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The department has no agencies.



12 May 2009 : Column WA191

Houses of Parliament: Select Committees

Questions

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The information requested is not readily available.

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Davidson of Glen Clova): I am not aware of any occasion during the past five years when a Scotland Office Minister has refused to give evidence to a parliamentary Select Committee.

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): In the past five years there have been no occasions when Ministers from the Department for Transport have refused to give evidence to parliamentary Select Committees.

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): I am not aware of any occasion in the period when a Leader of the House has refused to give evidence to a Select Committee of either House.



12 May 2009 : Column WA192

Housing: Valuations

Question

Asked by Baroness Warsi

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The value significant code GG may be present where a property has a garden when similar properties in the vicinity do not, and it is believed the garden's existence is likely to affect the value of a property. An example would be a flat or a mews-style property with a garden in a location where neighbouring properties have no such facility. The Valuation Office Agency does not provide specific guidance to its staff on when to use the code—it is a matter of local knowledge and judgment. General guidance on the use of all its dwelling-house codes is published on the VOA's website at www.voa.gov.uk/publications/dwellinghousecodingguide/files/contents.htm.

Kenya

Question

Asked by The Earl of Sandwich

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Government have made clear their support for the Kenyan coalition Government. We have encouraged both sides of the partnership to work together to implement the reforms needed to prevent further violence and instability in the country and stand ready to assist where appropriate.

We have provided funding for Kofi Annan's secretariat in Nairobi and support to the Waki and Kriegler commissions. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister wrote to President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga on 9 April 2009 to relay our concerns at the slow pace of reform and to encourage them to intensify their efforts to deliver. The Prime Minister highlighted the need to tackle the culture of impunity and to hold to account those responsible for the post-election violence, as recommended by Justice Waki.

We are also encouraging and exploring opportunities for police reform with the Ministry of Internal Security, another crucial element of the Waki Commission report. We are also considering support for electoral reform.



12 May 2009 : Column WA193

Motorway Service Stations: Price Control

Questions

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): The Government set no requirements regarding pricing structure for the services provided by motorways service area operators.

The Department for Transport circular 1/2008, Policy on Service Areas and Other Roadside Facilities on Motorways and All-Purpose Trunk Roads in England, sets requirements for the provision, standards and signing of roadside facilities on the strategic road network. These include, for example, the provision of two hours’ free parking for all types of vehicle, provision of free toilets, 24-hour opening and the availability of fuel.

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

Lord Adonis: Since 1992, government policy has been that the private sector should identify, build and operate motorway service areas (MSAs). Through the Highways Agency, the Government continue to have an involvement in MSAs in relation to road safety and traffic management but has no power to control pricing structures at MSAs as they are run as commercial operations by the private sector.

Northern Ireland Office: Bonuses

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The Northern Ireland Office attaches considerable importance to answering Parliamentary Questions. All answers to Parliamentary Questions are cleared by a senior civil servant before being considered by Ministers.



12 May 2009 : Column WA194

Northern Ireland Office: Sick Leave

Questions

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: There is no such entitlement.

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Our records show that there are 40 members of staff in the Northern Ireland Office absent on long-term sick absence.

In nine cases, anxiety/stress/depression/other psychiatric illness is the medically certified reason for the sickness absence.

Northern Ireland Office: Staff

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: In the last three years, April 2006 to March 2009, 398 substitute staff have been employed by the Northern Ireland Office and its agencies. The cost in salaries and administration was £4,647,116.

Substitute staff have been employed to provide cover for a range of business needs which have included cover for maternity leave, sickness absence, recruitment delays and where substitute staff have the relevant experience or qualifications to carry out the job in the short term.

The transient nature of these business needs means that the creation of permanent posts to fill the need is not always a cost-saving alternative.

Northern Ireland Office: Taxis

Questions

Asked by Lord Laird



12 May 2009 : Column WA195

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Staff may claim taxi expenses for non pre-booked journeys which are approved by line managers in accordance with the departmental travel policy. These are reimbursed through staff expenses claims and are recorded as incidental expenditure on the departmental finance system.

Extracting the information requested would require a manual investigation of all the claims for this period. These costs cannot be provided except at disproportionate cost.

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The department was in the process of considering how best to deal with the error when Question HL3045 (Official Report, WA 72) was tabled.

Pakistani Christians

Question

Asked by Lord Greaves

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): Communities and Local Government commissioned research into 13 Muslim ethnic communities in England in order to improve our understanding of the diversity which exists within, and is often masked by, the blanket term “British Muslim”. For this reason populations of a relevant ethnicity but different faith—such as Pakistani Christian, Egyptian Coptic Christian and Indian Sikh—were acknowledged but deemed outside the scope of the research. There are no immediate plans to produce further reports on other communities.

Presbyterian Mutual Society of Northern Ireland

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool



12 May 2009 : Column WA196

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The Government sympathise with the difficult situation faced by members of the Presbyterian Mutual Society of Northern Ireland. Organisations such as the PMS which are registered as industrial and provident societies (IPSs) are exempt from regulation by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in respect of accepting deposits in the form of withdrawable share capital. Societies should make clear to members that their deposits are risk capital, held in the form of share capital that can be withdrawn. Under IPS legislation, any one member's shareholding is limited to £20,000. Being outside of FSA regulation, the PMS and its members do not contribute to, and are therefore not protected by, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Questions for Written Answer: Late Answers

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I apologise for the delay. Naturally I asked for the delay to be investigated. I regret that there is no clear reason other than inefficiency. Every effort will be made to ensure that such delays will not occur in future.

These Questions have now been answered (Official Report, 28 April, col. WA 32).

Schools: Performance Tables

Question

Asked by Lord Lucas

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): The school and college achievement and attainment tables provide a reliable source of comparative information to help focus the debate on standards and strengthen the accountability of schools and colleges. It follows that the indicators of performance at the end of key stage 4 must be based on performance in comparable examinations. This means that for inclusion in the tables qualifications must first be accredited by Ofqual as meeting certain standards and be subject to regulation to ensure those standards are maintained. International GCSEs (iGCSEs) have not been submitted

12 May 2009 : Column WA197

to Ofqual for accreditation by the awarding bodies concerned and so cannot be considered for inclusion in the tables.

Once accredited, qualifications for use in maintained schools must also be approved for funding under Section 96 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000. The achievement and attainment tables only recognise qualifications which have been approved under Section 96 because it is unlawful for maintained schools to offer other qualifications. While independent schools can legally offer qualifications which are not approved under Section 96, these are not recognised in the tables because to do so would mean that the tables would not be comparing performance across a common set of qualifications.

In the key performance indicator showing the number of pupils achieving five A*-C GCSEs or equivalent, including GCSEs in English and mathematics, we specify GCSEs in these core subjects because they have been accredited by Ofqual as meeting the statutory requirements of the national curriculum. Ofqual has not determined whether iGCSEs meet these requirements because they have not been submitted for accreditation. However, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) conducted a comparability study into the extent to which iGCSEs met GCSE criteria and corresponding programmes of study required for use in England, the results of which are available on Ofqual's website at www.ofqual.gov.uk/309.aspx. This found that, for example, the iGCSE in English literature includes no prescribed reading to meet the requirement to study Shakespeare.

The QCA is responsible for the methodology for establishing the relative value of qualifications reported in the achievement and attainment tables and the points awarded to those qualifications. Their system was designed as a measure of a school's effort and effectiveness in teaching these qualifications. UCAS's system, on the other hand, was designed as a measure of students' preparedness for higher education.

Sport: Swimming


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