Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



21 Oct 2011 : Column WA101



21 Oct 2011 : Column WA101

Written Answers

Friday 21 October 2011

BBC: Staff

Question

Asked by Lord Janner of Braunstone

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We condemn the harassment of BBC staff and their families in Iran. This deplorable treatment forms part of a wider pattern of harassment and intimidation of journalists, film-makers and artists in Iran. We have and will continue to raise these issues and the specific targeting of BBC Persian with the Iranian authorities. We most recently raised our concerns about the harassment of journalists with the Iranian Charge d'Affaires in London on 12 October. The EU Foreign Affairs Council also condemned Iranian repression of journalists on 10 October, and announced additional sanctions against Iranian officials responsible for serious human rights abuses.

China

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We are aware that there are increasing concerns about Chen Guangcheng's well-being and that, one year after his release from prison, he continues to be subject to extralegal restrictions, which appear to violate Chinese laws.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and my honourable friend the Minister of State Jeremy Browne have regularly raised our concerns about Chen's situation with the Chinese Government. We continue to monitor and press for information about his situation. We are working with EU partners to maintain the profile of his case.

Electoral Registration

Questions

Asked by Lord Rennard



21 Oct 2011 : Column WA102

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): It is intended that under individual electoral registration, electoral registration officers (EROs) will have a statutory duty to maintain an electoral register of all persons who appear to the registration officer to be entitled to be registered in it and in respect of whom a successful application for registration has been made. EROs will also be required to take all necessary steps for the purpose of ensuring that, so far as reasonably practicable, the persons who are entitled to be registered in a register (and no others) are registered in it. We are proposing to take powers in the final legislation for individual electoral registration that will set out the specific steps that EROs must take in regard to this statutory duty.

The Government will do everything they can to maintain the completeness of the electoral register.

Asked by Lord Rennard

Lord McNally: The Government published a White Paper and draft legislation outlining our proposals to implement individual electoral registration on 30 June 2011. The consultation for this ended on Friday 14 October. At the end of the consultation period the Government had received four consultation responses from credit reference agencies. Now that the consultation has closed, the Government will consider all the responses received before we bring forward our final legislation.

Asked by Lord Rennard

Lord McNally: The Government have made no estimate of the impact on the number of refused credit applications resulting from the introduction of individual electoral registration. The Government are funding research to understand the current state of the electoral register which will help us to better understand the way in which the move to individual electoral registration will have an impact.

The Government will do everything they can to maintain the completeness of the electoral register. This includes phasing in the move to individual electoral registration over two years so that people on the register who do not apply under the new system do not lose their vote at the 2015 general election. Every eligible elector will be asked in 2014 to register under the new system: this will include personal invites to people on the register, inquiries to households where no one is registered or people have moved, reminder letters and face-to-face doorstep canvassers. There will also be a publicity campaign run by the Electoral Commission and we are testing data matching to identify people missing from the register and looking

21 Oct 2011 : Column WA103

at how we can increase the choices people have over how to register-including greater use of online registration.

Asked by Lord Rennard

Lord McNally: The Government remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the maximum number of people are on the electoral register.

As part of the move to individual electoral registration in 2014 the Government are looking at how we can modernise the system of electoral registration by opening up new channels for registration to make it easier and more convenient for people to register to vote. This year, we are also trialling data matching-where names and addresses on the electoral register are compared against names and addresses on existing public authority databases-to see if it will help to identify more people who are eligible but are not currently registered, so that electoral registration officers can encourage them to do so.

We will also be funding research to identify the scale and profile of groups that are currently under-registered. These findings will be used to inform our approach to improving registration levels among these groups and wider work to promote public awareness of registration and participation of young people in the voting process. We are, for example, looking at the merits of integrating electoral registration prompts into other transactions citizens have with public services.

Finally, the Electoral Commission will be leading the publicity campaign to support the introduction of individual electoral registration.

Asked by Lord Rennard

Lord McNally: The Government are committed to ensuring that the maximum number of people possible are registered to vote after the transition to individual registration and as part of developing their plans for the transition, will be assessing a range of measures which have potential to improve registration levels among those groups under-represented on the electoral register.

