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What funding has been provided by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council or other government organisations to the Institute for Animal Health for research into possible over-wintering mechanisms of the bluetongue virus. [HL2729]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Defra has provided substantial financial support for work on bluetongue at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH). In addition, the IAH is currently undertaking research on bluetongue virus over-wintering. This includes further work to investigate recent evidence of vertical transmission from dam to calf, as seen in Northern Ireland, for which the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council has provided significant funding.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Our recent consultation on further development at Heathrow represents collectively agreed government policy. The Environment Agency has submitted a response to the consultation. Decisions will be taken only after we have been able to consider all responses.
What progress has been made in (a) defining the framework for the Systems of Systems Integrator (SOSI) role for the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES); and (b) integrating the Thales UK/Boeing FRES SOSI team with the Ministry of Defence FRES Integrated Project Team. [HL2791]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The MoD signed the initial SOSI contract with the Thales UK/Boeing FRES SOSI team on 24 January 2008. Since that time good progress has been made and the SOSI team is now working closely with the integrated project team to define the through-life management framework within which the SOSI will support the
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Baroness Taylor of Bolton: The reconnaissance, direct fire and engineering support variants of the Future Rapid Effects System are collectively described as the specialist vehicles. At the end of last year, the MoD placed a number of scoping study contracts in advance of the formal launch of the specialist vehicle assessment phase, which is planned to commence later this year. The results of the assessment phase will determine the content and timing of the future specialist vehicle competitions.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 19 March (WA 41), with which autism stakeholder organisations the department will be taking forward discussions on the options for, and benefits of, future research; and what response they are making to the National Autistic Society's recently published report, I Exist. [HL2781]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): We have been in discussions with autism stakeholder organisations which have an interest in autism and research, including the National Autistic Society, Research Autism and the Autism Research Centre. There was a meeting of stakeholders, including primary care trusts and local authorities, on 12 March 2008. We are committed to working closely with them.
Under reciprocal agreements, Overseas Territories are able to refer four patients per year to the UK without payment. There have been past requests from these Overseas Territories to increase the quota, which the department has resisted as funding for the National Health Service is voted through Parliament and is for people ordinarily resident in the UK.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The AEA has been appointed as the accreditation body for the code of best practice. It is currently seeking industry comments on the planned practical arrangements and we hope to publish the final code by the end of April 2008.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Coroners are, and will remain, independent judicial officer-holders. The proposed reform of the coroner service therefore neither requires nor includes any measures to uphold their judicial independence when conducting inquests of any kind.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The power to impose a licence and prescribe conditions in England and Wales derives from legislation which extends only to England and Wales. A licence is effectively part of a
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With respect to offenders who have served sentences overseas for relevant sexual offences, the police may apply for a notification order under Section 97 of the Sexual Offences Act 1997. Where a court grants such a notification order, an offender will then be subject to the notification requirements under that Act. The offender will also be subject to monitoring under the multi-agency public protection arrangements, in accordance with Section 327 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Jonathan Shaw, on 8 January (Official Report, Commons, col. 392W), what skills those answering the telephones in the department have; what training programmes are in place for new employees; and what programmes are in place for continuing professional development. [HL2649]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Advisers working on Defra's telephone helpline services are supported through a programme of continuous learning and development to ensure appropriate interaction with customers.
New entrants to the Rural Payment Agency's Workington's call centre complete a six to eight week introductory programme. The first two weeks are for induction and basic customer service training. This helps to provide an overview of the agency and its work. This is followed by on the job training to develop skills in customer contact and call-handling techniques. Once proficient in these areas, new entrants are then permitted to handle calls from customers, with support and guidance from a manager. All operators have performance targets and development plans, which are agreed and regularly reviewed. Where appropriate, individual operators attend further training courses to develop specific skills.
Staff working on the main Defra Helpline also have an initial induction period followed by ongoing training on process activities and technical call-management issues. This support is key to providing first point of contact call resolution and high quality, relevant and sympathetic responses.
Staff are highly valued and are encouraged to take their development seriously, and prepare for future roles as process champions, mentors or supervisory managers. Some of the more advanced training available for Defra Helpline operators includes National Vocational
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The proposed co-ordinated online record of electors (CORE) will provide a single source of electoral registration information for authorised users in Great Britain. On 29 February 2008, the Electoral Commission made a recommendation that the Secretary of State issue a direction to implement electoral registration data standards across England, Wales and Scotland by 1 December 2009. This is a significant step towards the implementation of CORE, as it facilitates the standardisation of the format in which electoral registration officers hold electoral registration information, preparing the ground for the information held by them to be assembled into a single database. We will shortly be conducting a requirements-gathering exercise with a view to setting detailed user requirements before the end of 2008. However, a launch date for the final CORE information system cannot be confirmed until the CORE keeper has been appointed. The Electoral Commission is the Governments preferred choice to fulfil this role.
What instructions are being given to the returning officers in the local elections on 1 May on action to be taken in the event of a large number of (a) last-minute applications for registration, and (b) last-minute applications to vote by post, in any electoral area. [HL2761]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Electoral Commission is responsible for the provision of guidance to returning officers in relation to the management and conduct of elections. Guidance that the Electoral Commission has produced for the elections on 1 May 2008 covers electoral integrity issues. It notes that returning officers and their staff are uniquely placed to identify malpractice and should make checks using the information they have at their disposal. If any electoral registration officer or returning officer has concerns about fraudulent applications, or suspicions of fraudulent activity, or receives any allegations about possible absent voting fraud, these should be reported to the police for further investigation.
What instructions are being given to the police in areas where there is a history of actual and alleged postal vote fraud on action to be taken if a large
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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We support the work of the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Electoral Commission in producing updated guidance for police forces in England and Wales on preventing and detecting electoral malpractice for the elections on 1 May 2008. The guidance recommends that local police forces work closely with returning officers to minimise the potential for possible malpractice in the electoral process. The guidance encourages police forces to undertake a risk assessment for the elections being held in their area, and highlights factors to take into consideration when carrying out a risk assessment. This will include identifying locations that have historically had incidents or currently show potential for being at risk in May 2008. The guidance sets out the requirements for electors wishing to apply to vote by post and that it is an offence to make a false postal vote application. We welcome the guidance and would encourage local police forces and returning officers to be vigilant in identifying any suspicious or fraudulent activity at the May elections.
In the light of the ruling at the special elections court at Slough in relation to the election in the Central ward last year, whether they will consider the early introduction of a system of individual registration of voters throughout the United Kingdom. [HL2759]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government are working to improve the electoral register and agree in principle with individual registration. However, the ground needs to be prepared; unlike Northern Ireland, where there had been a perception of over-registration, in Great Britain there is an issue of under-registrationin the region 3.5 million eligible electors are not on the electoral register. A rapid and unplanned move to individual registration would exacerbate that situation.
Whether they will place in the Library of the House a list of all local employment partnerships operating across the United Kingdom, indicating the number of employers and the number of potential vacancies involved in each. [HL2465]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): Local employment partnerships are agreements between individual employers and Jobcentre Plus. Once an employer and Jobcentre Plus have agreed in principle
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