Scotland

Billing

Mike Freer: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what the average cost to his Department was of processing the payment of an invoice in the latest period for which figures are available; and what proportion of invoices settled in that period his Department paid (a) electronically and (b) by cheque. [162639]

8 July 2013 : Column 31W

David Mundell: The Scotland Office does not maintain a central record of what the average cost to the Department was of processing the payment of an invoice. In May 2013, the Scotland Office paid 96.4% of invoices within five days, of which 97.6% were paid electronically and 2.4% by cheque.

MITIE Group

Mr Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much his Department spends on contracts with MITIE; and how much was spent on contracts with MITIE in each year since 2008. [162471]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office does not have any direct contracts with MITIE. Other than minor or bespoke purchases, the Scotland Office does not undertake direct procurement or tendering projects. It utilises existing service contracts between suppliers and the Scottish Government or the Ministry of Justice.

The Scotland Office spend with MITIE through such service contracts since 2008 is shown in the following table:

 Spend (£)

2008-09

0

2009-10

0

2010-11

14,697

2011-12

30,882

2012-13

87,619

Press: Subscriptions

Mike Freer: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much his Department spent on newspapers, periodicals and trade publications in the last 12 months. [162657]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office spent £5,709.45 on newspapers, periodicals and trade publications in the last 12 months.

Serco

Mr Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much his Department currently spends on contracts with Serco; and how much was spent in each year since 2008. [162944]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office does not have any direct contracts with Serco. Other than minor or bespoke purchases, the Scotland Office does not undertake direct procurement or tendering projects. It utilises existing service contracts between suppliers and the Scottish Government or the Ministry of Justice.

The Scotland Office spend with Serco through such service contracts since 2008 is shown in the following table:

 Spend (£)

2008-09

23,352

2009-10

24,822

2010-11

4,075

2011-12

0

2012-13

0

8 July 2013 : Column 32W

Sickness Absence

Mike Freer: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many days on average staff of his Department in each pay grade were absent from work as a result of ill health in each of the last 12 months. [162589]

David Mundell: For the calendar year 2012, the average number of days lost per person was 0.7 days.

As Scotland Office staff numbers are small, providing a breakdown by grade could lead to the identification of an individual.

Social Networking

Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list all Twitter accounts for which officials of his Department (a) have had and (b) currently have responsibility for (i) monitoring and (ii) updating. [163559]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office has one Twitter [email protected]

Staff

Mike Freer: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much his Department spent on (a) recruitment agency fees, (b) outplacement agency fees for displaced or redundant staff and (c) staff training in each of the last 12 months. [162621]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office spend on recruitment agency fees and staff training is set out in the following table. No costs were incurred on outplacement agency fees for displaced or redundant staff.

£
 Agency feesTraining

2012

  

June

2,124

789

July

11,883

246

August

4,415

2,241

September

2,543

455

October

4,939

2,252

November

4,047

0

December

4,878

1,121

   

2013

  

January

4,937

25

February

3,978

1,081

March

7,058

703

April

4,200

1,025

May

5,974

650

Vacancies

Mike Freer: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what his Department's vacancy rate was in 2012-13; and what vacancy rate has been assumed for 2013-14. [162675]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office keeps its staffing complement under constant review to ensure that the most efficient use is made of public resources.

8 July 2013 : Column 33W

The staff vacancy rate for 2012-13 was 5.8 posts. We have assumed a rate of 2.5% of annual salary costs for 2013-14.

Communities and Local Government

Spending Review

20. Mr Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the potential effect on local authority services of the decisions announced in the spending review 2013. [163444]

Brandon Lewis: The spending round announcement is a fair deal for councils and council tax payers. We are putting in place powerful incentives to enable local government to transform local services—including £3.8 billion to drive the integration of health and social care—and help pay down Labour's deficit.

Families in Temporary Accommodation

23. John Woodcock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent estimate he has made of the number of families with children living in temporary accommodation. [163447]

Mr Prisk: On 31 April this year there were 40,450 families with children in temporary accommodation. Under the last Government the number reached 74,180.

Local Plans

24. Chris White: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps he is taking to ensure that local plans reflect public consultation. [163448]

Nick Boles: Extensive public consultation is an essential part of plan-making. The Localism Act 2011 strengthened the power of elected councillors to determine where and how development should take place in their area.

Rent Arrears

25. Natascha Engel: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate he has made of the level of rent arrears owed to local authorities and registered social landlords following the introduction of the under-occupancy penalty. [163449]

Mr Prisk: The Government is closely monitoring the situation and has commissioned an independent evaluation. We expect the interim findings to be published early next year.

Troubled Families Programme

Ann Coffey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent representations he has received about the troubled families programme. [163439]

8 July 2013 : Column 34W

Mr Pickles: I frequently receive positive feedback from councils across the country on the work of the Troubled Families programme. I have recently visited Wandsworth and Leicestershire to see for myself the fantastic progress being made to help families turn their lives around.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many families have been helped through the Troubled Families programme involving children with (a) truanting problems and (b) mental health problems. [163780]

Brandon Lewis: My Department does not currently hold information specifically relating to families helped through the Troubled Families programme involving children with (a)truanting problems and (b) mental health problems.

There are over 35,000 families currently being worked with in the Government's Troubled Families programme.

Persistent unauthorised absence is one of the programme's national eligibility criteria; mental health problems are not. Local areas can, however, also use locally determined criteria to help them identify families causing high costs to the public purse and, anecdotally, we understand that some local authorities have used this local discretion to include families where mental health problems are an issue.

Further information on these issues will be gathered through our independent national evaluation and be made available in due course. Further information on the evaluation can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/study-to-assess-impact-of-troubled-families-work

Community Rights

Stuart Andrew: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps he is taking to promote the take-up of the new community rights in the Localism Act 2011. [163445]

Mr Foster: Community rights are being promoted through local, national, social and consumer media, ministerial visits, conferences and workshops, and through our external partners like Locality, CAMRA and Supporters Direct. I am also discussing a cross-government campaign combining community rights and volunteering with No. 10 and the Cabinet Office.

Devolution

Margaret Curran: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will place in the Library any concordats which his Department or the public bodies for which he is responsible have with the devolved Administrations. [163146]

Brandon Lewis: The Memorandum of Understanding and Supplementary Agreements, agreed in September 2012, set out principles which underlie the relationship between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These documents are available in the Library of the House.

8 July 2013 : Column 35W

The Department for Communities and Local Government does not have current concordats with counterparts in the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, officials are currently in the process of drawing up a concordat with the devolved Administration of Wales, reflecting a greater degree of overlap on policy and legislation under the devolved settlement than the other constituent parts of the United Kingdom.

We will check whether public bodies have concordats with the devolved Administrations and these, or links to them, will be placed in the Library of the House in due course

Empty Property: Non-domestic Rates

Gordon Henderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether he has any plans to review the policy of not charging business rates on empty listed commercial buildings. [163201]

Brandon Lewis: Listed buildings are exempt from empty property rates. The Government have no plans to change this position.

More generally, the Government announced in the autumn statement, 5 December 2012, Official Report, columns 871-82, that, subject to consultation, they will exempt all newly built commercial property completed between 1 October 2013 and 30 September 2016 from empty property rates for the first 18 months, up to the state aids limits. The consultation ‘Business Rates—New Build Empty Property Technical Consultation', published on 12 June 2013, sets out the Government's proposals for the delivery of that policy and seeks consultees' views upon them.

Fire Services

Mrs Lewell-Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps his Department is taking to ensure that there are enough suitable redeployment roles for fire and rescue service workers who no longer meet the physical standards for operational roles. [163172]

Brandon Lewis: Both fitness standards and the employment and redeployment of fire and rescue workers are operational matters for individual fire and rescue authorities as employers.

Mrs Lewell-Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when his Department plans to publish its response to the December 2012 report entitled Normal Pension Age For Firefighters: A review for the Firefighters' Pension Committee. [163179]

Brandon Lewis: The Normal Pension Age for Firefighters report contains a number of recommendations which I am currently considering carefully. The Government's response will be published shortly.

