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Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress she has made on implementation of the recommendations of the Science and Technology Committee in its Sixth Report, Session 2005-06, on identity card technologies: scientific advice, risk and evidence (HC 1032), which were accepted by the Government, with particular reference to recommendation 10 on the establishment of an Information Communications and Technology Assurance Committee consisting of academies and industry experts. 
Meg Hillier [holding answer 29 April 2008]: The Home Office produced a response outlining the actions undertaken following recommendations from the Science and Technology Select Committee last year. This response is reproduced in the committee's final report (p. Ev15, House of Commons Science and Technology Committee: The Last Report (Thirteenth Report of Session 2006-07), HC 1108) and may be found at:
In order to make assuring the work of delivering the National Identity Scheme as effective as possible, the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) reviewed the assurance structures in place and, rather than establish a new assurance body, broadened the remit of the Independent Scheme Assurance Panel (ISAP), to include information communications and technology.
The scheme will provide a comprehensive and secure way of recording basic personal identity information, such as date of birth, storing it and making it possible for people to be able to prove their identity when necessary. As such, the identity card can be a useful tool to help those selling age-restricted goods meet their obligations.
Meg Hillier: Under the UK Border Act 2007, we will be rolling out identity cards for foreign nationals from 25 November 2008, initially to some categories of those subject to immigration control who are granted limited leave to remain, including; certain types of students, spouses, civil partners and unmarried couples under the immigration rules. Over time, this card will replace existing forms of immigration documents and stamps which we currently issue to foreign nationals staying in the UK for over six months.
Identity cards for foreign nationals will enable the UK to comply with EC regulation 380/2008 which requires residence permits to be issued in a uniform format in the form of a card that contains an embedded chip that stores biometric features of the holder. The biometric information held on the card will be the holders photograph and two fingerprints.
EU Regulation 2252/2004 requires the future inclusion of fingerprint biometrics in passports, and is binding on those member states who are part of the Schengen area. However the UK Government intend to match the EU standards for the introduction of fingerprint biometrics into passports to maintain the reputation and integrity of the British passport. Doing so ensures that UK passports will not be seen as second-class among other countries which could lead to increased attempts at fraud and lead to more onerous checks of UK passports abroad, causing delays and inconvenience to travellers.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what the average number of days taken as sick leave in the Government Equalities Office was in each month since its inception; and if she will make a statement. 
Barbara Follett: Until the Government Equalities Office agrees its own set of terms and conditions its staff are on loan from other Departments and any detailed data on sick leave taken by them is monitored by the Human Resources sections of these Departments. The average number of working days lost to sickness in the two Departments, Communities and Local Government and Work and Pensions, from which most of GEO's staff are drawn, are 6.8 and 9.8 respectively. 71 per cent. of GEO's staff are on loan from CLG and 20 per cent from DWP.
Mr. Maude: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality to what premium Sky, digital terrestrial or cable television channels the Government Equalities Office subscribes; and at what yearly cost in the most recent period for which figures are available. 
Mrs. May: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality pursuant to the answer of 10 January 2008, Official Report, column 687W, on equal pay, when her Department will conduct an equal pay audit in 2008. 
Barbara Follett: As I said in my answer of 10 January 2008, the Government Equalities Office will be conducting its first equal pay audit in 2008. This will be done as soon as the work to determine a single set of terms and conditions for the recently established GEO's staff members, (who have been drawn from a number of different Departments with a variety of employment terms and conditions) has been completed.
(i) Preventing and tackling discrimination in education, training and in the workplace;
(ii) Supporting people in their efforts to combine work and family life, particularly caring for children or for older or disabled relatives;
(iii) Challenging and addressing attitudes about work and learning that underestimate the ability, achievement or potential of women and girls;
(iv) Providing the opportunities for women to get the training and qualifications they need.
(i) Introduce an Equality Bill during this parliament. The Bill will contain measures to allow positive action and increase transparency around pay and pay gaps;
(ii) Extend the right to request flexible working to parents of children up to 16 years of age;
(iii) Launch a Gender Equality Checklist to help organisations identify possible gender equality issues;
(iv) Continue to increase the provision of extended schools and children's centres;
(v) Give a new right to fathers to take up to 26 weeks additional paternity leave before their child's first birthday, thus helping mothers to return to work early if they wish;
(vi) Invest an extra £5 million a year for three years in the Women and Work Sector Pathways Initiatives announced in March 2008. These provide training and support for participants to get a new job, progress their career or increase their pay.
