29 Nov 2012 : Column WA71

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA71

Written Answers

Thursday 29 November 2012

Armed Forces: Coulport

Question

Asked by Lord West of Spithead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what were the final capital costs at current prices of the Coulport weapons and missile handling facility.[HL3631]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Armed Forces: Future Commitments

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Wallace of Saltaire on 20 November (WA 333) concerning parliamentary debates before committing British troops to war, whether the House of Lords would have the opportunity for a debate as well as the House of Commons.[HL3760]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The Government are currently exploring options for formalising the convention referred to in my Answer of 20 November 2012, (Official Report, col. WA 333) including the future role of the House of Lords in such matters.

Banking

Questions

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have established a contingent liability for the cost of unwinding quantitative easing.[HL3485]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): HM Treasury's annual report and accounts disclose a contingent liability for indemnifying the Bank of England against losses it may incur in the operation of the Asset Purchase Facility. The Treasury's latest departmental report is available on the Treasury website.1

1 http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/dep_perf_reports_index.htm

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the transfer of income from the Asset Purchase Fund to HM Treasury constitutes an act of monetary policy; and whether it was discussed with and agreed by the Monetary Policy Committee.[HL3486]

Lord Sassoon: The minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee's meeting in November 2012 note that the

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA72

committee had been briefed on the Government's plans to normalise the cash management arrangements for the Asset Purchase Facility and that the Government intend to use the funds transferred to the Exchequer to reduce the stock of outstanding government debt.

The committee stated, it was confident that the new cash management arrangements would in no way affect its ability to set the appropriate stance of monetary policy in order to meet the 2% inflation target.

The minutes also note that the committee judged the transition to the new cash management arrangements would imply a small easing in monetary conditions.

BBC: Director-General

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to hold talks with the BBC to secure a reduction in the severance payment to the outgoing director-general.[HL3370]

Viscount Younger of Leckie: The Government take the current matters at the BBC very seriously and I understand that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has spoken to Lord Patten on a number of occasions. The Secretary of State has said that the payment is tough to justify, however, the severance payment issued to the outgoing director-general of the BBC is a matter for the BBC Trust. Lord Patten wrote to John Whittingdale, Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on 12 November to set out the terms agreed by the BBC Trust for George Entwistle's resignation as director-general. A copy of this letter can be found at the following link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/news/press releases/2012/chairman_letter_jw_html.

Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what public money has been paid to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism since April 2010.[HL3374]

Viscount Younger of Leckie: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has not provided any public funding to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Burma

Question

Asked by Baroness Nye

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the United Kingdom team of experts devoted to combating and preventing sexual violence in armed conflicts has been mobilised in Burma in response to the reported rapes of ethnic Kachin and Shan women by soldiers of the Burmese army.[HL3451]

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA73

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: We continue to receive reports of human rights abuses in Burma's conflict-affected areas, including reports that allege the involvement of Government security forces in the rape of women and girls. We continue to call on the Burmese authorities to take urgent measures to end the targeting of civilians in military operations. and rape and other forms of sexual violence.

On 29 May, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), announced a new initiative to prevent sexual violence in conflict. It includes the establishment of a dedicated UK team who will operate as a flexible task force which can be deployed overseas at short notice in support of efforts to improve investigations and increase prosecutions of sexual violence in conflict.

We are currently in the process of identifying where deployments might take place. We envisage that these will be at the request of a national government or to contribute to the existing efforts of international partners (for example in support of the UN). We will identify, with the UN and partners. those countries where the UK Team of Experts can add most value.

We continue to raise the issue of human rights abuses at every opportunity directly with the Burmese Government, both at ministerial level and through our embassy in Rangoon. We also continue to raise our concerns with our international partners, and in international institutions, such as the UN.

Cyprus

Questions

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 13 November (WA 274), whether their answer means that they have not made any independent assessment of the effectiveness or continuing appropriateness of the strategy adopted by the United Nations towards Cyprus over the past 38 years.[HL3439]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Whilst the leaders of the two communities continue to support a UN led process. the UK will consider this an appropriate strategy and will not make an independent assessment of its effectiveness.

