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25 Oct 2010 : Column WA219



25 Oct 2010 : Column WA219

Written Answers

Monday 25 October 2010

Agriculture: Genetically Modified Crops

Question

Asked by The Countess of Mar

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): Genetically modified crops that are tolerant to the herbicide known as roundup are not being grown in the UK. All herbicides used in the UK are subject to a thorough assessment of health and environmental effects as set down in national and EU legislation.

Armed Forces: Defence Cuts

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): No. The UK's obligations to NATO have been at the forefront of the Government's thinking on the strategic defence and security review. The UK will continue to play a major role in the alliance: it is-and will remain-the bedrock of our security. Operations in Afghanistan are our main effort, and no changes have been made that will adversely impact on our ability to succeed in our mission. Defence spending will continue to meet NATO's 2 per cent GDP target over the review's period; and the UK will continue to contribute to NATO's nuclear deterrence posture, and to make available a range of capabilities to the alliance as required.

Armed Forces: Medals

Question

Asked by Lord Touhig

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals (the HD Committee), which advises Her Majesty The Queen on matters of honours policy, made the decision in 2005 that the Pingat Jasa Malaysia Medal could be received but not worn.



25 Oct 2010 : Column WA220

The HD Committee, of which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is a member, has reviewed this decision on two separate occasions and in both cases upheld the original decision.

The FCO is not aware of any plans by the HD Committee to further review the decision.

Banking

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government welcome the agreement on strengthening capital and liquidity standards reached on 12 September by governors and heads of supervision at the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision (BOBS). The agreement will be integral to ensuring financial stability going forward and significantly increases the quality and amount of capital banks will hold. In addition to this, a countercyclical capital buffer will be introduced to lean against excessive credit growth. For the first time, internationally agreed liquidity standards will also be introduced, as well as a leverage ratio.

The supervision of individual institutions and system-wide regulatory requirements are determined by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), an independent body. Following the onset of the financial crisis the FSA implemented a supervisory framework, which already requires the largest deposit-taking institutions to hold significantly more and better capital than under Basel II. This has resulted in UK banks being among the best capitalised across the advanced economies. While implementation of the new Basel III measures will be phased in gradually, mitigating any risks posed to the economic recovery, banks will be required to increase further the quality and amount of capital held from 1 January 2013 and in every year thereafter, until full implementation of the majority of elements is achieved in January 2018.

These measures will ensure that both individual banks and the wider financial system are significantly safer. More, and better-quality, capital will ensure that banks are able to survive losses and continue to lend to the real economy; enhanced liquidity in the financial system will protect banks from shocks in the funding markets; and the leverage ratio will prevent a system-wide build-up of excessive leverage, as was the situation in the lead-up to the crisis.

Benefits

Questions

Asked by Lord Mawhinney



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The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Means-testing child benefit would create a complex new system to assess household incomes. It would mean that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) would need to contact all 7.8 million households in receipt of child benefit and ask claimants and their partners to provide their income details. From a customer perspective, this delivery option would place a significant burden on all child benefit claimants.

Asked by Lord Knight of Weymouth

Lord Sassoon: The most urgent task facing this country is to implement an accelerated plan to reduce the deficit. Underpinning the Government's approach is a commitment to fairness. The Government will ensure that every part of society makes a contribution to deficit reduction while supporting the most vulnerable, including children and pensioners.

The spending review published on 20 October set out spending plans for the four years up to 2014-15. It announced that child benefit will be withdrawn from families with a higher-rate taxpayer from January 2013, so that people on lower incomes are not subsidising those who are better off. The Government also announced they will preserve key benefits for older people, including winter fuel payments and free off-peak local bus travel.

The Government will use some of the savings from withdrawing child benefit from families with a higher-rate taxpayer to fund significant above-indexation increases in the child tax credit. This is better targeted on low-income families, worth £30 in 2011-12 and £50 in 2012-13, and will ensure the spending review will have no measurable impact on child poverty in the next two years.

