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Written Answers

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Banking: Ring-fencing

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the proposed implementation of the ring-fencing of United Kingdom banks follows the findings of the report of the Liikanen Group.[HL2350]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government welcome the findings of the Liikanen report on structural reform and are very encouraged to see that the group has identified the need for structural separation in the European banking sector.

The report mirrors the Independent Commission on Banking’s core principle that retail and investment banking should be separated to prevent banks using the savings of citizens to take unacceptable risks on the investment banking side. A draft Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill, to take forward these reforms, was published on 12 October.

Banks: British Business Bank

Questions

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the proposed British business bank will operate separately or through existing commercial banks.[HL2348]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Sassoon on 10 October (HL2309), whether European rules would permit the proposed British business bank to lend to borrowers at rates or terms more attractive than those available from commercial banks.[HL2486]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The British business bank will work through intermediaries with the aim of enabling the market rather than competing with it. As set out in my previous Answer of 10 October, the business bank’s operations will comply with any relevant European rules. The Government will set out further details later this autumn.

Asked by Lord Barnett

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much private capital has so far been secured for the proposed British business bank.[HL2512]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the proposed British business bank will lend on normal commercial terms.[HL2513]

Lord Sassoon: The Government intend to allocate up to £1 billion of public capital to the British business bank, which will leverage additional private sector

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capital, to help stimulate and diversify private sector markets for long-term finance for growing businesses. The Government will set out further details later this autumn.

Banks: Lending

Questions

Asked by Lord Empey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have set targets for bank lending to United Kingdom companies in order to stimulate growth and whether they will publish any such targets.[HL2408]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Last year the Chancellor announced a commitment by the UK’s biggest high street banks for lending expectations and capacity, known as Project Merlin. As part of this agreement the banks committed to lend £190 billion of new credit to businesses in 2011, of which £76 billion was to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This was a 15% increase compared with the 2010 lending figure of £66 billion.

In 2011 UK banks lent over £214 billion to British businesses—a 20% increase compared with 2010, exceeding the overall Merlin lending target by £24 billion. Figures also showed a 13% increase in SME lending compared with the previous year, with it rising to over £74 billion.

The Government recognise the importance of access to finance, particularly for small innovative companies, as key to promoting private investment and delivering sustainable economic recovery. That is why the Bank of England and HM Treasury announced the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) earlier this year. The FLS will create strong incentives for banks to increase lending to UK households and businesses by lowering interest rates and increasing access to credit.

Asked by Lord Barnett

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether banks and building societies that have signed up for the Funding for Lending scheme have produced any evidence of additional loans having been made; and, if so, what is the value of those additional loans.[HL2510]

Lord Sassoon: The Bank of England will publish, for each bank participating in the Funding for Lending Scheme, the amount borrowed from the bank and the net flows of lending to households and non-financial businesses, on a quarterly basis, from 3 December 2012.

Crime: Hate Crime

Question

Asked by Lord Ouseley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they are taking to tackle race hatred; and what is their response to the publication by the Association of Chief Police Officers of data on 13 September showing that 82% of hate crime offences in the last year in England and Wales were racially motivated. [HL2448]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): Tackling all hate crime, including that which is racially motivated, is something this Government take very seriously. Our cross-government action plan on hate crime, which was published in March, brings together the work of a wide range of departments and agencies to tackle it. We welcome the Association of Chief Police Officers’ publication, alongside our own official statistics, on recorded hate crimes. Better information on the scale of the problem will help police forces and police and crime commissioners focus resources on where they are most needed.

Eritrea

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they are enforcing the United Nations ban on armaments for Eritrea.[HL2433]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has policy responsibility for enforcing sanctions on armaments. HMRC works in conjunction with the UK Border Force (UKBF) to detect and investigate attempted or actual breaches of sanctions. HMRC and the UKBF use a risk-based and intelligence-led strategy to enforce all sanctions. They maintain risk profiles on all exports of armaments, including for sanctions on Eritrea. Both HMRC and the UKBF treat enforcing export sanctions as a high priority.

