31 Oct 2011 : Column 363W
Written Answers to Questions
Monday 31 October 2011
Energy and Climate Change
Carbon Emissions: Local Government
Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will place in the Library a copy of the correspondence between his Department and the Committee on Climate Change on the outline proposal for the scope of the Committee's advice on how local authorities can reduce their carbon emissions. 
Carbon Sequestration: Finance
Stephen Barclay: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how much funding from the public purse (a) has been spent and (b) will be spent during the wind-up the Competition One carbon capture and storage project. 
Chief Scientific Advisers
Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change pursuant to the answer of 10 October 2011, Official R eport, column 30W, on departmental chief scientific advisers, which organisation seconded a staff member to his Department's support office as indicated in the staffing figures for March 2010. 
Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether his Department has lost any (a) computers, (b) mobile telephones, (c) BlackBerrys and (d) other IT equipment since May 2010; and if he will make a statement. 
31 Oct 2011 : Column 364W
Departmental Official Visits
Gregory Barker: The cost of official visits undertaken by DECC staff from 1 May 2010 to 30 September 2011 is £2.8 million. This represents the costs of travel, hotels and subsistence costs incurred by officials in the course of business, including overseas visits necessary to fulfil DECC's international energy and climate change obligations. The costs of official visits has fallen significantly in this period. For example, expenditure in the financial year 2010-11 was 42% lower (at £2.2 million) than in the previous financial year 2009-10 (at £3.8 million).
staff should only travel if it is absolutely necessary;
all travel bookings must be made though the official suppliers and that; and
standard or economy class must be used unless there is a clear business need for a higher class to be approved.
Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how many discussions (a) he, (b) his Ministers and (c) his senior officials have had with representatives of (i) National Grid and (ii) Scottish and Southern Energy in each month since May 2010; and if he will make a statement. 
Charles Hendry: The Department has met, and will continue to meet, representatives from National Grid and Scottish and Southern Energy; and other similar stakeholders, at official and ministerial level. We regard all meetings with such stakeholders as important for the formulation of the Government's energy policy.
Energy: Local Government
Gregory Barker: The Green Deal will be available from late 2012 to all property tenures, including local authority owned buildings. It will offer energy efficiency improvements at no upfront cost with the cost repaid through the energy bill savings. We are working closely with the local government sector to develop these proposals.
Up to December 2012 there remain significant opportunities for local authorities to deliver energy efficiency schemes in partnership with the energy companies through the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP) schemes.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 365W
Simon Hart: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change with reference to the letter from the Minister of State of 30 September 2011, whether contract metered customers with a debt of less than £200 are able to switch to another supplier in addition to prepayment meter customers. 
Charles Hendry: Ofgem is responsible for regulating gas and electricity supply, including the rules governing debt-blocking. Customers with a debt can switch to another supplier. However, suppliers have the right under their supply licence to block a transfer request when an amount remains outstanding on a customer's account 28 days after it has been formally demanded.
Mr Hanson: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (1) what discussions he has had with representatives of Scottish Power on changes in standing charges on energy bills in the last 12 months; 
The setting of the standing charge is a commercial matter for the company itself. However, it is in their interest to set the charge at a reasonable level to avoid their customers’ considering the deals offered by other suppliers.
Ofgem is currently consulting on a range of proposals on tariffs that will reform the energy market to make it simpler and more competitive. The proposals include a requirement for each supplier to offer one standard tariff for each payment method, for which Ofgem will set the standing charge.
Charles Hendry: Ofgem is responsible for regulating gas and electricity supply, including the marketing activities used by supply companies. In 2009, Ofgem brought in new rules for doorstep selling that require any information used during the sales process to be complete, accurate and not misleading. It is for Ofgem to investigate any allegations of the rules being breached and to take any necessary action.
Last month, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne), announced that the Government are considering giving Ofgem additional powers to secure redress for consumers where they have lost out as a result of a licence or energy regulation breach.
Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (1) what recent estimate his Department has made of the likely cost per household of the introduction of smart meters; 
31 Oct 2011 : Column 366W
Charles Hendry: The Government's updated impact assessment published in August 2011, estimates that the rollout of smart meters to the domestic sector will deliver a net benefit of almost £5 billion, leading to an average bill saving of £22 per household in 2020 and £42 in 2030. This reflects an estimated total gross cost of the domestic rollout of £11 billion, offset by £16 billion in gross benefits. These benefits include the direct savings to households as they are able to use energy more efficiently and the cost savings achieved by energy suppliers which are expected to be passed through to consumers.
Charles Hendry: Ultimately it is for the industry to propose what type of fuel to use in any future nuclear reactors, the designs of which would be subject to independent regulatory assessment and acceptance. To date, no potential operator has put forward proposals for a thorium fuelled plant.
That said, the Department is aware of the potential of thorium fuelled nuclear reactor designs, including those using liquid fluoride thorium fuel, and is in the process of assessing claims regarding its suitability as an alternative to uranium based reactors in the longer term.
The current view of thorium reactor technologies from the nuclear industry is that, while the science is reasonably sound, developing reactors based on a thorium fuel cycle would carry major technological and commercial risks. The resources required to develop these technologies to the point at which they might be deployed successfully at a commercial scale are also very significant.
To date, both in the UK and elsewhere in the world, this has prevented private industry and Government from investing significantly in the development of the technology. No thorium reactor design has been implemented beyond relatively small, experimental systems, while many either exist only on paper or have only had specific subsystems demonstrated. As an indicator of the challenge of taking this technology further, the Chinese Academy of Sciences estimates a development period of at least 20 years will be required before a demonstration thorium molten salt breeder reactor might be available.