Asked by Baroness Smith of Basildon

Lord Sassoon: The number of families claiming child benefit and the number of children to which this relates in Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk as at 31 August 2009 is shown below:

FamiliesChildren

Essex

172,045

302,155

Norfolk

95,335

165,935

Suffolk

82,855

146,565

This information is published annually. August 2010 data will be published in February 2011.



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Businesses

Questions

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Government have announced a new enterprise allowance which will support start-ups amongst the unemployed. It will give an unemployed person entering self-employment the support they need to start a successful business. This will include a weekly payment linked to the value of their benefit for a period of up to six months and access to mentoring and loan finance of up to £1,000. The aim is to support the creation of 10,000 new businesses, with scope to go further in future years.

In addition, people looking to start businesses will be able to access a start-up hub within Businesslink.gov, the Government's primary online channel for government guidance, information, support and transactions. This will provide new start-ups with tools and templates, online training and advice to help them start as well as the ability to register their company and comply with regulations more easily. Launching in 2011, the start-up hub will also include a tax registration wizard, which will simplify the process of registering for CT, PAYE and VAT.

The Government are looking to streamline the existing business support framework and will be considering what else may be required in light of the outcome of the spending review.

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

Baroness Wilcox: Businesses' decisions to remain in the UK are complex. The Government are committed to promoting growth by tackling the deficit, rebalancing the economy and creating the right conditions to support a private sector-led recovery. This includes:

clear direction and certainty on deficit reduction;creating a tax regime that is the most competitive corporate tax system in the G20;creating the Office of Tax Simplification to provide the Government with independent advice on simplifying the UK tax system;getting the regulatory framework right and, from 1 September, the ground-breaking new one-in, one-out system began;maintaining business investment by ensuring that our legal and institutional frameworks are fair, efficient and transparent and provide the necessary certainty for firms to conduct their business with confidence;tackling real and perceived barriers faced by people wanting to start and grow a business including improving access to finance; and

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maintaining active contact and relationships with businesses and industry bodies to ensure that barriers to growth and investment are understood and dealt with.

Further details can be found in A Strategy for Sustainable Growth, published in July 2010, at http://interactive.bis.gov.uk/comment.growth/. Other recent action to support these goals include:

creating high-quality transport infrastructure-over £10 billion over the spending review to provide new road schemes and to maintain existing roads; fully funding Crossrail and supporting improvements to the London Underground network; and £14 billion for rail improvements;investment in areas where public capital can generate returns-rolling out superfast broadband access across the country; a regional growth fund of £1.4 billion to support investment in infrastructure to promote growth; and investing £1 billion with additional significant proceeds from the sale of government-owned assets to provide incentives for investment in the low-carbon economy through the green investment bank; anddelivering outcomes which support growth, skills and research-including £250 million extra funding compared to the previous Government for new adult apprenticeships; and maintaining the science budget in cash terms over the spending review.

Cambodia

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK, with EU partners, has raised concerns with the Government of Cambodia about treatment of opposition members of the National Assembly including Sam Rainsy on a number of occasions. The local EU presidency raised the democratic rights of opposition parliamentarians at a meeting with the Minister of Interior, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, on 15 June. EU and Cambodian representatives also discussed this issue during the Cambodia-EC Joint Committee held in Brussels on 7 and 8 October.

Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office met with Sam Rainsy during his visit to the UK on 22 September.

Civil Service: Redundancy

Question

Asked by Lord Laird



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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Civil servants employed since 30 July 2007 are not currently covered by the Civil Service Compensation Scheme. However, if they are made redundant and have at least one year's service, they would, with Treasury approval, receive a special severance payment of one month's pay for each year of service. The Government have announced proposed reforms to the compensation scheme which will apply to all civil servants. Under these proposals civil servants who are made redundant will receive payments of one month's pay for each year of service. Payments will be capped at 12 months' pay in cases of compulsory redundancy and 21 months' pay for those leaving on a voluntary basis. We intend that these terms will supersede the current terms following the passing of interim legislation (Superannuation Bill). The Bill had its Third Reading in the House of Commons on 13 October.

