Iraq

Mr Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government are taking to help protect people living in ISIS-controlled areas of Iraq. [207202]

Mr Ellwood: As the Prime Minister set out in his statement of 1 September, the Government will use all the resources at our disposal to tackle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This includes providing equipment to support Kurdistan Regional Government forces fighting against ISIL.

The UK has also delivered airdrops to support those trapped by ISIL, and has committed £23 million of humanitarian assistance to help those who have fled ISIL’s advances. The RAF has also been carrying out surveillance flights.

Mr David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the safety of Christians in those parts of Iraq controlled by ISIL. [207276]

Mr Ellwood: We are concerned for the safety of Christians in parts of Iraq controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIL have targeted Christians and many other groups in areas under their control. I visited Iraq on 26 to 27 August and pressed the Prime Minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi to ensure his new Government in Iraq would ensure the protection of all minorities, promote human rights and reassert the rule of law.

Mr David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to international organisations on the protection of Christians in those parts of Iraq controlled by ISIL. [207277]

Mr Ellwood: We are working closely with our international partners, including NATO and the EU, to try to assist and protect civilians, including Christians and other groups, from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The UK brought forward UN Security Council Resolution 2170, which was adopted unanimously, and co-sponsored a Human Rights Council Resolution on ISIL’s abuses which was passed on 1 September 2014.

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Ms Ritchie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps his Department has taken to protect Christians in northern Iraq. [207401]

Mr Ellwood: We are providing humanitarian assistance to those who have fled areas of Iraq controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and have taken part in a series of air drops to people trapped by ISIL. We are providing military assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting ISIL as set out in the Prime Minister's statement on 1 September so that they can restore control over the areas taken by ISIL.

Ms Ritchie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the situation for Christians in northern Iraq. [207402]

Mr Ellwood: We are concerned for the safety of Christians in parts of Iraq controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIL have targeted Christians and many other groups in areas under their control. The UK has carried out a number of air drops via the RAF to deliver humanitarian aid.

During my visit to Iraq in late August 2014, I pressed the Prime Minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi to ensure his new Government in Iraq would ensure the protection of all minorities, promote human rights and reassert the rule of law.

Mr David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the safety of Christians in those parts of Iraq currently controlled by ISIL. [207424]

Mr Ellwood: We are concerned for the safety of Christians in parts of Iraq controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIL have targeted Christians and many other groups in areas under their control.

I visited Iraq in late August and pressed the Prime Minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi to ensure his new Government in Iraq would ensure the protection of all minorities, promote human rights and reassert the rule of law.

Mr David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to international bodies on the protection of Christians in those parts of Iraq currently controlled by ISIL. [207425]

Mr Ellwood: We are working closely with our international partners, including NATO and the EU, to try to assist and protect civilians, including Christians and other groups, from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The UK brought forward UN Security Council Resolution 2170, which was adopted unanimously, and co-sponsored a Human Rights Council Resolution on ISIL’s abuses which was passed on 1 September 2014.

Islamic State

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his US counterpart on ways to tackle Islamic State in Syria. [207666]

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Mr Ellwood: The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, has regular discussions with his international counterparts, including the US, on tackling the extremist threat in Syria. We agree that the war in Syria, and the threat posted by ISIL, can only ultimately be ended through a political agreement and a new transitional Government.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his European counterparts on preventing the spread of Islamic State to Europe. [207667]

Mr Ellwood: On 15 August, the Foreign Secretary met EU counterparts at the Foreign Affairs Council and on 29 August, the Minister for Europe, my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), met his EU counterparts at Gymnich where the issue of preventing the spread of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to Europe was raised. On 30 August, the Prime Minister discussed this issue with counterparts in the European Council, which subsequently adopted conclusions which focused on protecting Europe from immediate security threats from ISIL.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures are being taken by the UK to support resistance to Islamic State militants in Northern Iraq. [207668]

Mr Ellwood: We are providing practical support to the Kurdish Peshmerga as they fight ISIL: gifting them non-lethal military equipment, and transporting ammunition and military equipment to them from other countries. We are also using RAF aircraft to carry out surveillance work. The European Council on 30 August gave its clear endorsement to those European countries supporting the Kurdistan Regional Government with military equipment and supplies. This includes France, Germany and Italy, as well as the UK. As the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has said, we would consider requests from the Government of Iraq for technical assistance or training support in order to secure stability and security across the country and alleviate the humanitarian suffering of those Iraqis targeted by ISIL terrorists. I travelled to Iraq on 26-27 August where I met President Masud and PM designate Al Abadi, as well as President Barzani of the Kurdish Regional Government. We discussed the UK's ongoing support for efforts to form a new, stable and inclusive government in Baghdad.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consular assistance is available to UK nationals affected by Islamic State in Iraq. [207669]

Mr Ellwood: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides consular advice and assistance to British nationals overseas, including in Iraq. However, as we have made clear in our Travel Advice, the British embassy in Baghdad and the British Consulate-General in Erbil are able to offer limited consular assistance only. British nationals

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travelling to Iraq should regularly check the Travel Advice for the most up to date country specific information. If a British national is in need of assistance they should contact the British Embassy in Baghdad or British Consulate in Erbil.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what areas of Syria are controlled by Islamic State. [207672]

Mr Ellwood: ISIL currently has military control of large areas of Northern Syria. This includes parts of: northeast Aleppo governorate; Raqqah governorate, Deir az-Zour governorate and Hassakeh governorate. It also controls a number of small villages south of Salamiyeh in Hamah governorate. The situation remains fluid.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what areas of Iraq are controlled by Islamic State. [207673]

Mr Ellwood: The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) currently has military control of a number of areas in the provinces of Anbar, Nineveh, Salahaddin and Diyala, including Nineveh’s capital Mosul and the Jurf al-Sukhar area of northern Babil Province. Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, supported by tribal and militia elements, have been making some progress in retaking territory from ISIL. The situation remains fluid.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to protect the (a) Christian and (b) Yazidi population in Northern Iraq from Islamic State militants. [207678]

Mr Ellwood: The Government have provided £23 million in immediate assistance for Iraq to provide clean water and sanitation, essential medicine and funding for NGOs and charities. This has been disbursed based on need, not by religion or ethnicity. However a great deal has gone to Christian and Yazidi communities, including 80 tonnes dropped by the RAF to refugees while trapped on Mount Sinjar. We are also providing military assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting ISIL as set out in the Prime Minister's statement on 1 September so that they can restore control over the areas taken by ISIL. The RAF continue to carry out surveillance flights to provide greater situational awareness. I visited Iraq in late August and pressed the Prime Minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi to ensure his new Government in Iraq would ensure the protection of all minorities, promote human rights and reassert the rule of law.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the likelihood of Islamic State operating in Lebanon. [207679]

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to prevent the spread of Islamic State into Lebanon. [207680]

Mr Ellwood: We make regular assessments of the threat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses to Lebanon. Through the UK’s Land Border

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project, we have supported the Lebanese armed forces reassert state authority in the border regions and minimise violent contagion from Syria. This project has used UK funding to construct 12 protected border observation posts, and provided eight mobile observation platforms, personnel protection equipment, Land Rovers, radios and training. As a result of UK assistance, the Lebanese have an effective presence along 140 km of the north-east border with Syria.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his Iraqi counterpart on assisting the Iraqi Government to tackle Islamic State. [207682]

Mr Ellwood: The Prime Minister spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi shortly after his appointment to encourage him to build an inclusive Government in Baghdad to tackle the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The Secretary of State for International Development, my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening), and I also met him in Baghdad on 26 August. Our embassy remains in regular contact with Iraqi politicians from across the political spectrum to encourage them to support Mr al-Abadi in forming a new Government.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to support efforts to drive militants out from Islamic State-controlled areas of Syria. [207714]

Mr Ellwood: We continue to support the Syrian moderate opposition who have previously shown themselves capable of pushing Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) back, and are at the forefront of the fight against them. The only sustainable solution to the crisis in Syria is through reaching a negotiated political transition by mutual consent, which would enable moderate Syrians to come together to counter ISIL, free from the attacks of the regime. We must stick to this fundamental principle, endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. To achieve this we are continuing to put pressure on the Assad regime and its international backers to engage in the political process and we are supporting the moderate opposition who will be a critical component of peace talks. The UK is delivering £30 million of non-lethal support this year to strengthen an inclusive moderate opposition as well as to bolster regional stability.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to help reduce the threat of Islamic State in Iraq to security in that region. [207715]

Mr Ellwood: The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) pose a threat across the region and it is important that our response reflects that. This will require a tough, intelligent and patient approach, including action at home and abroad. In both Iraq and Syria, we are determined to support non-sectarian moderates who are working for democracy and the rule of law, and resist terrorists, extremists and authoritarian regimes. Our approach to dealing with ISIL will involve ensuring that the UK is protected from immediate security threats, that ISIL is pushed back militarily and that we squeeze

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ISIL's access to resources, including money, weapons and recruits. We will also work to isolate ISIL politically through finding inclusive political settlements in Iraq and Syria. We are already carrying out surveillance flights in Northern Iraq and have not ruled our further steps.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to help reduce the threat of Islamic State in Syria to security in that region. [207716]

Mr Ellwood: The current security contract which has been in place since February 2010 with G4S in Afghanistan is worth approximately £120 million and is due to end on 30 June 2015. The tender for the next such contract is worth an estimated value of £14-20 million per annum and is likely to reduce over the lifetime of the contract. As this is currently a live tender, we are unable to provide details as to who has expressed interest in this contract, since this information is commercially sensitive.

