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Further to his Written Answer on 30 November 2007 (WA 1445), whether he will press for the wording printed on the parliamentary mail pouches in which correspondence is forwarded to Members during recesses to be grammatically correct, and in particular for apostrophes to be inserted where appropriate. [HL1608]
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The wording printed on the parliamentary mail pouches has been reviewed and amendments proposed. The noble Lord will be invited to inspect the proposed amendments before they are submitted to the mail services. The mail services will introduce the amended pouches when present stocks of pouches are used up.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): Plastic bags are the only type of bag currently available in House of Lords Refreshment Department outlets, apart from the House of Lords gift shop where paper bags are used for small or very large purchases. The option of providing paper bags in a fuller range of sizes across outlets in replacement of plastic bags has been considered but was discounted
28 Jan 2008 : Column WA83
Whether they accept the criticisms by the Chief Inspector of Prisons of the temporary handling facilities at Heathrow airport for immigration detainees, and of the unprofessional behaviour of some staff; and how they will improve the training of staff handling detainees. [HL1490]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Border and Immigration Agency is carefully considering the contents of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons' report and will respond with an action plan in due course.
What action they and the quartet will take to prevent the closing down of the electricity plant in Gaza; what is their assessment of the humanitarian consequences of the absence of electricity there; and whether, following 72 deaths of patients unable to leave Gaza for medical treatment elsewhere, they will secure exit permits for all urgent cases. [HL1535]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Government continue to believe that Israeli security and Palestinian suffering and hardship need to be addressed together, and they can be addressed only through mutual recognition, which will be vital to long-term stability in the area.
As my right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State for International Development said on 21 January: The recent escalation of violence between Gazans and Israelis is extremely grave .... The rising number of rocket and sniper attacks from Gaza into Israel is unacceptable, as is the number of Palestinian civilian casualties. We do not support Israel's decision to close all crossings into Gaza, preventing the delivery of vital humanitarian supplies as well as fuel to the Gaza power station. Reports that electricity has been cut due to fuel shortage are particularly alarming and require urgent attention. Continued fuel shortages will have immediate humanitarian consequences, including on the supply of clean water. On 17 December 2007, the quartet called for the continued provision of essential services, including fuel and power supplies.
Israel allowed limited fuel and humanitarian supplies to resume on 22 January. Some Palestinians have also been allowed to leave for medical treatment. We continue to call on Israel to fulfil its obligations to provide essential services, including medical treatment.
Whether they intend to take action to inform all households and businesses in what way they should safely dispose of used fluorescent light bulbs and how they should deal with breakages, bearing in mind the toxic substances contained in those commodities. [HL1170]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The Government have worked with our delivery partnersthe Energy Saving Trust, Carbon Trust and Environment Agencyto ensure that households and businesses can access clear information on energy- efficient light bulbs, their benefits, as well as how to dispose of them safely when they reach the end of their lives.
I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the House that while energy-efficient bulbs do contain a small amount of mercury (enough to cover the tip of a ball point pen) it cannot escape from an intact bulb. Even if a bulb should break, the risks from such a small amount of mercury are minimal.
However, it is sensible for householders to take reasonable precautions in cleaning up and disposing of a broken bulb, such as ventilating the room for 15 minutes. A broken bulb can be taken to a local civic amenity site. Local authorities are under an obligation to provide such sites for the disposal of household waste.
Whether they have agreed with suppliers of energy-saving light bulbs that a warning should be displayed on packaging and the light bulbs themselves that they contain toxic substances, instructions for their safe disposal and advice as to how breakages should be safely dealt with. [HL1171]
Lord Rooker: The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2006 require that the producers of energy-saving light bulbscompact fluorescent lights (CFLs)include on the item or packaging the crossed out wheelie bin symbol. This indicates that the item should not be disposed of in an ordinary household waste bin. The retailers of WEEE have an obligation to advise consumers on where they can safely dispose of them. There is no requirement within the WEEE regulations for advice on disposal to be included on packaging or on the item itself.
Further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Marine, Landscape and Rural Affairs, Jonathan Shaw, on 3 December 2007 (Official Report, Commons col. 742W), whether the information requested will be provided for those waters which are ultimately classified as nitrate vulnerable zones. [HL1486]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The consultation on how we implement the nitrates directive in England closed on 13 December and we are carefully considering all responses before taking decisions on how to proceed, including whether to designate extended nitrate-vulnerable zones (NVZs) or apply the action programme across the whole of England.
If the decision is taken to designate NVZs, Defra will publish the results of its analysis of water quality monitoring data which formed the basis of the designations. The raw monitoring data collected from the network of surface water and groundwater network in England, much of which was used in this analysis, is already publicly available either on request from the Environment Agency or via its website.
Lord Rooker: The Government's position was set out in the St Andrews agreement. Implementation of the agreement should be sufficient to build the community confidence for the Assembly to request the devolution of policing and justice by May 2008. Reflecting that position the Government are committed to completing the necessary practical arrangements to transfer these powers in May, if the Assembly so requests.
Lord Rooker: The necessary measure of support for the devolution of policing and justice was set down by Parliament in Section 4 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. That requires that the motion proposing the transfer of powers be tabled by the First and Deputy First Ministers and supported in the Assembly, on a cross-community vote, by a majority of members voting, a majority of designated nationalists voting and a majority of designated unionists voting.
Lord Rooker: As part of its CSR07 settlement, the Northern Ireland Office is required to make 5 per cent per annum real savings in administration costs from 2008-09 onwards. Detailed plans to achieve these savings are being developed. These include savings in staff costs through natural wastage or redeployment, and savings in non-staff costs. The NIO's participation in shared services initiatives across the Northern Ireland Civil Service, for example, Account NI (for financial services) and HRConnect (for human resources), will contribute to the delivery of these savings.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 11 December (WA 35) concerning the expenses of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland's visits to the United States, why it is not possible accurately to disaggregate the cost for accompanying officials from those incurred by the Secretary of State; and how much the travel and accommodation cost for the officials and how much for the Secretary of State. [HL955]
Lord Rooker: Pursuant to my Answer of 11 December 2007 with estimated costs of visits made to the United States by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, more detailed updated information on costs incurred by the Northern Ireland Office is now available. Details of other costs such as subsistence and miscellaneous expenditure are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However the final, major costs of the visits are as follows.
As previously stated, it is important as we progress towards the completion of devolution to maintain contact with the US Administration and key politicians and opinion formers there. Such visits also enable my right honourable friend to support the devolved Administration in attracting inward investment to Northern Ireland.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): No laptop computers were reported lost or stolen from within the Palace of Westminster during 2007. Two laptop computers were reported lost or stolen across the Parliamentary Estate during this period.
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