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Revenue and Customs

Ian Lavery: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a comparative assessment of the value for money of (a) HM Revenue and Customs' in-house debt collection and (b) private debt collection agencies. [184004]

Mr Gauke: HMRC has engaged the services of debt collection agencies to pursue debts which people have not resolved in response to HMRC’s contacts, as an alternative to HMRC taking enforcement action on those debts. Therefore it is not possible to arrive at a like for like comparison between two organisations.

27 Jan 2014 : Column 403W

Ian Lavery: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average end to end costs for HM Revenue and Customs are when recovering £1,000 worth of debt when pursued by (a) HM Revenue and Customs' debt management banking unit and (b) a private debt collection agency. [184005]

Mr Gauke: It is not possible to compare the cost of the HMRC and debt collection agency operations, as HMRC does not use the end to end services of debt collection agencies.

Ian Lavery: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the success rate is of private debt collection agencies engaged to act on unpaid debt by HM Revenue and Customs. [184007]

Mr Gauke: During the financial year 2012-13 additional revenue collected totalled £248.7 million. Payment by commission ensures good value for money.

Tax Allowances: Business

Mr Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the take-up of tax relief granted to businesses who have paid for financial advice for their employees. [184226]

Mr Gauke: Employees may receive financial advice in respect of the employee shareholder status.

Details of the number of employee shareholders or number of companies offering the employee shareholder status is not available.

Information about the number of individuals expected to benefit from the employee shareholder status and the associated Exchequer revenue have been included in the impact assessment which can be found at:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/tiin/emp-shareholder-status.pdf

Taxation: EU Nationals

Dame Tessa Jowell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his Department's estimate is of the amount received in tax receipts through EEA migrants employed in the UK between December 2012 and December 2013. [184251]

Danny Alexander: No estimate has been made of the tax receipts from EEA migrants.

Taxation: Self-assessment

Mr David Davis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 17 January 2014, Official Report, column 730W, on taxation: self-assessment, what steps his Department is taking to ensure people are not charged by copycat websites for services that are offered free by the state. [184269]

Mr Gauke: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) takes customer confidence in their online services very seriously. Ministers have asked a cross-Government group, at which HMRC is a participant, to work with industry experts to mitigate the risks posed by copycat websites to customers.

27 Jan 2014 : Column 404W

HMRC's extensive online services are best accessed by typing this address:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/

directly into an internet browser.

Thames Garden Bridge

Mary Creagh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 17 January 2014, Official Report, column 11W, on the Thames Garden Bridge, who in his Department is responsible for preparing the business case for the Thames Garden Bridge; and when he expects the business case to be published. [184355]

Danny Alexander: Transport for London will be producing the business case for the Garden Bridge with input from the Garden Bridge Trust. TfL expect the business case to be completed by mid 2014.

Welfare Tax Credits: Self-employed

Philip Davies: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many owners of small businesses are in receipt of tax credits. [184200]

Nicky Morgan: This information is not available.

Communities and Local Government

Beaches

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the need for public beach operators to (a) carry out risk assessments and (b) provide a minimum level of life saving equipment on public beaches. [181398]

Mike Penning: I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Under civil law, public beach operators may need to consider their wider public safety responsibilities, this may direct them towards the provision of rescue equipment at particular locations.

Public beach operators may have responsibilities to carry out risk assessments and provide lifesaving equipment under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The nature of this duty extends to public beach operators if they are an employer and the extent of control they exercise over beach activities. In some circumstances they may have a duty to take reasonably practicable steps to reduce the risk of drowning. These steps would normally be based on an assessment of the risks at that location and may extend to the provision of lifesaving equipment.

Fire Services

Tom Blenkinsop: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will bring forward legislative proposals to amend the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 to enable social enterprise and public mutuals to deliver fire and rescue services. [184759]

27 Jan 2014 : Column 405W

Brandon Lewis: I refer the hon. Member to my speech in the Adjournment debate of 13 May 2013, Official Report, column 470 onwards which sets out my position on mutuals very clearly. I am supportive of fire and rescue authorities looking at new and innovative ways of delivering their services to best meet the needs of their communities.

Infrastructure: Sussex

Nicholas Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the transport, road, waste and energy infrastructure in (a) West Sussex and (b) Mid Sussex constituency for current and projected demand for housing; [184411]

(2) if he will review the infrastructure in (a) West Sussex and (b) Mid Sussex constituency in the light of current and projected demand for housing. [184410]

Nick Boles: The National Planning Policy Framework sets out clearly that local planning authorities should work with other authorities and providers to assess the quality and capacity of infrastructure for transport, water supply, wastewater and its treatment, energy (including heat), telecommunications, utilities, waste, health, social care, education, flood risk and coastal change management, and its ability to meet forecast demands.

National policy must be taken into account in developing Local Plans and is a material consideration in respect of individual planning applications (irrespective of whether areas have a Local Plan in place). I hope my right hon. Friend will appreciate, however, that as planning is a matter devolved to local councils I cannot comment on the situation in Mid Sussex specifically.

Infrastructure was an issue raised as part of the BETA testing of new planning guidance and we are carefully considering the points raised before issuing the final version of the guidance.

Planning: Health

Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how his Department will ensure public health concerns are a priority in the final version of the National Planning Practice Guidance. [184407]

Nick Boles: We are considering a range of issues following public comment in the BETA testing of the guidance, which include public health issues, and will ensure these are reflected in the final revision.

Cabinet Office

Crime

Mr Jeremy Browne: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what the percentage change has been in recorded crime in each police force in England and Wales between 2012-13 and 2013-14. [184416]

Mr Hurd: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

27 Jan 2014 : Column 406W

Letter from Glen Watson, dated January 2014:

As Director General for the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department asking by what proportion police recorded crime has changed in each police force in England and Wales between 2012/13 and 2013/14. (188416)

Data for 2013/14 have not yet been published; the latest published police recorded crime data relate to the year ending September 2013. These figures on total recorded crime—excluding fraud—have been provided in the table.

During this period there has been a phased transition of responsibility for the recording of fraud from individual forces to Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for such offences. To provide comparable data on recorded crime across the time period requested, fraud offences have thus been excluded.

Further data, broken down by offence type, have been published by the ONS in Table P2 of the ‘Police force area data tables’ as part of the ‘Crime Statistics, period ending September 2013’ release, available here:

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-326518

In accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, statistics based on police recorded crime data were assessed by the UK Statistics Authority against the Code of Practice for Official Statistics in January 2014 and found not to meet the required standard for designation as National Statistics.

The next set of police recorded crime data—relating to the year ending December 2013—is due to be published by the ONS in April 2014.

