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To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the new system for providing interpreters and translators yet applies to the UK Border Agency (a) in respect of initial and substantive interviews for asylum seekers with inadequate command of English, and (b) for oral hearings before asylum and immigration courts or tribunals; if not, when they expect it to do so; and whether they will keep the quality of interpretation under review.[HL13027]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): Although the Home Office has awarded the contract for face-to-face interpreting services to thebigword, the UK Border Agency is not using the contract for the provision of interpreter services for asylum interviews. The UK Border Agency will review this position in the next financial year and will continue to monitor the quality of the interpretation service that it provides to asylum seekers.
Interpreters for asylum and immigration tribunals are booked by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS). New arrangements for the provision of interpreters and translators services to HMCTS are to be introduced soon under a Ministry of Justice framework agreement.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what information they have received concerning those held in prison in Bahrain following recent protests and demonstrations; and whether they will assess the extent to which such persons will be accorded due process.[HL13242]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We are aware that many people remain in prison following protests in Bahrain earlier this year. We urge the Bahraini authorities to deal with these cases quickly and in a fair and transparent manner.
His Majesty King Hamad established the Independent Commission of Inquiry to look into human rights abuse during the unrest; this is likely to include examining allegations of the mistreatment of protestors. The commission is due to publish its findings on 23 November. We urge the Government of Bahrain to respond positively with effective implementation of reforms.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Sassoon on 1 November (WA 224-5), whether HM Treasury Ministers or officials have received copies of any minutes of a meeting of the Court of the Bank of England since May 2010; and, if so, which meetings, when those were received, and from whom.[HL13257]
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Sassoon on 1 November (WA 225), how they ensure that the Court of the Bank of England is effective as the governing body of the Bank.[HL13258]
Lord Sassoon: Her Majesty's Government ensure that the Court of the Bank of England is effective through a robust appointment process for members of the court and through maintaining close contact with the Governor of the Bank and with the chairman of the court. The court is accountable to Parliament through the Treasury Select Committee, which has recently published the findings of its inquiry into the accountability of the Bank of England. The Government will consider the report carefully and respond in due course.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will commission an independent review of the Bank of England's record on forecasting for economic growth compared with that of other forecasters; and whether they will commission an audit of the Bank of England's processes to determine whether there are in-built biases that overestimate growth and under-estimate inflation.[HL13390]
Lord Sassoon: Her Majesty's Government have no plans to commission an independent review of the Bank of England's record on forecasting for economic growth or an audit of the Bank of England's processes.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether progress was made at the G20 meeting in Cannes on the promotion of resolution, or living will, plans for banks; and, if so, what was the nature of that progress, and what are the implications for United Kingdom banks.[HL13183]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): In the final declaration of the G20 Cannes summit, members endorsed the Financial Stability Board's (FSB) comprehensive policy framework which included a new international standard for resolution regimes.1 This included requirements for recovery and resolution planning (RRPs), together with the development of other resolution tools2 such as bail-in.
Under the agreement, UK-incorporated G-SIFIs will be expected to have in place a recovery and resolution plan containing all of the elements set out in annexe III of the FSB's Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for Financial Institutions paper.4 We look forward to the EU Commission's proposals on bank recovery and resolution and their coherency with the FSB's resolution recommendations.
UK authorities (the Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and HM Treasury) have already conducted a pilot project on RRPs involving the six largest UK banks. In August 2011, the FSA published a consultation paper, setting out the proposed requirements for RRPs that will apply to all UK banks, building societies and certain large investment firms. This consultation closed on 9 November 2011.
1 See page 6 of the Cannes Summit Final Declaration: http://www.g20.org/Documents2011/11/Cannes% 20Declaration%204%20November%/0202011.pdf
2 See page 1 of the FSB's Policy Measures to Address Systemically Important Financial Institutions: http://www. financialstabilityboard.org/publications/r_111104bb.pdf
3 See page 9 of the FSB's Overview of Progress in the Implementation of the G20 Recommendations for Strengthening Financial Stability: http://www.financialstabilityboard.org/publications/r_111104gg.pdf
4 See page 5 of the FSB's Key Attributes paper: http://www. financialstabilityboard.org/publications/r_111104cc.pdf.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether the arrangements for segregating client funds from those of advisers, investment managers, banks and broker dealers are effective, in the light of the failure of MF Global and its subsidiaries; and whether the Financial Services Authority intends to devote more resources to this risk area.[HL13184]
Any future reassessment of the arrangements for segregating client funds would be a matter for the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which has recently established a client asset specialist unit to help ensure the UK regulatory regime delivers adequate protection of client funds.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government have issued no instructions to the banks to reduce cheque clearing times. The Government do not intervene in the day-to-day running of the banks, in which they have an interest.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Sassoon on 31 October (WA 192), whether it remains their policy to levy on private United Kingdom financial services institutions any shortfall between what may be recovered and the £0.8 billion owing to HM Treasury after repayment of deposit balances above £50,000 in the failed Icelandic bank Landsbanki.[HL13139]
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Sassoon on 31 October (WA 192), whether and how they intend to levy on the United Kingdom financial services sector the shortfall of the unrecovered amount of compensation
21 Nov 2011 : Column WA177
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): In November 2008, following the Financial Services Authority's announcement that the UK branch of Landsbanki was in default, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) began payouts to UK depositors with Icesave. The FSCS made payments of approximately £4.5 billion to UK depositors in Icesave. These payments were made up of three different tranches:£2.3 billion for deposit balances up to €20,887 (£16,872) which should have been paid by the Icelandic Depositors and Investor Guarantee Fund (DIGF);£1.4 billion for deposit balances above £16,872 and below £50,000, for which the FSCS is liable; and£0.8 billion for deposit balances above £50,000, for which HM Treasury is liable.
