Prepared: 15:52 on 11th August 2014
House of Lords
Summer Recess 2014
Written Answers and Statements
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Angola regarding food insecurity in that country; and whether they have encouraged that government to undertake an assessment of the situation.[HL1505]
Baroness Northover (LD): Poor seasonal rainfall early in 2014 in parts of Western Angola has affected the harvest and food availability there. However, throughout most of the country production is considered to be good and expected to be higher than normal. This has helped to maintain reasonable food prices for urban populations.
The Government has not had recent bilateral discussions with the Government of Angola regarding the food situation. The Government of Angola is leading the food assistance programme and is best placed to prepare for and lead such a response with the support of UN partners. The Government of Angola has set up an Inter-ministerial Commission to tackle the drought. The Government of Angola is also embarking on infrastructure projects, such as water supply projects, to mitigate drought impact in the future.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the commitment to a High-Level Review in United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2122 and to women, peace and security financing at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, whether the United Kingdom will contribute funding to support the UN High-Level Review of the implementation of UNSCRs 1325 and 2122; and, if so, how much they will contribute.[HL1117]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): We look forward to the UN High-Level Review in 2015 which should help identify lessons learned and set priorities for further action on the Women, Peace and Security agenda. The UK published its third National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security on 16 June, House of Commons Hansard, Official Report, Column 72-47WS. No decisions have yet been taken on whether the UK will contribute funding to support the UN Review.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the British Army last inserted forces for combat operations by means of parachute drop at greater than platoon strength other than under the control of the Director of Special Forces.[HL1493]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): The last time the British Army inserted troops not under the control of the Director of Special Forces for combat operations, by parachute, was on 5 November 1956 during the Suez crisis.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the Financial Conduct Authority's finding that it has been carrying out consumer credit activities without their permission or authorisation, why BBCDebts.com is still active in the United Kingdom.[HL1638]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): This question has been passed on to the FCA. The FCA will reply to the Noble Lord directly by letter. A copy of the response will be placed in the Library of the House.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the introduction of exit checks at United Kingdom borders will not affect (1) freedom of movement, and (2) the efficiency of international transport operators; and what options the Home Office is considering, as part of the introduction of such checks, to increase automation of passport checks at (a) ports, (b) airports, and (c) vehicle borders.[HL1242]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): The Home Office is satisfied that exit checks will be entirely consistent with free movement rights. We are working with industry to integrate exit checks with the grain of existing carrier and port processes and with technology, to the extent that this is in place at sea ports, airports and international stations. Any operator proposal to introduce additional technology would need to support the effective delivery of exit checks and maintained the integrity and security of the border.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach on 15 July (WA 111), whether the comprehensive exit checks on passengers departing on scheduled commercial air, sea and rail routes which will apply from April 2015 will enable a check to be made on whether those who have been admitted to the United Kingdom on visas or permits for limited periods have complied with the required departure date; and what arrangements they propose for exit checks on those leaving by non-scheduled aircraft or by private boats.[HL1253]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Exit checks will improve our knowledge of who is leaving the UK so we are better able to respond appropriately. We will bring together entry and exit data with visa and immigration application records to help identify those who have failed to leave the UK when they should have done so. Currently there are no plans to use the Embarkation Checks powers in the 2014 Immigration Act for General Aviation and General Maritime operators. We are working separately with those sectors to improve our ability to control departures from the UK by non-scheduled aircraft and private boats.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach on 15 July (WA 111), whether in specifying the second generation of e-gates under the Border Systems Programme they took account of the border control systems in operation in the United States and Hong Kong.[HL1255]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: When Border Systems drafted the requirements for the proposed next generation of ePassport gates, similar systems globally were reviewed and their merits were considered. This included those systems in the US (Global Entry and NEXUS/SENTRI) and Hong Kong (e-Channels). Border Systems works closely with its counterparts in the US and Hong Kong, and its representatives have visited both countries to assess and review the automation in operation. Reciprocal visits to the UK have also been made by those countries.
To Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the proposal to deploy smart meters requiring wifi in homes, what progress has been made with the rollout of broadband.[HL965]
Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): There is no direct link between the smart meter programme and the superfast broadband rollout programme, because the smart meters programme will not be using fixed broadband connections (they will instead involve transfer of small amounts of data over wireless technologies). However, I can confirm that the Government broadband programme is making good progress with over 600,000 new premises now having superfast broadband available for the first time as a result of the Government’s investment and that will rise to over 1 million by the end of Summer 2014.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the freedom to worship of British Christian and Jewish visitors to Brunei.[HL1602]
Lord Popat (Con): British visitors can worship at Anglican and Catholic Churches in Brunei. The former Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Rt Hon Baroness Warsi, attended an Easter Sunday service at St Andrew’s Church on 20 April. There are no synagogues but private worship is permitted.
Brunei’s constitution protects religious freedom. In practice though, restrictions are imposed by administrative regulations and laws, including under the phased implementation of the Sharia (Syariah) Penal Code Order 2013. For example, proselytism by faiths other than the officially sanctioned Shafi’i school of Islam is not permitted. We urged Brunei to protect their citizens' constitutional rights to freedom of religion or belief, and to not impose restrictions on minority faith groups at their Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council in May.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made against each of the actions in their Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes Strategy.[HL1416]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): It is for NHS England, working with Public Health England (PHE) and other stakeholders, to implement the actions set out in the Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Outcomes Strategy. NHS England has established a working group with PHE which meets quarterly to discuss progress on the strategy and is taking action on all the recommendations, some it has prioritised over others.
For example, on making benchmarked data on CVD risk factors available, PHE has established a CVD National Cardiovascular Intelligence Network and a Partnership Board. These bring together a variety of stakeholders which hold or have an interest in this type of data, including the leads of the existing clinical audits covering cardiovascular disease.
PHE also continues to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of CVD by running campaigns such as Act FAST. This has been the Department’s and PHE’s most successful campaign and continues to help people experiencing the signs and symptoms of a stroke get to hospital quicker. The campaign will be run again during 2014-15.
NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Cardiac Disease established a Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) advisory group which has identified some of the barriers to identifying more families with FH and will continue to develop and spread good practice in this field.
At a local level, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are being encouraged to implement the Strategy with the support of the twelve Strategic Clinical Networks. These networks are working with CCGs and other partners in the health and care system to identify local and regional priorities for cardiac and renal disease, diabetes and stroke.
All 152 local authorities are offering the NHS Health Check programme, which aims to present heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. Local authorities have a legal duty to deliver the programme to all of their eligible population once every five years. In 2013-14 a total of 2.8 million people (18.5%) of the five years eligible population were offered an NHS Health Check while just fewer than 1.4 million received an NHS Health Check, equating to 49% of those offered. This is the greatest number of NHS Health Checks offered and received in one year since the programme began.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to publish the responses to their consultation on extending the Charity Commission’s powers to tackle abuse in charities; and if so, when.[HL1490]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): The Government has carefully considered the responses to the consultation on extending the Charity Commission’s powers to tackle abuse in charities. The intention is to publish a summary of consultation feedback in the usual manner after the summer recess, followed by a draft bill for pre-legislative scrutiny.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Deighton on 28 July (WA 247) what specific estimates they have made of the expected "positive impact" of the childcare element of Universal Credit on work incentives for mothers and corresponding employment rates and tax receipts from mothers paying income tax and national insurance.[HL1680]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): The announced measures mean from April 2016 families with children who have childcare costs below the defined limits will see an improved financial incentive to work and to work more hours.
Once Universal Credit is fully rolled out many working families will face an improved incentive to work, including 100,000 families who will get childcare support for the first time under Universal Credit. The precise improvement an individual faces will vary according to circumstance.