Police recorded crime by police force area, English regions and Wales, percentage change, year ending September 2012 compared with year ending September 20131 (police recorded crime data are not designated as National Statistics)
England and Wales
Percentage change
Police force areaTotal recorded crime (excluding, fraud2)

Cleveland

-1

Durham

-5

Northumbria

1

North East

-1

  

Cheshire

-1

Cumbria

0

Greater Manchester

-7

Lancashire

-2

Merseyside

0

North West

-3

  

Humberside

0

North Yorkshire

-5

South Yorkshire

-3

West Yorkshire

-4

Yorkshire and the Humber

-3

  

Derbyshire

-4

Leicestershire

-4

Lincolnshire

-10

Northamptonshire

-8

Nottinghamshire

-1

East Midlands

-5

  

Staffordshire

-6

Warwickshire

-7

West Mercia

-10

West Midlands

-1

West Midlands

-4

  

Bedfordshire

-2

27 Jan 2014 : Column 407W

Cambridgeshire

-10

Essex

-1

Hertfordshire

-10

Norfolk

-3

Suffolk

-8

East

-5

  

London, City of

1

Metropolitan Police

-7

London

-7

  

Hampshire

-9

Kent3

8

Surrey

-7

Sussex

-7

Thames Valley

-4

South East

-4

  

Avon and Somerset

-8

Devon and Cornwall

-3

Dorset

-6

Gloucestershire

-5

Wiltshire

-7

South West

-6

  

England

-5

  

Dyfed-Powys

-8

Gwent

0

North Wales

-11

South Wales

-1

Wales

-4

  

British Transport Police

1

1Source: Police recorded crime, Home Office 2 Action Fraud have taken over the recording of fraud offences on behalf of individual police forces. This process began in April 2011 and was rolled out to all police forces by March 2013. See the ‘User Guide to Crime Statistics for England and Wales’ for more details including information on the transfer date to Action Fraud for each force. 3 When interpreting data for Kent, users should be aware of recent changes to recording practices in that force. For further information see the section on ‘Accuracy of the statistics’ in the introduction to the statistical bulletin (‘Crime Statistics, period ending September 2013’).

Minister without Portfolio

Jonathan Ashworth: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office (1) how many times the Minister without Portfolio, the right hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps), has used an official Government car from the ministerial car pool since September 2012; and what the (a) departure point and (b) destination was in each such case; [184370]

(2) what international trips the Minister without Portfolio has undertaken in his official capacity since September 2012; and what modes of travel were used for each such trip. [184371]

Mr Maude: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 8 January 2014, Official Report, column 248W.

27 Jan 2014 : Column 408W

Sky Lanterns

Julian Sturdy: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what steps he is taking to improve the level of voluntary action around the safe use of Chinese lanterns. [183935]

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

Following a meeting between DEFRA and industry representatives on 9 December, a voluntary code of practice drafted by the British Retail Consortium in conjunction with other industry representatives and Trading Standards will be disseminated to manufacturers, importers and retailers. The aims of the code of practice are to make industry more accountable for the products they place onto the market, improve the quality of the lanterns, and increase consumer understanding of the potential risks.

Unemployment: Young People

Mr Simon Burns: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what estimate he has made of the proportion of young people who have been unemployed for more than 12 months in (a) Chelmsford constituency and (b) Chelmsford local authority area. [184693]

Mr Hurd: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Glen Watson, dated January 2014:

As Director General for the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking for the proportion of young people who have been unemployed for more than 12 months in (a) Chelmsford constituency and (b) Chelmsford local authority area. (184693)

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) compiles unemployment estimates for small areas from the Annual Population Survey following International Labour Organisation definitions. Unfortunately, due to small sample sizes, the requested estimates are not available from this source.

As an alternative we have provided the percentage of 18 to 24 year olds claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) for over 12 months from the Jobcentre Plus Administrative system. For December 2013, 0.7% of 18 to 24 year olds had been claiming JSA for over 12 months in Chelmsford constituency and 0.6% of 18 to 24 year olds had been claiming for over 12 months in Chelmsford Local Authority.

National and local area estimates for many labour market statistics, including employment, unemployment and claimant count are available on the NOMIS website at:

http://www.nomisweb.co.uk

Voluntary Work: Young People

Nicholas Soames: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what recent assessment he has made of the progress of the National Citizen Service. [184692]

Mr Hurd: Since it began the National Citizen Service (NCS) has created a total of 1 million hours of social action by young people in local communities across the country. More than 70,000 young people have taken part in NCS since 2011, with over 40,000 participants in 2013 alone—a substantial increase from 26,000 in 2012.

27 Jan 2014 : Column 409W

A robust and independent evaluation of the 2012 pilots was published in July 2013 and underlined the success and value of NCS. It showed a return on investment of £2.8 for every £1 invested in the programme, and that 98% of participants said that they would recommend the programme to a friend.

Defence

Afghanistan

Mrs Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 8 January 2014, Official Report, column 251W, on Afghanistan, how much of the proposed modification work on vehicles used in Afghanistan to make them fit for use on UK roads will be undertaken by (a) the Defence Support Group and (b) other agencies or companies; how many of the companies who will undertake modifications of vehicles returning from Afghanistan to make them fit for use on UK roads have undertaken contract work during operations in Afghanistan; and how much his Department has (i) allocated and (ii) spent to date on the modification programme for vehicles bought specifically for Afghanistan to ensure that they are fit for use in the UK once the necessary negotiations with contactors are complete and necessary contracts are agreed. [184138]

Mr Dunne: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Minister with responsibilty for international security strategy, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison), on 8 January 2014, Official Report, column 251W. The position remains unchanged.

Armed Forces: Officers

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many days (a) last year and (b) this year to date the (i) Chief of the Air Staff, (ii) First Sea Lord and (iii) Chief of the General Staff worked in London. [182911]

Anna Soubry: The following table reflects the number of days last year and this year to date the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), the First Sea Lord (CNS/ISL) and the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) have worked in London.

Days
 1 January to 31 December 20131 to 15 January 2014

CAS

81

2

CNS/ISL

118

3

CGS

135

2

Lord Levene’s Defence Reform report recommended that the Service Chiefs' time and effort were focused on their respective Front Line Commands. In accordance with the principles of the new operating model, and dependent on the business requirement, the Service Chiefs balance their time between London and the Front Line Commands.

Armed Forces: Vehicles

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make an estimate of the unit price at the time of purchase of each vehicle bought as part of urgent operational requirements for use in Afghanistan. [184199]

27 Jan 2014 : Column 410W

Mr Dunne: I am withholding this information as its disclosure would prejudice commercial interests.

Army Reserve: Hampshire

Mr Mike Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many new army reserve recruits there were in (a) Portsmouth South constituency and (b) Hampshire in each of the last five years. [183587]

Anna Soubry: The estimated number of people who have joined the Army Reserve in Hampshire and the overall Portsmouth area since April 2012 is shown in the following table. Information prior to April 2012 is not held in the format requested.

Movements into TA Group A
County or unitary authority1 April 2012-31 March 20131 April 2013-30 November 2013

Portsmouth

20

10

Hampshire (including Portsmouth)

110

70

Notes/caveats: 1. Information about the number of recruits by specific constituency boundaries is not recorded. 2. Figures have been rounded to the nearest 5 to limit disclosure and ensure confidentiality. Source: Defence Statistics (Army)

Defence Equipment and Support

Sir Peter Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 16 December 2013, Official Report, columns 12-13W, on Defence Equipment and Support, whether his Department made estimates of the financial savings that would be achieved through the DE&S+ model before the decision to proceed with that model was made. [184413]

Mr Dunne: The decision to establish Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) as a bespoke trading entity was made on the basis that continuing with the commercial competition was unsafe and that, in transforming DE&S, we would look to build on, but not necessarily implement as outlined in the interim proposition, the DE&S+ model. We have not yet determined the level of financial savings expected of the new organisation.

