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31 Mar 2011 : Column WA291



31 Mar 2011 : Column WA291

Written Answers

Thursday 31 March 2011

Armed Forces: Aircraft

Questions

Asked by Lord Davies of Stamford

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The decision by the previous Government to buy three Rivet Joint aircraft was confirmed by the strategic defence and security review and this remains our intention.

Until these aircraft enter service, Royal Air Force crews will train and deploy on United States Air Force Rivet Joint aircraft. Joint training began in January 2011.

Asked by Lord Davies of Stamford

Lord Astor of Hever: There were no additional costs relating to mitigating assets and their operation since we expect to provide them, when required, from within existing resources.

Armed Forces: Bomb Disposal

Question

Asked by Lord Moonie

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): Such an assessment would only be possible by undertaking a thorough scrutiny of personal medical records, which can only be viewed for non-clinical reasons after obtaining the express consent of each individual concerned, to protect patient confidentiality. This would incur disproportionate cost.

Armed Forces: Munitions

Question

Asked by Lord Moonie



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): Records of conventional munitions incidents are held by the Joint Service Explosive Ordnance Device Operations Centre. For years prior to 2010 only gross statistics are held in an easily accessible format. These figures are shown in the following table:

2006200720082009

2,725

2,485

2,195

2,130

For 2010 detailed statistics showing the number of conventional munitions incidents broken down by service element are available and are shown in the following table:

2010

Royal Air Force

77

Royal Engineers

6

Royal Logistic Corps

1,318

Royal Navy

422

Autism

Question

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): We have always made clear this Government's commitment to Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives: A Strategy for Adults with Autism in England (3 March 2010).

On 17 December 2010, the Government launched new statutory guidance on autism for health and social care, Implementing Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives. The guidance focuses on areas where health and social care bodies can change the way they support adults with autism; increasing understanding of autism among staff; strengthening diagnosis and assessment of needs; improving transition support for young people with autism; and ensuring adults with autism are included within local service planning.

The statutory guidance also informs local authorities of the requirements of the disability equality duty and the need to pay due regard to disability issues when carrying out their functions. Responsibility lies with local service planners, commissioners and providers when identifying where improvements need to be made locally to transform the lives of people with autism.

Banking

Question

Asked by Lord Myners



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The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): First, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) will test the resilience of major UK banks to an increase in short-term funding costs through its updated 2011-2105 anchor stress scenario, which is applied to major UK banks as part of its rolling programme of supervisory stress testing. This new anchor scenario includes the twin shock of higher interest rates and a deterioration in economic growth in the initial years of the stress scenario.

Secondly, it is FSA policy to ask banks to test their capital adequacy against a range of alternative scenarios, in addition to the anchor scenario. One such scenario is that set out in the FSA prudential outlook published on 17 March, which features sharply rising interest rates in the context of rapid global growth and higher inflation.

Thirdly, the FSA also requires banks to evaluate the effect on their banking books of a sudden and unexpected change in interest rates of 200 basis points both upwards and downwards, holding additional capital if this would cause them losses. In addition, the FSA asks firms to run a range of interest rate stresses on their trading books, including historical scenarios (such as the 1994 bond market sell-off), hypothetical scenarios and point of weakness stress tests (which capture risk factors to which banks are significantly exposed).

Finally, the FSA liquidity policy, implemented in 2010, tests the ability of banks to survive a major shock to short-term funding markets for a three-month period.

Banking: Bank of Scotland (Ireland)

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The acquisition of Halifax Bank of Scotland in early 2009 by Lloyds TSB Group plc created Lloyds Banking Group (LBG).

The Government's policy is that the banks in which the Government are a shareholder, including LBG, should follow the disclosure requirements for companies listed on the Stock Exchange.

The appointment of directors to the Bank of Scotland (Ireland), prior to the creation of LBG, was a matter for the board at the time.

Banking: Royal Bank of Scotland

Questions

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is aiming to deliver a publishable report to the Government and the Treasury Select Committee later this spring on the events that led to the failure of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The publication of the report is a matter for the FSA, as independent regulator. HM Treasury does not hold any information about whether any institutions have objected to the publication of the report.

