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Rural Payments Agency: Official Hospitality

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much the Rural Payments Agency has spent on hospitality and entertainment in each of the last five years. [276370]

Jane Kennedy: The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) expenditure on hospitality in each of the last five financial years is as follows:

Financial year Amount spent (£)











(1) This amount is subject to audit by the National Audit Office in relation to the 2008-09 financial year.

Hospitality covers refreshments and working lunches provided for meetings and workshops where the attendees can include visitors to RPA from public bodies and other non public organizations as well as RPA staff.

There is no RPA expenditure on entertainment.

Swine Flu

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will (a) commission and (b) evaluate research into the implications for animal health of the pathogenesis between species of the H1N1 strain of swine influenza, including transfer from humans to pigs. [276197]

Jane Kennedy: The Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) is in the process of agreeing a programme of work to assess the transmission characteristics of H1N1 in certain animals and associated implications for animal health with the European Commission. It is expected that this will involve researchers from a number of member states. DEFRA is being kept fully informed of the progress of this initiative.

Work has already started at VLA on a research study to determine whether the new H1N1 strain of influenza is transmissible to pigs, and if so, what the main characteristics of such an infection might be.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from which countries the import of (a) live pigs and (b) pork carcasses is prohibited following the identification of swine influenza in pig herds. [276198]

Jane Kennedy: Swine influenza is not a notifiable or statutory disease and it is not listed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). International standards for trade in animals and animal products do not impose any restrictions in respect of swine influenza virus infection for the protection of either animal or human health. Accordingly, the EU does not prohibit the import of live pigs or pig meat as a result of the presence of swine influenza in an approved third country from which they may legally be imported to the EU.

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The European Commission’s Standing Committee for the Food Chain and Animal Health considers that from the evidence available from the recent outbreak of influenza in a pig farm in Canada restrictions in trade of pigs and their products would not be justified. As the World Health Organisation has made clear, this situation does not pose a food safety risk to consumers. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is perfectly safe.

We will continue to work with international organisations to understand whether there is any unusual disease in pigs and whether any action to restrict trade would be appropriate.

All animals and meat can only be imported to the European Community from third countries approved as having equivalent health status as member states. They must be accompanied by veterinary certification that must confirm, among other things, that live animals have been examined by an official veterinarian within 24 hours of loading and showed no clinical signs of disease. Meat must have been derived from animals which have been subjected to a veterinary inspection during the 24 hours prior to slaughter.

Animals and meat imported into the European Community from approved third countries must enter at designated Border Inspection Posts (BIPs) where they are also subject to veterinary inspections.

Water Charges

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which water companies are levying new surface water charges on non-domestic customers; and what the timetable is for the introduction of such charges by each company. [275852]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Four of the 10 water and sewerage companies in England and Wales have switched to site area charging for surface water drainage: Northumbrian Water, Severn Trent Water, United Utilities and Yorkshire Water.

It is for individual companies to propose their schemes of charges, having regard to the relevant guidance, including the timetable for introducing any changes to charges, and for Ofwat to approve them.

Wildlife: Crime

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has held with international counterparts on tackling the global illegal trade in wildlife. [275944]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Following a meeting with the then United States' Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Claudia McMurray, I wrote to her on 16 January to confirm that our officials would work towards the UK taking over as the chair of the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT) later this year. In addition the UK remains an active party to the convention on illegal trade in endangered species (CITES).

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Women and Equality


Mr. Todd: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality whether there are plans for further investigation into evidence of caste discrimination in the UK following the informal survey carried out in preparation for the Equality Bill. [276130]

John Healey: I have been asked to reply.

The Government are always willing to consider whether there is a case for legislating to prohibit caste discrimination, but to date insufficient evidence has been presented to indicate that this is a significant problem in the United Kingdom which is why it has not been included in the Equality Bill. However, the Government have agreed to undertake further research shortly into the extent of caste discrimination. As part of this, senior officials from my Department and the Government Equalities Office have already committed to meet a delegation representing organisations with an interest.

Home Department

Asylum: Finance

Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 19 March 2009, Official Report, column 69WS, on asylum support, what estimate she has made of the initial cost of transferring the provision of section 4 support for asylum seekers to a plastic payment card system. [271649]

Mr. Woolas: The costs for the initial implementation and running costs for the first year are estimated at £350,000. There are no immediate financial benefits following the transfer to a card based system but the new system will deliver improved management information which will provide better control over support costs.

