27 Feb 2013 : Column WA315

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA315

Written Answers

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Alcohol

Question

Asked by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many meetings they have held regarding a minimum unit pricing of alcohol with (1) the drinks industry, (2) the Portman Group and the trade associations for the drinks industry, (3) Alcohol Concern, and (4) medical bodies.[HL5080]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): Home Office Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of international partners, as well as organisations and individuals in the public and private sectors, as part of the process of policy development and delivery. Details of these meetings are published on the Cabinet Office website on a quarterly basis.

The minimum unit pricing of alcohol has been discussed in detail, along with other elements of the Government’s Alcohol Strategy, as part of the public consultation that commenced on 28 November 2012 and closed on 6 February 2013. This has included a series of roadshow events to discuss all aspects of the strategy, and specific technical groups convened to discuss mandatory licence conditions, reducing regulations and health as a licensing objective linked to cumulative impact.

These events have been attended by a wide range of partners and interested parties, including representatives of the drinks industry, members of the Portman Group and the trade associations for the drinks industry, and medical organisations and health bodies.

Armed Forces: Post-service Welfare

Questions

Asked by Lord Touhig

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Welsh Government about ensuring veterans gain priority for housing in Wales. [HL5671]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Responsibility for housing in Wales is devolved to the Welsh Government. However, my officials continue to work with officials from the Welsh Government wherever this is appropriate and have kept them informed of the changes which we have introduced to ensure veterans have priority for housing in England.

The Armed Forces Covenant annual report, which was published in December 2012, outlines the action which the Welsh Government are taking in relation to housing for former and existing service personnel.

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA316

Asked by Lord Touhig

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to extend the FirstBuy house purchase scheme for veterans to all parts of the United Kingdom.[HL5672]

Baroness Hanham: This Government are determined to ensure that those who serve, or have served, in our Armed Forces get the housing that they deserve. We have given service personnel priority for Government’s affordable home ownership schemes including FirstBuy. We have also changed the law to require councils to give additional preference to former members of the Armed Forces who have urgent housing needs.

Housing is a devolved issue. It is for the devolved Administrations to decide what priority veterans are given to housing in their parts of the United Kingdom. Under the Barnett formula the devolved Administrations received a proportion of the £250 million that was announced for the original FirstBuy scheme.

Armed Forces: Type 45 Destroyers

Question

Asked by Lord Moonie

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to modifying the design of Type 45 destroyers as an alternative to the Type 26; what capabilities would not be available if they did so; and what cost savings would be possible by avoiding developing and building a new class of ship.[HL5610]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): In general a ship design is optimised to deliver a core capability. The Type 45 destroyer is optimised for anti-air warfare with radars and missile systems designed to protect a task force, whilst the Type 26, Global Combat Ship (GCS) will be optimised for anti-submarine warfare, fitted out to achieve a low noise signature and with sonars and weapons to detect and neutralise enemy submarines. Whilst it may be technically feasible to modify a design and fit a different core capability, there will be increased technical integration challenges, and compromises in capability performance, all of which may ultimately lead to an increased overall cost. Such changes imposed mid-design would increase these challenges, and lead to programme delays.

I am withholding further information on costs as its disclosure would risk prejudicing the department’s commercial position ahead of the main investment decision, which is expected by the middle of the decade.

Bats

Question

Asked by Lord Marlesford

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the cost of complying with legislation for the protection of bats; and whether they will arrange for Natural England to issue guidance to ensure that measures required under

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA317

the legislation are reasonable, appropriate and directly proportionate to the scale of the potential impact. [HL5169]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): The costs of compliance with the requirements of the habitats directive vary on a case by case basis and such costs are not collected centrally.

Natural England advocates that a proportionate approach to mitigation should be taken and has produced guidance confirming this. I have placed a copy of the guidance in the House Library. It is also available online at: www.naturalengland.org.uk/images/over-mitigation_tcm6-10879.pdf.

In 2012 the Government undertook a review of the implementation of the habitats and wild birds directives. Part of this work looked at whether the effectiveness of mitigation measures for species licences is appropriate or takes an excessively or insufficiently precautionary approach. The review identified that there was scope to improve our implementation of the habitats directive, and we are currently developing a range of measures to address this so that local approaches to protecting European species do not unnecessarily block development or add to its costs. Current guidance is also being reviewed.

Burma

Questions

Asked by Baroness Goudie

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what funding they provide to non-governmental organisations in Burma working to prevent sexual violence in conflict zones.[HL5589]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The Government regularly lobby the Burmese Government on the rights of women, particularly on preventing sexual violence against women in conflict areas. During his recent visit to Burma in December, my right honourable friend the Member for East Devon, Mr Swire, raised this specific concern with the Burmese Foreign Minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, requesting Burma’s support for the Foreign Secretary’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, and pressing Burma to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Our embassy in Rangoon provides funding to local non-governmental partners that provide technical support to the Burmese Ministry of Social Welfare to help the Government fulfil their obligations under the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, to which Burma is a signatory.

In 2012, the Department for International Development (DfID) increased its support for legal assistance centres in Burmese refugee camps in Thailand, which can help support victims of rape to secure access to justice. This support will run until November 2015. DfID also supports trauma care in camps in Kachin State, which can help in dealing with rape cases.

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA318

Asked by Baroness Goudie

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made any proposals to European Union partners to ensure stricter enforcement of the European Union arms embargo on Burma.[HL5590]

Baroness Warsi: The EU arms embargo on Burma is enforced by EU member states using domestic legislative powers. The UK has not made any proposals to other EU partners on stricter enforcement of the EU arms embargo.

