Transport

Aviation: Wind Power

Graham Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many incidents there have been in the UK of wind turbines causing a flight safety hazard to air traffic controllers and aircraft. [148715]

Mr Simon Burns: The Civil Aviation Authority, the UK's independent aviation safety regulator, has not received any mandatory occurrence reports relating to a flight safety hazard caused by a wind turbine.

It is well established that wind turbines can degrade the quality of aviation radars. The aviation industry will object, therefore, to any wind turbine that may pose a risk to air safety, the maintenance of which is paramount.

NATS, the UK's national en-route air traffic service provider, takes wind turbine development seriously and has a strong track record in being able to identify suitable mitigations—its success rate is about 95%.

Channel Tunnel Railway Line

Jeremy Lefroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his Department's latest calculation is of the return on investment per £1 spent on construction of High Speed 1. [147830]

Mr Simon Burns: In 2001, the Department conducted an appraisal of the uncommitted costs of Section 2 and the associated benefits. The benefit/cost ratio on the then central case passenger revenue forecasts for Eurostar UK (produced in 2001) and excluding regeneration benefits and benefits from the future domestic high speed services was 1.4:1, and including regeneration benefits was 1.8:1.

Jeremy Lefroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his Department's expected return on investment was per £1 spent on the construction of High Speed 1 at the time of approval. [147928]

Mr Simon Burns: The Department for Transport estimated in May 1998 that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link would deliver a benefit-cost ratio of 1.5 to 1.

Croydon Tramlink

Steve Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he last received a representation from the Mayor of London seeking funding for the extension of the Croydon Tramlink to Crystal Palace. [148376]

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Stephen Hammond: I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 7 March 2013, Official Report, column 1110W.

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport who provides hardware and software support for the IBM computing systems in the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency; and if this contract was obtained through competitive tendering. [148562]

Stephen Hammond: IBM provide the support and maintenance for their hardware and software at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. This work was outsourced through an open competition.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will estimate the average time taken by the Medical Group in the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to decide on cases referred to it in each of the last five years for which figures are available. [148700]

Stephen Hammond: The information requested is not held. The time taken for a driving licence to be issued where medical investigations are necessary varies depending on the complexity of the case. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency categorises cases as simple and complex, with those that require further medical information considered as complex.

The Secretary of State for Transport has set targets for dealing with applications involving medical conditions. These are to complete 90% of simple cases within 15 working days and 88% of complex cases within 90 working days. The following table shows the achievement against target for the last five financial years.

Percentage
 Simple casesComplex cases
 To conclude 88% of cases in 15 working daysTo conclude 85% in 90 working days

2007-08

95.6

91.4

2008-09

95.8

92.7

2009-10

94.2

92.4

2010-11

96.3

91.0

2011-12

96.6

90.7

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many cases are outstanding at the Medical Group in the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency; and if he will make a statement. [148701]

Stephen Hammond: On 14 March the Medical Group at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency had 92,556 open cases. Of these cases 45% or 41,650 cases are awaiting responses from third parties such as GPs, consultants and opticians.

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the implications for his Department (a) generally and (b) with respect to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency of the decision by IBM to provide only firmware access to organisations with a support contract with IBM. [148720]

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Stephen Hammond: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is aware of the long-standing requirement by IBM for organisations providing support and maintenance to have an agreement in place with them. Following a review only one contract was identified and options to ensure ongoing support are currently being considered.

Annual Leave

Priti Patel: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many officials in (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies and non-departmental public bodies qualify for privilege days; and what the total cost to the public purse was of the number of privilege days utilised each year by such officials. [147748]

Norman Baker: The number of officials as at the 31 January 2013 in (a) the Department for Transport and (b) each of its agencies and non-departmental public bodies who qualify for privilege days is set out in the table below:

 Number

Department for Transport (Centre)

1,761

Driving Standards Agency

2,460

Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency

6,357

Highways Agency

3,352

Maritime & Coastguard Agency

1,096

Vehicle Certification Agency

157

Vehicle & Operator Services Agency

2,255

Northern Lighthouse Board

207

Trinity House

197

Staff in the Department's other non-departmental public bodies do not qualify.

A calculation of the total cost to the public purse of the privilege days utilised each year by the Department's staff and those in its agencies and non-departmental public bodies could only be made at disproportionate cost.

Motor Vehicles: Exhaust Emissions

Mr Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department is taking to advise motorists of their responsibilities in relation to the removal of factory-fitted diesel particulate filters from vehicles and subsequent driving of those vehicles on the public highway. [148693]

Stephen Hammond: The Department regularly responds to inquiries from motorists (and repairers) with advice on this matter. Since obvious defects or missing components in the emission control systems of cars are MOT failure points, similar advice should be available as a matter of course for vehicle repairers.

Mr Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment his Department has made of the incidence of removal of factory-fitted diesel particulate filters from vehicles. [148696]

Stephen Hammond: The Department has made no specific study of the incidence of diesel particulate filter removal. About 5% of MOT failures, fall under the

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category of “fuel and exhaust systems”. However, it is not possible to determine what proportion of those are due to modifications to the exhaust system.

Railways: Franchises

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many passenger rail franchises have been tendered by his Department since 2005; and what the total cost to (a) his Department and (b) the bidders was in each case. [147914]

Mr Simon Burns: The Department has issued 10 Invitations to Tender for passenger rail franchises since 2005.

The Department has not been able to capture precise historic costs by franchise and tendering of rail services.

In the past, when a rail service has been tendered, permanent staff members have been seconded to work on this project for its duration and return to other duties following its completion. These members of staff came from many parts of the Department (e.g. Procurement, Rail Commercial, Franchise Specification, Legal, and Finance) and their costs were captured within their substantive areas of work and have not been separated by project.

The Department has captured its internal and external costs incurred on the Intercity West Coast procurement competition. These were published on 7 December 2012 by the National Audit Office (NAO) in their report on the termination of this procurement competition.

The Department does not capture bidders' costs. With regards to reimbursing bid costs for the Intercity West Coast procurement competition, discussions with bidders are ongoing. When final agreements have been reached the Department will be transparent about the outcome.

Railways: Industrial Disputes

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much has been paid, and on what dates, through (a) his Department, (b) Network Rail and (c) the Office of Rail Regulation to individual train operating companies in respect of compensation for loss of revenue during industrial disputes in each year since 2004-05. [147915]

Norman Baker: The Secretary of State has discretion to reimburse or ameliorate net losses of a franchised rail operator arising from industrial action, where he or she is satisfied that the franchisee has taken all reasonable steps to mitigate its effects. In 2004-05 payments totalling £844,061 were made by the Strategic Rail Authority to a number of operators. In 2006-07 a further payment was made by the Department to a single operator. As explained in the answer given to the hon. Member by the then Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs Villiers), on 17 February 2011, Official Report, column 969W, the Department for Transport takes the view that the details of this case should remain commercially confidential as their release would enable identification of the individual payment and operator concerned. No payments have been made since 2006-07.

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The Department is not aware of any provision under which either Network Rail or the Office of Rail Regulation would pay compensation to train operators specifically for loss of revenue arising from industrial action, and is not aware of any such payments being made. However, in the event that industrial action by Network Rail staff prevented an operator from running services, Network Rail may be required to make payments to the operator under the terms of Schedules 4 or 8 of the operator's Track Access Agreement. Any such payments would be a commercially confidential matter for the industry parties concerned.

Roads: East Sussex

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what the most recent cost-benefit analysis is of the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road; [147846]

(2) how many jobs he estimates will be created by the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road; [147850]


(3) what assessment he has made of the potential for increased traffic congestion as a result of the new Bexhill-Hastings Link Road; [147854]

(4) what his Department's most recent value for money estimate is of the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road; [147855]

(5) whether the value for money estimate for the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road is dependent on the economic merit of the potential development and regeneration of the surrounding area of north east Bexhill. [147857]

Norman Baker: The Department is currently assessing the final funding application from East Sussex county council, submitted in December 2012, and this work is not yet complete.