European Fighter Aircraft

Mark Menzies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he is taking to establish new markets for Typhoon aircraft. [183991]

Mr Dunne: It is first and foremost the job of British industry to identify new markets for the products it makes. Obviously, in the sector of defence, the Government will have a role in supporting sales to like-minded allies, as well as determining where we would not wish controlled goods to be sold. As part of this support, I discuss export issues relating to Typhoon using cross Whitehall forums including the National Security Council and its sub-groups and have attended overseas events in support of British interests, including exports. I look to UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation (part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) to identify new markets in close co-operation with BAE Systems. The Ministry of Defence will support these efforts as part of our wider defence engagement

27 Jan 2014 : Column 411W

activity and as one of the Eurofighter Partner Nations, who all share an interest in helping to enhance the prospects for other nations to bring this extremely capable aircraft into service.

Military Aircraft

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 4 September 2013, Official Report, column 406W, on military aircraft, how many aircraft of each type were used to calculate the net book value. [184325]

Mr Dunne [holding answer 24 January 2014]: The number of aircraft used to calculate the net book value of each type was as follows:

Aircraft typeNumber of aircraft

Reaper

5

Chinook

46

Merlin

66

Puma/Gazelle

34

Sea King

103

Apache

66

Lynx

101

Islander

4

BAE 146

4

BAE 125

6

Vigilant

65

Viking

82

Sentry

6

Rehman Chishti: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 4 November 20113, Official Report, column 202W, on military aircraft, how many laser pen related events occurred in (a) Afghanistan, (b) Iraq, (c) the UK and (d) Libya. [184754]

Mr Francois: Of the 162 laser related events reported in my answer of 6 November 2013, Official Report, column 202W, 76 were in the UK and 86 were overseas. I am withholding the location of the overseas events as its disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces. It is not possible to determine whether laser pens were responsible for these events.

Navy

Dr Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the main gate decision will be taken for the next generation of the Royal Navy's airborne surveillance and control capability; whether the Royal Navy's existing capability will continue at current levels until the successor system is available; what assessment he has made of the risks involved in any future gap in the Royal Navy's airborne surveillance and control capability; and if he will make a statement. [183965]

Mr Dunne: The Project which will deliver the next generation of airborne surveillance, CROWSNEST, entered the third element of its assessment phase in March 2013. Work is currently under way to finalise the Main Gate investment decision. The Royal Navy's airborne surveillance is currently provided by the Sea King platform,

27 Jan 2014 : Column 412W

which is due to be taken out of service in 2016. Until CROWSNEST enters service, surveillance capability will be provided by other platforms and systems working together in a layered defence approach to support the UK Task Group, but these other platforms will not be able to eliminate entirely the Royal Navy's organic gap in airborne early warning capability.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the Order of Battle is of the Fleet. [184305]

Mr Francois: As at 22 January 2014, the Order of Battle for the Fleet is shown in the following table.

 Order of Battle

Landing Platform Helicopter

2

Landing Platform Dock

2

T45

6

T23

13

Hunt Class MCV

8

Sandown Class MCV

7

River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels

3

Helicopter Offshore Patrol Vessels

1

P2000 Patrol Boats

18

Ocean Survey Vessels

1

Coastal Survey Vessels

3

Ice Patrol Ship

1

Ships Submersible Ballistic Nuclear

4

Ship Submersible Nuclear

7

Assault Helicopters—Sea King Mk4

1 Sqn

Search and Rescue—Sea King Mk5

1 Sqn

Airbourne Surveillance and Control—Sea King Mk7

3 Sqns

  

Anti Submarine and Anti Surface:

 

Merlin Mk1 and Mk2

4 Sqns

Lynx Mk8 and Wildcat

3 Sqns

  

Battlefield Helicopters—Wildcat

1 Sqn

Elementary Flying

3 Sqns

Beechcraft King Air 350ER Avenger

1 Sqn

For the Royal Fleet Auxiliary:

 Order of Battle

Fleet Tankers

2

Support Tankers

1

Small Fleet Tankers

2

Fleet Replenishment Ships

3

Landing Ship Dock

3

Aviation Training Ship

1

Forward Repair Ship

1

RAF Northolt

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the disposal value of RAF Northolt; and if he will make a statement. [184486]

Dr Murrison: RAF Northolt is not planned for disposal. The Ministry of Defence therefore holds no estimate of its current market value.

27 Jan 2014 : Column 413W

Details of MOD land holdings with asset valuation over £1 million can be found in chapter 7 of the National Asset Register, last published by HM Treasury in 2007. RAF Northolt's value was set at £224.067 million.

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the future use of RAF Northolt following the publication of the Airports Commission Interim report; and if he will make a statement. [184487]

Dr Murrison: The Government established the independent Airports Commission to identify and recommend to Government options for maintaining this country's status as an international hub for aviation. Prior to the publication of its Interim Report, the Airports Commission considered different proposals to allow for more extensive use of RAF Northolt for commercial air traffic that would otherwise use Heathrow airport. However, the Commission concluded in its Interim Report, published on 17 December 2013, that RAF Northolt does not provide a realistic option for managing capacity at Heathrow.

The Government will not comment on the relative merits of the options shortlisted in the Airports Commission's Interim Report, or on the options that have not been shortlisted, until after the Commission has produced its final report in the summer of 2015.

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to undertake a full option appraisal on the future use of RAF Northolt; and if he will make a statement. [184488]

Dr Murrison: None.

Redundancy

Mr Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many officials from his Department have (a) been made redundant since 2010 and (b) been made redundant then re-employed directly or as external consultants. [183595]

Anna Soubry: The following table details the number of officials who have left the Ministry of Defence (MOD) through compulsory early retirement or severance, through voluntary release and redundancy, or under the terms of the Voluntary Early Release Scheme (VERS) since financial year (FY) 2009-10.

Fewer than 0.05% of those who left under such schemes have been rehired as MOD civilians, and no staff made redundant in the specified period are currently employed by the MOD as consultants.

The MOD had to make difficult decisions to deal with the inherited budget deficit, which included reducing our civilian headcount. Now that the budget is balanced, we are able, in a small number of specific cases, to recruit externally. Such cases would include where there is a need for specialist skills for one-off and short-life projects or where it is necessary to backfill behind deployed staff.