While thorium does not appear to have a part to play in the UK's near to mid-term energy market, we do maintain an interest in its development. The Secretary of State has asked the national nuclear laboratory to look further into the wider benefits of next generation reactor designs and to compare the use of thorium and uranium fuels in them. We are expecting the findings to be available in due course.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 367W
Green Deal Scheme
Gregory Barker: SMEs will play a key role in delivering a successful green deal and the Department has been actively engaging all types of businesses to ensure that our approach is as flexible as possible and does not create unnecessary barriers.
Gregory Barker: The national occupational standards for green deal assessors are being designed to recognise and credit the existing skills domestic energy assessors (DEAs) possess. We expect the market to begin offering qualifications from early next year, with DEAs existing skills set being taken into account, making it easier for them to upskill to become green deal assessors.
Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what estimate he has made of the number of green deal assessors needed to meet the objectives for participation in the green deal. 
Gregory Barker: The green deal is a market-led initiative, so the number of green deal assessors required will vary depending on the size of this market. A healthy green deal market will provide substantial opportunities for those looking to become green deal assessors, in both full-time and part-time roles.
Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what advice on competition law his Department has received on the decision to have a single green deal finance provider. 
Gregory Barker: The Department is actively and openly engaging with a broad range of potential financiers for the green deal and has not taken a decision to have a single provider for green deal finance.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 368W
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Stephen Phillips: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what progress has been made in meeting the Kyoto protocol targets on the emission of fluorinated greenhouse gases since 1990. 
The UK has fully implemented a comprehensive EU regulatory framework that has been in place since May 2006 to control emissions, as part of the EU's commitments under the Kyoto protocol. The major focus is to minimise emissions of fluorinated (F) gases from products and equipment. This is mainly carried out through containment, leak reduction and repair and recovery of F gases.
In 1995, UK F gas emissions were 17.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (mt CO2e). The late 1990s saw a sharp drop as the two plants in the UK that produced the ozone depleting substance R22 installed equipment that captured and destroyed F gas emissions created as a by-product of the process. These two plants have since closed. From the end of the 1990s, F gas emissions have been relatively steady. The latest finalised UK greenhouse gas figures are for 2009, and indicate F gas emissions were 11.7mt CO2e. With the recent full implementation of the EU F gas regulatory framework and the impact of technological change, we anticipate significant emissions reductions in the future.
Charles Hendry: The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) enforces consumer protection law. Local authority trading standards services also have the powers to tackle such infringements of consumer protection legislation. Carmarthenshire county council has recently taken action against a heating oil supplier that engaged in unfair commercial practice by charging more than it quoted or not giving a quote with customers paying more than they expected.
Following the publication of the findings of its off-grid market study, the OFT is actively examining this and related pricing practices, engaging with industry to ensure consumer law compliance, and will take swift enforcement action as necessary.
In its recent market study into the off-grid energy market, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) examined the heating oil market. The OFT found most consumers have a reasonably large choice of supplier with less than 3% of UK off-grid households living in a location with fewer than four distinct suppliers. It also found that heating oil consumers are normally able to switch supplier because they usually own their storage tanks and very few are tied into supply contracts. Moreover
31 Oct 2011 : Column 369W
the OFT also indicated that consumers do not necessarily have to switch to a rival supplier to obtain lower prices if they can do so through the threat of switching.
Charles Hendry: The UK has a competitive market for the supply of heating oil. It is regulated by the UK's independent competition authorities, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the Competition Commission.
On 18 October, the OFT published its market study into the off-grid energy market. The OFT found the primary driver of price increases to be the crude oil price which accounts for over 90% of the variation in the retail price of heating oil.
During the market study, the OFT took action against certain heating oil companies and price comparison websites to improve transparency and prevent consumers being misled when searching online for heating oil supplies.
The OFT study also identified that action is needed to protect heating oil consumers in relation to unfair contracts leading to consumers paying more on delivery than the price quoted at order. A successful prosecution by Trading Standards in August against a supplier for unfair commercial practice has re-affirmed the law in this area. The OFT is actively examining this and related pricing practices, engaging with industry to ensure consumer law compliance, and will take swift enforcement action as necessary.
Stephen Gilbert: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps his Department is taking to ensure that suppliers of heating oil deliver fuel to off-grid consumers at the price agreed at the time of purchase. 
Charles Hendry: As I noted in my statement of 18 October 2011, Official Report, 59WS, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has just published findings from its market study into the off-grid energy market. The study has identified that action is needed to protect heating oil consumers in relation to unfair contracts leading to consumers paying more on delivery than the price quoted at order. A successful prosecution, under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, by Carmarthenshire county council Trading Standards in August 2011 for unfair commercial practice has reaffirmed the law in this area. The prosecution demonstrates that local authority Trading Standards services have the powers to tackle such infringements of consumer protection legislation. The OFT is actively examining this and related pricing practices, engaging with industry to ensure consumer law compliance, and will take swift enforcement action as necessary.
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether the costs to energy suppliers of sending letters to vulnerable consumers on their eligibility for free or discounted insulation will be in addition to existing obligations on suppliers; and if he will make a statement. 
31 Oct 2011 : Column 370W
Gregory Barker: The costs to energy suppliers arising from funding letters to vulnerable consumers encouraging them to take up insulation offers will form part of the companies' overall costs in meeting their existing carbon saving obligations to promote energy efficiency measures.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps he is taking to (a) regulate the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) industry and (b) monitor the difference in prices of LPG across the UK. 