The Government have commissioned research that will help them interpret the current state of the electoral register, including any variation by demographic group. That research will improve analysis of what impact individual electoral registration may have on certain groups in society and its findings will enable us to

21 Oct 2011 : Column WA104

follow up with those currently under-registered to find out how to support an improvement in registration rates.

The Government are currently running data matching test schemes to see how useful usually unavailable public authority data could be to electoral registration officers in improving the completeness and accuracy of the electoral register. Data matching would be a complement to the existing annual canvass.

We are assessing how to increase the choices and opportunities people have to register to vote. We are, for example, looking at the merits of integrating electoral registration prompts into other transactions citizens have with public services. We are also looking at how to encourage applications to register to vote through channels other than the conventional canvass, including online registration.

The Electoral Commission will be leading the publicity campaign to support the introduction of individual electoral registration and the Government will do everything they can to maintain the completeness of the electoral register. This includes phasing in the move to individual registration over two years so that people on the register who do not apply under the new system do not lose their vote at the 2015 general election. Every eligible elector will be asked in 2014 to register under the new system: this will include personal invites to people on the register, inquiries to households where no one is registered or people have moved, reminder letters and face-to-face doorstep canvassers.

Energy: Fuel Poverty

Questions

Asked by Lord Vinson

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): In 2009, the latest year for which data are available, there were 4 million households in England in fuel poverty. The number for the UK was 5.5 million households in 2009.

There has been no estimate made of the total cost of environmental policies on fuel poverty.

Asked by Lord Vinson

Lord Marland: The department produces projections for fuel poverty up to 2011 and these are published in the annual report on Fuel Poverty Statistics 2011. The latest fuel poverty projections, based on 2009 data,

21 Oct 2011 : Column WA105

project fuel poverty data to 2011. Projections are based on estimated changes in income and energy efficiency of homes between 2009 and 2011, and actual energy costs.

The projected number of households in fuel poverty in England in 2010 is 4 million, and 4.1 million in 2011.

There are no estimates of the effect of all environmental policies in 2020.

Asked by Lord Vinson

Lord Marland: No estimate has been made of the effect of all energy efficiency policies on fuel poverty in 2020.

Energy: Wind Turbines

Questions

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): The Government continue to believe wind farm proposals should be assessed on a case-by-case basis according to their impacts. We recently commissioned separate reports assessing UK planning considerations of shadow flicker and noise from wind turbines. These reports which were peer reviewed are available on the DECC website at: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/meeting_energy/wind/onshore/comms_planning/comms_planning.aspx.

They found that UK guidance is appropriate to assess significant adverse impacts from wind farms. In addition, at our request, the Institute of Acoustics has agreed to produce best practice guidance for industry to confirm and, where necessary, clarify the way that the current government guidance (ETSU-R-97) is implemented.

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton



21 Oct 2011 : Column WA106

Lord Marland: Carbon savings are generated within the UK power sector when low-carbon generation displaces conventional fossil fuel technologies. However, as the UK power sector is part of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) which has placed a cap on emissions, any carbon savings achieved in the UK power sector have to be netted off by lower carbon abatement elsewhere in the EU-ETS.

The extent of carbon savings is dependent upon the assumed generation mix, which is dependent upon a range of factors, including fossil fuel and carbon prices, the economics of electricity generation, technological progress, and policies pursued (including those designed to meet climate change targets) . DECC models different generation scenarios in order to develop policy, rather than forecasting a specific generation mix. The net carbon savings will depend on the scenario used.

For example, in DECC's recently published Updated Energy Projections central baseline scenario, 411 TWh of electricity is estimated to be supplied from wind (onshore and offshore) in the next 10 years (2011-20). If we assume this displaces generation from the marginal plant1 it translates to 15MtCO2 net carbon savings. In this scenario, there is no new nuclear forecast until 2022. This scenario does not include the impacts of any proposed electricity market reform measures.

By contrast, under the central scenario commissioned by DECC from the consultancy Redpoint (to inform the electricity market reform White Paper and including EMR policy options), 445TWh of electricity is supplied from wind and 38TWh of electricity from new nuclear in the next 10 years (2011-20). By the same method as before, this translates to 17MtCO2 and 2MtCO2 net carbon savings respectively.

