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Lord Davies of Oldham: The Government have increased the level of financial support for families with babies through a number of measures, and will continue to review their financial support for families on a regular basis. Families having their first child can receive up to £4,300 financial support in the first year of the childs life, and a further £4,400 in statutory maternity pay.
How, at the forthcoming European Council of Ministers, they will take into account the advice of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea on the establishment of quotas for cod in the North Sea. [HL630]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The total allowable catch (TAC) for cod in the North Sea was decided in an agreement between the European Union and Norway on 27 November 2007 and will be ratified at the December European Agriculture and Fisheries Council of Ministers. A cod TAC increase of 11 was secured.
10 Dec 2007 : Column WA8
What action they are taking to promote (a) better foundations; (b) stone floors; (c) high electrical wiring; and (d) no fixed wooden furniture on ground level for buildings constructed in areas designated as at high risk of flooding. [HL486]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Projects are under way as part of the developing cross-government strategy to improve flood risk management, Making space for water, to improve the flood resilience of both new and existing buildings.
In the case of new buildings, Planning Policy Statement 25, Development and flood risk, from the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) expressly seeks to avoid increasing flood risk as a result of development, either to the new development itself or in other areas. Where building is necessary in flood-risk areas, the policy is that it must be safe. CLG is seeking to encourage the use of flood resilience techniques and, with Defra and the Environment Agency, has published a technical guide, Improving the Flood Performance of New Buildings: Flood Resilient Construction, with the longer-term aim of developing resilience standards for building regulations, subject to the outcome of further research and consultation.
We are also seeking to encourage installation of resilience measures in existing buildings and are engaged in a pilot project to examine the feasibility of a possible grant scheme to encourage uptake, particularly in areas where community defences to reduce flood risk cannot be justified. The Environment Agency has published a damage limitation guide with CIRIA, Standards for the repair of buildings following flooding, to encourage people to consider flood-resilient walls and floors, raised wiring, switches and sockets and moveable kitchen units made of either solid wood or plastic when refurbishing their properties.
What discussions they have had with the insurance industry on (a) the costs and (b) the benefits of co-ordinated betterment in addressing the problems of buildings located in areas designated as at high risk of flooding. [HL487]
Lord Rooker: There have been regular discussions between Defra, the insurance industry and other stakeholders regarding the increased resilience of properties at risk of flooding. This has included joint workshops with the Association of British Insurers (ABI), and ongoing work around the resilience pilot grant scheme that the department is funding.
A research project is under way to develop the evidence base for flood resilience, and this will include property level estimates of costs and benefits of resilience. The ABI has been kept informed about this work at all stages.
Lord Rooker: The Environment Agency is the principal operating authority with responsibility for flood risk management in England. It is empowered to manage flood risk from the sea and on all watercourses identified as creating the greatest flood risk.
In recent years, powers have been transferred to the Environment Agency for 1,800 further watercourse lengths, partly to clarify responsibilities. Our developing cross-government strategy to improve flood risk management, Making space for water intends to give the Environment Agency a strategic overview of the management of flood risk from all sources (including rivers, the sea, sewer, surface water and groundwater).
We have announced the detailed form that this new role will take on the coast and are considering how it should be applied inland. As with the coastal overview role, inland changes will be informed by public consultation.
When they anticipate coming to conclusions on the effective prioritisation process for the Environment Agency's capital programme for the fund for flood defences; and whether they will publish their findings and those of the public consultation. [HL681]
Lord Rooker: The Environment Agency and Defra are continuing work on a revised prioritisation process for the Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Capital programme. The findings of this work will be published in due course.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): There is a functional and competitive insurance market through which cover for flooding is available to nearly all households.
The Government have no plans to subsidise flood insurance or act as insurer of last resort for flood damage, which we believe would damage the insurance industry, be unfair to taxpayers and be unsustainable in the long term.
What assessment they have made of the need for a further increase in spending on flood preparation and prevention as a consequence of the floods in Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire earlier this year. [HL504]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Following consideration in the comprehensive spending review, we have announced that funding for flood and coastal erosion risk management in England will rise progressively over the next three years, with increased spending in 2010-11, a minimum of £200 million above current levels.
Prioritised and costed investment plans for new flood risk management schemes are submitted annually by individual operating authorities. It is anticipated that there will be over 150 new projects planned to start during the Comprehensive Spending Review period, starting in April 2008. This is subject to my departmental funding allocations to all operating authorities.
In addition to the allocation of funds to new flood alleviation schemes, the Environment Agency has also re-allocated funding this year to undertake important remedial work following the June and July floods.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Government have no plans to change the basis on which detention under Immigration Act powers is reviewed. Existing procedures, including access to the processes of judicial review and habeas corpus to challenge the lawfulness of detention, comply fully with the requirements of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Lord West of Spithead: Every IRC is required to have a medical team, at least one member of which must be a doctor who is trained as a general practitioner. The team also consists of nurses, including registered mental nurses, the number of which would depend on the centre. There are regular meetings to discuss healthcare issues between Border and Immigration Agency staff, NGOs and Department of Health officials in order to develop and improve healthcare in the removal centres. Mental health issues are discussed at these meetings.
Further to the Statement by the Lord President (Baroness Ashton of Upholland) on 14 November (Official Report, cols. 477-95), what action they are taking to ensure that where the new UK Border Agency uses powers to detain and other powers otherwise exercised by the police, its personnel will be subject to the same rigorous standards of conduct as those laid down for the police in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 code of practice. [HL348]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Government are committed to ensuring that in the exercise of all their enforcement powers, including those to detain individuals at ports in support of the police, officers of the new UK Border Agency are subject to comparable standards of conduct as those laid down for the police. Similarly, appropriate and proportionate safeguards and oversight mechanisms are also in place.
The specific new power to detain mentioned by the Lord President (Baroness Ashton of Upholland) in her Statement on 14 November are those contained in Sections 1 to 4 of the UK Borders Act 2007. In commencing these powers, robust safeguards and oversight mechanisms in the form of clear and specific standard operating procedures are being developed alongside specialist training before individual immigration officers are designated with these powers.
Whether closed-circuit television footage has been retained of an alleged incident which occurred during the process of attempting to remove Ms Susan Pandirai, a citizen of Mozambique, on 20 November. [HL657]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): We do not comment on individual cases. However, it is our policy to retain CCTV footage of planned removals from immigration removal centres for a period of 30 days.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The information requested is not available. Jobcentre Plus does not collate information on the number of complaints received about its telephone lines being constantly engaged. Complaints about telephone calls are collated and summarised under three broad headings: Answering telephone calls; Customer passed on/Hand Offs; and Call Back Services.
Whether they have assessed the extent to which seafarers are affected by the current rate of on-load hook failure accidents during lifeboat drills; and what assessment they have made of the attitude of seafarers to lifeboat drills; and [HL566]
Lord Bassam of Brighton: An assessment of accidents can be found in the Maritime and Coastguard Agencys (MCA) Research Project 555 on the development of lifeboat design, which is located on the MCAs website as follows: www.mcga.gov.uk/c4mca/mcga-guidance-regulation/mcga-dqs-research_reports/2006_-_2010-2.htm
Feedback to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) suggests that seafarers have concerns with participating in a drill where they are required to be lowered in a lifeboat fitted with on-load release gear.
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