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Written Answers

Thursday 14 February 2013

Armed Forces: Procurement

Question

Asked by Lord Moonie

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to improve reporting systems so they have access to information about direct commercial sales services provided by the UK Defence Procurement Office in the United States.[HL5123]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The British Defence Staff in Washington routinely gathers and monitors information relating to direct commercial sales in the US.

The Ministry of Defence has access to this information and there are no current plans to change the reporting system.

Aviation: Air Passenger Duty

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to modify air passenger duty; and, if so, by how much and when.[HL5202]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): Reforms to air passenger duty (APD) were considered as part of the consultation launched at Budget 2011. The Government’s response was published on 6 December 20111.

From 1 April 2013, APD rates will rise in line with the retail prices index, as set out at Budget 2012.

The Chancellor keeps all taxes under review.

1

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/2011budget_airpassenger.htm.

Bank of England

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Bank of England has authorisation from HM Treasury to reinvest the proceeds of maturing bonds held in the Asset Purchase Fund used to implement quantitative easing.[HL5175]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): The Bank of England has authorisation from HM Treasury to reinvest the proceeds of maturing bonds held in the Asset Purchase Facility used to implement quantitative easing. The Monetary Policy Committee will decide on the appropriate size of the asset purchase programme, taking account of any maturing gilts, at each monthly meeting in the light of the medium-term outlook for inflation.

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Benefits

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Deighton on 29 January (WA 294) whether details of child benefit recipients’ ordinarily resident status and their right to reside in the United Kingdom is removed from their paper files once the benefit is in payment or the files destroyed.[HL5207]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): Information about a customer’s ordinarily resident status and their right to reside in the United Kingdom remains on their clerical records until their entitlement to child benefit is determined and their clerical records are destroyed.

Cats

Question

Asked by Lord Black of Brentwood

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the number of households that have one or more cats as a domestic pet.[HL5373]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): Defra does not hold the information requested. However, research by the University of Bristol carried out in 2010 estimated that 26% of households in the UK had one or more cats. I accept that this may not be the only research carried out in this area of interest.

Debt

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Answer by Lord Deighton on 30 January (Official Report, col. 1535), whether levels of total debt in the United Kingdom economy are now higher or lower than in May 2010.[HL5177]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is responsible for estimates of United Kingdom debt, which it publishes on a quarterly basis. The following table shows estimates of public, corporate, household and total debt between the second quarter of 2009 and the third quarter of 2012 (the most recent quarter). Estimates are shown in both nominal terms and as a per cent of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) over the preceding four quarters.

2009Q22010Q22011Q22012Q3
£ billion£ GDP£ billion% GDP£ billion£ GDP£ billion£ GDP

Public sector

1,144

81

1,386

97

1,542

103

1,809

118

Corporations

22,120

1,571

24,550

1,712

23,838

1,596

25,569

1,664

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Households1

1,533

109

1,540

107

1,535

103

1,538

100

Total

24,798

1,761

27,476

1,916

26,915

1,802

28,916

1,882

1

Including non-profit institutions serving households

Food: Prices

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have studied the impact of financial market trading in commodities on food prices.[HL5229]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): Under the previous Government, officials considered the causes and policy implications of spikes in international grain prices (published, January 2010). This included an assessment of the extent to which financial market trading in agricultural derivative markets may have played a causal role.

HM Treasury has since participated in the G20 Commodity Study Group, which considered the role of financial market trading and published a report in November 2011. The Treasury has also participated in debates related to commodity aspects of the markets in financial instruments directive. All the while, HM Treasury has kept the evidence in respect of the impact of financial market trading under close review.

Government: Economic Policies

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Answer by Lord Deighton on 30 January (Official Report, col. 1536), whether they will publish HM Treasury’s graph of the “scissors of doom” for 2008-10, together with an update to the current date.[HL5178]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): Levels of receipts and spending as a percentage of GDP, from 1997-98 onwards, are set out in Chart 1.7 of Autumn Statement 2012.

HMS “Manchester”

Question

Asked by Lord Haworth

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what has happened or is planned to happen to HMS “Manchester” since her withdrawal from active service.[HL5456]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): HMS “Manchester” left service with the Royal Navy in February 2011. The ship is currently being prepared for disposal, which includes the removal of classified systems and equipment for use on in-service ships. It is our intention to offer HMS “Manchester” for sale via open competition in 2014.

