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How the annual case load of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration compares with the annual case load of similar ombudsmen elsewhere in Europe and the Commonwealth.[HL5293]
The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): I have written to the noble Lord offering him a factual background briefing from the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration on the workings of different models of overseas ombudsmen.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: As my previous Answers have made clear, the Government intend to replace the existing arrangements for public sector ombudsmen with a unified and flexible ombudsman body to which the public have direct access. The legislation required to implement the new arrangements will be made as soon as parliamentary time allows. The precise nature of the powers which such legislation will afford the new body remains under consideration.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: No central record is maintained of cases where a department has refused to accept the findings or recommendations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. However, the ombudsman resports on some cases in his annual report and, on occasion, issues special reports.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: A list of regulatory impact assessments produced by departments, as reported monthly to the Cabinet Office, is published in a six-monthly command paper. (There is no formal audit of regulatory impact assessments.)
The Cabinet Office Regulatory Impact Unit works closely with departmental regulatory impact units and departmental officials to help departments to prepare robust regulatory impact assessments assessing the impact of proposals that are likely to have an effect on business, charities and the voluntary sector. The Cabinet Office also issues guidance to departments on producing regulatory impact assessments. This guidance forms the basis of the criteria that the Regulatory Impact Unit uses to scrutinise regulatory impact assessments.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: As the Prime Minister has made clear no decisions have been taken to commit British forces. If decisions are taken, we will of course consider the best way to consult the House in the normal way.
In light of the 7th Report from the Commissioner for Public Appointments, showing that only 39 per cent of those appointed or reappointed to public bodies in 200102 were women, and the fact that the numbers have remained at approximately the same level for the last five years, whether the Government still regard the 45-50 per cent target by 2005 as realistic and achievable; and[HL5730]
What their target, if any, is for the percentage of women who will chair public bodies by 2005; and[HL5731]
What is their target, if any, for the percentage of women who will be chief executives of public bodies by 2005.[HL5735]
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Responsibility for making public appointments lies with individual Ministers supported by their departments. Each department set out its targets for increasing diversity in public appointments in Public Bodies: Opening up Public Appointments 200205, which was published on 14 February. If the targets set out in those plans are met, this will mean that, by the end of 2005 and for the majority of departments, women should hold 4550 per cent of the appointments to the bodies they sponsor. The Government still believe that this will be the case and continue to be totally committed to permanent change in public appointments by substantially increasing diversity at all levels of appointment, including those at chair and deputy chair. The Cabinet Office will be doing all it can within its resources to help departments meet their targets while upholding the principles of selection on merit. There is at present no target for the number of women who will be chairs or chief executives of public bodies by 2005. In many cases responsibility for the appointment of chief executives lies with the boards of public bodies and not Ministers.
Tim Matthews has been asked by Lord Macdonald to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the removal of ragwort growing along the verges of the A14 and A11 trunk roads and whether it is a suitable job for those who have been sentenced to Community Service. I am replying since Tim is currently away on leave.
The Agency makes considerable efforts to identify affected sites and to then treat them on a priority basis. All known ragwort sites on the A14 and A11 will be treated in due course and the next such works will take place on the A11 in the Newmarket area within the next two weeks.
The removal of ragwort is a labour intensive task. However, working close to fast moving traffic has significant safety implications and the Agency would only wish to use suitably qualified staff in these situations.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The Government are keen to establish the environmental benefits of alternative fuels and have commissioned detailed research into the carbon and energy balances of different fuels including petrol, LPG and biofuels.
The draft report of a study commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) from Sheffield Hallam University on the environmental benefits of biodiesel suggests that a 53 per cent saving in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions is possible from biodiesel produced from rape seed when compared with conventional ultra low sulphur diesel (ULSD). This supports the Government's decision to introduce a 20p per litre incentive for biodiesel, which came into effect on 26 July. The Sheffield Hallam report can be viewed at http://www.shu.ac.uk/rru/reports.html
Research published in 1996 by the Energy Technology Support Unit (ETSU) found that the lifecycle greenhouse gas balance for ethanol was apporoximately 50 per cent lower than that for petrol and about 42 per cent lower than Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG). With an aim to updating these figures, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has commissioned an up-to-date study from Sheffield Hallam to look at the latest evidence on the environmental benefits of biofuels, including ethanol. This study is due to report by the end of the year.
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