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on the United Kingdom and other European Union nations of wealthy Russians gaining Cypriot citizenship; and whether they will make any proposals through the European Union to tighten citizenship requirements.[HL3441]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Citizenship rules are a matter of member state competence. The Government therefore have no plans to make any proposals through the EU to request the Republic of Cyprus to tighten its citizenship requirements.

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA74

Economy: Forecasts

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their current assessment of the prospects for economic recovery, in the light of recent comments by the Governor of the Bank of England that recovery was in a “zig-zag pattern”.[HL3493]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is responsible for producing economic and fiscal forecasts. In their “March Economic and Fiscal Outlook” document, the OBR stated that:

“we expect a recovery in underlying growth momentum over the year but measured GDP growth to be broadly flat in the first half of 2012. This partly reflects distortions to the path of actual growth through the year from one-off influences.”

The OBR will present updated economic forecasts alongside the Autumn Statement on 5 December.

Education: 16-19 Year-olds

Question

Asked by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what guidance and resources they have given to schools and colleges regarding the curriculum to be offered to young people required to stay in education to age 17 from 2013.[HL3258]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): From next year all young people in England will be required to remain in education for a further year after the compulsory school leaving age. They will have a choice of curriculum and route from full-time education at a school or college, an apprenticeship or full-time work combined with part-time study.

We have accepted all of the recommendations from Professor Wolf's report on vocational education. A new fairer, simpler and more transparent funding system will support the introduction of study programmes for 16-19 year-olds from 2013. The published principles for study programmes will ensure post-16 education has a focus on substantial qualifications, English, maths and work experience—the key ingredients that employers want. A series of workshops has been held to help schools and colleges understand these reforms, and we trust them to put on programmes that meet the needs of young people, employers and universities.

We are also considering how best A-levels can meet the needs of universities and employers. Ofqual have consulted on A-level reform and, further to the recent announcement on the ending of January exams, are giving further thought to how best to engage universities in the design of the qualifications.

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA75

Education: Funding

Questions

Asked by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which department will be responsible for early years initiatives following the abolition of the Department for Education’s Early Intervention Grant and its merging into the Dedicated Schools Grant, allocated by the Department for Communities and Local Government. [HL3384]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether early intervention funding for nursery places for two-, three and four year-olds will be ring-fenced within the Dedicated Schools Grant.[HL3385]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The Department for Education will remain responsible for early years policy. The future inclusion of early intervention funding in the Business Rates Retention Scheme, allocated by the Department for Communities and Local Government, does not alter that. The Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG), which currently funds the majority of education provision for three to 16 year-olds, will continue to be allocated by the Department for Education and, from April 2013, will also include funding for the early education programme for two year-olds. Funding for the early education programme for two, three and four year-olds will not be ring-fenced within the DSG, although the DSG itself is ring-fenced.

Elections: Police and Crime Commissioners

Question

Asked by Lord Wigley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will publish, for each of the police force areas for which there are elections for police and crime commissioners, details of (1) how many ballot papers were issued, (2) how many were returned, and (3) how many were spoilt.[HL3438]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): The returning officer for each police force area is responsible for calculating the results and publishing this material, as is the case in all elections. The details are available in the certificates of the results published by each of the 41 police area returning officers.

Finance: Gilts

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the value of securities bought by the Asset Purchase Fund at a premium to redemption value; and what was the size of that premium.[HL3484]

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA76

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The redemption value of the gilts purchased by the Asset Purchase Facility (APF) is equivalent to their face value at issuance. Detailed data on the purchase value and nominal face value of gilts purchased by the APF is publicly available on the Bank of England website: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/markets/Documents/apf/apfgiltstimeseries.xls.