House of Lords (Cessation of Membership) Bill [HL]

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to offer support to the House of Lords (Cessation of Membership) Bill [HL] in the current parliamentary Session.[HL5242]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The Government do not intend to offer support to the Bill. In the absence of full reform, it is the Government’s view that there is no easy set of smaller reforms to the House of Lords. In a modern democracy it is important that those who pass legislation should be chosen by those to whom the legislation applies. So reform measures must include introducing elected Members to the House of Lords.

Also, the three core measures of the Bill would not deal with the size of the House of Lords. Provision for retirement is an extension of the non-statutory voluntary retirement scheme, already in place. Only two noble Lords have taken advantage of this so far. Members would only be required to attend once every session to sustain their membership and only future criminals would be removed from the House of Lords.

House of Lords: Mobile Phones

Question

Asked by Lord Campbell-Savours

To ask the Chairman of Committees what is the cost to a Member of the House of Lords of replacing a BlackBerry Curve mobile phone lost by that Member. [HL5151]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Sewel): If a Member loses a BlackBerry within the two-year contract period the Member is asked to pay for the replacement device, costing £127.31 plus VAT. If the device is out of contract then the item is replaced free of charge to the Member.

Insurance: Payment Protection Insurance

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many bankers have been the subject of closed enforcement action by the Financial Services Authority in relation to the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI); whether the Financial Services Authority has reviewed whether boards of directors of banks were at fault in connection with the mis-selling of PPI; and, if not, what the FSA has concluded was the responsibility of boards in connection with PPI mis-selling.[HL5176]

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The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): This is a matter for the Financial Services Authority (FSA). This question has been passed on to the FSA, which will reply to the noble Lord directly by letter. A copy of the response will be placed in the Library of the House.

Marriage: Gay Marriage

Question

Asked by Lord Pearson of Rannoch

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there are any European Union proposals to legislate on gay marriage; and, if so, whether they have influenced Government policy.[HL5270]

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: There are no European Union proposals to legislate on same-sex marriage. Nor does the EU have competence to legislate in the area of substantive family law.

Migration

Question

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which European-wide restrictions on movement are currently in force in respect of migrants with a history of low-level criminal behaviour.[HL5265]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): Under the Free Movement of Persons Directive 2004/38/EC, (the directive) an EEA national has the right to reside in any EU member state for up to three months without restrictions, provided that they do not become an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of that state. Thereafter, they must be exercising treaty rights as a worker, student, self employed or self sufficient person, or be directly supported by a family member exercising such rights.

However, an EEA national may be refused admission to the UK, deported or excluded on public policy, public security or public health grounds where they represent a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society. The person’s age, state of health, family and economic situation, their length of residence in the United Kingdom, the person’s social and cultural integration into the United Kingdom and the extent of the person’s links with his country of origin must be considered in any such decision and the decision must be based exclusively on the personal conduct of the person concerned.

Current UKBA guidance states that an EEA national who commits an offence in the UK will be considered for deportation under the Immigration (EEA) Regulations 2006 if they receive a custodial sentence of 12 months or more for an offence involving drugs, violence or sexual crimes or a custodial sentence of 24 months or more for any offence. Persistent offenders falling below these criteria will also be considered for deportation.

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Non-EEA nationals who do not fall to be considered under the regulations may still be liable to deportation under the Immigration Rules. These were revised in December 2012 to establish a new criminality framework and to strengthen rules relating to deportation, and can be found at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/policyandlaw/immigrationlaw/immigrationrules/.

Public Bodies Act 2011

Question

Asked by Lord Rosser

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what areas of Home Office responsibility, previously carried out by non-departmental public bodies and covered by the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, are no longer subject to the terms of that act as a result of the implementation of the Public Bodies Act 2011.[HL5461]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): No areas of Home Office responsibility have ceased to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as a result of the implementation of the Public Bodies Act 2011.

RSS

Question

Asked by Lord Ahmed

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the statement made by the Indian Home Secretary, Mr RK Singh, about terrorists involved in the Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid and Ajmar Sharif Dargah bombings in India being associated with the organisation called RSS. [HL5115]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): The Government cannot comment on statements made by overseas Governments in relation to security matters.

