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Whether the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has withheld details of bluetongue cases from the relevant local authority where recent outbreaks have occurred; if so, whether this is in accordance with government policy; and whether, in light of the enforcement responsibilities of local authorities, the withholding of this information is consistent with tackling the disease in a multi-agency approach. [HL5465]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The divisional offices of Animal Health that have dealt with all the confirmed bluetongue cases so far have kept the relevant local authorities informed of all cases, and plans have been agreed to maintain such a flow of information. There is no question of withholding information from such important operational partners.
Whether they will provide a record of the contingency exercises carried out by agencies of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in relation to a potential outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the current calendar year in (a) England and Wales, and (b) Scotland; and how the distribution of those exercises was determined. [HL5431]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Animal Health (AH), an executive agency of Defra, has a programme of co-ordinated exotic animal disease exercises being undertaken by Animal Health divisional offices (AHDOs) throughout Great Britain. This is in addition to the Defra/Animal Health national exercise which is held approximately every two years.
The aim of the exercises is to demonstrate the AH's emergency preparedness to deal effectively with outbreaks of exotic animal disease and identify lessons for the future. Each AHDO is required to take part in one full-scale exercise each year and AH strategically ensures that it tests plans for the exotic diseases that are deemed to be a high priority for contingency planning. The distribution of exercises is based on a mixture of the most likely diseases to be encountered and the national strategic objective of ensuring that plans for all high-priority diseases are tested.
During the last financial year (April 2006 to April 2007) there were a total of seven British exercises undertaken (involving 16 AHDOs). Of these, two (involving four AHDOs) were for foot and mouth disease. In Scotland, there was one exercise (involving three AHDOs) with none for foot and mouth disease. In Wales, there was one exercise (involving two AHDOs) with none for foot and mouth disease. In addition, during this period, six AHDOs (including one in Wales) were involved in Exercise Hawthorn, the national avian influenza exercise. The last national exercise for foot and mouth disease, Exercise Hornbeam, was in 2004.
How many sorties, involving how many aircraft, on how many of the past 60 days have been launched to monitor Russian aircraft approaching United Kingdom airspace; and whether consideration is being given to the number of future Tornado fighters based at RAF Leeming. [HL5361]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Drayson): Quick Reaction Alert aircraft were launched to intercept Russian aircraft on four separate days during August and September 2007. I am withholding information on the number of sorties and the number of intercepting aircraft as its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our Armed Forces.
Tornado F3 aircraft are being gradually withdrawn from service as they are replaced by Typhoon aircraft. The remaining Tornado F3 unit based at RAF Leeming is due to disband in 2008. We keep our air defence capability under constant review to ensure that we meet our commitment to protect the UK and its airspace.
What consideration they are giving to large-scale geo-engineering schemes as ways of tackling problems caused by global warming; and what assessment they have made of the extent to which such schemes may contribute to a solution to climate change. [HL5438]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Defra keeps in view potential geo-engineering options for mitigating climate change as they are presented, but does not currently support any research into the development of such large-scale geo-engineering schemes.
Some large-scale geo-engineering schemes may have limited potential as a means of reducing future global warming. However, I understand there are significant scientific and technical concerns over all the currently high-profile geo-engineering ideas. There are also grave concerns about the risks of environmentally damaging side effects and considerable debate over the practicability and costs of such schemes.
Our assessments are informed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment, whose latest report was published in 2007, by Defra-funded science undertaken at the Met Office Hadley Centre, and by UK Research Council scientists.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): On 27 September, we announced our intention to introduce legislation to give the public, for the first time, the right to walk around the English coast.
Further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Jonathan Shaw, on 25 July (Official Report, 1079W), whether they have statistics available to indicate the number of farmers in each band for whom the single payment scheme provides (a) less than 25 per cent; (b) 25 per cent to 50 per cent; (c) 50 per cent to 80 per cent; and (d) over 80 per cent of their income; and, if so, what are those statistics. [HL5500]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Section 10 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 requires the conclusive maps of open country and registered common land to be reviewed not more than 10 years after they were issued. The eight conclusive maps in England were issued between May 2004 and August 2005. We will ensure the review is completed to meet the statutory deadline.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): Even without further discoveries, production of oil from the UK sector of the North Sea is expected to continue to around 2035. With continued exploration success, production should continue beyond then.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): Ofgem has already authorised some £560 million for network reinforcements related to Scottish renewable development. However, there is currently some 12GW of renewable generation projects with offers of connection to the electricity grid in Scotland, which is considerably in excess of existing network capability.
Delivering these network developments will take time and the Government have encouraged National Grid and Ofgem to develop measures to ensure that the utilisation of existing grid capacity is maximised and renewable projects are connected as quickly as possible. Ofgem will report on the progress of this work later this month.
In addition, a fundamental review of the arrangements for allocating access to the GB transmission system was initiated by the Energy White Paper and is being taken forward jointly with Ofgem. The review will publish interim findings in December, with the final report expected in May 2008.
Whether they have recently agreed arrangements with private sector contractors for the future provision of large-scale information technology services to the Department for Work and Pensions. [HL5328]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The Department for Work and Pensions has a portfolio of commercial arrangements through which it secures the current, and future, provision of information technology (IT) services. This portfolio comprises department-specific arrangements, as well as wider public sector agreements available via the Office of Government Commerce.
Contracts awarded under those arrangements covered the provision of: the Customer Information System (2003), the Pensions Transformation Project (2003), the Resource Management System (Development-2003 and Operation-2004), and the Central Payments System (2006). All of these provide an element of future services; for example, to meet new business requirements. We are currently agreeing contracts to cover the IT services required to support the delivery of the new employment and support allowance.
Additionally, in 2005, the department realigned its existing contracts to deliver IT support and telephony services with Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and BT until 2010. The contract re-alignment simplified the complex structure of separate contracts inherited by the department when it was created out of the former Department of Social Security and the Department for Education and Employment. Benefits to the department include upgraded IT systems, improved system performance at highly competitive prices and a modernised voice over internet protocol (VOIP) communications network with new contact centre technology, to provide the department, and its customers, with a more reliable, better-performing service.
Lord Davies of Oldham: HMRC is looking at possible enhancements to its online services to enable the very small minority of self-assessment taxpayers,
17 Oct 2007 : Column WA56
Whether they have received recent representations from the United Kingdom manufacturing industry about the effect of higher interest rates and the rise of the value of sterling on the export market; and, if so, how many representations they have received. [HL5132]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): Ministers and officials receive a wide range of representations on a variety of issues as part of the process of policy development and analysis.
Interest rate decisions are made by the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, which is independent from the Government, based on rigorous analysis and taking into account all relevant information, to meet the Government's inflation target.
This Government believe it would be inappropriate to use artificial measures to reduce the level of sterling. This would risk a return to the economic instability, which did so much to damage UK manufacturing in the past.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): In England and Wales, charging data are not collected by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform, but prosecution and conviction data from 1997 to 2005 for offences under the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860 are shown in the attached table. Data for 2006 will be available in November 2007.
|Number of defendants proceeded against at magistrates' courts and found guilty at all courts for offences under the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860, England and Wales, 1997 to 2005(1),(2),(3),|
|(1) These data are on the principal offence basis.|
|(2) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.|
|(3) The offence used in the above table (the only offence which relates to the relevant Act) is Indecent behaviour in church or chapel.|
|Source: Court proceedings database held by the Office for Criminal Justice ReformMinistry of Justice|
|Our reference: PQ HL5246 (Table)|
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