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Written Answers

Monday 7 July 2008

Agriculture: Bluetongue

The Duke of Montrose asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Under European Union (EU) law, the European Commission has a limited role in approving the eligibility of national plans for EU co-funding. Eligibility depends on an extensive audit trail and a high level of veterinary supervision. Having fully considered those options for England and Wales, we concluded they would both hinder rapid rollout of vaccination and add unnecessarily to farmers' costs, thus reducing take-up.

The Commission has indicated that a compulsory scheme administered by official vets is likely to be the only type of scheme eligible for co-funding. This type of scheme would substantially slow down delivery, and would, based on certain assumptions, cost over twice as much overall as voluntary vaccination, thus significantly outweighing the potential financial benefit of any co-funding.

Although the plan for England and Wales will not receive EU co-funding, the European Commission has expressed confidence that it is capable of achieving its objectives of minimising the impact of bluetongue and reducing the risk of disease spread.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have submitted annexes to the UK plan to the European Commission to seek potential co-funding. The Scottish Executive expect to undertake a compulsory vaccination campaign during winter 2008.

Agriculture: BSE

Lord Taylor of Holbeach asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The ban on feeding mammalian meat and bone meal to farmed livestock is the primary control to prevent a resurgence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The primary purpose of the testing programme is to monitor the effectiveness of such controls and the prevalence of the disease.



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In the light of the declining BSE epidemic, the EU has agreed that member states meeting prescribed criteria can apply to implement a reduced testing programme which could come into effect from 1 January 2009. The European Commission will determine the terms of the reduced programme on the basis of advice from the European Food Safety Authority, which is expected later this month.

Better Regulation Executive

Lord Hanningfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Baroness Vadera): The total annual budget of the Better Regulation Executive for 2008-09 is £11.1 million, which includes £4.4 million for the Local Better Regulation Office. The total number of full-time staff employed by the Better Regulation Executive is 90.

Staff currently working for the BRE come from a wide range of professional backgrounds including the public, private and third sectors.

British Coal Compensation

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): We expect to substantially complete the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) scheme by spring 2009. The anticipated final costs of the scheme, broken down as in the Question, are

(a) compensation paid to claimants: £3.8 billion (estimated);(b) cost paid to claimants' solicitors: £1.209 million (estimated);(c) defendant's legal cost: £47 million (estimated). This is a total figure and has not been broken down into schemes;(d) Capita and other contractors: £638 million (estimated). This is a total figure and has not been broken down into schemes. Medical costs (COPD only): £395 million (estimated); and

(e) the department's internal cost: information not available at this level.



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Corporate Pay

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Baroness Vadera): The Government are keen to see effective linkage between pay and performance. Exceptional rewards for mediocre performance are not in the interests of the companies, their shareholders or the UK as a whole.

Directors’ remuneration is a matter for companies, their shareholders and remuneration committees. The Directors’ Remuneration Report Regulations 2002 introduced full disclosure for directors’ remuneration and a shareholder vote on the directors’ remuneration report at quoted company annual general meetings. Shareholders are also responsible for the appointment and removal of directors.

The Government will introduce a new requirement relating to directors’ remuneration for quoted companies. The new requirement will mean that quoted companies, with effect from financial years beginning on or after 6 April 2009, will have to report how they have taken into account pay and employment conditions elsewhere in the business when setting directors’ pay.

Crime: New Offences

Lord Hanningfield asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): There is no comprehensive system in place for tracking new offences and penalties created across Whitehall. To obtain the information will involve a manual trawl through primary and subordinate legislation from the past 11 years. This information is being assembled, and I will write to the noble Lord as soon as it is available.

Diplomatic Recognition

Viscount Waverley asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Lord Carrington, then Foreign Secretary, stated in the House of Lords in April 1980 (Official Report, col. 1121 WA),

Our policy has not changed.

Egypt: Religious Freedom

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The UK regularly raises its concerns about human rights issues with the Egyptian Government and will continue to do so when appropriate. My honourable friend the Minister for the Middle East, Kim Howells, raised the specific issue of religious freedom directly with the Speaker of the Egyptian Parliament during his visit to the UK on 21 January 2008. On 11 March, officials from our embassy in Cairo met the Egyptian Deputy Minister for Human Rights and expressed UK concerns about human rights abuses in Egypt, including in relation to freedom of religion and belief. Most recently, our ambassador in Cairo raised a number of human rights concerns with the Egyptian Minister of the Interior on 22 April. We acknowledge the steps the Egyptian Government have taken to engage with us on these issues and welcome the willingness they have demonstrated to hold further human rights dialogue.

We recognise the difficulties Egyptian citizens face in their attempts to have religious conversion recognised under Egyptian law. We continue to urge the Government of Egypt to implement transparent and effective procedures in this respect.

Energy: Nabucco Gas Pipeline

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): The Nabucco project, which is planned to run from Turkey to Austria, has been designated a project of European interest by the European Commission. The Government support the project, being in line with the EU and UK

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policy of diversifying both sources of supply and supply routes. However, we consider that the building of infrastructure should be primarily driven by commercial considerations, with the role of Governments best focused on removing regulatory and other barriers to investment.

EU: Lisbon Treaty

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Following the result of the Irish referendum on 12 June, the European Council on 19 to 20 June agreed to Ireland’s suggestion to discuss this issue at its meeting of 15 October 2008 in order to consider the way forward. The Council conclusions state that:

On 23 June, in his post-Council Statement, the Prime Minister set out these agreed next steps on the Lisbon treaty to Parliament. (Official Report, Commons. col. 23), which I repeated to the House of Lords on the same day (Official Report, col. 1239).

Flooding: Recovery Funding

Lord Taylor of Holbeach asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Department for Communities and Local Government will make an announcement in due course on payments to English local authorities from the £30.6 million restoration fund which the Government have set up following the announcement of EUSF funding.

Freedom of Information

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Lord Rooker: The Northern Ireland Office handles requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in accordance with the guidance published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). Officials within the NIO consider all the circumstances of a request and calculate the fees as recommended by the MoJ.

The MoJ guidance can be viewed at the following address: www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/foi-procedural-fees.htm.

Housing: Affordability

Lord Carlile of Berriew asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Local Government Act 1972: General Disposal Consent 2003, contained in ODPM Circular 06/2003, enables local authorities to make land disposals which will contribute to the promotion or improvement of the economic, social or environmental well-being of an area at less than best consideration, provided that the undervalue does not exceed £2 million. If the proposed disposal was not covered by the general consent, the local authority would have to apply to the Secretary of State for a specific disposal consent.

Additionally, the housing Green Paper, published in July last year, contained proposals for a local housing company (LHC) pilot programme. An LHC is a local authority-promoted housing development and management organisation, with wider regeneration objectives, likely to be established via a stand-alone corporate vehicle. English Partnerships, the national regeneration agency, is working alongside 14 local authorities to develop the LHC model. The LHC model may involve local authorities investing land suitable for housing which is in their ownership into the LHC and deferring some or all of their land receipt until such time as the LHC generates returns.

Lord Carlile of Berriew asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Andrews: The housing Green Paper published last July announced our ambition to deliver 200,000 new homes on surplus public sector land by 2016. It also set out the role that English Partnerships, the national regeneration agency, will play in taking forward this agenda. So that the Government meet their objectives, English Partnerships is working in collaboration with public sector landowners to accelerate the process of bringing land forward for housing development while ensuring minimum standards are delivered.



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