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4 Apr 2011 : Column WA317



4 Apr 2011 : Column WA317

Written Answers

Monday 4 April 2011

Air Quality

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): It is for the European Court of Justice to decide whether any fine should be imposed as a result of a member state's non-compliance with EU legislation and the amount. Any such fine would be imposed on the member state. The UK has never been fined for failing to meet its EU obligations.

The Localism Bill includes a generic power which would allow Ministers to reclaim from local and public authorities in England all, or part of, a fine imposed on the UK as a result of breaches of EU law by those authorities. Whenever there is a risk of a European requirement being breached, there is extensive dialogue between Government and the local authority in question.

The coalition Government have made a commitment to work towards full compliance with the EU air quality standards and we are working with the Mayor of London and local authorities to ensure that we do so.

Armed Forces: Bomb Disposal

Questions

Asked by Lord Moonie

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The number of high threat explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) operators deployed to Afghanistan from the Royal Air Force, the Royal Engineers, the Royal Logistics Corps, and the Royal Navy in the past three years are as follows:

No. of personnel deployed as High Threat/Advance EOD Operators in support of operations in Afghanistan.
200820092010

Royal Air Force

0

0

1

Royal Engineers

0

0

2

Royal Logistics Corps

11

20

19

Royal Navy

0

0

0



4 Apr 2011 : Column WA318

No. of personnel deployed employed in related roles as High Threat/Advance EOD Operators and staff appointments in Afghanistan.1
200820092010

Royal Air Force

0

0

0

Royal Engineers

0

0

0

Royal Logistics Corps

6

11

12

Royal Navy

0

0

0

Asked by Lord Moonie

Lord Astor of Hever: During the past three years, explosive ordnance disposal personnel from the United Kingdom Armed Forces have provided training support and assistance to the Armed Forces of the following countries:

Afghanistan

Italy

Rwanda

Algeria

Kenya

Republic of Ireland

Belgium

Kosovo

Saudi Arabia

Canada

Lebanon

Singapore

Denmark

Morocco

Slovakia

Egypt

Netherlands

South Africa

Estonia

New Zealand

Uganda

Germany

Norway

Ukraine

Pakistan

Portugal

Armed Forces: Medals

Question

Asked by Lord Moonie

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The following table shows the number of medals awarded to explosive ordnance disposal personnel for acts of gallantry:

YearOverseas operationsUK operations

2009

6

0

2010

8

0

2011 to date

3

0

Autism

Questions

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The Government propose to replace disability living allowance for people of working age with personal independence payment from 2013-14. We are in the process of developing the new assessment for personal independence payment, which we are designing in collaboration with a group of independent specialists in disability. As such it is too soon to make final assessments of the reforms. We know it is essential that the assessment accurately captures the needs of disabled people with autistic spectrum disorders and this is something that the development group is considering. We will test the new assessment criteria fully before they are finalised, including considering the impact on people with autistic spectrum disorders.

No decisions have been taken on the delivery model for the new benefit. We recognise, however, the importance of providing adequate training and guidance for assessors and of ensuring that the application and assessment processes are appropriate to individual's circumstances, including individuals with autistic spectrum disorders. We have also accepted the offer made by the National Autistic Society when it met the Minister for Disabled People on 21 January 2011 to work with us on the design of the new assessment, claim form and staff guidance.

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

Lord Freud: We know it is essential for the assessment to capture the needs of disabled people with autistic spectrum disorders and this is something that the development group is considering. I also know that both the Minister for Disabled People and departmental officials have met the National Autistic Society to discuss our reform proposals and to seek its views on how the new benefit can best support those with autism. We agree with many of the points raised in the National Autistic Society's recent report on DLA reform, Who benefits?, and we are looking closely at how these recommendations can be incorporated into its design. We recognise, for example, the importance of allowimg disabled people to bring a carer or advocate with them to assessments, where they wish to do so. We will continue to work with disabled people and their organisations as the detail of the assessment criteria and its operation is developed and tested.

We are still considering the most appropriate delivery model for the personal independence payment assessment and no decisions have been taken on the detail of its operation, nor who would be responsible for undertaking the assessments. As part of this we are also considering how the recommendations from the recent review by Professor Harrington into the operation of the work capability assessment might be relevant to personal independence payment. These include recommendations around improving the awareness and capability of

4 Apr 2011 : Column WA320

assessors regarding mental health issues and introducing mental, cognitive and intellectual champions into assessment centres to improve the assessment of these functions.