Chris Williamson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will review the lessons of the fire at Smethwick on 1-2 July 2013 for the adequacy of current and planned levels of fire and rescue resources nationally. [163610]

8 July 2013 : Column 36W

Brandon Lewis [holding answer 5 July 2013]: Firefighters did an excellent job dealing with the Smethwick fire and the cause will be thoroughly investigated by West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority. All fires, no matter the size, can have a serious impact, but fire and rescue authorities are resourced to deal with a wide range of emergencies. The Chief Fire Officer of the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service, was satisfied that he had enough resources at his disposal to stop the fire spreading to adjacent buildings and deal effectively with the fire.

There are statutory requirements under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 for neighbouring fire and rescue authorities to enter into agreements to provide mutual assistance for major incidents such as the Smethwick fire. These worked well at this blaze and should continue to do so in future.

Non-domestic Rates

Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the effect of business rates on high street retailers. [162739]

Mr Prisk [holding answer 1 July 2013]: The business rates system in Scotland is a matter for the Scottish Government.

We keep all taxes under review in England and have already taken action on business rates, while recognising the need to tackle the deficit left by the last Administration.

We have made it easier for small firms to get the small business rate relief to which they are entitled. Our reforms in the Localism Act 2011 ensure all eligible ratepayers can automatically receive the small business multiplier, and we have removed the legal red tape requiring ratepayers to fill in significant paperwork to claim the relief. The last Administration failed to support simplification to help small firms when they were in office (q.v. 6 March 2009, Official Report, columns 1141-2).

In turn, we have also doubled the small business rate relief scheme, to help half a million small firms. From October 2010 to April 2014, small firms are receiving 100% rate relief (i.e. pay no business rates at all) on properties up to £6,000 rateable value, and a tapered rate relief from £6,000 to £12,000. An estimated 330,000 small firms are paying no rates at all.

The Localism Act also gives councils the power to introduce local discounts to business rates. Under the new system of local retention of business rates introduced by the Local Government Finance Act 2012, central Government now fund 50% of the cost of any local discount granted. We would encourage local authorities to make creative and constructive use of these new powers.

There has been no real terms increase in overall business rates bills, as the multiplier is linked to inflation.

Sky Lanterns

Mr Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will bring forward legislative proposals to ban the use of Chinese lanterns. [163192]

8 July 2013 : Column 37W

Brandon Lewis: I refer the right hon. Member to the answer given by the Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for employment relations and consumer affairs, the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), on 4 July 2013, Official Report, column 775W.

We must await the outcome of the investigation into the cause of the fire on 30 June at the J&A Young recycling plant, Smethwick, Birmingham—then consider whether action is necessary. We should guard against knee-jerk reactions without knowing all the facts.

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what consideration he has given to banning Chinese lanterns; and what assessment his Department has made of whether Chinese lanterns are a safety hazard. [163283]

Brandon Lewis: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Minister of State with responsibility for employment relations and consumer affairs, the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), on 4 July 2013, Official Report, column 775W.

We must await the outcome of the investigation into the cause of the fire on 30 June at the J&A Young recycling plant, Smethwick, Birmingham—then consider whether action is necessary. We should guard against knee-jerk reactions without knowing all the facts.

In the last four years, English fire and rescue services have reported only one incident caused by a sky lantern that resulted in significant damage to an outbuilding. In 2012-13, English fire and rescue services attended over 100,000 outdoor fire incidents (grassland/woodland etc), of which sky lanterns were potentially responsible for around 200 fires (0.2% of all outdoor fires), none of which caused substantial damage.

Sleeping Rough

Dan Jarvis: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent estimate he has made of the number of people sleeping rough in (a) Barnsley Central constituency, (b) South Yorkshire, (c) England and (d) the UK. [163672]

Mr Prisk [holding answer 5 July 2013]: The most recent numbers of people counted or estimated as sleeping rough in local authority areas in England relate to autumn 2012, when each local authority produced figures for a single night between 1 October and 30 November. These are available at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rough-sleeping-in-england-autumn-2012

The closest available information for the areas requested is given in the following table:

 Estimated/counted number of rough sleepers, Autumn 2012

Barnsley Council

5

South Yorkshire(1)

22

England

2,309

(1) Comprises Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Source: DCLG rough sleeping form

The Barnsley Central constituency falls wholly within the area of Barnsley council. The area of Barnsley council

8 July 2013 : Column 38W

also includes parts of Penistone and Stocksbridge, Wentworth and Dearne, and Barnsley East constituencies.

Figures for the rest of the United Kingdom are a matter for each devolved Administration, although web-links to relevant information for Scotland and Wales are given on page 9 of the statistical release available at the web-link above.

Figures for autumn 2013 are due to be published in February 2014.

The Government are providing £470 million to local authorities and the voluntary sector to tackle and prevent homelessness including rough sleeping.

Social Rented Housing: Barnsley

Michael Dugher: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what proportion of the social housing in Barnsley East constituency is currently unoccupied. [160676]

Mr Prisk: Data for Barnsley East constituency are not collected centrally. The constituency falls within the local authority district of Barnsley.

Data on dwelling stock by tenure and district can be found in live table 100 at the following link. Taken together, the local authority and private registered provider tenures comprise the social housing dwelling stock.

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-dwelling-stock-including-vacants

Data on vacant dwellings by tenure and district can be found in live table 615 at the same link. This table brings together figures on vacant dwellings in England drawn from several separately published sources.

A comparison of the latest available figures shows the proportion of the social housing dwelling stock that is vacant in Barnsley as at 1 April 2012 and can be seen in the following table.

I also refer the hon. Member to the answer of 11 December 2012, Official Report,House of Lords, column WA219. on the steps this Government have taken to help get empty homes back into use.

Table 1. Vacant dwellings as a percentage of dwelling stock, social housing tenures, Barnsley local authority district, 1 April 2012
 Local authorityPrivate registered provider(1, 2)Total social housing

Vacant dwellings

146

35

181

Dwelling stock

19,100

3,220

22,320

Vacant dwellings as a percentage of dwelling stock

0.76

1.09

0.81

(1 )Private registered providers refers to private registered providers of social housing in England that are registered with the social housing regulator (Homes and Community Agency's Regulation Committee). This term excludes local authority registered providers. (2 )The figures in this table relate only to general needs self-contained social rent housing. Supported housing and/or housing for older people rental stock, which represents just under 20% of all private registered provider rental stock in 2010, is excluded. This is because the data return collects most information by private registered provider rather than geographic area. Only a subset of information is broken down by geographic area and this includes the number of vacant units of general needs self-contained stock but not the number of vacant units of supported housing or housing for older people. A small number of bed spaces owned by small private registered providers may also be included. Source: Department for Communities and Local Government, Homes and Communities Agency.

8 July 2013 : Column 39W


International Development

Burma

Alex Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance her Department provides to communities impoverished by land confiscation in Burma. [163500]

Mr Duncan: DFID is working with civil society organisations to help establish procedures which will grant individuals access to legal aid over land disputes. DFID is also working through the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund with United Nations Habitat to pilot mapping technology, linked to the registration and digitisation of land ownership records, and to help design a land reform agenda. This agenda will include rules on who can use different types of land, for how long and under what conditions, along with clarity on how the rules will be applied and monitored.

Naomi Long: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance the Government provide to ethnic Rohingya from Burma who have fled to Bangladesh. [163657]

Mr Duncan: DFID provides core contributions to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which manages the official camps for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, as well as to other organisations that provide support including the European Commission. This support includes providing shelter, access to water and sanitation, vocational training and food supplies to malnourished refugees. We have raised with the Government of Bangladesh the plight of the Rohingyas and their status.

Palestinians

Mr Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much aid her Department contributes annually to (a) Palestinian Authority Television (PATV) and (b) the PATV programme, For You. [163266]

Mr Duncan: UK aid does not fund Palestine TV programming.

