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To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the shortfall in allotment provision by local authorities; and what is the average time someone has to spend on a waiting list before getting access to an allotment.[HL8759]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Records of allotment provision or the average time someone has to spend on a waiting list are not held at a national level. This is a matter for individual local authorities.
Research produced by the University of Derby in 2006, based on a partial survey of local authorities, reported that in the period 1996 to 2006 the number of allotment plots fell by 50,630. The report, commissioned but unpublished by the previous Government, was posted up on the DCLG website on 6 May-link as follows: http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/corporate/pdf/1897047.pdf.
Surveys undertaken by West Kirby Transition Town in conjunction with the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners show waiting lists for allotments have grown considerably. The latest survey results published on 6 May 2011 estimated that around 87,000 people are on waiting lists for just over 152,000 statutory plots managed by principal local authorities (not including those run by parish or town councils or allotment associations). This equates to 57 people waiting for every 100 plots. In 1996 there was an average of four people waiting for every 100 plots.
New neighbourhood planning provisions being introduced in the Localism Bill will provide communities with a means to boost the number of sites with powers to protect existing allotments and identify new plots. In addition requirements for councils to provide allotments will be safeguarded as part of a wider review into reducing statutory burdens on local authorities.
The above information was covered in a news release issued by the department on 7 May, available at: www. communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1897155.
Guidance on managing existing plots better, for example reducing plot sizes and taking action in cases where plots are not being cultivated, is available to local authorities via A Place to Grow available on the LGA website at www.lga.gov.uk/lga/publications/publication- display.do?id=9027596.
Baroness Hanham: Local authorities are required under Section 8 of the Allotments Acts 1925 to obtain consent from the Secretary of State to dispose of statutory allotments or use statutory allotments for other purposes. Consent cannot be given unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that the following criteria are met:the allotment in question is not necessary and is surplus to requirement;adequate alternative provision will be made for displaced plot holders, or that such provision is not necessary or is impracticable;the number of people on the waiting list has been taken into account;that the authority has actively promoted and publicised the availability of sites and has consulted the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners; and the implications of disposal for other relevant policies, in particular development plan policies, have been taken into account.
We do not intend to remove statutory protections for allotments or remove the requirement for local authorities to seek the Secretary of State's agreement to dispose of allotments or use statutory allotments for other purposes.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what grants of over £100,000 have been awarded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the past 12 months; and what was the date, recipient, amount and purpose of each grant.[HL8998]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Arts and Humanities Research Council made a number of awards of over £100,000 in 2010-11. A full list with details of these awards will be placed in the Library of the House.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the compliance with human rights of the actions of Saudi Arabian forces in Bahrain; and what representations have they made to the Saudi and Bahraini Governments regarding this.[HL8726]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We have not received evidence that Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) forces in Bahrain have done anything other than safeguard installations.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) and the Saudi Foreign Minister met in London on 22 March and had a constructive discussion on Bahrain. The Foreign Secretary
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We have made it clear to the Bahraini Government that the civil rights of peaceful opposition figures, the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly must be respected. We also expect it to meet all its human rights obligations by ensuring its citizens can exercise the universal human rights and freedoms to which they are entitled and to which it has committed.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there are circumstances in which it would be possible to extend the current term of the Governor of the Bank of England, or to appoint him for a third term. [HL8974]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Bank of England Act 1998 limits the governor's term of appointment to five years. That Act (as amended by the Banking Act 2009) also states that a person may not be appointed as governor more than twice.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): In 2010 the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision set out in the Basel 3 accords a common and consistent framework for bank capital requirements, leverage and liquidity that will strengthen the resilience of the financial sector. This is being implemented at the EU level through revisions to the capital requirements directive.
The European supervisory authorities will assist national authorities in the consistent interpretation and application across the EU of legislation that applies to credit and financial institutions, including the capital requirements directive.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what sums were intended to be repaid to the United Kingdom under the agreement rejected in the recent second referendum in Iceland; how they intend to pursue
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Iceland is a member of the EEA, not the EU. Therefore it falls to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Surveillance Authority (ESA) rather than the European Commission to commence proceedings against Iceland in the EFTA Court. This case, which the ESA is preparing, will confirm whether there is a legal obligation for Iceland to repay the amounts distributed by the UK and the Netherlands on behalf of Iceland.
