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Written Answers

Monday 10 November 2008

Airports: Stansted

Baroness Hamwee asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): The recent decision by the Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government and for Transport to allow for an increase in the number of flights and passengers using Stansted Airport was taken in accordance with Section 266 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The reasons for the decision are set out in a decision letter of the Secretaries of State dated 8 October, copies of which are available in the House Libraries, together with the Planning Inspectorate's report.

This was an important and complicated case. It was important that all the evidence was considered, along with other representations received, before any decision was taken. The Planning Inspectorate submitted its report in January 2008, following a public inquiry held between May and October 2007. In March 2008, the Departments for Communities and Local Government and for Transport asked for further information on local air quality issues, and in July 2008 they asked for views on the inspectorate's proposed night-noise condition. Ministers were involved throughout this process.

The remarks made by Baroness Andrews on 6 October were in the context of a wide-ranging debate on how the reforms proposed in the Planning Bill would in future improve the decision-making process for major new infrastructure projects. They do not in any way call into question the particular decisions that have been taken under the current procedures.


Lord Jones of Cheltenham asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Home Office issues guidance to practitioners whenever new powers are introduced, and in February 2008, the Home Office published a consolidated guidance document, Practical Guide for dealing with alcohol-related problems;

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what you need to know
. This was sent to every police force in the country and contains information on the tools and powers available to tackle alcohol-related problems. Additionally, the Home Office is running 10 alcohol workshops around the country to ensure that front-line practitioners are fully aware of the powers available to them to tackle these problems.

These workshops start in October 2008 and will be attended by the police, trading standards and local authority licensing officers.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The department's study, The cost of alcohol harm to the NHS in England: An update to the Cabinet Office (2003) study, used similar methodology to the Cabinet Office interim analytical report, alongside new data on relevant costs, attributable fractions and usage rates, to estimate the cost of alcohol misuse to the National Health Service. A copy of the department's study has already been placed in the Library and fully explains the methodology used and where it differs from the interim analytical report.

The difference in estimated cost between the 2008 department's study and the 2003 interim analytical report is a result of the five-year gap between each study. This gap allowed the department's study to take into account increases in costs since the interim analytical report was written and to use more recent and more accurate data on alcohol consumption and harm in its calculations. Section 4 of the new study contains an analysis of why the estimated cost has increased.

Tackling harmful consumption of alcohol is a priority for the Government, and in June 2007, Safe. Sensible. SocialThe next steps in the National Alcohol Strategy was launched, which updated the national alcohol strategy and set out a comprehensive strategy to tackle harmful consumption of alcohol and associated problems. This includes public information campaigns, toughened enforcement of underage sales and more help for people who want to drink less.

A crucial element in the strategy is to impress on people the need for them to take responsibility for their own actions, supported by an ability to make informed decisions, based on accurate and consistent unit and health information, about their drinking habits and behaviour.

Additionally, we have put in place a new NHS indicator to measure the change in the rate of hospital admissions for alcohol-related harm from April 2008—the first ever national commitment to monitor how the NHS is tackling alcohol health harms.

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This indicator is expected to encourage primary care trusts to invest in earlier identification of people who drink too much, linked to advice and support from general practitioners or other healthcare staff—shown to be the best way of reducing the kind of everyday drinking which over time leads to liver disease and other problems, including dependency.

Between 22 July 2008 and 14 October, we carried out a major consultation asking for the views of the public and key stakeholders on what action the Government should take in response to the rising levels of alcohol health harm and crime and disorder. Responses to the consultation are being logged and analysed and will be taken into account, along with the developing evidence, in our future decisions on tackling alcohol health harm and crime and disorder.

Additionally, the department's policy research programme has commissioned Sheffield University, School of Health and Related Research to carry out an independent review of the evidence on how and in what circumstances price and promotion drive consumption of alcohol and harms from alcohol, and explores the potential impact of potential policy changes on consumption of alcohol and harms from alcohol. The review is expected to be published by the end of November.


Lord Taylor of Holbeach asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): There are no legislative requirements for benefits to be paid into a bank account and we do not insist on it. We do encourage payment into bank accounts, as this is the safest and most reliable method of payment. Around 98 per cent of customers are paid directly into an account. The small minority of customers who are unable to open an account are paid by cheque.

Although banks are legally required to check their customer's identity before opening an account, they are able to accept a wide range of documents to prove identity, including a letter from a government department confirming benefit entitlement.