Charles Hendry: Regulation is typically introduced where natural monopolies arise. While the gas and electricity transmission and distribution networks are natural monopolies, this is not an issue for LPG supply where the UK has an open and competitive market with regulation by the UK's independent competition authorities who are the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the Competition Commission.
As I noted in my Statement of 18 October, the OFT has just published its findings from its market study into the off-grid energy market, which includes the market structure and pricing of LPG. The study followed an investigation in 2006 by the Competition Commission into the supply of domestic bulk LPG. The recent market study has found that the Orders made subsequent to the market investigation appear to have substantially increased switching rates for individual tank customers but the OFT will keep the effectiveness of and compliance with the Orders under review. The study highlighted that many pricing concerns with LPG tended to stem from contract terms. The OFT has considered consumer protection issues and is engaging with suppliers to seek improvement in the clarity of contract terms, particularly concerning cancellation and switching rights.
Motion-sensitive Lighting Systems
Joseph Johnson: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps his Department is taking to encourage businesses and owners of office buildings to install motion-sensitive lighting systems. 
The Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme will incentivise energy efficiency improvements in large organisations, through its combination of financial, reporting and reputational drivers. This should include incentivising the installation of motion-sensitive lighting.
Under the Green Deal, we propose to include energy efficient lighting and lighting controls as an eligible measure in the non-domestic sector. Businesses will be able to install new lighting systems at no up-front cost with payments recouped through the electricity bill.
The Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme for energy efficient products provides an incentive to industry to invest in plant and machinery where energy efficiency needs to be encouraged, enabling them to write off 100% of the cost of the asset in the year of purchase. High efficiency lighting units are included in this scheme and might qualify.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 371W
for lighting systems and their controls, including recognising the benefits of motion-sensitive lighting systems, where property owners decide to carry out building work and replace their lighting systems.
Natural Gas: Exploration
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what the process is for allowing Cuadrilla Resources to resume hydraulic fracturing operations for shale gas; and whether he will make the final decision on resumption. 
Charles Hendry: A geomechanical study has been undertaken by Cuadrilla, the operator carrying out shale gas exploration near Blackpool, with its report due to be submitted to my Department very soon. The implications of this report will be reviewed very carefully—in consultation with the British Geological Survey, independent experts and the other key regulators—before any decision on the resumption of these hydraulic fracture operations is made. To resume hydraulic fracture operations will require consent under the Petroleum Act 1998 which is a matter for the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) to consider.
Charles Hendry: Consultation on the strategic environmental assessment for the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round completed earlier this year. DECC is currently considering the responses received and plans to issue a Government response as soon as practical. I would then expect to be in a position to make a decision sometime in the new year.
Alun Cairns: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of the regulatory framework for shale gas exploration and drilling in (a) the UK and (b) other countries. 
Charles Hendry: The UK has a robust regulatory system. All onshore oil and gas projects, including shale gas exploration and development, are subject to appropriate environmental controls, including scrutiny by the relevant environmental agency (for England and Wales, the Environment Agency), and are subject to safety regulation by the Health and Safety Executive. They also require planning permission, and consent from DECC, before drilling activities, which may include hydraulic fracturing, can commence.
Further planning permission and development consent would be required, from the planning authority and DECC respectively, should the operator intend to move forward with the commercial development of the resources. An environmental impact assessment may also be required, depending on the area of the proposed works, or (if commercial production is proposed) on the expected level of production. Appropriate assessments under the habitats and birds directives may also be necessary in specific locations.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 372W
any available learning for shale gas activities in the UK. However UK conditions, including the geology, and the UK regulatory framework, are different, and there will not necessarily be any straightforward read across from the experience of other countries.
Nuclear Installations: Floods
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change with reference to his contribution of 11 October 2011, Official Report, column 190, on the Weightman Report (Fukushima), if he will set out a site-by-site assessment on the steps his Department is taking to ensure that licensed nuclear sites can continue to operate with satisfactory back-up systems regardless of the magnitude of flooding events. 
“The protection of nuclear sites from flood risk is already a well established part of ensuring safety at nuclear sites. However, it is important to learn any lessons from the Fukushima accident and for the industry to review flooding studies in line with the principles of continuous improvement”
Further to this, recommendation IR-10 of the report states that industry should initiate a review of flood defences at sites to confirm the design basis and its margins in terms of flooding in the light of the Japanese experience. In terms of back-up systems, recommendations IR-18 and IR-19 of the report seek review of the need for the provision of additional electrical or cooling supplies in the event of loss of off-site capacity under severe conditions or disruption. These actions will be taken forward by operators and may become part of the site’s Periodic Safety Review Programme and will in any case be reported to the Office for Nuclear Regulation. The Nuclear National Policy Statement also requires applicants to build new nuclear power stations to identify flood risk and the mitigation measures to be taken.
World Nuclear Forum
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of the Royal Society's proposal that a World Nuclear Forum led by chief executive officers be established at the next World Nuclear Security Summit. 
Charles Hendry: There is already a great deal of international activity looking at the issues of the future development of nuclear power and responsibilities for non-proliferation and nuclear security and safety worldwide. We recognise the value of co-operation between operators and Governments and support closer working between the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). Indeed, at the recent WANO biennial general meeting in China, the IAEA Director-General encouraged closer co-operation between the IAEA and WANO. However, we believe that this can be achieved without the need to set up new fora and secretariats.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 373W
Leader of the House
Chris Ruane: To ask the Leader of the House what recent (a) oral and (b) written representations he has received on the issue of the tabling of parliamentary questions; and if he will place in the Library a copy of any such representations. 
