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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Our embassy in Algiers has been in direct contact with Mr Sidhoum and is monitoring his case. He has been charged with contempt of court in relation to an article that he wrote in 2004.
We did not, on this occasion, send an observer to the hearing. However, I understand that the case has been adjourned until 30 March and that Mr Sidhoum has not been detained. We will continue to monitor this case.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Although a number of blood-based diagnostic tests for the detection of Mycobacterium bovis (M.bovis) infection in badgers have been developed through Defra-funded research, none of these is suitable for extensive field use. Post-mortem inspection and culture of M.bovis remains the most reliable method of diagnosis.
The currently available blood tests have been validated using blood from both infected and uninfected badgers. They are currently used to measure immune responses in research projects such as the development of vaccines for badgers. A difference between the two populations can be measured, but no test is 100 per cent sensitive or specific, so some false positive and false negative results will occur. It is difficult to find populations of badgers that are truly negative for bovine tuberculosis.
Further to the Written Statement by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, James Plaskitt, on 22 January (Official Report, col. 489 WS) under what legal authority the sum of £1,012,000 is being provided to the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, prior to the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill receiving Royal Assent. [HL1575]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The advance of £1,012,000 to the Department for Work and Pensions is made under the legal authority of the Contingencies Fund Act 1974.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government issued a consultation paper on imprints in March 2005 (www.dca.gov.uk/consult/elections/elect-cp0905.pdf), and issued the summary of responses in March 2006 (www.dca.gov.uk/consult/elections/elect-rp0306.pdf). These papers confirmed that the use of post office boxes as addresses for imprints is legally permissible. PO boxes are traceable by the public through the Royal Mail, or where an address has been withheld on police advice, through the courts.
The Electoral Commission, in its guidance to candidates for elections in 2007, stated that the Commission's view is that as good practice, wherever possible, a PO Box should not be used. This advice resulted from the Electoral Commission's concern that the use of PO boxes did not allow the originator of the material to be contacted quickly, nor did it aid transparency.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 8 January (WA 189), how many financial penalties have been imposed by the European Union on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or its predecessors since 1993; what the nature of these financial penalties were; and what was their value. [HL1401]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): To provide the full details requested in the Question would incur a disproportionate cost to the department. However, data since 1 April 2001 are summarised below.
Since 1 April 2001, there have been 34 instances of financial corrections imposed by the European Union, all relating to common agricultural policy schemes. The corrections fall into three broad categories:
Whether, in the light of the recent press reports, the Prime Minister joined President Sarkozy in urging the Portuguese Prime Minister to abandon plans to call a referendum on the European Union Reform Treaty. [HL1367]
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has had regular contact with the president of the European Council. We do not comment on the details of ministerial conversations.
Lord Davies of Oldham: United Kingdom traditional own resources are both collected and paid in sterling and are not therefore affected by exchange rate fluctuations. United Kingdom VAT and GNI-based contributions, and the United Kingdom abatement throughout 2008 will be converted from the euro figures shown in the EC Budget into sterling at the exchange rate on the last working day of 20071.
What action they have taken since the floods in 2007 in England to ensure that providers of essential services, such as water, energy, roads and railways, are taking robust measures to ensure the provision of their services in the face of the effects of climate change. [HL1302]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Since the flooding last summer, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has requested that electricity network operators should
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We are implementing the various urgent recommendations from Sir Michael Pitt's independent review of the summer's flooding. We will be working with water companies to enable local resilience forums to identify critical infrastructure and assess their vulnerability to flooding.
Operators, emergency planners and responders will be considering, as part of their risk assessments and contingency planning, issues such as the failure of single points of supply and the complete loss of assets.
In addition, one of the Pitt review's interim conclusions concerns infrastructure operating companies presenting the case for further investment in flood resilience through appropriate regulatory processes. In the case of the water industry, this would be through Ofwat's periodic review of price limits.
In the case of the Department for Work and Pensions, how many (a) voluntary and (b) compulsory redundancies have been taken to date as a result of the Gershon review; what is the total departmental bill for each type of redundancy; and what is the natural wastage during the Gershon period to date for the department. [HL986]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): As part of its efficiency programme the department has run a number of early release schemes. The numbers of staff leaving as a result of these schemes is shown in the table below.
The department reports financial information based on financial years, April to March. The departmental expenditure on early release schemes in the period from April 2004 to the end of March 2007 is shown alongside the number of staff. In this period, only one member of staff was issued with a compulsory redundancy notice but they were willing to leave on a compulsory basis.
|Year||Number of Staff Released||Cost £m|
|Year||Annual Turnover %|
In the case of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, how many (a) voluntary and (b) compulsory redundancies have been taken to date as a result of the Gershon review; what is the total departmental bill for each type of redundancy; and what is the natural wastage during the Gershon period to date for the department. [HL1066]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Following the Gershon review, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) carried out a restructuring exercise both among senior management structure/senior Civil Service equivalent and among staff in the delegated grades to realise efficiency savings. It is the policy of the FCO to do all we can to avoid compulsory redundancies. A trawl in November 2004 resulted in a number of early retirements. As a result of that trawl:efficiency savings of 67 senior management structure/senior Civil Service equivalent positions were achieved. These officers took the compulsory early retirement or severance packages at a cost to the FCO of £14,853,645; and210 delegated grade officers took flexible early retirement or severance packages at a cost to the FCO of £15,268,766.
The amounts quoted include FCO costs to the Cabinet Office to cover the additional years included in the packages, compensatory lump sums under the compulsory early retirement scheme of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme, and annual pension payments until the officer reaches 60.
In the case of the Ministry for Defence, how many (a) voluntary and (b) compulsory redundancies have been taken to date as a result of the Gershon
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): To provide this specific information would require a departmental-wide trawl to ascertain the number and cost of voluntary and compulsory redundancies that have taken place to date as a result of the Gershon review. This could be done only at disproportionate cost.
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