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Written Answers

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Belfast Agreement

Questions

Asked by Lord Kilclooney

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which requirements in the Belfast Agreement for the protection of human rights by the Government of the Republic of Ireland remain to be fulfilled. [HL283]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Government of the Republic of Ireland, as required by the Belfast Agreement, has created a Human Rights Commission with a mandate and remit equivalent to that within Northern Ireland.[HL284]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Government of the Republic of Ireland has ratified the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the protection of National Minorities, as required by the Belfast Agreement.[HL285]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Government of the Republic of Ireland has implemented enhanced employment equality legislation as required by the Belfast Agreement.[HL286]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the recent proposals by the Government of the Republic of Ireland to curtail financial support for Protestant schools in the Republic of Ireland are consistent with its obligations in the Belfast Agreement for the protection of human rights; whether the United Kingdom Government have considered this development; in the light of the Belfast Agreement's commitment to equality of treatment of minorities, what assessment they have made of how many Protestant schools are now threatened with closure; and whether the matter has been raised with the government of the Republic of Ireland.[HL287]

Earl Attlee: I know that the noble Lord has expressed concern elsewhere on the issue of financial support for schools in Ireland in particular. However, the Irish Government would be best placed to provide the information the noble Lord seeks. I would suggest that the noble Lord raises these matters directly with the Irish Government and I have asked officials to ensure that officials in the Irish Government are aware of the noble Lord’s concerns.

Channel Tunnel

Question

Asked by Lord Fearn

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many incidents, including fires or major stoppages of trains, occurred in the Channel Tunnel in (1) 2009, (2) 2010, and (3) 2011.[HL358]

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Earl Attlee: The number of safety-related incidents in the Channel Tunnel for the years in question was 77 in 2009, 84 in 2010 and 64 in 2011. Only one of these incidents, in 2009, was major and required the evacuation of passengers from the train.

Employment: Under 25s

Question

Asked by Lord Storey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they plan to improve the life chances of 18–24 year-olds in Liverpool, in the light of the rise in the percentage of those aged 18–24 claiming jobseekers’ allowance between 2008 and 2012.[HL197]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): Improving educational standards and enabling young people to make a smooth transition from education into sustainable employment is the most important way in which the Government can support the life chances of young people, in Liverpool and across the country.

Alongside the Government's existing plans to raise the age of compulsory participation in education or training to 17 in 2013 and 18 in 2015, increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities, and reform vocational education, we have introduced a youth contract worth almost £1 billion. This provides incentives for employers who recruit an 18-24 year-old through the Work Programme, incentives to encourage employers to take on 16-24 year old apprentices, more intensive support from Jobcentre Plus advisers and an offer of work experience or a sector-based work academy place to unemployed 18-24 year olds on jobseeker's allowance. For the longer-term unemployed, the Government's Work Programme provides young people with personalised support and training to help them into sustainable employment.

We provide full government funding for young people aged 19 to 24 to gain English and maths qualifications; their first full level 2 and first full level 3 qualifications. Learners in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance or employment support allowance (in the Work-Related Activity Group) can also receive full government funding for pre-employment training. Further education providers also have local discretion to provide fully subsidised courses for people on a wider range of benefits where the training is designed to help them enter employment.

Furthermore, in April this year we launched the National Careers Service which will help young people and adults make informed and positive choices about their career paths.

The Plan for Growth sets out the Government’s economic policy objective to achieve strong and sustainable growth that is more evenly balanced across the country and between industries. Our Core Cities initiative is designed to develop innovative ways to boost economic growth in England’s eight largest cities, including Liverpool. Also, an additional £l billion has been allocated for a further round of the Regional Growth Fund taking the total to be invested to £2.4 billion.

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Government Departments: Bonuses

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and each of its agencies define bonus payments in the context of civil service pay; what proportion of civil servants are eligible to receive non-consolidated performance payments; and how they are selected for those payments.[HL330]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): There are two types of non-consolidated performance payments for staff below the Senior Civil Service in the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. End-year payments are based on the outcome of the annual performance management system and are typically paid to around the top 25% of employees who are rated to be “highly successful”. To obtain a “highly successful” rating, employees are required to exceed all their key work objectives.

The department also runs an “in-year” award scheme where employees nominated by colleagues may receive a modest cash award or gift voucher for demonstrating examples of exceptional contribution to business objectives. Both types of cash award are non-consolidated and non-pensionable.

