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Questions for Written Answer: Disproportionate Cost

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The disproportionate cost threshold (DCT) currently stands at £700. Since 1991 the DCT has been set at eight times the average marginal cost of answering Written Parliamentary Questions. Marginal cost is taken as the direct cost of civil servants' time. Average cost is based on a sample of all Written Parliamentary Questions answered by those departments with the highest volume of Questions. Such samples are taken on a quinquennial basis, the next being due in 2009. In years between quinquennial samples, the Treasury applies indexation to the DCT but only increases it in £50 steps to avoid the need for frequent small increases. The last such increase was in November 2006.



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The DCT is an advisory threshold, not an obligatory one. Ministers can decide that a Parliamentary Question should be answered regardless of cost where it is in the public interest to do so.

Roads: National Parks

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Government policy is to respect environmentally sensitive areas. It is set out in the integrated transport White Paper A New Deal for Transport.

Trunk road and motorway proposals that would have a significant effect on sensitive areas such as national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty are carefully assessed by the Highways Agency. Proposals would only proceed if there were a public interest where benefits clearly overrode environmental impacts, where there was no viable alternative, and where all reasonable steps had been taken to mitigate the environmental effects.

Landscape impact assessment carried out by the Highways Agency considers effects on landscape character, historic landscape character and the level of visual intrusion, and takes account of mitigation measures to reduce those impacts. Any remaining effects are reported to decision-makers.

Smoking: Hospitals

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): Exemptions from smoke-free legislation are set out in the Smokefree (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulations 2007. A copy of the regulations is in the Library.

Smoking: Manchester

Lord Bradley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): Information on the number of people who successfully quit smoking at the four-week follow-up (based on self-report) through NHS Stop Smoking Services in Greater Manchester Strategic Health Authority for

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the past five years are available from the following publications listed below which have been placed in the Library:

Statistics on Smoking Cessation Services in England, April 2002 to March 2003, table 22, page 47, which was published on 12 November 2003;Statistics on NHS Stop Smoking Services in England, April 2003 to March 2004, table 19, page 47, which was published on 29 October 2004;Statistics on NHS Stop Smoking Services in England, April 2004 to March 2005 (annual statistical bulletin), table 18, page 44, which was published on 26 October 2005; Statistics on NHS Stop Smoking Services in England, April 2005 to March 2006 (annual statistical bulletin), table 4.12, page 38, which was published on 28 September 2006; and Statistics on NHS Stop Smoking Services in England, April 2006 to March 2007 (annual statistical bulletin), table 2.12, page 19, which was published on 17 August 2007.

Smokers who quit with the support of the National Health Service are significantly more likely to succeed. In the years since 2000, the number of smokers who have made use of the support available from the NHS Stop Smoking Services has increased by over 350 per cent.

The department runs highly effective campaigns to motivate and support smokers to stop smoking. During the last year, over a million people have responded to ask for support to stop smoking via the NHS smoking helpline, via the website gosmokefree.co.uk and the interactive TV link.

As a result of government action, smoking in England has decreased from 28 per cent of adults in 1998 to 24 per cent in 2005 (results for 2006 are due to be published on 22 January 2007.) These are the lowest smoking rates on record.

Suspicious Activity Reports

Baroness Neville-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Suspicious activity reports (SARs) are submitted to the UK Financial Intelligence Unit (UKFIU) in the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

Some £12,792,502 has been spent on the operation of the UK Financial Intelligence Unit (UKFIU) since April 2006, when the Serious Organised Crime Agency

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(SOCA) assumed responsibility for the UKFIU. In 2007 £7,305,511 was spent on the operation of the UKFIU.

This includes the running costs of the SARs transformation project. This is not contained within the FIU, but is an IT-enabled business change project entirely focused on improving the SARs regime. In addition, the overhead charge associated with running estates and IT for the UKFIU is currently around £1,200,000 per year.

Pre-SOCA figures are not available.

Terrorism

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Government's current approach towards the protection of critical parts of the national infrastructure is to focus on the reduction of vulnerabilities that might be exploited by a variety of methods including electronic attack. By reducing vulnerability, protection is afforded against a variety of threat actors, such as foreign states, terrorist organisations or criminals. Advice on effective security measures to prevent or mitigate electronic attacks to the national infrastructure is provided by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and by the Communications Electronic Security Group (CESG), which is part of the Government Communications Headquarters.

In her recent Written Statement on protective security (14 November 2007, Official Report, Commons cols. 45WS-46WS), which included protection of the UK's critical national infrastructure (CNI), my right honourable friend the Home Secretary informed the House that there was a high standard of protectionof the CNI from the threat of terrorism. The CPNI and CESG are working effectively with government departments and the private sector to provide a proportionate level of

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protective security response commensurate with the different types of threat and risks affecting the CNI.

Vehicles: Electric Power

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: Electrically propelled vehicles where this is the sole means of power are already exempt from vehicle excise duty. The Chancellor keeps all taxation policy under review and considers all relevant economic, social and environmental factors in deciding future policy.

Zaire

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Imagery from photo-reconnaissance missions is not normally released to the public. In this case, there was a particular need for the public to understand the scale and nature of the humanitarian problem, and a selection of images were subsequently released to the media. The Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre produced a report based on the imagery collected. That report was distributed within the department to the Permanent Joint Headquarters, Headquarters Strike Command and Headquarters Land.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: Any such information, if retained, is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate effort.


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