Some civil servants working for Palestine TV may be eligible beneficiaries for our direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The list of approved recipients is subject to vetting processes and does not include PA employees who are on international and ad-hoc sanctions lists.

Social Networking

Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will list all Twitter accounts for which officials of her Department (a) have had and (b) currently have responsibility for (i) monitoring and (ii) updating. [163555]

Justine Greening: DFID is currently responsible for monitoring and updating the following corporate Twitter accounts: @DFID_UK, @DFID_Press, @DFlDNepal, @DFIDEthiopia, @DFID_PSD, @DFID_Growth, @DFID_research. The @sudanunit Twitter account is jointly managed with the Foreign Office. Mark Lowcock,

8 July 2013 : Column 40W

DFID’s permanent secretary, tweets from @DFID_Mark and Michael Anderson, DFID’s director-general for policy and global issues, tweets from @DFIDMichael.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Devolution

Margaret Curran: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library any concordats which his Department or the public bodies for which he is responsible have with the devolved Administrations. [163151]

Mr Lidington: The Memorandum of Understanding and Supplementary Agreements, agreed last September, set out principles which underlie the relationship between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These documents are available in the Library. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not have any concordats with the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, nor does any of the public bodies for which it is responsible.

The British Council, a non-departmental public body for which the FCO is responsible, does however have a concordat with the National Assembly for Wales to support the working relationship between the National Assembly and the British Council in Wales. A copy of this will be placed in the Library.

Israel

Nia Griffith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what discussions he had with the Israeli Attorney-General in June 2013 on implementing measures to require audio-visual recordings of all interrogations of Palestinian children by the Israeli military and to make these available to the children's lawyers; [163691]

(2) what discussions he had with the Israeli Attorney-General on putting an end to the Israeli military practice of arresting Palestinian children by night; [163692]

(3) what recent discussions he had with the Israeli Attorney-General on ending the Israeli military practice of shackling Palestinian children; [163693]

(4) what recent discussions he had with the Israeli Attorney-General on ending the practice of keeping Palestinian children in solitary confinement while in Israeli military custody; [163694]

(5) what recent discussions he had with the Israeli Attorney-General on ending the practice of transferring Palestinian children from the west bank to military custody in Israel. [163695]

Alistair Burt: On 20 June, I met with Israeli Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He was accompanied by a senior delegation, including Deputy Attorney-General Shai Nitzan and the Israeli ambassador to London. We discussed a range of issues including the treatment of children in detention, the use of live fire in the Gaza buffer zone and in dealing with non-violent protests and demolition of Palestinian property.

8 July 2013 : Column 41W

On the question of child detainees we discussed the recommendations in Baroness Scotland's report. I welcomed steps that Israel has taken of late to reduce the gap between provisions for Israeli and Palestinian children including: raising the age of majority to 18; reducing the time period by which an arrested minor must be brought before a judge, formalising the right of a parent/guardian to be present in court; and introducing a special court for minors.

We also discussed the need for further progress. In particular, building on the report's recommendations, we believe it is important to ensure: systematic use of audio-visual recording when questioning children; an end to solitary confinement for children; and notification of arrest in Arabic to parents/guardians so that they can support children in the legal process. My officials continue to discuss these points with the Israeli authorities.

Sir Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of nuclear warheads possessed by Israel; and if he will make a statement. [163762]

Alistair Burt: We have regular discussions with the Government of Israel on a wide range of nuclear-related issues. Israel has not declared a nuclear weapons programme. We encourage Israel to sign up to the non-proliferation treaty and call on it to agree a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Sir Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of (a) British citizens and (b) people categorised for purposes of evacuation as entitled persons living in Israel. [163763]

Alistair Burt: All of our diplomatic missions across the world hold contingency plans in case of emergencies. We recommend that British nationals stay up to date with our Travel Advice. The support we provide for British nationals is outlined in our ‘support for British nationals abroad—a guide', which is available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-british-nationals-abroad-a-guide

As part of their contingency planning all posts make an assessment of the numbers of British nationals in country based on a range of sources, such as information from the local Interior and Tourist Ministries and other publically available data. Around 320,000 British nationals travel to Israel each year and approximately 40,000 British nationals live and work there. Further figures can be found on the website of Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics:

http://www1.cbs.gov.il/reader/?MIval=cw_usr_view_ SHTML&ID=432

The FCO no longer asks British nationals travelling overseas to register with us on a ‘just in case' basis. In the event of a crisis British nationals will still be able to log their details with the FCO and the FCO crisis hotline can be used by people to tell us that they need our help.

8 July 2013 : Column 42W

Occupied Territories

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 17 June 2013, Official Report, columns 488-9W, on Occupied Territories, what information his Department holds on how many occasions Israel has provided disaggregated statistics to the OECD for areas Israel occupied since 1967; and on how many occasions the OECD has requested such disaggregated data. [163844]

Alistair Burt: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office holds no information on how many occasions Israel has provided disaggregated statistics to the OECD for areas Israel occupied since 1967. How many occasions the OECD has requested such data is a question for the OECD.

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 17 June 2013, Official Report, columns 488-9W, on Occupied Territories; what assessment he has made of whether the Government's acceptance of Israeli statistics to the OECD, which do not distinguish between Israel and areas occupied since 1967, is compliant with the UK's international law obligations, including the duty of non-recognition. [163854]

Alistair Burt: This is a matter for the OECD—there is no process by which the British Government formally accept OECD statistics. We have repeatedly condemned Israel's announcements to expand settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem. As well as being illegal under international law, settlements undermine the possibility of a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and those working for a sustainable peace.

Palestinians

Mr Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to his Palestinian counterpart about Palestinian Authority Television broadcasting songs identifying Israeli cities as Palestinian. [163265]

Alistair Burt: Recent reports have concluded that both parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict need to do more to promote a positive portrayal of each other, reflecting the principles of co-existence, tolerance, justice and human dignity. The UK regularly condemns incitement and registers our concerns with both sides.

While we have raised previous concerns with Palestinian TV, we have not raised this specific allegation. Palestine TV is not an official station of the Palestinian Authority (PA). But it is subject to official directives that make clear that it must avoid any programme content that endorses or propagates violence. We do not believe that the reports in question bring into question the PA's commitment to a two state solution and its often repeated recognition of the state of Israel.

Dr Offord: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Palestinian Authority on its use of maps depicting a state of Palestine replacing Israel. [163422]

8 July 2013 : Column 43W

Alistair Burt: Our officials raise instances of incitement with both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel whenever we feel this appropriate. There is a profound need for both the Israeli and Palestinian sides to do more to promote a positive portrayal of each other, reflecting the principles of co-existence, tolerance, justice and human dignity. We do not believe that the reports in question bring into question the PA's commitment to a two state solution and its often repeated recognition of the state of Israel.

Religious Freedom

Naomi Long: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will appoint an official of his Department of equivalent seniority to an ambassador to have lead responsibility for freedom of religion and belief. [162539]

Mr Lidington: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) already has an ambassadorial-level official who is responsible for ensuring the mainstreaming of freedom of religion or belief, along with all the FCO's human rights priorities, across the FCO. The FCO Minister responsible for freedom of religion or belief is the Senior Minister of State, my noble Friend the right hon. Baroness Warsi; she has made this portfolio a personal priority.

Naomi Long: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy to assess the effect or his Department's policies on promoting freedom of religion and belief. [163176]

Mr Lidington: Foreign and Commonwealth Office policy is to review regularly the work we do, including on freedom of religion or belief. At the UN later this year we plan to review the effectiveness of combined international efforts and assess how we can further promote the freedom of religion or belief.

Vending Machines

Debbie Abrahams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many vending machines in his Department's premises contain snack foods that are high in calories and low in nutritional value. [163852]

Mr Lidington: There are a total of three vending machines in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) premises in the UK estate. To provide information for the FCO's overseas network would incur disproportionate cost. The vending machines sell a range of snacks and drinks which reflect consumer choice. Full guideline daily amounts (GDA) information is displayed on the packaging of each item.

