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18 Oct 2011 : Column WA43



18 Oct 2011 : Column WA43

Written Answers

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Armed Forces: Under-18s

Question

Asked by Lord Judd

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): No. The Armed Forces (Terms of Service (Amendment) Regulation 2011) (Number 1523) became effective on 12 July 2011. This gives all service personnel under the age of 18 the right to leave the Armed Forces before their 18th birthday following an appropriate period of consultation or cooling-off. We believe that these arrangements provide the necessary opportunity for those who are unhappy with their career choice to exercise their right to leave. By doing so, there is no requirement for them to make a new commitment to service.

Autism

Question

Asked by Baroness Browning

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): In line with the requirements of the Autism Act 2009, the department issued Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives, Statutory Guidance for Health and Social Care Bodies on 17 December 2010. The guidance makes it clear that if an adult is diagnosed with autism, they should be offered a community care assessment under Section 47(1) of the NHS and Community Care Act 1990, regardless of their IQ, and their carers will be informed of their right to a carer's assessment. If the person needs care services, they will be able to make choices about the services they receive, and are able to use a personal budget to pay for the services they want if they are eligible for a personal budget.

Aviation: Passenger Duty

Question

Asked by Lord Newby



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The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Aviation is a global industry bound by international agreements. The UK is a signatory to the 1944 ICAO Chicago Convention and has air service agreements with over 150 countries. Many stakeholders have expressed concerns about the legality and feasibility of introducing a per plane duty under current international rules. The Government wish to proceed with consensus in this area and will not introduce a per plane duty in place of air passenger duty at the present time. However, we will continue working with our international partners to build understanding and support for this approach in the future.

Banking: Northern Rock

Questions

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): In order to achieve the best value for the taxpayer, the Government are not providing a running commentary on the sales process and cannot comment on specific bids.

Banking: Switzerland

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government cannot comment on the affairs of particular taxpayers. However, the costs of running a banking trade will normally be deductible in computing a bank's trading profits for the purposes of corporation tax in the same way as they would be for any other trading company.



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Benefits: Disability

Questions

Asked by Lord Marlesford

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): More than 70 per cent of the current DLA caseload has an indefinite award. Although we are able to reassess the level of award of any customer at any time, there is not currently any systematic way of ensuring that awards remain correct. This is one of the reasons why we are introducing a more transparent and objective assessment in personal independence payment and a system for regularly checking that the right support always goes to those who face the greatest barriers to leading independent lives.

There were 1,780,418 disabled people receiving the higher rate mobility component of disability living allowance as at February 2011. Information on the annual cost of the benefit and its rates are contained in the tables below.

YearDisability Living Allowance Expenditure (nominal terms) (£ millions)Mobility Component Expenditure (nominal terms) (£ millions)

2009-10

11,459

5,462

2010-11

11,915

5,627

Disability Living Allowance Rates-April 2011

Care Component

Highest Rate

£73.60

Middle Rate

£49.30

Lowest Rate

£19.55

Mobility Component

Higher Rate

£51.40

Lower Rate

£19.55



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Children: Care

Questions

Asked by Lord Sheikh

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): Local authorities have statutory duties to ensure that children in their care are supported by a social worker, an independent reviewing officer as well as an entitlement to an independent advocate if they wish one.

These practitioners have clearly defined responsibilities in listening to, advising and promoting the interests and welfare of the child as well as representing their views. Looked-after children are also entitled to the services of independent visitors, who are volunteers who befriend and support looked-after children. It is for local authorities to ensure that they have adequate provision of a range of services to meet the individual needs of their children.

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

Lord Hill of Oareford: Around half of the £6 billion spent on children's services in 2009-10 (excluding education spending) was spent on services for looked-after children. Costs vary significantly between individual children and types of placement, and there are various methods of calculating the average cost of a child in a residential placement. However, based on the University of Kent's 2010 report on social care costs, (available at http://www.pssru.ac.uk/pdf/uc/uc2010/uc2010.pdf), the estimated average cost of foster care in 2009-10 was £676 per child per week, and the estimated average care package cost per resident week in local authority children's homes was £2,881.

