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Written Answers

Thursday 10 March 2011

Abortion

Questions

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The department commissioned and funded the review of the guideline The Care of Women Requesting Induced Abortion by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) following a recommendation from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in 2007. The department has observer status on the group.

The consultation period has now ended and all comments will be carefully considered by the guideline development group undertaking the review. As is usual practice, the department will not be asked to agree or endorse the final contents of the guideline.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Earl Howe: The law requires that the bodies of babies who are stillborn (born dead after 24 weeks gestation) or who die after birth are buried or cremated. They must also be registered as stillbirths. These legal requirements also apply to all abortions performed after 24 weeks' gestation.

The following table shows the total number of abortions undertaken after 24 weeks and the total number of stillbirths registered in each of the past five years.



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Abortions (after24 weeks)Total number of stillbirths (including abortions after24 weeks)

2005

137

3,483

2006

136

3,602

2007

135

3,598

2008

124

3,617

2009

136

3,688

The department does not collect information on whether abortions over 24 weeks' gestation resulted in a burial or cremation.

Abortion Act 1967

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Abortion Act 1967 was introduced through a Private Member's Bill. The Act was last amended through Back-Bench amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, which was introduced by the Government of the day. For a small number of issues, including abortion, which involve faith, beliefs and conscience, it is accepted parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law come from Back-Bench Members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes.

Asset Freezing

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The United Kingdom has strong domestic legislation in place, including the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which provides for action to be taken in respect of assets that represent the proceeds of crime or that have been acquired using the proceeds of crime. These are not asset-freezing powers as such but provide for the confiscation or forfeiture of assets and the civil recovery of the proceeds of unlawful conduct.

The possibility of seizure or restraint of assets under this legislation is separate to asset-freezing provisions contained in international sanctions targeted at specific countries by the United Nations or the European Union. These sanctions place an asset freeze on the funds and economic resources held by designated persons.

The Crown dependencies and overseas territories are committed to meeting international standards and playing a responsible role in international financial markets. We will of course encourage these territories to take action in response to any requests.



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Benefits: Disability

Question

Asked by Baroness Browning

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): There are a range of benefits that are dependent on DLA. I have placed the information requested in the House of Lords Library.

Bookstart

Question

Asked by Lord Kinnock

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): In financial year 2009-10, a £9 million grant was provided by the Department for Education (DfE) for the Bookstart scheme. In 2010-11 Booktrust was awarded a £9 million grant by DfE for the Bookstart scheme. Subsequently Booktrust declared expected savings of £990,000, including savings relating to the Booktime and Booked Up schemes, which receive a further DfE grant of £4 million in total. A free book-gifting scheme will be delivered in 2011-13: Booktrust will receive £7.5 million for its delivery in 2011-12 and £6 million for its delivery in 2012-13. No decision has been taken on public funding for Bookstart in 2013-14.

Cabinet Office: Manual

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The draft Cabinet Manual has been published and comments were invited by Tuesday 8 March 2011. The Government will consider all comments received and decide what changes are needed before a final version of the Cabinet Manual is produced.



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Deaf People: Telecommunications

Questions

Asked by Baroness Goudie

Baroness Rawlings: Specific arrangements that provide for disabled users of electronic communications networks are mandated under the Universal Service Order 2003 and Section 67 of the Communications Act 2003, which empowers Ofcom to set general condition 15 ("Special Measures for End-users with Disabilities") of the consolidated version of the General Conditions (18 March 2010) on providers of universal telecommunications services in the UK for deaf and hard-of-hearing users. These arrangements currently mandate the requirement of, for example, a text relay service. There is also some availability of video relay services for British Sign Language users on a commercial basis in the UK-for example, Significan't (based in the London area) and Deaf Connections (based in Glasgow).

Asked by Baroness Goudie

Baroness Rawlings: Revisions to the EU electronic communications framework, including the universal services directive, provide for member states to empower national regulatory authorities (Ofcom in the UK) to specify, where appropriate, requirements to ensure that disabled end-users:

have access to electronic communications services equivalent to that enjoyed by the majority of end-users; andbenefit from the choice of undertakings and services available to the majority of end-users.

The revised framework makes it clear that responsibility for decisions on equivalence reside with the National Regulatory Authority (NRA).

In order to fully implement these new provisions, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is proposing to make changes to Section 51 of the Communications Act 2003 to clarify Ofcom's power to impose a general condition in relation to equivalence. This will be in addition to the existing powers that Ofcom has under General Conditions of Entitlement (GC 15) and the Universal Service Order 2003.

In addition, DCMS continues to analyse responses to the recent government public consultation on proposals to implement the revised framework, including the new Article 23a of the universal services directive, detailed above.

At the same time, Ofcom is undertaking a review of relay services that support disabled end-users in their use of electronic communications. The objective of this review is to assess whether current arrangements for the provision of relay services are adequate in

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delivering equivalence to voice telephony for hearing-impaired and speech-impaired end-users (including British Sign Language users) and, if they are not, to consider proportionate solutions. The formal public consultation element of this review will launch in the spring.