27 Jan 2014 : Column 414W

 FY 2009-10FY 2010-11FY 2011-12FY 2012-13FY 2013-141

Voluntary Release and Redundancy

400

180

40

40

10

Voluntary Early Release Scheme2

-

-

5,950

3,240

570

Compulsory Retirement/Severance

210

150

20

40

10

1 2013-14 period covers date range 1 April 2013 to 30 September 2013 inclusive. 2 Personnel exiting under Voluntary Early Release Schemes (VERS) from 1 July 2011 onwards are listed separately from those leaving under alternative voluntary release or redundancy schemes. Source: Defence Statistics (Civilian)

Unmanned Air Vehicles

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 19 December 2013, Official Report, column 708W, on unmanned air vehicles, if he will request that the US Air Force provide a breakdown of the £10.5 million provided to support operations at RAF Croughton by each (a) unit present, (b) activity carried out and (c) facility used at the base. [182423]

Mr Francois: The information is not centrally held by the United States Air Force and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Warships

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) on how many occasions Ministers in his Department have been informed that the Fleet Ready Escort has been gapped in each of the last five years; and how long each gap was; [178293]

(2) what ships have been assigned to Fleet Ready Escort tasking in the last five years; and for how long each such ship was assigned; [178294]

(3) on how many occasions an offshore patrol vessel and a mine countermeasure vessel have been assigned Fleet Ready Escort tasking; [178295]

(4) whether Ministers in his Department must be informed of any gap in tasking for the Fleet Ready Escort. [178296]

Mr Francois: I will write to the hon. Member once the information has been collated.

Substantive answer from Mark Francois to Angus Robertson:

I undertook to write to you in answer to your Parliamentary Questions on 9 December 2013 (Official Report, column 72W) about the Fleet Ready Escort (FRE) as Ministry of Defence officials required additional time to examine the information available.

I am aware that my hon. Friend the Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology (Mr Dunne) was unable, due to time constraints, to answer the questions you raised about the FRE during the Westminster Hall Debate on Royal Navy Ships on 3 December 2013 (Official Report, column 192WH). He too undertook to write to you and I hope the response below addresses all the points you made.

The FRE is a designated Royal Navy Frigate or Destroyer maintained at high readiness to provide contingent capability in UK home waters. There are usually a number of Royal Navy units available at sea at any one time. If the designated FRE is not

27 Jan 2014 : Column 415W

available or there is another unit closer to the area of concern or interest, and if it is appropriate, that unit could be reprioritised to undertake the required task, such as Maritime Security.

This is one of the Royal Navy's key responsibilities and as such, Ministers would be informed if there were no units able to conduct FRE.

There is no central record of the number of occasions Ministers have been informed of a gap in the FRE tasking, but the available documentation indicates that Ministers have been informed on two occasions that the FRE commitment would not be covered by a dedicated vessel, once in 2011 for a period of 19 days and once in 2012 for a period of 18 days. This does not mean that there were no Frigates or Destroyers in UK waters during those periods or that no vessel could, had the situation demanded it, have conducted FRE at that time.

Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) are regularly used for Maritime Security tasks, but there has not been an occasion when an OPV or a Mine Countermeasure Vessel has been designated as the FRE.

A record of the ships assigned to FRE tasking in the last five years is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Work and Pensions

Apprentices

Robert Halfon: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many apprentices have been hired due to his Department's new contract for procurement. [184083]

Mike Penning: In order to improve the number of apprenticeships and wider skills opportunities created through procurement, DWP introduced a contract schedule to its terms and conditions in April 2010 for all new contracts.

DWP is awaiting Cabinet Office notice to confirm arrangements for the provision of a pan-government single supplier registration and data gathering tool to evaluate the numbers.

Biocidal Products: EU Law

Mr Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent estimate he has made of the cost to UK businesses of the Biocidal Products Regulation; and if he will make a statement. [184430]

Mike Penning: A full UK impact assessment analysing the costs, benefits, and other impacts of the main elements of the proposed regulation on the UK was published in November 2010. That impact assessment drew on a contract study which identified significant expected savings for the UK from the new regulation compared with the earlier Biocidal Products directive. The expected savings resulted from a more efficient system for authorising biocidal products for sale and use across the EU and other improved conditions for UK companies in the EU biocidal products market.

Following adoption of the regulation in 2012 the costs and benefits were recalculated to reflect the adopted text and later developments. Relative to the earlier directive, which has now been revoked and replaced by

27 Jan 2014 : Column 416W

the regulation, this further assessment indicated overall cost savings for the UK in the range £30 million to £230 million over 10 years.

Housing Benefit

Stephen Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to housing benefit bulletin U1/2014, how many people who have wrongly had their housing benefit reduced have subsequently died. [184095]

Esther McVey: The information requested is not available.

Stephen Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to housing benefit bulletin U1/2014, what provision exists for reimbursing the estates of people who have wrongly had their housing benefit reduced and have subsequently died. [184096]

Esther McVey: Where a person dies and an underpayment of housing benefit is due, the executor of their estate will be reimbursed with any payments which are due.

Mr Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people under the age of 25 receive housing benefit. [184415]

Steve Webb: This information is available via stat-xplore which can be found at the following link:

https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/

Housing Benefit: Social Rented Housing

Dan Jarvis: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will carry out an assessment of the potential effect of the under-occupancy penalty on foster carers who look after more than one child. [184106]

Esther McVey: We already allow an additional room for foster carers, which in some circumstances provides for up to two foster children.

In addition, we have made £5 million a year of discretionary housing payment funding available specifically to meet the costs of further rooms that may be needed by those fostering two or more children, including groups of siblings.

The Department for Education is commissioning independent research, part of which will consider if there are any effects from the removal of the spare room subsidy on foster carers. This is in addition to the wider evaluation of the impact of the removal of the spare room subsidy commissioned by DWP and being led by Ipsos-MORI.

Jessica Morden: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many social housing tenants affected by the under-occupancy penalty will receive the exemption for those who have lived continuously at the same property since 1 January 1996 in (a) Wales, (b) each Welsh parliamentary constituency and (c) each Welsh local authority. [184478]

27 Jan 2014 : Column 417W

Esther McVey: On the information currently available, we estimate that nationally the numbers affected are likely to be fewer than 5,000.

We do not hold sufficient information to provide breakdowns below national level.

Local authorities administer housing benefit and in due course they may have a clearer picture as to the numbers affected.

Job Creation

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had with Ministers in other Departments on job creation in areas with high unemployment; and if he will make a statement. [184696]

Esther McVey: The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith), meets regularly with Ministers across Government to discuss a variety of issues, including how to support people back into work.

Jobcentre Plus

Mike Crockart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what assessment his Department has made of the quality and effectiveness of literacy and numeracy training provided by Jobcentre Plus and its training providers; and how such information is gathered; [184089]

(2) how many jobseekers were (a) identified as lacking basic ICT skills and (b) referred to training within Jobcentre Plus or with a training provider in each of the last two years; [184097]

(3) what assessment his Department has made of the quality and effectiveness of digital skills training provided by (a) Jobcentre Plus and (b) its training providers; and how this information is gathered. [184099]

Esther McVey: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has responsibility in England for the Adult Skills budget; in Wales this responsibility lies with the Welsh Assembly and in Scotland with the Scottish Government.

The assessment of the quality and effectiveness of training providers in England is made by Ofsted. The devolved Administrations have their own quality and performance management standards as part of their funding arrangements. In Wales this assessment is made by Estyn and in Scotland by HMIe.

Where skills training is directly funded by DWP, the assessment of the quality and effectiveness of training providers is made by the Department's own commercial arm and its contract managers.

We do not currently hold any data on the number of jobseekers identified as lacking basic ICT skills in the last two years.

Between August 2011 and August 2013 there have been 500,520 jobseeker referrals to training within Jobcentre Plus or with a training provider.