Gambling: Betting Shops

Questions

Asked by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will take steps to limit the number of betting shops in United Kingdom high streets.[HL3445]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will consider further restricting the number of fixed-odds betting terminals allowed to be sited in each betting shop on United Kingdom high streets. [HL3446]

Viscount Younger of Leckie: The Government are aware of concerns that have been expressed about betting shops and category B2 gaming machines (also referred to as fixed odds betting terminals). However, causal links with problem gambling are poorly understood and to impose new restrictions without clearer evidence of harm risks ineffective regulation that unnecessarily threatens businesses and jobs. The Government has committed to looking at the evidence around B2 gaming machines and problem gambling, and will announce shortly the timing and scope of a review.

Gaza

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they will take to support the latest ceasefire in Gaza.[HL3431]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The Government are gravely concerned by the recent violence in Gaza and southern Israel and deeply regret the loss of civilian life. We consistently called on those involved to avoid any action which risked civilian casualties.

We welcome the agreement reached on 21 November to end hostilities. We have urged all sides to uphold their commitments, and paid tribute to President Mursi and the Egyptian Government for their intensive efforts and the leadership they have shown, as well as to United States of America (USA) Secretary of State Clinton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for the role they have played.

This ceasefire is an important step towards a lasting peace. The priority now must be to build on the ceasefire and to address the underlying causes of the conflict, including more open access to and from Gaza for trade as well as humanitarian assistance, and an end to the smuggling of weapons. Above all, the loss of life over the past week has shown the urgent need for a return to negotiations on a two state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UK will

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA77

work urgently with the USA. the EU, our other international partners and with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, calling for a new initiative to restart the peace process before the window for a two state solution closes.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Israel concerning the deaths of two children as a result of recent artillery attacks in Gaza.[HL3432]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The UK is gravely concerned about the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel and deeply regrets the loss of civilian life on both sides. We are in constant contact with the Israeli authorities about the current situation.

We welcome the agreement reached on 21 November to end hostilities. We have urged all sides to uphold their commitments, and paid tribute to President Mursi and the Egyptian Government for their intensive efforts and the leadership they have shown, as well as to US Secretary of State Clinton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for the role they have played.

This ceasefire is an important step towards a lasting peace. The priority now must be to build on the ceasefire and to address the underlying causes of the conflict, including more open access to and from Gaza for trade as well as humanitarian assistance. and an end to the smuggling of weapons. Above all, the loss of life over the past week has shown the urgent need for a return to negotiations on a two state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UK will work urgently with the US, the EU, our other international partners and with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, calling for a new initiative to restart the peace process before the window for a two state solution closes.

I also refer the noble Baroness to the Statement on Gaza and the Middle East Peace Process made by the Foreign Secretary, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) on 20 November (Official Report, col. 443-46).

Gibraltar

Question

Asked by Lord Janner of Braunstone

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to protect Gibraltar's waters from incursions by Spanish vessels; and whether they will consider increasing the Royal Navy presence in those waters. [HL3608]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): One of the Ministry of Defence's roles in Gibraltar is to help maintain the United Kingdom's sovereignty over British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. In support of this, the Royal Navy challenges all unlawful maritime incursions. These challenges are subsequently pursued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office through formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish Government. We keep the Royal Navy's posture in Gibraltar under close review.

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA78

Internet: Broadband

Question

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the percentage of the population that has internet access in (1) each of the regions of England, (2) Scotland, (3) Wales, and (4) Northern Ireland.[HL3162]

Viscount Younger of Leckie: Access to the internet is available to almost everybody in the UK through a variety of technologies such as a fixed line to a premises, satellite, wi-fi or a mobile device. Ofcom has estimated take-up at national level to be:

81% of households in England;

71% of households in Scotland;

74% of households in Wales; and

73% of households in N Ireland.

Isles of Scilly: Transport Services

Question

Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will expedite the granting of a licence to the Skybus service to the Isles of Scilly to carry bio-hazard goods (specimens for testing) following the closure of the helicopter service to the mainland.[HL3695]

Earl Attlee: In order to transport bio-hazardous goods by air, Skybus must hold a dangerous goods approval granted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The CAA has advised the Department for Transport that is has not yet received a formal application from Skybus; however, when such an application is received it will be dealt with as a matter of priority.

