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Written Answers

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Armed Forces: Merchant Ships

Question

Asked by Lord MacKenzie of Culkein

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the availability of merchant ships which can be requisitioned in the event of any unforeseen conflict or emergency.[HL3062]

Earl Attlee: The Ministry of Defence receives annual assessments of British-registered militarily useful shipping from the Department for Transport. In addition, detailed assessments and analysis of commercial ship availability are undertaken by NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council Transportation Group (Ocean Shipping). Such policies are kept under constant review, but HM Government believe the current arrangements meet the likely requirement.

Businesses: Pre-pack Administration

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the amount of tax foregone over each of the past five financial years as a result of pre-pack administration; and whether they will review the impact on employment and small- and medium-sized enterprises of pre-pack administration.[HL2831]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) does not hold tax gap estimates at this level of detail. Measuring Tax Gaps 20121 was published on 18 October 2012, which sets out the estimated tax gap across all HMRC-administered taxes.

In considering the impact of pre-packaged insolvency sales, the Government take into account all relevant available information. No specific assessment has been made of the cost to small and medium-sized enterprises or of the employment consequences. Officials have been reviewing how confidence in pre-packs may be improved and, as a part of that process, have been in discussions with business and creditor groups.

1

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/stats/mtg-2012.pdf

Coastal Waters: Policing

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to increase funding for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Royal Navy to strengthen the policing of the United Kingdom's coastal waters.[HL2881]

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Earl Attlee: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s role is to carry out ship surveys and inspections for ships entering UK waters and proceeding to UK ports to ensure that they meet international convention requirements. They monitor shipping movements around the UK coastline and co-ordinate search and rescue in emergencies.

At any one time the Royal Navy will have a number of vessels in UK waters engaged in preparations for operations, training and trials et cetera. In addition the Fishery Protection Squadron (FPS) of the Royal Navy has three river class offshore patrol vessels that patrol the UK’s extended fisheries zone. The Royal Navy ships and the FPS vessels could support civil authorities in maritime counterterrorism, anti-drug surveillance or pollution control if requested.

HM Government have no plans to increase funding for these activities.

Energy: Severn Barrage

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the case for the Severn barrage. [HL2962]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): A cross-government two-year feasibility study on harnessing the energy from the Severn estuary was completed and published in October 2010. The study concluded that the Government did not see a strategic case for public investment in a Severn tidal power scheme, which at the time would cost up to £34 billion.

We have not ruled out a privately financed scheme coming forward and the Government are open to hearing about well developed proposals for harnessing energy from the Severn and elsewhere and we recognise the potential economic benefits from a barrage, having looked at this carefully a few years ago.

Government: Air Travel

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which media organisations were represented by the journalists who accompanied the Prime Minister on a chartered flight to the United States on 13 March.[HL2956]

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): The media organisations were as follows:

5 News;BBC Television;BBC Radio 5 Live;Bloomberg;Daily Express;Daily Mail;Daily Mirror;

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Daily Telegraph;Daybreak;Evening Standard;Financial Times;Grazia;ITN; andPoliticsHome.

Government: Cabinet Reshuffle

Question

Asked by Lord Marlesford

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why the list of Ministers issued after the recent reshuffle, and subsequently reproduced in the Official Report in the House of Commons on 10 September, did not include a correct list of the Ministers in the House of Lords; and what steps they have taken to ensure that such lists are accurate in future.[HL2705]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The recent reshuffle took place over a number of days and the published list of HM Government was updated to reflect those changes.

Government: Ministerial Appointments and Duties

Question

Asked by Lord Jopling

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why three House of Lords Whips who are not paid for parliamentary duties are unpaid for ministerial duties, whereas one House of Commons Whip who is in receipt of a salary for House of Commons duties is unpaid for ministerial duties.[HL2809]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Decisions on ministerial appointments and salaries is a matter for the Prime Minister taking account of the requirements of the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975 and the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975.

Housing Benefit

Questions

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the National Audit Office's calculation that by 2017 nearly half of local authorities in England will have twice as many housing benefit claimants as two-bedroom dwellings available to rent.[HL3080]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): As the NAO report makes clear, its calculations are illustrative and depend on a number of assumptions which are inherently uncertain.

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The Government will continue to monitor the relationship between rents and local housing allowance rates in different areas. We are committed to limiting increases in these rates in line with inflation until the end of this spending review. If it becomes clear that local housing allowance rates are out of sync with market rents and this is causing a critical shortage in affordable housing, future uprating can be reconsidered.

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to mitigate against an increase in homelessness as a result of reforms in housing benefit.[HL3081]

Lord Freud: The Government have taken immediate steps to manage housing benefit expenditure. These changes will also encourage people to make sensible decisions about what accommodation they can reasonably afford, and improve work incentives.

We have taken a number of steps to ease the implementation of these reforms and mitigate against increases in homelessness.

To ease the transition for the local housing allowance reforms the Government have put in place a substantial package of financial and practical support worth £190 million over the spending review period. The Government have also given existing customers up to nine months’ transitional protection from the review date of their claim to help them adjust to the new rates and to find alternative accommodation if needed, and have extended local authority discretion to pay benefit to the landlord where it would help the tenant to secure or retain a tenancy at an affordable rent.

