16 July 2013 : Column WA101

16 July 2013 : Column WA101

Written Answers

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Agriculture: Non-genetically Modified Crops

Question

Asked by The Countess of Mar

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much they have invested in (1) research and development, and (2) other forms of support, for non-genetically modified blight-resistant potatoes such as those developed by the Sarvari Research Trust.[HL1248]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): Defra together with the Scottish Government have sponsored a Sustainable Arable LINK project with industry on blight control, including host-plant resistance. This project's total value is £600,000, of which 50% is from a Government grant.

The Scottish Government also provides significant funding for fundamental crop research (for example, at the James Hutton Institute). This includes potato genomic and potato pathology research on late blight resistance. Varieties trials have included Sarpo varieties from the Sarvari Research Trust.

Armed Forces: Medals

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many requests have been received from survivors of the Arctic Convoys and Bomber Command for the Arctic Star and Bomber Command Clasp; what percentage of those survivors have been given their awards since the Prime Minister announced that the medals would be granted in December 2012; what is the cause of any delay between applications being submitted and in the issue of those medals; and how many officials are working in the team processing the applications.[HL1441]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): As at 8 July 2013, 4,115 applications had been received from surviving Arctic Convoy veterans, and 70 per cent of these had received their Arctic Star medal. As at the same date, 2,609 applications had been received from surviving Bomber Command veterans, and 38 percent of these had received their Bomber Command clasps. Applications from surviving veterans are being dealt with as quickly as possible. However, the retrieval of service records and other evidence where necessary, and the assessment of entitlement is a lengthy process. There are 33 personnel assigned to the Arctic Star medal and Bomber Command clasp teams.

Due to a data cleansing exercise, reconciling multiple applications from the same applicant, the numbers received from surviving Arctic Convoy veterans is at slight variance to the number mentioned as having been received by my right hon. Friend the Minister for

16 July 2013 : Column WA102

Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans in the other place on 4 July 2013, (Official Report, column 779W) in his answer to the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon).

Banking: LIBOR

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Deighton on 24 June concerning the transfer of regulation of LIBOR and other indexes to the European Union (WA 87–8), why they are leading the way in benchmark reform. [HL1339]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): The Government has been leading the way on benchmark reform, both through domestic steps relating to LIBOR and in international fora.

Following the initial revelations about misconduct in relation to LIBOR and EURIBOR in the summer of 2012, the Government asked Martin Wheatley, the Chief Executive of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to consider what immediate reforms could be made to LIBOR. The Wheatley review resulted in a ten-point plan to reform LIBOR. The Government welcomed and endorsed the Wheatley Review's recommendations and has been taking steps to implement them since.

Furthermore, the UK has been a key member in the International Organization of Securities Commissions (10SCO) group, led by Martin Wheatley and Gary Gensler, developing Principles for Financial Benchmarks. The European Commission is drawing on this work to inform its forthcoming legislative proposal.

Benefits

Question

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government at what point a claimant in receipt of benefits has their entitlement (1) reduced, and (2) refused, as a result of the savings, investments or property they may own. [HL1419]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): Income-related benefits have lower capital limits above which benefits are reduced and most have upper limits above which benefits cannot be paid. By "capital" we mean savings and capital assets in whatever form, for example money held in a bank or building society account, stocks and shares and property. The value of most forms of capital is counted for benefits purposes; however some forms of capital may be disregarded.

For working age income-related benefits such as Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income related Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit the lower capital limit is £6,000 or £10,000 for people permanently living in residential

16 July 2013 : Column WA103

care and nursing homes. The upper limit is £16,000. A deduction from benefit of £1 per week is made for each £250 of capital, (or part of £250), held between the appropriate lower and upper limits.

In Pension Credit we disregard the first £10,000 of a person's capital. For capital above this amount we take £1 per week into account as income for every £500 or part £500 thereafter. There is no upper capital limit that will automatically restrict entitlement.

If a claim for an income-related benefit is made and the claimant has capital in excess of the relevant amount, the claim would be disallowed. If a capital asset is received during an award and it is higher than the appropriate upper limit, the award would be terminated immediately.

