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Written Answers

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Agriculture: Eggs

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): I refer you to the Written Ministerial Statement the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food made on 6 December which explains how Defra and the devolved Administrations will enforce the EU ban on the keeping of laying hens in conventional cages from 1 January 2012.

The Government have thoroughly investigated the possibility of taking unilateral action and bringing in a UK ban on all imports of egg and egg products which have been produced in conventional cages in other member states. However, given the very significant legal and financial implications of introducing such a ban, coupled with practical difficulties in enforcing it, it is not a realistic option.

We believe 13 of the 27 member states will be non-compliant, but the Commission has yet to publish the latest data.

All member states have now been asked by the Commission to submit a list of compliant and non-compliant producers which will aid enforcement.

Autumn Statement

Questions

Asked by Lord Barnett

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The credit easing measures launched at the autumn Statement are initially worth up to £21 billion.

The national loan guarantee scheme will guarantee up to £20 billion of funding to banks over a two-year period to lend to smaller businesses. Smaller businesses will be able to apply for these loans and overdrafts through participating banks in the normal way.

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Participating banks will make credit assessments and retain full credit risk of the loans they make under the scheme.

The Business Finance Partnership will co-invest up to £1 billion in private sector loan funds over two years that will lend directly to mid-sized businesses. Private sector fund managers will be responsible for making credit judgments of firms that they lend to.

Work will continue to assess further credit-easing options and ideas. An update will be provided at Budget.

Sustainable public finances are a vital precondition for balanced and sustainable economic growth in the medium term. Any additional expenditure on credit easing will be in line with the Government's comprehensive and credible consolidation plan to restore the public finances to balance.

Asked by Lord Barnett

Lord Sassoon: The Government announced at the autumn Statement that they will make available an initial £1 billion, through the Business Finance Partnership, to invest in mid-sized businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK. This will initially focus on co-investment with the private sector through loan funds. The Government will begin the process of allocating funds early in 2012.

The Business Finance Partnership will not involve a bond issue. It will be funded from government expenditure in the normal way.

However, the Government will also consider options for the Business Finance Partnership to invest through other non-bank lending channels. This could include bond issuances by SMEs and mid-sized businesses, although no decisions on this have yet been taken.

The Government also announced at the autumn Statement that they will establish an industry working group to explore how further to develop access to non-bank lending channels, including forms of bond issuance, for SMEs and mid-sized businesses. The group will be led by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and will report by Budget 2012.

Banks: Lending

Question

Asked by Lord Myners



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) did not intend to imply, during BIS Oral Questions in the House of Commons last Thursday, that Project Merlin was not succeeding in its central objective of achieving growth in gross lending by banks. The Secretary of State sent a letter to Gordon Banks MP, copied to the shadow Secretary of State, to clarify the position.

In the letter, the Secretary of State said:

"At today's BIS Oral Questions you asked a question related to credit easing. In my answer, I inadvertently stated that Project Merlin had 'not' succeeded in its central objective of increasing gross lending in the UK. I had intended to use a double negative and say 'the Merlin project certainly didn't not succeed in its central objective, which was to achieve a growth in gross lending by banks'. I wanted to write to you immediately to clarify exactly what I meant and apologise for any confusion caused.

The latest Merlin figures show that the banks have issued £157 billion in new lending to UK businesses during the first nine months of the year despite an atmosphere of continued low business confidence which has impacted on demand. This is why I agree with the Chancellor's assessment in his most recent appearance at the Treasury Select Committee that Project Merlin has helped shield lending to small businesses in Britain.

However, that is not to say that the banks can afford to be complacent on this issue and the Government will continue to monitor bank lending levels for the final quarter of the agreement.

I would like to take this opportunity to underline that I take businesses' ability to access finance very seriously indeed. That is precisely why we are continuing to develop and refine government policies such as the national loan guarantee scheme as well as other access to finance policies".

A copy of the Secretary of State's letter has been placed in the Library of the House and I will arrange for a copy to be sent to the noble Lord.

Court: Closures

Question

Asked by Lord Rosser

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service is in the process of developing its plans for next summer.

In particular, the courts in the London region are undertaking detailed planning and are currently reviewing available intelligence on likely travel disruption to the capital and how it might affect court users getting to and from courts.

There is an expectation that the courts in central London will need to suppress normal court business during the Olympic Games (27 July to 12 August) but how many fewer courtrooms will operate and details of any necessary courthouse closures have yet to be determined.



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Further research is under way to assess whether or not court business should be suppressed in London courts before the Olympic Games, between the Olympic Games and Paralympics, during the Paralympics and immediately after the Paralympics, ie the full six-week period.

