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The Government have put in place Financial Services Authority (FSA) regulation of equity release products. The FSA's regime provides important protections for consumers, including requirements that information provided by regulated equity release providers must be clear, fair and not misleading. The FSA publishes a consumer guide to equity release products, which states that consumers uncertain about equity release should seek independent financial advice. This is available in hard copy from the FSA, or on the FSA's website at http://www.moneymadeclear.fsa.gov.uk/tools/publications/publications.html.

Government Departments: Electronic Data

Question

Asked by Baroness Byford

Baroness Crawley: Information on which departments hold personal information in electronic form within archives is not held centrally by the Cabinet Office. The nature of the personal information held by each department would only be known by each department and be recorded on individual departmental information asset registers.

In June 2008, the Cabinet Secretary published the data handling report (DHR) on the security of cross-government data handling procedures. The DHR deals with specific measures that departments must take in order to improve the security of personal data including its storage and transit. A full copy of the report is available at www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/reports/data_handling.aspx.

In addition, personal information held by government departments is governed by the Data Protection Act 1998 and each government department is responsible for ensuring that it complies with the Act when carrying out any processing including extracting and transferring personal information.

Government: Office Equipment

Question

Asked by Lord Bates

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The National Audit Office is accountable directly to Parliament and is not the responsibility of HM Government.

The UK Debt Management Office (which carries out the functions of the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt) does not purchase white A4 80 gsm photocopier paper.

The table below summarises the information requested for the remaining organisations for an estimated average price paid in the latest complete year for which figures are available for a 500 sheet ream of this specification of paper.

OrganisationEstimated average price paid in 2008-09

HM Treasury

£1.71

Buying Solutions

£2.23

HM Revenue and Customs

£1.70

Valuation Office Agency

£1.82

Government Actuary's Department

£2.60

The cost of white A4 80 gsm photocopier paper will vary according to the finished quality. Each organisation may select different volumes and qualities of paper even where they are using the same Buying Solutions framework. The average price per organisation reflects these selections.

Gross Domestic Product

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Baroness Crawley: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Dennis Roberts, Director, Survey and Administrative Sources, Office for National Statistics, to Lord Stoddard, dated January 2010.

The Director General of the Office for National Statistics has been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking what proportion of United Kingdom Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was represented by Manufacturing in 1997. 1 am replying in his absence. (HL 1439)

When assessing industry percentages to total production it is more appropriate to assess against

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Total Gross Value Added (GVA) as opposed to GDP. This is because GDP equals GVA plus unallocated taxes and subsidies such as VAT which are not able to be allocated to industry production and thus the percentages calculated would not add to 100 per cent.

In current (nominal) price terms for the calendar year 1997 Total Manufacturing is estimated to have made up 20.3 per cent of Total GVA.

Human Rights

Questions

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Minister for Trade and Investment (Lord Davies of Abersoch): The Government have included in their public consultation on ECGD's business principles a proposal that ECGD should adopt a policy of following OECD agreements related to the environment, sustainable lending and bribery, and not, in future, separately operate and additionally create policies which go beyond those agreements. The consultation document stated that the effect of this proposal would be that certain exports, being those involving credit terms of less than two years or an UK export value of less than SDR 10 million (circa £10 million) would no longer be subject to environmental and social impact due diligence, including human rights impacts. This would be consistent with the system of protection on such matters that members of the OECD consider appropriate as set out in the relevant international agreement (the OECD recommendation on common approaches on the environment and officially supported export credits).

No assessment has been made of the potential impact of such a proposal on the protection of social and human rights, including protection against the exploitative use of child workers and the use of forced labour overseas, because ECGD does not know, and cannot estimate, the level of future demand for support for exports falling into the above category. Without such prior knowledge, ECGD cannot estimate the proportion of those within that category that might have possible environmental and social impacts, including on human rights, or determine the classification between A, B or C impacts and whether such impacts would satisfy international standards as specified in the OECD recommendation on common approaches and, therefore, be eligible in principle for ECGD support.



25 Jan 2010 : Column WA301

Inquiries Act 2005

Questions

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The Government are consulting the senior judiciary to settle the terms of the protocol, which we aim to finalise as soon as possible. It is not intended that the Government will consult formally on the protocol before it is published and brought into effect.

Licensing: Live Music

Question

Asked by Lord Clement-Jones

Lord Davies of Oldham: The minor variations process came into force on 29 July 2009. Official statistics on its use are not yet available. We hope to be able to include data about minor variations in the next Statistical Bulletin on Alcohol, Entertainment and Late Night Refreshment Licensing, which we expect to be published in autumn 2010.

The Government have asked the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) to request information from licensing authorities about minor variations applications that relate to live music.

