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Rescue Services

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) on how many occasions an E-3D Sentry has been involved in a search and rescue mission in each of the last 12 months; [34458]

(2) what search and rescue training is taking place for E-3D Sentry crews; and in which locations that training is taking place; [34460]

(3) what capabilities the E-3D Sentry has to detect, identify and track vessels under 300 gross tonnes. [34462]

Nick Harvey: In the last 12 months, no RAF E-3D Sentry has been involved in search and rescue missions. E-3D Sentry is optimised for the air-to-air role and its radar has a limited maritime search mode. I am withholding details on the capability of the E-3D radar to detect, identify and track vessels under 300 gross tonnes as its disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.

There is no formal training requirement for E-3D Sentry crews on specific long range search and rescue techniques. However, an E-3D Sentry participated in a NATO-led SAR training exercise in May 2010. In addition, during normal routine training sorties in UK airspace, crews are trained on an opportunity basis in the operation of the radar's maritime search mode.

The UK will continue to provide search and rescue services using a range of assets depending on the response required.

Business, Innovation and Skills

Business: Regulation

Mr Offord: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what plans his Department has to reduce the burden of regulation on small and medium-sized enterprises. [34805]

Mr Prisk: Reducing the burden of regulation on businesses, particularly SMEs, is a priority for this Government.

Early this year we will be announcing outcomes from the growth review, which will set out ambitious proposals on where and how regulatory barriers for business should be reduced, enabling private sector growth and creating jobs.

The Better Regulation Executive, in this Department, will also be publishing the Forward Statement of Regulation, giving business prior notice of regulatory and deregulatory measures due to come into affect in the next six months, as well as outlining details of progress the Government have made to reduce regulation.


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The BRE continues to work with Departments to identify regulation which is overly burdensome, particularly on SMEs, and support policy makers in using non-regulatory approaches.

Companies: Females

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many companies that had women as (a) sole proprietors and (b) directors were registered at Companies House in 2009-10. [34243]

Mr Davey: Companies House does not hold any information on sole proprietors and we do not differentiate between men and women directors.

Conditions of Employment: Reform

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what assessment he has made of the effects of his proposals for employment rights reform on (a) the availability of work placements within degree programmes and (b) employment between periods of undergraduate and postgraduate study. [34865]

Mr Davey: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is leading a cross-Government review of employment legislation. The review aims to maximise the flexibility of employers in managing their work force while maintaining the essential protections for individual employees with the ultimate objective of promoting economic growth. It will consider employment law area by area and any proposals will be consulted on and the potential impact assessed.

Copyright: Internet

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (1) what estimate he has made of the number of music tracks acquired through illegal downloading in 2010; [33873]

(2) what estimate he has made of the scale of illegal downloading of music from peer-to-peer sources in 2010; [33874]

(3) what estimate he has made of the scale of illegal downloading of music from non-peer-to-peer sources in 2010. [33875]

Mr Vaizey: I have been asked to reply.

No estimates of the type the hon. Member refers to have been prepared.

The industry itself have made regular estimates, and these have been cited by Government in the past, but Ofcom will be responsible under the Digital Economy Act 2010 for compiling a data on, among other things, the current level of subscribers' use of internet access services to infringe copyright. This work will start when the initial obligations code comes into force later this year.

Higher Education: Admissions

Grahame M. Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what estimate he has made of the number of applicants to universities in England for entry in September 2011 who will not secure a place. [33935]


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Mr Willetts [holding answer 18 January 2011]: Statistics on applicants for entry into higher education are available via the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). It is still early in the 2011 application cycle, but published UCAS figures as of the 20 December 2010 show a 2.5% increase in applications (344,064 applications for 2011 entry compared to 335,795 at the same point the previous year). The number of unplaced applicants will depend on the final number of applications and places offered.

We announced in the 2011-12 Higher Education Funding Council for England Grant Letter that we were continuing to make provision for the 10,000 additional entrant places made available through the University Modernisation Fund in May 2010. The number of places offered is therefore unlikely to vary significantly from 2010.

Provisional end of year figures for 2010 show that that there were 209,253 unplaced applicants (688,310 applicants from all domiciles for a place at a UK institution; 479,057 accepted). Of these unplaced applicants, 94,561 had declined an offer or withdrew from the process and 161,984 were domiciled in the UK.

Applicants who were not accepted for entry can include: individuals who did not receive any offer; individuals who received an offer (conditional or unconditional) but decided not to go to University; individuals who received a conditional offer and failed to meet the specific conditions (eg they did not achieve certain grades); and individuals who decided to withdraw from the UCAS system.

Higher Education: Finance

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will publish the monetary value of the loan his Department provides to each higher education institution to cover the costs of graduate contributions in (a) 2010-11, (b) 2011-12, (c) 2012-13, (d) 2013-14 and (e) 2014-15; and if he will make a statement. [34947]

Mr Willetts: The Department makes forecasts of expenditure on loans towards the cost of graduate contributions at the national level. Full-time student tuition fee loan outlay for English domicile students is estimated to be approximately £2.5 billion in FY 2010-11 and £2.7 billion in 2011-12. As the new arrangements are phased in from 2012-13, the full-time student tuition fee loan outlay is estimated to increase to £3.5 billion in 2012-13, £5 billion in 2013-14 and £6 billion in 2014-15. These are initial estimates and are subject to change as HEIs and students respond to the new funding arrangements. Forecasts are not available at institution level.

Information on outturn expenditure on student loans is published annually as part of the Statistical First Release: "Student Support for Higher Education in England". Final figures for the academic year 2010/11 will be published in November 2011.

Higher Education: Scholarships

Nick Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what estimate he has made of the number of students who will receive assistance from the
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proposed National Scholarship Programme in each of the next four years; and whether (a) mature and (b) part -time students will be able to access the scheme. [34645]

Mr Willetts: The National Scholarship Programme (NSP) will form part of a coherent package of help targeted on bright potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds. All universities that want to charge a higher graduate contribution than the £6,000 threshold will be obliged to participate in the NSP.

The design of the NSP is by no means finalised. Criteria for the NSP are currently being developed through advice from an expert panel, which includes the National Union of Students, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Universities UK, Sutton Trust and others. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes), the Government's Advocate for Access to Higher Education, has been invited to join the group.

We want a wide range of people to be able to participate in the Programme and likely groups to be supported include disabled students, part-time students, mature-aged students, those who have been eligible for the pupil premium at school, or have received free school meals or have low family incomes.

Government investment in the Programme will reach £150 million a year by 2014/15. We have suggested that an option of a first free year for disadvantaged students or a foundation year to attract young talented people into the professions could potentially help around 18,000 students in 2014/15. In addition, we will look to increase the leverage of Government funding by getting matched contributions from universities. The number of students who can benefit from the new Programme will depend on the final design which is currently being developed with advice from the expert panel.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships: Operating Costs

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what proportion of the budget for knowledge transfer networks was spent on administration in the last year for which figures are available. [35047]

Mr Willetts: The Technology Strategy Board's administration costs for supporting the Knowledge Transfer Networks for the period January to December 2010 were £285,000. This covered the total staff costs for the dedicated KTN team within the Technology Strategy Board.

Information on an individual Knowledge Transfer Network's administration costs cannot however be specified as their role is to reach out and organise events and meetings that enable key individuals in business and academe, among others, to network. Much of this activity could be classified as administrative. The cost of delivering these services is however closely scrutinised to ensure value for money and funding is only provided against a well defined business case with clear objectives and outcomes.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships: Pay

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what the salary is of the chief executive of each knowledge transfer network. [35048]


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Mr Willetts: Knowledge Transfer Networks do not have chief executives, as the services of a network are delivered by companies in receipt of a Technology Strategy Board grant, on condition of appointing a suitably qualified Director to deliver the objectives of the network.