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the sources of supply to Islamic State (IS) militants of their weapons and training; and if he will make a statement. [207799]

Mr Ellwood: We remain deeply concerned about the ability of terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria to acquire weapons and commit atrocities.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has obtained its weaponry from a variety of sources, including by capturing them from Iraqi and Syrian security forces, and others. Many of ISIL's supply needs are financed by its sale of oil and by money stolen during its advances in recent months.

We have emphasised the need to intensify efforts to stem the flow of weapons and fighters to extremist groups, including ISIL. Hundreds of foreigners are fighting with ISIL, gaining combat experience and potentially forging connections with other extremists. Since ISIL is a successor to al-Qaeda in Iraq, it also has many members with experience of fighting Coalition forces in Iraq after 2003. As part of its strategy to combat ISIL, the UK led work on UN Security Council Resolution 2170, adopted on 15 August, which condemns ISIL, al-Nusra front (ANF) and other terrorist groups listed under AQ sanctions. The resolution urges members to take measures to choke off recruitment and to target the growing phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters and ISIL's sources of finance.

Kidnapping

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to provide support to other Governments in tackling the threat of kidnapping by terrorist organisations. [207690]

Mr Ellwood: The UK has driven agreement internationally to combat kidnapping by terrorists. Following G8 agreement under the UK presidency in 2013, we have sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2133 and led on EU Foreign Affairs Council conclusions

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on kidnap for ransom. These agreements included commitments to co-operate closely during incidents of hostage taking.

The UK has considerable experience in responding to terrorist kidnaps. We make the benefits of that experience available to other countries in a number of ways, including best practice sharing bilaterally and through fora like the Global Counter Terrorism Forum. We have provided training on kidnap response to affected governments.

Kurds

Mr Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Kurdistan Regional Government or its representatives in the UK on the situation in that region. [207428]

Mr Ellwood: The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, have both spoken to Kurdistan Region President Barzani. The Secretary of State for International Development, my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening) and I visited Erbil on 27 August and met with President Barzani, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Deputy Prime Minister Talabani, and other Ministers. I have also met the KRG’s representative in the UK and officials are in regular contact with the KRG offices in both the UK and Iraq.

Lesotho

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the situation in Lesotho; and what steps he is taking to support the reinstatement of democracy in that country. [208095]

James Duddridge: British high commission officials in Pretoria, who cover our relations with Lesotho, continue to closely monitor developments in the country given the deteriorating political and security situation there since 30 August. I welcome the engagement of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and have expressed our hope that all Lesotho’s parties will work together to ensure disputes are settled peacefully in line with Lesotho’s constitution. At my request, our high commissioner reiterated these messages in a phone call to Lesotho’s Prime Minister on 5 September.

LGBT Rights

Simon Kirby: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in St Lucia; and if he will make a statement; [207082]

(2) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Kiribati; and if he will make a statement; [207083]

(3) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in the Seychelles; and if he will make a statement; [207084]


(4) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Nigeria; and if he will make a statement; [207085]

(5) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Sierra Leone; and if he will make a statement; [207086]

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(6) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in St Vincent and the Grenadines; and if he will make a statement; [207087]


(7) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Guyana; and if he will make a statement; [207093]

(8) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Trinidad and Tobago; and if he will make a statement; [207094]

(9) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in the Cook Islands; and if he will make a statement; [207095]

(10) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Botswana; and if he will make a statement; [207141]

(11) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Malawi; and if he will make a statement; [207168]

(12) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Namibia; and if he will make a statement; [207169]

(13) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in India; and if he will make a statement; [207170]

(14) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in the Maldives; and if he will make a statement; [207171]

(15) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Malaysia; and if he will make a statement; [207189]

(16) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Pakistan; and if he will make a statement; [207190]

(17) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Brunei; and if he will make a statement; [207191]

(18) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Antigua and Barbuda; and if he will make a statement; [207192]

(19) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Belize; and if he will make a statement; [207205]

(20) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Dominica; and if he will make a statement; [207206]

(21) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in the Solomon Islands; and if he will make a statement; [207226]

(22) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Tonga; and if he will make a statement; [207227]

(23) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Tuvalu; and if he will make a statement; [207228]

(24) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Cameroon; and if he will make a statement; [207229]

(25) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Ghana; and if he will make a statement; [207230]

(26) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Kenya; and if he will make a statement; [207231]

(27) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Mauritius; and if he will make a statement; [207232]

(28) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Swaziland; and if he will make a statement; [207233]

(29) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Tanzania; and if he will make a statement; [207234]

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(30) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Uganda; and if he will make a statement; [207235]

(31) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Zambia; and if he will make a statement; [207236]

(32) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Bangladesh; and if he will make a statement; [207237]

(33) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Grenada; and if he will make a statement; [207238]

(34) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Jamaica; and if he will make a statement; [207239]

(35) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in St Kitts and Nevis; and if he will make a statement; [207240]

(36) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Singapore; and if he will make a statement; [207244]

(37) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement; [207245]

(38) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Barbados; and if he will make a statement; [207246]

(39) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Nauru; and if he will make a statement; [207247]

(40) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Papua New Guinea; and if he will make a statement; [207248]

(41) what steps he is taking to promote LGBT rights in Samoa; and if he will make a statement. [207249]

Mr Lidington: Work to combat violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people forms an important part of our wider international human rights work. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office works through our embassies and high commissions, and through international organisations, including the Commonwealth, the EU and the UN, to promote tolerance and non-discrimination against LGBT people and to address discriminatory laws, in particular those that criminalise homosexuality.

The UK has been a member of the LGBT core group in Geneva since 2011, playing a key role in passing the UN’s first ever resolution on LGBT rights and recently joined its counterpart group in New York.

Within the Commonwealth we continue to encourage the Secretariat and the Secretary-General to do more to promote the rights of its LGBT people. The former Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), wrote to the Commonwealth Secretary-General in March urging him to take concrete action to address this issue within the Commonwealth.

Libya

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government is taking to secure the stockpiles of weaponry in Libya which are left over from the 2011 revolution, including surface-to-air rocket launchers; and if he will make a statement. [207801]

Mr Ellwood: The vast unsecured stockpiles of Qadhafi-era weapons and ammunition are a threat to the political transition in Libya, endangering its stability and security, as well as that of the region.

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The British Government have been working closely with international partners, including the UN, to help the Libyan authorities secure and dismantle the weapons stockpiles. We have committed £9 million of our £62.5 million Security, Justice and Defence Programme, plus a further £1 million contribution to the UN Mine Action Service Trust Fund, to fund projects in this area. We have also funded a Senior Disarmament Adviser to work with the Libyan Ministry of Defence on disarmament issues. However, following our embassy's withdrawal from Tripoli on 5 August, this work has been temporarily suspended. We hope to be able to return to Libya at the earliest opportunity to continue this important work.

Maldives

Karen Lumley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the human rights situation in the Maldives; and if he will make representations to the Government of that country on the kidnap of the journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla. [207944]

Mr Swire: We continue to be concerned about human rights in the Maldives, not least on freedom of religion, rule of law and women's rights. We are also concerned by reports that parliamentarians, human rights advocates and journalists have recently been the target of death threats, and by the disappearance and apparent abduction of one journalist on 8 August following death threats.

Officials at our high commission in Colombo, which is also accredited to the Maldives, have raised concerns on human rights, as well as the recent threats and this reported disappearance, with the Maldives Government. We have also urged them to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted as appropriate. The Maldives Government have expressed deep concern following the disappearance, and noted that they are committed to ensuring the safety and security of all Maldivians.