Aviation: Landing Fees

Question

Asked by Lord Empey

Earl Attlee: The Government do not routinely monitor landing fees at airports. This is a commercial matter for the relevant airport operator.

Bank of England

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Under the Government's new framework for financial regulation, prudential regulation of insurance firms will be the responsibility of the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), an operationally independent subsidiary of the Bank of England. Conduct of business regulation of insurers will be carried out by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The Bank and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) are working closely together on the transition to the new framework. This includes ensuring that the PRA and FCA will have the right skills and people in place to carry out their responsibilities, including insurance regulation.

Budget 2011

Question

Asked by Lord Tebbit

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government believe that Parliament should always be the first to know the content of the Budget. The Government have made commitments that they will always share the Budget with Parliament before the European Union authorities.

The Chancellor delivered his Budget speech on 23 March. Shortly thereafter, senior HM Treasury officials sent a short message to European Commission officials to inform them that the UK Budget had been published.



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Burma

Question

Asked by Baroness Goudie

Baroness Verma: The Department for International Development is providing food for 41,000 people, clean water and sanitation for 90,000 people, bednets for 43,000 people and health consultations for 50,000 people. We are also helping affected communities rebuild their livelihoods and repair embankments that protect agricultural land and fish farms from sea water. Our total response for people affected by Cyclone Giri will be £6 million in 2010 and 2011.

Census

Questions

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Stephen Penneck, Director General for ONS, to Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, dated April 2011.

As Director General for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Questions asking: (i) whether the wording of the census question on qualifications takes into account the fact that most 16 year-olds born between 1 September 1994 and 27 March 1995 have not yet taken most of their GCSE examinations (HL8256); and (ii) whether the results of the census question on qualifications will be adjusted to take account of the fact that most 16 year-olds born between 1 September 1994 and 27 March 1995 have not yet taken most of their GCSE examinations. (HL8257)

Information is required on all academic and vocational qualifications to understand educational achievement and labour market participation across the population. It is used for government resource allocation and for evidence-based policy making, especially in relation to disadvantaged population groups, educationally deprived areas, and the promotion of equal opportunity. When combined with the questions on employment the information will show how skilled and educated the labour market is across the country, which enables the planning of training and adult education services.



4 Apr 2011 : Column WA322

People of 16 and over are asked to complete these questions as ONS has to impose a cut-off at some point to avoid confusing respondents as to how to answer such questions on behalf of children, and because 16 years of age is recognised as the age that people could first enter the labour market.

We recognise that collecting information in this way will include many 16 year-olds who have yet to sit exams for qualifications.

We will be able to produce accurate statistics showing the number of 16 year-olds with GCSE qualifications and the proportion that this represents of those that have completed year 11 at school, in order to meet any specific user requirements, by combining the information gathered from the qualification question with other responses on the questionnaire.

Climate Change

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): The real-time exchange of meteorological and hydrological data between countries is governed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Private companies in the UK are under no legal obligation to share such data through the UN.

As part of the UN Global Framework for Climate Services, the UK Met Office is developing operational climate services to quantify the risk of extreme events now, and in the future, to improve resilience planning to natural disasters worldwide.

Companies: AGMs

Question

Asked by Lord Clement-Jones

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Government have no current plans to amend UK legislation in this respect. Companies incorporated in other jurisdictions are subject to the laws of incorporation in those jurisdictions.



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Conservative Party: Spring Forum

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I have nothing further to add to the answer I gave on 16 March (Official Report, col. WA 62).

Cuba

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We raise human rights concerns with the Cuban authorities at every opportunity. We welcome the release last week of the remaining political prisoners arrested during the Black Spring of 2003. On 22 March 2011, it was announced that Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina would be released to exile in Spain.

Cyclists

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Earl Attlee: The riding of bicycles where not permitted is a criminal offence. How it is enforced is an operational matter for the police. They are best placed to decide on this in the light of local circumstances, the seriousness of the offence and conflicting demands on their resources.

Egypt

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Women's participation was most recently raised by our embassy in Cairo on 24 March. We want to see a genuinely inclusive, broad based dialogue taking place in Egypt and I would encourage the Egyptian Government to include women as well as other underrepresented groups in the reform

4 Apr 2011 : Column WA324

process. We are assisting Egypt with the development of civil society, political parties and electoral processes, through technical advice and by building links between organisations in Egypt and the UK. That will of course include a great deal of reference to the experience of women in civil society and politics in both countries.