Taxation: Double Taxation

Question

Asked by Baroness Hooper

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress is being made in negotiating a double taxation treaty with Brazil.[HL5375]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): Officials have discussed prospects for a comprehensive double taxation agreement with their Brazilian counterparts on several occasions, most recently in November 2012. However, owing to important differences in approach between the two countries, prospects of concluding an agreement that would be of benefit to UK business appear, at the moment, to be remote.

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In their dealings with the Brazilian Government, Ministers and officials continue to highlight the value of a double taxation agreement based on the principles set out in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s model agreement.

Taxation: Tax Avoidance

Question

Asked by Lord Beecham

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many taxpayers ticked the box in their tax return relating to tax avoidance schemes in each of the last three years.[HL5303]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): During 2009-10 HM Revenue and Customs received 5,924 tax returns where the taxpayer had ticked the box relating to tax avoidance schemes. In 2010-11 that number was 6,962 and in 2011-12 it was 9,364.

The increase in the numbers reflects changes in the disclosure of tax avoidance schemes’ rules since they were introduced and the cumulative effect of the requirement to tick the box on every tax return potentially affected as a result of the scheme entered into.

Wildlife: Endangered Species

Questions

Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they will take to support the conservation of lions in the light of recent research from Duke University estimating that only 32,000 lions remain on the African continent; and whether they will work with charity sector partners in doing so.[HL5382]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): The UK is concerned about the conservation of lions in the wild and funded a conference in March 2012 in Johannesburg at which a number of lion range states discussed the conservation needs and status of the African lion. The level of protection afforded to lions under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is currently under review by Kenya and Namibia, on behalf of the CITES Animals Committee, in liaison with other lion range states. We are waiting for the results of that review with interest and are keen to continue working with other CITES parties and relevant non-governmental organisations to ensure the long-term survival of this important species.

Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they will take to combat the illegal trade of wildlife, in the light of the European Union’s position as one of the world’s largest importers of wildlife products. [HL5385]

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Lord De Mauley: The UK Government are currently considering what more can be done to tackle the escalating problem of global wildlife trafficking. We will be working closely with international colleagues at the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) next month to tackle illegal wildlife trade. We will look to support measures that improve enforcement and combat illegal trade more effectively.

We play an active role in CITES to strengthen the advice, assistance and tools provided to help range states enforce CITES controls and combat illegal wildlife trade. We support a wide range of actions to tackle illegal wildlife trade, including: financial contributions to Interpol-led projects, which build enforcement capacity in range states to conserve tigers, elephants and rhino; funding a post in the CITES Secretariat to help combat wildlife crime; and chairing the CITES Rhino Working Group tasked with investigating the drivers behind, and possible solutions to, the dramatic rise in rhino poaching.

In the UK, primary responsibility for enforcing wildlife trade legislation rests with the police service and the UK Border Agency. Defra actively supports their activities through the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime.

Defra, together with the Home Office, is the main source of funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU). Both departments have recently confirmed that they will each provide funding of £136,000 to support the unit for a further year. The NWCU spearheads national action to reduce wildlife crime and is the UK’s focal point for international wildlife crime enquiries.

The UK has selected wildlife crime priorities for urgent action, one of which is the illegal trade in species covered by CITES. Endangered species listed on Annex A to CITES require licences in order to be traded within the UK. The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency operates a panel of wildlife inspectors who carry out inspections to ensure that the legislation is complied with. It also has an enforcement team, which provides information from its records in support of prosecutions.

Wildlife: Trophies

Question

Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the basis for their continued support for the exemption of hunting trophies as “personal and household effects” under the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.[HL5384]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) the importation of hunting trophies is allowed for personal, non-commercial purposes, subject to certain conditions.

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Well managed trophy hunting can be an effective conservation and management tool for some species. Through the financial rewards from trophy hunting, farmers and other land managers are more likely to tolerate the presence of large, dangerous animals on their property and encourage local communities to value them as a resource.

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If there is evidence that hunting trophies are being traded unsustainably or illegally, we shall not hesitate to take action as appropriate.

The ongoing status of the exemption of hunting trophies as personal and household effects will be discussed at the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties to CITES in March.