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To ask Her Majesty's Government what has been the effect so far of the inclusion of an insurance guarantee cover for the banks to provide resumed lending activity. [HL1225]
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): Prompted by continuing exceptional instability in the global financial markets, in October the Government announced a package of support for the financial system both to support stability of the banking system and to protect savers and depositors. Part of this package is the credit guarantee scheme (CGS). The CGS provides a Government guarantee on eligible new debt to support the stability of the banking system, and to protect savers and depositors.
As part of further measures to increase confidence for banking institutions to lend, the asset protection scheme (APS) was announced in January this year, to encourage banks to lend by offering capital and asset protection to banks on assets most affected by the current economic conditions. Under the scheme, the Treasury will provide participating institutions protection against credit losses. The scheme is aimed at targeting assets with the greatest amount of uncertainty about their future performance. Participating banks also agree a lending commitment addressing lending to businesses and homeowners. As the Chancellor announced details of the scheme on 26 February it is too early to measure its effect.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the concept of equality as a human right applies to the island of Ireland as a result of the Belfast agreement of 1998. [HL1783]
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The concept of equality as a human right in Northern Ireland is addressed in my Answer of 24 February 2009 (Official Report, col. WA 64).
Policy on equality in the Republic of Ireland is a matter for the Irish Government.
Asked by Lord Morris of Manchester
To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent the remarks by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in his foreword to the White Paper Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future that the White Paper draws on
11 Mar 2009 : Column WA248
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The ministerial foreword to the White Paper Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future (Cm 7506) outlines the Government's ambition for a welfare system supported by a stronger framework of rights and responsibilities. The proposals draw from international experience of conditionality regimes. For jobseeker's allowance customers, this means progressively increasing obligations in line with time on benefit and giving customers the support they need to keep and progress in work and gain relevant skills.
The United Kingdom has a comprehensive safety net scheme. Income support and other income-related benefits are available to top up flat-rate benefits where these are insufficient and the housing benefit scheme is among the most generous in the European Community.
Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will issue a circular to all public authorities saying they must recognise English as a nationality. [HL733]
Lord Patel of Bradford: I have nothing further to add to the Answer I gave on 24 February 2009 (Official Report, col. WA59).
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will always use the discretion conferred by paragraph 2(e) of Schedule 1 to the British Nationality Act 1981 to waive the English language requirement for naturalisation applicants aged between 18 and 65 where it would be unreasonable to expect them to meet those requirements. [HL1890]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The use of discretion to waive the requirement is always considered when it is requested by a naturalisation applicant. However, it is not always applied as it is, in some cases, concluded that it would be reasonable for the applicant to meet the requirement.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether persons with refugee status or enjoying long-term humanitarian protection will be able to start their qualifying periods for naturalisation from the date of their entry into the United Kingdom, provided that they have complied with the conditions in Article 31 of the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. [HL1891]
Lord West of Spithead: The qualifying period of residence for naturalisation may begin as soon as the refugee presents him/herself to the authorities. There is an additional requirement for naturalisation that the applicant should not have been in breach of immigration law during the qualifying period. However, those who present themselves to the authorities immediately upon arrival in the United Kingdom will not be considered to be in breach of immigration law during the period in which their asylum claim is under consideration.
Asked by Lord Morris of Manchester
To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent the proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill take account of studies of the possibility that low benefits causing poor maternal and foetal nutrition lead to adverse neurological development of children. [HL1637]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): Many of the proposals introduced by the Welfare Reform Bill are designed to improve employment outcomes for disadvantaged groups and thus improve the financial situation of low-income households. Work is the best and most sustainable route out of poverty. Evidence shows that employment improves individual's welfare, fosters social inclusion and is good for people's health and well-being.
Pregnant women or parents with at least one child under four years old from low-income households may also be entitled to free milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, infant formula and vitamins under the NHS Healthy Start scheme.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many motor car drivers are estimated to be driving without insurance. [HL1903]
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): A road side survey (Operation V79) was carried out by the Department for Transport in March 2008. 6689 vehicles were stopped at random by police and checked for compliance with driver and vehicle licensing regulations. The recorded level of uninsured drivers from this survey was 1.2 per cent.
However, comparison of the DVLA vehicle register and motor insurance database suggests the total figure of uninsured driving is likely to be higher. In 2005, a comparison of the two databases estimated that about 2.1 million licensed vehicles were being driven by uninsured drivers. The comparison looks at all vehicle keepers and motor insurance policies and does not rely on vehicles being spotted in use on the road. Further work continues on a more recent comparison of the two databases and is undergoing validity checks by departmental statisticians.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with British insurance companies in order to secure affordable premium payments for young drivers. [HL1904]
Lord Adonis: Passing the practical driving test is seen by many people as being the end of learning to drive. Our wide ranging Learning to Drive consultation paper had said that we wanted to work with both insurers and employers to create a culture where continued and life-long learning become the norm.
On 6 March 2009, the Driving Standards Agency discussed with the insurance industry how they can work together to deliver evidence and evaluate some of our proposed reforms, including new opportunities for post-test training and qualifications. We want to ensure that the improvements result in safer newly qualified drivers, and therefore fewer and less costly claims, so that insurance companies are able to incentivise and reward young people for investing in their continued learning and driving skills development.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to remove unlicensed motor vehicles from public highways and to deter car drivers from driving without adequate insurance. [HL1905]
Lord Adonis: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) operates a comprehensive package of measures to combat the use of unlicensed motor vehicles on the public highway.