Enterprise Zones

Question

Asked by Baroness Randerson

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): I refer the noble Baroness to my Statement of 10 October 2011 (Official Report, col. WS 85- WS86) outlining the announcement of a further two enterprise zones.

Fire Services

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser, Sir Ken Knight, is responsible for the commission and production of national operational guidance for the Fire and Rescue Service in England. Following the civil disturbances in August, a review of current guidance, including the Dear Chief Fire Officer letter 7 dated 6 July 1993 from Reginald Doyle, Chief Inspector of Fire Services, has been commenced to ensure that lessons learnt from the events in August are incorporated into future guidance.

Freedom of Information

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Government departments are encouraged as a matter of best practice to publish information released in response to freedom of information requests which is of interest to the wider public on online disclosure logs. There is no recommended time limit for publishing information on a disclosure log.

Government Departments: Procurement

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: For contracts above the EU threshold, which for the procurement of goods and services is approximately £100,000, contracting authorities must, as soon as possible after a decision has been made, inform all of the tenderers of the decision to award the contract or conclude the framework agreement by sending a "standstill notice" in writing by the most rapid means of communication practicable.

Detailed information is available in the Implementation of the Remedies Directive: OGC Guidance on the 2009 amending regulation. Part 2: the new rules on the Standstill

21 Oct 2011 : Column WA108

Period
, which includes guidance on confidentiality. This is available at http://webarchive.nationalarchives. gov.uk/20110601212617/http:/www.ogc.gov.uk/documents/Remedies_Guidance_Part_2_ Standstill_Rules(2).pdf.

Gypsies and Travellers: Dale Farm

Questions

Asked by Baroness Smith of Basildon

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The Department for Communities and Local Government has undertaken to contribute a one-off grant payment up to £1.2 million towards the clear-up costs incurred by Basildon District Council relating to the clearance of the unauthorised pitches at Dale Farm given the exceptional nature of the case. This grant would be paid to Basildon District Council after the clearance operation has been completed and upon receipt of a statement of expenditure on costs incurred. The Home Office has agreed to provide contingency funding up to a maximum of £4.65 million should the costs of the policing operation exceed the level at which the costs are able to be managed by the police force from within their existing resources. This is in line with the approach taken to providing support to any force facing exceptional or unforeseen pressures that would otherwise threaten their financial stability. The Government's decisions to contribute towards Basildon District Council's costs and policing costs relating to the clearance of unauthorised pitches at Dale Farm were made under the normal processes for considering such payments, which includes consideration of any legal and financial issues. We have found no record of Basildon District Council's having shared with Her Majesty's Government any legal advice in relation to the clearance of unauthorised pitches at Dale Farm.

Homelessness

Question

Asked by Lord Janner of Braunstone



21 Oct 2011 : Column WA109

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): This Government are committed to tackling and preventing homelessness and protecting the vulnerable. We have maintained homelessness grant funding, investing £400 million over the next four years to support local authorities and the voluntary sector in their work to tackle and prevent homelessness. This includes £10 million to fund the voluntary sector to help single homeless people access and sustain private rented sector accommodation.

We have acted decisively to introduce a more accurate assessment of rough sleeping levels so that there is clear information in all areas, to inform service provision and action to address the problem. We also recently announced £42.5 million for the homelessness change programme which will provide around 1,400 new and improved bed spaces to improve hostels for rough sleepers and ensure that those coming off the streets get the support they need.

We have established a ministerial working group on homelessness which brings together eight departments to tackle the complex causes-not only housing, but just as importantly health, work and training. They have pledged that for the first time no one should ever need to experience a second night sleeping rough.

We are providing £190 million available to local authorities to support households affected by welfare reform and our £4.5 billion affordable homes programme is set to exceed expectations and deliver up to 170,000 affordable homes by 2015.

House of Lords Reform Bill [HL]

Question

Asked by Lord Warner

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): The Church of England is the established Church in England and the relationship between Church and state is an important part of the constitutional framework that has evolved over centuries. The Government consider that, in a mainly elected House of Lords, it was right to maintain their presence, which provides an important dimension to the legislative process.