Performance awards for the SCS are part of the pay system across the whole Senior Civil Service, and are used to reward high performance sustained throughout the year, based on judgments about how well an individual has performed relative to their peers. The performance related pay scheme is designed to help drive high performance and support better public service delivery. In 2012, awards were made to the top 25% of SCS staff in BIS, in line with the rest of Whitehall. Performance awards for SCS are non-consolidated and non-pensionable.

Background: The percentage of pay bill available for end year awards for non-SCS staff is 0.9%. The maximum cash award under the in-year scheme is £500. The percentage of the pay bill set aside for performance-related awards for the SCS is based on recommendations from the independent Senior Salaries Review Body.

Pensions

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Wilcox on 1 May (WA 463), in the continuing Royal Mail Pension Plan, why the current employee contribution rate of 6% is not being increased.[HL306]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The level of contribution rates within the sections of the continuing Royal Mail Pension Plan (RMPP) is a matter for agreement between the sponsoring employers

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of each section (Royal Mail and Post Office Limited) and the RMPP Trustee. The plan is due to undertake a full actuarial valuation shortly. It would be standard practice to review contribution rates as part of that valuation.

Roads: A1

Question

Asked by Lord Bates

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made with plans to upgrade the A1 north of Leeming to the Scotch Corner section, and connecting roads, to motorway status.[HL422]

Earl Attlee: The Secretary of State for Transport’s Statement of 26 October 2010, “Investment in Highways and Local Transport Schemes”, identified the A1 Leeming-to-Barton scheme as one of seven schemes to be cancelled, as it was unlikely to be built in the foreseeable future. As such, there are currently no plans to upgrade the A1 north of Leeming to Scotch Corner.

Shipping: General Lighthouse Authorities

Question

Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 17 May (WA 18), whether the Department for Transport will require the new chair of the Joint Strategic Board to be independent from the General Lighthouse Authorities; and whether guidance will be issued to that effect.[HL321]

Earl Attlee: No. The General Lighthouse Authorities will recommend a candidate for the post of the chair of the Joint Strategic Board for ministerial consideration, who will then be considered on merit.

Shipping: Light Dues

Question

Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Office for National Statistics’ reclassification of light dues as a tax will lead to an investigation into whether a full “user pays” system should be adopted; and, if not, whether a calculation has been made by HM Treasury of the lost revenue from leisure craft which use aids to navigation around the coast of the British Isles.[HL162]

Earl Attlee: Her Majesty’s Government consider that current light dues arrangements are based on a practical application of the “user pays” principle. No reasonably practicable system for identifying and charging light dues to small leisure vessels has been identified, so no calculation of potential income from this source is possible. Large leisure craft already pay light dues.

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Transport: Intelligent Transport Systems

Questions

Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions (1) the Secretary of State for Transport, and (2) her officials, have had with private sector companies on the development of intelligent transport systems. [HL134]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions (1) the Secretary of State for Transport, and (2) her officials, have had with industry and professional organisations to discuss the European Commission directive on the deployment of intelligent transport systems.[HL135]

Earl Attlee: Department for Transport officials are in regular communication with a wide range of industry bodies and associations that represent private sector developers and suppliers of such products and services, as well as specialist consultancies and local government, to discuss issues regarding technology, information and intelligent transport solutions—including those relating to the EU intelligent transport systems directive.

Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the Department for Transport’s internal review of intelligent transport systems.[HL136]

Earl Attlee: An internal review of the department’s activity on intelligent transport was undertaken in early 2010. No final report was produced, although much of the thinking that emerged from this work has since helped to inform the department’s approach.

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Union Learning Fund

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Wilcox on 23 April (WA 380), whether opportunities under the Union Learning Fund (ULF) remit for workers in non-unionised workplaces who are identified to access learning via learning agreements with their employers are freely and willingly entered into by such employers; what percentage of overall ULF funding will go to the priority of non-unionised workplace engagement; and how many jobs this year's ULF funding of £21.4 million will support.[HL463]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): Reaching and developing learning agreements with non-unionised workplaces presents a significant challenge, but those employers that do so do it freely and willingly. Of the total ULF allocation, approximately £50,000 will be allocated to unionlearn’s non-unionised project. As referred in Written Answer on 23 April (WA 380) the unionlearn budget for 2012-13 has been reduced by 6% resulting in an allocation of £20,210,000. One of the key priorities of ULF is to supporting disadvantaged learners, particularly those with numeracy and literacy skills, both in the workplace and community. The purpose of the fund is to develop the skills and employability of those in jobs. We expect 220,000 learners to be supported by this fund by the end of March 2013.