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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The local government settlement announced in the CSR is sufficient to enable local government to deliver against its targets, including those on poverty.
Under the Government's proposals for 2008-09, Southwark Council is provisionally set to receive an increase in formula grant of £4.374 million, or 2.0 per cent, when compared to 2007-08 on a like-for-like basis. When other grants are taken into account, Southwark will receive an increase of £9.6 million in 2008-09.
Local authorities have considerable freedom in how they set their budget, bearing in mind local priorities. It is for Southwark Council to decide how to apportion its resources between the services it provides.
What impact the 200809 government grant settlement for local authorities will have on front-line services for the most vulnerable members of local communities; and how they will affect the policy goal of reducing poverty, deprivation and inequality. [HL1191]
Baroness Andrews: The provisional settlement for 2008-09 gives a continued real-terms increase in funding for local government which will allow authorities to continue to deliver effective, high- quality services at an affordable cost. The increase in government grant for local services since 1997 will be 45 per cent in real terms by the end of the spending review 2007 period.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The Secretary of State announced the Remploy modernisation plan on 29 November. Remploy will continue with 55 factories, 15 more than originally proposed by the company in May 2007. The modernisation plan will see 17 factories close and a further 11 factories merge with other Remploy factories. The company will also quadruple the number of disabled people it supports into mainstream employment, through its Employment Services business. This will be some 20,000 people by 2013.
In South Yorkshire, the Barnsley factory will close and the 38 disabled employees at the factory will be given a range of options, including the opportunity to transfer to Remploy's Sheffield factory, which will continue. The company's Employment Services business will also open a city centre branch in Sheffield, as part of the company's plan to support more disabled people into mainstream work.
The Secretary of State has given a guarantee that no disabled employee will be made compulsorily redundant. They will also be able to remain on their current Remploy salary, including membership of the pension scheme.
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The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds does not currently use any department-owned land in the north-west of England.
Whether they will consider increasing incineration of dry sludge deposits, in view of the adverse travel costs of transporting increasing wet sludge deposits to a small number of farms, as long as incineration does not increase pollution fallouts or cause danger to human health. [HL1158]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): It is important that the best practical environmental option is taken with regard to sewage sludge. This will vary on a case-by-case basis.
In many circumstances, recycling sludge as a soil improver is the best option. However, where suitable agricultural land is unavailable within a reasonable distance from the sewage works, other options, including incineration, would need to be considered.
Whether they are planning further work in the United Kingdom to control and reduce the heavy metal content of sludge-impregnated soils, in view of the recent review, by the European Union Commission, aimed at additional quality controls. [HL1159]
Lord Rooker: There have been long-term investigations in the UK into the effects on soil quality and fertility of the heavy metals present in sewage sludge. Interim results, which were published in November, will help to inform the Government's approach to the sustainable recycling of organic material to land to improve soil quality.
Whether biogas output is likely to increase from the treatment of sewage sludge with the latest improvements in anaerobic digestive technology; and whether increased use in public service vehicles or on-site power generation for factories is planned. [HL1162]
Lord Rooker: The Government aim to encourage the use of renewable energy sources, including biogas produced from sewage sludge. Biogas is a qualifying fuel for both the renewables obligation that applies to the power generation sector and to the forthcoming renewable transport fuel obligation.
There are practical, economic and technical issues which need to be taken into account when deciding on the most appropriate technology for a particular circumstance and use. Therefore, while the Government would look to increased use of renewable energy in vehicles and industry, the source might vary accordingly.
Lord Bach: The Trading Representations (Disabled Persons) Act 1958 will be repealed by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which implement the unfair commercial practices directive (2005/29/EC). The regulations will provide consumers with equivalent protection to the Act in relation to false representations by traders that blind or disabled persons were employed in the production, preparation or packaging of goods, or that those same persons would benefit from the sale of the goods.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Natural England has not produced any written material specifically for Tree Week 2007. Natural England's concerns for trees and woods are, however, very similar to those of the Tree Council and much of what it does throughout the year is consistent with the aims of Tree Week. This includes its work on protecting and managing special sites and their wildlife, understanding the needs of trees, woods and associated species, and promoting the use and enjoyment of woods and other special places.
How they expect that €2.3 billion of assistance from the European Union to Turkey for 2007 to 2010 will be broken down into distinct budget headings; how much of it will be spent within the 14 least developed provinces in east and south-east Turkey; whether any mechanism exists for consulting the inhabitants of each province about their priorities for expenditure; and what part of the total funds will be reserved for spending on the most deprived areas of major cities throughout Turkey, which are largely inhabited by people displaced from rural areas. [HL1127]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Spending priorities are determined by the Turkish Government in consultation with the European Commission, according to an annual operating programme for each component. Responsibility for co-ordinating consultation with central and local bodies during the drafting of individual operating programmes lies with the Turkish Government, but the European Commission also consults member states and civil society organisations on programmes.
Rural development spending will initially be focused on 20 provinces in Turkey, of which 16 are in the eastern half of the country, but will later expand to provide national coverage. Regional development and human resources funding will be spent in areas with less than 75 per cent of the national average gross domestic product.
There is no specific funding line for urban regeneration, but individual projectsfor example, one focusing on the Fener area of Istanbul and another tackling the worst forms of child labourwill have a direct impact on poorer urban communities.
The Uzbek authorities tightly control religious practice. A degree of tolerance is permitted to traditional churches which are seen as non-proselytising Christian groups; for example, Russian Orthodox Christians and Catholics. However, proselytising groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses are not able to register and even those which are registered, such as Baptists, can experience regular harassment and are vulnerable to criminal charges for unregistered religious activity or civil charges for possession of books or religious materials which the authorities regard as missionary.
Freedom of religion is a key part of the human rights dialogue that we and the EU have with the Uzbek authorities. Our embassy in Tashkent closely monitors freedom of religion and the treatment of Muslim and Christian worshippers, including through regular contacts with Christians of various denominations as well as a range of other religious contacts. We raise these issues with the Uzbek authorities bilaterally and with our EU colleagues through the EU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue. We publish our concerns in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office annual human rights report available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1159199103169.
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