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14 Oct 2010 : Column WA85

Written Answers

Thursday 14 October 2010

Internet: Broadband

The Answer printed on Wednesday 13 October 2010 was incorrect. The correct version appears below.

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): This is a matter for Alston Cybermoor Ltd. The Government have no involvement.

Agriculture: Research

Question

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): I am arranging for the information requested to be placed in the Library of the House.

Agronomy research covers a wide range of topics, including research on the underlying physical, chemical and biological processes of agricultural production in order to underpin development of solutions for pest and disease control, management of soil fertility, reducing soil erosion and environmental pollution, etc.

The data were taken from the Science Information System which is used to store data on all of Defra's research and development projects. Projects are assigned keywords, which are used to search for specific topics, and a combination was used to generate the list.

The list of projects attached is as thorough as possible, but due to the design of the system and on a subject as broad, it is not possible to necessarily extract the data precisely as requested above, due to disproportionate costs. All data relating to Defra's research projects are also available on the public Search Science database, available on the Defra website at http://randd.defra. gov.uk/Default.aspx?Location=None&Module= filterSearchNewLook&Completed=0.



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Audit Commission

Questions

Asked by Lord Beecham

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The costs of disbanding the Audit Commission will depend on the detail of our future approach to local audit. In order to protect the future of the commission's well-respected in-house audit practice and to increase competition in auditing, we are seeking to put it into the private sector. We are working with the commission to consider a range of options and assess possible liabilities. The costs of redundancies, and of terminating contracts for the supply of goods and services, will depend on a range of factors, including the option chosen for moving the commission's in-house audit practice into the private sector. The effect of disbanding the Audit Commission on its pension fund will also depend on the options adopted for making these changes.

Asked by Lord Beecham

Baroness Hanham: In July 2010, the Audit Commission's board adopted an annual 10 per cent efficiency target to replace its previous 5 per cent target.

As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government said in another place, we expect to save £50 million a year by disbanding the Audit Commission and moving its audit practice into the private sector.

Aviation: Engineers

Question

Asked by Lord Ouseley

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The UK aerospace sector directly employs around 100,000, the majority of whom are skilled and experienced in engineering with some 36 per cent having a degree or equivalent. We are working closely

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with business, including ADS (the lead trade association), and organisations such as SEMTA, to understand and meet the demand future skills requirements arising from technology developments, including "greener" technologies to meet environmental challenges.

In addition to investing in greener aerospace technologies through National Aerospace Technology Strategy projects such as Next Generation Composite Wing and Environmentally Friendly Engine, we are reforming the further education and skills system to better meet the needs of learners and employers. Government are currently running consultations on the future of further education and skills: on strategy (Skills For Sustainable Growth on the Future Direction of Skills Policy) and on funding (A Simplified Further Education and Skills Funding System and Methodology). Ministers are also considering responses to the Right to Request Time to Train consultation which has now closed. We are also working with SEMTA and COGENT sector skills councils who have established Sector Strategy Group for Composites to help ensure the supply of suitably qualified engineers and composites specialists in the future.

Careers Education

Question

Asked by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): Schools are under a continuing legal obligation to have regard to the Statutory Guidance on Impartial Careers Education by virtue of Section 45A of the Education Act 1997, as amended by the Education and Skills Act 2008. Any future changes to the role of schools will be guided by the principle of freeing them from bureaucratic requirements and providing them with greater autonomy to make decisions about the level of support that is most appropriate for their pupils.

Energy: Renewables

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): The feed-in tariffs (FITs) scheme for Great Britain has been running since 1 April and is still at an early stage. Although we are continually collecting data on uptake, it is too soon to make an accurate assessment of the initial impact on the solar PV sector.



14 Oct 2010 : Column WA88

The document Reporting electricity Feed in Tariff data in DECC's energy statistics, available from the DECC website at intp://www.deec.gov.uldpublications/DefaultaspOtenn=energv%20trends&;talls=&urn=&from Date=&toDate=&alpha, provides the statistical information so far collected on the scheme. Ofgem also provides publicly available reports on the scheme, including levels of solar PV uptake at https://wiww. renewablesandchp.ofuem.gov.uk/.