In March 2012 the Department published its detailed assessment of the Council's "best and final" bid application for Programme Entry status (provisional funding approval). This included an assessment of the cost benefit analysis and value for money of the scheme; number of jobs created; and the potential impact of the scheme on traffic congestion.

The assessment is available on the Department's website at the following link:

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20121025123854/http://assets.dft.gov.uk/publications/local-authority-major-transport-schemes/bexhill-hastings-assessment.pdf

Shipping: Exhaust Emissions

Karl Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport with reference to the report by AMEC produced for the UK Chamber of Shipping in March 2013, what assessment he has made of the effect on (a) employment and (b) freight in the short sea shipping sector of the UK shipping industry complying with the provisions of MARPOL Annex VI. [148612]

Stephen Hammond: The Department welcomes the report commissioned by the Chamber of Shipping and I will ensure that we will consider its findings carefully. The evidence about the impact on employment and freight operations from this and other relevant studies will be incorporated into the Department's Impact Assessment on the new sulphur requirements, which will be published later this year. Our assessment will

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also consider the economic cost to the UK as well as the benefits in terms of improved public health and reduced damage to the environment.

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) pursuant to the answer of 18 June 2012, Official Report, column 643W, on shipping: pollution, if he will publish a detailed assessment of the effect on employment levels for seafarers of the UK shipping industry's compliance with Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships; and if he will make a statement; [148795]

(2) pursuant to the answer of 17 December 2012, Official Report, column 548W, on shipping: exhaust emissions, when he plans to respond to the findings of the report commissioned by the Chamber of Shipping to study the economic and social impacts of MARPOL Annex VI; what other reports into MARPOL Annex VI were commissioned by attendees of the roundtable discussion on 22 October 2012; and when he last discussed the provisions of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships with officials from trades unions that represent UK seafarers. [148796]

Stephen Hammond: The Chamber of Shipping has recently published a study which includes an assessment about the impact on employment of the new sulphur limits. I will ensure that we consider its findings carefully.

The evidence about employment from this and other relevant studies will be incorporated into the Department's impact assessment on the new sulphur requirements, which will be published later this year. Our assessment will consider the economic cost to the UK as well as the benefits in terms of improved public health and reduced damage to the environment.

In addition to the study commissioned by the Chamber, representatives from the freight and the ports industries also indicated during the round table discussion that they had been gathering evidence on the impact of the new sulphur requirements for their members.

Whereas I have not discussed the provisions of the MARPOL convention with the trade unions, I would be happy to discuss any concerns that seafarers may have about the new limits with their representatives.

Shipping: Liquefied Natural Gas

Karl Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of vessels of over 500 gross tonnage registered under the UK flag can be fuelled by liquefied natural gas. [148555]

Stephen Hammond: Currently, there are no vessels over 500 gross tonnage registered under the UK flag that can be fuelled by liquefied natural gas.

For an existing vessel to be capable of using liquefied natural gas as fuel, major modifications to the fuel system and engines will be required.

Internationally, new vessels are being designed and built to operate on liquefied natural gas fuel, which incorporate the special fuel storage requirements and engines but, as far as we are aware, currently there are no such vessels intended to be registered under the UK flag.

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Shipping: Qualifications

Dr Offord: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many employees in his Department hold the qualification of Navigation (Deck) Officer or its equivalent. [148545]

Stephen Hammond: The requested information is not held centrally.

Shipping: Training

Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make it his policy to introduce a Certificate of Competency to meet the requirements of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers for officers on workboats under 500 gross tonnage. [147911]

Stephen Hammond: I fully support the introduction of the new Certificate of Competency for Masters of Workboats less than 500 GT. After listening to representation from industry about the importance of this situation I have made extra resources available to expedite the necessary regulatory procedures.

Alison Seabeck: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on the number of available places and the quality of training of cadets on UK flagged ships. [148479]

Stephen Hammond: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is in regular contact with the shipping industry through the sponsoring companies (Training Providers) within the Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) scheme. Feedback demonstrates that there is a shortage of berths for cadets on board UK flagged vessels.

The guidance for training arrangements under SMarT is frequently reviewed by the MCA. The Agency liaises with MaTSU, the independent administrators of the scheme, who conduct regular audits of the training providers to ensure they are in compliance with the scheme's requirements.

The responsibility of the training providers, regarding the support of shipboard training is specifically covered in Marine Guidance Note 455 section 10. There should not be a problem with shipboard training provided that these requirements are complied with.

Sickness Absence

Priti Patel: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many days (a) his Department and (b) each of its non-departmental public bodies has lost to staff sickness in each of the last five years; and what estimate he has made of the cost of such absence in each year; [147995]

(2) how many officials in (a) his Department and (b) each of its non-departmental public bodies have had (i) fewer than five days, (ii) five to 10 days, (iii) 10 to 15 days, (iv) 15 to 20 days, (v) 20 to 25 days, (vi) 25 to 50 days, (vii) 50 to 75 days, (viii) 75 to 100 days, (ix) 100 to 150 days, (x) 150 to 200 days, (xi) more than 200 days, (xii) more than three months, (xiii) more than six

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months and (xiv) more than one year on paid sick leave (A) consecutively and (B) in total in each of the last five years. [148014]

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Norman Baker: The following table shows the number of days lost to staff sickness for the Central Department, and its six Executive Agencies in each of the last five years.

 Days lost—short term (less than 21 working days)Days lost—long term (more than 21 working days)Total days lostAverage working days lost

1 January 2008 to 31 December 2008

76,647.24

94,965.55

171,612.79

8.9

1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009

70,681.5

83,310.9

153,992.4

8.1

1 January 2010 to 31 December 2010

66,599.75

79,633.67

146,233.42

7.9

1 January 2011 to 31 December 2011

60,856.66

72,497.41

133,354.07

7.7

1 January 2012 to 31 December 2012

53,853.33

75,308.32

129,161.65

7.7

The information is taken from annual sickness absence returns to the Cabinet Office. Data below this level, as requested by my hon. Friend, could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

This following table shows the total number of days lost to sickness for the Department's Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) in each of the last five financial years. Data below this level could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Time period—financial yearTotal days lost (12 month period).

1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008

2,117

1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009

4,912

1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010

3,945

1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011

5,106

1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012

5,726

The table contains sickness absence data from:- British Transport Police Authority; Trinity House; Northern Lighthouse Board; High Speed 2 (established 2009); Passenger Focus; Directly Operated Railways (established July 2009); Railway Heritage Committee.

Termination of Employment

Priti Patel: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many officials in (a) his Department and (b) each of its non-departmental public bodies have left that body due to (i) resignation, (ii) retirement, (iii) redundancy, (iv) transferral to another public sector post and (v) another reason in each of the last five years. [147957]

Norman Baker: The first table below shows the number of officials in the Central Department and its six Executive Agencies that left due to (i) resignation, (ii) retirement, (iii) redundancy, (iv) transferral to another public sector post and (v) another reason in each of the last five years.

Calendar YearResignationRetirementRedundancyTransferral to another public sector postAnother reasonTotal

01/01/08-31/12/09

892

398

111

141

931

2473

01/01/09-31/12/09

449

335

18

130

684

1616

01/01/10-31/12/10

391

393

176

71

445

1476

01/01/11-31/12/11

396

260

332

118

367

1473

01/01/12-31/12/12

379

252

140

205

189

1165

The second table shows the relevant number of officials in the each of its non-departmental public bodies.

Financial YearResignationRetirementRedundancyTransferral to another public sector postAnother reasonTotal

2008/2009

15

5

16

0

12

48

2009/2010

15

11

6

0

10

42

2010/2011

67

9

9

0

8

93

2011/2012

20

16

38

0

8

82

2012/2013

14

8

12

0

9

43

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West Coast Railway line

Mark Menzies: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations his Department has received on the Blackpool to London West Coast Mainline train stopping at Kirkham; and if he will make a statement. [148475]

Mr Simon Burns: The Secretary of State for Transport announced to the House on 6 December 2012 that he wanted to see improvements to Intercity West Coast services, including the introduction of new services from London to Blackpool North, which would call at Kirkham and Wesham. This announcement was welcomed. A letter of support was received in December 2012 for the proposed introduction of the London Euston to Blackpool North service from the hon. member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Eric Ollerenshaw).

