Although in-year costs for redundancy payments are recorded, such costs do not reflect the number of redundancies actually made in the same year. This is because redundancy costs, especially where the compensation takes the form of the early payment of pension, may be spread over a number of years. Consequently, the costs recorded in any one year may reflect in large part redundancy activity from earlier years.

Money: Counterfeit Coins

Question

Asked by Lord Higgins

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The most recent survey conducted by the Royal Mint found that its sample contained a £1 coin counterfeit rate of 2.52 per cent, or approximately £37 million.

The Royal Mint does not currently undertake regular surveys for other denominations. It is widely believed (by the Royal Mint, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and industry partners) that there is not a significant counterfeit issue with any other denominations.


 
7 Dec 2009 : Column WA92
 

The Royal Mint is working with banks, the Post Office, cash handling and sorting businesses, the police and the vending industry to remove counterfeit £1 coins from circulation before they reach the pockets of members of the public. Coin handling businesses, such as banks and the Post Office, handle over three billion £1 coins every year. They use high-speed, automated systems to process customer deposits and prepare coin for reissue. These automated systems are capable of detecting and withdrawing a significant number of counterfeit coins. All counterfeit coins detected from coin processing are sent to the Royal Mint for disposal.

The Royal Mint holds awareness seminars to educate the public and the coin handling industry on how to identify counterfeits, and has issued educational leaflets and posters.

The Royal Mint is also working with other validator and coin sorting manufacturers to help improve the counterfeit detection rate.

Motoring: Fines

Question

Asked by Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay

The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): The Government Car and Despatch Agency (GCDA) have paid the following fines:

YearTotal Parking FinesCongestion Charge Fines

2003-04

£7,570

£160

2004-05

£5,610

£160

2005-06

£7,470

Nil

2006-07

£5,900

£50

2007-08

£15,930

Nil

2008-09

£16,830

Nil

The agency has paid no speeding fines.

Parking restrictions within central London may make it impossible sometimes to deliver secure or sensitive documents to buildings or allow people with a high public profile to attend or leave buildings without putting themselves or secure documents at risk. In these cases GCDA will pay the fine and recharge these costs to the customer as appropriate.

Armed Forces: Compensation

Question

Asked by Lord Moonie


 
7 Dec 2009 : Column WA93
 

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): We are not aware of any instances of the Government of Iraq paying compensation. The Ministry of Defence administers the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, which provides benefits for illness, injury or death sustained by troops during the course of their duties on or after 6 April 2005. This scheme has replaced the War Pensions Scheme and Armed Forces Pension Scheme's 75 attributable benefits. Any civilians injured in the course of their employment in Iraq or the next of kin of those who have been killed should discuss the issue of compensation with their employer.

National Identity Register

Question

Asked by Baroness Neville-Jones

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): No foreign intelligence agencies or foreign law enforcement agencies will have direct access to information held on the National Identity Register, and there are no plans to grant such access.

Nepal

Question

Asked by The Archbishop of York

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The UK strongly supports the right to freedom of religion or belief. We are disappointed that the interim constitution of Nepal does not guarantee a person's right to choose or change their religion. We will, however, urge the Government of Nepal to ensure that the new constitution provides this right. We are providing technical and financial assistance to the Constituent Assembly to assist it in the drafting of the new constitution. This includes raising its awareness of Nepal's obligations under international treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to protect human rights, including the freedom of religion.


 
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Pakistan: Torture

Question

Asked by Lord Ahmed

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): Torture is prohibited under UK and international law and perpetrators can be prosecuted in the UK regardless of where the crime was committed. This is in accordance with the UK's obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and enacted through Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Any decision to bring prosecutions against those accused of torture in Pakistan is a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service and requires the Attorney-General's consent.

Plant Health Regulations

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): The inspection fees listed in Schedule 2 to the Plant Health (Import Inspection Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations (SI 2009/2053) are set according to the level of checks required under the plant health directive (2000/29 EC) to provide assurance that the imported plants or plant produce are free from quarantine plant pests and diseases.

An annual review by the European Commission determines the trades eligible for levels of inspection below 100 per cent, based on records of inspections and interceptions over the previous three years. A working group held in June this year agreed the addition of one new trade, the removal of two trades, and changes to the levels of inspection on 11 trades to take account of new data on compliance. Member states reported an increase in the number of interceptions of quarantine pests and diseases associated with imports of dianthus from Israel and Kenya and roses from India, Uganda and Zambia, resulting in an increase in the level of inspection on those trades and a corresponding increase to the fees. Conversely, there was a reduction in the number of interceptions associated with some other trades (eg citrus fruit from Honduras and Israel) which resulted in a reduction in the level of inspection and fees for those trades.


 
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These inspections are undertaken by the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), which supports the risk-based approach to such inspections adopted by the Commission.

Post Office

Question

Asked by The Duke of Montrose

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): Post Office Limited provides both automated and manual transcash bill payment services through its nationwide network of branches and many local authorities use the Post Office to allow their customers to make payments such as council tax, rent payments and other miscellaneous payments. In Scotland, customers of all 32 local authorities can use the Post Office for specific bill payments—the income and costs for these services is commercially confidential information.

Prisoners: Ethnicity and Religion

Question

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): Data for 2008 was published in July 2009 in Offender Management Caseload Statistics on the MoJ website. (http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications /prisonandprobation.htm).

Data for 1999 was published in July 2000 in Prison Statistics England and Wales. A copy may be found at the following website: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/prischap6.html.

Both publications may also be found in House Libraries.

The religious composition of all prisoners in June 1999 and June 2008 is in the table below. Religion is self-declared.


 
7 Dec 2009 : Column WA96
 
19992008

All Christian

39,547

41,839

Anglican

27,095

23,039

Free Church

1,144

1,213

Roman Catholic

11,308

14,296

Other Christian

*

3,291

Buddhist

307

1,737

Hindu

256

434

Jewish

185

220

Muslim

4,339

9,795

Sikh

437

648

Other religious groups

1,294

448

Non recognised

*

347

No religion

18,157

27,710

Not recorded

7

17

Total

64,529

83,194

The ethnic composition of all prisoners in June 1999 and June 2008 are in the tables below. Data on ethnicity of prisoners in 1999 was based on 1991 census categories. Since 2004, the categories in the 2001 census have been used. The figures are therefore not strictly comparable. Ethnicity is self-declared.

1999

White

52,377

Black

7,964

South Asian

1,929

Chinese & Other

2,225

Unrecorded

34

Total

64,529

2008

White

60,196

Mixed

2,691

Asian or Asian British

5,804

Black or Black British

12,557

Chinese or Other ethnic group

1,354

Not Stated

312

Unrecorded

36

1991 Census ethnic codes

244

Total

83,194