The Government look forward to the publication of the report.

Asked by Lord Myners

Lord Sassoon: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is in the process of conducting investigations into those banks that failed during the crisis.

The FSA has already completed one such investigation into the Royal Bank of Scotland and will publish a report on the events that led to its failure.

If any of the investigations into the other banks lead to enforcement action being taken, it would be usual for the FSA to make these outcomes public if such actions against individuals or institutions are successful.

Benefits: Disability

Question

Asked by Baroness Browning

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): Disability living allowance (DLA) is a tax-free non-contributory benefit which is not income-related and recipients can spend the money as they choose. DLA is also a gateway to additional support through student eligibility for people in receipt of income-related employment and support allowance (ESA), the childcare disregard in housing benefit and council tax benefit and the disabled child premium.

Being in receipt of DLA is not a consideration when determining eligibility for any of the employment support provision provided by the Department for Work and Pensions. However, it is sometimes the case that DLA customers must also be in receipt of other qualifying benefits to access some of the provision.



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We are committed to ensuring that disabled people have the same employment opportunities and chances as everyone else to find and stay in paid employment, regardless of their disability and this includes people in receipt of DLA. Employment support which may be available to disabled customers, including, but not exclusively those in receipt of DLA are outlined below:

Work Choice-provides tailored support to help disabled people who face the most complex barriers to employment find and stay in work and ultimately help them progress into unsupported employment, where it is appropriate for the individual. Work Choice is voluntary and available regardless of any benefits being claimed.access to work-provides practical advice and financial support to employed disabled people above and beyond what the employer could reasonably provide, to help them overcome obstacles resulting from disability and thus stay in work;residential training-for unemployed disabled adults whose needs cannot be met through any other government-funded programmes and is voluntary and available regardless of any benefits being claimed; andRemploy-an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions, delivers a range of employment and development opportunities for disabled people under the Work Choice programme.

In addition, from April this year, the support that Jobcentre Plus delivers to customers across all working-age benefits is changing. Jobcentre Plus managers and advisers will have more flexibility to judge which interventions will help disabled customers move towards paid employment in the most cost-effective way ensuring provision is tailored to personal and local labour market needs. To support this Jobcentre Plus is introducing a suite of measures bringing together communities, the voluntary sector, businesspeople and employers, to help get people back to work.

In summer this year, the Work Programme will be introduced which will provide more personalised back-to-work support for unemployed people, including many customers with disabilities and health conditions. While not specifically targeted at DLA customers, where these customers are also claiming one of the eligible benefits, they will be able to access Work Programme support at particular points in their claim. In many cases this access will be earlier than for a jobseeker's allowance customer. Providers will also be paid more to get harder-to-help customers, including many with disabilities and health conditions, into sustained employment.

The Minister for Disabled People also commissioned an independent review of the support the Government provide to disabled people who want to work. This review is being conducted by Liz Sayce, chief executive of the disability organisation RADAR, and will report in summer this year, with recommendations on how existing specialist employment support for disabled people can better serve the department's wide-ranging customer base.



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Civil Service: Education and Training

Questions

Asked by Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The Government are creating a common curriculum for training needs which are generic to all departments. From April 2011, training and development across government departments in leadership, management and the core skills every civil servant should have will be sourced through Civil Service Learning. Reforms to be introduced by Civil Service Learning include a review of the training provided in-house and through outsourced provision. Departments will retain responsibility for their budgets for training and for sourcing training which is specific to their own business needs. There is no separate training budget for senior civil servants. These changes are expected to generate savings of around £100 million per year. Officials have met Civil Service trade union representatives on several occasions to discuss these changes.

Civil Service: Official Business

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Entitlement to first-class travel is part of each civil servant's terms and conditions that are managed locally by central government departments and therefore these data are not held centrally. Last May, the Government put in place a series of efficiency measures that included limiting the use of first-class travel and making greater use of video and teleconferencing technologies. So far this year, this has contributed towards over £50 million savings in prices paid for travel and accommodation (eg by travelling standard class and purchasing advance tickets) and we have achieved a further £50 million in reducing the amount of travel undertaken.



