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The Government are committed to enabling all pupils, regardless of their background, to achieve

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their potential. Local authorities have a duty to ensure that all children of compulsory school age have access to education, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity. In a speech on 17 October 2007 the Secretary of State reaffirmed his belief that many local authorities and schools need to do more to improve school outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children. He said that some local authorities were turning around their low attainment, in particular, by involving parents in designing the services they provide, and by engaging them much earlier through children's centres; and that this should happen in every area.

The Government have developed a national programme which supports local authorities and schools to meet the needs of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children. This programme, launched in September 2006, works with parents to boost attendance, using e-learning and mobility projects to help pupils whose schooling is interrupted. The programme will be extended to involve more secondary schools, and to increase the number of local authorities. The Government would also support proposals for a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history month in June 2008 to raise awareness.

Health: Contaminated Blood Products

Lord Jenkin of Roding asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): As I said in my earlier reply of 23 October, I am very sorry that the department’s letter of 14 August to Mrs Bullock was open to misinterpretation, and an apology has been sent to Mrs Bullock, copied to the Archer inquiry team. However, to avoid any possible misunderstanding, I can assure the noble Lord that at no time did anyone in the department claim that Lord Archer of Sandwell had “ignored the department’s offer of a meeting with the inquiry”.

The letter of 14 August was prepared by the department’s customer service centre, using information supplied by the blood policy team. The letter of 14 August stated:

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This was intended to convey that the department remained ready to meet Lord Archer’s team and I am sorry if any other interpretation was possible.

Mrs Bullock replied to the department on 24 August. Mrs Bullock’s letter alerted us to the possibility that our own letter may be capable of different interpretations, as Mrs Bullock’s letter of 24 August stated:

Mrs Bullock requested information about contacts between the department and Lord Archer’s inquiry team and her request was brought to the attention of the blood policy team. A reply to Mrs Bullock, copied to the Archer inquiry team, was sent from a freedom of information officer in the department on 17 September and stated:

During the time that this further reply was in preparation, the department’s head of blood policy received a letter from Lord Archer of 4 September, stating that his attention had been called to the department’s first reply to Mrs Bullock of 14 August and that he was concerned that the letter could be taken to imply that requests for a meeting had been ignored by the inquiry team. He asked that the department take steps to avoid repeating any misconception in future correspondence.

The head of blood policy immediately spoke to Lord Archer to apologise for any misunderstanding. When a reply had been sent to Mrs Bullock, the head of blood policy contacted Lord Archer on 18 September to repeat his apology in the following terms:

The department has now met the inquiry team again, on 19 September. The department has also copied to the inquiry team, in stages from June to October, several thousand official documents identified in the Review of Documentation relating to the Safety of Blood and Blood Products (1970-1985), which was issued in May 2007. I can therefore assure the noble Lord that our officials are co-operating fully with the inquiry team.

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Officials have traced 11 pieces of correspondence in July and August that used the same information. These were received and replied to before we were aware of any possible misunderstanding from the wording used. A follow-up letter has been sent to clarify our position and prevent any further misunderstanding.

Health: Pregnant Women

Baroness Cumberlege asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): Current policy, on advice from the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, is not to offer routine screening for Group B streptococcus carriage to all pregnant women, because there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that this would be beneficial.

The UK NSC is planning to hold a workshop during the spring of 2008 to consider the implications of the most recent research evidence on preventing Group B streptococcal infections in infancy. The widest possible stakeholder representation will be sought.

House of Lords: Energy Requirements

Lord Hunt of Chesterton asked the Chairman of Committees:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): There is ongoing work to minimise the peak and average energy requirements of the House of Lords areas within the Parliamentary Estate while continuing to allow the House to work efficiently. Much work is undertaken during routine maintenance, especially to replace older-style lamps with modern low-energy lamps as carried out in the Lords Chamber during 2006. Major items of equipment, when near to the end of their lives, are always replaced with more efficient models, as was the case during replacement of the main heating boilers in the Palace in 2004.

