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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 19 December 2011

Leader of the House

Japan Tobacco International

Mr Hain: To ask the Leader of the House whether any (a) Ministers and (b) special advisers of his Office have received hospitality from Japan Tobacco International since May 2010. [87603]

Sir George Young: Information about hospitality received by Ministers and special advisers is published quarterly by Departments. Information for the period 13 May 2010 to 30 June 2011 can be accessed on departmental websites. Information for 1 July onwards will be published in due course on the Cabinet Office website at

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/ministerial-gifts-hospitality-travel-and-meetings-external-organisations

and

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/cabinet-office-permanent-secretaries%E2%80%99-meetings-external-organisations

Electoral Commission Committee

Electoral Register

Chris Ruane: To ask the hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, what estimate the Electoral Commission has made of the number of people not registered to vote in (a) 2010 and (b) the most recent period for which figures are available. [86951]

Mr Streeter: The Electoral Commission informs me that it estimates that at least 6 million people were not registered on Great Britain's December 2010 electoral registers.

The most recent estimate of the number of people not registered in Great Britain is 8.5 million, which is based on the April 2011 electoral registers.

These estimates are set out in the Commission's December 2011 report, ‘Great Britain's electoral registers 2011’, available in the House of Commons Library or at:

www.electoralcommission.org.uk

Northern Ireland

Food Procurement

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much his Department spent on food purchased through its food and catering services in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [86990]

Mr Paterson: From December 2010 to November 2011, my Department has spent £125,648 on food purchased by its food and catering service.

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency: Wales

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason her Department has not undertaken a (a) public consultation and (b) impact assessment on the proposed closure of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency regional laboratories in Wales. [85967]

Mr Paice: No AHVLA sites will be closed.

The rationale was based on value for money. No impact assessment or wider consultation took place as this was an internal AHVLA review of operational delivery services which does not require policy or regulatory change. The proposal does not significantly change the nature of service delivery but does contribute to the need to generate the £2.4 million of associated savings as soon as possible.

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what account she took of the density of animal stock in Wales in taking the decision to close the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency regional laboratories in Wales. [85968]

Mr Paice: No AHVLA Laboratory sites will be closed in Wales as a result of the rationalisation of laboratory services.

The decision to cease the delivery of laboratory services at the Welsh delivery sites was taken on the basis that fewer than 2% of tests for England and Wales were carried out in these laboratories and it was important to ensure that the national laboratory network was as well set up as possible to deliver high quality services in a value for money way all over England and Wales. Criteria that were taken into account included:

the need to retain the necessary capabilities within the workforce across the network, in particular specialist scientific and technical skills;

the need to retain sufficient staff capacity nationally to deliver the volumes of work required;

consideration of the facilities required to maintain services required, e.g. specialist laboratory infrastructure;

the need to reduce the number of sites at which the department operates in order to increase efficiency and reduce management and other overheads (equipment replacement and maintenance, quality and health and safety audits etc);

the need to retain resilience of service delivery, e.g. Containment Level 3 (CL3) laboratory capacity.

Because laboratory testing can be carried out at any site, and does not require to be carried out at the same site as post mortem activity, density of animal stock is not a significant consideration in deciding on the sites of laboratories.

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department is taking to ensure that laboratory testing will be completed in 24 hours following the closure of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency regional laboratories in Wales. [85969]

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Mr Paice: Laboratory testing has never been guaranteed to be completed within 24 hours. The AHVLA publishes approximate turnaround times on its website. These are given in working days and are for guidance only. Although very dependent on the test in question, the minimum published turnaround time is two working days but for the majority of tests it is greater than this. These turnaround times will not change.

Following the rationalisation of the Laboratory Services department, AHVLA will still retain capacity at the site of the post-mortem examination to carry out tests that are considered to be essential by our veterinary experts, e.g. for anthrax and TB, and these will be reported urgently.

At present no AHVLA laboratory operates on weekends or bank holidays. This will actually improve as a result of the rationalisation to allow weekend working to improve turnaround times for samples received over this period.

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department is taking to ensure that samples taken for laboratory testing do not deteriorate over time and adversely affect results following the closure of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency regional laboratories in Wales. [85970]

Mr Paice: Samples taken for laboratory testing have always relied on remote laboratory testing arising from post mortems, with no perceived impact on test quality. Studies are now being undertaken to ensure this continues to be the case when the changes are implemented across the wider network. Initial findings indicate that there is no deterioration, but work continues on this and mitigations put in place to limit any possible negative impact.

AHVLA laboratories are accredited under ISO 17025 and there is a very strong protocol in place to ensure test quality is safeguarded.

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason her Department did not inform the Wales Office of its decision to close the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency regional laboratories in Wales. [85971]

Mr Paice: Animal Health and Welfare is a devolved matter in Wales and as such the Wales Office was not informed of the decision to de-couple laboratory services from surveillance and post-mortem testing at both sites in Wales.

The Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) for Wales was briefed on the decision and formally written to, as is protocol in these cases. I would have informed Welsh Assembly Ministers if required. In this instance the CVO for Wales did not inform Welsh Ministers as the decision was regarded as an operational matter for AHVLA.

Slaughterhouses

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions she has had with animal welfare organisations on breaches of the law in slaughterhouses; and if she will make a statement. [80879]

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Mr Paice: I met representatives of the slaughter industry, the British Veterinary Association, the Humane Slaughter Association, the Veterinary Public Health Association and the Food Standards Agency to discuss welfare in slaughterhouses earlier this year. We have arranged a follow up meeting with industry representation to address ongoing concerns about poor welfare standards in some slaughterhouses and how we can work together to address this issue.

Bovine Tuberculosis

Harriett Baldwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cases of bovine tuberculosis have been recorded in each month since the introduction of the Sam computer system. [83568]

Mr Paice: The implementation of Sam release 6, which captures TB data, was at the end of September 2011. The latest TB statistics available are to the end of August 2011 and are published on DEFRA's website:

http://www.defra.gov.uk/statistics/foodfarm/landuselivestock/cattletb/

As soon as it is available, information for September and October 2011 will also be published on DEFRA's website.

Cattle: Animal Welfare

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many trained inspectors able to investigate allegations of acts of cruelty to cattle, and cattle being kept in conditions which neglect their welfare, there were in each region of England and Wales in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12 to date; and if she will make a statement. [82595]

Mr Paice: Currently, there are 240 veterinary officers and veterinary inspectors who are appointed under the relevant legislation.

This figure relates only to veterinary staff who would investigate any allegations of acts of cruelty to cattle and cattle being kept in conditions which neglect their welfare.

There are no figures for previous years or months as the Identity Card database is only there to inform who currently holds an ID card. When staff leave, they are deleted from the database.

However, it should be noted that the number of staff currently appointed under the relevant legislation is far greater than 240 and includes animal health officers, dairy hygiene inspectors, RSPCA and local authority staff etc. While these officers may be aware of cases of cruelty and neglect, they themselves would not investigate such cases; instead, they would pass them on to the veterinary officers and veterinary inspectors to action.

Cattle: Transport

Jonathan Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects the new Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency cattle movement computer system to be fully functional. [83161]

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Mr Paice: Significant improvements are being made to the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency IT system, called Sam, every week. It is expected that the system will be functioning normally by mid-December.

Dangerous Dogs

Dr Poulter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the merits of bringing forward proposals to amend the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to hold a dog owner criminally responsible where a dog is found to be dangerously out of control in any place. [86688]

Mr Paice: My noble Friend Lord Taylor, who leads on the subject of dangerous dogs in DEFRA, has been working alongside Lord Henley to see how the proposed antisocial measures currently being developed in the Home Office can be best applied to such behaviour relating to dogs. DEFRA has also been developing proposals on reducing dog attacks and promoting more responsible dog ownership. This is now at an advanced stage and we expect to be able to make an announcement early in the new year.

