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To ask the Chairman of Committees whether any committee of the House agreed to the change in the rules for all-party groups so that members of the House of Lords may no longer be the named contact for a group.[HL7322]
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): All-party groups (APGs) are informal cross-party groups that have no official status within Parliament. The register of all-party groups was set up by a resolution of the House of Commons in 1985 and the rules governing APGs are set by the Commons, on advice from the Committee on Standards and Privileges and the Administration Committee, which both have an interest in APGs. The Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, again based in the Commons, is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the rules on APGs.
On 17 February, the Commons approved changes to the rules governing APGs, following recommendations originally made by the previous commissioner in 2006 as part of his investigation of a complaint into lobbying and APGs. Those recommendations were published in the ninth report of the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges in May 2006 and some (though not the one in question) were later modified and again published (in the committee's eighth report of 2008-09).
No committee of the Lords, or any officials from the Lords, was consulted at any stage about the recommendations. However, the Committee on Standards and Privileges wrote to all registered groups in June 2006 to ask them for their views on the recommendations. I understand that very few responses were received and none opposed the recommendation in question.
To ask the Chairman of Committees whether, in considering the proposed changes in the governance of the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK Branch, account was taken of the impact on the Lords' input into decision-making, such as budget allocation and staffing, for those groups.[HL7323]
The Chairman of Committees: In developing proposals for a bicameral International Relations Directorate (IRD), the question of the Lords' input into decision-making has been fully taken into account. Lords membership of the committees of the BG IPU and CPA UK will continue in the same Lords to Commons ratio (30:70) as now; Lords membership of the proposed
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Staff of the groups will transfer under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) into the House of Commons service, where they will be part of the Department of Chamber and Committee Services.
To ask the Chairman of Committees what evaluation has been conducted into the time devoted by Members of the House of Lords to all-party groups, the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK Branch and other such groups.[HL7324]
The Chairman of Committees: While the House maintains statistics relating to the activity of the House and its committees, it does not maintain statistics on how individual Members of the House spend their time. The involvement of Members of the House in the activities of the BG IPU and CPA UK is of course well documented in the annual reports of those organisations, copies of which are available in the Library. The participation of Members of the House of Lords in delegations of those bodies is approximately 30 per cent, reflecting the level of funding contributed by the Lords.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the answer by Lord Sassoon on 16 February (Official Report, col. 647) which said that it was for the Bank of England to make any proposals on quantitative easing and then the Chancellor will look at them, whether the Chancellor will follow the policy of his predecessor who said they would not use his powers in that respect.[HL7239]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The independent Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of England has operational responsibility for monetary policy. The MPC decides on use of measures, including the asset purchase facility (APF), in order to target 2 per cent inflation, as measured by the 12-month change in the consumer prices index (CPI).
The framework for the APF, which enables it to be used as a monetary policy tool, was set out in the exchange of letters on 17 February and 3 March 2009 between the Governor and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. The framework requires the Chancellor to authorise the overall limit on asset purchases. Open letters exchanged between the then Chancellor and the Governor agreeing the limit for APF purchases can be found on the Bank of England website.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Four of the UK's main banks have agreed to support the establishment of the big society bank to act as a sustainable provider of wholesale finance to social investment intermediaries, including, subject to objectives, business plan and structure, the injection, on a commercial basis, of £200 million of capital over two years, commencing in 2011. The exact terms and nature on which the banks will provide the finance are yet to be determined. However, all the banks have a common interest in ensuring that the finance is provided in a way that will enable the big society bank to meet its objective of growing a sustainable social investment market.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The precise legal structure of the big society bank will be determined in the set-up phase, including through the engagement with the FSA and other regulatory bodies. We do not envisage that the big society bank will need to be an authorised deposit-taking institution.
To ask Her Majesty's Government which non-governmental organisations and charities where the chief executive or equivalent receives annual compensation of £100,000 or more receive government funding.[HL7066]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The information requested is not collected centrally. However, in many cases the relevant information about a particular charity is available in its annual accounts or annual report.
Under the Statement of Recommended Practice: Accounting and Reporting by Charities, registrable charities subject to a statutory audit requirement must disclose in their annual accounts the number of employees with salaries exceeding £60,000 in £10,000 income bands. The accounts and annual reports of registered charities with an annual income of over £25,000 are published on the Charity Commission's website (www.charitycommission.gov.uk). These also provide information on the charity's income and expenditure.