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Mike Crockart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance is provided to Jobcentre Plus advisers to help them advise customers who have been sanctioned of alternative sources of financial assistance or general advice. [184090]

Esther McVey: All advisers have access to comprehensive and clear procedures, guidance and extensive learning which equips them to advise customers who have been sanctioned about including alternative sources of financial assistance.

Where a benefit doubt is identified and the case is being referred to a decision maker, claimants are given information (verbally and in writing) about the doubt in question, what happens next, what they can do if a sanction is applied and the availability of jobseeker's allowance under the hardship provision.

Once a decision is made and a sanction applied, a formal notification is issued to the claimant, which includes information about the availability of jobseeker's allowance under the hardship provision.

Where the Department for Work and Pensions is unable to help claimants they will be signposted to other types of support in their areas, including local authorities.

Mike Crockart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether Jobcentre Plus districts are required to report on (a) the numbers of claimants they have identified as having a skills gap in ICT and (b) the number of these claimants who successfully complete a digital skills training course. [184098]

Esther McVey: Jobcentre Plus districts are not required to report on the number of claimants they identify as having a skills gap in ICT and are not required to report the number of these claimants who successfully complete a digital skills course.

Mike Crockart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether Jobcentre Plus adviser skills workshops are part of a formal and mandatory training programme. [184144]

Esther McVey: Adviser skills workshops are part of a formal recommended learning programme.

The learning programme is a combination of both technical and skills learning and the adviser skills workshops focus primarily on the skills aspect. Following the core series of skills workshops there are also periods of supported workplace consolidation available to enable advisers to effectively interview customers, diagnose their needs, identify challenges to work and solutions that can progress these customers towards and into employment. Around these workshops advisers receive other relevant knowledge and procedural learning.

The learning needs of staff are diagnosed on an individual basis which will inform personalised learning requirements; therefore, this learning forms part of a recommended learning routeway for advisers rather than a mandated one.

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Legal Costs

Mr Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much his Department has spent on costs and compensation relating to legal action taken against it in each of the last five years for which data are available. [184009]

Mike Penning: The Department's records relating to legal costs and compensation paid do not distinguish between actions which the Department has brought and actions which it has defended. Disaggregating the data would take the costs of responding to the question over the disproportionate cost threshold.

National Insurance: Foreign Nationals

Mark Reckless: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether overseas nationals who do not disclose their country of origin are accounted for within releases of national insurance number statistics within the National Insurance Recording System. [184491]

Esther McVey: National statistics on national insurance number registrations to adult overseas nationals include a small number of cases (less than 0.1%) where specific nationality is not recorded.

Public Expenditure

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to his Department's Annual Report and Accounts 2012-13, what the value of the funding that is subject to dual key arrangements is, as referred to in Table 1 on page 172. [184111]

Mike Penning: The value of dual key funding included on the unallocated provision lines in table 1 are:

£ million nominal
 2013-142014-152015-16

Resource DEL unallocated provision

1,218

1,441

211

Capital DEL unallocated provision

249

110

Remploy: Edinburgh

Mike Crockart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many Remploy workers were made redundant as a result of the closure of Remploy in South Gyle, Edinburgh. [184100]

Mike Penning: A total of 28 staff, 27 disabled and one non-disabled, were made redundant as a result of the closure of the Remploy factory in South Gyle, Edinburgh.

Social Security Benefits

Mike Crockart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what support his Department provides to vulnerable people with filling in forms in order to ensure they receive the benefits to which they are entitled. [184092]

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Esther McVey: The Department is keen to ensure that all people, however complex their needs, are able to access its services when they need to, and it provides a range of help and support to people to achieve this. This support is tailored to the personal needs of the individual and depends on which service is being used or which benefit is being claimed.

DWP offers a variety of communication methods to aid individuals to access benefits and services. To help individuals complete the relevant forms, we provide face-to-face appointments with an adviser, in the office or a quiet/private interview room; use of a representative, family member or intermediary and, where appropriate, home visits.

The Department will also provide forms in alternative formats such as Braille or large text if required, and aids such as textphones and audio loops. In addition, many of our forms are available electronically via the internet or e-mail, enabling individuals to use their own assistive technology to complete the forms.

A range of guidance, training, advice and information is available for staff to help them engage effectively with individuals with complex needs and with those that require additional support to enable them to access benefits and use DWP services.

Social Security Benefits: EU Nationals

Dame Tessa Jowell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many EEA migrants in the UK were claiming (a) jobseeker's allowance, (b) housing benefit and (c) both between December 2012 and December 2013; [184252]

(2) how many EEA migrants in the UK will become ineligible to claim housing benefit if restrictions were applied to the eligibility of unemployed migrants for such a benefit. [184302]

Esther McVey: The information requested is not available in the form requested. However, the Department does publish some statistics on working age benefit recipients, which includes those receiving jobseeker's allowance, but not housing benefit. This information is known as “Nationality at point of National Insurance number registration of DWP benefit claimants” and is included in the Statistical Bulletin on National Insurance Number Allocations to Adult Overseas Nationals Entering the UK—registrations to March 2013, available at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nino-allocations-to-adult-overseas-nationals-entering-the-uk-registrations-to-march-2013

We will be changing the law so that new EEA jobseekers, who have not recently worked in the UK, will no longer have access to housing benefit when they get income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA). This will apply from the beginning of April.

Social Security Benefits: Immigrants

Cathy Jamieson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many immigrants have claimed benefits within three months of registering for a national insurance number in Kilmarnock and Loudoun constituency in each of the last three years. [184365]

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Esther McVey: The information you requested is not readily available but the Department for Work and Pensions does publish information on non-UK nationals who claim working age benefits within six months of registering for a national insurance number.

I have asked the Department’s statisticians to recommend the best option for producing statistics on benefit claiming within three months from registration as part of our normal publication schedule. We will keep users informed about the agreed approach via an update to the Department’s statistics web pages.

Travel to Interview

Mike Crockart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what support his Department gives to unemployed people concerning travel expenses as a result of attending job interviews. [184674]

Esther McVey: The Flexible Support Fund may be used to support a wide range of activities which help claimants find work. This includes funding travel to interview costs.

Unemployed People: Basic Skills

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many people in receipt of incapacity benefit or employment and support allowance were referred by a jobcentre for training to enhance their basic skills in each of the last six years; [184691]

(2) how many people in receipt of jobseeker's allowance were referred by a jobcentre to receive training to enhance their basic skills in each of the last six years. [184694]

Esther McVey: The Department does not publish information on the number of people claiming incapacity benefit, employment and support allowance or jobseeker's allowance that were referred by JCP to basic skills training in the last six years.

Skills Conditionality policy was introduced from August 2011. Claimants who are required to actively seek or prepare for work can be mandated to undertake activity to address an identified skills need which will aid their movement into work. This includes basic skills training.

Skills Conditionality applies to those receiving jobseeker's allowance or employment and support allowance (work-related activity group) and data on the aggregate number of referrals to Skills Conditionality training, including basic skills training, from these two benefit groups can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pre-work-programme-support-mandatory-programmes-november-2013.html

Vacancies: Chelmsford

Mr Simon Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many vacancies were notified to Chelmsford jobcentre in each of the last 12 months for which figures are available. [184537]

Esther McVey: The Universal Jobmatch System was introduced in November 2012. The system does not provide data at jobcentre level, as all vacancies notified to the system are available to all users.

