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Written Answers

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Agriculture: Regulation

Question

Asked by Baroness Byford

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): The Farming Regulation Task Force made over 200 recommendations to reduce the burden of regulation. Some were specific to particular issues, and others concerned longer-term challenges, for example changing the way EU regulation is shaped. The Government undertook to provide an initial response to the report in the autumn and a final response early in 2012.

The Government's initial response to the task force will be published shortly on the Defra website. The response will set out the progress made to date on a number of cross-cutting themes, such as changing the way government works with the industry.

The Government intend to respond as positively as possible to the recommendations made, but it is not possible at this stage to give an accurate indication of how many will be accepted or rejected. The final response will be published early in the new year, and will set out our agenda for action.

Arab Partnership Initiative

Question

Asked by Lord Luce

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK has committed £110 million over four years to the Arab Partnership. This comprises a £40 million Arab Partnership Participation Fund to support political reform, and a £70 million Arab Partnership Economic Facility to be managed by the Department for International Development. So far, the Arab Partnership has allocated over £6.5 million to 46 projects in nine countries. This includes £1.86 million to strengthen political participation, £2.14 million to promote freedom of expression and public voice; £0.92 million on the rule of law; £0.68 million on tackling corruption and increasing accountability; and £0.69 million on youth employability and private sector development. The largest country programmes are in Egypt and Tunisia (£1.7 million and £1.25 million respectively). The Arab Partnership also supports programmes in Morocco (£540,000), Algeria (£460,000), and Jordan (£340,000), as well as regional projects and individual projects in countries such as Iraq and the Palestinian Territories.



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Armed Forces: Aircraft

Questions

Asked by Lord West of Spithead

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The decision to withdraw the Nimrod R1 was taken by the previous Government.

As at l June 2011, only the Nimrod Reconnaissance 1 (R1) was flying. There were 56 aircrew serving in direct support of the R1 on 1 June 2011, including those who occupied posts requiring Nimrod aircrew experience.

In addition, 210 former Nimrod aircrew were awaiting assignment on 1 June 2011. That number is reducing as personnel are found other assignments and will be further reduced by tranche one of the RAF redundancy programme.

At the time the Nimrod MRA4 upgrade project was cancelled in October 2010, the forecast in-service date was 2012. The project was therefore nine years late and £3.9 billion over budget. None of the aircraft had been released into service at the time the project was cancelled.

Asked by Lord West of Spithead

Lord Astor of Hever: The Royal Navy's Merlin Mk 1 force has undertaken the following additional flying and exercises which would previously have been conducted by Royal Air Force Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA):

increased safety range clearance for Sea Dart High Seas Firing; participation in two anti-submarine warfare (ASW) exercises, which were designed primarily for the MPA; andadditional flying in support of ASW trials and tactical development of new systems and capabilities.

MPA tasks are carried out by a range of air and maritime assets including Type 23 Frigates, C-130s and helicopters.

Armed Forces: Atomic Test Veterans

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The Ministry of Defence (MoD) answered the letter on 3 November 2011. Correspondence between the MoD and members of the public is personal and will not be placed in the Library of the House.

Aviation: Regulations

Questions

Asked by Lord Empey

Earl Attlee: Yes, the Government agree with the objections raised by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in response to the proposals made by EASA on flight time limitations.

Asked by Lord Empey

Earl Attlee: The European Aviation Safety Agency has yet to publish its final proposals. We will not support the proposals if they do not provide an adequate level of protection against fatigue.

Asked by Lord Empey

Earl Attlee: The British Air Line Pilots Association's objections are to requirements contained in draft proposals that were issued for consultation by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The Civil Aviation Authority responded to the consultation identifying those parts of the proposal we supported and those areas where we had some concerns. Details of the response can be found on the CAA website: www.caa. co.uk.

EASA is reviewing its proposals in the light of the responses to consultation and will issue revised proposals in due course. It is too early in the rule-making process to say what will be in EASA's final proposal.