If the Government were to receive credible information relating to a suspected breach of the arms embargo, we would bring this to the attention of the relevant EU member state.

Asked by Baroness Goudie

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Government of Burma regarding the imprisonment of Lanpai Gam. [HL5591]

Baroness Warsi: Our embassy officials in Rangoon have not had discussions with the Burmese Government about the case of Lanpai Gam to date.

However, we welcome the positive steps taken by the Burmese Government on the release of political prisoners, their commitment to a prisoner review mechanism and access to prisons for the International Committee of the Red Cross. We continue to monitor progress the Burmese Government are making on their commitment to establish a committee to review remaining political prisoner cases, and welcome President Thein Sein’s announcement on 7 February that the committee will include civil society leaders and Members of Parliament.

Courts: Disabled People

Questions

Asked by Baroness Smith of Basildon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what advice they give to HM Courts and Tribunal Service to ensure that buildings used for the purposes of tribunals are accessible to those with disabilities.[HL5623]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment has been made as to whether all buildings used by HM Courts and Tribunal Services are accessible to those with disabilities.[HL5624]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) keeps its estate under regular review to ensure that it is fit for purpose and meets building, fire, and health and safety regulations and that it discharges its duties and obligations under other legislation, such as the Equalities Act. The Ministry of Justice issues advice regularly to its regional asset managers through its estate management notices.

Where the court or tribunal building is serviced by another department’s service supplier, then the MoJ will work with the other supplier to ensure that it

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA319

adheres to the same standards as those applied to other buildings in the MoJ estate.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is committed to ensuring that services and facilities are accessible to all customers. In line with the Equality Act 2010, HMCTS will accommodate customers who have specific requirements or who need assistance whilst using its services and will make reasonable adjustments where needed.

Credit Unions

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the potential for mobile technology to assist the growth of credit unions.[HL5659]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): There has not been a formal assessment of the potential for mobile technology to assist the growth of credit unions. However this Government are committed to the development of credit unions.

On 27 June it was announced that the Government will take forward the findings of the feasibility study. In particular, DWP will make further investment in credit unions subject to a contracting process. We invited proposals from the sector that would deliver the business and cultural change needed to secure growth and modernisation of credit unions, and to deliver services in a way that their members would want.

Our aim is to support the credit union sector to provide financial services for up to 1 million more consumers on lower incomes in a way that will enable credit unions to modernise, expand and become financially sustainable.

I can confirm that we gave details of our preferred supplier to deliver credit union expansion to the bidding organisations on 31 January. Subject to satisfactory outcomes to discussions with the preferred supplier, we are likely to be in a position to announce the award of the contract in March.

Education: Early Years

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of responses they have received from parents regarding their most recent plans for childcare provision.[HL5514]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): No formal assessment has yet been made but we are monitoring correspondence from parents and organisations representing parents in response to our More Great Childcare report.

We are committed to continuing discussions on our proposals further with all interested parties, including parents, and hearing their views. We have launched a

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA320

public consultation on how early education and childcare staff may be deployed in the future. In addition, we expect the Teaching Agency to launch a consultation shortly on new criteria to underpin new early years qualifications. We also intend to consult on new statutory guidance that will reflect the future role of local authorities, as set out in

More Great Childcar

e

. We will be able to analyse responses from parents specifically as part of the consultation reports and use these to shape our final proposals in these areas.

Education: GCSEs

Question

Asked by Lord Quirk

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to ensure that the reform of GCSEs will benefit the 58% of all pupils who at present fail to achieve five GCSEs at grade C, including English and maths.[HL5431]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): All pupils will benefit from reformed GCSEs. Pupils will have studied a curriculum that draws on the evidence found in the highest performing jurisdictions, and pupils will be provided with an accurate assessment of their performance that has real value for their future progression to further education and/or employment.

The specific assessment characteristics we would expect to see in the reformed GCSEs will also benefit those pupils currently not succeeding. We want to remove the cap on ambition where pupils are forced to choose between higher and lower-tier papers. New GCSEs will be linear and will only have controlled assessment where there is a compelling case for it—these structures will free up time for high-quality teaching and in-depth study. We have asked Ofqual to give consideration to the benefits of all pupils receiving more information directly from Awarding Organisations on their performance across the different areas tested by qualifications in English language and mathematics, in order particularly to support progression for those who may need to re-take those qualifications post-16.

Education: Vocabulary Enrichment

Question

Asked by Lord Quirk

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the National Curriculum and the framework document published on 7 February, whether they will consider making vocabulary enrichment an overarching aim of education, across all subjects. [HL5434]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): The Government agree that vocabulary enrichment is of fundamental importance to education as it allows for greater articulation of ideas and concepts, and for increasingly complex material to be to described and explained in detail. Both the programmes of study for English, and the overarching framework document

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA321

for the new national curriculum published in draft on 7 February, include references to the importance of vocabulary enrichment. There are also references to teaching specialist vocabulary in the programmes of study for other subjects.

The draft national curriculum is currently subject to a public consultation, which closes on 16 April. The Government will consider all responses to the consultation, including the noble Lord’s suggestion about vocabulary enrichment.

