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To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they were contacted by the Lloyds Banking Group or Royal Bank of Scotland Group in advance of their announcement of an increase in mortgage interest rates; and, if so, what response they gave.[HL16227]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government's shareholdings in the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group are managed, on a commercial and arm's-length basis, by UK Financial Investments Ltd (UKFI), a company that is wholly owned by the Government.
UKFI works closely with the banks' managements to assure themselves of the banks' approach to strategy and to hold management rigorously to account for performance. However, UKFI's role is to manage the investments, not to manage the banks. The banks retain their own independent boards and management teams.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the effect of the spread between Bank of England base rate and the standard variable mortgage rate on profit-making by banks; and whether they intend to take any action in relation to this. [HL16255]
Lord Sassoon: The Bank of England base rate is an overnight lending rate and is not necessarily representative of the funding costs of individual banks. Lenders consider a number of factors when determining whether to lend and on what terms. Decisions concerning the pricing of mortgages remain commercial decisions for banks and the Government do not seek to intervene in these decisions.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they propose to take in response to the small and medium-sized enterprise finance monitor report of March 2012 indicating that over 40% of first-time applications by small and medium-sized enterprises for bank support were turned down in 2011. [HL16228]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government remain committed to helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) gain access to the finance they need in order to grow. Through the taskforce set up by the British Bankers' Association (BBA), the banks have undertaken a number of initiatives to help UK business develop. These include the creation of a network of business mentors across Britain to provide SMEs with the expert knowledge and support they need in order to expand.
The BBA's Better Business Finance initiative has been established to provide help and support for SMEs with specific guidance on preparing the best case for credit as well as signposting other ways to raise finance.
The Government are also taking measures to reduce the cost of bank loans for smaller businesses through the national loan guarantee scheme. The scheme will allow banks to raise up to £20 billion of funding with a government guarantee, to lend directly to smaller businesses, at a lower cost. In many cases this will lead to a reduction of up to 1 percentage point on business loan rates.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the likelihood of the millennium development goals being met on target by Burundi, in the light of their decision to end the Department for International Development programme in that country.[HL16299]
Baroness Northover: According to the UN Development Programme, Burundi is unlikely to achieve four millennium development goals (MDGs 1, 4, 5 and 7), may achieve three (MDGs 2, 6 and 8), and is likely to achieve one (MDG 3). Burundi's new 2012-16 Poverty Reduction Strategy focuses on supporting the private sector to drive economic growth and reduce poverty.
Although the office will close and bilateral projects will end, the UK will not stop supporting Burundi. There are many avenues of support apart from bilateral programmes. From 2012, the UK will concentrate primarily on supporting private sector and economic growth through facilitating Burundi's integration into the East African Community. This support will be channelled through TradeMark East Africa, an organisation created to manage multiple donors' funds for this purpose. The UK will continue to contribute to multilateral donors working in Burundi; and a number of centrally managed Department for International Development initiatives are open to companies and organisations working in Burundi.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have increased funding to any multilateral development institutions operating in Burundi as a consequence of their decision to end the Department for International Development programme in that country.[HL16300]
Baroness Northover: The UK provides substantial funding to a number of multilateral agencies with
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Although the UK has not increased funding to multilateral development institutions operating in Burundi as a direct consequence of the decision to end the bilateral programme, we will maintain funding to multilateral organisations such as the World Bank, EU and UN to finance programmes in Burundi in future years. In line with their current strategies, these multilaterals are committed to continuing work in Burundi. The Department for International Development is also considering a further contribution to TradeMark East Africa, an agency managing funds from a number of donors to help deepen economic integration into the East African Community.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to multilateral development institutions on increasing funding to Burundi, in the light of their decisions to end the Department for International Development programme in Burundi.[HL16301]
Baroness Northover: The UK has consistently supported both bilateral and multilateral partners maintaining significant support for Burundi. Most recently, the UK consulted with the World Bank on 2 March on its next multiannual Country Assistance Strategy, currently under preparation. The EU has also just launched discussions on the next phase of its main development instrument in Burundi-the European Development Fund-in which the Department for International Development will play a full part. The EU and World Bank are the largest donors in Burundi; the UK provides around 14% and 15% respectively of their budgets. We also play a proactive role in advocating for Burundi in UN fora, including Security Council discussions over the UN presence and mandate in Burundi.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many same-sex civil partnerships have been registered since they became possible under law; whether figures exist for dissolutions of such partnerships; and, if so, what these are.[HL16378]
As Director-General for the Office for National Statistics, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking how many same-sex civil partnerships
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The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force in the UK on 5 December 2005. Statistics are available for December 2005 to the end of 2010. During this period, 46,622 civil partnerships were formed in the UK and 1,083 were dissolved.