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Work Programme

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which local authority leaders (a) he and (b) his officials have met to discuss the Work Programme. [184695]

Esther McVey: Ministers and officials meet frequently with representatives of local authorities, either individually or in groups, to discuss the range of departmental business and our shared interest in helping people back to work. Inevitably, those conversations will often touch on the Work programme, among other issues.

Energy and Climate Change

Energy: Billing

Dr Phillip Lee: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what estimate he has made of the number of people who froze their energy bill with their energy company before the Government’s announcement of steps to help families with energy bills on 2 December 2013 and were therefore unable to take advantage of the measures in that announcement; and if he will make a statement. [183486]

Michael Fallon: As of quarter 3 of 2013 (latest data available), 18% of standard electricity customers in the UK were on fixed or capped tariffs and 21% of gas customers were on fixed or capped tariffs. These figures are taken from tables 2.4.2 and 2.5.2 of DECC’s publication Quarterly energy prices.

The package of measures announced on 2 December will see households receive a reduction in their energy bill of around £50 on average, compared to what it would have otherwise been. The Government have encouraged energy suppliers to ensure that all customers benefit from the whole package of measures.

Robert Halfon: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what proportion of households pay for their (a) gas, (b) electricity and (c) water by direct debit. [184101]

Michael Fallon: As of quarter 3 of 2013, 57% of gas customers, 55% of standard electricity customers and 51% of Economy 7 customers in the UK paid by direct debit. These figures are taken from tables 2.4.2, 2.4.3 and 2.5.2 of DECC’s publication Quarterly energy prices.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is responsible for the water industry.

Energy: Prices

Mike Crockart: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what advice his Department gives to people facing increasing energy bills as a result of standing charges. [184093]

Michael Fallon: The introduction of a standardised tariff structure makes tariffs simpler and easier to understand and is part of Ofgem’s reforms for a simpler, clearer, fairer energy market.

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Under these rules, suppliers must structure their tariffs using only a single unit rate and, if they choose, a standing charge. A number of suppliers currently offer tariffs which set the standing charge at zero or at a low rate, which some customers might find more appropriate for their circumstances.

Ofgem’s package of reforms is making it far easier for consumers to compare deals and find the best tariff for them. Someone switching at the moment from the worst deal on the market to the best online deal could save around £200 on an annual dual fuel bill.

Fracking

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on which sites in the UK fracking for oil has taken place in the last five years; how many complaints have been received by the Environment Agency about such fracking; and what assessments the Environment Agency has made of the risks (a) of earthquakes or tremors and (b) associated with waste water disposal in each site. [183884]

Michael Fallon: The only well on which any hydraulic fracturing activity has been carried out for oil in the last five years was Wytch Farm F25 in Dorset in May 2012—a water injection well drilled by Perenco at Wytch Farm oil field. In this standard procedure for improving recovery, cold seawater and produced water is injected in to the sandstone reservoir rock to flush the oil producing wells, and the temperature difference creates local thermal fractures near the borehole.

When planning applications for oil and gas sites are submitted, the Environment Agency reviews the waste water disposal options and requires environmental permits where necessary. To date, all such activity has been conventional exploration.

Mark Menzies: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of the level of potential flaring on shale gas sites. [183997]

Michael Fallon: All flaring and venting from oil and gas exploration or production activities, including shale gas activities, is subject to existing DECC controls. DECC's policy is that venting should not take place except where technically necessary, normally for safety reasons, and flaring should be reduced to the economic minimum.

The Environment Agency's draft technical guidance for onshore oil and gas exploratory operations makes clear that operators should apply a hierarchy of controls to ensure waste gas is first prevented, then minimised and finally rendered harmless. The guidance makes clear that the operators should initially consider installing an engine to burn the gas and recover energy from it but that if this is not possible then a flare may be used. Operators must be able to show that their activities, including flaring during exploration, do not lead to emissions at levels higher than those set out in their environmental permits.

27 Jan 2014 : Column 424W

Mr O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether the Strategic Environmental Assessment commissioned by his Department on the extraction of shale gas was amended following consultation with green groups. [184402]

Michael Fallon: No. A number of bodies with environmental interests were consulted on the scoping of the Strategic Environmental Assessment for further onshore oil and gas licensing, including those prescribed by regulation. The comments subsequently submitted by these bodies and the actions taken in response are summarised in Appendix A to the Environmental Report, published on 17 December 2013, and can be viewed at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/273999/Appendix_A_DECC_SEA_Env_ eport_Consultation_Responses.pdf

Plutonium

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what evaluation (a) his Department and (b) the Office for Nuclear Regulation plans to make of the implications for implementation of UK nuclear security policy of the implementation of each of the three options set out in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s paper on Progress on approaches to the management of separated plutonium, published on 20 January 2014. [184749]

Michael Fallon: The next phase of work on options for plutonium management will require the NDA to carry out further work to better understand the technical, commercial and implementation issues associated with all the options for plutonium management. This will include engagement with the Office for Nuclear Regulation and will consider relevant nuclear safety and nuclear security elements of each option.

As we noted in our 2011 consultation response, there will be many steps before we reach the point of taking a final decision on the technology for plutonium disposition. Only when the Government are confident that our preferred option could be implemented safely and securely, that it is affordable, deliverable and offers value for money, will we be in a position to proceed.

Procurement

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what proportion of expenditure on his Department's procurement contracts was placed with small and medium-sized enterprises based in (a) the UK, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales, (d) Northern Ireland, (e) the North East, (f) the North West, (g) Yorkshire and the Humber, (h) the East Midlands, (i) the West Midlands, (j) the East of England, (k) London, (l) the South East and (m) the South West in the last three years for which figures are available. [184281]

Gregory Barker: The breakdown of contract expenditure on small and medium-sized enterprises by region is not held centrally and can only be provided at disproportionate cost. The Department and its arm’s length bodies from

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April to September 2013 reported that 10.2% of spend was with small and medium-sized enterprises against total procurement spend.

Contracts of the Department are published on the Cabinet Office website which can be found at:

www.contractsfinder.businesslink.gov.uk

The Department would be able to provide further contract information by narrowing the scope, if specific procurement projects were identified.

Renewable Energy

Mr Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of using auctions for Contracts for Difference to encourage investment in renewable energy projects. [184291]

Michael Fallon: We have always been clear that auctions can be used to drive value for money, once the market is sufficiently developed.1 As set out in the Consultation on Competitive Allocation, published by the Department on 16 January 2014,2 we consider that market conditions are such that for some more established technologies this will be the case from the start of the allocation of CfDs under the enduring arrangements.

For these established technologies, the proposed move to competition builds on the strong progress on cost reduction and the well-developed pipeline. For less established technologies, our aim is to ensure that they can deploy at levels which enable continued cost reduction and which ultimately support cheaper deployment in the long term.

We continue to develop and implement our detailed proposals for competitive allocation of CfDs, which has the potential to improve value for money, encourage new entry and drive innovation.