Elections: Israel and Palestine

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): As my honourable friend Alistair Burt made clear in his Statement of 16 February 2011, the UK welcomes the announcement by the Palestine Liberation Organisation that it will hold national elections by September for all Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza. We, together with our EU partners, stand ready to support the electoral process.

He also expressed his disappointment that Hamas has rejected these already long delayed elections. This reinforces the perception that Hamas is an organisation which can only maintain its grip on ordinary Gazans through repression and isolation.

Embryology

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Information about the techniques being considered by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, as part of its review of the scientific and clinical evidence on the effectiveness and safety of procedures to prevent the transfer of mitochondrial disease, are set out in the authority's call for evidence, which is published on its website at: www.hfea.gov.uk/6372.html.

The terms of reference for the review are also published on the website.

As I advised the noble Lord in my Written Answer of 22 March 2011 (Official Report, col. 143) the commissioning of the review is without prejudice to taking any further steps toward making regulations.



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Energy: Wind Power

Question

Asked by Lord Reay

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): The amount, and percentage, of electricity generated in the UK from onshore and offshore wind in 2009 and, provisionally, 2010, is given in the table below.

20092010 (provisional)

Onshore wind generation (GWh)

7,564

6,979

Offshore wind generation (GWh)

1,740

3,042

All wind generation (GWh)

9,304

10,021

Total electricity generation (GWh)

375,665

381,247

Onshore wind share of total generation

2.0%

1.8%

Offshore wind share of total generation

0.5%

0.8%

All wind share of total generation

2.5%

2.6%

Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme

Question

Asked by Lord Moonie

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): Under the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, as of 23 March 2011, over 14,000 businesses have been offered loans with a value of over £1.42 billion, of which over 12,200 businesses have drawn down loans totalling £1.22 billion. [So far in the financial year 2010-11 (since April 2010), over 4,800 businesses have been offered loans with a value of almost £480 million, of which over 3,900 businesses have drawn down loans totalling over £370 million.]

The department plays no role in the application or decision-making process. Businesses may apply for a loan from any one of the accredited participating lenders which will assess which form of lending, including an Enterprise Finance Guarantee backed loan, is appropriate. We do not hold figures for those businesses which are instead offered a normal commercial loan, or are rejected for failing to meet the lender's commercial criteria.



4 Apr 2011 : Column WA326

A government guarantee of up to 75 per cent of the outstanding balance of the loan is payable to the lender in the event that a business defaults on their loan repayments.

In relation to the aggregate value of lending by made individual approved lenders I consider it important to maintain the confidentiality of information exchanged between Capital for Enterprise Limited (CfEL), which administers EFG on behalf of BIS, and the participating lenders to maintain the trust of lenders using EFG and to maximise its use and effectiveness.

Enterprise Zones

Questions

Asked by Lord Empey

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Government wrote to the devolved Administrations in advance of the Budget setting out their commitment to work with them to establish enterprise zones if they so wish. The Government remain ready to work with them on this and have made funding available in the Budget to support enterprise zones in the devolved Administrations through the Barnett formula.

Asked by Lord Empey

Baroness Wilcox: A number of measures will be introduced which will act as business incentives in enterprise zones. All enterprise zones will benefit from:

a business rate discount worth up to £275,000 per business over a five-year period;all business rate growth within the enterprise zone for a period of at least 25 years will be retained by the local area, to support the partnership's economic priorities and ensure that enterprise zone growth is reinvested locally;government help to develop radically simplified planning approaches for the zone, for example, existing local development orders; andgovernment support to ensure that superfast broadband is rolled out throughout the zone, achieved through guaranteeing the most supportive regulatory environment and, if necessary, public funding.

Further to these incentives the Government will work with local enterprise partnerships on additional options, to suit local circumstances, including consideration of

enhanced capital allowances for plant and machinery, in a limited number of cases and subject to state aid, where there is a strong focus on manufacturing;tax increment finance to support the long-term viability of the area; andUKTI support for inward investment or trade opportunities in the zone.

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EU: Regulations

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): On 18 March the Prime Minister and eight other EU heads of government jointly wrote to the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council calling for new burdens on business to be offset by savings elsewhere. We will be developing the methodology with member states shortly.

Following interventions by the Prime Minister at the March European Council, the Commission must now report on its work to reduce regulatory burdens and micro-exemptions by this summer.