The Bishops see their role as speaking for those of all faiths. Religious belief has an important role in many people's lives and it is desirable that this should be reflected in the House of Lords' considerations.

In the event of a wholly elected second Chamber, there would be no reserved places for Church of England Bishops.

Housing

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark



21 Oct 2011 : Column WA110

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Information on new homes built for rent is not available. However, the following official statistics provide information on the stock of rented homes and the supply of new social rented homes and may be helpful in relation to this question.

Estimates of the number of dwellings in England in each housing tenure each year from 1991 to 2010 are included in live table 104 which is published on the Department for Communities and Local Government website at the link below.

http://www.communities.gov.uk/housing/housing research/housingstatistics/housingstatisticsby/stock includingvacants/livetables/.

The tenures shown are (a) owner-occupied, (b) privately rented, (c) rented from housing associations, and (d) rented from local authorities. Changes in the size of each tenure are the result not only of the construction of new dwellings but also existing dwellings transferring between tenures.

Statistics on additions to the social rented tenures, comprising (c) dwellings rented from housing associations and (d) dwellings rented from local authorities through the construction of new dwellings from 1991-92 to 2010-11, are shown in live table 1009 which is published on the Department for Communities and Local Government website at the link below.

http://www.communities.gov.uk/housing/housing research/housingstatistics/housingstatisticsby/affordablehousingsupply/livetables/.

Severe Winter Weather

Question

Asked by Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): The department has been working closely with industry and consumer bodies, including Citizens Advice Bureau, Consumer Focus Wales, Consumer Focus Scotland and Action for Communities in Rural England, in a national campaign, to encourage consumers to buy heating oil early to ensure they are well prepared for winter.

Relevant information has also been cascaded through the UK Resilience Network to Local Resilience Forums which have a range of collective responsibilities to ensure effective delivery of duties under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 to plan, prepare and communicate to reduce the risk from emergencies.

We have also reminded operators of oil terminals and depots that supply heating fuels to ensure they have sufficient salt stocks to maintain vehicle access and are not caught out by bad weather.



21 Oct 2011 : Column WA111

Work by the Department for Transport to improve winter resilience has ensured that the country will enter the winter well prepared. This includes having a national strategic salt reserve as well as making sure that local highway authorities make best use of their salt supplies.

Preparedness planning is ongoing more widely across government, with officials from UK government departments, the devolved Administrations and the Local Government Association meeting regularly to review the situation with regard to winter and address cross-cutting issues.

Uganda

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We are appalled by the ongoing practice of child sacrifice, and other forms of ritual murder in Uganda and around the world, as highlighted by the Jubilee campaign.

The Government of Uganda have taken important steps to address this problem. According to their official figures, there were 14 cases of ritual murder in 2010 including nine children. In response, 43 suspects were arrested, of which 32 were charged with murder, attempted murder or other offences.

Despite these successes, the Jubilee report rightly highlights some of the challenges that Uganda faces in enforcing laws against ritual murder, and the related problem of child trafficking. The Ugandan Government have established a ministerial task force, and set up child and family protection units to tackle the problem. A national plan of action on child sacrifice is due by the end of this year.

The Department for International Development office in Uganda has supported child protection work in Uganda through the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), which focuses on child sacrifice as part of its broader

21 Oct 2011 : Column WA112

work. We are also engaged with local non-governmental organisations which are working to raise awareness of this problem and which are campaigning for tighter regulation of so-called "traditional healers" in the country.

UK Bill of Rights

Question

Asked by Lord Janner of Braunstone

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Commission on a Bill of Rights was established by the Government to investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights. It has been asked to provide its final report by the end of 2012. It is too early to say what the next steps will be until the commission has reported its final findings.

UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Further to my answer of 14 September (Official Report, col. WA 73) I refer him to the webpage of the 79th session of the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at: www.2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/cerds79.htm.

In particular, I refer the noble Lord to the opening statement by the head of the government delegation, which introduces each member of the delegation by name.


Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page