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24 Nov 2008 : Column WA229



24 Nov 2008 : Column WA229

Written Answers

Monday 24 November 2008

Alcohol

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The department commissioned the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield to produce an independent review of the effects of alcohol price, promotion, consumption and harm. The review has two phases:

phase 1 systematically identified, appraised and synthesised international evidence on the relationship between alcohol price, promotion, consumption and harm. Summary of the first phase, published on 22 July, found significant links between price and youth and heavy drinkers, but it has less of an impact on moderate and occasional drinkers; andphase 2 explored the potential impact of potential policy changes in this area, especially the population-based impact on health, crime and the wider economy for the population as a whole and also with a focus on young people under 18 who drink alcohol; 18 to 24 year-old hazardous drinkers; and harmful drinkers whose patterns of drinking damage their physical/mental health or cause substantial harm to others.

Findings from the review are expected to be published this year and are intended to inform understanding of retail practices and whether they are linked to excessive drinking and whether government intervention, including controls on price and price-based promotions, is likely to be proportionate and have a significant beneficial impact.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): We do not conduct research on the health consequences of awarding benefits to people experiencing long-term excess alcohol consumption.

Armed Forces: Pipers

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): This Question was answered on 4 November (Official Report, 4/11/08, col. WA 25).

Armed Forces: Separation Allowance

Baroness D'Souza asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): Longer separation allowance (LSA) forms part of a service man or woman’s wider remuneration package and as such is taxable in the same way as pay. LSA was introduced to replace other taxable allowances as recommended by the independent Armed Forces Pay Review Body. It would be unfair to give this income a beneficial and tax-free status over and above other forms of taxable income.

Armed Forces: War Pensions

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The Pensions Appeal Tribunal (England and Wales) was transferred into the War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Chamber of the first-tier tribunal on 3 November 2008. The decision to create a separate War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Chamber came about after the Armed Forces community raised serious concerns about the Government's initial proposal to transfer the PAT (E&W) jurisdiction into the Social Entitlement Chamber.

Following discussions with the Confederation of British Service and ex-Service Organisations (COBSEO) and other stakeholders, the Government were convinced that the best outcome for service and ex-service men and women was to establish a separate chamber. The Government believe this approach properly reflects the special nature of the relationship between service personnel and the Government and that the War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Chamber should therefore continue as a separate chamber within the first-tier tribunal.

Asylum Seekers

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): In order to establish an asylum applicant’s identity and nationality, a screening interview is usually carried out when an asylum claim is first made. Any additional information required is obtained by conducting further interviews. This is then considered against the latest available country information on the situation of Bidoon in Kuwait.

The UKBA monitor the human rights situation in all countries that generate asylum seekers to the UK on the basis of information from a wide range of recognised and publicly disclosable governmental, non-governmental and human rights sources. Asylum decision makers take into account the human rights situation in the country of origin of each asylum applicant when making a decision on an asylum claim. Copies of these country reports are published at www. homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/country_reports.html.

Banking

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The Government have, since the scheme was announced in October, indicated their willingness to consider early repayment of the preference shares that they hold at a price equal to 101 per cent of par during the first six months, after the closing of the placing and open offer, and, thereafter, at a price to be negotiated based on prevailing market conditions at the time. Such repayment would be subject to FSA approval. As soon as the preference shares are repaid, payment of cash dividends would be permitted.

The banks have made clear in their public statements their intention to repay the Treasury’s preference shares as soon as it is prudent to do so.

The terms of the recapitalisation scheme allow for existing ordinary shareholders to subscribe (without limit) to the proposed issue of ordinary shares.

BBC: Staff

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting (Lord Carter of Barnes): This is a matter for the BBC. Under the terms of the charter and agreement, the BBC is independent of government, and there is no provision for government to intervene in its day-to-day affairs.



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Bloody Sunday: Saville Inquiry

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The content of the report is a matter for the independent inquiry.

Broadcasting: Decency

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting (Lord Carter of Barnes): In relation to broadcasting, Parliament has charged Ofcom with maintaining standards, notably to protect children and to protect the general public from harmful and offensive material. Decisions on broadcast programme standards are a matter for Ofcom to determine according to the provisions of the Broadcasting Acts and the Communications Act. It is a long-standing principle that the Government do not interfere in programme matters, either on arrangements for scheduling or on content. Furthermore, the BBC Trust has a role in securing appropriate standards in the content of the BBC’s services.

Cabinet Office: Website

Lord Norton of Louth asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting (Lord Carter of Barnes): The Cabinet Office discontinued this service as the system was not picking up all consultations, the cost of the service had increased and the site was receiving a low number of hits. However, the recent review of government consultation practices and policy, which led to a new code of practice on consultation coming into force on 1 November 2008, found that a comprehensive service of live consultations would be welcomed by stakeholders. The Better Regulation Executive in BERR is working with the Directgov team of the Central Office of Information to deliver such a service in the future. This would automatically pick up all consultation exercises published by central government. In the mean time, those looking for an overview are advised to visit the service run by the Department for Communities and Local Government at www.info4local.gov.uk.



24 Nov 2008 : Column WA233

Courts Service

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): It has been clear since the publication of MOJ's CSR07 settlement that the department and its constituent bodies, including HMCS, would have to reduce budgets. Work on implementing the efficiency savings plan for MOJ for 2008-09 is under way.

We are currently developing the performance and efficiency plan for MOJ and its constituent bodies, including HMCS and TS, to cover 2009-10 and 2010-11. When that plan is agreed for 2009-10 and 2010-11, we will be in a position fully to understand the impact on HMCS and TS. However, our top priority remains running our courts effectively and efficiently, prioritising front-line services to court and tribunal users.

We expect there to be a reduction in head count in parts of MOJ, but we anticipate that a large part of that will come from reductions in agency staff and contractors. Exact numbers will only be available once we have completed our planning exercise.

Lord Selsdon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: There are three new court schemes under construction in London; namely, the Business Court, City of Westminster Magistrates' Court and Isleworth Crown Court (extension). The respective information for each building is as follows:

Business CourtCity of WestminsterIsleworth Crown

(a)

1/12/06

27/8/08

13/9/07

(b)

31

10

6

(c)

Commercial High Court

Magistrates' Court

Crown Court

(d)

March 2011

March 2011

March 2009

(e)

£70 million

£54.5 million

£18.7 million

(f)

£80 million

£54.5 million

£19.2 million

Cuba: Prisoners

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We have not made specific representations to the Government of Cuba on the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. However, we and our EU partners regularly raise the issue of political prisoners and access to Cuban prisons for the International Red Cross with the Cuban authorities.

A political dialogue between the EU and Cuba began earlier this year. The first meeting of the dialogue took place between EU troika ministers and the Cuban Foreign Minister in Paris on 16 October. Political prisoners and access to Cuban prisons were raised on this occasion.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): During the recent fighting, UN observers reported that shots had been fired across the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. We understand from the UN mission to the DRC (MONUC) that the DRC military fired several mortars into Rwanda, after which the Rwandan military responded with fire from three T55 tanks.


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