Food Procurement

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps (a) her Department and (b) public bodies for which she is responsible are taking to ensure that they meet the Government's buying standards for food and catering. [83724]

Mr Paice: The Government Buying Standards for Food provide for the first time minimum standards for food and catering services across central Government. They were not yet published at the time of the competition for DEFRA's catering contract. However, it was made clear in the tendering specification that when established and as amended from time to time, the successful caterer will be required to comply with the Government buying standards. The current contract and therefore this condition applies to the whole of the DEFRA estate and we are determined to ensure that they are met in full.

In addition officials are taking action to encourage these standards to be adopted as a minimum across the public sector and this will include all agencies and arm’s length bodies with which DEFRA is engaged. Performance reporting will include all aspects of both mandatory and best practice elements of the standards.

Departmental Travel

Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much her Department has spent on first class travel by (a) air, (b) boat and (c) train since May 2010. [75530]

Richard Benyon: The following table shows payments for first class travel (excluding upgrades) for the period since May 2010 and the same preceding period May 2009/

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Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs—core DEFRA only
£

May 2009 to September 2010 May 2010 to September 2011

Air

17,708

3,467

Rail

747,091

100,656

We have no record of any first class boat travel.

Detergents: Environment Protection

Ben Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether her Department holds information on damage caused to the environment by chemicals used in domestic detergents. [86750]

Richard Benyon: DEFRA has undertaken several projects aimed at understanding the impact on the environment of chemicals contained in domestic detergents. Research indicated that the principal chemical which has the potential for detrimental impact on the environment is phosphorus, which in high levels can lead to eutrophication, reducing oxygen levels in the aquatic system.

In 2007, DEFRA commissioned an impact assessment to understand the contribution of phosphorus to water bodies failing to meet good ecological status, as defined within the water framework directive. The study showed that domestic detergents accounted for 5% of the phosphorus levels found in water courses.

Based on this evidence a ban was proposed on levels of phosphorus in domestic detergents greater than 0.4%, under the UK Detergents Regulations 2010, SI 740.

This ban is due to come into force in 2015. However, the European Parliament is currently proposing a ban on phosphorus levels which, if passed, will bring the UK's timetable forward to 2013. Also, under this proposal, the European Parliament is pursuing an extension to the ban that prohibits the inclusion of phosphorus in automatic dishwasher detergent. It aims for this to come into force in 2017.

Eggs: EU Law

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects the EU Egg Marketing regulations to be amended. [87217]

Mr Paice: We will continue to press in Europe to have the relevant EU legislation amended to enable a good enforcement strategy that helps prevent the marketing of eggs when they come from hens reared in conventional cages.

In the meantime we have taken steps to establish as much compliance as is possible with the conventional cage ban. A number of retailers, egg processors, food manufacturers and the food service industry are working to ensure that they have stringent traceability tests in place so that they can guarantee they are not sourcing conventional eggs from caged hens from either the UK or other member states. The industry has risen to the challenge and come out in support of producers who have stopped using conventional cages, reducing the risk of conventional cage eggs and egg products being

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marketed in the UK. My written statement to the House of 6 December 2011,

Official Report

, columns 15-19WS, includes a list of companies able to make this pledge and we will keep this list up to date.

Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group

Julian Sturdy: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had on the future of the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group. [85192]

Mr Paice: Pursuing the twin objectives of a competitive farming sector that plays a full part in protecting and improving the environment is a priority for this Government and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) epitomised that dual purpose.

The Farming Regulation Task Force identified the importance of ensuring that the environmental messages we give to farmers and their advisors are clear and well-prioritised. In the Natural Environment White Paper we have committed to undertake a review of advice and incentives for farmers. In taking this work forward we are very conscious of the role of independent environmental and conservation advice providers, such as the FWAG.

Officials from DEFRA and Natural England have been in close contact with FWAG over recent weeks to establish the facts of the unfolding situation and to understand the implications.

FWAG played an important role in the delivery of advice for a number of Government initiatives, including helping farmers to participate in agri-environment schemes and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment. The need for this work will continue and independent advice delivered by organisations like the FWAG will continue to play a key role in supporting and developing British farming. While it is very saddening to see the closure of the FWAG it is heartening to see that, in a number of regions, there are already efforts afoot to create successor organisations to deliver advice.

Government Procurement Card

Charlie Elphicke: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the (a) transaction date, (b) supplier and (c) amount was of each transaction made on a Government procurement card held by the private office of the Secretary of State in her Department between 28 June 2007 and 11 May 2010. [82152]

Richard Benyon: DEFRA introduced an improved GPC transaction processing system in the summer of 2009. Data from 1 May 2009 to 11 May 2010 will be placed in the House of Commons library.

To identify data prior to May 2009 would incur disproportionate cost.

Hazardous Substances: International Co-operation

Zac Goldsmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether her Department has given support to Safe Planet: the UN Campaign for Responsibility on Hazardous Chemicals and Wastes. [86486]

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Richard Benyon: My Department has not given any direct support to the UN Safe Planet Campaign, but we strongly support the work and aims of the three UN conventions that form part of the campaign and underpin its work, namely the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions.

Livestock: Exports

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to tackle the live export of horses for slaughter; and if she will make a statement. [85568]

Mr Paice: We will continue to push the EU Commission for a review of the rules on long journey transportation of all animals, including horses. In the interim, we will also be playing a full part in the work which the EU Commission believes will ensure better enforcement of the existing transportation rules, as outlined in the EU Commission's recent report on the impact of Council Regulation (EC) 1/2005, concerning the protection of animals during transport.

Laura Sandys: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the costs to the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency were of inspecting live animal export shipments from UK ports (a) in each year from 1997 to 2010 and (b) in 2011 to date. [86497]

Mr Paice: The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency does not record this information.

Livestock: Transport

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to review rules on animal movements. [85790]

Mr Paice: The independent Farming Regulation Task Force made recommendations for changes to the livestock movements' regime. We have implemented some of the recommended changes already. Others require more evidence and detailed risk-assessment before we can make informed, risk-based decisions about whether they can be accepted as proposed. The initial response to the Task Force recommendations, published on 3 November, provided an overview of progress. We will provide our final response early in 2012.

Oil: Exploration

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions her Department has had with the (a) Department for Transport and (b) European Commission on the environmental effects of extracting oil from tar sands. [82215]

Richard Benyon: DEFRA has been involved in reaching a collective Government position on the UK's negotiating position for EU discussions on oil sands in the context of the fuel quality directive.

As the Department for Transport leads on the issue in Government, DEFRA has not had any direct discussions with the European Commission on the matter.

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Plastic Bags

Zac Goldsmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether she has any plans to bring forward legislative proposals to establish a producer responsibility regime for plastic carrier bags. [86487]

Richard Benyon: We are currently exploring a range of options, including legislation, and hope to bring forward a proposal next year.

Zac Goldsmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether she has made an assessment of the effectiveness and consequences of recent legislation in Italy banning plastic carrier bags and its implications for UK waste policy. [86488]

Richard Benyon: No assessment of the Italian legislation has been made. We are currently waiting for the European Commission to express views on whether such an outright ban is contrary to the single market provisions in the EU Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC), which guarantee access to markets.