We expect full recovery of the £2.3 billion for which Iceland is liable. The FSCS will levy the financial services industry for any shortfall in recoveries of the £1.4 billion, for which the FSCS is liable.
Recoveries on the £0.8 billion payment for deposit balances above £50,000 will be determined by the returns from the Landsbanki administration. HM Treasury does not have the power to levy the financial services industry for any shortfall between what may be recovered from the Landsbanki administration and the £0.8 billion owed to HM Treasury. HM Treasury will be liable for any shortfall.
The FSCS has a claim of approximately £4.5 billion in the Landsbanki estate. This includes Iceland's liability. Further information on the Landsbanki administration can be found via the following web link: http://www.lbi.is/.
To ask Her Majesty's Government by how much the value of the taxpayer's investment in Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland has fallen since May 2010; and whether they judge current market conditions to be suitable for the sale of Northern Rock.[HL13308]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government do not routinely value either Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) or Lloyds Banking Group (LBG). This information is already publicly available from a wide variety of sources.
The Government do, however, estimate the value of their shareholdings in these banks. The most recent official estimate of the value of the Government's shareholdings in RBS and LBG is contained in the Treasury's resource accounts for 2010-11, which show that the value of these holdings as at the end of March 2011 was £55.3 billion.
The Office for Budget Responsibility also publishes an estimate of the expected net overall cost of the financial sector interventions, which includes details of the value of the Government's shareholdings in RBS and LBG. The next publication of this estimate will be on 29 November as part of its Economic and Fiscal Outlook.
The Chancellor announced the sale of Northern Rock plc today (17 November). A press notice can be found via the following web link: http://www.hm-treasury. gov.uk/press_129_11.htm.
The Government are satisfied that the sale of Northern Rock plc to Virgin Money generates the best value for the public purse and represents an important first step in returning state-owned banks to the private sector. Further, the sale to Virgin Money will create a new credible competitor in the UK retail banking sector and, in doing so, will increase choice for customers.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the answer by the Prime Minister on 9 November (Official Report, Commons, col. 280), how they will be "making our views known" on unacceptable bonus payments at Royal Bank of Scotland. [HL13310]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government's shareholding in Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is managed on a commercial and arm's-length basis by UK Financial Investments Ltd (UKFI), a company which is wholly owned by the Government.
UKFI engages with the bank as a shareholder to ensure that remuneration incentives are designed to promote long-term sustainable performance. UKFI also seeks to ensure that RBS is at the leading edge of implementing the updated Financial Services Authority (FSA) remuneration code. The Government are determined that taxpayers' investment in the banking system is recovered and, therefore, RBS must be able to attract and retain staff in order to protect and create value for the taxpayer. The Government believe that the remuneration policies strike the right balance.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether bank lending data under Project Merlin, as published by the Bank of England, are collected and produced according to the Bank's Statistical Code of Practice; and, if not, what are the implications of this for the reliance that can be placed on the data.[HL13255]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): As the Bank of England make clear, the Project Merlin data that it collects are not gathered under the Bank's Statistical Code of Practice. However, the governor stated that the Bank would perform a "light plausibility check" on the data.
Lord Sassoon: The Merlin agreement states that, "the five banks have agreed to make available the appropriate capital and resources to support gross new lending to UK businesses, including the capacity noted above for UK small and medium sized businesses, of £190 billion, should sufficient demand materialise." However, these five banks have also "agreed to aim to foster more demand".
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 12 October (WA 235-6), whether the meeting between the Highways Agency and Natural England on the future of building bridges for bats over roads has taken place; and whether they will in future evaluate the cost-effectiveness of bat bridges in the context of constraints on public spending.[HL13078]
Earl Attlee: The meeting between the Highways Agency and Natural England, also attended by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Welsh Government and Countryside Council for Wales took place on 10 November 2011. Constraint on public spending is, and will continue to be, a key consideration in decisions made on what mitigation is provided on agency projects.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the film, broadcasting, and entertainment industries will have sufficient access to wireless spectrum for radio microphone and radio camera use in the next five years. [HL13172]
Baroness Rawlings: The matter raised is an operational one for the independent regulator, Ofcom, rather than Ministers. Accordingly, officials at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have spoken to Ofcom, which advises:
"We set out our decisions on future spectrum access for programme-making and special events (including wireless microphones and cameras) in a statement on 31 August 2010, available on our website at http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/ bandmanager09/statement/statement310810.pdf".
To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they have made in implementing the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, highlighted by the report of the Children's Rights Alliance for England.[HL13019]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): In a Written Ministerial Statement on 6 December 2010, the Government gave a commitment to "give due consideration to the UNCRC articles when making new policy and legislation". We are using the UN committee's 2008 concluding observations as a reference point for where we can make progress.
This year marks the halfway point between the UN Committee's concluding observations from 2008 and the Government's next report to the UN Committee due in 2014. It will not be possible to implement all of the UN Committee's recommendations, but we want to make further progress in ways that will bring about the greatest benefits for children. We will listen to views from the children's commissioner and organisations in the civil society in deciding on our next steps.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, in view of the fact that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is categorised by the World Health Organisation's mandatory International Categorisation of Diseases as a neurological disease, why Department for Work and Pensions guidelines define CFS/ME as "an illness that is characterised by physical and mental fatigue and fatigability". [HL13264]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): DWP guidance does state that "The term chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is used to describe an illness that is
21 Nov 2011 : Column WA182
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the Equality and Human Rights Commission about the impact of spending cuts on local community relations and equality councils. [HL13288]
Baroness Verma: The Government Equalities Office, as the sponsor body for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has regular discussions with the Commission on many aspects of government policy, including the economy and the impact of spending decisions on community relations and equality groups.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many local community relations and equality councils were in receipt of grant funding by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and local authorities in each of the past three years for which figures are available.[HL13289]
Baroness Verma: The Equality and Human Rights Commission operate at arm's length from government. Based on information provided by the commission, the following table shows the number of local community relations and equality councils funded by the commission in each of the past three years.