Sir George Young: I have received no written representations on the issue of the tabling of parliamentary questions. However, during the debate on 13 October 2011, Official Report, columns 515-52, I had the opportunity to hear the representations of a number of hon. and right hon. Members on this subject. The hon. Member will know that the provision of time on the floor of the House for any debates and decisions on the rules governing the tabling of parliamentary questions is now a matter for the Backbench Business Committee and not the responsibility of the Government.
Sir George Young: On 24 July 2006, the then Government proposed a change to the rules governing the tabling of parliamentary questions to enable questions to be tabled for answer on certain days in September that year; the proposal was agreed to by the House. On 28 March 2007, the then Government proposed a new Standing Order making such arrangements permanent; this was agreed to by the House and is now Standing Order No. 22B. Although not involving formal rule changes, on 25 October 2007 the House of Commons approved proposals for topical oral questions, which arose from a recommendation of the Modernisation Committee and were supported by the then Government; topical questions were introduced from the start of Session 2007-08. The Procedure Committee made a recommendation for earlier deadlines for questions tabled electronically in its Third Report of Session 2008-09, published in July 2009, but this recommendation was not considered by the House.
The provision of time on the floor of the House for any debates and decisions on the rules governing the tabling of parliamentary questions is now a matter for the Backbench Business Committee and not the responsibility of the Government. The Government did not submit evidence to the Procedure Committee on written parliamentary questions prior to the publication of its report covering that subject. The changes agreed by the House on 13 October 2011 were proposed by the Chair of that Committee and debated in backbench time.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings HM ambassador to Israel has had with the Secretary of State for Defence (a) in Israel, (b) in the UK and (c)
31 Oct 2011 : Column 374W
elsewhere since May 2010; whether Mr Adam Werritty was present on any such occasion; and which (i) other officials and (ii) other people were present on each occasion. 
Alistair Burt: All meetings which our ambassador to Israel has had with the former Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) since May 2010 are set out in the Cabinet Secretary's report of 18 October 2011. Our ambassador to Israel was also invited by the former Defence Secretary to a private social engagement in summer 2010 at which Adam Werritty was present.
Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many full-time equivalent staff are employed on consultancy contracts in his Department; and if he will make a statement. 
It is possible that consultancy is used from time to time in FCO Posts overseas where there is a lack of in-house specialist expertise, but gathering data on this would incur disproportionate cost. Any use of consultants would be subject to rigorous scrutiny and the acceptance of a business case.
“any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.”
Angie Bray: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations his Department has made to the Egyptian Government on the treatment of Coptic Christians in Egypt; and if he will make a statement. 
Alistair Burt: The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) called the Egyptian Foreign Minister on 12 October to discuss the situation in Egypt. The Foreign Secretary raised concerns about the unrest in Cairo on 9 October and impressed upon the Egyptian Government the need to take action to address the violence.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 375W
In a statement on 10 October the Foreign Secretary expressed his deep concern over the unrest and the loss of life in Cairo. He urged all Egyptians to refrain from violence, support the Egyptian Prime Minister's call for calm and for all sides to engage in dialogue. He said that the freedom of religious belief needs to be protected and that the ability to worship in peace is a vital component of a democratic society.
The Deputy Prime Minister discussed sectarian tension with the Egyptian Government during his visit on 20 October. We will continue to encourage the authorities to promote religious tolerance and protect minority rights.
European Union: Powers
Mr Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what powers have been repatriated from the EU since May 2010; and what powers have transferred from (a) the UK and (b) other EU member states to the EU since May 2010. 
Mr Lidington: There have not been any changes to the EU treaties since May 2010 which have resulted in a transfer of competence from the EU to the member states. Following the amendments introduced by the Lisbon treaty, the treaty on the functioning of the European Union now recognises the possibility that the European Union might decide to cease to exercise a competence conferred upon it by the member states and for this competence to be returned to the member states. The final sentence of Article 2(2) TFEU provides that:
“The Member States shall exercise their competence again to the extent that the Union has decided to cease exercising its competence.”
Article 5 of the treaty on the European Union makes clear that the Union shall act only within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the member states under the treaties. The treaties and subsequent amendments thereto have been agreed by the member states by consensus and not by either majority voting or unanimity in the Council of Ministers. There have been no treaties agreed since May 2010 which have transferred competences from the UK to the EU. There has been a decision under the simplified revision procedure to allow for the amendment of Article 136 TFEU. This does not apply to the UK, nor does it transfer any competence from other EU member states to the EU. It remains to be ratified by all member states and therefore is not yet in force.
I am pleased to hear that actress Marzieh Vafamehr's sentence of one year and 90 lashes has been commuted and that she has been released from prison. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials spoke to the Iranian chargé d’affaires in London on 20 October about her case. The UK was shocked by this sentence and believes that state sanctioned corporal punishment has no place in the modern world. We urge the Iranian authorities to review all other cases where this sentence
31 Oct 2011 : Column 376W
has been imposed. With our EU partners, the UK has taken co-ordinated action to address Iran's human rights record, imposing travel bans and asset freezes on over 60 Iranians responsible for human rights violations, including government ministers and members of the judiciary.
Karen Lumley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the recent elections in Tunisia; and what plans his Department has to engage with Tunisian representatives for the new Constituent Assembly. 