Egypt

Question

Asked by Lord Pearson of Rannoch

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have about human rights violations in Egypt; and whether they are having discussions about human rights with the Government of that country. [HL5604]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): We are concerned about the human rights situation in Egypt. We closely monitor the situation and are in regular contact with the Egyptian authorities, and human rights organisations in the UK and Egypt, in particular about the rights of women, freedom of religion and expression.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my honourable friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Mr Burt), raised our concerns about violence against women with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Kamel Amr, on 18 February. Mr Burt also discussed the protection of religious minorities and women with the Hon Saad al Katani, the Head of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, when he visited Cairo on 15 and 16 January.

I attended the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) Summit on 6 and 7 February in Cairo to deliver a speech on the importance of Freedom of Religion or Belief and tackling religious intolerance. While there I discussed human rights with the Presidential Adviser for Political Transition, Dr Pakinam Sharqawi. I also discussed religious freedoms with the Shaykh al-Azhar, Dr Ahmed el-Tayyeb, and Pope Tawadros II.

Energy: Nuclear Power

Question

Asked by Lord Rooker

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why Ministers were not available to contribute to the BBC File on 4 documentary broadcast on 24 February regarding “Britain’s Plutonium Mountain”.[HL5722]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): Ministers undertake media interviews as diaries permit.

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA322

Environment: Protected Landscapes

Question

Asked by Baroness Parminter

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether Natural England provided advice on the impact of removing prior approval requirements for communications infrastructure on protected landscapes; and, if so, whether they will publish any advice provided. [HL5580]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): Natural England responded to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s consultation “Extending permitted development rights for home owners and businesses”, which closed on 24 December 2012. There is a further opportunity to submit views through the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s consultation “Proposed changes to siting requirements for broadband cabinets and overhead lines to facilitate the deployment of superfast broadband networks”, which closes on 13 March.

Following consideration of the responses to both consultations the Government will publish a summary.

EU: Regulation

Question

Asked by The Earl of Shrewsbury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they are ensuring that key regulatory agencies, including the Environment Agency, are instructed to act in a manner that best alleviates regulatory pressures, whilst remaining within the bounds of European Union law, and that those agencies do not “gold plate” European Union rules.[HL5493]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): All regulatory bodies are required to have regard to the Government’s statutory Regulators Compliance Code, which includes the five principles of good regulation: consistency, transparency, proportionality, accountability and targeted. Defra works closely with all its regulatory bodies to ensure that regulations are implemented in line with the Code. Many regulators, including the Environment Agency, have specific measures within their performance frameworks to reduce the burden of regulation on business.

In addition, the Government’s Guiding Principles for EU legislation must be followed and UK businesses not put at a disadvantage relative to their EU competitors when EU legislation is transposed or implemented.

The Davidson Review of Implementation of EU Legislation in November 2006 found that:

“Evidence to support assertions that the UK implements and enforces more rigorously than other member states is often lacking and that the UK is regarded by some as a leader in this field”.

As part of the Government’s commitment to ensure accountability, value for money and transparency of public bodies, departments are required to review

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA323

their sponsored non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) at least once every three years, in order to ensure that the functions of individual NDPBs are still required and that the NDPB model is fit for purpose and offers taxpayers the best value for money. On 12 December 2012 the Secretary of State announced the start of the triennial review of the Environment Agency and Natural England, which includes reviewing the way that both bodies deliver their regulatory functions.

EU: Town and City Twinning

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much funding was provided by the European Union to United Kingdom towns and cities for the purpose of town twinning in each of the past five years; and whether that funding was accompanied by guidance about the use of the twinning scheme to promote language learning in schools or to encourage business links between the two communities.[HL5314]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): This information is not held by Government. Councils wishing to set up a twinning partnership as part of the European Union Active Citizenship Programme should apply directly to the Education Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency in Brussels.

Flooding

Questions

Asked by Lord Patten

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of flood control at Curry Moor, Somerset. [HL5522]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): Following the past year’s exceptionally heavy and prolonged rainfall, the Environment Agency is continuing to work to evacuate floodwater from Curry Moor. It currently estimates that floodwater from the Moor could be fully evacuated by early March, dependent on there being no further significant rainfall in the area.

The Environment Agency is working with the local drainage boards and other organisations to assess the costs and benefits of various options for improving the future management of flood waters on Curry Moor and the results of this will be presented to the Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee in April.

Asked by Lord Patten

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the cost to farming in the last year for which figures are available of flooding and standing water in low-lying areas in England.[HL5523]

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA324

Lord De Mauley: We have no specific estimate of the cost to farming of flooding and standing water. Defra recently published provisional estimates of farm business income for a range of farm types in England for the year ending February 2013 and covering the 2012 harvest. This can be viewed at the Defra website. These provisional estimates of income will have taken into account a large range of factors, including extra costs resulting from the wet weather.

Fluoridation

Questions

Asked by Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 16 January (WA 127) about the merits of policies to improve children’s dental health, how, in weighing the balance of advantage in water fluoridation, they assess the opposition of many of those who receive it. [HL5614]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): We have addressed this issue in the regulations we have laid on the public consultations that local authorities will have to undertake on fluoridation proposals. In response to representations we received to our consultation on the content of the regulations, we have decided that the overarching consideration should no longer be that, “the health arguments in favour of proceeding with the proposal outweigh all arguments against proceeding”. We consider a wider range of factors should be taken into account including the extent of the support for the proposals, the strength of any scientific evidence or ethical arguments advanced and any evidence of benefit to the health and wellbeing of individuals who would be affected by the proposal.