Government do not record the number of local community relations and equality councils that are grant funded by local authorities. This information is not held or collated centrally and grant payments to these bodies are a matter for local authorities.
|Year||Number of organisations|
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Sassoon on 9 November (WA 49), whether HM Treasury or the Financial Services Authority have reviewed the criteria and processes used by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association in determining a credit event and the reliance that can be placed on credit default swaps in calculating net risk-weighted assets of United Kingdom banks.[HL13307]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The procedures to be followed by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association Determinations Committee, in determining whether a credit event has occurred, are industry standards. They are established by the members of the credit derivatives industry upon their own initiative. The procedures and all decisions of the Determinations Committee are publically available and open to scrutiny.
Credit Default Swaps can be used to reduce a firm's risk weighted assets when they are deemed to be effective protection against the underlying risks. There are specific criteria that set out what constitutes effective protection in the banking book. These are determined by the European capital requirements directive which the UK has implemented. Only when these criteria are met can Credit Default Swaps be relied upon to reduce risk weighted assets.
The Home Office is keen to explore and promote the use of all effective crime prevention measures, including forensic property marking products, although the use of such products is the decision of the property owner.
More widely, the Forum for Innovation in Crime Prevention, working with Materials UK and wider materials and design communities, is actively involved in the search for technical solutions to help reduce crime.
Lord Henley: The Home Office is keen to explore and promote the use of all effective crime prevention measures, including forensic property-marking products, although the use of such products is the decision of the property owner.
More widely, the Forum for Innovation in Crime Prevention, working with Materials UK and wider materials and design communities, is actively involved in the search for technical solutions to help reduce crime.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): The Home Office believes that some scrap metal yards are a disposal route for stolen metal. Discussions are under way across government on whether legislative changes are needed to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 to tackle metal theft.
Lord Henley: The Home Office supports the wide-ranging plan being delivered by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) metal theft working group to tackle metal theft, including the theft from public buildings and memorials. Discussions are under way across government on whether legislative changes are needed to tackle metal theft.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to ensure that the new Payments Council system for switching current accounts will allow personal customers to refuse to allow the sharing of their personal data and transaction details beyond that required by law.[HL13316]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Payments Council's new service for switching bank accounts will maintain existing high
21 Nov 2011 : Column WA185
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have raised with the interim Government of Egypt (a) the duration of emergency law, (b) the possibility of a review by normal criminal courts of sentences passed by military tribunals, (c) freedom of expression for individuals and the media, and (d) freedom to organise and take part in strikes; and, if so, what responses they have received.[HL13320]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We regularly discuss our concerns about human rights issues in Egypt with the Egyptian authorities. We have repeatedly called on the Egyptian authorities to end the state of emergency. Both the Prime Minister, my right honourable friend the member for Witney (Mr Cameron) and the Foreign Secretary, my right honourable friend the member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) did so during their visits to Egypt in February and May, respectively. Most recently the Deputy Prime Minister, my right honourable friend the member for Sheffield Hallam (Mr Clegg) raised human rights issues with the Egyptian Prime Minister during his visit to Egypt on 20 October.
On 7 October the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my honourable friend the member for North East Bedfordshire (Mr Burt) issued a statement expressing our serious concerns about the treatment of Maikel Nabil Sanad, an Egyptian blogger sentenced to three years imprisonment in April by an Egyptian military court. He also stated the British Government's view that freedom of expression, including freedom of the media and the ability for citizens to debate issues and challenge their Governments, is fundamental to building a democratic society. The Deputy Prime Minister also raised this case during his October visit. Mr Burt's statement also highlighted our concern about the trials of civilians in military courts and the Foreign Secretary raised this issue when he visited Egypt in May.
Mr Burt raised our concerns about new Egyptian laws to outlaw protests and strikes with the Egyptian Finance Minister in March. The Egyptian authorities have indicated that they will reform labour law.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has made regarding the concerns raised by the sudden halting of the GRNOPC1 trial in the
21 Nov 2011 : Column WA186
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The decision to halt the GRNOPCI trial was made by the sponsoring company on commercial grounds and not based on any concerns related to the safety or efficacy of the stem cell product being tested in the trial. There are no implications for the trial under way at Moorfields Eye Hospital testing embryonic stem cells in Stargardt's Disease.
Lord Howell of Guildford: Our assessment of Eritrea's compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1907 mirrors the findings of the report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea published in July 2011. The Monitoring Group report describes apparent continued support to individuals linked to al-Shabaab and condemns Eritrea's alleged involvement in the bomb plot to disrupt the African Union summit in Addis Ababa. These allegations are extremely worrying. We welcome steps taken by Eritrea and Djibouti to resolve their border dispute, mediated by Qatar, and encourage talks to continue.
The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) has recently issued draft proposals regarding the European Commission's call for advice on technical options for applying elements of Solvency II capital requirements under the institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORP) directive.
Given the potentially serious effects this would have on UK defined benefit pension schemes, the Government will be considering the proposals carefully and pressing EIOPA to produce a full impact assessment for its proposals.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have a veto over any proposal for a financial transaction tax under Article 311 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; and whether they will use such a veto if a financial transaction tax is formally proposed.[HL13305]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Commission has put forward a proposal to introduce a financial transaction tax under Article 113 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Proposals put forward under Article 113 require unanimity in the Council of Ministers, giving the UK Government a veto over any such proposal. The Government oppose a European financial transaction tax.
