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10 July 2008 : Column 1769W—continued

Identity Cards

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. [202448]

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.

Evidence of a robust assurance function can be seen in the 2007 annual reports of the ISAP and the Biometrics Assurance Group published on the IPS website

Identity Cards: Fingerprints

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether there are plans to use identity cards to enforce age-based restrictions on access to products and services. [210839]

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Meg Hillier: The National Identity Scheme Delivery Plan published on 6 March 2008 set out our plans for issuing and the use of identity cards.

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.

Immigration Controls

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what her policy is on the establishment of a common EU format for residence permits for third country nationals; [216650]

(2) what biometric data will be included in UK documentation under the terms of Council Regulation (EC) No 380/2008 on residence permits; [216651]

(3) what EU (a) legislation and (b) proposed legislation falling within her Department's responsibilities requires personal documentation to include biometric data. [216652]

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 holder’s 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.

Women and Equality

Departmental Manpower: Legal Profession

Mrs. May: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what the cost to the Government Equalities Office has been of legal staff working for the Office since its creation. [201422]

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Barbara Follett: The Government Equalities Office was established on 12 October 2007. Since then, and up to 31 May 2008, the last billing point, the cost of legal staff has been £520,811.

Departmental Sick Leave

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. [213205]

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.

Departmental Television

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. [215655]

Barbara Follett: The Government Equalities Office does not currently subscribe to any premium Sky digital, terrestrial or cable television channels.

Equal Pay

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. [202549]

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.

Equality: Pay

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality when she plans to bring forward proposals to address the gender pay gap. [202973]

Barbara Follett: The Government are already taking action to address the gender pay gap and, following the recommendations of the independent Women and Work Commission, this work includes:

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In addition, the Government plan to:

Female Genital Mutilation

Mrs. May: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what steps the Government (a) are taking and (b) plans to take to tackle female genital mutilation. [210934]

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:

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Bees: Diseases

Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 12 May 2008, Official Report, column 1324W,
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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. [217004]

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. [217015]

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 Government’s Science Audit programme, to ensure it is delivering science of the highest quality. The audit team produced a full report for DEFRA’s Chief Scientific Adviser which noted that the NBU was

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.

A contingency plan has also been developed, in consultation with stakeholders, to deal with the potential threat from exotic pests.

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. [217016]

Jonathan Shaw: 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
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National Bee Unit’s (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. [217018]

Jonathan Shaw: Budgets for research programmes are agreed by Ministers against DEFRA’s objectives and priorities.

Bees: 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. [216880]

Jonathan Shaw: I understand that the contractor for this project has not discussed the regulatory process for veterinary medicines with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).

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.

Bovine Tuberculosis: Disease Control

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. [216836]

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