much bad debt was written off by his Department in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [110206]

Chris Grayling: The amount of bad debt written off in 2010-11 is shown as follows. Please note that the 2011-12 values are currently being audited and maybe subject to adjustment prior to publication in July, therefore they have not been included in the response.

£
2010-11Core DepartmentCore plus NDPBs

Administration expenditure written off

3,618,271

5,763,370

Programme expenditure written off

354,366,377

354,366,377

Total

357,984,648

360,129,747

Programme expenditure written off is made up of contributory benefits, non-contributory benefits and social fund payments.

Employment Schemes

Mr Byrne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will institute systematic, independent checks with placement hosts before payments are made under the Mandatory Work Activity scheme. [110153]

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Chris Grayling: Our Mandatory Work Activity providers are contractually obliged to protect DWP from exposure to over-claiming payments and fraud, and to notify the DWP immediately if it has reason to suspect that any fraud or irregularity has occurred or is occurring or is likely to occur. Specifically, they are required to

have an established system that enables staff to report inappropriate behaviour by colleagues in respect of any claims for payment;

ensure that the performance management systems do not encourage individual staff to make false claims for payment under the contract;

ensure a segregation of duties between those staff directly involved in delivering the services and those making claims for payment; and

establish an audit system to provide periodic checks, at a minimum of six (6) monthly intervals, to ensure effective and accurate recording and reporting of performance.

Additionally, providers are required to have systems in place to:

detect and prevent duplicate claims;

prepare and submit accurate, valid, supported, timely claims;

monitor, record and manage lateness and all absences;

support claims for payments through an effective customer attendance recording procedure;

ensure that all the required evidence is collected (and submitted, where appropriate) to support the claim;

identify customers who have left placement early, to prevent over claiming;

carry out effective monitoring of sub-contractors; and

respond to provider assurance reports with an appropriate action plan.

We routinely inspect providers' systems to ensure they are adequate and effective and are continually reviewing whether there are additional checks that we should perform to minimise the risk of fraud and error.

In the case of Mandatory Work Activity, there is an opportunity to further enhance the control environment and, in line with the recent NAO recommendation, we will introduce proportionate checks at placement hosts to validate that clients placed under the Mandatory Work Activity scheme receive their placement.

Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many (a) prime contractors and (b) sub-contractors have pulled out of the Work programme since June 2011; and how many in each such category were charitable and voluntary organisations. [110743]

Chris Grayling: No Work programme prime providers have pulled out of the Work programme.

A total of 28 organisations have withdrawn from the Work programme supply chain between the August and January stock takes. 15 of these are voluntary and community sector organisations.

A total of 26 organisations have joined the Work programme supply chain between the August and January stock takes. 11 of these are voluntary and community sector organisations.

A further stock take is planned for July 2012 and every six months thereafter.

Empty Property

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the empty or largely empty

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buildings owned by his Department; and if he will make a statement. [110850]

Chris Grayling: Since 1998 the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) occupies the majority of its accommodation under a private finance initiative (PFI) known as the PRIME Contract. Under the terms of this PFI the Department leases back fully serviced accommodation from its private sector partner Telereal Trillium, for which it pays an all-inclusive unitary charge. The unitary charge provides for the return to Telereal Trillium of any vacated properties or part vacated properties following a fixed notice period. From the agreed vacation date Telereal Trillium assume full responsibility and risk for the vacated building or vacated area within the building.

There are however two sites which remained the responsibility of DWP, and which are currently empty:

Mabbs Cross House, 89 Mesnes Street. Wigan: This is a former Rent Service facility that fell to DWP to manage out once the Rent Service joined the Valuations Office Agency on 31 March 2009, and it became surplus to their requirements. Marketing has so far failed to find a tenant, though the lease from the landlord expires on 23 December 2012; the site will be surrendered at that point; and

268 High Street Dovercourt Harwich: This site was wholly occupied by the local authority as a sub-tenant. Following the end of this sub-tenancy on 8 February 2011, we have tried to market and engage with the landlord for an early surrender but neither option has proved successful. The lease expires on 23 June 2012 when the landlord will take the property back.

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many buildings owned by his Department and the bodies for which he is responsible have been empty for more than two years; and if he will make a statement. [110871]

Chris Grayling: Since 1998 the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) occupies the majority of its accommodation under a private finance initiative (PFI) known as the PRIME Contract. Under the terms of this PFI the Department leases back fully serviced accommodation from its private sector partner Telereal Trillium, for which it pays an all-inclusive unitary charge. The unitary charge provides for the return to Telereal Trillium of any vacated properties following a fixed notice period. From the agreed vacation date Telereal Trillium assume full responsibility for the vacated building.

However, the Department has one property which has been empty for more than two years, and which remains our responsibility. Mabbs Cross House, 89 Mesnes Street, Wigan is a former Rent Service facility that fell to DWP to manage out once the Rent Service joined the Valuations Office Agency on 31 March 2009, and it became surplus to their requirements. Marketing has so far failed to find a tenant, though the lease from the landlord expires on 23 December 2012, when it will be surrendered.

Departmental Staff

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what target he has set to reduce headcount across his Department, its non-

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departmental public bodies and executive agencies in

(a)

2010-11,

(b)

2011-12 and

(c)

2012-13; and if he will make a statement. [110226]

Chris Grayling: The Department does not have external headcount targets but staffing profiles have been developed internally based on current financial budgets agreed as part of the spending review 2010 and workload changes.

The Department reduced staffing by 10,893 full time equivalents (FTE) in 2010-11 with departmental staffing at 97,963 FTE on 31 March 2011. On 31 March 2012 departmental staffing was 88,626 FTE, a further reduction of 9,337 over 2011-12.

The staffing reductions were managed through a combination of normal staff turnover, non-renewal of fixed term appointments, strict recruitment controls, and targeted early release schemes.

The Department plans to have a total of 85,177 FTE by March 2013. The plans are subject to ongoing review and may change.

No specific headcount reduction targets are set for the non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs).

Pay

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many staff working for his Department, its executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies are employed through off-payroll engagements costing less than £58,200 per annum; and if he will make a statement. [110825]

Chris Grayling: The number of staff within DWP, its executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies employed through off-payroll engagements costing less than £58,200 per

annum are as follows:

 Number

Department for Work and Pensions

(1)6

Remploy

(2)170

The Pensions Regulator

(3)17

Health and Safety Executive

(4)3

(1 )As at 28 May 2012 (2 )As at 30 April 2012 (3)As at 29 May 2012 (4)As at 29 May 2012

The remaining bodies have a nil return.

The people employed off-payroll are all temporary and agency contracted staff.