Alistair Burt: The elections held in Tunisia on 23 October were a success. The Tunisian authorities and the Tunisian people should be congratulated for the orderly way in which the voting was carried out, the high turnout, and the access the Tunisian authorities granted to observers. Those observers, both domestic and international, saw a consistent, clear and systematic process.
The Constituent Assembly will face the challenges of electing a speaker, nominating a president and then forming a government, before the work of drawing up a new constitution can begin. We look forward to engaging with the new democratically elected Tunisian Government, once it has been formed, including through our embassy in Tunis and officials here in London.
House of Commons Commission
Chris Ruane: To ask the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, representing the House of Commons Commission, what the average number of written parliamentary questions tabled per sitting day was in each of the last six sessions. 
|Session||Sitting days||Number of questions for written answer||Average number of questions for written answer per sitting day|
|(1) 2010-12 figure is until end of September 2011.|
Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assets with a value of £250,000 or more his Department has bought since May 2010; for what purpose; and if he will make a statement. 
31 Oct 2011 : Column 377W
Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether his Department has lost any (a) computers, (b) mobile telephones, (c) BlackBerrys and (d) other IT equipment since May 2010; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many applications from employees to run services for which his Department is directly responsible he has received since May 2010; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions he has had on promoting social enterprises in the area for which his Department is responsible in each month since May 2010; and if he will make a statement. 
31 Oct 2011 : Column 378W
Ireland Minister for Social Development and others and have met organisations from within this sector as part of my duties in promoting the big society agenda, of which the hon. Member will be supportive.
Women and Equalities
Building a Fairer Britain: Reforming the Equality and Human Rights Commission
John McDonnell: To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities how many individuals responded to the Government’s consultation on Building a Fairer Britain: Reforming the Equality and Human Rights Commission; when the Government plans to respond to the consultation; and how many respondents agreed with the questions numbered (a) 1 to 7, (b) 11, (c) 13 and (d) 14 in the consultation document. 
Lynne Featherstone: The consultation closed on 15 June, and we are currently considering the responses received. We will publish a summary of responses and the Government’s response to the consultation, setting out how we intend to proceed, in due course.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions she has had with (a) the National Farmers Union and (b) other farming organisations on ensuring a strong domestic market for the produce of British farmers. 
Mr Paice: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, met with the NFU on 15 September where CAP reform was discussed. She also had further discussions on CAP reform with the NFU on 21 September.
DEFRA officials have regular discussions with the National Farmers Union via forums such as the Quad partnership (along with representatives from the British Retail Consortium and Food and Drink Federation) and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). Discussions are wide ranging covering for example:
Public Sector Procurement
Farm Assurance Schemes
Groceries Code Adjudicator
Business Development Manager Programme
Land Release for Community Growing
31 Oct 2011 : Column 379W
Animal Welfare: Circuses
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her most recent estimate is of the cost of (a) setting up and operating a licensing regime and (b) introducing a complete ban on the use of wild animals in circuses for (i) circuses, (ii) local authorities and (iii) the Government; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr Paice: It is our intention that the costs of a licensing scheme for animals in circuses will be borne by the circus industry itself, through the cost of the licence fee. DEFRA intends to consult on proposals in early 2012 which will include an impact assessment setting out the different options and estimates of the costs involved.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when her Department plans to make a decision on the introduction of regulations requiring mandatory public reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by businesses. 
Poultry: Animal Welfare
Dr Poulter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions her Department has had with the EU's Food and Veterinary Office on steps to penalise egg producers that are non-compliant with required changes to cages for laying hens. 
Mr Paice: DEFRA’s policy under the Weeds Act 1959 is to control injurious weeds where there is a threat to animal welfare or agricultural activities. However, it is the responsibility of livestock owners, in the first place, to ensure that their grazing land is free of ragwort infestation.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 380W
The Weeds Act 1959 allows the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to take statutory action to control the spread of injurious weeds such as Common Ragwort. Natural England investigates complaints about injurious weeds on DEFRA's behalf and issues enforcement notices where appropriate.
Richard Benyon: The Government are working with local councils to increase the frequency and quality of waste collections and to make it easier to recycle. We strongly believe that the best way to drive up recycling performance is for local authorities to determine the most appropriate form of recycling services for their areas, to reflect local circumstances and demographics. This enables local authorities to work with their residents to deliver recycling services that people will use. The Government will continue to provide advice and support to inform the decisions made by councils, through the work of the Waste and Resources Action Programme and others.
We believe that it is better to provide positive reinforcement to people for doing the right thing than penalise them for doing the wrong thing and that this will encourage householders to make more use of the recycling services on offer. DEFRA has provided funding to local authorities and community organisations to support 16 projects to try new approaches to rewarding those who recycle more.
Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether Travellers and Gypsies are treated differently from the settled population under regulations and guidance governing the release of sewage into the natural environment. 
Richard Benyon: The discharge of domestic sewage to the natural environment, including waste water arising from normal domestic activities wherever it is carried out, is regulated by the Environment Agency under the Environmental Permitting Regulations (England and Wales) 2010. There are no separate provisions in those regulations or accompanying guidance providing for different treatment for Travellers and Gypsies when compared to the settled community.
Connection to a public sewer is the preferred option in all cases. Accordingly, the Environment Agency may or may not permit a discharge to waters from a proposed private sewage treatment facility in a sewered area. Small sewage effluent discharges (5 cubic metres per day or less to surface water or 2 cubic metres per day or less to ground), may qualify for an exemption from permitting.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 381W
from the spreading of waste on farmland in each of the last three years; and what the most common cause of those complaints is. 