Asked by Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 16 January (WA 127) about the merits of policies to improve children’s dental health, how, in weighing the balance of advantage in water fluoridation, they assess the potential impact on incentives to make healthy changes in personal behaviour.[HL5615]

Earl Howe: A combination of oral health promotion programmes and fluoridated water provide the best means of reducing tooth decay. Evidence that support and education alone may not achieve optimum results can be found from experience in Manchester. Here there has, over many years, been a range of programmes targeted at families with young children including the provision of free fluoride toothpaste, toothbrushes and trainer cups from the age of six months and supervised toothbrushing in nursery classes, children’s centres and nurseries. Training in the key dental health messages has also been provided for a wide range of personnel who meet parents of young children and healthy food policies have been implemented in primary schools and their attached nurseries. However, the results of the NHS Dental Epidemiology Programme five year-old child dental health survey of 2007-08

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA325

show that children in the Manchester local authority area had an average of 2.39 decayed missing or filled teeth (dmft) compared to a figure of 1.35 dmft in Birmingham where the water is fluoridated.

Asked by Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Earl Howe on 7 February 2011 (WA 18) and 16 January 2013 (WA 127), whether, in the light of suggestions of fluoride neurotoxicity in children by the recent systematic review published in 2012 by the Harvard School of Public Health, the likely timescale of any future research, and the actions of other fluoridated countries in similar latitudes, they will take steps now to reduce the concentration of fluoride in the water supply in the United Kingdom.[HL5616]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 16 January (WA 127), whether they will also place in the Library of the House the 2012 report on developmental fluoride neurotoxicity by the Harvard School of Public Health.[HL5617]

Earl Howe: The studies reviewed by the Harvard School of Public Health, which included a measure of fluoride concentration in drinking water, had concentrations as high as 11 milligrams per litre. In fluoridation schemes in England the target concentration is one milligram of fluoride per litre with a maximum concentration permitted of 1.5 milligrams per litre. The study referred to contains data from different areas of China and the measurements are not presented in a standardised format. This makes it difficult to interpret or draw conclusions. We would need to see studies in which the fluoride concentrations and measurement of IQ were more closely standardised before reviewing the 1 milligram concentration on the grounds of a possible effect on children’s intelligence. A copy of the report of the review has been placed in the Library.

Food: Healthy Food

Question

Asked by Baroness Parminter

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recent Which? report, A taste for Change? Food Companies Assessed for Action to Enable Healthier Choices, whether they have plans to set clear targets for saturated fat and sugar reductions in product categories that contribute significant amounts of those substances to the diet.[HL5584]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Public Health Responsibility Deal Food Network programme of work includes the development of a saturated fat reduction pledge in 2013. The High Level Steering Group of the Food Network is currently considering the detail of, and range of activities which will contribute towards, this new pledge.

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA326

Through the Responsibility Deal calorie reduction pledge, we have challenged business to take action to help people eat fewer calories. Thirty-one companies are signed up to this pledge, which includes a range of actions, including reformulation of foods to contain less sugar. However, the method and results of reducing calories is for each individual company to decide.

Food: Security and Nutrition

Questions

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to incorporate nutrition and agriculture into the post-2015 development framework. [HL5596]

Baroness Northover: The UK is working with international organisations to meet the zero hunger challenge set by the UN Secretary-General in June 2012. Both the Department for International Development and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are working internationally with the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation and others as part of the broader UN-led Post-2015 process. We are also supporting the Prime Minister’s role as co-chair role on the High Level Panel by providing policy advice on a range of issues including on food security and agriculture.

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the role of cognitive development, educational outcomes, citizens’ empowerment and economic participation in the Post-2015 development framework; and whether they will seek to ensure the prioritisation of nutrition in that framework. [HL5597]

Baroness Northover: The issues raised all feature in the current debates on the Post-2015 development framework, either in discussions of the High Level Panel or the broader UN thematic consultations. The Government are actively involved in these processes by supporting the Prime Minister in his role as co-chair on the Panel and more generally as part of the Post-2015 process.

Gypsies and Travellers

Question

Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government on what dates the Ministerial Working Group on Gypsies and Travellers has met since it published its first report in April 2012; and what decisions have been taken at each of those meetings.[HL5637]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): In line with the practice of previous Governments, information relating to the proceedings of Cabinet

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA327

Committees or other ministerial discussions, including what issues were discussed, is generally not disclosed as to do so could harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion.

Habitual Residence Test

Questions

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they will ensure that Jobcentre Plus employees are sufficiently trained to assess whether an individual satisfies the habitual residence test.[HL5528]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): Jobcentre Plus is part of the Department for Work and Pensions. The Jobcentre Plus employees who make decisions on the habitual residence test are known as decision-makers.

Decision-makers in the Department for Work and Pensions receive extensive training, which includes:

their role as a decision-maker;applying social security law;analysing evidence; andhow to make a decision based on the facts of the case.

This provides them with the skills, knowledge and expertise to make a range of decisions and to seek out and assess all available evidence so as to ensure that the customer is given a fair opportunity to present their case.

For those decision-makers who make decisions on the habitual residence test, there is further job-specific training relating to the test, which focuses on the specific considerations and evidence needed when making such decisions.

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many individuals failed the habitual residence test in each of the past five years; and, of those, how many (1) re-applied, and (2) appealed against the decision. [HL5529]

Lord Freud: The table below shows how many individuals failed the habitual residence test in each of the past five years.

2008-092009-102010-112011-12Jan 2013 YTD

6,731

7,621

6,612

5,988

8,749

Data Source: MISP

Our data systems are unable to show how many individuals reapplied.

Any appeals made would not be against the habitual residence test decision but the decision upon their benefit entitlement.

