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Proceeds of Crime Act 2002: Annual Report

Lord Sewel asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are pleased to announce that the first annual report of the appointed person under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has been laid before Parliament. The appointed person is an independent person who scrutinises the use of the new search power introduced to support the scheme to seize and forfeit criminal cash.

The report gives the appointed person's opinion as to the circumstances and manner in which the search powers conferred by the Act are being exercised. We are pleased that the appointed person, Andrew Clarke, has expressed satisfaction at the operation of the search power in its first three months.

Over £12.5 million had been seized under the scheme by the end of March. While most of the cash was discovered when police and customs officers were conducting searches under other legislation, it is significant and very good news that over £2 million was found and seized as a direct result of this new search power. The power is a welcome addition in the fight against crime and the report shows that its operation has been, and will continue to be, closely monitored.

Private Sector Landlords

Baroness Golding asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is allocating £2 million to help tackle private rented sector problems in areas of low housing demand. Up to £180,000 per year for the next two years will be provided to each of five areas: Stoke-on-Trent, Hartlepool, Bolton, and groups of authorities in West Yorkshire and East Lancashire.

The money will help them to test how they can make best use of the full range of existing powers in their areas of special social need, and to gather good practice to support other local authorities with similar problems, pending the Housing Bill's proposed introduction of selective landlord licensing. The authorities in Gateshead and Salford will be working alongside this initiative.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is allocating funds from the £2 million for dissemination purposes, to ensure that lessons learnt are spread to all authorities who wish to benefit.

Environment Agency: Proposed Development at Peasmarsh

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to the proposed development on land adjacent to the otter channel, Wittersham Road, Peasmarsh, described in planning application RR/2003/1208:

    (a) what was and is the financial relationship between the Environment Agency and any of its staff and the proposer of the above development; what checks the Environment Agency has made as to the proposer's probity and criminal record;

    (b) why the Environment Agency commenced work on the proposed development before any planning application had been made;

    (c) what benefits to the local environment the Environment Agency believed would accrue from the creation in that location of fishing lakes and wildfowl shooting facilities, and the installation of a caravan;

    (d) what benefits to floodplain management and capacity would accrue from the creation of bunded fishing lakes; and

    (e) what is the current attitude of the Environment Agency to the proposed development.[HL3290]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The proposed development is the construction of a fishing lake near the River Rother, north of Rye in Sussex. The landowner acquired the site last autumn with the intention of creating a commercial fishing lake. He approached the Environment Agency's local emergency work force office as he wished to benefit from an arrangement whereby the agency and its predecessors obtain clay wherever possible for repairing the river flood defences.

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Local agency staff stripped topsoil as a preliminary to excavating clay from the site, but withdrew immediately when it became apparent there was no planning permission for the excavation and prior to any material leaving the site. No other works were carried out by the agency. The agency is liaising with Rother District Council and is actively reviewing its procedures for the local acquisition of flood defence material.

In answer to the specific points raised:

    (a) There is no financial arrangement between the Environment Agency and any of its staff and the proposer of the proposed fishing lake nor has there ever been. Where the Environment Agency intends to take adjacent earth material for the repair or improvement of a river embankment, it does not consider checks on the probity or criminal record of the developer to be necessary or appropriate.

    (b) The agency understood that planning permission had been obtained by the owner and ceased work on the topsoil scrape as soon as it was ascertained that this was not the case.

    (c) The agency believed that there would be a small increase in flood storage capacity. Planning application RR/2003/1208 was for the siting of a caravan only. The agency objected to this on flood risk grounds, but withdrew the objection if (as the owner stated) the caravan would only be occupied during June, July and August which is outside the months of high flood risk.

    (d) The proposed fishing lake was not to be bunded and there would be a small increase in flood storage.

    (e) The agency will not be further involved in the proposed development from the point of view of flood defence works to the River Rother. The agency will liaise closely with the local planning authority regarding any future proposals for this site.