In addition, the Commission has put forward a proposal under Article 311 to use revenues from its proposed financial transaction tax to part-fund the EU budget. Article 311 also requires unanimity in the Council of Ministers, giving the UK Government a veto over any such proposal. The Government oppose any new taxes to fund the EU budget.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the purpose and latest position of the European Union Gendarmerie Force; how many police are in training, from which countries, and where; and whether they will authorise the use of its services in the United Kingdom.[HL13292]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): There have been no European Gendarmerie Force (EGF) personnel deployed in the UK and the Government currently see no circumstances in which they would consent to an EGF operation in the UK. The EGF is a multinational initiative of six countries (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Romania) aimed at improving crisis management capability in sensitive areas and supporting peacekeeping missions around the world. The UK does not participate in this initiative.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether Professor Declan Murphy's original evidential medical report relating to Gary McKinnon has been submitted and accepted in its entirety for consideration by the Home Secretary.[HL12934]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): Professor Murphy's report is one of a number of reports that my right honourable friend, the Home Secretary, has received about Mr McKinnon. These are all being considered as part of her assessment as to whether extradition to the United States is consistent with Mr McKinnon's human rights.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to review the arrangements under which the margin triggers on Italian and French sovereign bonds traded in London and cleared through LCH.Clearnet are established by entities under the supervision of French regulators.[HL13309]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): London based LCH.Clearnet.Ltd and its Paris-based sister clearing house LCH.Clearnet SA are wholly owned subsidiaries of the holding company LCH.Clearnet Group Limited but they operate independently of each other.
LCH.Clearnet Ltd is a recognised clearing house and is lead regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Bank of England. The FSA supervises LCH.Clearnet Ltd, including its risk management policies and operations, on a close and continuous basis.
LCH.Clearnet SA is based in Paris. It is lead regulated by the French authorities but it also holds a recognised overseas clearing house (ROCH) license in the UK. As is intended under the ROCH regime, the FSA places reliance on the home state supervision of LCH.Clearnet SA for day-to-day regulation of this clearing house.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The findings of the Kay review will be presented in its final report, due to be published in the summer of 2012. The Government will respond appropriately once the final report has been published.
Baroness Wilcox: In June 2011, the Secretary of State for Business commissioned Professor John Kay to undertake an independent review to examine investment in UK equity markets and its impact on the long-term performance and governance of publicly traded UK companies. The review will consider a variety of issues, including investor oversight and shareholder engagement in listed companies, and will report in summer 2012.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what were the costs associated with revising and re-branding the former Money Made Clear website as the Money Advice Service website on 4 April 2011, including staff costs.[HL13322]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Money Advice Service enhanced and rebranded its web offering prior to its launch in April 2011. This included consolidating its previous websites (the Consumer Financial Education Body website and the Money Made Clear website) on a single platform under the Money Advice Service brand. The Money Advice Service states that the new website includes enhanced features, resulting in improved user experience, accessibility, speed and search engine performance.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): Discards are a clear waste of natural resources, disruptive to marine ecosystems and ethically undesirable. The UK is seeking fundamental reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to minimise this wasteful practice, but we are also taking action now to cut discards and to gather the necessary evidence to reform the CFP.
The UK has run successful trials to test catch quota (CQ) management on North Sea cod in 2010, and extended these trials in 2011 to include Western Channel sole. CO is designed to measure quota uptake at point of capture rather than counting uptake by landings.
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We are also conducting a wide range of work to improve the selectivity of fishing gear, with the aim of getting fishermen to catch less unwanted fish in the first place. These include initiatives in the Irish Sea and the south-west (Project 50 per cent).
Following the Commission's proposals for reform of the CFP, from next year we will also aim to undertake discard ban trials to understand how a landing obligation can work in practice. These will be supported by studies on the survivability rates of certain species if they are discarded.
In addition, the UK's Fishing for the Market project was aimed at the market side of the industry and sought to increase consumer demand for underutilised, sustainable species that are often discarded. Defra is currently considering how recommendations can be taken forward in partnership with members of the seafood industry.
Businesses that are at risk of being used by criminals to launder money are subject to the money laundering regulations, which require them to have policies and procedures in place to detect and deter money laundering and to report any suspicions to the Serious Organised Crime Agency. They are supervised for their compliance by one of the 28 supervising authorities. For businesses that are supervised by a public sector supervising authority, supervision normally involves registration, the provision of guidance supplemented by a programme of inspections and enforcement action against non-compliant businesses.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is the supervisor of some of the highest risk businesses in Northern Ireland and is developing an intelligence-led and risk-based approach to ensuring effective compliance with the money laundering regulations.
In addition, the Government undertook a thorough review of the money laundering regulations in 2009-10. While this concluded that they were broadly effective and proportionate, the Government have consulted on specific proposals to improve the regulations. These include increasing the powers available to HMRC to help it prevent non-compliant businesses from operating and to apply a robust fit and proper test for individuals seeking to run a high-risk business. Any changes will be announced in 2012.
Lord Howell of Guildford: Following the Israeli air strikes on Gaza and the rocket attacks by Palestinian militant groups on Israel, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my honourable friend the member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne), issued the following statement on 29 October: "Today's escalation in violence is deeply unhelpful. We call for all sides to exercise restraint. We condemn any actions that target innocent civilians".
Our policy on Hamas is clear: the quartet have set out clearly that Hamas must renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept previously signed agreements. Hamas must make credible movement towards these conditions, which remain the benchmark against which its intentions should be judged. The clear focus for now must be a return to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians as soon as possible.
Lord Howell of Guildford: Since 2006 Hamas has been in effective control of Gaza. Hamas maintains the largest militia and benefits from profits from the illegal tunnel trade. Hamas therefore has significant influence over other militant groups and the onus is on it to prevent terrorist attacks in those areas where it exercises de facto authority.