Benefits: Employment and Support Allowance

Lord Taylor of Holbeach asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The work capability assessment and work-focused health-related assessment are intended to be combined. The work-focused interview has a different purpose and administration arrangements. The work capability assessment determines whether the claimant has limited capability for work and limited capability for work-related activity. The work-focused health-related assessment looks at the support individuals need to help them return to work; for example, health interventions or workplace adaptations. Both these assessments are conducted by healthcare professionals, employed by Atos Healthcare, on behalf of the department. They will be covered in a single appointment, although there will be occasions when a work-focused health-related assessment is not required.

The work-focused interview is designed to help the claimant move closer to the labour market. The first work-focused interview is conducted by a Jobcentre Plus personal adviser, who will explore the claimant's work options, explain the services and support available, such as training opportunities, and help to develop the claimant's employment action plan. The work-focused interview is informed by the report from the work-focused health-related assessment. Work-focused interviews are arranged at regular fixed points during the individual's claim, the first being as soon as practicable after the eighth week.


Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): New criteria have been agreed with the Confederation of Passenger Transport, the trade association for the bus and coach industry, for determining whether a route is a separate route for the purposes of the 50 kilometre threshold contained within the EU regulation on drivers' hours. This should provide greater certainty for operators who wish to change their services to operate outside the EU regime.

As a result, separate routes may now be advertised as connecting services. Passengers wishing to continue on the connecting service may do so without leaving the vehicle if they wish and through-tickets may be issued, without the service necessarily coming in-scope of the EU regime.

Children: Education and Specialist Health

Baroness Cumberlege asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): Under Section 12 of the Childcare Act 2006, local authorities (LAs) are required to deliver information, advice and guidance on childcare and other local services for parents of children and young people up to age 20.

The information which must be prescribed by local authorities has been prescribed in the Childcare Act 2006 (Provision of Information to Parents) (England) Regulations 2007 (the regulations). These regulations require LAs to provide information about whether particular childcare is suitable for disabled children, and about services, facilities and publication which may be of particular benefit to disabled children, young people or their parents.

Nationally, the Early Support Programme is the Government's recommended family-centred approach for delivering integrated services for young disabled children, which includes information resources for parents on how to work with local professionals to understand and secure the support their child needs. In addition, the department funds Contact-a-Family directly and through the parent know-how programme to provide information to parents of disabled children, including on the state and charitable provision available.

Climate Change: Emissions

Lord Taylor of Holbeach asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): In relation to any sums received by the Government, spending priorities are not, in general, determined by the way in which the money is raised. This is because hypothecating taxes to particular spending programmes creates inflexibility in spending decisions and can lead to reduced value for money for taxpayers.

Also, the Bill includes powers for up to five local authorities in England to pilot waste incentive schemes. Any revenue collected by the local authorities through charges under these schemes will be returned in full as financial rewards to those producing least residual waste, and they will therefore be revenue neutral.

Congestion Charge: Exemptions

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): The London congestion charging scheme is the responsibility of the Mayor of London and Transport for London (TfL). Parliament gave the Mayor the powers to introduce a congestion charging scheme in the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (as amended by the Transport Act 2000). Any exemptions or discounts to this scheme are a matter for the Mayor and it would be inappropriate for Government to intervene in this matter.

We are aware that TfL does operate a reimbursement scheme for patients when attending an NHS appointment or admission, if they are clinically assessed as being too ill, weak or disabled to travel on public transport. In addition, other vehicles used by certain NHS employees for official purposes may also be eligible for a 100 per cent discount.

Crime: Drugs

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Since publishing Drug Offenders England and Wales 2004 in December 2005, the Home Office has embarked on the process under National Statistics to withdraw the series. The withdrawal is on the following grounds:

responsibility for offender statistics generally has passed to the Ministry of Justice.; andthere is insufficient demand for a separate drug offenders bulletin.

As part of the National Statistics procedures for withdrawal of a statistical series, internal and external users were consulted earlier this year, and approval to proceed has been gained from the Home Secretary, and the Home Office's chief statistician and chief scientific adviser.

Pending final approval from the National Statistician, an announcement about withdrawal will be made shortly.

Drug offender statistics will continue to be available from MoJ, either in the main publications, such as the annual criminal statistics command volume, or on request.

While the Home Office compiles and publishes statistics on drug offences and drug seizures recorded by the police in England and Wales, and misuse of drugs from the British Crime Survey, it does not currently compile statistics on drug-related crime.

Crime: Money Laundering

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): In 2005, a total of 1,327 defendants were proceeded against at magistrates' courts and 595 were found guilty at all courts in England and Wales of money-laundering offences. In 2006, 2,375 defendants were proceeded against and 1,271 defendants were found guilty of these offences. Data for 2007 will be available in late November 2008.

The statistics relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences, the principal offence is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord West of Spithead: This information is not available. The money-laundering offences in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 relate not only to money but to criminal property as defined in the Act.

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