Commission for Rural Communities

Question

Asked by Baroness Quin

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): The decision to abolish the Commission for Rural Communities was made after full consideration within Defra and the usual consultation across government. The reasons lying behind the decision were included in the Ministerial Statement made by my right honourable friend Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in the House of Commons on 29 June 2010. A copy of the Statement is available at http://www. publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm100629/wmstext/100629m0001.htm.

Common Agricultural Policy

Question

Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): We were broadly content with much of the final high-level experts' group report and its recommendations, but we could not support all of the presidency-drafted council conclusions.

We aim to see that the outcomes which follow it will have only positive impacts in the UK. We would welcome those things, such as increased market orientation of all operators which should boost UK competitiveness, since this is at the very heart of our ambitions for common agricultural policy (CAP) reform.



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However, we cannot accept anything which prejudges the outcome of CAP 2013 negotiations or which threatens the proper functioning of the internal market.

Commonwealth

Question

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government place great importance on the vital role the Commonwealth and its Secretary-General play in promoting and protecting democratic values and fundamental human rights among its members. Ministers and officials regularly make this clear in their interactions with the Commonwealth Secretariat, including most recently when my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary met with Secretary General Sharma on 25 August 2010.

To date the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), the body responsible for addressing serious and persistent violations of Commonwealth principles and values, has taken the lead in speaking out over human rights abuses by members. The Secretary-General has generally played a less visible but equally valuable role using his good offices to prevent abuses before they occur and by encouraging members to work with the Commonwealth to address human rights concerns where they arise.

An 11-member eminent persons group, which includes my right honourable friend Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Foreign Secretary, has been appointed to examine options for reform with a view to enabling the Commonwealth to achieve its full potential. Concurrently the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group is undertaking a review of its mandate and working methods. Both bodies will make recommendations to Commonwealth leaders at their next meeting in Perth, October 2011.

Thus far, CMAG has acted only when there has been an unconstitutional overthrow of a Government, but has not dealt with other serious or persistent violations of other declared core values of the Commonwealth. While the review remains a work in progress the Government support the view of eminent persons group member Sir Ronald Sanders, who has expressed a clear desire to see CMAG and the Secretary-General empowered to address the full range of violations of Commonwealth principles and values.

The Government strongly support Commonwealth revitalisation. We hope these processes will result in a Commonwealth that is more effective in protecting democracy, including fundamental human rights, and focused on promoting greater prosperity through enhanced trade linkages.



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Courts: Magistrates' Courts

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Six district judges (magistrates' courts) preside at magistrates' courts in Wales. They are allocated to the following courts:

Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare;

Cardiff and Swansea;

Cardiff;

Wrexham;

Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot and Bridgend; and

Pontypridd.

However, these district judges may, like all district judges, be deployed at any magistrates' court in England and Wales.

Defence: UK-France

Questions

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The United Kingdom and France are discussing a range of options to enhance bilateral defence co-operation, which is in the best interests of both nations. We intend to set out a new framework for long-term co-operation at the next UK-French summit.

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

Lord Astor of Hever: The UK and France are looking to develop closer working relationships, which includes defence. Discussions are continuing and an announcement will be made shortly.

Employment

Question

Asked by Lord Liddle



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The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): HM Treasury has not made an estimate of employment by sector, broken down by region for the coming years.

The Office for Budget Responsibility published a forecast at Budget 2010 which showed that whole-economy employment is expected to rise by nearly 2 million between 2010-11 and 2015-16.

The Office for National Statistics has published historic estimates of private and public sector employment by region. Data for the period 1999 to 2008, and more recent estimates, are available from http://www. statistics.gov.uk/StatBase/Product.asp?vlnk=13615.

Energy: Nuclear Power

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): The Government believe that nuclear power has a role to play in our energy mix, alongside a massive expansion in other low-carbon technologies, including renewables and carbon capture and storage.