Driving: Insurance

Question

Asked by Baroness Smith of Basildon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which organisations and individuals were consulted on the removal of mandatory insurance checks at the time of vehicle licensing; and what are the estimated savings.[HL1586]

Earl Attlee: Key stakeholders, including the motor industry representatives, other government departments, local authorities and police forces as well as private individuals were issued with the consultation document on the proposal to remove the insurance check at the time of vehicle licensing. The consultation was also published on-line. A summary of responses to the consultation is currently being prepared for publication.

The introduction of Continuous Insurance Enforcement monitors for the presence of valid insurance policies for motor vehicles. This effectively removes the need to check insurance at the point of licensing.

Removing the mandatory insurance check at the time of vehicle licensing will save business around £0.5m and government around £1.1m each year. Removing the check will also allow more motorists to license their vehicles online. This will save them around £1m in “leisure time” savings.

Driving: Licences

Question

Asked by Lord Campbell-Savours

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to amend the explanatory notes accompanying newly issued driving licences to more accurately reflect the categories of vehicles included on the licence.[HL1391]

Earl Attlee: Information leaflets that accompany driving licences are reviewed regularly to ensure information provided is clear and reflects the legal requirements. Leaflets were revised in October 2012 to reflect the change in categories introduced by the third European Directive on Driving Licences.

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I understand that the Noble Lord's interest is in those with a driving licence showing entitlement to drive category A, with an information code 79 qualifying that entitlement. Anyone who passed a car test before January 2013 is entitled to drive three-wheeled vehicles. This category and code exists to ensure these drivers do not lose that entitlement.

Further changes to the restrictions to categories will be in place by the end of this year and the leaflets will then be updated to make the position clear.

Elderly People: Depression

Question

Asked by The Lord Bishop of Derby

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps are in place to ensure that the elderly are assessed routinely for depression during medical consultations. [HL1314]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): NHS England is completing the nationwide rollout of psychological therapy services for adults who have depression or anxiety disorders, and as part of this is paying particular attention to ensuring appropriate access for people over 65 years of age.

NHS England has recently funded an advertising campaign with Age UK to promote Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services for older people. The promotional campaign challenges views that depression is natural in older people and to encourage general practitioners to refer older people to IAPT services and older people themselves to self-refer.

Another strand of IAPT development is a project which aims to ensure that psychological therapies are routinely available to people with long term physical health conditions and medically unexplained symptoms. Given that many older people have such physical health conditions, this project will lead to them being encouraged to access IAPT services when necessary.

Energy: Shale Gas

Question

Asked by Lord Greaves

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what if any requirements they have set for the minimum practicable size for a drilling platform for shale gas fracking and extraction in the United Kingdom (1) while drilling and fracking is taking place, and (2) during extraction of the gas; and whether the area of such a drilling platform must be level and horizontal. [HL1363]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): UK requirements in the Borehole Sites and Operations Regulations 1995 do not specify the minimum size of drilling platforms. They require the operator to ensure that the drilling platform is designed, constructed, erected and maintained and has sufficient stability to afford adequate protection

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for employees and to withstand the environmental forces anticipated at the site. In doing this, HSE would expect an operator to make an assessment of the type of drilling platform required. This would involve taking into account: the environmental factors (e.g. geology); the type of well (e.g. the depth and the diameter of the metal tubing used to construct the well); the weight to be suspended from the platform's lifting hook; the particulars of the site; and the risks associated with the type of work to be performed (e.g. drilling or extraction). In practice, this means the drilling platform will need to be as big as needed to conduct the specified operations safely."

EU: Budget

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Lord Hill of Oareford on 2 July

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concerning the European Union budget settlement for 2014–20 (HL Deb. col 1091), what is the likely annual cost to United Kingdom public funds in sterling in (1) gross, and (2) net, terms: whether other payments outside that budget are made to European Union programmes; and, if so, whether they will give details of such expenditure.[HL1357]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) provides independent forecasts for UK's transactions with the European Union Budget. The most recent forecast was published in March 2013 and can be found in Table 2.20 of Economic and Fiscal Outlook supplementary fiscal tables (printed below).

There is no central record of any other regular, or one-off payments, from other Government Departments to the European Union.