1Note:

“Planning our electric future: a White Paper for secure, affordable and low-carbon electricity”, July 2011, paragraph 2.3.23

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/48129/2176-emr-white-paper.pdf

2Note:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/271919/Competitive_allocation_consultation_formatted.pdf

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Armed Conflict: Sexual Offences

Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether representatives of the Women’s League of Burma have been invited to the international summit on sexual violence in conflict being planned by the Government for June 2014; and if he will make a statement. [184289]

Mr Swire: The Preventing Sexual Violence summit in June will focus on turning political commitments into practical action, so as to end the use of rape and sexual violence in conflict. It will be the largest global event ever convened on this issue and will bring together conflict and post conflict affected countries, donors, the UN and other multilateral organisations, NGOs and civil society.

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While the list of invitations is yet to be confirmed, we are currently working with our embassies around the world to ensure that there is broad global representation at the summit, including from those organisations working directly on the ground supporting survivors of sexual violence. This work will also consider how best to harness international expertise on this issue in a wider sense, including through related international events.

British Nationals Abroad

Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he plans to complete the review on services offered in situations where UK residents are harmed abroad; and if he will publish the results of that review. [184345]

Mark Simmonds: This review will be conducted during the first half of 2014, and its recommendations will be considered by the autumn.

The review described in the question will consider how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can further develop its consular response to cases of murder and manslaughter. It will also include an assessment of the existing Memorandum of Understanding with UK Police and Coroners of England and Wales. Once the review is complete, if it results in the adoption of new policies in these areas, a copy of the new policies will be placed in the Library of the House.

British Nationals Abroad: Crime

Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether there are basic service levels or protocols in place in respect of services offered in situations where UK residents are harmed abroad. [184346]

Mark Simmonds: Basic service levels for the help the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides are defined in our public statement ‘Support for British Nationals Abroad'. This can be found on the Gov.uk website at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-british-nationals-abroad-a-guide

I also refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel), on 16 May 2013, Official Report, column 394W, and the answer given by my noble Friend, the Senior Minister of State the right hon. Baroness Warsi PC, to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, on 23 April 2013, Official Report, House of Lords, column 1350.

British Nationals Abroad: Homicide

Priti Patel: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will establish a unit in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to support bereaved families of British nationals murdered overseas. [184539]

Mark Simmonds: Foreign and Commonwealth Office consular staff are trained in how to support bereaved families, and internal guidance on murder and manslaughter, and related areas, focuses on how best to help them. We continually look at ways to improve these services and as part of our review this year of the consular response to cases of murder and manslaughter, we will be considering the resources available, including

27 Jan 2014 : Column 427W

how casework teams are most effectively organised and whether we should have a dedicated unit to provide support to bereaved families of British nationals murdered abroad.

Priti Patel: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next intends to review the services provided to bereaved families of UK nationals murdered overseas. [184540]

Mark Simmonds: This review will be conducted during the first half of 2014, and its recommendations will be considered by the autumn.

The review described in the question will consider how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can further develop its consular response to cases of murder and manslaughter. It will also include an assessment of the existing Memorandum of Understanding with UK Police and Coroners of England and Wales. Once the review is complete, if it results in the adoption of new policies in these areas, a copy of the new policies will be placed in the Library of the House.

Burma

Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will assess the Shan Human Rights Foundation's reports that villagers in Murng Paeng township in Burma are being used as forced labour by Burmese Government troops giving security to military-linked logging operations above the planned Ta Sang Dam; whether any UK companies are involved in planning or construction of the Ta Sang Dam in Burma; and if he will make a statement. [184288]

Mr Swire: We are aware of the reports from the Shan Human Rights Foundation.

We are also aware of reports that a British company is involved in the dam project. We make clear to every British company operating in Burma that their investment should be made responsibly and in line with international standards.

The 2013 UNGA resolution on the human rights situation in Burma, co-sponsored by the EU and agreed by consensus, welcomed steps taken by the Burmese Government to improve engagement and co-operation with the UN and the International Labour Organisation and welcomed progress made towards the elimination of forced labour.

We continue to raise our concerns about incidents of forced labour and urge the Burmese Government to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which includes articles that prohibit the use of forced labour. I am due to raise this issue during my forthcoming visit to Burma. The British ambassador frequently raises the wide range of human rights issues, including that of forced labour, with senior members of the Burmese Government.

Iran

Mr Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect on nuclear negotiations of statements by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and

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Foreign Minister Javad Zarif that the P5+1 have recognised Iran's right to enrich uranium. [184699]

Hugh Robertson: The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) does not explicitly refer to a “right to enrich” and the UK does not believe such a right exists for any country under the NPT. The Joint Plan of Action agreed between Iran and the E3+3 at Geneva in November 2013 sets out that, in the event of a comprehensive settlement, Iran would have

“a mutually defined enrichment programme with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs”.

Agreeing the limitations on this enrichment programme, not statements about recognition of the right to enrichment, will be a key issue in the comprehensive negotiations, which are expected to begin in February.

Mr Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect on nuclear negotiations of statements by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that the P5+1 surrendered to Iran's national will over its nuclear programme. [184700]

Hugh Robertson: The Joint Plan of Action, agreed with Iran in Geneva on 23 November, is a good deal and an important step towards increased peace and security in the region. On its entry into force on 20 January, Iran halted key aspects of its nuclear programme and in some places rolled it back in return for proportionate sanctions relief. However, Iran needs to take further steps to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. Negotiations on a comprehensive agreement to achieve this are expected to start in February.

Iraq: Iran

Ian Paisley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the seven Ashraf hostages held in Iraq; if he will suspend bilateral relations and foreign aid should these hostages be handed over to the Iranian regime; and if he will make a statement. [184350]

Hugh Robertson: We are aware of press reporting that suggests seven residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq were abducted. We have raised this issue with the Government of Iraq and asked them to locate those reported missing. We continue to call for their immediate and safe return.

Following the attack on our embassy in Tehran on 29 November 2011, diplomatic relations with Iran were reduced to their lowest level possible, but were not completely severed. We are open to more direct contact with Iran and continued improvements in our bilateral relationship on a step-by-step and reciprocal basis.

Ian Paisley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the UN Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights launching an independent investigation into the events at Camp Ashraf in Iraq on 1 September 2013. [184351]

Hugh Robertson: The Government of Iraq, as the sovereign Government, are responsible for investigating the attack on Camp Ashraf on 1 September 2013. We and the UN have called on the Government of Iraq to undertake this investigation.

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Montenegro

Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy not to support the admission of Montenegro to the EU unless satisfied that due process and the rule of law is seen to operate. [184271]

Mr Lidington: The UK is a strong supporter of Montenegro’s accession to the EU, as it is for all countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey, once they meet in full the rigorous accession criteria. These criteria include ensuring that due process and the rule of law operate and are firmly embedded within countries’ judicial and political systems.

Montenegro is the first candidate country to negotiate EU accession under the so-called “New Approach”, which strengthens the importance of the “rule of law” chapters of the acquis—chapter 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights) and chapter 24 (Justice, Freedom and Security). These chapters must now be among the first that are opened for negotiation, which maximises the time available for candidate countries to address these fundamental issues and establish a strong track records of reform.