The Director's salary range is between £64,000 and £113,500 reflecting the pay scale of the parent organisation and the market rate for a credible individual within a specific field of technology.

National Scholarship Fund

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills whether those aged 25 or more (a) on low incomes and (b) in receipt of benefits will be eligible to receive assistance from the National Scholarship Fund; and if he will make a statement. [34932]

Mr Willetts: The National Scholarship Programme (NSP) will form part of a coherent package of help targeted on bright potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds. All universities that want to charge a higher graduate contribution than the £6,000 threshold will be obliged to participate in the NSP.

Details of the National Scholarship Programme are still being finalised. Criteria for the NSP are currently being developed through advice from an expert panel, which includes the National Union of Students, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Universities UK, Sutton Trust and others. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes), the Government's Advocate for Access to Higher Education, has been invited to join the group.

We want a wide range of people to be able to participate in the Programme and likely groups to be supported include disabled students, part-time students, mature-aged students, those who have been eligible for the pupil premium at school, or have received free school meals or whose family income means that they will be eligible to receive student maintenance grants.

Postgraduate Education

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what plans he has to establish a working group with the Higher Education Statistics Authority and higher education funding councils to consider what additional information should be collected on postgraduates to inform future policy decisions on widening access to postgraduate study; and if he will make a statement. [34934]

Mr Willetts: We will, as Lord Browne suggested, monitor participation in postgraduate study to identify whether changes to the undergraduate funding and finance system have any effect on entry to postgraduate courses and will set out our proposals for postgraduate provision and our response to the postgraduate review in the forthcoming higher education White Paper.

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what steps he is taking to identify further ways to promote postgraduate education at universities in England overseas; and if he will make a statement. [34936]


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Mr Willetts: The Government welcome genuine students from other countries to study at higher education institutions (HEIs) in England at both postgraduate and undergraduate level. Higher Education Statistics Agency figures published earlier this month show that 334,960 students from outside the United Kingdom were enrolled at English HEIs in 2009/10, with 169,355 at postgraduate level, indicating the high regard in which English higher education is held around the world. The British Council, with its presence in more than 110 countries and territories worldwide, promotes the United Kingdom as a study destination, and works through Education UK partnerships with universities and colleges to support international student recruitment and partnership building with overseas institutions.

Quality Assurance Agency: Performance Standards

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (1) what assessment he has made of the performance of the Quality Assurance Agency; and if he will make a statement; [34937]

(2) how many full-time equivalent staff were employed by the Quality Assurance Agency in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [34938]

Mr Willetts: This Department has made no formal assessment of the performance of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), nor does it hold information about QAA's staffing levels. The QAA is an independent body, a charity, and a company limited by guarantee. It is funded through contracts with the three UK higher education funding bodies and the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, and through subscriptions from higher education institutions. The QAA reports annually to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on its activities to assure the quality of higher education in England. Those reports are available on the QAA's website, as are the QAA's contracts with HEFCE, its annual operating plans, and annual reviews.

Research

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what plans he has to extend the duration of the operation of the Research Excellence Framework; and if he will make a statement. [34949]

Mr Willetts: The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is being developed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), in collaboration with the higher education funding bodies from the devolved Administrations. Following the announcement in July 2010 of a one year delay to the implementation of the REF, HEFCE has published a revised timetable. Detailed guidance on submissions and assessment criteria will be published during 2011. Higher education institutions will be invited to make submissions for the first assessment under the REF during 2013, and that assessment will take place during 2014, with publication by the end of 2014. Further details are available at:


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Science

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what plans he has to extend the duration of the operation of the Science and Innovation Framework; and if he will make a statement. [34948]

Mr Willetts: The Science and Innovation Framework set out the policy of the previous Government. This Government have demonstrated their strong commitment to Science and Research by protecting Science and Research programme funding for the next four years within a ring fence.

Science: Equal Opportunities

Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what funding he plans to allocate to the Royal Academy of Engineering to develop a new diversity programme in engineering. [32975]

Mr Willetts: We announced the Royal Academy of Engineering's total grant for each of the next four years on 20 December 2010, as part of the science and research budget allocations, but funding for individual programmes is still being discussed. We expect to conclude these discussions shortly, and the detailed delivery plan will then be published on the academy's website.

UK Resource Centre for Science Engineering and Technology

Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will make an estimate of the likely redundancy costs arising from his decision to end funding for the UK Resource Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology. [33622]

Mr Willetts: It is not yet clear whether redundancies will be necessary within UK Resource Centre UKRC: this is a matter for UKRC.

This Department has offered to restructure the remainder of the UKRC's grant this year to assist with UKRC's transition.

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (1) what plans he has for the promotion of women's networks in science, technology, engineering and mathematics following the withdrawal of funding to the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology; [33709]

(2) what plans he has for the collation and publication of statistics on women working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics following the withdrawal of funding for the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. [33710]

Mr Willetts: BIS officials have monitored the UK Resource Centre's (UKRC) work over the current spending period through receiving regular updates on the progress of UKRC programmes, as part of quarterly progress meetings and through monthly financial summaries.


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Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills whether he has visited the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. [32974]

Mr Willetts: I have not visited the centre itself, and neither have my BIS ministerial colleagues. However, a UK Resource Centre (UKRC) ambassador met me in September 2010 to discuss her work with UKRC.

BIS officials have worked closely with the UKRC over the last spending period, and have visited the centre and attended the organisation's annual conference and other events.

Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what consultation he undertook on his decision to cease funding the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. [32977]

Mr Willetts: This decision was part of the wider science and research allocation. The following bodies provided advice on this broader allocation:

Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent representations he has received on his plans to cease funding the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. [32978]

Mr Willetts: The director of the UK Resource Centre (UKRC) met BIS officials on 21 December 2010 and 19 January 2011 to discuss the announcement that funding for the UKRC will not be continued after the end of the current comprehensive spending review (CSR) period (31 March 2011). I have received seven related items of correspondence.

Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what assessment he has made of the effects of changes in the level of his Department's funding for the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology from April 2011 on its access to funds from the European Union; and if he will make a statement. [32979]

Mr Willetts: The UK Resource Centre (UKRC) has been appointed as a partner in the European Union Framework Programme 7 INTEGER project on implementing structural change in higher education institutions (HEIs) and research institutes, due to start in February 2011, but will need to secure £60,000 of further funding to proceed.

If the UKRC secure participation in other FP7 projects, they will need to raise funding beyond the current grant period to proceed with these.

Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (1) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the gender equality training provided by the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology; [32981]


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(2) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the CEO Charter Scheme operated by the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. [32982]

Mr Willetts: BIS officials have monitored the UK Resource Centre's (UKRC) work over the current spending period through receiving regular updates on the progress of UKRC programmes, as part of quarterly progress meetings and through monthly financial summaries.

Working Conditions

Mike Freer: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what his Department's policy is on (a) the space provided per employee, (b) home working and (c) hot desking; how many employees it has on average per desk; and how much space on average there is per employee. [34584]

Mr Davey: This Department aims to follow the Government's space standard of 10 square metres per FTE, subject to the building infrastructure being able to handle this level of density.

The Department supports flexible working which can help individuals manage their work-life balance, subject to meeting business needs. Flexible working includes the following examples: flexi-time, part-time, compressed hours, annualised hours and home working. Staff can apply to work at home on an ad hoc or regular basis. Arrangements are agreed and managed locally by line managers.

