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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We are aware of the proposal made by the board of the Pension Protection Fund that a legislative change be made to require all eligible pension schemes to provide valuations on a PPF basis (section 179 valuations) by 31 December 2006.
No decision has yet been made about whether we would be prepared to make this change to the legislation. We are conscious of the additional costs that would be incurred by some schemes if the legislation were changed to require PPF valuations to be provided at a date that was not in line with schemes' existing valuation cycles.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We hope to be in a position to make the first assistance payments from the financial assistance scheme before the end of the calendar year.
Further to the Written Answer by the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hazel Blears, on 5 July (HC Deb, 398W), why the precept has risen between 199798 and 200506 for (a) West Midlands Police by 167 per cent. from £15.00 to £25.04; (b) Metropolitan Police by 313 per cent. from £24.26 to £75.95; (c) Northumbria Police by 144 per cent. from £14.77 to £21.25; and (d) North Yorkshire Police by 375 per cent. from £17.78 to £66.60. [HL1310]
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Police precepts on council tax are matters for police authorities to determine. The Government have invested hugely in policing over the past five years. Expenditure on policing in England and Wales supported by Government grant or spent centrally on policing on services for the police increased by 39 per cent. or over £3 billion between 2000-01 and 2005-06. Revenue raised locally through the police precept has contributed to funding expanded service levels and increasing police numbers. All police authorities have set reasonable budgets and precepts this year.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Prison Service, in partnership with the Youth Justice Board and other key stakeholders, has developed the juvenile awareness staff programme, which was introduced in April 2004. This seven-day programme forms part of the National Qualifications Framework in Youth Justice and consists of a number of modules, including child protection, understanding and working with young people in custody and vulnerability assessment.
The Youth Justice Board has provided funding to the Prison Service juvenile estate to enable 80 per cent. of staff that work with young people to have started this programme by the end of March 2006. Each establishment has been set agreed targets, and they all have trainers in place to deliver the programme locally.
Whether they intend to permit the use of proceeds from crime, which have been frozen by the courts, to be used to pay for the defence of those charged in respect of organised crime; and, if so, what safeguards will apply to prevent "champagne defence abuse" of the system whereby money is returned to the defendant through excessive legal fees. [HL1331]
The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Parliament recently approved an amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002, which will allow respondents in Civil Recovery cases in the High Court to access the frozen assets to pay for their legal expenses in those proceedings. The department is currently consulting on regulations that will control costs in these cases, to prevent the dissipation of the assets on legal fees.
In the light of the letter from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to Members of the House indicating that correspondence should be answered within 20 working days, whether the period for answering Questions for Written Answer remains two weeks. [HL1421]
Whether she will bring forward proposals to introduce a mechanism whereby the Government answer Questions for Written Answer, submitted by Members of the House during Parliamentary recesses, without the need to wait for Parliament to reconvene; and [HL1512]
Whether Parliamentary scrutiny of Government is well served by a gap between 22 July and 9 October 2005 during which Questions for Written Answer submitted by Members of both Houses of Parliament are not forwarded to government or answered. [HL1513]
Baroness Amos: The Government have always taken the view that the House should retain the principle of tabling Questions during periods when the House is sitting and Ministers are in attendance to respond to parliamentary scrutiny.
Whether, following the decision to transfer responsibility for United Kingdom railway safety from the Health and Safety Executive to the Office of Rail Regulation, they intend to make a similar transfer of responsibility for Channel Tunnel railway safety to the Intergovernmental Commission and Safety Authority. [HL1364]
Lord Davies of Oldham: Responsibility for the regulation of safety matters in the Channel Tunnel already rests with the Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission and Safety Authority. The reorganisation of the UK regulatory system does not affect the agreed bi-national regime.
Lord Davies of Oldham: No figures are kept for the total volume of discharges on to the track but all trains built since 1988 discharge into retention tanks which are emptied at depots. Approximately
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1,400 older carriages have toilets which discharge on to the track. This represents around 13 per cent. of the total fleet of 11,000 carriages.
Whether exceptions to the provisions of the Equality Bill forbidding religious discrimination and harassment in the provision of educational opportunities are matched by similar exceptions in the legislation of other countries of the European Union or the Commonwealth; and, if so, which countries have similar exemptions in their legislation. [HL700]
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are unaware of what legislation other EU or Commonwealth countries are implementing to tackle religious discrimination and harassment, and are therefore unable to comment on whether the exceptions we have introduced mirror those in other countries.
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