EU: Legislation

Question

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The proposed clause to be included in the forthcoming EU Bill will place on a statutory footing the existing common law principle that EU law takes effect in the United Kingdom through the will of Parliament by means of the European Communities Act 1972. It will not alter the existing legal order or the relationship between EU and domestic law.

EU: UK Rebate

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon



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The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The meeting of European Commissioners on 7 October was an internal meeting of Commissioners and therefore HM Government were not present. A minute of this meeting is not expected to be made public and it would be inappropriate to speculate on what was said.

The Government have made clear that the UK abatement remains fully justified because of expenditure distortions in the EU budget and they will oppose any move further to reduce the abatement beyond what was given away by the previous Government in 2005.

FIFA World Cup 2018

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Baroness Garden of Frognal: The Government have made no representations to FIFA about the reports of corruption.

Finance: Borrowing

Questions

Asked by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The table below shows the latest available data for holdings of gilts by sector.

Gilt holdings as at end June 2010
£ billion%

Overseas

274.5

29.93

Insurance companies and pension funds

266.1

29.01

Bank of England*

200.4

21.85

Other financial institutions

86.8

9.46

Banks

65.0

7.09

Households

9.6

1.05

Other†

14.8

1.61

Asked by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock



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Lord Sassoon: Office for National Statistics (ONS) data for end-June 2010 gives overseas holdings of gilts as £274.5 billion. The ONS do not publish a breakdown between holders. Details of the gilt register of holdings are confidential.

Finance: Interest Rates

Questions

Asked by Lord Desai

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The table below shows the cash weighted average real interest rates at which index-linked gilts have been issued for each of the past five financial years.

2005-062006-072007-082008-092009-102010-11 (to date)

Index-linked %

1.3

1.3

1.3

1.1

0.8

0.8

The Government do not calculate real yields on conventional (or nominal) gilts because nominal interest rates determine government debt interest payments.

Asked by Lord Myners

Lord Sassoon: Since the June Budget on 22 June 2010, long-term interest rates have fallen. Fiscal credibility will help keep interest rates lower for longer and this will support investment and growth.

Flooding

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

Baroness Verma: The UK is the fourth largest contributor to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), giving £40 million per annum. In addition, the Met Office gives funds to the WMO Voluntary Co-operation Programme which supports developing country national met services. The UK Met Office provides weather forecasts direct to the Pakistan met department to support its forecasts during the floods.



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In Pakistan, as well as supporting humanitarian needs, we will ensure that poor peoples' livelihoods are rebuilt to withstand future disasters, including floods. We have also funded similar work in other disaster-prone countries such as Haiti and Burma. The Department for International Development (DfID) gives £1 million per annum to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and £1.7 million per annum to the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery to build resilience to disasters.

Future funding provided by DfID will be based on the findings of the ongoing multilateral aid review and outcome of the comprehensive spending review.

Gaza

Questions

Asked by Lord Hylton

Baroness Verma: We have recently received information from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that although the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) in the West Bank sends deliveries of drugs to the central drug store in Gaza at irregular intervals, there is an average of 80 to 100 items out of stock of 480 essential drugs at any one time. WHO is in the process of procuring out-of-stock items with funding from the Islamic Development Bank, and reports that the next consignment of 17 truckloads of drugs and consumables from the MoH is awaiting clearance from Israel.

Many donors and international non-governmental organisations also provide drugs to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, although the ministry reports that approximately 20 per cent of these drugs cannot be used for a variety of reasons-for example, because their expiry dates have passed. The UK Government do not provide drugs to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

Asked by Lord Warner

Baroness Verma: The UK is funding the UN Access Co-ordination Unit (ACU) which works with the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and aid agencies to facilitate the transfer of goods including medical equipment and supplies. The ACU works closely with the World Health Organisation which monitors the levels of drugs, disposable items and medical equipment in Gaza, and co-ordinates the delivery of donations to try to ensure sufficient levels

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of essential drugs are maintained. According to WHO, relaxation of restrictions by Israel has reduced the need for time-intensive negotiations over the import of basic medical items and WHO intervention is now only needed for specific items which have been classified dual-use.