The Departments predecessors introduced flexible desking several years ago and the majority of the Departments buildings now operate using a mixture of a 7:10 or 8:10 desk to people ratio.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the Office of Government Commerce "State of the Estate" reports for 2009, which can be found at the following link.

Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Committee

Members: Allowances

Bob Russell: To ask the hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, whether allowance limits for hon. Members will be increased to cover increases in (a) the rate of value added tax and (b) national insurance contributions for staff. [34371]

Mr Charles Walker: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. I have asked IPSA to reply.

Letter from Andrew McDonald, dated January 2011:


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Prime Minister

Driving Standards Agency: Cardiff

Mr Hain: To ask the Prime Minister (1) on what date he or officials from his Office first discussed with the Secretary of State for Wales the decision to close the Cardiff office of the Driving Standards Agency; [35041]

(2) which officials of his Office were involved in the decision to delay the announcement of the closure of the Cardiff office of the Driving Standards Agency; and for what reasons the decision was taken to delay the announcement until 18 January 2011; [35043]

(3) what involvement his Office had in the decision to delay the announcement of the closure of the Cardiff office of the Driving Standards Agency; [35044]

(4) what the extent of the involvement of his Office was in the decision to close the Cardiff office of the Driving Standards Agency. [35045]

The Prime Minister: My Office had no involvement in this decision. I refer the right hon. Member to the written ministerial statement made by the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) on 18 January 2011, Official Report, column 36WS.

Technology: Greater London

Stephen Timms: To ask the Prime Minister what progress he has made on his initiative to create a Tech City in East London. [34567]

The Prime Minister: Following the significant commitment made by leading technology companies to contribute to the East End Tech City, we have been working with the Greater London Authority, UK Trade and Investment and Olympic Park Legacy Company to progress this important initiative. Follow-up events have included technology breakfasts at Number 10, a major conference of over 100 entrepreneurs at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and a networking event held in Shoreditch. I and ministerial colleagues are continuing to engage with global leading technology companies to develop this agenda.

Cabinet Office

Civil Service: Redundancy

Alison McGovern: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office whether his Department has put in place a communications plan in respect of civil service redundancies. [33380]


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Mr Maude: Civil service Departments are each responsible for their own work force planning, including redundancies. The Cabinet Office has no plans for central communications on their behalf.

Alison McGovern: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what his policy is on redeployment of civil servants to prevent involuntary redundancy; and if he will make a statement. [33382]

Mr Maude: Civil service Departments and agencies are committed to mitigating potential redundancies to the greatest extent possible. This includes opening up redeployment opportunities across the civil service and giving priority consideration to applications from employees at risk of redundancy.

John McDonnell: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office (1) whether voluntary redundancy settlements have been reached with the (a) Cabinet Office Chief Information Officer, (b) Chief Executive of DirectGov and (c) Director General of the Office for Civil Society in the last three months; [33683]

(2) how many senior civil servants in his Department have taken (a) voluntary redundancy and (b) early retirement since November 2010; and what the (i) job title and (ii) financial settlement was in each such case. [33684]

Mr Maude: Since November 2010 there have been seven departures at senior civil service level from the Cabinet Office. These include end of appointments, resignations, early retirements and voluntary exits. These figures include the Government's Chief Information Officer, the Chief Executive of DirectGov and Director General of the Office for Civil Society.

To protect the confidentiality of individual circumstances, it is not possible to provide details of individual arrangements. However Cabinet Office total funding for exits has been £261,000.

Government Departments: Procurement

Mr Spencer: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what assessment he has made of the effects of changes in the number of centrally-negotiated procurement contracts in Government on the number of contracts awarded to small and medium-sized enterprises. [33598]

Mr Maude: Greater centralisation of public sector procurement is essential if we are to achieve value for money in our purchasing activity. SME participation is an important part of this centralised strategy, either as direct suppliers to Government or as sub-contractors. The previous Government collected no reliable figures on SME participation in Government contracts so the Government are only putting together data on the number of contracts awarded to small businesses and this will be published in due course.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture: Research

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding was allocated
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to research and development in agriculture by levy boards in each of the last five years; and what estimate she has made of the levels of such funding in each of the next four financial years. [34425]

Mr Paice: Expenditure by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board on research and
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development and Knowledge Transfer since its formation in 2008 is shown in following the table. Collated figures for the previous sector boards are not available.

Source Actual expenditure and forecast future spend on R&D and Knowledge Transfer by AHDB (£ million)

2013-14

Proposed figures, under consultation. Source AHDB.

22.6

2012-13

Proposed figures, under consultation. Source AHDB.

22.2

2011-12

Proposed figures, under consultation. Source AHDB.

21.0

2010-11

Published planned expenditure. Source AHDB.

21.5

2009-10

Actual expenditure. From AHDB Annual Report and Accounts 2009-10.

19.4

2008-09

Actual expenditure. From AHDB Annual Report and Accounts 2008-09.

20.6

2007-08

Actual expenditure. From AHDB Annual Report and Accounts 2008-09.

20.2


Cycling: Access

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the policy of her Department is on the extension to cycling and horse-riding of rights of way access over land. [35088]

Richard Benyon: DEFRA is keen to see more access provision for cyclists and horse riders and is encouraging local authorities to develop new routes and to provide access routes where people need them.

Fisheries

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her policy is on the promotion of pelagic fish for consumption. [34647]

Richard Benyon: DEFRA has recently set up the 'Fishing for the Markets' project. This is a new initiative looking to encourage consumption of under-utilised, sustainable species that are often discarded, which may include some pelagic species.

The Government are working to help improve the sustainability of fish throughout the supply chain, from sea to plate. The Food Standards Agency is able to advise on the health issues relating to the consumption of fish.

Flood Control

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment the Government has made of whether flood risks in England will increase over the next (a) five, (b) 10 and (c) 25 years. [34400]

Richard Benyon: The latest UK climate science confirms that rising sea levels and more severe and frequent rainstorms are likely to occur-resulting in increasing flood and coastal erosion risk. More information is available in the UKCP09 climate projections section of DEFRA's website:

Work by the Environment Agency suggests that river flows may increase by 20% by 2080, although this may vary around the country.

The Environment Agency's long-term investment strategy presents investment options to manage increasing levels of flood and coastal risk in England caused by climate change and asset deterioration over the next 25 years (2010-35).

A copy of the strategy and related information can be found on the Environment Agency's website.

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Environment Agency's capital budget has been for flood risk management in (a) 2008-09, (b) 2009-10 and (c) 2010-11; and what that budget is for (i) 2011-12 and (ii) 2012-13. [34474]

Richard Benyon: The following table shows flood risk management budgets from DEFRA to the Environment Agency to deliver capital investments through all operating authorities (the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards). These are the Environment Agency's budgets for 2008-11 for England, and the allocation assumptions for 2011-13 based on the DEFRA settlement.

From DEFRA (£ million)

2008-09

340

2009-10

349

2010-11

354

2011-12

259

2012-13

259


Flood Control: York

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when construction of the Environment Agency's flood Alleviation Scheme at Water End, York will commence; [34398]

(2) when construction of the Environment Agency's flood Alleviation Scheme at Thirsk, North Yorkshire will commence. [34399]


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Richard Benyon: The indicative funding allocation proposals for flood and coastal erosion risk management projects for 2011-12 are currently subject to discussion between the Environment Agency and its regional flood defence committees.

Final decisions on the allocation of funds to regional committees will be made in February or March by the Environment Agency's board, and decisions on the programmes of schemes to be delivered next year will be made by the committees in April.