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA328

Health: International Classification of Diseases

Questions

Asked by Baroness Browning

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the World Health Organization and others about the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases. [HL5549]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The World Health Organization has directly approached clinical experts to be involved in clinical specialty groups. The national classification team within the department’s Informatics Directorate are involved in the relevant topic advisory groups.

Asked by Baroness Browning

To ask Her Majesty’s Government who in the Department of Health is the lead official in respect of the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases; and which Minister has responsibility. [HL5550]

Earl Howe: The NHS Commissioning Board shares responsibility with the Department for the selection, development and publication of information standards from 1 April 2013. Precise assignment of some specific elements, including leadership on aspects of International Classification of Diseases revision, is not yet determined.

Asked by Baroness Browning

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will publish the timetable of their representations to the World Health Organization and others about the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases.[HL5551]

Earl Howe: The national classification team within the department’s Informatics Directorate:

participated in the World Health Organization—Family of International Classification (WHO-FIC) working meetings in October 2011 and 2012;regularly participates in the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation, maintainers of the associated SNOMED CT terminology;continues to participate in the monthly teleconference meetings of the WHO-FIC Council and relevant Topic Advisory Group and Technical Committees; andintends to participate in the WHO-FIC working meetings in October 2013 (dates to be confirmed).

The United Kingdom is in the process of designation as a WHO Collaborating Centre. In the meantime WHO has allowed the UK to become a full voting member of the WHO-FIC Council, Topic Advisory Group and ICD Update Revision Committee.

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA329

Health: Respiratory Disease

Question

Asked by Baroness Thornton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to improve outcomes for patients living with respiratory diseases.[HL5577]

Earl Howe: It is for the NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB) and local commissioners to determine how best they can improve outcomes in respiratory disease for local populations. The Government’s mandate to the NHS CB asks it to ensure the National Health Service makes progress against all the outcomes in the NHS Outcomes Framework, which includes an indicator on reducing mortality from respiratory disease in under-75s.

In support of this, the department published An Outcomes Strategy for COPD and Asthma in July 2011 (a copy of which has already been placed in the Library) and has subsequently published various tools and resources to help the NHS to improve outcomes for patients living with those conditions.

The NHS CB is currently in the process of recruiting to the post of National Clinical Director for Respiratory Diseases, who will take the clinical lead in driving improvement in quality across all relevant domains of the NHS Outcomes Framework for respiratory diseases.

Asked by Baroness Thornton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the efficacy of current standard forms of treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. [HL5579]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The department has made no assessment of the efficacy of current standard forms of treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). It is the responsibility of local National Health Service organisations to make decisions on the commissioning and funding of any health care treatments for NHS patients.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is developing technology appraisal guidance on the use of pirfenidone (Esbriet) for the treatment of patients with mild to moderate IPF. NICE issued initial draft guidance for consultation on 29 November 2012 that does not recommend the drug and currently expects to issue final guidance in April 2013.

Housing

Questions

Asked by Lord Bassam of Brighton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many properties they estimate will be available for council and housing association tenants in Brighton and Hove following their relocation from underoccupied properties.[HL5259]

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA330

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): This information is not centrally held. The number and type of social housing freed up in that local authority area will depend on local and individual circumstances.

Notwithstanding that, I refer the noble Lord to the Answer of 12 February 2013 (Official Report, Commons, col. 612W) on the national estimates of overcrowding and under-occupation in social housing.

Asked by Baroness Quin

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with (1) local authorities, and (2) housing associations, about the availability of one- and two-bedroom properties in implementing their underoccupancy charge.[HL5539]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The underlying principle behind this policy is not to force people into moving, but for people who are under occupying to make realistic choices about how they will meet the rent on a property that is larger than they need.

I, ministerial colleagues and departmental officials have met housing associations and local authorities to discuss various aspects of the Government’s plans for welfare reform, including details of the underoccupancy charge for social tenants.

During the development of the underoccupancy measure, officials from both the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government met social landlord groups to discuss the emerging policy.

Justice: Sentencing

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will review sentencing and penal policy, in view of overcrowding in prisons and reductions in the Prison Service budget.[HL5512]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Prison is the right place for those who commit serious offences, and the Government have no plans to review the current sentencing framework in this respect.

Our priority is to ensure that offenders are properly punished while being helped to turn away from crime for good. As part of our plans in the Transforming Rehabilitation consultation to open up delivery of probation services to a wider range of providers, we are proposing to extend statutory supervision and rehabilitation support on release to those sentenced to less than 12 months’ imprisonment.

No prisons in the estate are operating above their operational capacity (the total number of prisoners that an establishment can hold whilst providing safe and decent accommodation and the operation of suitable regimes). The Government will always ensure there

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA331

are sufficient safe and secure prison places for offenders sentenced to custody by the courts, and will seek to do so increasingly in cheaper, more modern accommodation. On 10 January, the Secretary of State for Justice announced plans for new prison capacity, as well as closing older and more expensive facilities, to ensure that we continue to move towards a balanced, more effective and more efficient system.