Public Expenditure

Jeremy Lefroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will publish a statement of his Department's expenditure in each of the last 36 months; and what steps his Department is taking to avoid an annual under spend. [110619]

Chris Grayling: The Department is due to publish its 2011-12 financial results in July this year. The Department's DEL expenditure by month for the financial years 2009-10 and 2010-11 was as follows:

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£ million
 2009-102010-11

April

659

781

May

670

790

June

683

776

July

733

744

August

729

752

September

781

760

October

757

717

November

823

786

December

810

657

January

818

703

February

704

715

March

865

988

Total

9,032

9,169

The Department performs a continuous planning process involving three major financial reviews during the course of the year. These reviews involve a thorough examination of all operational, administrative and investment expenditure and if potential underspends are identified, then funding is re-prioritised and re-allocated to areas that require additional funding, provided that the funding source is not ring-fenced. If appropriate, the Department also makes use of budget exchange which allows for carry forward of funding within HM Treasury's rules.

Treasury

Child Benefit

Cathy Jamieson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what he estimates the cost to his Department to be of (a) providing an online calculator for, (b) providing guidance to and (c) sending a letter to individuals who are above the higher rate tax threshold and may be in receipt of child benefit. [109320]

Mr Gauke: The total cost of providing an online calculator is estimated at £250,000, and the cost of sending a letter to taxpayers with income over £50,000 is estimated at £1 million. These costs are included in the cost estimates provided in the tax information and impact note (TIIN) which was published on HMRC’s website at:

www.hmrc.gov.uk

An estimate has not been made of the cost of providing guidance because it is included in HMRC’s resource baseline.

Earnings

Chris Skidmore: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate how many people earn £68,000 or more per year; and what proportion of total earners this represents. [110268]

Mr Gauke: In the tax year 2012-13 it is estimated that there will be 1.5 million taxpayers whose total taxable income will be £68,000 or more. This represents 5.1% of the UK taxpayer population.

These estimates are based on the Survey of Personal Incomes 2009-10 projected in line with the Office for Budget Responsibility's March 2012 Economic and fiscal outlook.

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Equitable Life

Jeremy Lefroy: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of eligible Equitable Life policy holders have (a) been notified of their entitlement under the compensation scheme and (b) have received, or begun to receive, payments under the scheme. [110782]

Mr Hoban: The scheme intends to publish a progress report in summer 2012 on the volumes and values of payments made.

Excise Duties: Fraud

Mr Barron: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether (a) he or his Ministers, (b) his officials and (c) HM Revenue and Customs officials have met representatives of the tobacco industry and discussed Codentify technology; and whether he has a policy on whether the Codentify tobacco industry security system would be appropriate for the protection of excise duty in the beer and alcohol industry in the UK. [110059]

Miss Chloe Smith: Neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne), nor any Treasury Ministers or officials have met with representatives of the tobacco industry to discuss Codentify technology. HM Revenue and Customs officials have held meetings with the tobacco industry where Codentify technology has been explained by the industry.

HMRC continue to monitor developments in Codentify and, as part of their consultation on measures to counter alcohol fraud, are exploring all potential options for systems designed to secure revenue in the alcohol sector.

Fraud

Mr Thomas: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the level of (a) procurement and (b) other fraud affecting his Department's spending in (i) 2010-11 and (ii) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [110167]

Miss Chloe Smith: HM Treasury does not make estimates of the level of procurement and other fraud affecting departmental spend. However, total detected fraud and error is reported in the quarterly data summary available from:

www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/about_business_plan.htm

Insurance: Motor Vehicles

Bill Esterson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will bring forward proposals for regulation of the cost of car insurance premiums by the Financial Services Authority. [110580]

Mr Hoban: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is a prudential and conduct regulator. The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 gave it statutory powers which can be used to meet four statutory objectives; market confidence, financial stability, consumer protection and reduction of financial crime.

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Securing an appropriate degree of consumer protection includes making sure that markets work effectively to give customers a fair deal. However the FSA is not an economic regulator and is not responsible for controlling all of the factors driving high premiums.

The Government are mindful of the impact of the current cost of this insurance and has set out measures to tackle this by addressing the compensation culture, reducing legal costs and cutting red tape. In February the Prime Minister met with representatives of the industry to discuss these issues: agreed measures include the following:

an industry commitment to pass savings onto customers resulting from a Government commitment to reduce the current £1,200 fee that lawyers can earn from small value personal injury claims;

industry commitment to adjust premiums to reflect any reductions in legal costs created through the Jackson reforms that will reform ‘no win, no fee’ and ban referral fees; and extending the road traffic accident claims process to cover employers liability and public liability;

the Government and insurance industry committed to work together to identify effective ways to reduce the number and cost of whiplash claims; and

the Government and insurance industry agreed to work together to look at what more can be done regarding young drivers' risk and safety. This includes the wider use of telematics or ‘smartbox’ technology.

Non-domestic Rates

Anne Marie Morris: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the merits of extending small business rate relief until 2015. [108008]

Mr Gauke: At the autumn statement, the Government extended the small business rate relief holiday for a further six months from 1 October 2012. The small business rate relief scheme provides targeted support and benefits over half a million small businesses. Of those, 330,000 receive 100% relief and will not have to pay any business rates until April 2013 as a result of the six-month extension. The Government keeps all taxes and reliefs under review.

Revenue and Customs: Telephone Services

Andrew Griffiths: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the cost of calling the 0845 3000627 HM Revenue and Customs hotline number is from (a) a BT landline, (b) a pay-as-you-go mobile telephone and (c) a contract mobile telephone. [110703]

Mr Gauke: I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) on 12 October 2011, Official Report, column 967W.

Third Sector

Helen Goodman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the change in income of the voluntary and charitable sector in each region due to (a) decisions in Budget 2012 and (b) spending cuts in (i) 2010, (ii) 2011 and (iii) 2012. [109346]

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Mr Gauke: The Government announced at Budget 2012 a proposal to introduce a limit on previously uncapped income tax reliefs from April 2013.

As set out in the Budget, the Government has explored with charities and philanthropists ways to ensure that this measure would not impact significantly on charities that depend on large donations.

In light of those discussions, we have decided that when the cap is implemented next year, tax relief on charitable donations will be excluded.

Data is not available to enable us to make a central estimate of the changes in levels of funding to the sector in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Scotland

Debts Written Off

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much bad debt was written off by his Department in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [110210]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office did not write off any bad debts in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12.

Disclosure of Information

Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much his Office spent on the updating of published data in line with the Government's transparency agenda in each month since September 2011. [110718]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office does not centrally record the specific cost of updating of published data on Government's transparency agenda and is therefore unable to provide costs.

Empty Property

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list the empty or largely empty buildings owned by his Office; and if he will make a statement. [110852]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office does not own any buildings.

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many buildings owned by his Department and the bodies for which he is responsible have been empty for more than two years; and if he will make a statement. [110867]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office and the Boundary Commission for Scotland do not own any buildings.

Fraud

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the level of (a) procurement and (b) other fraud affecting his Department’s spending in (i) 2010-11 and (ii) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [110169]

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David Mundell: No procurement or other fraud was recorded in the Scotland Office in (i) 2010-11 and (ii) 2011-12. A wide range of security measures are in place to deter and detect fraud. These are kept under review and additional measures are put in place as appropriate.