Ivory Trade

Question

Asked by Lord Fearn

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to eradicate the trade in ivory in the United Kingdom.[HL2922]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): This Government made a coalition commitment to press for a ban on ivory sales and to tackle the smuggling and illegal trade of wildlife. We remain focused on both, and a variety of measures is being taken to achieve these goals. For example, the illegal trade in species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in particular illegal trade in elephant ivory, is a wildlife crime priority for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and will continue to be tackled vigorously by the enforcement agencies in the UK. We also employ stricter domestic measures for elephants and their ivory than those required under CITES, prohibiting trade in all ivory except antique worked items.

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Questions for Written Answer

Question

Asked by Baroness Gardner of Parkes

To ask the Leader of the House why Question for Written Answer HL2090, tabled on 25 July, remained unanswered on 30 October.[HL3003]

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): This was the result of human error. HL 2090 has now been answered (Official Report, 5 November, col. WA 180).

Severe Weather

Question

Asked by Lord Beecham

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the cost to local authorities of severe weather experienced in the past six months and what additional funding they will make available to them.[HL3060]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): We do not routinely collect information on the costs of clean up and recovery for local authorities following severe weather. Local authorities can apply for emergency financial assistance under the Bellwin scheme and in doing so will provide information on the costs associated with the immediate response to an emergency to protect lives and properties in their area.

Shipping: MSC “Flaminia”

Question

Asked by Lord MacKenzie of Culkein

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why permission was not given to the salvors of MSC “Flaminia” to tow the vessel into a place of safety in United Kingdom coastal waters.[HL3064]

Earl Attlee: When permission to access a place of refuge is requested, there is no obligation for the coastal state to grant it, but the coastal state should weigh up all the factors and risks in a balanced manner and give shelter whenever reasonably possible.

Following the request for a place of refuge on 31 July, the United Kingdom, in accordance with IMO Resolution 949(23) and EU Directive 2009/17EC, carried out an objective analysis of the advantages and disadvantages in allowing the MSC “Flaminia” to proceed to a place of refuge in close proximity to the UK coast.

A list of potential UK places of refuge was identified. However, until the UK inspection team boarded the ship on 28 August and confirmed that the situation was stable, there had been considerable concern that the containers and their contents on fire may result in a further explosion and/or toxic risk compromising the safety of people at the place(s) of refuge.

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Following the inspection the UK, and other coastal states en route, gave their permission for the ship to transit their waters for her passage to the designated port in Germany.

Shipping: Tonnage Tax

Question

Asked by Lord MacKenzie of Culkein

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they propose to take in respect of the substantial reduction in the number of United Kingdom seafarers working on tonnage tax ships.[HL3063]

Earl Attlee: Crewing decisions on tonnage tax ships are a matter for the shipping companies themselves, and there is no requirement for companies in the tonnage tax to employ United Kingdom seafarers.

Taxation: Vehicle Excise Duty

Question

Asked by Lord Patel of Blackburn

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the proposed two-tier vehicle excise duty regime on access to motorways for less wealthy motorists.[HL2895]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government have made no formal proposals for changes to vehicle excise duty.

The Government announced in Budget 2012 that they will consider whether to reform vehicle excise duty over the medium term to ensure all motorists continue to make a fair contribution to the sustainability of the public finances, to reflect continuing improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency, and seek the views of motoring groups on this issue.

In March 2012, the Prime Minister asked the Department for Transport and HM Treasury to carry out a feasibility study to review new ownership and financing models for the strategic road network. This review is considering a range of options on how best to secure investment in the network to increase capacity and boost economic growth. The study is ongoing.

Universal Credit

Questions

Asked by Baroness Lister of Burtersett

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recent report by the Social Market Foundation Sink or swim?, what is their assessment of the impact on households of monthly payments of universal credit.[HL2989]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): Universal credit has been designed to reflect the world of work, where around 75% of earnings are paid monthly. Paying benefit monthly will help smooth the transition into

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monthly paid work as well as encouraging personal responsibility for finances. Monthly payment will also support claimants to budget on a monthly basis. Monthly direct debit payment plans for household bills, for instance, are often cheaper than more frequent billing options.

Moving to a single monthly household payment is a significant change to the way most benefits are currently paid and we will provide support for claimants needing help to manage that change.

For a minority of claimants alternative payment arrangements may be required in addition to personal budgeting support. This might include making more frequent than monthly payments. Such exceptional arrangements would be time limited and delivered in conjunction with appropriate support to help claimants successfully make the transition to monthly budgeting.

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Asked by Baroness Lister of Burtersett

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what agreement they have reached with the Northern Ireland Executive about the way in which universal credit will be paid in Northern Ireland.[HL2990]

Lord Freud: Social security is devolved to Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Assembly chooses to maintain parity with our system. The Government wish to support Nelson McCausland, the Department for Social Development Minister, in the passage and implementation of Northern Ireland's Welfare Reform Bill. To that end I have confirmed that the IT flexibility will be available from April 2014, as part of the phased rollout of universal credit, to make payments direct to a landlord as well as to the claimant. This flexibility will be required in Great Britain to deal with exceptions to the default position of payment to the claimant.