We have not made a specific estimate of how this feeds through into employment rates and tax receipts.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the government of China about China's obligations under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, following the recent demolition of several churches and the removal of crosses from others.[HL1649]
Lord Popat (Con): We have concerns about all restrictions placed on freedom of religion and belief in China. This includes the destruction of churches and the removal of crosses from others. We believe that freedom of thought, conscience and religion is a fundamental human right, and continue to raise our concerns with Chinese counterparts.
We raised our particular concerns about religious buildings in China directly with Chinese authorities during the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue on 19-20 May. We also highlight our broad range of concerns publicly in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy and in quarterly updates to it.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to restore and update the Cabinet Office Precedent Book.[HL1518]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): The Cabinet Office Precedent Book has been largely superseded by the Cabinet Manual, the Ministerial Code, including Travel by Ministers and the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers, which are public documents.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 21 July (WA 156), how many times since 2008 the Council of the European Union has disagreed with items on its agenda previously agreed within Coreper and to be decided without discussion as A-items.[HL1657]
Lord Popat (Con): The Government does not record information on how many times the Council has chosen not to adopt an item as an "A" point following a preparatory meeting of The Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER). Where an item is on the agenda for a meeting of the Council of the European Union, COREPER will prepare that item but will not itself take any decision: the decision is for the Council to take. If a matter is planned for agreement as an A point at a Council meeting and it appears that agreement is not possible, it would be either withdrawn from the agenda or made the subject of discussion at that meeting.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the effectiveness of regulation of debt management companies.[HL1609]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): The Government has fundamentally reformed regulation of the consumer credit market, including the debt management industry, by transferring regulation from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on 1 April 2014.
The Government welcomes the binding rules the FCA has placed on debt management firms, including new prudential and client money requirements to better protect consumers’ money.
Under the new regime the FCA has robust powers to protect borrowers – there is no limit to the fines which the FCA can levy and it can require firms to provide redress to consumers.
The FCA will thoroughly assess every debt management firm’s fitness to trade as part of the authorisation process. The debt management industry has been called forward first for authorisation, from this October.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answers by Lord Newby on 28 July (HL Deb, cols. 1409–11), whether cold callers recruiting for debt management companies are required to advise of the existence of free debt management services; if so, who is responsible for enforcing that requirement; and how many infractions have been recognised.[HL1637]
Lord Deighton: Lead generators for debt management firms are not subject to regulation directly, but the FCA requires regulated debt management firms that accept leads from lead generators to satisfy themselves that the business has been procured fairly and in accordance with relevant legislation, including the requirements of the Data Protection Act and the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations. Debt management firms must ensure that lead generators calling on their behalf make clear the identity of the firm, and the purpose of the communication, so the consumer can decide whether to proceed. Additionally, at first contact with a customer, debt management firms must signpost consumers to the availability of "free" debt advice. The FCA is able to impose sanctions on regulated debt management firms, such as imposing unlimited fines and ordering firms to pay money back to customers, where wrongdoing is found.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what further plans they have to support charities and other organisations that seek to help people in financial difficulty.[HL1611]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): The Government is committing to supporting charities working with the vulnerable and disadvantaged, including those supporting people in financial difficulty.
For example, Cabinet Office has contributed over £32 million towards the Big Lottery Fund’s Advice Service Transition Fund. This fund is supporting many not-for-profit advice providers working with individuals in financial difficulty. We have also convened an Affordable Lending Steering Group, working to address the barriers that limit community lenders’ ability to provide services to those in need.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what new initiatives they are taking to maximise the use of soft power in their international diplomacy.[HL1480]
Lord Popat (Con): The Government has taken a number of recent initiatives to maximise Britain’s soft power, as detailed in our response to the House of Lords Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK's Influence Report of session 2013-14 (Command Paper Cm 8879 of June 2014).
We have increased the 2015-16 budget for the Chevening Scholarship Programme from £18.24m to £45m and trebled the number of places for applicants in developing countries. We are supporting the development of the Chevening Alumni Alliance, and my Rt Hon Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire) held an event at Chevening on 9 July to celebrate the programme’s thirtieth anniversary, with some of its best known alumni.
We have increased our funding for the GREAT Britain campaign for 2014-15 from £30m to £46.5m, with the aim of generating a further £1 billion of economic benefits for the UK. Already the GREAT Britain campaign has delivered an audited economic return of £580m to date.
We hosted the first Girl Summit with UNICEF on 22 July, aimed at mobilising domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage. This involved 650 participants from 50 countries. The former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right Hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), also co-chaired the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in June, involving 1,700 delegates and 129 country delegations.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will extend the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund to provide householders with additional financial support via the Energy Company Obligation where they are replacing their central heating boiler and that boiler is reliant on off-grid supplies.[HL1251]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma) (Con): The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund closed to new applications on 24th July 2014 as the value of applications made to date had reached the available budget.
However, the Government has a range of other energy efficiency schemes which can help households who need assistance with energy efficiency measures, including for repairing and replacing ‘non-gas’ heating systems. These include Green Deal Finance, the Affordable Warmth element of the Energy Company Obligation and the Renewable Heat Incentive.
The Government has set up the Energy Saving Advice Service (0300 123 1234) which provides the public with independent advice about these and other energy efficiency schemes.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there are any citizens of foreign countries who require a visa to enter the United Kingdom but who do not require a visa to enter the Republic of Ireland.[HL1352]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): Citizens of the following countries and territories require visas to visit the UK but not the Republic of Ireland: Bolivia, Fiji, Guyana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and Taiwan.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they give, when allocating aid to Ethiopia, to the human rights situation in that country, particularly in relation to the Oromo population.[HL1445]
Baroness Northover (LD): When allocating aid to Ethiopia, Her Majesty’s Government assesses the commitment of the Ethiopian government to our ‘Partnership Principles’, one of which relates to ‘Human Rights and International Obligations’. This assessment shapes how we work with the Government of Ethiopia in delivery of our aid.
We are concerned at recent events related to student protests in Oromia and have raised this issue at the highest levels of the Ethiopian government. We will continue to raise our concerns, press for an investigation into what happened, and for any members of the security forces who have used excessive force to be held to account.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their priorities regarding the European Union cohesion policy.[HL1627]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) (Con): The budget and main regulations governing European Union cohesion policy for the 2014-20 programming period were agreed formally in December 2013. The focus now is on effective implementation.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the United Kingdom has ever been offered the opportunity to attend Eurogroup meetings; and if so, on how many occasions and what was their response.[HL1494]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): In the context of the euro area sovereign debt crisis the Eurogroup has met in an extended format on occasion, including in May 2011 and January 2012. Chaired by the Eurogroup President, these meetings were attended by Ministers from non-euro area Member States including the United Kingdom.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the statement of the Foreign Secretary on the Andrew Marr Show on 20 July, which powers of the European Union they consider must be repatriated to Member States; what they consider should be done at national level and what should be done at a European level, and how the they propose to secure those changes.[HL1586]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The UK is working with partners to achieve a reformed European Union (EU), that is more competitive, flexible and democratically accountable. This includes ensuring that action is taken at a national level wherever possible and at EU level only where necessary.
We have already made progress over reforms such as bringing fish stock decisions from pan-EU to regional level and removing UK liability for any further Eurozone bailouts. We will continue with partners to make sure decisions are only made at EU level where they cannot be better made at national level.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to governments in countries where female genital mutilation (FGM) is practised; and what steps they have taken to verify reports that ISIS is introducing compulsory FGM in areas they control.[HL1581]
Lord Popat (Con): The Government is playing a key role in supporting and strengthening the international movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide, within a generation. Given that the vast majority of communities who practise FGM are found in 29 countries clustered in West Africa, Egypt, Sudan and the Horn of Africa and that change must come from within affected communities, we have sought to support the existing African-led movement to end FGM, and build upon the success of the Africa Group 2012 UN resolution that banned the practice.