Government Departments: Mail Opening

Question

Asked by The Countess of Mar

To ask Her Majesty’s Government in what circumstances Royal Mail staff are required to open correspondence to the Department for Work and Pensions from claimants containing confidential medical information, as reported in the Independent on 8 September 2012; what special qualifications Royal Mail staff have to perform this function; whether claimants are aware of this practice; and how frequently the Royal Mail service is used. [HL2411]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): Department for Work and Pensions post opening is performed as part of a contract for office services that was awarded to Balfour Beatty Workplace (BBW), which went live on 1 March 2007. The contract was let in line with European Union procurement legislation and offers significant cost savings and efficiencies over the previous arrangements.

Under the contract, Balfour Beatty Workplace’s service delivery model uses Royal Mail as a subcontractor to open DWP and ATOS post at Royal Mail opening units and to deliver opened and pre-sorted post to offices.

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Both Royal Mail and Balfour Beatty Workplace are bound by confidentiality agreements, including the Official Secrets Act, which include the specification that all mail will be processed in adherence to security requirements specified by DWP security specialists. These security requirements are incorporated within the agreed contract documents that all Royal Mail and Balfour Beatty Workplace employees have signed. Processes are also in place to pursue disciplinary proceedings against any employees from breaching these obligations. Balfour Beatty Workplace, as the lead contractor, audit the Royal Mail to ensure compliance and DWP Security have the right to further audit both Balfour Beatty Workplace and the Royal Mail.

As you will be aware, the Data Protection Act 1998—the Act—states that individual’s have a right to know the extent to which organisations process their personal data. We publish a guidance note on DWP’s internet site www.dwp.gov.uk called “DWP-your-personal-information”, which describes how we will use personal data. Section 7(2) of the Act sets out that organisation such as DWP must provide information to the claimant on how we process and handle their personal information. We are obliged to supply this information only when asked for it in writing and we are allowed to charge a fee for this information, although our usual policy is not to charge for this. As such we have not breached this provision of the Act through not specifically informing the claimant that our post-opening operations are contracted out to a private company when the claimant originally provided us with information.

The Act also sets out eight data protection principles that DWP must comply with in order to process information lawfully. DWP complies at all times with the data protection principles.

In order to operate effectively and efficiently, the Act allows organisations such as the DWP to make arrangements with third parties such as the Royal Mail to process personal information on its behalf. To do this, the Act requires an organisation to comply with the seventh principle of data protection, which stipulates:

“Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against the unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data”.

To comply with the seventh principle, the DWP has put in place robust contractual arrangements so that any processing of personal data is performed in accordance with the Act and on the DWP’s instructions. In addition the security measures in place are more than adequate to ensure that we have in place “appropriate technical measures” to prevent unlawful processing of personal data.

The DWP is lawfully entitled to process personal information without prior consent and uses trusted contractors to ensure that it has complied with the relevant provisions of the Act.

I trust this is a helpful clarification of the issues you raised.

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Health: Dermatitis

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to reduce the number of cases of workplace dermatitis.[HL2405]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): HSE works in partnership with organisations in sectors where the risk of dermatitis is significant. For example, HSE supports the Hair and Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA) and the Royal College of Nursing in their efforts to reduce workplace dermatitis. HSE and the local authorities (LA) are working together to promote and share lessons learnt from investigations into workplace dermatitis and to explore long-term and sustainable solutions to the problem. HSE is also currently reviewing and updating its guidance on the prevention, control and management of workplace dermatitis to ensure it represents a practical, proportionate approach to helping businesses understand how to comply with health and safety law.

