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12 Oct 2006 : Column WA159

Written Answers

Thursday 12 October 2006

Agriculture: Seasonal Workers

Lord Whitty asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Non-EEA nationals coming to the UK to undertake seasonal agricultural work are admitted under the seasonal agricultural workers scheme (SAWS). The SAWS quota for 2005 and 2006 was 16,250.

The number of workers from the new accession states who have registered under the worker registration scheme (WRS) as employed in the agricultural sector in 2005-06 is set out below.

2005WRS Agricultural Workers

Quarter 1

4,000

Quarter 2

9,295

Quarter 3

6,695

Quarter 4

2,705

2006

Quarter 1

3,750

Quarter 2

6,885

The Home Office does not hold figures for the number of other EEA nationals or non-EEA nationals admitted to the UK on some other basis working legally in the sector in 2005-06.

British Citizenship

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): A copy of e-gram 31525/06 will be placed in the Library of the House.

Children: EU Strategy

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): The Department for Education and Skills, as lead Whitehall department on children's issues, has prepared an explanatory memorandum for Parliament's European Scrutiny Committees. The explanatory memorandum sets out the Government's view of this European document, including the belief that the Commission's case for action at EU level is weak and that this may be an example of the Commission attempting to extend EU competence. The proposals within the document would mostly be for the European Commission to take forward in its internal processes, but, if the strategy were agreed, there are some proposals that could affect the policy areas of several departments. The UK Government, therefore, intend to oppose the development of a strategy on the grounds that there is no relevant legal base for the activity.

Cultural Objects: Export Licences

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The relevant EU regulation is Council Regulation EC 3911/92 on the export of cultural goods. Under the terms of this regulation, the UK is obliged to issue export licences for cultural objects within its territory, unless it is not the competent authority within the terms of Article 2 of the regulation.

The UK Government would be the competent authority to issue that licence only if:

(a) the antiquities in question were lawfully and definitively located within the territory of the UK on 1 January 1993; or(b) they had subsequently been imported to the UK following lawful and definitive dispatch from another member state, importation from a third country or importation from a third country after lawful dispatch from a member state to that country.

The UK Government would not be the competent authority to issue an export licence in relation to an item that has not been lawfully and definitively dispatched from another member state and would therefore be able to withhold an export licence for such items. Where a cultural object that is “tainted” within the meaning of the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 has also been illegally exported from another member state to the UK, the Government would be able to withhold an EU export licence for that object.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: Under Council Regulation EC 3911/92, export of antiquities from the UK to a country outside the customs territory of the EU requires an export licence. The UK Government are the competent authority to issue that licence if:

(a) the antiquities in question were lawfully and definitively located within the territory of the UK on 1 January 1993; or(b) they had subsequently been imported to the UK following lawful and definitive dispatch from another member state, importation from a third country or importation from a third country after lawful dispatch from a member state to that country.

If none of these circumstances applies, the regulation would preclude the issue of an export licence by the UK Government, because it would not be the competent authority within the meaning of the regulation. This position would not be affected by the subsequent accession of Hungary to the EU in 2004.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: No amendment is required to Council Regulation EC 3911/92 to enable the UK to refuse an export licence in relation to an item that has been illegally exported from another member state. In such cases, the UK will not be the competent authority as defined in Article 2 of that regulation to issue a licence in relation to such an item and would, therefore, have to refer the matter to the member state in question.

The UK has made a proposal for the amendment of Council Regulation EC 3911/92 which would allow the UK to refuse an export licence in relation to an object that had been illegally exported from a third country to the UK. However, this proposal does not yet have sufficient support from other member states.

