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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 30 January 2007

House of Commons Commission

Energy Usage

Norman Baker: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how much energy in kWh per square metre has been used on the parliamentary estate in each year since 2004. [111527]

Nick Harvey: The energy in kWh per square metre used on the parliamentary estate for each year since 2004 is given as follows:

kWh per square metre

2004-05

334

2005-06

348

2006-07 (Up to end December 2006)

220


Visitor Entrance

Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, what site investigation and surveys were undertaken by the House authorities prior to letting the contract for the visitor entrance. [112123]

Nick Harvey: Several site investigations and surveys were undertaken, during year 2004.

Dimensional Surveys

These were carried out by Messrs Plowman Craven Associates.

Geotechnical and ground investigation surveys

These were carried out by specialist company Messrs G B Geotechnics Ltd.

Archaeological surveys

The Museum of London Archaeological Service (MOLAS) carried out a desk-top archaeological impact assessment and issued a report; this was later followed-up by maintaining a watching brief over the works during the course of construction in consultation with English Heritage.

Prior to letting the main contract, MOLAS was also engaged in carrying out trial excavations and site investigation in conjunction with the structural engineers (Messrs TPS Consult) at each of the foundation bases for the access ramp and for the length of the service trench.

Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, pursuant to his answer of 19 December 2006, Official Report, column 1792W, on the visitor entrance, what extensions of time have been granted for bad weather. [112124]


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Nick Harvey: No extensions of contract time have been granted for bad weather.

Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, pursuant to his answer of 19 December 2006, Official Report, column 1792W, on the visitor entrance, what the grounds were for the extension of time granted on the larger contract on 26 September 2006; and what additional costs are associated with this extension. [112125]

Nick Harvey: The quantity surveyors for the project, Messrs Harris and Porter, have estimated the costs for the five-week extension of time already granted at approximately £100,000 excluding VAT, which is based on their judgment that a sum of £20,000 per week is reasonable. The contractor, Messrs Verry Construction Ltd., is claiming the sum of £46,000 for each week of the extension period granted.

Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, pursuant to his answer of 19 December 2006, Official Report, columns 1791-92W, on the visitor entrance, how many contracts were let for the visitor entrance; what the (a) original budget price, (b) contract sum and (c) contingency sum in the contract was in each case; and what the latest forecast is of each contract. [112126]

Nick Harvey: The original budget price for the group of related projects stated in the business case for which the visitor reception building is part was £11,944,500 which includes estimated allowances for professional fees, provision of furniture, removals expense, main contract works, enabling works and VAT. The portion of this sum directly relating to the visitor reception building under construction on Cromwell Green is £8,687,500—the remaining sum further divides into £2,763,000 to cover the works associated with the reconstruction of the south steps within Westminster Hall and £494,000 to cover works associated with the renewal of roofing and building plant improvements associated with the Grand Committee Room, off Westminster Hall.

In all, a total of 60 individual contracts have been placed for the visitor reception building—31 of these are for building works-related items, 23 are to defray consultant and specialist fee costs, two are for furnishing items and four are in connection with public information.

The original contract sum for the main contract building works within Westminster Hall, to the Grand Committee Room and for the visitor reception building on Cromwell Green is £5,666,789 excluding VAT. Of this sum, £4,277,789 excluding VAT was for the visitor reception building.

Contingency sums are not included within contracts. An overall risk allowance/optimism bias of £885,400 was included in the approved business case.

Water Usage

Paddy Tipping: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, how much water is used on average each day on the House of Commons part of the Parliamentary Estate. [111515]


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Nick Harvey: It is not possible to provide figures for the House of Commons alone for mains water. The amount of mains water used on the parliamentary estate in the first nine months of 2006-07 was 139,477 cu m, giving a daily average of 510 cu m.

Portcullis House uses borehole water for cooling and flushing toilets. The amount of borehole water used in the first nine months of 2006-07 was 258,149 cu m giving a daily average of 943 cu m.

Solicitor-General

Al-Yamamah

Norman Baker: To ask the Solicitor-General whether the Attorney-General has legal powers to order (a) the Director of Public Prosecutions and (b) the Serious Fraud Office to discontinue an investigation. [117539]

The Solicitor-General: The Director of Public Prosecutions does not conduct investigations. As to the Serious Fraud Office, section 1(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 1987 provides that the director of the SFO is to discharge his functions under the superintendence of the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General's power of superintendence is such that, in the event of an unresolved disagreement between the Attorney and the director over a particular investigation, the Attorney's view would in practice prevail. However this situation has never arisen.

Norman Baker: To ask the Solicitor-General what account the Attorney-General took of the fact that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had not completed the process of assessing all the evidence in concluding that it was in the public interest not to proceed with the SFO investigation into BAE dealings with Saudi Arabia in respect of the Al-Yamamah military equipment deal. [117540]

The Solicitor-General: The director of the Serious Fraud Office, not the Attorney-General, decided to discontinue the SFO investigation. I refer to my statement of 14 December 2006.

Prime Minister

Annual Reports

Mr. Heald: To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 15 January 2007, Official Report, column 787W, on annual reports, what the reason is for the time taken to publish the 2005 reports of the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Intelligence Service Commissioners; and if he will undertake to publish them within 28 days. [112172]

The Prime Minister: I have nothing further to add to the answer I gave the hon. Member on 15 January 2007, Official Report, column 787W.