Poultry: Animal Welfare

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether she has made an assessment of the risk of infraction proceedings being brought against the Government by the European Commission should it decide to proceed with a unilateral ban on shell and processed eggs from non-enriched hen cages. [87189]

Mr Paice: At the October Agriculture Council, the Commission ruled out the option of an intra-Community trade ban, and gave strong warnings to member states seeking to introduce a unilateral ban.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the cost to (a) manufacturers, (b) food processors and (c) retailers of policing the illegal import of non-compliant eggs under the EU directive on welfare of laying hens. [87218]

Mr Paice: No such assessment has been made by DEFRA. It is the role of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency to enforce the marketing rules in relation to shell eggs.

Rural and Farming Network

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects the Rural and Farming Network to be operational. [86334]

Mr Paice: Many of the groups that offered to be members of the Rural and Farming Network are already established and operating. We aim to have announced membership of the new network before Christmas with a view to the first meeting of RFN chairs and DEFRA Ministers taking place in the new year.

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Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what criteria have been used to determine the decisions on the restructuring of the Veterinary Laboratories Agency; and what consultations took place prior to the decisions being taken. [85617]

Richard Benyon: The Veterinary Laboratories Agency and Animal Health merged in the face of significant reductions in budgets over the spending review period to create a more resilient agency with shared expertise in animal disease management.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) has to make savings of more than £8.5 million for the next four years to meet spending review allocations (cumulative £34 million). These savings are in line with savings to be made across DEFRA.

All aspects of delivery are being reviewed to ensure that services are delivered in the most cost-effective way possible. Current changes to laboratory service delivery are designed to enable cost savings of more than £2.4 million per annum.

The proposed changes are based on the outcomes of the 2010 DEFRA-led GB-wide review of surveillance (including laboratory testing and post mortem and other aspects) which identified that savings needed to be made in this area by thinking about changing models of delivery. This review involved contributions from professionals in the field around Great Britain.

A review of possible changes to the current model which could deliver a service at least as effective as the current one at significantly less cost was carried out earlier in 2011. The review recommended that laboratory testing could be carried out in locations other than those used to carry out post mortems. A representative of front line veterinary staff was involved in this work, as well as relevant experts in epidemiology and state veterinary medicine.

The effect of this decision—to decouple laboratory testing from post mortem work more widely—was to enable a review of laboratory testing to identify opportunities to materially reduce the costs and increase the efficiency of the function as quickly as possible, while protecting its efficacy as a scanning surveillance tool.

In 2006-07, the Laboratory Services Department (LSD) as a whole delivered 2.8 million tests of all types. By 2010-11, this number had fallen to less than 1 million, a reduction of 65% in test throughput as a result of changing requirements. During the same period, the number of staff in the LSD fell by 5% and pay costs increased by 6%.

The decision on where to retain laboratory services was based on a number of factors including:

the need to retain the necessary capabilities within the work force across the network, in particular specialist scientific and technical skills;

the need to retain sufficient staff capacity nationally to deliver the volumes of work required;

consideration of the facilities required to maintain services required, e.g. specialist laboratory infrastructure;

the need to reduce the number of sites at which the department operates, in order to increase efficiency and reduce management

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and other overheads (equipment replacement and maintenance, quality and health and safety audits etc);

the need to retain resilience of service delivery, e.g. Containment Level 3 (CL3) laboratory capacity.

The fundamental criterion for the decision related to value for money. No wider consultation took place as this was an internal AHVLA review of operational delivery services, which does not significantly change the nature of industry service delivery.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the saving to the public purse from proposed restructuring of regional veterinary laboratories. [85619]

Richard Benyon: The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency announced plans to reorganise its regional laboratory structure to enable savings of approximately £2.4 million in staff costs per annum.

There will also be some modest non-pay savings of approximately £120,000 per annum, assuming there are no savings on consumables and reagents. These savings are mainly on equipment maintenance costs.

There may be additional cost savings as part of the estates rationalisation, but at this time, this has yet to be quantified.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many staff in regional veterinary laboratories (a) have been offered and (b) have accepted relocation as a result of the restructuring of the Veterinary Laboratories Agency. [85622]

Richard Benyon: The redeployment and redundancy of staff in the regional veterinary laboratories is being handled in accordance with departmental policy. As part of this process, we are providing individuals with priority access to the roles we have available across the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (and the wider civil service). Where an individual is at risk of redundancy and they apply for a role that is in a different location, we will support their relocation financially if there is a good business and financial justification for doing so. As yet, we have not had any requests from staff in the regional laboratories to support their relocation financially.

All staff have been invited to state whether they would consider relocation as an option for redeployment purposes. Only five have stated that they would consider this option if it was available.

Water: Meters

Mr Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether her Department has undertaken any analysis of the effectiveness of water meters in reducing long-term levels of water consumption. [86952]

Richard Benyon: In 2009, Anna Walker published her Independent Review of Charging for Household Water and Sewerage Services, a copy of which is available on the DEFRA website.

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The review reported that one of the main benefits of metering is that it incentivises more efficient use of water. The review team considered a range of evidence and concluded the best available studies indicate that when people pay for water according to volume used, total water consumption falls by approximately 10%.

Water: Prices

Alison Seabeck: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the proportion of water-bill payers in (a) the South West and (b) other regions of the UK who spend more than five per cent. of their income on their water bills. [R] [86937]

Richard Benyon: In May 2011 Ofwat published ‘Affordability and debt 2009-10: Current evidence’, which can be found on the Ofwat website.

This document contains analysis of the 2008-09 Family Resources Survey, which are the most recent publically-available data on this issue. This analysis found that 16% of households in the south-west spend more than 5% of their disposable income on water and sewerage charges. Across England and Wales, 11% of households spend more than 5% of their disposable income on water and sewerage charges.

WaterSure: Finance

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding was allocated to WaterSure in 2010-11; and how much she plans to allocate in each year of the comprehensive spending review period. [86458]

Richard Benyon: WaterSure is not funded by Government and there is therefore no funding allocated via the comprehensive spending review. WaterSure is funded by cross-subsidy by other water customers at company level.

Prime Minister

Cabinet

Jonathan Ashworth: To ask the Prime Minister (1) whether he has invited hon. Members to (a) regional Cabinet meetings and (b) events related to such meetings taking place in or near their constituency; [86215]

(2) in which cities and towns he plans to hold regional Cabinet meetings in the next 12 months; [86216]

(3) what criteria were used to select the locations of regional Cabinet meetings since May 2010; [86217]

(4) in which locations regional Cabinet meetings have taken place since May 2010; and what the estimated cost to the Exchequer was of each such meeting. [86218]

The Prime Minister: Since May 2010, regional Cabinets have been held in the following locations:

Location
Cost (£)

Bradford

June 2010

3,000

Derby

March 2011

3,000

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Cardiff

July 2011

1,850

Ipswich

December 2011

1,950

Departments and agencies will also have incurred costs in terms of travel, staff time and other support. The cost of any security provided by the police is a matter for the relevant police force. Regional Cabinets and associated visits allow Ministers to hear at first hand the views of people in different areas of the country. The location of future meetings will be announced in due course. There has been no change in the practice followed by the previous Administration for inviting hon. Members to meetings and related events.