By the end of January 2012, a clearer view of the impact on courts will be available. If the suppression of business is deemed necessary, steps will be put in place to ensure that any rescheduled cases can be dealt with quickly.

Given its proximity to the majority of the Games venues, London is leading the planning process. Some courts in south-east England may be affected by some travel disruption, but to a lesser extent than in central London, and little disruption is anticipated for the rest of England and Wales.

Credit Default Swaps

Questions

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The procedures to be followed by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association Determinations Committee in determining whether a credit event has occurred are industry standards, established by the members of the credit derivatives industry upon their own initiative. There are no plans to review this.

Asked by Lord Myners

Lord Sassoon: There is, at present, no reason to reassess the view that credit default swaps do not fall within the definition of an insurance contract.

Education: Music

Question

Asked by Baroness Sharp of Guildford

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The national plan for music education, published on 25 November 2011,

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aims to put the needs of the pupil at the heart of a new approach to music education. It is designed for pupils from age five to 18, both in and out of school, in both formal and informal settings.

The plan reinforces the primary role that each school or college has in delivering the music curriculum across each key stage. The creation of new music education hubs from September 2012 will augment the teaching of music in schools and colleges.

Young people will continue to be able to undertake the study of music through courses such as GCSE, BTEC, graded music examinations or arts award. Hubs will be able to assist them by drawing in the expertise of a range of specialists, such as local orchestras, ensembles, charities and other music groups.

Embryology

Questions

Asked by Lord Willis of Knaresborough

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): We intend to publish the consultation on where the functions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority are best transferred shortly.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Earl Howe: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised that patients and donors registering at HFEA licensed centres must provide personal identifying information that is collected on registration forms, blank copies of which are available on the HFEA website at www.hfea.gov.uk.

All patients and donors must complete consent forms prior to embryos, created using their gametes, being used in treatment or in research. It is a condition of all HFEA treatment licences that centres keep such information as is necessary to facilitate the traceability of gametes and embryos.

Energy: Nuclear Waste

Question

Asked by Lord Inglewood



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): No sites have been listed as suitable at this stage. The first stage of the managing radioactive waste safely (MRWS) process is for communities to express an interest in hosting a geological disposal facility. Stage 2 is for the British Geological Survey (BGS) to carry out an exercise to rule out areas that do not meet a set of high-level screening criteria established through consultation and set out in the MRWS White Paper of June 2008 (see http://mrws.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/mrws/white-paper-final.pdf). This rules out areas as unsuitable; it does not mean that areas not ruled out are suitable. Further investigation would be required to determine this.

Government Departments: Procurement

Questions

Asked by Lord Prescott

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): Tables containing the recorded information for GPC transactions by the Attorney-General's Office (AGO) from 2006-07 to 2010-11 have been placed in the Library of the House.

In October 2008 banking arrangements for the AGO were changed from NatWest to Barclays. This resulted in a change to the way the information was recorded. Information additional to that shown in the tables deposited in the Library could not be obtained without incurring a disproportionate cost.

In summary, the total recorded GPC expenditure for each year is:

Year£ inc VAT)

2006-07

49,171

2007-08

64,841

2008-09

37,483

2009-10

32,284

2010-11

27,132

As part of the commitment to greater transparency, data for government procurement card transactions of £500 and above are now published monthly.

Details of such expenditure by the Attorney-General's Office, the Treasury Solicitor's Department and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate since April 2011 can be found at www.tsol.gov.uk.

Asked by Lord Prescott

Baroness Rawlings: The information requested on government procurement card (GPC) transactions for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), for the financial years 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11, has been placed in the House Libraries. GPC statements for the financial year 2006-07 were only held as paper records and statements covering the transaction for the whole year are not available. Copies of the available statements have been provided.

The DCMS now publishes information on GPC transactions over £500 on a monthly basis. Statements from April 2011 can be found on this link: http://www.transparency.culture.gov.uk/category/financial/financial-transactions/.

Asked by Lord Prescott

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): This Government are committed to the transparency agenda. During October 2011 we began to publish information on transactions over £500 for 2011-12 for the Department for Education on our website and will continue to do so on a monthly basis at: http://www.education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/ departmentalinformation/transparency/a00199014/details-of-spending-over-500-by-the-department-via-government-procurement-card-gpc.

Information on transactions over £500 for 2010-11 will be published by the end of March 2012.

Since November 2010, the department's government procurement card (GPC) scheme has been administered by the Department for Work and Pensions under the shared services umbrella. The previous scheme was a direct contractual arrangement between the Department for Education, its predecessors, and Barclaycard. This ran from 2002 to October 2010.