Cultural Objects: Sevso Treasure

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Government believe that self-regulation continues to be the most effective means to balance the interests of the legitimate trade in antiquities with measures to combat the illicit trade in cultural property. The fact that Bonhams has chosen to stage a private exhibition of the Sevso silver does not alter that view.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: We are not aware of any proposal by a UK public museum or public institution to acquire or exhibit the Sevso silver. My department's document Combating Illicit Trade: Due Diligence Guidelines for Museums, Libraries and Archives on Collecting and Borrowing Cultural Material sets out guidance and is not legally binding on institutions. However, it is stated clearly under those guidelines that, if a public institution feels that there are any doubts about the legal or ethical status of an object, it should not proceed with an acquisition or loan of that object.

Electoral Law

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The Government are currently exploring with the Law Commission the drafting of a Bill consolidating existing primary legislation on electoral registration and the conduct of elections. These are preliminary discussions, so we are not yet in a position to state when such a Bill could be brought before Parliament. However, we are committed to the principle of consolidating the law in this area, as demonstrated by including the pre-consolidation amendment provisions in Section 72 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006.

Electoral Registration

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The voter registration form at the annual canvass is addressed to the occupier of a property (rather than, as formerly, to a “head of household”) and should be completed and returned to the local electoral registration officer (ERO) by such a person on behalf of all eligible residents. It is an offence punishable on conviction by a fine not exceeding £1,000 for a person to fail to return the canvass form to an ERO. Initiation of prosecutions for this offence, and against whom, is a matter for local discretion taking into account the relevant circumstances.

Mental Health: Rural Areas

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner):Managing finances in mental health, which was published in June 2006 by the Audit Commission for local authorities and the National Health Service in England, stated that some primary care trusts (predominantly, but not exclusively, those in rural settings) spend less than £75 on mental health per head per year whereas others (that is, PCTs in central London) spend over £300.

No assessment has been made of the relatively low level of spending on mental health in rural areas and the need for organisations such as the Rural Stress Information Network (RSIN). It is for PCTs to determine how to use the resources allocated to them to commission services to meet the healthcare needs of their local populations. In addition, under Section 64 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health awards grants to voluntary organisations whose activities support the Department of Health's policy priorities. Voluntary organisations working with people in rural areas, such as RSIN, continue to receive support through the Section 64 scheme of grants.

Montserrat: Volcanic Eruptions

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development met the Montserrat Chief Minister for talks in London on 12 September. They discussed the need for additional assistance in the light of the extensive damage caused by volcanic activity on 20 May. He assured the Chief Minister that funding would be made available for rehabilitation work—£200,000 of additional budgetary assistance has been provided by DfID to date and further assistance is being sympathetically considered.

Music

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: Passport to music is a scheme initiated by Youth Music to enable young people to record and document their progress in music and to chart their aspirations for future development in music. The passport's pilot phase is due to be completed by January 2008. The scheme has been pledged to the music manifesto, which sets out a series of shared aims for music education and has the support of over 600 signatories from across the education, cultural and music sectors.

NHS: Independent Sector Treatment Centres

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): As part of the second phase of procurement of independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs), each proposed elective ISTC scheme is subject to a due diligence process that includes a local capacity and impact analysis. Before a scheme's final business case is approved, the capacity and impact analysis is updated and the local strategic health authority reconfirms its support for the scheme, demonstrating how the ISTC will be integrated within the local health economy and how any impact on the activity levels and capacity of existing National Health Service providers will be managed. Ultimately, it will be patients who choose where they want to be treated and patients' choices that will determine where services and capacity are needed.

Pensions: Alternatively Secured Pensions

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McKenzie of Luton: The longstanding position of successive Governments is that pension assets should be converted into a secure income in retirement by age 75. For most people, an annuity or scheme pension is the best means by which they can do this. The new pension rules introduce an additional option for achieving this—an alternatively secured pension (ASP). As the Government made clear during the development of the new pension tax provisions, ASPs are specifically designed for those who have a principled religious objection to annuitisation.

It has become clear, however, that some advisers are intending to use the ASP provisions for a much wider purpose to enable individuals to pass on tax-privileged retirement savings to their dependants rather than to provide a pension in retirement. In order to prevent this, the Government are examining how best to restrict ASPs to their original limited purpose.


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