In addition, the UK has a claim in the Landsbanki estate for around £2.2 billion for compensation to eligible UK Icesave depositors above £16,872. This claim is held by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
To ask Her Majesty's Government when the Financial Services Authority will be producing the report on the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland which they committed to publish by the end of March.[HL8912]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): On 5 May the chairman of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, Andrew Tyrie MP, announced that the committee had asked Sir David Walker and Bill Knight to conduct an independent review of the report which the Financial Services Authority (FSA) is producing into the failure of the Royal Bank of Scotland. The timetable for publication of the report will be a matter for the FSA to consider in light of the appointment of the independent reviewers.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): A number of enhancements to the reassessment process are being made following the results of the trial and
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The department is committed to continually monitoring and reviewing the reassessment process and the WCA. Professor Harrington has been reappointed to undertake a second independent review of the WCA; he will report before the end of the year. Internally we continue to review information about the reassessment process at a senior level. If any further improvements are required these will be incorporated into the reassessment process as they are identified.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many children and young people up to and including age 16 who have been diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) have also been referred to social services for a child protection (section 47) investigation; and, of all the children referred to social services for a child protection investigation, how many have been diagnosed with ME/CFS either before the start of the investigation, or subsequently in the past 10 years. [HL8525]
Lord Shutt of Greetland: After any election the Government review events and examine lessons to be learned with the Chief Electoral Officer and the Electoral Commission and we will do so following the polls on 5 May.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 9 May (HL8617), in what ways the two reviews conducted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) differ markedly in character, with specific reference to (a) the number of days taken between announcement of each review and final publication of the corresponding report, (b) the total number of hours devoted to date by HFEA employees to each review, (c) the anticipated long-term implications of each review, and (d) the relative extent to which each review depended on expertise currently outside that of the HFEA compared to expertise within the HFEA.[HL9014]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised that, as their respective terms of reference show, one review, the review of evidence on the safety and efficacy of methods to avoid mitochondrial disease, involved producing a precise synopsis of expert external opinion to a deadline set by this department. The other is an internal investigation of organisational governance lessons to be drawn from events some four years ago to a timetable set by the authority to suit other priorities.
The HFEA has also advised that its best estimate of the hours involved in the two tasks is that the first required about two months of a person's time and the second about one year of a person's time. The impact of neither review can be described as each is dependent upon further decisions: in the case of the first review by Ministers and the second by the authority.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether legal opinion was sought from the Attorney-General concerning the accession by the Republic of Cyprus to European Union membership on 1 May 2004; whether that opinion was published; and whether they will ensure that any current or future development regarding the presidency of the European Union by Cyprus is referred to the Attorney-General and his opinion published before the end of this parliamentary session.[HL8854]
The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): By long-standing convention, observed by successive Administrations and embodied in the Ministerial Code, the fact that the Law Officers have advised (or have not advised) on a particular issue, and the content of any advice, is not disclosed outside of Government.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): HM Treasury and the Financial Services Authority published a joint review of the UK's regulatory framework for covered bonds in April. The review consults on a number of regulatory changes designed to support the UK covered bond market. It is available on the Treasury's website at http://www.hm-treasury.gov. uk/consult_covered_bond_review.htm.
The Treasury, the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority are also 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 Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Hamas authorities in Gaza have a well developed police, intelligence and internal security structure which they use to enforce basic public order. We have serious concerns about aspects of that enforcement including the suppression of peaceful demonstrators, the use of the death penalty and the involvement of police in attacks on UN and other facilities. We also have serious concerns about the weakness of the rule of law in the Gaza strip.
Hamas can choose to use a mixture of persuasion and coercion to prevent its own and other militants from carrying out rocket attacks against Israel. We do not believe that their control is total but the recent period of calm since the signing of a reconciliation agreement is evidence that under some circumstances it can be relatively effective.
We do not assess that the impact of restrictions at the Israeli-Gaza borders has had a material effect on the ability of the Gazan authorities to equip, arm or fund their security forces. The primary impact has been on the Gazan economy more widely. We continue to urge Israel to ease the restrictions on access to Gaza as a way of improving the Gazan economy and impacting on the strength of Hamas in Gaza.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many staff in 10, 11 and 12 Downing Street are issued with mobile communication devices; and what work has been done to ensure the value for money of this policy.[HL8964]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Cabinet Office has issued 604 mobile communications devices within the wider Cabinet Office and 300 mobile devices to members of staff in Number 10. These services are procured against a central Government Buying Solutions framework, Mobile Solutions II, Lot 1 with Vodafone as the major service provider for these services.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): Apart from the cost of the policy support to Ministers provided by the National Measurement Office, the UK hallmarking system imposes no costs on public funds. The British Hallmarking Council (an executive non-departmental public body) is responsible for, amongst other things, supervising hallmarking activities in the UK. It is entirely funded by the four UK Assay Offices which are also self-financing.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the risk of a re-emergence of smallpox as a threat to public health; what precautionary measures they have in place to protect the public; and what agreements they have reached with Governments of other nations known to be holding stocks of samples of the smallpox virus for research and other purposes.[HL8915]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The likelihood of smallpox re-emerging is considered to be low, but the impact upon public health of such an event is assessed as potentially severe. For this reason, the United Kingdom has contingency arrangements in place to protect it against this potential threat.