Middle East

Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the use of components for Paveway II bombs manufactured by Raytheon in Scotland by Israeli military forces during Operation Protective Edge. [207102]

Mr Ellwood: The Government take seriously any reports that British components may have been used by Israeli forces during Operation Protective Edge. However, neither the Foreign and Commonwealth Office nor our embassy in Tel Aviv have received any reports on the use of components for Paveway II bombs being used by the Israeli military forces during the recent fighting.

Ms Ritchie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of whether recent Israeli military operations in Gaza are in breach of international law. [207151]

Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 22 July 2014, Official Report, column 1050W, on the middle east, when his Department will conduct a full

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assessment of whether Israeli military action during Operation Protective Edge has complied with its international legal obligations. [207156]

Mr Ellwood: We are clear that there must be meaningful investigations into possible violations of international humanitarian law by all sides, including those abuses committed by Hamas and other militant groups. We call on all parties to co-operate with the UN Commission of Inquiry, which must be balanced and impartial.

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what meetings he or Ministers in his Department have had with civil society or religious groups based in the UK to discuss the situation in Israel and Palestine since the start of July 2014; and which such groups have met on what dates; [207414]

(2) what meetings Ministers in his Department have had with civil society or religious groups based in the UK which have discussed the situation in Israel and Palestine since 1 July 2014; which organisations attended each such meeting; and when each such meeting took place. [207285]

Mr Ellwood: Since the start of July, I have held two meetings with civil society/religious groups based in the UK to discuss the situation in Israel and Palestine.

On 5 August, I held a meeting with a delegation from the British Arab Association. Representatives from the British Arab Association, Syrian Association, Sudanese Association, Young Arab Professionals, Arab Women Association, Yemeni Association, Palestinian Return Centre and the Palestinian Forum in Britain attended.

The other meeting was also held on 5 August with non-governmental organisations. Representatives from Amnesty International, Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid, Action Aid, Welfare Association, Quakers, Medical Aid for Palestinians, British Red Cross, Catholic Aid Agency for England and Wales (CAFOD), Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) and Friends of Birzeit university attended. This was a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Department for International Development (DFID) meeting with myself and the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Mr Swayne).

Mr Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the UN is taking to highlight the ongoing persecution of Christian communities in the middle east and assist those so persecuted. [207878]

Mr Ellwood: The UK has been at the forefront of international activity calling for the right to freedom of religion or belief to be protected, including through the UN, seeking to ensure that all tools at the UN’s disposal (in particular, the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief) are brought to bear.

In Iraq, the Government believe the international community must condemn, in the strongest possible way, abuses and crimes committed by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated groups. During the UK’s presidency of the United Nations Security Council in August, the Council

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condemned the systematic persecution of individuals from minority populations, including Christians, and those who refuse the extremist ideology of ISIL and associated armed groups. The Council also recalled that widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian populations because of their ethnic background, religion or belief may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable.

As a member of the Human Rights Council, the UK has given strong support to mandates (such as the Commission of Inquiry on Syria—sustained by a resolution on which the UK is chief sponsor) that monitor and report on the plight of people who have suffered violations or abuses because of their religious identity. Twice every year the EU sponsors a resolution at the UN on Freedom of Religion or Belief. This provides an opportunity to highlight specific developments. During a special session of the UNHRC on 1 September 2014, the UK requested a UN investigation into ISIL abuses, which would include those directed at Christians, as well as Yazidis and other religious and ethnic minorities.

Through a UK co-sponsored resolution the UN is calling on Iraq to protect members of religious and ethnic minorities, women and children, and members of groups in vulnerable situations, and to provide support to them. Barbaric acts by ISIL such as targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, trafficking, slavery and sexual abuse carried out on the basis of ethnic, religious or sectarian discrimination will be confronted at the forthcoming UN General Assembly and UN Security Council meetings.

Nigeria

Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to secure the release of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014. [207392]

Mr Swire: The UK remains committed to the search for the Chibok girls that are still missing, and to preventing such acts in the future. The Prime Minister announced on 14 May that the UK would provide surveillance assets and intelligence expertise to help in the search for the missing girls. The UK is committed to supporting Nigeria and its neighbours tackle the wider threat from Boko Haram. On 12 June we hosted a ministerial meeting for Nigeria, its neighbours and international partners in London which agreed measures to strengthen regional cooperation against Boko Haram. These measures included establishing a regional intelligence fusion cell and coordinated border patrols. The UK also approved bilateral support including military and intelligence cooperation. On 3 September I visited Nigeria, where I met both President Jonathan and Foreign Minister Wali. In those meetings I expressed the UK's deep sympathy for the plight of the school girls and discussed further measures for securing their release. The UK will continue to work closely with Nigeria and the international community to tackle the threat posed by terrorist groups such as Boko Haram.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the declaration of a caliphate in areas of Nigeria. [207670]

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Mr Swire: Boko Haram’s claim to have established a caliphate in north eastern Nigeria does not have any credibility outside this group of terrorists. Boko Haram does not command widespread popular support. They continue to deliberately target the weak and vulnerable, causing suffering in communities of different faiths and ethnicities.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of British nationals in Nigeria. [207692]

James Duddridge: Consular section at our High Commission in Lagos estimate that there are approximately 20,000 British nationals living or working in Nigeria.

Nigerian immigration records at April this year indicate that 30,555 British nationals visited Nigeria between January and December 2013 (our Travel Advice states that on average 117,000 British nationals visit Nigeria each year). However it is important to note that many dual nationals (British/Nigerian nationals) may enter Nigeria using their Nigerian passport).

Consular section Lagos states that large numbers of British nationals are based in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Delta and Akwa Ibom States and Abuja.

North Africa

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what assessment he has made of the potential threat of Boko Haram spreading across Northern Africa; [207691]

(2) what estimate he has made of the number of countries in Northern Africa in which Boko Haram has a foothold; and if he will make a statement. [207693]

James Duddridge: Boko Haram concentrates its attacks in northern Nigeria but is regularly reported to operate in neighbouring countries, particularly Cameroon, Chad and Niger. It has reportedly conducted attacks and kidnappings in these countries. We have no evidence that Boko Haram is currently operating in North Africa.

The UK is committed to supporting Nigeria and its neighbours tackle the threat from Boko Haram. On 12 June we hosted a ministerial meeting for Nigeria, its neighbours and international partners in London which agreed measures to strengthen regional co-operation against Boko Haram. These measures included establishing a regional intelligence fusion cell and co-ordinated border patrols. The UK also approved bilateral support including military and intelligence co-operation. On 3 September I visited Nigeria, where I met both President Jonathan and Foreign Minister Wali. In those meetings I expressed the UK's deep sympathy for the plight of the school girls and discussed further measures for securing their release. The UK will continue to work closely with. Nigeria and the international community to tackle the threat posed by terrorist groups such as Boko Haram.

Nuclear Weapons

Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether anyone from his Department will attend the third international

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Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna in December; and what discussions he has had with international counterparts about that conference. [207351]

Mr Ellwood: I refer to the answer given on 14 May 2014, Official Report, column 675W. We await details of the conference agenda and objectives. I have not discussed the conference with my international counterparts.

Pakistan

Dr Offord: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the political activities of MQM in Pakistan. [207126]

Mr Ellwood: The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) is a political party in Pakistan with representation in the National Assembly (24 seats) and is in coalition in the provincial government of Sindh province. Conduct of political parties in Pakistan is a matter for the Pakistan authorities, but in our engagement, we encourage all political parties to act within the constitution and law of Pakistan.

Piracy

Sir Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the threat to the safety of British seafarers and others from piracy (a) in the Gulf of Guinea and (b) elsewhere; and what his strategy is for reducing that threat. [207946]

Mr Ellwood: We take the threat to British seafarers seriously and keep the situation under review. The National Strategy for Maritime Security provides the strategic context for the UK’s work on maritime security. Piracy is one symptom of wider maritime insecurity and governance challenges that the UK is working to address.

Our assessment for the Gulf of Guinea is that the overall number of reported incidents of maritime crime has remained stable over the last ten years. However, 2013 saw an increase in the number of maritime kidnappings reported. Through the industry–led and UK-supported, Maritime Trade and Information Sharing Centre—Gulf of Guinea, based in Ghana, we are hoping to better understand the scale of the threat. The UK also works with international partners to support the regionally-owned 2013 Yaoundé Code of Conduct.

There are also piracy threats in the major maritime trade areas of the Horn of Africa and South East Asia. The piracy threat from Somalia has been suppressed although pirates retain the capacity to launch attacks. There remains a risk of resurgence if international efforts are stopped prematurely. We are committed to playing a leading role in the international naval operations still on-going in the region including through leading roles in EU and NATO naval forces. The UK also provides staff to EUCAP NESTOR, the EU-led regional maritime capacity building mission, and co-chairs the working group on capacity building of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. In South East Asia, the UK is a member of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (ReCAAP). This group seeks to share information and enhance cooperation to combat the threat.