Following the rocket attacks on southern Israel launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad on 26 October -1 November and the consequent international condemnation, we understand Hamas exerted efforts to persuade all militant groups to comply with a ceasefire, which has held since then.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency concerning the strike by schoolteachers in United Nations schools following the suspension of a head teacher for sharing a platform with Hamas, the governing party in Gaza. [HL13247]
Lord Howell of Guildford: Representatives from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) will be visiting the Foreign and Commonwealth Office this week, when we expect the issue of the strike by schoolteachers in United Nations schools will be discussed.
To ask Her Majesty's Government on what date (a) genetically modified mosquito eggs were exported for open release in Panama; (b) Panama was notified of that export; and (c) the export notification was sent to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; and whether they will place a copy of the export notification documents, including the risk assessment, in the Library of the House. [HL13525]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): We understand that the shipment of GM mosquito eggs to Panama has been for contained use purposes only. We therefore do not hold any associated documentation or detail about the export.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether any (a) Ministers, (b) special advisers, or (c) officials, in the Home Office use private email accounts for dealing with matters of Government business. [HL12542]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): The Ministerial Code, the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers, and the Civil Service Code set out how Ministers, officials and special advisers within the Home Office should conduct government business.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what advice is given to (a) Ministers, (b) special advisers and (c) officials, in the Home Office about the use of private email accounts for dealing with matters of Government business.[HL12543]
Lord Henley: The Ministerial Code, the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers, and the Civil Service Code set out the standards of conduct that is expected of Ministers, officials and special advisers in the way that they conduct government business.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Treasury has in place robust processes for monitoring, managing and mitigating internal and external risks. Our risk management framework monitors economic, fiscal and operational risks centrally and ensures that these risks are discussed at the Treasury Board, its sub-committee and the Executive Management Board.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what measures are in place to ensure that dying individuals who do not have an advance care plan, which should ensure that their end-of-life wishes are discussed and recorded, are identified and receive good quality end-of-life care.[HL13363]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Government have confirmed their commitment to improving quality and choice in palliative and end-of-life care for all patients in the National Health Service White Paper, Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS.
The strategy sets out an end-of-life care pathway which begins with identifying people as they approach the end of life and then planning, with them and their family if possible, for their future care. This can include advance care planning as set out in the Mental Capacity Act 2005. These elements of the pathway have been highlighted in a specific end-of-life care workstream in the department's Quality, Productivity, Innovation and Prevention (QIPP) programme.
The department is also supporting the Dying Matters National Coalition, run through the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC). This aims to challenge the taboo about discussing death, dying and bereavement which can inhibit both the public and professionals from having the necessary conversations to allow for proper end-of-life care planning.
The third annual report on implementation of the end-of-life care strategy provides detail of progress along the entire end-of-life care pathway and can be found on the department's website at: www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_130239.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of early intervention musculoskeletal physiotherapy in reducing sick leave, and enabling people on sick leave to return to work.[HL13357]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the potential savings to the welfare benefits budget of ensuring that people with musculoskeletal problems have early access to physiotherapy to enable them to remain in employment.[HL13358]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): There have been no assessments carried out centrally. It is for local National Health Service organisations to decide how best to use their funds to meet national and local priorities for improving health and to commission services accordingly. This process provides the means for addressing local needs within the health community including the provision of and access to physiotherapy services.www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_116358.pdf;information from AHP referral to treatment data collection will enable AHPs, including physiotherapists, to innovate to improve services. The Allied Health Professional Referral to Treatment guide can be found at: www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/@ps/documents/digitalasset/dh_115297.pdf;the AHP Service Improvement Project which demonstrated in a range of services, including physiotherapy, how service redesign can improve access and clinical outcomes. Details about this project can be found at: www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/ Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_126840.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Lack of mortgage availability for households without a large deposit (typically 20 per cent) remains a major barrier to home ownership even for creditworthy households in London.
This Government are committed to a return to economic stability through our plans for deficit reduction and economic growth. This will free up lending for aspiring home owners, keep mortgage rates low and improve credit availability. We held two first-time-buyer summits which have stimulated fresh thinking and partnerships between lenders and housebuilders. We are seeing more mortgages available to those with a 5 per cent or 10 per cent deposit and several sector-led innovative schemes to help first-time buyers have been announced by lenders and developers, with more in the pipeline.
Our shared ownership schemes, delivered under First Steps, help by enabling purchasers to buy a minimum 25 per cent share, with a smaller deposit and then increase their equity stake over time. We are also helping first-time buyers in London through our FirstBuy scheme.
The Localism Act will transfer responsibility for housing and regeneration activities from the Homes and Communities Agency in London, which manages the First Steps programme, to the Greater London Authority from April 2012.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Sassoon on 25 October (WA 134) concerning the Independent Commission on Banking, how the salary of £60,000 per year for the chairman for two days work per week was arrived at; and how it was agreed.[HL13191]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action would need to be taken to require institutional investors to publish records of their voting at meetings of United Kingdom-listed public companies; and whether they have plans to bring in this requirement. [HL13179]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): Section 1277 of the Companies Act 2006 provides a power to require the disclosure of information about the exercise of voting rights by, among others, institutional investors. We do not currently plan to bring this section into force. The Financial Reporting Council's Stewardship Code requires institutional investors to disclose their voting records.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they are making to the Government of Iraq concerning recent developments at Camp Ashraf; whether they have had discussions with the European Union and the United States of America about immediate threats to the safety of the residents at Camp Ashraf; and what action they are taking at the United Nations Security Council on reaching a peaceful resolution before the end of December. [HL13171]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK remains deeply concerned at the humanitarian situation at Camp Ashraf. We continue to urge the Government of Iraq and the leadership of Ashraf to engage in constructive negotiation to reach a peaceful and durable solution on the future of the residents of the camp. During his visit to Iraq in October, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my honourable friend the member for North East Bedfordshire (Mr Burt) discussed Camp Ashraf with the Iraqi Foreign Minister and more recently met with the newly appointed European Union Special Envoy to Camp Ashraf, Jean De Ruyt. Along with our international partners, we continue to press the Iraqi Government to ensure that the residents of Camp Ashraf are treated in accordance with the rights and protections they enjoy under international human rights and domestic Iraqi law and to show flexibility over the end of year deadline to close the camp. But we are clear that the issue is one for the sovereign Government of Iraq and the leadership of Camp Ashraf to resolve, and that responsibility for a peaceful solution lies in their hands. The UK currently has no plans to raise Camp Ashraf at the United Nations Security Council.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the Government of Israel regarding the release of Mr Hassan Yousef, re-arrested on 1 November in the West Bank together with his son Mosab Hassan Yousef.[HL13197]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We are aware that Mr Hassan Yusuf and his son were arrested on 1 November and have been sentenced to six months' administrative detention. This is the second time Mr Yousef has been arrested by the Israeli authorities. Our consulate-general in Jerusalem is monitoring this case.