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

Lord Hill of Oareford: Local authorities receive significant funding to support their looked-after children. Around half of the £6 billion spent on children's services in 2009-10 (excluding education spending) was spent on services for looked-after children. LAs have a duty to ensure that sufficient accommodation is commissioned to meet the needs of their looked-after population. This includes accommodation needed in an emergency.



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Climate Change

Question

Asked by Lord Judd

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): The UK strongly supported the agreement made in Cancun in December to establish a green climate fund. The UK is playing an active role in designing the fund through membership of the transitional committee. We are working to ensure the fund operates according to internationally accepted social and environment safeguards; that it achieves a balance between funding for mitigation and adaptation; and that gender is appropriately considered throughout.

Crime: Bail

Question

Asked by Baroness Howe of Idlicote

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Bail Act 1976 establishes a presumption that a defendant will be granted bail, and this presumption applies even where the offence is of a sexual or violent nature. But the Act also sets out reasons that may justify withholding bail. The most important are that the court is satisfied that there are substantial grounds for believing that if released the defendant would abscond, commit an offence, or interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice. It is for the court to decide in a particular case whether any of these exceptions to bail are present and whether the defendant may therefore be remanded in custody.

Education: Languages

Question

Asked by Lord Greaves



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): We have made no specific assessment of this issue. However, we are aware of research that has shown that bilingual individuals have an advantage in skills relating to problem solving, critical thinking, processing of information and other areas. We are also aware of evidence of the success of bilingual teaching in countries such as Spain and Singapore. We will take this into account as we develop our policy on languages teaching in schools.

Energy: Emissions

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): The Government are working hard to build support for an EU-wide 30 per cent emission reduction target. This is a coalition commitment. We believe that in an increased target, the additional emission reductions will need to be shared fairly among the member states.

Energy: Nuclear Fuel Bank

Question

Asked by Viscount Waverley

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): The UK, through its membership of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has strongly supported all recent steps to provide assurances of supply (of nuclear fuel) that help build confidence for those states considering nuclear power. These measures include the so-called IAEA fuel bank, approved in principle by the board in December 2010, with the financial backing of several partners including the EU, and the UK's own proposal for a nuclear fuel assurance.

Details of the modalities of this IAEA fuel bank, including its recommended location, are currently being worked out by the IAEA and will be presented to the IAEA board for approval in the near future. An appropriate host will be determined at that stage, once all the facts are known.



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Energy: Prices

Question

Asked by Lord Janner of Braunstone

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): The new warm home discount scheme introduced in April this year requires energy companies by law to give a discount on energy bills to more of their most low-income and vulnerable customers. The poorest pensioners in receipt of pension credit guarantee credit will receive a £120 discount on their electricity bill this year. Other groups such as low-income families and those with long-term illnesses and disabilities may also receive this discount. The warm home discount scheme will help around 2 million households per year and will be worth up to £1.1 billion over the four years to 2015.

In addition there is a package of measures we have in place to support low-income vulnerable consumers with their energy bills over the winter period. This includes existing initiatives like winter fuel payments for pensioners and the cold weather payments which support low-income and vulnerable households in particular geographic areas during extended periods of cold weather.

Energy: Wind Turbines

Questions

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): As part of a planning application, a wind farm developer will provide information on the potential impact of the proposed development for consideration by the relevant planning authority. In the case of noise impact the planning authority is guided by government guidance ETSU-R-97.

The Government are committed to ensuring planning authorities and developers are clear on best practice to provide greater certainty within the planning system. The Institute of Acoustics at the request of the Government has agreed to produce best practice for industry on how to implement ETSU-R-97.

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton



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Lord Marland: Carbon savings are generated within the UK power sector when low-carbon generation displaces conventional fossil fuel technologies. However, as the UK power sector is part of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) which has placed a cap on emissions, any carbon savings achieved in the UK power sector have to be netted off by lower carbon abatement elsewhere in the EU-ETS.

The extent of carbon savings is dependent upon the assumed generation mix, which is dependent upon a range of factors, including fossil fuel and carbon prices, the economics of electricity generation, technological progress, and policies pursued (including those designed to meet climate change targets). DECC models different generation scenarios in order to develop policy, rather than forecasting a specific generation mix. The net carbon savings will depend on the scenario used.

