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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 19 March 2012

Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Committee

Pay

Mr Winnick: To ask the hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, whether the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has remunerated (a) hon. Members, (b) staff and (c) consultants by making payments to companies rather than to the individuals concerned; and if he will make a statement. [96283]

Mr Charles Walker [holding answer 27 February 2012]: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). I have asked IPSA to reply.

Letter from Andrew McDonald, dated 13 March 2011:

As Chief Executive of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking whether IPSA has remunerated MPs, its staff or consultants by making payments to companies rather than the individuals concerned.

All MPs are paid through the PAYE system, with tax and national insurance contributions deducted at source. Similarly, all permanent IPSA staff and Members of the IPSA Board are paid through the PAYE system, either directly by IPSA or—in the case of seconded staff—by their parent body. Temporary staff are provided through employment agencies which are responsible for paying the individuals concerned.

Since May 2010, IPSA has contracted with a number of small companies for a variety of technical, accountancy and consultancy services.

Attorney-General

Cybercrime: Prosecutions

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Attorney-General how many prosecutions there have been for offences relating to cybercrime in the last year for which figures are available. [100763]

The Solicitor-General: There is no specific offence of cybercrime. A number of offences may involve the use of a computer or a network in the commission of, or as a target of, crime. The Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office do not record centrally the number of prosecutions that may relate to cybercrime and such information could be obtained only at a disproportionate cost.

Human Trafficking

Mr Bone: To ask the Attorney-General what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on reviewing laws relating to human trafficking. [100828]

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The Solicitor-General: The Law Officers meet regularly with Ministers from the Home Department to discuss a range of issues, including human trafficking. The Home Office recently led a review of legislation relating to human trafficking and consulted the Law Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service about proposed amendments to offences. The Protection of Freedoms Bill contains the current proposed amendments.

Prime Minister

Afghanistan

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Prime Minister when he next plans to update the House on the Government's strategy in Afghanistan. [99702]

The Prime Minister: I answered questions on the Government's strategy in Afghanistan at Prime Minister's Questions on 7 March 2012. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), made an oral statement on progress in Afghanistan on 9 February 2012, Official Report, columns 496-99. This was the fifth in a series of quarterly oral statements made by the Government since 2010. Fourteen progress reports have been produced as written ministerial statements since 2010.

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Prime Minister if he will discuss the situation in Afghanistan when he next meets President Obama; and what his priorities are in respect of Afghanistan for that meeting. [99703]

The Prime Minister: I refer the right hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) on 7 March 2012, Official Report, column 837.

Business Advisory Group

Mr Umunna: To ask the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library the minutes of his meeting with his Business Advisory Group on 6 February 2012. [100331]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Nicholas Soames) on 20 February 2012, Official Report, column 541W.

Foreign Relations

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Prime Minister (1) when (a) he and (b) senior officials of his Office last had discussions on the Eurofighter Typhoon with their counterparts in (i) Oman, (ii) UAE, (iii) Malaysia, (iv) Qatar, (v) Saudi Arabia and (vi) India; [99067]

(2) when was the last time (a) he and (b) senior No. 10 officials met their counterparts in (i) Oman, (ii) United Arab Emirates, (iii) Malaysia, (iv) Qatar, (v) Saudi Arabia and (vi) India. [99149]

The Prime Minister: I have been heavily involved in efforts to secure additional export orders for Eurofighter Typhoon.

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Eurofighter Typhoon has been discussed in my recent contacts with counterparts in Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, India and Qatar.

Energy and Climate Change

Fuel Poverty

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change pursuant to the oral answer of 8 March 2012, Official Report, columns 993-94, on fuel poverty, how many households were in fuel poverty in (a) 2009 and (b) 1996. [100559]

Gregory Barker: The number of households in fuel poverty in these years is shown in the following table.

Number of households in fuel poverty
Million
  UK England

2009

5.5

4.0

1996

6.5

5.1

Green Deal Scheme

Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will estimate the total value of unpaid interest a household would be required to pay in order to end a 25-year Green Deal plan for measures worth £10,000 with interest charged at 5 per cent. per annum after five years of payment. [100503]

Gregory Barker: This depends entirely on whether the provider has incurred a loss as a result of the early repayment. As a credit agreement, certain Green Deals will be subject to the Consumer Credit Act; the rules around early repayment and any fees that may apply are set out in this Act and associated regulations and are based on the consumer credit directive. We set out proposals in our consultation to allow Green Deal providers to rely on section 95B of the Consumer Credit Act to claim additional compensation, above what is currently permitted, but only where the interest rate is fixed and the plan runs for more than 15 years.

Our ultimate objective is to keep the cost of finance as low as possible for all Green Deal customers. Our aim in allowing this compensation is to enable Green Deal providers to claim any losses directly from someone who is choosing to repay their plan early, rather than pricing this risk into all Green Deal plans.

However, there are restrictions around the compensation to ensure fairness for consumers. Any compensation claimed should only cover the loss the Green Deal provider has suffered as a consequence of a customer choosing to repay early. That compensation must also be fair and objectively justifiable. The amount is ultimately capped at the amount of interest that would have been payable had the plan continued, but opportunities to reinvest need to be taken into account.

In the example given, if the Green Deal provider could reinvest the money repaid early in another Green Deal plan earning at least the same rate of interest, it is highly unlikely any compensation at all could be justifiably charged. If the Green Deal provider could reinvest the money repaid early but at a lower interest rate, the

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maximum compensation due would not be the full amount of unpaid interest but the difference between what would have been received and what will now be received.

We received a number of responses on this specific issue in the consultation, and we will set out more fully the government response shortly on this as well as detailed guidance on how GDPs should work out any potential compensation. In all cases, Green Deal providers remain free not to charge any fee at all if they feel able to manage the risk of early repayment in other ways, and Green Deal providers will need to set out their approach to early repayment fees at the outset of the contract.

Local Energy Assessment Fund

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change pursuant to the answer of 5 March 2012, Official Report, column 554W, on Local Energy Assessment Fund, if he will list the (a) successful and (bunsuccessful applications by parliamentary constituency. [99877]

Gregory Barker: We do not have a list of all successful and unsuccessful Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF) applications by parliamentary constituency. Details of successful projects are available on the interactive LEAF map, which is on the DECC website:

http://ceo.decc.gov.uk

In addition, I recently wrote to hon. Members with successful projects in their constituencies to encourage them to offer their support.

I am placing the two lists, which relate to LEAF Phase 1 and Phase 2 and which were used to contact Members in this way, in the Libraries of the House. For some LEAF projects, that potentially cut across several hon. Members' constituencies, more than one hon. Member is shown.

Procurement

Tom Greatrex: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what proportion of contracts issued by (a) his Department and (b) agencies for which he is responsible were awarded to small and medium-sized enterprises in the latest period for which figures are available. [100364]

Gregory Barker: The value of contracts awarded to small and medium-sized entities (SMEs) is as follows:

(a) For the Department of Energy and Climate Change:

£1.4 million was spent with SMEs from 1 April to 31 December 2011, representing 3% of all DECC expenditure with suppliers in this period. DECC does not have a central record of contracts. It would incur disproportionate cost for DECC to establish the proportion of contracts let in this period to SMEs.

(b) For DECC’ s non- departmental public bodies:

As with DECC, the following data represent the percentage of payments made to SMEs between 1 April and 31 December 2011, not the percentage of contracts let to SMEs which is not available.