8 Sep 2014 : Column 486W

In addition to Government activity, the shipping industry routinely conducts threat assessments of areas in which they are operating. Shipping companies are able to undertake assessments based on information such as insurance company threat ratings and the Department for Transport counter-piracy advice.

The details of the challenges each region faces may be different, but the overriding requirement is to assist with the development of indigenous capability to provide a lasting solution.

Qatar

Steve Rotheram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he met the Secretary-General of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy; and what plans he has for future meetings with that official. [208009]

Mr Ellwood: My predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent, (Sir Hugh Robertson) KCMG, called on the Secretary-General of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, Hassan Al Thawadi, during his visit to Doha in January 2014. He subsequently met Mr Al Thawadi during the Supreme Committee’s visit to the UK in February. I hope to visit Doha in the near future.

Saudi Arabia

Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Saudi government about the funding of ISIS by Saudi citizens since 2012. [207360]

Mr Ellwood: We maintain a close dialogue on a broad range of counter terrorism issues with Saudi Arabia, including terrorist financing. The Saudi government is acutely aware of the threat from terrorist groups such as ISIL to their own and global security and they have been at the forefront of efforts to combat the threat facing us all. Saudi Arabia has a comprehensive set of laws in place to prevent terrorist financing, which they vigorously enforce.

Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect on the UK's security of the Saudi Government's promotion of intolerant religious teachings internationally. [207389]

Mr Ellwood: We enjoy close co-operation with Saudi Arabia in countering the shared terrorist threat against both our countries. The Saudi Arabian Government have condemned acts of terrorism and extremism around the world. In his Eid speech to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan, King Abdullah was unequivocal in his language warning of the threat of extremism and sectarianism. The Saudi Arabian Government operate one of the most advanced de-radicalisation programmes anywhere and are working to reduce the threat that religious extremists pose including through the establishment of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue, opened in 2012 to enable, empower and encourage dialogue among followers of different religions and cultures around the world. We hope it will deliver practical initiatives to further that aim.

8 Sep 2014 : Column 487W

Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the alleged torture of Waleed Abu al-Khair while imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. [207390]

Mr Ellwood: We are aware of the allegations of torture of Waleed Abu al-Khair from media reporting of the allegations made by Samar Badawi, Waleed Abu al-Khair’s wife. We are concerned about the sentencing of Waleed Abu al-Khair and the British embassy has supported the efforts of international partners in his case. We will continue to follow his case closely. We regularly raise human rights issues with the Saudi authorities and the UK condemns all forms of torture and ill treatment wherever they occur.

Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to his Saudi counterpart on the imprisonment of Waleed Abu al-Khair. [207391]

Mr Ellwood: We are concerned about the sentencing of Waleed Abu al-Khair and the British embassy has supported the efforts of international partners in his case. We will continue to follow his case closely. We regularly raise human rights issues with the Saudi authorities and the UK condemns all forms of torture and ill treatment wherever they occur.

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Saudi Arabia on each of the executions by public beheading carried out in that country in August 2014. [207513]

Mr Ellwood: The abolition of the death penalty is a human rights priority for the UK. Ministers and our ambassador and embassy team in Riyadh frequently raise the issue of the death penalty with the Saudi Arabian authorities, bilaterally and through the European Union. We must recognise that total abolition of the death penalty is unlikely in Saudi Arabia in the near future. For now, our focus is on the introduction of EU minimum standards for the death penalty as a first step, and supporting access to justice and the rule of law.

Syria

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether chemical weapons have been used by the Syrian Government since August 2013; and if he will make a statement. [207800]

Mr Ellwood: There is credible evidence of repeated chemical weapon attacks perpetrated by the Syrian regime since August 2013. The UK was among the first countries to call for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate these allegations. The OPCW Fact Finding Mission was subsequently established in April 2014 and its work is ongoing. Despite the difficulty of investigating these allegations in a conflict environment, the Mission’s May 2014 interim report stated that the available information

“lends credence to the view that toxic chemicals, most likely pulmonary irritating agents such as chlorine, have been used in a systematic manner in a number of attacks”.

8 Sep 2014 : Column 488W

The August 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry report further stated that

“Reasonable grounds exist to believe that chemical agents, likely chlorine, were used...[and that]... those agents were dropped in barrel bombs from government helicopters flying overhead”.

Any use of chemical agents in warfare contravenes the chemical weapon convention, to which Syria acceded in September 2013. We will press for all those who use chemical weapons to be held to account for these war crimes.

Defence

Afghanistan

Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many of each type of small arms in use by UK armed forces in Afghanistan were lost or otherwise unaccounted for in each year since the deployment of UK forces. [207779]

Mr Dunne: The table provides information on the number of pistols and rifles reported by the Royal Navy and British Army as lost in Afghanistan between 1 January 2002, when records began, and 30 June 2014. The Ministry of Defence does not centrally hold information on the number of pistols and rifles reported as lost in Afghanistan by the Royal Air Force. The table does not include personal weapons which have been written off, for example as a result of battlefield damage.

Number
 Pistols reported as lostRifles reported as lost

2002

0

0

2003

0

4

2004

1

0

2005

0

1

2006

3

7

2007

13

4

2008

6

1

2009

0

1

2010

4

4

2011

2

2

2012

4

1

2013

0

1

2014 (to 30 June)

0

1

Armed Forces: Food

Mr Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what consideration she has given to the effects of pay-as-you-dine on levels of (a) hunger, (b) obesity and (c) malnutrition. [207551]

Anna Soubry: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) introduced Pay As You Dine (PAYD) in 2005 following extensive trials at Service establishments. Prior to the implementation of PAYD a standard charge for meals in the mess was made each month. PAYD is simply a mechanism whereby Service personnel pay only for those meals that they wish to consume.

PAYD gives personnel a choice and with that comes responsibility. The MOD encourages individuals to make healthy choices, although ultimately it is the responsibility of individuals to maintain a balanced diet.

8 Sep 2014 : Column 489W

There are no data to assess the impact of PAYD on levels of hunger, obesity or malnutrition. However, we ensure the health and wellbeing of Service personnel in three ways:

MOD policy in respect of Defence Catering has been formulated with subject matter experts and conforms to UK legislation. Nutrition and healthy eating is part of this policy;

Providers of the catering service are required to comply with all current legislation, including the Government Buying Standards. This requires them to provide a core meal at each meal service throughout the day (e.g. breakfast, lunch and dinner). These core meals provide access to a nutritionally balanced meal with, for example, vegetables and carbohydrates being offered on a self-service basis. Service providers actively promote healthy eating as part of the choices they provide and are encouraged to provide point of choices nutritional labelling; and

Service personnel are educated on the importance of a healthy diet. All recruits receive a lecture on nutrition and healthy eating during their basic training to emphasise the importance of maintaining operational effectiveness and fitness. It remains the responsibility of the individual to maintain the requisite level of fitness and effectiveness overseen by a duty of care from the chain of command.

Armed Forces: Housing

Mr Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many service people were in receipt of housing benefit (a) in 2009 and (b) at the most recent date for which figures are available; and how many he would expect to claim housing benefit if married quarters rents are raised to market levels; [207594]

(2) what consideration he has given to the affordability of rents for junior ranks of service personnel if they are to be increased to market levels; [207592]

(3) what consideration he has given to geographical variations in rent if married quarters rentals for service personnel are to be increased to market levels; [207593]

(4) if he will make a statement about his plans to increase married quarters rents to market levels. [207595]

Anna Soubry: The Ministry of Defence has no plans to charge market rates for Service Personnel accommodation or to introduce geographical variations. Charges will continue to be subject to the recommendations of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB). The AFPRB’s approach is to recommend charges that are linked to the costs faced by civilians, but with a significant subsidy to recognise the drawbacks of living in Service accommodation.

Under this approach, personnel in Service accommodation will continue to pay a significantly smaller percentage of their earnings on accommodation charges than would be likely in the private sector. Any claims for benefits are a private matter for the individual and therefore the Department does not hold any data.

Armed Forces: Training

Bridget Phillipson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 3 July 2014, Official Report, column 722W, on the armed forces: training, how many personnel have passed (a) CYBP (b) CYIP and (c) CYAP courses in each year of those courses operating. [207410]

8 Sep 2014 : Column 490W

Mr Francois [holding answer 5 September 2014]: Specific details of the numbers undertaking the Cyber Practitioner courses are being withheld for the purpose of safeguarding national security.