For example, in DECC's recently published Updated Energy Projections central baseline scenario, 411TWh of electricity is estimated to be supplied from wind (onshore and offshore) in the next 10 years (2011-20). If we assume this displaces generation from the marginal plant1 it translates to 15MtCO2 net carbon savings. In this scenario, there is no new nuclear forecast until 2022. This scenario does not include the impacts of any proposed electricity market reform measures.

By contrast, under the central scenario commissioned by DECC from the consultancy Redpoint (to inform the electricity market reform White Paper and including EMR policy options), 445TWh of electricity is supplied from wind and 38TWh of electricity from new nuclear in the next 10 years (2011-20). By the same method as before, this translates to 17MtCO2 and 2MtCO2 net carbon savings respectively.

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

Lord Marland: In June the Government published the result of research which analysed matters arising in the consideration of noise impacts when determining wind farm applications in England. The report is available on the DECC website at: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/meeting_energy/wind/onshore/comms_planning/noise/noise.aspx

The Institute of Acoustics, at the request of Government, has agreed to take forward recommendations from this research to develop best practice guidance on assessing noise impacts. This guidance will be disseminated to planning authorities and published on the DECC website.

In July the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published a report to aid local authorities investigating complaints regarding noise from wind

18 Oct 2011 : Column WA51

farms under statutory nuisance. The report is available on the Defra website at: http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&;Module=More&Location= None&Completed=0&ProiectID=l7335.

In March DECC published a report updating the Government's evidence base on shadow flicker. This report is available on the DECC website at: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/meeting_energy/wind/onshore/comms_planning/shadow_flicker/shadow_flicker.aspx.

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

Lord Marland: A comprehensive study of vibration measurements in the vicinity of a modem wind farm was undertaken in the UK in 1997 by ETSU for the Department of Trade and Industry (ETSU W/13/00392/REP). The report found no evidence that ground transmitted low frequency noise from wind turbines is at a sufficient level to be harmful to human health.

These findings were confirmed by a study published in 2005 by the Applied and Environmental Geophysics Group of the School of Physical and Geographical Sciences at Keele University titled Microseismic and Infrasound Monitoring of Low Frequency Noise and Vibrations from Windfarms. The report is available at: http://geophysics.esci.keele.ac.uk/resources/docs/Final_Report.pdf.

In 2003 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published a report titled A Review of Published Research on Low Frequency Noise and its Effects. This report is available at: http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/noise/research/lowfrequency/documents/lowfreqnoise.pdf.

Finance: Credit Easing

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): As set out in the Charter for Budget Responsibility, the Office for Budget Responsibility's published forecasts shall be based on all government decisions and all other circumstances that may have a material impact on the fiscal outlook.

Finance: Exchange Traded Funds

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The undertakings for collective investments in transferable securities (UCITS) directive provides a harmonised EU regulatory framework for collective investment schemes. It is designed to ensure that they are products which are appropriate for retail investors, providing high levels of investor protection. The Government believe that it is important for the UCITS brand that products sold under the UCITS directive are suitable for retail investors.

The Government are aware of the recent developments in the exchange traded funds industry and the concerns around the suitability of some of these products for retail investors. We are working closely with the Financial Services Authority and Bank of England to analyse the risks associated with these products.

Fluoridation

Question

Asked by Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): I confirm the correct mean figure for decayed, missing and filled teeth among 12 year-olds within Manchester Primary Care Trust area was 1.12. I should like to apologise for the error.

Food: Global Sustainability

Question

Asked by Lord Judd

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The report's sponsoring departments, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Development (DfID), set out commitments in the report's action plan and have made significant progress on several fronts to ensure the consideration and take up of the report's findings.

Defra ensures that the UK leads the way on sustainable intensification of agriculture and champions a more integrated approach to food security and the development of a sustainable and resilient global food system through international fora such as the UN Conference on

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Sustainable Development. Furthermore, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' contribution to the G20 process and establishment of the Agricultural Market Information System support moves to manage price volatility through improved market information and transparency.

DfID is promoting more effective, national and international approaches to global food security; for example, by funding studies which link agriculture and climate change; strengthening modelling through contributions to the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) programme; and through its support for the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research programme. DfID has strengthened international public policy by conducting systematic reviews of evidence and has invested in research and new technologies to support improved health, nutrition and hunger outcomes in developing countries. DfID continues to develop and pilot new ways of stimulating innovation and supporting the private sector.

