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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Rape, whether actual or threatened, can constitute torture in certain circumstances, but, whether or not it is torture, it is certainly inhuman or degrading treatment.
In accordance with our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, we would not remove an individual where there are substantial grounds for believing that there is a real risk that he or she would be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Whether they will refrain from conducting any pilot studies of the use of dental X-rays as an aid to age determination of unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors, in view of the statement by the British Dental Association on the shortcomings of these procedures. [HL1661]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We will shortly publish a consultation paper that will contain proposals for the reform of the immigration and support system for unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors. The views of expert professionals, including the British Dental Association, will form an important part of the consultation process.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The overall responsibility for the healthcare at Yarls Wood immigration removal centre lies with Global Solutions Limited (GSL), and was subcontracted to Veritas. Following the bankruptcy of Veritas, the contract to provide healthcare has now been subcontracted to Medacs.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The Badr Brigade originated as an armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). In 2003, the Badr Brigade declared itself to be a political party and renamed itself the Badr Organisation. We welcomed the promise by SCIRIs leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, that it would disarm. However, we believe that some Badr members have either failed to lay down their arms or have infiltrated the Iraqi security forces and are engaging in sectarian violence. SCIRI and Badr remain closely linked and we believe that SCIRI leaders could do more to reduce violence by Badr elements. We continue to impress on all Iraqs political leaders that armed militias have no place in a democratic Iraq.
Whether they have made representations to the Government of Israel about the release of those elected members of the Palestine Legislative Council now being held in detention, and about the return of other members at present in exile; and, if so, with what result. [HL1970]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): We support the call at the 22 January General Affairs and External Relations Council for the immediate release of Palestinian Ministers and legislators detained in Israel. We have not made any recent representations to the Israeli Government on this matter.
Whether they will support the request of the French Foreign Minister at the meeting of the Middle East quartet in Washington DC on 2 February for quartet action to return to full negotiations between Israel and Palestine. [HL1819]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): We understand that French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy has called for direct negotiations between the parties. The quartet (US, UN, EU and Russia) met on 2 February and reiterated its call for a renewed political process with the aim of launching meaningful negotiations, and welcomed the upcoming meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, Palestinian President Abbas and US Secretary of State Rice. The quartet also reaffirmed its commitment to meet regularly at both the principals and envoys levels. We support these developments and hope that they will lead to substantive negotiations between the parties. A copy of the quartet statement can be found at: http:/www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/february/79867.htm.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Probation staff who prepare pre-sentence reports are expected to draw the courts attention to any issue that is relevant to its sentencing decision.
Whether, in the light of their policy of integration rather than multiculturalism, they will discourage the promotion or continuation of groups based on race, colour or creed in the public service. [HL1785]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Government do not believe that integration need be at the expense of multiculturalism, and we will continue to encourage public sector agencies to celebrate diversity. Valuing diversity is central to our approach to community cohesion and is necessary in a society that recognises that an important part of a persons identity is formed through collective association. At the same time, our approach also means highlighting our common values across groups: respect for the rule of law; freedom of speech; equality of opportunity; respect for others and responsibility towards others. These are clearly values that all agenciesand individualswithin the public sector should share.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Warner on 8 January (WA 32-33), whether strategic health authorities and National Health Service trusts created individual contingencies or provisions at the outset of the current financial year. [HL1161]
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): In 2006-07, strategic health authorities (SHAs) have established a contingency through their prudent management of NHS central budget programme funding devolved to them by the department. At quarter 2, the value of this contingency was £350 million, though SHAs reported their ability to create an additional £100 million through continued active management of central budgets. In addition, for 2006-07, SHAs have had the power to create local reserves held at SHA level to help them to balance the overall financial position across their health economy. Primary care trusts (PCTs), which make a contribution to their SHA reserve, will be repaid, normally within the three-year allocation cycle, when organisations currently in deficit start producing surpluses. SHAs have been asked to ensure that PCTs with the greatest health need are the first to be repaid.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 10 October 2006, what gift was deemed appropriate for the Deputy Prime Minister to give Mr Philip Anschutz during his visit to Mr Anschutz's ranch in July 2005; and [HL1663]
Whether a record is kept of those persons who have made more than one application for the replacement of a passport; and, if so, what additional safeguards are used to prevent fraudulent applications by such persons. [HL1351]
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) notes every instance of an application for the replacement of a passport. IPS does not, however, routinely collate this information and does not collate information relating to those people who have made more than one application for a replacement passport. All passport applications received by IPS are subject to a variety of system and manual checks to detect and prevent fraud. Applications for replacement passports must be accompanied by an additional declaration and details relating to the loss or theft that gave rise to the application. These additional details are used to conduct further checks in the event that the passport application is not straightforward or appears suspicious.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) provides details of all processed reports of lost, stolen and destroyed British passports to the Immigration Service, which also has access to IPSs main passport record database.
Whether all passport control posts at airports, seaports and rail terminals have online access to the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) database; and, if not, how the control posts are able to check the travel documents of United Kingdom passport holders. [HL1738]
Whether the Identity and Passport Service database has a facility to suspend the validity of the passports of United Kingdom passport holders who have been given custodial sentences until such time as they have been released from custody; and, if so, whether they will use such a facility. [HL1796]
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Identity and Passport Service can and does cancel passports in appropriate cases. Cancellations are recorded on the database and shared with other agencies such as Interpol and border control. To use the cancellation facility to suspend passports temporarily would be impractical. Agencies
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Lord Davies of Oldham: For the period 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2003, the average age at death of retired members of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme was 80 (males) and 81 (females). The median figures for the same period were also 80 and 81 respectively. Information for the period from 1 April 2003 and for the period from 1 April 1997 to 31 March 1999 is available only at disproportionate cost.
On how many occasions since the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998 there has been a review of the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Regulations, which freeze the pensions of some United Kingdom pensioners living overseas; and [HL1777]
What assessment has been made of the compliance with the Human Rights Act 1998 of the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Regulations, which freeze the pensions of some United Kingdom pensioners living overseas. [HL1778]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Regulations are part of the annual uprating process and have been reviewed on a general basis each year since 1998. It is normal practice to review new legislation for compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.
In addition, the provisions on the non-uprating of UK state pensions for some pensioners living abroad have been the subject of litigation in the domestic courts, all of which found in favour of the Government. The issue is now the subject of an application for a hearing to the European Court of Human Rights.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): It is not the Governments policy automatically to return victims of trafficking. Each situation is dealt with on an individual basis, with the victims welfare and the assessed risk of re-trafficking always the paramount concerns. In accordance with its international obligations, the UK would not knowingly put a victims life in danger, nor put victims in a position where they would be liable to be trafficked again. The Albanian Government have taken steps to address the trafficking and re-trafficking of persons, especially women, and introduced increasingly stringent laws and safeguards for those who may face trafficking. The Moldovan Government have also made significant efforts to combat trafficking and mistreatment of women, and are a signatory to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
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