The UK continues to call for full, safe and unhindered access into and out of Gaza including the free movement of people.

Government Departments: Closures

Questions

Asked by Lord Beecham

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): In his spending review Statement. the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed the closure of the remaining government offices, including Government Office North East. This will take place by no later than 31 March 2011. We will publish more detail in due course. The main costs of closure will be staff liabilities and we are working to minimise these by redeploying surplus GO staff wherever possible.

Asked by Lord Beecham

Baroness Hanham: As outlined in the Secretary of State's Ministerial Written Statement of 22 July, the abolition of regional government is part of a fundamental transfer of power down to local councils and down further to local communities, scaling back England's overcentralised state.

We anticipate that some functions currently undertaken by government offices, such as support for European regional development fund programmes including GO North East, will continue. It will be for departments to decide the type, size and location of these functions. It will be for the individual departments to set out their plans for these continuing in due course. We continue to work on a cross-departmental basis with the national trade union side to finalise arrangements for continuing functions and handling stalling issues that will arise out of the closure decision.

Consultation on the future of the network and its functions were part of the spending review consultation process.



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Government Departments: Salaries

Questions

Asked by Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): Against the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) current planning assumptions, we estimate that a complete salary and increment freeze would save the following amounts:

Estimated savings (£ million)2011-122012-13

Civil Servants1

22

77

Military

183

435

However, the pay freeze announced by the Government on 22 June 2010 stated that those earning £21,000 or less will be awarded a pay rise of at least £250 in these years. In addition, service personnel will still receive annual increments where they move one step up the pay scale on the anniversary of their seniority in rank, subject to satisfactory performance and provided they are not already on the top rung for that rank.

The MoD has no plans for 2013-14 and 2014-15 against which savings from a pay and increment freeze could be reliably calculated.

Asked by Lord Newby

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): Following the spending review settlement for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), detailed workforce plans and pay bill allocations, on which such estimates would be based, are being developed and finalised. We are therefore currently unable to provide estimates of savings for the years in question.

Asked by Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): Following the spending review settlement for the Scotland Office, detailed workforce plans and pay bill allocations, on which such estimates would be based, are being developed and finalised. We are, therefore, currently unable to provide estimates of savings for the years in question.



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Asked by Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not have automatic annual pay increments as part of its pay system. All pay awards in the FCO, both for staff in the Senior Civil Service (SCS) and below, are solely performance-related as measured by the annual appraisal process. For staff in the SCS, consolidated base pay has been frozen for 2010-11. For staff below the SCS, the FCO is in a three-year pay agreement which runs from 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2011 and so does not enter the two-year public sector pay freeze until 1 April 2011.

All staff below the SCS are entitled to a salary increase with effect from 1 April 2010. The specific increases are variable based on their performance in the previous reporting cycle. Those whose level of performance is assessed as needing improvement will receive no award. The estimated increase in pay bill linked to these increases is £3.6 million or 1.58 per cent of the pay bill.

Asked by Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The DWP does not have incremental pay progression; our structures do not have spine points. Pay progression for DWP employees is paid as part of the annual pay award. The 2010 pay award for the period 1/7/10 to 30/6/11 is still to be finalised and implemented.

Asked by Lord Newby

Baroness Verma: The Department for International Development (DfID) currently has a pay freeze in place that covers increases to salary scales and incremental progression for all Home Civil Service staff paid more

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than £21,000 a year. With the exception of those earning less than this amount, who were awarded a flat-rate salary increase of £250 a year, no member of DfID's staff has received a general increase to pay or a salary increment in the 2010-11 financial year.

Asked by Lord Newby

Baroness Rawlings: There are 17 members of staff in the department who earn £21,000 or less and as such will be eligible to receive a £250 consolidated pay increase in the 2010-11 financial year. This represents 3.91 per cent of the total number of staff in the department. The total cost of this increase to the department's pay bill is estimated to be £6,200, which is 0.025 per cent of the total pay costs. Otherwise, the department is implementing a pay freeze.

