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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): Elections to the county councils in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk will go ahead on 4 June 2009 as planned on existing boundaries.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform & Cabinet Office (Baroness Vadera): The UK has benefited from the open European single market, including free movement of workers. In responding to proposals in the area of employment law, the UK
23 Feb 2009 : Column WA13
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to support those who live in fuel poverty in rural communities and are dependent on oil and liquefied petroleum gas for heating, having no access to the gas network. [HL1200]
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Warm Front is the Government's flagship scheme for tackling fuel poverty in the private sector in England for vulnerable householders. The scheme currently provides grants for specified insulation and heating measures up to the value of £2,700 or £4,000 for oil central heating (including properties with no access to the gas network).
The Government recognise the specific challenge of assisting hard to treat properties in rural communities. The Warm Front Scheme Management Board considers on a regular basis whether to approve appropriate alternative technologies for the scheme, where they might prove cost-effective. The board will consider whether the technology is readily available and reliable, as well as whether there are sufficiently skilled people to install and repair the proposed measure and also how easy it is to use. One example is through Warm Front and National Energy Action and we are currently carrying out a pilot using solar thermal technology together with electric heating.
In addition, Warm Front has a networking team which operates in rural areas to help bring assistance to vulnerable households in rural communities. Pro-actively engaging with local organisations and area-based schemes, it helps to increase the take-up of grants and energy efficiency advice in rural areas.
The Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) is the Government's principal policy for driving up household energy efficiency in Britain out to 2011. Under CERT the major energy suppliers have an obligation to direct at least 40 per cent of carbon savings at priority group households. This includes important measures for hard-to-treat homes such as solid wall insulation and central heating. Suppliers installed around 80,000 heating measures through fuel switching in the previous three-year obligation period to March 2008 (Energy Efficiency Commitment Two). The Government recognised there is a high up-front cost for these measures and therefore under CERT we have introduced specific incentives to help improve the financial viability of fuel switching, with a particular focus on homes which are off the gas grid.
The principal barrier to providing new connections to communities and households beyond the mains gas network is the cost to the customer. Ofgem recognises the benefits that access to gas offers low income households and has incentivised the large gas networks
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To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 29 October (Official Report, 29/10/08; col. WA176), what steps they will take to encourage energy suppliers to promote the use of electrical appliances at times of low demand. [HL229]
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government announced on 28 October their intention to roll out smart meters to all domestic customers (Official Report, 28/10/08; col. 1515) along with an indicative timetable to complete this by the end of 2020. The Government will take further decisions on the detail of a smart metering mandate in due course, including whether all smart meters should have the functionality to support the introduction of time-of-use tariffs.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether a primary care trust which has joined the campaign of the National Alliance for Equity in Dental Health to extend water fluoridation will have a conflict of interest if it promotes a local fluoridation scheme under the Water Act 2003. [HL1281]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): No, we do not see any conflict. As the chief dental officer's letter of February 2008 indicates, primary care trusts (PCTs) are responsible for assessing the oral health needs of their populations and, where they judge the fluoridation of water to be the best option for meeting these needs, they may request their strategic health authorities to conduct consultations. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library. In this context, we would expect the PCTs to promote fluoridation during consultations with, where they judge it appropriate, the support of organisations knowledgeable about the arrangement of fluoridation schemes and their effects.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the work and findings of the Medical Research Council (MRC) on Gulf War illnesses, published in 2003, whether they have asked the MRC for its comments on the report and findings of the Congressionally mandated United States Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War illnesses, published on 17 November 2008; and whether and by whom the MRC's work and findings have been peer-reviewed. [HL1381]
The Minister of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Lord Drayson): The Ministry of Defence have noted that the report published by the US Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses has been referred by the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Institute of Medicine for review. The Ministry of Defence is awaiting the outcome of this process before making any comments on the report (or inviting the MRC to make any comments) and deciding on any action it may wish to take relating to the report.