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Environment Agency's Yorkshire Regional Flood Defence Committee will approve its capital programme for 2011-12. [34401]

Richard Benyon: The Environment Agency's Yorkshire Committee will consider its business plan for 2011-12 for approval by 21 April 2011.

The business plan incorporates capital and revenue programmes, and will be based on final allocations of grant in aid to be approved by the Environment Agency's Board on 3 February 2011.

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Environment Agency's capital spending was on flood risk management in the Yorkshire and North East Region in (a) 2008-09, (b) 2009-10 and (c) 2010-11; and what that budget is for (i) 2011-12 and (ii) 2012-13. [34475]

Richard Benyon: The Environment Agency's capital spending and indicative expenditure on flood risk management in the Yorkshire and North East region for the specified years is given in the following table.

Yorkshire and North East region capital expenditure

£ million

(a)

2008-09

28.5

(b)

2009-10

45.8

(c)

2010-11

41.1

(i)

2011-12

(1)32.5

(ii)

2012-13

(2)-

(1) Indicative allocation for agency projects.
(2) The budget for future years will depend on the outcome of DEFRA's "Future funding for Flood and Coast Erosion Risk Management" consultation.

Food Standards Agency: Research

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding was allocated to research and development in agriculture by the Food Standards Agency in the last five years; and what estimate she has made of the level of such funding to be allocated by the Agency in each of the next four financial years. [34424]

Anne Milton: I have been asked to reply.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), funds research to ensure that the best available evidence is available, from "farm to fork", to protect consumers. The vast majority of FSA research is targeted on issues post farm-gate. Information on each of the research (and survey) projects funded by the FSA (including the cost)
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is placed in the public domain on an annual basis. The project lists for the last five years can be accessed from the FSA website as follows:

2005-06: (Appendix 1, p 81 onwards)

2006-07 : (Appendix 1, p 91 onwards)

2007-08 : (Report data tables)

2008-09 : (Annex D)

2009-10: (Annex A, p 118 onwards)

The FSA future areas for research are prioritised on an annual basis as part of its business planning process, against its strategic needs and to address identified gaps in the evidence base. These will take into account recent Machinery of Government changes, which altered the FSA remit, and the refresh of the FSA's Strategic Plan and Science and Evidence Strategy which is currently out to consultation, ending 11 February 2011. It is therefore not possible to say at this time what levels of funding will be allocated to research and development in agriculture over the next four years, but it is likely to be a similar picture to the most recent reports cited above.

Research: Finance

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding her Department allocated to research and development in the last five years; and how much such funding she plans to allocate in each of the next four financial years. [34358]

Richard Benyon: Core DEFRA's research and development spend for the last five years was as follows:

£ million

2005-06

139

2006-07

137

2007-08

130

2008-09

128

2009-10

(1)119

(1) The Department's Evidence Investment Strategy published in January 2010 quoted a 'budget' for research in 2009-10 of £125 million. The figure above reflects the actual 'spend'.

The data was taken from the Science Information System, which is used to monitor and record details of DEFRA's research and development projects.

The total DEFRA evidence budgets (which include research and development) for the core Department over the next four years will be maintained in the same proportion of total programme expenditure in 2014-15 as in 2010-11.

Evidence is defined as reliable and accurate information that DEFRA can use to support sound decisions in developing, shaping and evaluating policy. It includes research and development, monitoring and surveillance, economic and statistical analysis and modelling, secondary analysis and synthesis, and analysis of stakeholder views.


20 Jan 2011 : Column 925W

The total budget available to commission evidence in each year is as follows:

£ million

2010-11

210

2011-12

199

2012-13

188

2013-14

177

2014-15

167


For comparison, the budget for evidence in 2009-10 was £213 million, of which, £119 million was classified as research spend. In addition, the budget for evidence in 2010-11 was £210 million, of which, the approximate research budget is £123 million (actual spend figures not yet available). I do not anticipate any significant change in the proportion of research and development/other evidence commissioned in the next four years. However, it is difficult to be definitive about this as the figures include a significant ring-fenced unallocated evidence provision retained for 2012-13 onwards. This will be allocated annually according to the DEFRA chief scientific adviser's advice on the evidence priorities at the time. The exact proportion of the evidence total spent on research and development may vary depending on this advice.

These figures represent evidence commissioned by core DEFRA in each year from external providers and our three laboratory agencies (the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science; the Food and Environment Research Agency and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency). None of the figures quoted above include evidence commissioned out of grant in aid funds by the Environment Agency, Natural England, Forestry Commission or the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

Supermarkets: Prices

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her policy is on the appropriate mechanism for regulation of prices paid to manufacturers by the food retail industry for (a) milk, (b) cheese, (c) yoghurt, (d) other dairy products, (e) meat from livestock, (f) poultry and (g) fish. [34453]

Mr Paice: The Government do not consider it appropriate to regulate prices paid to manufacturers by the food retail industry. We believe that the market must drive both production and price levels to ensure that our food and farming industries are efficient, profitable and able to compete on the global market in which we now operate.

It is important to ensure that large retailers cannot abuse power by transferring excessive risks or unexpected costs onto their suppliers, as risks and costs should be shared appropriately throughout the supply chain. Benefits should also be shared appropriately, including with consumers. While the revised Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) is a great improvement on the previous regime, the power that large grocery retailers can wield over their suppliers can still create pressures on small producers, which ultimately may impact on consumers.

We therefore propose to establish a Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) to monitor and enforce the GSCOP. The Bill to establish the GCA will be brought forward in the near future.


20 Jan 2011 : Column 926W

Water: Older People and Vulnerable Adults

Rory Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she has taken to ensure that national water suppliers and utilities companies are prioritising for reconnection of services and repairs for the elderly and vulnerable during the recent water shortages. [34926]

Richard Benyon: There have been no recent water shortages or disconnections of customers from the mains water supply in England. However, some customers did suffer disruption to their water supply as a result of burst pipes within their properties, and on water company networks, during the cold weather in December and January.

Where there were supply disruptions due to bursts on water company mains, the water company provided water by alternative means as required by the Security and Emergency Measures Direction 1998, which was produced under the provisions of Section 208 of the Water Industry Act 1991.

Priority is given to the domestic needs of the sick, the elderly, the disabled, hospitals, schools, and other vulnerable sectors of the population.

Where there are supply disruptions due to bursts within customers' properties, this is the responsibility of the customer.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Arms Control

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many full-time equivalent permanent staff of his Department were allocated to working on preparations and negotiations towards an international arms trade treaty in each of the last five years. [34155]

Alistair Burt: Securing a robust and effective arms trade treaty remains a priority for the UK Government. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's counter proliferation department and the UK arms control and disarmament mission in Geneva lead on the negotiation of an arms trade treaty and are supported by many other departments and posts across the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's extensive network, and expertise from across Whitehall. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not keep records on the full-time equivalent staff that have worked on the issue over the last five years.

China: EU External Trade

Sir John Stanley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether it is the Government's policy that the EU arms embargo on China should be maintained. [35039]

Mr Jeremy Browne: The Government's view is that the time is not right to lift the EU arms embargo on China.


20 Jan 2011 : Column 927W

Conferences

Gregg McClymont: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much his Department has spent on conferences since May 2010. [34669]

Mr Bellingham: As budgets in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are devolved to FCO missions overseas and to individual directorates and strategic programmes within the UK, this information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

However, all expenditure undertaken by the FCO is directly aimed at achieving our foreign policy priorities, to ensure the Department achieves value for money and is incurred in accordance with the principles of Managing Public Money and the HM Treasury handbook on Regularity and Propriety.