First World War: Debts

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): At the end of the First World War the United Kingdom debt to the United States amounted to $4,368 million (at 1934 exchange rates this was around £866 million). Repayments of the debt were made between 1923 and 1931. In 1931 President Hoover of the United States proposed a one-year moratorium on all war debts, which allowed extensive international discussions on the general problems of debt repayment to be held. However, no satisfactory agreement was reached. In the absence of such an agreement, no payments have been made to, or received from, other nations since 1934.

Fishing: Protection Vessels

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): Fisheries is a devolved policy in the UK and therefore the naming of this fishing protection vessel is an issue for Northern Ireland.



4 Apr 2011 : Column WA328

Health: Contaminated Blood Products

Question

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): United Kingdom Ministers have not discussed the issue with Ministers or officials in the Republic of Ireland. However, links are maintained between the respective blood services, and there is Republic of Ireland representation on the UK Blood Services' Prion Working Group which considers prion filtration.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has collaborated with National Health Service Blood and Transplant in the Health Protection Agency's independent evaluation studies of prion filters, and the IBTS is also participating in clinical safety trials of prion filtered blood. The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs, which advises UK health departments on blood safety issues, will take into account any available relevant evidence from the Republic of Ireland when considering prion filtration.

Departmental officials had discussions in 2010 with the Republic of Ireland's Health Information and Quality Authority on methodologies for assessing risk of secondary variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease transmissions and related cost effectiveness analyses.

Health: Drugs

Questions

Asked by The Earl of Sandwich

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Information on the use of drugs such as benzodiazepines and the availability of National Health Service and other services to support people who are affected by dependence on them, will be set out in the reports commissioned by the department which we received on 28 February 2011. These reports will be peer reviewed and published as soon as possible afterwards.

Following publication, the department will involve all interested parties to determine the future direction of policy and service planning and we look forward to the noble Earl's contribution to that process.



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Iraq

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Improving the delivery of services across all sectors will be one of the key challenges for the new Government of Iraq. While progress has been made in a number of areas, additional capacity is required for effective delivery-particularly in power generation, education, healthcare, and safe and clean water. High level discussions with the new Government indicate these needs are understood.

Central to this is the effective management of government resources to invest in the expansion of public services. To this end, we are supporting the Council of Representatives Finance Committee to scrutinise public expenditure. We are also providing support to the centre of government to help the Government of Iraq's efforts on policy development and delivery. Recently a memorandum of understanding was agreed between the Ministry of Finance and the British Council/British Universities Iraq Consortium to send 50 Ministry staff to the UK for training as part of a larger Ministry programme to develop its staff skill base.

Working alongside the World Bank, the UK is helping the Government of Iraq to put in place reforms to make Iraq a better place to invest and do business, including via to public/private partnerships (PPP). The development of PPPs in Iraq will be important as a way of leveraging additional investment in public service delivery.

Development of the oil infrastructure is crucial to improvement of service delivery as Iraq obtains 90 per cent of its national expenditure from oil revenues. It is also key to the provision of electricity to the public and businesses, with the rationing of electricity currently necessary across Iraq. The UK and Iraq have set up a Joint Steering Group for Energy Sector Skills Development to create greater capacity in the Ministry of Oil, which will in turn allow the reform and revitalisation of the energy sector.

Specifically on education services, the UK provides support to higher education institutions in Iraq through the Development Partnerships in Higher Education (DeIPHE) project. This improves the quality of teaching practice via partnerships with UK and other institutions.

Iraq: Camp Ashraf

Questions

Asked by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale



4 Apr 2011 : Column WA330

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): On 16 March 2011, our embassy officials undertook a consular visit to Camp Ashraf to ascertain whether any residents required consular assistance. They did not visit medical facilities inside the camp, but did receive a small number of complaints relating to the medical facilities from the camp residents. They were passed to the UN.

We continue to raise concerns with the Iraqi Government and urge the Ashraf committee to ensure that the residents are treated in accordance with international humanitarian standards.

Asked by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

Lord Howell of Guildford: We are aware of reports from camp residents claiming that they have been denied access to medical care. UK representatives met the UN and the Iraqi Government's Ashraf committee on 20 February 2011, which stated that the residents of Camp Ashraf are given access to medical care and serious medical cases are referred to hospitals in Baghdad or Erbil in northern Iraq. During a consular visit to the camp on 16 March 2011, embassy officials also raised these reports from camp residents with the UN.