Montenegro has adopted robust action plans to address the challenges it faces in this area, and we will continue to monitor its progress closely. Montenegro will only be able to close negotiation of these “rule of law” chapters once it has met in full the relevant benchmarks, and will only be able to join the EU once all member states are satisfied it has met the accession criteria across the full acquis.

Nigeria

Pauline Latham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the threat to regional stability from oil theft in the Niger delta. [184206]

Mark Simmonds: Oil theft is a complex problem and its impact in the region is disputed. A recent Chatham House report concluded that

“Oil theft has not been a big security risk for Nigeria or West Africa”

but has had a significant local impact on the Niger delta.

We have discussed oil theft at all levels with the Nigerian Government, including at meetings between the Prime Minister and President Jonathan and have offered to support Nigerian efforts to tackle the issue.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and to seek where we can to support regional stability. For example, we are working with regional states and organisations to tackle maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea.

Pakistan

Mr Steve Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Pakistani Government regarding the persecution of religious minorities using the Blasphemy Act; and if he will make a statement. [184328]

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Hugh Robertson: We regularly raise the issue of the blasphemy laws, and their misuse against both Muslims and religious minorities at the highest levels of Pakistan Government.

Our concerns about this issue are documented in the FCO's Annual Human Rights Report, so we will not be making a statement.

Sri Lanka

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 16 January 2014, Official Report, columns 607-08W, on Sri Lanka, what recent assessment he has made of the likelihood of a credible domestic process beginning by March 2014. [184734]

Mr Swire: In her September 2013 oral statement to the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said she had ‘detected no new or comprehensive efforts to investigate’ alleged war crimes during her visit to Sri Lanka. At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo in November, the Prime Minister, subsequently made clear to President Rajapaksa that unless a credible national accountability process has begun properly by March 2014, we will use our position on the UN Human Rights Council to call for an international investigation. We have also highlighted that any domestic process should be credible, independent and transparent to be accepted by the international community. We do not believe that any of the processes established to date by the Sri Lankan Government—such as the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission—meet these standards. If a genuine and credible process has begun properly by March 2014, we would give it our full support.

Thailand

Mr Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what advice and assistance his Department is offering to UK nationals in Thailand, following the recent declaration of a state of emergency by the Thai Government. [184671]

Mr Swire: We are monitoring the situation closely and are regularly updating our travel advice for Thailand to reflect developments so that travellers and residents can make informed decisions about the situation. The travel advice contains factual information about the protests, the forthcoming national election and the state of emergency. We advise British nationals to monitor local news and social media for developments, take extra care and avoid all protests, political gatherings, demonstrations and marches. British nationals can subscribe to e-mail alerts for updates to the Thailand travel advice. Travel advice changes are also publicised on social media.

International Development

Developing Countries: Sanitation

Naomi Long: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development at what level the Government will be represented at the 2014 Sanitation and Water for All high-level meeting in Washington, DC. [184459]

27 Jan 2014 : Column 431W

Lynne Featherstone: I plan to represent DFID at the 2014 Sanitation and Water for All high-level meeting.

Overseas Aid

Gavin Shuker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps she has taken to embed gender equality concerns into the Multilateral Aid Review. [184240]

Justine Greening: Full detail on this can be found in the Multilateral Aid Review Update final report

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/multilateral-aid-review-update-2013-interim-report

Procurement

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proportion of expenditure on her Department's procurement contracts was placed with small and medium-sized enterprises based in (a) the UK, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales, (d) Northern Ireland, (e) the North East, (f) the North West, (g) Yorkshire and the Humber, (h) the East Midlands, (i) the West Midlands, (j) the East of England, (k) London, (l) the South East and (m) the South West in the last three years for which figures are available. [184284]

Justine Greening: The Department had the following proportion of contract expenditure with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK during the fiscal periods 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13.

Fiscal yearTotal UK suppliers (percentage)

2010-11

26

2011-12

25

2012-13

25

DFID does not record information on the geographical location of SMEs that hold contracts with the Department to the level of detail you have specified.

Rwanda

Sir Peter Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the effects of the political situation in Rwanda on the ability of her Department to work with the Government of that country; and if she will take steps to route UK assistance to Rwanda through non-governmental bodies. [184414]

Lynne Featherstone: In November 2012 the Secretary of State for International Development decided not to release general budget support payments on the basis of a breach of the Partnership Principles. In March 2013 the Secretary of State agreed to the re-programming of general budget support funds through projects that more directly targeted and protected the poorest in Rwanda, including through non-governmental organisations.

Somalia

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the potential effect of proposals to limit

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the ability of Somalis living in the UK to send money to families in Somalia on the Somali economy. [184730]

Justine Greening: The UK Government recognise the importance of remittances to the Somali economy. We have been working closely with stakeholders to assess the situation and to establish the action group on cross border remittances, which will develop a ‘safer corridor’ to ensure the continued flow of UK-Somali remittances through secure, legitimate and accessible channels.

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations she has received on proposals by banks to close accounts for remittance services from the UK to Somalia. [184731]

Justine Greening: DFID Ministers and officials have held consultations with UK-Somali community representatives, UK-Somali money service businesses, banks and non-governmental organisations on the issue of remittance services from the UK to Somalia.

Health

Abortion

Fiona Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many abortions on each ground other than ground E were performed at 24 weeks' gestation and over in each year since 1991. [184409]

Jane Ellison: The following table shows the number of abortions performed at 24 weeks' gestation and over since 1991.

 Ground A and/or BGround F and/or G

1991

1

0

1992

4

0

1993

0

1

1994

1

0

1995

0

0

1996

3

0

1997

1

0

1998

1

0

1999

2

0

2000

5

0

2001

1

0

2002

3

0

2003

4

0

2004

1

0

2005

1

0

2006

2

0

2007

1

0

2008

2

0

2009

1

0

2010

2

0

2011

1

1

2012

0

0

Figures for 1991 are for April to December only and include non-residents. All other years are full calendar years and refer to residents of England and Wales only.

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Since the Abortion Act 1967 was passed, the law has required that two doctors certify in good faith that there are lawful grounds for any abortion. Doctors must comply with that approach, and those that do not should be investigated.

Accident and Emergency Departments: Essex

Mr Simon Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of patients waited longer than four hours to be seen in accident and emergency in the Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust area in each of the first four weeks in January. [184538]

Jane Ellison: The following table shows the proportion of patients who spent longer than four hours at the Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust accident and emergency (A&E) department before transfer, admission or discharge during each week in January.

A&E performance at Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, January 2014
Week ending:Number of A&E attendancesNumber of patients spending >4 hours in A&E from arrival to discharge, transfer or admissionProportion of patients spending >4 hours in A&E from arrival to discharge, transfer or admission (percentage)

5 January 2014

1,497

51

3.4

12 January 2014

1,435

36

2.5

19 January 2014

1,476

88

6.0

Notes: 1. Data are currently available for only the first three weeks of January 2014. 2. The A&E performance standard is for 95% of patients to spend less than four hours from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge. 3. Statistics on A&E departments are published weekly on the NHS England website at: www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/ae-waiting-times-and-activity/ Source: NHS England