The 2003 MRC review of research into UK Gulf veterans' illnesses was carried out by the Military Health Research Advisory Group, an independent group of experts in the area. In carrying out its work, the MHRAG conducted a series of workshops to consult directly with the wider scientific community and parties interested in the field.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ask the Congressionally-mandated United States Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses to peer review the work and findings of the Medical Research Council on Gulf War illnesses. [HL1499]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The 2003 Medical Research Council (MRC) review of research into UK Gulf veterans' illnesses was carried out by the Military Health Research Advisory Group (MHRAG), an independent group of experts in the area. Its aim was to review the published and emerging scientific findings and to advise on areas for future research. In carrying out its work, the MHRAG conducted a series of workshops to consult directly with the wider scientific community and parties interested in the field.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Taylor of Bolton on 22 January (WA 22122), whether they will ask the
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): As set out in the Written Answer of 22 January 2009 (WA 221-222), it is necessary to research our records on the issue prior to providing my noble friend with a substantive reply. We will arrange for the letter to be published in the Official Report, or deposited in the Library of the House as appropriate.
To ask the Chairman of Committees what travel insurance, including personal medical insurance, is provided for Members of the House travelling on Select Committee or other parliamentary business; and how that compares to the insurance arrangements provided for Members of the House of Commons. [HL1378]
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The House of Lords maintains an insurance policy to cover Members for accidents while on the Parliamentary Estate, while travelling between home and the House and while travelling on official parliamentary business, including Select Committee visits and parliamentary delegations. Cover is provided for Members until they have attained their 85th birthday, although medical cover does not apply from the age of 75 if the journey is in excess of 30 days. Cover is not available for Members' spouses, civil partners, or children and cover is not automatic in respect of travel to certain countries. The full policy is set out on the parliamentary intranet. Details of the travel insurance arrangements provided for Members of the House of Commons are also available on the parliamentary intranet. The most significant difference is that the arrangements for Members of the House of Commons cover spouses.
To ask the Chairman of Committees what travel insurance, including personal medical insurance, is provided for staff of the House travelling on Select Committee or other parliamentary business; and how that compares to the insurance arrangements provided for staff of the House of Commons. [HL1379]
The Chairman of Committees: For staff travelling with Select Committees, the House reimburses the costs of any reasonable insurance required, and would also reimburse reasonable losses if not covered by an insurance policy. Staff travelling outside the EU are advised to take out insurance; staff travelling within the EU are advised to carry the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
31. Illness not arising from an accident is not covered by these arrangements. Staff are expected to pay their own medical or dental charges which will be reimbursed by the House on production of receipted bills.
32. It is sometimes difficult to obtain medical treatment overseas without evidence of private health insurance. Staff travelling overseas are therefore advised to take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover health and other insurable losses - money, baggage etc. The cost of the premiums is deemed to be covered by the elements within the subsistence allowances.
The House of Commons offers personal accident and travel insurance cover to staff travelling on parliamentary business outside Great Britain. The House of Commons Staff Handbook provides that Staff who travel overseas on official business will be covered by the House's personal accident insurance policy.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the constitution and purpose of Housing North West; how often it meets; who its members are and how they were appointed; what is its budget; and how it is serviced and funded. [HL1392]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): Housing North West is a voluntary partnership between major housing organisations in the region. Its aim is to provide professional training for housing practitioners in the north-west. It usually organises four or five conferences a year, plus a similar number of technical seminars. These events are almost all free of charge to enable all local authorities and housing providers, regardless of size, to access good practice in the region. The membership currently consists of the Government Office for the North West, the North West Leaders Forum, the North West Housing Forum, the National Housing Federation and the Chartered Institute of Housing. It is funded by voluntary contributions by member organisations. In the current year the organisation received £20,000. Member organisations also provide staff time and good will to help run the events at minimum cost.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): We have commissioned research to evaluate the implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. As part of this work, the extent to which energy performance certificates have influenced the behaviour of buyers when choosing homes will be considered. The research is due to be completed in September 2009.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): I refer the noble Baroness to the Answer given by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing on 14 October 2008 (Official Report, col. 1089W).
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The assisted voluntary return of irregular migrants (AVRIM) programme introduced in November 2004 is available to those who have entered the UK unlawfully or those who have breached their conditions of leave to enter or leave to remain. AVRIM is operated on behalf of the Home Office by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), an independent intergovernmental organisation.
We expedite as quickly as possible the removal of those who are held in detention and who then apply to return under the AVRIM programme. However, individuals may have been detained for some length of time before making an application under AVRIM and
23 Feb 2009 : Column WA19
Currently, seven individuals who have applied under the programme are detained in the agency detention estate while approval for their return is pending. The table below gives details of the first date of detention and the length of detention since the application under AVRIM was received.
|Date detained||Date of application under AVRIM||Number of days detained since the date of application|
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