Our embassy in Baghdad will continue to urge the Ashraf committee to ensure that the Iraqi authorities treat the residents of Camp Ashraf in accordance with international humanitarian standards.

Israel

Questions

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We are aware of the case that the noble Lord raises. Dirar Abu Sisi is being detained at a prison in southern Israel.

Our embassy in Tel Aviv regularly raise human rights issues with the Government of Israel, including at senior level. This includes concerns about the application of due process and the treatment of Palestinian detainees.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

Lord Howell of Guildford: We support closer ties between Israel and the international community, including the EU. Negotiating the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance (ACAA) of Industrial Products with Israel was identified as a priority under

4 Apr 2011 : Column WA331

the 2005 Action Plan with Israel which is still current. Since Israel met the technical criteria for the ACAA we supported its conclusion. It was signed last year and now awaits the consent of the European Parliament.

However, we are clear on the wider relationship between the EU and Israel. The EU did not approve an upgrade to the EU-Israel Association agreement when it was discussed earlier this year. The EU, rightly, emphasised that an upgrade in the relationship must be set against the context of our shared interests and objectives, including progress on the Middle East peace process.

Israel and Palestine

Questions

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK is concerned about the number of children currently being held in Israeli prisons. We raise our concerns with the Israeli Government about the application of due process and the treatment of Palestinian detainees, including where children are involved, on a frequent basis. Most recently, our ambassador in Tel Aviv has raised the issue of Israel's treatment of Palestinian children with Education Minister Saar and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs's Principal Legal Adviser Daniel Taub.

As the noble Lord is aware, the Government are supporting a project run by Defence for Children International, to monitor, defend and promote the rights of Palestinian children, as protected under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The UK also supports No Legal Frontiers, which aims to ensure greater access to justice through the publication of Israeli laws and military orders in Hebrew, Arabic and English and to carry out advocacy work. No Legal Frontiers reports on the functioning of the juvenile military courts and provides legal defence for juvenile defendants.

Asked by Lord Hylton

Lord Howell of Guildford: We are aware of the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) report and concerned at reports of settler violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It is vital that the same level of protection be afforded to both Palestinians and Israelis.



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My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made our views clear in a statement on 25 March 2011 in which he said:

"I am extremely concerned at the escalating violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories over the past week. We have seen a surge in rockets and mortars launched at Israeli civilians from the Gaza strip. This is abhorrent. Three people have been injured, many more are living in fear. Six Palestinian civilians, including four children, have been killed as a result of Israeli actions in the Gaza strip. We have urged the Israeli Government to ensure everything is done to avoid further civilian casualties while calling for a complete end to attacks on Israel.

And we have seen the terrible sight-which we hoped belonged to the past-of a bomb at a bus station in Jerusalem. A British woman was killed and more than 30 injured. I condemn this attack in the strongest terms and call for those responsible to be held to account. Elsewhere, we have seen Israeli settlers opening fire on a Palestinian funeral procession, wounding two mourners. Also, another Palestinian was stabbed in an unprovoked attack.

We condemn the extremists who are instigating this violence and who are deliberately attempting to wreck the chances of peace. We call on all sides to do all that they can to prevent further loss of innocent life, to bring the perpetrators to justice and to reduce current tensions".

We will continue to monitor the situation and raise our concerns with the Government of Israel.

Israel and Palestine: West Bank

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford):The Israeli Government and the quartet representative announced a package of confidence-building measures in February 2011 which included an Israeli agreement to fast-track plans for construction of schools and health clinics in Area C. Implementation is now key. We also want to see this agreement extended to allow new housing in Area C to accommodate the growth of the Palestinian population.

As the noble Lord is aware, we are concerned at the level of demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem and Area C and continue to lobby hard on these issues. We view any attempts to change facts on the ground as a serious provocation likely to raise tensions, cause unnecessary suffering and damage the peace process.

Landmines

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark



4 Apr 2011 : Column WA333

Baroness Verma: The UK provides assistance for mine clearance and related activities to the following countries: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cambodia, Laos, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Mozambique and Vietnam.

The UK is also responsible for mine clearance in the Falkland Islands.

Law Reform: Civil Litigation Costs

Questions

Asked by Lord Knight of Weymouth

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally):Reforming Civil Litigation Funding and Costs in England and Wales-Implementation of Lord Justice Jackson's Recommendations: The Government Response was published on 29 March 2011, setting out the way forward on the proposals following full consultation. An updated impact assessment was published alongside this response.