The Government Office for Science is engaging with leading global stakeholders; for example, United Nations agencies, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Bank and the African Union to catalyse action in response to the report in areas which include global sustainability, hunger amelioration, green growth and knowledge transfer.

At a domestic level Defra has established a project called the Green Food Project which government will undertake jointly with the farming and food industry, consumer and environmental organisations, to consider some of the implications of the report in England. The project will consider how we might reconcile the goals of increasing food production and enhancing the natural environment, in order to lead the way on sustainable intensification.

Food: Production

Questions

Asked by Lord Judd

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): The Government published the report Agricultural Price Spikes 2007/2008: Causes and Policy Implications1 earlier this year, prepared in response to the commodities price spikes in 2008. Within this report, annexe 5 considers the global impact of biofuels on agricultural commodities. Specifically, although the demand for the agricultural commodities used in biofuel production has increased substantially over the past 10 years, biofuel use remains a small proportion of overall commodities demand. Medium-term economic modelling suggests that this may lead to upward pressure on commodities prices, most likely leading to increased production.



18 Oct 2011 : Column WA54

The analysis also concluded that there is some evidence that increased demand for biofuels has led to lower stocks, but other factors such as active destocking policies by governments have been more important. We are currently unable to estimate the precise impact of biofuel production on food production or stock levels.

The European Commission must monitor and report every two years on the impact of biofuel policy and increased demand for biofuel on social sustainability. This includes reporting on the availability of foodstuffs at affordable prices, in particular for people living in developing countries. If necessary the Commission must propose corrective action. We are feeding our views into the Commission.

The UK was instrumental in the development of sustainability indicators as part of the work of the Global Bio Energy Partnership (GBEP) which was set up under the UK's G8 Presidency in 2005.

Asked by Lord Judd

Baroness Northover: For many years, the Government of Brazil have been striving to address the problems of extreme poverty and hunger, especially among children. From 2003-08 the Bolsa Familia program within the Zero Hunger campaign helped to lift 12.2 million people out of poverty, to contribute significantly to the overall decrease in inequality, and to reduce greatly levels of malnutrition throughout the country.

The Zero Hunger campaign has had distinct success. In the past 10 years, Brazil has cut the prevalence of underweight children in half and the country is on track to halve the rate of hunger before the 2015 millennium development goal deadline. The campaign was showcased at the joint Department for International Development (DfID) and United States Agency for International Development "Millennium Development Goals Countdown" event in the margins of the UN General Assembly in September. DfID is working to promote the dissemination and practical application of lessons from Brazil's experience in low-income countries, particularly in Africa.

Gaza

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

Baroness Northover: The UK supports healthcare in Gaza through our financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA), and our core funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The PA provides

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healthcare services to non-refugees and hospital care for all Gazans. UNRWA provides primary healthcare to the 70 per cent of the population in Gaza who are refugees. Our financial support, along with that of other donors, to the PA is crucial in enabling the PA to procure drugs and disposables by helping to reduce budgetary constraints on the Ministry of Health. We are also supporting the UN Access Co-ordination Unit to work with the World Health Organisation, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and aid agencies to facilitate the transfer of medical equipment and supplies into Gaza. The UK is at the forefront of the international effort pushing for the easing of movement and access restrictions for Gaza and raises these issues regularly with the Israeli Authorities.

Gulf War Illnesses

Questions

Asked by Lord Morris of Manchester

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): I refer the noble Lord to the answer I gave on 3 October 2011 (Official Report, col. WA 171).

Asked by Lord Craig of Radley

Lord Astor of Hever: I refer the noble and gallant Lord to the answer I gave on 3 October 2011 (Official Report, col. WA 110) to the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester.

Health: Cancer

Questions

Asked by Baroness Randerson

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): On 12 January 2011, we published Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer. It shows how the Government's reforms will improve outcomes for all cancer patients. The strategy sets out an ambition to save at least an additional 5,000 lives every year by 2014-15 through earlier diagnosis of cancer and improved access to screening and radiotherapy.



18 Oct 2011 : Column WA56

To support earlier diagnosis of cancer, the Government have committed over £450 million over the next four years. This money will be used to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer; fund increased general practitioner access to diagnostic tests; and pay for more testing and treatment in secondary care.

