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Whether they have received evidence, including reports in the Observer and Guardian newspapers, to suggest that victims of trafficking to Britain for sexual purposes are getting younger, or that British paedophile rings are bringing girls into this country; and, if so, what preventive measures they will take. [HL1435]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Government are aware of a small number of young girls being rescued during a recent police led operation. However, CEOP (Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre) advise that they have no evidence to suggest that victims of trafficking into the UK are getting any younger or that there is a trend towards British paedophile rings encouraging girls to travel to the UK.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): Draft regional spatial strategies (RSS) from every region have been submitted to the Secretary of State. One has been adoptedWest Midlands Phase 1 in January 2008. Draft RSSs for the North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humber, East Midlands, East of England, South East and South West are expected to be adopted later this year with the last, the West Midlands Phase 2 RSS, expected to be adopted in June 2009.
Whether they have conducted full-scale Privacy Impact Assessments for the introduction of (a) identity cards, (b) Contact Point, (c) the National DNA Database, and (d) NHS electronic care records; and what alternatives the assessments uncovered; and [HL1289]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): On 11 December 2007 the Information Commissioner hosted a conference entitled Surveillance Society: Turning Debate into Action, at which he launched his Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) handbook. The Government acknowledge that PIAs can be useful in maintaining the balance between the needs of today's society for more information to be shared and protecting privacy.
There is no requirement currently for government departments to conduct PIAs and no full-scale PIAs have been conducted in respect of identity cards, Contact Point, the National DNA Database, or NHS electronic care records. However, policy makers are already asked to take account of the full range of economic, social and environmental costs and benefits of their proposals, and where privacy issues have a material impact on assessing the impact of proposals, these would also be taken into account.
What consideration they have given to the fact that the Watford to Brighton service will from December terminate at Clapham Junction, as the rolling stock is to be transferred to Thameslink, and there are no other Electrostar units to provide this service. [HL1324]
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Brighton to Watford rail services, which run on an hourly basis each day, commencing after the morning rush-hour, will be amended to run only between Clapham Junction and Watford Junction from December 2008. Journeys between the Brighton Main Line and the West Coast Main Line, avoiding the London Underground, will still be possible, albeit with a change of trains at Clapham Junction, as happens in the morning peak today.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: To facilitate the construction of the Thameslink programme, significant infrastructure and timetable changes will occur in December 2008. This will necessitate a substantial increase in the Thameslink fleet of specialised dual-voltage rolling stock, which will be achieved by making an allocation of Electrostar units. Some of these units will be new-build, and some will be reallocated from the West London Line service.
In light of concerns about the curtailment of the Watford to Brighton rail link which serves Gatwick airport, whether they will press Southern Rail to provide the investment needed to purchase sufficient Electrostar units for both this route and Thameslink. [HL1326]
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Secretary of State for Transport recently announced the intention to introduce 1,300 additional vehicles to the railway network in England and Wales between 2008 and 2014. This will involve a small number of fully competitive procurement processes that will ensure that the new rolling stock orders represent the best possible value for public money.
Whether the conversion of a small number of single-voltage trains into dual voltage to enable an increase in the Thameslink service would be preferable to taking the Electrostar units from the current Watford to Gatwick airport service. [HL1327]
Lord Bassam of Brighton: It is technically feasible to convert single-voltage Electrostars to be dual-voltage, but, even if it were possible to make a value-for-money case to invest in such conversions, it is not possible, at present, to procure any alternative stock to replace any further Electrostars removed from Southern.
In respect of (a) the Civil Aviation Authority, and (b) the Office of Rail Regulation, how many criminal prosecutions were brought by that regulator for each of the last three years for which figures are available; and, of those cases, how many gave rise to a conviction. [HL1377]
Cases by the Office of Rail Regulation/Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate and the Crown Prosecution Service taken to court in relation to railway health and safety offences in the last three complete financial years and the current year to date are shown in the table below:
Whether they will take steps to encourage the availability of subsidised school milk to children between five and 11 in all local education authorities; and, if so, how they propose to ensure that all such children, wherever they live, receive subsidised milk. [HL1428]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Under the EU subsidy scheme, school milk is available to all children between the ages of five and 11 in primary and nursery schools in participating local authorities. It is a matter for local education authorities and schools to decide whether they will participate in the scheme although it is open to all to do so.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Prohibited weapons, including tasers, can only be possessed with the authority of the Secretary of State given under Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968. Such authority is not issued for purposes connected with employment in the security industry. Nor is personal protection or the guarding of premises accepted by the police as good reason for granting a firearms certificate needed to possess other types of firearm.
Whether they will encourage large retail and wholesale distribution groups in the United Kingdom to use canal, river and sea transportation platforms to transport non-urgent supplies, in order to assist in the reduction of lorry pollution on motorways and other main roads. [HL1358]
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Department for Transport promotes coastal, inland waterway and short sea shipping, and provides grant support for the modal shift of road freight transport to water. £23 million has been awarded in freight facilities infrastructure grants for coastal and short sea shipping projects since 2000. In 2005, we introduced the new Waterborne Freight Grant scheme to assist shipping companies with their operating costs. We also provide support to Sea and Water, an organisation which promotes the shipping of freight on coastal and inland waterways.
Whether further action is required by the Environment Agency to deal with the unauthorised dumping by chemical companies of toxic waste in landfill sites, following the initial investigation into the Brofiscin Quarry case in South Wales in February 2007. [HL1313]
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: When the Environment Agency becomes aware of any unauthorised deposit of waste at an operating landfill site, it will fully investigate and consider what enforcement actions are appropriate in accordance with its enforcement and prosecution policy.
Where historically contaminated landfill sites, like Brofiscin Quarry, Groesfaen, have been designated by the local authority as a special site under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Environment Agency will follow a sequence set out by legislation which involves establishing who is responsible for the remediation, consulting those responsible to decide the best remediation options, and recording remediation activities, notices and appeals on a public register. In certain circumstances, the Environment Agency can carry out remediation work itself.
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