Defence: Procurement

Alison Seabeck: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which of his Department's procurement projects are on hold pending the announcement of the French Government's defence spending review. [137722]

Mr Dunne: Under the Lancaster House treaty, the UK and France agreed to take forward a broad portfolio of co-operation on equipment and capabilities to meet our present and future defence and security interests. These are set out in the summit declaration on security and defence made in February 2012.

The French Government are currently conducting a defence review. This is informing the French Government's approach to the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy), on which the Ministry of Defence continues actively to engage with France at all levels, including my own discussions at the High Level Working Group in November 2012 and subsequently with senior French officials. Other co-operative equipment projects with France are at present unaffected.

Departmental Responsibilities

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his Department's top three policy implementation (a) successes and (b) failures have been since May 2010. [138372]

Mr Robathan: I refer the hon. Member to the second annual report of progress in implementing the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review, presented to the House on 29 November 2012, Official Report, column 26WS, by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister and other members of the National Security Council.

Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft

Alison Seabeck: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Future Strategic Air Tanker project is on course to meet its contractual requirements by 2014. [138212]

Mr Dunne: The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft project is on track to achieve its In Service Date in May 2014.

HMS Vanguard

Mr Mike Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator has been asked to provide any advice on the feasibility of docking of an armed Vanguard class submarine at any site other than HMNB Clyde. [137882]

21 Jan 2013 : Column 68W

Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which UK ports other than HMNB Clyde have a safety case that permits the berthing of an armed Vanguard class submarine. [138704]

Mr Dunne: The Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR) has not been asked to provide advice on the feasibility of berthing, including docking, an armed Vanguard class submarine at any site other than Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde.

As the Secretary of State for Defence's independent regulator of defence nuclear activities, DNSR specifies safety goals and objectives; operators are responsible for demonstrating that activities are safe, and for identifying and implementing suitable procedures and systems. DNSR reserves final judgment on a given matter until regulatory consent is officially sought. This position is fundamental in ensuring DNSR remains objective when assessing the safety implications of an activity.

DNSR has granted permission for the berthing of armed Vanguard class submarines at Loch Goil in the UK. Permission to use an anchorage in the Firth of Clyde is currently under consideration. Armed Vanguard class submarines may also berth in suitable US and French naval facilities, accepting that, as operators of nuclear powered warships (NPW), both nations have suitable facilities for UK NPW.

Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of the structural durability of the bulkhead of the F-35B aircraft. [138144]

Mr Dunne: All aircraft variants of F-35 are currently within the development test phase of the overall programme. The aim of the development test phase is to reveal issues through testing so that solutions can be developed in order to deliver a capable aircraft to the armed forces.

A planned element of the development test programme is laboratory-based fatigue and durability testing of the aircraft structure. The fatigue and durability tests are intended to highlight structural deficiencies prior to their appearance on production aircraft, thus allowing fixes or redesigns to be implemented.

The fatigue and durability tests that have been conducted have highlighted some structural issues that will require design solutions to resolve, which are currently being developed. This is normal aircraft development.

Members: Correspondence

Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he intends to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for North East Fife of 19 November 2012 on the ministerial correction of 18 September 2012, Official Report, column 7MC. [137234]

Mr Robathan: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has no record of receiving the letter from the right hon. Member for North East Fife. The MOD requested a copy of the letter on 14 January 2013 and will respond shortly.

21 Jan 2013 : Column 69W

Military Aircraft

Dr Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what capabilities the UK armed forces have to utilise fixed-wing strike aircraft in defence of the Falkland Islands, other than from an airbase on those islands; what assessment he has made of the extent to which those capabilities address the shortfall in strike aircraft arising from the decommissioning of HMS Ark Royal; and if he will make a statement. [137753]

Mr Robathan: The Ministry of Defence is confident that we have right capabilities to ensure the defence of the Falkland Islands. We retain the ability to reinforce the Falkland Islands should the need arise.

Nuclear Disarmament

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what resources have been allocated to nuclear disarmament-related research by (a) his Department and (b) the Atomic Weapons Establishment in each year since 2010-11. [137028]

Mr Dunne: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) does not undertake nuclear disarmament research internally. The MOD funds Nuclear Arms Control and Verification Research at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) where a core team of five personnel are dedicated to the programme drawing on expertise and resources from other parts of AWE and the MOD as necessary.

In financial year 2010-11 the funding was £2.227 million and in financial year 2011-12 it was £2.125 million. Figures for those additional resources drawn from other AWE programmes could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Nuclear Submarines

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the recent National Audit Office report on Ministry of Defence Major Projects 2012, if he will place in the Library copies, redacted as necessary, of (a) the Review Note on progress with the successor submarine programme that was submitted to his Departmental Investment Approvals (IA) Committee in July 2012, (b) the Review Note on the successor Common Missile Compartment regarding the build location which was submitted to the IA Committee in 2012 and (c) the Whole Boat Strategic Concept Design review report for the successor nuclear submarine programme. [137723]

Mr Dunne: The United Kingdom's Future Nuclear Deterrent: 2012 Update to Parliament was placed in the Library of the House on 19 December 2012 and includes information taken from the documents requested.

I am withholding further information from these documents for the purpose of safeguarding national security and because their disclosure would prejudice commercial interests, international relations and the defence of the UK and because they relate to the formulation of Government policy.

21 Jan 2013 : Column 70W

Nuclear Weapons

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the Coalition Agreement Programme for Government, page 45, published May 2010, when the stockpile of operationally available nuclear warheads was reduced to fewer than 120; when the overall number of nuclear warheads was reduced to no more than 180; what has been done with the fissile material from the withdrawn warheads; and whether this nuclear material has been placed under international safeguards. [137659]

Mr Dunne: These changes to the nuclear weapon stockpile were announced in the strategic defence and security review (SDSR) in October 2010.

The Government do not comment upon the operational programme and therefore more detail of this implementation programme will not be given at this time. As we set out in the SDSR, we will reduce the overall stockpile of nuclear warheads to no more than 180 by the mid 2020s.

Once processed, the material from dismantled warheads is returned to the MOD nuclear material stockpile. It is not government policy to place this material under international safeguards.

Shipping

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proportion of vessels chartered by the (a) Royal Navy, (b) Royal Fleet Auxiliary and (c) Ministry of Defence were (i) non-UK flagged and (ii) crewed by non-UK nationals in the most recent period for which figures are available. [135783]

Mr Dunne: For the movement of cargo by sea, strategic support is primarily provided through the private finance initiative Strategic Sealift Service, which comprises four British flagged roll-on/roll-off vessels, manned by British mercantile marine officers and crews. If required, additional sealift capacity is chartered by means of competitive tenders and in 2012, three commercial ships were chartered in this way. All three were non-British flagged and operated by non-British officers and crews.

A further three commercial vessels were also chartered in 2012 under separate arrangements to provide marine recovery and salvage assistance. One of these vessels was non-British flagged and manned by non-British officers and crew.

Unmanned Air Vehicles

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has any plans for the use of MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles in Afghanistan after 2014 in an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance role. [138149]

Mr Dunne: No decisions have yet been taken on what, if any, equipment platforms will remain in Afghanistan post 2014.

Veterans: Employment

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in which sectors those leaving the armed forces in 2011-12 found long-term employment. [138167]

21 Jan 2013 : Column 71W

Mr Francois [holding answer 18 January 2013]: Service leavers leave the military with a range of skills and abilities which are transferable for civilian life and civilian employment. Consequently, personnel who leave the military enter a wide range of civilian employment sectors; from security to engineering, from health care to senior management roles. We continue to work with industry to ensure sufficient opportunities are afforded to our servicemen and women and that our people are prepared and suitably qualified in order to make a successful transition to civilian life.