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan

Heidi Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what training his Department is giving to Afghan National Security Forces; and whether that training incorporates an understanding of women's rights. [148659]

Alistair Burt: The full participation of women in all aspects of Afghan society is fundamental to securing a stable and prosperous future Afghanistan and the UK has been forthright in its promotion.

UK training to the Afghan National Security Forces is delivered as part of the NATO training mission. Respect for human rights is always a component in this training and when UK military and police personnel are mentoring their Afghan colleagues. UK police officers working in the European Union Police Mission Afghanistan (EUPOL) developed and support the delivery of a Prevention of Violence Against Women course. Our £7.1 million assistance to the Ministry of the Interior goes in part towards helping to improve the Afghan National Police's role in protecting and upholding women's rights. It also supports the development of Afghan policy on promoting human rights and protecting women from violence.

We regularly raise the protection and promotion of women's rights with the Afghanistan Government and wider Afghan authorities. For example, during her visit to Afghanistan earlier this month the Senior Minister of State, my noble Friend the right hon. Baroness Warsi, met policewomen in Helmand to discuss women's vital contribution to building peace and security in Afghanistan.

Heidi Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support his Department is giving to the Afghan Government to develop and appropriately staff family response units. [148660]

Alistair Burt: The UK supports the development of the Afghan National Police through EUPOL, the European Police Mission. Improving the capability of the Afghan

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police is fundamental to the success of the international coalition's mission and EUPOL plays a central role in that work.

On 11 March this year, EUPOL signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Afghan Ministry of the Interior and United Nations development programme on enhancing the capacity of the family response units, which play an important role in investigating cases of domestic violence. The MOU will form the basis of a new training package for female police officers, prosecutors and members of the legal community. The initial training programme is due to take place between March and May this year.

Additionally, our £7.1 million assistance to the Ministry of Interior includes a strong focus on developing Afghan policy on promoting human rights in the security sector and protecting women from violence. We provide significant funding to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission to ensure it can act to protect women human rights defenders, investigate and catalogue violence against women, and support those seeking justice.

Heidi Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to support the Afghan Government to implement a law on the elimination of violence against women. [148661]

Alistair Burt: Tackling violence against women is fundamental to upholding basic human rights and to supporting women playing a full part in the development of a stable and secure Afghanistan, and the UK regularly raises this issue with the Government of Afghanistan. For example, during her visit to Afghanistan earlier this month the Senior Minister of State, my noble Friend the right hon. Baroness Warsi discussed women's rights with the Afghan Foreign Minister Rassoul, leading female parliamentarians and other Government and civil society representatives.

Implementation of the Afghan Elimination of Violence Against Women Law (EVAW) was specifically included in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF), the partnership between the Afghan Government and the international community. We, along with our international partners, will hold the Afghan Government to account for the commitments they have made. In Kabul, the Gender Donor Coordination Group (led by UN Women) and the Civil Society Support Group (led by UNAMA) are currently considering how the TMAF recommendations should be taken forward. The UK is represented on both groups.

We also encourage the Afghan Government to monitor the use of the EVAW law by police and prosecutors across the country to ensure it is used in all applicable cases. Our £7.1 million assistance to the Ministry of Interior includes a strong focus on developing Afghan policy on promoting human rights in the security sector and protecting women from violence. We provide significant funding to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission to ensure it can act to protect women human rights defenders, investigate and catalogue violence against women, and support those seeking justice.

Through the Tawanmandi project the UK provides grants for Afghan women's organisations to advocate full implementation of EVAW law among judges, prosecutors and police; to provide support for victims

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of violence; to engage with the Government of Afghanistan and to hold them to account. UK funding for this project will continue into 2016.

Heidi Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans his Department has to prioritise women's rights and violence against women in its operations in Afghanistan. [148662]

Alistair Burt: Human rights, including women's rights, are essential to and indivisible from the UK's foreign policy priorities. Tackling violence and discrimination against women is an important part of our work in Afghanistan and is fundamental to upholding basic human rights and to supporting the role of women in securing a stable and prosperous future Afghanistan. We regularly raise this issue with the Government of Afghanistan and wider Afghan authorities and will continue to do so. For example, during her visit to Helmand and Kabul earlier this month the Senior Minister of State, my noble Friend the right hon. Baroness Warsi discussed the vital role of women in Afghanistan with the Foreign Minister Rassoul, leading female parliamentarians and other Government and civil society representatives.

We will continue to work closely with the Government of Afghanistan and wider Afghan authorities, international partners and local and international civil society organisations to improve the status of women in Afghanistan, so that they can play a full role in a future, peaceful Afghanistan.

Anti-Semitism

Michael Ellis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of trends in the level of anti-Semitism across the world. [147621]

Mr Lidington: We strongly condemn anti-Semitism anywhere that it occurs and our embassies and high commissions around the world monitor manifestations of it. We also promote policies to tackle anti-Semitism through a range of international organisations, and speak out regularly to condemn instances of violence and discrimination, as the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), did when he condemned the horrific murders of Jewish children and a teacher last year in France.

The EU and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reports in 2012, on anti-Semitism in the EU and hate crimes respectively, reached no clear conclusions about trends because of the lack of clear-cut data. Nevertheless we have been working through the OSCE and bilaterally to help other countries to collect hate crimes data drawing on the work of the Community Security Trust.

Bangladesh

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Bangladeshi authorities on the continued use of the death penalty in that country. [147721]

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Mr Hague: The British Government continue to make clear our strong opposition to the application of the death penalty in all circumstances.

The Senior Minister of State, my noble Friend, the right hon. Baroness Warsi, raised our absolute opposition to the death penalty in meetings with both the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh Foreign Minister, Dipu Moni, during her visit to Bangladesh of 18 February.

We continue to work with EU partners in raising our absolute opposition to the death penalty. The EU ambassador démarched the Foreign Minister, on 6 March, about Bangladesh's use of the death penalty.

Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has sought assurances from the Bangladeshi Government that all possible steps are being taken to avoid further escalation of violence in that country. [147761]

Mr Hague: The British Government are very concerned about the violent protests in Bangladesh. We have called for restraint both publicly and privately with the Bangladesh Government. The Senior Minister of State, my noble Friend, the right hon. Baroness Warsi, issued a statement on 13 March expressing the UK's concerns over violence in Bangladesh and urged all sides to exercise restraint.

Our high commissioner in Dhaka, Robert Gibson, released a statement on 3 March expressing sadness over the violence and the deaths that have taken place across Bangladesh recently and calling for all parties to exercise restraint, moderation and respect for the rule of law.

In a meeting with the Bangladesh Foreign Minister, Dipu Moni, he called for the Bangladesh Government to ensure that a transparent investigation into the violence is conducted.

We will continue to seek assurances from the Bangladeshi Government that all possible steps are being taken.

British Nationals Abroad: Hostage Taking

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British tourists abroad have been taken hostage by Islamist militants since 2001. [148338]

Alistair Burt: A very small number of British tourists abroad have been taken hostage by Islamist militants since 2001.

EU Budget

Emma Reynolds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measure of EU inflation his Department is using when establishing its negotiation position on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014 to 2020. [125555]

Greg Clark: I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Treasury.

HM Treasury uses the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) measure of inflation, in line with the established practice in the EU, in the context of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014 to 2020

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negotiations. (The HICP assumption over the 2014 to 2020 period is 2% per year, consistent with the European Central Bank’s inflation target.)

European Commission

Bob Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he plans to make proposals to increase the democratic accountability of European Commissioners to EU citizens. [148569]

Mr Lidington: The Government believe that it is important to increase democratic accountability in the EU in order to ensure that the Commission and the other EU institutions focus on tackling the real challenges faced by people around Europe. A more significant role for national Parliaments will be key to addressing the gap between the EU and its citizens.