Copyright

Mr Watson: To ask the Prime Minister whether he discussed the issue of copyright infringement with his Chinese counterpart in June 2011; on what dates any such meetings took place; what issues were discussed; and what (a) internal and (b) external advice he received on the merits of holding any such meeting. [86780]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave during the press conference with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on 27 June 2011. A transcript of the press conference is available on the No. 10 website:

http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/speeches-and-transcripts/2011/06/press-conference-with-premier-wen-jiabao-65285

EU Action

Jonathan Edwards: To ask the Prime Minister (1) what discussions he has had with the devolved Administrations on (a) the potential use of the veto and (b) other matters relating to the European Council meeting of 8 and 9 December 2011 since the Joint Ministerial Committee held on 21 November 2011; [87220]

(2) what discussions he had on (a) the potential use of the veto and (b) other matters relating to the European Council meeting of 8 and 9 December 2011 at the Joint Ministerial Committee held on 21 November 2011. [87221]

Angus Robertson: To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he had with the (a) Scottish Executive, (b) Welsh Government, (c) Northern Ireland Executive and (d) Mayor of London on use of a veto by the UK before the recent European Council. [87008]

Ann McKechin: To ask the Prime Minister (1) when he was most recently in contact with the First Minister of Scotland (a) orally and (b) in writing concerning (i) the operation of the Eurozone and (ii) the meeting of the European Council on 8 and 9 December 2011; [87146]

(2) what representations he received from the First Minister of Scotland prior to the meeting of the European Council on 8 and 9 December 2011. [87147]

The Prime Minister: International and EU issues are a matter reserved for the UK Government. We liaise through the Joint Ministerial Committee in the usual

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way. As usual, a Joint Ministerial sub-Committee on Europe was held before the December European Council. All devolved Administrations were given the opportunity to feed in their views.

Public Expenditure

Steve Rotheram: To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has for machinery of government changes up to 2015. [86954]

The Prime Minister: The machinery of government is kept under review.

Scotland

Food Procurement

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much his Department spent on food purchased through its food and catering services in the last 12 month period for which information is available. [86989]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office does not have food and catering services.

Tugboats

Mr MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) what (a) discussions and (b) meetings his Department has had with (i) the oil and gas industry, (ii) HM Coastguard and (iii) the Department for Transport on the future of the emergency towing vessel service after 31 December 2011; [87315]

(2) what steps he has taken to maintain the emergency towing vessels service after 31 December 2011. [87316]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office has held numerous discussions and meetings with the oil and gas industry, HM Coastguard and the Department for Transport to examine long-term options for the emergency towing vessel service in waters around Scotland. We have also worked very closely with other interested parties including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Scottish Government and local authorities.

The Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore), intends to make a statement to the House on this matter shortly.

Young People

Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the operation of the Youth Contract in Scotland. [87051]

David Mundell: The Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore), and I are in contact with ministerial colleagues from the Department for Work and Pensions on a range of issues, including the Youth Contract.

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Work and Pensions

Child Support

Jonathan Ashworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many mothers in (a) Leicester South constituency, (b) Leicester and (c) England receive financial assistance from the Child Support Agency. [86471]

Maria Miller: The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is responsible for the child maintenance system. I have asked the Child Maintenance Commissioner to write to the hon. Member with the information requested and I have seen the response.

Letter from Noel Shanahan:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Child Maintenance Commissioner as the Child Support Agency is now the responsibility of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many mothers in (a) Leicester South constituency, (b) Leicester and (c) England receive financial assistance from the Child Support Agency. [86471]

The Commission does not provide, financial assistance directly. However the Child Support Agency (CSA) operates two existing statutory child maintenance schemes. If a parent opens a case, the CSA will determine how much child maintenance should be paid and can also collect and pass on child maintenance payments.

In the quarter to September 2011 there were 900 cases with a female parent with care benefiting from maintenance in Leicester South Constituency, 3,000 in Leicester Local Authority and 551,900 in England.

Cases benefiting from maintenance are referred to as cases with a positive maintenance outcome. In addition the table below provides the number of cases, with a female parent with care in the specified areas, where maintenance was due and the number and percentage of these cases with a positive maintenance outcome in the three months to September 2011.

Cases benefiting from maintenance—September 2011

Maintenance due Positive outcome Percentage with positive outcome

Leicester South constituency

1,200

900

75

Leicester local authority

3,900

3,000

77

England

709,800

551,900

78

Notes: 1. Figures are rounded to the nearest 100. 2. Areas are provided by matching the residential postcode of the parent with care to the Office for National Statistics Postcode Directory. 3. Cases are classed as having maintenance due if an ongoing liability to pay maintenance exists or arrears of maintenance have been requested. This group of cases consists of assessed not charging, compliant, nil compliant, maintenance direct and others with receipts. 4. Cases are counted as having a positive maintenance outcome if they have received a payment via the collection service in the quarter or have a maintenance direct agreement in place. Cases are classed as maintenance direct if this is their status at the end of the quarter.

I hope you find this answer helpful.

Employment Schemes

Mrs Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many organisations have provided support in the Work Choice programme since 2010. [85987]

19 Dec 2011 : Column 912W

Maria Miller: DWP has contracts with eight prime providers who deliver the Work Choice programme. Between them, the prime providers have 73 subcontractors. Other organisations provide support, such as supported employment places, on an ad hoc basis.

Employment: Disability

Mr Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to the Government’s response to the Sayce review, what further consideration he has given to the recommendations in the Sayce review on data collection on disability; and if he will make a statement. [86979]

Maria Miller: The Government consultation on the recommendations of the Sayce review closed on 17 October 2011, and more than 1,400 responses were received. It will take time to analyse the consultation responses in detail and carefully consider the implications for future policy. We will publish a summary of responses received and a statement on future policy as soon as practicably possible.

Housing Benefit: Armed Forces

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the number of families with a son or daughter in the armed forces and classed as non-resident for the purposes of housing benefit who will have their housing benefit reduced because they are deemed to be underoccupying their property from April 2013. [87326]

Steve Webb: The information needed to provide an estimate is not available.

The number of working-age housing benefit claimants living in the social rented sector and under-occupying their accommodation has been estimated using data from the Department's Family Resources Survey. However, the information needed to estimate the number of affected claimants with non-resident sons or daughters in the armed forces is not collected.

The impact assessment, entitled “Under-occupation of social housing”, provides information about the effect of the housing benefit change on different groups of claimants, and can be found at:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/social-sector-housing-under-occupation-wr2011-ia.pdf

On 14 December 2011, Official Report , House of Lords, columns 1300-02, the Minister for Welfare Reform, the noble Lord Freud, announced £30 million in additional funding for discretionary housing payments, starting from 2013-14. This is intended to provide additional help for working-age claimants living in the social rented sector who under-occupy their homes. We are in the process of developing guidance for local authorities on the groups of claimants that this additional funding is intended to help.

Jobseeker’s Allowance: Public Finance

Ed Balls: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate his Department has made of the cost to the public purse of introducing weekly signing for all 18 to 24-year-olds in receipt of jobseeker's allowance from the fifth month of their claim. [87052]

19 Dec 2011 : Column 913W

Chris Grayling: The cost of providing weekly signing was included as part of a package of support within the Youth Contract that is expected to cost nearly £1 billion over the next three years. The final costs for weekly signing will be driven by the volume of claimants and the Department for Work and Pensions does not forecast unemployment levels.

Pay

Ed Balls: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the likely take-up by businesses of the wage incentives announced in the autumn forecast. [87053]

Chris Grayling: The Youth Contracts provides funding for 160,000 job subsidies which will be available to employers for providing work to young people who are being supported through the Work programme. Business groups such as the CBI have called for a new incentive to encourage companies to take on young people.

Work programme providers will work with employers and young people to deliver these opportunities. We are currently working with Work Programme providers and employers on the design and implementation of the job subsidy.

Pensioners: Council Tax

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners in each local authority area are in receipt of council tax benefit; and what proportion of all recipients of the benefit in each area are pensioners. [87327]

19 Dec 2011 : Column 914W

Steve Webb: The information has been placed in the Library.