Conflict Prevention

Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 20 December 2010, Official Report, column 955W, on conflict prevention, whether he plans to lay a draft of the Building Stability Overseas Strategy before Parliament for consultation before publishing the final strategy. [35028]

Mr Bellingham: I do not plan to lay a draft of the Building Stability Overseas strategy before Parliament for consultation ahead of publication but, as I confirmed in my reply to my hon. Friend on 20 December 2010, Official Report, column 955W, we intend to engage widely with hon. and right hon. Members, those from the other place, and a range of other interested groups, to ensure that the strategy takes account of their views and expertise.

Departmental Libraries

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 20 December 2010, Official Report, columns 956-7W, on departmental libraries, which external consultants advised on the closure of his Department's library; and how much they were paid. [33879]

Alistair Burt: The external consultants were Tribal Avail. Their independent research and findings covered a wide scope of information management activities in addition to the library. The cost of this advice specifically on the library cannot be disaggregated but the cost of the full review was £47,338.41.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 20 December 2010, Official Report, columns 956-7W, on departmental libraries, who conducted the internal review in 2003 that led to the closure of his Department's library; and if he will place a copy of the review's findings in the Library. [33880]

Alistair Burt: The internal review was conducted by Management Consultancy Services (MCS) within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will arrange for a copy of the findings to be deposited in the Library.


20 Jan 2011 : Column 928W

Departmental Travel

Gregg McClymont: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much his Department has spent on travel for officials since May 2010. [34672]

Alistair Burt: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) spent £8,082,466 on travel between May to December 2010. These costs are for journeys booked through the FCO travel management company (Hogg Robinson) and do not include the cost of travel booked through local travel agencies at overseas posts, which is available only at disproportionate cost. This is in line with our need to operate a global network of over 250 posts and move staff between these posts.

European External Action Service

Bob Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent estimate he has made of the UK's contribution to the costs of the EU External Action Service. [34656]

Justine Greening: I have been asked to reply.

The UK makes its contributions to the EU Budget as a whole and not to individual areas of spending within it. The UK's share, excluding the UK abatement, of financing the 2011 EU Budget is estimated to be 15%. The budget adopted for 2011 for the EU External Action Service was €464 million.

The amending Budget Letter agreeing additional funding for the EEAS in 2011 was accompanied by a Council declaration calling for a savings plan to be presented by the chief operating officer as a priority task. We also secured a Council declaration calling for Budget neutrality and for a concrete plan to ensure cost savings and efficiencies in the future.

India: Embassies

Paul Uppal: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will assess the merits of opening a consulate in Chandigarh, Punjab, India. [34781]

Alistair Burt: The United Kingdom is represented by the British Trade Office in Chandigarh and also has a visa application centre there. Diplomatic and consular work in the state of Punjab is led by our high commission in New Delhi.

The Government are committed to strengthening their partnership with India in order to work together to mutual benefit. This reflects India's increasingly important role in the world and our shared interest in democracy, sustained economic growth and global security. This renewed focus on India means that we will continue to review the resources required to deliver our ambitious agenda.

Morocco: al-Qaeda

David T. C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions (a) he and (b) Ministers in his Department have had with the Moroccan government on infiltration of Polisario by al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. [R] [35013]


20 Jan 2011 : Column 929W

Alistair Burt: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not discussed this subject with the Government of Morocco.

I visited Morocco in December 2010, where I discussed a broad range of issues relating to the Western Sahara. I also welcomed our co-operation with Morocco in the field of security. There is no evidence to suggest a formal link between the Polisario and al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. We are carefully monitoring the activities of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and their links with criminal organisations.

Office of UK Permanent Representative to EC

Mr Carswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which firm of headhunters will be used to help identify suitable external candidates to fill the position of UK Permanent Representative to the EU; and what brief that firm will be given. [34080]

Alistair Burt: None.

Palestinians: Children

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his contribution of 7 December 2010, Official Report, columns 40-44WH, on the detention of Palestinian children, what steps his Department has taken to raise the issue of the detention of Palestinian children since 7 December 2010. [34966]

Alistair Burt: During my visit to the region on 16-19 January 2011, I raised general human right issues with a number of my Israeli interlocutors. On the specific issue of child prisoners, our consulate-general in Jerusalem and our embassy in Tel Aviv continue to monitor this issue closely, including attending court cases. Our consulate-general also works closely with Defence for Children International, funding a project to promote awareness of the issue, including among EU member states.

Racism: International Co-operation

Mr Offord: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on UK representation at the proposed UN conference on anti-racism planned for 2011. [34088]

Mr Jeremy Browne: The Government have not yet made a decision on our participation in the meeting in September to commemorate the 10(th) anniversary of the World Conference Against Racism. We recognise that it is common practice for the UN to convene meetings at regular periodic intervals to commemorate the adoption of its various social and human rights-related agendas such as the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. But previous meetings on this issue, including the initial World Conference Against Racism as well as its 2009 review conference, were overshadowed by unacceptable and offensive anti-Semitic rhetoric and behaviour.

UK officials will work closely with colleagues in other countries to ensure that the September meeting does not become another platform for such behaviour and that the meeting addresses all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. We will also work hard to
20 Jan 2011 : Column 930W
ensure that any outcome from the meeting includes a clear statement on the need to further combat anti-Semitism as part of wider efforts to combat racism. Our position on participation and representation will remain under review as a result of these efforts.

Sudan: Diplomatic Relations

Michael Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes he plans for UK representation in south Sudan; and if he will make a statement. [35024]

Mr Bellingham: With the agreement of the Governments of Sudan and Southern Sudan, the British embassy office in Juba, Southern Sudan, has recently been upgraded to a consulate-general. A newly appointed consul-general will take up his post in the near future. Any further changes to the nature of UK representation will depend on the result of the referendum.

Tunisia

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit Tunisia to promote bilateral relations. [33721]

Alistair Burt: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has no plans to visit Tunisia at present.

I visited Tunisia from 28-30 November 2010 where I engaged in discussions with my Tunisian hosts on energy and commercial opportunities, co-operation on counter-terrorism, regional issues and relations with the EU. I also spoke about the need to ensure that political and economic stability is built upon openness, tolerance and access to government and civil society.

I have also met with the Tunisian Ambassador to the UK to discuss the recent social unrest in Tunisia and the importance of observing free and fair elections as soon as possible. We encourage maximum effort to restore law and order and call for full inclusion of all legal parties in the formation of a new government.

Western Sahara: Politics and Government

David T. C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions (a) he and (b) Ministers in his Department have had with their Algerian counterparts on proposals by the Moroccan government to offer limited autonomy to Western Sahara. [R] [35014]

Alistair Burt: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not discussed this subject with his Algerian counterpart.

I visited Algeria in November 2010, where I raised the issue of Western Sahara with the Government of Algeria. I re-iterated our commitment to the United Nations Security Council position, calling for a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.


20 Jan 2011 : Column 931W

Treasury

40 Pence Per Mile Travel Allowance

Harriett Baldwin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will bring forward proposals to increase the 40 pence per mile travel allowance for self-employed taxpayers. [34263]

Justine Greening: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given in response to the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Gordon Banks) on 13 September 2010, Official Report, column 785W.

Departmental Consultants

Kate Green: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much his Department has spent on consultancy since May 2010. [34542]

Justine Greening: HM Treasury spent (excluding VAT) £10.38 million on consultancy services during the period May-December 2010. These data relate to HM Treasury only and do not include any of the Treasury's Executive agencies.

The Government have pledged to reduce consultancy spend. HM Treasury has implemented a consultancy freeze in line with current Cabinet Office policy, to ensure that consultants are only retained when there is an operational necessity.