Asylum: Offenders

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many foreign national prisoners applied for asylum (a) before their conviction and (b) following their imprisonment in each of the last 12 months. [275683]

Mr. Woolas: The information requested can be obtained only through the detailed examination of individual case files and cross-referencing these details with records held by the Prison Service which would incur a disproportionate cost. The chief executive of the UK Border Agency has regularly written to the Home Affairs Select Committee with all of the most robust and accurate information on the deportation of foreign national prisoners. Copies of her letters are available in the Library of the House.

Community Relations

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions she has had with the Equality and Human Rights Commission on the implementation of the revised Contest strategy; and if she will make a statement. [275466]

Mr. Coaker: Home Office officials sent the Equality and Human Rights Commission details of the revised CONTEST strategy when it was launched in March.
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The Commission will be key stakeholders in the CONTEST Outreach programme that the Home Office is developing to take forward implementation of the strategy.

Criminal Records: EU Nationals

Mr. Sarwar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many EU nationals have been refused entry to the UK on the basis of previous criminal convictions in each of the last three years for which figures are available. [273620]

Mr. Woolas: From 2006-08, 929 EU nationals were refused entry at the UK border on grounds relating to the public good.

The annual breakdown is as follows:

Number of EU nationals refused entry to the UK







This includes, but is not limited to those EU nationals refused entry due to criminal convictions. This information could be obtained only by the detailed examination of individual records at disproportionate cost.

The data provided are based on locally-collated management information, which may be subject to change and does not represent published national statistics.

Departmental Buildings

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the Government house in Pimlico at 62 South Eaton Place became empty. [275863]

Mr. Woolas: I refer the hon. Member to the answer provided on 18 February 2008, Official Report, column 455W.

Departmental Correspondence

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what procedure her Department follows for dealing with complaints received (a) by e-mail, (b) by post, (c) by telephone and (d) via her Department’s website. [274522]

Mr. Woolas: Complaints received by e-mail and post are forwarded to the relevant area of the Home Office or its agencies to be handled. Those who telephone the Home Office to make a complaint are asked to put it in writing to the Direct Communications Unit. At the bottom of every Home Office web page there is a ‘Complaints’ link, which opens the Complaints webpage with contact details for the Direct Communications Unit.

Departmental ICT

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on how many and what proportion of computers in her Department malware was detected in 2008. [275390]

Mr. Woolas: It is not in the interests of the UK’s national security for Departments to confirm information on the number of malicious attacks against their IT systems.

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The Home Office complies with Mandatory Requirement 39 of the Security Policy Framework which requires a policy on managing risks posed by all forms of malicious software (‘malware’).

Departmental Paper

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what her policy is on minimising the use of paper in her Department. [275508]

Mr. Woolas: The Home Office is working to reduce all forms of waste, in line with the Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate targets. Accordingly a wide range of initiatives are currently in place within the Department to minimise the use of paper. Examples include: setting printers to print double sided by default; making some Home Office publications available only online and encouraging staff to avoid printing emails.


Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether her Department seeks advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with regard to the safety of specific countries in respect of deportation cases. [269749]

Mr. Woolas: The UK Border Agency obtains information about specific countries from a wide range of publicly accessible sources including governmental, non-governmental and international organisations and reliable media sources. The UK Border Agency works closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure that the picture obtained from these sources is an accurate one.

Country plans/information, which are the Government’s official assessment of the circumstances in specific countries, are public documents and can be found on the Home Office website.

Dual Nationality

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many citizens of the United Kingdom hold dual citizenship; and what the top 10 most common nations of dual citizenship are, ranked in descending order. [276485]

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Mr. Woolas: This information is not available. British citizenship can be acquired in a number of ways. For those who acquire that status automatically, by birth or descent, we do not have information about any other nationalities that they might also hold. For those who acquire British citizenship by registration or naturalisation, the UK Border Agency has records of the nationality that was held at the time of the application, but do not have figures as to how many retained another nationality on becoming British.

Emergency Calls: Speech Impaired

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans her Department has to enable people who are deaf, speech-impaired or otherwise unable to use voice telephony to opt to use a short message text service for 999 or 112 emergency calls. [275435]

Mr. Coaker [holding answer 14 May 2009]: There are currently a number of regional schemes allowing the use of short message text access from mobile telephones for the hearing or speech impaired to the emergency services. Work to develop a national solution is being led by the National 999 Liaison Committee which is chaired by Department of Communities and Local Government. The National Policing Improvement Agency, on behalf of the Police Service, participates in this work alongside the mobile telephony service providers, the other emergency services, British Telecom and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf. The group is currently scoping a trial to take place during 2009 to assess the most appropriate technical solution.

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