Local Government: Finance

Questions

Asked by Lord Bassam of Brighton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many amended notifications were sent to local authorities in England and Wales in relation to the most recent local government financial settlement; and what additional administrative costs were incurred by the Department for Communities and Local Government following internal miscalculations and errors.[HL5605]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Notifications are sent at provisional and final stages of the settlement to up to three recipients per local authority. One amended notification per recipient was sent on 20 December 2012. In addition an e-mail was sent to a number of local authorities on 5 February 2013. No additional administrative costs were incurred by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Asked by Lord Christopher

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what advice or directives have been given to local authorities on their arrangements for the financial audits for 2012-13 and 2013-14; and what steps they have taken to ensure that the rights of council taxpayers to challenge expenditures are preserved, and that such taxpayers are aware of that right; and to whom such challenges should be addressed.[HL5651]

Baroness Hanham: Local authorities’ audits for 2012-13 and 2013-14 will be carried out according to the Audit Commission Act 1998 and the Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2011. Detailed guidance is provided to auditors through the Audit Commission’s 2010 code of audit practice and supporting guidance.

The Audit Commission Act 1998 gives local citizens the right to inspect the accounts and supporting documentation and to put questions and objections to the auditor. Local authorities are required to publish a notice advertising these rights in a local newspaper and also—since 2011—on their website. The Audit Commission publishes guidance that is designed to help local people exercise these rights.

The Government intend to close the Audit Commission and put in place a new local audit framework as soon as parliamentary time allows. The draft Local Audit Bill, which was published in summer 2012, retains the rights for local citizens to inspect accounting records and to raise questions and objections with the auditor.

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA332

Mental Health Act 1983

Questions

Asked by Lord Ouseley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what conclusions they have drawn from the deaths of Black African-Caribbean men detained under the Mental Health Act 1983; and whether any changes have been implemented as a result.[HL5585]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to establish an inquiry into the death in January while detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 at the Cygnet Hospital in Hertfordshire of Jonathan Andel Malia; and, if not, why not. [HL5586]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will take steps to improve accountability to the public and to families in relation to the deaths of people detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. [HL5587]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Black African Caribbean men are more likely than other ethnic groups to be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 (the Act). The reasons for this are complex. More work needs to be done to establish the changes to mental health and other services that will reduce the numbers of people from some ethnic groups who reach the point of needing to be detained. The department is currently in discussion with a number of community leaders to develop an action plan.

Following the hospital’s own internal investigation, the East of England Strategic Health Authority will determine whether the circumstances of Mr Malia’s death warrant an independent investigation. In addition, under Regulation 17 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) the hospital must notify the Care Quality Commission (CQC) of the death of any patient detained under the Act. CQC will determine any further action by CQC, having reviewed the case.

The majority of patients who die while detained under the Act die from natural causes. Under the Act, CQC has a duty to monitor the use of the Act and provide a safeguard for individual patients. Under Section 120D CQC publishes an annual report on the exercise of its functions under the Act.

National Audit Office

Questions

Asked by Lord Christopher

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their proposed timetable for the passage of the Local Audit Bill and the subsequent abolition of the Audit Commission.[HL5649]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which responsibilities hitherto fulfilled by the Audit Commission have been transferred formally to the National Audit Office (NAO); and what instructions have been given to the NAO.[HL5650]

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA333

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): In the impact assessment published alongside the draft Local Audit Bill, the Government set out their intention to close the residual Audit Commission by April 2015, subject to the parliamentary timetable. The Government intend to introduce a final Bill as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The draft Bill set out two key intended roles for the Comptroller and Auditor-General. First, the Comptroller and Auditor-General will take over responsibility for developing the code of audit practice. Secondly, it is intended that the Comptroller and Auditor-General will expand his existing value for money programme by undertaking a small number of value for money studies which more explicitly take in local delivery. These local studies would not be a direct replacement for the Audit Commission’s studies programme: there would be fewer studies and, by drawing on the National Audit Office’s end-to-end view, they would have a different focus. The National Audit Office’s role is ultimately a matter for Parliament and so the department has discussed with but not instructed the National Audit Office regarding its potential future role.

I would add that the programme to end routine inspection and assessment, disband the Audit Commission and introduce a new local audit framework will save £650 million of taxpayers’ money over a five year period (2012-17).

National Crime Agency

Question

Asked by Baroness Smith of Basildon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government on how many occasions Home Office Ministers have (1) met, or (2) spoken, with (a) the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, and (b) other Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive, to discuss issues relating to their proposals to create a National Crime Agency and its implications for Northern Ireland.[HL5472]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): Home Office Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA334

international partners, as well as organisations and individuals in the public and private sectors, as part of the process of policy development and delivery. Details of these meetings are published on the Cabinet Office website on a quarterly basis.

NHS: Patient Mortality

Question

Asked by Lord Black of Brentwood

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what has been the death rate among patients over the age of 70 at Basildon and Thurrock General Hospitals NHS Trust in each year since 2008; and how that rate compares to the average for hospitals in London and the south-east.[HL5645]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Data are not collected in the format requested.

The following tables show the number of discharges of patients aged over 70, where the patient was dead and where the patient was live, at the Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the East of England, London and South East England regions in each year since 2008.

The data represent the number of discharges by finished consultant episodes, including discharges for patients who might have been admitted and discharged on several occasions. Therefore, the data are not representative of mortality rates.

Number of deaths1 that occurred in Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and in providers2 in selected strategic health authorities (SHAs) in England where the patient was over 70 years of age3—2008-09 to 2011-124

Please refer to the Footnotes tab for more information on this table

Activity in English National Health Service Hospitals and English NHS commissioned activity in the independent sector.