The department is only able to release data from April 2008 to March 2011 inclusive, as detailed in the full list of transactions provided separately. The cost work required in obtaining, contextualising and reporting data for central government departments for financial years 2006-07 and 2007-08 would exceed the cost limits of a Freedom of Information request for a Parliamentary Question.

Government Departments: Staff

Question

Asked by Lord Myners



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The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The public sector paybill accounts for around half of departmental resource spending, so deficit reduction will inevitably impact on the public sector workforce. Failing to tackle the deficit would be more detrimental for medium and long-term job prospects.

HM Treasury does not centrally manage changes to public sector workforces. It is for individual employers to decide what would be the most cost-effective workforce to enable them to deliver public services and live within their spending review settlements.

Health: Dentistry

Questions

Asked by Lord Colwyn

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The latest information held centrally for 2012 is in the following table.

University/CollegeNumber of final year dental students

University of Birmingham

77

University of Bristol

75

King's College London

167

University of Leeds

93

University of Liverpool

78

University of Manchester

80

University of Newcastle upon Tyne

84

Queen Mary, University of London

78

University of Sheffield

82

South West Peninsula

60

University of Central Lancashire

34

Total England

908

University of Dundee

74

University of Glasgow

92

Total Scotland

166

Cardiff University

73

Queen's University Belfast

39

Total UK

1186

Asked by Lord Colwyn

Earl Howe: All graduates from dental schools in the United Kingdom have to undertake one year's foundation training (formerly vocational training) before they

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may practise in the National Health Service. With effect from 2012, a national recruitment scheme for England and Wales will be introduced to ensure an equitable and transparent recruitment process that minimises disruption to dental students and trainers. The London Postgraduate Deanery is leading on implementation of the scheme on behalf of all deaneries. The London deanery expects to have appointed all trainers for 2012 by the end of March. It is too early to forecast how many training places will be required to accommodate all new graduates in 2012 because some applicants under the national schemes have also applied for places in Scotland and Northern Ireland and the number of students who will fail or defer their final examinations is not yet known.

In this developing situation we are liaising closely with the deaneries to ensure that the resources available for the funding of training places are used to best effect. The students who attended for interview in November comprised 1,015 final-year dental students, of whom 918 were from England and Wales, eight from Scotland, 25 from Northern Ireland and 64 from the European Union. In addition, 60 dental students who are taking re-sits or are graduates already holding a dental degree attended for interview, of whom 48 were from England and Wales, one from Scotland, seven from the EU and four from the rest of the world.

Health: Ophthalmology

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The results of the recent United Kingdom exon skipping clinical trial, on patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, confirm that dystrophin was being produced, and was working correctly in muscles. However, the response was very variable between patients.

The drug tested in this clinical trial was developed by scientists in the MDEX consortium and they conducted this trial with funding from the UK Medical Research Council and the pharmaceutical industry.

The Medical Research Council provides funding for research through a range of grants and personal awards to scientists in universities, medical schools and other research institutes. They do not have set budgets for specific illnesses. Research proposals in all areas compete for the funding available and research excellence is the primary consideration in funding decisions.

We are unable to assess how effective this potential new treatment will be at slowing the progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Larger and longer clinical trials will be needed to determine this. These trials are now being planned.



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Horses

Question

Asked by Lord Dear

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): Domestic horse passport legislation is enforced by local authorities, which take a risk-based approach to enforcement in their areas. Horse passports are intended to ensure the safety of meat for human consumption, and the Food Standards Agency is responsible for verifying that all horses accepted for slaughter for human consumption are correctly identified.

House of Commons: Members' Remuneration

Question

Asked by Lord Jacobs

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): There are 77 Conservative Ministers in the House of Commons and two of these are unpaid. There are 18 Liberal Democrat Ministers in the House of Commons and one of these is unpaid.

Housing

Questions

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): According to recent Glenigan data for the Homes and Communities Agency, at September 2011, there are around 90,000 stalled units with planning permissions across England that are classified as being on hold or shelved. Our understanding from the housebuilding industry is that there are a further 43,000 with planning permission that have started but where there has been no progress in 12 months. We expect the £400 million "Getting Britain Building" investment fund to unlock up to 16,000 units by

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supporting building firms in need of development finance. The prospectus for the fund will be issued shortly.

The final number of sites and houses that will be supported will be known once the competition has been completed and bids have been approved on the basis of value for money. At this stage we will also have a better understanding of their location and building timeframe.

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Baroness Hanham: The Government want to reinvigorate the right-to-buy scheme to give a new generation of tenants the opportunity of home ownership. We have announced our intention to increase the average discount a tenant receives under the right to buy to up to half the value of their home. Receipts will be used to pay off debt on the properties sold and for every additional home bought under right to buy, a new home will be built for affordable rent-over and above existing plans.