Departmental Staff

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what target he has set to reduce headcount across his Department in (a) 2010-11, (b) 2011-12 and (c) 2012-13; and if he will make a statement. [110231]

David Mundell: All staff within the Scotland Office are on secondment from other public bodies, mainly the Ministry of Justice and the Scottish Government. The Scotland Office keeps its headcount under constant review to ensure that the most efficient use is made of public resources.

Mutual Societies

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the number of full-time equivalent staff who will transfer from his Department’s workforce to a mutual in (a) 2011-12 and (b) 2012-13; and if he will make a statement. [110190]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office does not employ staff directly. All staff joins the office on a secondment type arrangement, mainly from the Scottish Government and the Ministry of Justice, which remain the employing Departments. As such, no members of the Scotland Office work force will transfer to a mutual in (a) 2011-12 and (b) 2012-13.

Public Expenditure

Jeremy Lefroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish a statement of his Department’s expenditure in each of the last 36 months; and what steps he is taking to avoid an annual underspend. [110082]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office out-turn for the last 36 months is shown in the following table.

 £ million

2009-10

4.690

2010-11

4.854

2011-12(1)

4.430

(1) Unaudited figure.

The Scotland Office keeps expenditure under constant review to ensure that the most efficient use is made of public resources.

Transport

Commuters

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate has been made of the average amount of time spent commuting to work in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available. [110526]

Norman Baker: The information is shown in the following table:

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Average time taken to travel to work (workplace in Great Britain)
 Usual time taken to travel to work (minutes)

2002

25

2003

26

2004

26

2005

26

2006

26

2007

24

2008

24

2009

27

2010

27

2011

27

Note: All in employment, aged 16-99, c.35,000 respondents per annum. Source: Labour Force Survey (Office for National Statistics), October-December quarter.

Debts Written Off

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much bad debt was written off by her Department in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and if she will make a statement. [110209]

Norman Baker: The amount written off by the Department for 2010-11 is contained within the published Annual report and accounts

http://assets.dft.gov.uk/publications/dft-annual-report-and-accounts-2010-11/hc972-01.pdf

The Department's 2011-12 year end position is not yet finalised. The Annual report and accounts to be published in late June/early July 2012 will contain details of the amounts written off during 2011-12.

Home Working

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many civil servants in her Department will be working from home during the London 2012 Olympics; [109967]

(2) how many civil servants in her Department will be working from home during the Paralympic games. [110763]

Mrs Villiers: In line with the advice given to businesses and organisations in London by Transport for London, we are encouraging all our staff to plan ahead and to consider different work and travel patterns during the games. The aspiration we have set is to positively change our travel in central London by 50% at games time. Potential options for staff include walking or cycling for all or part of their journey, changing their route of travel to and from work to avoid particularly busy areas, re-timing their working day to avoid the busiest periods or working from another office—as well as working from home. We would expect staff to use a variety of options over the games depending on what is most effective for them and their teams.

Working from home is only one option, and will not be appropriate for all staff. Through testing, we have ensured that the right systems are in place to ensure that people can be fully productive when they work remotely. In every case, staff will be expected to work just as hard and for the same amount of hours as if they were in the office.

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Large Goods Vehicles: Fees and Charges

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when her Department plans to introduce legislative proposals for a heavy goods vehicle charging scheme. [110757]

Mike Penning: The Government's legislative programme is announced each Session by the Queen in her speech at the state opening of Parliament. The next opportunity for legislation to implement heavy goods vehicle charging would be in the third parliamentary Session, beginning May 2013. In some circumstances a Bill may be introduced in mid-Session, if other legislation planned for that Session cannot be taken forward. If a Bill were introduced in 2013, this would mean charging for foreign heavy goods vehicles starting in March 2015. The Government as a whole will look at priorities for parliamentary time, in the context of an ambitious reform agenda.

Departmental Staff

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what target she has set to reduce headcount across her Department, its non-departmental public bodies and executive agencies in (a) 2010-11, (b) 2011-12 and (c) 2012-13; and if she will make a statement. [110230]

Norman Baker: Staff numbers/resource plans for the central Department and each executive agency and non-departmental public body, in the years specified, are set out in the table below. They reflect the changing requirements of operational and transport policy delivery, as well as planned delivery of improvements in efficiency and change programmes.

Staff numbers/resource plans at 31 March
 2010-112011-122012-13

Department for Transport (Centre)(1)

1,772

1,726

1,784

Driving Standards Agency

2,769

2,503

2,383

Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency

5,580

5,480

5,307

Shared Services Centre(1)

255

244

Gov't Car & Despatch Agency

247

176

83

Highways Agency

3,781

3,600

3,474

Maritime & Coastguards Agency

1,090

1,034

1,000

Vehicle Certification Agency

142

148

163

Vehicle & Operator Services Agency

2,461

2,312

2,332

British Transport Police Authority

8

10

9

Directly Operated Railways Ltd(2)

3

3

3

High Speed 2(2)

27

45

200

Northern Lighthouse Board(2)

266

218

209

Passenger Focus(2)

63

42

42

Railway Heritage Committee(2)

1

1

1

Trinity House(2)

285

281

279

Traffic Commissioners(2)

7

7

7

Department Total

18,756

17,830

17,276

Figures are full-time equivalent (FTE) staff except where stated below: (1) DfT(C) data is actual headcount, not FTE, for 2010/11 as is that for the Shared Services Centre for 2010/11 and 2011/12. The Shared Services Centre is expected to be divested in 2012/13. (2) Trinity House, Northern Lighthouse Board, Directly Operated Railways Ltd, High Speed 2, Passenger Focus, Railway Heritage Committee and Traffic Commissioners figures are given as headcount, not FTE staff.

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Procurement

Jim Fitzpatrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of her Department's expenditure on procurement has gone to small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK since May 2010. [109850]

Norman Baker: I refer the hon. Member to my reply on 21 May 2012, Official Report, column 388W.

Northern Ireland

Correspondence

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many letters to Ministers in his Department were (a) not answered, (b) not answered within six months and (c) not answered within three months in (i) 2010-11 and (ii) 2011-12; how many such letters were from hon. Members; and if he will make a statement. [109448]

Mr Paterson: In 2010-11, one letter to Ministers went unanswered; in addition one other was unanswered within both three and six months.

In 2011-12, one letter to Ministers went unanswered; in addition three others were unanswered within three months but were responded to within six months. One of these letters was from an hon. Member.

Diamond Jubilee 2012

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what funding his Department has allocated for the celebration of HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee in Northern Ireland. [109730]

Mr Paterson: National celebrations were financed mainly from private sponsorship so there was no requirement or expectation for Departments of State to incur expenditure to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen. Many events to celebrate the jubilee were held across Northern Ireland and I was of course delighted to light the beacon at Hillsborough to commemorate Her Majesty's 60 years of service and dedication to our nation.

Disclosure of Information

Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much his Department spent on the updating of published data in line with the Government's transparency agenda in each month since September 2011. [110717]

Mr Paterson: The Northern Ireland Office has incurred no additional expenditure in updating published data in line with the Government's transparency agenda.

Empty Property

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list the empty or largely empty buildings owned by his Department; and if he will make a statement. [110848]

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Mr Paterson: My Department does not own any empty or largely empty buildings.