Army Reserve

Sir Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many members the Regular Army Reserve of Officers has; [208084]

(2) whether the Regular Army Reserve of Officers will play any role in his plans for an expanded Territorial Army; and if he will make a statement. [208083]

Mr Brazier: The Regular Army Reserve of Officers allows the Army to recall individuals who have previously served in the Army to assist in the nation’s defence and provide a national strategic reserve capability. Under Army 2020 the Regular Army Reserve of Officers will, as now, provide a valuable pool of skills and expertise that can be called upon as and when a situation of national crisis demands it. There are no plans to change the role of the Regular Army Reserve of Officers as part of the plans to increase the size of the Army Reserve to 30,000 as the two are constituted for different roles and capabilities.

C17 Aircraft

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what weight of goods has been air-dropped by C-17 aircraft during (a) exercises and (b) operations in each location since those aircraft entered service. [207733]

Mr Francois: None.

European Fighter Aircraft

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on development of the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Captor-E radar; and if he will make a statement. [207658]

Mr Dunne: I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave on 17 July 2014, Official Report, column 797W, to the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), and 1 September 2014, Official Report, column 95W, to the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Kevan Jones).

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he has made of the merits of integrating MBDA Brimstone 2 air-to-ground precision weapon with the Typhoon aircraft to the UK's defence capabilities; [207659]

(2) what progress his Department has made on work to integrate the MBDA Brimstone 2 air-to-ground precision weapon with the Typhoon aircraft; and if he will make a statement. [207687]

Mr Dunne: The MBDA Brimstone 2 will enhance the multi-role capability of the Typhoon aircraft as it is effective against challenging, high speed and manoeuvring targets over land and sea.

8 Sep 2014 : Column 491W

Work is under way to evaluate the integration of Brimstone 2 with the Typhoon aircraft. On 2 June 2014, BAE Systems was awarded a contract worth in the region of £5 million to undertake a risk reduction study in support of a planned Main Gate business decision in early 2015.

Guided Weapons

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to use the IRIS-T air-to-air guided missile in the UK's armed forces; and if he will make a statement. [207656]

Mr Dunne: The Ministry of Defence currently has no plans to use the IRIS-T air-to-air guided missile.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on development of the Storm Shadow stand-off weapon; what assessment he has made of its potential advantages to the UK's defence capabilities; and if he will make a statement. [207657]

Mr Dunne: Storm Shadow continues to provide the UK with a unique capability for precision strike against high value hardened targets without exposing aircraft and crews to higher than necessary levels of risk.

The Storm Shadow Mid Life Refurbishment concept phase is considering options to maintain the Storm Shadow Weapons System Capability in order to meet our planning requirements. We have agreed to exchange information with France on our respective national refurbishment and upgrade programmes for Storm Shadow/SCALP EG (the French name for Storm Shadow), underpinned by a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed at the Farnborough International Air Show in July 2014.

I announced in July that the Storm Shadow is to be integrated into the RAF's Typhoon aircraft to enter service in 2018.

Military Aircraft

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the current fast jet capability of the Royal Air Force and outline any future developments. [207652]

Mr Francois: RAF frontline fast jet capability is currently provided by Tornado and Typhoon aircraft supported by Hawk jet training aircraft.

However, the RAF continues to transition towards a future combined frontline fleet of Lightning II and Typhoon aircraft. Lightning II is a fifth-generation stealth aircraft representing a step-change in the UK’s combat air capability, while the Typhoon will provide an enhanced multi-role and Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability, in addition to its original air defence role.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent progress has been made on development of the F-35 B aircraft. [207653]

8 Sep 2014 : Column 492W

Mr Dunne: The F-35B development test continues to make steady progress. To date, the F-35 fleet has surpassed 19,500 flight hours.

UK F-35B Initial Operating Capability remains on track to deliver in 2018.

Nuclear Weapons

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many nuclear warheads have been (a) lost and (b) lost and not recovered by NATO in the last 30 years; [208050]

(2) if he will provide details of each accident involving a nuclear weapon deployed outside of the US in support of NATO in the last 30 years. [208054]

Mr Brazier: The UK does not hold such information as it pertains to the Alliance as a whole.

Patrol Craft

Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on construction of the three offshore patrol vessels to be built for the Royal Navy; and if he will make a statement. [207762]

Mr Dunne: In March 2014, the Ministry of Defence placed a £20 million contract with BAE Systems for long-lead items, such as engines and gearboxes, for three Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Royal Navy. In August 2014, we placed a contract worth £348 million with the company for the build of these vessels. Construction work is due to begin later in 2014, with the first vessel due to enter service in 2017.

Reserve Forces

Sir Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people were recruited to the Reserve forces in the last 12 months; how this figure compares to his Department's target figures; and if he will make a statement. [207735]

Mr Brazier: The UK Armed Forces Quarterly Personnel report, which is published by Defence Statistics, shows Reserve trained and untrained strength figures, as well as movements into the Future Reserves 2020 population. It is available on the www.gov.uk website at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-armed-forces-quarterly-personnel-report-2014

The trained strength of the Future Reserves 2020 population as at 1 April 2014 exceeded the target figures set out in the written ministerial statement and paper that the former Defence Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond) placed in the Library of the House on 19 December 2013, Official Report, column 124WS, shown as follows:

 1 April 2014 Target1 April 2014 Actual

Total

21,780

22,480

Maritime Reserve

1,780

1,870

Army Reserve

18,800

19,400

RAuxiliaryAF

1,200

1,220

8 Sep 2014 : Column 493W

We are committed to achieving our target of 35,000 trained Reserves by the end of 2018-19.

Business, Innovation and Skills

Apprentices

Mr Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent discussions he has had with small and medium-sized enterprises on the planned changes to the funding of the apprenticeship scheme; and if he will make a statement. [207865]

Nick Boles [holding answer 5 September 2014]: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has had regular discussions with employers of all sizes and with the Federation of Small Businesses about the apprenticeship reform programme.

Stephen Timms: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many applications are made on average before (a) a white and (b) an ethnic minority applicant secures an apprenticeship. [207941]

Nick Boles [holding answer 5 September 2014]: Information on the number of Apprenticeship applications made through the Apprenticeship vacancy online system is published online. The tables include a breakdown by ethnicity:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/340846/ApprenticeshipVacancyReport NumberofapplicationsbyAgeGenderEthnicityorSSA orProgrammeLevelAug14.xls

We do not collect robust information on the average number of applications made before an applicant secures an Apprenticeship.

Information on the number of Apprenticeship starts by ethnicity is also available online:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/324021/apprenticeships-starts-by-geography-learner-demographics-and-sector-subject-area.xls

Dan Jarvis: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills when he plans to publish all the responses received to the Future of Apprenticeships in England: Funding Reform Technical Consultation, published in March 2014. [208118]

Nick Boles: We intend to publish a summary of the responses to the consultation in the autumn.

Disabled Students' Allowances

Mrs Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what progress has been made in carrying out an equality analysis on proposals to change the disabled students' allowance. [207902]

Greg Clark: The Equality Analysis is currently being updated in light of information and evidence provided by stakeholders and will be published alongside the regulations when they are laid.

8 Sep 2014 : Column 494W

Domestic Visits

Sheila Gilmore: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills pursuant to the answer of 19 June 2014, Official Report, column 688W, on official visits, what domestic visits he has made since January 2013; and what the purpose of each such visit was. [208004]

Jo Swinson: As noted in my predecessor's answer of 19 June 2014, Official Report, column 688W, information relating to domestic visits can be provided only at disproportionate cost as it is not held centrally.

Electronic Government

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what his Department's priorities are in relation to the Digital Government Strategy in the individual performance objectives for 2014-15; and if he will make a statement. [208124]

Mr Vaizey: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is committed to the Digital Government Strategy and delivering the 16 action points within it. Those taking forward the Digital agenda in the Department and its partner organisations have individual performance objectives for 2014-15 reflecting this.

Exports: Advisory Services

Andrew Bingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what steps his Department is taking to ensure that the Overseas Business Risk service is better shared with and promoted to businesses looking to export. [207306]

Matthew Hancock: The Overseas Business Risk (OBR) service is promoted as part of UK Trade and Investment’s (UKTI) overall offer to UK businesses looking to develop their exports. This is done through UKTI’s network which includes International Trade Advisers, Sectoral and Overseas teams. Promotion material, such as UKTI’s First Class Export Pack, also aims to ensure UK business is aware of the service alongside outreach events and the use of social media. The OBR country pages on the GOV.UK domain are refreshed on a regular basis to provide up-to-date intelligence to UK business. A Joint Advisory Group, with very senior business representation, contributes to the development and promotion of this service.