Falkland Islands

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the result of the recent referendum in the Falkland Islands over the status of that territory. [148380]

Mr Swire: The result of the recent referendum made clear that the overwhelming majority of the Falkland islanders want to retain the Islands' status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. We welcome this result. As the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), made clear in his written ministerial statement of 13 March 2013, Official Report, column 12WS, it is a clear, democratic expression of the islanders' wishes. The status of the Falkland Islands will never change unless and until the islanders so wish. The British Government will continue to safeguard their well-being and rights.

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of the recent referendum in the Falkland Islands on the UK's relations with Argentina. [148381]

Mr Swire: This Government fully support the rights of the Falkland islanders to determine their own future. We have always been clear that the UK would like a full and friendly relationship with Argentina and we firmly believe that there is scope to co-operate with Argentina on a range of issues of mutual interest. We believe that all countries should accept the results of the referendum and support the Falkland islanders as they continue to develop their home and their economy.

Gibraltar

Michael Ellis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of incursions by the Spanish navy into Gibraltar’s territorial waters; and what steps he is taking to protect residents of that territory. [147651]

18 Mar 2013 : Column 468W

Mr Lidington: In 2012 the Royal Navy reported a total of 14 unlawful incursions within British Gibraltar territorial waters by vessels of the Spanish Navy. In 2013 there have been two such incursions up to 11 March.

The Royal Navy challenges unlawful incursions by Spanish naval vessels and we also make formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish Government following all such incursions. On 15 November 2012 the Spanish ambassador was summoned to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office because of our serious concerns about incursions, including one by a Spanish naval vessel on 13 November which had lasted several hours. Although unlawful incursions by Spanish state vessels are a violation of UK sovereignty, they are not a threat to it. We continue to assert our sovereignty in response to incursions, using proportionate diplomatic and naval means.

Human Rights

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he (a) has appointed and (b) plans to appoint any parliamentary human rights envoys to countries identified by his Department as countries of concern in connection with their human rights records. [147891]

Mr Lidington: The Government have not appointed, nor do they plan to appoint, parliamentary human rights envoys to countries of concern. But we welcome parliamentary interest in our human rights work internationally, and the engagement of parliamentarians in countries and on issues of concern, including members of the All Parliamentary Party Groups on human rights, abolition of the death penalty, international corporate responsibility, and freedom of religion or belief.

Japan

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many cases of child abduction in which UK children are taken from their habitual residence by a parent to Japan have been reported to his Department in each of the last three years; if he will meet with his Japanese counterpart to discuss that country's ratification of the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of Child Abduction; and if he will make a statement. [148469]

Mr Swire: The Child Abduction Section at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office holds statistics on cases of international parental child abduction brought to its attention and where it has offered consular assistance to British nationals. In line with our obligations under the 1998 Data Protection Act, I am unable to provide an annual breakdown but I can confirm that the total number of child abduction cases to Japan recorded by the section from January 2010 to date is four.

The Government lobby countries where there are a significant number of abduction cases, or where we have encountered specific problems, to sign the 1980 Hague convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction. I raised the issue of Japanese ratification of this convention during my visit there in January 2013. I hope that Japan will become a signatory to the convention in the coming months. We also sponsored a visit of experts on international child abduction to

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Japan, also in January. We will continue to seek appropriate opportunities to raise this important issue with the Japanese authorities.

Maldives

Mr Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will work towards the establishment of a Commonwealth oversight mechanism for the Maldives. [147467]

Alistair Burt: The decisive and timely engagement of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in February 2012 has ensured continued oversight of Maldives since the transfer of power. In addition to CMAG, in March 2012 the Commonwealth Secretary-General also appointed Sir Donald McKinnon as Commonwealth Special Envoy to Maldives. Sir Donald most recently visited Maldives in January this year and I met with him in London on 1 March this year. He has been able to use his extensive experience to work with all parties and has recently spoken on the importance of moving forward to “free, fair, and inclusive elections” in Maldives. We welcome the Commonwealth's valuable work so far, and their ongoing activities to strengthen democracy in Maldives.

Mr Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what representations he is making to ensure that Mohamed Nasheed, the former President of the Maldives, receives a free and fair trial; [147468]

(2) what reports he has received on the 24-hour detention of Mohamed Nasheed, the former President of the Maldives; and if he will make a statement. [147469]

Alistair Burt: The Government understand that former President Nasheed was taken into custody on 5 March at 13:30 local time so that he could be presented at court on 6 March. Officials at our high commission in Colombo have spoken to Maldivian Democratic Party members and to Nasheed's lawyers; we understand that he was not mistreated during his detention. The former President has now been released following the hearing, and his trial has been postponed for four weeks. We look to the Maldivian authorities to ensure that due process is followed, and that proceedings are fair and transparent.

I made a statement on 6 March following the detention of former President Nasheed expressing our keen interest in developments in Maldives and urging all parties to remain calm and to act responsibly.

All parties should be able to contest elections with the candidate of their choice. If the chosen candidates of all parties are not permitted to participate in the presidential election, the credibility of the outcome will be irreparably damaged. We hope all involved will work together to find a solution which would allow for genuinely free, fair, and inclusive elections and ensure all are able to campaign without hindrance.

Middle East

Neil Parish: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Palestinian Authority to rejoin direct peace talks with Israel without preconditions. [147556]

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Alistair Burt: This is a point that we have underlined to the Palestinian Authority on a regular basis. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) also discussed these issues with President Abbas in advance of the recent Palestinian resolution at the UN General Assembly on 29 November.

The British Government are clear that, ultimately, the way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is through direct, credible negotiations between the parties. We continue to call on President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu to show the strong leadership needed to achieve progress towards a two-state solution, which will bring a just and permanent solution to this conflict.

Neil Parish: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Palestinian Authority following recent reports that President Abbas said that Zionism had links to Nazism before World War II during an interview with Lebanese news channel Al-Mayadeen. [147578]

Alistair Burt: We are aware of the interview given by President Abbas to Lebanese news channel Al-Mayadeen, and the British Consul General in Jerusalem discussed it with the President's office on 23 January. In the course of the interview President Abbas was asked about his 1982 PhD thesis. Besides confirming that he wrote the thesis he did not comment any further on it during the interview. We therefore did not see it necessary to make any representations on this occasion.

Neil Parish: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received that Palestinian Authority President Abbas intimated that Israel was trying to kill him during an interview with Lebanese news channel Al-Mayadeen. [147583]

Alistair Burt: We have seen media reports of President Abbas' recent interview with the Lebanese channel Al-Mayadeen.

Neil Parish: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received that Palestinian Authority President Abbas said that Zionism had links to Nazism before World War II during a recent interview with Lebanese news channel Al-Mayadeen. [147584]

Alistair Burt: We are aware of the interview given by President Abbas to Lebanese news channel Al-Mayadeen, and the British Consul General in Jerusalem discussed it with the President's office on 23 January. In the course of the interview President Abbas was asked about his 1982 PhD thesis. Besides confirming that he wrote the thesis he did not comment any further on it during the interview. We therefore did not see it necessary to make any representations on this occasion.

Mrs Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support his Department is providing to projects fostering co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians. [147718]

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Alistair Burt: The Government recognise the importance of supporting constituencies committed to resolving the conflict peacefully, and to generate creative and positive dialogue at different levels between Israelis and Palestinians. We are currently developing our Conflict Pool programme portfolio for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the financial year 2013-14, a key element of which will be projects that foster co-existence.

Occupied Territories

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the EU is seeking compensation for buildings built using EU aid which have been demolished by the Israeli authorities. [148724]

Alistair Burt: The EU has not to date sought compensation from Israel for demolition of EU-funded projects in the west bank. We understand that certain member states have considered seeking compensation for the destruction of projects they have funded bilaterally.