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many buildings owned by his Department and the bodies for which he is responsible have been empty for more than two years; and if he will make a statement. [110866]

Mr Paterson: None of the buildings owned by my Department have been empty for more than two years.

My Department has two non-departmental public bodies—the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Parades Commission for Northern Ireland. Both public bodies are independent of Government and the hon. Gentleman may wish to write to the Commissions directly on these matters.

Immigrants

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many Iranian citizens live in Northern Ireland. [110918]

Mr Paterson: My Department does not hold this information. I suggest my hon. Friend contacts the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency which is an Executive Agency within the Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel.

Departmental Staff

Ian Paisley: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 15 March 2012, Official Report, column 353W, on manpower, what the grades and job titles are of the 84 staff directly employed by his Department; and for what purpose the 78 staff on secondment or loan from other Government departments and organisations are being employed. [110165]

Mr Swire: The 84 members of staff referred to in the answer of 15 March 2012 include six senior civil servants; 12 Grade As, six senior executive officers, 21 higher executive officers, 22 executive officers, 10 administrative officers and seven administrative assistants. These post holders do not have specific job titles.

The role of my Department is to represent Northern Ireland's interests at Westminster and to represent the Government in Northern Ireland. Secondments or loans from other Government Departments and organisations are used to ensure access to individuals who have a detailed knowledge and understanding of Northern Ireland-related issues in order to fulfil this role.

Official Visits

Jonathan Ashworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much his Department spent on accommodation for Ministers and officials during official visits to Northern Ireland in each of the last two years. [110531]

Mr Paterson: Over the last two years, my Department did not incur any expenditure on accommodation for Ministers or officials during official visits to Northern Ireland.

12 Jun 2012 : Column 404W

Justice

Empty Property

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) if he will list the empty or largely empty buildings owned by his Department; and if he will make a statement; [110847]

(2) how many buildings owned by his Department and the bodies for which he is responsible have been empty for more than two years; and if he will make a statement. [110865]

Mr Kenneth Clarke: The Ministry of Justice is committed to reducing the operating cost of its estate by rationalising through disposal or lease surrender when appropriate.

As such the Department has a number of empty buildings, the majority of which are either awaiting disposal or under offer.

The list of empty Ministry of Justice properties as of 31 May 2012 is as follows (properties empty for two or more years are marked*):

Property name

Candleford Road, Manchester*

Harropwell Lane, Pontefract

Ock Street, Abingdon

Princess Drive, Liverpool

Stowe Court, Lichfield*

The Boulevard, Weston-super-Mare*

The Old Convent, Pulteney Road, Bath

Thurstan House, Northallerton

Towngate, Leyland

Ammanford magistrates court

Ashford magistrates and county courts

Balham youth court

Barking and Dagenham magistrates court

Barnsley county court

Barry magistrates court

Bingley magistrates court

Bishop Auckland magistrates and county court

Blaydon magistrates court

Bridgwater magistrates court

Bridport magistrates court

Bristol magistrates court (Nelson Street)*

Cardigan magistrates court

Cirencester magistrates court

Consett county court

Daventry magistrates court

Dewsbury county court

Dewsbury magistrates court

Didcot magistrates court

Ely magistrates court

Epping magistrates court

Gosforth magistrates court

Halesowen magistrates court

Hemel Hempstead magistrates court

Honiton magistrates court

Keighley courthouse

Launceston magistrates court

Lewes magistrates court

Lyndhurst magistrates court

12 Jun 2012 : Column 405W

Market Harborough magistrates court

Melton Mowbray magistrates and county courts

Newark magistrates and county courts

Pontypool county court

Port Talbot magistrates court

PWB House, Sandbach*

Pwllheli magistrates court

Rawtenstall magistrates court

Redditch county court

Retford magistrates court

Rochdale magistrates court

Salford magistrates court

Sittingbourne magistrates court

Sudbury magistrates court

Swaffham magistrates court

Tamworth magistrates and county courts

The Villa, Houghton le Spring

Thetford magistrates court

Totnes magistrates court

Wantage magistrates court

Wareham magistrates court

Weston-super-Mare magistrates court*

Whitehaven magistrates court

Wisbech magistrates court

Woking magistrates court

Former HMP Ashwell site

Former HMP Brockhill site

Former HMP Latchmere House site

Former RAF Coltishall site*

Former police training college, Cwmbran*.

Pay

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many staff working for his Department, its executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies are employed through off-payroll engagements costing less than £58,200 per annum; and if he will make a statement. [110822]

Mr Kenneth Clarke: The Ministry of Justice does not hold a central record of the numbers of workers in the Department, its executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies who are engaged off payroll and cost less than £58,200 per annum. These workers are engaged locally through recruitment agencies (for clerical, administrative and ancillary workers) and medical agencies (for nurses, doctors and pharmacists). Obtaining this information will incur a disproportionate cost.

Public Expenditure

Jeremy Lefroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will publish a statement of his Department's expenditure in each of the last 36 months; and what steps he is taking to avoid an annual underspend. [110081]

Mr Djanogly: The Department's expenditure in each of the last 36 months is shown in the following table. The figures represent the Department's total resource departmental expenditure limit (DEL) which includes the depreciation of capital assets.

12 Jun 2012 : Column 406W

Amount (£ million)
Month2009-102010-112011-12

April

758

722

607

May

705

708

723

June

699

705

834

July

766

712

686

August

754

719

723

September

715

727

713

October

781

748

692

November

748

702

748

December

745

866

733

January

787

753

735

February

792

767

771

March

791

823

885

Total(1)

9,041

8,952

8,850

(1) The figures above relate to in-year financial management data reported to the Finance Management Committee and will therefore not match the audited figures published in the Department's annual resource accounts.

The Department has taken significant steps over the past 18 months to strengthen its financial management capability through its finance improvement strategy. The strategy is being delivered through a Finance Improvement programme and supports the Department in meeting the challenges of the spending review period and beyond. As is consistent with good financial management, the Department regularly monitors its spend in-year to identify potential over and under-spending. This includes monthly reporting to the Financial Management Committee, which reviews in-year spend on a monthly basis, and keeps contingency options to mitigate the risks of over and under-spending under constant review. This process ensures measures are introduced in a timely manner and that the Department remains consistent in securing value for money. The Department has also introduced a bi-annual process to challenge the financial forecasting in Business Groups and to help inform the annual budget allocation process.

Home Department

Fraud

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate she has made of the level of (a) procurement and (b) other fraud affecting her Department's spending in (i) 2010-11 and (ii) 2011-12; and if she will make a statement. [110173]

Damian Green: The Home Office has not made an estimate of the level of procurement and other fraud affecting departmental spend. The Home Office strongly supports the work of the Fraud, Error and Debt Taskforce including the need for improved measurement and assessment of fraud and error. The Home Office is therefore currently tendering for a fraud threat and impact assessment to be undertaken. The results of this work will be used to focus counter-fraud resources on high-risk areas.