All these precautionary measures are regularly reviewed. Arrangements with the other nations known to be holding stocks of variola virus for research purposes, which is the only agreed basis upon which remaining stocks are retained, are made through the World Health Organisation.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider a dispensation to the guidelines issued by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which currently prohibit recycling of "single-use" surgical instruments for donation overseas, to allow resterilisation and reuse overseas. [HL9084]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has published guidance on the consequences of the reuse of single-use medical devices on its website. This guidance indicates that the practice of reprocessing medical devices that are designated as single-use by the manufacturer is not recommended for a number of reasons. Any third party that undertakes the reprocessing of a single-use medical device assumes the legal responsibility, as the manufacturer, for the safety and efficacy of that device.
The MHRA's recommendation would be that it is inadvisable to allow reprocessed single-use medical devices to be used under any circumstances, as the risk to patients associated with this practice outweighs any perceived economic benefits for the purchasers or recipients of these products.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the target for HM Revenue and Customs tax offices for the proportion of telephone calls to be answered within a specified number of rings or time; and what is the actual figure achieved for each office during the most recent period for which figures are available.[HL8808]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the target for HM Revenue and Customs tax offices for the proportion of incoming telephone calls that are abandoned by the caller; and what is the actual figure achieved for each office during the most recent period for which figures are available. [HL8809]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): HMRC do not have specific targets for the number of telephone calls to be answered within a specified number of rings or time or for the proportion of incoming telephone calls that are abandoned by the caller.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): The Government will publish a draft Bill soon for a wholly or mainly elected reformed second Chamber. They intend that the second Chamber should continue to be a scrutinising and revising Chamber, holding the Government of the day to account.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We have deployed no troops or civilian experts to support the training of forces opposed to Muammar Gaddafi. We have established a mission in Benghazi including a military liaison advisory team. Their role is to advise members of the
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To ask Her Majesty's Government what grants were made to local authorities under Section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003 from 31 March 2010 to the most recent date for which figures are available.[HL8832]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The following grants have been provided to local authorities under Section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003 since 1 April 2010:
The table above does not include 2011-12 grants which have not yet been finally agreed or announced, or grants delivered through other bodies (eg Housing Market Renewal, which was delivered by the Homes and Communities Agency).
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the level of funding provided to British orchestras (including youth and chamber orchestras); and what contribution such funding makes to the success of a National Music Plan. [HL8794]
Baroness Rawlings: Arts Council England has funded a range of orchestras including eight symphony orchestras, and a number of chamber orchestras and organisations which support orchestral activity across the country.
Eight national youth music organisations, including the national youth orchestras, are funded through the NYMO (National Youth Music Organisations) Fund, a joint Department for Education and Arts Council England fund which is managed by Youth Music.
In making these decisions, Arts Council England was mindful of the need for a range of exceptional quality music organisations, including orchestras, to contribute to the Department for Education's forthcoming National Plan for Music Education.