Banks: Fees and Charges

Question

Asked by Lord Laird



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The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government committed in the coalition agreement to introducing stronger consumer protections, including measures to end unfair bank and financial transaction charges. The Government are putting this into action through the joint Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and HM Treasury consumer credit and personal insolvency review. In July 2011, the Government published a summary of responses to the call for evidence to the review.

The call for evidence found that there have been significant developments in the market in recent years. As part of the Office of Fair Trading's work, banks have committed to introduce measures to improve the transparency of unarranged overdraft charges and many have also revised their charging structures in the past two years. This has already led to some reductions-the average unpaid item charge has fallen by more than half from £35 in 2007 to £14 in 2010. However, responses to the call for evidence showed that there are still serious concerns about how charges-including the new charging structures-affect consumers, particularly where charges may be not be clear or transparent enough.

The Government are working with the industry to determine the most appropriate course of action. We will, however, regulate to address consumer detriment if suitable alternatives cannot be agreed.

The Government will make an announcement on this later this year.

Charities

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

Baroness Northover: UK charities receiving the largest contributions from the Department for International Development (DfID) in each of the past five years are:

2006-07 British Red Cross;

2007-08 British Red Cross;

2008-09 British Red Cross;

2009-10 British Red Cross; and

2010-11 Save the Children

Full details of funding to civil society organisations are published in table 19 of Statistics on International Development (SID) and are available on the DfID website: www.dfid.gov.uk.

Egypt

Question

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Women in Egypt continue to face obstacles that prevent their full participation in political and economic life. Staff from our embassy in Cairo have raised women's rights, and how these would be protected and developed in the future, with the relevant Egyptian authorities.

Gender equality, inclusiveness and human rights are key dimensions in our Arab Partnership work, and women's participation is an important part of supporting transitions and building stability in the region. Through this work in Egypt, we are supporting a pilot project to strengthen women's political participation by providing women already engaged at the local level with the skills to organise successful campaigns and promote human rights. In all our work to support inclusive political dialogue in Egypt we aim to ensure women are prominently represented.

Electoral Register

Question

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Government remain committed to ensuring that the maximum number of people are registered to vote after the transition to individual electoral registration. As part of developing our plans for the transition, we will be assessing a range of measures which have potential to improve registration levels among those groups underrepresented on the electoral register.

The Government have also commissioned research to identify the scale and profile of groups that are currently underregistered. These findings will be used to inform our approach to improving registration levels among these groups and wider work to promote public awareness of registration and participation of young people in the voting process.

Embryology

Questions

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has advised that the terminology referred to by the noble Lord was used at the authority's meeting on 19 October 2011.



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Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Earl Howe: We do not have any plans to consult on the issue of encouraging blood and organ donation via financial payments. It is an offence under the Human Tissue Act 2004 to offer or receive a reward for the donation of blood and organs for the purposes of transplantation.

Energy: Nuclear Reactors

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: Ultimately it is for industry to propose what type of fuel to use in any future nuclear reactors, the designs of which would be subject to independent regulatory assessment and acceptance. To date, no potential operator has put forward proposals for a thorium-fuelled plant in the UK.

That said, the department is aware of the potential of thorium-fuelled nuclear reactor designs and is in the process of assessing claims regarding its suitability as an alternative to uranium-based reactors in the longer term.

The current view of thorium reactor technologies from the nuclear industry is that, whilst the science is reasonably sound, developing reactors based on a thorium fuel cycle would carry major technological and commercial risks. The resources required to develop these technologies to the point at which they might be deployed successfully at a commercial scale are also very significant.

To date, both in the UK and elsewhere in the world, this has prevented private industry and government from investing significantly in the development of the technology. No thorium reactor design has been implemented beyond relatively small, experimental systems, whilst many either only exist on paper or have only had specific subsystems demonstrated.

As an indicator of the challenge of taking this technology further, the Chinese Academy of Sciences estimates that a development period of at least 20 years will be required before a demonstration thorium molten-salt breeder reactor might be available.

