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30 Mar 2009 : Column WA173

Written Answers

Monday 30 March 2009

Afghanistan: Military Equipment

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The Vector light protected patrol vehicle is used in a variety of roles in theatre and has been subject to detailed technical assessment. I cannot comment on the levels of protection afforded by the vehicle, as disclosure would or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the Armed Forces.

Agriculture: Pesticides

Questions

Asked by The Countess of Mar

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government consulted a wide range of stakeholders on proposals for the new regulation, and the consultation documents were made publicly available for comment on the website of the Pesticides Safety Directorate. A full list of consultees to whom the consultation was sent is available on the directorate's website at www.pesticides.gov.uk/environment.asp?id=1941.

Asked by The Countess of Mar

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Government welcome most of the new regulation and are not opposed to the introduction of hazard criteria for substances which are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction. The Government cannot, however, support the regulation because of the uncertainty regarding the impact of the hazard criterion for potential human endocrine disrupters. This provision is likely to have a detrimental agronomic impact, but in the absence of an impact assessment or

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of a definition of endocrine disruption for these purposes, it is impossible to judge whether there will be any positive benefit accruing from this element of the regulation.

Armed Forces: Belize

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): There are no plans to close the British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB). While the type and level of training at BATSUB has changed in recent months, a review of light force battle group overseas training found that there was a continued requirement to train there.

Armed Forces: Expenditure

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The Government set out their plans for public spending in the Comprehensive Spending Review in October 2007. The next update on the UK fiscal position will be at the 2009 Budget. It will set out how we are supporting the economy in the short term whilst ensuring that the public finances remain on a sustainable path in the medium term.

Asylum Seekers: Legal Advice

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Government are keen to look at the benefits of providing early legal advice to asylum applicants but need to be sure that those benefits do not affect our ability to conclude asylum decisions swiftly or have unwelcome costs implications for the system. The conclusions of the report on the pilot are incomplete and limited and make it difficult to draw any firm conclusions about nationwide implementation of the process. It is proposed

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to run an expanded version of the pilot later in the year to allow for fuller, accurate analysis from which we can draw conclusions.

The report has been released to a number of stakeholders, and I am arranging for a copy to be placed in the Library of both Houses.

Bailiffs

Question

Asked by Lord Lucas

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): A copy of the tender documents sent to private bailiff companies who were invited to tender for the enforcement contracts with Her Majesty's Courts Service will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Banking

Questions

Asked by Lord Marlesford

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The Government have a majority shareholding in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group. FSCS-eligible deposits in RBS Group banking subsidiaries are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) up to the usual limit of £50,000. The Government have not made any alternative arrangements.

Asked by Lord Laird

Lord Myners: These are matters for the management of the banks in question. UK Financial Investments Limited (UKFI), an arm's-length company wholly owned by the Government, has been set up to manage the Government's investments on a commercial basis. Its overarching objectives will be to protect and create value for the taxpayer as shareholder, with due regard to financial stability and acting in a way that promotes

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competition. It will not intervene in the day-to-day management decisions of the banks of which it is a shareholder.

Banking: Bad Banks

Questions

Asked by Lord Barnett

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): On 19 January, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced further measures designed to reinforce the stability of the financial system, to increase confidence and capacity to lend, and in turn to support the recovery of the economy. This included plans for the asset protection scheme, the details of which were announced on 26 February.

The purpose of the asset protection scheme is to restore confidence in the banks by protecting them against exposure to exceptional future credit losses on certain portfolios of assets. It is therefore aimed at tackling a similar problem to that which a good bank/bad bank scheme would tackle and requires much the same process in terms of identification of assets.

Furthermore, the scheme provides for the Treasury to take over the management of the assets covered by the scheme or to appoint an appropriate third party to do so in certain circumstances. These include instances in which participants have been unable to meet the detailed asset management requirements the Treasury has set or where there would be significant implications for the public finances of not doing so. The Treasury may also agree with the institution at a later date to purchase assets protected by the scheme.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and the Lloyds Banking Group (Lloyds) announced their intention to participate in the asset protection scheme (APS) on 26 February and 7 March respectively. RBS and Lloyds intend to protect £325 billion and £260 billion of eligible assets respectively. The banks will pay to the Treasury, in capital, a participation fee of £6.5 billion and £15.6 billion respectively. The agreement will mean that, in the event of a loss, RBS will bear a first loss after existing impairments of up to £19.5 billion, and Lloyds will bear a first loss after existing impairments of up to £25 billion. Thereafter, losses will be borne 90 per cent by the Treasury and 10 per cent by banks.