Those who fail to tax their vehicles are subject to enforcement activities ranging from automatic penalties issued if the DVLAs vehicle records show that vehicle excise duty remains unpaid, through to direct enforcement action such as the wheel clamping, removal from the road for impounding and, ultimately, disposal of the unlicensed vehicle.
Regarding uninsured driving, measures introduced in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 have given the police improved access to the motor insurance database, enabling them better to identify uninsured vehicles using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) equipment. The police were also given powers to seize, and in appropriate cases destroy, vehicles being driven uninsured. In 2008, around 185,000 vehicles were seized.
The Road Safety Act 2006 introduced a new offence of being a registered keeper of a vehicle for which there is no valid motor insurance. Further regulations are required to bring the provisions into force. We are consulting on these and the details of a proposed scheme for continuous insurance enforcement.
Rather than relying on the police to spot vehicles in use, continuous insurance enforcement would identify uninsured drivers by regularly comparing DVLAs vehicle register with the insurance industrys database. Those who ignored warning reminders that their insurance has expired would be sent a fixed penalty notice and fine of £100, and could be liable to court prosecution and have their vehicle clamped, impounded and disposed of.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what has been the renewal rate of the first round of 10-year driving licences; what action they have taken to increase that rate; and what further steps they plan to take. [HL1922]
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): Between July 2008 and March 2009 the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has issued 227,626 renewal reminders and 172,631 drivers have to date renewed the photograph. This is a compliance rate of 76 per cent.
Renewal reminders are sent to licence holders two months before expiry of their photograph to ensure they know when their photograph is due for renewal.
The DVLA is reviewing 10-year renewal compliance and plans to conduct market research to identify reasons for non-compliance and the most effective methods to improve compliance levels.
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty's Government how much Government funding was spent, including via the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the relevant research councils, to make work with admixed embryos legal; and what other countries have introduced legislation to permit admixed animal-human hybrid embryos. [HL1854]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): Other than the usual internal administrative costs incurred in the creation of a new Act of Parliament, no government funds were spent specifically to bring about new legislation concerning the creation of human admixed embryos for research purposes.
Information on legislation in other countries on the creation and use of human admixed embryos is not collected centrally.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are investigating the hours of work, payment of minimum wages, rates for overtime and unsocial hours, entitlements to holiday pay and sickness benefit and pension rights of migrant and agency workers. [HL1681]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform & Cabinet Office (Baroness Vadera): The Government believe there are significant levels of protection for these workers already in place.
All workers are protected by the Working Time Regulations which cover working hours and statutory holiday pay. The regulations ensure that all workers can only work a maximum of 48 hours per week on average unless they sign a voluntary opt-out agreement. The regulations also provide all workers with 4.8 weeks of statutory paid annual leave per year rising to 5.6 weeks in April 2009. Rates for overtime and working unsocial hours are a contractual matter between the individual parties.
All workers are also entitled to the national minimum wage (NMW). The Government promote and enforce payment of the NMW through simple and effective means which support workers and businesses by deterring employers from underpaying their workers and removing the unfair competitive advantage that underpayment can bring. New automatic penalties of up to £5,000 for employers found not to be complying with the NMW were brought in under the Employment Act 2008. HM Revenue and Customs are responsible for enforcing the national minimum wage. In 2007-08, they helped to restore £3.9 million in arrears to over 19,000 workers.
Entitlement to the state pension scheme is based on the national insurance contributions that an individual pays, is treated as paid or is credited with. Migrant and agency workers can build up entitlement to the state pension in the same way as other workers. Migrant workers also have the same rights as other workers when it comes to access to private pension schemes arranged by the employer. This includes stakeholder pensions where the employer has a statutory duty to designate at least one scheme for which membership is on offer to all employees (including migrant workers) who have been employed for a continuous period of three months. Whether or not these rights apply to agency workers would depend upon whether they are treated as employees for the purpose of the stakeholder pension scheme regulations.
Following the work of the Vulnerable Workers Enforcement Forum, which reported in August 2008, the Government are also redoubling their efforts to ensure that potentially vulnerable workers are fully aware of their existing rights. We have recently launched a £l million campaign on this, with the initial focus on agency workers specifically.
We will also be launching a consultation in the near future on the implementation of the EU agency worker's directive, which will, consistent with the CBI-TUC agreement of 20 May 2008, introduce equal treatment for agency workers in respect of basic working and employment conditions, after 12 weeks in a given job.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how much funding has been given in each year since its creation to the Financial Services Authority for administration and running costs. [HL1945]
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The Financial Services Authority is funded entirely by the firms that it regulates.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the Government of Israel concerning the reduction to three miles of Gaza's fishing waters. [HL1709]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): While we have made no specific representations on this issue, we, along with our EU partners, continue to press the Israeli Government to reduce their restrictions on Gaza to meet humanitarian and reconstruction needs, and also to allow Gazans the opportunity to rebuild their economy. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary reinforced this message during the reconstruction conference at Shaim El-Sheikh on 2 March 2009.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the cost of insuring against the United Kingdom defaulting on its government debt compared with the cost in France or Germany. [HL1828]
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): There are no precise indicators of the cost of insuring government debt against default.
Credit default swap (CDS) spreads are commonly used as a proxy for measuring this cost. However, the strength of this proxy is highly questionable, as default is only one of a number of credit events enshrined in sovereign CDS contracts. Other credit events include missing coupon payments and restructuring of debt.
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