Health: Needlestick Injuries

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action are they taking to reduce the incidence of exposure to blood-borne viruses (BBV) as a result of needlestick injuries.[HL2406]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): Guidance on practical measures to prevent exposure to blood-borne viruses is available on HSE’s website (published jointly with the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens, a Department of Health-led cross-government advisory group). The existing health and safety legislation provides a good standard of protection for workers from exposure to blood-borne viruses. HSE is currently consulting on proposals to supplement this with new regulations to implement some specific measures required by European Directive 2010/32/EU on the prevention of sharps injuries in the healthcare sector, for May 2013. The introduction of the regulations will provide an opportunity for such employers to review their procedures for safe work with sharps, the level of compliance with them, and ensure they are taking effective steps to prevent these injuries.

Housing Benefit

Question

Asked by Baroness Brinton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government for how long housing benefit is paid in England to (1) 16 to 17 year- olds, (2) 18 to 21 year-olds, and (3) 22 to 24 year-olds.[HL2548]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The information requested is not currently available, and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Human Trafficking

Question

Asked by Lord Patten

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the number of girls and women trafficked into the United Kingdom by gangs operating in Turkey.[HL2327]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): The hidden nature of the trafficking trade and the fact that it is not always possible to confirm whether an individual has been trafficked means it is difficult to make an assessment. The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) was set up in 2009 to identify and support potential victims of human trafficking referred to it. Since 2009 two Turkish females have been referred. The data do not record whether they were trafficked by gangs operating in Turkey. All published NRM data are available on the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) portion of the SOCA website; http://www.soca.gov.uk/about-soca/about-the-ukhtc/national-referral-mechanism/statistics.

Immigration: Deportation

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government to which countries they do not deport foreign criminals; from what date in each case; and whether discussions with those countries are under way regarding those arrangements.[HL2472]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): There are no countries to which, as a matter of immigration policy, the UK cannot deport foreign criminals. However, there may be some countries where it is difficult to take enforced removals, or where there are legal barriers to removal.

Police and Crime Commissioners

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what guidance is being given to police and crime commissioners about engaging with children and young people in conflict with the law.[HL2310]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): Advice has been produced for prospective police and crime commissioner candidates to highlight the need to take account of local needs and priorities in order to commission

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services effectively. This information can be found at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/police/pcc/national-policy-andstrategy/. Once commissioners are in place we will review what further guidance, if any, is required.

Questions for Written Answer

Questions

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask the Leader of the House why 10 Questions for Written Answer tabled in July were unanswered on 8 October.[HL2425]

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): All departments strive to answer Questions for Written Answer within the 10-working-day target. My office has explored with the relevant departments why delays have occurred in specific cases. In most cases delays are due to the departments concerned aiming to provide a comprehensive and accurate answer, which can take longer when the information sought is not readily available from a department’s records or needs to be cross-referenced across departments. In addition to this, delays can occur in Questions for Written Answer being recorded as answered: answers to three of the 10 questions were issued at the end of July, as reflected in House of Lords Business on 9 October.

Asked by Lord Jopling

To ask the Leader of the House, for each government department with Questions for Written Answer that were tabled in July and remained unanswered on 8 October, whether he will discuss the delays with each of the Permanent Secretaries of those departments.[HL2463]

Lord Strathclyde: All departments strive to answer Questions for Written Answer within the 10-working-day target. My office has explored with the relevant departments why delays have occurred in specific cases, and continues to work with departments to resolve them. This can include contact with the Permanent Secretary of the relevant department where necessary.

Taxation

Question

Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have estimated the additional revenue that would be raised if (1) winter fuel allowance, (2) free television licences, and (3) free bus passes were made taxable; and, if so, what were those estimates.[HL2384]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The table below provides an estimate of how much would be paid in income tax on winter fuel payments at 20% for basic rate taxpayers and 40% for higher rate taxpayers if the payments were not exempt from taxation, assuming the 2012-13 payment rate of £200 for people who have reached women’s state pension age and are under 80, and £300 for people aged 80 or over.

The figures are expressed in cash terms and rounded to the nearest £10 million.