RBS has also agreed not to claim certain UK tax losses and allowances for a number of years, meaning that, when it returns to profitability, it will not be able to benefit from the losses accrued in the intervening period.



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Banking: Bank of Scotland (Ireland)

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The Bank of Scotland (Ireland) Belfast branch has operations in the UK within Northern Ireland which operate as branches passported into the UK from Ireland, in accordance with European legislation.

Branches of Bank of Scotland (Ireland) Ltd are regulated chiefly by the Irish financial regulator. The regulator publishes information on its supervisory processes which is accessible at www.financialregulator.ie.

Beavers

Question

Asked by Baroness Byford

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The results of a joint scientific study into the desirability and feasibility of reintroducing the European beaver to England were published on 18 March 2009 by Natural England and the People's Trust for Endangered Species.

The report considers the impacts that a beaver reintroduction might have and the conditions under which a reintroduction could be made. It concludes that the costs of mitigating damage caused by beavers are likely to be low relative to the economic benefits of the ecosystem services which they may provide, such as assisting with river and floodplain restoration. It identified the need for a full cost-benefit analysis as part of the planning stage of any beaver reintroduction programme. Reintroductions elsewhere in Europe may also provide valuable evidence on issues that need to be considered.

The report also includes an assessment of the likely impact of a reintroduction of beavers on British plants and animals, concluding that for all the taxa studied, including plants, invertebrates, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals, there are likely to be biodiversity gains, mainly arising from the creation of more diverse and naturally functioning habitats.

I will arrange for a copy of the report to be placed in the House of Commons Library.



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Natural England has not made any decisions yet about whether reintroductions of beavers should take place in England. In considering whether to license a reintroduction programme we would expect Natural England to take account of the applicable International Union for Conservation of Nature guidelines, and to consider the views of interested parties. Natural England would also need to be satisfied that the reintroduction would not have a significant adverse impact on natural or semi-natural habitats, native wildlife or socio-economic interests and that measures could be put in place to deal with any unforeseen problems, should they occur.

Belfast Agreement

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: There is no formal mechanism in the Belfast agreement for monitoring the progress of each Government other than the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. Human rights issues have been discussed within this forum, both at ministerial and official level.

Belize

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The UK supports a number of projects in Belize. Recent financial assistance has focused on the resolution of the territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala. A total of £500,000 was allocated to this from the Government’s conflict prevention pool during financial year 2008-2009 for projects in both Belize and Guatemala. Our High Commission in Belmopan has committed an additional £20,000 in financial year 2008-2009 to projects relating to climate change issues, human rights and intercultural exchange with Guatemala.

Further to bilateral funding, Belize also benefits from EU aid and financial support. Belize has been allocated €11.8 million from the European Development Fund for 2008-2013, focusing largely on rural development. During the period from 2006 to 2010, Belize, as a Sugar Protocol country, is expected to receive a total of €48.2 million from the EU in order to help improve the efficiency of cane production, processing and economic diversification. From 1999 to 2008, Belize has received a further €27.7 million to help modernise its banana production industry.



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Bloody Sunday: Inquiry

Question

Asked by Lord Mayhew of Twysden

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The Northern Ireland Office has worked intensively with the inquiry to develop a package of measures to minimise remaining costs, reducing expected final cost to £190 million. Work to identify cost-saving measures will continue for the duration of the inquiry. However, key measures already identified and agreed include:

closure of the inquiry's office in Northern Ireland, which will deliver average savings on rent, security, service charges and rates in the region of £13,000 per month for the remainder of the inquiry’s life span;

renegotiation of the rent for the inquiry's office in London, which should result in average savings in the region of £34,000 per month for the remainder of the inquiry’s life span; and

reduction and renegotiation of IT services for the remainder of the inquiry, which should result in average savings in the region of £31,000 per month for the remainder of the inquiry’s life span.

China: Demonstrators

Question

Asked by Lord Pearson of Rannoch

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): I cannot comment on the report in the Daily Express of 12 March. Actions taken by the police during demonstrations are operational matters for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.


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