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Written Answers

Thursday 13 March 2008

Armed Forces: Healthcare

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): This issue was raised in the House of Commons Defence Select Committee report Medical Care for the Armed Forces, published on 18 February. The Government are currently considering the committee's recommendations and will submit their formal response to the committee within the next two months. However, we continue to address lessons to be learnt in all aspects of the patient care pathway for injured service personnel, through in particular the work that was initiated by the appointment of a Standing Joint Commander (Medical), to which the committee referred in its report. Ministers are advised regularly by the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Health) and the Surgeon General on the progress of that work, and aspects of it have been reviewed as necessary by the Chiefs of Staff and the Service Personnel Board. There is also regular liaison and review with NHS staff through the Trust Clinical Governance Committee.

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: This issue was raised in the House of Commons Defence Select Committee report Medical Care for the Armed Forces, published on 18 February. The Government are currently considering the committee's recommendations and will submit their formal response to the committee within the next two months. However, the new hospital project of the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust will deliver a range of new facilities, including for the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, from 2010 onwards and is making excellent progress towards completion. The RCDM is in discussion with the trust about our detailed requirements and the timetable for the occupation of the proposed military areas of the new hospital.

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Baroness Taylor of Bolton: This issue was raised in the House of Commons Defence Select Committee report Medical Care for the Armed Forces, published on 18 February. The Government are currently considering the committee's recommendations and will submit their formal response to the committee within the next two months. However, it remains the intention of the Midland Medical Accommodation project to co-locate key elements of the Defence Medical Services at Whittington Barracks, Lichfield. The project is still in the assessment phase, but we hope to reach a decision on the next steps before the summer.

Crime: Fuel Laundering

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The number of people charged with fuel laundering or related offences during 2007 is five. This is a national figure and includes both charging at a police station and by way of information and summons. The number of persons convicted of fuel laundering or related offences during 2007 is three, only two of whom were both charged and convicted in 2007.

The number of people convicted in relation to hydrocarbon oils fraud in mainland Great Britain and Northern Ireland during 2007-08 will be published in the HMRC autumn performance report later this year.

Divorce (Religious Marriages) Act

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): I refer the noble Lord to my Answer on 3 March. It is for a religious community itself to decide to make use of the provisions of the Act and then ask the Lord Chancellor to prescribe the religious group for that purpose.

Duty-free Allowances

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Lord Davies of Oldham: The monetary allowance, which currently stands at £145, applies to travellers entering the United Kingdom from non-EU countries. If the allowance is exceeded, the goods must be declared on arrival in the UK and are liable to UK VAT and any customs duty on the full value of the goods. However, EU legislation provides for a de minimis threshold of €10 (approximately £7), below which customs duty need not be collected.

EU: Subsidiarity

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): I refer the noble Lord to the Answers I gave to him on 18 February (Official Report, cols. WA 12-13).

The Government always endeavour to work closely with Parliament and in particular with the Select Committees of both Houses on EU affairs, and always listen carefully to Parliament's views.

The Government have made clear that they will listen to views on this subject carefully and positively. But the Lisbon treaty does not create separate standing for national Parliaments before the court, nor does it create an obligation on the Government. We will need to ensure robust processes are in place to make sure this works in practice. The Government remain open on the precise modalities and will ensure discussion and agreement on this before the Lisbon treaty comes into force.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I refer the noble Lord to the Answers I gave to him on 18 February (Official Report, cols. WA 12-13).

The Government always endeavour to work closely with Parliament and in particular with the Select Committees of both Houses on EU affairs, and always listen carefully to Parliament's views.



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The Government have made clear that they will listen to views on this subject carefully and positively. But the Lisbon treaty does not create separate standing for national Parliaments before the court, nor does it create an obligation on the Government. We will need to ensure robust processes are in place to make sure this works in practice. The Government remain open on the precise modalities and will ensure discussion and agreement on this before the Lisbon treaty comes into force.

Families

Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Government support people without children who are on low incomes and working full-time primarily through the working tax credit (WTC). Together with the national minimum wage, tax credits have enabled the Government to guarantee minimum levels of income and tax credits entitlement for full-time workers.

