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Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Minister of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Lord Drayson): The Medical Research Council (MRC) primarily supports research based within the UK. However, a large proportion of the scientists supported by the MRC have extensive

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national and international collaborations. In stem cell research there are examples of major international joint funding initiatives such as the new partnership between the MRC and the Californian Institute of Regenerative Medicine which aims to support collaboration between scientists in the UK and California. This high level of collaboration results in the production of many research papers worldwide based directly or indirectly on MRC support.

There is frequently a significant time lag between the provision of funding to projects and research publications arising from those projects. The consistent classification of research papers with a primary or significant focus on embryonic, as opposed to other stem cell approaches, requires a careful analysis of the contents of the papers in question. Management information held by the MRC, and extensive datasets such as PubMed,, Faculty of 1000, and Thompson ISI, cannot therefore reliably identify all papers with this research focus without trained scrutiny of the results.

A simple counting of research papers is not a reliable measure of output without information about the quality of these publications. Analysis of the citation rate of research papers, normalised by research field, is an established approach to measuring the impact of publications. This analysis relies on data about citations having accumulated over several years.

At present the MRC supports almost 200 programmes relating to stem cell research. Therefore currently such information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Lord Drayson: The MRC does make use of the US digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature, PubMed Central (PMC), which is an open and comprehensive database of bibliographic information about scientific articles. Prior to 2008, however, there was no systematic way of identifying publications attributed specifically to MRC funded work using this dataset.

Robust attribution of outputs to funding source is a significant challenge to all research funding bodies. In 2008 the MRC, the Wellcome Trust and others funded the US National Library of Medicine to extract data routinely from the acknowledgement field, where available in scientific papers, and flag this information in the PubMed dataset. This has improved information on papers acknowledged as arising from MRC funded work, but is still incomplete. There were over 2,000 MRC attributed papers flagged in PubMed in 2008, which is approximately 60 per cent of the output reported directly to the MRC by researchers. The MRC is working with publishers and researchers to achieve consistent acknowledgement of Government support in all research publications.

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Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Lord Drayson: The Medical Research Council (MRC) requires that all researchers in receipt of funding report their publications to the MRC. Historically this has been via a variety of different means, and the information is not consistently available. The MRC is currently developing an online system to collect publication data directly from all researchers, but this is still in development.

All recipients of MRC funding are required to acknowledge in their research publications that they have received funding from the MRC. This has been in a variety of different ways, making the systematic collection of these data difficult, and the MRC is working with publishers and researchers to address this issue. The MRC, in partnership with the other research councils, the UK's three national libraries and four national higher education funding bodies, also supports the Research Information Network which issued guidelines in 2008 for the standardised acknowledgement of funding source.

Due to the variability of information available in research publications and in the final grant report submitted by researchers, the MRC has recently piloted a new annual survey of research outputs. This survey, which will be launched during 2009, aims to collect information relating to the outcomes and outputs of all research supported by the MRC from 2007 onwards.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Lord Drayson: The comment made in February 2007 by the MRC's then chief executive relating to somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) expressed his view that at that time the efficiency of the process was very low. The primary aim of the MRC's award to the University of Newcastle, made later that year, was to incorporate technological advances to improve the efficiency of SCNT in human oocytes and develop a reproducible method of generating human embryonic stem cells following the transfer of the nucleus of an adult somatic cell into an oocyte. The project, which is due to end towards the end of 2009, will not derive stem cells for use in treatments.

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The project was subject to the MRC's rigorous peer review process and was considered to be internationally competitive. The exceptional nature of the award was due to the need to consider carefully the ethics of sourcing eggs for the project from an egg sharing programme. The MRC's council made the award after careful consideration of advice from the MRC's ethics policy advisory committee, which advised that the sourcing of eggs through this route would, in this case, be ethically acceptable and that the funding would not encourage the donating women to take risks that they would otherwise not take.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised me that two of the 15 most recent inspection reports published on its website, that discuss the time period for culturing embryos, provide details specific to embryos which have outgrown their structure. These reports are for Guy’s Hospital, centre 0102, (report dated 2 April 2008) and Oxford Fertility Centre, centre 0035, (report date 16 September 2008). The reports can be found on the website at

As I have already stated in my Answers of 10 February 2009 (col. WA 176) and 9 March 2009 (col. WA205), the embryonic masses that form when embryos outgrow their structure are not considered by HFEA to be embryos because they do not have the 3D organisation of an embryo, do not have a relationship between extra embryonic and embryonic tissue essential for normal development and do not develop a primitive streak. As such, culturing this tissue is not a licensable activity. However, the HFEA monitors the culture of this tissue as part of its research inspection process.