Housing Benefit: Sanctions

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether mental illness will be a defence against the imposition of housing benefit sanctions.[HL3288]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): We are consulting on these measures and will consider responses to the consultation before setting out detailed proposals.

Prize Competitions: Review

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking following the review of the law on prize competitions by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.[HL3458]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): In May 2002 the Department for Culture, Media and Sport issued a consultation letter concerning the law on prize competitions and lotteries. This followed the report of the independent gambling review, chaired by Sir Alan Budd, which the department published in July 2001.

The consultation document asked for replies by the end of August 2002. We received 70 responses, and have been considering them carefully.

The Government are clear that lotteries will continue to be the preserve of good causes only. There should be no commercial, for-profit lotteries. The law should provide for a clear and enforceable distinction between lotteries and prize competitions, and the Government intend that the overall Bill on gambling which they propose should achieve that.

The Bill will remove the restrictions on prize competitions in Section 14 of the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976. Under the Bill, prize competitions will be distinguishable from lotteries in that either they require a degree of skill, or they have a clear and open free entry route. Competitions based on forecasting will be regulated as betting. Subject to any requirements arising from the European regulation on sales promotions, which is currently under discussion, the Bill will also provide for promotional prize draws.

The Bill will act against so-called "chain gifting" schemes such as "Women Empowering Women".

We have made available a full statement of the conclusions which the Government have reached about these issues. We have sent this to all respondents to our consultation exercise and placed copies in the Libraries of both Houses. The statement is also available on the DCMS website on

UK and European Parliaments: Costs

Viscount Tenby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the annual cost of maintaining the European Parliament, the House of Commons and House of Lords, including:

    (a) salaries, pensions, travelling allowances, secretarial expenses for Members;

    (b) salaries, allowances and pensions and other costs of supporting staff;

    (c) accommodation, including rent, operating costs and security; and

    (d) all other administrative costs such as stationery, office equipment, publications, payments to parliamentary bodies and other relevant outgoings; and[HL3228]

    What is the per capita cost per Member of:

    (a) the European Parliament;

    (b) the House of Commons; and

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    (c) the House of Lords for 2002–03 and the previous four years; and[HL3229]

    What was the number of sitting days of:

    (a) the European Parliament;

    (b) the House of Commons; and

    (c) the House of Lords

    for 2002–03 and the previous four years.[HL3230]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Precise comparisons between the cost of the European Parliament and the Houses of Parliament are difficult. The latest information is as follows. The total costs and per capita costs for the House of Lords for 2001–02, given in my reply of 21 June 2002 (WA 109), have been slightly amended.

Total Costs (£ million)

European Parliament(1)712.0610.0597.0614.2568.7
of which UK cost is98.9102.790.161.080.4
House of Commons(7)259.7263.7266.9253.7269.3
House of Lords(7)43.345.345.757.457.6

Per Capita Costs per member (£000)

European Parliament(3)1,137974954981908
House of Commons(4 and 7)394400405385409
House of Lords(2 and 7)3837678183

Number of sitting days

European Parliament(5)5560156138141
House of Commons(6)157157159143162
House of Lords160158168134160


(1) Based on calendar years and average £/ecu or exchange rate for the relevant year. The cost to the UK is derived from the UK's financing share after abatement.

(2) Per capita cost based on the number of Peers eligible to sit in the House of Lords at the beginning of each year. The number of peers has reduced significantly since the House of Lords Act 1999 when 655 hereditary Peers ceased to be Members from November 1999.

(3) Per capita cost based on 626 seats in the European Parliament.

(4) Per capita cost based on an assumption of 659 Members.

(5) In 2002–03 the number of sitting days was 141. This includes plenary sessions as well as part-plenaries, committee days and political group days in Brussels. In addition there were 13 constituency days.

(6) In 2002–03 the number of sitting days for the House of Commons was 257 including sitting days in Westminster Hall.

(7) The 2002–03 figures are based on provisional outturns.

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