Asked by Lord Knight of Weymouth

Lord McNally:Reforming Civil Litigation Funding and Costs in England and Wales-Implementation of Lord Justice Jackson's Recommendations: The Government Response was published on 29 March 2011, setting out the way forward after full consultation.

Under the package of reforms the Government are implementing, I believe that claimants will continue to receive a reasonable level of compensation. The package includes a number of measures to help ensure this including: a 10 per cent increase in non-pecuniary general damages such as pain, suffering and loss of amenity for claimants including those involved in serious road traffic accident cases, and a cap of 25 per cent on the amount of general damages that may be taken by lawyers as a success fee. Special damages for future care and loss are specifically protected from being taken by the lawyer as a success fee.

Libya

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton



4 Apr 2011 : Column WA334

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): In current circumstances, it is not practical to establish humanitarian corridors for those wishing to leave Libya. However, the UK, through the Department for International Development has provided extensive logistic support for foreign workers leaving Libya, including paying for flights to secure the return home of 6,716 people from Tunisia to Egypt and Bangladesh. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development announced last week additional support to the International Organisation for Migration for a further 6,000 people.

Marine Conservation: Sharks

Question

Asked by Baroness Parminter

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): Defra's statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs)-the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Natural England (NE)-have established four regional marine conservation zone (MCZ) projects (Balanced Seas, Finding Sanctuary, Irish Seas Conservation Zones and Net Gain) to identify potential MCZ sites. Each project has established stakeholder groups made up of a variety of key stakeholders in their regions to examine the evidence and put forward site recommendations and associated impact assessments.

The regional MCZ projects submitted their third draft reports of recommendations on site locations and conservation objectives to the independent Science Advisory Panel (SAP) at the end of February. The SAP is due to provide views on each of the project draft reports at the end of March. Achieving these milestones is an important step towards meeting the 2012 commitment to designate MCZs.

The UK is leading the way on the protection of sharks domestically and in Europe, as well as internationally, through conservation and fisheries management bodies. All the Government's work is guided by the strong national conservation plan that they have developed specifically for shark, skate and ray species.

Due to their vulnerability, the Government have worked hard, and will continue to do so, to ensure that appropriate limits are set on the numbers of sharks that can be caught, wherever this catch takes place, and for total bans on catching endangered species.

The Government negotiated successfully in Europe to see endangered shark species in UK waters protected, and are now carrying out detailed scientific research on these species to identify how to protect and manage them even more effectively in the future.



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Furthermore, the Government have already taken the strong and proactive decision to ban UK vessels from removing fins from sharks at sea. All UK vessels now have to land sharks with fins naturally attached-a measure that will prevent shark finning. The Government want this to be the case for all vessels worldwide and so are working hard to make sure EU legislation is amended accordingly, while continuing to seek international agreement on the issue.

Mental Health Act

Question

Asked by Lord Avebury

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Government have issued no specific guidelines on the procedures to be followed when the mother of a breastfeeding infant is compulsorily detained under the Mental Health Act. The decision to detain the mother is one for the professionals involved, as is the decision about whether the baby should be accommodated in hospital with her. The appropriate approach will depend on the particular circumstances of the case. Paragraph 4.88 of the Code of Practice to the Mental Health Act 1983 in England says:

"Before making an application (for detention under the Mental Health Act) AMHPs (approved mental health professionals) should ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place for the immediate care of any dependent children the patient may have and any adults who rely on the patient for care. Their needs should already have been considered as part of the assessment".

A copy of the code of practice has been placed in the Library.

Mongolia

Question

Asked by Viscount Waverley

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My honourable friend Jeremy Browne, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister with responsibility for the Far East, plans to visit Mongolia this year. The dates and programme of his proposed visit are to be confirmed. A high-level trade mission will accompany an All-Party Parliamentary Group from the House of Lords and House of Commons to Mongolia from 19 to 26 May 2011.



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National Probation Service: Contractors

Questions

Asked by Lord Dubs

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Contracts with Amey and Interserve FM Ltd were placed in June 2008 by the Home Office. The contractors provide maintenance and repairs, cleaning and other facilities management services to the probation estate, including approved premises.

Information on how much each company was paid annually since 2006 is not held centrally and could be collated only at disproportionate cost. The following table shows the amounts paid between 2008-09 and 2010-11 for the services provided.