Business, Innovation and Skills

Bankruptcy

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many businesses were declared bankrupt in (a) York, (b) Yorkshire and the Humber and (c) England in each year since 2008-09. [163886]

8 July 2013 : Column 44W

Jo Swinson: Official statistics covering corporate insolvencies for England and Wales are not currently available at sub-national level. Individual insolvency statistics are available down to the level of Westminster parliamentary constituencies.

Quarterly totals for corporate insolvencies in England and Wales are presented in the Quarterly Insolvency Statistics, the latest publication of which can be found on the Insolvency Service website here:

http://www.insolvencydirect.bis.gov.uk/otherinformation/statistics/insolvency-statistics.htm

Regional individual insolvency statistics, annually from 2000 to 2011, are available down to local authority level here:

http://www.insolvencydirect.bis.gov.uk/otherinformation/statistics/regionalstatisticsmenu.htm

and an update to these statistics, including data for 2012, will be published 12 July 2013 on the Insolvency Service website.

The statistics down to Westminster parliamentary constituency level have been placed with the House of Commons Library and will be updated when population data for 2012 are available.

Beekeeping: Training

Jim Shannon: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will discuss with agricultural colleges steps to encourage the provision of courses for beekeepers at those colleges. [162602]

Mr Heath: I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Skills are a devolved matter. The Government's reforms in England are giving colleges the freedom and flexibility to create a dynamic skills system where learners, businesses and others can shape provision to their needs. As part of a demand-led skills system, Lantra, the Sector Skills Council and Awarding Organisation for land-based industries, has developed a Level 1 Award in Introduction to Beekeeping (QCF) with the British Beekeepers Association. This qualification was approved by Ofqual in July 2011. Lantra is encouraging and supporting learning providers to deliver this regulated qualification for those entering the industry. A number of learning providers also run short, unaccredited, introductory courses in beekeeping.

The Healthy Bees Plan is a 10-year plan launched in 2009 to protect and improve the health of honey bees in England and Wales. A key objective of the plan is to improve beekeeper husbandry skills. DEFRA is working in partnership with bee stakeholders to deliver this through a co-ordinated training and education programme. Some funds are available through the Plan for stakeholders to develop and deliver education initiatives. These include City and Guilds 7303 train the trainer course, new training materials and the Bee Farmers Association's apprenticeship scheme. Applications have been taken on a case-by-case basis, assessed by the Bee Health Advisory Forum and measured against their potential to deliver on key performance indicators of the plan.

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Business: York

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many businesses in York received Enterprise Finance Guarantee loans from the Government between (a) May 2011 and May 2012 and (b) between May 2012 and May 2013; and what the total monetary value of the loans guaranteed was in each case. [163896]

Michael Fallon: Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) loans are provided by participating banks with the support of a Government guarantee.

For the period May 2011 to May 2012, 12 businesses in York were offered EFG loans with a total value of £2.6 million. 10 loans were drawn down with a total value of £2.6 million.

For the period May 2012 and May 2013, 19 businesses in York were offered EFG loans with a total value of £1.8 million. 17 loans were drawn down with a total value of £1.4 million.

The number of Enterprise Finance Guarantee loans drawn in York between May 2011 and April 2012 was10 with a value of £2.6 million. Between May 2012 and April 2013 17 loans were drawn with a value of £1.4 million.

Companies House

Mr Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what the average (a) time taken to open the post upon receipt of a letter and (b) time to process and action a letter for Companies House was in each of the last eight quarters; and if he will make a statement. [163644]

Michael Fallon: Due to large volume Companies House measures its post by weight; it receives approximately 420 kilos of mail a day (a figure which is declining as more documents are filed electronically) made up of letters and statutory documents; 95% of this is opened on the same day. The chief executive has a public target of no more than 10 working days to respond to letters, a target which has been consistently met. Companies House's public target summary can be found on its website at:

http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/about/publicTargets .shtml

Typically, Companies House responds to a letter within five working days and an e-mail within 48 hours. If a letter relates to an appeal against a late filing penalty it may take longer, depending on the complexity of the appeal. Most written communication from Companies House's customers is now sent by e-mail rather than through the post.

All of these targets have been the same for each of the last eight quarters.

Companies: Annual Reports

Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills who the members are of groups established by the Financial Reporting Council to consult on assisting in developing revised guidance on narrative reporting. [163168]

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Jo Swinson: The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is the UK regulator, independent from the Government, responsible for promoting corporate governance and reporting to foster investment.

We (BIS) were invited to be a member of the advisory panel formed by the FRC to support the development of its forthcoming guidance. The panel consisted of representatives from the investor community, business, accountants, auditors and those interested in narrative reporting.

Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will publish a list of meetings held by (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department in the last 12 months on the Government's reforms to narrative reporting. [163171]

Jo Swinson: Information regarding BIS Ministers' meetings with external organisations are published quarterly on the gov.uk internet site and details are available via the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-business-innovation-skills/series/bis-quarterly-publications-april-to-june-2012

Detailed information on officials' meetings held to discuss reforms to narrative reporting could be provided only at disproportionate costs.

Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent discussions his Department has held with the Financial Reporting Council on civil society representation in the development of the council's revised guidance on narrative reporting. [163186]

Jo Swinson: In accordance with its procedures the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) will publish an exposure draft of the proposed guidance this summer. The exposure draft will be open for comment for a three month period of consultation in order to provide all stakeholders, including civil society, with an opportunity to comment. The FRC will then consider the comments received in developing the revised (final) guidance.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has held no recent discussions with the FRC on civil society representation.

Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent discussions his Department has held with the Financial Reporting Council on promoting high standards of environmental and social reporting through its (a) forthcoming guidance and (b) enforcement activity. [163187]

Jo Swinson: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) continues to work closely with the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) to ensure high standards of environmental and social reporting. This includes through regular discussions as part of the FRC's advisory panel drafting the guidance. We will continue working with the FRC to ensure that the forthcoming guidance helps companies to prepare high quality reports that address the information needs of all users.

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The FRC is an independent regulator. BIS has held no specific discussions about enforcement activity on environmental and social reporting.

Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent assessment he has made of whether the Financial Reporting Review Panel's (a) resources and (b) expertise are sufficient to fulfil the Government's commitment to ensure that directors' social and environmental duties have to be covered in company reporting. [163482]

Jo Swinson: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) 2011 consultation on ‘The Future of Narrative Reporting’ sought views on the profile and working practices of the Financial Reporting Review Panel, now renamed the Corporate Reporting review. The majority of the respondents agreed that there was no need to change its remit, but that it would be helpful to enhance its profile and working practices. BIS shared these comments with the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) for its consideration.

There have been no specific discussions about additional resources.

Construction: Industry

Mr Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills with reference to Construction 2025 Industrial Strategy: government and industry in partnership, published on 2 July 2013, what additional support he plans to provide to businesses to help exploit the export potential of digital and building information modelling capabilities. [163483]

Michael Fallon: The Government are working in partnership with the private sector to deliver a world leading Building Information Modelling (BIM) strategy. The implementation of this strategy is being led by the BIM Task Group and is jointly resourced by Government and industry (led by the Construction Industry Council) with outreach “BIM 4” groups providing local access to both regional and specialist committees. The BIM Task Group is also working closely with countries across the EU with a view to creating a harmonised approach to BIM which should assist UK exporters. UK Trade and Investment is also involved and sees BIM as a key component in promoting UK built environment capability overseas.

Full details of the strategy, standards and lessons learnt are all available at:

www.bimtaskgroup.org

Mr Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills with reference to Construction 2025 Industrial Strategy: government and industry in partnership, published on 2 July 2013, how much resource he plans to provide from UK Export Finance to major construction firms for the purposes of exporting. [163484]

Michael Fallon: UK Export Finance (UKEF) supports companies in all sectors, including construction. In recent years Carillion, Mivan, and International Hospital Group have all benefitted from its services. UKEF deploys resources flexibly in line with client demand.