Pensioners: Winter Fuel Allowance

Ben Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he has any plans to put in place a mechanism to allow pensioners to repay winter fuel allowance. [87391]

Steve Webb: People have always been able to return their winter fuel payment if they wish to.

If people wish to return their payment they can do so by sending it to the address on the letter that came with their payment, or to the office that pays their benefit, with a covering letter indicating whether or not they wish to receive the payment in the future.

We ask people who want to return their payment to do so manually so that it can be dealt with securely under existing departmental financial processes and recorded against their benefit account.

Pensions Advisory Service: Manpower

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many full-time equivalent staff were employed by the (a) Pensions Advisory Service, (b) Pensions Regulator, (c) Pensions Protection Fund and (d) Pensions Ombudsman in (i) 2010-11 and (ii) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [87576]

Steve Webb: The numbers of staff are as follows:

  Number of staff
Arm’s length body (ALB) 31 March 2011 30 November 2011

The Pensions Advisory Service

42

37

The Pensions Regulator

304

333.7

Pension Protection Fund

291

243.5

Pensions Ombudsman

33.95

29.5

Notes: 1. Data for 31 March 2011 are taken from the Annual Report and Accounts of each ALB for 2010-11. In the case of The Pensions Advisory Service and The Pensions Regulator these are average staffing figures for the year. 2. The increase in the number of staff for The Pensions Regulator is associated with additional resources provided for the auto enrolment employer compliance regime.

Poverty: Children

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many children are classed as living in poverty in each local authority in England. [87408]

Maria Miller: Estimates of the number and proportion of children living in poverty are published in the Households Below Average Income (HBAI) series. HBAI uses household income adjusted (or “equivalised”) for household size and composition, to provide a proxy for standard of living.

The sample size of this survey is not sufficient to provide estimates for small areas such as those requested. However, figures at a regional level are available. Three survey years have been combined because single year estimates are not considered to be sufficiently reliable.

Statistics covering 2007-08 to 2009-10 are the most recent available.

The following table shows the proportion and number of children living in relative poverty Before Housing Costs (BHC) in England, for 2007-08 and 2009-10 in each region.

Numbers and proportions of children in households with equivalised incomes below 60% of contemporary median income by region Before Housing Costs (BHC) 2007-08 to 2009-10

Proportion of children (%) Number of children (million)

England

21

2.3

North-east

26

0.1

North-west

25

0.4

19 Dec 2011 : Column 915W

19 Dec 2011 : Column 916W

Yorkshire and the Humber

26

0.3

East midlands

23

0.2

West midlands

29

0.3

East

16

0.2

London

20

0.3

South-east

14

0.2

South-west

16

0.2

Notes: 1. These statistics are based on Households Below Average Income (HBAI) data sourced from the Family Resources Survey (FRS) available at: http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/index.php?page=hbai_arc This uses disposable household income, adjusted using modified OECD equivalisation factors for household size and composition, as an income measure as a proxy for standard of living. 2. Net disposable incomes have been used to answer the question. This includes earnings from employment and self-employment, state support, income from occupational and private pensions, investment income and other sources. Income tax, payments, national insurance contributions, council tax/domestic rates and some other payments are deducted from incomes. 3. Figures have been presented on a Before Housing Cost rather than an After Housing Cost basis. For Before Housing Costs, housing costs are not deducted from income, while for After Housing Costs they are. 4. All estimates are based on survey data and are therefore subject to a degree of uncertainty. Small differences should be treated with caution as these will be affected by sampling error and variability in non-response. 5. The reference period for these HBAI figures is three financial years. 6. Numbers of children have been rounded to the nearest hundred thousand children. 7. Proportions of children in low-income households have been rounded to the nearest percentage point. 8. This measure is defined as: Relative poverty: children living in households with equivalised incomes below 60% of contemporary median household income Before Housing Costs (BHC). 9. The Child Poverty Act 2010 sets three further income-based UK-wide targets to be met by 2020. The targets are based on the proportion of children living in households with combined low income and material deprivation, absolute low income and persistent poverty. Source: Households Below Average Income 1994/95-2009/10, DWP.

Social Security Benefits

Mr Byrne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many benefit sanctions were issued by (a) constituency and (b) region in each month since June 2010. [79158]

Chris Grayling: Information on the number of benefit sanctions by (a) constituency and (b) region in each month since June 2010 for jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, and income support has been placed in the Library.

Social Security Benefits: Disability

David Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will consider providing support to those who lose the severe disability element of income support once their youngest child passes the age of 18 years. [85888]

Maria Miller: The severe disability premium, which is paid to disabled people in receipt of income support, is intended for severely disabled people who live alone, and who are therefore most likely to need to purchase care.

Once a child is no longer classed as a dependent and continues to live at home, the parent is no longer defined as living alone and entitlement to the severe disability premium will cease.

With the introduction of universal credit the Government intend to reform the current system of multiple, overlapping disability premiums and tax credits and instead create a much simpler system. Universal credit will have two elements of additional support for disabled people who are assessed as having limited capability for work or limited capability for work and work-related activity. This additional support will not be affected by the presence of non-dependent children in the household.

Social Security Benefits: Foreign Nationals

Nicholas Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) of 12 December 2011, Official Report, column 594W, on social security benefits: foreign nationals, on what date the recording of the nationality of benefit claimants was discontinued; what the reasons were for this decision; and on what date he plans to resume such recording. [87604]

Chris Grayling: The nationality of benefits claimants has never been systematically recorded by the Department for Work and Pension's benefit payment systems, as nationality in itself is not a condition of entitlement.

I have commissioned work to release information regarding the nationality of benefits claimants at the point of registration for a national insurance number. I hope to make these preliminary statistics available shortly. In addition, I have asked my officials to look into ways of capturing nationality information at source.

Social Services: Finance

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 24 November 2011, Official Report, column 515W, on social services: finance, on which dates Ministers in his Department have met ministerial colleagues to discuss the impact of the resource review on social care; and who was present at each such meeting. [87449]

Maria Miller: I regularly discuss a range of issues relating to the social care system with ministerial colleagues, however to date I have had no dedicated meetings on the impact of the Local Government Resource Review on social care.

19 Dec 2011 : Column 917W

Vaccination: Compensation

Mr Burley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the provisions of the Vaccine Damage Payment Act 1979; and whether he plans to bring forward proposals to amend the Act to include all new vaccines; [81394]

(2) how many claims under the Vaccine Damage Payment Act 1979 were made in (a) 2008, (b) 2009 and (c) 2010; and how many were successful. [81395]

Maria Miller: The Vaccine Damage Payments scheme was reviewed in 2000 and resulted in a number of changes to the Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979 including lowering the disability threshold from 80% to 60% and increasing the time limit for making a claim. There are no plans to introduce any further changes to the Act.

The information requested on the number of vaccine damage payments claims and awards made is not available in the format requested but such information as is available is contained in the following table.

Vaccine damage claims and awards

Claims Awards

2008-09

62

0

2009-10

62

3

2010-11

91

1

Notes: 1. Financial year is from April to March. 2. Payments made in any one year do not necessarily relate to the specific claims made in that year. This is largely due to the scheme’s generous time limits for seeking a review of a vaccine damage payments decision and the fact that there is no time limit for making an appeal to an independent tribunal.

Winter Fuel Payments

Mrs Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department has taken to improve the speed of administration of the winter fuel allowance for those aged over 80 so that people who turn 80 after 27 September in a given year receive the higher level that winter; if he will consider paying a proportion of the over 80 rate of winter fuel allowance to people who turn 80 after 27 September in a particular year once their claim has been processed; and if he will make a statement. [86927]

Steve Webb: The qualifying week for winter fuel payments is set in legislation as the third full week in September. Payment is made according to people's circumstances in that week. We use this date in order to establish entitlement and make payments before Christmas. The process to establish the entitlement of over 12 million pensioners takes six weeks and the first payments, to the poorest pensioners, are sent in early November. Payments continue to be sent through to December.