Wind Power: Carmarthenshire

Jonathan Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons his Department (a) opposed the Bryn Llywelyn wind farm within TAN 8 Strategic Area G and (b) did not oppose the proposed Brechfa West development within the same strategic area. [137812]

Mr Francois: The Ministry of Defence does not now object to either wind farm proposal.

However, Carmarthenshire council have objected to the Bryn Llewellyn application.

Energy and Climate Change

Biomass

Dr Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether he has reviewed the level of renewable obligation certificates support to various business technologies since the publication in December 2011 of the Committee on Climate Change's Biomass Review; and if he will make a statement. [138528]

Gregory Barker: The levels of support for all renewable technologies were considered as part of the recent Renewables Obligation Banding Review. The review proposed new support levels for the period 2013-17. The detailed proposals, including the position on various sources of biomass generation, are explained in two Banding Review Government Response documents:

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/cons_ro_review/cons_ro_review.aspx#

http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/11/consultation/ro-banding/7328-renewables-obligation-banding-review-for-the-perio.pdf

Electricity Generation

Mr Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what estimate his Department has made of the capacity margin for electricity generation; what the margin will be in 2015; and what assessment he has made of the desirable level of capacity margin. [138532]

Mr Hayes: In November 2012 DECC published its response to the Ofgem Electricity Capacity Assessment as an annex to the Statutory Security of Supply Report. In its base case scenario, DECC projected that the de-rated capacity margin(1) for winter 2012-13 would be around 19%.

21 Jan 2013 : Column 72W

Our base case projection for the de-rated capacity margin in the winter of 2014-15 was 13.8% and for 2015-16 was 14.4%.

More information on how DECC estimated its projections of de-rated capacity margin and how these compare with the capacity margins in Ofgem's Electricity Capacity Assessment can be found at the following link:

http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc11/meeting-energy-demand/energy-security/7073-statutory-security-of-supply-report.pdf

The Government have not made a formal assessment of the desired level of capacity margin. In the analysis and modelling that we have undertaken to inform decisions on Electricity Market Reform we have instead used a de-rated capacity margin of around 10% as a proxy for a future reliability standard. This is based on past precedent rather than a formal assessment of the desired capacity margin.

Government plan to develop a formal reliability standard and to consult on it in the draft Electricity Market Reform Delivery Plan to be published in July of this year.

(1) The de-rated capacity margin is the capacity margin adjusted to take account of the availability of generating capacity, specific to each type of generation technology. It reflects the expected proportion of a source of electricity which is likely to be technically available to generate (even though a company may choose not to utilise this capacity for commercial reasons).

Energy: Billing

Dr Offord: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what progress his Department has made on examining barriers to collective energy purchases. [137851]

Gregory Barker: The Department set up a working group on collective purchasing and switching in November 2011 to look at different collective purchasing and switching models and identify any barriers preventing consumers coming together and getting a better deal. Following the group's recommendations, the Department published guidance to help consumers and organisations interested in setting up group switching schemes, and Ofgem published guidance on the relevant licence requirements for energy suppliers.

The Department recently ran a competition—Cheaper Energy Together—to support collective switching and purchasing schemes across the country with innovative approaches to engage with vulnerable consumers. A fund of £5 million was available and we received 114 applications, of which 31 were successful in obtaining funding. We will be evaluating these schemes to see if there are any further barriers that need addressing.

Energy: Care Homes

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will introduce a new energy tariff to reduce energy costs for residential care homes. [138153]

Gregory Barker: Electricity and gas tariffs for both domestic and non domestic consumers are a commercial matter for energy suppliers.

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In the non domestic sector it is usual for customers to have bespoke tariffs with suppliers. This allows them the flexibility to negotiate contractual terms and prices that suit their individual circumstances. Non-domestic customers will also be able to reduce their energy costs by installing packages of energy saving technologies under the Green Deal.

Fracking

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of the risks to public safety of naturally occurring radon gas mixed with shale gas obtained from hydraulic fracturing; and what methods are used to separate the radon from the methane in shale gas prior to delivery to domestic consumers. [138479]

Mr Hayes: All gas supplied to domestic customers is subject to stringent standards as to its composition. Gas which does not meet these standards will not be accepted for transportation through the National Transmission System.

Fuel Poverty: Birmingham

Mr Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what recent estimate he has made of the number of households in fuel poverty in Birmingham, Hall Green constituency. [138192]

Gregory Barker: In 2010, the latest year for which data is available, the number of households in fuel poverty in Birmingham Hall Green was estimated to be 9,100.

Fuel poverty statistics for 2011 are due to be released in May 2013. These can generally be found at:

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/fuelpov_stats/regional/regional.aspx

Natural Gas: Wales

Jonathan Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how much gas is used in Wales each year. [138154]

Mr Hayes: Annual gas consumption statistics for Wales are available for the years 2005 to 2011 and are shown in the following table.

The statistics cover gas distributed via the National Transmission System, and exclude any gas passing through other transmission and distribution systems such as those owned by North sea producers. The data only relate to distribution and exclude large loads fed directly from the National Transmission System (such as certain power stations and large industrial consumers).

Estimates are weather-corrected and cover the gas year between 1 October to 30 September (for example, 2011 data covers gas consumption between 1 October 2010 to 30 September 2011).

Gas consumption in Wales between 2005 and 2011
 Gas consumption in Wales (GWh)

2005

34,311

2006

32,401

2007

30,938

21 Jan 2013 : Column 74W

2008

29,684

2009

26,989

2010

26,469

2011

24,688

Details of all methodologies used to compile the statistics can be found at:

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/regional/regional.aspx

Sub-national gas consumption datasets can be accessed from:

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/energy_stats/regional/gas/gas.aspx

Public Relations

Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what contracts for PR services have been awarded by his Department in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what their monetary value was. [138615]

Gregory Barker: DECC has appointed Freud Communications through the Government Procurement Services frameworks to develop and deliver a communication campaign to build awareness and understanding of the Green Deal. We have estimated the total cost excluding VAT to be £410,000.

Renewable Energy

Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of the standards of installation of (a) heat pumps and (b) solar power installations; and whether he has received any information on the level of related consumer complaints. [138472]

Gregory Barker: The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), which is led by industry and other stakeholders in the sector, is responsible for driving improvements in the installation of the full range of microgeneration technologies, including heat pumps and solar photovoltaic panels.

The MCS installation standards for solar photovoltaic and heat pumps have been extensively revised in the last 18 months reflecting the learning from field trials and previous Government support schemes.

The revised MCS heat pump standard was published in September 2011 and was reinforced with awareness and training seminars for installers. It was further updated in February 2012.

A new solar photovoltaic guide will be published shortly and become a mandatory requirement for installers. In addition, a new Solar Centre was launched this month, run by the Building Research Establishment, which will promote best practice, help police standards and develop design and installation courses.

Since 1 August 2012, when a central complaints register was in place, MCS has received 130 complaints primarily relating to technical issues. In the last 12 months the REAL Consumer Code has received 1,050 complaints,

21 Jan 2013 : Column 75W

which cover a range of issues such as mis-selling, failure to return deposits, incorrect performance estimates, failure to provide handover packs and failure to provide or honour workmanship guarantees.

Communities and Local Government

Cycling

Mr Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 15 January 2013, Official Report, column 737W, on cycling, how many of his Department's staff participate in the Cycle to Work Scheme; and how much this has cost his Department in each year since May 2010. [138616]

Brandon Lewis: The Department operates a Cycle to Work Scheme whereby staff are able to hire a bicycle tax-free enabling them to cycle to work, with the option to purchase the bike at the end of the hire period. This helps to tackle congestion, reduce carbon emissions and enables staff to live a healthy lifestyle, reducing potential sickness absence and cost to the Department.

The scheme also helps support independent bike shops. More information can be found at:

www.cyclescheme.co.uk

Sixty staff have participated under the scheme since January 2010. Assisted by the participation of the private sector, the net cost of these reimbursements to the Department is nil as the money is paid back by individual members of staff over a 12 month period from their gross salary.