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority—16% (£3.8 million)

Civil Nuclear Police Authority—Data not available

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Coal Authority(1)—22% (£4.6 million)

Committee on Climate Change—97% (£ value not supplied)

(1) This is an estimated percentage based on the minimum amounts that could have been spent with SMEs. It is possible that the figure could be higher.

Work Experience

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change pursuant to the answer of 3 May 2011, Official Report, column 688W, on departmental work experience, how many people (a) worked as an intern, (b) undertook a work experience placement and (c) worked as a volunteer in his Department in accordance with the hiring criteria set out in that answer in the last 12 months for which data are available; and how many such people were employed other than according to those criteria. [100743]

Gregory Barker: During the past 12 months, in DECC (a) 22 people have been employed as interns (advertised short-term contracts), (b) 11 people have undertaken work experience placements and (c) nobody worked as a volunteer in accordance with the hiring criteria set out in our answer of 3 May 2011, Official Report, column 688W. No people in these criteria were employed by any other means.

Scotland

Equality and Human Rights Commission

Graeme Morrice: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with Ministers in the (a) Home Department and (b) Scottish Government on the future of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's offices in Scotland. [100197]

David Mundell: The Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore), and I are in regular contact with Home Office Ministers and Scottish Government Ministers on a range of matters. The location of Equality and Human Rights Commission offices is an operational matter for that organisation to consider.

Information Commissioner

Mr Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many appeals his Department has made to an information tribunal contesting a decision notice of the Information Commissioner in the last 12 months. [100296]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office has made no appeals to an information tribunal contesting a decision notice of the Information Commissioner in the last 12 months.

Lost Property

Dr Whiteford: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what property has been lost or stolen from his Department in the last 12 months; and what the estimated cost was of replacement of such property. [100906]

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David Mundell: In the last 12 months, six items have been reported as lost or stolen. The Scotland Office incurred costs of £667 to replace the items.

Item Circumstances Replacement cost (£)

BlackBerry

Lost while being carried by the Scottish Government van service

125

Rail tickets

Lost while being carried by the Scottish Government van service

114

Rail tickets

Lost while being carried by the Scottish Government van service

53.20

BlackBerry

Stolen or lost

125

BlackBerry

Stolen or lost

125

BlackBerry

Stolen

125

McKinsey and Company

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much his Department paid to McKinsey and Company in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [100573]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office paid nothing to McKinsey and Company in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12.

Remploy

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) what recent discussions his Department has had with Remploy concerning the procurement of goods; [100926]

(2) whether his Department has procured any goods from Remploy factories; and if so what the value was of such procurements. [100927]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office does not generally undertake direct procurement or tendering projects. It utilises framework contracts between suppliers and other Government bodies. All expenditure is incurred in accordance with the principles of Managing Public Money.

Work Experience

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland pursuant to the answer of 3 May 2011, Official Report, column 661W, on departmental work experience, how many people (a) worked as an intern, (b) undertook a work experience placement and (c) worked as a volunteer in his Department in accordance with the hiring criteria set out in that answer in the last 12 months for which data are available; and how many such people were employed other than according to those criteria. [100744]

David Mundell: In the last 12 months the Scotland Office had one intern as part of the Whitehall Interns scheme in July 2011. The scheme was developed in response to a pledge in the coalition agreement to provide internships in every Whitehall Department for people from under-represented groups, including black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. The Office also had one person who undertook work experience in September 2011. No volunteers have worked in the

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Department. The Office has continued to assess requests on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the answer of 3 May 2011.

Northern Ireland

Departmental Responsibilities

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on what dates he had meetings with the Home Secretary to discuss (a) drug classification, (b) the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, (c) explosives, (d) security, (e) extradition and (f) immigration in the last year; and if he will make a statement. [100826]

Mr Paterson: I have regular meetings with the Secretary of State for the Home Department, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), covering a variety of topics on areas of mutual concern.

EU Grants and Loans

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the Answer of 12 March 2012, Official Report, column 44W, on EU grants and loans, what recent discussions he has had with the (a) Minister for Europe, (b) Irish Government and (c) Northern Ireland Executive on the future of EU funding for the Peace III programme; if he will give the dates of such discussions in the last year; and if he will make a statement. [100697]

Mr Paterson: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave on 12 March 2012, Official Report, column 44W.

Information Commissioner

Mr Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many appeals his Department has made to an information tribunal contesting a decision notice of the Information Commissioner in the last 12 months. [100297]

Mr Swire: None.

McKinsey and Company

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much his Department paid to McKinsey and Company in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [100574]

Mr Swire: The Northern Ireland Office have no record of any payments to McKinsey and Company during 2010-11 or 2011-12.

Police Service of Northern Ireland

Mr Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 5 March 2012, Official Report, column 491W, on departmental responsibilities, on what dates (a) he and (b) Ministers in his Department have met the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland; and what was discussed at each such meeting. [100788]

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Mr Paterson: I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave on 5 March 2012, Official Report, column 491W. The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire), and I regularly meet the Chief Constable of the PSNI and discuss a variety of topics of mutual concern.

Serious Organised Crime Agency

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what recent assessment he has made of the work of the Serious Organised Crime Agency in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement; [100827]

(2) what discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the replacement of the Serious Organised Crime Agency with the National Crime Agency. [100842]

Mr Swire: Matters relating to the Serious Organised Crime Agency's work in Northern Ireland all under the responsibility of the devolved administration in Northern Ireland.

My officials are working closely with their counterparts in the Home Office on the current proposals in relation to the National Crime Agency.

Terrorism: Belfast

Naomi Long: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what assessment he has made of levels of terrorist activity in East Belfast; and if he will make a statement; [100342]

(2) what his assessment is of the state of Loyalist ceasefires; [100343]

(3) whether he has received any recent representations from, or had any recent discussions with, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland regarding Loyalist paramilitary activity and threat levels in Belfast East constituency; [100344]

(4) what recent assessment he has made of the level of Loyalist paramilitary activity in East Belfast. [100360]

Mr Swire: Since Friday 9 March, there have been three pipe bomb attacks in the constituency of Belfast East. I utterly condemn these acts, which I understand to be serious and dangerous criminality. These attacks are currently under police investigation and there is no indication at present that these were related to national security. Both the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), and I have regular and frequent contact with the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

I have not discussed these matters with him as responsibility for non-national security related policing and justice matters is devolved.

As the Secretary of State said in his recent statement on the Northern Ireland security situation, both the UDA and UVF leadership remain committed to their ceasefires, although there has been unsanctioned violent activity including involvement in a wide range of acts of criminality.

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Wales

Information Commissioner

Mr Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many appeals her Department has made to an information tribunal contesting a decision notice of the Information Commissioner in the last 12 months. [100295]

Mr David Jones: None.

Lost Property

Dr Whiteford: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what property has been lost or stolen from her Department in the last 12 months; and what the estimated cost was of replacement of such property. [100912]

Mr David Jones: During the last 12 months, one mobile telephone was reported as lost; this was not replaced.

McKinsey and Company

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much her Department paid to McKinsey and Company in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and if she will make a statement. [100572]

Mr David Jones: The Wales Office has made no payments to McKinsey and Company.