We regularly raise our concerns with the Israeli Government about the application of due process and the treatment of Palestinian detainees. We shall continue to raise our concerns with the Israeli authorities as appropriate.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The issue of the Mughrabi ramp has been the subject of discussion at the Executive Board of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The UK was not a member of this board until last week, and we have not made specific representations to UNESCO directly.
On 26 October, the city engineer of Jerusalem announced that the Mughrabi ramp was no longer safe. A Jerusalem municipality spokesperson stated that the ramp should be "demolished and a permanent structure built on the site". The British Embassy in Tel Aviv has discussed the issue with the Israeli authorities and asked them to consult fully with relevant parties, including UNESCO, before any work on the bridge is carried out.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The Government have regular dialogue with the Government of Israel on nuclear issues. We consistently call on Israel to agree a full scope comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The Government have regular discussions with the Government of Israel on a wide range of nuclear issues. During these dialogues we have consistently encouraged Israel to sign up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord McNally on 7 November (WA 18), whether they will publish on 1 December their response to the European Commission's Green Paper on pre-trial detention; and, if not, why not. [HL13324]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The deadline for responses to the European Commission's Green Paper on detention issues is 30 November. The European Commission will publish responses to the consultation, including the UK response, on its website shortly after that date.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of changes in legal aid franchising on the advisory services provided by community relations and equality councils. [HL13291]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The impact assessment published alongside the Government's response to consultation lays out the best estimates of the costs and benefits of the legal aid reforms, however these did not consider the effects of the reforms on advisory services provided by community relations and equality councils.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord McNally on 7 November (WA 18-19) concerning the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 2015, what organisation they will work with in Northern Ireland to arrange celebrations there. [HL13281]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The commemorations and events to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta are being co-ordinated by the Magna Carta Trust, an organisation independent of government. I am keeping in contact with the trust about their plans, but I would suggest that the noble Lord contacts the trust direct with any detailed questions that he has.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): There is no timescale in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 for implementation of the coastal route, but we will introduce the new right of coastal access on a 30-kilometre stretch of the English coast between Portland and Lulworth Cove in Dorset in time for the Olympic and Paralympic sailing events, which begin in July 2012. Natural England is also currently working on proposals to implement coastal access in a further five areas around the coast, as we announced in October 2010. When proposals for the coastal route have been prepared in each of the five areas, Natural England will start a period of local consultation.
Natural England has estimated that the costs to deliver coastal access at Weymouth and in the five lead areas where it has started work will be £34,000, £40,000 and £165,000 in the years 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what market research and analysis of consumer demand was conducted during business planning in advance of the launch of the Money Advice Service; whether demand has been above or below expectations; and whether the Service has been supported with sufficient marketing and promotion.[HL13210]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The independent Thoresen Review in 2008 estimated demand for a national Money Advice Service, which led to principles behind the service. An evaluation of the pilot, including consumer demand, is available on the Money Advice Service's website: www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk.
The Money Advice Service became nationwide in April 2011 and launched an integrated marketing campaign in June 2011. The service has so far received over 2.7 million visits to its website and over 270,000 visits to the online health check, meaning it is on course to meet its target of achieving 500,000 health check visits by the end of the financial year.
This year, the Money Advice Service has reviewed its products, services and delivery channels, including conducting further analysis and research into consumer demand. It is now seeking to improve what it offers to consumers, making sure that it delivers more to more people. It will continue to offer everyone access to the
21 Nov 2011 : Column WA200
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) develops guidance for the National Health Service on the clinical and cost-effectiveness of medicines and other health technologies through its technology appraisal programme.
NICE is currently reviewing its Guide to the Methods of Technology Appraisal and further information on the review process is available at: www.nice.org.uk.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, in the light of statistics produced by the Department of Health showing that between January and March 2011 75 per cent of all acute delayed transfers were of people aged 75 or over, whether they will reverse the decision to stop collecting this data in this form, given its role in helping to understand the relationship between the National Health Service and social care provision for older people.[HL13140]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): No one should be made to stay in hospital longer than is necessary. The National Health Service and social care must work together to ensure people have the support they need on leaving hospital. Some patients need particular support after a spell in hospital to settle back into their homes, recover their strength and regain their independence. The Government have increased the level of investment made available to local health and care services to spend on front line services and helping people return to their homes after a spell in hospital.
While it is recognised that the delays for over-75s is a large proportion of the total, the aim should be reducing the number of delays for all ages. Latest
21 Nov 2011 : Column WA201
The spending review recognised the importance of social care in protecting the most vulnerable in society. In recognition of the pressures on the social care system in a challenging local government settlement, the Government have allocated an additional £2 billion by 2014-15 to support the delivery of social care and help protect people's access to services upon discharge.