It is in this spirit that the Prime Minister, my right honourable friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), convened the first global summit on ending FGM and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) on 22 July 2014. The Girl Summit brought together 650 participants from 50 affected countries. It resulted in 32 countries signing the Summit Charter and private and public financial pledges of $88 million to end CEFM and $7million for FGM. Ministers and senior officials worked with all countries affected by FGM, including countries where it is practised by diaspora communities, in advance of the Summit to encourage them to develop new commitments to end FGM. This is in addition to the UK’s flagship programme of £35 million over 5 years to support African countries to end FGM, and an additional £12 million commitment in Sudan.
Reports that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is introducing compulsory FGM in areas they control remain unconfirmed. Staff at our Embassy in Iraq have spoken to the Head of UN Human Rights Office, the Head of UN Women, and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, all of whom were unable to confirm the reports. We also remain in contact with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). On balance, we conclude that the threat, while a serious matter, is not new. We continue to follow developments as closely as possible.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many visits there have been from April 2014 to the last month for which data are available to the page on the Financial Conduct Authority website listing unauthorised firms and individuals to avoid.[HL1639]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): This Question has been passed on to the FCA. The FCA will reply to directly to the noble Lord directly by letter. A copy of the letter will be placed in the Library of the House.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord De Mauley on 14 July (WA 94), on what date they received Professor Elliott’s final report into the food chain; whether any amendments have subsequently been made; when it was ready for publication; and whether it will be published before 30 July.[HL1378]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): Professor Elliott submitted a first draft of his final report to Defra and Department of Health in June 2014. We received an amended draft on 4 July ahead of any final formatting and the correction of typing errors. The final print ready version was received on 18 July and will be published shortly.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment has been made at the Girl Summit 2014 of the role played by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) in safeguarding the health of women and girls, and in addressing gender-related barriers to accessing immunisation services; and what assessment they have made of the cost-effectiveness so far of the United Kingdom’s contribution towards GAVI’s programme, agreed in the Multilateral Aid Review of March 2011.[HL1437]
Baroness Northover (LD): The focus of Girl Summit 2014 was on ending female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage. No specific assessment was made at the Summit on the role of the GAVI Alliance in safeguarding the health of women and girls or addressing gender-related barriers to accessing immunisation services. However, GAVI is rolling out two vaccines that will directly benefit girls and women: rubella vaccine, which protects against a disease damaging to unborn children; and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, which helps prevent cervical cancer, one of the leading causes of death in young women in sub-Saharan Africa. GAVI will immunise over 30 million girls with HPV vaccines during 2013-2020 which will prevent over 150,000 women dying each year. GAVI is working to overcome the barriers to introducing the HPV vaccine in developing countries by reducing the high cost of the vaccine and tackling the challenges of immunising girls aged nine to thirteen years by integrating HPV immunisation with wider health interventions targeted at adolescent girls.
The UK’s support to GAVI remains a highly cost-effective way to achieve childhood immunisation results at scale. The 2011 UK Multilateral Aid Review (MAR) ranked GAVI as being very good value for money. The 2013 MAR Update confirmed that GAVI is continuing to make reasonable progress. An example of this is that GAVI helped to secure a reduction in price of 35% between 2010-2012 of the three vaccines it spends the most money on.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the actual or estimated annual expenditure, stated in 2010 prices, in (1) 2013–14, and (2) 2009–10, on each of the following items of National Health Service and social care expenditure: (a) primary care, (b) community health services, (c) community mental health services, (d) continuing care, (e) public health, (f) social care (national), (g) social care (local government), and (h) social care (privately funded); and what was the total actual or estimated expenditure from public funds on health and social care for each of those years in 2010 prices.[HL1483]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): For some elements of the question, the information is not collected to the detail requested. There are discontinuities in all categories stipulated in the question and therefore any comparison between the two years would be invalid. Such information as is available is as follows.
In 2009-10, primary care trusts (PCTs) reported the following spending outturns relating to commissioning activity in their accounts returns:
In this year, PCTs did not separately report spending to the detail requested on:
- community mental health services; and
- public health.
Spending on social care cannot be provided to the detail requested; however the Department for Communities and Local Government has reported total net spending on social care by local authorities of £20,963 million in 2009-10. This is a net figure and includes any income from service user charges and from Department of Health grants to local authorities.
Since 2009-10, there have been a number of changes to the way spending is categorised and recorded:
- primary care – spending is not comparable to the 2009-10 spending outturns. The 2013-14 spending outturn will exclude any public health spending, and other such functions that have now transferred elsewhere in the health and social care system, that would have been included in the 2009-10 spending outturn.
- community health services – spending is only recorded for services commissioned by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and excludes any direct commissioning undertaken by NHS England itself.
NHS England has reported the following spending outturns relating to commissioning activity in 2013-14:
Public Health England has responsibility for the following additional public health related spending:
The Department for Communities and Local Government has reported the following total net spending on social care by local authorities in 2013-14, net of any income from service user charges and grant funding provided by NHS England:
These figures are indicative. Final figures spending figures and breakdowns will be available later this year.
The Department of Health’s Total Departmental Expenditure Limit (TDEL) is used. This is the total Revenue and Capital DEL expenditure, excluding depreciation, by those bodies within the Departmental Group. These are the standard spending controls against which the Department of Health is held accountable to Parliament.
This data is comparable across the two years. The following table summarises the TDEL outturn for both years:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they intend to take to increase the number of students enrolling in further and higher education; and how they intend to fund any growth in student numbers in 2015–16, in the light of the announcement on 20 July that the student loan book will not be sold.[HL1512]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): Further and Higher Education Institutions are responsible for attracting students. The Government has implemented a reform programme enabling FE colleges to use their freedoms and flexibilities to provide the high quality skills their learners, local economy and businesses need. There is an increased drive for employer ownership of skills funding, a continuing growth, and reform of, the Apprenticeships programme and an opportunity for individuals aged 24 and over studying at Level 3 and 4 to have access to Loans to help meet up-front course fees. The Government will raise the cap on HE student numbers to fund up to 30,000 additional places in 2014/15 and remove this cap altogether in 2015/16, except for high risk providers. Funding for this expansion is already agreed with HMT over the Spending Review period. Student numbers are not contingent on the sale and all departments’ budget provision beyond 2015-2016 will be agreed as part of the next Spending Review.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support universities to address the problems highlighted in the recent report published by the Nuffield Foundation and the London School of Economics entitled Black and Minority Ethnic Access To Higher Education: A Reassessment.[HL1514]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): The Government is committed to access to Higher Education (HE) based on talent and potential, irrespective of background. Promoting equal opportunities is taken very seriously and we have put in place a strong legal framework which protects the rights of people not to be discriminated against, through the Equality Act 2010.
Whilst universities are independent and autonomous organisations, responsible for their own admissions decisions, the Equality Act places clear duties and responsibilities on them to ensure that students with protected characteristics do not face discrimination or less favourable treatment whilst applying to, and studying in, higher education.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how often, and with what result, they have raised breaches of Hong Kong's Basic Law with China in the last five years.[HL1441]
Lord Popat (Con): We monitor closely the implementation of One Country, Two Systems, as enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.
