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23 Mar 2009 : Column WA87

Written Answers

Monday 23 March 2009

Afghanistan

Question

Asked by Viscount Waverley

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Prior to deployment, UK troops undergo cultural awareness training specific to Afghanistan. Once in theatre, all NATO forces follow guidance issued by Commander ISAF in September 2008 on how to conduct themselves when working with the Afghan people. ISAF forces also work closely with their Afghan counterparts and political and tribal leaders to ensure that the planning and conduct of operations fully takes account of local cultural conditions.

Agriculture: Genetically Modified Crops

Question

Asked by The Countess of Mar

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The committee considered the scientific reports referred to in the previous Written Answer at its meeting on 20 February 2009 and advised that, although some differences were reported between laboratory animals given diets that contained a genetically modified (GM) crop variety and those given a non-GM variety, no conclusions can be drawn from these reports about the safety of GM crops. The minutes of the meeting will be published in due course on the committee's website at www.acnfp. gov.uk.

Armed Forces: Nimrod

Questions

Asked by Lord Astor of Hever

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The work to replace fuel seals on the Nimrod fleet was delayed by the requirement to manufacture a large number of new seals which the manufacturer did not hold in

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stock. In the case of one particular type, known as the AVIMO seal, it was also necessary to remanufacture the item from a more modern material.

Asked by Lord Astor of Hever

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: Nimrod aircraft will not fly after 31 March 2009 unless the engine bay hot air ducts have been replaced. There will be sufficient Nimrod aircraft available to continue to support all anticipated homeland defence and SAR operations and, on current planning, Nimrod aircraft will return to overseas operations by early summer 2009. During this period we will use other UK and coalition assets to maintain an effective surveillance capability overseas.

The replacement of fuel seals does not affect the availability of Nimrod aircraft for operations either in UK or overseas.

Aviation: Safety

Question

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): The Air Accident Investigation Branch, which is investigating the accident at Heathrow in January 2008, has not concluded that there is a high probability of further accidents caused by fuel icing on the B777. The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has also investigated an incident of engine power loss on the B777 which did not result in an accident. NTSB technical reports about this incident did not in fact conclude that there was a high probability of further incidents of power loss cause by fuel icing, although this was suggested in its press statements.

Since the accident at Heathrow in January 2008 Boeing has developed a range of changes to operating procedures to ensure that aircraft crews can minimise and manage any risk associated with potential ice accumulation in the fuel system. These procedures have been approved by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (US FAA) and have been made mandatory for all US and European airlines. Both EASA and the US FAA are content that, subject to the application of these procedures, B777 aircraft with Rolls-Royce Trent engines are safe to remain in service. The new procedures were shown to be effective in the incident investigated by the NTSB referred to above when thrust control was successfully recovered following an uncommanded power reduction in a single engine on a Delta Airlines Boeing 777 on 26 November 2008.



23 Mar 2009 : Column WA89

Bees

Question

Asked by Lord Moynihan

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) within Defra is working closely with bee representatives to improve the availability of authorised medicines for controlling the varroa mite. The VMD has received an application for the authorisation of a new varroa medicine and has identified two veterinary medicines for bees authorised elsewhere in the EU. The VMD is encouraging the manufacturers of these products to apply for an authorisation to market them in the UK and has offered a 50 per cent reduction on application fees for these products.

Veterinary surgeons already have the authority to import and administer veterinary medicines to animals under their care under the prescribing cascade. This can be done using the VMD's special import certificate scheme. As most beekeepers do not consult veterinary surgeons, the VMD is working with bee representatives and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to identify veterinary surgeons who would be able to provide this service.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Question

Asked by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The department does not have data on how many patients were admitted to hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning in each of the past five years. However, data are held on finished admission episodes, which are given in the table below. A finished admission episode is the first period of in-patient care under one consultant within one healthcare provider.

Count of Hospital Admissions for “Toxic effect of carbon monoxide” for 2003-04 to 2007-08 Activity in English NHS Hospitals and English NHS commissioned activity in the independent sector
Total Admissions*

2007-08

425

2006-07

457

2005-06

415

2004-05

397

2003-04

466



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The total admission figures includes cases where the carbon monoxide poisoning was accidental (such as a gas fire that leaked in the home and caused poisoning) and also cases where the poisoning was intentional (such as attempted self-harm by poisoning).