As part of this funding, an allocation of £150 million has been made available this year for reablement and £648 million for social care spend that benefits the NHS which could help to reduce the level of delayed discharges. The reablement money will help people to leave hospital more quickly, get settled back at home with the support they need, and to prevent unnecessary admissions to hospital. Local authorities are responsible for decisions on how to allocate their resources.
The data from the NHS are collected with the aim of helping commissioners to commission the most effective and appropriate services for their local population and to help service users to make informed decisions. The department frequently reviews the data collected to ensure it meets this aim and will continue to do so.
To ask Her Majesty's Government why the remit of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment's review of organophosphates does not include examination of their effect on the heart, lungs, autonomic system and mitochondria.[HL13263]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The independent Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) published a report on organophosphate pesticides in 1999.
This review will cover psychiatric, neuropsychological and peripheral neuropathy outcomes as well as evidence for autonomic dysfunction. These are the primary areas of toxicological research undertaken with organophosphates.
The Health Protection Agency advises that the potential toxicological effects on the heart, respiratory system and mitochondrial function should be identified from the standard package of toxicological tests required under European Union legislation for the active ingredients of pesticides, including organophosphates.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Northover on 31 October 2011 (WA 213-14), what percentage of the annual funding for the Department for International Development they estimate reaches projects on the ground.[HL13234]
Baroness Northover: The total amount spent by the Department for International Development on projects and programmes in 2010-11 amounted to £7,476 million. The amount of loss identified in 2010-11 amounted to £1.19 million of which £1.085 million was fully recovered. This amounts to 0.02 per cent of total expenditure.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Northover on 31 October 2011 (WA 213-14), what are the projects funded by the Department for International Development which have been stopped over the past five years due to the discovery of corruption. [HL13235]
Baroness Northover: Since 2006 DFID have published in the departmental annual report tables of all projects halted during a financial year. The table below identifies all programmes stopped due to issues of corruption:
£5 million withheld and corrective actions reassessed at subsequent Poverty Reduction Budget Support (PRBS) review (Nov 2010). Decision taken not to reinstate £5 million as budget support but to reallocate to other programmes
£11 million of DFID's total PRBS of£31.5 million in 2009 due to be paid in May was delayed due to uncovering serious embezzlement of funds. £9 million was subsequently released in July 2009. The remaining £2 million was released in Oct 2009 after agreed actions were carried out.
The remaining £1.4 million for the project was suspended, pending a full investigation. The money was paid in October 2006 following government investigations and efforts to strengthen anti-corruption.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make representations to the Palestinian National Authority for the release of Shaykh Muhammad Skafi and Muhammad Dhuqan, a student of Al-Najah University.[HL13239]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Our consulate-general in Jerusalem is making inquiries with regards to the case mentioned, and I will write to the noble Lord when I have more information.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether their latest proposals on public sector pensions made to public sector trade unions will be withdrawn in the event of strike action by those unions; and what is their estimate of the cash flow gap between public sector pension contributions and pension payments in the next five years (a) if the latest proposals had not been made, and (b) if the latest proposals are accepted.[HL13223]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): As set out in the command paper Public Service Pensions; Good Pensions that Last, the Government's offer is conditional on the trade unions and the Government reaching agreement on the reforms by the end of the year.
The line "Net public service pension payments" in table 4.15 of the Office for Budget Responsibility's Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2011 shows forecast net expenditure on public service pensions to 2015-16.
Changes proposed in the command paper will only affect expenditure on public service pensions in the medium and long term. The paper set out the Government's objective that those public service workers who, as of 1 April 2012, have 10 years or less to their current pension age, will see no change in when they can retire, nor any decrease in the amount of pension they receive at their current normal pension age. Schemes and unions will discuss the fairest way of achieving this objective, within the Government's parameter that costs to the taxpayer in each and every year do not exceed the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts for public service pensions.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): If there is sufficient evidence against an individual within a company, that s/he knowingly employed and exploited trafficked victims, those individuals can be prosecuted for offences of human trafficking or conspiracy to commit trafficking offences. The maximum penalty is 14 years' imprisonment, a fine, or both. Furthermore, if there is evidence that a company has profited from the employment of trafficked individuals, there can be consideration of offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to seize any profits they have made.
If a company in a Gangmasters Licensing Authority-regulated sector has knowingly employed illegal migrants who are victims of trafficking, their licence can be
21 Nov 2011 : Column WA205
The Gang masters Licensing Act 2004 also creates offences for persons who enter into arrangements under which a gangmaster supplies him/her with workers or services while not under the authority of a licence. The sanction which applies here is a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 51 weeks, or a fine, or both.
Sanctions for illegal activities including human trafficking can also be imposed on companies by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) by taxing the income, profits, and gains from human trafficking.
To ask Her Majesty's Government in what circumstances a pirate captured by a Royal Navy ship would be entitled to claim asylum in the United Kingdom; and whether there is an obligation on Her Majesty's Government to convey any such asylum seeker back to the United Kingdom at public expense.[HL13334]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): The United Kingdom is under no obligation to accept asylum claims from individuals on board Royal Navy ships. Accordingly, there is no specific obligation to convey any such asylum seeker back to the United Kingdom.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the police national computer is still operated and managed by the National Policing Improvement Agency; and, if so, whether there are any plans to change that arrangement.[HL13313]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): The police national computer (PNC) is still operated and managed by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA). As the NPIA is phased out next year, a study to assess the future options for service delivery is currently under way.
Lord Henley: Access to police national computer by non-police organisations is governed by the PNC Information Access Panel (PIAP), whose membership is comprised of the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Association of Police Authorities, the Home Office, and the National Policing Improvement Agency.