Railways: Electrification

Dr Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions she has had with (a) the Secretary of State for Transport, (b) the First Minister of the Welsh Government and (c) the business community in South Wales on rail electrification from Cardiff to Swansea; and if she will make a statement. [100516]

Mr David Jones: The Secretary of State for Wales, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), has regular discussions with the Secretary of State for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening) and the First Minister on rail electrification. The issue has also been discussed with members of the business community in Wales, through the Secretary of State's Business Advisory Group and, at the end of February, the Secretary of State discussed the matter with new chief executive of the CBI Wales.

The case for electrification between Cardiff and Swansea remains under review and the Wales Office continues to make a case for the economic benefits that electrification to Swansea would bring.

Remploy

Dr Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions she has had with Welsh Government Ministers on the transfer of Welsh Remploy budgets to Wales; and if she will make a statement. [100517]

Mr David Jones: The Secretary of State for Wales, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), has discussed the issue of Remploy with

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the First Minister. Last week I met with Leighton Andrews AM, Welsh Government Minister for Education and Skills, and the Minister for Disabled People, my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller), to discuss the future of the factories. There are no plans for Remploy budgets to be devolved to the Welsh Government.

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales (1) whether her Department has procured any goods from Remploy factories; and what the value of any such procurements was; [100860]

(2) what recent discussions her Department has had with Remploy concerning the procurement of goods. [100925]

Mr David Jones: The Wales Office uses the procurement buying power of the Ministry of Justice, to ensure maximum savings to the public purse. We do not perform any of our own procurement.

Culture, Media and Sport

Betting

Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what estimate he has made of the proportion of betting which takes place through electronic point of sale systems; and if he will make a statement. [100441]

John Penrose: No estimate has been made on the proportion of betting which takes place through electronic point of sale (EPOS) systems. However, in his report on the use of dormant betting accounts and unclaimed winnings, the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster), suggested that all major high street licensed betting offices use EPOS systems to place a bet, determine odds and calculate winnings.

Betting: Dormant Accounts

Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (1) if he will take steps to require that electronic point of sale systems used for betting can hold details of unclaimed winnings; and if he will make a statement; [100442]

(2) if he will take steps to require that betting shops are electronically linked for the purpose of settling bets; and if he will make a statement. [100443]

John Penrose: We will consider the points made by the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) about the use of electronic point of sale systems in his report on the use of funds in dormant betting accounts and unclaimed winnings.

Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what his policy is on the length of time unused customer accounts held by betting companies should be held before being deemed to be dormant; and if he will make a statement. [100444]

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John Penrose: The right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) suggested the length of time unused customer accounts should be held by companies before being deemed to be dormant should be 18 months. This proposal will be considered, alongside the rest of his report's recommendations.

Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what steps he takes to monitor the efforts of commercial betting operators to contact customers who have dormant accounts or unclaimed winnings; and if he will make a statement. [100445]

John Penrose: The Government do not monitor the interactions of individual businesses with their customers, although this issue was looked at as part of the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster)’s investigation into the use of dormant betting accounts and unclaimed winnings. The report is available at:

http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/Dormant_Betting_Accounts_Report_Don_Foster_Dec_2010.pdf

Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what estimate he has made of the amount held by betting companies in unclaimed winnings and dormant betting accounts; and if he will make a statement. [100406]

John Penrose: The right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) considered this issue as part of his investigation into the use of dormant betting accounts and unclaimed winnings. He reported, in December 2010, that it had not been possible to obtain this information from the majority of betting operators, but noted that the unclaimed dividends from pool betting with the Tote was £944,000 in 2009-10.

Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what his policy is on the proportion of the money held by betting companies in the form of unclaimed winnings and dormant betting accounts that should be paid to the Government; for what purpose he would use such monies; and if he will make a statement. [100408]

John Penrose: In his report on the use of funds in dormant betting accounts and unclaimed winnings, the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster), suggested that 75% of unclaimed funds could be invested in activities such as grassroots sports, with the operator retaining the remaining 25%, on the understanding that they would use this to pay the customer if they returned to collect their winnings. The Government will consider all the recommendations in his report once we have legislated for our proposals for remote gambling, as proposed in his report.

Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what recent discussions he has had with commercial betting operators regarding dormant accounts and unclaimed winnings; and if he will make a statement. [100410]

John Penrose: The subject has been mentioned briefly in a variety of meetings on other topics and I have made it clear that, as proposed in the report by the right hon.

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Member for Bath (Mr Foster), I do not intend to address the issue until we have legislated to reform remote gambling.

British Overseas Territories

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (1) if he will place in the Library a copy of the paper his Department prepared on discharging its responsibilities towards the British Overseas Territories; [100384]

(2) pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 14 September 2011, Official Report, column 48WS, on the Overseas Territories Strategy, if he will publish the paper his Department prepared on how it intends to recognise its responsibility to engage with the British Overseas Territories. [100556]

John Penrose: This Department's publication outlining how we support the Overseas Territories within the fields of communications, culture and sport is available at:

http://www.culture.gov.uk/publications/8920.aspx

A copy wilt be placed in both House Libraries. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office plan to publish a White Paper setting out the Government's overall approach to the Overseas Territories shortly.

Broadband: Urban Areas

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport pursuant to the answer of 31 January 2012, Official Report, column 6W, from which budget the Urban Broadband Fund comes from. [100590]

Mr Vaizey: At the autumn statement, the Government took action to ensure the fiscal plan remains on course. It reduced public spending permanently in the medium and long term, making the fiscal position more sustainable. The Government used the savings from these decisions in the short term to support balanced economic growth, social mobility and to help young people find work. As part of this, £100 million was allocated to the Urban Broadband Fund.

Film Industry

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what meetings he has had with stakeholders regarding (a) the UK film industry and (b) Twickenham Film Studios in the last 12 months. [100405]

Mr Vaizey: The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt), and I meet regularly with representatives of the British film industry. Details of all meetings with external organisations are published on our website:

www.transparency.culture.gov.uk

I have had no discussions on Twickenham Film Studios.

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Information Commissioner

Mr Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport how many appeals his Department has made to an information tribunal contesting a decision notice of the Information Commissioner in the last 12 months. [100298]

John Penrose: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has not appealed a decision notice issued by the Information Commissioner in the last 12 months.

Lost Property

Dr Whiteford: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what property has been (a) lost and (b) stolen from his Department in the last 12 months; and what the estimated cost was of replacement of such property. [100795]

John Penrose: In the last 12 months, one memory stick, one pager, two BlackBerrys and three RSA tokens have been lost from this Department. One laptop and one BlackBerry have been stolen. The cost of replacing this property was £665.

McKinsey and Company

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport how much his Department paid to McKinsey and Company in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [100583]

John Penrose: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has made no payments to McKinsey and Company in the years 2010-11 or 2011-12 to the end of February 2012.

Procurement

Tom Greatrex: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what proportion of contracts issued by (a) his Department and (b) agencies for which he is responsible were awarded to small and medium-sized enterprises in the latest period for which figures are available. [100362]

John Penrose: During the financial year 2010-11, 43% of the Department’s total procurement spend went to small and medium sized enterprises (SME's). The Department has not yet assessed the proportion for the current financial year to date.

The Department does not collate this information for its agency. Accordingly, I have asked the chief executive of the Royal Parks to write directly to the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West with this information.