Company2008-092009-102010-11

Amey Business Services

£14,131,344

£17,348,194

£18,442,576

Interserve FM Ltd

£21,408,247

£21,894,114

£20,489,855

All figures exclude VAT.

Information on the number of complaints received about the standard of work under maintenance contracts for probation facilities between 2006 and 2008 is not held centrally and could be collated only at disproportionate cost. The following table details the number of complaints received about the standard of work under the current facilities management contracts since June 2008:

YearTotal

June-December 2008

79

2009

192

2010

272

Up to 25 March 2011

71

Total

614

The number of complaints is 0.3 per cent of all work orders.

Northern Ireland Office

Question

Asked by Lord Laird



4 Apr 2011 : Column WA337

Lord Shutt of Greetland: The following letter between the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) during March 2011 will be placed in the Library of the House:

Letter dated 22 March 2011 from NIO to the NIHRC Director.

Further correspondence between the NIO and NIHRC during March 2011 has not been released because this relates to discussions about funding that remain ongoing.

Nuclear Research

Question

Asked by Lord Jenkin of Roding

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Commission presented proposals for a Euratom framework programme for nuclear research and training activities for 2012-13 at the Competitiveness Council on 9 March.

The UK representative welcomed the proposals and wanted to see rapid progress towards agreeing them in council. The UK representative added it would be important to ensure sufficient funding on JET was made available for 2012-13 and that progress on putting in place contractual arrangements for JET funding in 2012 should begin without delay.

The presidency said it would facilitate swift progress on adoption of the Euratom framework programme proposals. In respect of progress on ITER, there was recognition of the need to work with the European Parliament to reach a decision on additional funding for ITER.

Overseas Aid

Question

Asked by The Lord Bishop of Exeter

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We do not hold a central record of expenditure on such activity and so it is not possible to give a precise figure of how much the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) spent on monitoring religious freedom overseas in 2010-11.

In 2011-12 the FCO will have a centrally-held £5 million Human Rights and Democracy Fund dedicated specifically to supporting human rights projects. We will fund projects that focus on a number of priority areas, including freedom of religion or belief. These allocations have not yet been finalised.



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Pakistan

Question

Asked by Lord Lea of Crondall

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My honourable friend the Minister for South Asia, Alistair Burt, raised religious freedoms, including the treatment of Christians in Pakistan with Pakistan's former Minister for Minorities Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti in January this year. My noble friend the right honourable Lady Warsi also raised these issues with the Speaker of the Pakistan Parliament on 17 January 2011. Following Mr Bhatti's murder, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister wrote to express his condolences to President Zardari. My honourable friend the Minister for South Asia, made a statement condemning his killing, alongside my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and my noble friend the right honourable Lady Warsi.

The UK's aid programme makes an important contribution to supporting efforts to tackle discrimination in Pakistan, as part of our overall commitment to promoting human rights. The Department for International Development monitors events on the ground in Pakistan and works to ensure the Government can respond to a deteriorating human rights situation or specific events that may arise. We will continue to engage with the authorities in Pakistan on this issue.

Pensions

Questions

Asked by Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): Between 1948 and April 2010, state pension was paid in advance and only for full benefit weeks (seven days), from the first Monday on or after the date on which the person reached state pension age. In April 2010, for people moving from a working age benefit to a pension age benefit, state pension became payable for less than a week to cover any gap caused by benefit pay days being different from state pension pay days, to ensure continuity of payment.

In all other circumstances (for instance, for those in work or not in receipt of benefit) state pension continues to be paid only for full benefit weeks, and is now paid in arrears with the pay day determined by the person's national insurance number.



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It is estimated that in 2011-12 the number of people in the UK who will reach state pension age is 541,000 (372,000 men and 169,000 women). Of these it is estimated that 148,000 people (93,000 men and 54,000 women) will move to state pension from a working age benefit and so will not be affected by this rule as they will receive a part-week payment. There is no estimate of how many of the remainder might be affected. The maximum loss would be six-sevenths of an individual's weekly state pension entitlement.

Asked by Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay

Lord Freud: No one receives state pension before they reach their state pension age. State pension cannot be paid for any day on which the person does not meet the qualifying conditions, in particular the condition that they have reached state pension age.

Once a person reaches state pension age, their pension will generally be paid in arrears from the first full benefit week after that date, with the payment day determined by their national insurance number. However, for people moving from a working age benefit to a pension age benefit, state pension is payable for less than a week to cover any gap caused by benefit pay days being different from state pension pay days, to ensure continuity of payment.