The strategy also sets out our commitment to work with a number of charities focused on rarer cancers to assess what more can be done to encourage appropriate referrals to secondary care and to diagnose rarer cancers earlier. Departmental officials have already met with a number of these charities, including a pancreatic cancer charity, with the aim of identifying some of the barriers to early diagnosis and to discuss potential solutions. This will inform our future work in this area.

On 16 September, we announced plans to roll out a regional awareness symptom campaign focusing on lung cancer in October and a national campaign focusing on bowel cancer next year. In addition, there will be local trial campaigns for less common cancers, namely oesophagogastric cancer and the symptom blood in urine (an indicator of kidney and bladder cancers). Work is also under way to test the feasibility of developing a more generic cancer campaign that could apply to all cancer types including pancreatic cancer.

Finally, Improving Outcomes in Upper Gastro-intestinal Cancers, published in 2001, makes recommendations on the treatment, management and care of patients with upper gastro-intestinal cancers including pancreatic cancer. The Cancer Outcomes Strategy makes it clear that the improving outcomes in cancer guidance, published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, will continue to be a feature of all commissioned cancer services.

Justice: Criminal Records

Question

Asked by Baroness Randerson

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Criminal records disclosure in England and Wales is provided by the Criminal Records Bureau and is only available to bodies seeking to ask questions for specific purposes listed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 and subsequent amendments. Where such disclosure is made all convictions that appear on an individual's criminal record will be disclosed to the prospective employer; no distinction is made between the type or age of a conviction in the disclosure. It would be difficult to determine reliably the number of people rejected for employment solely as a result of disclosure of very old and minor convictions, or for other reasons unrelated to conviction information and therefore no such assessment has been undertaken.



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Law of Property Act 1925

Questions

Asked by Baroness Randerson

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Ministry of Justice has not received any representations from individuals or companies adversely affected by the activities of receivers appointed under the Law of Property Act 1925 (LPA) since the Written Answer given on 27 June. The Government have no plans to amend the law relating to the obligations of LPA receivers, but will continue to keep the situation under review.

Media: S4C

Question

Asked by Lord Wigley

Baroness Rawlings: The S4C-BBC partnership arrangements will ensure a strong, sustainable future for S4C and Welsh-language broadcasting. S4C, the BBC and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are currently in discussion about the details of how the partnership arrangements will work, although we are not yet in a position to announce the finalised arrangements.

NHS: Primary Care Trusts

Questions

Asked by Lord Mawhinney



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Government have not asked the National Health Service to discontinue and amalgamate primary care trusts (PCTs). Instead, the Government have asked the NHS to form PCT clusters with a single executive team to sustain management capacity and a clear line of accountability during the transition to the new system, subject to parliamentary approval of the Health and Social Care Bill.

These new clusters are not statutory bodies and do not replace PCTs, which continue to exist, nor are they permanent features of the landscape, but they are necessary to sustain PCT capability.

The Operating Framework for the NHS in England 2011-12 stipulated that strategic health authorities (SHAs) would oversee the development of PCT clusters and ensure local coherence across the local development of the new architecture.

East of England SHA informed the department of its proposed cluster arrangements at a meeting of the NHS Management Board held on 19 January 2011. Following this meeting, Sir David Nicholson visited East of England SHA with Jim Easton, National Director for Improvement and Efficiency, on 20 May 2011. This was one in a series of SHA assurance visits that Sir David and Jim undertook to consider, among other issues, SHA cluster arrangements.

Asked by Lord Mawhinney

Earl Howe: The Government have not asked the National Health Service to discontinue and amalgamate primary care trusts (PCTs). Instead, the Government have asked the NHS to form PCT clusters with a single executive team to sustain management capacity and a clear line of accountability during the transition to the new system, subject to parliamentary approval of the Health and Social Care Bill.

These new clusters are not statutory bodies and do not replace PCTs, which continue to exist, nor are they permanent features of the landscape, but they are necessary to sustain PCT capability.



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The operating framework for the NHS in England 2011-12 stipulated that strategic health authorities would oversee the development of PCT clusters and ensure local coherence across the local development of the new architecture.