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Estimated reversion to Exchequer if Winter Fuel Payments were subject to income tax, £ millions (cash terms)
2012-132013-142014-152015-162016-17

230

230

230

230

230

The estimates are based on Department for Work and Pensions expenditure forecasts combined with information on the tax paid by older people from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ Survey of Personal Incomes.

The Government do not have estimates of the additional revenue that would be raised if free television licences or free bus passes were made taxable.

Transport: Eurotunnel

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent improvements have been introduced by UK Border Agency officials to enhance the service to motorists using the shuttle service trains between Folkestone and Calais Coquelles.[HL2504]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): There have been significant improvements this year at the UK border control at the French Eurotunnel site. For motorists there has been a 75% increase in the number of UK border control points, from eight to 14, which has improved fluidity and provided greater assurance to the public that they will get their allotted shuttle. Coach passengers have benefited from a 50% increase in the number of control points from six to nine desks.

In addition to improvements in the physical infrastructure at Coquelles, the Border Force continues to work actively with Eurotunnel to obtain more detailed and timely traffic forecasts, which greatly assists the deployment of officers to meet demand.

The Border Force and Eurotunnel continue to look at ways of improving fluidity of traffic while maintaining the security of the border. There are a number of initiatives that we are actively pursuing that will help to improve the passenger experience at Coquelles; improved signage at the UK controls, and segregating different traffic types according to the likely transaction times at the control booth, will soon be in place. This will facilitate the throughput of UK and EU traffic in standard cars while separating out larger vehicles and those with greater occupancy.

Trees: Chalara Fraxinea

Question

Asked by Lord Dear

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the loss of 90% of ash trees in Denmark, due to attack by chalara fraxinea (ash tree fungus); and what controls they intend to introduce to prevent the spread of chalara fraxinea to the United Kingdom.[HL2482]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): The Government are taking the threat posed by chalara fraxinea extremely seriously.

Officials from the Forestry Commission and the Food and Environment Research Agency are working together to protect the UK’s ash trees in response to the UK findings of ash dieback caused by chalara fraxinea.

The Plant Health Authorities are following up findings. Trees found to be infected are destroyed and those in the vicinity of infected sites are also being monitored by the Plant Health Authority to check for the presence of the disease. Nurseries growing and trading ash plants are being inspected and the wider environment is being monitored. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State recently confirmed our intention to introduce a ban on ash imports and movements if this was supported by the outcome of the current consultation on the pest risk assessment for this disease and the results of the surveillance being carried out. Such a ban would coincide with the main period when ash would otherwise be introduced and moved. In the meantime, we will continue to act on a precautionary basis against any further findings.

UN: Drugs

Question

Asked by Lord Judd

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the request by the presidents of Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala for a review of global drugs policy by the United Nations.[HL2346]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): The UK is committed to a balanced approach to drugs, combining effective

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enforcement at home and abroad with efforts to reduce the demand for drugs and promote robust treatment programmes that lead people into drug-free recovery. We acknowledge our shared responsibility to tackle the drugs trade and continue to work closely with our international partners to do so both through public health and through criminal justice interventions. The current international approach to drugs, as set out in the United Nations drugs conventions, is balanced and evidence-based and it is important for it to remain so.

Valuation Office: Appeals

Question

Asked by Baroness Scott of Needham Market

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the average length of time from lodging an appeal with the Valuation Tribunal against a Valuation Office ruling on a council tax banding appeal to the tribunal’s determination of the case.[HL2242]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): In the last full financial year 2011-12, the Valuation Tribunal listed 1,984 council tax banding appeals. The average length of time from receipt of appeal to the date for hearing and determination was 16 weeks.

In the year to date April 2012 to September 2012, the Valuation Tribunal has listed 465 council tax banding appeals. The average length of time from receipt of appeal to the date for hearing and determination is currently 17 weeks.

Such response times are in line with the requirements in the Valuation Tribunal Service’s key performance indicators.