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Cyclists

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): Overall responsibility for traffic management in Westminster lies with Transport for London (TfL), in the case of the TfL road network, or otherwise with Westminster City Council. The police will be involved only when cyclists are committing offences. This is an operational matter for the police.

Education: Nurseries

Question

Asked by Lord True

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): There is a loan scheme for higher education fees repaid by graduates: it would not be feasible to provide loans to young children as the direct beneficiaries of early-years provision and expect them to repay on similar terms.

Elections: Purdah Dates

Question

Asked by Lord Shipley

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Under the Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authority Publicity, local authorities are to take particular care as to publicity in sensitive periods such as those preceding an election. In councils this period is taken to be the period after which notice of elections has been given, which must be at least 25 working days before the election date.

For central government, there is a long established convention that for a period preceding local elections particular care is taken in the conduct of government business, including but not limited to publicity. This period, customarily known as the election purdah period, is traditionally for three weeks before the local elections.



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May's local elections are for local government, and are not elections for central government. It is not unreasonable therefore that more restricted rules are in place for the public body which is actually having the elections.

By contrast, for parliamentary elections, purdah restrictions commence from the day that the general election is called. In this context, the principles are not substantively different from local government.

Embryology

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Any embryonic stem cell line which is intended for human therapeutic use will need to fulfil certain quality and safety requirements before administration to humans. The extent of the assessment will depend on the purpose of such administration, ie clinical research, application under hospital exemption or full marketing authorisation.

Researchers wanting to obtain embryonic stem cell lines from human blastocysts created by means of cell nuclear transfer or other means must apply for a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). It is a condition of a HFEA licence that a sample of the stem cell lines derived must be deposited in the UK Stem Cell Bank. To deposit a human stem cell line in the bank, applicants must provide copies of any published scientific papers related to the derivation and/or characterisation of the stem cell line.

Stem cells that are intended for human application come under the regulation of the Human Tissue Authority (HTA). Researchers would need to obtain a licence from the HTA for the processing and storage (and distribution and import/export if these activities are undertaken) of tissues and cells for human application. The HTA does not require researchers to publish their work in a scientific journal.

The Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) Regulations 2004 regulate clinical trials of stem cells that are medicinal products. Where products are intended to be developed for a full licence (marketing authorisation), they specify how research on the safety and efficacy of medicinal product in human participants should be conducted and criteria for ethics review. No clinical trial can begin without the approval of both the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC).

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GTAC has United Kingdom-wide responsibility for the ethical oversight of clinical trials involving either gene therapy or cell therapies derived from stem cell lines.

For products intended to be used therapeutically on a non-routine basis, ie under hospital exemption as per Article 28 of the Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products Regulations (1394/2007), these will normally be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to ensure they fulfil the basic requirements of quality and safety.

More detailed information on the regulatory requirements of a stem cell clinical trial application is available at: www.sc-toolkit.ac.uk/home.cfm.

Finance: Independent Financial Advisers

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is an independent body, given statutory powers by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA). Its day-to-day activities, including its determination of capital requirements for independent financial advisers, are conducted independently of the Government.

The FSA began a review of prudential rules for personal investment firms (PIFs) in 2006 and issued a policy statement containing new rules in November 2009. The process leading up to this involved publication of a consultation paper in November 2008, including the cost-benefit analysis required by the FSMA. These documents are available on the FSA's website. Requiring PIFs to hold more capital resources will enable them to provide better redress for consumers and limit the compensation due from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the event that they are wound up.

The FSA estimated that, as a result of the new rules, there will be a reduction in the administrative burden to the FSCS, reduced costs to the FSA and reduced compliance costs to PIFs.

Government Departments: Energy Certificates

Question

Asked by Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay



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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The display energy certificate for 10 Downing Street can be found at http://www carbonculture.net/orgs/numberl0/10-downing-street/.

Government: Ministerial Responsibilities

Question

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): Since her appointment to the role in November, the ministerial champion for tackling violence against women and girls overseas has undertaken a programme of induction including initial discussions with her counterparts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Department for International Development (DfID) and Ministry of Defence (MoD), and meetings with representatives from the key non-governmental organisation (NGOs) working on this issue. She has also had a high-level meeting with Margot Wällstrom, the United Nations special representative on combating violence against women, and has had an introductory discussion with Ambassador Verveer, the United States ambassador-at-large for global women's issues.