Departmental Newspaper Press

Kate Green: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much his Department has spent on newspapers and magazines since May 2010. [34545]

Justine Greening: The Treasury spent £37,568 on newspapers and periodicals between 1 June 2010 and 31 December 2010.

Departmental Official Cars

Kate Green: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much his Department has spent on Government Car Service cars since 13 July 2010. [34539]

Justine Greening: During the period 13 July 2010 to 31 December 2010, invoices to the value of £97,000 were received by the Department in respect of the Government Car Service. In the equivalent period in 2009, £396,000 was spent.

Departmental Travel

Kate Green: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how much his Department has spent on travel by his officials since May 2010; [34540]

(2) how much his Department has spent on taxis since May 2010. [34541]

Justine Greening: The Treasury spent £813,000 on travel (of which travel by taxi in the UK was £59,000) by Ministers and officials between 1 June 2010 and 31 December 2010. The Department's accounting system
20 Jan 2011 : Column 932W
does not differentiate between travel by Ministers and officials and the information could not be obtained within the disproportionate costs threshold.

Excise Duties: Fuels

Mr Binley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to introduce a fuel duty stabiliser. [34914]

Justine Greening: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 1 November 2010, Official Report, column 665W, to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith).

Excise Duties: Motor Vehicles

Nicky Morgan: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the existing system for owners of vehicles licensed in the Historic Vehicle Taxation Class to make a Statutory Off Road Notification; and if he will bring forward proposals to reintroduce a rolling exemption from vehicle excise duty for vehicles constructed before 1 January 1973. [34920]

Justine Greening: The Statutory Off Road Notification system was introduced in 1998 and continues to offer effective tax-free storage of vehicles off the public road while ensuring the accuracy of the vehicle register. The Government have no plans to change the exemption against the current backdrop of fiscal consolidation.

Ex-Gratia Payments

Mr Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on how many occasions ex-gratia payments in respect of delayed payment of age-related rebates arising from the late processing of electronically-submitted pension forms have been made in each of the six years. [34574]

Justine Greening: 403 ex-gratia payments arising from late processing were made in 2008-09 and 85 ex-gratia payments arising from late processing were made in 2009-10. HMRC hold information from which such statistics could be provided for the four years prior to 2008-09. However, the information is not readily available and to provide the information would require a manual trawl through all clerical age-related rebate case papers worked over the four year period.

Income Tax

Guto Bebb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the likely change in the number of people in single income households with children who will pay income tax at the higher rate from (a) April 2012 and (b) April 2013. [34454]

Justine Greening: The number of people in single income households with children who will pay income tax at the higher rate from April 2012 is estimated to be around 190,000. This is estimated to be around 15,000 higher than the equivalent number from April 2011.

Estimates for April 2013 are not available.


20 Jan 2011 : Column 933W

Public Finance

Mr Meacher: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his latest estimate is of the budget deficit. [35040]

Justine Greening: Outturn figures for the Government deficit (Public Sector Net Borrowing) can be found in the public finances databank on the Treasury website:

In November, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecast Public Sector Net Borrowing to 2015-16. This is available at:

Revenue and Customs: Correspondence

Mr Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much HM Revenue and Customs spent on address cleansing in each of the last five years. [34553]

Justine Greening: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) undertook a project costing £1.03 million in 2006-07 to enable cleansing of address data on a regular basis through HMRC IT systems by reference to reliable data from external organisations specialising in the collection and consolidation of address data.

Since then HMRC has paid around £1.1 million per annum for the data.

HMRC now undertakes address cleansing and matching on weekly and monthly cycles, and pay Capgemini under the service lines appropriate to Business Applications Support and Maintenance (S02) and Data Centre Operations (S04) to do this as part of their work in maintaining and supporting HMRC IT systems. The costs for this service cannot be separated out from the overall charge.

Revenue and Customs: Location

Gregg McClymont: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what criteria he plans to apply to determine which members of HM Revenue and Customs staff are selected for compulsory relocation as a result of the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review; [34784]

(2) what his most recent estimate is of the number of compulsory relocations of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) staff between different tax offices which will arise from planned changes to HMRC's funding and organisation during the Comprehensive Spending Review period. [34785]

Justine Greening: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is currently preparing its business plan for the next four years in response to the spending review settlement. It involves the delivery of change right across the Department and the impact on lines of business, office locations and staffing is not yet known. HMRC expects to publish a high level HMRC Change and Delivery Plan around the end of January. This will be developed through the spring and beyond. Further iterations will contain the detail of impacts on individual jobs and offices.


20 Jan 2011 : Column 934W

If staff moves are needed to fit in with changing business requirements these will be considered taking personal circumstances into account. All HMRC staff have a contract of employment specifying whether the jobholder is fully mobile or has limited mobility and mobility rules provide a framework within which staff moves can take place. The mobility rules facilitate redeployment of staff both within reasonable daily travel time and, for fully mobile staff, a move of home when this is necessary.

Technology

Stephen Timms: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what support his Department is providing to the Prime Minister's initiative to create a Tech City in East London. [34566]

Danny Alexander: The Treasury is leading a Growth Review, jointly with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, in order to create the conditions for economic growth and to improve the dynamism of the UK business environment. This will cover issues of importance to technology based companies including access to finance, better regulation and competition. In its first phase, the review is focusing on a number of sectors with a high technology content including advanced manufacturing, business and professional services, digital and creative industries, and healthcare and life sciences. A first report will be made by Budget 2011.

VAT

Susan Elan Jones: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what arrangements he plans to put in place for businesses without internet access to file their value added tax returns after online filing becomes compulsory. [34435]

Justine Greening: From 1 April 2010 existing VAT registered businesses with a VAT-exclusive turnover of £100,000 or more, and all businesses newly registering for VAT on or after that date, whatever their turnover, are legally required to file their VAT returns online. From April 2012, virtually alt VAT-registered businesses will have to file VAT returns online.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) offer support and advice for all customers who need help in converting to online filing, including the very small minority of customers without internet access. Customers without internet access have the option of appointing an agent to file on their behalf, or using other internet access which may be available to them (for example, through public libraries etc). Depending on the customer's precise circumstances, there may be other options available-HMRC contact centre staff can advise individual customers further.

The vast majority of customers affected by the change have successfully made the conversion to online filing, and another 360,000 have switched to online filing voluntarily.

VAT: Child Poverty

Susan Elan Jones: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate his Department has made on levels of child poverty of the effects of the increase in the rate of value added tax. [34471]


20 Jan 2011 : Column 935W

Justine Greening: The increase in the main rate of VAT was announced by the Chancellor in the June Budget. In his Budget statement the Chancellor confirmed that the VAT increase is part of the overall plan to tackle the deficit.

Neither the June Budget, nor the spending review will have any measurable impact on child poverty over the next two years, as detailed in Annex B (distributional analysis) and the Data Sources Document. The Government published their Child Poverty consultation recently, and will publish the first Child Poverty Strategy in spring 2011.

VAT: Fuels

Mr Bain: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what estimate he has made of the receipts to accrue from (a) value added tax and (b) excise duty on petrol, diesel and other automotive fuels in each of the next four financial years; [34738]

(2) what estimate he has made of the change in the level of receipts from the sale of petrol, diesel and other automotive fuels which will result from the increase in the rate of value added tax on 4 January 2011 in each of the next four financial years. [34739]

Justine Greening: Forecasts for the total amount of receipts expected in the next four financial years from excise duty on fuels are available in Table 4.6 of the Office of Budgetary Responsibility's "Economic and Fiscal Outlook" publication:

VAT forecasts and revenue impacts from policy changes are estimated at an aggregate level and are not available for individual goods and services.