Pakistan: Floods

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

Baroness Northover: The UK anticipated possible further flooding in Pakistan this year and pre-positioned thousands of tents, thermal blankets and hygiene kits. These are now being distributed by the International Federation of the Red Cross. The UK has also provided assistance to the International Organisation of Migration, which has helped to provide emergency shelter to more than 37,000 people. We are also supporting the World Health Organisation's Disease Early Warning System, which is helping to prevent outbreaks of major health epidemics.

In addition, and in response to this year's flooding, we will provide emergency shelter and flood-resistant new homes to more than 255,000 affected people.

We are working closely with the international community and our Commonwealth partners to provide co-ordinated humanitarian assistance to Pakistan. Australia is providing funds to the World Food Programme for food rations and international NGOs to focus on water sanitation and health projects.

Parliamentary Constituencies

Question

Asked by Lord Grocott

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): We estimate that the cost from 1 April 2011 to date of undertaking the boundary review under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 is approximately £814,000 in England, and approximately £181,000 in Northern Ireland. The total cost of the current boundary reviews across the UK is expected to be less than the total cost of the previous general reviews.

Railways: Gatwick Express

Question

Asked by Lord Laird



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Earl Attlee: Gatwick Express services form part of the South Central franchise operated by Southern. Southern has challenging customer satisfaction targets to achieve in respect of the independently administered national passenger surveys. These are carried out on the network each spring and autumn.

The 2010 results for the Gatwick Express were as follows:

Gatwick Express
TargetActual

Trains

86%

79%

Customer Service

81%

76%

Following these results, Department for Transport officials worked with Southern to agree an action plan. This sees it committing additional investment in order to generate an improvement.

Southern's performance against the 2011 targets will be assessed early next year once results from both the spring and autumn surveys are collected.

Railways: Intercity Express and Electrification

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

Earl Attlee: : I refer the noble Lord to my Answer of 4 October 2011 (Official Report, col. WA 206) (HL11149) for details of the deployment of rolling stock on the Great Western that the Department for Transport has calculated to be most beneficial and economical.

The current Great Western franchise will terminate in April 2013, and as part of the specification of the new franchise, we will consult on the level of services the new franchise should offer.

Retail: Bookshops

Question

Asked by Lord Greaves



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Government have made no assessment in this area. However, we are aware that booksellers, in common with many other specialised retailers, face strong competitive pressures coupled with changes to consumer preferences, and advances in technology.

The government-commissioned independent review of the high street, led by Mary Portas, will report to the Prime Minister later this year. The review is taking into consideration many factors which contribute to the economic and social performance of high streets, including diversity in provision of goods and services.

Severe Winter Weather

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Earl Attlee: The Government have engaged with airport operators to discuss the lessons learnt from last winter's severe weather and the measures they have put in place to improve their response to future similar events. The Civil Aviation Authority is monitoring airport operators' progress in improving their resilience.

Shipping: Fires

Question

Asked by Lord Condon

Earl Attlee: As announced in a Written Ministerial Statement on 15 September 2011, the Government will use commercial salvors to provide an assessment and advice capability for dealing with fires on ships.

Shipping: Working Conditions

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

Earl Attlee: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has an inspection regime in place to ensure compliance with the relevant regulations, and appropriate sanctions are available for non-compliance, depending on the particular offence.



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For UK-registered ships, the relevant requirements are set out in the Merchant Shipping (Seamen's Wages and Accounts) Regulations 1972, Merchant Shipping (Hours of Work) Regulations 2002 and the Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997.

For non-UK-registered ships, European and international standards on wages, health, safety and working hours are applied through Port State Control inspections, which the MCA can conduct on non-UK ships visiting UK ports.

The Maritime Labour Convention 2006, which is expected to enter into force by the end of 2012, consolidates and updates over 60 existing International Labour Organisation instruments on living and working conditions for seafarers, with the aim of securing the right of all seafarers to decent employment.

Although the UK is already largely compliant with the requirements of the convention there are certain elements that will require amendments to existing legislation to make the UK fully compliant and allow it to ratify the convention.

The Government will hold a public consultation early next year on the proposed amendments to legislation, which will include provisions relating to wages and health and safety.