2.20 Transactions with the European Union
£ billion
OutturnForecast
2011-122012-132013-142014-152015-162016-172017-18

Expenditure transfers to EU institutions

GNI based contribution

11.2

12.3

12.0

11.6

11.8

11.3

11.4

UK abatement

-3.5

-3.2

-3.7

-4.2

-3.8

-3.8

-3.7

Receipts from the EU to cover the costs of collecting Traditional Own Resources 2

-0.7

-0.7

-0.7

-0.7

-0.7

-0.7

-0.7

less Attributed Aid 3

-0.8

-0.9

-0.9

-0.9

-0.9

-0.9

-0.9

less Common Foreign and Security Policy and other attributed costs 4

-0.2

-0.1

-0.1

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Total contribution to TME and PSNB 1

5.9

7.4

6.5

5.7

6.1

5.9

6.0

Traditional Own Resources 2

2.9

3.0

3.1

3.3

3.4

3.6

3.7

VAT payments to the EU 5

2.3

2.4

2.3

2.4

2.6

2.8

2.9

Public sector receipts from the EU 6

-4 8

-4.1

-4.7

-5.0

-5.1

-5.1

-5.6

Net payments to EU institutions

6.4

8.7

7.3

6.5

7.1

7.2

7.0

plus Attributed Aid 3

0.8

0.9

0.9

0.9

0.9

0.9

0.9

plus Common Foreign and Security Policy and other attributed costs 4

0.2

0.1

0.1

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Net contribution to the EU budget

7.4

9.7

8.3

7.4

8.1

8.1

8.0

Gross contribution to the EU budget 7

12.2

13.7

13.0

12.4

13.1

13.2

13.5

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1 These contributions are included in current AME - see table 4 18 in the March 2013 Economic and fiscal outlook

2 Traditional Own Resources (TOR) consists of customs duties and sugar levies. These duties are excluded from public sector current receipts because they are collected on behalf of the EU. Customs duties include duties on agricultural products. The UK, like all Member States, retains 25% of the amount of TOR it collects to cover the costs of collection and this reduces TME in the National Accounts.

3 The UK's contribution to the cost of the EU aid to States outside the EU, which is attributed to the aid programme. This spending is removed from TME as a National Accounts adjustment because it is included within PSCE in RDEL and it is covered by the GNI based contribution, less abatement, and so this spending is removed to prevent it scoring twice.

4 The UK’s contribution to the cost of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, which is attributed to the FCO’s programme. This spending is also removed in the OBR’s forecasts of TME to prevent double-counting, as with attributed aid.

5 Contributions calculated by applying a call-up rate, currently 0.3%, to a notional 1% harmonised VAT base. Not included in public sector current receipts because treated as an EU tax in the National Accounts

6 These receipts are not netted off public sector current expenditure in the national accounts, because they are deemed to finance spending by the EU.

7 Calculated as the net contribution to the EU budget, excluding public sector receipts from the EU.

Finance: Payday Loans

Question

Asked by Lord Sharkey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Viscount Younger of Leckie on 1 July (WA 187), whether they have any plans to bring forward regular monitoring of total outstanding payday loans in advance of the transfer of responsibility for that sector to the Financial Conduct Authority in April 2014; and if not, why not.[HL1324]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie): No, as systems for collecting this information are not established and it would not be good value for money to set up a new system in the months before the FCA takes over responsibility. Once the FCA takes over responsibility for consumer credit, it will collect data from firms to enable it to maintain a picture of the overall size and breakdown of the consumer credit market. The FCA is also considering collecting information about the particular features of loan products and the customer profile to build a more complete understanding of customer affordability and vulnerability issues.

In the meantime, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) will continue to monitor the behaviour of licensed payday lenders up until the transfer to FCA. A key component of the OFT’s monitoring is the follow-up work from their compliance review which reported on 6 March.

The OFT has written to 50 payday lenders which together account for 90 per cent of the market, each of which has been issued with a dossier setting out the OFT’s concerns about the business. Each lender was given 12 weeks to make immediate changes to bring about compliance or face enforcement action.

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OFT is currently analysing the evidence of these responses and if concerns remain that they are not compliant, a range of enforcement options are available, including removing their licence, imposing legal requirements to change certain aspects of their behaviour or, in case of evidence of imminent harm to consumers, suspending their licence immediately.