Count of discharges2008-092009-102010-112011-12
Provider/SHA CodeProvider/SHA NameDeadLiveDeadLiveDeadLiveDeadLive

RDD

Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

1,357

16,267

1,228

16,727

1,270

17,560

1,204

18,117

Q35

East Of England Strategic Health Authority

19,851

354,523

18,935

389,079

18,377

393,382

17,887

407,338

Q36

London Strategic Health Authority

21,834

418,427

20,671

434,405

19,392

460,240

19,188

470,573

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA335

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA336

Q37

South East Coast Strategic Health Authority

15,325

279,303

14,513

286,747

14,801

304,830

13,760

315,850

Death as % of all discharges2008-092009-102010-112011-12
Provider/SHA CodeProvider/SHA Name

RDD

Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

7.7%

6.8%

6.7%

6.2%

Q35

East Of England Strategic Health Authority

5.3%

4.6%

4.5%

4.2%

Q36

London Strategic Health Authority

5.0%

4.5%

4.0%

3.9%

Q37

South East Coast Strategic Health Authority

5.2%

4.8%

4.6%

4.2%

1

Deaths—Discharge method (dismeth = 4) has been used for counting deaths in hospital. All other discharge methods have been classified as discharged ‘LIVE’.

2

Hospital Provider A provider code is a unique code that identifies an organisation acting as a health care provider (e.g. NHS Trust or primary care trust. Data from some independent sector providers, where the onus for arrangement of dataflows is on the commissioner, may be missing. Care must be taken when using this data as the counts may be lower than true figures.

3

Age—the patient’s age at the start of the final episode (startage) of care has been used. Patients aged 71 and over at the start of their final episode of care have been included.

4

Assessing growth through time (Inpatients)—Hospital episode statistics (HES) figures are available from 1989-90 onwards. Changes to the figures over time need to be interpreted in the context of improvements in data quality and coverage (particularly in earlier years), improvements in coverage of independent sector activity (particularly from 2006-07) and changes in NHS practice. For example, changes in activity may be due to changes in the provision of care.

Provider spells:

Provider Spells have been used for counting the number of deaths in hospital and ‘LIVE’ discharges. Provider spells are single or groups of finished consultant episodes that have the same healthcare provider code, HES patient identifier, admission date, and provider submitted spell number.

Finished Consultant Episodes (FCE):

A finished consultant episode (FCE) is a continuous period of admitted patient care under one consultant within one healthcare provider. FCEs without a valid admission date are excluded as they cannot be used to create provider spells. Data are allocated to a financial year (HES year) based on the date of the discharge episode.

Episode status:

Only finished consultant episodes (epistat = 3) have been used for identifying discharges

Patient Classification:

Only ordinary admissions, day case admissions and mothers and babies using delivery facilities have been included (classpat = 1, 2, 5). Regular day and night attenders have been excluded.

Usage:

No age/sex standardisation or casemix adjustments have been applied to the data. When comparing death rates it is strongly recommended that the Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) is used: www.ic.nhs.uk/SHMI.

Interpretation notes:

The table shows the number of hospital discharges where the patient was dead and where the patient was alive in Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and where the SHA of treatment was in London and the South East of England.

It should be noted that Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is included in the total for Q35 - East of England SHA.

It should be noted that while patients can only be discharged dead once, they can be discharged live several times during a year so this should not be described as a count or percentage of people.

No age/sex standardisation or casemix adjustments have been applied to the data. When comparing death rates it is strongly recommended that the Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) is used: www.ic.nhs.uk/SHMI.

North Korea

Questions

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the consequences of North Korea’s decision to carry out a nuclear test on 12 February. [HL5627]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): I refer the noble Lord to the Statement that I made on 13 February (Official Report, col. WS 50-51).

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA337

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they and the international community are taking following North Korea’s decision to carry out a nuclear test on 12 February.[HL5628]

Baroness Warsi: I refer the noble Lord to the Statement that I made on 13 February 2013 (Official Report, col. WS 50-51).

At the Foreign Affairs Council on 18 February, the EU agreed further restrictive measures to respond to North Korea’s December satellite launch. The EU also agreed to work on a separate set of restrictive measures to respond to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear test.

Overseas Aid

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their most recent forecast in cash terms of United Kingdom expenditure on foreign aid, including that part of it administered by the European Union, for the period 2010 to 2015.[HL5574]

Baroness Northover: Total UK ODA spend, including the share of the UK’s contribution to the European Commission which has been classed as ODA eligible, for 2010 and 2011 is provided below:

2010:£8,677 million (gross)—£8,452 million (net); and2011: £8,841 million (gross)—£8,629 million (net).

Please note that the net figures represent expenditure net of loan capital (ie principal) repayments.

Pensions

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Freud on 4 February (WA 21), whether their impact assessment of ending defined pension benefit contracting out as a result of the abolition of the state second pension estimates the extra cost to public sector employers in their national insurance employers’ contribution as £3.7 billion in the selected year of 2020 but also ascribes this as an increase in national insurance revenues accruing to public funds; and, if so, why this is described as extra net revenue when public funds will have to provide the same amount of money to those employers.[HL5497]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The single-tier pension impact assessment estimates that the impact of ending contracting out will be to increase public sector employers’ national insurance contributions by £3.6 billion in the selected year of 2020 (table 6.1).

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA338

Decisions on the treatment of revenues from these changes will be taken in due course, in the context of the relevant spending review and budget discussions.

The single-tier impact assessment can be found here http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/single-tier-pension-impact-assessment.pdf.

The estimated increases in national insurance contributions and receipts are DWP estimates, and have not yet been verified by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Police: National Computer

Question

Asked by Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the event of probation tasks being outsourced, private and third sector providers will be required to pay for data stored on the Police National Computer. [HL5634]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): The Ministry of Justice has consulted on proposals to reform the way in which offenders are rehabilitated in the community, including opening up rehabilitation services to a more diverse range of providers who will be paid by results to reduce reoffending.