Radio Frequencies: Mobile Phones

Alun Cairns: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what proportion of consumers living in the not-spots identified in Appendix C of the Mobile Infrastructure Project would have (a) outdoor coverage and (b) indoor coverage if (i) 900 Mhz, (ii) 800 Mhz, (c) 1800 Mhz and (iv) 2100 Mhz spectrum were used. [99372]

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Mr Vaizey: Ofcom’s Infrastructure report published last November reports on 2G and 3G in their respective bands (2G uses 900 MHz and 1800 MHz and 3G uses 2100 MHz). The Ofcom report concentrates on outdoor coverage only. Appendix C of the Infrastructure report uses the 2G coverage data to identify total not-spots, defined as where no operator offers a service. The 800 MHz spectrum is due to be released for auction later this year. The use of 800 MHz on existing 2G sites, or the reuse of the 900 MHz band for 3G or 4G would not be expected to significantly reduce total spots, which is why the Mobile Infrastructure Project aims to add additional sites to provide coverage to premises in not-spots.

Alun Cairns: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what assessment he has made of the effect of the distribution of low frequency spectrum licences on the competitiveness of the mobile telephony sector. [100097]

Mr Vaizey: The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt), has made no assessment of this, as it is a matter for Ofcom, which regulate spectrum. The direction to Ofcom of 2010 included a requirement to assess competition in the mobile market, both current and future, and to take that into account in the design of the forthcoming 4G auction.

Ofcom have a current consultation on the design of the auction which closes on 22 March.

Cyber-security

Dr Huppert: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what assessment he has made of the potential effect of proposals in the forthcoming Communications Green Paper on fundamental freedoms and rights as outlined in Objective 3 of the UK Cyber Security Strategy. [100316]

Mr Vaizey: The forthcoming Green Paper will reflect the work already under way to deliver against the cyber security strategy, published last November. The Government are a strong supporter of freedom of expression on the internet and will continue to encourage states that restrict access to online media to uphold their international human rights commitments. In October last year, I attended the Council of Europe/Austrian conference in Vienna, in my capacity as Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative industries. This was to help facilitate endorsement of the “Internet Governance 2012-2015 Council of Europe Strategy” in early 2012, which identifies priorities for 2012-2015 to advance the protection and respect for human rights, the rule of law, and democracy on the Internet.

Television: Licensing

Mr Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what estimate he has made of the likely cost of extending the free television licence to all pensioner households. [100418]

Mr Vaizey: The Government have not made any estimate.

19 Mar 2012 : Column 451W

The Government fund free TV licences for pensioners aged 75 or over because, as a group, they are more likely to be reliant on television for information and entertainment, for reasons of poor health, lack of mobility and social isolation (as well as, on average, having lower incomes than younger pensioners). This relieves large numbers of older people of a substantial household bill for a service that is especially important to them. The Government have no plans to change the current age criteria.

Work Experience

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport pursuant to the answer of 11 May 2011, Official Report, column 1255W, on departmental work experience, how many people (a) worked as an intern, (b) undertook a work experience placement and (c) worked as a volunteer in his Department in accordance with the hiring criteria set out in that answer in the last 12 months for which data are available; and how many such people were employed other than according to those criteria. [100734]

John Penrose: In the last 12 months this Department has had three people undertake work placements. Two of the placements were arranged through the centrally run Whitehall Internship Programme for people from under-represented groups. One placement was arranged outside the hiring criteria set out in the answer of 11 May 2011, Official Report, columns 1255-56W. This exception was because it was a specialist work experience arranged to promote our Government Art Collection.

Treasury

Air Passenger Duty

Henry Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the merits of varying rates of air passenger duty (APD) according to which airport a passenger flies from within England; and if he will assess the effects of varying rates of APD on levels of economic activity across England. [100358]

Miss Chloe Smith: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards) on 23 January 2012, Official Report, column 31W.

Alcoholic Drinks: Pricing

Mr Brady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what meetings (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department have had on alcohol minimum pricing with (i) members of the beverage alcohol manufacturing industry, (ii) supermarkets, (iii) pubs and other members of the on-trade and (iv) members of health and other alcohol-related non-governmental organisations since September 2011. [100564]

Miss Chloe Smith: Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery.

19 Mar 2012 : Column 452W

The Treasury publishes a list of ministerial meetings with external organisations, available at:

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/minister_hospitality.htm

Official Hospitality

Jonathan Ashworth: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what official (a) lunches, (b) dinners and (c) receptions he hosted in each of the last six months; and what the (i) location, (ii) cost to the public purse and (iii) purpose was of each such event; [67653]

(2) what official (a) lunches, (b) dinners and (c) receptions he hosted in each of the last 12 months; and what the (i) location, (ii) total cost to the public purse and (iii) purpose was of each event. [72430]

Miss Chloe Smith: In the last 16 months the Chancellor and other HM Treasury Ministers have hosted more than 20 receptions at No. 11 Downing street. All of these have been for charities, with no cost to the public purse for any of the receptions held.

A breakdown of meetings held with external organisations is available on the HM Treasury website:

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/minister_hospitality.htm

Devolution: Scotland

Anas Sarwar: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the effect of the reduction in the rate of corporation tax on Barnett consequentials for Scotland between 2011 and 2015. [100834]

Danny Alexander: Barnett consequentials are calculated on departmental expenditure limit (DEL) spending; therefore there will be no Barnett consequentials following the reduction in the rate of corporation tax.

Excise Duties: Motor Vehicles

Mr Crausby: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what revenue accrued to the Exchequer from vehicle excise duty in the latest period for which figures are available. [100472]

Miss Chloe Smith: The latest out-turn figure for vehicle excise duty is for 2010-11 at £5.8 billion, published in table ‘C.3, Current receipts: OBR forecast' of autumn statement 2011, Cm8231. Receipts figures will be updated in the 2012 Budget report.

Fuels: Prices

Ian Paisley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his Department has had discussions with large supermarkets and large fuel providers on regional pricing of fuel. [100604]

Miss Chloe Smith: Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery.

The Treasury publishes a list of ministerial meetings with external organisations, available at:

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/minister_hospitality.htm

19 Mar 2012 : Column 453W

ICT

Stephen Mosley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to encourage growth and innovation in the information and communications technology sector. [100291]

Mr Vaizey: I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Department for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.

This Department is delivering a number of programmes and initiatives that will support growth and innovation both in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, and across the economy more generally. For example, we are spending £780 million on programmes aimed at ensuring that we have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015—infrastructure investment that is essential to allowing innovative companies, especially in the ICT sectors to grow and to flourish. We are also working with Ofcom to ensure that the auction of spectrum for 4G mobile can take place at the end of this year.

We will shortly be publishing a Green Paper setting out proposals for a regulatory framework for the communications and broadcasting sectors aimed at providing a supportive environment for growth and innovation. This Department is also working closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and other Departments to promote the establishment of a true digital single market, which will support innovation in the ICT sectors as well as providing much wider economic benefits.

Income Tax: Rates and Bands

Sir Robert Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the number of people resident in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine constituency who will no longer pay income tax consequent (a) on the proposed increase in the personal allowance from April 2012 and (b) on the proposed increase in the personal allowance to £10,000 by April 2015. [100492]

Mr Gauke: The 2011 Budget announced a £630 cash increase in the personal allowance for under-65s to £8,105 in 2012-13 (£240 above indexation), with an equivalent reduction in the basic rate limit to leave the higher rate threshold unchanged.