The Minister undertook a number of engagements during International Women's Day to raise the profile of this issue and underpin the Government's commitment to tackling it working with our partners overseas. Following the passage of the Protection of Freedoms Bill in another place, the Minister will undertake her first international visit. She continues to have meetings with key colleagues to give and receive updates on this issue and she is working with those Ministers who will travel abroad to secure their agreement to promulgate key messages on tackling violence against women and girls.

Health: Contaminated Blood Products

Questions

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Initial assessments of the estimated costs, which remain commercial in confidence, were made in October 2009. The recommendations of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) are dependent upon the outcome of the prion filtered red blood cells in surgery patients (PRISM) study, the assessment of the results of which is not expected until 2012. No final estimates, based on the costs applicable at that time, can be made until then.



31 Mar 2011 : Column WA301

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

Earl Howe: Recommendations from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) remain under consideration by the department. SaBTO will be reviewing the recommendations on the use of fresh frozen plasma, using updated modelling evidence produced by Imperial College, later this year. SaBTO's recommendations on the use of prion filtration are dependent upon the outcome of the prion filtered red blood cells in surgery patients (PRISM) study, the assessment of the results of which is not expected until 2012.

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

Earl Howe: By 2012, the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs, in accordance with the cross-government review led by the Cabinet Office, will be reconstituted as a Department of Health/Public Health England committee of experts.

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

Earl Howe: The potential for future use of the prototype diagnostic blood test for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, described in the paper published in the Lancet on 3 February 2011, for blood screening purposes is being considered by the United Kingdom Blood Services Prion Working Group (PWG). Professor John Collinge and colleagues from the Medical Research Council Prion Unit met with members of the PWG on 14 February 2011 and discussed the test. It was agreed that the assay would require further development to make it suitable for large-throughput blood donor screening. An important next step is to establish how specific the assay is, and blood samples from non-UK sources are being organised to facilitate this assessment.

There is no fixed timetable to bring the blood test into use as it is dependent on the outcomes of further test development and evaluation by the research team.

Health: Costs

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland are currently revising bilateral arrangements on healthcare costs to reflect recent changes in European Union legislation.

The Government will publish these arrangements once finalised. The triennial survey assesses samples of 1,500 pensioners in order to establish which member state is liable for healthcare. The proportions are then applied to the complete pensioner caseload.

Health: Reciprocal Agreements

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Government entered into a reciprocal health agreement with the Isle of Man on 1 October 2010. The agreement provides free immediately necessary healthcare to individuals from one jurisdiction on a temporary visit to the other.

Homelessness: Rough Sleepers

Question

Asked by Lord Shipley

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The Government do not produce estimates of future homelessness levels. We have introduced a new way of evaluating rough sleeping levels. The last Government's methodology ignored the true scale of the problem of rough sleeping. All areas across England now provide counts or robust estimates giving a clear national picture. Latest statistics show 1,768 rough sleepers in England on any one night. The next set of figures will be published early in 2012.

This Government are committed to tackling rough sleeping and preventing homelessness. We have maintained the level of homelessness grant, with £400 million for local authorities and the voluntary sector over the next four years. A cross-departmental ministerial working group has been set up to address the complex causes of homelessness and improve support for homeless people.



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Housing

Question

Asked by Lord Kilclooney

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Private registered providers (which includes housing associations which are registered with the social housing regulator) of social housing in England can receive public funding in the form of grant. The Homes and Communities Agency provides funding for the delivery of new affordable housing stock in England. There are a number of conditions placed on receiving grant, for example being registered with the social housing regulator for England and complying with its regulatory code. As independent, private businesses housing associations are free to acquire properties outside the United Kingdom if they choose to do so as long as it fits with their own company rules and objects. However any property acquired overseas would not qualify for any grant funding.

London Underground: Line Extensions

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Earl Attlee: Any decision to extend the London Underground network would be for the mayor and Transport for London, who would also need to ensure funding was in place for such a scheme.