We discuss issues relating to Hong Kong regularly at senior levels with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government and with the Chinese authorities. As the former Foreign Secretary noted in the most recent Six Monthly Report to Parliament, Official Record 10 July Col 33WS, Hong Kong’s unique constitutional framework has worked well. We have made clear that it is vital it continues to be respected, and is seen to be respected, by all sides.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the freedom to worship of British Christian and Jewish visitors to Indonesia.[HL1601]
Lord Popat (Con): Indonesia has a strong tradition of religious diversity and tolerance and in general those of minority faiths in Indonesia, including any British visitors, are able to practise their religion. Various denominations of Christian churches are well represented across Indonesia. The Jewish community in Indonesia is very small, although there is at least one working synagogue. However, we are concerned that there has been a rise of localised instances of inter- and intra-religious conflict, and examples where the rights of religious minority groups have not been protected.
The former Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the right honourable Baroness Warsi, convened meetings of international leaders, including with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, to generate practical steps to promote freedom of religion or belief, and to fight religious intolerance within our societies. Our Ambassador in Jakarta has discussed these issues with Indonesian Ministers, civil society, and religious leaders. We have supported projects to improve respect for freedom of religion or belief. We also raise freedom of religion and belief concerns at the annual EU-Indonesia Human Rights Dialogue. We continue to monitor the situation and raise any concerns with the Government of Indonesia.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what if any financial arrangements they have with the Internet Computer Bureau which allow the latter to make money from the sale of dependent territory domain names.[HL1060]
Lord Popat (Con): The British Government has no financial arrangement with the Internet Computer Bureau, which is the Domain Name Registrar or Network Information Centre for a number of domains including for some of the Overseas Territories.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the state of freedom of religion and belief in Iraq.[HL1590]
Lord Popat (Con): We are deeply concerned about the situation in Iraq including freedom of religion and belief. We condemn the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) threats to ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq, including Christian, Yezidi and Turkomen and the desecration of mosques and churches by ISIL. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the member for Bournemouth East ( Mr Ellwood), met Archbishop Athanasius of the Syriac Orthodox Church in London on 29 July and issued a statement strongly condemning the persecution of Christians and other minorities in Iraq. Our Ambassador in Baghdad has met religious representatives, including Chaldean Patriarch Luis Sako, and the Consul General in Erbil has met the Archbishop of Erbil and the Archbishop of Mosul to discuss the current situation, the needs of the Christian community, and UK humanitarian assistance to those displaced by fighting in Iraq. On Sunday 3 August, the British Chargé d‘Affaires attended a service at St George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, joined by officials from our Embassy, to highlight the British Government’s continued support to Christians and other minorities affected by recent violence in Iraq.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to respond to the humanitarian situation caused by the displacement of persons from ISIS-controlled areas of Iraq.[HL1592]
Baroness Northover (LD): We are deeply concerned by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. DFID deployed an advisory team to Erbil in June 2014 to conduct a rapid humanitarian assessment and has committed £5 million of humanitarian aid to respond to the level of need in the north of Iraq. This will be distributed to those most in need through trusted and long-standing humanitarian partners.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to referring the alleged human rights abuses committed by ISIS to the International Criminal Court for further investigation and eventual prosecution.[HL1593]
Lord Popat: We condemn all human rights abuses in Iraq. However, Iraq is not a state party to the International Criminal Court and any referral would need to be through the UN Security Council. We have no plans for this at present but we will keep this under review. We are calling on the Government of Iraq to ensure that all crimes and human rights abuses committed in Iraq are properly documented to assist with the investigation, and bringing those responsible to account in the future.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to assist religious leaders in Iraq to respond collaboratively and in a non-sectarian manner to the human rights abuses allegedly committed in Iraq.[HL1594]
Lord Popat: We condemn the reported human rights abuses in Iraq and call for those responsible to be held to account. We meet representatives of Iraqi religious groups both in the UK and in Iraq, and fund a series of grass roots meetings with religious leaders of different faiths to combat sectarianism. We are encouraging influential religious leaders in Iraq to speak out publicly and condemn sectarian violence. The High Council of Religious Leaders in Iraq has issued a strong statement of solidarity with Christians and Muslims in Mosul and Ninevah, citing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's actions to be entirely un-Islamic.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Iraqi President, Speaker and acting Prime Minister about the early establishment of an inclusive government there.[HL1648]
Lord Popat: Our Ambassador in Baghdad has made representations to the Speaker and President to urge the early establishment of an inclusive government and we continue to raise this with Iraqi leaders at the highest levels. The former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right Hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), also discussed the issue with Prime Minister Maliki during his visit in June.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the total number of dual national British–Israeli citizens serving in the Israeli Defence Force.[HL1353]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the number of British citizens engaged in operations against the Palestinian people in Gaza.[HL1354]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The Government has made no assessment of the number of British and British-Israeli citizens serving in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). Any UK national serving abroad in the armed forces of any state is bound by the laws of armed conflict and any local laws that apply.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to take any action against those British citizens serving in the Israeli Defence Force.[HL1355]
Baroness Warsi: The Government has made no assessment of the number of British and British-Israeli citizens serving in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). Any UK national serving abroad in the armed forces of any state is bound by the laws of armed conflict and any local laws that apply.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have published any information for the British citizens travelling to Israel regarding the possibility of their involvement in operations in Gaza.[HL1356]
Baroness Warsi: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) publishes travel advice on its website for any British citizens planning to travel to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The FCO currently advises against all travel to Gaza.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to take any action in connection with those who served on the board of Lloyds Banking Group when that company was involved in LIBOR fixing and manipulating the Bank of England’s Special Liquidity Scheme.[HL1659]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): We support the proportionate enforcement action announced recently by the FCA against Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) and are clear that such abuses are completely unacceptable. The action by the new, tougher Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) shows that the system is working, and we are committed to taking further action to dealing with abuses, tackling the unacceptable behaviour of the few and ensuring that markets are fair for the many who depend on them.
Enforcement action against individuals and/or firms with regard to financial conduct issues are a matter for the FCA and law enforcement institutions.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 21 January (WA 136), what progress has been made in resuming the European Union–Malaysia Human Rights Dialogue; and whether they have asked the government of Malaysia how it reconciles the endorsement of the 2004 Amman Message (recognising the validity of all eight Islamic legal schools including Shia) with actions taken by the Malaysian authorities.[HL1624]
Lord Popat (Con): Discussions continue between the EU and Malaysia on the resumption of the EU-Malaysia Human Rights Dialogue. We are keen to have a Dialogue of substance. Bilaterally, we have regular conversations with the Malaysian government on human rights issues, including freedom of religion.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will ensure that registered civil partners wishing to undergo a marriage ceremony with religious elements receive equal treatment as same sex couples who are not registered civil partners and wish to marry in the same way.[HL1313]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government why the Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership) Regulations 2014 bans the use of religious services at conversion.[HL1314]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): The Government is committed to ensuring that couples wishing to convert their civil partnership in to a marriage can do so from 10 December 2014.
The draft Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership) Regulations 2014, which were laid in the House on 3rd July 2014, provide for a simple conversion process, which is not, and was never envisaged to be, a marriage ceremony. The draft regulations were prepared in accordance with the provision made by Section 9 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, in particular subsections (4) and (5), which was debated at length in both Houses of Parliament during the passage of the Bill.
The process was conceived in line with responses from those in civil partnerships to the public consultation in 2012, which called for a simple, straightforward and low cost way for couples to convert their civil partnership into a marriage. Stakeholders expressed a desire for a conversion process which would not undermine the significance of the original civil partnership and which would avoid creating undue new burdens or costs for couples. Accordingly the conversion process was not envisaged to be a process which would replicate a marriage ceremony, whether religious or secular, but was rather intended to be an easy administrative process by which couples converted their civil partnerships and had these recognised as marriages from the date the civil partnership was formed. Couples who did want to celebrate the conversion with family and friends could choose to hold some form of non-statutory celebratory ceremony following the conversion itself, if they so wished.