Housing: Construction

Peter Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the (a) New Homes Bonus and (b) Community Infrastructure Levy in incentivising communities to accept developments; and if he will make a statement. [137606]

Mr Prisk: The New Homes Bonus is a powerful, simple, transparent and permanent incentive for local authorities and communities to increase their aspirations for housing growth. Since its inception the New Homes Bonus has totalled nearly £1.3 billion. As New Homes Bonus is an un-ringfenced grant, local authorities decide how to spend the Bonus, since we believe they are in the best position to make decisions about local priorities. As set out in the published Impact Assessment of the scheme, the Government is committed to the success of the New Homes Bonus. We will formally consider the impact of the scheme in 2013-14.

The Community Infrastructure Levy is fast, fair, and transparent. It supports growth and unlocks development by providing key infrastructure. While it is still early days for the levy, my recent announcement to provide incentives to neighbourhoods that accept development in their area will help ensure that more homes are built.

Housing: Crime Prevention

Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate he has made of the proportion of new homes that used the Secured by Design standard in each of the last five years. [137973]

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Mr Foster: This information is not currently held centrally. Homes designed to standards in the Code for Sustainable Homes may include the Secured by Design standard as part of the design. The Department holds information on the number of Secured by Design assessments undertaken by homes which are built to the Code for Sustainable Homes, but this information is not sufficiently robust at present to provide an estimate of the proportion of all new homes that use the Secured by Design standard. However, as part of the review of the framework of building regulations and local housing standards, the Department is investigating whether this information can be augmented by other information to develop such an estimate.

Property Development: Birmingham

Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the Birmingham development plan, whether an environmental impact assessment will be carried out to establish the environmental effects of building on green belt land. [137188]

Nick Boles: This is a matter for Birmingham city council. Notwithstanding, I would note that green belt policy in the National Planning Policy Framework is clear that most forms of development are inappropriate other than in very special circumstances. Similarly, green belt boundaries should not be altered other than in very special circumstances through the preparation or review of local plans. All local plans are subject to the requirements of the Strategic Environmental Assessment directive and therefore the environmental effects of any proposed policies to be included in the local plan, including reference to the green belt, must be assessed. In addition, a local planning authority must demonstrate that its plan is founded on a credible evidence base, takes into account views of the local community and other interested parties, is legally compliant and has regard to national policy.

Railways: Freight

Mrs Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 30 April 2012, Official Report, column 1113W, on railways: Radlett, whether (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department have had any discussions on (i) the Helioslough Radlett rail freight exchange proposal and (ii) other rail freight issues since May 2012; and whether they have received any representations on such issues since May 2012. [138269]

Nick Boles: As part of the Department's transparency programme, details of meetings between DCLG Ministers and external organisations are published on our website.

Information about discussions held by Ministers and about meetings or discussions held by officials is not centrally held and could be provided only at disproportionate costs.

All representatives of the Department act in accordance with “Guidance on Planning Propriety Issues”, which is published at:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/planning-propriety-issues-guidance

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On the matter of representations on the Radlett proposal, I refer my hon. Friend to my answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr Clappison) on 17 January 2013, Official Report, column 908W. Information on representations on other rail freight issues is not centrally held and could be provided only at disproportionate costs.

Railways: Radlett

Mrs Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment or evaluation he has made of the wider economic benefits of the Radlett Rail Freight proposal. [138295]

Nick Boles: The Secretary of State’s letter of 20 December 2012 sets out his assessment of the Radlett Rail Freight proposal.

Shops: Empty Property

Mr Umunna: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what statistics his Department collects on shop vacancy rates by locality. [138614]

Mr Prisk: My Department does not produce statistics on shop vacancy rates.

Attorney-General

Crown Prosecution Service

Philip Davies: To ask the Attorney-General pursuant to the answer of 13 December 2012, Official Report, column 405W, on Crown Prosecution Service, with what offences the 263 defendants whose committal for trial was recorded as CPS not ready-adjournment refused were charged; and how many such defendants were subsequently re-charged. [138329]

The Attorney-General: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) categorise prosecutions according to the most serious offence with which a defendant was charged at the time the case was finalised. The principal offences of the 263 defendants whose committal for trial was discharged and recorded as 'CPS not ready-adjournment refused' are as follows:

 Defendants finalised

Offences Against The Person

40

Sexual Offences

6

Burglary

44

Robbery

2

Theft And Handling

34

Fraud And Forgery

25

Criminal Damage

1

Drugs Offences

55

Public Order Offences

18

All Other Offences (excluding Motoring)

13

Motoring Offences

8

No category applied

17

Total

263

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The CPS maintains no central record of the number of defendants subsequently re-charged following a discharged committal. Such data could not be reasonably obtained locally or nationally other than by manually reviewing individual case files which would incur a disproportionate cost.

Legal Opinion: Treaties

Mr Raab: To ask the Attorney-General what the Crown Prosecution Service's role in processing requests made under the UK's mutual legal assistance treaties is. [138462]

The Attorney-General: Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) requests for evidence are dealt with by the United Kingdom Central Authority (UKCA) based in the Home Office. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) executes incoming requests for MLA from overseas territories, referred by the UKCA, to preserve and to recover assets (Asset Recovery Requests). The CPS sends outgoing Asset Recovery Requests to overseas territories, in accordance with Section 74 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA), so that those assets can be used to pay confiscation orders made in the English and Welsh courts. The CPS sends outgoing requests for evidence to overseas territories, in accordance with Section 7 of the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003 (OCA), when it needs evidence for use in criminal investigations, criminal proceedings or other judicial proceedings, including any restraint, confiscation or enforcement proceedings. The CPS also has a role in non-Asset Recovery Requests.

Rape

Emily Thornberry: To ask the Attorney-General how many cases were downgraded from rape to sexual assault by the Crown Prosecution Service following the initial hearing at the magistrates' court but before the first hearing at the Crown Court in each of the last four years. [138519]

The Attorney-General: Information concerning the number of cases downgraded from rape to sexual assault by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) following the initial hearing at the magistrates court but before the first hearing at the Crown court is not available from the CPS case management system. These data cannot be reasonably obtained locally or nationally other than by undertaking a manual exercise of reviewing individual file records at a disproportionate cost.

Emily Thornberry: To ask the Attorney-General how many allegations of rape were passed from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision in each of the last four years. [138523]

The Attorney-General: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) case management system does not record individual allegations of rape passed by the police to the CPS for a charging decision. Instead it is used to record suspects whose cases are referred by the police for a charging decision. In the course of the last four financial years the following number of cases that were referred to the CPS for a charging decision were flagged as ‘rape' on the CPS system:

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 Number

2008-09

6,597

2009-10

6,783

2010-11

8,130

2011-12

6,822

Emily Thornberry: To ask the Attorney-General on how many occasions the Crown Prosecution Service decided to take no further action on rape allegations passed to them by the police in each of the last four years. [138524]

The Attorney-General: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) case management system is used to record suspects whose cases are referred by the police for a charging decision. In the course of the last four financial years the following number of rape-flagged cases that were referred to the CPS for a charging decision were the subject of a decision to take no further action:

 Number

2008-09

3,511

2009-10

4,186

2010-11

4,361

2011-12

3,305

International Development

Burma

Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions she has had with the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator following her visit to Rakhine State and Kachin State, Burma. [137607]

Mr Duncan: The Secretary of State for International Development, my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening) discussed Burma with the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator following the Secretary of State's visit to Rakhine State and Kachin State, Burma, on 10 December.

Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will consider providing further humanitarian assistance to internally-displaced people in Kachin state through local community organisations. [137615]

Mr Duncan: DFID announced in December 2012 an additional £1.5 million of humanitarian support for people displaced by the conflict in Kachin, including in hard to reach areas and neighbouring states, bringing our total humanitarian aid contribution to the conflict in Kachin to £3.5 million. This makes the UK the largest bilateral contributor. We are monitoring the situation in Kachin closely, including the work of others providing humanitarian support. This will help inform any consideration of further UK assistance.

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Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps she is taking to encourage the Government of Burma to allow unhindered access for international humanitarian assistance to displaced peoples in all parts of Kachin state and Northern Shan state. [137617]

Mr Duncan: We continue to call for unhindered humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas at all every opportunity. The British ambassador to Burma last met senior members of the Burmese Government on Wednesday 16 January to raise our concerns about aid access.

In response to increased need, the Department for International Development announced in December 2012 an additional £1.5 million of humanitarian support for people displaced by the conflict in Kachin, including in areas that are hard to reach and in neighbouring states, bringing our total humanitarian aid contribution to the conflict in Kachin to £3.5 million.

Developing Countries: Nature Conservation

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the contribution her Department has made to the protection of endangered species through the creation of safe and secure livelihoods for people living in areas of concern. [137993]

Lynne Featherstone: The Department for International Development (DFID) considers promoting sustainable livelihoods to be a vital component of efforts to eradicate poverty and maintain a healthy natural resource base. International evidence indicates that supporting sustainable livelihoods in areas of concern not only reduces poor people's vulnerability to economic shocks such as the death of livestock, but also offers an effective strategy for protecting endangered species.

DFID supports a number of programmes to promote sustainable livelihoods in biodiverse regions, both directly with developing countries and through partners such as the Global Environment Facility, the World Wildlife Fund and the United Nations. Our programmes on forestry, financed through the International Climate Fund, involve efforts to enhance community access to resources which support better livelihoods. For example, in Nepal DFID is helping to empower local communities to manage their forests and promote sustainable livelihoods in a region where endangered species such as tigers and red pandas can still be found.

Developing Countries: Sanitation

Sir Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps her Department is taking to ensure safe access to sanitation services for women in developing countries. [138536]

Mr Duncan: As part of a significant scale-up of work on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), the Department for International Development (DFID) is ensuring that women and girls continue to be prioritised in the design and delivery of water and sanitation programmes. In our support to WASH in schools we are also ensuring

21 Jan 2013 : Column 81W

that sufficient separate facilities are provided for girls, including facilities to help them manage their menstrual hygiene safely and with privacy.

We offer women and girls a strong voice in how WASH projects are delivered, for instance through women's membership of local WASH decision-making committees. In our reporting we give gender-specific data wherever possible.

EU Aid

Mr Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she has had with (a) her EU counterparts and (b) the European Commission on increasing supplies of humanitarian aid. [138458]

Lynne Featherstone: The Secretary of State for International Development has frequent discussions with EU counterparts and the European Commission on supplies of humanitarian aid, including discussion of specific humanitarian responses. These meetings include bilateral meetings, EU Development Ministers' meetings and broader meetings led by the United Nations.

Discussions focus on improving co-ordination and ensuring that overall resources meet needs, with proportionate shares from all partners.

Tanzania

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent reports she has received on the efforts of the Tanzanian Government to protect the forest on Mount Kilimanjaro. [137563]

Mr Duncan: No reports have been submitted to the Secretary of State for International Development and there is no recent information or data on the state of forest protection on Mount Kilimanjaro. However, DFID in Tanzania is engaged in the issue of forest governance and management with both the Government of Tanzania and civil society.

Tanzania has a progressive forestry policy and legislation framework particularly in terms of promoting community-based forestry management, however there continue to be challenges in enforcement and managing deforestation. We have determined that Tanzanians themselves are best placed to drive this agenda forward and are supporting organisations such as the Tanzanian Natural Resource Forum (TNRF) and the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG). Our support to these non-government actors is focused on improving forest governance and management at a national and local level but not specifically in the Mount Kilimanjaro area.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Catering

Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department has spent on catering and hospitality in each year since May 2010. [135417]

21 Jan 2013 : Column 82W

Richard Benyon: The total amount spent on catering and hospitality by core DEFRA since May 2010 through to the end of December 2012 is £959,625.

PeriodTotal (£)

May 2010 to March 2011

523,409

April 2011 to March 2012

250,464

April 2012 to end December 2012

185,752

Dairy Products and Eggs

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the level of imports from other EU countries was in each of the last three months of (a) milk, (b) other dairy products, (c) whole eggs and (d) other egg products. [137176]

Mr Heath: The volume of UK imports of (a) milk, (b) other dairy products, (c) whole eggs and (d) other egg products from other EU member states are shown in the table, as recorded in HM Revenue and Customs overseas trade statistics.

The latest three months for which figures are available are August to October 2012.

UK imports from EU member states
 2012
TypeAugustSeptemberOctober

Liquid Milk (million litres)

16.5

20.2

13.9

Other dairy products(1) (thousand tonnes)

97.8

94.5

96.9

Whole eggs in shell (thousand tonnes)

3.9

4.3

4.3

Egg Products(2) (thousand tonnes)

3.8

3.3

3.9

(1) Includes cheese, butter, cream, milk powder, yoghurt, ice cream, buttermilk, whey, condensed milk and other milk products. (2) Includes frozen, dried or liquid egg, albumen and yolks. Notes: 1. 2012 data is subject to amendments. 2. EU data based on EU 27. Data prepared by: Trade Statistics, Analysis and Evidence Team, DEFRA Source: HM Revenue and Customs

Dangerous Dogs

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether new guidance to help courts deal more effectively with seized dogs as announced in April 2012 has been issued. [136772]

Mr Heath: The guidance to the courts referred to in the DEFRA consultation of April 2012 on ways to tackle irresponsible dog ownership relates to the Sentencing Council's guidance on dangerous dogs cases. This guidance was updated and increased its recommended upper limits for such offences. The new guidance came into effect on 20 August 2012. DEFRA's proposal, made in the same consultation, to allow suspected prohibited-type dogs to remain with their owners while their cases are being dealt with, is a separate proposal and one we are considering along with the other proposals. An announcement about a way forward on all of the proposals set out in DEFRA's consultation of April 2012 will be made shortly.

21 Jan 2013 : Column 83W

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many companion dogs were (a) killed, (b) put down or (c) hurt after dog attacks in 2012; [137209]

(2) how many companion dogs were (a) killed and (b) hurt after dog attacks in 2012. [137210]

Mr Heath: This information is not held centrally.

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many dogs in (a) England, (b) Wales and (c) Scotland were placed on the register of exempt dogs under section 4A and section 4B procedures under the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997 in 2012; and if he will make a statement. [137960]

Mr Heath: The total number of dogs placed on the register of exempted dogs in 2012 is as follows:

 Number of dogs

(a) England

451

(b) Wales

24

(c) Scotland

2

Total

477

The information is not held in a format to enable a split between sections 4A and 4B.

Flood Control

Mr Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to implement the recommendations of the Pitt report: Learning Lessons from the 2007 Floods, published in June 2008; and if he will make a statement. [136543]

Richard Benyon: DEFRA published a final progress report in January 2012 that sets out details of the implementation of each of the Pitt review recommendations. The review made 91 recommendations for Government to take action on. 83 of these have been implemented, 40 of which require ongoing work. A further six recommendations are on track to be implemented by December 2014 or earlier.

While some work streams are taking longer than previously anticipated to come to fruition, the Government are confident that this final target date will be met.

