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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): All 26 NATO member countries are currently contributing to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
Lord Drayson: Identification of additional forces and capabilities for deployment to Afghanistan is a matter for the supreme allied commander Europe using the NATO force generation process. We are working closely with NATO allies and non-NATO troop contributors to ensure that commanders on the ground have access to the resources they need to carry out the International Security Assistance Force mission.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): There are approximately 9.1 million available hectares of agricultural land in England. Of these, around 3.4 million hectares (or about 37 per cent of England's total agricultural area) are subject to an Environmental Stewardship agreement.
How the new agreement between the European Union and the Government of the United States on the processing and transfer of passenger name record data by air carriers to the United States Department of Homeland Security varies from the previous agreement; and how the new agreement conforms with European data protection principles.[HL7552]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The new agreement does not vary significantly from the previous agreement. The key difference is that it has a Third-Pillar legal base rather than a First-Pillar one, in order to comply with the European Court of Justice ruling of 30 May. Unlike a First-Pillar agreement, a Third-Pillar agreement requires domestic implementation measures, and this has been done through a direction under the Air Navigation Order requiring airlines to provide PNR data. At present, the US authorities pull information from airlines reservation systems, but it is intended to move to a system in which airlines push data to the US as soon as possible.
Like the 2004 agreement, the new agreement is due to expire in late 2007. The new agreement refers to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instead of US Customs and Border Protection (which is part of the DHS) to reflect changes to the internal structure of the US Administration. However, the DHS is giving the same undertakings in support of the new agreement as the CBP gave in relation to the 2004 agreement. In a letter to the EU, the DHS has set out how it interprets those undertakings in the light of developments, including new US legislation, since 2004.
The changes to the agreement do not materially affect the level of data protection for individuals. Although the data protection directive does not apply to the processing of personal data in the Third Pillar, the new agreement reflects the same data protection principles as the old one.
Whether the Department for Trade and Industry and HM Treasury will discuss with commercial banks in the United Kingdom what measures can be taken to ensure that there is no growth in the number of involuntary packaged current and instant access savings accounts with unsolicited benefits which have not been requested by their customers.[HL7504]
Lord McKenzie of Luton: This issue falls under the remit of the banking code. The banking code is a voluntary code that sets the minimum standards of service that personal customers can expect from all banks and building societies. The banking code is monitored and enforced by the Banking Code Standards Board, which is currently looking into this issue.
What is their response to the conclusions of the official report into the processing of money transfers by banks throughout the world by the Belgian Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) organisation and the use of information held by SWIFT by the United States security authorities.[HL7503]
Lord McKenzie of Luton: The Belgian Data Privacy Commission, a Belgian statutory body, published a domestic report on this matter in September. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is an industry-owned co-operative, headquartered in Belgium. I refer the noble Lord to the updated statement on compliance posted by SWIFT on its website (www.swift.com/index.cfm?item_id=60275) and to its response to the report (www.swift.com/index.cfm?item_id=60670).
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government have set themselves the long-term aim of an 80 per cent employment rate to ensure they deliver opportunity to all. This means that we aspire to reduce by 1 million the number of people claiming incapacity benefits over the next decade.
The Government have consulted widely during the development of our welfare reform proposals. From January to April 2006 we carried out a formal public consultation, receiving over 600 responses addressing the full range of welfare reform issues. We continue to liaise closely with a wide range of stakeholders, lobby groups and service users, meeting as many as possible.
What commitments they have made regarding the official register of persons registered under Article 4(2) of the Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986; and whether they will arrange for officials in the United Kingdom to have direct access to this register, subject to appropriate data protection safeguards. [HL7644]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We have made no specific commitments regarding the register of persons registered as British nationals overseas under the 1986 order. The register is maintained by the British consulate-general in Hong Kong and there is no direct access by officials in the United Kingdom. The list is accessed only through the staff of the consulate-general. Public access is subject to the restrictions in the Data Protection Act 1998.
Whether, having regard to Section 12 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, they will equalise the position of solely British nationals overseas with other solely British nationals without citizenship, by introducing legislation to repeal Section 1(1)(a), (2)(a) and (3)(a) of the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997.[HL7646]
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As the noble Lord will be aware from the debates during the passage of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (Official Report, 7/2/06, cols. 623-27, and 14/3/06, cols. 1198-1201) we are not persuaded that there is a case for doing so.
Why English Nature will not adjust its proposed locations for cattle grids surrounding Holt Heath, Dorset, to take into account local knowledge, noise pollution, road safety and animal welfare.[HL7575]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Holt Heath is a site of special scientific interest, part of the Dorset Heaths special protection area, a special area of conservation and a Ramsar site. It is also registered common land. Holt Heath is owned by the National Trust and has been managed as a national nature reserve since 1981 by English Nature (now Natural England).