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UKEF is actively participating in UK Trade and Investment's high value opportunity programme to identify opportunities for UK companies in all sectors including construction.

Mr Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills with reference to Construction 2025 Industrial Strategy: government and industry in partnership, published on 2 July 2013, what his expected timescale is for the development of a construction supply chain payment charter. [163485]

Michael Fallon: It is the intention to get the construction fair payment charter in place before the end of the year.

Mr Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills with reference to Construction 2025 Industrial Strategy: government and industry in partnership, published on 2 July 2013, what protocols and standards he plans to bring forward regarding building information modelling. [163487]

Michael Fallon: The Building Information Modelling (BIM) Task Group is responsible for delivering the UK BIM strategy:

www.bimtaskgroup.org/reports/

This documents the specifics of the ‘Level 2’ plan and the associated British Standard and PAS documents (specifically PAS1192:2:2013). A suite of guidance documentation aimed at industry and clients is already published on the website which includes a link to the ‘BIM Protocol’:

www.bimtaskgroup.org/bim-protocol/

Work continues on other new documentation and the website has a ‘Task Group Labs’ section where industry is asked to assist the task group in the development of new ‘standards’ in light of its own experiences.

Devolution

Margaret Curran: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will place in the Library any concordats which his Department or the public bodies for which he is responsible have with the devolved Administrations. [163143]

Jo Swinson: The Memorandum of Understanding and Supplementary Agreements, agreed in September 2012, set out principles which underlie the relationship between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These documents are available in the Library.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has agreed bilateral concordats for handling of procedural, practical or policy matters with counterparts in the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Copies or links to these documents will be placed in the Library.

We will be asking public bodies with a direct link to the Department whether they have concordats with the devolved Administrations and these, or links to them, will be placed in the Libraries of the House in due course.

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Financial Services

Peter Aldous: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (1) what steps his Department has taken to encourage the institutional investment industry to adopt voluntary codes on public disclosure of voting practices; [163965]

(2) what consideration he has given to implementation of the Government’s reserve power in section 1277 of the Companies Act 2006 to require institutional investors publicly to disclose their voting records. [164051]

Jo Swinson: The Government endorse and promote the Stewardship Code which has been published since 2010 by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC). For instance, in responding to the Kay Review of Equity Markets in November 2012, the Government endorsed the FRC’s revised 2012 edition of the code, welcoming in particular the stronger emphasis given to shareholder engagement on matters of company strategy, which delivered against one of Professor Kay’s recommendations.

The Stewardship Code sets out good practice for institutional investors on the monitoring of, and engagement with, the companies in which they invest. The principles of the Stewardship Code make clear among other things that institutional investors should have a clear policy on voting and disclosure of voting activity, and report periodically on their stewardship and voting activities.

The FRC expects institutional investors to disclose on their websites how they have applied the code, on a ‘comply or explain’ basis. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) specifically requires UK authorised asset managers to produce a statement of commitment to the Stewardship Code or to explain why it is not appropriate to their business model.

Evidence shows that, since the introduction of the code in 2010, institutional investors are now more transparent about how they engage with companies, and both vote more and disclose this more.

The Government are prepared to use their reserve power to mandate voting disclosure if necessary. We will continue to monitor disclosure levels and will consider further action if these do not continue to improve. The Government’s view is that voting is just one part of good stewardship by institutional investors. Indeed effective engagement and meaningful dialogue between shareholders and companies may mean that shareholders place less emphasis on voting against a company to effect change.

Interest Rate Swap Transactions

Guto Bebb: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he has had any discussions with senior management of (a) Barclays Bank, (b) RBS Group, (c) HSBC Banking Group and (d) Lloyds Banking Group on the progress that they have made in providing offers of redress to their own customers through the provisions of the Financial Conduct Authority redress scheme for businesses mis-sold interest rate swaps; and if he will make a statement. [163509]

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Michael Fallon: The swift redress of customers affected by interest rate swap mis-selling is one of the issues raised frequently in the Department's discussions with these banks.

Manufacturing Industries

Mr Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what progress has been made by the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain initiative; and if he will make a statement. [163949]

Michael Fallon: Successful bids from Rounds 1 and 2 of the Government's £125 million Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI) are projected to create or safeguard over 17,500 jobs supported by £237 million of joint public and private sector investment.

The investments will finance and strengthen 21 manufacturing supply chain projects across a wide range of manufacturing sectors.

The autumn statement 2012 announcements included a further £120 million for AMSCI Rounds 3 and 4. This will support research and development, skills training, and capital investment to help UK supply chains achieve world-class standards and encourage major new suppliers to locate in the UK.

The deadline for applications to Round 3 was 29 May with 26 bids submitted. In total 158 organisations are involved in these bids, including 99 SMEs.

The deadline for applications to Round 4 is noon on 16 October.

Personal Care Services

Mr Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what estimate he has made of the number of nail bar businesses in the UK. [163774]

Michael Fallon: Government business statistics are not collected on a sufficiently detailed level to provide data on nail bars. Such businesses are classified within hairdressing and other beauty treatments. There were almost 28,000 enterprises in this category in 2012.

Post Offices

Paul Maynard: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (1) which Government products and services have been (a) added to and (b) removed from the range available at post offices since May 2010; [163635]

(2) what assessment he has made of the financial effect of changes to the range of Government products and services available at post offices; and what the effect on Post Office incomes of this change has been since May 2010; [163636]

(3) what the total income was from Government services for sub-post offices in each year since 2005. [163637]

Jo Swinson: The Post Office, with its network of over 11,500 branches, is well placed to become a provider of front office services, helping citizens interact with Government either face-to-face or online. The Post Office has recently won a number of contracts to provide services on behalf of Government, their agencies, and

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local authorities; and I am hopeful that the Post Office will be able to build on these successes to compete for further work.

However, the precise information requested is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. I have therefore asked Paula Vennells, the chief executive officer of Post Office Ltd, to respond directly to the hon. Member and a copy of her reply will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Post Offices: Rhyl

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills pursuant to the answer of 2 July 2013, Official Report, column 583W, on post offices: Rhyl, what plans he has to dispose of the Rhyl Crown post office building. [163842]

Jo Swinson: The Government do not have any role in the franchising proposals for Crown post office branches such as that for Rhyl. Any decision about the future of the Rhyl Crown post office building is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd.

Postal Services

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many (a) letters and (b) parcels were delivered by Royal Mail in each year for which data are available. [163838]

Michael Fallon: These data are an operational matter for Royal Mail.

I have therefore asked the chief executive of Royal Mail, Moya Greene, to respond directly to the hon. Member and a copy of her reply will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Royal Mail

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (1) how many (a) permanent workers, (b) temporary workers and (c) zero-hour contracts there were in the Royal Mail in each of the last 10 years; [163566]

(2) what the average wage is of a Royal Mail employee; [163567]

(3) how many people have been employed by the Royal Mail in each (a) region, (b) county and (c) parliamentary constituency in each of the last 10 years. [163568]

Michael Fallon: Employment terms and staff contracts are operational matters which are the responsibility of Royal Mail.

I have therefore asked the chief executive of Royal Mail, Moya Greene, to respond directly to the hon. Member and a copy of her reply will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what assessment he has made of Royal Mail employees' views on his proposed employee share scheme. [163754]

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Michael Fallon: We are designing an employee share scheme that will honour the commitment made by Parliament in 2011 that 10% of Royal Mail shares should be reserved for employees.

We are still considering the details, but it is very much the Government's intention that the offer will be attractive to employees, while balancing overall value for money for the Government and the interests of other stakeholders.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what assessment he has made of the potential effect of the Government's proposed privatisation of Royal Mail on households in rural communities. [163835]

Michael Fallon: The Government are committed to securing the future of the universal postal service provided by Royal Mail, which is so important to our communities, society and the economy.

Regardless of the nature of ownership, Royal Mail will still be the UK's designated universal service provider and will continue to provide deliveries to all UK addresses —rural and urban—on a six days a week basis.

