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What discussions they have had with the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland about their monitoring of the religions of teacher and classroom assistant appointments in Northern Ireland; and what discussions they have had about the teacher exemption from fair employment law. [HL5546]
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Both education and anti-discrimination law are devolved matters in Northern Ireland. Neither my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, nor the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office, nor their officials have had any such discussions.
Whether the modification or replacement of motor vehicle exhaust systems in order to produce a greater level of noise is in conformity with European Union type approval regulations; and what enforcement action they will take to discourage any contraventions of the regulations. [HL5603]
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): European-Union-type approval legislation in relation to vehicle noise is primarily concerned with ensuring that new vehicles meet specified noise limits and exhaust standards before they are permitted to enter into service. Mandatory EU-type approval requirements have been transposed into UK regulations.
Control of vehicle noise in service is governed by domestic legislation. Under regulation 54 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, as amended, alteration of the exhaust system of a vehicle so as to increase the noise made by the escape of exhaust gases is an offence. The regulation forbids both the alteration of the silencer itself so as to make the vehicle noisier and the alteration of the exhaust system (by, for instance, replacing the silencer with one of a different pattern) so as to make the vehicle noisier.
At MoT, test vehicle testers are required to fail vehicle which are excessively noisy for their type. Enforcement on public roads is carried out by the police, who are able to take action if they suspect a vehicle contravenes construction and use noise, or other, requirements. They have further powers to address noise nuisance under the Police Reform Act 2002 and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 under which anti-social behavior orders can be served on the vehicle owner, imposing a ban from certain roads or even vehicle confiscation.
What are the route, anticipated journey time and travel cost for applicants from Equatorial Guinea applying for visas for entry into the United Kingdom when required to attend an interview in Accra. [HL5619]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Equatorial Guinea passport holders have never been required to visit either Abuja or Accra in order to apply for a UK visa. They may submit their applications at any UK Visa Application Centre convenient to them. Every effort is made to make decisions on visa applications on the basis of documentary evidence and it is extremely unlikely that an interview would be required.
There is a range of options for passengers wishing to fly from Equatorial Guinea to Accra. The journey times and fares depend on a range of factors such as the route taken, how far in advance the tickets are booked, and class of travel.
Whether the move from Abuja to Accra of the place of issuing of visas to the United Kingdom for citizens of Equatorial Guinea is considered to improve the service from the perspective of the applicant. [HL5620]
Lord West of Spithead: Citizens of Equatorial Guinea may apply for a UK visa at any British mission overseas with visa-processing facilities, including Abuja and Accra. The nearest UK visa application centre is in Yaounde, Cameroon, which has traditionally been the location preferred by citizens of Equatorial Guinea. During the 12 months to September 2008, 109 of the 223 applications lodged worldwide by EG citizens were lodged in Yaounde. In July 2008, the Yaounde visa section was closed as a visa issuing post, but a facility was retained to accept applications that are forwarded by courier to Accra for processing. EG nationals may still apply there and can expect a processing time of two to three weeks.
Straightforward applications submitted in Yaounde are available for return to the applicant within eight to 10 days and those that are not straightforward take between 13 and 15 working days. Although no specific research has been done for EG applications globally, our experience and research shows that applicants value speed less than they value transparency and clear messages about the time their application will take.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 21 April (WA 272), how Ofwat plans to balance the needs of consumers, the environment and water leakage when the Government's new house building programme begins; and whether the final water leakage target will cause difficulties for the water and sewage sectors. [HL5504]
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Guidance from the Environment Agency and from Ofwat requires water companies to take into account the Government's projections for housing development when preparing their water resource management plans and their draft business plans.
Ofwat also requires companies to take into account all of the costs and benefitsincluding environmental and social costs and benefitsof different options to maintain a sustainable, economic balance between supply and demand. Ofwat expects companies to balance supply and demand in a way that delivers best value for consumers and the environment.
Controlling leakage is one of the means by which companies can maintain a balance between supply and demand. Ofwat expects companies to maintain leakage at a sustainable, economic level, again taking account of all of the costs and benefits of leakage control compared with the costs and benefits of other options to balance supply and demand.
Ofwat recently completed a study of leakage issues, and has required companies to adopt a number of improvements to their methodologies. The targets that Ofwat will agree for companies for the period 2010-11 to 2014-15 (as part of the 2009 periodic review of prices) will be challenging but achievable.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Under the Weeds Act 1959 the Secretary of State has the power to issue an enforcement notice requiring an occupier of land on which ragwort is growing to take action to prevent it spreading to neighbouring land. If an occupier has unreasonably failed to comply with an enforcement notice, the Secretary of State may take action to arrange for the weeds to be cleared and recover the cost of doing so. The Weeds Act was amended by the Ragwort Control Act 2003, which provides for the publication of a code of practice on how to prevent the spread of ragwort.
Defra's policy under the Act is to investigate complaints about injurious weeds where there is a risk of spread to land used for horses and other livestock or to agricultural activities, and where the complainant has already made an attempt to settle the matter informally. Defra's policy is to control rather than eradicate ragwort and other injurious weeds, as it is recognised that both make an important contribution to the biodiversity of the countryside.
Natural England investigates complaints under the Weeds Act on behalf of Defra, and from 2006 to August 2008 it has received and processed a total of 850 formal complaints and has issued 85 on-the-spot enforcement notices where an occupier had not responded to an initial letter requesting action to clear weeds. Natural England has also issued 10 clearance notices and arranged for contractors to be employed to clear the weeds.
Why a young offender referred to a youth offending panel may not be subject to a lasting record of
21 Oct 2008 : Column WA104
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): A young person who receives a referral order, which involves referral to a youth offender panel, does have a criminal record just as a young person who receives a compensation order does. Both are court orders and are made as part of the sentence imposed by the court. However a referral order is spent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 as soon as the contract with the youth offender panel is completed. A compensation order becomes spent two and a half years after the date of conviction for those aged 17 and under. Officials have discussed the different spent periods with the Magistrates' Association. There are no plans to change those periods.
Whether any of the staff responsible for providing protection and security for Zahid Mubarak at Her Majesty's young offenders institution Feltham, where he was murdered in 2000, were subject to disciplinary proceedings; and whether any of those staff still work at Feltham or in other parts of the Prison Service. [HL5532]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): No members of staff were subject to disciplinary action following Zahid Mubarek's death. In March 2000, an internal Prison Service investigation was established to examine the circumstances of Zahid's death and to determine whether any disciplinary action was appropriate. The investigation concluded that it could not recommend action against any individual as there had been widespread deficiencies over a number of years. Following publication of Mr Justice Keith's inquiry, a further review was undertaken to consider if disciplinary action was appropriate in respect of any staff criticised in the report. This review was undertaken against the criteria set by the inquiry that no action would be taken unless there was evidence that staff had deliberately misled the inquiry or had acted in a manner that constituted gross misconduct. The review concluded that there was insufficient evidence on which to base disciplinary action.
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