While thorium does not appear to have a part to play in the UK's near to mid-term energy market, we do maintain an interest in its development. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has asked the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) to look further into the wider benefits of next-generation reactor

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designs and to compare the use of thorium and uranium fuels in them. We are expecting the findings to be available in due course.

EU: Credit Rating Agencies

Question

Asked by Lord Willoughby de Broke

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The House of Lords EU Economic and Financial Affairs and International Trade Sub-Committee's published a report in July entitled Sovereign Credit Ratings: Shooting the Messenger?. The report concluded that the proposal of credit ratings being suspended for countries receiving international financial assistance was inappropriate and impractical and implied censorship.

Further details can be found on the following website: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/eu-economic-and-financial-affairs-and-international-trade-sub-committee-a/inquiries/credit-rating-agencies-and-eu-sovereign-debt/.

The Government agreed with the report's assessment. In particular, temporarily suspending ratings for certain sovereigns would only reduce information in financial markets, exacerbate uncertainty and possibly lead to further contagion. In the absence of such ratings, it is likely that unregulated shadow ratings of these countries would emerge in any case.

More generally, the Government support additional international reform initiatives of the credit rating agency industry and have set out their priorities in the response to the Commission's consultation, which can be found online at this link: https://circabc.europa.eu/d/d/workspace/SpacesStore/0d1ea101-b6d0-470b-b8b3-e28e4c1cba30/BoE-FSA-Treasury_EN.pdf.

European Union: Reform

Question

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government's immediate priority is for the eurozone to find a sustainable response to the current economic crisis, and to do so in a way that protects the rights of all 27 member states to take decisions over areas such as the single market. We shall also continue to press for tight limits on EU spending and action to promote growth and jobs, through free and open markets, and by cutting

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regulatory costs on European business. And the Government have committed to examining the balance of existing competences between member states and the European Union and, in particular, to work to limit the application of the working time directive in the United Kingdom.

Foreign Affairs

Question

Asked by Lord Morris of Aberavon

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): There has been no change in the position of foreign affairs since the devolution settlements in 1998.

Government Departments: Consultants

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

Baroness Northover: Consultancy has been defined by central government as "the provision to management of objective advice and/or guidance on the strategy, structure, management or operations of an organisation in pursuit of its purpose and objectives".

This definition was developed in response to recommendations made by the NAO in 2006, aimed at improving the value central government obtains from the use of consultants. Further information on application of these changes across government can be obtained from the Cabinet Office website.

Health Protection Agency

Question

Asked by Lord Willis of Knaresborough

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): We expect that staff transferring from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to local authorities and Public Health England will retain their existing terms and conditions of employment.

Not all staff in the HPA are on National Health Service terms and conditions, although they make up approximately 90 per cent of their current workforce of around 3,600 whole time equivalent.



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Transfers between sender and receiver organisations will be guided by the legal requirements of Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) and/or Country Strategic Opportunities Programme (COSOP) guidance, as appropriate. It should be noted that the Health and Social Care Bill contains general powers to effect TUPE-like transfer schemes. These powers support the principle expressed within COSOP of using a transfer scheme when COSOP applies. Any scheme would not displace the appropriate application of the TUPE regulations and both sender and receiver organisations would be likely to be involved in the development of any scheme.

Health: Caesarean Sections

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The management of any request for a caesarean section should be informed by the available evidence, including guidelines produced by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The existing clinical guideline Caesarean Section, published in 2004, is currently being updated by NICE. The updated guideline is due to be published in November 2011, and NICE will publish a costing report alongside the updated guideline. We have made no separate assessment of the likely impact of the updated guideline.

Health: Physiotherapy

Questions

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): It is for local National Health Service organisations to make their own decisions about routes of referral for physiotherapy, based on which route is clinically appropriate and of value to the healthcare system and local community.

