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Written Answers

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Afghanistan: Interpreters

Question

Asked by Baroness Coussins

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will grant asylum to Afghan interpreters who have worked with the British armed forces in Afghanistan on the same terms as the asylum granted to Iraqi interpreters; and, if not, why not.[HL4344]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): Locally employed staff make an important contribution to the UK's efforts to support the spread of security, stability and development in Afghanistan and the Government take their responsibility for those staff very seriously. We have an effective framework in place designed to respond on a case-by-case basis to incidences of intimidation of locally employed staff. Within that framework, relocation to the UK will be considered in exceptional cases where it is assessed that no local solution, including relocation within Afghanistan, can provide sufficient protection against an immediate and severe threat. Any asylum claim made in the UK will be considered on its individual merits and protection offered to those who are found to be at genuine risk of serious harm in their country of origin.

The Government recognise the sensitivity of this issue and are currently looking very carefully at how we are going to make appropriate provision to support locally employed civilians as we draw down and eventually end our combat mission in Afghanistan. We have a clear commitment to treat them fairly and appropriately, and to ensure their safety and security beyond the term of their employment with Her Majesty’s Government.

Asylum Seekers

Questions

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will set a new date for the conclusion of all asylum legacy cases; and, if so, what systems will be established to ensure that the UK Border Agency meets that deadline.[HL4130]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): The UK Border Agency’s Case Assurance and Audit Unit (CAAU) is actively working on around 34,000 legacy asylum cases where either the person is in contact with it or where their whereabouts are known. These are complex cases that will take time to work through. It is important that we do everything possible to ensure every attempt is made to consider each one in detail, reach the right decision and take appropriate action.

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Asked by Lord Laird:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach on 14 December (WA 262), what was their estimate of the cost of answering the original question.[HL4254]

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: In order to provide a complete answer to the original question, it would be necessary to examine 760 cases. Asylum consideration is dealt with at various centres across the UK, and as mentioned in the original answer, the information being sought is not held centrally. It is estimated that the cost of locating the files, examining them and collating the information requested would considerably exceed the £800 threshold for providing an answer.

Benefits

Questions

Asked by Lord Taylor of Goss Moor

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what agreements are in place with Bounty regarding the insertion of child benefit forms in their packs for expectant or new mothers in each of the past five years.[HL4163]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what arrangements the Department for Work and Pensions has for the distribution of child benefit forms; with whom they have agreements; and what payments are made to or from those that distribute the forms. [HL4165]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is responsible for administering child benefit. Child benefit claims forms are available by contacting the child benefit helpline number or, alternatively, customers can complete the form which is available on the HMRC website and post it to HMRC.

HMRC also distribute child benefit claim forms through Bounty packs, a free information and samples pack given mainly through hospitals to new mothers following the birth of their child. In 2011-12, HMRC paid Bounty £90,805 to distribute a total of 901,298 English and Welsh language claim forms this way.

The number of child benefit claim forms distributed by Bounty for the previous four years is set out in the table below.

YearChild benefit claim forms distributed by Bounty

2007-08

706,843

2008-09

774,604

2009-10

852,592

2010-11

888,180

Children: Care

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to reduce the number of times that children in the care system are moved.[HL4157]

Baroness Garden of Frognal: The department is taking forward work across a number of areas to improve placement stability for looked-after children.

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These include programmes of reform for both fostering and children’s homes, which will address many of the underlying reasons why foster care and children’s homes placements break down, such as lack of appropriate training and support, ineffective commissioning of placements, and the quality and consistency of placements for children with the most challenging needs. It also includes funding for practical coaching programmes to increase the parenting skills and confidence of foster, kinship carers and residential care workers in responding appropriately to the difficulties of the children and young people they care for, as well as treatment programmes for children and young people with the highest levels of need and challenging behaviour. In addition, officials are currently exploring how the data that the department collects on placement stability can be used to further drive improvements in this area.

Civil Service: Training

Question

Asked by Lord Norton of Louth

To ask Her Majesty’s Government who is responsible in each department for determining the training needs of civil servants pursuant to Section 3(6) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.[HL3653]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: As part of the Civil Service Reform plan, the Government committed to addressing skill gaps across the Civil Service. A capabilities plan will be published in due course with further information, as well as how commercial, project management, management and leadership of change, and digital skills will be improved.

Energy: Fuel Poverty

Question

Asked by Lord Donoughue

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people in the United Kingdom they estimate to be in fuel poverty; how many such people there were in 2010; and what assessment they have made of the reasons for any change.[HL4291]

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: Fuel poverty is measured at a household rather than an individual level. The latest annual fuel poverty publication estimates that in 2010, there were 4.75 million fuel-poor households in the UK, and 3.5 million in England. Fuel poverty is a devolved issue, and therefore data for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are taken from the relevant surveys from those countries, and up-rated where 2010 data are not available.

This publication also projects the number of households in fuel poverty in England. In 2012 this is estimated to be 3.9 million households. Projections for the UK for 2012 are not available, as not all of the devolved Administrations produce projections. Therefore, because 2010 is the latest published data available for the UK, it is not possible to assess changes in fuel poverty between 2010 and 2012.