Mr Paice: DEFRA does not hold a central register of data about complaints of odour from the spreading of waste on farmland. To produce a definitive list of such complaints would incur disproportionate cost.
Harriett Baldwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment her Department has made of effectiveness of regulation of the practice of injecting treated human waste on productive agricultural land, with regard to (a) human health and (b) enforcement by local authorities. 
Richard Benyon: The use of treated human waste—known as sewage sludge and septic tank sludge—on land is controlled by the sludge (use in agriculture) regulations, supported by a code of practice for agricultural use of sewage sludge. These statutory controls are enhanced by a voluntary agreement, the Safe Sludge Matrix.
The Food Standards Agency's position is that the application of sewage sludge to agricultural land should not present any unacceptable microbiological risks to food safety, provided it is carried out in compliance with the statutory requirements, the code of practice and the guidance in the Safe Sludge Matrix. This view is based on the advice of the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food, which considered the issue in 2002.
“where any untreated sludge has been used on land without being injected into the soil, the occupier of the land affected shall, as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter, cause such sludge to be worked into the soil of the land affected.”
Harriett Baldwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information her Department holds on the practice of injecting treated human waste on agricultural land in EU member states. 
Richard Benyon: DEFRA does not hold information on the practice of injecting treated human waste on agricultural land in EU member states, but has access to the three-yearly reports that are submitted by member states about the implementation of directive 86/278/EEC on the protection of the environment, and in particular of the soil, when sewage sludge is used in agriculture. These are available on the Eurostat website.
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publish the appendices to the final report of the Zoo Licensing Inspectorate's circus feasibility study. 
31 Oct 2011 : Column 382W
three inspection reports conducted as part of the study. These inspections were conducted on a confidential basis, and as a consequence we will not release these reports.
Communities and Local Government
Private Rented Sector
22. Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent assessment he has made of the rent levels in the private rented sector; and if he will make a statement. 
Andrew Stunell: The Government collect and publish extensive data on private sector rents. The most recent information appears in the English Housing Survey Household report, published by my Department in July 2011 and the Valuation Office Agency's Private Rental Market Statistics published last September.
Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what definition of affordable homes his Department uses in connection with the homes planned under contract through the Affordable Homes Programme; and how many homes which would be classed as affordable under that definition were built in each of the last 25 calendar years. 
Grant Shapps: We said in the Affordable Homes Programme Framework for 2011-15 that affordable homes would be defined as set out in Planning Policy Statement 3 (on Housing). We consulted on, and issued a revision to, this statement to incorporate affordable rent in the definition of affordable housing, on 9 June 2011.
Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what estimate he has made of the amount of revenue lost by each local authority arising from homes and businesses damaged during the public disorder of August 2011; 
31 Oct 2011 : Column 383W
John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the cost to his Department was of (a) council tax relief for second home owners and (b) empty property discounts in (i) England and (ii) each local authority area in the last year for which figures are available. 
Robert Neill: The costs to authorities of discounts and exemptions are supported through Formula Grant. Formula Grant is an unhypothecated block grant and it is not therefore possible to say how much is provided for discounts and exemptions. The total amount of Formula Grant is set during the spending review. Formula Grant is funded from within the local government departmental expenditure limit.
Departmental Public Expenditure
Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether he receives any external funding for (a) his ministerial office and (b) his advisers; and what the (i) source and (ii) amount is of any such funding. 
Domestic Waste: Waste Disposal
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what payments his Department has made available to local authorities for the purposes of maintaining weekly refuse collection. 
Robert Neill: Details of the number of domestic dwellings reported as empty for council tax purposes in each county in England and the proportion of the total number of domestic dwellings that this represents are shown in the following table. The data are a snapshot taken in October 2010.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 384W
||Total empty dwellings||Proportion of dwellings that are vacant (percentage)|
Robert Neill: As pledged in the coalition agreement, in order to help authorities increase take-up we are, through the Localism Bill, removing the legal requirement for ratepayers to submit an application form in order to claim the relief. Councils will therefore be free to administer the relief in a way that best serves local businesses and local needs. We are also amending secondary legislation to ensure that all eligible businesses automatically have their bills calculated using the small business multiplier.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 385W
Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many development sites are identified in local development frameworks approved in 2010 and 2011; and whether all local development frameworks approved in 2010 and 2011 include provision for Gypsy and Traveller sites. 
Robert Neill: The Government do not gather this information centrally, as the content of local councils' development plans is a local matter. Local councils' development plans are available for public inspection.
Robert Neill: In October 2010, Southwark council reported there were 1,945 dwellings registered as second homes for council tax purposes; at the same time there were 246,000 dwellings registered as second homes for council tax purposes in England.
Travellers: Caravan Sites
Mr Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what obligations local authorities have to provide for Gypsy and Traveller sites following the introduction of new guidelines. 
Robert Neill: The Government published their draft new planning policy for Traveller sites for consultation in April. A copy is in the Library of the House. The consultation closed in August. We are currently analysing the responses and intend to publish a new policy in due course.
In the meantime, Circular 01/2006 (Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites) and Circular 04/2007 (Planning for Travelling Showpeople) are extant. However, decision-makers are entitled to have regard to the fact that it is intended to withdraw them and replace them with the draft policy.
Mr Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what legislative proposals he plans to bring forward that will affect the obligations of local authorities regarding Gypsy and Traveller sites. 
Robert Neill: The Localism Bill contains a number of measures aimed at decentralising the planning system and shifting power from central Government back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils. These measures are of general application, and do not apply specifically to Traveller sites.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 386W
Such measures include the proposed abolition of regional strategies. This will remove the system of top-down site targets that imposed development on communities and make local authorities responsible for determining the right level of Traveller site provision in their area, in consultation with local communities.