The winter fuel payment is a simple scheme to administer. Introducing pro-rata payments would make the scheme more complex. The process of establishing the amount of entitlement in individual cases would delay payments, and add significant expense.

19 Dec 2011 : Column 918W

Work Programme

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he has put in place a contingency strategy for dealing with a Work programme provider which experiences financial difficulties. [87044]

Chris Grayling: All providers were required to demonstrate at the bidding stage that they had the financial capacity to deliver the Work programme. In addition, there are mechanisms in place to forewarn the Department about the potential failure or withdrawal of providers, allowing the Department to put alternative arrangements in place before service delivery is affected.

The Work programme contracts have been set-up with two to three providers in each contract package area, so there will be at least one alternative provider in each area which can continue to support participants should a provider fail, in advance of a competition being run to replace the failing provider.

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in each category of jobseeker he expects to be referred to the Work programme in each month of 2012. [87045]

Chris Grayling: An updated set of volumes based on the recent OBR forecasts will be issued to providers before Christmas.

Following are the previous set of indicative volumes sent to providers for claimant starts by payment group. The estimates for 2011-12 are for the 10 month period from when the Work programme went live in June 2011, to March 2012.

Volume estimates have been formulated for each year only.


2011-12 2012-13

JSA 18-24

81,000

69,000

JSA 25+

294,000

241,000

JSA Early Access

40,000

42,000

JSA Ex-IB

23,000

36,000

ESA Volunteer

65,000

69,000

ESA Flow

56,000

66,000

ESA Ex-IB

53,000

74,000

IB/IS (England only)

16,000

19,000

Total

628,000

616,000

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will enable Work programme prime providers to publish the number of jobseekers they have placed into employment. [87046]

Chris Grayling: The Department is working to guidelines set by the UK Statistics Authority to ensure we are able to publish statistics that meet the required high quality standards and we will be seeking advice from the UK Statistics Authority on whether we can permit Work programme prime providers to publish performance information ahead of the release of these official statistics on Work programme job outcomes in autumn 2012.

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what comparative assessment he has made of the performance of the Work programme and that of the Flexible New Deal at the same stage of development. [87047]

19 Dec 2011 : Column 919W

Chris Grayling: The Department is working to guidelines set by the UK Statistics Authority to ensure we are able to publish statistics that meet high quality standards; no valid assessment of Work programme performance will be possible before official statistics on referrals are published from spring 2012 and on job outcomes from autumn 2012.

Ed Balls: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had with Work programme providers since the publication of the most recent unemployment forecasts by the Office for Budget Responsibility. [87049]

Chris Grayling: The DWP officials managing Work programme contracts will be responsible for communications with providers concerning the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts.

Ed Balls: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effect of the most recent forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility of levels of unemployment on the capacity of Work programme providers to deliver their existing contracts. [87050]

Chris Grayling: An assessment will be made following discussions about the new unemployment forecasts between DWP officials and Work programme providers.

Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the contribution by the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) of 8 December 2011, Official Report, column 418W, on core cities, whether he plans to allow all local authorities to participate in the Work programme. [87176]

Chris Grayling: For the Work programme to be successful we need to tap into the experience, knowledge and specialist skills of local partners in order to deliver the personalised and localised services required in today's labour market. We expect Work programme providers to work with local authorities and local enterprise partnerships alongside other local organisations to understand and meet the needs of individuals from all customer groups.

Home Department

Animal Experiments

Henry Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (a) how much her Department received through the collection of fees from those holding personal licences under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and (b) what the operating costs were of the Animals in Science Regulation Unit in each of the last three years. [86188]

Lynne Featherstone: Section 8 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 requires that:

“The holder of a certificate issued under section 6 or 7 shall pay such periodical fees to the Secretary of State as may be prescribed by or determined in accordance with an order made by him.”

19 Dec 2011 : Column 920W

The fees are required to cover the cost of operating the 1986 Act. Designated breeders and suppliers pay a single fee: designated scientific procedure establishments pay a standard charge supplemented by an additional charge based on the number of live personal licences valid at that place during the fiscal year.

Fees are charged annually one year in arrears and comply with HM Treasury fees and charges principles. The operating costs are reviewed against the accrued fee income for that particular year which is based on the actual fees received in the previous financial year. Any shortfall is taken into account the following year.

The cost of operating the 1986 Act and accrued income is in the following table.

£000
Fiscal year (April to March) Operating costs Estimated fee income

2008-09

3,625

3,600

2009-10

3,830

3,800

2010-11

3,895

3,900

Glyn Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what legal advice she has received on the suitability of implementing some or all the requirements of Directive 2010/63/EU relating to animal experimentation by means of secondary legislation made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972; and if she will make a statement. [86633]

Lynne Featherstone: I am advised that section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 is a suitable means by which the requirements of Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes may be transposed into United Kingdom legislation.

Glyn Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason her Department did not include animal welfare in the list of direct key non-monetised costs by main affected groups when conducting its impact assessment of transposition options for Directive 2010/63/EU; and if she will make a statement. [86634]

Lynne Featherstone: Animal welfare issues were fully considered in the impact assessment of the options for transposition of European Directive 2010/63/EU. In the summary of policy option 2 they are covered under “other key non-monetised costs by main affected groups” which refers to standards of care and accommodation and in the summary of policy option 3 they are covered under “other key non-monetised benefits by main affected groups”. More detailed discussion of animal welfare is set out in the sections dealing with the evidence base.

Association of Chief Police Officers: Government Procurement Card

Charlie Elphicke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the (a) date of purchase, (b) amount, (c) supplier and (d) level 3 or enhanced transaction entry was of each transaction undertaken by the Association of Chief Police Officers using the Government Procurement Card in (i) 2007-08, (ii) 2008-09 and (iii) 2009-10. [73500]

19 Dec 2011 : Column 921W

Nick Herbert: The information requested is not held by the Home Office and is a matter for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

Asylum

Priti Patel: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many and what proportion of asylum seekers entering the UK travelled through a safe third country to reach the UK in each of the last five years. [86692]

Damian Green: In the last five years the following number of cases have been accepted for consideration for removal to a safe third country based on evidence received at the time they were encountered in the UK.


Accepted for consideration for removal to a safe third country Total asylum claims Proportion (percentage)

2006

1,948

23,608

8

2007

1,792

23,431

8

2008

2,433

25,932

9

2009

2,693

24,487

11

2010

1,633

17,916

9

These figures are based on management information, and therefore are not subject to the stringent checks required for National Statistics.

Asylum: Democratic Republic of Congo

Paul Blomfield: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what information she used to decide that it is safe to return failed asylum seekers to the Democratic Republic of Congo; and when such information was last updated. [86730]

Damian Green: The UK Border Agency carefully considers all asylum and human rights claims made by nationals of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in accordance with the UK's international obligations. All decisions take into account publicly available country information, including that found in the agency's Country of Origin Information (COI) reports. The DRC COI report was last published in June 2009; an update is scheduled to be released in early 2012. The DRC COI report (and future updates) can be accessed via the agency's website:

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/policyandlaw/guidance/coi/

To supplement COI reports officials also have access to an information request service for case-specific queries, including those relating to the DRC. This service ensures that decision makers are able to access up to date country information should they require this.