Parliament has guaranteed, through the Postal Services Act 2011, the continuation of collection and delivery of letters six days a week throughout the UK at uniform affordable prices. Only Parliament can change the level of our universal service.

The steps we have taken so far to reform the regulatory framework and to support Royal Mail, coupled with securing access to private capital for the business, are the best way to safeguard the future of the universal service in the United Kingdom.

Ian Murray: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent meetings he has had with private sector companies to discuss investment and the potential privatisation of Royal Mail. [163950]

Michael Fallon: Neither I nor the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Vince Cable) have had meetings with private companies about their investing in Royal Mail.

Ian Murray: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent meetings he has had with hedge funds and venture capitalist companies on the potential privatisation of Royal Mail. [163951]

Michael Fallon: Neither I nor the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Vince Cable) have had meetings with hedge funds or venture capitalists about the privatisation of Royal Mail.

Shareholders: Voting Behaviour

Peter Aldous: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (1) if he will publish a list of meetings held by (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department over the last 12 months on Government policy on mandatory public disclosure of voting practices by institutional investors; [163503]

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(2) what proportion of institutional investors publicly disclosed their voting records in the latest period for which figures are available; how many such disclosures were of (a) summary figures and (b) full breakdowns of voting practices on particular issues at particular companies; [163504]

(3) what comparative assessment his Department has conducted of the effects in (a) France, (b) the US and (c) other countries of policies on voting disclosure in jurisdictions in which institutional investors are obliged to publicly disclose their voting practices. [163505]

Jo Swinson: BIS Ministers have held no meetings specifically focused on mandatory public disclosure of voting practices by institutional investors. Information regarding BIS Ministers’ meetings with external organisations is published quarterly on the gov.uk website and is available via the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-business-innovation-skills/series/bis-quarterly-publications-april-to-june-2012

Officials in the Department have discussed this policy option with a range of stakeholders representing the investment industry and UK companies, including in the context of developing the UK policy position on the EU Corporate Governance Action plan. Detailed information on officials’ meetings held on this issue could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Evidence shows that, since the introduction of the Financial Reporting Council’s Stewardship Code in 2010, institutional investors are now more transparent about how they engage with companies, and both vote more and disclose this more.

The latest survey by the Investment Management Association(1) of compliance by institutional investors with the Stewardship Code shows that two-thirds of those surveyed now publicly disclose their voting records. More than two thirds of those that do disclose their voting records also provide a detailed breakdown of all voting decisions.

Other similar surveys present a range of figures for the level of voting disclosure. For example the TUC Fund Manager Voting Survey (2012)(2) found that 93% of respondents made some information publicly available, with 68% of respondents making full disclosures of voting records (up from 65% the previous year and 45% in 2010).

The Government are prepared to use their power to mandate voting disclosure if necessary, but we believe that non-legislative route is preferable. We will continue to monitor disclosure levels and will consider further action if disclosure levels do not continue to improve. The Government’s view is that voting is just one part of good stewardship by institutional investors. Indeed effective engagement and meaningful dialogue between shareholders and companies may mean that shareholders place less emphasis on voting against a company to effect change.

No comprehensive assessment has been conducted of the impact of mandatory voting disclosure in other jurisdictions.

(1) Investment Management Association, “Adherence to the FRC’s Stewardship Code at 30 September 2012”, published June 2013, available at:

http://www.investmentuk.org/assets/files/surveys/20130612-stewardshipcode.pdf

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(2) “TUC Fund Manager Voting Survey 2012”, available at:

http://www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/457.pdf

Shipping: Conditions of Employment

Ian Lavery: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent meetings (a) Ministers and (b) officials of his Department have had with representatives of the shipping industry on the application of European Union directives on (i) collective redundancies and (ii) transfer of undertakings to seafarers. [163415]

Jo Swinson: There have been no recent meetings between any Ministers or officials in my Department with representatives of the shipping industry on the application of either of these directives to seafarers.

Deputy Prime Minister

British-Irish Council

Mr Dodds: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his assessment is of the last meeting of the British-Irish Council. [163758]

The Deputy Prime Minister: The recent British-Irish Council summit in Northern Ireland demonstrated the importance of the forum in furthering, promoting and developing links between member Administrations.

The Council held positive and valuable discussions on the benefits arising from Derry-Londonderry's selection as UK City of Culture; the economy; youth employment; and energy. Furthermore, the Council agreed to establish a new work sector on creative industries to share best practice and consider areas for collaboration.

Candidates: Disqualification

Mr Hollobone: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will bring forward legislative proposals to prevent disqualified candidates appearing on a ballot paper. [163847]

Miss Chloe Smith: The Government have no plans to amend the existing legislation which already requires candidates to declare they are not subject to a disqualification before their nomination can be accepted by a Returning Officer. If the Returning Officer is satisfied that a candidate's nomination documents are duly completed, the candidate's name will appear on the ballot paper unless the candidate withdraws their nomination before the deadline for doing so ahead of the relevant election.

Devolution

Margaret Curran: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will place in the Library any concordats which his Department or the public bodies for which he is responsible have with the devolved Administrations. [163145]

Miss Chloe Smith: The Memorandum of Understanding and Supplementary Agreements, agreed in September 2012, set out principles which underlie the relationship between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These documents are available in the Library.

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The Cabinet Office in addition has agreed bilateral concordats for handling of procedural, practical or policy matters with counterparts in the devolved Administrations of Scotland and Wales. Copies of the documents will be placed in the Library. The documents are also available at the following link:

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20080108045234/http:/cabinetoffice.gov.uk/publicationscheme/concordats.aspx

Work and Pensions

Conditions of Employment: Warrington

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the number of people in (a) Warrington and (b) Warrington North constituency who are employed on zero-hours contracts; and if he will make a statement. [163947]

Mr Hoban: Data on the number of people who are employed on zero hours contracts are not available.

Devolution

Margaret Curran: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place in the Library any concordats which his Department or the public bodies for which he is responsible have with the devolved Administrations. [163158]

Mr Hoban: The Memorandum of Understanding and Supplementary Agreements, agreed in September 2012, set out principles which underlie the relationship between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These documents are available in the Library.

The Department for Work and Pensions in addition has agreed bilateral concordats for handling of procedural, practical or policy matters with counterparts in the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Copies of the documents are available to access in the Library.

Copies of concordats between the Department for Work and Pensions public bodies and counterparts in the devolved Administrations have also been placed in the Library catalogue. The Health and Safety Executive is the only Department for Work and Pensions public body to have concordats with the devolved Administrations; these are with the Scottish Government (then Scottish Executive) and the Welsh Government (then National Assembly for Wales).

Employment Schemes: Oxfordshire

Mr Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what support is available in Oxfordshire to help people with learning disabilities into work. [163255]

Esther McVey: The Department's programmes, including its specialist disability employment programmes, aim to identify and meet the needs of the individual, including those with learning disabilities. All of the support described below is operative in Oxfordshire and available for eligible people with learning disabilities.

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The Work programme is the biggest single Welfare to Work programme. It provides more personalised back-to-work support for unemployed people, including disabled people. For disabled people with more complex needs which cannot be met through the Work programme, there is a range of specialist disability employment provision.

Work Choice provides tailored support for disabled people who face the most complex barriers to employment to find and stay in work, and to progress into unsupported employment if appropriate. From July 2012 we introduced the Work Choice wage incentive, which is a payment of up to £2,275 that an employer can claim when they employ an 18 to 24-year-old from Work Choice for at least 26 weeks.

Access to Work provides additional support for individuals whose health or disability affects the way they do their job. It provides individuals and their employers with support for extra costs, such as work-related travel, support workers or specialist adaptations and equipment. During 2011-12 Access to Work supported over 30,000 people to keep or get employment.

We are fully supporting the Department for Education's Supported Internships Pilot for 16 to 25-year-olds with the special educational needs. Access to Work will support young people accessing the scheme, enabling them to receive a seamless package of support as they move from education into employment where their internship results in the offer of a job.