The report can be found at:

http://www.defra.gov.uk

Mr Raab: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 28 November 2012, Official Report, column 385W, on flood control, what the adjusted annual totals are for spending on managing the risk of flooding and coastal erosion following the announcement of 30 November 2012 of £120 million of additional funding for flood defences in each year to 2015. [137457]

Richard Benyon: The Government are on course to spend £2.3 billion on managing the risk of flooding and coastal erosion from April 2011 to March 2015. The expected profile of expenditure for this and the following two years is as follows:

21 Jan 2013 : Column 84W

Budgeted expenditure by DEFRA in England
 £ million

2012-13

559.9

2013-14

574.5

2014-15

612.7

Fracking

Zac Goldsmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he will take to prevent fracking operations in the Mendip Hills contaminating groundwater in that area. [136781]

Richard Benyon: The Environment Agency has not received any applications for environmental permits for unconventional gas developments or fracking in and around the Mendip Hills. However if it were to receive such applications, the agency would make an assessment on the risk of pollution to groundwater on a case by case (site by site) basis.

If the Environment Agency determines that there could be a risk of pollution of groundwater at a site, it would require an operator to apply for an environmental permit for a groundwater activity before hydraulic fracturing could commence. This permit would put conditions on their operation, which would control the risks of pollution in order to safeguard the groundwater and water quality.

Furans

Mr Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Government regarding making possession of carbon furan illegal in England. [136652]

Mr Heath: No discussions have taken place with the Scottish Government regarding making the possession of carbofuran illegal in England.

The pesticides most commonly occurring in wildlife poisoning incidents, including carbofuran, are not approved for use in the UK and their sale, supply, storage or use is already a criminal offence under existing UK pesticide legislation. Additionally the use of any poisonous substance to kill or take wild birds is already an offence under section 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Horses: Animal Welfare

Mr Tom Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in the Welsh Government on fly grazing involving horses. [137236]

Mr Heath: None. However, DEFRA officials are in regular contact with Welsh Government officials on these issues.

Mr Tom Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he plans to take to ensure an enforceable link between horse and owner following the closure of the National Equine Database. [137405]

21 Jan 2013 : Column 85W

Mr Heath: The National Equine Database operates as a central repository of horse passport data, supplied by horse passport issuing organisations (PIOs). PIOs continue to collect and store such data, which continue to be available for regulatory and other legal purposes.

Livestock: Transport

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 8 January 2013, Official Report, columns 208-9W, on livestock: transport, whether he has concerns over the practices of other EU member states which receive live animal exports from the UK and their compliance with Directive EC 1/2005. [138248]

Mr Heath: Day-to-day questions relating to the enforcement of animal welfare during transport rules are normally dealt with by DEFRA officials in conjunction with their counterparts in the competent authority concerned, in line with the requirements for mutual assistance and exchange of information laid down in Article 24 of Council Regulation (EC) 1/2005.

If the problem is suitably serious or complex in nature, possibly involving both animal health and welfare issues, DEFRA's chief veterinary officer will discuss the issue or write to the equivalent head of veterinary services in the country concerned, copying any correspondence to the EU Commission as appropriate. This has generally been successful in the past in resolving specific technical issues relating to enforcement of the welfare in transport legislation.

The last ministerial discussion on the welfare in transport legislation (which included the EU Commission in an observational capacity) took place in the Agriculture Council meeting on 18 June 2012. That meeting agreed that the number one future priority should be an

21 Jan 2013 : Column 86W

improvement in the enforcement of the existing requirements of the legislation across the EU.

I am content that these arrangements enable DEFRA to communicate any concerns over the practices of other member states at the appropriate levels.

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 8 January 2013, Official Report, column 209W, on livestock: transport, on which occasions the chief veterinary officer has discussed with or written to the head of veterinary services of an EU member state on transport of livestock. [138249]

Mr Heath: In the last 12 months, the chief veterinary officer (CVO) has written four times to heads of veterinary services, or to equivalent senior officials in other member states, on issues relating to the transport of livestock. He will also have occasionally discussed welfare in transport issues in the Standing Committee of Food Chain and Animal Health, and at informal CVO meetings.

National Parks

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) rangers, (b) planners, (c) archaeologists, (d) sustainable development advisers and (e) education officers were employed in each national park in England in (i) 2010-11 and (ii) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [137618]

Richard Benyon: The numbers of rangers, planners, archaeologists, sustainable development advisers and education officers employed in each national park authority in England in 2010-11 and 2011-12 are set out in the following table:

 RangersPlannersArchaeologistsSustainable development advisersEducation officers
 2010 -112011 -122010 -112011 -122010 112011 -122010 -112011 -122010 -112011 -12

Broads

16.18

15.75

4.68

4.85

0

0

0

0

0

0.92

Dartmoor

10.6

9.5

(1)6

(1)6

1.4

1.5

1

1

2

2

Exmoor

4

4

7

6

2

2

2

2

2

2

Lake District

25

22

20

20

3

3

2

2

2

2

New Forest

3.33

3.33

10

10

1

1

1.73

1.5

2.42

2.42

North York Moors

8.73

8.73

(1)9.2

(1)8.2

1.5

1.5

1

0

3.9

3.5

Northumberland

10

7

1.5

1

1

1

0

0

1.5

1.5

Peak District

32

27.5

17

17

4

3

1

1

9.4

4

South Downs

0

18

2

25

0

0

0

1

1

1

Yorkshire Dales

19

18

10

8

2

1

1

0

1

0

(1 )Figures exclude forward planners.

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of (a) jobs, (b) young people involved in and (c) hectares of land conserved as a result of National Parks Sustainable Development Fund projects in (i) 2010-11, (ii) 2011-12 and (iii) 2012-13; and if he will make a statement . [137637]

Richard Benyon: No estimate has been made of the numbers of (a) jobs, (b) young people involved in, and (c) hectares of land conserved as a result of National Parks Sustainable Development Fund projects in the last three years.

New Forest National Park Authority

Dr Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) for what reasons the pilot scheme for direct elections to the New Forest National Park Authority have been postponed; and if he will make a statement; [136680]

(2) whether primary legislation is necessary before pilot schemes for direct elections to National Park Authorities can be held or whether such elections can be held by Ministerial Order under section 3(2)(c) of the Public Bodies Act 2011; [136681]

21 Jan 2013 : Column 87W


(3) when he expects the pilot scheme for direct elections to the New Forest National Park Authority to take place. [136682]

Richard Benyon: The Government have consulted on proposals to introduce legislation to enable pilot schemes for direct elections to the New Forest and Peak District National Park Authorities. Ministers will shortly make a statement on the outcomes of the consultation and on the way forward.

Primary legislation would be necessary before pilot schemes for direct elections to national park authorities could be held. An order under the Public Bodies Act is not a suitable vehicle to introduce the necessary measures. The Public Bodies Act has a bar on orders made under it conferring a delegated power to make statutory instruments (section 20(1)(a)). Such a power is needed for making the rules and regulations to govern the conduct of elections.

Pet Travel Scheme

Sir Roger Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many dogs have entered the UK from (a) other EU countries and (b) listed non-EU countries since his Department implemented the revised EU Pet Travel scheme in January 2012. [136508]

Mr Heath: The number of dogs presented for entry into Great Britain in 2012 was (a) 137,930 with pet passports issued in other EU countries and their territories and (b) 4,055 with identity documents issued in listed non-EU countries.

The data were obtained from the PETS Statistics Database on 9 January 2013.

Sir Roger Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from which (a) EU and (b) non-EU countries dogs have been imported since the introduction of the revised EU Pet Travel scheme in January 2012. [136509]

Mr Heath: In 2012, dogs were presented for entry into GB with documentation (a pet passport or third country veterinary certificate) that had been issued in the following countries:

(a) EU countries and territories: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland (Republic of), Italy, La Reunion, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.

(b) Listed non-EU countries: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Croatia, French Polynesia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Jamaica, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, USA. Dogs have also been imported under the pet travel scheme from unlisted non-EU countries, but information relating to their country of origin is not captured on the PETS database.

These data were obtained from the PETS Statistics Database on 9 January 2013.