Jackson Square Aviation

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills when conducting due diligence on Jackson Square Aviation and JSA International Holdings LP, whether UK Export Finance was aware that their base at Walker House is also the base of Iranian banks on the UK's blacklists. [207296]

Matthew Hancock: When asked to support an export transaction, UK Export Finance conducts due diligence on the companies involved in that transaction. It does not research other unrelated companies, for example using the same registered address of convenience, which have no connection with the transaction in question.

8 Sep 2014 : Column 495W

Music: Licensing

Ms Ritchie: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what his most recent assessment is of the impact on small businesses of the licensing enforcement regime for the use of music in public spaces. [205664]

Nick Boles: The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, has not assessed the impact on small businesses of the licensing enforcement regime for the use of music in public spaces. This regime is not run or approved by government.

The collecting societies 'PRS for Music' and 'Phonographic Performance Limited' (PPL), which represent copyright owners in the music sector, enforce their licensing requirements themselves. Since April 2014, their conduct towards licensees and potential licensees has been governed by minimum standards that can be enforced by Government through the Copyright (Regulation of Relevant Licensing Bodies) Regulations 2014.

National Nuclear Laboratory

Mr Jamie Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what steps his Department is taking to support the National Nuclear Laboratory’s commercial opportunities abroad. [208039]

Matthew Hancock: UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has a close relationship with NNL who are integral partners in the development and implementation of a UK Civil Nuclear Export strategy, being taken forward under the Nuclear Industrial Strategy, to target the most promising overseas opportunities for the UK nuclear industry. NNL also regularly support and participate in UKTI’s related programme of civil nuclear focused inward and outward trade missions. This partnership has contributed to NNL success abroad.

Longer-term commercial opportunities can stem from international collaboration on R and D. For example, NNL is involved in the Nugenia project which includes R and D on new and innovative designs in nuclear fission. They are also leading UK participation in the Jules Horowitz Reactor project in France on behalf of the Government, and have engaged with USA Government on a number of issues, such as advanced recycle R and D and radioisotope thermoelectric generations for space batteries.

Nuclear Power: Skilled Workers

Mr Jamie Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how much was spent on developing skills through training programmes and apprenticeships in the nuclear industry in each region of the UK in each of the last five years. [208040]

Nick Boles: The funding available for adult skills is outlined in the Skills Funding Statement. The statement sets out the Government’s priorities for the budget and it is for providers to decide how they use their adult skills funding to reflect those priorities and meet the needs of learners and employers in their local area.

8 Sep 2014 : Column 496W

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/skills-funding-statement-2013-to-2016

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/skills-funding-statement-2012-2015

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/skills-investment-statement-for-2011-to-2014-new-challenges-new-chances

Nuclear Power: Trade Promotion

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what financial support is available from UK Trade & Investment to British companies under the Tradeshow Access Programme to attend the World Nuclear Exhibition in Paris from 14-16 October 2014; and what criteria are applied in deciding what support to provide. [207374]

Matthew Hancock: Through the Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) 7 grants of £1,500 each are being made available for eligible UK businesses at the World Nuclear Exhibition.

A company can be eligible if they:

are classed as small or medium-sized or a UK university or UK publicly funded centre of higher or further learning or UK publicly funded research organisation;

have been exporting for less than 10 years or did not exhibit at the previous edition of the event in question; and

do not breach a limit of 12 TAP grants since 1 April 2009 including no more than 6 in non-emerging and high growth markets.

Patents: Northern Ireland

Mr Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many patents have been granted to businesses or individuals whose main residence or business address was in Northern Ireland in (a) 2012 and (b) 2013. [205621]

Nick Boles: Patents are granted by different national and regional authorities worldwide, for which accurate information is only held by each individual authority. Patents having effect in the United Kingdom can be granted by the Intellectual Property Office (UK national patents) or the European Patent Office (European patents designating the United Kingdom). The following table summarises the number of patents granted with effect in the UK to businesses or individuals whose main residence or business address was in Northern Ireland in 2012 and 2013.

Calendar yearGranted UK national patentsGranted European (UK) patentsTotal granted patents with UK effect

2012

23

23

46

2013

18

39

57

Source: IPO patents register and EPO PATSTAT database (April 2014).

Pay

Mr Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many (a) direct employees, (b) outsourced workers and (c) agency workers in executive agencies which report to his Department are paid less than the living wage as defined by the Living Wage Foundation. [208010]

8 Sep 2014 : Column 497W

Jo Swinson: I have approached the chief executives of the Department’s Executive Agencies (Insolvency Service, Companies House, National Measurement Office, Intellectual Property Office, UK Space Agency, Ordnance Survey, Met Office, Land Registry and the Skills Funding Agency) and they will respond to the right hon. Member directly. Copies will be placed in the Library.

We fully support those that choose to pay above the NMW when it is affordable to do so and not at the expense of jobs. In terms of affordability in the public sector, there are important considerations about the impact on public service delivery, which is why it is important that decisions on pay are made by individual departments.

On the basis of fairness and affordability the Secretary of State instructed the department to give the lowest paid contracted staff (including cleaners) an above inflation pay rise. From 1 April, the lowest paid contracted staff at BIS offices across the UK will be paid £7.85 per hour, up £1.40 or nearly 22% from the previous £6.45 per hour rate. This increase has restored and surpassed the real value of wages that had fallen in recent years. This also means that BIS contractors will be among the top 25% (upper quartile) of contractors across Whitehall and will benefit 252 employees across 81 sites in the UK.

Prosthetics: Competition

Tom Blenkinsop: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what assessment he has made of the competitiveness of the prosthesis manufacturing industry. [207338]

Matthew Hancock: The Government have not made a specific assessment of the competitiveness of the prosthesis manufacturing industry. However, prosthetics form a key part of the wider medical technology sector, and work is under way with the main medical technology trade associations (including the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA)), under the aegis of the Ministerial Medical Technology Strategy Group to identify and address the competitiveness challenges across the sector and its supply-chains.

Spaceflight

Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent steps he has taken to encourage the growth of a space tourism industry in the UK. [207535]

Greg Clark: The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill) announced at the Farnborough international air show in July 2014 the Government's commitment to establish a spaceport in the UK by 2018. The Government is working to ensure that sub-orbital space participant and science flights are operated from this space port.

Students: Loans

Mrs Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what effect the introduction of 24 Plus Advanced Learning Loans has had on student participation levels. [207828]

8 Sep 2014 : Column 498W

Nick Boles [holding answer 5 September 2014]: When Advanced Learning Loans were introduced, the Department carried out a thorough regulatory impact assessment, and used survey data to understand the likely change in participation as a result of loans. This is published at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/32315/12-873-further-education-advanced-learning-loans-regulatory-impact.pdf

Information available for 2013-14 is provisional and as such does not allow us to show changes to the level of participation in further education with certainty. But the introduction of 24+ Loans appears to have been successful for those studying at Level 3 and 4. Latest data available showed that the total number of applications received, from 8 April 2013 to 31 July 2014, to fund provision in the 2013-14 academic year was 70,940.

Sugar: EU External Trade

Jim Fitzpatrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent discussions he has had on (a) improving access to the EU sugar market for cane sugar suppliers and (b) removal of the CXL sugar import duty. [207077]

Matthew Hancock: The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Vince Cable), has had no recent discussions directly concerning the removal of the CXL sugar import duty, or on improving access to the EU sugar market for cane sugar suppliers. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is involved in ongoing trade negotiations between the EU and various trading partners which aim to increase trade of goods, and this includes sugar cane imports.

Tax Avoidance

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills whether UK Export Finance (UKEF) has taken steps to ensure that companies operating from the UK which gain support from UKEF support pay do not use artificial tax structures to avoid paying their fair share in the UK. [206422]

Matthew Hancock: UK Export Finance’s statutory function is to support UK exports, principally by providing guarantees to banks in relation to UK exports, and insurance policies to exporters against the financial risk of exporting. It has no powers to investigate the tax affairs of the exporters it supports and no regulatory remit. However, it undertakes due diligence in respect of the financial and legal risks associated with all the export transactions it is asked to support.

Trade Agreements

Mr Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills for what reasons the UK decided to take part in the negotiations relating to the Trade in Services Agreement. [207174]

Matthew Hancock: The UK Government recognise the importance of trade to delivering long-term growth and jobs. The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is the first negotiation to focus solely on trade in services, an

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area of key UK competitive advantage. As the second largest exporter of services, with 6.5% of global trade, the UK is a strong supporter of the TiSA. Independent analysis shows that an ambitious agreement could add as much as £2 billion to £3 billion annually to the UK economy in the long term.