LACORS has informed the department that, although it has not conducted an exhaustive survey, it is aware of six examples of applications being made that include requests to add or extend authorisation for live music. There were three requests for the easing of conditions relating to an existing authorisation for live music, and three for new authorisations for live music. All these applications were granted. LACORS is not aware of any minor variation application relating to live music that has been refused.



25 Jan 2010 : Column WA302

Ofqual

Question

Asked by Baroness Walmsley

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): Our intention is to commence the provisions in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 which establishes Ofqual on 1 April 2010.

Her Majesty the Queen, on the advice of the Privy Council, has by order appointed Kathleen Tattersall OBE as the first Chief Regulator of Qualifications and Examinations from that date. The order, dated 9 December 2009, was made under paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 9 to the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. Section 13 of the Interpretation Act 1978 allows statutory powers of appointment to be exercised before the commencement of the provision under which the appointment is made.

Parking

Question

Asked by Lord Lucas

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): No guidance has been provided to officials on this matter.

Paragraph 5 of the practice direction supporting Part 75 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 sets out the procedure for dealing with applications to file statutory declarations and witness statements out of time.

The practice direction makes it clear that a copy of an application must be sent to the relevant local authority seeking representations in the first instance. It also provides that where the local authority accepts the application, it is treated as an in-time statutory declaration and the court registration is cancelled.

Where the local authority rejects the application, the practice direction provides that a court officer must make a decision on the evidence presented about whether the application should be granted or refused. The evidence might be for example, if a respondent was unable to comply with timescales because he or she had been out of the country at the relevant time. Both parties are then informed of the decision.



25 Jan 2010 : Column WA303

Rule 75.5A of the Civil Procedure Rules provides that any party may subsequently apply for a decision of a court officer to be reviewed by a district judge. This review is limited to the decision to refuse the application for further time and cannot consider the validity of the notice of the amount due or any order.

Q-Fever

Question

Asked by Lord Patten

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): There is currently no definite evidence to suggest the Dutch Q-fever outbreak has been caused by a different strain of the organism that causes Q-fever to that already found endemically in the UK.

Defra requested that the Dutch Q-fever outbreak be considered by the Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance (HAIRS) group at its meeting on 6 January 2010. The HAIRS group is a multi-disciplinary group chaired by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) with members from the HPA, Department of Health, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Defra (including representatives of the key Defra agencies: the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and Animal Health) and participants from each devolved Administration. The meeting considered the one published paper suggesting the possibility that the organism responsible for the Dutch Q-fever outbreak may be of a different strain, but considered this to be speculative not conclusive.

Therefore Defra continues to follow the guidance of the Veterinary Laboratory Agency's (VLA) small ruminants (sheep and goats) expert group, part of Defra's scanning surveillance network within the VLA. This group has concluded there are currently no reasons for the UK to stop the importation of goats or sheep from the Netherlands. In fact there are very few consignments of sheep and goats imported from the Netherlands annually (14 in 2008). Furthermore the heightened Dutch controls restricting movements of animals from farms found to be infected with Q-fever will also serve to restrict imports from the Netherlands.

Retirement Age

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): The UK does not have a national compulsory retirement age. The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 introduced a default

25 Jan 2010 : Column WA304

retirement age of 65 which allows employers to use retirement at 65 as a tool for workforce planning. Employers do not have to retire employees once they reach 65. They are free to continue to employ them as long as they like, and employees are entitled to request to continue working beyond 65.

We are bringing forward the review of the default retirement age from 2011 to 2010 and have asked stakeholders to submit evidence to inform the review by 1 February. The review will consider whether the default retirement age is still appropriate and necessary and will be based on evidence that is as robust, wide-ranging and detailed as possible. As set out in Building a Society for All Ages, any changes resulting from the review would be implemented in 2011, giving businesses enough time to prepare.

Schools: Reading

Questions

Asked by Baroness Verma

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): The Government have published an action plan Better Communication, backed by £12 million investment, which included appointing a communications champion. Jean Gross has been appointed as the communications champion and is playing a key role in promoting the importance of communication skills to children and in helping us to make a success of the commitments set out in the action plan.

The pupil guarantee, on which we are consulting, includes a commitment that all learners should get the chance to develop functional skills, including English. Functional English specifically covers oral communication and its applicability in the world of work. The changes to the secondary English curriculum which are already under way will secure this. Functional Skills is a key component of foundation learning, being developed as part of the 14-19 reforms to focus on the needs of learners at entry level and level 1.

Asked by Baroness Verma

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: The Government accepted all of the recommendations made by Sir Jim Rose in the final report of the independent review of the primary curriculum, published on 30 April 2009.

25 Jan 2010 : Column WA305

The report did not recommend introducing synthetic phonics in schools.


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