Baroness Rawlings: London Mozart Players is not funded directly by Government. The organisation receives funding via the Arts Council England, which makes funding decisions such as this at arm's length from Government. Arts Council England has supplied in the following table showing the regular funding the London Mozart Players received until 2008:
|Year||Regular Funding £|
In 2008 the London Mozart Players received £90,000 transition funding to help the organisation move to a new business model, and in 2009-10 received a £67,498 Grants for the Arts to support on-going regional projects. In 2011 its application to join the National Portfolio was turned down, but it remains in contact with Arts Council England about possible future projects.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Shutt of Greetland on 14 December (WA 173-4), whether they will now publish their exchange of views on the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's draft corporate code of governance; and whether they initially approved the proposed advice on giving evidence to parliamentary select committees and on the rights of commissioners in the minority on any particular decision.[HL8891]
Lord Shutt of Greetland: As previously stated in my answers to the noble Lord of 29 November (Official Report, cols. WA 414-15) and 14 December (Official Report, cols. WA 173-4), the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission may determine its own procedures, including its code of governance, which describes in some detail the various responsibilities placed upon commissioners when exercising their functions. The Government are not required to approve the commission's code; however, officials received a draft copy of the code as the Northern Ireland Office has a duty to ensure that the responsibilities outlined in the code accurately reflect the terms and conditions on which commissioners were appointed by the Secretary of State. Officials did not discuss or provide any advice
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To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the recently published findings of the National Churches Trust's survey of the state of repair of Britain's churches; and whether they are considering any action.[HL8774]
Baroness Rawlings: We welcome the report and the encouraging statistics about the state of places of worship. These findings are echoed by the research undertaken by English Heritage as part of Heritage at Risk. Government are appreciative of the commitment and enthusiasm of the many people who voluntarily care for places of worship, and for those who responded to the survey.
The Government and English Heritage continue to contribute towards the upkeep of historic places of worship through grant schemes and the part funding of historic places of worship. Support officers help to prioritise repairs to buildings, identify and work towards new uses of buildings where appropriate, and identify and cultivate new sources of funding.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how they will ensure that victims severely injured in road traffic accident cases will continue to receive a level of compensation proportionate to their needs.[HL8785]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally):Reforming Civil Litigation Funding and Costs in England and Wales-Implementation of Lord Justice Jackson's Recommendations: The Government Response was published on 29 March 2011, setting out the way forward after full consultation.
The package includes a number of measures to help personal injury victims, including a 10 per cent increase in non-pecuniary general damages such as pain, suffering and loss of amenity for claimants including those involved in serious road traffic accident cases, and a cap on the compensation that may be taken by lawyers as a success fee of 25 per cent of damages excluding damages for future care and loss. Special damages for future care and loss are specifically protected from being taken by the lawyer as a success fee.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: The English Cricket Board (ECB) will receive £38,003,000 over the period 2009-13 as part of its Whole Sport Plan funding from Sport England. A key aspect of the work being done is to encourage more young people to take up the sport. £7.2 million of this funding will be directly invested in the Chance to Shine programme which is aimed at increasing participation among young people. In terms of London-wide investment, Sport England does not break down its investment on a regional basis, however communities throughout the country will benefit from this funding. In addition the ECB is a signatory to the voluntary code on UK Broadcast Income, introduced by this Government but administered independently by the Sport and Recreation Alliance, by which it is pledged to invest at least 30 per cent of its UK broadcast income on grassroots development.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have plans to reduce or abolish VAT on the retrofitting of existing structures, both domestic and commercial, if adequate standards of insulation are incorporated. [HL8917]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what studies have been conducted into the financial and environmental consequences of a reduction or abolition of VAT on retrofitting of existing domestic and commercial buildings where adequate standards of insulation are incorporated.[HL8918]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): A reduced rate of VAT of 5 per cent is applied to the installation of certain energy-saving materials in domestic accommodation; this includes insulation as well as other environmentally beneficial materials.
It is not possible to extend the scope of that reduced rate to include commercial buildings nor is it possible to abolish VAT entirely on the supply and installation of energy-saving materials. Long-standing formal agreements with our European partners prevent us from doing so. For that reason, no studies have been conducted to look at the impact of extending the relief in the manner suggested.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their estimate of the extent to which national demand for water would be reduced if all domestic and commercial users had their supply metered and were charged accordingly.[HL8982]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): Almost all non-household customers already have a
16 May 2011 : Column WA287
Lord Henley: Almost all non-household customers already have a water meter. The rate of metering of household customers in England and Wales is currently increasing by approximately 2 per cent of households per annum, mainly as a result of households opting for a water meter.
Lord Henley: Almost all non-household customers already have a water meter. The Government anticipate that around 50 per cent of domestic properties will be metered by 2015. We will set out our policy on water metering in the water White Paper in the autumn.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The department has well-established mechanisms for engaging with organisations that work with and represent its customers. These include the quarterly DWP Policy and Strategy Forum, the Equality Schemes Customer Reference Group and our Customer Representative Forum programme. The department also regularly holds discussions with key stakeholders about current issues and new initiatives.
In addition the department undertook a formal consultation exercise specifically to elicit views on the problems with the current benefits system, on the Government's principles for welfare reform and on their proposals to simplify the system and make work pay. This ran from 30 July 2010 to 1 October 2010.
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