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Government Departments: Budgets

Question

Asked by Baroness Sharp of Guildford

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in relation to Table 2.2 of the Autumn Statement 2012 (Cm 8480) which sets out cash reductions in departmental resource budgets, by what proportion each department's resource budget is decreasing.[HL4141]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Most departmental resource budgets (the resource departmental expenditure limits, excluding ring-fenced depreciation), were reduced at the Autumn Statement, by 1% and 2% in 2013-14 and 2014-15, respectively.

The proportion is lower for departments with budgets that continue to be protected, in line with the policy set at the spending review 2010: health (0% in both years); education (0.3/0.6%) and energy and climate change (0.2/0.6%).

The percentage reduction is also smaller for the devolved Administrations as their budgets were adjusted in line with the Barnett formula and statement of funding policy.

Local government is exempt from the reduction in 2013-14, as local authority budgets have already been reduced by a comparable amount through the decision to hold council tax down in that year. HM Revenue and Customs is also exempt from both years of the reductions, to enable it to continue to focus on tackling tax avoidance and evasion. The reductions to the international development resource budget resulted from adjusting official development assistance for the updated gross national income forecast and equate to 2.8% and 4.8%, respectively, in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Higher Education: Funding

Question

Asked by Baroness Sharp of Guildford

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether funding for the education of 16–18 year-olds is protected from reductions between 2013–14 and 2014–15. [HL4142]

Baroness Garden of Frognal: We are still working through the consequences of the Autumn Statement for 16-19 funding, which will influence our decisions about 16-19 funding.

Allocations for the academic year 2013-14 will be announced in March 2013. Details of the allocations for the academic year 2014-15 will be announced in March 2014.

We have announced previously certain protections to 16-19 funding. At the time of the spending review we stated that we would have to make unit costs savings in relation to 16-19 education and training, because of the difficult economic climate. Our number one priority is to fund a place in education and training for all 16 to 18 year-olds who want one. However, we cannot fund that without making savings elsewhere.

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Savings have been found by ending the disparity (by 2015) in funding between schools and colleges and reducing the funding for the Curriculum 2000 entitlement activities.

To give institutions time to adjust to these changes, we have put in place transitional protection funding until 2014-15. This funding will be removed either at 3% per student per year or in four equal instalments, whichever is the greater.

On 2 July 2012 the Secretary of State announced the new funding formula for 16-19 year-olds, to be implemented for the academic year 2013-14. Rather than funding per qualification, we will fund institutions per student, allowing sufficient income for each student to undertake a full programme of study, whether vocational or academic.

We are aware that these changes may cause concern for those providers offering a primarily academic programme of study. To protect institutions while discussions about academic qualification reform take place, we are guaranteeing that no institution will see its funding per student fall as a result of these changes to the formula for at least three years.

Immigration

Question

Asked by Lord Tebbit

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Henley on 24 September (WA 202) explaining that they do not record centrally the numbers of foreign nationals holding criminal convictions neither spent nor exhausted, how they monitor the implementation of their policy to deny admission to the United Kingdom of undesirable persons.[HL4050]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): As the Written Answer of 24 September 2012 explained, the Immigration Rules previously provided for a mix of mandatory and discretionary refusals. Therefore, having a criminal conviction did not necessarily lead to a refusal. Similarly, an application may have been refused for a combination of reasons, including criminal convictions.

New immigration rules came into effect on 13 December 2012. They establish a clearer and stronger framework for refusing leave to those with criminal convictions. Therefore, in future, it will be clearer when an individual is refused entry because of a conviction. Management information will be collected against the new rules and we will be monitoring how the new provisions are being implemented.

Omagh Bombing

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the Intelligence Services Commissioner's 2010 report about the Omagh bombing in 1998; and, if not, why not.[HL4249]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): A summary version of the Review of Intercepted Intelligence in Relation to the Omagh Bombing of 15 August 1998, dated 16 January 2009, has been placed in the Library of the House. A copy of the report can also be found at the following link: http://www.nio.gov.uk/Publications/Article/Review- of-Intercepted-Intelligence-in-Relation-to.

In September 2008, the Prime Minister asked Sir Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissioner, to “review any intercepted intelligence material available to the security and intelligence agencies in relation to the Omagh bombing and how this intelligence was shared”. A report was prepared but drew upon a range of highly sensitive material that, if revealed, could provide information on the capabilities of the security and intelligence agencies and compromise current operations. A summary version of the report was therefore made available to the public containing as much of the findings of the review as possible.

Pensions

Question

Asked by Lord Rooker

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the savings that would be achieved in administration and payments by abolishing the £10 Christmas bonus paid to pensioners.[HL4329]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The Christmas bonus of £10 is paid to around 15.5 million people and costs around £158 million.

Administrative savings achieved by abolishing the payments would be relatively small as costs are kept to a minimum by making the payments to most recipients with whichever qualifying benefit they receive.

Population

Question

Asked by Lord Empey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have consulted local authorities and strategic health authorities concerning the expected populations of their areas over the next 10 years.[HL4286]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Glen Watson, Director General for ONS, to Lord Empey, dated December 2012.