Palestinians

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the effects that restrictions of movement and access in the West Bank have on the financial stability of the Palestinian authority. [148723]

Alistair Burt: The Government continue to assess that Israeli restrictions on movement and access in the west bank and Gaza are the single biggest obstacle to trade and economic development, and hence one of the most important causes of the current financial difficulties of the Palestinian Authority along with the withholding by Israel of customs revenues due to the Palestinian Authority. This is in line with the assessment of the World Bank's Economic Monitoring Report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on 19 March 2013.

We continue to lobby the Israeli Government to ease their restrictions on movement and access and to transfer the customs revenues in a timely and predictable manner in accordance with their obligations under the Paris Protocol.

Syria

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his Turkish counterpart on the ongoing civil unrest in Syria. [148235]

Mr Lidington: The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) has regular discussions with the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, about Syria, most recently on 8 March 2013. They discussed developments on the refugee situation, concerns over border security and support for the Syrian National Coalition (SNC). Turkey plays an important role in the group of countries, including the UK, who are most active in support of the national coalition.

The UK’s objective for Syria remains an end to the violence and a political transition to a more democratic Syria.

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Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to his Russian and Chinese counterparts on seeking Security Council approval for UN agencies to operate in areas beyond the control of the Syrian regime. [148725]

Alistair Burt: We continue to engage with the UN and key international counterparts, including in Security Council consultations, to highlight the urgent need for increased humanitarian access in Syria in order for aid to get to all those who need it most. My noble Friend, the right hon. Baroness Amos, Emergency Relief Co-ordinator for the UN, regularly briefs the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria, most recently on 27 February. We have called on all parties to the conflict to reach an agreement that allows humanitarian workers full unfettered access to all people in need, without interference or threat of violence, and have called on Security Council members, including Russia and China, to encourage these parties to provide access. We have made formal representations to the Russians asking for their assistance, through the UN, to enable a cross-border humanitarian operation.

Dr Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the (a) existence, (b) nature and (c) magnitude of chemical weapons held by the Syrian Government. [148819]

Alistair Burt: Syria publicly admitted possessing chemical weapons on 23 July 2012. We believe that Syria holds a range of chemical warfare agents and has the ability to deliver them. As the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) stated to the House on 6 March 2013, Official Report, column 962:

“We are increasingly concerned about the regime's willingness to use these weapons. We have warned the Assad regime that the use of chemical weapons would lead to a serious response from the international community. Those who order the use of chemical weapons, and those who use them, will be held to account.”

Telephone Services

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many (a) 0800, (b) 0808, (c) 0844, (d) 0845 and (e) 0870 telephone numbers for the public are in use by (i) his Department and (ii) the agencies for which he is responsible. [147819]

Mr Lidington: There are no public telephone numbers managed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) or FCO Services that use the prefixes mentioned by the hon. Member.

The FCO Consular Travel Advice helpline was handled by a contracted company and was a national rate 0845 number, but this was discontinued on 22 February 2013.

Tibet

Mr Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to ensure that the people of Tibet have basic human rights. [148736]

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Mr Swire: I refer my hon. Friend to my previous answer of 14 January 2013, Official Report, column 544W, to the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali). We regularly raise our concerns about Tibet with the Chinese authorities, and we will continue to do so. I issued a statement on 17 December 2012 urging the Chinese authorities to exercise restraint and calling on Tibetans not to resort to extreme forms of protest such as self-immolation. Tibet was discussed at the last round of the annual UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in January 2012.

Mr Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will work with his counterparts in other countries on developing a multilateral solution to the issue of Tibet. [148737]

Mr Swire: We work closely with our international partners and multilateral organisations to encourage the resumption of meaningful dialogue between the Chinese authorities and the Dalai Lama or his representatives. We raised Tibet through the EU at the UN Human Rights Council in September 2012. Alongside the US, EU and Canada, I raised my concerns over self-immolations in Tibet in a statement on 17 December.

Mr Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Chinese government to (a) protect the right to use the Tibetan language, (b) respect freedom of religion and (c) remove censorship in Tibet. [148738]

Mr Swire: We regularly make representations to the Chinese authorities about our human rights concerns in Tibet. We did so most recently at senior level on 20 December 2012, and we will continue to do so.

We raised the issues of the right to use the Tibetan language, respect for freedom of religion, and the removal of censorship in Tibet in detail in the last UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in January 2012. The next Dialogue will offer an opportunity for us to re-state these specific concerns. We are awaiting a positive response from the Chinese Government to our requests for a date for this next Dialogue.

Mr Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on self-government for Tibet. [148739]

Mr Swire: Our position on Tibet is clear and unchanged: we regard Tibet as part of the People's Republic of China. We believe a long-term solution depends on respect for human rights and genuine autonomy for Tibetans within the framework of the Chinese constitution.

Treaties

Stewart Hosie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his Department last recorded concern relating to breaches of treaty obligations by the signatory parties in respect of the Agreement between Great Britain and Colombia extending the Extradition Treaty of 27 October 1888 to Bechuanaland Protectorate, East Africa Protectorate, Gambia Protectorate, North East Rhodesia, North West Rhodesia, North Nigeria, Northern Territories of the Gold Coast, Nyasaland, Sierra Leone Protectorate, South Nigeria

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Protectorate, South Rhodesia, Swaziland and the Uganda Protectorate; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the relevant documentation. [144560]

Mr Lidington: The several thousand “live” treaties to which the UK is party play a crucial role in governing the UK's place in the world and its relations with other states, to the benefit of all its people. Such treaties include extradition, mutual legal assistance, military cooperation, double taxation, tax information exchange, and aviation treaties, to name but a few. They also include the founding treaties of international organisations, such as the EU and NATO. In the event of Scottish independence, the remainder of the UK would continue as a party to these treaties, while the new independent Scottish state would have to go through a process of becoming a party to (or confirming its participation in) however many of those treaties it wished to join.

Some of the 14,000 treaties on the FCO Treaties Online database are either no longer in force, or are no longer in force for the UK because they were concluded by the United Kingdom on behalf of a former colonial territory. The treaty referred to in the question is likely to fall into one of these categories, although its current status could not be confirmed without further research which could be done only at disproportionate cost.

Vatican

Mr Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he plans to seek amendments to the Lateran treaty; and if he will make a statement. [R] [147937]

Mr Lidington: The Lateran treaty agreements provided for the mutual recognition of the Kingdom (later the Republic) of Italy and the Holy See. The UK is not a party to those agreements, and as such any amendments to the treaty would be a matter for the Holy See and the Republic of Italy.

Mr Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings HM ambassador to the Holy See has had with hon. Members since his appointment; what plans the ambassador has to hold meetings with hon. Members; and if he will make a statement. [R] [147939]

Mr Lidington: The UK ambassador to the Holy See has held a number of meetings with hon. Members, both in Rome and in London, since he presented his credentials in September 2011. This includes members of the All Party Parliamentary Group, who visited the Holy See in May 2012, and the Group of Ministers led by the Senior Minister of State, my noble Friend, the right hon. Baroness Warsi in February 2012. He will continue to meet hon. Members when convenient for both sides, and looks forward to welcoming the All Party Parliamentary Group to Rome later this year.

Mr Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings HM ambassador to the Holy See had with Pope Benedict XVI since the ambassador's appointment; and if he will make a statement. [R] [147940]

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Mr Lidington: The UK ambassador to the Holy See presented his credentials to Pope Benedict XVI in September 2011. He has attended meetings with Pope Benedict in the course of normal business, for example when accompanying official delegations or during formal events such as the Pope's new year message and greeting to the diplomatic corps.

Communities and Local Government

Council Tax Benefit

18. Alison Seabeck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent discussions he has had with local authorities on the effect on disabled people of changes to council tax benefit. [148154]

Mr Foster: There have been no specific discussions with local authorities recently on the impact on disabled people. The design and assessment of local council tax support schemes, is the responsibility of local authorities.

The Government are spending over £50 billion supporting disabled people. This is 2.4% of GDP compared to an EU average of 1.4%.

