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Written Answers

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Banking

Lord Barnett asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform & Cabinet Office (Baroness Vadera): The International Accounting Standards Board and the European Commission have recently acted to amend the current accounting rules with respect to financial instruments and a further review of the rules is already under way in conjunction with other international bodies.

Belfast Agreement

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: In saying that these were “commonly understood terms”, I intended to explain that the Government believed the terms to be in general usage in the English language and that they did not have any specific or unique meaning placed on them beyond this.

In the context of the constitutional issues chapter of the Belfast agreement, the references to “identity” refer, in particular, to those who choose to identify themselves as British, Irish or both.

Bloody Sunday: Saville Inquiry

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: As the noble Lord is aware, the Government recognised that the figure quoted by Ms Jowell for the cost of the Bloody Sunday inquiry on 2 July 2006 was inaccurate. This error was rectified when Parliament was informed of the correct figures on 20 July 2006. No apology was sought, or made, at the time when the error was rectified. The noble Lord raised the issue of an apology in May 2008 (Written Answer by Lord Rooker, 22 May 2008, Official Report, col. WA 207) and in subsequent Questions. Ministers considered that it was appropriate to apologise to the noble Lord for any confusion caused by the error (Written Answer by Lord Rooker, 29 September 2008, Official Report, col. WA 306). Ms Jowell was consulted, because she had made the statement in question, and she was content that the Government should apologise to the noble Lord for any confusion caused.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The word “appropriate” was intended to have its commonly understood meaning when used as an adjective—that is, “suitable, proper”.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: There are no plans to review our policy on the issuing of apologies.



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Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: As far as I am aware, similar circumstances have not arisen in relation to other statements made about the Bloody Sunday inquiry.

Citizens Advice Bureaux

Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform & Cabinet Office (Baroness Vadera): Central government does not provide core funding for individual citizens advice bureaux. Each bureau is a separate registered charity operating independently, providing a service geared towards the needs of local people, and is therefore funded mainly by local authorities, with additional funding, often on a project basis, from charitable trusts, the Legal Services Commission (LSC), the Financial Inclusion Fund etc.

It is, therefore, for local authorities to determine the structure and level of core funding they provide to individual bureaux that will best meet the needs of their local communities. While there may be specific requirements in certain locations for Polish-speaking advisers, it is for local authorities and their CABs to work together to determine need and some bureaux have engaged Polish-speaking volunteers. Central government does provide some further assistance. LSC contracts with bureaux include provision for interpreters, and the face-to-face debt programme, which the department funds, provides a language line translation service.

Data Monitoring: Equality Outcomes

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): The Government consider accurate monitoring data important to track progress towards equality outcomes.



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Department for Communities and Local Government: Printing Costs

Baroness Warsi asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The final spend through our centralised print buying operation for hard copy printing in 2007-08 was £1,426,935.

Economy: Vulnerable People

Baroness Uddin asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The Government have put in place a series of reforms to tackle poverty and disadvantage faced by vulnerable groups. The Government's most recent announcements are set out below.

On 13 May 2008, the Chancellor announced further support for low- and middle-income families for 2008-09. For the current tax year, income tax personal allowances will be increased by £600 for all taxpayers under 65. Around 22 million basic rate taxpayers will benefit from this change.

This year, adults aged 60 and over will benefit from an additional payment of £50, and those aged over 80 from an additional payment of £100 to be paid alongside the winter fuel payment. In addition, extra help for the vulnerable this winter will be provided by an increase in cold weather payments, which will triple from £8.50 to £25 for this winter.

On 17 July 2008, the Chancellor announced a postponement of the 2p per litre increase in fuel duty that was planned to take place on 1 October 2008 to support families and businesses in the face of sharp rises in world oil prices. This means that main road fuel duty rates will remain at 50.35p per litre after 1 October this year. The duty is 17 per cent lower in real terms than in 1999.

On 11 September, the Government announced a new £1 billion package of energy efficiency measures, including at least 50 per cent off a range of energy saving measures for all households, with 11 million of the most vulnerable households qualifying for these free of charge.

On 2 September, the Government announced reforms to the support for mortgage interest (SMI) system—SMI is paid to people on income support, pension credit and income-based jobseeker's allowance to help to meet the interest payments on their mortgage—to more accurately reflect the value of people's property

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and reduce the waiting time before help from SMI is available. The Government will keep this system of support under review.

Disabled people have access to a range of benefits in recognition of their extra support needs. The employment and support allowance offers financial help and personal support to disabled people who are out of work, and disability living allowance provides a contribution towards the extra costs arising from disability. The disability premium in income-related benefits is also paid in recognition that the least well-off disabled people need additional help.

Equality

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): A full analysis of the way discrimination law is enforced in the courts and tribunals was undertaken as part of the discrimination law review. As a result, we are making a number of changes in the forthcoming Equality Bill, including:

allowing employment tribunals to make wider recommendations in discrimination cases, which will benefit the wider workforce and help to prevent similar types of discrimination occurring in the future;transferring disability discrimination school education cases in Scotland (including education cases relating to admissions and exclusions) to the Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland, and;making provision for the use of expert assessors to advise judges in court cases involving discrimination across all the protected grounds.

In addition, if practical, we want to allow discrimination claims to be brought on multiple grounds. This is a complex area and we are exploring it further, including whether the legislation could be made to work in practice and what the costs and benefits would be.

The new single public sector equality duty will, like the current race, disability and gender equality duties, be enforced by the Commission for Equality and Human Rights or by judicial review.

We recognise that strong and effective enforcement is necessary to make a reality of legal rights. The changes that we are making in the Equality Bill will help us to tackle discriminatory policies and practices in a more systematic way.

Ethnic Monitoring: Data

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Government consider that equality impact assessments are essential if policies, programmes and services are to be designed and delivered in ways that promote equality. The Government consider that ethnic monitoring can be a valuable tool in helping to assess race equality outcomes.

EU: Shipping

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): The Department for Transport maintains close links with the maritime industry and regularly consults with industry representatives and other stakeholders during European negotiations to ensure that the most appropriate outcome is achieved.

A formal consultation process, including an assessment of the costs and benefits of the proposals, will be carried out in accordance with the Cabinet Office’s code of practice on consultation when the directives are transposed into UK legislation.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Adonis: SafeSeaNet is the information system that has been developed in order to give effect to the information reception, handling and interchange requirements of the EC vessel traffic monitoring directive (directive 2002/59/EC). The EC vessel traffic monitoring amending directive is designed to amend directive 2002/59/EC.

SafeSeaNet is managed by the European Maritime Safety Agency, which is based in Lisbon. Individual member states feed information into SafeSeaNet in order to comply with various directives. In the UK, information is forwarded to SafeSeaNet via the consolidated European reporting system (CERS).

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Adonis: No. The proposed directive amending directive 2002/59/EC establishing a Community vessel traffic monitoring system and the proposed directive

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establishing the fundamental principles governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector apply to all ships in waters under the jurisdiction of member states regardless of their country of registration.

The provisions for port state control contained in the proposed recast directive introduce a more risk-based system of inspection, which among other factors takes account of the ship's owner and country of registration when determining whether the ship should be inspected.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Adonis: Parliament considers proposals for Council legislation through Select Committees in both Houses: the Commons European Scrutiny Committee and the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union.

Scrutiny is complete when the document under scrutiny has been cleared in both Houses. The purpose of scrutiny is to determine which documents raise issues of legal and/or political importance to the UK and should be considered further by the committees or debated by Parliament before scrutiny clearance.

When the Government give effect to the directives, the implementing regulations will be laid in Parliament, where they will be subject to further scrutiny.


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