Libya

Questions

Asked by Lord Empey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assets belonging to the Government of Libya, and individuals residing there, are still held in the United Kingdom. [HL3519]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the European Union concerning the repatriation of assets belonging to the Government of Libya and to individuals in that country.[HL3520]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when assets, including property, cash and shareholdings, held in the United Kingdom and belonging to the Government of Libya and individuals in that country, will be passed into the possession of the Government of Libya.[HL3521]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there are any assets in the United Kingdom held by surviving relatives or representatives of the late Colonel Gaddafi.[HL3522]

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA79

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): European Union (EU) and United Nations (UN) financial sanctions require that the assets of listed persons and entities are frozen. Asset freezing is a separate and distinct process to asset recovery; it does not provide for funds to be repatriated or recovered.

Following the lifting of sanctions against a number of entities by the UN and EU, over 80% of assets previously frozen under UN and EU sanctions in the UK have now been unfrozen.

The remaining asset-freezing measures relating to Libya now only apply to those individuals and entities listed in Annexes II and III to EU Regulation 204/2011. These include relatives of the late Muammar al-Qadhafi. For confidentiality reasons, the Government are unable to provide details of assets that remain frozen.

The UK Government have held frequent discussions with the EU Delegation in Tripoli to establish that the current sanctions regime is appropriate to the changing situation in Libya. Under the Libyan Transitional Government, the UK had established close links with both the Libyan embassy in London and the Deputy Prime Minister's Office in Libya to take forward co-operation between the relevant UK and Libyan agencies with a view to sharing information on Libyan assets in the UK.

With the new Libyan Government appointed, the UK Government are actively looking to re-establish co-operation and to take forward discussions on asset recovery. The EU will be involved in discussions, as deemed appropriate.

Met Office

Question

Asked by Lord Donoughue

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many scientists employed by the Met Office spend at least half of their working time conducting work closely related to global warming; how many of those scientists have taken an undergraduate-level course in statistical analysis of time series; and how many of those scientists have taken a graduate-level course in the statistical analysis of time series.[HL3705]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Marland): I have asked the chief executive officer of the Met Office to respond direct to the noble Lord.

National Heritage Memorial Fund

Question

Asked by Lord Inglewood

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will reinstate part of the endowment of the National Land Fund, which was reduced in the 1950s, to the National Heritage Memorial Fund as part of the commemorations marking the centenary of the First World War.[HL3609]

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA80

Viscount Younger of Leckie: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) does not have any current plans to adjust the National Heritage Memorial Fund's (NHMF) (formerly the National Land Fund) endowment. Set up as a fund of last resort to safeguard items of outstanding importance to the nation's heritage as a memorial to those who have given their lives in service to the country, since 1980 the NHMF has helped secure over 1,200 iconic objects and places to the tune of over £300 million. Alongside the NHMF, DCMS funds heritage through a range of organisations and schemes including English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Memorial Grants Scheme.

The Government are committed to ensuring that the Centenary of the First World War is marked in a proper and enduring way and has provided over £10 million new money as part of an overall package of £50 million funded activity to support the programme. This includes £35 million for a major remodelling of the Imperial War Museum, £5 million to fund school visits to the battlefields and £6 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund for community-based projects.

Railways: Franchises

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 20 November (WA 360), on what date or dates the Contracts Awards Committee met to consider the award of the franchise for the successful bidder for the West Coast Main Line railway.[HL3664]

Earl Attlee: The role of the Department for Transport's Contracts Awards Committee is one area that the Secretary of State has asked Sam Laidlaw to address as part of his independent inquiry into what went wrong with the West Coast franchising competition.

The final report of this review is to be published shortly.