Monetary Policy

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): As laid out in the Bank of England Act 1998, it is the Monetary Policy Committee which is operationally responsible for monetary policy and maintaining price stability.

HM Treasury's responsibility, in line with the Act, is to specify at least once every 12 months how price stability should be defined and what the economic policy of the Government comprises. With respect to the monetary policy tool of quantitative easing, the framework for the asset purchase facility requires the

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Chancellor to authorise the overall limit on asset purchases. The Chancellor also authorises the continued operation of the facility. The Government confirmed in Budget 2011 that the asset purchase facility will remain in place for the financial year 2011-12.

Northern Ireland: Northern Bank Robbery

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Lord Shutt of Greetland: It is government practice not to comment on intelligence matters.

Population

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Verma: The UN currently estimates that the global population will grow to around 9 billion people by 2050, up from around 6.8 billion today. Almost all of this rapid population growth will be in developing countries, which will increasingly strain the abilities of Governments to deliver basic services for their people-such as education, health, food, clean water and sanitation. The UN estimates that 215 million women in developing countries would like to delay or avoid a pregnancy but do not have access to modern family planning methods. High fertility is associated with low female status, lack of girls' and women's education and empowerment, high risk of infant mortality and low household income. The Government are putting women and girls at the heart of our international development efforts and are determined to make modern methods of family planning available to at least 10 million more women, contributing to a wider goal of 100 million new contraceptive users by 2015.

Industrialised countries have generated and currently continue to generate most greenhouse gas emissions. While it is growth in levels of consumption that influences carbon emissions and climate change, rather than population growth, we should all consider the long-term implications of rapid population growth coupled with economic development.

Railways: Resignalling Projects

Question

Asked by Lord German



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Earl Attlee: The resignalling work in south Wales, undertaken by Network Rail, is being designed and implemented to be compatible with the electrification commitments made by the Secretary of State for Transport for the Great Western main line.

Retail: Surcharges

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): Which? has submitted a super-complaint to the OFT on card payment surcharges. We will carefully consider the OFT's response before deciding what action to take.

Roads: Ring Roads

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Earl Attlee: A scheme to provide an eastern bypass of Lincoln between the A158 and the A15 is in the Government's development pool of schemes being promoted by local authorities. Decisions on which of the 45 schemes in the pool will be funded will be made by the end of the year.

Schools: Race and Religious Hatred

Question

Asked by Baroness Deech

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The Government want to ensure that all schools promote the UK's democratic values including mutual tolerance and respect and a new unit has been set up within the Department for Education focusing specifically on preventing extremism.

The Government want to ensure that inspection and other accountability arrangements provide a sufficiently high level of assurance against the propagation of extremist ideologies in schools. The Department for Education is working with partners including Ofsted to look at how to raise inspector awareness and understanding to enable more effective investigation and to strengthen arrangements for investigating where concerns come to light.



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Sex Offenders

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, Section 35(1)(b), ministerial correspondence between two serving Ministers is not released as a matter of course.

Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee

Question

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Following the government review of advisory non-departmental public bodies, the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee will be abolished on 30 March 2011 and its functions will pass to the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens. It has been proposed that a new risk assessment subgroup of the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens specifically to provide risk assessment advice on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies be set up.

Terrorism

Question

Asked by Lord Empey

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): We believe that the arrangements in place are adequate. Excellent co-operation exists at both government and operational level on security matters, both in relation to Northern Ireland-related terrorism and more widely. The two Governments are working in partnership to prevent abuse of the common travel area (CTA) by strengthening the external CTA border, while preserving the right of free movement within it for those who are lawfully present.



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Transport: Appraisals

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

Earl Attlee: The Department for Transport does not hold information on the percentage of benefits that were made up in time savings of under two minutes for the 10 most recent transport projects approved.

We are still considering whether to require the separate reporting of a classification of journey time changes by size in our economic appraisals as part of our work to reform the way transport projects are assessed and funding prioritisation decisions are made.



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No decision has yet been made. An announcement on the reforms will be made in due course.

Universities: Admissions

Question

Asked by Lord True

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): Admissions decisions are a matter for higher education institutions themselves who must abide by the relevant legislation on equal opportunities.


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