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The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The UK Broadband Task Force, launched in November, aims to find best practice initiatives and disseminate information on these across the whole of the UK. The task force regional co-ordinator based at the National Assembly for Wales will therefore be in a position to take into consideration the progress of the Broadband Wales programme and subsequently identify where its successes can be appropriately applied to the rest of the country, including England.

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British Energy

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much money they expect British Energy to pay to Enron under the proposed standstill agreements described on page 6 of the announcement of restructuring proposals and extension of HMG loan facility which was made on 28 November and deposited in the Library of the House. [HL376]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: This is a commercial matter for British Energy.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the terms and the duration of the amount of the out of the money power purchase agreements and contracts for differences between British Energy and Enron noted on page 6 of the announcement of restructuring proposals and extension of HMG loan facility which was made on 28 November. [HL377]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: This is a commercial matter for British Energy.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the British taxpayer is underwriting an agreement which will enable payments to be made to Enron. [HL378]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government's overriding priorities remain to ensure the safety of nuclear generation and security of electricity supplies. The credit facility that the Government have made available to British Energy is to enable it to operate its stations safely, to continue trading and to meet its commercial obligations.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following their estimate of an annual cost of £150–£200 million for the next 10 years, what is their estimate of the annual cost to the Government from 2012 to 2086 of its significant contribution to British Energy's historic fuel liabilities managed by BNFL. [HL379]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: If the proposed restructuring announced by British Energy on 28 November is successful and the company performs well, its contribution to the new liabilities fund will grow. The annual costs to government after 2012 will depend on the money in the fund. The Government will meet any shortfall to ensure nuclear safety and environmental protection. We will also be looking at how the contracts for historic spent fuel services with BNFL are managed as a part of the creation of the LMA.

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Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the statement by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 28 November (HL Deb col 916), what is the limit of the commitment by the Government to underwrite the proposed solvent restructuring of British Energy, expressed both in an amount and in time. [HL380]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: British Energy will meet its future spent fuel liabilities on an ongoing basis. It will also contribute to a new fund which will be used to pay for its nuclear liabilities, including decommissioning costs. British Energy's management accounts to 30 September 2002 show, on a discounted basis, an accrual of approximately £2.1 billion for historic spent fuel liabilities extending to 2086 and provision of £0.7 billion for uncontracted liabilities and £0.6 billion (net of the current nuclear decommissioning fund) for costs of decommissioning. The Government will take on financial responsibility for BE's historic spent fuel liabilities and underwrite the funds if they are insufficient to meet costs when they occur.

Tyne and Wear Brain Injury Centre

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What recent representations the Deparment for Work and Pensions has received from Rehab UK about the future of its Tyne and Wear Brain Injury Centre; and what action they are taking. [HL270]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Jobcentre Plus purchases places from Rehab UK as one element of the work preparation programme, and signed a contract with it on 1 October 2002 for the supply of brain injury rehabilitation services from its Tyne and Wear centre. My right honourable friend the Minister for Work has recently received a letter from the chairman of Rehab UK.

Jobcentre Plus must ensure balanced provision from the work preparation programme for disabled people with a range of different needs, and increased funding for those with brain injuries would have a disproportionate impact on its ability to provide support for people with other disabilities. Jobcentre Plus will continue to review expenditure from the work preparation budget throughout this financial year.

Fires: Death and Injury

Lord Jacobs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) How many firemen died in 2001; (b) how many firemen were injured in 2002; and (c) how many civilians died in fires or as a result of fires in 2001.[HL337]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): In 2000, the latest year for

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which data are available in the United Kingdom, no firefighters died in or as result of fires while on duty. In the same year 683 firefighters received injuries in or resulting from fires while on duty. There were an estimated 595 civilian deaths in fires in 2000. Since 2000, I am aware of one death of a firefighter in England and Wales while on duty as a result of a fire.

Fire Service: Workforce Diversity

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

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 27 November (WA 42), whether they are satisfied with the proportion of women and ethnic minorities working in the fire service in England and Wales; and, if not, what action they intend to take to increase their numbers.[HL440]

Lord Rooker: No, the Government are not satisfied, which is why the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is working with the fire service to achieve a workforce that better reflects the communities it serves; to help the service remove barriers to creating a more diverse workforce and to assist in raising the profile of the service as a career choice within currently under-represented groups.