We will be publishing a consultation paper shortly seeking views on our proposals and an impact assessment detailing the impact of the proposed changes.

The right-to-buy scheme includes a cost floor provision which gives protection against losses on the sale of homes by ensuring that the discount does not reduce the sale price of the property below the costs the landlord has incurred in building and improving the property over a specified period.

Right-to-buy legislation also provides that homes are sold on the basis on which they are owned by the landlord. There are no plans to change this provision or require that social housing units are always sold on a leasehold basis.

The Government permit the voluntary disposal of council housing at less than market value, but only where this is of benefit to the community. The Government have just concluded a consultation in which they sought views on extending such freedoms in the local authority sector. We hope to publish our response to the views expressed in the new year.

Independent Schools Inspectorate

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. The Independent Schools Council (ISC) is its sole member, although from January 2012 the ISC will relinquish ownership to eight individual members. The board of directors comprises the chairman, the chief inspector, up to eight directors nominated by the ISC member associations, three independent directors, and one director nominated by ISC. The appointments of the chairman, chief inspector and independent directors are subject to approval by the Department for Education.

The Government are discussing with ISI the frequency of inspection of schools and colleges that are part of the UKBA scheme. There will be an announcement in due course.

Justice: Criminal Cases Review Commission

Questions

Asked by Lord Avebury

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Criminal Cases Review Commission is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Ministry of Justice. This response is provided on behalf of the commission and based on information provided by it.

In relation to the first Question, I can confirm that at 30 November 2011 the commission had 216 applications awaiting consideration. I am unable to indicate how many of those applications involve Section 32 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. This is because the commission would have to read the summing-up in all 216 cases to establish which cases involved Section 32. Cases vary enormously in size and complexity, but my officials have estimated that this would amount to approximately 58 days of work and would incur disproportionate costs.



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For the purposes of the second Question, the total number of applications that the commission made decisions on in 2010 was 929. I am not in a position to provide answers to the questions asked about those cases on the grounds that gathering the precise information required would incur disproportionate costs. The commission has confirmed that in order to indicate how many of those cases were regarding convictions secured with the aid of Section 32, the commission's statements of reasons along with the summing-up would both have to be read in most cases; even then, the degree to which Section 32 was relevant may not be clear from those documents. The other aspects of the Question as to the number of convictions overturned and average length of time that cases queued for review would each involve additional work. Information concerning costs of time spent in custody pending a review could not be ascertained until information about relevant timescales was available from the commission.

Money: Counterfeit Coins

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The most recent survey completed by the Royal Mint found that its sample contained a £1 coin counterfeit rate of 2.94 per cent.

Music: Youth Orchestras

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The Government have committed in the national plan for music education to continue to fund national youth music organisations (which include the National Youth Orchestra, the National Youth Brass Band and the National Youth Choir). The national youth music organisations act as an important pinnacle of musical achievement to which all children and young people can aspire. In 2011-12 we are providing funding of £520,000, matched by a joint contribution from the Arts Council England and Youth Music. This is the same amount as in previous years.

From 2012, music education will be funded by the department in such a way that it will reward partnerships between local authorities and local music organisations, such as district and regional youth orchestras. Together we hope that these partnerships will open up new networks of music educators so that more children have a high-quality music education, including the opportunity to learn to sing, to play an instrument and to play music with others.



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National Loan Guarantee Scheme

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government are currently working to set the details of the national loan guarantee scheme. The scheme is expected to be up and running early next year.

Pensions

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Solvency II directive will introduce a new, risk-based standard for insurance regulation. The European Commission has issued a call for advice to the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) on the application of Solvency II to Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORPS). EIOPA is currently consulting on the advice it will provide to the Commission, and is due to respond to the Commission in 2012.

The proposals are not yet sufficiently precisely defined to allow the Government to carry out an impact assessment, or assess the likely impact on investment in infrastructure. The Government are pressing EIOPA to provide an impact assessment when it issues its advice.

The Government have serious concerns over any potential proposals to align pension fund capital rules with the Solvency II directive and have made clear that they will be opposing any such proposals.

Schools: Nutrition

Question

Asked by Lord Beecham

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): Academies, including free schools, opened since September 2010 are not required to adhere to set nutritional standards. Academies

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are given greater autonomy and freedom to use their professional judgment to make the best decisions on behalf of their pupils. We are confident that academies will know that good food supports good behaviour and better concentration in school and will wish to provide healthy school food. The school food standards for maintained schools also provide a benchmark of good practice. The Secretary of State has asked the School Food Trust to look at the approach taken by academies to providing healthy school food for their pupils, including a mixture of established and new academies.



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State Recognition

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government have recognised the Holy See, which is a non-member state with observer status at the United Nations, and Kosovo.


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