To ask Her Majesty's Government on which date the Office for National Statistics (ONS) collected consumer price data in January for the purpose of calculating the consumer prices index; whether that was an earlier date than in recent years; whether adjustments were made for the effect of new year sales prices; and whether the ONS believes January figures reflect the full impact of the increase in the rate of VAT.[HL7260]
Data for the January 2011 CPI were collected between 10 and 12 January, which are the earliest data that have ever been collected for a January index. The timing of this collection is consistent, though, with the standard approach for the CPI where collection takes place around the second or third Tuesday of the month.
The data collection for the CPI is designed to capture the prices paid by consumers for the goods and services that they purchase, including when they are on sale. This means that no adjustments are required in order to capture new year sales prices.
The additional measures that were put in place (for example, asking each of the 20,000 retailers visited how they implemented the increase to value added tax) to complement the already existing robust approach to data collection mean that the January 2011 CPI does reflect the increase in the rate of value added tax to 20 per cent.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): Through the Education Bill, we are seeking to amend Section 7 of the Childcare Act 2006, so that through regulations we can introduce a statutory entitlement to 15 hours of free early education a week for disadvantaged two year-olds.
Funding of £64 million/£223 million is being provided through the early intervention grant to enable local authorities to offer free places to disadvantaged two year-olds over the next two years and to build towards the statutory entitlement that we plan to introduce in 2013.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration they have given to sending postal ballots for the referendum on the parliamentary voting system in time to ensure that they reach voters in the Armed Forces and can be returned in time to be counted.[HL7121]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration they have given to sending postal ballots for the referendum on the parliamentary voting system to voters in the Armed Forces before 18 April.[HL7122]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that voters in the Armed Forces who do not wish to vote by proxy are not prevented from voting in the referendum on the parliamentary voting system by delays in the forwarding and return of postal ballots.[HL7123]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Government are putting in place an initiative for Afghanistan to support the participation of personnel there in the referendum and elections on 5 May, similar to the initiative that operated at the May 2010 elections. Personnel will be given the opportunity to register and choose to vote by proxy or by post. The Government will make use of existing supply flights to and from Afghanistan to transport postal ballot packs for those who choose that option, subject to operational priorities. This initiative applies specifically to Afghanistan because of the available logistics and alongside this the British Forces Post Office (BFPO) has undertaken to treat all elections mail addressed to other overseas military locations as a priority. Personnel may also choose to vote by proxy.
The deadline for new postal vote applications and changes to existing postal votes for the referendum is 5 pm on 14 April. The chief counting officer for the referendum has directed electoral administrators to prioritise postal votes going overseas and to ensure that they are sent out as soon as possible after the deadline for new postal vote applications has passed, with the first issue of postal votes to take place no later than 18 April. This issue will include those postal votes for members of the Armed Forces.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they propose to reduce the risk of smaller companies in the financial sector being unable to continue trading as a result of levies by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.[HL7224]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): It is essential that the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) is able to pay out compensation to all eligible policyholders. Without certainty of payout, consumer protection is substantially weakened. It is therefore vital that the FSCS is able to raise resources in a range of circumstances to compensate consumers effectively.
The FSCS is funded by levies on firms authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). The rules governing the FSCS are set by the FSA. FSA-authorised firms are grouped into classes and each class has an annual limit on contributions to compensation costs. Following public consultation in 2007, the FSA set these thresholds at what was considered to be an affordable level for each class and sub-class.
For firms that may be unable to pay any levy costs in one lump sum, the FSA has also facilitated an instalment arrangement with Premium Credit Ltd (PCL). PCL takes monthly instalments from firms at a competitive rate of interest.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, with reference to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement after the G20 meeting, whether the details of any agreement on the creation of an international system that would help solve the imbalances between surplus and deficit countries have been agreed.[HL7241]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The recent meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and central bank governors, held in Paris on 18 and 19 February 2011, agreed a two-step process to focus on the policy actions required by countries with persistently large imbalances. As set out in the communiqué which issued from the meeting, a set of indicators was agreed, covering public debt and fiscal deficits; private savings and private debt; and the external imbalance composed of the trade balance and net investment income flows and transfers.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the finance function exercised by government departments is in step with the latest industry standards of best practice and proficiency.[HL7343]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government are committed to making finance, as a function, more effective. The Government, finance profession and government departments work with a range of organisations, from both private sector and public sector, to identify and share best practice.