Energy: Anaerobic Digestion


Asked by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

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The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We are currently in the process of considering the bids and have not yet made any decisions.

Energy: Efficiency


Asked by Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government's strategy to promote improvements in energy efficiency consists of a broad range of measures—a series of carrots and sticks, regulations and support—designed to overcome the individual barriers within each sector of the economy.

Direct rewards for action on energy efficiency currently do not play a part. However, significant incentives in the form of grant and subsidy are made available to households through the Government's Warm Front scheme and the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT). Under Warm Front, the Government are set to provide some £959 million in grant to fuel poor households within the current 2008-11 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) period for the provision of efficient heating systems and insulation measures. CERT, which is a market mechanism, will see the six major energy suppliers invest over £3 billion in household energy efficiency over the same period. The Government have also introduced fiscal incentives such as a reduced rate of VAT on energy saving materials, enhanced capital allowances and the landlord's energy saving allowance.

Our energy efficiency strategy, the latest summary of which is set out in the 2007 energy efficiency action plan, is currently being reviewed as part of the heat and energy saving strategy consultation now under way.

Energy: Waste Plants


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): The existing Waste Framework Directive (WFD) (2006112/EC) does not require waste plants to be energy efficient. The revised WFD (2008/98/EC) requires a high level of energy efficiency for incineration and co-incineration

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plants. When the revised WFD is transposed in England, it will rest with the Environment Agency to determine what constitutes a high level of energy efficiency for each particular plant. The transposition of the revised WFD in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is a matter for the respective devolved Administrations.

Equality and Human Rights Commission


Asked by Baroness Warsi

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): As at 31 March 2009, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has:

(a) 525 full-time equivalent (FTE) posts;(b) of these, 83 FTE posts are vacant; and(c) of these, nine posts are temporarily filled by consultants, temporary staff and interim appointees.

EU: External Action Service


Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): No decision has been taken by the EU (Council of Ministers or European Commission) to train its staff to build an EU external action service, ahead of the possible entry in to force of the Lisbon treaty.

There is a long-standing tradition of collaboration between member states and the EU institutions in the field of training. This collaboration has been set up not just because of the possible entry in to force of the Lisbon treaty. It is about promoting regular contact in our European networks and spreading best practice, and has been in effect since the 1980s.

Further Education: Capital Investment


Asked by Lord Ouseley

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): As set out in the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills' Written Statement of 4 March 2009, following the Learning and Skills Council's (LSC) assessment of colleges seeking approval in principle or detail, it was confirmed that the council had already given 79 colleges the first stage of approval in principle. Government funding of nearly £2.7 billion would be needed for them to proceed. A further 65 colleges have submitted bids to the national LSC for approval in principle with an assumed funding contribution from government of a further £3 billion. As a consequence, there are many more schemes currently in preparation than can be funded in this spending round.

Sir Andrew Foster's report into how this situation arose and the lessons to be learnt for the future was published on 1 April. In line with the recommendation from Sir Andrew to develop a “needs-based” approach, LSC is now consulting with the sector on the approach that should be used to prioritise schemes and has established a reference panel of college principals convened by the Association of Colleges.

Budget 2009 on 22 April announced additional funding of more than £300 million in this spending round (2009-10 and 2010-11) to support FE capital projects. In addition we are planning a continuing FE capital investment programme in future years, with a planning assumption of £300 million a year from 2011-12 to 2013-14, to be confirmed at the next spending review. This provides a provisional £1.2 billion in total to 2013-14, which should allow us to develop around £750 million of new schemes.

We fully understand the need for certainty not just for colleges but also the construction firms that will have been involved in the development of these projects. John Denham wrote to all Members of Parliament following the Budget setting out the position and the acting chief executive of the LSC also wrote to all college principals setting out the work that was ongoing and the timetable for agreeing when the available funds would be allocated.

Government: IT Contracts


Asked by Lord Patten

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): The Government Equalities Office and its predecessor, the Women and Equality Unit, have not entered into any such contracts.

Asked by Lord Patten

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The information is not available for contracts entered into prior to the formation of the department in 2001.

The position on IT contracts with a value of £50 million or over entered into since then is as follows:

the realigned Standard Services Business Allocation and Integrated Communications and Network Services contracts (2005) are the frameworks which provide, respectively, IT and telephony services for the department and its businesses (Jobcentre Plus, Pension Disability and Carers Service and Child Support Agency, now Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission). These arrangements expire between 2009 and 2011, unless extended by agreement; andthe Central Payment System (2006) contract is for a system that provides payments to the department's customers which are secure, accurate and timely. It is expected to deliver by 2010-11.

Neither of these contracts has been completed, so no full assessment has been made.

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