As a result of these measures the Government estimated that in 2012-13, 260,000 of the lowest-income taxpayers will be removed from tax altogether. Information at Government office region is provided in the following table.

Government office region Number taken out of income tax (thousand)

North East

10

North West and Merseyside

28

Yorkshire and the Humber

26

East Midlands

18

West Midlands

25

East of England

25

London

30

South East

32

South West

24

19 Mar 2012 : Column 454W

Wales

10

Scotland

21

Northern Ireland

9

Address abroad/unknown

3

All

260

These estimates are based on the 2007-08 Survey of Personal Incomes, projected using economic assumptions consistent with the Office for Budget Responsibility's March 2011 economic and fiscal outlook.

Reliable estimates are not available at parliamentary constituency level, due to greater uncertainties in projections for small geographical areas and small sample sizes.

The Government are committed to supporting lower and middle income earners by raising the personal allowance to £10,000, and removing the lowest income individuals out of income tax. Decisions on future changes in the personal allowance will be taken as part of the annual Budget process in the context of the wider public finances.

Ian Swales: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the number of people resident in Redcar constituency who will no longer pay income tax consequent (a) on the proposed increase in the personal allowance from April 2012 and (b) on the proposed increase in the personal allowance to £10,000 by April 2015. [100493]

Mr Gauke: The 2011 Budget announced a £630 cash increase in the personal allowance for under-65s to £8,105 in 2012-13 (£240 above indexation), with an equivalent reduction in the basic rate limit to leave the higher rate threshold unchanged.

As a result of these measures, the Government estimated that in 2012-13, 260,000 of the lowest income taxpayers will be removed from tax altogether. Information at Government office region is provided in the following table.

Government office region Number taken out of income tax (Thousand)

North East

10

North West and Merseyside

28

Yorkshire and the Humber

26

East Midlands

18

West Midlands

25

East of England

25

London

30

South East

32

South West

24

Wales

10

Scotland

21

Northern Ireland

9

Address abroad/unknown

3

All

260

These estimates are based on the 2007-08 Survey of Personal Incomes, projected using economic assumptions consistent with the Office for Budget Responsibility’s March 2011 economic and fiscal outlook.

Reliable estimates are not available at parliamentary constituency level, due to greater uncertainties in projections for small geographical areas and small sample sizes.

19 Mar 2012 : Column 455W

The Government are committed to supporting lower and middle income earners by raising the personal allowance to £10,000, and removing the lowest income individuals out of income tax. Decisions on future changes in the personal allowance will be taken as part of the annual Budget process in the context of the wider public finances.

Mike Crockart: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many people in Edinburgh West constituency will no longer pay income tax due to his proposed increase in the personal allowance (a) from April 2012 and (b) by April 2015; [100780]

Mr Kennedy: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the number of people resident in Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency who will no longer pay income tax due to his proposed increase in the personal allowance (a) from April 2012 and (b) by April 2015. [100791]

Mr Gauke: The 2011 Budget announced a £630 cash increase in the personal allowance for under-65s to £8,105 in 2012-13 (£240 above indexation), with an equivalent reduction in the basic rate limit to leave the higher rate threshold unchanged.

As a result of these measures the Government estimated that in 2012-13, 260,000 of the lowest income taxpayers will be removed from tax altogether. Information at Government Office Region is provided in the following table.

Government Office Region Number taken out of Income Tax (thousand)

North East

10

North West and Merseyside

28

Yorkshire and the Humber

26

East Midlands

18

West Midlands

25

East of England

25

London

30

South East

32

South West

24

Wales

10

Scotland

21

Northern Ireland

9

Address abroad/unknown

3

All

260

These estimates are based on the 2007-08 Survey of Personal Incomes, projected using economic assumptions consistent with the Office for Budget Responsibility's March 2011 economic and fiscal outlook.

Reliable estimates are not available at parliamentary constituency level, due to greater uncertainties in projections for small geographical areas and small sample sizes.

The Government are committed to supporting lower and middle income earners by raising the personal allowance to £10,000, and removing the lowest income individuals out of income tax. Decisions on future changes in the personal allowance will be taken as part of the annual Budget process in the context of the wider public finances.

19 Mar 2012 : Column 456W

Tim Farron: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will estimate the number of nurses in each (a) region and (b) local authority area who will no longer be eligible to pay income tax following the increase in the personal allowance in April 2012; [100817]

(2) if he will estimate the number of nurses in each (a) region and (b) local authority area who will no longer be eligible to pay income tax once the income tax threshold is set to £10,000. [100818]

Mr Gauke: The increase in the personal allowance by £630 for those aged under 65 is estimated to remove the 260,000 lowest income taxpayers out of income tax altogether in 2012-13. In combination with the £1,000 increase in the personal allowance in 2011-12, the increases in the personal allowance announced by this Government will remove an estimated 1.1 million individuals out of income tax altogether by 2012-13.

These estimates are based on the 2007-08 Survey of Personal Incomes data projected to 2011-12 and 2012-13 in line with the Office for Budget Responsibility's March 2011 forecast assumptions.

The Government are committed to supporting lower and middle income earners by raising the personal allowance to £10,000, and removing the lowest income individuals out of income tax. Decisions on future changes in the personal allowance will be taken as part of the annual Budget process in the context of the wider public finances.

The information requested is not available specifically for nurses.

Tim Farron: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the number of people living in rural communities in each income decile who will benefit from the proposed increase in the personal allowance of income tax in (a) 2011-12 and (b) 2012-13. [100819]

Mr Gauke: The increase in the personal allowance by £630 for those aged under 65 is estimated to remove the 260,000 lowest income taxpayers out of income tax altogether in 2012-13. In combination with the £1,000 increase in the personal allowance in 2011-12, the increases in the personal allowance announced by this Government will remove an estimated 1.1 million individuals out of income tax altogether by 2012-13.

These estimates are based on the 2007-08 Survey of Personal Incomes data projected to 2011-12 and 2012-13 in line with the Office for Budget Responsibility's March 2011 forecast assumptions.

Geographical information within HMRC administrative systems does not align with urban or rural status of communities; the information at this level is therefore not available.

Information Commissioner

Mr Blunkett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many appeals his Department has made to an information tribunal contesting a decision notice of the Information Commissioner in the last 12 months. [100294]

Miss Chloe Smith: None.

19 Mar 2012 : Column 457W

Students Loans

Shabana Mahmood: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the number of graduates who will repay their student loans (a) in full and (b) in part through the early repayment system. [99944]

Mr Willetts: I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

There is no estimate available of the total number of borrowers who will partly or fully repay their student loans early.

The following tables show the number of borrowers (English domiciled students in UK Higher Education Institutions and EU students in English Higher Education Institutions) making early repayments and the amounts they repaid, in the last three financial years.

Early repayments England and EU in England
Thousand
  2008-09 2009-10 2010-11

Count of Borrowers

170.9

113.1

122.1

£ million
  2008-09 2009-10 2010-11

Early Repayment Amount

314.5

225.6

263.2

Stamp Duty Land Tax: Wales

Jonathan Edwards: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the value of stamp duty collected in Wales in each of the last five years; what assessment he has made of the effect on the housing market in Wales of the stamp duty holiday for first-time home buyers; and what discussions he has had on devolving powers over the setting of stamp duty in Wales to the National Assembly for Wales. [100129]

Miss Chloe Smith: HMRC publishes details of the amount of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) collected by region on its website at the following address:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/stats/stamp_duty/menu.htm

The following table shows the amount of SDLT collected in Wales from residential and non-residential transactions in each of the last five years.