Housing Benefit

Justin Tomlinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress he has made in ensuring that women's refuges qualify as supported exempt accommodation as part of his Department's changes to appropriate definitions. [163364]

Steve Webb: Lord Freud wrote to providers and others in April about protecting supported housing such as refuges and hostels from the unintended consequences of reform. This work is being assisted by key organisations in the sector. We will bring forward proposals at the earliest opportunity.

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate his Department plans to make of any over or underspend of discretionary housing payment allocations by councils in (a) Scotland, (b) England and (c) Wales in 2013-14; what information his Department is seeking from those councils to make that estimate; and how frequently that estimate will be reviewed. [163642]

Steve Webb: It would not be appropriate to make estimates of discretionary housing payment expenditure in the way suggested.

The Department allocates discretionary housing payment funding on the basis that local authorities will use it to support housing benefit recipients in-year with a range of housing related issues.

Local authorities are able to add to the contribution from central Government by up to 150%. In previous years, a number of local authorities have opted to add their own funding to the scheme. Early indications are that a proportion of authorities are planning to add

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funding to their local schemes this year. Equally, in previous years, some authorities have returned unused funding to the Department at the end of the financial year. Around £11 million was returned at the end of 2012-13.

Local authorities are required to provide the Department with six-monthly reports on their discretionary housing payment expenditure. The reporting requirement has been increased for this year to include details of why the need has arisen and what the payment was awarded for.

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to Regulation 12D(5) and (7) of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, for what reasons the 13 weeks’ protection rule is not being replicated under universal credit; and if he will make a statement. [163952]

Steve Webb: This provision in housing benefit, introduced in 1986, allows a more generous level of support for people who have not claimed in the preceding 12 months and who could afford their rent when they took on the commitment. It was designed to provide protection for people on higher incomes who lose their jobs, allowing them a buffer period before their rent support is reduced to the local housing allowance level. We do not believe that this differential level of support should be carried forward into universal credit. It would be incompatible with universal credit design principles, and would add complexity and administrative costs to the calculation process.

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to Regulations 12D(5) and (7) of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, what estimate he has made of the number of households affected by the omission from universal credit of the 13 weeks' protection. [164008]

Steve Webb: The information requested is not readily available, and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Housing Benefit: Private Rented Housing

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what payments his Department has made to each local authority since 2010-11 to ameliorate the effects of housing benefit caps on private sector tenants; and how much he expects to spend in this manner in (a) the current financial year and (b) 2014-15. [163282]

Steve Webb: The Government increased their contribution to discretionary housing payments (DHPs) by £360 million over the spending review period to help support tenants affected by the reforms to housing benefit, including the caps to local housing allowance (LHA) rates.

In addition to an increase in DHPs, a further £49 million transitional funding was made available over the spending review period for local authorities to provide targeted support for claimants affected by the housing benefit reforms to LHA.

Details of the DHP allocations for each local authority are available in Housing Benefit Circulars S2/2011 (for 2011-12), S4/2012 (for 2012-13 including carry over from 2011-12) and S1/2013 (for 2013-14).

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Details of the transitional funding for each local authority are available in Housing Benefit Circular S1/2012 (for 2012-13).

Copies of these circulars have been placed in the Library.

Independent Living Fund

Debbie Abrahams: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will ensure that the current level of Independent Living Fund funding is protected when it is transferred to the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2015. [164026]

Esther McVey: As set out in the Spending Round document the total amount of funding that will transfer to local authorities in England and to the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales following the closure of the Independent Living Fund on 31 March 2015 will be £262 million. This sum is based on the Independent Living Fund's forecast actual expenditure in respect of its users in 2015-16, had responsibility for their support needs remained with my Department. Funding will be distributed to local government in England (via the Department for Communities and Local Government) and to the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales on the basis of patterns of expenditure in the period immediately before the fund closes.

Jobseeker's Allowance

Mr Byrne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average time is for which jobseeker’s allowance has been claimed by claimants previously in the employment and support allowance fit for work group. [164018]

Mr Hoban: The information requested is not readily available and to provide it would incur disproportionate cost.

Occupational Health

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which individuals he plans to nominate for membership of the advisory group of the new health and work assessment and advisory service; and if he will make a statement. [164113]

Mr Hoban: This is an informal group of experts with the ability to generate ideas and challenge thinking to inform the development of the specification for the new health and work assessment and advisory service. Members of the group include health care professionals, academics, delegates from professional bodies and employer and employee representatives.

The group is not a decision-making forum.

Remploy: Scotland

Mr Frank Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many former employees of Remploy Wishaw are in part-time or full-time education; [163267]

(2) how many former employees of Remploy Wishaw are in full-time employment; [163268]

8 July 2013 : Column 59W

(3) how many former employees of Remploy Wishaw are in part-time employment. [163269]

Esther McVey: I can confirm that out of the 20 people previously employed at the Remploy factory in Wishaw (Motherwell) three found employment of more than 16 hours per week, one of whom is still in employment. Three former employees were intending to and subsequently retired. A further 14 have gone into work based training through Work Choice.

The Department holds no records regarding how many, if any, have gone into full-time education.

Social Security Benefits

Mr Lammy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what research is being undertaken by his Department on the effect of the household benefit cap in the four boroughs piloting the restriction; and when that research will be published. [163166]

Mr Hoban: We have committed to a full evaluation of the benefit cap. A report will subsequently be published in autumn 2014.

Jonathan Ashworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in what circumstances a claimant who has received an overpayment of benefits is required to make a civil payment in addition to reimbursing the original overpayment. [163306]

Mr Hoban: A civil penalty of £50 may be imposed on people who make incorrect statements in their benefit claims without taking reasonable steps to correct them or who fail promptly to provide information or evidence or report changes in their circumstances without reasonable excuse, resulting in each case in an overpayment of benefit.

Pamela Nash: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average time taken was between an application being made and benefit paid for (a) attendance allowance, (b) bereavement benefits, (c) carer's allowance, (d) disability living allowance, (e) employment and support allowance, (f) jobseeker's allowance, (g) maternity benefits, (h) housing benefit, (i) council tax benefit and (j) pension credit in each year since May 2010 up to the most recent period for which figures are available. [164114]

Mr Hoban: The information regarding when a benefit is paid is not available as this will vary from claim to claim depending on circumstances, payment type and frequency of payment.

The information that is available is the Average Actual Clearance Time (AACT) which is the average time taken between an application being made and the date the customer was notified of the decision on their claim.

Please see the most recent AACT data in the following table:

 Claims actual average clearance time (AACT) 2013-14 (May 2013) Days

Attendance Allowance claims AACT

22.2

8 July 2013 : Column 60W

Bereavement Benefit Claims AACT

16.6

Carers Allowance claims AACT

11.78

Disability Living Allowance claims AACT

28.0

Employment and Support Allowance claims AACT

10.2

Jobseeker’s Allowance claims AACT

9.3

Maternity Allowance Claims AACT

5.8

Pension Credit claims AACT

11.9

Housing benefit and council tax benefit are administered by local authorities and not the DWP. Processing statistics for these benefits can be found at:

http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/sop/index.php?page=sop

Social Security Benefits: Disability

Debbie Abrahams: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what provision there is for the support of young adults with profound disabilities and their families. [164025]

Esther McVey: On 2 July 2013, we published “Fulfilling Potential—Making it Happen”, which captures current disability strategy activity and plans across the whole of Government and beyond. This includes the following provision for the support of disabled young adults and their families.

The measures in the Care Bill aim to transform the social care system to focus on prevention and the needs and goals of disabled adults and their carers. It will give disabled people and carers an entitlement to a personal budget, ensuring that disabled young adults and their families are able to exercise choice and control in obtaining services that best meet their needs.

The provisions of the Children and Families Bill will transform the system for disabled young people. It will require local authorities to publish a local offer to provide information on the services available in their area to support them and their families. The introduction of a birth to 25 single assessment process and Education, Health and Care Plan is currently being trialled.

From September 2013, supported internships will be rolled out for disabled 16 to 25-year-olds with the most complex barriers.