Railways: Greater Anglia

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of train services on the Greater Anglia line.[HL3668]

Earl Attlee: The Department for Transport regularly monitors performance of all train operators. Performance on Greater Anglia has improved in recent months and recent performance has been well over 90%, with an improving trend since the early part of the year.

Railways: High Speed 2

Question

Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assurances they have given regarding restriction of the operation of trains on High Speed 2 during the night. [HL3578]

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA81

Earl Attlee: There are no proposals to operate trains on High Speed 2 throughout the night. High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain's FutureDecisions and Next Steps (Cm 8247) January 2012 explained that proposed operating pattern of services on High Speed Rail is from 05.00-23.59 hours Monday-Saturday and 08.00-23.59 hours on Sundays, which is in line with standard high speed rail practice.

Railways: Luggage Space

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 20 November (WA 360), what space, in cubic metres, is set aside for carry-on luggage, other than in overhead racks, in (1) Intercity 125 standard class coaches, (2) Pendolino (class 390) trains, and (3) the proposed Intercity express trains.[HL3661]

Earl Attlee: The Department for Transport only holds information on saloon luggage space, which is not separate from overhead rack space. The Intercity Express Programme (IEP) trains will have provision for one large bag per four passenger seats, and one small bag per one passenger seat. Mk III HST trailers have provision for one large bag per 10.5 passenger seats, and one small bag per 1.3 passenger seats.

Railways: Rolling Stock

Questions

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 20 November (WA 360), what is the seat pitch in (1) Intercity 125 standard class coaches, (2) Pendolino (class 390) trains, and (3) the proposed Intercity express trains. [HL3662]

Earl Attlee: The standard class uni-directional seating knee room on all three trains is 750mm.

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 20 November (WA 360), which body is responsible for placing the contract for the forthcoming refurbishment of the interiors of the West Coast Main Line rolling stock.[HL3663]

Earl Attlee: This is a commercial matter between West Coast Service Provision Limited, which maintains the fleet of trains used on the West Coast Main Line, and the West Coast Operator.

The Department for Transport is negotiating a single tender action with Virgin Rail Group, with a view to them continuing InterCity West Coast operations for a short period whilst longer-term arrangements are put in place.

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA82

Retail Price Index

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the impact of the current review by the Office for National Statistics of the calculation of the retail price index on holders of index-linked gilts; whether they believe compensation may be payable; and whether any estimates have been made of any likely compensation payable and the economic and social justification for paying it.[HL3488]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The National Statistician launched a consultation on four options for the calculation of the Retail Prices Index (RPI) on 8 October 2012. The consultation closes on 30 November 2012. It is anticipated that any recommendation for any change to RPI will be announced by the National Statistician in January 2013.

The Government await the outcome of the National Statistician's consultation.

Retail: Fashion Industry

Question

Asked by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how often they have met representatives of the United Kingdom fashion industry in the last year; and whether they will initiate an annual meeting between the fashion industry and Ministers to discuss support for that sector.[HL3387]

Viscount Younger of Leckie: The British Fashion Council sits on the Creative Industries Council, which is the main forum for discussion between Government and the creative industries. The Creative Industries Council is chaired jointly by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Women and Equalities, and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. The Creative Industries Council met twice in 2012, in January and in June, and its next meeting is scheduled for January 2013.

In addition, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Women and Equalities and the Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries each met with various representatives from the UK fashion industry last year. All meetings with external organisations are declared quarterly, and details can be found on the DCMS website using the following link: www.transparency. culture.gov.uk/category/other/meetings.

Schools: Sport

Question

Asked by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what actions they are taking to develop a school sports strategy that specifically addresses the level of girls’ involvement in sport.[HL3442]

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA83

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): We are currently reviewing the national curriculum and will be consulting on new programmes of study in the new year. The draft programme of study for PE will be slimmer and give schools more freedom to provide additional activities which are tailored specifically to meet the individual needs of their pupils, both boys and girls.

