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19 May 2009 : Column WA294

Lord Adonis: Details of the gender pay gap can be found at the Civil Service Statistics (Table 27) on the following website at www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_labour/CivilService_tables_2008.xls.

These gaps are caused by the varying gender distribution within the grades in the Department for Transport.

Government Departments: Bottled Water

Questions

Asked by Baroness Warsi

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): The information requested can only be provided at disproportionate cost. All expenditure was incurred in accordance with the principles of Managing Public Money and the Treasury handbook on regularity and propriety.

The Cabinet Secretary announced on 6 March 2008 that the use of bottled water for meetings and other official business is to be phased out across the whole government estate.

Asked by Baroness Warsi

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Expenditure on bottled water used within the Ministry of Defence is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost. Bottled water is supplied through multiactivity, private finance initiative and public/private partnership contracts. In accordance with government policy on sustainable procurement, the supply of bottled water is to be removed from such contracts, where drinkable tap water is available.

Separately, bottled water is supplied to service personnel in theatres of operations. Expenditure against the current contract is shown in the table below. Expenditure prior to October 2006 could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

EXPENDITURE ON BOTTLED WATER TO THEATRE

FINANCIAL YEAR

COST (£million)

October 2006-March 2007

1.495

April 2007-March 2008

2.602

April 2008-March 2009

2.520

Government Departments: Staff Absence

Question

Asked by Baroness Warsi

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting (Lord Carter of Barnes): (a) The rate of unauthorised staff absence for the DCMS and the Royal Parks Agency (the DCMS's executive agency) is zero.

(b) The below table shows the average days lost per person due to sickness absence for the DCMS and the Royal Parks Agency in the past three years.

AWDL
Reporting YearDCMSRoyal Parks

2006-07

4.9

4.8

2007-08

3.8

5.4

2008-09

4.1

4

The department does not have targets set for sickness absence.

Government: Ministerial Salaries

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Lord Patel of Bradford: Ministerial salaries are governed by legislation. The principal Acts are the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975 (MOSA) and the Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries Act 1991 (MOPSA).

Information on the total salary of each Secretary of State can therefore be found in the public domain, specifically in the Library.

Given the importance of public sector pay restraint at a time of economic uncertainty, salaried Ministers will not be accepting any pay rise in 2009-10 in their ministerial pay.

Gulf War Illnesses

Question

Asked by Lord Bramall

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The US Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) issued a press release on 1 December 2008 which states:

“The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has sent the October 2008 report from the VA Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses to the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) for review and recommendations".

At this time the MoD is not aware of any plans by the DVA to reissue or update its statement on this matter.

Gurkhas

Questions

Asked by Lord Moonie

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): As at 1 March 2009 there were a total of 3,880 Gurkhas in the Army who were Nepalese citizens. Of these, 130 were Gurkha officers and 3,760 were Gurkha soldiers. In addition, there were 280 Nepalese citizens serving in the wider British Army. There are no Nepalese citizens serving in the Navy or the RAF.

It should be noted that figures cited have been rounded to 10 and due to ongoing validation of data from the Joint Personnel Administration System, figures are provisional and subject to review.

Asked by Lord Moonie

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: Under current plans, the Army expects to recruit 230 Gurkhas in 2009-10.

Higher Education: Student Accommodation

Question

Asked by Baroness Sharp of Guildford

The Minister of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Lord Drayson): Universities hold the responsibility for ensuring that health and safety requirements are met in their institutions, including

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in any accommodation they directly manage. Universities will normally take a risk-based approach on health and safety and priority will be given to areas identified in institutions' own risk assessments.

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers, including universities, to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to offer first-aid cover to their employees. Universities do not have legal responsibilities for non-employees, but in terms of good practice institutions may include visitors and students in their first-aid risk assessments. The UUK code of practice on student accommodation, which the majority of universities are signed up to, specifies that:

Institutions also have access to the expertise of the Universities Safety and Health Association, which is a sector organisation dedicated to promoting heath and safety in higher education.

Housing: Private Landlords

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): HMRC is able to obtain a return of housing benefits paid to private landlords by serving a statutory notice on a local authority. HMRC would seek this information only to service specific tax compliance projects. Where HMRC issues such notices it would seek the information from all local authorities in the UK.

Human Rights

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Our diplomatic missions overseas—including high commissions, embassies and consulates—report events, activities and other information relevant to our policy goals back to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and to other government departments. Reporting on human rights issues can be requested directly by the FCO or government departments; for example, when preparing the FCO’s annual human

19 May 2009 : Column WA298

rights report, assessing whether or not to grant an export licence, or taking forward work to eradicate torture or promote freedom of expression globally. In addition, posts use their own judgment in reporting significant developments and providing analysis relevant to policy priorities.

Human Rights: Northern Ireland

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The Government will consult on the rights that might be included in a potential Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland in due course.

IRA

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The Government concur with the IMC's assessment, in its 21st report, that the Provisional IRA is following an exclusively peaceful path. It also notes that the IMC, which is responsible for monitoring levels of paramilitary activity, has not raised this matter as a concern previously.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Questions

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's advice on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland was presented to Northern Ireland Office Ministers by the commission on 10 December 2008.



19 May 2009 : Column WA299

The uncorrected transcript of the Secretary of State's full response to questions from members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee about the advice on lApril 2009, which makes clear his meaning, can be found at www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmniaf/uc404-i/uc40402.htm. This transcript is publicly available and I understand that the chief commissioner is aware of it.

The statutory functions of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission are set out in Section 69 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and provision for its funding in Schedule 7 to that Act. The Government have no reason to believe that the commission has exceeded its statutory remit and no plans to take any action in this respect.

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: There is nothing further I can add to the Answer given on 30 March 2009 (Official Report, col. WA 200).

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The process of considering the scope for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland stems from commitments made in the Belfast agreement. The presentation of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's report to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on 10 December 2008 was an important part of that process. The commission acknowledged in that report the dissent of two commissioners. The provision of the advice contained in the report fulfilled the commission's statutory duty, stemming from the Belfast agreement, to provide such advice.

Asked by Lord Laird



19 May 2009 : Column WA300

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's advice on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland was presented to Northern Ireland Office Ministers by the commission on 10 December 2008.

The uncorrected transcript of the Secretary of State's full response to questions from members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee about the advice on 1April 2009, which makes clear his meaning, can be found at www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmniaf/uc404-i/uc40402.htm. This transcript is publicly available and I understand that the chief commissioner is aware of it.


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