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26 Oct 2009 : Column WA101

26 Oct 2009 : Column WA101

Written Answers

Monday 26 October 2009

Armed Forces: Unmanned Aircraft


Asked by Lord Moonie

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The Ministry of Defence keeps its capability requirements under constant review. We are currently conducting analysis to investigate the contribution that an armed Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicle system could make in current and future operations as part of its routine capability planning process.

Aviation: Flight Paths


Asked by Lord Rowe-Beddoe

The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): This information is not held by Her Majesty's Government. UK airspace planning and regulation is a matter for the independent Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). In discharging its duties, the CAA approves only flight profiles that are safe and which conform to internationally agreed International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) requirements as well as national regulations. Inevitably, this results in some over-flight of built-up areas by flights servicing UK airports. Aircraft operators-subject to any safety and airspace constraints-are actively encouraged to follow a continuous descent procedure (CDA) for arrivals into UK airports. CDA has been endorsed by both Government and industry as a key noise mitigation method for arriving aircraft.

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: Staff


Asked by Baroness Garden of Frognal

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): 441 staff based on headcount and 418.4 based on full-time equivalents work in Universities and Skills Group, organised into six directorates covering higher education, financial support for learners, graduate opportunities, further education, skills funding agency transition and skills.

Department for Transport: Staff


Asked by Lord Berkeley

The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): In the 2008-09 financial year, the General Lighthouse Fund provided £98,000 for the activities discharged by five departmental members of staff who spent a proportion of their time in support of the fund, as well as a full-time General Lighthouse Fund accountant.

In accordance with Section 211(2)(c) of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, any expenses incurred by the Secretary of State in connection with the administration of the General Lighthouse Fund are paid out of the fund itself.

Disabled People: Parking


Asked by Lord Swinfen

The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): The Disabled Persons (Badges for Motor Vehicles) (England) Regulations 2000 require a photograph of the badge holder to be placed on the reverse side of a blue badge. This is in accordance with an EU recommendation (98/376/EC) on parking cards for disabled people.

As part of the comprehensive blue badge reform strategy that was published in October 2008, we have committed to redesigning the blue badge to make it harder to copy and to forge. We are currently carrying out research into options and plan to consult in summer 2010.

Equality Bill


Asked by Lord Ouseley

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): We considered carefully the arguments and evidence provided in response to our public consultation on our proposals for the Equality Bill for extending protection against harassment and set out our assessment of these in the government response to that consultation published in July 2008.

Since then we have continued to engage with interested parties and to consider any further evidence they may supply. To date none of this information has presented a convincing case that additional protection is needed.

In particular Stonewall, the Employment and Diversity Forum and Citizens Advice have put forward examples to illustrate why they believe that specific protection against harassment should be extended in the Bill. Officials have met these organisations to discuss the arguments presented and the dialogue between them is ongoing.

EU: Expenditure


Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): Her Majesty's Government remain committed to far-reaching reform of the EU budget, which will refocus it on jobs and growth, tackling climate change, and ensuring security, stability and poverty reduction.

The Government's framework for European Union budget review is published in Box 2.1 (page 8) of the July 2009 European Community Finances White Paper (Cm 7640).

EU: Treaties


Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The entry into force of the Lisbon treaty will not alter the existing procedures for parliamentary scrutiny of international agreements. Mixed agreements, to which both the EU and member states are party, are subject to the same parliamentary procedures as any other international agreement entered into by the UK.

Treaties concluded by the EU alone are subject to the scrutiny procedures applicable to EU legislation.

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Once the Lisbon Treaty is in force, the EU (Amendment) Act provides that any treaties which amend the EU founding treaties in future can be ratified by the UK only if approved by Act of Parliament.

Falkland Islands


Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The Governments of the UK, Falkland Islands and Argentina worked together to ensure the success of these visits, under the formula on sovereignty in the UK-Argentina joint statement of 14 July 1999. We have always supported the humanitarian aims of these visits, and thus were determined to overcome any logistical barriers. We are pleased that those aims were achieved.

Argentine next of kin are free to visit the Darwin cemetery and memorial whenever they so wish, either by using the regular scheduled LAN airlines flights or on the cruise ships that regularly visit the islands. Many have already taken advantage of this, with around 3,500 Argentine visitors last year. The Falkland Islands Government have also looked favourably upon the idea of further specific next of kin visits in March 2010.

Human Rights


Asked by Lord Laird

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The Government have no reason to believe that the Irish Government are acting in a discriminatory manner towards their citizens in any of these fields.

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National Identity Register


Asked by Lord Hylton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Identity Cards Act 2006 sets out the legal basis for the provision of information, such as a person's name or address, from the national identity register. This may either be, with the consent of the individual, to approved organisations to assist in verifying an individual's identity or else, without consent, but only where it is in the public interest, to public sector organisations listed on the face of the Act or in regulations approved by Parliament under the Act.

In addition, there will be a limited number of personnel involved in the management of the national identity register who will need access to it, but any such access will be carefully regulated and audited.

Police: Northern Ireland


Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: In responding to questions about policing in Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State gives answers in respect of policing policy and other areas which are his responsibility. The chief constable is asked to reply to questions about operational matters, which are his responsibility.

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: We are not aware of any decision or direction by the Northern Ireland Office that overruled a decision by the PSNI not to award a contract in the way described.

Asked by Lord Laird

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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The recruitment of officers to the Irish Police Force is a matter for the Irish Government.

Privy Council


Asked by Lord Marlesford

The First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council (Lord Mandelson): Appointments to the Privy Council are made by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Recommendations are made on the basis that the individual concerned is involved in affairs of state or has a close and confidential relationship with the Crown. In practice, this means those who have obtained high office or senior positions in the executive, legislative or the judicial branches of the state either in this country or in one of the countries of which the Queen is head of state. It follows therefore, that most new privy counsellors are serving Ministers, senior parliamentarians or judges. By virtue of the office held, it is not considered necessary to hold details of privy counsellors' qualifications separately. Similarly, there is no independent scrutiny of Privy Council appointees. The only members of the Privy Council who play any active part in the policy work of the council or attend meetings are those who are serving government Ministers. Like all senior parliamentarians, they are directly accountable to Parliament for all their actions.

The only privy counsellor to have resigned from the council during the past 30 years is Jonathan Aitken, who resigned in June 1997 following his abandoned libel action against the Guardian newspaper and Granada Television. The enforced removal of a privy counsellor from membership of the Privy Council has not occurred since 1921, when Sir Edgar Speyer was struck off for collaborating with the Germans during the First World War. Enforced removal would be a matter for the sovereign, acting on the advice of Ministers.

A list of privy counsellors appointed since May 2007 will be deposited in the Library of the House. A full list of all privy counsellors is available on the Privy Council website at

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Railways: Diesel Vehicles


Asked by Lord Bradshaw

The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): There will be sufficient trains to serve those lines which will not be electrified by 2025. As announced in the rail electrification document of July 2009 there will now be less need for diesel trains and a greater requirement for electric trains. It was also announced that the Government would publish a new rolling stock plan taking account of the changed circumstances and setting out a revised strategy in the autumn.

Railways: Income


Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): Historic financial information for URENCO, the Tote, and HS1 is available in their annually published report and accounts, which can be found on their websites or at Companies House. Income from the Dartford crossing user charges is available in the Department for Transport annual report and resource accounts, available on the department's website.

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