In addition, the Government's five-year Youth and Community Sport Strategy published in January aims to deliver on the promise that London 2012 would inspire a generation to get involved in sport. The strategy, administered by Sport England, will invest at least £1 billion of Lottery and Exchequer funding in programmes which will ensure that both boys and girls are regularly playing sport.

The Secretary of State is considering a range of measures to improve participation in school sport. He will make an announcement in due course.

Severn Bridge: Tolls

Question

Asked by Lord Wigley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what income they receive from tolls paid by motorists for crossing the Severn Bridge; what are the annual running costs of the bridge; what annual interest payments and repayment of capital relating to the bridge they make; and on what grounds they have recently increased tolls at a rate above the current rate of inflation.[HL3655]

Earl Attlee: The Severn Crossings are run by a private concessionaire, Severn River Crossings plc (SRC). The toll income, annual running costs and interest payments are published in SRC's accounts or the Severn Bridges Act 1992 Accounts.

The tolls on the Severn Crossings are amended in accordance with the rules set out in the Severn Bridges Act 1992. Under that Act, every year the tolls increase in line with the Retail Prices Index.

Vehicles: Electric and Hybrid Vehicles

Questions

Asked by Lord Harrison

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Safe and Sound campaign about the impact of low-noise vehicles on the safety of blind people.[HL3612]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had at European Union level regarding the introduction of an artificial engine noise on hybrid and electric vehicles.[HL3613]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what research they have commissioned regarding the necessary audibility of an artificial engine noise on hybrid and electric vehicles.[HL3614]

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA84

Earl Attlee: The Government are familiar with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association's Safe and Sound Campaign, although we have made no formal assessment of it. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker MP, will be meeting representatives of the campaign next month.

Negotiations on a new EU regulation for road vehicle noise are under way in the European Council of Ministers and this includes provisions for added noise from electric and hybrid vehicles. The Government are fully engaged in these negotiations and our approach is to establish the technical specifications but to allow manufacturers the choice whether to fit the system.

The technical requirements are expected to be those developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe that specify the characteristic of the sound and the vehicle speed up to which the sound should be generated, so that levels from electric and conventional vehicles are similar. The negotiations will continue under the Irish presidency in January 2013.

The Department for Transport recently published a research report on the audibility of electric vehicles and can be found at the following link: http://assets. dft.gov.uk/publications/assessing-the-perceived-safety-risk-from-quiet-electric-and-hybrid-vehicles/PPR525-assessing-the-perceived-safety-risk-from-quiet-electric-and-hybrid-vehicles.pdf.

War Memorials

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to ensure war memorials are properly maintained and kept in a good state of repair. [HL3626]

Viscount Younger of Leckie: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) provides funding to ensure war memorials are maintained and conserved to a high standard through the department's own Memorial Grant Scheme and schemes provided by its sponsored bodies including English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Imperial War Museum.

The DCMS Memorial Grant Scheme makes grants towards the VAT incurred by charities and faith groups in the construction, repair and maintenance of public memorial structures, including war memorials.

English Heritage expects to allocate £100,000 per year for the next three years for the repair of freestanding war memorials and also anticipates providing funding to the War Memorials Trust over the same period to support its ongoing conservation programme, which provides advice on maintenance and care to owners and custodians of war memorials.

English Heritage is also working in partnership with local authorities, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and local groups on the Heritage Crime Programme, which aims to protect vulnerable buildings and sites, including war memorials. It has also worked jointly with the War Memorial Trust and other partners to publish free guidance leaflets to promote a high standard of maintenance of war memorials.

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA85

The Heritage Lottery Fund is taking forward the War Memorial Action Group, bringing together funders, heritage organisations and representatives of the local and voluntary sectors with the purpose of reviewing the issues around the protection and restoration of war memorials, to ensure they are kept in good condition and a focus for commemoration of those who gave their lives in the service of the country.

29 Nov 2012 : Column WA86

Furthermore, the Government are delivering on a range of measures to tackle metal theft including legislative action through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 that commences on 3 December. This includes a range of targeted measures which will help reduce the desirability of stolen metal including from war memorials.