We continue to listen to the views expressed by stakeholders during the implementation of the Act. We have heard views articulated by stakeholders in recent weeks raising concerns with the conversion process as set out in the draft regulations as laid and in particular regarding the possibility of incorporating religious elements within conversions. We will consider these views and whether suitable options exist for addressing them within the legal framework established by the Act over the summer.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will publish their response to their consultation on Alternative Dispute Resolution for consumers which began in March.[HL1599]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): The Government intends to publish the response to the consultation on Alternative Dispute Resolution for consumers in the autumn.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the number of Israeli civilians who have been (1) killed, and (2) wounded, as a result of rockets fired at Israeli cities in the past fortnight; what assessment they have made of the number of Palestinian civilians living in Gaza who have been (1) killed, and (2) wounded, as a result of the latest military intervention by Israel in Gaza; and what proportion of those Palestinian casualties they estimate were children.[HL1393]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): As of 24 July, two Israeli civilians have been killed (one by mortar bomb, one by rocket fire). 11 Israeli civilians have been injured. The Palestinian Ministry of Health figures, as of afternoon of 24 July, records the number of Palestinian civilians killed as 738 and injured as 4620. As of the morning of 24 July, 170 Palestinian children have been killed and 1,213 children have been injured.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the statement by the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights that Israel's latest military offensive in Gaza "could amount to war crimes".[HL1522]
Lord Popat (Con): We have taken note of the statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We have not responded directly but we have commented on a number of the issues she has raised. The UK is deeply concerned by the continuing bloodshed in Gaza. It is tragic that so many innocent civilians, including women and children, have been killed and injured. The UK has consistently made clear that Israel must act proportionately, exercise restraint, and take every step to minimise civilian casualties, in line with International Humanitarian Law. The urgent priority now is to stop the bloodshed, re-impose a cease-fire and work to find a longer term solution. All our efforts will be concentrated on that objective.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the government of Israel concerning the reported shooting of unarmed Palestinian civilians in the West Bank between 25 and 26 July by both the Israel Defence Forces and by settlers.[HL1543]
Lord Popat: Officials from our Embassy in Tel Aviv raised this issue with the Israeli Defence Forces and the Israeli Border Police on 25 July.
Our Ambassador to Tel Aviv raised the issue of violence in the West Bank with the Yesha Council (the main settler organisation) Foreign Envoy and the Israeli Director of External Affairs on 28 July.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to assess the impact of prolonged attacks on Gaza on (1) the mental health of the population, and (2) water supplies.[HL1544]
Baroness Northover (LD): DFID works closely with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA), which manages the process of collecting, analysing and sharing information about the humanitarian situation. According to OCHA’s most recent assessment at least 373,000 children require direct and specialised psychosocial support and 1.5 million people not in shelters have no or extremely restricted access to water.
The UK will provide more than £15 million in emergency support for Gaza. DFID activated a £3 million Rapid Response Facility (RRF) which will mean that more than half a million people in Gaza will receive medical care, clean water and sanitation. Three of the NGOs funded under the RRF are providing psychosocial support and one will be providing advanced mental health care. DFID also brought forward £3 million in funding to the International Committee of the Red Cross to help them repair water infrastructure, deliver emergency medical services and protect the civilian population.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Israel concerning the Palestinians reportedly killed and injured during West Bank protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza.[HL1578]
Lord Popat: Our Ambassador to Tel Aviv raised the issue of violence in the West Bank with the Yesha Council (the main settler organisation) Foreign Envoy and the Israeli Director of External Affairs on 28 July.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made as to whether the shelling of the Ash Shuja’iyeh district, the United Nations school compound and Al Shifa and Al Wafah hospitals should be investigated as possible war crimes.[HL1580]
Lord Popat: We have not made an assessment of whether the incidents you raise should be investigated as possible war crimes. However, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), along with the Secretary of State for International Development, my right honourable friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening), issued a statement expressing shock at the deaths at the UN school on 25 July. International Humanitarian Law is clear that all feasible precautions must be taken to avoid harm to civilians during a military attack.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Wallace of Saltaire on 22 July (WA 197), how many of the 13 ministers who are not in receipt of a ministerial salary are members of (1) the House of Commons, and (2) the House of Lords.[HL1458]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): There are currently three Ministers who are Members of the House of Commons and 10 Ministers who are Members of the House of Lords who are not in receipt of a ministerial salary.
Information on current government Ministers, including those who are unpaid, was published in July 2014. I will place a copy in the Library.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what level of training in autism awareness National Careers Service advisers are expect to have.[HL1523]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) (Con): National Careers Service contractors are required to have a well qualified and professional workforce to underpin the delivery of impartial careers information, advice and guidance (IAG) to young people and adults. In order to meet this requirement all advisers must hold qualifications which are appropriate to their role. For front line advisers this will include IAG qualifications at level 3 and above which includes assessments of an advisers ability to establish effective communication with all customers to help them make informed choices, including those individuals with conditions such as autism. Contractors are required to have workforce training and development plans in place to make sure staff are equipped to meet the needs of all customer groups, which will include awareness training about specific learning disabilities and difficulties.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that Royal Dutch Shell's subsidiarity in Nigeria has failed to deal with oil pollution from its pipelines, as recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme.[HL1509]
Lord Popat (Con): We are aware of the UN Environment Programme report on pollution in the Niger Delta. Oil spills in the Niger Delta occur because of criminal activity as well as oil company operations. We continue to closely monitor the situation in the Delta and raise pollution both with the Nigerian government and the oil companies.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mr Simmonds), saw the environmental degradation in the Delta first hand during his visit to Nigeria in February 2014. On that visit he discussed these issues with President Jonathan and senior officials at Shell.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the effects of oil pollution on the Bodo community in Rivers State in Nigeria; and whether they have any plans to meet representatives of Royal Dutch Shell to ascertain a timetable for the clean up of the oil spills there.[HL1510]
Lord Popat: We are aware of the impact that oil pollution has had on the Bodo community and a number of other communities in Rivers State Nigeria. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mr Simmonds), discussed the area's environmental problems with Shell during his visit to the Delta in February 2014.
We maintain an ongoing dialogue with the Government of Nigeria and oil companies operating in the Delta, including Shell, through which we continue to press for environmental responsibility in the oil and gas sector.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to request information from Royal Dutch Shell on any plans to ensure that its pipeline infrastructure in Nigeria is properly maintained to international standards.[HL1511]
Lord Popat: We maintain an ongoing dialogue with Shell and other oil companies operating in the Niger Delta and use such discussions to raise environmental concerns and stress the oil companies’ corporate responsibility, including the maintenance of equipment.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made representations to the government of Nigeria concerning reports of abductions in North-Eastern Nigeria this year in addition to the recent kidnapping of girls in Chibok; and whether they have asked the government of Nigeria what steps are being taken by federal and state governments there to rescue those abducted and to provide protection for civilians from further abductions.[HL1552]
Lord Popat: The Government is playing a leading role in the international response to the threat posed by Boko Haram, including its despicable practice of abducting men, women and children in north-eastern Nigeria. On 12 June the former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), announced a substantial new package of UK military, intelligence and development to support Nigeria as it tackles terrorism.
We continue to engage with Nigerian officials at both federal and state level to discuss their efforts to secure the release of those abducted and to provide protection for their civilians from the terrorist threat.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by Baroness Warsi on 23 July (HL Deb, cols GC 460–4) on the Commission of Inquiry Report on human rights in North Korea, whether any projects to improve the substantive human rights of North Koreans, rather than cultural, economic or humanitarian initiatives, are to be implemented; and whether such projects are being considered for North Korean refugees outside the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.[HL1623]
Lord Popat (Con): It is not possible for the UK to carry out projects in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) without the cooperation of the DPRK authorities. This has an impact on the type of projects we are able to support, although we have successfully taken forward projects in some areas of human rights, such as disability rights. In the Financial Year 2014/15 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO’s) Human Rights and Democracy Programme is funding a project delivered by the Thomson Foundation titled ‘Inside Out: Working in North Korea to connect its journalists to the Internet world’, which aims to give North Korean journalists a greater understanding of freedom of expression by teaching them Internet skills. Our other engagement projects are about finding concrete ways to inform North Korean citizens about the UK and its values, so that in the long term they recognise the benefits of working with the outside world from which they are normally isolated.