Sir Roger Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations he has received from Eurostar on the

21 Jan 2013 : Column 88W

EU Pet Travel scheme and what recent representations his Department has made to Eurostar to seek to bring to an end restrictions on transfrontier passengers travelling between the UK and mainland Europe with pets. [136510]

Mr Heath: DEFRA has not received or made any recent representations from or to Eurostar on the transport of pet animals.

Pigmeat: Imports

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much pigmeat was imported from other EU countries in each of the last three months. [137172]

Mr Heath: The volume of UK imports of pigmeat from other EU member states are shown in the table, as recorded in HM Revenue and Customs overseas trade statistics.

The latest three months for which figures are available are August to October 2012.

UK imports of pigmeat from EU member states
Thousand tonnes
 2012
TypeAugustSeptemberOctober

Pork

29.4

28.8

30.9

Bacon and ham

22.6

21.3

23.7

Pigmeat total

52.0

50.0

54.6

Notes: 1. 2012 data is subject to amendments. 2. EU data based on EU 27. Data prepared by: Trade Statistics, Analysis and Evidence Team, DEFRA Source: HM Revenue and Customs

Pigs: Animal Welfare

Neil Parish: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to prevent the importation of pigmeat which has been illegally produced in sow stalls. [136871]

Mr Heath: It is very disappointing that so many member states were not fully compliant with the sow stall ban on 1 January 2013, despite their assurances to the Commission last year.

There are no marketing rules to prevent imports from non-compliant systems. Member states cannot impose unilateral trade restrictions for welfare reasons. Enforcement of imported pig meat is, therefore, challenging. We have to rely heavily on the competent authority in each member state to take responsibility for ensuring that their producers comply with the directive. However, the European Commission is taking action against member states which are not delivering on their animal welfare obligations.

I have met with representatives of the whole pig supply chain to ensure that they have stringent traceability tests in place to ensure that they only source pigmeat from compliant production systems. They have assured

21 Jan 2013 : Column 89W

me that they will use their best endeavours as there is clearly a significant reputation issue for their companies or trade associations.

We are using every opportunity to press the Commission to take a firm stand as the priority must be to protect those producers across the EU who have invested heavily in converting to more welfare-friendly group housing systems from illegal production.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the European Commission on which EU member states comply with the sow stall and tether ban. [137173]

Mr Heath: UK Ministers and officials met with the Commission on a regular basis during 2012 to encourage a robust approach to enforcement of the pig welfare directive and to discuss member states' progress with compliance with the sow stall ban.

I am expecting the Commission to provide an update of the current position now the ban has come into force at January's Agriculture and Fisheries Council at the end of the month. It is likely to say there is large-scale non-compliance and that it is taking action against those member states which are not delivering on their animal welfare obligations. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the right hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), and I met with Commissioner Borg on 17 January and raised our concerns about sow stalls with him. We are using every opportunity to press the Commission to take a firm stand as the priority must be to protect those producers across the whole of the EU who have invested heavily in converting to more welfare-friendly group housing systems from illegal production.

The use of tethers for sows and gilts has been banned across the European Union since 1 January 2006.

Squirrels

Simon Hart: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason his Department's system of making grants available for landowners and landholders to encourage the control of rabbits and deer has not been extended to encourage the control of grey squirrels in a similar fashion. [137183]

Richard Benyon: Wildlife management is a devolved matter, therefore I can only answer with respect to the situation in England.

DEFRA does not provide funding for rabbit control. The Forestry Commission awards Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) funding for woodland management (including pest control) through the English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS). DEFRA is the managing authority for the RDPE and is responsible for its implementation under EU law. The EWGS provides funding for grey squirrel control where they threaten red squirrel populations and for deer management activities (including control) to help prevent woodland damage.

21 Jan 2013 : Column 90W

Temporary Employment

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what amount his Department spent on interim staff as defined by the National Audit Office in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [135168]

Richard Benyon: Details of expenditure on temporary staff are set out on page 47 of the Department's Annual Report and Accounts 2011-12:

http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/hc1213/hc00/0068/0068.pdf

These data are in line with the NAO definition.

The following account descriptors have been used to compile expenditure reported in the Annual Report and Accounts:

Casual staff;

Employer's national insurance contributions—casual staff;

Agency temps;

Contractors—management cover.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

British Indian Ocean Territory

Sir Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 15 January 2013, Official Report, column 656W, on British Indian Ocean Territory, if he will re-evaluate the feasibility of habitation of the outer islands in the British Indian Ocean Territory; and if he will agree in consultation with Chagossians to an independent study by international experts to report within 12 months on the practicalities of resettlement to these islands. [138393]

Mark Simmonds: In taking stock of our policy on resettlement, feasibility will be an important factor. We are still considering options and no time scale has yet been fixed. We will engage with Chagossian groups and all interested parties as we take this work forward.

Burma

Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage the Government of Burma to allow unhindered access for international humanitarian assistance to displaced peoples in all parts of Kachin State and Northern Shan State. [137608]

Mr Swire: We continue to call for unhindered humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas at every opportunity. During my visit to Burma in December, I urged the Burmese authorities to allow free and unhindered humanitarian access in Kachin and Northern Shan States. The British ambassador to Burma also met with senior members of the Burmese Government on Wednesday 16 January to raise our concerns about aid access.

In response to the increased need, the Department for International Development announced in December 2012 an additional £1.5 million of humanitarian support for people displaced by the conflict in Kachin, including

21 Jan 2013 : Column 91W

in hard to reach areas and neighbouring states, bringing our total humanitarian aid contribution to the conflict in Kachin to £3.5 million.

Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will introduce measures to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on the Government of Burma, if there is not an immediate cessation of the Burma Army's offensive in Kachin State. [137609]

Mr Swire: We continue to call for the cessation of violence in Kachin State at every opportunity. I raised these concerns with the Burmese authorities during my visit to Burma in December and our ambassador raised them again with senior members of the Burmese Government on 16 January 2013.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council will next review sanctions on Burma in April. The outcome of this review will depend on the progress that the Burmese Government has made against the benchmarks that were set out in the conclusions of the Council in January 2012. These included the need to see meaningful progress in the process of reconciliation with armed ethnic groups.

We welcome the progress made by the Government and 10 of 11 armed groups in agreeing ceasefires. However, as I said on 3 January, we remain deeply concerned by the ongoing conflict between the Burmese Army and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Burma's Kachin State, including recent reports of air strikes in the state. An escalation in hostilities would put at risk the chance of a lasting peace in Burma. It is imperative that military commanders in Burma heed their President's calls for an end to hostilities. It is important that all sides, including the KIA, come to the negotiating table and make renewed efforts to work towards lasting peace.

Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage the Government of Burma to work with independent, international monitors to (a) undertake a systematic review of all detainees, to assess the number of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience still in detention and (b) release all remaining political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. [137610]

Mr Swire: The British Government have made clear that all remaining political prisoners in Burma should be released. This was one of the three key conditions underpinning the suspension of EU sanctions in April 2012. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), raised the issue of political prisoners in his meeting with the Burmese Foreign Minister at the UN General Assembly in September 2012, and I raised our concerns again with the Burmese Foreign Minister during my visit to Burma in December 2012.

The Burmese Government have made progress on this issue. Several hundred political prisoners from Burma's jails were released in 2012, including prominent civil society and ethnic leaders, in a continuation of the trend from 2011. Independent reports indicate that around 200 political prisoners could remain in Burma's jails.

21 Jan 2013 : Column 92W

Following President Obama's visit to Burma in November 2012, the Burmese Government agreed to establish an independent political prisoner review mechanism to look at these remaining cases. We are in contact with them about this and are urging quick implementation. The Burmese Government also agreed with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that it would have access to Burmese jails, including full access to visit and assess prisoners, for the first time. British Government officials are in contact with the ICRC and with local prisoner networks to ascertain numbers of remaining political prisoner cases, most recently in January 2013, by meeting representatives of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).

Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with (a) his EU counterparts, (b) the US and (c) the Association of South-East Asian Nations, to co-ordinate an international response to the escalating conflict in Kachin State, Burma. [137611]

Mr Swire: The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), discussed the situation in Burma with Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Le Luong Minh on 13 December 2012. The situation in Kachin state was discussed on 15 January by UK, French, German, Italian and United States political directors, and representatives from the EU's External Action Service. This discussion included agreement on the importance of an enduring political solution to Burma's ethnic conflict. Official level discussions between the UK and US, and within the EU, cover the ethnic conflict in Burma on a regular basis.

The British ambassador to Burma, to whom I spoke on 21 January, is in regular contact with his US counterpart on a range of issues. They last discussed the situation in Kachin on 16 January.

Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Burma Army's air strikes in Kachin State. [137612]

Mr Swire: Our embassy in Rangoon discussed the situation in Kachin State with counterparts from the Chinese embassy on 16 January 2013. Our embassy emphasised our concern about the air strikes and urged a common message from the international community that the attacks should stop.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Director for Asia Pacific raised the prospect of further discussion with the MFA concerning the situation in Burma, during a meeting with officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Beijing on 15 January 2013.

Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage the Government of Burma to conduct a full review of the 1982 Citizenship Law, and to consider amending it in line with international human rights standards. [137613]

21 Jan 2013 : Column 93W

Mr Swire: I visited Burma, including Rakhine State, from 12 to 15 December 2012. During my discussions with the Burmese Government, both at the state and national level, I emphasised the British Government's position that, in the short term, the Burmese Government should ensure that humanitarian access and co-ordination are improved and that security is maintained. I also emphasised the British Government's position that, in the longer term, those responsible for the violence should be held accountable and that a solution should be found to the issue of Rohingya citizenship. These positions are also regularly made clear by the ambassador and British officials in Burma.

British officials in Burma have been liaising with the UN High Commission for Refugees, which is currently conducting a review into Burma's 1982 citizenship law and its conformity with international standards. We are also liaising with members of the Rakhine Investigative Commission set up by the Burmese Government, which is due to publish its final report in March 2013. We continue to urge the Burmese Government to reach a satisfactory solution to the issue of Rohingya citizenship through these efforts.

Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Burma in response to the Burma Army's recent aerial bombardment of the Kachin Independence Army. [137614]

Mr Swire: We continue to call for the cessation of violence in Kachin State at every opportunity.

Our ambassador to Burma raised these concerns again with senior members of the Burmese Government on 16 January.

During my visit to Burma in December, I made clear to the Burmese authorities the need to make progress on resolving the conflict in Kachin State and to move towards a lasting peaceful political settlement. In my public statement of 3 January, I expressed the British Government's deep concern over reports emerging from Kachin State that there had been an escalation in hostilities.


Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Secretary-General of the United Nations in response to the escalating conflict in Kachin State, Burma. [137616]

Mr Swire: We welcome the UN Secretary-General's statement of 2 January which took serious note of the most recent reports indicating air strikes against targets in Kachin State. On 3 January, I expressed our deep concern over reports emerging from Kachin State that there had been an escalation in hostilities.

The Secretary-General's Special Adviser, Mr Vijay Nambiar, visited Burma during week commencing 14 January. During the visit he met the Burmese Vice-President Dr Sai Mauk Kham and raised the situation in Kachin. We will request that Mr Nambiar brief the Security Council following his visit.

We have not had any recent discussion with the UN Secretary-General in respect of the escalating conflict in Kachin. On 28 September 2012 I attended a Friends

21 Jan 2013 : Column 94W

of Burma meeting hosted by the UN Secretary General in New York in which the situation in Kachin was discussed.


Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage the Government of Burma to undertake further legislative, constitutional, institutional and judicial reforms; and what recent assistance his Department has offered to this process. [137619]

Mr Swire: In response to a request from Aung San Suu Kyi, the UK Government have been supporting capacity building of the Burmese parliament. During 2012, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy carried out a scoping visit, and plans to support the administration of public financial scrutiny by sharing good practice from the UK Public Accounts Committee. In December 2012, a cross-party delegation of three Burmese MPs from the Draft Bills Committee visited London to spend time in the House of Commons and House of Lords and learn about the drafting and debating of UK law.

This work will be built upon in 2013 in conjunction with the Department for International Development and civil society partners, identifying areas which are priorities for the Burmese Parliament and its supporting institutions.

Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the judiciary in Burma; and what assessment he has made of the prospects for the creation and promotion of a genuine, independent judiciary in that country. [137620]

Mr Swire: The Burmese Government have emphasised that the establishment of rule of law is a priority in their reform process. Burma's problems with its judiciary are pronounced: partiality and inconsistency in sentencing is prevalent, as is corruption within the system. In addition, the institutions around the legal system and serving civil servants often lack the capacity to design and implement reform. The British Government remain committed to supporting the Burmese Government efforts to translate their commitment to reform into action.

The British Government have sought to utilise their experience and expertise in this area to help build the capacity of the Burmese legal system. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) organised a visit to Burma by the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute in July 2012, which produced a report prioritising areas of future support. The FCO has also provided funding this year to a British non-governmental organisation to provide a wide-ranging rule of law capacity building programme, as well as providing training for civil society advocacy groups and human rights defenders in effective policy and human rights advocacy.

The Department for International Development supports complementary rule of law programmes by non-government organisations, mobilising networks of legal professionals and legal aid practitioners within the Burmese legal system and supporting them with training.

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Mr Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to urge the Government of Burma to end their military offensive in Kachin and Northern Shan states and engage in a political dialogue and a peace process with the Kachin Independence Organisation. [137621]

Mr Swire: We continue to call for the cessation of violence in Kachin at every opportunity. In my public statement of 3 January, I expressed the British Government's deep concern over the situation in Kachin State.

Our ambassador to Burma raised these concerns with senior members of the Burmese Government on 16 January. During my visit in December, I made clear to the Burmese authorities the need to make progress on resolving the conflict in Kachin State and to move towards a lasting peaceful political settlement.

Mr Burrowes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage the Government of Burma to sign, ratify and implement those core international human rights treaties to which Burma is not yet a party. [137824]

Mr Swire: The UK Government regularly raise human rights with our Burmese counterparts, making clear that progress on human rights is one of the key benchmarks for judging the depth of the reform process currently under way in Burma.

During my visit to Burma from 12 to 15 December 2012, I raised a number of human rights issues, including pressing the Burmese Government to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) requesting their support for the Foreign Secretary's initiative on preventing sexual violence in conflict. Senior British officials, including our ambassador to Burma, continue to raise with the Burmese Government Burma's signature of the ICCPR, the Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol, and the UN Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

We continue to lobby the Burmese Government to fulfil the commitment they made in November 2012 to open an Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which would monitor and help Burmese's implementation of international human rights treaties.

Mr Burrowes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will consider working with other EU member states to halt the relaxation of economic sanctions and new trade and investment in Burma if there is not an immediate cessation of the Burma Army's offensive in Kachin State. [137827]

Mr Swire: We continue to call for the cessation of violence in Kachin State at every opportunity. I raised these concerns with the Burmese authorities during my visit to Burma in December and our ambassador raised them again with senior members of the Burmese Government on 16 January.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council will review sanctions on Burma in April 2013. In January 2012 EU Foreign Ministers agreed to measure progress in line with a number of benchmarks set out in EU Council Conclusions. These included the need for a credible process of

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reconciliation with armed ethnic groups, unhindered humanitarian access to conflict areas, the free and fair conduct of by-elections in April 2012 and the unconditional release of all political prisoners.