Paul Blomfield: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many failed asylum seekers have been returned to Democratic Republic of Congo in the last 12 months. [86777]

Damian Green: The latest published figures show that 33 asylum seekers, including dependants, were removed

19 Dec 2011 : Column 922W

or departed voluntarily to the Democratic Republic of Congo between October 2010 and September 2011; this figure is provisional.

It is not possible within these figures to say what stage in the asylum process these people have reached at the time of their removal, including whether their claim has failed at that point, because those departing voluntarily can do so at any stage without necessarily notifying the UK Border Agency.

The Home Office publishes quarterly and annual statistics on the number of persons removed or departed voluntarily from the UK within ‘Immigration Statistics’. The data on removals and voluntary departures are available in the latest release: Immigration Statistics: July to September 2011, tables rv.01 to rv.08, from the Library of the House and from the Home Office Science, Research and Statistics web pages at:

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/science-research/research-statistics/migration/migration-statistics1/

Departmental Assets

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assets with a value of £250,000 or more her Department has bought since May 2010; for what purpose; and if she will make a statement. [77339]

Damian Green: There have been no assets of over £250,000 purchased by the core Home Office between May 2010 and September 2011.

Assets purchased by Home Office agencies between May 2010 and September 2011 of a value of over £250,000 are as follows:

Description Expenditure (£000)

UK Border Agency

 

IT system (immigration case work)

92,837

Detention centre assets (Harmondsworth)

40,652

IT system (Semaphore)

16,851

IT system (E-borders)

13,687

IT system (Warnings Index)

12,357

Biometric gates

12,005

Cyclamen radiation scanner project

11,629

Scanners and thermal imaging equipment

7,967

Estates (Croydon and Liverpool consolidations)

5,577

Secure IT system

4,951

Detention centre assets (PDE/Cedars)

4,263

Detention centre assets (Campsfield)

3,880

Secure IT system

3,606

ICW early deliverables

3,110

Detention centre assets (Morton Hall)

3,110

Mycroft tech refresh

2,953

Radio equipment

2,266

Rostering and annualised hours

1,800

National Border Targeting Centre

1,731

Detention centre assets (Brook House)

1,713

Detention centre assets (Bullingdon)

1,696

Detention centre assets (Manchester short term holding facility)

1,688

Brijot scanning

1,361

Detention centre assets (Tinsley House)

1,098

IT System (asylum support)

1,065

19 Dec 2011 : Column 923W

Document Reader Authority

1,050

Detention centre assets (Larne)

900

Immigration and asylum finger print system

626

Partially enhanced search client—IT system

509

Next generation handheld biometrics

500

Identity cards for foreign nationals

423

Central IT reference system

360

Body scan units

358

Visa applications for UK

356

Other IT (central interface)

303

UKBA total

259,238

   

Criminal Records Bureau

 

Vetting and barring scheme intangible assets

2,500

Computer hardware

1,380

Customer relationship management database

1,100

CRB total

4,980

   

Identity and Passport Service

 

Replacing passport printing equipment

29,000

Replacing and upgrading passport operating system

20,600

National Identity Assurance Service

13,200

Relocation costs (Belfast passport office)

2,000

IPS total

64,800

Industrial Disputes

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many staff in her Department were re-deployed to cover the work of staff involved in industrial action on 29 and 30 November 2011; and what the cost was of (a) overtime payments including travel time, (b) time off in lieu of overtime, (c) travel, accommodation and subsistence costs and (d) bonus and other payments for that purpose; [86283]

(2) how many Government employees from outside her Department were re-deployed to cover the work of staff in her Department at ports and airports involved in industrial action on 29 and 30 November 2011; and what the cost was of (a) training, (b) overtime payments including travel time, (c) time off in lieu of overtime, (d) travel, accommodation and subsistence costs and (e) bonus and other payments for that purpose. [86284]

Damian Green: A total of 1,100 staff from the UK Border Agency (UKBA), Home Office and volunteers from other Government Departments, were deployed to ports and airports to maintain border controls and entry checks during the period of industrial action on 29 and 30 November. The number of staff involved, with a range of Home departments and deployments to ports and airports across the UK, has led to some delay in accurately reconciling an accurate breakdown of management information. Work to complete this task has been commissioned and is already under way.

In addition, UKBA are reviewing additional travel and subsistence costs incurred by staff that deployed to primary control points over the period of industrial action. The majority of staff have yet to submit

19 Dec 2011 : Column 924W

reimbursement claims, meaning that it is too early to provide an accurate breakdown of costs. This will be done once claims are processed and properly reconciled.

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether any staff of British diplomatic posts overseas were flown back to the UK to cover the work of staff in her Department involved in industrial action on 29 and 30 November 2011; and what the cost was of (a) travel and (b) accommodation for any such staff. [86285]

Damian Green: Not all eligible staff have currently submitted reimbursement claims, meaning that an accurate breakdown of numbers and cost is not yet available.

Departmental Secondment

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what secondments there have been to her Department from (a) industry and (b) the third sector since May 2010; what the (i) purpose and (ii) duration is of each secondment; and whether each secondment was to a policy development role. [86132]

Damian Green: The Home Department has appointed 69 staff on secondment since 31 May 2010 but it is not possible to separate out this figure to report on the (a) industry and (b) third sector that these secondments came from without contacting individual line managers to check locally-held records which would incur a disproportionate cost. For the same reason, it is also not possible to report on the (i) purpose and (ii) duration of each secondment, or whether each secondment was to a policy development role.

Entry Clearances

Mr Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications for leave to remain were received from those resident in (a) Bexleyheath and Crayford constituency and (b) the London borough of Bexley in the last 12 months. [86753]

Damian Green: The UK Border Agency received 80 applications for leave to remain from those resident in Bexleyheath and Crayford constituency in the last 12 months. A further 256 applications were received for residents in the London borough of Bexley.

Notes:

1. Figures are from 1 October 2010 to 30 September 2011.

2. All figures quoted are management information which has been subject to internal quality checks.

Entry Clearances: Iran

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements her Department has made to assist those whose personal papers and applications for visas were destroyed during the incident at the British embassy in Tehran; and if she will make a statement. [87193]

Damian Green: The UK Border Agency (UKBA) hopes to put in place shortly an arrangement with a third state to oversee UK interests in Iran. UKBA will

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work with that country to assess how best to return to their owners' documents submitted during the visa application process. Every effort has been made to secure these documents. Applicants will be informed as soon as possible about these arrangements but it is currently not possible to say exactly when this will happen. UKBA is aware that some applicants are urgently seeking the return of their documents and deeply regret that the attack on the embassy has resulted in such inconvenience or distress.

EU Justice and Home Affairs

Mr Raab: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 14 July 2011, Official Report, column 457W, on EU Justice and Home Affairs, what progress has been made in compiling the list of police and criminal justice instruments adopted under the pre-Lisbon treaty third pillar arrangements which would be liable to transfer to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in 2014 should the UK opt to accept the transfer at the end of the transitional period granted under Article 10 of Protocol 36 to the consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union. [86853]

James Brokenshire [holding answer 15 December 2011]:The provisions of Article 10(1) and the notification under Article 10(4) of the Protocol on Transitional Provisions apply to Acts of the Union in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters which have been adopted before the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty on 1 December 2009 where those Acts have not subsequently been repealed, annulled or amended.

Officials are currently finalising the list of measures which the Government anticipate will fall within the scope of this notification and this will be made available to Parliament as soon as possible.

Members: Correspondence

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when she plans to answer Question 71147, on public disorder and police funding, tabled by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington on 6 September 2011. [83230]

Nick Herbert: I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 7 December 2011, Official Report, column 318W.

