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29 Nov 2006 : Column WA55

Written Answers

Wednesday 29 November 2006

BBC: Licence Fee

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Government expect to announce the level of the television licence fee to apply from April 2007 later this year.

British Citizenship

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): This information is not currently readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. We are planning to improve our IT systems for dealing with these applications and one of the benefits will be the ability to publish waiting time information for these applications.

Construction Industry: Holiday Pay Schemes

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McKenzie of Luton: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave him on 7 November 2006 (cols. WA 108-9).

Crime: Rape

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The question of whether reporting restrictions should be lifted by the Court of Appeal, in cases where a complainant has anonymity, is not limited to cases in which the Criminal Cases Review Commission refers a case to the court as a possible miscarriage of justice. It could, in principle, arise in any appeal against conviction for a sexual offence.

We are considering the relevant Court of Appeal judgment further and will make our views known in due course on whether the law requires amendment.

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Number of awards made by the criminal injuries compensation scheme to victims of rape:

Year

2001-02

1,181

2002-03

1,144

2003-04

1,062

2004-05

1,016

2005-06

992

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: In 2002, the Government commissioned an independent evaluation report into the impact of Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. The final report was published in January 2006 and the findings and recommendations were sent to the senior judiciary and the Judicial Studies Board (the report can be found at www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs06/rdsolr2006.pdf). The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee, which is chaired by the Lord Chief Justice, has made new rules requiring applications to introduce evidence about a complainant's sexual behaviour to be in writing in advance of the trial. These rules came into force on 6 November 2006.

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Claims to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) are confidential as between applicants and the CICA. Ministers are specifically precluded by law (the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1995) from involvement in individual cases.

Under the law, the CICA is exclusively responsible for the day-to-day administration of the scheme, for interpreting the scheme rules and for all decisions on individual cases.

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The maximum sentence for the offence of rape is life imprisonment. Guidelines suggest a starting point of a five-year determinate sentence if the victim is an adult and there are no aggravating features. Martin Walsh was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of six years, equivalent to a 12-year determinate sentence. As Mr Walsh has been sentenced to life, he will be released after six years only if the independent Parole Board considers that is safe.

The Government are consulting on proposals to reform the way that minimum terms for those sentenced to life imprisonment are calculated. The consultation suggests options for making this process clearer to the public so as to deal with the misperception that all offenders will be released at the end of the minimum custodial term set by the judge. Many offenders sentenced to indeterminate sentences in practice spend significantly longer in prison than the minimum term specified.

We have already announced that we want judges to have more discretion so that they no longer have to reduce the sentence they impose by up to one-third for an early guilty plea, regardless of the circumstances. The Sentencing Guidelines Council is currently reviewing its guilty plea discount guideline.

Disabled People: Education

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): I pay tribute to the work of the Snowdon Award Scheme, now in its 25th year. As the Snowdon Survey 2006 acknowledges, the majority of disabled students do now receive the additional funding and support that they need, but there is always room for improvement.



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The department will be looking closely at the Snowdon survey and will be using the findings to inform a new cross-government strategy for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LLDD) to be launched in spring 2007.

EU: Accounts

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McKenzie of Luton: The Government work closely with the European Commission to reduce any misuse of European Union and United Kingdom match funding, taking action to improve the management of funding wherever necessary.

EU: Tobacco Subsidies

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The EU budget for tobacco premiums was €920 million in 2006. As member states contribute to the EU budget as a whole, and not to any particular part, we cannot say how much the UK contributed in subsidies for tobacco farmers.

As a non-producer, the UK has concerns about the cost and health implications of the tobacco regime; subsidies are at odds with the Community-sponsored “Europe Against Cancer” programme. The UK has always been critical of the regime and welcomed the 2004 reform, whereby direct support for tobacco will be brought to an end by 2010.

EU: UK Net Contributing Cost

Lord Vinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McKenzie of Luton: The United Kingdom's net contribution to the EC budget in financial year 2005-06 can be found at footnote 1 to Table 7 (page 15) of the Public Expenditure 2005-06 Provisional Outturn White Paper (Cm 6883) published in July 2006. Net contributions figures for the

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financial years 2000-01 to 2004-05 can be found in Table 3.2 (page 17) of the annual European Community Finances White Paper (Cm 6770) published in May 2006. Equivalent figures for the years 1996-97 to 1999-2000 can be found in copies of this White Paper for the years 2002 to 2005.

Gulf War Illnesses

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): Our liaison officer in Washington forwarded on 5 May 2006 a publicly available report of the earmarking of $75 million over five years from financial year 2006 for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre to carry out further work to investigate the possibility of neurological abnormalities in the brains and nervous systems of Gulf War veterans. He continued to monitor the position and on 15 November reported that a contract between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre had been signed. Details, including those of costs, have yet to be released. We take a close interest in this research in relation to our wider work to investigate the causes of Gulf War veterans’ illnesses. However, we will not be in a position to make a detailed assessment of its possible relevance to British veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict until further details are released in the new year by the US authorities.

Gypsies and Travellers

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): Accommodation needs assessments are intended to be an in-depth look across the range of

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Gypsies and Travellers residing in or resorting to a local authority's area. The assessment should include, where possible, Gypsies and Travellers living in bricks and mortar accommodation and travelling show people. It may also look at future migration into and out of the area. The caravan count on the other hand is a twice yearly “snapshot” of the number of caravans occupied by Gypsies and Travellers within the area, whether on authorised or unauthorised sites. While the set of data can act as a reference point for the other, there are many reasons why their respective results might not coincide.

The department has issued interim guidance on conducting accommodation needs assessments, which will be finalised next spring. It is also supporting research to assist regional assemblies in determining patterns of provision at regional level. On this basis, we do not see a need for additional research. Regional assemblies will need to take account of all relevant information in developing their strategies, which will also be subject to consultation and examination in public.

National Lottery: Top Goods

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Youth Sports Trust has confirmed that Top Goods has never received government funding.

According to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's lottery grants database, which uses information supplied by the National Lottery distributing bodies, Top Goods has never received a lottery award.

NHS: Recovery of VAT

Lord Turnberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McKenzie of Luton: Government departments and NHS bodies can, under special refund arrangements, reclaim the VAT they are charged on certain contracted-out services. This

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refund scheme is designed to ensure that VAT costs do not create a disincentive for these bodies to contract services out.

This VAT refund scheme is an exception to the normal principles of public funding; that departmental and NHS spending allocations are calculated to take into account VAT costs incurred in the course of delivering public services. As with any such exception, eligibility and definitions are applied strictly.


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