Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

13 May 2008 : Column WA119

13 May 2008 : Column WA119

Written Answers

Tuesday 13 May 2008


Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): It is up to local authorities to assess the needs of their community in line with Planning Policy Guidance Note 17: Planning for Open Space, Sport & Recreation,2002 and ascertain what is sufficient for their local area. Setting national standards for provision cannot cater for local circumstances, such as differing demographic profiles and the extent of built development in an area. The accompanying guidance to PPG 17 advises local authorities on setting local standards.

A revised good practice guide, Growing in the Community, was published by the Local Government Association in March 2008, and includes a section on allotment provision and how to assess the need for allotments as outlined in PPG17.

Data on how many local authorities provide at least 0.5 acres of allotment land per thousand residents are not held centrally.

Belfast Agreement: Ethnicity

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: The Belfast (Good Friday) agreement was given effect in UK domestic law primarily by the Northern Ireland Act 1998. Section 75(5) of the Northern Ireland Act defines “racial group” as having the same meaning as in the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997. According to that order, responsibility for which is now a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly, “racial group” means a group of persons defined by reference to colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins, and references to a person's racial group refer to any racial group into which he falls.

13 May 2008 : Column WA120

Crime: Libel

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

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Successive Governments have recognised that in its present form the law of criminal libel as it applies to defamatory matter has shortcomings. But, because it has fallen very much into disuse, they have not regarded changing it as a legislative priority.

However, we plan to seek views on the possible abolition of criminal libel in respect of defamatory material as part of a wider consultation on certain other aspects of defamation law. We hope to publish a consultation paper later in the year.

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

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Lord Scott's remarks were made in a very different context, but the general principle is a factor among others that will be considered when we consult on possible abolition of the offence of defamatory libel in due course.

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

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The offence of criminal libel is not in our view, in itself, incompatible with the right to freedom of expression. Depending on the circumstances, one or more of the exceptions in Article 10.2 of the European Convention on Human Rights may justify any interference with that right.

13 May 2008 : Column WA121

Disabled People: Livability Report

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The report by Livability, Freedom to Live: Transition for disabled young people, was published on 28 April and its conclusions span the interests of a number of government departments. I have asked officials in my department to study the report and its recommendations to see what policy implications there are, and I know that other interested government departments will also be examining the report.

Elections: Voting Systems

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government published the Review of Voting Systems in January 2008, which considers the experience of the new voting systems introduced in the United Kingdom since 1997. The review forms part of the ongoing debate on electoral reform, and at this point the Government are not seeking to make changes to the voting systems that are used in elections across the United Kingdom.

At a more detailed level, there are differences in the electoral arrangements between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom that have developed over time due to the special circumstances that apply to Northern Ireland. We will take account of the practice and legislative position that applies in the different parts of the United Kingdom in any further development on electoral processes and legislation.

In relation to electoral registration, we are already committed to the principle of individual registration. But this would be a far-reaching reform, and it would need to be undertaken with great care—both to make sure a new system is robust, and to ensure that it properly tackles the problem of under-registration.

Energy: Oil Prices

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

13 May 2008 : Column WA122

Lord Bach: The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform does not publish oil price forecasts. It publishes oil, gas and coal future price assumptions for the period till 2020, which are used in the department's analytical work. In order to capture some of the uncertainty around future oil prices, three different scenarios are presented: a high, a central and a low scenario.

In January 2008, BERR published a communication on these fossil fuel prices assumptions, calling for evidence and views on them and discussing our approach for updating them. This communication can be found using the link below:

We are currently considering the evidence and views gathered during this process. A response to this call for evidence will be published shortly, which will include our new assumptions on future oil, gas and coal prices.

The BERR fossil fuel price assumptions are disseminated throughout Whitehall and, where relevant, are used in other government department's analytical work.

Energy: Smart Meters

Lord Taylor of Holbeach asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: The Government recently published their response to the metering and billing consultation. In it, the Government set out their next steps on smart metering, including the need to undertake further impact assessment work and to take into account the initial results from the Energy Demand Research Project before confirming decisions on the way forward for smart metering as soon as possible after November 2008. As part of their further phase of work, the Government intend to investigate the rules and governance arrangements for smart metering, including the issue of data ownership and access. Amendments made to the Energy Bill would provide the Government with a power to require licence holders to introduce smart metering. These amendments include the power to make provisions in respect of the communication of, and access to, information from smart meters.

