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Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The Child Support Agency treats applications for revision or supersession of a reduced benefit direction as a matter of urgency.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Since June 1999, all appeals cases are subject to the decision-making and appeals procedures. In the period June 1999 to date there have been 310 reduced benefit direction appeals. In 25 of these cases the decision to impose a reduced benefit direction was revised and consequently these cases did not go to tribunal.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Since June 1999, when the decision-making and appeals procedures were introduced, a total of 166 appeals against reduced benefit directions have been referred to the Appeals Service. In each case, as part of the preparation of the

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appeal documents, the question of whether the decision should be revised was considered and rejected. Of the 166 appeals, decisions have been made in 39 cases. Ten were upheld and 29 were dismissed. In addition to the number of appeals referred, 36 parents with care withdrew their appeals following revision of their cases.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the mean average period during which parents with care who successfully appealed against the impostion of a reduced benefit were subject to such a direction while appealing under (a) the decision-making and appeals system; (b) the former system; and[HL1674]

    What was (a) the shortest period between the imposition of a reduced benefit direction on a parent with care and the decision by the appeal body that the direction has been imposed wrongly and (b) the longest such period under (i) the system of decision-making and appeals and (ii) the former system.[HL1675]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The information is not available in the form requested and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

The table shows the shortest and longest periods taken for the CSA Central Appeals Unit to clear a reduced benefit direction appeal since the introduction of decision-making and appeal procedures in June 1999.

Case typeShortest periodLongest period
Appeals submissions written(1)6 days231 days
Appeals withdrawn(2)15 days231 days
Lapsed appeals(3)21 days232 days

Notes:

(1)Cases referred by the Central Appeals Unit to the Appeals Service.

(2)Cases where appeals have been withdrawn by the parent with care before the case is referred to the Appeals Service.

(3)Cases where the original decision has been revised before the case is referred to the Appeals Service.


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Pensioners: Minimum Income Guarantee Increase

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the estimated cost to public funds of the increase in the minimum income guarantee to pensioners announced in this year's budget[HL1726]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The cost of uprating the minimum income guarantee by earnings over the Rossi Index is estimated to be £310 million in 2000/01. This includes the additional cost to income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit.

Human Rights Convention: Compatibility of Legislation

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions is unable to make a statement under Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 that in his view the provisions of the Local Government Bill are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights; and[HL1701]

    In what respects they consider the Local Government Bill, in its current form, to be incompatible with particular European Convention Human Rights; and [HL1750]

    Whether, in view of the opinion obtained by Justice from David Pannick QC and Helen Mountfield, dated 17 February, they consider that Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 breaches the rights of parents, pupils and teachers in maintained schools under Articles 8,10 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 2 of the First Protocol to the Convention.[HL1751]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Government are aware of the legal opinion obtained by Justice from David Pannick QC and Helen Mountfield. We believe that there are considerable doubts whether Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986 (otherwise known as Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988) is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Clause 91 of the Local Government Bill amends, but also reaffirms, the provisions of Section 2A. By extension, this amendment makes it doubtful whether the Bill is compatible with the ECHR.

The Government have already said that they intend to remove Clause 91 of the Bill and in its place provide for the repeal of Section 2A of the 1986 Act. In our view, the Bill will then be compatible with the ECHR.

Education Committees

Baroness Harris of Richmond asked Her Majesty's Government:

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    Whether, for the purposes of calculating the appropriate political balance of education committees, and in particular when calculating the size of a controlling majority on such committees, it is customary to include the voting representatives of the Churches.[HL1739]

Lord Whitty: It is my understanding that this is customary. These are matters for local authorities to decide, while having regard to the requirements of local government legislation.

Affordable Housing

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they define "affordable" in "affordable housing".[HL1736]

Lord Whitty: For the purposes of planning policy, affordable housing is defined in Circular 6/98 as "low cost market and subsidised housing (irrespective of tenure, ownership--whether exclusive or shared--or financial arrangements) that are available to people who cannot afford to rent or buy houses generally available on the open market".

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What impact the recent revision of planning policy guidance has on the provision of affordable housing in rural areas.[HL1737]

Lord Whitty: Planning Policy Guidance Note 3: Housing (PPG3) states that a community's needs for a mix of housing types, including affordable housing, is a material planning consideration which local planning authorities should take into account. PPG3 reaffirms that affordable housing may be provided on suitable sites in accordance with criteria set out in Circular 6/98 which address the specific circumstances of small rural settlements. This general approach may be augmented by a rural "exception" policy to enable provision of affordable housing on sites that would not normally be released for development. Housing provided on such sites should be retained in perpetuity to meet local needs.

Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether all strains of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) are faithfully propagated between different species of genotypes of the same species or that such passage can result in modifications to a TSE.[HL1775]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): We know from experiments that certain biological properties of TSE

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agents can change on repeated passage in mice. TSE propagation between and within different species is affected by at least one gene which codes for the prion protein. Other factors which have not yet been identified may also be involved.

Scrapie and BSE

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether research at the Institute for Animal Health has suggested that some cases diagnosed as scrapie in sheep may in fact be BSE.[HL1774]

Baroness Hayman: The only known cases of BSE in sheep have been the result of experimental challenge with BSE infected cattle brain. Although research at the Institute for Animal Health is ongoing, scientists have not so far found evidence to indicate that cases diagnosed as scrapie were BSE in sheep.

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Farmers: Retirement

Lord Carlile of Berriew asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will introduce measures to facilitate the retirement of farmers from farms which are to continue as farming units.[HL1649]

Baroness Hayman: Neither the England Rural Development Plan nor the Northern Ireland Rural Development Plan include an early retirement scheme for farmers under the provisions of the Rural Development Regulation (EC No 1257/1999). These plans are subject to the approval of the European Commission and to mid-term reviews. Decisions on which measures to use were taken in the light of extensive consultation and an economic appraisal.

Implementation of the Rural Development Regulation in Scotland and Wales is a matter for the devolved administrations.



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