The Government published their draft new planning policy for Traveller sites for consultation in April. The consultation closed in August. We are currently analysing the responses and intend to publish a new policy in due course.
The Government published their draft new planning policy for Traveller sites for consultation in April. The draft policy aims to be short, light touch and fair and put the provision of sites back into the hands of local councils in consultation with local communities. The consultation closed in August. We are currently analysing the responses and intend to publish a new policy in due course.
Waste Disposal: Greater London
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what information his Department holds on the total amount of (a) domestic and (b) commercial refuse (i) collected and (ii) recycled in each London borough in each of the last three years. 
Robert Neill: DEFRA holds, data on domestic and commercial refuse handled by local authorities within its WasteDataFlow database. Annual data on all individual English local authorities can be accessed online at
In addition, a national survey of commercial and industrial waste was carried out by DEFRA in 2009. Data on all business waste generated in London boroughs are included in the report which can be accessed via
The WasteDataFlow data on local authority collected waste demonstrate the overall increase in levels of recycling which our new initiative, the Weekly Collection Support Scheme, will also promote. The scheme will encourage councils to combine better weekly services with improved recycling. Detail on this scheme will be available shortly.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 387W
Heidi Alexander: To ask the Attorney-General whether the Law Officers Departments collect information on the number of people from the UK who travel to Dignitas in Switzerland who are (a) patients and (b) accompanying patients; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr Thomas: To ask the Attorney-General how many letters he has received on funding for civil society organisations within the Law Officers Departments’ area of responsibility in each month since 1 June 2010; and if he will make a statement. 
Administration of Justice: Standards
Sadiq Khan: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what the average length of time was between a crime being committed and an offender being sentenced in each year from 1997 to 2011 inclusive; 
31 Oct 2011 : Column 388W
Mr Blunt: Table 1 provides the average length of time from: (i) the date of arrest to the date of charge; (ii) the date of offence being committed to the date of charge; (iii) the date of charge to the date of first hearing; (iv) the date of first hearing to the date of completion (verdict or sentence); and (v) date of offence to the date of completion, for defendants in charged cases concluding in either the magistrates courts or Crown court from April 2010 to June 2011, the latest date for which statistics are currently available. In addition, the average time taken from the date of offence to date of completion of the case has been provided for defendants in all criminal cases, including summons cases. These statistics are sourced from the administrative data systems used in the courts, and have been produced by linking together records held on the two datasets.
This information is not available prior to April 2010. For the years 1997 to 2010, the available statistics relate to the average time taken from offence to the completion of a defendant's case in the magistrates courts. These are provided in Table 2, and are estimates sourced from the discontinued Time Interval Survey. Since the data are survey data and relate to the completion of a defendant's case in the magistrates courts only, note that these data are not comparable to the figures in Table 1.
Table 3 provides the average waiting time—the time taken from the lodging of an appeal to the first substantial hearing—for appeals dealt with in the Crown court, after receiving a conviction or sentence in the magistrates courts.
Information on the average time from the end of a trial to the sentencing and sentencing to the start of an appeal is not available, as the information required is not on the source data sets used for criminal courts timeliness analysis.
Summary statistics on the timeliness of criminal proceedings in the magistrates courts and Crown court are published by the Ministry of Justice in the statistical bulletins ‘Court Statistics Quarterly’. Statistics for the quarter July to September 2011 will be published in January 2012 on the Department's website at:
|Table 1: Timeliness of criminal proceedings in the magistrates courts and Crown court, England and Wales, 1997 to 2010 (1,2)|
|Charged cases only||All criminal cases|
|Magistrates and Crown courts||Arrest to charge (3)||Offence to charge||Charge to first hearing||First hearing to completion||Offence to completion||Offence to completion|
|(1) Includes adult and youth defendants (2) Includes all cases concluded in either the magistrates courts or Crown court during the specified time period and excludes cases completed in magistrates court but not completed in the Crown court. Data are sourced from the linked administrative court data and include around 95% of completed proceedings. These data are only available from April 2010. (3) The arrest to charge column is a subset of the offence to charge column, so the first four columns will not add up to the overall offence to completion figure for charged cases. Source: Libra MIS Timeliness Analysis Report (TAR) and CREST linked court data, HM Courts and Tribunals Service|
31 Oct 2011 : Column 389W
31 Oct 2011 : Column 390W
|Table 2: Timeliness of criminal proceedings in the magistrates court, England and Wales, 1997 to 2010 (1)|
|Charged cases only||All criminal cases|
|Magistrates courts only (2,3)||Arrest to charge (4,5)||Offence to charge||Charge to first hearing||First hearing to completion||Offence to completion||Offence to completion|
|(1) Includes adult and youth defendants. (2) Estimates based on one week sample for all defendants in criminal proceedings that were completed in the magistrates courts. (3) Between 1997 and 1999, the results are based on one week period of each June. 1999 is a transitional period and results are now based on two surveys. Those are conducted in February and September. Thereafter, all criminal cases are collected in March and September. (4 )Data from arrest to charge are only available from 2008, because prior to this date, it was not a mandatory requirement to fill in the date of arrest (5) The arrest to charge column is a subset of the offence to charge column, so the first four columns will not add up to the overall offence to completion figure for charged cases. Source: Time Intervals Survey, HM Courts and Tribunals Service One Performance Truth (OPT) system|
|Table 3: Average waiting times for appellants dealt with (1) in the Crown court having appealed the decision of a magistrates court, England and Wales, 1997 to 2010|
||Total number appellants of dealt with||Average waiting time (weeks)|
|(1) Excludes cases abandoned before appearance in court. Source: HM Courts and Tribunals Service CREST system|
Claims Management Services: Complaints
Mr Slaughter: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 13 October 2011, Official Report, columns 510-11W, on claims management regulation unit, whether any complaint has been received relating to (a) Going Legal Ltd, (b) Legal Link Introductory Services Ltd and (c) Justice Direct; and when any such complaint was received. 