Energy: Wind Generation

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

13 May 2008 : Column WA123

Lord Bach: Ministers and officials hold regular discussions with a range of companies, including oil companies, which are interested or currently investing in wind farm projects in the UK and in the UK wind industry supply chain. The Government's reforms under the Energy and Planning Reform Bills will also help to reinforce the clear and stable regulatory environment needed to maintain long-term investment in renewable energy in the UK. In addition, we will be consulting in the summer on further measures to enable the delivery of our renewable energy targets.

House of Lords: 1 and 2 Millbank

Lord Tyler asked the Chairman of Committees:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): Following approval of an investment appraisal by the House Committee on 2 November 2004, the House of Lords completed purchase of a 999-year leasehold of the Millbank island site, comprising 1 and 2 Millbank and 5 Great College Street, on 23 March 2005. At the time of purchase, it was agreed that the tenants of 1 Millbank would remain in occupation under a new sub-lease until September 2007. In fact, the tenants vacated the premises on 4 April 2007 and limited access became available in advance of formal surrender on 28 September 2007. The early surrender of the lease held in respect of 5 Great College Street did not prove possible.

On 17 April 2007, the House Committee agreed a two-stage approach to the renovation of the Millbank island site, with refurbishment of 1 Millbank to take place in the first phase. Under the management of the project board, intensive and intrusive surveys were undertaken within 1 Millbank to inform the development of the design work. This led to the production of the final sketch plan for the first phase of the refurbishment which was agreed by the House Committee on 5 December 2007. The Administration and Works Committee agreed the detailed design plan for the refurbishment at its meeting yesterday.

Lord Tyler asked the Chairman of Committees:

The Chairman of Committees: At its meeting on 22 April, the House Committee reviewed the development of the Millbank island site refurbishment project and the associated project to decant the occupants of 2 Millbank during the refurbishment. The committee agreed to align the timetable for the island site refurbishment with the availability of additional

13 May 2008 : Column WA124

accommodation in the Palace of Westminster following the departure of the Law Lords in autumn 2009. I informed the House of this development in my Written Statement of 24 April (WS 143). It is anticipated that following refurbishment 1 Millbank will be ready for occupation in 2011.

Aligning the island site refurbishment timetable with the Law Lords' departure in this way will enable the offices vacated by the Law Lords to be available in Autumn 2009 for Members currently occupying offices in 2 Millbank for the duration of the refurbishment works. It is expected that 50 Members will be accommodated in the Law Lords offices, 13 Members will move into Palace offices vacated by staff of the House (in line with a decision taken by the Administration and Works Committee in January) and seven Members will be accommodated in existing outbuildings.

The House Committee intends to take firm decisions before the Summer Recess regarding the decant accommodation to be provided for staff currently occupying 2 Millbank.

Prior to refurbishment, costs in the region of £100,000 per annum will be incurred for the supply of gas to 1 and 2 Millbank (the gas supply to 2 Millbank is served via the 1 Millbank system) and electricity and water to 1 Millbank. Other costs may arise as part of the continuing care and maintenance of the building.

Lord Tyler asked the Chairman of Committees:

The Chairman of Committees: The House Committee agreed the final sketch plan for the first phase of refurbishment of the Millbank island site on 5 December 2007 at a cost of £29,298,158. The cost includes VAT, consultants' fees and furnishings. The House Committee also agreed that additional works to maintain the roof of the island site and the external facade of 1 Millbank, and the internal redecoration of 2 Millbank, should be undertaken during the refurbishment works at an additional cost of £2,532,750. It is not possible to provide a breakdown of costs for the portion comprising 2 Millbank as the project costs were compiled on the basis of works to be undertaken to the site as a whole.

The current planned breakdown of project costs (including adjusted inflation on risk and construction costs) is as follows:

Expenditure per financial year (including VAT)£

Previous years
















Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page