Energy and Climate Change

Carbon Emissions: Biofuels

Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether his classification of biomass as a zero-carbon technology includes consideration of emissions arising from the drying of biomass prior to the combustion of the fuel. [34833]

Gregory Barker: These emissions are considered. Under internationally agreed guidelines, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the use of fossil fuel to dry the biomass prior to combustion for energy are estimated and reported by the country where the drying takes place.

Greenhouse gas emissions associated with the combustion of biomass are counted as zero at the power plant under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines. This is because the corresponding changes in terrestrial carbon stocks are estimated and reported in the land-use change and forestry sector of the country where the harvesting for biomass took place, and are therefore not counted again at the point of use. This does not prevent the UK from using a life cycle approach in its domestic policies. The UK Government are introducing sustainability criteria for the use of solid and gaseous biomass, other than waste or wholly derived from waste, to generate electricity under the renewables obligation (RO) from
20 Jan 2011 : Column 936W
April this year. These sustainability criteria include a minimum greenhouse gas emissions saving of 60% compared to fossil fuel and general restrictions on the use of materials from land important on carbon or biodiversity grounds. The greenhouse gas emissions will be assessed across a lifecycle that includes the emissions associated with the processing of feedstocks such as drying.

Following a transition phase, where solid and gaseous biomass plants over 50 kW will be required to report on their performance against the criteria, from April 2013, solid and gaseous biomass electricity plants of 1 MW and over will be required to meet these criteria in order to receive support under the RO.

Carbon Emissions: Global Warming

Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will undertake a study of the (a) quantity, (b) origins and (c) contribution to global warming of black carbon emissions from the UK. [34834]

Gregory Barker: The Department has no current plans to commission a study specifically on the quantity, origins or contribution to global warming of black carbon emissions from the UK but the need for this is under review. The Department is, however, currently funding as part of the Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme a number of important studies on the climate impacts of black carbon more generally at a global scale. DEFRA is also funding a national network of black carbon measurements at 21 sites across the UK for air quality monitoring purposes.

Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what discussions he has had with representatives of business organisations on the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency scheme. [34633]

Gregory Barker: The Government are committed to simplifying the CRC scheme. The Secretary of State and I regularly meet businesses to discuss climate change and energy issues including the CRC. My officials are also discussing how to simplify the policy landscape with a wide range of the CRC participants.

Carbon Sequestration

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether he plans to apply a cap to the member of new entrant reserve applications for carbon capture and storage demonstration projects. [34916]

Charles Hendry: The Government do not intend to apply a cap to the number of new entrant reserve (NER) applications for carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration projects. All applications that meet the minimum NER eligibility criteria will be submitted to the European Investment Bank for consideration. As set out in our guidance on the NER, available from


20 Jan 2011 : Column 937W

we will, however, prioritise applications from CCS projects in the NER process which are consistent with the domestic policy priorities for CCS.

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether the next phase of carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration projects will include pre-combustion CCS. [34917]

Charles Hendry: As set out in the information note ("UK Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Commercial Scale Demonstration Programme: Delivery Projects 2-4 (Further Information)"), available from

published by my Department in December, the next phase of CCS demonstration projects (Projects 2-4) will be open to projects that incorporate CO2 capture based on post-combustion, pre-combustion or oxyfuel methods.

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change when he plans to announce the next phase of carbon capture and storage projects. [34918]

Charles Hendry: As set out in the information note "UK Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Commercial Scale Demonstration Programme: Delivery Projects 2-4
20 Jan 2011 : Column 938W
(Further Information)"-published by my Department in December, we intend to launch the process to select further CCS projects under the programme following Budget 2011 which is available from:

Electricity: Prices

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change pursuant to the answer of 10 January 2011, Official Report, column 142W, on energy: prices, what the increase in electricity prices for each decile of the population by income constitute in cash terms. [34250]

Charles Hendry: Pursuant to the answer of 10 January 2011, Official Report, column 142W. Government launched consultations on a package of options for reforming the electricity market on 16 December 2010. The preferred package is to have a feed-in tariff with a 'contract for difference' model for supporting low-carbon generation in combination with a targeted capacity mechanism, carbon price support and an emissions performance standard. The following table shows the estimated absolute increase in average domestic electricity bills (expressed in real 2009 prices) for each income decile for years 2013, 2016 and 2020 compared to an electricity bill in the same year absent the package of reform options.

Impact of preferred electricity market reform options on average annual electricity bill
£ (real 2009 prices)
Equivalised disposable income decile 2013 2016 2020

Bottom

2

12

6

2

2

12

6

3

2

13

6

4

2

13

6

5

3

14

7

6

2

14

7

7

3

15

7

8

3

14

7

9

3

14

7

Top

3

14

7


Energy

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of the effects on implementation of the proposals in his consultation document on electricity market reform on inward investment in the UK energy sector; and if he will make a statement. [34632]

Charles Hendry: The Electricity Market Reform consultation document sets out a range of mechanisms to secure the essential investment required in our electricity infrastructure. The consultation process is intended to garner views from industry, the financial sector, academics, NGOs and others on how we might best implement the proposals and specifically asks for information on how the mechanisms might impact levels of investment and new entry to the market. The process is intended to bring new entrants into the market, including inward investment from abroad.

The Government will be setting out their final views in a White Paper later in 2011.

Mr Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how much the Government has allocated to provide domestic energy customers with energy efficiency advice and information in 2011-12. [35337]

Gregory Barker: The Government have not yet finalised the funding for energy efficiency advice and information in 2011-12, but we can confirm that DECC will grant fund the Energy Saving Trust (EST) to deliver this advice and remains committed to ensuring that consumers receive comprehensive, high quality telephone and online advice in 2011-12.

Energy Supply

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what recent discussions he has had with gas and electricity suppliers on trends in energy supply costs to domestic consumers; and if he will make a statement. [34631]


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Charles Hendry: DECC Ministers and officials meet with suppliers on a regular basis to discuss market issues.

We believe it is important that consumers have the lowest possible energy bills, consistent with the need to invest to reduce carbon emissions from energy and ensure security of supply.

Ofgem therefore, monitors the market closely and reports quarterly on retail prices. Their latest report shows large increases in estimated supplier margins for the year ahead, largely due to recent price increases. We are disappointed on behalf of consumers by this development and welcome the announcement of Ofgem's review of the retail market. Ofgem will report on this review in March of this year. This announcement is available online at:

Energy Supply: Biofuels

Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what information his Department holds on the proportion of biomass used in heating and electricity generation in the UK which is imported; and how much biomass was imported for such purposes from each country in the latest period for which figures are available. [34832]

Gregory Barker: DECC publishes data on the imports of straw, short rotation coppice and other plant-based biomass for energy use. Imports of these fuels represented 36 per cent of total supply of these fuels for energy use in 2009. DECC does not hold information on the source of these imports. Information on wood imports is collected by HM Revenue and Customs as part of its overseas trade statistics but these data do not indicate the final use of the wood. As such, DECC does not have a figure for the proportion of imports of wood used for energy use.

As referred to in PQ 2010-1241, from April 2009, the renewables obligation required electricity generators over 50 kilowatts to submit an annual sustainability report to Ofgem setting out the available information on their biomass feedstocks, including country of origin. Information for the first reporting period is available from Ofgem's website at:

Energy: Prices

Graeme Morrice: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will use his powers under the Energy Act 2010 to introduce social pricing for low-income families with children. [35472]

Gregory Barker: The coalition Government announced in the spending review that energy suppliers will be required from April 2011 to provide greater help with the financial costs of energy bills to more of the most vulnerable fuel poor households. This will be delivered through the Warm Home Discount-with total support of £250 million in 2011-12 rising to £310 million in 2014-15.