As the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), said during a House of Commons debate on 15 January, any decision on sanctions will depend on the progress that has been made by Burma against these benchmarks, including in Kachin State. We will be consulting our EU colleagues over the coming months ahead of the April review.

Burundi

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the preparedness of Burundi to join the Commonwealth. [137574]

Mark Simmonds: We understand that Burundi has lodged with the Commonwealth Secretariat an expression of its interest in joining the Commonwealth. We welcome applications from countries which can meet the necessary requirements and demonstrate a dedication to the Commonwealth's core values, particularly in relation to human rights, good governance and rule of law. Applications are a matter for the Commonwealth Secretariat, and decisions are made by consensus of the Heads of all member states.

Commonwealth Business Council

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to promote the work of the Commonwealth Business Council. [138495]

Mr Swire: UK Ministers have spoken at events organised by the Commonwealth Business Council to encourage intra-Commonwealth trade and promote trade and investment in the UK. Most recently, in May 2012, the then Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my noble Friend, Lord Howell of Guildford, and the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, my noble Friend, Lord Green, spoke at the Africa Day Business Roundtable. In October 2011, Lord Howell and Lord Green spoke at the Commonwealth Business Forum in Perth.

Israel

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has raised concerns about child prisoners with the Israeli Government since May 2010. [137576]

Alistair Burt: Our officials in Israel have repeatedly expressed our concerns about children in detention to the Israeli authorities. We welcomed Israel's decision in 2011 to raise the age of legal majority for Palestinian children in the Israeli military justice system, a step we had advocated. I have since raised the implementation of this decision with the Israel ambassador.

In addition, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office funded and facilitated a report by leading British lawyers, including Baroness Scotland. We welcome their independent

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report entitled “Children in military custody” and share many of the concerns contained in it. We have passed the report to the UK authorities. I have written to the Israeli ambassador to London to urge Israel to take action on the report. During his visit to Israel in November 2012, the Attorney-General, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) discussed the report with the Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and other senior interlocutors. Mr Weinstein agreed to further talks between UK and British legal experts on the subject. This followed previous discussions between the British embassy in Tel Aviv and the Israeli authorities on this and other recommendations made in the June 2012 report.

In the meantime I welcome some small steps taken by the Israeli authorities. These include a recent Israeli military order which reduces the length of time children can be held in pre-trial detention and an announcement in December by the Israeli State Attorney reducing, from April, the period a Palestinian minor falling under the jurisdiction of the West Bank military court system can be held before being brought before a judge.

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times he has met the Israeli Foreign Secretary in the last year. [137586]

Alistair Burt: The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) met with the Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, twice in 2012 on 22 May and 3 July.

In addition I met with Mr Lieberman once in 2012 on 21 November.

Mali

Richard Fuller: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether his Department's Preventing Sexual Violence team will be deployed in Mali. [137674]

Mark Simmonds: Mali is a rapidly developing situation and we are engaging with regional partners and the UN regarding the protection of civilians including women. Following the first deployment of Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) experts in December 2012 to the Syria region, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is developing other PSVI deployment opportunities. This involves identifying with national governments, non-government organisations and international partners, particularly the UN, where and how the UK team of experts can add most value. While there are no current plans to deploy the team to Mali, we will continue to monitor the situation and remain ready to act should the appropriate mandate and opportunity be present.

Occupied Territories

Nicholas Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his European Union counterparts on the possible imposition of sanctions against Israel following the Israeli Government's recent decision to extend the construction of new settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. [137626]

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Alistair Burt: Our position on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is clear: they are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and make a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, harder to achieve. We consistently urge the Israeli authorities to cease all settlement building and to remove illegal outposts, as required under international law and in fulfilment of Israel's obligations under the Roadmap.

We do not hesitate to express disagreement to Israel over action to expand, create, or entrench settlements, whenever we feel it necessary. We understand the frustration felt by many when Israel fails to heed our and others' concerns over various aspects of the Occupation, including settlement building. Nonetheless, in line with our wish to maintain and further strengthen the UK's close ties with Israel, the Government oppose sanctions against, or boycotts of, Israel.

Any decision about any other measures the UK might take will depend on the outcome of our discussions with the Israeli Government and with international partners including the US and European Union.

Nicholas Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what response he has made to the Israeli Government's recent decision to extend the construction of new Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; and if he will make a statement. [137627]

Alistair Burt: The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), outlined concern about recent Israeli settlement announcements during his meeting with Israeli Chief Negotiator, Yitzhak Molcho, on 20 December 2012.

On 18 December, the Foreign Secretary issued a statement condemning the decision by the Jerusalem District Planning Board to give approval for a plan to build 1,500 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ramat Shlomo. He urged Israel to reverse this decision and take no further steps aimed at expanding or entrenching settlement activity.

On 26 December, I also condemned the Jerusalem District Planning Board's recent approvals for over 3,150 units in Givaat Hamatos and 1,242 units in Mordot Gilo South. I made clear that these were profoundly provocative actions that run contrary to the Fourth Geneva convention.

Our embassy in Tel Aviv continues to make our concerns on this issue clear to the Israeli authorities.

Overseas Students: Scholarships

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to promote scholarships for Commonwealth citizens to study in the UK. [138298]

Mr Lidington: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office continues to fund Chevening Scholarships, the UK Government's global scholarship programme. The programme, which began in 1983, is aimed at educating and building lasting relationships with future leaders

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and decision-makers in a wide range of fields. It funds 700 postgraduate students each year from 116 countries and territories.

Commonwealth countries form a key part of the Chevening programme and there were over 200 students from Commonwealth countries in 2012-13. A total of 198 scholarships were awarded to citizens of Commonwealth countries in 2011-12, approximately a third of the total intake for that year.

Palestinians

Mr Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of attempts at political reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. [138573]

Alistair Burt: We continue to follow closely developments regarding the issue of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, including the recent meeting between President Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mesh'al in Cairo on 9 January. The British Government's position and that of the EU remains that Palestinian reconciliation, if agreed on the basis of the principles set out by President Abbas in his speech of 4 May 2011, would be a positive step for the unity of a future Palestinian state and for reaching a two state solution.

Turkmenistan

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of UK relations with Turkmenistan. [137573]

Mr Lidington: The UK has a good relationship with Turkmenistan, and we are working to develop it further.

Turkmenistan has the world's fourth largest reserves of natural gas, which could make an important contribution to EU energy security and offer significant commercial opportunities for UK companies. In recognition of that potential, the Prime Minster has appointed my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry), as Trade Envoy with responsibility for Turkmenistan as well as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. He will lead his first trade mission to Ashgabat this month.

Turkmenistan can play an important role in underpinning long-term stability in Afghanistan, a UK priority. The Turkmen already provide valuable humanitarian assistance to the north-west region and promote the Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India (TAPI) gas pipeline.

The UK will continue to work on all aspects of the bilateral agenda, including supporting progress in Turkmenistan on much needed human rights and other reforms.

Treasury

Excise Duties: Alcoholic Drinks

Dan Rogerson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much was paid out through the alcohol drawback duty regime in (a) 2009, (b) 2010 and (c) 2011. [138477]

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Sajid Javid: The drawback figures for the period(s) in question are:

 Total alcohol drawback (£)

2008-09

73,391,279

2009-10

84,018,360

2010-11

110,293,984

2011-12

93,205,1.60

Excise Duties: Fuels

Dr Offord: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment his Department has made of the effects of the cancellation of the scheduled fuel duty rise. [138591]

Sajid Javid: The Government's autumn statement of 5 December 2012, Official Report, columns 871-82, announcement on fuel duty provides support for motorists and businesses. Cancelling the 3p increase will save a typical motorist £40 per year and a typical haulier £1,200 per year. As a result of the repeated action by the Government, average pump prices will remain at least 10p per litre lower than if we had stuck with the previous Government's plans for the remainder of this Parliament.