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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 28 January 2008

House of Commons Commission

Departmental ICT

Susan Kramer: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how many (a) male and (b) female members of staff of the House were issued with personal digital assistants in each year since 2001; and if he will make a statement. [181350]

Nick Harvey: The number of personal digital assistants (PDAs) issued centrally since 2001 to staff of the House of Commons totals 79. A breakdown of the figures by year of purchase and gender of the recipient is given in the following table.

Male Female Shared use/no specific owner

































A small number of PDAs have been issued over the years to staff directly by House departments before the creation of PICT in 2006, but detailed records do not exist.

House of Commons: Catering

Robert Key: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will make a statement on the use of (a) free-range chicken, eggs, other poultry and pork, (b) organic food and (c) fair trade products in House of Commons catering. [181954]

Nick Harvey: The information requested is as follows:

(a) Free-range chicken, eggs, other poultry and pork: free range chicken accounted for 10 per cent. of the catering service's total chicken purchases for calendar year 2007. The catering service has quickly reacted to recent consumer demand and increase in awareness and have now completely moved away from intensively reared poultry. A species called Devonshire Red has been sourced which is corn fed and Freedom Foods (RSPCA) monitored; currently discussions are taking place with the supplier for a longer term relationship if consistency of supply and price can be guaranteed.

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Since February 2002 catering services have purchased only free range eggs from Ashford in Kent and in 2007 were awarded a Good Egg Award which recognised continued leadership on eggs, helping to promote animal welfare and corporate social responsibility in the food industry.

Apart from chicken, no other poultry purchases are free range or Freedom Foods monitored. However the Purchasing Department is currently engaged in the sourcing of better quality, higher welfare products to include turkey, duck, and guinea fowl.

Pork purchases are all classed as free range and come from West Sussex.

(b) Organic food: the catering service does not keep records that specifically identify organic purchases and so it is not possible to put a value on this expenditure. The issues of consistency and availability are still prevalent in this area, consequently purchasing of organic products is restricted to branded, pre-packed goods, such as sandwiches, salads, yoghurts, biscuits, cakes, etc. which offer some guarantee and assurances of quality.

(c) Fair trade products: in 2007 the catering service purchased 72 fair trade food and beverage products throughout the estate including fresh fruit, juices, coffee, tea, chocolate, cakes, cookies, biscuits, tropical whole foods, smoothies and sugar. Spend for these items was £62,137. 11 fair trade souvenir items are available for sale, for example wooden picture frames (India), stationery (Nepal), coffee (Kenya). A regular supply of fair trade chocolate is currently being arranged. Two fair trade wines are sold in the House's dining and banqueting rooms. Fair-trade products are used when supply and quality can be guaranteed.

Robert Key: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will make a statement on the origin of veal products used in House of Commons catering. [181955]

Nick Harvey: Over the last year, the catering service has spent approximately £5,000 on veal, 40 per cent. on meat including offal (£2,000) and the remainder on bones (£3,000).

The majority (91 per cent.) of veal meat products purchased are small speciality cuts, and come from a well-established company in Holland (as do all the bones). It is the world's largest veal producer and has an excellent traceability system (back to a specific animal) and a guarantee that the veal is free of growth promoters, hormones and b-agonists. Quality systems are based on HACCP and are BRC compliant which surpass international standards. Animal welfare is of utmost importance and the calves are given diets that are high in fibre (and not iron deficient), generous space allowances, and adequate bedding. All the calves are accommodated in groups in spacious, well-ventilated and well-lit stables.

The remainder (9 per cent.) was purchased from UK suppliers which have the highest standards and best welfare practices for veal production, but not the availability and consistency of supply.

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Norman Shaw Buildings

Michael Fabricant: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if the Commission will bring forward plans to construct a canopy to protect people walking between Norman Shaw South and Norman Shaw North from rain; and if he will make a statement. [181685]

Nick Harvey: There is a covered bridge at second floor level between Norman Shaw North and South buildings which protects people from rain. At present there are no plans to construct a canopy at ground floor.

Political Activities

Mr. Maude: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what guidance has been provided to staff employed by the Commission on the extent to which they can engage in political activity in their spare time; and what political restrictions exist for each grade of staff. [181314]

Nick Harvey: The House's rules relating to engagement in political activity by staff are set out in contracts of employment and the House of Commons staff handbook. Political restrictions depend on the nature of the work undertaken by the postholder rather than their level in the organisation. A copy of the staff handbook is available on the Department of Resources intranet site.


Olympic Games: Shooting Events

4. Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Minister for the Olympics what assessment she has made of the merits of the venue for the shooting events at the 2012 Olympic Games; and if she will make a statement. [182019]

Tessa Jowell: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) on 10 September 2007.