Mr Kenneth Clarke: Pursuant to the answer I gave on 13 October 2011, Official Report, columns 510-11W, I can confirm that the response to the request made under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act for the above information has now been sent to the hon. Member's office. A copy of that response has also been placed in the House Libraries.
Mr Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many responses to the consultation on the Public Bodies Bill were received in relation to the proposals on the Office of Chief Coroner; and how many such responses (a) supported and (b) opposed the proposals on the Office of Chief Coroner. 
Mr Djanogly: The Ministry of Justice consultation on reforms proposed in the Public Bodies Bill closed on 11 October. Of the 2,742 responses received, 2,646 referred to the Office of the Chief Coroner. 2,607 of these were identical responses from members of the public received via the Royal British Legion campaign website.
Mr Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) whether his Department has determined the causes of the loss of responses e-mailed to the consultation inbox [email protected] prior to 20 September 2011; 
31 Oct 2011 : Column 391W
(2) on what date his Department (a) created and (b) activated the mailbox [email protected] for responses to the consultation on the Public Bodies Bill; 
(3) whether he considered extending the consultation period for the Public Bodies Bill when it had been established that responses sent to the consultation inbox before 20 September 2011 had been lost; 
The non-receipt of some responses e-mailed to the mailbox was due to a mailbox migration to the new Ministry of Justice e-mail exchange service prior to the start of the consultation. There were components missing within the mailbox at the point of migration meaning that some e-mails were not redirected from the legacy system to the new system. These e-mails would have been sent back to the sender and they should have received a non-delivery receipt.
Ministers were satisfied that the steps taken once the fault was identified meant that extending the consultation was not necessary. A message was sent to some 7,000 stakeholders on 23 September advising them of the fault and requesting that any responses submitted via e-mail were re-sent. A similar message was placed on the consultation page on the Ministry of Justice website. E-mail was not the only available method of submitting responses to the consultation and the fault did not affect the receipt of hard copy responses or the use of the questionnaire that could be completed on the Ministry of Justice website.
Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether his Department has lost any (a) computers, (b) mobile telephones, (c) BlackBerrys and (d) other IT equipment since May 2010; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr Djanogly: The Ministry of Justice has recorded the loss or theft of (a) 127 computers and hard drives, (c) 71 BlackBerrys and (d) 293 other items of IT equipment between l May 2010 and 30 September 2011. Information on the number of (b) mobile telephones lost is not held centrally, and can be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
All Ministry of Justice laptops and BlackBerrys are encrypted and protected with a complex password; and all BlackBerrys that are registered as lost or stolen are blocked remotely, making it impossible for them to be used. The Ministry also implements security incident management procedures to ensure that the impacts of
31 Oct 2011 : Column 392W
incidents are risk managed and investigations are undertaken to seek, where possible, to retrieve lost/stolen assets.
Stephen Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how much his Department has allocated to each telephone helpline funded by his Department in 2011-12; what the purpose is of each such helpline; and how many calls each helpline received in the last 12 months. 
Mr Djanogly: Pursuant to the answer given to the hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) on 6 September 2011, Official Report, columns 380-81W, the Ministry of Justice has identified the following key characteristics to define a helpline:
That the telephone line provides tailored advice or guidance to citizens or businesses (as distinct from communicating simple, standard information, or providing a transactional service)
That the telephone line is citizen or business facing
This provides free help including specialist legal advice and ongoing case work relating to debt, housing, employment, education and welfare benefits, tax credits and family issues for those eligible for legal aid.
This provides advice relating to OPG services, including the registration of Lasting Powers of Attorney; the supervision of Deputies appointed by the Court of Protection; and the Public Guardian’s role in adult safeguarding.
(1) OPG and CFO are both self-funding organisations and consequently reimburse these costs.
31 Oct 2011 : Column 393W
Heidi Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether his Department collects information on the number of people from the UK who travel to Dignitas in Switzerland who are (a) patients and (b) accompanying patients; and if he will make a statement. 
Driving Offences: Insurance
Karl McCartney: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what the average fine was imposed by courts in each criminal justice area for using a motor vehicle uninsured against third party risks in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Mr Blunt: The number of defendants sentenced to a fine and the average (median) fine amount given at all courts by police force area, for using a motor vehicle uninsured against third party risks, in England and Wales for 2010 (latest available) can be viewed in the following table.
|Number of defendants sentenced to a fine and the median (1) fine amount imposed at all courts for using a motor vehicle uninsured against third party risks (2) , by police force area, England and Wales 2010 (3,4)|
|Police force area||Fines issued||Average fine amount (median) (£)|
31 Oct 2011 : Column 394W
|(1) ( )The average fine amount is calculated using a median measure, i.e. the middle value in the ordered list of values. (2) Includes offences under the Road Traffic Act 1988. s.143(2). (3) The figures given in the table on court proceedings relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences it is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe. (4) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used. Source: Justice Statistics Analytical Services—Ministry of Justice|