Census

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Lord Patel of Bradford: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, National Statistician, to Lord Laird dated March 2009.

As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your recent Question asking what ethnic groupings are proposed on the 2011 census form. (HL2087)

The format of the ethnic group question proposed for the 2011 census in England and Wales is as set out in the White Paper Helping to Shape Tomorrow published on 11 December 2008. This is available on the website at www.ons.gov.uk/census/2011-census/2011-census-project/legislation/index.html.

The proposals have been determined by the requirements of users of census statistics, identified through a programme of extensive consultation which began in 2005. Users are predominantly from central and local government, the health service, education authorities, the academic community, professional organisations, and commercial businesses, but the views of a wide range of other stakeholders were also taken into consideration in designing the question content for the 2011 census. Detailed information about how decisions were made about tick-box categories in the ethnic group question is available on the website at www.ons.gov.uk/census/2011-census/2011-census-questionnaire-content/question-and-content-recommendations-for-2011/index.html.

For information the proposed ethnic group questions to be asked in England and in Wales are attached.

Crime: Legal Costs

Question

Asked by Lord Laird



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The information requested is not maintained in this format in Northern Ireland. Accordingly, the information has been presented in the format in which it is retained in the two jurisdictions. This point was made to the Assembly Committee. The arrangements for handling very high cost cases are also different in the two jurisdictions. In Northern Ireland the costs for very high cost cases are reported as part of the overall Crown Court costs whereas in England and Wales, with the separate contracting arrangements, colleagues maintain a separate cost line which they wish to report on.

The average bills paid to solicitors and counsel in Crown Court cases in Northern Ireland for the past three years was as follows:

Financial YearSolicitorCounsel

2005-06

£3,276

£4,324

2006-07

£4,888

£6,612

2007-08

£4,142

£4,872

This means that typically the average defence cost for a Crown Court case in Northern Ireland in 2007-08 would be between £9,015 and £13,887 depending on the number of legal representatives assigned to the defendant.

In England and Wales the estimated average legal aid bills paid for a case during each of the past three years in the Crown Court was as follows:*

Financial YearCategoryAverage Cost

2005-06

Prepared for trial, guilty plea or trial

£6,900

Very high cost case trials

£395,000

2006-07

Prepared for trial, guilty plea or trial

£6,600

Very high cost case trials

£427,000

2007-08

Prepared for trial, guilty plea or trial

£6,100

Very high cost case trials

£530,000

Department for International Development: DEL

Question

Asked by Baroness Northover

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The tri-departmental Stabilisation Aid Fund (SAF) seeks to manage numerous projects, across a broad range of strands, in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Money transferred at parliamentary estimates reflects latest forecast expenditure by departments, based on judgments made

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in theatre on the likelihood of spend in-year and in accordance with priorities set by the tri-departmental programme board. While best efforts are made to ensure that estimates of forecast expenditure are robust, the operational environment in which SAF projects are delivered means that these can be subject to variation over time.

By the Spring Supplementary Estimate (SSE), estimated forecast expenditure indicated an imbalance between DfID, MoD and the FCO, which transfers at SSE sought to correct. Any reduction in forecast DfID project expenditure was matched by a reallocation of funds to other Iraq SAF projects.

Embryology

Questions

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The Government believe that the question of whether one technique in stem cell research has superseded another is, at this stage, entirely premature. Advances over the past decade in embryonic stem cell research have fed into advances in induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Therefore, it is impossible to predict what the relative contributions of nuclear transfer and PS cell technology might ultimately be to medical needs. That is why the Government continue to support all forms of stem cell research.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Lord Darzi of Denham: I have been advised by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that information on the number of embryos created from the commencement of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 until 2006 has been published by the HFEA in A long-term analysis of the HFEA Register data (1991-2006) which is available on the HFEA website at www.hfea.gov.uk/docs/HFEA_long_ term_data_91-06_versionl_revision4.pdf.

A copy has been placed in the Library.



23 Mar 2009 : Column WA93


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