Asked by Lord Newby

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): For most staff in Defra, including its executive agencies, the pay freeze in 2010-11 will mean that they receive no pay progression/increment.

For the remaining small group of staff it is not possible to provide an accurate analysis of how many will be eligible to receive an increment/pay progression in the current financial year, until discussions with the unions have been concluded.

The discussions are taking place in the context of the constraints governing the two-year pay freeze.

Asked by Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): The Scotland Office does not employ staff directly. All of its staff are on secondment from other public bodies, mainly the Ministry of Justice

25 Oct 2010 : Column WA235

and the Scottish Government. Both bodies were required to honour multi-year pay deals which were entered into before any pay freeze was announced, and have made consolidated pay awards in 2010-11 to employees outside the Senior Civil Service. Senior Civil Service staff had their consolidated base pay frozen in 2010-11.

All Scotland Office staff outside of the Senior Civil Service received an increment in pay in the year ending 5 April 2011, either because of contractual progression, or because their full-time equivalent earnings were under £21,000 a year. These pay increments will increase the pay bill by around 3 per cent, or around £68,000, in 2010-11. No Senior Civil Servants received an increment in pay.

Government: Non-Ministerial Departments

Question

Asked by Lord Higgins

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), like its predecessor departments, is a non-ministerial department. It is established by the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005. The Queen appoints commissioners for HMRC who exercise statutory functions on behalf of the Crown. This makes HMRC different from most other government departments, which work under the direct day-to-day control of a Minister. HMRC's status as a non-ministerial department aims to ensure that the administration of the tax system is fair and impartial and there is no ministerial involvement in taxpayer cases.

Gypsies and Travellers

Question

Asked by Baroness Whitaker

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The Government intend to revoke Planning Circular 01/06 (ODPM) Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Sites and Planning Circular 04/07 Planning for Travelling Showpeople subject to the necessary impact assessments and following a public consultation to which all interested parties are entitled to respond. The circulars will be replaced with a short policy statement and light-touch guidance.



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Heritage Lottery Fund

Questions

Asked by Lord German

Baroness Garden of Frognal: No decision has yet been taken on the longer term future of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme. An announcement will be made following the spending review.

Asked by Lord German

Baroness Garden of Frognal: The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) operates a number of funding schemes that support repairs to places of worship. The Your Heritage programme has, to date, awarded £11.55 million to places of worship. Of this figure, £4.96 million was spent on conservation and other building works, including small and preventive repairs, helping 236 places of worship UK-wide. Projects must meet the HLF's mandatory learning criteria, and repair work must be part of a wider project which helps people discover and participate in their heritage.

The repair grants for the places of worship programme, jointly funded by HLF and English Heritage, supports qualifying high level structural repairs costing a minimum of £10,000 and urgently needed within the next two years.

Higher Education: Funding

Question

Asked by Lord Willis of Knaresborough

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Higher Education Funding Council for England's (HEFCE) methodology for the award of teaching grant to institutions is based on the principle that similar activity should be funded at similar rates. There is therefore no additional allocation to Oxford and Cambridge. All institutions are treated equally.



25 Oct 2010 : Column WA237

India

Questions

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK strongly encourages all Commonwealth member states to implement key international agreements aimed at improving anti-trafficking efforts across the world, primarily the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime and the Palermo Protocol (on human trafficking).

We regularly raise human rights issues with the Government of India. We are concerned about reports of human trafficking and slavery and will continue to raise these issues with appropriate authorities at national and state level and also through the EU-India Human Rights Dialogue. We continue to work in the Commonwealth to promote human rights standards.

Asked by Lord Hylton

Lord Howell of Guildford: Human rights reporting is key to our work to promote and protect human rights around the world. The scope and quality of our annual reporting will not change. We will continue to report annually to Parliament in the form of a command paper. In order to ensure greater accessibility by the wider public to our human rights work, we will also make more information available online through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, allowing access to more real-time reporting on human rights.