Mr Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills for what reasons the text of the proposed Trade in Services Agreement treaty has not been made public. [207175]

Matthew Hancock: Information on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) can be found on the European Commission’s dedicated TiSA website at:

http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/tisa/

In a bid to encourage transparency, the EU has published its initial TiSA offer from November 2013, the EU proposal for core text provisions based on the World Trade Organisation’s general agreement on trade in services (GATS) and the EU proposal on financial services.

While the Commission are committed to publishing as much information as possible on the TiSA, for trade negotiations to work and succeed, it is necessary that there is a degree of confidentiality surrounding the negotiating texts to ensure that the best deals are obtained.

Mr Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what information his Department holds on whether the proposed Trade in Services Agreement treaty is likely to contain provisions to allow or promote the increased privatisation of public services. [207176]

Matthew Hancock: The European Commission has made it clear that safeguards are in place in all EU-wide trade agreements to ensure that member state governments remain free to manage public services as they wish.

http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=1115

Mr Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what information his Department holds on whether the proposed Trade in Services Agreement treaty is likely to contain provisions that would deny governments the right to require that data is held onshore. [207178]

Matthew Hancock: As with other trade agreements currently in place, such as the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services, we expect agreements under negotiation, such as the Trade in Services Agreement,

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to contain provisions regarding data transfer and provisions regarding data protection. As with other agreements, we will want to see these provisions provide robust safeguards for the protection of EU citizens’ data while at the same time allowing for legitimate data transfers to third countries.

Mr Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what information his Department holds on whether the proposed Trade in Services Agreement treaty is likely to contain provisions to prevent the regulation of new insurance products. [207179]

Matthew Hancock: The UK Government are a strong supporter of the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which provides an opportunity to address barriers to trade in services through seeking to deepen services trade rules and regulatory disciplines and to address market access objectives. There is no intention to prevent the regulation of new insurance products, nor would the UK endorse such a move. Furthermore, the prudential carve-out element of the TiSA agreement will fully protect the ability of UK and international financial regulators to regulate and take any prudential actions for the sake of financial stability or to protect investors, depositors, policy holders or persons to whom a fiduciary duty is owed by a financial service supplier.

Mr Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of UK participation in a Trade in Services Agreement treaty on the Government's ability to regulate the financial services sector. [207180]

Matthew Hancock: The UK Government is a strong supporter of the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which provides an opportunity to address barriers to trade in services through seeking to deepen services trade rules and regulatory disciplines and to address market access objectives. Given the crucial role of financial stability to overall economic stability, governments and regulators need to have the ability to closely monitor and regulate banks, insurance companies and other financial services providers. The TiSA text will contain a prudential carve-out which will fully protect the ability of UK and international financial regulators to regulate and take any prudential actions for the sake of financial stability or to protect investors, depositors, policy holders or persons to whom a fiduciary duty is owed by a financial service supplier.

Written Answers to Questions

Monday 8 September 2014

International Development

Iraq

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much humanitarian aid the UK is offering to support victims of Islamic State in Northern Iraq. [207677]

Justine Greening: DFID is leading the UK’s humanitarian response and is getting life-saving aid to people across Northern and Central Iraq who have fled ISIL terrorists. In addition to the £13 million already pledged, I announced a further £10 million of support during my recent visit to Iraq. Over £18 million of this is specifically focused on helping those in Northern Iraq.

Overseas Aid

Mr Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the GDP is of each of the 10 countries receiving the most aid from the UK; and what the average GDP value is of all other aid recipients. [207777]

Mr Swayne: The GDP of each of the 10 countries receiving the most bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the UK in 2012 and the average GDP value of all other aid recipients are shown in the table. GDP is presented both in absolute terms and per capita. GDP per capita is more widely used since it takes into account the population of each country, giving a more meaningful measure.

CountryGDP per capita (£)GDP (£ million)

India

949

1,173,054

Afghanistan

434

12,942

Ethiopia

295

27,014

Nigeria

1,718

290,064

Bangladesh

473

73,229

Pakistan

792

141,922

Tanzania

384

17,828

Congo, Dem. Rep.

264

17,325

Zimbabwe

574

7,871

Malawi

168

2,676

It is not possible to give an average for other countries as GDP data for 2012 is not available for all countries.

West Africa

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent support she has provided to countries in West Africa to help them with the recent ebola outbreak. [208068]

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Lynne Featherstone: The current outbreak of Ebola poses a serious public health risk to West Africa and is deeply concerning. The UK is taking a leading role in working with the countries affected and with the international community to ensure that the outbreak is contained and help reaches those in need. In total, over £25 million of British funding is supporting the global effort to contain this disease. This includes £5 million of new direct funding to help partners working on the ground like the WHO, Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières? to treat victims and prevent the spread of Ebola. Over £20 million of UK support is helping contain Ebola through commitments to multilateral institutions (the World Bank and the African Development Bank) and the EU.

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will take steps to provide further support to West African countries to deal with the ebola outbreak. [208069]

Lynne Featherstone: The UK is taking a leading role in working with the countries affected and with the international community to ensure that the current Ebola outbreak is contained and help reaches those in need. In total, over £25 million of British funding is supporting the global effort to contain this disease. This includes £5 million of new direct funding to help partners working on the ground like the WHO, Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières? to treat victims and prevent the spread of Ebola. The UK is working with partners to explore options for further support.

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the implications for her Department's policies of the briefing given by Médecins Sans Frontières at the UN on 2 September 2014. [208070]

Lynne Featherstone: The UK welcomes the call to action from Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). The UK is taking a leading role in responding to the Ebola outbreak and is working with other donors, the Governments of affected countries, and partners on the ground to coordinate a more effective response to the crisis. UK officials are in regular contact with MSF to discuss improving the response to the outbreak. To date, over £25 million of British funding is supporting the global effort to contain this disease.

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she has had with Médecins Sans Frontières on the recent ebola outbreak. [208071]

Lynne Featherstone: The current outbreak of Ebola poses a serious public health risk to West Africa and is deeply concerning. The UK is funding Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) to provide treatment and care to Ebola patients in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and officials are in regular contact with MSF to discuss the response to the outbreak.

Mr Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance her Department is giving to (a) Sierra Leone and (b)

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other countries in West Africa to them help counter the outbreak of Ebola; and if she will make a statement. [208085]

Lynne Featherstone: The current outbreak of Ebola poses a serious public health risk to West Africa and is deeply concerning. The UK is taking a leading role in working with the countries affected and with the international community to ensure that the outbreak is contained and help reaches those in need. In total, over £25 million of British funding is supporting the global effort to contain this disease. This includes £5 million of new direct funding to help partners working on the ground like the WHO, Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières? to treat victims and prevent the spread of Ebola. Given the UK’s historical relationship with Sierra Leone, the majority of UK direct funding is supporting the response in that country. Overall £20 million of UK support is helping contain Ebola across West Africa through commitments to multilateral institutions (the World Bank and the African Development Bank) and the EU.

Treasury

Banks: Telecommunications

Steve McCabe: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will introduce legislative proposals to require all retail banks to offer a secure automated messaging services for customers. [206966]

Andrea Leadsom: There are no current plans to introduce legislation to require all retail banks to offer secure automated messaging services to customers.

Consumers: Protection

Stella Creasy: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 9 July 2014, Official Report, column 355W, on consumers: protection, what assessment he has made of the effect on consumers of the limits on the Financial Conduct Authority's powers to issue fines in cases which involve (a) breaches before April 2014 and (b) investigations begun by other agencies before April 2014. [206826]

Andrea Leadsom: The Government have considerably strengthened the FCA’s powers in relation to misconduct which occurs under the new regulatory regime. For example, the FCA has the ability to impose unlimited fines for breaches of regulatory requirements that take place after 1 April 2014.

Additionally, the Government have ensured that the FCA has inherited the OFT’s powers (both criminal and regulatory) in relation to misconduct which occurred before 1 April 2014. This means that the FCA can apply the sanctions available to the OFT under the previous regulatory regime.

The FCA also has the ability to take into account evidence of previous misconduct when considering a firm’s fitness to hold FCA permission.

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Corporation Tax

James Wharton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what recent representations he has received on the level of the threshold for corporation tax exemption for charities and unincorporated associations; [207637]

(2) if he will raise the threshold for corporation tax exemption for charities and unincorporated associations. [207638]

Mr Gauke: There is no restriction on the level of charitable trading a charity may carry out, and any profits are exempt from tax so long as the profits are used for wholly charitable purposes. When charities carry out non-charitable trading, there is a corporation tax exemption so long as the trading receipts are no more than £50,000 a year and represent no more than 25% of the charity’s incoming resources.

