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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): A regulatory impact assessment was prepared in respect of the proposal to end the seasonal agricultural workers scheme (SAWS) as a scheme for non-EU nationals in 2010. The decision to end the scheme on this basis was superseded by the subsequent decision to continue restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers access to the labour market following those countries' accession to the EU, and the related decision to restrict the SAWS to participants from those countries while those restrictions remain in force. A copy of the regulatory impact assessment has been placed in the Library of each House.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The inspector appointed to hold the inquiry will be carefully considering the views expressed at the pre-inquiry meeting on 10 November about the structure of the inquiry. He will recommend to the Secretary of State an inquiry programme which will take into account the Written Statements that are due to be submitted by the major participants in December. The inspector is fully aware of the need for an effective and fair inquiry which will be conducted in accordance with the 2005 Major Infrastructure Project Inquiry Procedure Rules which are intended to streamline the inquiry process while allowing full participation in the process by all parties.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The Future Surface Combatant is still in the concept phase and has yet to go through initial gate. As a result the decision regarding the in-service dates of the first three vessels of the Future Service Combatant programme has yet to be taken. It is currently expected, however, that the first of class will enter service late in the next decade.
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: The time between refits (periods of deep maintenance) for major surface warships (including aircraft carriers, Type 42 Destroyers and Type 22 and 23 Frigates), minor surface warships (including mine countermeasure vessels and survey vessels) and most Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels is generally in excess of four years. The exception is the forward repair ship, RFA Diligence, for which the time between refit periods is generally in excess of two years.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Reports of significant colony losses are being investigated as a high priority. To facilitate this, additional funds of £120,000 (£90,000 from Defra and £30,000 from the Welsh Assembly Government) have been allocated to the National Bee Unit. These funds will be used to expand the investigations the National Bee Unit started last year under a horizon scanning project into significant losses and to meet the demand for increased inspections of bee imports consequential to the colony losses.
What plans they have to commission independent research to assess the impact of the reduction of the backdating period for pension credit, housing and council tax benefit, which took place on 6 October, before making further policy decisions on that issue. [HL6325]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): We will be inviting key stakeholders such as Citizens Advice and Shelter to submit case study data to this department over the next 12 months, which will help us to understand the impact of the change in backdating rules. We will consider this alongside other evidence, for example from the local authority associations. We will review the policy at the end of 2009.
How much money, property and other realisable assets were recovered from (a) the 595 persons found guilty in all courts in England and Wales in 2005 of money laundering offences; and (b) the 1,271 defendants found guilty of those offences in 2006. [HL6353]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The information requested is not available. A total of £97 million of criminal assets were recovered in 2005-06 under powers in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and earlier legislation. A further £125 million was recovered in 2006-07.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government welcome the provision in the European Commission's proposal for a revised EU emissions trading system from 2013 for new crediting mechanisms, under an international agreement. This would give the flexibility to include credits from avoided deforestation and other land use activities in developing countries within the emissions trading system.
How soon they expect to include aviation in the European Emissions Trading Scheme after the directive on the subject, approved by the Council of Ministers, is published in the Official Journal of the European Union. [HL6115]
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): All arriving and departing flights from the EU will be included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme from 1 January 2012, in line with the requirements of the directive. The UK will transpose the directive during the first half of 2009.
How many posts there are in the Equality and Human Rights Commission; how many vacancies there are at present; how many vacancies are being temporarily filled by consultants, temporary staff and interim appointees; how many staff have not accepted their terms and conditions of employment since the establishment of the commission; why such staff have not accepted their terms and conditions; and what the impact is on staff morale, performance and effectiveness. [HL6270]
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): There are 525 posts in the Equality and Human Rights Commission. As of 12 November 2008, there are 35 vacancies. There are a further four posts which it is seeking to fill on a fixed-term basis, because there is no requirement to fill these roles permanently. Of the 35 vacancies, a total of six are being temporarily filled, all by agency staff.