20 Jan 2011 : Column 940W

We have recently consulted on the detailed policy design, including eligibility and targeting methods and a response to this consultation will be published in due course.

Dr Thérèse Coffey: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will estimate the number of people (a) in Suffolk Coastal constituency and (b) nationally who have entered fuel poverty as a result of recent trends in the price of heating oil. [35484]

Gregory Barker: DECC does not have any information on the number of households entering fuel poverty as a result of recent trends in heating oil prices at either a national or regional level.

However, as seen in the following tables, DECC does have estimates of the number of households in England and the East of England Government office region using heating oil to heat their homes and the proportion of these that are fuel poor. The most recent data currently available relates to 2008.

East of England (Government office region)

Number of households using heating oil (Thousand) Number of these households that are fuel poor (Thousand) Proportion of 'heating oil' households in fuel poverty (Percentage)

2007

202

43

21

2008

209

63

30


England

Number of households using heating oil (Thousand) Number of these households that are fuel poor (Thousand) Proportion of 'heating oil' households in fuel poverty (Percentage)

2007

926

214

23

2008

828

236

29


Fuel Oil

Mr Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what estimate he has made of the number of households in (a) England, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales and (d) Northern Ireland who rely on the use of domestic heating oil. [35336]

Gregory Barker: The latest figures available show that around 828,000 households in England; 155,000 in Scotland; 143,000 in Wales and 527,000 in Northern Ireland use domestic heating oil as their main heating fuel.

These figures are estimated by each devolved Administration from their latest housing and house condition surveys.

Mr Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what estimate he has made of the monetary value of heating oil sales in (a) England, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales and (d) Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. [35338]

Charles Hendry: The following table details UK expenditure on heating oils by the domestic and non-domestic sector.


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£ million
Domestic Non-domestic

Burning oil Gas oil Burning oil Gas oil Fuel oil

2005

850

50

450

1,570

80

2006

1,030

70

580

1,670

150

2007

950

80

570

1,670

200

2008

1,420

110

730

2,350

260

2009

1,020

70

540

1,670

190

Source:
Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) 2010

Neither the domestic nor the non-domestic data above are able to be split by country. A large proportion of the non-domestic fuel spend shown above will be used for non-heating purposes.

Data from the ONS's Family Spending report (table A3 7) suggest that on average for the period 2007-09, households in England spent £0.90/week, in Scotland £1.40/week, in Wales £2.50/week and in Northern Ireland £13.80/week on home fuels excluding gas and electricity.

Met Office

Harriett Baldwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what written long range winter weather forecast his Department received from the Met Office in October 2010. [35463]

Gregory Barker: The Met Office provided a written forecast to the Cabinet Office in October, which was then shared with the Department.

The forecast stated that early to mid-winter in northern Europe was likely to be colder and drier than the 1971 to 2000 average, with an increased risk of a cold and wintry start.

Methane: Natural Gas

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether he has made an assessment of the potential effects of (a) shale gas and (b) coalbed methane exploration on the development of low-carbon energy. [34852]

Charles Hendry: The impact of unconventional gas production on the development of low-carbon energy in the UK will be principally driven by its impact on UK gas prices. The impact of further unconventional production on UK prices will depend on the extent and location of any production, whether production levels exceed or fall short of market expectations, and how it alters the costs of the marginal source of gas supply.

However, the prospects for unconventional gas are only one driver for gas prices. The future path of UK gas prices will also be driven by the global demand for gas, the price of other fuels, the tightness in different parts of the supply chain, the reliability of different supplies and the cost of producing conventional gas.

Under current market arrangements, if gas prices were to fall and if there were not an offsetting increase in carbon prices then this could result in less investment in low-carbon generation and greater investment in gas-fired generation. The opposite could result if gas prices were to rise.


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Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will assess the potential effects of exploration of (a) shale gas and (b) coalbed methane on meeting UK climate change targets. [34853]

Charles Hendry: Shale gas and coalbed methane have not yet been commercially proven on a large scale in the UK, so it is too early to judge any potential effects on UK climate change targets.

Natural Gas

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what his policy is on a moratorium on shale gas exploration pending the report of the US Environmental Protection Agency on risks to humans and the environment. [34854]

Charles Hendry: Government are aware there have been reports from US of issues linked to some shale gas projects.

The UK has a long history of onshore gas exploration, the range of techniques employed in shale gas drilling and testing operations is broadly similar to those used for orthodox gas production, and there is a strong regulatory safety and environmental regime in place administered by the Health and Safety Executive, local authorities and the relevant environmental agencies to ensure that potential risks to safety or the environment are properly managed.

There are only a small number of companies pursuing shale gas extraction in the UK at present and the size of this resource has still yet to be quantified. We would not expect high levels of activity over the next few years.

On the basis of available information, the Department sees no need for a moratorium on shale gas activities in the UK.

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what independent scientific advice he has sought on the environmental implications of drilling for shale gas. [35046]

Charles Hendry: It has not been necessary to seek independent scientific advice. There is a robust regulatory system in place to ensure any environmental implications are minimised. These would be assessed on a site-specific basis by the Environment Agency (EA), in England and Wales, via their role as a statutory consultee in the planning process or as part of their consideration of the need for, and subsequent response to, an application for an environmental permit (under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010). The EA has its own in-house technical expertise which is used to support its role in protecting and managing water quality and resources and this expertise is available to Government.

In addition the British Geological Survey (BGS) has geological expertise and holds the nation's base data on geological conditions. On behalf of DECC, BGS recently carried out a study on the prospectivity of shale gas in the UK. The study has been placed on DECC's oil and gas website and can be found via the following weblink:


20 Jan 2011 : Column 943W

In terms of environmental emissions, there is no current commercial production of shale gas within UK territory and no assessment of the potential impact on global warming of such operations has been made.

More generally Government and their regulatory agencies will study the experience already gained in other countries, notably the US, though it cannot be assumed that US experience will necessarily be equally relevant to UK conditions or to the UK regulatory framework.

Nuclear Power Stations

Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether his Department has assessed the supply of nuclear technicians required for the development of new nuclear power stations. [35219]

Charles Hendry: Yes. Cogent, the sector skills council, have created two pieces of labour market research to establish the current state of skills in the industry and model the future skills requirements. The second report "Next Generation, Skills for New Build Nuclear" was published in March 2010 in response to a request from the Nuclear Development Forum to research capacity, capability and timeline to secure a new build nuclear programme up to 2025. The report assessed the skills landscape and identified areas where there was a risk of there not being enough skilled workers. It recommends mitigating actions which the Department is working with skills bodies to implement.

Renewable Energy

Mrs McGuire: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change for what reasons the Renewables Obligation does not require minimum energy efficiency standards in respect of eligibility for biomass energy support; and if he will make a statement. [34768]

Charles Hendry: The renewables obligation promotes the efficient use of biomass for electricity in two ways. Firstly, renewables obligation certificates are only rewarded for actual electricity generated, the less efficient the generation the less ROCs they will receive.

Secondly, the UK Government are introducing sustainability criteria for the use of solid and gaseous biomass (other than waste or wholly derived from waste) to generate electricity under the renewables obligation (RO) from April this year. These sustainability criteria include a minimum greenhouse gas emissions saving of 60% compared to fossil fuel assessed across a lifecycle that includes consideration of the energy conversion efficiency of the generating plant.

Following a transition phase, where solid and gaseous biomass plants over 50 kilowatts will be required to report on their performance against the criteria, from April 2013 biomass electricity plants of 1 megawatt and over will be required to meet these criteria in order to receive support under the RO.


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