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British forces in Afghanistan currently number approximately 7,800 rising to around 8,030 by spring 2009. We do not comment on the numbers of deployed troops from other nations, which are matters for the countries concerned. However, they are listed with periodic updates on the ISAF website at: www.nato.int/isaf/docu/epub/pdf/isaf_placemat.pdf.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): We have made a long-term commitment to the security of Afghanistan. The removal of our forces from the country depends on a number of factors, including the ability of Afghan security forces to take responsibility for the security of their own country.
Further to the Summary: Intervention and Options document of the impact assessment of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy responsibility and cost-sharing proposals, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 11 December 2007, whether it is intended that the third proposal on page 8 will be set up in such a manner that the charges cannot be passed backwards to the farmers. [HL4251]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): It is for abattoirs to determine how best to recoup any increases in any of their costs, including those that might arise from charging for some of the costs incurred by MHS in enforcing controls on cattle aged over 30 months. Abattoirs could pass costs to their customers, absorb
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Further to the Summary: Intervention and Options document of the impact assessment of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy responsibility and cost-sharing proposals, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 11 December 2007, when the proportion of United Kingdom cattle subject to testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) will be reduced, and more of the cost borne by those whose animals are found to have the disease. [HL4252]
Lord Rooker: The European Commission has proposed a reduced BSE testing programme for member states which meet strict criteria. In February 2008, member states agreed a proposal establishing the criteria. This is currently subject to European Parliament and Council scrutiny. Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority is assessing the risk of a range of options for increasing the age limits for testing, which will inform the Commission's decision on the structure of the reduced programme.
We do not expect to implement a reduced testing programme in the UK before January 2009 at the earliest. This is subject to advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee and agreement from Rural Affairs and Health Ministers, the Food Standards Agency and the EU.
We expect to detect fewer than 40 cases of BSE in Great Britain in 2008 from suspected cases based on clinical signs and the testing programme which costs about £60 million per annum. The testing programme benefits the industry as a whole and there are no plans to pass more of the cost specifically to those whose cattle are found to have the disease.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): It is illegal to sell alcohol to those under the age of 18. The Government take underage drinking extremely seriously. The National Alcohol Strategy, Safe. Sensible. Social, published in June 2007, focuses action on three groups most at risk, which are 18 to 24 year-old binge drinkers, harmful
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In relation to your reference to price, the Government are aware of concerns regarding the price of alcohol through Safe. Sensible. Social. The next steps in the National Alcohol Strategy, committed to carrying out an independent review of the relationship between alcohol price, promotion and harm, and following public consultation, will consider the need for regulatory change in the future, if necessary. This review is being led by the Department of Health and we anticipate publishing the reviews findings in the summer of 2008.
In addition, the Government are also committed to carrying out a review and consultation on the effectiveness of the alcohol industrys social responsibility standards document in contributing to a reduction in alcohol harm, and following public consultation, will consider the need for regulatory change in the future, if necessary. We anticipate publishing the review's findings shortly.
Lord Davies of Oldham: The Chancellor announced in the Pre-Budget Report 2007 that air passenger duty would be replaced by a per-plane duty in November 2009. A formal consultation on this new tax, which considered all aspects of the operation of the duty, closed on 24 April. Over 160 responses were received and Treasury officials are currently considering and analysing these responses. No decisions have yet been made on the design of the duty. The Chancellor will announce the policy in the autumn.
Whether they will take any action (a) in the light of claimants in the British Coal respiratory disease litigation and British Coal vibration white finger litigation referred to Thompsons Solicitors by the
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): I understand that the National Union of Mineworkers, Durham area, now known as the Durham Miners Association (DMA), will pay back the 7.5 per cent charge and cancel membership if requested to do so by the member or associate member. In April 2007, the DMA became subject to regulation under the Compensation Act 2006 in respect of its claims management services. Anyone with a complaint about the way in which the DMA handled their claim should first refer their complaint to the DMA under its complaint procedure. If they are not satisfied with the outcome, the complaint should be referred to the Claims Management Regulation Unit at the Ministry of Justice. Only those complaints arising after regulation commenced in April 2007 can be formally considered.Claims Management RegulationMonitoring and Compliance Unit57-60 High StreetBurton-upon-TrentStaffordshireDE14 1JSTel: 08454506858
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Defra funds various activities that provide information on changes in global ocean temperatures and regional assessment of their impacts. The Government are not currently planning to increase their funding for research into the effect of human activity on rises in global ocean temperatures.
Lord Davies of Oldham: Estimates of the revenue lost through the illegal consumption of diesel and petrol in County Armagh, or indeed Northern Ireland, are not available because it is not yet possible to split revenue losses between those resulting from the illicit market and those from legitimate cross-border shopping. However, estimates of the total non-UK-duty-paid consumption for Northern Ireland are available, and are reported in Measuring Indirect Tax Losses2007, which is published alongside the PBR and can be found in the House of Commons Library.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The contract with Capita Group Plc to operate the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) information systems is next up for renewal on 11 March 2012.
In June 1999, following a tendering exercise, 95 organisations expressed an interest in joining a partnership arrangement with the CRB. In December 1999, it was announced that Capita Group Plc, PricewaterhouseCoopers and eCRES were the short-listed bidders.
Lord West of Spithead: An independent review of the operation of the Criminal Records Bureau was carried out in 2002 by the independent review team. All recommendations made in this review were considered by the Government and accepted at that time and of the 10 recommendations nine have been implemented.
Lord West of Spithead: A police force's performance can be affected by a number of factors; the volume of cases sent to a force to process in any given month, the number of staff available to process the checks, and the IT resources on hand to forces. With these variables,
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The CRB has been supporting those forces that have encountered problems in meeting their targets by a range of measures including the provision of additional resources, monitoring performance, providing demand forecasting data, and assistance in introducing new IT initiatives.
Further details of forces' performance against these targets can be found on the CRB website at: www.crb.gov.uk.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government have been considering the ordering of the names of candidates on ballot papers in the context of the Gould report on the Scottish parliamentary and local government elections in May 2007, which recommended that a public lottery be held to determine the ordering of parties and candidates on the ballot paper. The Government have consulted on the report's recommendations, and plan to publish their response to it before the Summer Recess.
Further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Marine, Landscape and Rural Affairs, Mr Jonathan Shaw, on 30 April (Official Report, Commons, 455W), whether the average expenditure by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of £100,000 per annum on research and development into biogas production is a contribution to a budget or whether it involves officials of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs working on the project. [HL4249]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The figures quoted refer to funding for research and development with external contractors. It does not cover the cost of staff time internally.
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