Flags

Question

Asked by Lord Kilclooney

Lord Shutt of Greetland: The national flags of England, Wales and Scotland are the Cross of Saint George; the Welsh Dragon (Y Ddraig Goch) and the Saltire of Saint Andrew respectively. The only official flag of Northern Ireland is the Union Flag.

Government Departments: Salaries

Question

Asked by Baroness Thomas of Winchester

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The estimated net saving in the pay bill of Communities and Local Government for each of the next four years, if all salaries and increments are frozen, is shown in the table below:

YearApproximate Saving

2010-11

1,324,835

2011-12

851,656

2012-13

983,197

2013-14

870,955

The coalition Government have introduced a two-year pay freeze with a caveat that departments with contractual pay progression systems should continue to make these payments.

The figures in the table cover the pay settlement period for the CLG main department of August to July each year and include all increases in base pay for staff below the Senior Civil Service. Actual net savings from a freeze on salaries and increments will reduce broadly in proportion to the level of staff reductions required once the outcome of the comprehensive spending review is announced.

The Senior Civil Service have not been included in the above table as there are no automatic progression points in the Senior Civil Service pay structure.



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Health: Funding

Question

Asked by Baroness Greengross

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The information requested is not held centrally.

There are a number of flexibilities in the Health Act 2006 that allow local authorities and National Health Service bodies to transfer or pool funds to improve the outcomes of their local populations. Decisions to do so are taken by local bodies. The flexibilities from the Act include:

Section 75-supports partnership arrangements through lead commissioning, joint management of provision and pooled funds;Section 256-makes provision for primary care trusts (PCTs) to make transfer payments to local authorities; andSection 76-makes provision for local authorities to make transfer payments to PCTs.

House of Lords: Members

Question

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The current membership of the House is 777, and the average daily attendance since 25 May 2010 is 417. The red Benches in the Chamber can seat around 240 Members. Further space is available for wheelchair users, on the Woolsacks and on the Steps of the Throne.

House of Lords: Oral Questions

Question

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): While I am aware of the problems with overcrowding in the Chamber, there are no microphones Below Bar or on the Steps of the Throne to allow Members to speak from those areas. Consideration

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could be given to allowing Members seated on the steps in the gangways to speak. If the noble Baroness writes to me with a formal proposal, I will of course put it before the Committee.

Immigration

Questions

Asked by The Earl of Clancarty

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): Information relating to creative organisations separately from sporting ones is not collated centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Between 27 November 2008 to 6 October 2010, 43,645 certificates of sponsorship were used by workers under the tier five (creative and sporting) category of the points-based system.

In the period 7 October 2009 to 6 October 2010, 825 organisations applied to become a licensed tier five (creative and sporting) sponsor. In the same period 55 organisations had their application to become a licensed tier five (creative and sporting) sponsor refused

It is not possible to provide the reasons for refusal for each application but UK Border Agency reasons for refusal include previous poor compliance with sponsorship or work permit requirements, failure to be in possession of appropriate accreditation and failure to provide information necessary to assess compliance.

Niqabs

Questions

Asked by Lord Sheikh

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Women who chose to wear niqab or burqa are protected by the Equality Act 2010, the core provisions of which were commenced on 1 October, by the Government Equalities Office, carries forward previous legal protection from discrimination and

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harassment because of religion or belief, or lack of belief, in areas including employment, the provision of goods, facilities and services, education and the exercise of public functions.

Asked by Lord Sheikh

Baroness Hanham: Such data are not recorded centrally by government; therefore no assessment has been made.

Asked by Lord Sheikh

Baroness Hanham: Government departments regularly meet representatives of all faith groups to discuss issues that concern them. The Government do not plan to discuss burqa and niqab issues specifically.

Plants

Question

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): I am arranging for the information requested to be placed in the Library of the House.

Defra funds research to underpin traditional plant breeding where this delivers public goods and would otherwise not be funded by industry. The research covers a wide range of topics, from understanding the genetic control of traits to the development of genetic resources, tools and techniques for breeding.