Our Embassy in Seoul supports the North Korean refugee community through its "English for the Future" programme, which is funded with a mixture of FCO programme funds and corporate sponsorship. We also reserve one of our Chevening scholarships for this community. These programmes help new settlers tackle some of the barriers which can prevent their successful integration into South Korean society and improve their future prospects. The FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy Programme has also previously funded projects with North Korean refugee groups in the Republic of Korea which are more directly related to human rights in the DPRK, such as documenting the effects of torture or producing a report on the rights of women. We remain open to funding similar projects in the future.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many statutory instruments from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have been laid this calendar year; of those, what percentage corrected errors in a previous instrument (including drafts of affirmative instruments that had to be superseded by correcting drafts); and what steps that Department is taking to reduce the need for correcting instruments.[HL1420]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) (Con): The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has laid 71 statutory instruments (SI’s) in this year to date. The table below shows those that have been identified as correcting errors in previous SI’s and the SI’s corrected.
The legal advisers in the Department for Business have this year reviewed and refreshed both the processes for the checking of SI’s and the training given to lawyers on drafting SI’s. This should reduce the incidence of drafting errors.
The table does not include drafts of affirmative instruments which were superseded by a further draft in identical form by reason of affirmative resolutions not having been obtained before the end of the 2013-2014 Parliamentary session and the identical draft being laid in the 2014-2015 session.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many statutory instruments from the Ministry of Justice have been laid this calendar year; of those, what percentage corrected errors in a previous instrument (including drafts of affirmative instruments that had to be superseded by correcting drafts); and what steps that Department is taking to reduce the need for correcting instruments.[HL1427]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): The Ministry of Justice laid 80 statutory instruments between the start of the calendar year and 25 July 2014. The Ministry of Justice does not keep records of which statutory instruments corrected errors in previous instruments. However, it estimates that three instruments (less than 4% of the total) were expressed to be correcting errors made in, in consequence of a defect in, or in substitution of, a previous instrument and were as a result issued free of charge to known recipients of the original instrument.
The Ministry of Justice is strongly committed to improving the quality of statutory instrument drafting. In addition to providing training to relevant staff and adopting rigorous checking process (including a requirement that all instruments are subject to a second and third pair of eyes check by a lawyer who has not drafted the instrument), a new post of Statutory Instrument Co-ordinator has been established within the Legal Directorate to co-ordinate the sharing of best practice. The Ministry of Justice will also be participating in work being led by the Treasury Solicitor and First Parliamentary Counsel to enhance further the quality, consistency and effectiveness of statutory instruments across government.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have sent emergency aid for the children of Gaza including medical, food and shelter.[HL1357]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): We have released £10 million since the latest crisis began. We are giving the UN Relief and Works Agency £4 million in new funding to provide healthcare, clean water, blankets and cooking equipment to help tens of thousands of Palestinians affected by the violence in Gaza, and £3 million to the UN World Food Programme to provide food vouchers to vulnerable families. We are also bringing forward £3 million to support the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross in repairing water infrastructure and providing emergency medical support.
DfID is already spending almost £350 million from 2011-2015 to address a broad range of Palestinian development and humanitarian needs, of which approximately £30 million per annum is spent on Gaza.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to provide medical aid in Gaza, in particular to hospitals treating injured civilians.[HL1521]
Baroness Northover (LD): The UK is the third largest donor to UNRWA, the main provider of health services in Gaza, and we have announced a further £6 million to their Flash Appeal for this crisis. We have activated a £3 million Rapid Response Facility on Saturday, under which ten charities have been awarded a portion of £3 million to help them meet urgent needs. This will mean that more than half a million people in Gaza will receive medical care, clean water and sanitation.
We have also brought forward £3 million in funding to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which will be used to help them repair water infrastructure damaged by airstrikes and deliver emergency medical services. And we support the UN Access Coordination Unit to work with the World Health Organisation, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and aid agencies to facilitate the transfer of medical equipment and supplies and patient referrals in and out of Gaza.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they will take to encourage a total lifting of the blockade of Gaza.[HL1577]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): In close co-ordination with our European Union partners and the Office of the Quartet Representation, the Government continues to press the Israeli government at ministerial and official level to ease access restrictions. Supporting legal trade for Gazans is firmly in Israel’s long-term interests.
We have also encouraged the Egyptian authorities to ease the movement of bona fide travellers through Rafah, and to consider expanding Rafah to goods transit in the medium term, which will help to ease humanitarian pressures.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of their consultation document Freedom and Choice in Pensions (CM 8901), on what they intend to spend the £20 million allocated in the budget for financial advice and guidance.[HL1459]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): At Budget the Government announced that it will be making available a development fund of £20 million, which will fund preparatory work to get the guidance guarantee up and running in good time for April 2015.
The Treasury has obtained approval for an advance of £10 million from the Contingencies Fund, to allow work on service design and implementation to proceed. I refer the noble Lord to the WMS of 21 July. The Treasury will be publishing a progress update on the service design and implementation strategy in the autumn.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the case for a statutory duty on courts to identify whether individuals sentenced to prison or held on remand have children or vulnerable adults dependent on them.[HL1045]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): The Government has considered the case for a statutory duty on courts to inquire about the existence of dependants and satisfy themselves of the adequacy of care arrangements. The Government remains concerned, however, that the proposed statutory duty may be impractical for the courts to operate and not be effective in encouraging defendants and offenders to disclose, as early as possible, the existence of dependants. The Government is, however, examining alternative approaches to ensuring that information about dependants of those sent to custody is recorded.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent calculations by the Taxpayers’ Alliance that £120 billion of public funds was wasted last year; and what actions they are taking to ensure that public spending offers value for money.[HL1519]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): The Government is committed to maximising value for money in all areas of public spending, and has introduced a programme to drive efficiencies and reduce wasteful expenditure. By 2014-15, departments working with HM Treasury and the Efficiency and Reform Group in the Cabinet Office will be saving £20 billion a year compared to 2009-10. Spending Round 2013 identified over £5 billion additional efficiency savings in 2015-16.
The Government sets clear principles and guidance for the management of public resources, including achieving value for money, in Managing Public Money. Ensuring value for money is the personal responsibility of each Accounting Officer. The methods by which civil servants determine the long run value for money of programmes are set out in The Green Book: Appraisal and Evaluation in Central Government.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to review the Barnett formula, in the light of the referendum on Scottish independence.[HL1667]
Lord Deighton: The Government position has been consistent: our priority has been to reduce the deficit and ensure a secure economic future for the whole of the UK.
We have also been clear that no significant changes to the Barnett Formula are in prospect.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with ministers of the Welsh Government during the last 12 months regarding replacing, or amending, the Barnett Formula as it applies to Wales.[HL1496]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): The Government is working closely with the Welsh Government to devolve new tax and borrowing powers through the Wales Bill. The devolution of tax powers requires an adjustment to the Welsh Government’s block grant as it will instead retain certain tax revenues. The proposed block grant adjustment mechanisms are set out in the Wales Bill Command Paper.
The Government has not had any discussions with ministers of the Welsh Government during the last 12 months regarding replacing, or amending, the Barnett Formula as it applies to Wales.
