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Written Answers

Thursday 22 March 2007

Agriculture: Tractors

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Agricultural vehicles are not within the scope of the MoT testing scheme because they are generally not used on the road very much by comparison with other classes of vehicle, so the risks they represent to other road users are also comparatively lower. The additional road safety benefits resulting from their inclusion would be likely to be outweighed by the costs—both the test itself and the inconvenience to all by requiring such vehicles to travel to testing stations.

British Citizenship

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): We can only confirm that the total number of British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) passports issued between April 1997 and the end of 2006 was 794,457. Some of these were renewals of full and/or lost passports.

There are 3.4 million BN(O)s, most of whom live in Hong Kong. Therefore by deduction there are approximately 2.6 million BN(O)s in Hong Kong without a passport. It is not possible to calculate the number who may be entitled to any other category of British nationality.

Census

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.



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Letter from Karen Dunnell, National Statistician, to Lord Greaves, dated 22 March 2007.

As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your recent Question asking whether the next census will include questions on ethnicity and proficiency in languages, including proficiency in English. (HL2666).

It is not possible to confirm what questions and response categories are to be included in the 2011 census until the consultation and testing programme is complete and formal approval is given by Parliament in 2010. It is apparent that demands for information from the census are greater than are likely to be able to be accommodated, and difficult trade-offs will need to be made. A White Paper setting out the Government's proposals, including the wording of any questions about ethnicity and language proficiency, is scheduled to be published in 2008.

You might like to know that, as part of the preparations for the 2011 census, ONS will be conducting a census test in May this year in areas within five local authorities in England and Wales. The questionnaire which will be used in the test was launched on 31 October and can be found on the National Statistics website at www.statistics.gov.uk/censustestquestionnaire.

The test questionnaire includes a question on ethnicity and a new question asking about proficiency in a number of languages. Some prior small-scale testing of the language question has, however, identified some problems and the quality of the information collected may be unacceptable. Analysis of the results of the main 2007 test and of further small-scale testing and consideration of other priorities for questions will inform the decision as to whether or not any information on languages will be collected in the 2011 census.

We are conducting a further consultation exercise on user needs for information on ethnicity, national identity, language and religion from the 2011 census in England and Wales. This focuses in particular on assessing public acceptability of the descriptions of the ethnic categories. The relevant documents are available on the National Statistics website. This consultation closes on 31 March 2007 (see www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/cn_155.asp).

Children: Disappearance from Care

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): In the year ending 31 March 2006, 970 looked-after children went missing from their care placement for

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24 hours or more1. The information requested on the proportion of looked-after children who go missing and are found again within six months can only be provided from national-level data sources at a disproportionate cost. Individual local authorities hold detailed information about the children in their care.

In 2002 the Government published detailed guidance for local authorities and their partner agencies on how they should respond to young people who go missing. This guidance included information about preventing children from going missing from their placement and on monitoring and reporting incidents.

Courts: Northern Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: Last year, following extended public consultation on a review of the existing sentencing framework, the Government announced proposals for a radical change to the structure of sentencing in Northern Ireland. I refer the noble Lord to the Written Statement made on 5 December 2006 (WS 117), which outlines these proposals.

Crime: Sex Tourism

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The Government take the issue of sex tourism very seriously. We are signatories to the relevant international protocols, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which we are in the process of ratifying, and continue to press countries that have not yet signed it to do so. Countries in south-east Asia, such as Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, have made significant efforts to improve prosecution rates for sex tourists. The UK has recently assisted these countries in their efforts through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Global Opportunities Fund drugs and crime programme. The UK has been especially active in funding areas of police capacity-building to investigate and act on cases of sexual exploitation, the training of judges in handling child witnesses in court and raising awareness of sexual exploitation.



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Elections: Northern Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: The anticipated cost of the 2007 Northern Ireland Assembly elections held on 7 March is approximately £2.7 million. The exact costs, however, will not be known for a number of months.

Energy: Biofuels

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

Lord Davies of Oldham: Enhanced capital allowances (ECAs) provide a tax-timing benefit rather than a write-off of tax. Information on the value of ECA claims by an individual industry is not available.

