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MoD: Questions for Written Answers

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: I regret that the noble Lord has had to wait an inordinate length of time for a reply. I can confirm that I have replied today and placed a copy of my response in the Library of the House.

The Ministry of Defence continues to adhere to the guidelines that all Written Questions will be answered in two weeks, and the lapse in this case is most regrettable.

Iraqi Prisoners of War

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

Lord Bach: The United Kingdom is confident that our partners will abide by their obligations under international law in their treatment of prisoners.

Defence Act 1842

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

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Lord Bach: Since 1997 the powers contained in the Defence Act 1842 with regard to footpaths and bridleways have been used a total of three times.

The locations in which the powers were used are as follows: Lakenheath; RAF Fylingdales Western Bridleway; and Chicksands.

On two of these occasions at Lakenheath in 1999 and Chicksands in 1997 Section XVII of the Act has been complied with.

The third case was at RAF Fylingdales in 2002. On this occasion and after legal advice Section XVII of the Act was not complied with.

Royal Navy: Merlin Mk1 Helicopters

Lord Campbell-Savours, asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to upgrade the Royal Navy's Merlin Mk1 helicopters.[HL3093]

Lord Bach: We are pleased to announce the start of an assessment phase (AP) to be led by Lockheed Martin UK Ltd, with Westland Helicopters Ltd as strategic sub-contractor, to determine how best to sustain the capability of the Royal Navy's Merlin Mk1 helicopters for future operations. Merlin Mk1 already delivers a quantum leap in capability over the aircraft it succeeded, the Sea King Mk6, and is recognised as crucial across the spectrum of maritime operations. We anticipate an upgraded aircraft entering service towards the end of the decade, building on significant operational experience and technological advances to ensure that the full potential of this versatile and capable aircraft is realised and that it continues to meet our security challenges for decades to come. The AP, costing £18 million, will investigate the most cost-effective way to sustain this world-beating capability and the scope for enhancements to broaden the utility and versatility of the aircraft. The partnering of Lockheed Martin as prime contractor with the world-class manufacturing skills of Westland as strategic sub-contractor is believe to offer the lowest risk to the Ministry of Defence. The AP is planned to complete at the end of 2004 after which a decision will be made on the scope and programme for the demonstration and manufacture phase.


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

    Whether their proposed £1.4 million limit on the capital value of each individuals' pension rights will apply equally to people in the public and private sectors; and, if not, why not.[HL3009]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: On 17 December 2002 the Government issued a consultation paper, Simplifying the taxation of pensions: increasing choice and flexibility, which puts forward a proposed framework of benefit rules that would apply to all tax approved pension schemes.

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The proposed £1.4 million lifetime limit would not limit the size of the pension someone could receive, only the amount that attracts preferential tax treatment. The Government are currently considering responses to the consultation paper.

Benefit Sanctions

Lord Addington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the number of people subject to benefit sanction in whole or in part.[HL2708]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Due to the way sanction data are recorded it is not possible to say how many individuals have been subject to a sanction. The Quarterly Statistical Enquiries of Income Support and Jobseekers's Allowance provide data on the number of people subject to certain sanctions at that point in time. The latest information is in the table.

Number of people subject to benefit sanctions as at November 2002 (000s)

Jobseekers's Allowance21.1
Income Support10.3


Income Support Quarterly Statistical Enquiry, November 2002.

Jobseekers' Allowance Quarterly Statistical Enquiry, November 2002.


1. Figures are based on a 5 per cent sample and are therefore subject to a degree of sampling variation.

2. Figures have been rounded to the nearest hundred and are expressed in thousands.

Non-Residential Property: Blackwall Ward, Tower Hamlets

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

    What are the population and the total rateable value of non-residential properties in the Blackwall ward of Tower Hamlets.[HL3043]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Blackwall ward of Tower Hamlets was estimated to have a mid 1998 resident population of 5,300. The total rateable value of non-residential properties in the Blackwall ward amounted to £270.1 million on 1 April 2003.

NHS: Specialised Commissioning

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the preparedness of primary care trusts to assume responsibility for specialised commissioning has improved since the Department of Health conducted a review last year.[HL2786]

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Baroness Andrews: A number of activities have taken place to develop and improve primary care trust (PCT) commissioning skills since PCTs assumed responsibility for commissioning specialised services last April and took over membership of specialised commissioning groups. The National Primary and Care Trusts Development Programme (NatPaCT) has published information on improving commissioning, which includes specialised services. This will be revised on an ongoing basis.

Guidance issued on 31 March 2003 reaffirms that all PCTs should belong to collaborative specialised services commissioning groups with a two–tier structure being established: Level 1 groups with planning populations between 1 million and 2 million and Level 2 groups for specialised services with planning population between 3 million and 6 million. Strategic health authorities will oversee and performance manage these collaborative specialised services commissioning arrangements.

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will protect spending on specialised services in real terms for a further year given the delay in publication of the Hutton review.[HL2787]

Baroness Andrews: To ensure stability during 2002–03, whilst primary care trusts assumed responsibility for commissioning specialised services, primary care trusts were asked to honour previously agreed financial commitments and programmes of service reviews for specialised services. This commitment will not be extended to 2003–04.

Primary care trusts will receive an extra £12.7 billion over the next three years. This amounts to an average increase over the three years of 30.83 per cent. This certainty of funding will enable health communities to plan their finances and will provide a surer foundation for PCTs to commission services in a way which will deliver improved performance.

Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc.) Act 2003

Lord Smith of Leigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What criteria have been determined to allocate the £50 million funding to assist local authorities with the implementation of the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc.) Act 2003.[HL2872]

Baroness Andrews: The indicative allocations for this grant have been published on the Department of Health's website, The special grant report will be debated in the House of Commons before the parliamentary recess.

Food Hygiene Enforcement

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any local authorities have reduced their budgets for food hygiene enforcement work; if so,

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    which ones; and whether there is correlation between any such reduction and an increase in food poisoning cases in the area concerned.[HL2907]

Baroness Andrews: The information requested is not held centrally. It is for individual local authorities to set their budgets for food law enforcement work from funding received through the revenue support grant. It is for each authority to ensure that it can meet its statutory obligations and the agreed standards of food enforcement work as set out in the Food Standards Agency Framework Agreement on Local Authority Food Law Enforcement.

Under this agreement, the Food Standards Agency monitors and audits local authority work on food law enforcement, but not the budgets. For 2001, the agency identified 20 local authorities with unacceptably low levels of food law enforcement activity, or for not making any returns. Seventeen of these gave resource issues as part of the reasons for their results.

The agency is not able to link budgets for food law enforcement with levels of food poisoning cases.

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