The Government position is clear: our priority remains reducing the deficit and ensuring a secure economic future for the whole of the UK.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they place any restrictions on the freedom to worship of those of all faiths from Brunei, Indonesia or Turkey visiting the United Kingdom.[HL1603]
Lord Popat (Con): The UK does not place any restrictions on freedom to worship by those of all faiths from any country. Freedom of religion or belief and respect for religious diversity and pluralism are at the heart of British society.
Religious freedom is a valuable indicator of wider democratic principles and is often a test of other fundamental freedoms.
We stress that freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression are interdependent, interrelated and mutually reinforcing.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Randerson on 23 July (WA 221), whether they will publish on a weekly basis details of all issues of an economic and political importance discussed with the government of the Republic of Ireland.[HL1598]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Wales Office (Baroness Randerson) (LD): No. In accordance with the provisions of the Belfast Agreement, to which the Noble Lord’s former party now subscribes, the Government maintains close relations with the Irish Government on matters of political and economic importance. As is the case with other Governments, it reports to Parliament at key stages.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the identified savings from current and planned reorganisations of HM Revenue and Customs, including the potential numbers of reductions in headcount by region.[HL1432]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the consultation procedures with all HM Revenue and Customs staff in respect of current and planned reorganisations; and what are the criteria for decisions being made on future campus sites of HM Revenue and Customs offices.[HL1433]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support will be made available to regions that lose HM Revenue and Customs offices.[HL1434]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the costings of any future relocation of HM Revenue and Customs offices regionally and nationally, including those of retraining staff, redundancy and any additional resources.[HL1435]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): HMRC is currently undertaking a programme of work to transform the services it provides to give its customers a modern, efficient service, delivered in a modern and flexible way that is convenient for them. To do this, HMRC needs to continue to become a smaller and more professional organisation that is able to maximise the revenues that pay for the UK’s public services, while making sustainable cost reductions and improving their customer service.
Efficiencies required by the 2010 and 2013 Spending Reviews mean that HMRC’s staffing levels in relation to these plans alone will reduce to 54,000 Full Time Equivalent posts (FTE) by 2015 and to 52,000 FTE by 2016. Reduced staffing levels mean a reduced need for accommodation and HMRC has recently closed consultation on the proposed closure of 12 offices between now and December 2015. The decisions will be announced in the autumn.
In addition to requiring efficiencies, the 2010 and 2013 Spending Reviews provide resources to increase revenue yield and to increase the department’s capacity for digital business and online services. In consequence, the costs arising from the changes HMRC is making are not readily identified and need to be considered against the savings achieved through improved working methods, increased revenue yield, reduced running costs and overall greater efficiency in the service it provides. All redundancy costs are made against strict value for money criteria.
HMRC is still developing its plans for the future, including extensive discussions across the whole of the department through a series of events designed to start conversations with all staff about building the future of the organisation.
HMRC is consulting with its staff on the way forward through a nationwide series of face-to-face events known as "Building our Future", attended by every individual within the department. "Building our Future" explains the changes being made, the background to them and includes group discussions at which individuals consider how they can contribute.
HMRC remains strongly committed to providing services to the regions. It has for example recently introduced a new Needs Enhanced Support service. This includes a mobile advisory service to ensure that accessible and tailored advice is available to the 1.5 million customers who need extra help.
Its longer-term strategy continues to look to bring people together into Regional Centres, providing flexibility, improved efficiency, greater cost-effectiveness and improved career development opportunities for its staff.
These will be drawn from its existing campus locations, where 80% cent of the department’s workforce is currently based. These centres will be supplemented by specialist sites, for location-specific work, and touchdown locations, where HMRC has a business need for a presence in a community.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what criteria they are using to assess the impact and effectiveness of current European Union sanctions on Russia.[HL1476]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns): We judge the impact and effectiveness of sanctions based on a range of economic and political factors. Sanctions are designed to impose a cost for Russia’s actions in Ukraine, deter further escalation of this crisis, and support the wider diplomatic effort. EU measures already announced have exacerbated negative trends in Russia’s economy: capital flight in the first half of 2014 was greater than for the whole of 2013; and we have seen a significant reduction in expected growth. Russian access to western financial markets will be severely constrained as lenders consider the risks of Russian exposure in the current climate. The strengthening of sanctions should signal clearly to the Russian leadership that their policy of trying to destabilise Ukraine will have a cost for the Russian economy. The EU’s measures have in-built review mechanisms. The sanctions implemented on 31 July are in force for one year, with a review of implementation after three months.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to ensure that United Kingdom companies conducting business in or with the government of Russia in compliance with European Union sanctions will not be subject to any penalties applied by United States authorities which allege that sanctions have been breached on the basis of the United States' system of sanctions.[HL1685]
The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Livingston of Parkhead) (Con): The European Union has co-ordinated very closely with the United States on sanctions against Russia. The European Union and the United States acting in a co-ordinated manner not only has the maximum possible effect on Russia’s policy calculations but also ensures that we reduce to an absolute minimum the likelihood that any UK companies that comply with the European Union legislation will nevertheless fall foul of United States’ sanctions legislation applying extraterritorially. At present we are not aware of any specific circumstances where this is likely to occur, but any company with concerns about United States sanctions should in the first instance consult United States lawyers or regulatory authorities to ensure that they comply with applicable United States legislation.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Nash on 30 June (WA 226) stating that they "do not hold a central record of all new schools built by local authorities to provide these places since 2010", why they do not hold such a record; and, of the academy schools created and converted since 2010, (1) how many, and (2) what proportion, were identified for creation or conversion by local authorities.[HL1691]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): Prior to 2010 the Department for Education’s central records of new establishments do not allow us to determine if schools are new provision or whether they replace existing schools (i.e. due to an amalgamation or move from three tier to two tier education).
Since then the number of schools that have applied to become academies is as follows:
i Schools which have converted to academy status are not identified for conversion by the local authority. It is up to individual schools to apply to convert to become academies unless they are underperforming, in which case the department will look to match them with a sponsor.
Between 2010 and 2012, local authorities held 41 competitions under section 7 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, as amended by the Education Act 2011, to create new schools. The numbers opening per academic year are:
In addition, the department also records all new academies created under local authorities’ duties to secure sufficient schools (section 14 of the Education Act 1996) since the academy presumption was established in February 2012. Ninety-two new academies have been created, or are in the process of being created, through this route (75 in agreement, 17 in the pipeline).
These are broken down into academic years as follows:
ii 40 of these new academies were funded through the Government’s Targeted Basic Need Programme (8 due to open in September 2014, 32 due to open in September 2015).
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the light of the forthcoming General Election, they will consult the Opposition about the appointment of a Chief Executive of the Civil Service on a five year contract.[HL1507]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): As has been the case under successive administrations, external civil service appointments continue to be made in the usual way in accordance with the Civil Service Commission’s recruitment principles, through fair and open competition.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how their supervision of the Serious Fraud Office is exercised; and what recent assessment they have made of the performance of the Office.[HL1677]
The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness) (LD): The Government’s supervision of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is exercised principally through the Attorney-General’s superintendence of that department, and in accordance with the Protocol between the Attorney-General and the Prosecuting Departments of July 2009.
The Attorney-General meets regularly with the Director of the SFO and receives reports on the SFO’s work. In addition HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) has power to inspect the SFO under section 149 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which came into force on 2 June 2014.