Since the establishment of the commission and as at 12 November, only one person has notified the commission that they will not be accepting the commission's terms and conditions. This particular case is to do with the job-matching process. It is a priority to resolve the issue quickly for that individual's sake but there is no evidence that this case has had an overall impact on morale.
Further to the Written Answer by the Minister of State for the Cabinet Office, Ms Tessa Jowell, on 8 October (Official Report, House of Commons, 635W) on departmental public relations, what expenditure has been incurred by the Cabinet Office on external public relations and marketing companies not included in the Central Office of Information's Public Relations Framework. [HL6200]
Lord Patel of Bradford: A search of available records shows that there was no Cabinet Office expenditure with external public relations and marketing companies not included in the Central Office of Information's Public Relations Framework.
Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Andrews on 3 November (WA 17), whether, in order to grant Christianity equal status with other religions whose festivals were marked on the website of the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2007, they will mark the festival of Christmas in December 2008 with a suitable message. [HL6147]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): In 2008 we sent a goodwill message to Christian communities at Easter, and will mark Christmas with messages of goodwill in Christmas cards to all our stakeholders.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The carbon emissions reduction target (CERT) is the principal driver of energy efficiency improvements in existing homes in Great Britain. Under CERT, electricity and gas suppliers are required to meet targets for the promotion of improvements in household energy efficiency in Great Britain. CERT drives energy suppliers to invest around £1 billion per year into households and the Prime Minister has proposed to increase supplier targets by a further 20 per cent. We expect it to cut the number of homes without cavity wall insulation by around a third, from 8 million to around 5 million by 2011.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) funds the Warm Front scheme, which is the Government's main programme for tackling fuel poverty in the private sector in England. Warm Front provides a grant for specified heating and insulation measures, such as cavity wall insulation of up to £2,700, to households in receipt of certain means-tested or disability benefits. Similar schemes exist in the devolved nations to tackle fuel poverty and energy efficiency.
The government-funded Act on CO2 advice line, run by the Energy Saving Trust, provides free, expert advice to all callers in the UK on how to save energy in the home, including the filling of cavity walls, and provides easy access to the free and subsidised offers available. They can be contacted on 0800 512 012.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The Ministry of Defence hotline facility for the reporting of suspected irregularity, including fraud, theft and corruption, was used for this purpose on 133 occasions during the 12-month period ending 31 October 2008. This figure includes 67 occasions where individual whistleblowers reported their suspicions. Information on the amount spent on publicising the hotline could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): It is impossible to provide a total of what was spent on producing the draft codes because a lot of the work involved a significant contribution from representatives from non-governmental organisations. However, the preparation of the consultation including Civil Service staff time is estimated to have cost in the region of £10,000. The cost in production and publication has been negligible due to having been prepared mostly as electronic versions.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: A number of animal charities and welfare organisations contributed to the content on each of the draft codes of practice, which is currently subject to wide consultation. Lists of the consultees for each code are available on the Defra website.
Further to the Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Ann McKechin, on 29 October (Official Report, House of Commons, cols. 87778), what would have been the cost of maintaining the pension payment system within the Post Office between 1999 and 2007; and what would be the cost between 2008 and 2011.[HL6241]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The contract to pay customers through order books at post offices ended in 2005. This used to cost the taxpayer around £400 million a year. It is not possible to say with certainty how much it would have cost to continue with this servicethis would have depended on a number of factors, including customer behaviour.
The Government announced on 13 November 2008 that they have decided to cancel the current procurement exercise for a successor to the Post Office card account. Instead another contract will be awarded to Post Office Ltd. This contract will initially run from April 2010 to the end of March 2015.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The Government announced on 13 November 2008 that it had decided to cancel the current procurement exercise for a successor to the Post Office card account. Instead another contract will be awarded to Post Office Ltd. This contract will initially run from April 2010 to the end of March 2015.
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