Research 1 commissioned by the Government found that the image of the fire service as a potential career among women and ethnic minorities is low, influenced by a lack of adequate information. We have begun to address this issue through the publication in November 2001 of new national recruitment literature.

The fire service has also been set targets to increase by 2009 the representation of women in the operational sector to 15 per cent and to increase ethnic minority repesentation to 7 per cent across the uniformed and non-uniformed sectors.

On 5 September the Government established the independent review of the fire service, led by Sir George Bain. The independent review's position paper of 11 November proposed the development of new national recruitment processes to encourage a more divese workforce, which received the endorsement of the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality. The independent review's final report is expected shortly.

    1 Home Office Fire Research and Development Group Research Reports 4/1999, 2/2000, 3/2000 and 4/2000, copies of which can be found in the Library of the other place.

Local Government: Comprehensive Performance Assessments

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action the Government are taking to follow up the results of the comprehensive performance assessments for London, unitary, metropolitan and county councils in England.[HL608]

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Lord Rooker: The Audit Commission will announce the outcome of comprehensive performance assessments (CPA) for London boroughs, unitary, metropolitan and county councils on 12 December. These assessments will provide the basis for better local decision-making, inform relations between central and local government and give local people a clear understanding of how well their council is serving them. It is a key stage in one of the most ambitious exercises in performance management ever undertaken by central and local government. But CPA results are not the end of the process; they are the starting point for improvement planning that will demonstrate the Government's public sector reform agenda in action.

The services included in CPA have a significant impact on the quality of all our lives: education, social services, housing, transport, welfare benefits, waste, planning and library and leisure facilities. CPA also delivers a picture of the council as a corporate entity, recognising the importance of councils as community leaders, forging effective partnerships and delivering on national and local priorities. We will build on the connections CPA has made through a collective central government response, applying the measures announced on 26 November to devolve power, increase support where it is needed and work directly with councils to ensure local people receive the quality of services to which they are entitled.

We want to see all councils aiming to be excellent. Our vision is one where local government takes ownership of the improvement agenda, with those who do so successfully encouraged to innovate by the removal of controls. There is a great deal that can be learned from the best performing councils, and it is vital that we build on as well as celebrate their achievements.

We are reducing red tape and unnecessary controls that distract councils from improving services. For the very best councils, we are going further. These are councils with a strong focus on improvement which are delivering high quality services. They come in all shapes and sizes, including councils working in the most challenging circumstances. For high achievers CPA will bring new flexibility to expand or to change the way they deliver services and significant additional freedoms to go much further and trailblaze innovative and new practices.

We are making it clear that getting by will not be enough. There is no room for those in the middle simply to stay there. They will have to raise their game or fall behind. CPA will clearly identify the service priorities for the underperforming and the corporate obstacles to innovation and better services. It will indicate where these councils will have to focus their efforts and where central government should be prioritising support. Government are working with the LGA to identify a range of support and improvement activities in response to CPA. But it is clear that the skills needed to realise continuous improvement will be found primarily within local government. Securing long-term and sustained improvement will be achieved only through building a

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greater capacity across the whole local government sector. There will be an immediate focus on the poor and weak councils, informed by the corporate assessment element of CPA.

Government will work in a spirit of co-operation with those councils which are doing poorly. Wherever possible an authority should be given the opportunity to tackle its own problems and weaknesses. The Government will nevertheless seek to engage directly with poor performers and provide appropriate support. We recognise that even overall poor performers have some good services, and we are determined to build on good practice. CPA will deliver the challenge that some councils have needed to address complacency and take a radical look at the way they currently work. For others it will initiate the process of identifying the measures needed to turn around failing services. In all cases the message will be that we will not tolerate poor performance or failing councils. They let down the people they are elected to represent and serve. They tarnish the reputation of the rest of local government. Where necessary, government will not shirk from taking decisive and tough action.

CPA scores will be the launch-pad for action for central and local government. The overarching aim is to secure the foundation for genuine and long-lasting improvement in council services. Freedoms and flexibilities will enable the highest performers to do more. They will also provide a strong incentive for others to change. Where improvements are needed CPA will be the basis for better focused and more determined improvement planning. Ownership of improvement planning and strong local leadership at member and officer level will be vital, as will delivering against realistic but challenging targets. We expect CPA and the improvement planning process to deliver rapid and tangible benefits to local government and to the people they serve.

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