As Director General for the Office for National Statistics, I have been asked to reply to your question to Her Majesty’s Government asking what forecast has been made of the size of the population of the United Kingdom in 2021. [HL4286]

Estimates of future population are available as population projections. The most recent national population projections are based on mid-year population estimates for 2010, published in 2011, and they project

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the population of the United Kingdom to reach 67.6 million by mid-2021. These projections do not take account of results of the 2011 census.

National population projections are not forecasts and do not attempt to predict the impact of future government policies, changing economic circumstances or the capacity of an area to accommodate a change in population. They provide an indication of the future size and age structure of the population if recent demographic trends continued.

Prisons: Lincoln Prison

Questions

Asked by Baroness Stern

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the action taken at Lincoln Prison, reported by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons in his report on Lincoln Prison published in October 2012 that prisoners who were too frightened to leave their wings to go to work but refused to name the perpetrator of violence against them were punished by being sent to the segregation unit, was in line with Government policy on combating violence in prisons.[HL4318]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): NOMS accepts that the performance at HMP Lincoln was declining at the time of the inspection. The inspectorate report concluded that Lincoln was not effectively applying NOMS violence reduction policies and that conclusion has been fully accepted.

NOMS is fully committed to zero tolerance to violence in our prisons. Violence is not acceptable in any form. Everyone has to right to be in a safe environment free from abuse, harm or oppression. However any sanctions applied in support of this aim must always have the authority of and be compliant with prison rules.

Since the inspection a new governor has been appointed and he has introduced various measures to improve safety, decency and the regime. This includes monitoring and taking appropriate action to address and reduce incidences of violence and bullying.

Asked by Baroness Stern

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they propose to take in the light of the conclusions by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons in his report on Lincoln Prison published in October 2012 that the administrative detention of two foreign national prisoners without the authority of a court beyond the expiry of their sentence because of the impossibility of returning them to their home country “cannot be right”.[HL4320]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): The UK Border Agency only detains foreign national offenders (FNOs) with a view to deporting or removing them from the UK, and has no wish to detain them for any longer than necessary. Deportation can be delayed through the use of judicial challenges or by the individual’s failure to comply with the re-documentation process.

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Every decision to detain an FNO is considered in terms of the potential risk of harm to the public if a foreign criminal is released and is reviewed every 28 days. Those who are detained have always been able to apply to an independent immigration judge for bail.

Race Relations

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to improve race relations.[HL4360]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The Government’s approach to the integration of local communities, Creating the Conditions for Integration, is supported by the Government’s strategies on equality and social mobility and aims to robustly promote British values, making it possible for people to live and work together, to bridge boundaries between communities and play a full role in society. Collectively these set a clear direction towards a society which is fair and equal; where opportunities are open to all; and where prejudice or hate crime are robustly tackled.

Underpinning the Government’s approach is some of the strongest equality legislation in Europe, including the Equality Act 2010, which places a statutory duty on public bodies to have due regard to the need to: eliminate unlawful discrimination; advance equality of opportunity; and foster good relations between people from different groups.

Schools: Inspectors

Question

Asked by Lord Storey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many of Her Majesty’s Inspectors undertaking school inspections on behalf of the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (1) have qualified teacher status, (2) have been teachers, and (3) have been head teachers.[HL4036]

Baroness Garden of Frognal: This question is a matter for Ofsted. The Deputy Chief Inspector, Education, Children’s Services and Skills, John Goldup, has written to the noble Lord, and a copy of his response has been placed in the House Libraries.

Letter from John Goldup, Deputy Chief Inspector, Education, Childrens Services and Skills, Ofsted, to Lord Storey, dated 13 December 2012.

Your recent Parliamentary Question has been passed to Ofsted for response. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector is away, and I am replying on his behalf.

Since 2005, maintained school inspections have been carried out under Section 5 of the Education Act 2005, and more recently the Education Act 2011. All Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) who currently undertake Section 5 school inspections are required to have a teaching qualification, and to have been teachers. This includes those qualified to teach in the 14-19 age range.

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Ofsted undertook an audit of HMI in January 2012. This covered the 195 schools HMI, of whom 96 had previously been head teachers.

A copy of this reply has been sent to Lord Hill of Oareford, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, and will be placed in the Library of both Houses.

Taxation: Corporation Tax

Question

Asked by Baroness Miller of Hendon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether compensation paid out for gross fiscal misconduct is a legitimate deduction from profits for the purpose

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of calculating corporation tax; and, if so, whether they have any plans to review the appropriateness of that tax provision.[HL4327]

Lord Newby: The issue of whether a particular sum is deductible for tax purposes depends on the nature of the expense and the purpose for which it is incurred.

Damages awarded by a court can be punitive or compensatory. Punitive damages, along with fines and penalties imposed for infractions of the law or regulatory requirements, are not allowable deductions in calculating tax profits. In particular, fines incurred for gross fiscal misconduct will not be deductible. It is only compensatory damages that arise in the ordinary course of business that may be allowable. These principles have applied for many years.