Government Departments: Staff

Questions

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what qualifications are needed by Jobcentre Plus staff; and what standard training and continuing professional development training is provided for Jobcentre Plus staff.[HL1420]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): When recruiting staff to work for the Department for Work and Pensions (including those assigned to Jobcentre Plus) we select on the basis of competence to perform the job role. Straightforward academic educational qualifications [as opposed to professional qualifications which are specifically required for specialist job roles] are not used as a selection criterion.

The Department for Work and Pensions learning programme for new staff focuses on raising awareness of the claimants' personal circumstances and also recognises that those circumstances can affect individuals in different ways and will change over time.

All members of staff receive foundation learning which covers excellent customer service, diversity and equality. This learning encompasses the wide range of circumstances that our claimants may have, some less obvious than others, and stresses how important it is to treat people as individuals in order to offer appropriate support.

In addition to the foundation learning all staff will receive technical training to build skills and knowledge relevant to their particular job role. This training is regularly updated to reflect procedural and policy changes as appropriate.

Operational Delivery Profession learning and qualifications are available through Civil Service Learning to support continuous professional development.

Asked by Baroness Thomas of Winchester

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what guidance is given to disability employment advisers in Jobcentre Plus offices, when referring claimants to employment programmes; and why some Jobcentre Plus offices do not employ disability employment advisers. [HL1486]

Lord Freud: DWP's advice and guidance products are published on DWP's business intranet. This is the most direct and immediate way of communicating the specific eligibility and suitability criteria for referral of claimants to specific programmes, to staff. These products may also include good practice suggestions arising from the application of the advice and guidance.

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Additionally, Disability Employment Advisers, because they deal with disabled claimants facing more complex employment situations, receive additional levels of awareness and skills practice in their learning programme.

Jobcentre Plus District Managers are free to deploy their staff across their Districts to meet their local labour market requirements. However, they are also aware that the functions such as those carried out by DEAs are essential in order to assist those facing a complex employment situation, mainly arising from their disability. These functions should be available within the District, though there may be different delivery models to best meet local needs.

Health: Malnutrition

Question

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, Anna Soubry, on 17 June (HC Deb, 548W), whether Government departments normally assess the costs of pain and suffering; and if so, what are the costs of pain and suffering of illnesses associated with malnutrition. [HL1323]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Department carries out or has access to a range of assessments of the impact, including cost, of various conditions and illnesses. The assessments can encompass the costs of pain and suffering but these cannot be disaggregated from the total. We have made no separate assessment of the costs of pain and suffering of illnesses associated with malnutrition.

Health: Migraine

Question

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to address the problems caused by modern lighting for migraine sufferers.[HL1310]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Public Health England is aware of reports that some people's health is affected by certain types of lighting and is in discussion with Government departments to understand more about the problems and what appropriate help might be available.

Healthcare: Costs

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 19 June (WA 52–3), whether the individual claims in the total of £196,692,000 for actual healthcare costs incurred by United Kingdom pensioners living in

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France last year are all the same; what form the breakdown took; how many claims were rejected for lack of a matching S1, and what payments were made to Ireland for the same reason over the last five years.[HL1351]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Since May 2010 France has submitted claims on an actual cost basis. Consequently each claim will be different. Member states are required to submit actual cost claims using an E125 form. This form breaks treatment down into a number of categories such as dental, hospital, medical and pharmacy.

Details of the number of claims rejected due to the lack of a matching S1 form are not held centrally.

Costs incurred by the United Kingdom to Ireland for pensioners over the last five years are in the following table.

2008-092009-102010-112011-122012-13

£314,659,000

£304,431,000

£338,213,000

£329,322,920

£246,828,154

Human Trafficking

Question

Asked by The Lord Bishop of Derby

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what public funds are available to vulnerable people such as trafficked women to rehabilitate themselves into civil society.[HL1297]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Women indentified as a potential victim of human trafficking and referred to the National Referral Mechanism—the Government’s formal identification process—and are entitled to receive support under a contract which has been operated by the Salvation Army, since July 2011. The contract supports both female and male victims and is jointly-funded by the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office. In 2012/3, £3 million was provided to The Salvation Army to run the contract.

