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To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Young of Norwood Green on 24 June (WA 285), how they monitor the practice
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): Regulatory bodies, including the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), Trading Standards Services and the Banking Code Standards Board, all play a part in monitoring the conduct of card companies. We are not aware of significant problems being identified, or numbers of complaints arising, in respect of this issue.
The OFT will consult this summer on draft irresponsible-lending guidance. Requirements of creditors in terms of the transparency of information that they supply to borrowers is expected to be a matter covered in the guidance.
The Government are also currently consulting on a number of measures to strengthen consumer protection for people using credit cards. These were set out in the consumer White Paper published on 2 July and will include a consultation on whether more information should be provided to borrowers.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the difficulties and risks caused to (a) prospective tenants, and (b) householders, by property scams conducted via the internet which result in overseas victims of fraudulent transactions paying deposits and rent to fraudsters and then attempting to take possession of accommodation in the United Kingdom which is already in the possession of an otherwise unknowing legal owner. [HL5043]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): The Office of Fair Trading has responsibility for internet enforcement cases that cause significant detriment to consumers and participates in international fora designed to address cross-border internet scams of the sort described. In the White Paper entitled A Better Deal for Consumers, published on 2 July 2009, the Government presented plans to enhance the OFT's internet enforcement capacity, to promote joint working with the police e-crime unit and to clarify and review the OFT's powers, and those of Trading Standards services, in this area. In particular, the OFT needs to be clearly empowered to act against online scammers, even when the victims are not in this country. The Government have asked the OFT to develop a long-term national strategy on internet enforcement by the end of 2010.
In relation to property specifically, if the scam has taken place abroad then UK laws and regulations governing estate agents, including redress schemes and ombudsman services, do not apply. If the scam is
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To ask Her Majesty's Government what resources they have given to the police to monitor and respond to international property rental scams carried out over the internet; and whether they have established any specialist units to co-ordinate a national response to that issue. [HL5045]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Following a cross-Whitehall review of fraud, the Government have allocated £29 million over three years to implement the National Fraud Programme. Among other things, this will fund a new National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC), expected to be fully operational in 2010, which will radically streamline the way that all types of fraud are reported to the police. It will enable the police to collate information from fraud cases reported in different regions of the country, leading to more meaningful intelligence and hence better targeted operations. The intelligence gained will also inform prevention advice and alerts to fraud threats for business and the public.
The Government will also provide £3.5 million over three years to fund the Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU). Additional funding is being provided by the Metropolitan Police Service. The unit will focus on supporting the new National Fraud Reporting Centre when it comes into operation in 2009. It will also work closely with other crime-fighting agencies to tackle international and serious organised crime groups operating on the internet.
The National Fraud Strategy, published in March, identified mass marketing fraud (which includes online scams) as a priority. During 2009, SOCA and the OFT will draw up a national control strategy that defines, co-ordinates and tracks action to reduce the harm inflicted by mass marketing fraud on UK citizens.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): Child victims have procedural rights to a certain standard of service under the victims code, which states that all victims in England and Wales have the legal right to support and information from criminal justice agencies. Child witnesses do not have equivalent legal rights but can expect to receive
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): There is currently no central record of the requested information and we are undertaking detailed work, including to enable us to answer this and other parliamentary Questions, to compile a comprehensive database recording the status of all our recent legislation. We will reflect on the feasibility of providing the Answer to this Question within a shorter time-scale by prioritising the criminal justice legislation and the question of whether or not it is in force. We need to determine whether or not this can be done without prejudicing the wider aspects of the work. If possible, we will write earlier than the end of the year with the information.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people were prosecuted for riding bicycles through a red light in (a) the latest year for which the figure is available, and (b) each of the preceding four years. [HL4898]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The number of persons proceeded against at magistrates' courts for bicycle offences relating to the neglect of traffic directions under Sections 35 and 36 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 in England and Wales for the years 2003 to 2007 (latest available) is shown in the table below.
Information held by the Ministry of Justice cannot separately identify cyclists who have been prosecuted for going through a red traffic light from other offences of neglect of traffic directions under the Act.