The data was taken from the Science Information System which is used to store data on all of Defra's research and development projects. Projects are assigned keywords, which are used to search for specific topics, and a combination were used to generate the list.

The list of projects is as thorough as possible, but due to the design of the system, it is not possible to necessarily extract the data precisely as requested above, due to disproportionate costs. All data relating to Defra's research projects are also available on the public Search Science database, available on the Defra website at http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Location=None&;Module=FilterSearchNewLook&Completed=0.



14 Oct 2010 : Column WA92

Presbyterian Mutual Society

Question

Asked by Lord Mawhinney

Lord Shutt of Greetland: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland chairs the ministerial working group that is seeking to find a fair and just solution to the problems faced by members of the Presbyterian Mutual Society.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the Minister of State for Northern Ireland are also members of the working group along with the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland, the Minister of Finance and Personnel and the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

Representations from members have been made to all members of the working group as well as to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Replies are generally sent from the office of the relevant Minister to which the correspondence has been sent but on occasion may be transferred to another department for consideration depending on the nature of the representation that has been made.

Questions for Written Answer

Question

Asked by Lord Jopling

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): No. The punctuality of government replies to Questions for Written Answer is a matter for the Leader of the House. However, it is open to the noble Lord, as a member of the Procedure Committee, to put his proposal to the Committee directly.

Religious Tolerance

Question

Asked by Lord Sheikh

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Faith communities make a vital contribution to national life: guiding the moral outlook of many, inspiring great numbers of people to public service, providing succour to those in need.



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Britain has a proud tradition of religious tolerance, within the law. The Government are committed to creating a strong and integrated society in which hatred and prejudice are not tolerated and in which all people are free to express their identity and live without fear of harassment and crime that targets them because of that identity.

The Government welcomes and supports the growth of dialogue and shared action between different religious groups. We want to help build effective, friendly working relationships between people of different faiths.

Inter Faith Week 2010, from 21 to 27 November, will be an important focus for inter faith activities. Despite tight spending pressures, we are able to make some funds available to support activities during the week.

We have also decided to continue with the Faiths in Action scheme-grants of up to £6,000 to support innovative local inter faith projects, including during Inter Faith Week. This Government have approved 179 projects totalling £995,000. Many of these have an emphasis on people from different backgrounds coming together to address local problems such as improving green spaces, as well as promoting tolerance and respect.

Savings

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government are committed to reinvigorating private pension saving. In the short term it is also important that household spending supports demand and recovery in the economy. This contribution to stronger national income now will in turn contribute to stronger saving in the future.

Schools: Vocational Qualifications

Questions

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The Civitas report is an interesting and important report. We agree that we

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need to take steps to ensure that schools are encouraging young people to take qualifications that are most appropriate for the individual pupil concerned.

The Government are currently developing a new approach to qualifications, considering all routes which are available to young people, to ensure that the qualifications they study for are rigorous, relevant and bear comparison with the best in the world.

We will reform the school performance tables to encourage schools to enter young people for the qualifications that are in their best interests.

We will be making announcements about those reforms in the coming months.

Soil

Question

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): Defra (or its predecessor departments) has commissioned wide-ranging studies on soils and soil protection since 1997, exploring the relationship with agricultural productivity, water and air quality, land management and development, biodiversity and climate change. Data have been compiled using the Science Information System which stores information on all of Defra's research and development projects. Each research project is assigned certain appropriate keywords. A list has been generated utilising "soil" and "soils" which will be placed in the Library of the House.

The results are as closely matched as possible to the request, but there will be additional research projects that Defra has funded relating to soil science that have not been picked up in this initial search (for example, if the primary focus of the study was on water quality). In order to create a comprehensive list, disproportionate costs would be entailed.

This data and final reports are also publicly available on the Defra website at http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Location=None&;Module=FilterSearchNew Look&Completed=0.

Taxation: Information Exchange Agreements

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The UK has no tax information exchange agreement with the Principality of Monaco.


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