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Chequers Grant

Mr. Heald: To ask the Prime Minister (1) what the value of the annual government grant given to Chequers was in 2005-06; [113966]

(2) what the value of the government contribution to the cost of household staff at Chequers, net of VAT refunds, was in 2005-06. [113968]

The Prime Minister: Chequers was established under the Chequers Estate Acts 1917 and 1958 and is administered by independent trustees, who receive an annual grant from public funds towards its maintenance and to cover civilian staff employed at Chequers in accordance with the Acts. Chequers is a grade 1 listed building which the Trustees have a legal obligation to maintain in good repair.

The grant for 2005-06 was £900,000, which covered such major expenditure items as upgrading staff accommodation, renewing leaking underground pipes, relaying paving and driveways, and urgent repairs to brickwork and estate fencing.

In addition, as has been the practice under successive Prime Ministers, the Government also pay for military staff stationed at Chequers, whose numbers have decreased since 1997. The cost for 2005-06 (net of VAT refunds) was £148,571. The cost in 1997 (net of VAT refunds) was £215,191.

Departmental Staff

Mr. Heald: To ask the Prime Minister how many members of the (a) Downing Street Press Office and (b) Strategic Communications Unit previously worked at the Labour party. [112157]

The Prime Minister: Information relating to an employee’s previous employment is confidential between the employer and the employee.

Departmental Travel

Mr. Heald: To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 15 January 2007, Official Report, column 789W, on Miami trip costs, how many communications staff accompanied him on the visit. [112173]

The Prime Minister: I have nothing further to add to the answer I gave the hon. Member on 15 January 2007, Official Report, column 789W.

Honours System

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to submit his resignation honours list to the House of Lords Appointments Commission for (a) advice and (b) approval. [111277]

The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 8 June 2006, Official Report, column 827W.


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Honours System: Investigation

Mr. Heald: To ask the Prime Minister whether legal advice has been provided at public expense to (a) Ministers, (b) civil servants and (c) special advisers in relation to the police investigation into potential breaches of the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925. [112160]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr. MacNeil) on 25 July 2006, Official Report, column 1317W.

Trade Promotion

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Prime Minister whether he has considered the merits of the transfer of responsibility for trade promotion and securing foreign direct investment from the Department for Trade and Industry to another Government Department. [111584]

The Prime Minister: Changes to the machinery of Government are made as and when necessary.

Whaling

Anne Main: To ask the Prime Minister whether whaling was raised with the Japanese Prime Minister at his meeting on 9 January 2007; and if he will make a statement. [111134]

The Prime Minister: I discussed a wide range of issues with Prime Minister Abe during his recent visit. I refer the hon. Member to the press conference I held with Prime Minister Abe and to the joint communiqué issued. Transcripts of these are available on the No. 10 website and copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

I also refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs (Mr. McCartney) to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Anderson) on 23 January 2007, Official Report, column 1643W.

Electoral Commission Committee

Electoral Commission

Mr. Purchase: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what estimate has been made of the cost to the public purse of the Electoral Commission in 2006-07. [112253]

Peter Viggers: The Electoral Commission’s supply estimate for 2006-07 (HC 1039) authorised resource expenditure by the Commission of £26,180,000 and capital expenditure of £1,195,000, with an overall net cash requirement of £26,565,000. I understand from the Commission that it expects the resource outturn in respect of 2006-07 to be around £2,000,000 less than the authorised figure.


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Defence

Afghanistan and Iraq Road Accidents

Rob Marris: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) deaths and (b) non-fatal injuries caused by road traffic accidents there have been to UK troops while serving in (i) Afghanistan and (ii) Iraq since 11 September 2001. [114806]

Derek Twigg: As at 16 January 2007; three British Forces personnel have died from injuries sustained during road traffic accidents (RTAs) while serving on Operation Herrick in Afghanistan, since the start of operations in November 2001; 14 British Armed Forces personnel have died from injuries sustained during RTAs while serving on Operation Telic in Iraq since the start of operations in March 2003.

Improvements were made to the casualty reporting process in January 2006 which mean figures can be given for numbers injured in RTAs since that date.

Between 1 January 2006 and 31 December 2006, the latest date for which verified and validated figures are held, seven British Forces personnel sustained non-fatal injuries as a result of RTAs while serving on Operation Herrick; 15 British Forces personnel sustained non-fatal injuries as a result of road traffic accidents while serving on Operation Telic.

Between 11 September 2001 and the start of the campaigns no UK troops died or sustained injuries as a result of road traffic accidents in either Afghanistan or Iraq.

British Arms Industry

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much the Government provided to the British arms industry in (a) direct subsidy and (b) indirect subsidy in the last year for which figures are available. [110897]

Mr. Ingram: The readily identifiable costs to the defence budget of providing support to UK companies to win defence export business were approximately £18.5 million in 2005-06. These costs were substantially outweighed by the benefit we regularly secure from defence exports in the form of lower UK procurement costs. As explained in the defence industrial strategy, exports create value for defence through longer production runs and the consequent spreading of fixed overhead costs.


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