The Home Office also recently undertook a review of counter-fraud capability across the Home Office Group, and is now in the process of implementing recommendations arising from the review which will lead to significant improvements in fraud prevention and detection.

12 Jun 2012 : Column 407W

Departmental Staff

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what target she has set to reduce headcount across her Department, its non-departmental public bodies and Executive agencies in (a) 2010-11, (b) 2011-12 and (c) 2012-13; and if she will make a statement. [110235]

Damian Green: The Home Office spending review settlement requires it to make reductions of 33% in its administration budget and 21% in its programme budget by March 2015. The Home Office, its agencies and non-departmental public bodies are reducing headcount to deliver financial savings, but have not set specific targets for headcount reduction in previous years or for the remainder of this spending review period.

The Home Office, its agencies and non-departmental public bodies began making work force reductions in April 2010, since then have made approximately 6,100 FTE (full-time equivalent) reductions in payroll staff (as of March 2012). Early assumptions were that a further reduction in the paid work force of around 2,300 FTE would need to be made by March 2015. Detailed work force plans for each year within that period have not been finalised. Our work force plans this year include ensuring we are able to support a safe and successful Olympics.

Please note data are gathered from different sources and future projections are subject to change. These are our best data available at this time.

Table 1: Work force numbers
 Paid FTEDifference

2009-10

29,264

2010-11

27,324

-1,940

2011-12

24,645

-2,679

2012-13

(1)25,073

(1) Projected

Stop and Search

Heidi Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 21 May 2012, Official Report, column 844, what consideration she has given to widening the scope of the Association of Chief Police Officers’ review to include an assessment of both good and bad practice in the use of stop and search by the police. [110809]

Nick Herbert [holding answer 11 June 2012]: The Secretary of State for the Home Department, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), commissioned the Association of Chief Police Officers to undertake an assessment of good practice on stop and search with the aim of raising standards in its application across all forces. We have no plans to extend the scope of the review.

Heidi Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people were stopped and searched by the police under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, by ethnicity in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12. [110810]

Nick Herbert [holding answer 11 June 2012]: The latest available data held by the Home Office relate to 2010-11 and were published in table SS.14 of the recent online National Statistics release “Police Powers and

12 Jun 2012 : Column 408W

Procedures 2010/11”. This can be found via the stop and search briefing and tables links at:

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk

Data for 2011-12 will be published early next year.

UK Border Agency

Ian Lavery: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the cost to the UK Border Agency has been of the Country Escort contract in each of the last 10 years. [110472]

Damian Green: The UK Border Agency does not hold information relating to the Country Escort contract prior to 2006. The following table outlines the cost of the contract from 2006:

 Cost (£)

2010-11

51,683,916

2009-10

45,712,305

2008-09

42,330,850

2007-08

36,947,442

2006-07

35,492,843

Information relating to the cost of the contract from 2011-12 onwards can be found at the following link:

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/transparency/transparency-spend/

Communities and Local Government

Empty Property

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) if he will list the empty or largely empty buildings owned by his Department; and if he will make a statement; [110838]

(2) how many buildings owned by his Department and the bodies for which he is responsible have been empty for more than two years; and if he will make a statement. [110856]

Robert Neill: The Department for Communities and Local Government owns one vacant freehold property—Hangar 97, Little Rissington Airfield, Gloucestershire. The property comprises 4,300 square metres and is located on a Ministry of Defence airfield. The Department is currently considering options for future use or disposal action.

The Department has worked hard to reduce surplus property liabilities, using a range of approaches including surrender, open market disposals and transfers to other Government Departments. As set out in Appendix A of “The State of the Estate 2011”, the Department's administrative estate was reduced from 248,618 square metres to 160,627 square metres during the calendar year 2011, a reduction of 87,991 square metres or 35%. The Report can be found at:

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/resources/HMG_StateOfEstate_acc2.pdf

Fraud

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate he has made of the level of (a) procurement and (b) other fraud affecting his Department's spending in (i) 2010-11 and (ii) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [110180]

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Robert Neill: Since 2010 Departments have reported detected fraud and error on their quarterly data summaries. These quarterly data summaries are published on departmental websites. There have been no frauds reported in 2010-11 or 2011-12.

My Department has following control arrangements in place to counter fraud:

A fraud policy statement and fraud response plan on the Department's Intranet that is accessible to all staff. These advise staff on the steps to take if they suspect fraud.

We have signed up to the Audit Commission's National Fraud Initiative, which is the UK's main public sector fraud detection tool, which offers payroll and creditor data-matching services to central Government Departments, agencies and local authorities.

We have a Fraud, Error and Debt Champion who has represented the Department in the Fraud Error and Debt initiatives that have been driven by the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the National Fraud Authority.

We are working with the Cabinet Office on a Fraud Awareness Week, currently planned for the autumn.

Housing: Construction

Jack Dromey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the number of residential planning permissions granted by local planning authorities is for each quarter from quarter 1 in 1997 to quarter 1 in 2012. [110468]

Robert Neill: Information on the number of residential planning permissions granted by local planning authorities in England for each quarter between quarter 1 in 1997 to quarter 4 in 2011 (the most recent available) has been placed in the Library of the House.

These figures show that the number of granted permissions rose by 7% in 2011 compared to 2009.

Departmental Administration Costs

Mr Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much was spent on the administration of his Department in (a) 2009-10, (b) 2010-11 and (c) 2011-12. [109836]

Robert Neill: The expenditure of the Department for 2009-10 is contained in the published annual accounts at:

http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/corporate/clgresourceaccounts0910

The expenditure of the Department for 2010-11 is contained in the published annual report and accounts at:

http://www.communities.gov.uk/corporate/about/howwework/corporatereports/reportsaccounts/annualreports/#

HM Treasury published the February 2012 forecast outturn for all Government Departments in its 2012 Budget Publication. For DCLG, there was a forecast administration underspend of £6.95 million. Following further clarification of the end of year position, the Department was able to transfer £20 million to 2012-13 as part of the Budget Exchange scheme and use a further £35 million of underspend to pay down deficits in one of the pension plans of the Homes and Communities Agency, thereby reducing the Department's obligations in respect of pension contributions in the future.

12 Jun 2012 : Column 410W

The Department's 2011-12 year-end position is not yet finalised. HM Treasury will provide an update on the expenditure forecasts of all Government Departments in July in the 2012 Public Expenditure Statistical Analysis.

As part of the spending review settlement, the DCLG Group is making a collective 33% real terms saving against its running costs by 2014-15. This equates to savings of over £200 million by 2014-15. In addition, the Department will save a further £190 million from the closure of the Government Offices for the Regions, taking overall savings on administrative running costs to 42% across the DCLG Group by 2014-15.

These savings reflect the coalition Government's agenda of decentralisation, ending the micromanagement of local government, the abolition of regional government, and the broader need to tackle the deficit left by the last Administration.

Planning Permission

Sarah Newton: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when he plans to publish regulations on the procedures for referenda on Neighbourhood Plans. [110636]

Robert Neill: The regulations which will govern the conduct of Neighbourhood Planning referendums were laid on 11 June 2012.