Business Premises: Fires

Peter Aldous: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse in terms of (a) effect on GDP, (b) lost tax revenue, (c) unemployment costs and (d) costs to fire and rescue services as a result of fires in industrial and commercial buildings in 2011. [148173]

Brandon Lewis: No estimate has been made of the cost to the public purse in terms of the effect on GDP, lost tax revenue, unemployment costs and costs to fire and rescue services as a result of fires in industrial and commercial buildings in 2011. Official statistics published on 13 March note that the number of fire incidents were down 37% on last year. Fires in non-residential buildings were down 23%.

Carbon Monoxide: Poisoning

Steve Rotheram: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps he is taking to support those organisations that aim to increase awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide. [148392]

Mr Foster: The Department continues to support work to raise the awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide through its involvement in the cross-government group on gas safety and carbon monoxide awareness. Additionally, the national Chimney Fire Safety Week co-ordinated by the Department's Fire Kills campaign provides a mechanism through which local fire and rescue authorities and the chimney and fuel sectors can instigate awareness raising activity. The campaign also informs local fire and rescue authorities of carbon monoxide initiatives undertaken by a variety of organisations and charities so they can consider local promotional activity.

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Common Purpose

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Meriden of 26 October 2009, Official Report, column 133W, on Common Purpose: finance, what the topics were of any Common Purpose training programmes provided for staff in his Department between 2000 and 2009; and if he will place any documentation relating to such courses in the Library; [134508]

(2) what ministerial oversight there was of funding spent on Common Purpose training programmes between 2000 and 2009. [134509]

Brandon Lewis: While noting that the Department under the last Administration spent £235,950 on Common Purpose, we do not hold further documentation.

As has been the practice of previous and current Governments, Ministers do not have access to the papers of a previous Administration of a different political complexion, so I am unable to inform my hon. Friend of the degree of ministerial involvement or collaboration with Common Purpose under the last Government.

In the interests of transparency, under this Administration, there has been one incidence of spending on Common Purpose, for training provided to a (now former) Permanent Secretary in July 2010. This was not authorised by Ministers.

In ‘50 ways to save’, published in December 2012, Ministers recommended cancelling spending on Common Purpose as a practical way of saving money.

Elections

Jonathan Reynolds: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether the 2014 local elections will be held on the same day as the 2014 European elections. [147840]

Brandon Lewis: I refer the hon. Member to the answer of 12 December 2012, Official Report, House of Lords, column WA228.

Fire Services

Heidi Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans he has for parliamentary scrutiny of his plans for the future of fire and rescue services. [148160]

Brandon Lewis: I refer the hon. Member to my answers of 5 March 2013, Official Report, column 931W and 7 March 2013, Official Report, column 1121W, on supporting locally-led mutuals.

There has previously been support from across the political spectrum for co-operatives and mutuals in local government, and I note that the Communities and Local Government Select Committee recently called on the Government to do more to help support the development of mutuals and co-operatives in local government (“Mutual and co-operative approaches to delivering local services”, HC 112, December 2012).

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Our work to support local mutuals and co-operatives follows a bid from Cleveland Fire Authority to set up a local employee-led mutual. I would add that the Labour councillor who is the local chairman of the Fire Authority has described the false claims of privatisation as ‘scaremongering' (Darlington and Stockton Times, 12 February 2013).

Any potential legislative change to facilitate and support locally-led mutuals would entail parliamentary scrutiny, debate and passage in line with normal procedures.

Andy McDonald: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will place all the responses and related correspondence to his Department's consultation on fire mutuals in the Library. [148363]

Brandon Lewis: The responses and correspondence referred to deal with matters relating to the formulation of Government policy. It is not normal practice to publish such information while it is still being taken into account, and I consider it appropriate to maintain that in this case.

Not withstanding, I refer the hon. Member to my answers of 5 March 2013, Official Report, column 931W, and 7 March 2013, Official Report, column 1121W, on supporting locally-led mutuals.

Tom Blenkinsop: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the average cost to a non-metropolitan fire brigade is of employing a firefighter. [148713]

Brandon Lewis: This information is not held centrally.

Green Belt

Gavin Williamson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent steps he has taken to increase the powers of local authorities to protect the green belt. [148137]

Mr Pickles: We have previously made absolutely clear that traveller sites are inappropriate development in the green belt.

I can confirm to the House that we will be enabling councils to use Temporary Stop Notices to take swift and effective action against unauthorised caravans in the green belt and elsewhere.

This builds on our earlier reforms to strengthen councils' enforcement powers, ensuring fair play throughout planning.

High Speed 2 Railway Line

Jeremy Lefroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether his Department intends to bring forward proposals to alter planning rules to permit wider development along the High Speed 2 route corridor. [145577]

Nick Boles: The Department for Transport have stated that it is their intention to introduce a hybrid Bill to facilitate the construction of the railway line which crosses multiple local authority areas. Previous

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Administrations used hybrid Bills to authorise the construction of Crossrail and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

But we have no plans to make any specific planning changes in respect of wider development along the High Speed 2 route corridor.

Housing: Sustainable Development

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment his Department has made of the use of bio-mimicry techniques to develop sustainable materials for use in the building construction sector. [148289]

Mr Foster: My Department has made no such assessment.

Housing: Taxation

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when he expects local authorities to report to his Department the level set for the community infrastructure levy and the affordable housing levy. [148653]

Nick Boles: When local planning authorities choose to adopt the community infrastructure levy they must consult on their proposed rates and these rates are subject to an independent public examination. After the examination the full Council must approve the charging schedule.

After the charging schedule is approved the charging authority publish it on its website and makes it available at its principal office and at such other places in its area as it consider appropriate. The charging authority must also give notice by local advertisement of the approval of the charging schedule, give notice to those persons who requested to be notified of the approval of the charging schedule that it has been approved, and send a copy to each of the relevant consenting authorities.

Local planning authorities are not required to report their Community Infrastructure Levy rates, or their affordable housing requirements in Section 106 planning obligations, to the Government.

Sickness Absence

Priti Patel: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many officials in (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies and non-departmental public bodies qualify for privilege days; and what the total cost to the public purse was of the number of privilege days utilised each year by such officials. [147733]

Brandon Lewis: In addition to annual leave allowance, all civil service staff are contractually entitled to two and a half days privilege holidays which are customarily taken on Maundy Thursday afternoon, the Queen's Birthday and an additional day at Christmas.

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As part of the civil service reform plan to deliver modern employment conditions for the civil service, the Department and its agencies are currently reviewing privilege leave entitlements (other than the Queen's Birthday).

Based on current staffing levels, the estimated cost of privilege days for DCLG is £471,619, the Planning Inspectorate £173,357 and the QEII Conference Centre £18,731. In each case, that represents less than 1% of the respective pay bills.

Local Government Finance: Sefton

John Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to his answer of 4 March 2013, Official Report, column 783W, on local government finance: Sefton, whether the change in Sefton council's spending power between 2012-13 and 2013-14 represents a reduction in net government grant to that council of £43 million. [147558]

Brandon Lewis: I do not recognise the suggested £43 million figure. Numerical data on the Local Government Finance Settlement can be found online at:

www.local.communities.gov.uk

The reference to changes in net government grant does not reflect the fundamental changes in the funding of local government this year, moving away from reliance on central government grant funding to a scheme where local authorities have greater control over their income. From 2013-14, Formula Grant funding from central Government will be replaced by a system that enables local government as a whole to keep 50% of business rates, and the growth on that share. Revenue spending power reflects the broader sources of income available to each local authority, including from the business rates retention scheme, as well as from Revenue Support Grant and from council tax.

Local Government Services

Jeremy Lefroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the additional cost of providing local authority services in sparsely populated areas. [147925]

Brandon Lewis: Our assessment was informed by evidence from a variety of sources, it included work to construct relative needs formulae over a number of years prior to the 2011-12 settlement and evidence from responses to the summer 2012 Technical Consultation on Business Rates and the statutory consultation on the 2013-14 Local Government Finance Report.