Some organisations may include self-referral in their access routes. To help local organisations in making decisions about self-referral, the department has collaborated with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy to pilot and evaluate self-referral. The pilots identified a number of benefits including earlier presentation and supporting self-care by empowering patients to be more actively involved in managing their condition.

Information about this project can be found in self-referral pilots to musculoskeletal physiotherapy and the implications for improving access to other AHP services. This document has already been placed in the Library and is available at: [email protected][email protected]/documents/digitalasset/dh_116358.pdf.

There have been a number of initiatives to improve access to physiotherapy and other allied health professional services including delivering services more efficiently. The Allied Health Professional Service Improvement Project demonstrated in a range of services, including physiotherapy, how service redesign can improve access and clinical outcomes, and release cost-savings back into the system. Details about this project can be found at: www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_126840.

Indonesia

Question

Asked by Lord Harries of Pentregarth

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We take seriously all credible reports of human rights violations in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua and regularly raise our concerns with the Government of Indonesia.

We are concerned by the violent dispersal of the Papuan Peoples' Congress on 19 October. We will raise this with the Government of Indonesia, calling for a full and transparent investigation into the reported deaths of six people close to the Congress venue on 19 October.

We do not support the declaration of independence made by the Papuan Peoples' Congress and believe that it is in the best interests of all the Papuan people to continue to resolve governance disputes through peaceful dialogue with the Government of Indonesia.



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Ministry of Defence: Staff

Question

Asked by Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): As at 1 July 2011 there were 11,910 members of the Armed Forces and 5,434 civil servants employed by the Ministry of Defence in Scotland.

Defence Analytical Services and Advice (DASA) publishes a quarterly manning report on its website: www.dasa.mod.uk. This includes defence personnel by location.

National Savings and Investments

Question

Asked by Lord Marlesford

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The total amount invested in National Savings and Investments (NS&I) as at 31 March 2011 was £98.9 billion.

All money invested in NS&I flows in and out of the National Loans Fund, the account that brings together all government lending and borrowing. This form of government borrowing reduces the costs to the Exchequer by reducing the amount the Government have to borrow in order to meet their financing needs. Therefore, it is not possible to determine how much of NS&I's investments have been invested in specific instruments.

NHS: Foundation Trusts

Questions

Asked by Lord Warner

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The department is currently exploring the potential provision of financial support to specific National Health Service trusts to achieve

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foundation trust status. The framework and process by which such support might be provided has not yet been finalised.

In relation to any support provided to NHS trusts, the department has outlined four key tests that they would have to meet:

the problems they face must be exceptional and beyond those faced by other organisations;they must show that the problems are historic and that they have a clear plan to manage their resources in the future;they must show that they are delivering high levels of annual productivity savings; and they must deliver clinically viable, high quality services, including low waiting times and other performance measures.

One means by which such financial support may be provided is to assist NHS trusts in meeting the liquidity requirements for authorisation as a foundation trust once all the other assessment criteria are met.

Additionally, a small number of NHS trusts with financial issues to address also have a private finance initiative scheme that is a contributory factor to their viability. The department is continuing to work with these NHS trusts to determine an appropriate model to support these organisations to achieve foundation trust status, providing they meet the four tests.

The dates when aspirant NHS Trusts will submit an application to the department are detailed in their tripartite formal agreements which are published locally by the relevant NHS trust. Monitor's assessment process commences after the Secretary of State has given his support to the application.

Asked by Lord Warner

Earl Howe: In 2011-12, 30 hospital trusts have a historical operating deficit, in total, of £623 million, which relates to previous years. At Quarter 1 of 2011-12, six hospital trusts are forecasting an in-year operating deficit, in total, of £170 million.

The operating deficits at the end of 2011-12 will remain in the accounts of each hospital trust and will form part of their cumulative operating deficit in 2012-13.

Office of the Chief Coroner

Questions

Asked by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff



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The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): In considering whether the new funding required to implement the office of Chief Coroner could be justified in the current economic circumstances, the Government examined the costings set out in the 2008 impact assessment. This assessment was carried out in June 2010 and a detailed breakdown of the costings was placed in the Library of the House in December 2010.