Social Rented Housing

Jack Dromey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many tenants have moved through the HomeSwap Direct scheme since its launch. [110409]

Grant Shapps: I refer the hon. Member to the response I gave on 23 May 2012, Official Report, column 683W, to the hon. Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke).

The success of the new nationwide home swap scheme HomeSwap Direct, which has already enabled tenants to carry out over 1 million searches, is in stark contrast to the performance of the MoveUK mobility scheme—a centrally prescribed service, contracted out to a single private provider and funded at the taxpayers' expense, which the previous Government designed and then failed to deliver.

Temporary Employment

Jack Dromey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the total amount spent by his Department on employing temporary staff has been since May 2010. [110387]

Robert Neill: The Department has spent the following on contingent labour:

PeriodAmount

2009-10

£14.4 million

May 2010 to March 2011

£4.0 million

2011-12

£2.9 million

April 2012

£310,360

12 Jun 2012 : Column 411W

Spending has been drastically reduced compared to the last Administration as a result of the Department's tightening of its internal management controls, institutionalising these in its systems and adhering to Treasury and Cabinet Office spending rules.

These savings also reflect the coalition Government's agenda of decentralisation, ending the micromanagement of local government, the abolition of regional government, and the broader need to tackle the deficit left by the last Administration.

In answering this question, we have used the Cabinet Office definition for contingent labour (temporary staff) which includes admin and clerical agency staff, interim managers and specialist contractors.

Written Questions: Government Responses

Mr Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when he plans to answer question 106889 tabled by the hon. Member for Blaydon on 10 May 2012 for answer on 14 May 2012. [111143]

Greg Clark: Parliamentary question 106889 was answered on 11 June 2012, Official Report, column 7-8W.

Cabinet Office

Debts Written Off

Mr Thomas: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how much bad debt was written off by his Department in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [110225]

Mr Maude: Details of debts are published in the Cabinet Office Annual Report and Accounts 2010-11, available from the House of Commons Library and on the Cabinet Office website:

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/cabinet-office-annual-reports-and-accounts

Details for 2011 -12 will be published shortly.

Public Sector: Procurement

Martin Horwood: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many and what proportion of public procurement tenders have been awarded to companies outside the EU and the European Free Trade Association since 2007 by the (a) number of contracts awarded and (b) value of contracts; and if he will make a statement. [109742]

Mr Maude [holding answer 11 June 2012]: This information is not held centrally. However, until the reforms introduced under this Government, little was known about Government procurement spend across the board.

Since January 2011, as part of the Government's transparency programme, details of contracts above the value of £10,000 are published on Contracts Finder:

http://www.contractsfinder.co.uk/

Furthermore, to safeguard UK competitiveness and growth, in April the Government published data on £70 billion of potential future contracts over the next five years, to enable Government and industry to work together to spot any skills and investment gaps.

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Business, Innovation and Skills

Procurement

Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will take steps to ensure that payments to public sector contractors hired by his Department are made within 30 days. [108654]

Mr Prisk: [holding answer 21 May 2012]: The Government aims for the public sector to lead the prompt payment agenda by example. Accordingly, central Government Departments are committed to paying 80% of invoices within five days; further, central Government suppliers are contractually required to pay their tier 2 subcontractors within 30 days, driving the benefits of prompt payment down the supply chain. In April 2012, the Department paid 91% of invoices within five days.

Leader of the House

Electronic Government: Petitions

Graham Jones: To ask the Leader of the House whether (1) he has considered moving responsibility for administering the e-petitions system from the executive to the House of Commons; [109493]

(2) whether he has considered the creation of a committee to give parliamentary oversight of the e-petitions system. [109494]

Sir George Young: Any changes to the role of the House of Commons in relation to e-petitions would be a matter for the Procedure Committee to consider in the first instance.

Prime Minister

Correspondence

Mr Thomas: To ask the Prime Minister how many letters to Ministers in his Office were (a) not answered, (b) not answered within six months and (c) not answered within three months in (i) 2010-11 and (ii) 2011-12; how many such letters were from hon. Members; and if he will make a statement. [109447]

The Prime Minister: My Office has responded to almost 136,000 letters since 12 May 2010. We aim to reply to all correspondence swiftly.

Energy and Climate Change

Carbon Emissions

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change pursuant to the oral answer of 17 May 2012, Official Report, columns 687-8, on the low-carbon economy, if he will place a copy of his letter to the Prime Minister in the Library. [109856]

Gregory Barker: It is not the normal practice of Government to disclose internal discussion and advice.

Debts Written Off

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how much bad debt was written off by his Department in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [110218]

12 Jun 2012 : Column 413W

Gregory Barker: The Department wrote off £90,000 in 2010-11. This relates to energy efficiency loans made to small and medium sized entities who were unable to repay their debts. The impairment was disclosed on page 117 of DECC annual report and accounts in 2010-11 which can be found at the following link:

http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/11/about-us/goals-commitments/2212-decc-annual-report-20102011.pdf

The Department's 2011-12 year end position is not yet finalised. The annual report and accounts to be published July 2012 will contain details of the amounts written off during 2011-12.

Energy: Meters

Chris Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what his most recent estimate is of the number of households which have had (a) an electricity and (b) a gas prepayment meter fitted in the last 12 months. [110892]

Charles Hendry: Ofgem monitors and publishes information about the use of prepayment meters in its Domestic Suppliers' Quarterly Debt and Disconnection Reports:

http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Sustainability/SocAction/Monitoring/SoObMonitor/Pages/SocObMonitor.aspx

The following table shows the total number of prepayment meters installed during Q3 2011, Q2 2011, Q1 2011 and Q4 2010 (latest data to be published).

PeriodElectricity prepayment metersGas prepayment meters

Q3 2011

56,037

59,426

Q2 2011

53,106

51,656

Q1 2011

58,293

52,949

Q4 2010

57,541

45,414

Fuel Poverty

Mr Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps his Department is taking to reduce the levels of fuel poverty in (a) Coventry, (b) Coventry North East constituency and (c) England. [110294]

Gregory Barker [holding answer 11 June 2012]: The coalition Government are committed to tackling fuel poverty and supporting vulnerable consumers to heat their homes at an affordable cost.

We continue to fund the Warm Front scheme, providing low income vulnerable households, living in energy inefficient properties, with a range of energy efficient heating and insulation measures. Since 2005 Warm Front has assisted 9,715 households in Coventry, 4,204 in Coventry North East Constituency(1). Since the start of the scheme in June 2000 the scheme has assisted 2.3 million households across England.

In winter 2011-12, the warm home discount scheme provided energy supplier funded discounts to well over 660,000 of the poorest pensioners across Great Britain with a core group discount of £120 off their electricity bills. Nearly 600,000 of these customers will have received the discount without having to claim as a result of data matching between Government and energy suppliers. This is a significant benefit for a group which may struggle

12 Jun 2012 : Column 414W

to claim. Other low income vulnerable households may also be assisted through the scheme. Overall we expect 2 million low income vulnerable households a year to be assisted through the warm home discount scheme.