SDLT Yield
£ million
  Residential Non-residential Total

2006-07

130

110

240

2007-08

130

80

210

2008-09

55

60

115

2009-10

55

45

100

2010-11

65

50

115

HMRC published an evaluation of the UK-wide impact of the first-time buyers' relief in November 2011, which can be found at this address:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/research/sdlt-ftb-workingpaper.pdf

19 Mar 2012 : Column 458W

No evaluation of the specific impact on the housing market in Wales has been made.

Treasury Ministers have discussions with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government's practice to provide details of all such discussions.

Tax Allowances: Arts

Dan Jarvis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider implementing a tax credit to support the (a) television, (b) computer gaming and (c) animation industry. [100491]

Mr Gauke: All aspects of the tax system are kept under review and any new policies are announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Budget.

Taxation: Air Ambulance Services

Jonathan Edwards: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had on an exemption for air ambulances from fuel duty. [100437]

Miss Chloe Smith: Treasury Ministers have discussions with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy delivery. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government's practice to provide details of all such discussions.

When aircraft are used as air ambulances they are not subject to fuel duty.

Taxation: Average Earnings

Nicky Morgan: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the total amount of (a) income tax and (b) employee national insurance contributions which someone on average earnings would pay over their lifetime in current prices. [100762]

Mr Gauke: The information requested is not available.

Taxation: Bingo

Gordon Henderson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport on bingo taxation. [99966]

Kelvin Hopkins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport on taxation of bingo. [100866]

Miss Chloe Smith: Treasury Ministers and officials meet with a wide range of organisations and individuals in the public and private sectors as part of the usual

19 Mar 2012 : Column 459W

policymaking process. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government's practice to provide details of all such discussions.

Kelvin Hopkins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the gross profit tax levied on (a) bingo clubs and (b) bookmakers; and for what reasons the rates are different. [100867]

Miss Chloe Smith: The rates of general betting duty and bingo duty were set by the previous Government. Bingo duty is charged at 20% of gross profits and general betting duty is charged at 15% of gross profits. The March 2011 Budget left rates unchanged. All taxes, including gambling taxes, are kept under review.

Taxation: Construction

Ben Gummer: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has for the reform of the Construction Industry Scheme. [99934]

Mr Gauke: Questions about future plans for the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) are kept under review as part of the usual Budget process.

Taxation: Fines

Owen Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many tax return penalties were issued to individuals in each of the last five financial years; how many such penalties were appealed; and what proportion of those were successful. [100615]

Mr Gauke: The information requested is available only at disproportionate cost, as it is not centrally held by HM Revenue and Customs data systems.

Taxation: Gambling

Clive Efford: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with betting companies located offshore on the payment of taxes based on the proportion of their business that originates in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [100465]

Miss Chloe Smith: Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery.

The Treasury publishes a list of ministerial meetings with external organisations, available at:

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/minister_hospitality.htm

Clive Efford: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take steps to ensure that all betting companies pay taxes based on the proportion of their business that originates from customers based in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [100466]

Miss Chloe Smith: On 18 July 2011, the Government announced their intention to review the taxation regime for remote gambling, looking at the case for taxing operators on the basis of customer location.

The Government expect to announce the outcome of the review at Budget 2012.

19 Mar 2012 : Column 460W

Clive Efford: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the revenue that would be generated if tax was levied on all online gambling business generated by customers based in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [100467]

Miss Chloe Smith: The Government are reviewing the case for changing the basis of taxation for remote gambling by moving to a place of consumption basis of taxation. The Government expect to announce the outcome of the review at Budget 2012.

The revenue that a place of consumption based taxation regime would generate would depend on rates and design of the regime.

Taxation: Self-employed

Luciana Berger: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many CIS4 forms were processed by HM Revenue and Customs in the last financial year. [100312]

Mr Gauke: Since the HMRC Construction Industry Scheme changed in 2007, the CIS4 has been obsolete. As a result no CIS4 forms were processed in the last financial year by HM Revenue and Customs.

Welfare Tax Credits: Overpayments

Justin Tomlinson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many times HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has written off an overpayment of tax credits due to HMRC (a) not updating its records when an updated address has been provided and (b) other administrative errors in the last five years; [99292]


(2) what steps he is taking to ensure that HM Revenue and Customs reduces the number of incidents of overpayment of tax credits. [99298]

Mr Gauke: The information is not available in the format requested.

Tax credits overpayments are a feature of a flexible and responsive system that is designed to respond to changes in people's income and circumstances. An overpayment can arise for a variety of reasons and the tax credits IT system does not have the facility to record the reason(s) why HMRC believe an overpayment has arisen.

HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions have introduced an integrated approach to tackling fraud and error. The two Departments have joined together on a number of initiatives and the strategy document ‘Tackling fraud and error in the benefit and tax credits systems’ outlines how a more aligned approach will be adopted to reduce fraud and error.

Transport

High Speed 2 Railway Line

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which organisations that responded to the consultation on High Speed 2 expressed concern over the current single track proposal for the link between High Speed 1 and 2. [99958]

19 Mar 2012 : Column 461W

Justine Greening: The consultation recorded considerable support for directly linking HS2 and HS1, as it will open up the opportunity for direct international rail travel from the Midlands and the North. 124 respondents to the consultation expressed concern over the proposal for a single rather than dual-track link between HS1 and HS2.

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will announce a timetable for the further review of the link between High Speed 1 and 2. [99969]

Justine Greening: I have commissioned HS2 Ltd to continue discussions with Network Rail and Transport for London to consider further options for the pathing of freight and passenger services and to further refine the infrastructure modifications that would be required, and they will report to me in advance of the submission to Parliament of the planned hybrid Bill.

Andrea Leadsom: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what compensation will be available to deal with unforeseen circumstances of High Speed 2 affecting residents in its vicinity. [100145]

Justine Greening: We have already acted to support homeowners who are affected by hardship and need to move. The Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) has, since August 2010, allowed owner-occupiers who needed to move urgently and who were prevented from doing so because of blight caused by the plans for HS2 to sell their property to the Government. The EHS will continue to accept applications until the autumn.

As I announced in January, we will consult in the spring on a range of further measures to address blight issues and to reassure property owners.

Andrea Leadsom: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she is taking to ensure that pre-blight house prices are secured for those (a) eligible for compulsory purchase or (b) under statutory blight as a result of High Speed 2. [100146]

Justine Greening: Under the compulsory purchase legislation, and the provisions relating to Statutory Blight, owners of property that is required to be purchased are paid the full unblighted market value of their interest in the property.

The valuations are carried out by two valuers, one of whom is chosen by the Government and the other of whom is chosen by the claimants. If terms cannot be agreed the case can be referred by either party to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber).

Information Commissioner

Mr Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many appeals her Department has made to an information tribunal contesting a decision notice of the Information Commissioner in the last 12 months. [100301]

Norman Baker: The Department for Transport has made no appeals contesting a decision notice of the Information Commissioner in the last 12 months.