The National Trust and English Nature, as owners and managers respectively, recognised that extensive, low-intensity stock grazing was required to bring the site into favourable condition and to contribute to the Government's public service agreement target for SSSIs. Since 2000, extensive discussions have been held with all interested parties, including the Open Spaces Society and highway engineers, on how grazing can safely be re-established. The proposed cattle grids, the locations of which are supported by highways design consultants and county council highway engineers, are necessary to achieve this.
Despite this extensive consultation, some objections were sustained. Because the proposals include works on common land, the Secretary of State ordered a public inquiry, held before an independent inspector, which was held in August 2006. The decision is awaited.
What budget will be allocated to the Health and Safety Executive in order that it may fulfil its role as the United Kingdom competent authority to implement the European Union registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH) directive.[HL7596]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The Government announced on 10 October 2006 that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been asked to fulfil the role of competent authority for the REACH regulatory regime. Detailed arrangements are being finalised. However, the HSE has already agreed to deliver helpdesk activities in 2006-07 from existing resources and it has requested funding of approximately £1 million for 2007-08. Funding for future years will be considered as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review process.
Whether guidance has been issued to civil servants and other officials carrying out government business on the permissibility of covering their faces when meeting members of the public; and, if so in what circumstances officials may cover their faces.[HL7607]
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The setting of dress code standards for civil servants is the responsibility of individual departments. No central guidance has been issued by the Cabinet Office. It is for departments to decide the dress code standards that are suitable for their particular business.
Whether they will clarify the law in respect of those wishing to scatter the ashes of deceased loved ones in public places, in response to the article in the Edge magazine published in July by the Economic and Social Research Council indicating that the law was unclear. [HL7476]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The Environment Agency provides guidance on places where the spreading of human cremation ashes should be avoided and can also advise anyone wishing to spread ashes on a river so that they do so with minimum environmental impact. Local authorities can advise people considering the spreading of human ashes elsewhere. The Environment Agency can be contacted via its national customer contact centre. The telephone number is 08708 506506.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): No. Patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 should be managed in accordance with their clinical needs. Where detention is necessary for the prevention of harm it must be in a clinical environmentwhere tagging would serve no useful purpose. Potentially dangerous patients should not be discharged into the community if they are sufficiently dangerous to require regular monitoring of their location.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The prototype fast reactor was estimated upon completion in 1974 to have cost approximately £40 million. Annual operating costs for the fast reactor programme averaged £50 million per year. The PFR closed in 1994 (these costs are quoted in cash of the year). The most recent estimate published in the site lifetime plan for the cost of decommissioning the PFR is in the region of £300 million. Decommissioning is due to be complete by 2033.
For how long the area occupied by the fast breeder reactor at Dounreay and its environs will be considered dangerously radioactive; and what measures are in place to prevent access to the area by the general public.[HL7706]
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The radiological hazards from the fast reactor programme at Dounreay are identified in the site's lifetime plan, which is revised annually by UKAEA and published by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The plan sets out how these hazards are being removed or reduced, so that by 2033 all remaining radioactive wastes and materials will be in a passive condition that is safe for long-term storage or disposal. UKAEA is consulting the public about the condition of the site in 2033, and the outcome of this will determine the degree of ground remediation that needs to be undertaken. So long as Dounreay remains a licensed nuclear site, access by the public will be restricted.
National policy decisions on the long-term management of radioactive wastes and materials and the extent of ground remediation required will be factors that affect the length of time after 2033 that Dounreay remains a licensed nuclear site.
Whether any areas of beaches and the seabed in the vicinity of the fast breeder reactor at Dounreay are contaminated by radioactive materials; and, if so, how long the contamination is likely to persist.[HL7707]
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Since the start of operations at Dounreay in the 1950s, the site has been authorised at various times to dispose of solid, liquid and gaseous radioactivity to the environment. It has been a condition of these authorisations that the environmental impact is measured and reported. This has shown that the elevated levels of radioactivity found in the environment around Dounreay as a result of authorised disposals are well below the limits for public exposure to radioactivity. In addition, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency carries out its own monitoring, and the results are published annually in the Radioactivity in Food and the Environment series.
It is now known that particulate in the form of fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel entered the liquid effluent disposal system at Dounreay and was discharged to sea. Seabed surveys have detected these fragments, or particles, in the sediment near the old discharge point. The action of the sea on the sediment is thought to transport the particles, which have been detected during routine monitoring of the beaches at Sandside and Dunnet and the foreshore at Dounreay. UKAEA, on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, is consulting on feasible options for remediation. The outcome of this consultation is expected to help identify environmentally acceptable methods of dealing with this issue. UKAEA believes it will not be practicable to retrieve all particles released from the site, but the offshore source should be substantially reduced. Any particles detected on local beaches as a result of regular inspections are removed.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): It is for primary care trusts to determine what level of contraceptive service they provide and whom they commission the services from in order to meet the needs of their local population.
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