The control of heating and cooling systems in all buildings on the Parliamentary Estate is monitored by

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a Building Management System which is supervised around the clock by staff in Parliamentary Works Services. A pilot survey has been commissioned to report on energy usage in one area of the Parliamentary Estate, including assessment of the efficiency of the heating and cooling systems, and to make recommendations on how energy consumption could be reduced. If successful, energy surveys of other buildings will be commissioned, including those occupied by the House of Lords.

Further energy and water conservation projects planned for 2008-09 include possible installation of lighting controls, low-energy lighting, window and door draught proofing, voltage optimisation and kitchen ventilation controls.

The Building Management System aims to maintain internal conditions at a level that provides comfortable working conditions for occupants and which does not necessitate variations from the dress code.

Housing: Flood Plains

Lord Christopher asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Government’s policy, set out in planning policy statement 25 (PPS25), Development and Flood Risk, is that development should be located away from flood risk whenever possible. However, it is not always possible to find a location at low flood risk. Where the sequential test shows that there are no available sites at lower risk of flooding and the need for new homes outweighs the flood risk, PPS25 imposes an exception test to ensure that those that have to be built in higher-risk areas are safe and less susceptible to flood damage.

PPS25 imposes new requirements to ensure that those homes that have to be built in higher-risk areas are safe and less susceptible to flood damage. In these circumstances, the raising of new houses above likely future flood levels may be a way of making them safe from and resilient to flooding, as I understand is done in the Netherlands, provided that the occupants have safe access, services such as power, water and sewerage can continue to be provided and the development does not increase flood risk elsewhere.

Lord Rotherwick asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Baroness Andrews: Planning policy statement 25 (PPS25) on development and flood risk aims to locate development away from flood risk whenever possible

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and avoid inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding. Some inner-city and urban areas are already within areas at risk of flooding. PPS25 will ensure that, when regeneration proposals come forward for this previously developed land, it will ensure that they are safe, are less susceptible to flood damage and will not increase flood risk elsewhere. Planning applications will be determined on their individual merits, in the light of local development frameworks, supported by strategic flood risk assessments, and the principles of PPS25.

Housing: Thames Gateway

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): How many of the planned 160,000 homes will be funded through the NAHP 2008-11 will ultimately depend on bids for grant for schemes that both are deliverable and match regional investment priorities and efficiency targets—there is not a separate NAHP investment target within the Gateway. However, the delivery plan for the period 2008-09 to 2010-11 shows an estimated range of Housing Corporation investment of between £590 million and £850 million in the Thames Gateway, delivering between 11,500 and 14,300 new affordable homes. The programme from 2011-12 will be decided following the next Comprehensive Spending Review. Over the period to 2016, between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of the Gateway’s new homes will be affordable, funded from a combination of Section 106 planning obligations and programmed government investment.

Local Government: Unitary Councils

Baroness Scott of Needham Market asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The invitation to councils did not exclude the Secretary of State from seeking further information before taking her statutory decisions under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. In taking her decision on 25 July on which of the unitary proposals she was minded to implement, the Secretary of State recognised on the

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basis of the available information that in four cases—the proposals from Bedford Borough Council, certain district councils in Cheshire, Exeter City Council and Ipswich Borough Council—there were risks to their achieving the outcomes specified by the affordability criterion and accordingly sought additional information.

Parliamentary Ombudsman

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: Complainants are able to approach any Member of Parliament to request them to submit a complaint to the parliamentary commissioner for administration (Parliamentary Ombudsman), regardless of where they are resident. However, whether the ombudsman is able to consider any complaint is dependent on the provisions of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967.

Police: National Computer

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has created a new link to provide regular information to the police by electronic transmission. After a period of testing, the present arrangements, involving the transfer of tapes by secure courier, will cease early in the new year.

Prisons: Northern Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Rooker: The Prison Service currently projects a total prisoner population of around 1,697 by the end of 2010.


Lord Steinberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Davies of Oldham: The total number of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) sponsored by the UK Government has fallen from 861 in 1997 to 835 in 2006.

Information on the number and expenditure of all NDPBs sponsored by the UK Government is published annually by the Cabinet Office. Information covering the period 1997-06 appears in the Cabinet Office Public Bodies publications and can be downloaded from the Civil Service website at Departments are in the process of collating information for 2007 and a summary will be published by the Cabinet Office in due course.

Information on public bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is a matter for the devolved Administrations.

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