19 Mar 2012 : Column 462W

Motor Vehicles: Registration

Mr Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many vehicles were registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in the latest period for which figures are available. [100471]

Mike Penning: At the end of September 2011 there were 34,472,287 licensed vehicles on the DVLA register. There were also 2,079,105 vehicles on the register with Statutory Off Road Notifications (SORN).

In addition, the DVLA register included 54,633,816 ‘unlicensed' vehicles. These records are of vehicles that were neither licensed nor had an off-road notification on 30 September 2011. It is likely that the vast majority of these vehicles have been unofficially scrapped, exported or written off but have not been removed from the database.

It is likely that some of the ‘unlicensed' vehicles have remained unlicensed continuously since the SORN requirements were introduced in January 1998. The keepers of any vehicles that have not been licensed since January 1998 are not obliged to provide the DVLA with an off road notification. It is not possible to identify the records of vehicles that meet this criteria. Therefore it is impossible to estimate how many of the ‘unlicensed' vehicles still exist and how many have been disposed of.

These figures are for vehicles that are registered in Great Britain and they do not include vehicles registered with diplomatic plates or British Forces vehicles.

Motorway Service Areas

Paul Maynard: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the regulations to trade which motorway service stations must operate within are. [100608]

Mike Penning: Department for Transport Circular 01/2008 sets out policy in relation to motorway service areas and other roadside facilities on motorways and trunk roads.

Operators are encouraged to provide a range of alternative catering outlets to increase the choice available to road users. To further support this, I am currently considering ways to reduce regulation, increase competition and improve still further the quality of motorway service areas.

Paul Maynard: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on regulations governing trade at motorway service stations. [100609]

Mike Penning: There have been no discussions between the two Departments on regulations governing trade at motorway service areas.

Department for Transport Circular 01/2008 sets out policy in relation to motorway service areas and other roadside facilities on motorways and trunk roads. I expect to launch a public consultation this summer on the replacement of this circular with new guidance, with the aim of deregulating the policy provisions in this area. All Government Departments will be consulted prior to this launch.

19 Mar 2012 : Column 463W

Paul Maynard: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what motorway service area sites her Department owns. [100610]

Mike Penning: The Department for Transport owns the freeholds of the following motorway service area sites:

Birch

Birchanger

Cherwell Valley

Clacket Lane

Corley

Keele

Knutsford

Leicester Forest East

Membury

Newport Pagnell

Norton Canes

Northampton and Rothersthorpe

Sandbach

South Mimms

Strensham

Thurrock

Toddington

Trowell

Warwick

Watford Gap

Woodall.

The terms of the leasehold agreements grant the operators full control and responsibility for the operation of these sites.

All other motorway service area sites in England are entirely privately owned and operated.

Piracy: Somalia

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what new technologies are being used to protect UK ships from piracy off the coast of Somalia. [100562]

Mike Penning: The Department for Transport has examined ship protection technologies and shares that information with industry. There are a number of ship protection technologies available to shipping companies including, for example thermal imaging and water cannons. The use of such technologies is a decision for individual shipping companies.

The Department for Transport recommends and promotes the adoption of the measures in Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy (BMP4).

The Government have also changed their policy to allow the use of armed private security companies as an additional layer of protection where necessary and in December 2011 issued “Interim guidance to UK flagged shipping on the use of armed guards to defend against the threat of piracy in exceptional circumstances”.

19 Mar 2012 : Column 464W

Public Transport: Visual Impairment

Tom Blenkinsop: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she is taking to increase the accessibility of public transport for blind and partially-sighted people. [100502]

Norman Baker: The Department is committed to ensuring equal and safe access to public transport for everyone, including for blind and partially-sighted people.

The Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 1998 (as amended) and the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 (as amended) contain a number of requirements to facilitate access for people with visual impairments. The Department continues to monitor progress to ensure the requirements are being met.

Audio-visual passenger information systems are required on trains, but on buses this is not the case and the levels of provision vary. I have written to bus operators and manufacturers encouraging them to work in partnership with local authorities to increase the uptake of these systems.

In addition, on 1 October 2010, we commenced provisions in the Equality Act 2010 that require the drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles to carry assistance dogs.

Traffic Commissioners: Wales

Jonathan Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the oral answer of 10 October 2011, Official Report, column 112W, on traffic commissioners: Wales, what recent discussions she has had with Ministers in the Welsh Government on establishing the post of a Welsh traffic commissioner. [100128]

Mike Penning: Neither the Secretary of State for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening), nor I have had any specific discussions with Ministers in the Welsh Government on this matter. The new senior traffic commissioner has not yet been appointed.

Defence

Departmental Contracts

Mrs Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the five highest value contracts let by his Department to (a) consultants, (b) legal and (c) media companies were in the last 18 months; and if he will make a statement. [89378]

Peter Luff: The Ministry of Defence's use of external consultants has been decreasing significantly and is in line with the guidance published by the Cabinet Office in May 2010 and September 2011. The highest value consultancy contracts over the period were as follows:

Contract Value (£ million)

Cost Assurance and Analysis Services Development Programme

12

19 Mar 2012 : Column 465W

Defence Infrastructure Organisation—Organisation and Change Management

5

Future Defence Storage and Distribution Programme—External Assistance

1.3

Future Submarines—Strategic Business Advice

1.1

Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft—External Assistance

1.1

For legal services the MOD has framework contracts with seven firms, which came into effect on 10 January 2010. Information on the spend under these contracts over the last 18 months is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Most significant MOD marketing and advertising activity over the period requested until December 2011 was managed through the Government's Central Office of Information.

The five highest such MOD media transactions were as follows:

Transaction name Third party costs (£ million)

Army Regional marketing and PR service

2.1

Army TV Buying

1.9

Territorial Army TV Buying

1.3

Army Customer Response Management

1.2

Royal Navy Direct Recruiting Operations contract

0.9

Nuclear Submarines: Safety

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the potential (a) risk and (b) effects of a fire on a British submarine which lasts for 24 hours. [99507]

Peter Luff: The risks associated with fires on submarines are taken extremely seriously by the Ministry of Defence, including consideration of their potential effects. All Royal Navy submarines are required to hold a Certificate of Safety—Fire, which is issued by the Naval Authority when it has been demonstrated that fire risks have been reduced so far as is reasonably practicable. There is also an obligation to seek continual improvement both for in-service submarines and for new classes of submarine.

Risks are reduced through a range of measures. This includes designing the submarine to prevent fires where possible, for example by using non-flammable materials. In addition, fire-detection systems and both automatic and manual fire-fighting systems are fitted, which are intended to detect and extinguish fires as quickly as possible. Finally, all submariners complete rigorous fire training, followed by regular practice exercises, to enable them to act appropriately and effectively in an emergency situation.

For submarines that are undergoing maintenance, further precautions are taken that supplement operational procedures and systems, or alternative arrangements are introduced when deeper maintenance is being carried out. This includes liaison with local fire and rescue services regarding the provision of external fire-fighting capability.

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As a result of the comprehensive procedures and systems that are in place, the likelihood of a submarine fire lasting for 24 hours is considered to be extremely remote.