A final decision on the content of the command paper has not yet been made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary but, as in previous years, the command paper will include the full scope of our human rights activities.

Asked by Lord Hylton

Lord Howell of Guildford: The UK's development co-operation with India provides a platform to discuss issues of governance, personal security and human development with the Government of India and individual state governments.

the Department for International Development (DfID) has recently discussed the legal system and remedies for domestic and personal violence with the State Government of Bihar, where high levels of violence against women have been reported;

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we are encouraged that the 2009 Right to Education Act came into effect in India in April 2010. DfID maintains a regular dialogue with the Government of India and the states on implementing the Right to Education Act of 2009. DfID is supporting the Act though a £50 million contribution to India's flagship Education for All programme;DfID is helping to protect the health and personal security of millions of sex workers across India by supporting India's National AIDS Control Programme; andalthough we have not discussed police training in relation to human trafficking with the Government of India, we work closely with state governments on police training. For example, DfID is currently in discussion with the Government of Bihar regarding the inclusion of police reform activities under the Bihar Governance Project. The EU also funded a project from 2006-10 which focused on assisting children vulnerable to or survivors of trafficking and sexual exploitation in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. In addition, through the EU, we continue to encourage India to ratify and implement the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its Protocol on People Trafficking.

Israel and Palestine

Question

Asked by Lord Turnberg

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We believe that successful negotiations leading to a two-state solution are in the long-term interest of both parties. We continue to urge Israel to freeze all settlement activity so that talks can continue. Settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary discussed these issues with Israel's ambassador to the UK on 19 October.

We are not making representations to the Palestinian Authority on the specific issue above. However the Foreign Secretary spoke to President Abbas on 8 October. He was impressed by his resolve to return to direct negotiations if possible and welcomed the significant progress achieved by the Palestinians in recent years on their road map obligations with regard to security and institution building.

Millennium Development Goals

Questions

Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham



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Baroness Verma: The Department for International Development (DfID) carries out annual reviews of the performance of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). These reviews include an assessment of its contribution to poverty reduction via increased revenues from the extractive sector, which can be used by governments for public goods and services. The 2010 annual review found specific examples of increased revenues in Liberia and Nigeria. The UK and other supporting countries also called on the EITI to establish a stronger results framework in 2010. As a result an independent evaluation of the EITI's contribution to development in signatory countries has just begun and initial findings will be presented to the next EITI global conference in March 2011.

DfID has provided over £10 million to the EITI Secretariat and World Bank Multi-Donor Trust Fund which provide technical assistance to countries in meeting the requirement of the EITI. DfID also supports national EITI processes in countries such as Nigeria. Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through our bilateral programmes. The UK's support has contributed to publication of 50 EITI national reports and three countries reaching compliance status. Compliance of a further 14 countries will be assessed by the EITI board by the end of 2010.

Asked by Lord Myners

Baroness Verma: The UK Government remain committed to achieving the international millennium development goals by 2015. The United Nations high level plenary meeting on the millennium development goals, that took place in New York on the 20-22 September. was an important opportunity to build political momentum and secure concrete commitments to accelerate progress on the MDGs as the world approaches the deadline of 2015. It resulted in a global commitment to save 16 million women and children. reverse the spread of malaria and tackle hunger and under-nutrition.

The high level plenary meeting ended with the formal adoption of the outcome document Keeping the Promise: United to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals, which is available in the Library of the House. Drawing on the real experiences of countries that have successfully tackled poverty in recent years, the outcome document outlines an integrated framework for action which can act as a focus for global efforts over the next five years.

Asked by Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale

Baroness Verma: Work is underway by the UN to record and collate all of the policy and financial commitments made at the summit. The UK is pressing for this to be made publicly available as soon as possible.



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An annual review mechanism through the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was also negotiated and agreed at the summit as part of the outcome document. The UK will work to ensure a meaningful role for ECOSOC in monitoring the delivery of commitments and will continue to press others to hold themselves to account, as we will do.