Other organisations have restricted access. These include HM Court Service, Probation Service, the Royal Military Police (Names file only), Royal Air Force Police (Names file only), Royal Navy Police (Names file only), and Royal Marines Police (Names file only).
The Police Information Access Panel has defined the following organisations as non-police and has agreed that authorised users within these organisations can have Names file-only access commensurate with their previously stated and agreed business needs.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Government support the expansion of the range of products and services at all post offices, including community post offices, wherever this is commercially and operationally possible. However, decisions on the introduction of specific additional products and services are for Post Office Ltd and its clients.
Baroness Wilcox: The Government support the expansion of accessible and affordable financial services and products, including banking products, through post offices. However, decisions on the introduction of specific additional products and services are commercial and operational matters for Post Office Ltd.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Of the 79 staff employed at HMP Latchmere House on 13 July 2011, the date of the closure announcement, 58 have been redeployed to existing vacancies within the National Offender Management Service.
Baroness Rawlings: I refer the noble Lord to the answer that I gave him on 2 November 2011 (Official Report, col. 274). There is no zero-rate VAT for the construction of memorials. However, the cost of VAT incurred by charities and faith groups in the construction, renovation and maintenance of memorials, can be reclaimed through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's memorial grant scheme, subject to the claims meeting the published eligibility criteria. From 2011-12 onwards, the memorial grant scheme has a fixed annual budget of approximately £0.5 million.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The two embassies in Rome are accredited to different sovereign states. There are approximately 110 staff in the British Embassy to Italy and approximately 10 staff in the British Embassy to the Holy See (these figures include UK-based civil servants and staff employed locally; for operational and security reasons, we cannot provide a more detailed breakdown). The embassy to Italy focuses on the bilateral relationship with Italy-including economic and commercial relations. The embassy to the Holy See focuses on a wide range of bilateral and global issues, including our co-operation on issues that impact on Britain's prosperity such as climate change and international development.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have proposals to stop smokers from obstructing entrances of public buildings; and what assessment they have made of whether the practice contributes to passive smoking.[HL13339]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Government have no plans to stop smoking around the entrances of public buildings through legislation. However, as set out in the Tobacco Control Plan for England, published in March 2011, it is up to local authorities and National Health Service organisations who may wish to make non-enclosed parts of their properties smoke-free.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what information they have regarding the use of British-made surveillance tools in political repression in the Middle East and North Africa; and to which countries in those regions such equipment has been sold.[HL13202]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We take any reports of exports being misused overseas seriously, but as the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) reported in his Statement to the House of Commons of 18 July, there was no evidence of controlled military goods exported from the United Kingdom being used for internal repression in the Middle East and North Africa. This remains the case.
Surveillance equipment, including telephone intercept equipment, covers a wide variety of equipment and software, and generally is not controlled because of its use for a wide variety of legitimate uses and its easy and widespread availability. If an item is subject to control, the licence application is considered on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated European Union and UK Export Licensing Criteria, in light of prevailing circumstances and paying particular attention to allegations of human rights abuses. The UK will not issue licences where we judge there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used to facilitate internal repression.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with Creativity Software about their activities in Iran; who was present and on what
21 Nov 2011 : Column WA210
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The UK Government National Technical Authority for Information Assurance provides technical advice to BIS on whether information security products are subject to export controls. In this capacity, on 31 March 2009 officials from this authority had a meeting with Creativity Software to consider products that the company wished to export.
To ask Her Majesty's Government which United Kingdom companies have sold surveillance equipment to Iran, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya; and what discussions they have held with the companies, and on what dates, about the purposes for which such equipment could be used.[HL13296]
Baroness Wilcox: The UK's export control regime does not generally control such software and equipment in view of the legitimate commercial applications for which it can be used. We therefore have no information on what non-controlled equipment has been sold to these countries.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether Creativity Software have sold surveillance technology to the Government of Yemen; what was sold and when; and whether they will list all export licences, detailing (a) the names of companies, (b) the dates of transactions, and (c) the sums of money involved for the sale of surveillance technology to Yemen, Iran and Syria over the past five years.[HL13416]
Baroness Wilcox: Surveillance technology is not intrinsically controlled under the UK export control regime as there are a number of legitimate commercial applications for which it can be used. We therefore have no information on what has been sold to the Government of Yemen by Creativity Software.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they introduced the British company, Detica, to the previous Government of Tunisia; and whether surveillance technology was subsequently sold to the Government of Tunisia.[HL13417]
Surveillance technology is not intrinsically controlled under the UK export control regime as there are a number of legitimate commercial applications for which it can be used. Detica does not, under the UK export control regime as it stands, need permission to export this kind of equipment. Because no permission is required, the Government therefore have no information on what has been sold to the Government of Tunisia by Detica. The Government keep the export control regime under review on this and other issues, with regard to whether the law should be changed to require permission to be sought in future.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend, the member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), has called on the Syrian regime to lift the siege of Homs and allow in international aid and relief efforts, to withdraw all Syrian forces from the towns and cities of Syria. We have condemned the violent repression of the Syrian people and called for an immediate end to the killing.
On 14 October, we reinforced European Union (EU) measures to include sanctions against the Commercial Bank of Syria, the largest in the country. On 14 November, the EU listed a further 18 individuals involved in or supporting the regime's activities and put in place measures to prevent any further disbursement of loans from the European Investment Bank to Syria. EU sanctions, including an embargo on imports of oil from Syria into the EU, are already restricting sources of finance to the regime.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what proportion of the £35 billion in taxes which they estimate is lost to the United Kingdom each year results from (a) illegal tax evasion, and (b) legal tax avoidance. [HL13204]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The latest tax gap estimates were published in September 2011 in Measuring Tax Gaps 2011 on HMRC's website at: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/stats/mtg-2011.pdf.
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