Local Government: Constituencies

Mr Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the (a) average, (b) smallest and (c) largest number of electors in (i) district wards and (ii) county electoral divisions is where the number of councillors is (A) one, (B) two and (C) three; and what the name is of each such ward and division. [148559]

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Brandon Lewis: These are matters that are the responsibility of the independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England which is accountable through the Speakers Committee to this House. The Commission collect data on all electoral arrangements in English local authorities each year and will be able to provide information about these if requested.

John Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what his policy is on the alteration of local authority boundaries in order better to deliver the localism agenda. [148618]

Brandon Lewis: The Government believe that it is preferable for local authorities not to be distracted by boundary changes, but to focus on combining and sharing operations across boundaries on both front line service delivery and back office. Where all councils concerned believe a boundary change would be of genuine benefit, the Government will not stand in the way of their pursuing this, providing there is clear evidence of public support and the changes unambiguously would lead to greater value for money.

Local Government: Disclosure of Information

Stephen McPartland: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will bring forward proposals to make his Department's Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities on Data Transparency legally enforceable; and what plans he has to enforce transparency of council car parking charges. [147673]

Brandon Lewis: We recently consulted on making the Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities on Data Transparency enforceable by regulations. The consultation included a proposal for more transparent data on parking charges and fines. We are now assessing responses received and will publish a government response in due course.

Localism Act 2011

Nadine Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether he plans to collect data on the average number of referendums in each constituency as a result of the Localism Act 2011. [148458]

Nick Boles: Such referendums are a local matter and we have no plans to collect these data centrally.

Mutual Societies

Tom Blenkinsop: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what comparative assessment he has made of the scope for additional (a) savings and (b) revenue which a fire brigade could generate from (i) spinning out from its parent body as a public service mutual and (ii) having an arm's length community interest company providing services to other public and private sector bodies. [148654]

Brandon Lewis: Any assessment of the additional savings and revenue generated by innovative delivery models will be a matter for the relevant fire and rescue

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authority to undertake. There is strong evidence from across a wide range of sectors that public service mutuals deliver significant benefits for their employees, service users and communities, and commissioners. These include higher staff and customer satisfaction, acting as engines for growth in their local communities and making savings.

Employees at Cleveland Fire Brigade have already shown their entrepreneurial drive by setting up a social enterprise which provides fire prevention services to businesses and uses the profits to fund fire prevention work in the community. This has helped contribute to the number of fires in Cleveland falling well below the national average.

Non-domestic Rates

Dan Jarvis: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will assess the potential effect on local bookshops of any increase in business rates. [148056]

Brandon Lewis [holding answer 14 March 2013]: Our commitment to hold business rates rises to the annual Retail Price Index cap means there has been no real terms increase in business rates since 1990. In addition, we have also postponed the revaluation of business premises from 2015 to 2017 to provide certainty and stability; doubled the level of Small Business Rate Relief for a further year (the whole of 2013-14); and given authorities powers to provide their own business rates discounts.

Planning Permission: Devon

Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether (a) he and (b) any Ministers in his Department have had any discussions with Councillor Graham Brown of East Devon District Council about planning matters since May 2010. [147880]

Brandon Lewis [holding answer 14 March 2013]: No. I am not aware of any such discussions by Ministers.

All representatives of the Department act in accordance with “Guidance on Planning Propriety Issues”, which is published at:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/planning-propriety-issues-guidance

More broadly, I refer the right hon. Member to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr Pickles’), letter to him of 12 March, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House.

Right to Buy Scheme: Cumbria

John Woodcock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many tenants have participated in the Right to Buy scheme for social housing in (a) Barrow and Furness constituency, (b) South Lakeland and (c) Cumbria since 2 April 2012. [147294]

Mr Prisk [holding answer 13 March 2013]:Figures for local authority Right to Buy sales at local authority district level since April 2012 can be found in Live Table 691 on this page:

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https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-buy-sales-in-england-2012-to-2013

There were six Right to Buy sales by local authorities in Cumbria between 2012-13 Q1 and Q3. South Lakeland district council transferred their social housing stock at the end of the 2011-12 financial year. Figures are collected at local authority level and not available at parliamentary constituency level.

Termination of Employment

Priti Patel: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many officials in (a) his Department and (b) each of its non-departmental public bodies have left that body due to (i) resignation, (ii) retirement, (iii) redundancy, (iv) transferral to another public sector post and (v) another reason in each of the last five years. [147944]

Brandon Lewis: The following numbers of staff have left my Department in each of the last five years:

Reason2008-092009-102010-112011-122012-13 (to date)

Resignation

56

82

50

39

34

Retirement

33

42

143

10

4

Redundancy

15

6

18

336

175

Transfer

102

102

31

185

80

Other

43

69

54

10

5

Please note that figures on retirements and redundancies through 2010-12 reflect the completion of the Department's major programme of restructuring which has reduced headcount by 37% on a like-for-like basis with the October 2010 baseline position.

Based on current estimates (which reflect accounting consequences from machinery of Government changes), the DCLG Group is reducing its annual running costs by 41% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2014-15. This equates to net savings of at least £532 million over this spending review period and includes savings of around £420 million from the closure of the Government Offices for the Regions.

Figures for the Department's agencies and non-departmental public bodies are not centrally held.

Work and Pensions

Carbon Monoxide: Alarms

Mr Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what consideration his Department has given to amending Regulation 36 of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 to oblige landlords to provide a carbon monoxide alarm in their properties. [147841]

Mr Hoban: The Government have no plans to amend the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 to oblige landlords to provide carbon monoxide alarms. Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) strongly recommends the use of audible carbon monoxide alarms as a precautionary measure, but makes clear that they are not a substitute for the correct installation or maintenance of a gas appliance as required by the regulations.

18 Mar 2013 : Column 483W

Credit Unions

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what funding he has allocated to expand credit union coverage in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [148412]

Steve Webb: Subject to the completion of contractual arrangements, DWP plans to make a further investment of up to £38 million in credit unions. Payments will be subject to the successful achievement of agreed targets and delivery as specified in a contract. A preferred supplier has been identified to deliver credit union expansion and we expect to make an announcement soon.

Disability Living Allowance

Jonathan Reynolds: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the criteria is for the selection of people for reassessment of their disability living allowance ahead of a possible transfer to personal independent payment. [147330]

Esther McVey: Every disability living allowance claimant who is aged 16 to 64 on 8 April 2013, or who reaches age 16 after that date, will be invited to claim personal independence payment from October 2013 onwards. Most claimants will not be invited to claim personal independence payment until October 2015 onwards. Further information on the criteria for selection to claim personal independence payment and the timetable over which that is happening has been published in a Reassessments and Impacts briefing note, available on the Department's website at:

www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/pip-reassessments-and-impacts.pdf

Disability Living Allowance: Greater Manchester

Jonathan Reynolds: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people currently in receipt of disability living allowance are due to be assessed for personal independence payments in Stalybridge and Hyde constituency. [147252]

Esther McVey: The available information on personal independence payment is published in a reassessments and impacts briefing note. This can be found on the Department's website at:

www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/pip-reassessments-and-impacts.pdf

Information on current disability living allowance caseloads at a parliamentary constituency level can also be found on the Department's website at:

http://83.244.183.180/100pc/tabtool.html

Electronic Government

Helen Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had in the last six months with (a) his ministerial colleagues and (b) key stakeholders on the challenges for services delivered by his Department posed by digital exclusion. [148361]

Mr Hoban: DWP has a responsibility to ensure services are accessible to everyone who is entitled to them. I am committed to ensuring that non-users of digital are not

18 Mar 2013 : Column 484W

excluded when we have a digital by default approach. I have discussed with ministerial colleagues how we will achieve this. Additionally, my officials are working with the Government Digital Service, the Cabinet Office and a range of stakeholders to ensure that there is a cross government approach to digital exclusion.