Mr Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if she will arrange for the hon. Member for Walsall North to receive a reply to her letter of 7 November 2011 to HM Revenue and Customs, subsequently transferred to the UK Border Agency, CTS reference B29002/11. [87043]

Damian Green: The UK Border Agency replied to the hon. Member on 13 December.

The letter was received by the UK Border Agency on 15 November and therefore responded to within the agreed service standards.

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Gang and Youth Violence: Crime Prevention

Mr Umunna: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department with reference to the report, “Ending Gang and Youth Violence” whether the £10 million of funding to be distributed by April 2012 had previously been allocated for other purposes; and if she will make a statement. [86388]

James Brokenshire: The £10 million on funding is a prioritisation of previously announced Home Office investment in early intervention as the “Ending Gang and Youth Violence” report states.

Police: Pay

Mr Hanson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when she expects to (a) receive the recommendation of the Police Arbitration Tribunal on police pay and conditions and (b) announce her response to that recommendation. [86279]

Nick Herbert: The timing of the recommendation on Part 1 of the Independent Review of Police Officer and Staff Remuneration and Conditions is a matter for the Police Arbitration Tribunal.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), will consider the PAT's recommendations very carefully in line with her statutory responsibilities and announce her decision in due course.

Security Guards: Licensing

Jim Fitzpatrick: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether her Department has issued any covert licences for security guards at Thames Water; [86598]

(2) how many covert licences were issued in the last two years. [86599]

Lynne Featherstone [holding answer 15 December 2011]:Security industry licences are issued by the Security Industry Authority (SIA). Security operatives working under contract require a SIA licence and must adhere to certain licence conditions, one of which is to have the licence on display at all times while working. A specific covert activity can be applied if an operative can demonstrate that the nature of their conduct on that occasion requires them to not be identifiable. This covert activity allows, for example, store detectives or close protection operatives to perform licensable activities without the need to be identifiable. However, all security operatives must carry their licence on them and produce it on request. The SIA do not require individuals to report if they use this specific licence condition, but the breach of any licence condition is an offence liable to prosecution. An SIA licence is issued to the individual and the SIA does not hold records of their employer.

Sexual Offences: Registration

Lisa Nandy: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) when her Department plans to introduce a requirement for registered sex offenders to notify the police of all foreign travel; [85993]

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(2) when her Department plans to publish its response to its consultation on four key proposals to strengthen the notification requirements for registered sex offenders, including introducing a requirement for registered sex offenders to notify all foreign travel. [85995]

Lynne Featherstone: On 14 June 2011, the Home Office launched a targeted consultation on reforming the notification requirements for registered sex offenders. The consultation ran for eight weeks and closed on 8 August 2011. The consultation sought views on four key proposals; (i) notification of all foreign travel, (ii) weekly notification where a registered sex offender is registered as ‘no fixed abode’, (iii) notify when living with a minor, and (iv) notify passport, bank account and credit card details and provide proof of identification at each notification.

The Home Office is currently considering its response to the consultation which will be published in due course.

Sexual Offences: Victim Support Schemes

Mr Umunna: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much funding her Department allocated for work to benefit girls or young women who have been victims or are at risk of gang-related sexual exploitation and abuse in (a) 2010 and (b) 2011 to date; and how much funding she plans to allocate for such purposes in (i) 2012, (ii) 2013 and (iii) 2014. [86373]

Lynne Featherstone: The Ending Gang and Youth Violence report, published on 1 November 2011, announced £400,000 per year for 2012, 2013 and 2014 to improve services to support children under 18 suffering from rape and sexual abuse. This will include services targeted at girls and young women who are suffering from sexual exploitation from gangs.

The £4 million Communities Against Guns, Gangs and Knives fund announced in February 2011 includes funding projects supporting girls and young women involved in gang related violence during 2011-12 and 2012-13, and some of those services will tackle sexual violence.

Ring-fenced funding for services aimed at girls at risk of sexual exploitation from gangs was not available in 2010-11.

Metal Theft

Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department with reference to the statement on page 57 of the Autumn Statement (Cm 8231) that the Government will invest £5 million to set up a nationwide taskforce to target metal thieves and scrap metal dealers who illegally trade in stolen metal, whom this taskforce will comprise; who will lead the taskforce; what the anticipated timescale is of its operation; on what basis its budget has been set; and if she will make a statement. [84939]

James Brokenshire [holding answer 5 December 2011]: The details of the national metal theft taskforce are currently being developed, in liaison with the British Transport police which is leading this work, and will be announced shortly.

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UK Border Agency: Industrial Disputes

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many Government employees from outside the UK Border Agency who were re-deployed in (a) ports and (b) airports to cover the work of staff involved in industrial action on 29 and 30 November 2011 received (i) less than one day's training, (ii) one day's training, (iii) two days training or (iv) more than two days training in preparation for carrying out that work. [86286]

Damian Green: Staff deployed received training appropriate to their level of experience, skill set and the nature of the operational function they fulfilled during the period of the industrial action. Courses ranged from half-a-day (mainly aimed at senior UKBA staff so they could operate the e-gates at ports with this facility) a one day refresher course for those who had previous operational experience; and up to four days that allowed staff to conduct entry checks on non EU/EEA arrivals. The training was supported and reinforced by operational mentoring prior to deployment to ports or airports.

UK Border Agency: Manpower

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many full-time equivalent staff worked for the UK Border Agency in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and how many she expects to work for the Agency in (i) 2012-13, (ii) 2013-14 and (iii) 2014-15; and if she will make a statement. [76452]

Damian Green [holding answer 24 November 2011]: The average work force figure for 2010-11 can be found in the UK Border Agency annual report and accounts 2010-11 The report can be found online at:

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/aboutus/annual-reports-accounts/

Home Office work force plans are designed to be flexible to best support evolving business priorities throughout the spending review period and to be affordable within the Home Office's spending review settlement.

Detailed plans for the years (i) 2012-13, (ii) 2013-14 are not available at this time. The (iii) 2014-15 work force will be in the order of 18,000. This amounts to a reduction of around 5,200 over the spending review period.

Union of Good

Robert Halfon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what her policy is on the representation of people listed by her Department as supporters of the Union of Good on bodies funded by her Department; and if she will make a statement. [86881]

James Brokenshire [holding answer 15 December 2011]:The Prevent strategy states that neither Prevent funding nor support will be given to organisations that hold extremist views or support terrorist-related activity of any kind, in this country or overseas. This applies irrespective of the source of the funding: central Government, local government or policing. With regard to the Union of Good, I am not aware of any such list.

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Vetting

Steve Rotheram: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps she is taking to ensure that individuals charged with, but not convicted of, criminal offences have recourse to remove any allegations from their enhanced Criminal Records Bureau checks. [82034]

Lynne Featherstone: The Protection of Freedoms Bill will, when enacted, make amendments to part V of the Police Act 1997. Specifically, a process will be introduced for people to ask for an independent review of any information disclosed by a chief officer on an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) certificate that they consider not to be relevant or ought not to be included on the certificate.

Vetting: Compulsorily Detained Mental Patients

Mr Charles Walker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the Criminal Record Bureau's (CRB) policy is on disclosing details of an applicant's sectioning under the Mental Health Act in a CRB certificate when no offence has been committed; whether any assessment has been made of the effects of such disclosure on an applicant; and if she will make a statement. [86017]

Lynne Featherstone [holding answer 12 December 2011]:The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) does not have a policy on the disclosure of information concerning a person's mental health. This is because part V of the Police Act 1997, under which the CRB operates, provides that the chief officer of a relevant force may release any information which they consider relevant to the purpose of the disclosure and which they consider ought to be included on the certificate. The CRB are not involved in this process.