In addition, Government provide pensioner households with winter fuel payments to help with additional heating costs during the winter. Cold weather payments are also made to low income and vulnerable households where there is an average temperature of 0°C or below for seven consecutive days. These payments have been permanently increased to £25 per week and in winter 2011-12 over 5 million cold weather payments were paid in Great Britain worth an estimated £129 million.

(1 )This information is only available post 2005.

Health Insurance

Gordon Henderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how many staff working in his Department are entitled to private health care as part of their remuneration package. [111254]

Gregory Barker: The Department of Energy and Climate Change does not offer private health care to any of its staff.

Attorney-General

Debts Written Off

Mr Thomas: To ask the Attorney-General how much bad debt was written off by the Law Officers' Departments in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [110224]

The Solicitor-General: The amount of bad debt written off by the Law Officers' Departments during the last two financial years is contained in the following table:

£
Department2010-112011-12

Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)(1)

2,700,000

(4)4,500,000

Serious Fraud Office (SFO)(2)

(4)274,000

Treasury Solicitor's Department (TSol)(3)

87,104

81,883

HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate

Attorney-General's Office

(1) The majority of debts written off by the CPS relate to unpaid costs awards made against convicted defendants at the discretion of a judge or magistrate. A small number of low value commercial bad debts were also written off. (2) This debt related to two costs awards made in February 2004 (£124,000) and October 2007 (£150,000), for which the SFO had exhausted all avenues of recovery. (3) TSol provides legal services primarily to other Government Departments. In deciding to write off a debt it gives due consideration to the age of debt, administration cost of recovery and whether a loss to government funds would result. TSol invoices in excess of £100 million per annum. The write-off in 2010-11 and 2011-12 represents less than 0.1% of income. (4) Figures provided for 2011-12 are unaudited and may be subject to minor adjustment.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Democratic Republic of Congo

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what advice, assistance and financial aid the Government provides bilaterally to the security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [110036]

12 Jun 2012 : Column 415W

Mr Bellingham: The Government does not provide financial aid to security forces overseas. But in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we fund, or co-fund the following projects:

Training DRC army staff to speak English: a £150,000 a year, three-year project, implemented by the British Council. This enables closer co-operation of Congolese forces with the UN peacekeeping force, the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC.

Funding for three senior staff in the EU mission in support of security sector reform.

Assistance to military and civilian justice authorities through mentoring and technical and logistical support to help tackle impunity.

A £60 million Department for International Development police reform programme, including: community police training and resource management; capacity-building and legal support to community policing at the Ministry of Interior and in local government; and support for civil society groups providing oversight of policing.

Fraud

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the level of (a) procurement and (b) other fraud affecting his Department's spending in (i) 2010-11 and (ii) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [110175]

Mr Lidington: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) total identified fraud losses for the financial years 2010-11 and 2011-12 were £103,000 and £197,000 respectively. These figures represent around 0.01% of our budget. The FCO does not differentiate between procurement and other forms of fraud.

The FCO takes fraud and financial impropriety very seriously. A robust control framework that mitigates the risk of fraud is in place. We have enhanced our “whistle blowing” procedures to make it easier for staff to report concerns and any accusations of fraud or impropriety are thoroughly investigated and, if proven, appropriate action is taken.

Guinea-Bissau

Stephen Phillips: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of the political situation in Guinea-Bissau; and if he will make a statement. [110089]

Mr Bellingham: We remain deeply concerned about the situation in Guinea-Bissau following the coup d’état there on 12 April. We have joined our international partners in condemning the coup and calling for a return to constitutional order, and have supported the imposition of EU and UN restrictive measures against those responsible for the coup.

We welcome the regional leadership shown by the Economic Community of West African States, and are working with them, the Africa Union, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries and the UN to ensure we maintain a coherent, unified response. Co-ordinated action will be vital in sending a clear signal to the military that the international community will not accept coups d’état, and in ensuring a return to constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau.

12 Jun 2012 : Column 416W

Iran

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) when he is next due to meet his EU counterparts to discuss the implementation of EU sanctions to prevent EU countries from providing insurance for the transport of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products; [109972]

(2) what discussions he has had with his EU counterparts about the predicted economic effect of EU sanctions to prevent EU countries from providing insurance for the transport of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products; [109973]

(3) when EU sanctions will come into force to prevent EU countries from providing insurance for the transport of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products. [109974]

Mr Hague: The UK and our international partners are committed to increasing the pressure on Iran until it negotiates seriously on the nuclear issue. The EU ban on insurance for the transport of Iranian crude and petroleum products (Protection and Indemnity insurance) is due to take effect on 1 July, alongside the embargo on oil imports. As agreed with EU partners earlier this year, my officials—and those of other EU member states—are reviewing aspects of the insurance measures to ensure that, while maximising the pressure on Iran, they do not have any undesirable side effects. EU Foreign Ministers will next discuss Iran on 25 June at the Foreign Affairs Council.

Mali

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the security situation in Mali. [110751]

Mr Bellingham: We support the progress that has been made towards returning Mali to constitutional, civilian rule following the forcible seizure of power on 21 March. We welcome the inauguration of interim President Dioncounda Traoré on 12 April and continue to support the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)-led efforts to return Mali to full democracy, including the holding of elections. But we remain deeply concerned by the deteriorating security situation in the north of the country following the capture of three cities by Tuareg insurgents, some with reported connections to al-Qaeda.

We understand that agreement was reached over the weekend of 19-20 May to extend the mandate of the interim government for a further 12 months. However, the status of this agreement remains unclear following the attack on President Traoré on 21 May. Reports suggest that over 300,000 men, women and children have been uprooted by the current crisis in Mali. This on-going conflict is further exacerbating the already worsening food crisis that is currently affecting some 18 million people across the Sahel.

We condemn the latest violence and continue to engage actively—including through our recently reopened embassy—with ECOWAS, regional governments and our international partners to support a swift return to democratic, constitutional government.

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NATO

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his position at the North Atlantic Council that NATO’s external audit, currently provided under the International Board of Auditors of NATO, should be conducted (a) by auditors who are independent of NATO and (b) in a way which is compliant with the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions. [109580]

Mr Lidington: The International Board of Auditors of NATO is fully independent from the commands and agencies which it audits, and answers directly to the North Atlantic Council, which provides political leadership. IBAN undertakes its audits in accordance with the principles of the auditing standards of the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), complemented, as and when required, by the International Standards on Auditing issued by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). The UK has consistently been a strong advocate of these fundamental auditing principles and we continue to see audit as an essential element in our drive to secure the proper and effective control of NATO common funds.

Olympic Games 2012

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans his Department has to make use of the opportunity of world leaders and senior politicians attending the 2012 Olympics to pursue his goals of diplomacy; and if he will make a statement. [109982]

Mr Hague: Heads of State and Government are invited to attend the London Olympic and Paralympic games by their National Olympic and Paralympic Committees. It is not yet clear which Heads of State and Government will attend since many will defer finalising their plans until closer to the time. For planning purposes we are using figures based on extrapolation from attendance at previous games.

