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Criminal Appeal Office: Waiting Times

Lord Kingsland asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): Using the Criminal Appeal Office database it is possible only to provide a response defined by receipt in the Criminal Appeal Office rather than by receipt in the Crown Court.

The average waiting times from date received in the Criminal Appeal Office to date the appeal was heard were:

YearAverage Waiting Time
20009.5 months
200112.8 months
200215.4 months
To end October 200315.2 months

Freedom of Information Act 2000

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

Lord Filkin: Under Section 87(5) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, my noble and learned friend the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs is obliged to prepare a report on bringing fully into force those aspects of the Act which are not yet fully in force. This report will also report on progress made towards preparing for implementation of the Act. It will be laid before Parliament later this month.

Civil Courts

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

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Lord Filkin: My Answer to the earlier question on this issue explained that the investment available in the current spending period, £75 million, will allow us to improve the speed and quality of work in the civil and family courts and reduce unnecessary delays caused by manual working practices.

Focusing the available investment on the most appropriate courts we will have a positive impact on the users of civil and family courts. We will install a modern IT infrastructure into a large number of civil sites. The targeted sites will include all care centres, all trial centres, the principal civil and family courts plus a number of sites across circuits to ensure a fair geographical distribution. This is in addition to the 61 sites included in the criminal infrastructure programme and will capture 80 per cent of all civil business. This will enable court users to access the court by use of email and we intend to develop a possession online service for housing cases.

As I have previously explained, I am not yet in a position to make a formal announcement about other individual modernisation projects, which remain at various stages of planning. All projects will go through a rigorous internal evaluation to ensure they contribute to our public service agreements.

Credit Card Interchange Fees:OFT Investigation

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Office of Fair Trading has taken three years to start investigating interchange fees on credit cards after concerns were first raised.[HL5407]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Office of Fair Trading has been investigating MasterCard Interchange fees since March 2000. There is no standard length of investigation. The length of each investigation is determined by the complexity of the issues including questions of law and economics and must also take account of the parties right of defence under the Competition Act 1998.

It is a matter for the Office of Fair Trading, as the UK's independent competition regulator, to conduct an investigation where they feel that an agreement infringes the Competition Act 1998. There is no locus for Ministerial intervention into such investigations.

Business Competitiveness Rankings

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why in one year the United Kingdom has fallen from 11th to 15th place in the World Economic Forum's overall competitive ratings.[HL5299]

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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Competitiveness rankings are far from a scientific exercise. Different exercises give different results and survey data are notoriously volatile. What matters to UK businesses is not some ranking on an artificial index but the economic reality: an extra 1.5 million jobs since 1997; the lowest-ever rates of corporation tax with a new zero rate for smaller companies; and inflation at historically low levels.

Broadband

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of Internet-enabled households currently access Internet services offering speeds of 512 kbps and above. [HL5560]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government do not hold data on the proportion of households connected to the Internet at speeds of 512 kbps and above. However, according to Oftel's research report Consumers' use of the Internet (http://www.oftel.gov.uk/publications/research/2003/q14intres1003.pdf), 18 per cent of respondents in Internet-enabled households surveyed during August 2003 claimed that their household used broadband to access the Internet at home.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many Internet-enabled households subscribed to Internet services offering speeds of 512 kbps and above in each year since 1999.[HL5561]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government do not hold data on household subscribers to the Internet accessing services of 512 kbps and above. Oftel collects data on the number of subscribers to higher bandwidth "always on" services offering bandwidths from 128 kbps and above. A graph showing the increase in connections between November 2000 and September 2003 is available from the Oftel website at http//www.oftel.gov.uk/publications/internet/internet-brief/index.htm. At the end of September 2003 there were 2,628,100 broadband subscribers meeting Oftel's definition.

Food Supplements

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action has been taken to promote to other European member states the methodology for establishing safe levels of nutrient intake adopted by the Expert Advisory Group on Vitamins and Minerals; and what further plans they have for promoting their policies of case-by-case reviews of published literature on nutrient safety. [HL5157]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): Article 5 of the Food Supplements Directive lays out a framework for the future setting of maximum permitted levels of vitamins and minerals in food supplements. The United Kingdom continues to press for European Union maximum permitted limits to be set on a safety basis, and in doing so, is using its influence in both scientific and political forums. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health intends to raise this issue with Ministers in other member states as and when appropriate. She is also seeking to arrange a meeting with Commissioner David Byrne at the earliest practicable opportunity.

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What specific plans they have to liaise at political level with other European Union member states as part of their strategy for achieving the best possible maximum permitted levels for nutrients under the provisions of the Food Supplements Directive; and [HL5199]

    What plans they have to raise with the appropriate European Commissioner the concerns of the United Kingdom about the interpretation which the Commission may propose for Article 5 of the Food Supplements Directive. [HL5198]

Lord Warner: Article 5 of the Food Supplements Directive lays out a framework for the future setting of maximum permitted levels of vitamins and minerals in food supplements. The United Kingdom continues to press for European Union maximum permitted limits to be set on a safety basis, and in doing so, is using its influence in both scientific and political forums. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health intends to raise this issue with Ministers in other member states as and when appropriate. She is also seeking to arrange a meeting with Commissioner David Byrne at the earliest practicable opportunity.

NHS Foundation Trusts: Private Patient Income

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the cap on private patient income included in the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill allows some flexibility for the independent regulator for those foundation hospitals whose level of private patient income in 2002–03 was atypically low. [HL5283]

Lord Warner: No, the percentage will be fixed as the percentage that applied for each National Health Service foundation trust in the financial year ending April 2003.


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