Piracy

Mr Mike Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the cost of ensuring that the British fleet is able to combat piracy across the globe. [99859]

Nick Harvey: Since 2008, the Royal Navy has contributed to EU, NATO and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) counter piracy operations in several capacities—from the contribution of assets, to the provision of the Operational Headquarters and Operational Commander for the EU's Operation Atalanta. The Royal Navy maintains a constant presence, including at least one frigate or destroyer, in the region.

There are no estimates of the costs arising for enabling ships for Counter Piracy operations as most of the capability required is standard fit to Royal Navy ships when on operational tasking.

Rescue Services: International Co-operation

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions the Government received a request for assistance from a neighbouring state under section 3.1 of the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue in each of the last five years; and which search and rescue assets provided assistance on each such occasion. [100200]

Nick Harvey: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 23 November 2010, Official Report, columns 225-26W. From 14 November 2010 to 10 March 2012 the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre has had no direct requests for assistance from any neighbouring states.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government's strategic priorities are for the summit on development in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. [99607]

Mr Andrew Mitchell: I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Department for International Development.

The Tokyo development conference in July will be a key point for the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to agree a long-term partnership to ensure Afghanistan's stability and prosperity following security transition in 2014. In particular the UK Government are keen to see the international community make commitments to help Afghanistan meet its non-security needs in the decade after transition; and to see the Government of Afghanistan make credible commitments to deliver robust economic and governance reforms. The UK is working closely with the Government of Afghanistan and international partners to this end.

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Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the US Secretary of Defense since his statement on American forces ending their combat role in 2013. [99680]

Mr Hague: Both Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and the White House have confirmed US commitment to the transition strategy agreed at the NATO Lisbon Summit in 2010. International forces will gradually hand over responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces, who will have full security responsibility in all provinces by the end of 2014. I have had no discussions with the US Defence Secretary on this issue.

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy that the Government's strategic priorities for the summit in Tokyo on development in Afghanistan should be debated by the House before the summit starts. [99681]

Mr Andrew Mitchell: I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Department for International Development.

The Tokyo development conference in July will be a key point for the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to agree a long-term partnership to ensure Afghanistan's stability and prosperity following security transition in 2014. The issue of a debate in the House is of course a matter for the business managers.

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he had with President Karzai on (a) reports of violence following the burning of copies of the Koran at a US airbase near Kabul and (b) the President's public statement on the violence. [99689]

Mr Hague: These events are deeply regrettable. I have not spoken directly with President Karzai following the incident at Bagram airbase, but the UK ambassador raised it with the President on 6 March and supported his call for calm. I welcome the International Security Assistance Force Commander General Allen's commitments to investigate thoroughly and to ensure such incidents do not happen again.

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on plans for the size of the (a) Afghan National Police and (b) Afghan National Army in 2014; and what assessment he has made of how likely it is that such targets can be met. [99690]

Mr Hague: We are making excellent progress on growing the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The ANSF reached their 2011 end-strength objective of 305,600 before the targeted date of October 2011 and are on track to achieve the October 2012 objective of 352.000. Firm decisions on the enduring strength of the Afghan security forces have not yet been agreed. However, discussions with the Afghan Government and international partners/International Security Assistance Force are at an advanced stage and we anticipate an announcement on the ANSF's enduring strength will be made in due course.

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Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the size of the (a) Afghan National Police and (b) Afghan National Army. [99691]

Mr Hague: The Afghan National Army now stands at 184,000 and the Afghan National Police at 145,000. The ANSF's operational effectiveness continues to improve, allowing them increasingly to take the lead in many operations. UK and international partners continue to support the ANSF with operational training and mentoring.

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the capacity of the Government of Afghanistan to hold Presidential elections in 2014. [99694]

Mr Hague: The 2014 presidential elections will present new challenges for the Afghan Government, including on security, with control transitioning to the Afghan Government. The UK is looking to support the UN Development Programme, to build further the capacity of the Independent Elections Commission. Officials in Kabul remain in support of efforts to strengthen and improve Afghanistan's electoral process.

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the NATO Secretary-General on countries announcing unilaterally dates for withdrawal from Afghanistan. [99697]

Mr Hague: I have had no discussions with the NATO Secretary-General on countries unilaterally announcing dates for withdrawal from Afghanistan. There has been no change to the strategy agreed by ISAF nations in Lisbon in 2010. International forces will gradually hand over responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces, who will have full security responsibility in all provinces by the end of 2014.

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of a withdrawal of French forces from Afghanistan in (a) 2013 and (b) 2012. [99698]

Mr Hague: President Sarkozy has confirmed that 1,000 French troops will leave Afghanistan in 2012, with all French combat troops leaving Afghanistan by the end of 2013. The drawdown of further International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) needs to be done in a coherent and coordinated manner, in consultation with the Government of Afghanistan. The UK remains committed to the decisions and road map agreed at the Lisbon summit in November 2010.

Transition is progressing well and, in line with this plan, ISAF will gradually hand over lead responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces until they take on full security responsibility in 2014. That process has been started and will be completed by the end of 2014. As the NATO Secretary-General has reiterated, the Lisbon goals “will remain the bedrock of our strategy” in Afghanistan.

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Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the illegal drug trade in Afghanistan. [99715]

Mr Hague: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's most recent Afghan Opium Survey, published in October 2011, reported that opium poppy cultivation rose nationally by 7% in 2011 compared to 2010. Cultivation fell by 3% in Helmand Province, the most prolific opium-producing province in Afghanistan, which was the third successive annual decrease in cultivation there. The national increase in cultivation needs to be set in the context of a difficult economic backdrop, with opium prices that are at their highest for many years.

Experience in other drug-producing countries suggests that tackling the drugs trade takes time, and requires a long-term and comprehensive approach. The UK remains committed to supporting the Government of Afghanistan to achieve sustainable progress against the drugs trade through delivery of the Afghan National Drug Control Strategy.

In addition, the UK is working with international and regional partners, in the Paris Pact and with countries along trafficking routes, to tackle both the drugs trade, the trade in precursor chemicals, targeting illegal financial flows and reducing demand in the region and worldwide.

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has for a standing meeting with his international counterparts on strategy in Afghanistan. [99716]

Mr Hague: In addition to regular discussions with counterparts to discuss strategy, there are three main international conferences on Afghanistan this year which UK Ministers plan to attend. The NATO/ISAF Chicago summit in May will focus on security elements of our enduring relationship with Afghanistan, the Kabul conference in June will take-forward regional co-operation and the Tokyo conference in July will concentrate on wider development issues.

Afghanistan: Pakistan

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. [99692]

Mr Hague: I have met the US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) on a number of occasions, including in Washington last week. I also discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a regular basis. The UK SRAP frequently discusses Afghanistan and Pakistan with his US counterpart, including during the US SRAP's recent visit to London on 23 February.

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the number of times the US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan has visited Pakistan since he came into post. [99693]

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Mr Hague: This is a matter for the US and Pakistan. We understand that there are regular contacts between the officials of both countries.

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the NATO document on links between the Taliban in Afghanistan and the security service of Pakistan. [99695]

Mr Hague: The NATO report is a compilation of Taliban detainee opinions and ideas, based on their comments while in detention. It is important that this context is understood and that conclusions are not drawn based solely on a selection of comments from detainees.

Pakistan has a key role in the stabilisation of Afghanistan and in the improvement of regional security. We welcome the recent statement by Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani on 24 February supporting the Afghan-led peace process and calling on the Taliban to participate fully and positively.