The national minimum wage in 1999, which has brought to an end the long-term trend of wages at the bottom of the income distribution growing more slowly than the average. On 5 March, the Government announced that all the rates of the national minimum wage would be increasing from October 2008, including the adult rate, which will increase from £5.52 to £5.73.

This means, for instance, that from October 2008, a single person, aged 25 or over, who is in full-time work will have a combined weekly income and tax credit entitlement of at least £189.

Further decisions on the national minimum wage will take place after the Low Pay Commission next reports, in spring 2009. Further decisions on the working tax credit will take place on the usual Budget and Pre-Budget Report timetable.

Gold

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: Data on the physical stock of gold and its current value are available on the Bank of England website at http://213.225.136.206/statistics/reserves/Tempoutput.xls.

395 tonnes of gold were sold from the reserves between July 1999 and March 2002. The proceeds were in dollars, and details of the auctions can be found on page 27 of Review of the Sale of Part of the

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UK
Gold Reserves published by the Treasury in October 2002 (www.hm-treasury.gov.uk./media/1/C/GoldReserves.PDF). The Government have not conducted an official gold sales programme since 2002. However, the physical stock of gold may change for a number of reasons, including sales of small amounts of gold sovereigns by the Royal Mint; and transaction costs incurred in gold lending and swaps.

Gypsies and Travellers

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Department for Communities and Local Government has held a number of consultation events with Gypsies and Travellers and local authorities on the application of the Mobile Homes Act 1983 to local authority Gypsy and Traveller sites. The discussion at these events will inform a consultation paper on the implementation of the 1983 Act in respect of these sites, which will be published later in the spring.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Andrews: Planning obligations under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 can be used to secure the implementation of a planning policy in order to make acceptable a proposal for a Gypsy and Traveller site which would otherwise be unacceptable in planning terms. This could include securing a contribution towards infrastructure needed to mitigate the impacts of that development.

Planning obligations are usually negotiated in the context of planning applications and should be sought by local planning authorities only if they meet all of the Secretary of State's policy tests set out in ODPM Circular 05/2005 Planning Obligations. Developers may also enter voluntarily into unilateral undertakings at any time.

Planning obligations and unilateral undertakings are legal agreements and are usually drafted so that they come into effect at a time when planning permission is granted, and may provide that they are not enforceable until the developer implements the permission for which the planning obligation has been entered into.



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Health: Hydrotherapy

Baroness Thomas of Winchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): This information is not held centrally. It is for primary care trusts to commission health services locally.

Health: Macular Degeneration

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): As per my Written Answer of 4 March (Official Report, cols. WA 168-9, decisions to fund treatments are made by primary care trusts in consultation with the healthcare professionals who are best placed to decide on the most appropriate treatments for their patients. I understand that Torbay Care Trust has now offered to fund Mr Tagg's treatment.

The noble Lord may wish to raise any further concerns regarding Mr Tagg's case with the chief executive of Torbay Care Trust.

More generally, war veterans should receive priority access to National Health Service secondary care for conditions which are likely to be related to their past service. This does not mean that a war veteran will be offered treatments that are not also offered to others in the locality.

Housing: Flood Plains

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): We are aware of representations made by the Countryside Alliance and others about housing and other development being built on floodplains. The Government's policy, set out in Planning Policy

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Statement 25 (PPS25), Development and Flood Risk, is to avoid inappropriate development in flood risk areas, and to direct development away from high risk areas by ensuring that sites at little or no risk of flooding are developed in preference to areas at higher risk. Local authorities should shape new development according to the needs of their area, and make decisions on where new housing should be located through the development plan process. They should ensure that new housing is developed in suitable locations, and carry out sustainability appraisals, informed by strategic flood risk assessments, in order to deliver sustainable development objectives, taking flood risk and climate change into account.

However, the Government recognise that it will not always be possible to find locations for development at low flood risk. Around 10 per cent of England by land area, population and housing stock already lies within flood risk areas. There are large areas and towns and cities, for example in eastern England, where virtually all land is within high flood risk areas, with few sites for development in lower risk areas. PPS25 requires that any development that is needed in flood risk areas should be safe, should not increase flood risk and, where possible, reduce the overall risk through good design and layout of development on the site.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Andrews: The Government are aware of data provided by the Countryside Alliance on proposed housing development in areas of high flood risk. The data are set out in correspondence which is currently being considered by my department.


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