Asked by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

Lord McNally: Subject to the passage of the Public Bodies Bill, the Government intend to lay a statutory instrument pursuant to clause 5 of that Bill to transfer the majority of the functions of the Chief Coroner to the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor in early 2012.

The Government then intend to lay commencement orders to commence relevant provisions in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

Olympus: Gyrus

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): Allegations relating to Olympus were brought to the Serious Fraud Office by Michael Woodford MBE who, until he was dismissed on Friday 14 October 2011 was President and CEO of Olympus Corporation.

Mr Woodford contacted the Serious Fraud Office about concerns of impropriety at Olympus, which included the acquisition of the UK company Gyrus.

The Serious Fraud Office is reviewing and evaluating the material provided.

Railways: Franchises

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

Earl Attlee: The Department for Transport received £167.9 million in premium payments from West Coast Trains Ltd in respect of the 2010-11 financial year.

Railways: Trans-Pennine Express

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw



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Earl Attlee: The Ordsall Curve is scheduled to open in Manchester in 2016. In addition, line speed improvements will be delivered on the route between Liverpool and Manchester. These will facilitate the potential recast of trans-Pennine services between Manchester and Leeds where key links such as commuting flows from local stations to the main centres of Leeds, Manchester and Huddersfield can potentially be improved.

Regional Growth Fund

Question

Asked by Lord Hoyle

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): All applications received in both the rounds of the Regional Growth Fund have been assessed and announcements on the second round were made on 31 October 2011.

Research Councils

Question

Asked by Lord Lucas

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): All research councils published delivery plans for 2011-15 as part of the spending review process. The plans set out each council's funding priorities and outline the activities that they intend to undertake over the period. The delivery plans were developed following consultations with a broad range of stakeholders, including business and senior academics, and agreed with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The delivery plans also take account of research councils' own visions and strategic priorities. As part of the performance management system (PMS) for research councils, performance review meetings are held every six months between BIS and each of the research councils and Research Councils UK.

Ministers have an important role in setting the framework within which research is conducted and, consistent with the Haldane principle, in articulating the Government's high-level research priorities and in agreeing research councils' delivery plans. Research councils operate under a management statement from BIS and this forms an important part of the framework set by Ministers. This framework incorporates aspects such as the structures for advice from the research community. As part of this framework, BIS works closely with the research community, the learned societies and other leading stakeholders.



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Each of the seven UK research councils has a governing body called its council. The council is responsible for setting each research councils' policy, strategy and priorities. It is also accountable for the stewardship of the council's budget and the extent to which objectives have been delivered and targets have been met. Council membership is drawn from the council's academic, business and user communities. Membership is balanced to provide expertise across a range of research disciplines and commercial and user interests. In addition, research councils have their own structure of advisory boards and groups to identify opportunities for research, training and knowledge transfer and to provide external advice on the development of strategies and policies.

Traffic Commissioners

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

Earl Attlee: Following the recommendations of the Competition Commission, my honourable friend, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker) has discussed the matter with the Deputy Senior Traffic Commissioner.

The Government will wait for the publication of the Competition Commission's final report before deciding what action is necessary in respect of the role and powers of the traffic commissioners.

Unemployment: Under 25s

Question

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno



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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Stephen Penneck, Director General for ONS, to Lord Roberts of Llandudno, dated 31 October 2011.

As Director General of the Office for National Statistics, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking how many persons aged between 16 and 18 and between 18 and 25 were actively seeking work during October 2011 [HL 12861].

The requested information is not available. National Statistics estimates of unemployment are published for three-month average time periods rather than for individual months. Estimates for the three months to October 2011 will be published on 14 December 2011.

West Lothian Question

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): I refer the noble Lord to the Written Ministerial Statement that I made on 8 September 2011 (Official Report, col. WS 34). A follow-up announcement will be made shortly with further details on the Commission, including the timescale.


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