Somalia

Questions

Asked by Lord Judd

Baroness Northover: The UK Government support an inclusive peace process based on the Djibouti agreement. This includes fulfilment of key tasks of the Transitional Federal Charter by 2012, such as the adoption of a draft constitution and increasing transparency. We will continue to support the Transitional Federal Government if they demonstrate results, and will hold them to account if they fail to deliver.

With our international partners, including countries from the Gulf, we are working to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas of need in Somalia.

Asked by Lord Judd

Baroness Northover: The UK Government have studied the report by Somalia South-Central Non-State Actors (SOSCENSA) on the role of citizens and civil society in the transitional period based on its citizens'

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dialogue. Its recommendations, and those emerging from our other consultations with civil society groups, are reflected in a draft European Union/United Kingdom strategy to strengthen civil society in Somalia, which will be published after further consultation. This strategy will form a key part of the design of the Department for International Development's future programme in Somalia.

South Sudan

Question

Asked by Lord Sheikh

Baroness Northover: The UK's development programme in South Sudan includes specific measures to promote tribal tolerance. These include a programme to support grassroots peacebuilding, which is helping to build up community-based organisations, strengthen intercommunity dialogue and community mechanisms for dispute resolution, and to establish an early warning system in four key states. In addition, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) managed South Sudan Recovery Fund, to which the UK is a core contributor, is supporting local level investments to promote peace and stability in all 10 states of South Sudan.

Sudan

Question

Asked by Lord Sheikh

Baroness Northover: We are greatly concerned at the humanitarian situation in Sudan. This is particularly acute in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile State where conflict continues and where humanitarian access is limited. Refugees displaced from Southern Kordofan into South Sudan are reported as malnourished, underlining the urgency of the need for humanitarian access after four months of no international response being permitted.

There is also a significant ongoing humanitarian need for those displaced from Abyei and in Darfur. We are working closely with the UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations to press for greater access to those that need help the most and for the protection of civilians. In Sudan since May, we estimate that 110,000 people have been displaced from Abyei; 200,000 from Southern Kordofan; 25,000 from Blue Nile State, plus a further 25,000 out of the state to Ethiopia and a further 6,000 into South Sudan; and since January 2011 at least 70,000 in Darfur, with 1.9 million long-term displaced.



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In 2011, the UK has provided £40 million to the UN-managed Common Humanitarian Fund which channels funds through UN agencies and non-governmental organisations, of which around 60 per cent will be spent in Sudan to alleviate the needs on the ground.

We expect this to help deliver the following results:

emergency shelter and non-food items to 2.4 million people;life-saving health and nutritional support to 6 million people;safe water and sanitation to 3 million people; andfood security and livelihoods support to 5.4 million people.

Taxation

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) shares relevant information and intelligence about Structured Trust Advantaged Repackaged Securities (also known as STARS) with other fiscal authorities through the Joint International Tax Shelter Information Centre, in accordance with the exchange of information articles in our double taxation treaties.

HMRC carries out risk assessments of its customers and where it identifies structured financial products, it reviews them as appropriate. Where HMRC takes the view that there is UK tax at risk, it will challenge such structures. Where it takes the view that there may be a threat to another fiscal authority, it liaises as appropriate with that fiscal authority.

Transport: Coaches

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

Earl Attlee: In 2009, Government paid £16.9 million to coach operators who offered half price travel to eligible disabled and people over 60.

A regulatory impact assessment relating to the ending of the BSOG coach concession in England will be published on the Department for Transport website and a copy placed in the Library of the House when the regulations which end the scheme come into effect.



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Following the 2010 spending review announcement, National Express said it was already planning for the removal of the coach concessionary fares scheme in October 2011 and would announce new products aimed at the over-60s and disabled travellers in due course. National Express said that it believed the financial impact of the scheme's removal was manageable and would be mitigated by its own plans.

Universal Credit

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): We are considering carefully how to design universal credit so that it provides the right support for self-employed people.

It is our intention that the new system works efficiently for self-employed people and does not impose any unnecessary burdens on them. We will balance this efficiency with the appropriate safeguards to make sure that public funds are distributed wisely. We will provide a self-reporting tool for all those who are outside the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) system, such as the self-employed, to ensure that universal credit payments take into account all household earnings. The regularity with which information will be required and assessment made is being considered in order to balance obligations on the claimant and responsiveness to need.

We will provide more information as soon as possible but are determined to take time to ensure the right approach.


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