English Heritage

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The current role attracts £68,390 per annum for a commitment of 144 days per year. In considering the appropriate time commitment for the future chair we reviewed the needs of the body and the role in conjunction with English Heritage, including the commissioners, and have agreed that 90 days a year is appropriate. This does not represent a downgrading of the role but reflects the fact that English Heritage’s modernisation programme has been completed and a greater time commitment will no longer be necessary. The remuneration level for the new chair has been set at £45,000 per annum, representing a small pro-rata increase. We recognise the importance of the role of the chairman of English Heritage and we are making every effort to identify a suitable successor to build on the excellent work of Sir Neil Cossons.

General Register Office

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, National Statistician, to Lord Mason of Barnsley, dated 22 March 2007.

As Registrar General for England and Wales, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking what is the purpose of the General Register Office's digitisation of vital events (DoVE) project; whether it is intended to change the current service of CD-ROM and fiche provision; and, if so, what assessment has been made of the likely impact on customers of libraries and small archives. (HL2642)

The DoVE project involves the scanning of 259 million civil registration records held by the General Register Office (GRO) and the data-capture of those records in order to create an electronic index of the scanned images. The records date from 1837 and cover all births, deaths, marriages and still births registered in England and Wales since that time.

A separate project, Registration Online (RON) is implementing a system enabling much more rapid capture centrally of new registrations. From April 2007 it is therefore intended to withdraw the sale of new CD-ROM and microfiche copies of the GRO index, and the RON index data for new registrations will be made available free of charge at the Family Records Centre in London from July 2007. The DoVE index date will start to be made available online, from early 2008, greatly increasing the number of people who have access to this information. It is expected that the DoVE project will be completed by 2009.

Existing customers with CD-ROMs and fiches will continue to be able to use these resources. However, the GRO expects that most libraries and similar organisations will provide the public with access to the new electronic indexes though internet-connected PCs.

Iran: Nuclear Capability

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): Iran has now made a formal request for President Ahmadinejad to participate in a Security Council meeting. While this is a matter for the council as a whole, we have no objection to President Ahmadinejad attending.



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Israel and Palestine: Israeli Captives

Lord Turnberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): As part of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, the previous UN Secretary-General wrote in his letter to the UN Security Council on 1 December 2006, and the current UN Secretary-General reiterated in his letter of 14 March, that the UN continues to make the unconditional release of the Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, a top priority. A facilitator appointed specifically to address these issues by the UN is engaged in an intensive effort with all parties to reach a resolution. The UK continues to support the UN's lead role on this issue and is in regular contact with the UN on it.

Egypt has been leading international efforts to mediate the release of Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas. We continue to support these efforts.

We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of the captured Israeli soldiers.

Lord Turnberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Triesman: As the previous UN Secretary-General wrote in his letter to the UN Security Council on 1 December 2006, and the current UN Secretary-General reiterated in his letter of 14 March, the UN continues to make the unconditional release of the Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, a top priority. A facilitator appointed specifically to address these issues by the UN is currently engaged in an intensive effort with all parties to reach a resolution. The UK continues to support the UN's lead role on this issue and is in regular contact with the UN on it.

Egypt has been leading international efforts to mediate the release of Gilad Shalit. We continue to support these efforts.

We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of the captured Israeli soldiers.

Languages

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Lord Rooker: There are no precise figures relating to Irish language speakers in Northern Ireland. The 2001 census found that 167,490 people “had some knowledge of Irish” and, of these, 75,125 “speaks, reads, writes and understands Irish”.

Information on the number of Chinese speakers, both Mandarin and Cantonese, is not held centrally. Research funded by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, published in 2003, estimates that there are around 8,000 people in Northern Ireland of Chinese origin, with Mandarin spoken by around 10 per cent and Cantonese spoken by around 80 to 90 per cent of the community.

Manchester

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, National Statistician, to Lord Morris dated 22 March 2007.

As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your recent Question about the rate of economic growth in Manchester and other regional cities of the UK since 2003. (HL2635)


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