Retail: Prices

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): Regulation 4 of the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 (BPRs) sets out the conditions under which comparative advertising is permitted. Among other things this requires that promotional claims regarding price comparisons with rival groups are not misleading under the BPRs or the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). Misleading price comparisons are enforceable through criminal prosecutions and civil (injunctive) action by the Office of Fair Trading and local authority trading standards services.

In addition, for misleading advertisements across all media, including marketing on websites, there is a well established and effective system of self and co-regulation. It is the responsibility of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ensure compliance with the advertising codes which require advertisements and sales promotions to be legal, decent, honest and

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truthful and prepared with a sense of responsibility to both consumers and society. The ASA adjudicates on a large number of complaints each year and publishes regular reports on action taken.

Rome: British Embassies

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Since 2005 our embassies to the Republic of Italy and to the Holy See have been co-located, in separate buildings, on the UK's Porta Pia compound in Rome. This co-location was made necessary by security concerns. However, it has also enabled certain efficiency savings to be made, principally on support services. As is the case throughout the diplomatic network, our two embassies in Rome will continue to work to provide a high quality service as efficiently as possible.

Terrorism: Proscribed Organisations

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan) (PKK) was proscribed by the UK in 2001. The status of all proscribed organisations is kept under regular review but it is not government policy to comment on whether any particular organisation will be proscribed or deproscribed.

UK Bill of Rights

Questions

Asked by Lord Faulks

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The commission on a bill of rights has the following terms of reference:

"The Commission will investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in UK law, and protects and extend our liberties. It will examine the operation and implementation of these obligations, and consider ways to promote a better understanding of the true scope of these obligations and liberties.

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It should provide interim advice to the Government on the ongoing Interlaken process to reform the Strasbourg court ahead of and following the UK's chairmanship of the Council of Europe. It should consult, including with the public, judiciary and devolved Administrations and legislatures, and aim to report no later than by the end of 2012".

It will be for the commission to determine how it will fulfil these terms of reference.

Asked by Baroness Blood

Lord McNally: The Government intend to consult the commission before taking decisions on the proposed advisory panel. An announcement on the membership and role of the advisory panel will be made in due course.

UK Trade Missions

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint): UK Trade and Investment funds national and regional outward trade missions which give companies the opportunity to visit overseas markets as part of a UK delegation. Sector and regional teams based in the UK work with the global network of overseas posts (covering 96 markets) and private sector specialists to deliver missions and events that best showcase UK capability and match UK strengths with identified opportunities and trade partners overseas. In 2010-11, 246 such missions took place, helping around 3,000 UK participants. A number of grants towards the associated travel costs are also available to eligible SMEs through the market visit support facility. In addition to trade missions, UKTI also runs the Tradeshow Access Programme, which provides new to export SMEs with grant support towards the cost of exhibiting at overseas exhibitions. In 2010-11, over 4,100 grants of between £1,000 and £1,800 have been awarded through the scheme to UK SMEs.

Water Supply: Pipe Leakage

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark



4 Apr 2011 : Column WA342

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): Ofwat, the economic regulator of the water and sewerage sectors, monitors water company leakage levels and publishes the figures in its annual service and delivery report. A copy of the latest report is available in the Library of the House.

Ofwat has had a number of discussions with water companies about leakage since May 2010. When companies fail to meet leakage targets, Ofwat reviews the reasons for the failure and identifies appropriate actions.

The Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries discusses progress on leakage rates with water companies as and when he meets them.

Yemen

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

Baroness Verma: The Department for International Development is keeping its programme under review in light of recent developments in Yemen. The UK does not provide financial assistance to or through the Government of Yemen.

Zimbabwe

Question

Asked by Lord Avebury

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The EU, including in its capacity as chair of the Kimberley Process (KP) Working Group on Monitoring (WGM), was among the first to express both to the Democratic Republic of Congo Chair and wider KP participants, that the recent authorisation to trade Marange diamonds cannot be considered valid or applicable as it is outside the mandate of the chair and contrary to the core KP principle of consensual decision-making.

The EU also expressed concerns about the uncertainty it creates for KP participants, the diamond industry and consumers, and urged the chair to clarify the situation as a matter of urgency. To this end, the EU has also contacted the chairs of the other KP working groups and is taking steps to organise an emergency meeting of the WGM to discuss the issue as a matter of urgency.


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