Disability benefits such as disability living allowance and personal independence, which began replacing disability living allowance for working age people from April, provide valuable cash contributions towards the extra costs faced by disabled people. Both benefits are flexible and can be spent in a way that best suits the needs of the recipient. They can also provide a gateway to other support including disability premiums in the income related benefits and the Motability scheme.

For those with caring responsibilities, carers allowance will continue to be linked to disability living allowance and personal independence payment and remain separate from universal credit. In addition, universal credit will contain a carer element that can help carers on low income who provide care for least 35 hours per week for a disabled person.

8 July 2013 : Column 61W

In addition, for young disabled adults who work or wish to enter employment there is a range of specialist support available including Access to Work and Work Choice. Work Choice provides tailored, employment-focused support for disabled people facing complex barriers to work. From July 2012 we introduced the Work Choice wage incentive, which is a payment of up to £2,275 that an employer can claim when they employ an 18 to 24-year-old young adult from Work Choice for at least 26 weeks. Access to Work provides additional support for individuals whose health or disability affects the way they do their job, including support workers, travel to work and specialist aids and equipment.

Social Security Benefits: Greater London

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the roll-out of the household benefit cap in Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey; and if he will make a statement. [164023]

Mr Hoban: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I provided to the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) on 1 July 2013, Official Report, columns 440-1W, on the benefit cap.

Mr Lammy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many households in (a) Bromley, (b) Croydon, (c) Enfield and (d) Haringey were subject to the benefit cap on (i) 15 April, (ii) 15 May and (iii) 15 June 2013. [163173]

Mr Hoban: Statistics on the number of households capped across these four local authorities were published on 3 July 2013 and can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions/series/benefit-cap-statistics

Statistics show the number of households capped as at the end of April 2013 and the end of May 2013. Data specifically for the 15th of each month are not available.

Mr Lammy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many Jobcentre Plus employment support officers in each London borough will be co-located with local authority staff when the household benefit cap is rolled out across London; [163174]

(2) with reference to the answer of 14 March 2013, Official Report, column 337W, on social security benefits: Greater London, how many Jobcentre Plus employment support officers are co-located in each of the four boroughs piloting the housing benefit cap; and for how long those staff will be available to provide that additional support to affected claimants. [163177]

Mr Hoban: When the benefit cap is implemented across London, DWP will have a minimum of 51 Jobcentre Plus employment support officers co-located with local authority staff. Some officers are co-located on a part-time basis.

8 July 2013 : Column 62W

Where co-location is not currently in place or planned, DWP is in discussion with the relevant local authority to either put co-location in place, or ensure that DWP and the local authority co-ordinate support activities.

The following table provides the breakdown for each local authority:

Local authorityNumber of co-located officers

Barking and Dagenham

Barnet

3

Bexley

1

Brent

2

Bromley

2

Camden

1

Croydon

3

Ealing

2

Enfield

2

Greenwich

2

Hackney

2

Hammersmith and Fulham

2

Haringey

4

Harrow

1

Havering

1

Hillingdon

1

Hounslow

1

Islington

3

Kensington and Chelsea

1

Kingston upon Thames

1

Lambeth

1

Lewisham

1

London (City of)

Merton

1

Newham

1

Redbridge

1

Richmond upon Thames

1

Southwark

1

Sutton

1

Tower Hamlets

2

Waltham Forest

2

Wandsworth

2

Westminster

2

In the four local authorities that were first to implement the benefit cap there are currently 11 Jobcentre Plus employment support officers co-located:

 Staff members

Bromley

2

Croydon

3

Enfield

2

Haringey

4

There are no plans to remove this resource from those four local authorities. Any future change to resource levels will be undertaken in consultation with local authority colleagues.

Social Security Benefits: Haringey

Mr Lammy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many of those subject to the household benefit cap pilot in Haringey have had an interview with a Department for Work and Pensions co-located employment support officer. [163175]

8 July 2013 : Column 63W

Mr Hoban: 322 claimants have had the cap applied and attended an interview with a Department for Work and Pensions co-located employment support officer in Haringey.

Unemployment: Sheffield

Mr Betts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many people between 16 and 25 years old in (a) Sheffield and (b) each Sheffield parliamentary constituency have been claiming jobseeker's allowance for two years or more in each month since May 2010; [163954]

(2) how many people in (a) Sheffield and (b) each Sheffield parliamentary constituency have been unemployed for two years or more in each month since May 2010. [164009]

Mr Hoban: Statistics on how many people between 16 and 25 years old in (a) Sheffield and (b) each Sheffield parliamentary constituency have been claiming jobseeker's allowance or have been unemployed for two years or more in each month since May 2010, from the claimant count, can be found at:

https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/default.asp

Guidance for users can be found at:

https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/home/newuser.asp

Vacancies

Mr Byrne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when new statistics on vacancies by parliamentary constituency will be made available. [164017]

Mr Hoban: National Statistics on vacancies at UK-level continue to be reported each month via the ONS Vacancy Survey. A user consultation by DWP on the changes to the Jobcentre Plus vacancy series was conducted last year and has been published on the DWP statistics web pages. Statistical information for some geographical areas below national level is already available via the Universal Jobmatch Ml tool and some improvements, including the addition of breakdowns by parliamentary constituency, have been suggested. DWP is currently agreeing with Monster Worldwide Ltd, the Universal Jobmatch supplier, a timetable for prioritising and implementing these improvements, subject to funding. Further details will be released as soon as they are available.

Vacancies: Internet

Mr Byrne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many vacancies have been posted on Universal Jobmatch to date. [164015]

Mr Hoban: 2,365,811 new job vacancies have been posted on Universal Jobmatch between 19 November 2012 and 30 June 2013.

Mr Byrne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many vacancies for each occupation have been posted on Universal Jobmatch. [164016]

Mr Hoban: The information is shown in the following table.

8 July 2013 : Column 64W

Vacancies by employer sector, 19 November 2012 to 30 June 2013
Employer sectorJob vacancies

Accounting and Auditing Services

8,141

Advertising and PR Services

19,853

Aerospace and Defence

2,848

Agriculture/Forestry/Fishing

2,467

All

8,428

Architectural and Design Services

700

Automotive and Parts Mfg

1,017

Automotive Sales and Repair Services

16,580

Banking

3,019

Biotechnology/Pharmaceuticals

694

Broadcasting, Music, and Film

1,014

Business Services: Other

119,592

Chemicals/Petro-Chemicals

757

Computer Hardware

344

Computer Software

1,226

Computer/IT Services

4,688

Construction: Industrial Facilities and Infrastructure

14,126

Construction: Residential and Commercial/Office

29,839

Education

50,111

Electronics, Components, and Semiconductor Mfg

900

Energy and Utilities

8,103

Engineering Services

7,099

Entertainment Venues and Theatres

1,501

Financial Services

50,107

Food and Beverage Production

26,469

Government and Military

28,250

Healthcare Services

110,975

Hotels and Lodging

21,160

Insurance

1,264

Internet Services

1,605

Legal Services

3,990

Management Consulting Services

5,067

Manufacturing: Other

15,813

Marine Mfg and Services

180

Medical Devices and Supplies

5,717

Metals and Minerals

307

Nonprofit Charitable Organisations

11,975

Other/Not Classified

77,504

Performing and Fine Arts

447

Personal and Household Services

26,454

Personal Care and Cosmetics

3,914

Printing and Publishing

2,015

Real Estate and Property Management

9,745

Rental Services

3,325

Restaurant/Food Services

24,126

Retail

106,619

Security and Surveillance

14,186

Sports and Physical Recreation

11,523

Staffing/Employment Agencies

1,464,762

Telecommunications Services

4,832

Textile and Clothing Manufacturing

1,233

Transport and Storage: Materials

13,703

Travel, Transportation and Tourism

5,765

Waste Management

2,677

Wholesale Trade/Import-Export

7,055

Note: The end of the period date corresponds to the last day for which data are available.