Based on the victim’s individual needs, The Salvation Army will ensure they are provided with the appropriate services to aid their immediate recovery from the trauma of being trafficked. The Salvation Army have a wide and diverse supply chain of 12 sub-contractors who support victims in the most appropriate environment and tailor support according to need. This includes the provision of safe and secure accommodation, providing access to legal advice and preparing individuals for work through arranging access to training courses and mentoring.

Victims are entitled to support under the contract for a minimum of 45 days or until they have received a ‘Conclusive Grounds’ decision to confirm they are a victim of trafficking. At this point The Salvation Army will work to support all victims to secure an appropriate exit from the contract and into other support services or the safe return to their home country

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Kenya

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Warsi on 24 June (WA 94–5), whether they have records of the trials of the Mau Mau who were judicially executed in Kenya; over what period of time the trials occurred; what the charges were that resulted in execution; and what approach they will adopt in respect of compensation claims by relatives of those who were executed after trial.[HL1349]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): All government records relating to the colonial period in Kenya are available in the National Archives. The Kenyan National Archives also hold materials relating to this period. On 6 June the Foreign Secretary announced a settlement with Leigh Day on behalf of 5,228 Kenyan citizens who lived through the Emergency Period, and issued a statement of regret. This will aid reconciliation. Anyone who wishes to bring a claim in the courts has the right to do so.

Omagh Bombing

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the commitments made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in September 2010 and early 2011, when they plan to announce whether they will establish a public inquiry into the Omagh bombing of 1998.[HL1376]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Wales Office (Baroness Randerson): The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is currently considering the contents of a report presented to her by the Omagh Support and Self Help Group (OSSHG). She hopes to he in a position to make her decision soon.

Pensions

Questions

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people left and joined the civil service and NHS pension schemes respectively in each year between 2010 and 2012; and what are their current memberships.[HL1352]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people opted-out of the civil service and NHS pension schemes respectively between 2010 and 2012; and how many were granted voluntary early retirement, and under what terms, in each of those years. [HL1353]

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: For the Civil Service and NHS pension schemes the number of joiners and those leaving active membership in each of the years in question were:

201020112012

Civil Service

Joiners

17,191

12,967

23,310

Leavers

29,284

32,949

28,113

2009/102010/112011/12

NHS

Joiners

107,409

65,409

55,117

Leavers

64,342

61,132

61,200

The latest published membership details for the PCSPS is set out in the Cabinet Office: Civil Superannuation Accounts 2011/12, (HC600) a copy of which can be found at www.civilservice.gov.uk/pensions/governance-and-rules/resource-accounts and in the Library of the House.

For the NHSPS, the latest published membership details are set out in the NHS Pension Scheme (Incorporating the NHS Compensation for Premature Retirement Scheme) 2011/12, (HC65) a copy of which can be found at www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/pensions/valuation and in the Library of the House.

For the Civil Service and NHS pension schemes the numbers of people who have opted-out of the arrangements in each of the years in question were:

201020112012

Civil Service

1,496

1,652

2,971

NHS

64,342

61,132

61,200

Early departures from the Civil Service is delegated to individual departments. It is for departments to make decisions on redundancies and voluntary early retirements, and for them to report information on numbers and costs in their resource accounts each year. Copies of departments’ resource accounts are available in the Library of the House.

For the NHS the number of members who were granted voluntary early retirement is set out below. Please note that these figures include members of the Scheme who no longer contributed to the NHSPS at the time they chose to draw a reduced pension.

201020112012

NHS

5,048

6,313

6,602

Railways: Electrification

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether any electric rolling stock has been made available for immediate use in the north of England to enable familiarisation and driver training, before further rolling stock replaced by the trains ordered from Siemens for Thameslink becomes available for use in those areas.[HL1479]

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Earl Attlee: Northern Rail driver training and familiarisation has yet to commence. Network Rail’s electrification programme shows that the first service route available for running electric trains will be brought into use by December 2014.

The Department for Transport is currently working together with Northern Rail to develop a plan for the running of the electrified units. This plan will include the timescales for making available a number of electrified units for Northern Rail to be used for driver training and familiarisation.