Charities that wish to carry out non-charitable trading above these limits can set up and trade through a subsidiary trading company, which protects the charity from the possibility of trading losses. The subsidiary can then use corporate Gift Aid to pass any profits back to the parent charity without incurring a corporation tax charge.

There is a similar exemption from tax on trading income for community amateur sports clubs, which is currently set at £30,000. The Government have announced this threshold will be raised to £50,000, to align with the charity small-scale trading exemption.

The Government have no further plans to raise these thresholds which allow charities to undertake small scale non-charitable trading without the administrative burden of setting up a trading subsidiary. However, as with all reliefs and exemptions, we continue to keep the exemption for small-scale trading under review.

Unincorporated associations are taxed as companies and have no specific corporation tax exemptions. In the same way as other companies, they are chargeable to corporation tax and are eligible for the same reliefs.

The only exception to this rule concerns clubs and unincorporated organisations with very small tax liabilities, which are run exclusively for the benefit of their members and whose annual corporation tax liability is not expected to exceed £100. In this case, HMRC will treat the organisation as dormant.

With regards to the representations received on these matters, Treasury Ministers and officials receive and consider a wide variety of representations from organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery.

The Treasury publishes a list of ministerial meetings with external organisations. This is available online at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hmt-ministers-meetings-hospitality-gifts-and-overseas-travel

Credit: Interest Rates

Mike Kane: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what estimate his Department has made of the share of the payday lending market covered by (a) Experian, (b) Equifax, (c) CallCredit (d) CoreLogic and (e) FactorTrust; [207344]

8 Sep 2014 : Column 505W

(2) what assessment his Department has made of the effect on credit scores of increased data sharing by payday lenders; [207339]

(3) if he will take steps to prohibit credit reference agencies from selling payday customer details to marketing agencies and lead generators; [207340]

(4) if he will instruct the Financial Conduct Authority to require credit reference agencies to report their data to the Authority for enforcement purposes. [207341]

Meg Hillier: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to introduce regulation which requires payday lenders and credit reference agencies to contribute data on a real-time basis. [207380]

Andrea Leadsom: The Government have made clear to lenders that credit data sharing is key to proper affordability assessments and promoting a competitive market, and more progress on recording and using payday lending data in real time is vital to addressing problems around multiple loans.

Having access to comprehensive real-time data about their customers’ outstanding commitments may help avoid consumers taking out a loan which they cannot afford to repay.

The FCA has already made clear to payday lenders and credit reference agencies (CRAs) in its policy statement, published in February, that they must identify and remove any data sharing blockages involving payday lenders as a matter of urgency.

In its consultation on the cap on the cost of payday loans, published in July, the FCA stated it expects to see more than 90% of current market participants - by market share and volume of loans-participating in real-time market-wide data sharing by November 2014, and more than 90% of loans being reported in real time. In order to improve the coverage of real-time databases, firms will also need to share data with more than one CRA.

The FCA stated that it will request information from firms and CRAs in order to get an accurate picture of whether the standards it has proposed have been met by November. If the FCA does not see sufficient progress by November or CRA coverage does not improve, it will consult on the introduction of data sharing requirements. It has also placed a requirement on firms to provide product sales data on high-cost short-term credit agreements every three months once they are authorised.

Credit reference agencies must ensure that that their use of personal data is compliant with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). The Information Commissioner’s Office is an independent UK supervisory authority that oversees and enforces compliance with the DPA.

Equitable Life Assurance Society: Compensation

Richard Fuller: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will distribute any remaining funds in the Equitable Life Payment Scheme to Equitable Life victims at scheme closure. [207625]

Andrea Leadsom: No decisions have been taken. As reported in the Scheme’s July Progress Report, the Scheme has now issued payments of around £972.9 million

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to 877,414 policyholders. In the context of Scheme’s £1.5 billion allocation, which includes funding for the continuing annual payments to With-Profit Annuitants, the Scheme has made good progress in tracing policyholders. However, the Scheme remains committed to finding and paying as many eligible policyholders as possible prior to its closure. Any decision will therefore be taken at the end of the Scheme, taking account of ongoing challenges facing public finances at that time.

Fuels: Excise Duties

Ms Ritchie: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the fuel discount scheme for rural communities. [207971]

Priti Patel: The current rural fuel rebate scheme is in place for the Scottish Islands and the Isles of Scilly. An evaluation of the scheme by HMRC found it to be effectively meeting the policy objective of reducing the pump prices faced by motorists. The evaluation report can be found at:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/research/rural-fuel-duty-relief.pdf

Revenue and Customs

Richard Fuller: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many employees HM Revenue and Customs had in each of the last five years. [207623]

Mr Gauke: The Office for National Statistics publishes staffing figures in the Annual Civil Service Survey reports. These can be found at:

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/pse/civil-service-statistics

Sir Nick Harvey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his Department's regional location strategy for HM Revenue and Customs offices is up to 2020. [207740]

Mr Gauke: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is reshaping to become a smaller, more highly skilled organisation to meet the efficiencies required by the spending reviews, 2010 and 2013.

Its strategic intention is to move to fewer, larger regional centres, supplemented by other offices to provide specialist resources or touch down facilities for mobile staff. HMRC is considering what the offices of the future will look like and where they will be located. It is currently involving all staff in a national conversation on progress and expects more detail to be available at the end of 2015.

In 2012 HMRC gave a commitment to retaining a presence in 16 key centres until at least 2020.

Revenue and Customs: South West

Sir Nick Harvey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the potential effect of proposed closures of HM Revenue and Customs' enquiry centres on people in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. [207739]

Mr Gauke: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) launched a new service across the UK on 29 May 2014 to support people who need extra help in getting their

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tax and benefits right. This replaced HMRC’s network of 281 Enquiry Centre’s which closed to the public on 30 June 2014.

The decision to make this change was based on extensive evaluation from independent customer research, a 10-week public consultation exercise and a successful pilot of the new service which took place in the North East of England involving the closure of 13 Enquiry Centres from June to Dec 2013.

The evaluation assessed the impact and effect on rural areas, transport links and costs to customers.

The new service is more accessible to these communities, since customers are able to arrange appointments with HMRC at locations convenient to them, this includes visits to their home if appropriate.

Self-employed: National Insurance Contributions

Karen Lumley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent assessment he has made of the extent to which employers use self-employed staff to avoid paying national insurance contributions. [207809]

Mr Gauke: The Government have not made a recent assessment of the extent to which employers use self-employed staff to avoid paying National Insurance contributions.

Sovereignty: Scotland

Stewart Hosie: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many leaflets produced by his Department promoting the Government's policy on the Scottish independence referendum have had to be amended, altered or destroyed; and at what cost to the public purse. [207049]

Danny Alexander: HM Treasury has not produced any leaflets promoting the Government’s policy on the Scottish independence referendum.

Tax Avoidance

Richard Fuller: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer in how many tax avoidance cases HM Revenue and Customs has litigated in each of the last five years; and in how many of these it was successful. [207624]

Mr Gauke: Between March 2010 and April 2014, decisions were handed down by the courts and tribunals in 124 tax avoidance cases litigated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). HMRC was successful in winning all or some points in 101of these. Many of these cases involved several taxpayers, and concerned marketed avoidance schemes used by many more. The following table sets out the number of litigation cases that have been decided upon and the number of cases where HMRC has been successful on some or all points in the years 2010-11 to 2013-14. A similar analysis has not been made for 2009-10.

 Decisions in avoidance casesSuccesses for HMRC

2010-11

28

24

2011-12

27

23

2012-13

30

24

2013-14

39

30

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Lindsay Roy: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress he has made on tackling tax avoidance in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [208142]

Mr Gauke: This Government are committed to taking strong and robust action to tackle tax avoidance. Since April 2010 the Government has made 42 changes to tax law, closing loopholes and introducing major reforms to the UK tax system. These include the introduction of a General Anti-Abuse Rule and strengthening the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes regime.

Through a tougher monitoring regime for high-risk promoters of tax avoidance schemes, backed up with penalties, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is taking significant action to discourage people from entering into expensive avoidance schemes which, in the majority of cases, don’t work. We legislated for Accelerated Payments in this year’s Finance Act, which will enable HMRC to collect disputed tax upfront, along with the new High Risk Promoters regime.

We have invested £1 billion over this spending review period to tackle tax avoidance and evasion. HMRC have secured over £77 billion in compliance yield since the beginning of the Parliament; £31 billion of which was from large businesses, and £850 million of which was from High Net Worth individuals. Around 80% of the avoidance cases heard in the courts are being won by HMRC, with 30 wins protecting £2.7 billion of tax in 2013/14.