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2 Apr 2009 : Column WA281

Asked by Baroness Hamwee

Baroness Andrews: If a local authority fails to comply with its legal obligations, petitioners could use the usual public law remedies, such as the authority's complaints procedure, complaining to the local government ombudsman or bringing legal proceedings such as judicial review.

Planning: National Policy Statements

Question

Asked by Lord Greaves

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Department for Communities and Local Government published a route map for implementation of the Infrastructure Planning Commission regime, including the current timetable for preparation of national policy statements, on its website on Tuesday 27 January. Copies are also in the House Library.

The Government are planning initially to produce 12 NPSs covering the following infrastructure sectors:

Overarching Energy (setting the context for the other five energy NPSs below)RenewablesFossil FuelElectricity Networks (i.e. power lines etc.)Oil and Gas Infrastructure (e.g. pipelines and storage)Nuclear PowerPortsNational Networks (i.e. strategic roads and railways, including strategic rail and freight interchanges)AirportsWaste Water (e.g. sewage treatment infrastructure)Water Supply (e.g. reservoirs)Hazardous Waste (e.g. high temperature incineration)

Given the complexity of the implementation programme and the need for consultation on, and parliamentary scrutiny or approval for, many aspects of the regime, the timings given may well change. We will keep the route map under review and update it if there are significant changes.



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Polygamy

Question

Asked by Baroness Warsi

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The rules for paying benefits to people in polygamous marriages have been in place since 1988. The department conducted an internal review of the arrangements in November 2006. It concluded that current policy, while recognising certain polygamous marriages contracted abroad, ensures that there is no financial advantage to claiming for those in such marriages.

Prisoners: Facilitated Returns Scheme

Question

Asked by Baroness Stern

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Information on the location of foreign national prisoners who have applied for the Facilitated Returns Scheme is not centrally collated and can only be obtained through the examination of individual casefiles at disproportionate cost.

The Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency has written regularly to the Home Affairs Select Committee in order to provide all of the most robust and accurate information on the removal and deportation of foreign national prisoners, including those removed under the Facilitated Returns Scheme. Copies of these letters are available in the Library of the House.

Prisons: In-cell Electricity

Question

Asked by Baroness Stern

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The design for the in-cell electricity is being developed and work is programmed to commence on site in February 2010 and be completed around September 2010. Work to replace alarms will be included in the project.



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Public Bodies

Question

Asked by Lord Selsdon

Lord Tunnicliffe: Information on board membership and remuneration is published in individual bodies’ annual reports and accounts.

Railways: Cancellations

Question

Asked by Lord Hanningfield

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): During the period from 6 January 2008 to 3 January 2009, 2.2 per cent of timetabled trains were cancelled in part or in whole.

The Department for Transport does not hold information specifically about cancellations occurring as a result of en-route delays to the service.

Train performance data for the rail network are collected and held by Network Rail. The noble Lord may wish to contact Network Rail's chief executive at the following address for a response to his Question: lain Coucher, Chief Executive, Network Rail, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG.

Railways: East Midland Trains

Questions

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): The trains are timed to arrive in Nottingham before 9.30 so that people can reach their workplaces on time.

Asked by Lord Bradshaw



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Lord Adonis: The number of services on each route complies with the franchise specification, which in this respect was unchanged from the previous franchise. Stagecoach, to which the franchise was awarded, included extra Nottingham to Matlock services in its bid on the basis of its assessment of market needs, and this offer was accepted and incorporated in the new franchise.

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

Lord Adonis: Certain trains call at intermediate stations, and this extends the overall journey time.

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

Lord Adonis: Population is not an explicit determinant of train frequency. There are places smaller than Exmouth which have a more frequent train service. The main determinant of train service frequency is demand, which is assessed when passenger rail franchises are specified, and kept under review by train operators.

Road Bridges

Question

Asked by Lord Pearson of Rannoch

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): The Highways Agency is responsible for motorways and trunk roads in England, including compliance of its network with European Union legislation. For older bridges, there has been a large programme of structural assessment followed by strengthening of bridges where necessary. Total costs are estimated to be about £777 million overall, including an allowance for future costs. Expenditure to the end of 2007 was about £651 million. These figures represent total actual costs; it has not been possible to determine the total costs in real terms.