Railways: High Speed 2

Questions

Asked by Lord Clark of Windermere

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans there are to run tilting trains on HS2.[HL1530]

Earl Attlee: While the design of the HS2 network would in no way preclude the operation of tilting trains, the proposition for the railway does not rely on their use.

Asked by Lord Clark of Windermere

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans there are to allow non-high speed trains on the HS2 line.[HL1535]

Earl Attlee: While there are no physical barriers to non-high speed trains running on the new infrastructure, their operation on the core sections of HS2 is unlikely to be practicable as these trains would affect the capacity of the service. Opportunities could exist for non-high speed trains to operate on lower utilised or lower speed sections of HS2 and this may provide benefits such as further improving connectivity. Such opportunities will be further assessed as the project progresses.

Railways: High Speed Lines

Question

Asked by Lord Clark of Windermere

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether a business case has been developed for extending the high speed line from Wigan to Glasgow.[HL1534]

Earl Attlee: No assessment has yet been made of the costs of a high speed line from Wigan to Glasgow. The Department is undertaking a study in collaboration with the Scottish Government on how to boost capacity and cut journey times so that Scotland can enjoy the benefits of a High Speed Britain

Railways: Non-tilting Trains

Question

Asked by Lord Clark of Windermere

To ask Her Majesty’s Government at what speed non-tilting trains will be allowed to travel on non-high speed railway lines.[HL1531]

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Earl Attlee: The new high speed trains will run at the permitted maximum line speed at any location for non-tilting trains. The current maximum permissible speed for non-tilting trains operating on the West Coast Mainline is 110 miles per hour.

Railways: Thameslink

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the annual cash cost at 2013 prices of the Thameslink total train service contract.[HL1477]

Earl Attlee: The Thameslink Rolling Stock Project contracts comprise the supply, finance and subsequent maintenance (including the provision of depots) of the fleet of 1140 carriages. The contracts have an aggregate NPV of approximately £2.6 billion discounted to 2013, and a nominal value of approximately £5.7 billion, in each case to the end of the 20 year commitment period relating to the use of the trains by the Secretary of State for Transport.

Roads: A23

Question

Asked by Lord Trefgarne

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of progress in respect of the road widening programme south from Pease Pottage on the A23 towards Brighton; and when they expect that project to be complete.[HL1529]

Earl Attlee: Construction on the A23 Handcross to Warninglid widening scheme is progressing well, and is expected to complete as originally planned, by autumn 2014.

Roads: M6

Question

Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will take into account the exceptional dividend received by Macquarrie Infrastructure Group after refinancing the M6 toll road project in 2006 when negotiating with that company over its obligation to part-fund the M6 to M54 link road.[HL1437]

Earl Attlee: As part of the re-financing of the M6 Toll in 2006, Midland Expressway Limited (MEL) agreed to provide a £70m contribution, index linked from the date of the agreement, towards the cost of the M6 Toll to M54 link road subject to the link road meeting certain design specifications. We fully expect this obligation to be honoured.

16 July 2013 : Column WA115

Serbia

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they support the accession of Serbia to the European Union; and whether they believe that there should be a limit to the expansion of the European Union. [HL1358]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The UK supports eventual EU membership for Serbia, as for all countries of the western Balkans. We supported the June European Council’s decision to open EU accession negotiations with Serbia on the basis of the real progress that Serbia had made in its relations with Kosovo, notably through an historic agreement reached on 19 April. This agreement will require full and consistent implementation before Serbia begins accession negotiations. However, this is only the beginning. There is still a great deal of progress needed to bring Serbia in line with the EU standards required for membership. The EU accession process is a rigorous conditions-based process that is designed to ensure this. Aside from full normalisation of Serbia’s relationship with Kosovo, particular areas of concern regarding rule of law and justice and home affairs will be addressed early and throughout the process.

The EU Treaties are clear that any European state which respects the values of the Union and is committed to promoting them can apply for membership. Decisions on enlargement are taken by the European Council, which decides by unanimity. Successive UK Governments have agreed that conditions-based EU enlargement is firmly in the UK’s interest. Croatia’s recent accession on 1 July 2013 once again demonstrates the transformative power of EU enlargement to entrench stability, democracy and the rule of law across Europe.