DCMS's proposed changes to the Communications Act 2003 will enable Ofcom, following the outcome of its review, to mandate the changes that it deems appropriate and necessary to ensure that disabled end-users have access to the equivalence and choice required by the revisions to the framework.

Asked by Baroness Goudie

Baroness Rawlings: There is some availability of video relay services for British Sign Language users on a commercial basis in the UK-for example, Significan't (based in the London area) and Deaf Connections (based in Glasgow).

Specific arrangements that provide for disabled users of electronic communications networks are mandated under the Universal Service Order 2003 and Section 67 of the Communications Act 2003, which empowers Ofcom to set General Condition 15 ("Special Measures for End-users with Disabilities") of the consolidated version of the General Conditions (18 March 2010) on providers of universal telecommunications services in the UK for deaf and hard-of-hearing users.

These arrangements currently mandate the requirement of, for example, a text relay service for all deaf and hard-of-hearing end-users.

Asked by Baroness Goudie

Baroness Rawlings: Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) officials have met with Ofcom to discuss Ofcom's review of relay services including discussion of access to telecommunications for British Sign Language (BSL) users. In addition DCMS and Ofcom officials have been in regular contact to discuss implementation of Article 23a of the revised universal services directive.

DCMS and Ofcom officials have co-facilitated discussions on disability and equivalence, including video relay services, at the stakeholder events run during the public consultation on the implementation of the revised EU electronic communications framework. Representatives from the BSL community attended these events and BSL interpreters were provided to facilitate full and inclusive discussion.

Ofcom is a key member of the DCMS e-Accessibility Forum established last autumn. One of the forum's key aims is to deliver better access to, and more affordable, adaptive technologies as part of its accessible consumer technology and digital equipment work stream.



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Education: Funding

Question

Asked by Lord Greaves

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): We provide academies with additional funding in recognition of the additional responsibilities that they have, which would previously have been borne by their local authority. There are two elements to the grant: the proportion that the department can recoup from the dedicated schools grant that would otherwise go to local authorities and the proportion that the department cannot recoup because it is in respect of services normally paid from other local authority funds. For the latter, to avoid academies and local authorities being funded for the same services, we have calculated a total cost, and this is reflected in the amounts transferred from local authorities' formula grant of £148 million and £265 million in 2011-12 and 2012-13 respectively. The consequent adjustments to the baseline for each local authority are available on the Department for Communities and Local Government website at: http://www.local.communities.gov.uk/finance/1112/1011adjusteds.xls and http://www.local. communities.gov.uk/finance/1112/1112adjusteds.xls

These adjustments were based on national averages and estimates, applied equally to all local authorities, as we cannot predict at this stage how many academies and free schools there will be in each local authority over the next two years. The deductions do not affect the schools budget in each authority, which is funded through the dedicated schools grant direct from the department, rather than through formula grant.

EU: Budget

Question

Asked by Lord Pearson of Rannoch

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The European Commission is responsible for the whole of the EU budget. However, some areas of expenditure are jointly managed between the European Commission and member states. In 2009, the latest year for which outturn data are available, around 86.6 per cent of expenditure was jointly managed by the European Commission and member states, with the remaining 13.4 per cent being managed solely by the European Commission.



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Finance: Covered Bonds

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): As announced in November 2010 in the Government's response to the Green Paper on financing a private sector recovery, the Treasury and the Financial Services Authority are reviewing the UK's regulatory framework for covered bonds. The review will consider how to help financial institutions to make best use of covered bond funding. Greater access to funding will help banks and building societies to lend to support the economy. The Government intend to publish a consultation on the review later this year.

Gross Domestic Product

Question

Asked by Lord Moonie

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Stephen Penneck, director-general for ONS, to Lord Moonie, dated March 2011.

As director-general for the Office for National Statistics, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking for estimates of the per capita gross domestic product in each English region, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland now and in 1997 (HL7375).

The Office for National Statistics does not produce regional estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) but it does produce estimates of regional gross value added (GVA). GVA is GDP excluding taxes and subsidies on products. Estimates are produced at current basic prices, which do not account for the effects of inflation.

The latest data available are for 2009, published in December 2010.

The per capita values for the Government Office regions of England and those for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1997 and 2009 are listed below.



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GVA £ per head
19972009

North East

9983

15621

North West

11027

17263

Yorkshire and the Humber

11045

16569

East Midlands

11525

17349

West Midlands

11442

16788

East of England

11767

18591

London

19447

34200

South East

12898

20923

South West

11467

18211

Wales

9983

14842

Scotland

12090

19744

Northern Ireland

9817

15795

Health: Prescriptions

Question

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): It is a long-standing professional duty for prescribers in both hospitals and general practice to ensure that medicines are prescribed appropriately and reviewed regularly depending on the individual needs of patients. The National Health Service chief executive and the national clinical director for older people have written to the chairs of NHS bodies to draw their attention to the findings of the report Care and Compassion?