By way of example, in developing the recent publication ManagingTaxpayers' Money Wisely, the Government consulted with leading consultancies and major UK accountancy institutes, which will continue to form part of an independent advisory panel on improving financial management across government.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government recognise the need for a sustainable mortgage market to support a stable housing market and are determined that credit-worthy borrowers looking to buy a home or move should have access to affordable mortgages.
The Government are also working with the Financial Services Authority, the Bank of England and international authorities to maintain stability in the financial system. This will help to ensure that banks and building societies have access to the funds that they need to lend.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they and the Bank of England will review collateral criteria to support central bank liquidity provision to include securities based on prime residential mortgages.[HL7168]
Lord Sassoon: The Bank of England is responsible for its collateral policy. High-quality, listed, third-party-originated retail mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and covered bonds are included in the Bank's "wider" collateral pool and so are eligible for use in the indexed long-term repos (ILTRs). In addition, self-originated RMBS, covered bonds and whole-loan mortgage portfolios are eligible for use in the Bank's discount window facility (DWF).
To ask Her Majesty's Government what they forecast to be the assumed interest rate used by the Bank of England in section 5.1 of their February 2011 Inflation Report by following a path implied by market interest rates.[HL7237]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what they consider to be the near-term used by the Bank of England in section 5.1 of their February 2011 Inflation Report; and what is the markedly higher rate they were assuming in November.[HL7238]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The quarterly inflation reports are the Bank of England's publications. The forecasts contained in the reports represent the Monetary Policy Committee's best collective judgment about the most likely paths for inflation and output. The forecasts and assumptions are explained in detail in the reports, including the conditioning path for Bank rate implied by forward market interest rates.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the answer by Lord Sassoon on 16 February (Official Report, col. 648) saying he took "the noble Lord's point about the nature of one-off rises" in inflation, whether he was also referring to Lord Peston's remarks about raising interest rates because of one-off rises in prices.[HL7240]
Lord Sassoon: Decisions on the level of interest rates are that of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of England based on its judgment of the balance of risks to the inflation outlook in the medium term. The Bank discussed developments and prospects for inflation, including the effect of one-off and temporary factors, in the February inflation report.
The objective of the MPC to maintain price stability is defined by a target of a 2 per cent rate as measured by the 12-month increase in the consumer prices index. The MPC therefore takes into account all factors that would affect the inflation rate over its forecast period.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: National citizen service (NCS) will help to build a more cohesive, responsible and engaged society by bringing together young people from different backgrounds, working in teams to challenge themselves and achieve socially beneficial outcomes in their areas. Young people will benefit from the opportunity to work, and build lasting friendships, with other young people whom they may not otherwise have met; to stretch themselves by undertaking challenging and rewarding activities; and to take responsibility for planning and delivering a social action project in their community. Society as a whole will benefit from the projects delivered by NCS participants and from the enhanced confidence and responsibility that NCS will engender in those who complete it. We hope that NCS will encourage young people to remain actively engaged in their local communities after the completion of the NCS summer programme and we are looking at ways in which we can actively support this by signposting
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NCS does not seek to replace or replicate the work of youth services; it is intended to be a new, common experience for all 16 year-olds at a key juncture in their lives. The Government are working with the sector to develop a new vision for young people and young people's services and expect to publish a new policy statement later in the year.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: National citizen service (NCS) pilot schemes in 2011 will be delivered by 12 lead organisations and consortia, working in some cases with local delivery partners. Each lead organisation has responsibility under the terms of its grant agreement for ensuring that all youth workers employed on its pilot schemes are appropriately qualified and experienced to deliver NCS. Lead providers will make arrangements for the delivery of all relevant training to youth workers, staff and volunteers. Training packages and tools will differ according to the NCS provider and the level of existing expertise of the staff recruited to NCS delivery posts, but in all cases will include core training on the objectives and format of the NCS programme. They may also include training on topics including: developing successful teams; conflict resolution and dealing with challenging behaviour; personal development and reflective learning; health and safety; boundaries and child protection.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether planning approval granted under the very special circumstances provisions in Planning and Policy Guidance 2: Green Belts would create a precedent for future planning applications for further buildings on the same stretch of green-belt land, or whether any such future applications would be determined only on their own merit against the special circumstances provisions; and whether they have plans to change that provision.[HL7195]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The planning history of any application site may be a material factor in a planning case if decision-makers in the case consider it appropriate. It would be for the local planning authority to assess the relevance of an earlier permission on the same land, or other land nearby, taking into account the reasons why that permission had been granted, but there is no automatic consequence. Each planning application must be determined on its own merits in light of current policies in the local development
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In December, we announced the start of work to create a national planning policy framework. As part of this, we will consider how best to update the policy currently set out in planning policy guidance note 2. A consultation draft of the framework will be published in the summer.