Syria

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the government of Syria has given any undertakings about access for humanitarian relief in the event of a ceasefire; and, if not, what representations they will make to that effect.[HL1336]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The Syrian government continues to impose hurdles on humanitarian agencies. The UK calls on the Government of Syria to remove these barriers as a matter of urgency and on all parties to reach an agreement that allows humanitarian workers full, unfettered humanitarian access without interference or threat of violence, and to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance by the most effective routes, including across borders.

The UK remains supportive of any action that seeks to end the violence and achieve a political solution in Syria. Our priority remains advancing a political

16 July 2013 : Column WA116

transition that ends the conflict, allows refugees to return to their homes, and prevents further radicalisation in Syria.

Taxation: Evasion and Avoidance

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Deighton on 19 June concerning taxation (WA 57–8), what action they take against taxpayers who purposely misinterpret tax law to gain an advantage that Parliament never intended; under what circumstances they prosecute such people for tax evasion; and whether there are circumstances under which they take other courses of action.[HL1338]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): HMRC has adopted a robust anti-avoidance strategy, which aims to prevent avoidance at the outset, detect it early where it persists and counter it effectively through legislative changes or challenge. Where HMRC finds taxpayers purposefully misinterpreting tax law, to gain an advantage that Parliament never intended, it takes swift action. For instance, at Budget 2013, it closed down ten newly identified loopholes that were being exploited through tax avoidance schemes. Where there is evidence of dishonesty, HMRC may carry out a criminal investigation, with a view to the prosecution of those involved. As a result of HMRC investigations, 770 individuals were prosecuted in 2012/13.

Union Learning Fund

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much funding was allocated to the Union Learning Fund and unionlearn for 2012–13; what was the percentage increase over the previous year; what are the agreed priorities of those schemes for the current year; and what assessment they have made of the effectiveness of the funding in reaching out to non-unionised workplaces.[HL1463]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie): In 2012-2013 The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) awarded £20.210m under a Grant Funding Agreement to unionlearn, the learning and skills organisation of the TUC. The majority of this funding, £14,495,000, is allocated to Union Learning Funded (ULF) projects.

As referenced in Hansard, [HL16654: 23 Apr 2012: Column WA380], the Unionlearn budget for 2012-13 was reduced by 6% (£1.29 million).

As a social partnership unionlearn have an important role to play in support of the Government’s Skills Strategy, Rigour and Responsiveness. The agreed priorities for union learning funded projects for 2013-2014 are:

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1. Greater Employer Ownership of the Skills System 2. More sustainable employment for young people 3. Building a High Skills Workforce 4. Driving up Standards and Quality of Skills provision

As yet a full assessment has not been conducted into the effectiveness of reaching out to non-unionised workplaces as it has only been piloted and rolled out by ULF projects in the last round of ULF. An interim evaluation of this work was commissioned by unionlearn and will be published by Campaign for Learning when completed.

Young Offender Institutions: Deaths

Question

Asked by Baroness Stern

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people aged 18 to 21 have died whilst detained in a young offender institution in the last five years; and how many of those young people had previously spent any period in a young offender institution or a secure training centre as a juvenile.[HL1185]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): People aged 21 years may be held in either a Young Offender Institute or in an adult prison. Where

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a site is shared between a Young Offender Institute and an adult prison, records are not held to identify in which part of the site the deceased was detained. Instead, figures are provided for all offenders detained in prison custody who were aged 18 to 21 years at the time of their death.

There were 38 deaths of people aged 18 to 21 years while in prison custody between 2008 and 2012. Of these 38 deaths, 14 were of 21 year olds in an adult prison, or a site shared between an adult prison and a YOI.

A breakdown by calendar year is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Deaths of people aged 18-21 years in prison custody, England and Wales, 2008-2012
20082009201020112012

Number of people

9

11

5

10

3

Of these, 14 are known to have previously spent a period of time in a Young Offender Institute or Secure Training Centre as a Young Person.

Statistics on deaths in prison custody are published in the Safety in Custody statistics bulletin, which can be accessed at https://www.gov.uk/government/ publications/safety-in-custody