HM Revenue and Customs: Office Closures

Question

Asked by Lord Christopher

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): On 9 March 2011, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) confirmed its intention to proceed with the closure of its office in Wick by March 2012. A vacation mandate will be issued before the end of March 2011. Staff were informed in a face-to-face meeting by a senior manager.

On 9 March 2011, HMRC also announced the launch of a new targeted voluntary exit scheme, aimed at and available to a pre-selected group of staff in specific circumstances. Eighteen people in Wick, within local compliance and customer operations, have received a letter of invitation to apply for the scheme. The terms offered are equal to those under a voluntary redundancy scheme. Successful applicants will leave HMRC on 31 July 2011. Redeployment options will continue to be explored for those people in Wick who choose not to apply for the scheme.



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Customer service remains a priority for HMRC and taxpayers will not be affected by the closure of the office in Wick. Facilities will continue to be available to those customers who prefer to deal with their tax affairs online or by telephone. Face-to-face inquiry centre services will remain in the locality for those people who require that level of service, although they may be remodelled as part of the spending review settlement.

HMRC's interests will not be affected by the closure of the office in Wick. It recognises the need to continue to focus on ways of tackling tax evasion and uncollected tax. Potential compliance risks in Caithness will be covered in the retained HMRC locations by larger, integrated teams with a mix of skills.

Housing: Mortgages

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): As announced in November 2010, in the government response to the Green Paper on financing a private sector recovery, the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority are working with the securitisation industry to consider the development of more consistent standards for UK securitisations. This would help to place the securitisation market on a sound footing for the long term and improve the appeal of securitisations to a broader range of investors.

The previous Government operated a guarantee scheme for mortgage-backed bonds and other asset-backed securities, known as the asset-backed securities guarantee scheme. This scheme closed on 31 December 2009.

Local Government: Finance

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Representations on the proposals in our consultation on the 2011-12 local government finance settlement varied depending on the range of issues covered and the interests and concerns of the sender. Most representations received raised a number of aspects of the provisional settlement and included both supportive and unsupportive comments. Ministers' decisions on the final settlement were informed by the entire range of views.



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Pensions

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: That a pension may be forfeited because a person's behaviour is liable to lead to a serious loss of confidence in public services is one of the tests applied when considering forfeiture. However, releasing details of individual decisions remains a separate and confidential matter.

Railways: Compensation

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

Earl Attlee: We have no current plans to mandate the way in which compensation is paid to customers. For franchised operators, compensation entitlements for poor performance are set out in their individual passenger's charters. The detailed arrangements for the operation of compensation schemes are a matter for individual train operators.

Railways: Competition

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

Earl Attlee: The sustainability of the Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Railway Company was entirely a matter for the directors of that company to assess, bearing in mind the conditions and restrictions under which they knew they had to operate.

Moderation of competition on the west coast main line will cease on 31 March 2012 and the Office of Rail

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Regulation published its decisions about new applications for access rights on the west coast main line on 2 March.

We look forward to seeing whether bidders for the replacement inter-city west coast franchise, which is due to commence on 1 April 2012, are able to make a case for improvements to service patterns in the West Midlands.

Railways: East Coast Main Line

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

Earl Attlee: The Department for Transport set out the broad requirements for the new timetable in its specification for the inter-city east coast franchise when that franchise was re-let in 2007. The department has facilitated the subsequent development of the timetable by Network Rail and train operators by ensuring that co-ordinated service changes are made by the various operators on the route to deliver the right overall service pattern.

Schools: Sport

Question

Asked by Lord Kinnock

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The Department for Education provided grant of £115 million to school sport partnerships in 2009-10 and £118 million in 2010-11. In October 2010, the Secretary of State for Education announced that he was not going to continue to provide ring-fenced funding for school sport

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partnerships beyond March 2011. Instead, the Secretary of State is providing £65 million in the school years 2011-12 and 2012-13 to fund the release of a teacher for one day per week in every secondary school to enable them to provide more opportunities in competitive sport for pupils. This is in addition to any support that schools themselves decide to secure from their own budgets in order to meet the national curriculum requirement for PE and sport. The Secretary of State has not yet announced his plans for the 2013-14 academic year.

In addition, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport announced recently the Government's outline plans for a network of school games organisers from September 2011. These organisers will be funded by the Department of Health and Sport England for three days a week to help schools to sign up for the nationwide school games and to increase sporting competitions. Further details on the funding for these organiser posts and their precise roles will be announced shortly.

Universities: Extremism

Question

Asked by Lord Beecham

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): We are studying the contents and recommendations of the report released by Universities UK and will use this and a wide range of other representations to inform our development of the new Prevent strategy, which will be published later in the spring.

We will work closely with Universities UK, the Association of Colleges, the National Union of Students and other bodies to ensure that universities and colleges are fully aware of the risks associated with extremism on campus and that we are collectively doing everything that we can to manage these risks.


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