Barbara Follett: The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 makes it an offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to carry out female genital mutilation (FGM) abroad, or to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad, even where the practice is legal. The Government's long-term approach is to educate the practising communities about the dangers of FGM and persuade them to abandon the practice. We are doing this in a number of ways, for example:
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office are working to reduce the prevalence of FGM with the Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.
The Department of Health has funded £20,214 for an FGM prevalence study, £30,761 for the development of a FGM DVD for health professionals, and funding to the specialist organisation, the Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development (FORWARD), including core funding of £42,000 in 2005-06, £35,000 in 2006-07 and £30,000 in 2007-08.
The Home Office will soon set up a national Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) working group of Government, statutory agencies and the third sector that will promote a partnership approach to a range of issues including FGM. It is envisaged that the group will identify and develop actions and practical tools to assist victims and potential victims.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 12 May 2008, Official Report, column 1324W,
on bees, what steps his Department is taking to investigate bee colony losses; and how and by whom the bee colony losses are being investigated. 
Jonathan Shaw: Scientists and inspectors at the National Bee Unit (NBU) are monitoring the situation and maintain contact with experts in the USA and in Europe to learn about developments in bee colony losses.
This year, the situation is still emerging as more inspections are completed but there have been some significant losses in the UK. If beekeepers report significant losses in England and Wales to the NBU for which there is no ready explanation (such as poor Varroa management or poor husbandry) they will be investigated as a high priority.
The proportion of colonies so far found dead is slightly higher for 2008 than it was for the equivalent period in 2007. £90,000 of additional funds has been allocated to the NBU to expand investigations started last year under a horizon scanning project into significant losses and to meet the demand for increased inspections of bee imports consequential to the colony losses.
Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the (a) National Bee Unit and (b) Bee Inspectorate in (i) maintaining bee populations, (ii) managing incidents of bee diseases and (iii) preventing future outbreaks of bee diseases; and if he make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: The Bee Inspectorate is part of the National Bee Unit (NBU). The NBU is part of the Central Science Laboratory which in September 2006 underwent a full-scale independent audit, as required under the Governments Science Audit programme, to ensure it is delivering science of the highest quality. The audit team produced a full report for DEFRAs Chief Scientific Adviser which noted that the NBU was
arguably the most distinguished bee diagnostics and bee health delivery group in the world.
The NBU operates a statutory inspection programme for notifiable diseases and pests, and provides a comprehensive training and education programme for beekeepers to enable them to become more self-reliant in combating disease problems through improved bee husbandry. In 2007, beekeepers benefited from more than 26,000 colony inspections and an extensive programme of training, including over 600 technical events, delivered by the NBU to help them improve disease control through good apiary management.
Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the level of threat posed to bee populations in the UK by disease; and if he will make a statement. 
The bee populations in the UK are subject to various threats from pests and diseases. While the incidence of the foulbrood diseases appears to be under control, thanks to beekeepers vigilance and the inspections and training carried out by the
National Bee Units (NBU) Bee Inspectors, Varroa continues to be a major concern. In addition, Nosema ceranae was confirmed for the first time in the UK in 2007 and a current research project is investigating the impact this is having in the UK. The NBU also remains vigilant for the arrival of exotic pests and diseases including Tropliaelaps species and the Small Hive Beetle. These issues, and the relative priority that should be given to the various pest and disease threats, are addressed in the draft Bee Health Strategy that is currently out for public consultation.
Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what factors his Department takes into account in determining its funding allocations to bee health research. 
Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 5 June 2008, Offi cial Report, column 1070W, on bees: research, what research he has commissioned to address the regulatory concerns identified in project HH0819SHB. 
Manufacturers are deterred from seeking marketing authorisations for any new veterinary medicinal products because of the comparatively small size of the bee keeping market. To address this issue, the VMD is already in negotiation with the British Beekeepers Association on the regulation of veterinary medicines to treat bee diseases. The VMD would also welcome similar discussions with those wishing to manufacture biological control agents for bee diseases. Should further research indicate that it might be possible to market a biocontrol, it would be important to address regulatory issues at that stage.
Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent steps he has taken to reduce bovine tuberculosis in cattle; and if he will make a statement. 
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