Other roads in England are the responsibility of local highways authorities. Information on authorities' bridge strengthening expenditure is not collected centrally. The Department for Transport provides funding for highway maintenance to English local authorities, outside London, as part of the Local Transport Plan settlement capital allocations. Authorities may use this for bridge strengthening, and have also been able to apply for specific funding for maintenance of highway structures, including bridge strengthening, on the primary route

2 Apr 2009 : Column WA285

network (PRN) to which the European legislation applies. The Department for Transport has provided £221.2 million for bridge strengthening and major maintenance on the primary route network for the period 2005-06 to 2010-11 (£225.72 million in 2008-09 prices). Prior to 2005-06 the information is not available to this level of detail.

Roads in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are the responsibility of their respective devolved Administrations. Funding in London is a matter for the mayor. The strengthening of bridges owned by other bodies, such as Network Rail, is a matter for the respective bridge owners.

Roads: Litter

Question

Asked by Lord Mawson

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): There are two authorities responsible for the A34 verge clearance west of Oxford. The Vale of White Horse has an eight-week rolling programme which means that the road is continuously being cleared of litter. The other authority, Cherwell District Council, carried out its last quarterly cleanse over the weeks beginning 15 and 22 March 2009.

There are six authorities responsible for the length of the A40. The two authorities responsible for the section that lies west of Oxford are West Oxfordshire District Council and South Oxfordshire District Council.

West Oxfordshire District Council last cleared the verges of litter during the two weeks beginning 16 March and South Oxfordshire District Council carried out its most recent cleansing of its part of the A40 on 3, 11, 17 and 20 March 2009.

Rural Payments Agency

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Following criticism for being too lenient on negligent non-compliance in recent European Commission audits, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has reviewed its approach. In order to comply with European legislation and avoid further financial penalties, from 2009 the RPA will be using a 3 per cent reduction as a starting point for first-time breaches of the cross-compliance requirements and standards. The European legislation allows the

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RPA to reduce this to 1 per cent or increase it to 5 per cent, depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the non-compliance. Guidance on how the RPA will apply this flexibility was published in January 2009.

Schengen Information System

Question

Asked by Baroness Ludford

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Following approval of the UK's application to join the police and judicial co-operation arrangements in Schengen, work began to deliver our connectivity to the Schengen Information System (SIS) in 2002. However, before this could become operational the European Commission proposed the development of an upgraded system (SIS II). The date by which the European Commission initially envisaged that SIS II would be operational was very close to the planned UK date for access to the original system. Furthermore, the original SIS does not include biometric information and is therefore a much weaker control tool than other capabilities that are already in place or being implemented by the UK and our European partners. Ministers therefore took the decision that the UK should refocus its resources on the development of connectivity to SIS II, which will ultimately provide the UK with better functionality than the original SIS.

The Government have now approved a 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Safety and Security Strategy, which sets out how we will achieve our aim of a safe and secure Games in keeping with the Olympic culture and spirit. This strategy provides a framework for programmes run by the police and other agencies and by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG). The Government have also endorsed an outline 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Safety and Security National Concept of Operations, which describes how the strategy will be delivered. The Olympic security programme is intended to be flexible and make use of available technology and resources.

Changes to Schengen arrangements are not central to our security planning.

Schools: International GCSEs

Questions

Asked by Lord Lucas



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): Qualifications are reported in the achievement and attainment tables if they have been approved by the Secretary of State for use in maintained schools. Before a qualification can be considered for approval, it must be accredited by the independent regulator Ofqual. Ofqual's accreditation process is necessary to ensure that qualifications from awarding bodies meet specific requirements and are aligned to the national curriculum programmes of study in England. International GCSEs have not been submitted for accreditation to Ofqual. It would be inconsistent to set up an independent regulator and then approve qualifications that are outside its remit. Until such a time as Ofqual has accredited those qualifications and they are approved for use in maintained schools, we would not be in a position to include them in the achievement and attainment tables, including the contextual value added calculations.

Asked by Lord Lucas

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: International GCSEs (iGCSE) have not been put forward for accreditation by either of the two awarding bodies which offer them, Edexcel and Cambridge International Examinations (CIE).

CIE put forward for accreditation a number of Cambridge International Certificates, which are similar to its iGCSEs. These have recently been accredited by Ofqual, the independent qualifications regulator, and have come to Ministers for approval for use in the maintained sector under Section 96 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000. We expect to make a decision shortly.

Serious Organised Crime Agency

Questions

Asked by Lord Marlesford

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Serious Organised Crime Agency’s database, known as ELMER, on which suspicious activity reports are recorded does not have the capability to provide the information sought.

Asked by Lord Marlesford


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