Employment and Support Allowance

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people claiming employment and support allowance had benefit sanctions applied in each month between October 2011 and the most recent date for which figures are available. [148373]

Mr Hoban: The information is not available.

The sanctions regime for people on employment support allowance (ESA) in the Work Related Activity Group changed from the beginning of December 2012. As a result of the changes to the regime, the Department for Work and Pensions has reviewed its methodology for publishing ESA sanctions official statistics with a view to ensuring the publication remains relevant while also seeking to maintain a consistent time series.

In comparing methodologies, an error was discovered in the current official statistics measure leading to double counting of some sanctions. For this reason, statisticians at the DWP have decided to suspend publication of ESA sanctions statistics based on the current method.

The DWP will publish the first set of statistics for the new ESA sanctions regime in May 2013 alongside a revised historical series and a working paper explaining the differences between the methodologies.

Employment and Support Allowance: Worthing

Mr Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what proportion of calls to Worthing benefit centre regarding employment and support allowance were returned within the target of three hours in (a) July 2012, (b) August 2012, (c) September 2012, (d) October 2012, (e) November 2012, (f) December 2012, (g) January 2013 and (h) February 2013; [146824]

(2) what proportion of first payments of employment and support allowance by Worthing benefit centre were made within the target of 16 days in (a) July 2012, (b) August 2012, (c) September 2012, (d) October 2012, (e) November 2012, (f) December 2012, (g) January 2013 and (h) February 2013; [146826]

(3) pursuant to the answer of 4 March 2013, Official Report, column 886W, on Jobcentre Plus: Worthing, for which benefit Worthing benefit centre is failing to meet internal performance standards in (a) returning calls and (b) processing claims; and if he will provide the performance measure data for the standards achieved by the centre. [146941]

Mr Hoban: The following table gives performance data for employment support allowance at Worthing benefit centre for calls returned within three hours and new claims processed within 16 days.

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Employment support allowance 2012-13
 Percentage of calls returned within 3 hours (target 95%)Percentage of claims processed within 16 days (target 85%)

July

12.0

68.4

August

17.6

62.3

September

13.7

71.2

October

17.5

53.6

November

24.4

59.0

December

36.8

63.9

January

44.3

72.0

February

78.0

82.2

Worthing benefit centre is not currently meeting internal performance standards for employment support allowance (ESA) on both calls returned and new claims processed.

Due to the high volumes that have been experienced in this area of work at Worthing benefit centre performance has been impacted greatly. Support has been given by other areas of the department and is continuing, backlogs have now reduced and performance is recovering. Full recovery is expected over the next few months.

Employment Schemes

Fabian Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether his Department offers provision of training to jobseekers who cannot find work in their usual field of employment. [147167]

Mr Hoban: Jobcentre Plus advisers are able to offer claimants help which can include Skills Funding Agency (SFA) skills provision, job search support and access to the DWP-funded Flexible Support Fund (FSF). FSF may be used to procure provision to enable a claimant to either enter sustained employment or move closer to the labour market where no other suitable DWP contracted or non-contracted training is available.

Advisers work with each claimant to judge which interventions will help them move into employment, at the most appropriate point in a claim, tailoring this to the individual need. Help can include being offered a place on a sector-based work academy which provides pre-employment training, and work experience in a sector with high volumes of current local vacancies.

Long-term unemployed claimants can access the tailored, back to work support, on offer from the Work programme. This can include skills provision if the provider considers this an appropriate way of helping an individual into sustainable employment.

Habitual Residence Test

Bob Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of the habitual residency test in relation to the lifting of transitional controls on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants in January 2014. [148570]

Mr Hoban: The Department has robust rules and guidance already in place and is currently looking at ways of further strengthening the habitual residence test.

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Hostels: Females

Lindsay Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what steps his Department is taking to ensure continued funding for women's hostels after the introduction of the benefit cap; [148388]

(2) what steps his Department is taking to safeguard funding for women's aid refugees after the introduction of the benefit cap. [148389]

Mr Hoban: We have just amended the Benefit Cap (Housing Benefit) Regulations 2012 so that claimants who are staying in refuges or hostels that satisfy the definition of “exempt accommodation” in Housing Benefit legislation will have the support the Department provides for their rent fully disregarded in the benefit cap calculation.

In other cases there will be transitional support available to families affected by the cap through Discretionary Housing Payments. We are providing additional funds of up to £65 million for this purpose in 2013-14, and up to a further £35 million in 2014-15.

Housing Benefit: Social Rented Housing

Stephen Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received from housing associations and registered social landlords on the under-occupancy penalty. [148561]

Steve Webb: Ministerial colleagues, departmental officials and I have met with representatives from a range of organisations, including social housing providers, local authorities and housing associations to discuss various aspects of the Government's plans for welfare reform, including details of the removal of the spare room subsidy for social tenants.

During the development of the measure to remove the spare room subsidy officials from both the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government met with social landlord groups to discuss the emerging policy.

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to inform social housing tenants affected by the under-occupation penalty of their potential entitlement to discretionary housing payments; and if he will make a statement. [148620]

Steve Webb: It is for local authorities to administer and publicise discretionary housing payments. DWP has issued guidance to local authorities on how the scheme should be administered and that it should be widely publicised.

The guidance also includes model letters and factsheets that local authorities have used to communicate how the size criteria should be applied in the social rented sector:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/a4-2012.pdf

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions of the 660,000 claimants identified in the impact assessment on the Housing Benefit Under-Occupation Penalty published by his Department on

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28 June 2012, how many would need

(a)

one bedroom,

(b)

two bedrooms and

(c)

three or more bedrooms, in order to avoid the penalty. [148622]

Steve Webb: Of the estimated 660,000 claimants affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy in the social sector in 2013-14, the Department estimates around 380,000 will need one bedroom properties according to the size criteria and around 260,000 will need two bedroom properties. Sample sizes in the survey data used for this analysis are too small to derive reliable estimates of the number of claimants requiring three bedroom properties.

Notes:

1. Figures have been rounded to the nearest 20,000.

2. Earlier, more approximate versions of these numbers were released in response to a freedom of information request (VTR611) in February 2013 for copies of any unpublished statistical background information on stock that described the impact on various claimant groups of the proposals to introduce the under-occupation penalty. The figures were originally prepared for short notice internal briefing to the Permanent Secretary, but we have since produced more reliable estimates, which we are giving in this reply.

Source:

Policy Simulation Model, using 2009-10 reference data from the Family Resources Survey.

Housing Benefit: Wales

Stephen Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what conclusions he has drawn from his Department's pilots of direct payments to tenants in Wales; and if he will make a statement. [148560]

Mr Hoban: The Direct Payment Demonstration projects have provided and continue to provide much valuable live learning about how best to design that aspect of universal credit so that arrears are minimised and tenants take effective control of their budgets.

To date, the learning has in particular influenced the design of Personal Budgeting Support, the Alternative Payment Process and the rent arrears trigger.

Income Support

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people claiming income support have had benefits sanctions applied in each month between October 2011 and the most recent date for which figures are available. [148374]

Mr Hoban: The only group on income support subject to a conditionality regime enforced by sanctions are lone parents. The information requested is provided in the following table:

Income support lone parent sanctions applied by month in Great Britain
 Number of sanctions

October 2011

6,200

November 2011

5,200

December 2011

4,900

January 2012

5,000

February 2012

4,600

March 2012

5,200

April 2012

4,200

May 2012

4,600

June 2012

4,100

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July 2012

5,200

August 2012

8,000

September 2012

6,800

October 2011 to September 2012 total

64,100

Notes: 1. A lone parent claiming income support can be sanctioned for failure to attend or participate in mandatory work focused interviews (WFIs) without good cause. The benefit sanction remains in place until the lone parent attends and participates in a WFI. 2. Data to September 2012 is the latest available published information—see: http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/is/lone_parent_regime/index.php?page=lone_parent_regime 3. Figures are rounded to the nearest hundred. Source: Income Support Computer System (ISCS) data