These data are on the principal offence basis. The figures given in the table on court proceedings relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offence for which they were dealt with. When a defendant
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|The number of persons proceeded against at magistrates' courts for offences connected with bicycles: neglect of traffic direction under the Road Traffic Act 1988 Sec 35 and 36. In England and Wales, for the years 2003 to 2007(1), (2), (3)
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to increase penalties for deliberate and wilful misuse of personal data in circumstances where such conduct is not objectively justified by the exercise by journalists, their agents and the public of the right to freedom of expression. [HL5024]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The Government have no plans to do so. In the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 the Government introduced a power to increase the maximum penalty to a two-year prison sentence (on indictment and six months on summary conviction). The Government believe that the existence of this power provides an effective deterrent against the illegal trade in personal data. These provisions have yet to be brought into force.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what financial assistance is available to disabled people who are or seek election to become councillors where they are ineligible for the Access to Work Grant. [HL5036]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): Access to Work provides practical advice and support to disabled people and their employers to help them overcome work-related obstacles resulting from disability.
Disabled councillors who are paid a salary rather than an allowance, or who receive allowances other than reimbursement of travel, mileage and meal allowances can claim Access to Work support, provided that all other eligibility conditions are satisfied including being paid at least the national minimum wage.
For those people who are not eligible for Access to Work funding, other assistance may be available. People under the age of 65 who have walking difficulties and/or need personal care which results from severe disability may be entitled to the disability living allowance. People whose incomes are below the level agreed by Parliament may also be entitled to income-related benefits, such as housing benefit, council tax benefit, income-based jobseeker's allowance and income-related employment and support allowance.
People in receipt of incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance can continue to receive benefit if they are elected local authority councillors. For incapacity benefit customers and those in receipt of the contributory element of employment and support allowance, account is taken of the amount of allowance payable but benefit is affected only if the allowance exceeds the prescribed limit of £92 in any week. In this event, benefit is reduced on a penny-for-penny basis by the amount that the allowance exceeds the limit. If a councillor is in receipt of the income-related element of 7employment and support allowance, a £20 disregard is applied to allowance payments. There is no limit on the hours worked each week as a councillor.
Jobseeker's allowance is a benefit for people who are available for, capable of and looking for work; we would treat any person seeking to become elected or elected as a councillor in the same way as any other person claiming jobseeker's allowance.
In the assessment of jobseeker's allowance, earnings paid to councillors are treated in the same way as other part-time earnings. They are taken into account and the relevant earnings disregard of £5, £10 or £20 is applied. If a councillor receives a payment for reimbursement of expenses incurred while carrying out their duty, it will be wholly disregarded.
Jobseeker's allowance is not normally payable to people who work on average 16 hours or more a week (or 24 hours in the case of partners of people receiving jobseeker's allowance). However, the hours worked as a local authority councillor are not taken into account when considering their eligibility for benefits. This means that people in receipt of jobseeker's allowance are not discouraged or excluded from becoming councillors.
Jobcentre Plus works with a range of providers from the private, public and voluntary sectors to provide specialist disability programmes to help people with a disability or health condition, who need more extensive support, to overcome the labour market barriers they may face. Programmes such as Work Preparation, WORKSTEP, New Deal for Disabled People and Residential Training can be accessed through the Disability Employment Adviser (DEA). DEAs also have access to work psychologists to assist them in supporting customers if appropriate.
From autumn 2010 the new Specialist Disability programme will replace the existing WORKSTEP and Work Preparation programmes and will be designed as a single streamlined and flexible programme based on effective needs assessment and creation of tailored packages of appropriate support.
The Department of Health also operates several schemes which give exemptions from NHS costs, for example prescription charges, on grounds of low income or because of certain medical conditions or needs.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many complaints have been made to the Secretary of State under Section 496 of the Education Act 1996; of those, how many have resulted in findings that local authorities have acted unreasonably in respect of their duties; and what directions the Secretary of State has given in such cases. [HL4990]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): The department does not hold information centrally on the number of cases where a complaint is raised under Section 496 of the Education Act 1996.
To ask Her Majesty's Government which authorities responsible for education do not forward to the Department for Children, Schools and Families the data returned to them by schools under the Education (Information About Individual Pupils) (England) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/2601), as amended. [HL5157]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): The Education (Information About Individual Pupils) (England) Regulations 2006 define the individual pupil data items to be collected from schools in the School Census. The Regulations can be viewed at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2006/20062601.htm. The provision of information to the department by all maintained nursery, primary, secondary, middle deemed primary, middle deemed secondary, special and non-maintained special schools, academies and city technology colleges schools is a statutory requirement by virtue of these regulations, which are made under Section 537A of the Education Act 1996. Schools maintained by local authorities provide school census information via their maintaining local authority. All local authorities forward their schools' data to DCSF.
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