The Home Office will work in close partnership with the Ministry of Justice as it finalises its plans for reform, to explore what access private and voluntary sector providers may require to data stored on the Police National Computer. Consideration will be given to what security access and charging arrangements would be most appropriate under any new arrangements for the delivery of probation services.

The Ministry of Justice will announce further details of its plans for reform once they have considered the responses to the consultation, which closed on 22 February 2013.

Questions for Written Answer

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the average time taken to answer Questions for Written Answer in each year since and including 2008. [HL5602]

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Hill of Oareford): The Government monitor questions answered later than the 10 working day target for responses to Questions for Written Answer. We do not hold or collect statistics on the average length of time taken to answer Questions for Written Answer.

Saudi Arabia

Questions

Asked by Lord Ahmed

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the United Kingdom has a prisoner transfer agreement with Saudi Arabia; and, if so, when it was agreed. [HL5563]

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA339

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many United Kingdom citizens are known to be serving prison sentences in Saudi Arabia; and how many have been transferred back to the United Kingdom in the past two years.[HL5564]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the total number of Saudi citizens in United Kingdom prisons; and how many have been transferred to Saudi Arabia in the past two years.[HL5565]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz will be transferred from custody in the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia.[HL5566]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia signed a prisoner transfer agreement on 2 January 2012. The agreement, which entered into force in the summer of 2012, provides for the voluntary transfer of prisoners between the two countries. There are currently five British nationals detained in prisons in Saudi Arabia and eight Saudi nationals are held in prisons in England and Wales. To date no prisoners have been transferred.

An application for transfer to a prison in Saudi Arabia submitted by Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz has been approved by the Secretary of State in accordance with the provisions of the prisoner transfer agreement.

Schools: Careers Advice

Question

Asked by Baroness Brinton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when academies established before September 2012 will have a duty to secure independent careers advice for their pupils as set out in section 29 of the Education Act 2011. [HL5357]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): The new model funding agreement for academies opening from September 2012 includes a requirement to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for pupils in years 9 to 11. This clause reflects the statutory position for maintained schools and will apply to all new academies going forward.

The Government recently announced that the careers duty will be extended to years 8 to 13 from September 2013. As the law changes, the careers provision will automatically extend to year 8 to 13 pupils attending academies that are subject to the new funding agreement.

A deed of variation is being drawn up to enable academies that opened prior to September 2012 to incorporate the careers duty into their existing funding agreements. We will write to all open academies to encourage them to take on the new careers duty. In some cases this will mean updating a previous careers duty still in their funding agreements, but which was removed from maintained schools in England by the Education Act 2011.

In line with maintained schools, academies are held to account through Ofsted inspections that consider the extent to which pupils have a well informed understanding of the options and challenges facing

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA340

them as they move through school and on to the next stage of their education, training and employment. Academies are also subject to education destination measures that show the percentage of students continuing their education in school, further education, sixth form college or higher education institution, and the percentage training through an apprenticeship or work based learning.

These accountability measures will demonstrate the effectiveness of academies in ensuring their pupils are aware of the full range of post-16 education and training options open to them.

Telecommunications: Overhead Lines

Question

Asked by Baroness Parminter

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether planning rules on the deployment of telecommunications masts or poles can be relaxed in protected landscapes under existing planning legislation.[HL5583]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Changes to planning rules for deployment of any telecommunications equipment in protected areas require amendments to Part 24 of Schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development Order 1995 (as amended) and complementary changes to the Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003.

My department’s consultation on proposed changes to enable quicker installation of fixed broadband equipment in protected areas closed on 24 December. The complementary Department for Culture Media and Sport consultation on changes to its regulations closes on 13 March.

The proposed changes to the planning requirements for the deployment of telecommunications poles and cabinets in protected landscapes can be made under existing planning legislation. However, the proposed changes to the Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003 can only be made once the Secretary of State’s vires to amend these regulations in protected areas have been amended through Clause 8 of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.

Violence Against Women

Questions

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the findings of the Justice Verma Committee on sexual violence against women in India, following the recent gang rape and murder of a 23 year-old student in New Delhi, and in particular its assessment of the role of caste.[HL5546]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The committee’s report is a

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA341

positive development in strengthening India’s institutions in dealing with crimes against women. The Government also welcome the committee’s recommendation that people should not suffer because of their caste or religion. The report is now with the Government of India and it is a matter for them how they respond.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of recent changes to the law on sexual violence against women in India, introduced following the gang rape of a 23 year-old student in New Delhi.[HL5547]

Baroness Warsi: On 3 February, the President of India Pranab Mukherjee signed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013 strengthening some Indian criminal laws for crimes against women. This is a welcome development. I understand that the Indian Government has endeavoured to hold further consultations and deliberations on what further steps it might take in this regard.

27 Feb 2013 : Column WA342

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 5 February (WA 54) stating concern about the risk of human trafficking and sexual exploitation of Dalit women and girls in India, whether they will make representations to the Government of India about the application of recent changes to human trafficking law in that county in cases concerning Dalit victims. [HL5548]

Baroness Warsi: We will continue to raise these issues with appropriate authorities at national and state level and also through the EU-India Human Rights Dialogue. Human trafficking is prohibited under Article 23 of the constitution of India. We also note the recommendations made in the report by the Justice Verma Committee in January that the authorities take strong action against those found guilty of human trafficking.