Outline assessments during the bid phase were conducted on the basis of providing the overlay required to stage shooting events at the National Shooting Centre at Bisley. However, during the bidding phase, the International Olympic Committee commented on the distance between Bisley and the Olympic Park. On the basis of this feedback, and following consultation with the International Shooting Federation and British Shooting (the national governing body), the Royal Artillery barracks at Woolwich was selected as the shooting venue, due to its iconic location and its close proximity to the Olympic Park and Village. These factors will improve the athlete and spectator experience by limiting travel and making it easier to attend other Games events on the same day in the Olympic Park.

LOCOG will work with the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office and Greenwich Council to see what legacy can be left behind in Woolwich after the Games.

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Olympic Games: London

5. Mr. Evennett: To ask the Minister for the Olympics what her objectives are for the legacy of the Olympic Games in London. [182020]

Tessa Jowell: The Mayor of London leads on the delivery of the legacy of the 2012 Games. He recently published his “Five Legacy Commitments” which set out in detail how the 2012 Games will make a huge and permanent impact on London. This includes creating new homes (9,000 in and around the Olympic Park and an additional 30,000 in the wider lower Lea valley) and 50,000 new job opportunities, as well as new sporting facilities for community and elite use.

In addition, London's transport network will benefit from a £10 billion investment, leading to 50 per cent. extra capacity on the DLR, an extended east London line, an improved London overground network, extra capacity on the Jubilee line and new walking and cycling routes.

Olympic Site

6. Chris Bryant: To ask the Minister for the Olympics if she will make a statement on progress on developing the 2012 Olympic site. [182021]

Tessa Jowell: Excellent progress has been made in the last 12 months and we remain on track to achieve site preparation targets by the start of the Games in Beijing this summer.

We are now at an advanced stage in the land clearance, with demolition work on the five permanent venue sites already completed.

And last week saw further progress with cabling work completed in one of the two underground tunnels that will carry the power around the Park.

Olympic Games 2012: Industrial Health and Safety

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Minister for the Olympics if she will hold discussions with the Health and Safety Executive about on-site construction safety standards at the Olympic site in Stratford. [182018]

Tessa Jowell: I am determined that the Olympic Park site will be a leading example in health and safety performance, and that we will go beyond regulatory compliance to ensure performance remains consistently high.

The ODA has published a comprehensive health and safety statement in July 2007 and this is being rigorously implemented and monitored.

The HSE has appointed its London Regional Director as its head of London 2012 regulatory activities and the HSE regularly inspect the site to assess health, safety and environment conditions.

Already there is robust evidence that this attention to health and safety is paying off and the ODA has just achieved a second period of one million worker hours on site preparation works without a reportable accident.

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Trade Unions

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Minister for the Olympics what meetings she has had with trades union officials since 1 July 2007; on what dates; and with which trades unions. [179862]

Tessa Jowell: Ministers meet many people as part of the process of policy development. It is not normal practice to disclose details of such meetings.


Departmental Telephone Services

Rob Marris: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many 0845 or similar cost telephone numbers are used by his Department for public access to services. [179374]

David Cairns: None.

Church Commissioners

Departmental Information Officers

Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners how many (a) press and (b) communications officers were employed by the Church Commissioners in each of the last 10 years. [182525]

Sir Stuart Bell: In 1997 and 1998 the Commissioners employed four officers who were engaged in press and communications work. Since 1999, however, the Commissioners have not directly employed any press or communications officers. The Archbishops’ Council provides communications services to the Commissioners at an annually agreed level.

Public Accounts Commission

National Audit Office: Visits Abroad

Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission how many overseas visits were made by staff of the National Audit Office in each of the last 10 years; which countries were visited; and what the cost of the visits was in each year. [181460]

Mr. Alan Williams: The National Audit Office does not collate this specific information and this could be done only at disproportionate cost. The National Audit Office has published on its website (www.nao.org.uk ) details of recent expenditure incurred on national and international travel and subsistence by the Comptroller and Auditor General and his senior management. This information will be updated every six months.

Electoral Commission Committee

Elections: Fraud

Mr. Shepherd: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission when the Electoral Commission will complete its compilation and review of information from police forces on alleged fraud in connection with elections. [182138]

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Peter Viggers: The Electoral Commission informs me that it has put in place arrangements to gather and review information held by police forces in England and Wales on a continuing basis.

The Commission has completed a review of information held by the Crown Prosecution Services on allegations of electoral malpractice at elections in England and Wales between 2000 and 2006. An analysis of this information is available on its website and a copy has now been placed in the Library of the House.

Electoral Register: Credit

Mr. Shepherd: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what guidance the Electoral Commission has issued to electoral registration officers when referring to credit referencing as an encouragement to the public to apply for inclusion on the electoral register. [182135]

Peter Viggers: Section 10 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 requires Electoral Registration Officers to use a prescribed form when conducting the annual registration canvass. This form does not contain any information on the use of the electoral register for credit purposes. The Electoral Commission informs me that it advised Electoral Registration Officers in 2003 of its view that electoral information only should be provided with annual canvass forms.

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