Office for Budget Responsibility

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): None of the senior staff at the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is on secondment from HM Treasury.

All staff in the OBR report to the chair of the OBR. Prior to the OBR being established in statute, OBR staff are formally employed by HM Treasury. On the establishment of the statutory OBR, there will be a formal process of transfer for some Treasury staff. This process will follow the guidelines for reorganisations and transfers within the Civil Service set out in the Cabinet Office Staff Transfers in the Public Sector Statement of Practice January 2000 (revised 2007).

Scientific Research

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Government are committed to rebalancing the economy and ensuring economic growth. Science and research play vital roles in this area. The spending review has protected the budget for science and research programmes at £4.6 billion per annum, ring-fenced for the next four years. In the light of this excellent result the Government will allocate the budget, setting out strategic priorities. The research councils, funding councils and national academies will then make detailed funding decisions.

Sudan

Question

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead



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Baroness Verma: UK Trade & Investment has a presence in 96 countries, including Sudan, providing a range of services to British companies. The UK Government encourage British companies to be aware of the impact of their investments abroad, including the very real and pressing human rights concerns we continue to have about Sudan. With our NGO and other development partners, we continuously monitor the human rights and environmental situation in Sudan closely.

Turks and Caicos Islands

Questions

Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Special Prosecutor was appointed by the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands. She announced in April that 18 months would be a reasonable time for the criminal investigations to be completed. A criminal investigation is conducted under entirely different rules from a public inquiry. A prosecuting authority does not publish the results of an investigation. If charges are brought and a case proceeds to trial, evidence will be adduced in open court in the normal manner.

Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

Lord Howell of Guildford: My honourable friend the Minister for the Overseas Territories announced during a visit to the Turks and Caicos Islands in September that elections would not take place until after July 2011. He emphasised that the Government do not want the postponement to last any longer than necessary. The suspension is not indefinite.

There are many challenges still to be addressed including: embedding the reform process; setting public finances firmly on the path to a balanced budget within three years; stabilising the economy; preparations for the elections in light of the outcome of the constitutional and electoral reform process and further progress in the criminal investigations recommended by the commission of inquiry. My honourable friend the Minister for the Overseas Territories will make a statement by the end of this year setting out remaining milestones which must be met before elections can take place.

Vehicles: Taxation

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Earl Attlee: There are no immediate or direct impacts on UK hauliers of the proposals to amend EU Directive 1999/62, which sets out the rules for charging heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) for using roads in order to ensure fair competition. However, there are a number of indirect impacts. The amended directive limits the power of the European Commission to change the existing minimum rates for vehicle excise duty (and equivalent taxes in other European countries) for HGVs.

The Government are committed to introducing road user charging for HGVs, and the proposed amendments to the directive change some aspects of how a scheme would work. If the amendments enter EU law: a charging scheme would no longer need to include vehicles weighing between 3.5 and 12 tonnes; a time-based scheme would need to limit daily, weekly and monthly charges to specific percentages of the annual charge; a distance based charge could be set to cover the costs of air and noise pollution as well as infrastructure, and varied up and down from this level to reflect congestion in specific locations. Other EU countries have existing time and distance-based charging schemes, and it is not yet known how these schemes will change as a result of the amended directive.

Visas

Question

Asked by The Earl of Clancarty

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The number of visas issued to non-EEA nationals for temporary employment in the UK has steadily fallen since 2005, as shown in the attached table.

YearVisas issued for Temporary Employment

2005

119,000

2006

108,790

2007

90,540

2008

79,140

2009

57,595

2010 (6 months

34,415

A number of factors will have led to the decrease in the number of visas issued for temporary employment during this period. These would include changes to the immigration system, such as the phased closure of

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the seasonal agricultural workers scheme and sectors based scheme to non-EU nationals between 2006 and 2008, the accession to the EU of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 and the introduction of the points based-system in November 2008. The latter led to

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the recategorisation of some of the immigration categories. External factors such as the global economic downturn may also have led to a decrease in the number of temporary workers coming to the UK.


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