HMCPSI conducted an inspection of the SFO at the request of the Director SFO in 2012, and reported in November 2012. It has carried out a follow up inspection and is due to report on that later this year.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to initiate a review of the sustainability of the student loans system.[HL1377]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): There are no current plans to initiate a formal review of the student loans system in England. The costs of the loan system are based on projections of graduate repayments over the next 35 years. These projections were revised in 2013-14 following changes to the student loan repayments model but will continue to fluctuate due to numerous macroeconomic variables, and present no immediate pressure on the system. Funding for new student loans is secure for the remainder of the Spending Review period.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have any plans to improve the student loan system, should it prove to be too inefficient in its current format.[HL1380]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: There are no plans to initiate changes to the student loan system in England, but we continue to monitor the efficiency of the system in relation to government affordability.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 17 July (WA 144–5), whether the Minister will now provide a substantive answer to the question.[HL1282]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): The Secretary of State met with Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco on 7 October 2013 to discuss voluntary arrangements to help their customers’ adopt a healthier diet, including action to reduce their sugar intake. Other major retailers were unable to attend.
In addition, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health (Jane Ellison) visited a Tesco store on 13 March 2014, with regard in particular to diabetes.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of employment practices in the United Kingdom supermarket sector.[HL1495]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe): We have not made any specific assessment of employment practices in this sector.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Lord Newby on 9 July (HL Deb, cols 209–11), whether they intend to continue to encourage investments in (1) the alternative investment market, (2) start-up businesses, and (3) forestry, in the light of the tax relief available for such investments.[HL1551]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): The government currently offers a range of tax reliefs to encourage investment. These form an important part of the government’s growth strategy and its commitment to make the UK one of the best places to start, finance and grow a business in Europe.
To ensure the tax reliefs remain well-targeted, the reliefs are only available where certain conditions are met. The government keeps all these schemes under review to ensure that the reliefs continue to encourage investment in a well-targeted and effective manner.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the amount of income tax, value added tax and company taxation paid by migrants to the United Kingdom and by companies set up by migrants in each year since 2010 for which figures are available.[HL1672]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): The information requested is not available.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what they have learnt from promoting the Big Society.[HL1563]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what impact the promotion of the Big Society has had on competition between the social enterprise sector and local authorities; and what is the value of contracts transferred from the public sector to the independent sector since May 2010.[HL1564]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how the experience of promoting the Big Society will inform their future policy making.[HL1565]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how the delivery of Big Society initiatives will inform future pilot schemes to promote innovation in local communities.[HL1566]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what lessons for the localism agenda they have learnt from promoting the Big Society.[HL1567]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): Big Society hands people control in their local communities so that they can take action to shape where they live and help others. Volunteering is up 6% since 2010 and 80,000 young people have taken part in National Citizen Service since 2011, contributing over 2 million hours of social action to their local communities.
The Localism Act has resulted in over 1,200 assets of community value being listed and we have helped 150 organisations to acquire a community asset or obtain significant investment towards doing so. More than 900 neighbourhood planning areas have been designated, and all 28 plans which have reached referendum so far have passed with significant majorities in favour.
This Government is committed to opening up public services so that social enterprises and voluntary organisations can play an increased role in delivering local services. We are introducing legislation that will require the public sector to publish details on the value of new contracts awarded to VCSEs, as part of Lord Young’s reforms to make public procurement more accessible to smaller businesses.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the freedom to worship of British Christian and Jewish visitors to Turkey.[HL1600]
Lord Popat (Con): We regularly discuss issues concerning Freedom of Religion and Belief with the Turkish Government, religious leaders and non-governmental organisations in that country.
We are encouraged by positive steps taken by the Turkish Government to improve protections for all religious minorities in Turkey. However, we share the assessment of the EU that more needs to be done to safeguard freedom of religion in Turkey.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental freedom that all, including those visiting a country, are entitled to.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Northover on 23 June (WA 136) and 8 July (WA 40), why the request to place a document in the Library of the House was refused yet it was released under a Freedom of Information request.[HL1558]
Baroness Northover (LD): The Offering Memorandum sent by the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Government for a bond issue guaranteed by DFID in 2011 is not a document owned by her Majesty’s Government. It would therefore not have been appropriate for DFID to place a copy of it in the Library of the House, although my previous answer did make clear that the Noble Lord could obtain a copy of the document by requesting it from the TCI Government.
Freedom of Information requests cover documents held by Her Majesty’s Government. DFID therefore sought the consent of the TCI Government before agreeing to release the TCI document.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Deighton on 28 July (WA 273), what is their estimate of the impact of European Union membership on United Kingdom employment.[HL1658]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): The Government has made no assessment of the impact of European Union membership on United Kingdom employment.
As I noted in my response dated 28 July (WA 273) to Lord Grocott, the Treasury estimate that 3.3 million jobs in the UK may be related to exports to other European Union countries. This figure is based on the assumption that the share of UK employment associated with UK exports to the EU is equal to the share of output that is exported to the EU, making allowance for the composition of the UK economy.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what medical assistance they are providing to military hospitals in Ukraine.[HL1400]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): The UK Government is not providing direct medical assistance to military hospitals in Ukraine. Assistance to military hospitals cannot be recorded as Official Development Assistance (ODA), in line with Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development criteria.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Lord Gardiner of Kimble on 12 May (HL Deb, col 1650), when they expect there to be parliamentary time to introduce legislation to ratify the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict; and what assessment they have made of the damage to cultural property in the recent and continuing armed conflict in Syria and northern Iraq.[HL1360]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): The legislative priorities for this session were set out in the Queen’s speech in June. The Government remains committed to protecting cultural heritage and we will seek to legislate on the 1954 Hague Convention and the subsequent protocols when parliamentary time allows. The 1954 convention already informs the Armed Forces’ law of armed conflict doctrine and training policy, particularly with regard to respect for cultural property, precautions in attack and recognition of the protective emblem.
The Government is deeply concerned by reports of damage to cultural property in Syria and Northern Iraq, including recent attacks by Islamic State of Iraq and Levant against Mosques, Churches and other holy places. The reported destruction of the Tomb of Yonus (Jonah) in Mosul on 24 July by ISIL is further evidence of the groups barbarism and disregard for International Humanitarian Law. We are also concerned that Syria’s cultural heritage is being plundered for private profit. That is why in December 2013 the UK and other EU nations amended the EU’s sanctions regime to make clear that involvement in trade relating to artefacts illegally removed from Syria is prohibited. This will help safeguard Syria’s cultural heritage for the future and we will continue to do all we can to bring an end to the conflict and restore stability in the region.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proportion of the budget of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is provided by the United Kingdom; and what percentage of the staff of the UNHCR are United Kingdom citizens.[HL1465]
Baroness Northover (LD): The UK provided 3% of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) budget in 2013. UNHCR records show that in April 2014 1.5% of UNHCR staff were UK citizens.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the current regulations with regard to the levying of value added tax on repairs and maintenance of old and listed buildings; and whether there are any plans to review or change such regulations.[HL1664]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): Section 1 of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 determines that value added tax should be charged on a supply of goods or services. Section 2 of the same Act sets the standard rate at 20%. Repairs and maintenance of all buildings fall into this standard rate.
The Chancellor keeps all taxes under review.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions the Ministry of Defence has held with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission about erecting a named headstone to mark the grave of Private Walter George Buckley (PLY/18155) of the Royal Marines Light Infantry at Tournai Communal Cemetery Allied Extension.[HL1550]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): Subject to a positive identification being made, it is anticipated that a named headstone marking the grave of Private Buckley could be erected by the summer of next year.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the number of young people from the gypsy and traveller communities not in education, training or employment, what steps they are taking to ensure that the Youth Engagement Fund will benefit people from those communities.[HL1625]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): The £16m cross-government Youth Engagement Fund aims to support up to 18,000 of the most disadvantaged young people in England to improve their educational achievement, increase their employability and reduce their risk of offending. This includes young people from the gypsy and traveller communities. The Fund does not prescribe which particular groups of young people bidders should work with.