The Olympic and Paralympic games are first and foremost a festival of sport and a celebration of human sporting endeavour. But we welcome the opportunity that the games present to demonstrate Britain's qualities to the world and will work to ensure that those that visit us have the best possible experience of their time here. We hope that stronger bilateral relationships will be part of the legacy of the games.

Pay

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many staff working for his Department, its executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies are employed through off-payroll engagements costing less than £58,200 per annum; and if he will make a statement. [110819]

Mr Bellingham: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) engages contractors because it requires specialist skills and expertise that are not readily available within its permanent work force. The FCO also engages specialist contractor staff to work on shorter term

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projects. The main body of the FCO engages 16 contractors through Hays Consulting who individually cost less than £58,200 per annum. But it is conducting a comprehensive review to check whether there are any other contractors who have been employed off-payroll who meet this criterion. But we have not identified any as yet. This review will identify all contractors who are paid off payroll. It will also include the FCO's non-departmental public bodies and FCO Services, a trading fund of the FCO delivering secure estates, ICT and logistics services to the FCO and a range of government and international customers. FCO Services receives no direct public funding, relying solely on the revenue it generates from its customers; it currently engages 102 contractors costing less than £58,200 per annum. According to the current information available from the NDPBs, Westminster Foundation for Democracy has one; the British Council, Great Britain China Centre, Foreign Compensation Commission and Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission do not have any who meet the stated criteria. Staff working for the BBCWS are employed on BBC terms and conditions which is the responsibility of the BBC Trust who report to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Sri Lanka

Ian Paisley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the internally displaced persons (IDPs) covered under the UNHCR’s contract with Sri Lanka; and whether the guidelines include the 100,000 Muslims and Sinhalese IDPs ethnically cleansed in 1990 by the Tamil Tigers from Jaffna in Sri Lanka. [109330]

Alistair Burt: The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) defines internally displaced persons (IDPs) as people who have been forced to flee from their home. In Sri Lanka, the UNHCR works to protect and assist people displaced by the conflict within the country. We understand that anyone is free to approach the UNHCR for assistance and that it prioritises its support on the basis of need, with those in IDP camps accorded the highest priority.

USA

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether his Department has had discussions with Mitt Romney and his team about facilitating a meeting with the Prime Minister. [109977]

Mr Hague: British officials in Washington are in contact with Mr Romney's team regarding his proposed visit to London in July and potential meetings with Members of the Government.

Western Sahara

Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 21 May 2012, Official Report, column 457W, on Western Sahara, whom his Department talks to on matters concerning UK citizens working in the part of Western Sahara not under Moroccan control. [110802]

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Alistair Burt: Western Sahara is a disputed territory and the UK regards its status as undetermined.

Should any British nationals require consular assistance, all enquiries should be made to our embassy in Rabat as there is no British diplomatic or consular presence in Western Sahara.

International Development

Africa

Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what work his Department is undertaking to support the African Union Donor Pledging conference in June 2012; and whether any Ministers in his Department plan to attend the event. [110653]

Mr O'Brien: The UK is committed to ending the food crisis in the Sahel. The UK Government responded early to the food crisis in the Sahel, and UK funds currently support over 400,000 of the most vulnerable people across the region.

We were informed last week that the planned African Union conference on the Sahel had been put on hold. We are still awaiting details of the rescheduled date, and have yet to receive an agenda. Once these have been issued, we will be in a more appropriate position to consider whether the UK is represented by a Minister or by a suitably qualified official.

Debts Written Off

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much bad debt was written off by his Department in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [110213]

Mr Duncan: During the year ended 31 March 2011 DFID's Annual Report and Accounts wrote off no bad debts, however there was approximately £23 million written off the value of the Department's loan book. These were in relation to bilateral and multilateral loans given by the Department, which were in default and/or which met the criteria for debt cancellation. The £23 million loan write off is in relation to loans between the UK Government and Antigua of £1.7 million, which became eligible for relief when Antigua qualified for relief under the Commonwealth Debt Initiative. In addition funding had been provided to the European Investment Bank to fund loans given by them to both individuals and corporations within developing countries. In the year under review this portfolio required to be written down by £20.6 million, based on loans eligible for relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative launched by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. A further write down of £0.7 million was required to a US dollar denominated loan issued by DFID to the International Finance Corporation for its Global Trade Liquidity Programme, to reflect the movement of exchange rates and interest from the date of issue to the date of return.

The Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2012 are still in draft. These will be finalised in early July, at which point they will be published on the DFID external website.

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Democratic Republic of Congo

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development which areas he visited during his recent visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo. [110039]

Mr O'Brien: The Secretary of State for International Development arrived in Katanga Province, where he visited the provincial capital Lubumbashi, Nkumanwa village and the Tenke-Fungurume mine. The Secretary of State then visited Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Developing Countries: Equality

Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the millennium development goals in relation to gender equality. [110652]

Mr Andrew Mitchell: DFID's annual report includes information on global progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, as well as progress in DFID's priority countries. Information on global progress can be found in chapter 2, with progress in DFID's priority countries included in chapter 3.

A link to DFID's annual report for 2010-11 is as follows:

http://www.dfid.gov.uk/About-us/How-we-measure-progress/Annual-report/

Developing Countries: Family Planning

Caroline Dinenage: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what steps his Department is taking to ensure the London summit on family planning improves education, economic empowerment and equality for women and girls; [110518]

(2) if he will take steps to ensure that the London summit on family planning addresses the need to empower women to enable them to demand and make effective use of contraception; [110519]

(3) what evidential basis his Department used to set a target for extending family planning services to women in developing countries by 2020; and what assessment his Department has made of the steps required to allow women who are not expected to benefit from the London summit on family planning to access modern family planning services. [110541]

Mr O'Brien: On 11 July, the UK Government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will host the London summit on family planning, aiming to halve the current number of women and girls in the world’s poorest countries who wish to avoid pregnancy but are not using modern contraception.

The summit will support the right of girls and women to decide whether, when and how many children to have. It will launch a global movement to enable an additional 120 million women in the world’s poorest 69 countries to use lifesaving family planning information, services and supplies by 2020.

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Access and use of contraception both results from, and contributes to, girls’ and women’s empowerment. Reducing unintended pregnancies leads to fewer girls dropping out of school—up to a quarter of girls in sub-Saharan Africa drop out of school due to unintended pregnancies. The longer children stay in school the higher their lifetime earnings will be, enabling them to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

DFID’s work to empower women and girls more broadly, is set out in DFID’s Strategic Vision for Women and Girls, which can be found on our website at:

www.dfid.gov.uk/stories/features/2011/international-womens-day-2011

The 120 million additional users goal was derived from analysis of both historical growth and the growth that would be realised in some countries, if they were to achieve their own national objectives as set out in their national development plans.

While the focus of the summit is on girls and women in the world’s poorest countries (those with a GNI of $2500 GNI per capita or less), it is expected that these efforts will also lead to increased access and utilisation of contraception by women and girls beyond these. For example, efforts to bring new methods to market, to reduce the prices of existing methods and to revitalise interest in international family planning will benefit all women and girls.