The coalition agreement commits the Government to maintaining green-belt protection. Abolition of regional strategies through the Localism Bill will also help to protect the green belt by removing top-down directives to review or weaken green-belt protection in over 30 towns across England.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Hill of Oareford on 25 January (WA 154-5), what percentage of pupils in English schools were entered for the GCSE in (a) geography, and (b) history, in each year from 1995 in each type of school.[HL6424]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The percentages of pupils in England that were entered for the GCSE in geography and history for the years 1997, 2000, 2005 and 2010 by school types are given in the tables below. Figures for other years requested are available only at disproportionate cost.
To ask Her Majesty's Government why they have not included religious education as a possible subject in the humanities section of the English Baccalaureate; and whether they will review that decision in the light of the uptake of religious education as an academic subject in secondary schools.[HL7214]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): For the purposes of the 2010 performance tables, the humanities element of the English baccalaureate measure was either history
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We will continue to monitor the teaching of RE as we do at present through the school workforce census, which will collect information annually on the subjects being taught by all teachers in maintained secondary schools; through trends in GCSE entry; and through Ofsted's triennial subject survey report of RE, which will look at the quality of teaching. We will also consider any representations about the English baccalaureate measure and review the precise definition of the English baccalaureate for the 2011 performance tables.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Integration is an integral part of the big society. As the Prime Minister set out in his recent speech in Munich, integration is fostered by meaningful and active participation in society, which is achieved by shifting the balance of power away from the state and towards the people, and by initiatives such as the national citizen service. DCLG is considering what additional, specific activities are needed to improve integration and to overcome divisions in communities. We are working to develop a cross-government approach.
Black and minority ethnic communities and community groups already have a strong history of developing innovative solutions to their problems. The work to decentralise power to communities through the new rights in the Localism Bill and open public sector service provision to voluntary sector providers will enable all communities to take control of services and make them more effective and focused on their needs. Support will be put in place to enable communities and community groups to engage with and benefit from these new rights and opportunities.
The Government are piloting national citizen service for 11,000 16 year-olds in summer 2011. National citizen service will bring together young people from different social and ethnic backgrounds, giving them the opportunity to plan and deliver projects that will benefit their local communities and fostering lasting bonds between participants.
It should be noted that we have introduced the new public sector equality duty based around the principles of transparency and accountability, which requires public authorities to set clear public objectives on equality and to publish data on the progress that they are making.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The rules governing the disposal of capital assets funded wholly or partly from the Sure Start, early years and childcare grant (such as children's centres) and the possible invocation of clawback are set out in the capital guidance that the department has issued to all local authorities. The guidance is available on the department's website at: http://www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/earlylearningandchildcare.
The guidance states that local authorities are required to notify the department of any plans to dispose of capital assets. The department has advised local authorities to operate on the presumption that clawback will be enforced. However, subject to prior approval from the department, clawback may be waived or deferred where an asset is sold and the proceeds are reinvested for a similar purpose consistent with the aims of the grant.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The department has commissioned a number of evaluations looking at different youth service programmes. The most recent published study assessed the impact of the youth sector development fund on the effectiveness of community society organisation (CSO) business models and the impact of CSO services on outcomes for young people, including crime reduction. A copy of the report is available on the DfE website: http://www. education.gov.uk/publications//eOrderingDownload/DCSF-RR169.pdf.
In addition, the department has commissioned a number of evaluations looking at how early intervention support to young people by youth services can prevent and reduce youth crime. Evaluations of the Challenge
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