More statistics about civil partnership formations and dissolutions are available on the ONS website at www.ons.gov.uk/ons/taxonomy/index.html?nscl=Civil +Partnerships.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 5 March (WA 392), which countries have expressed an interest informally in joining the Commonwealth since 1 January 2005.[HL16314]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): A number of countries have informally expressed an interest in developing closer links with the Commonwealth and its associations, particularly on trade. For example, a delegation from the United Arab Emirates attended the Commonwealth Business Forum in Perth last October. We understand that Algeria has also been in contact with the Commonwealth Business Council to discuss various trade initiatives. Angola attended the Commonwealth Local Government Forum in Cardiff in March of last year and is in contact with the Commonwealth Secretariat about developing closer links.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 1 February (Official Report, col. 1565), on how many occasions the Government of the Republic of Cyprus have, since 1974, rejected a bi-zonal or bi-communal solution to the Cyprus problem; and
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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The bi-communal concept was agreed within the 12 February 1977 high-level agreement between the then leaders of the two communities, under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General. The Government are not aware of any occasion where the Government of the Republic of Cyprus have since rejected this concept. Ultimately it is for the Cypriot people to decide whether to accept the terms of the settlement that the leaders agree within the bi-zonal, bi-communal framework. Following the rejection of the 2004 Annan Plan by the people of the Republic of Cyprus through a referendum, the leaders returned to the negotiating table and continue to try to achieve the reunification of the island based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation in the UN-led process.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 1 February (Official Report, col. 1565), whether at any point since January 1964 the United Kingdom has, as a guarantor power, received any indication that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus would accept a bi-communal or bi-zonal plan for the future of Cyprus; and, if not, why it continues to support a "bi-zonal federal ambition".[HL16213]
Lord Howell of Guildford: Both leaders have publicly and privately stated their commitment to achieving a settlement based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality as defined by the relevant Security Council resolutions.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the assessment in the Europe Economics report The Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation that, under the Government's plans for implementation of the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation, up to 3,000 loft insulation and cavity wall insulation jobs could be lost in the first year of the Green Deal implementation. [HL16271]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): DECC is currently reviewing evidence relevant to employment and growth assumptions. We will set out our conclusions in the final impact assessment, to be published alongside the Government's response to the consultation.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there are any circumstances in which Ministers of the Crown could be imprisoned for failure to implement European legislation or conform to European laws. [HL16190]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): There are no direct European Union (EU) obligations that would give rise to ministerial imprisonment, although this is theoretically possible if provision was made for this in domestic law of the United Kingdom. Sanctions for breach of EU law are predominantly not a matter for European legislation, but are implemented by domestic legal provisions.
The Ministerial Code enshrines the overarching duty on Ministers to comply with the law, including international law and treaty obligations. Whilst this scenario is unlikely, if a Minister defied an injunction order of a domestic court that required him or her to comply with an EU obligation, this could lead to contempt of court proceedings and imprisonment could be a sentencing option.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Animated films may already qualify for film tax relief where they meet the qualifying conditions of the scheme. All aspects of the tax system are kept under review and any new policies are announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Budget.
The Treasury publishes a list of ministerial meetings with external organisations, available at: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/minister_hospitality.htm.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the value of the market in (1) toys, (2) DVDs, and (3) other merchandise, resulting from the United Kingdom film and television animation sector.[HL16167]
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have conducted an analysis of government financial support for the film and television animation sectors in (1) Canada, (2) the Republic of Ireland, (3) Australia, and (4) France.[HL16168]
Baroness Rawlings: The animation industry forms part of the creative industries, for which economic estimates are produced annually and can be found here: http://www.culture.gov.uk/publications/8682.aspx.
Separate estimates are not produced for the animation industry; however, the creative industries as a whole contributed £36.3 billion in gross value added (GVA) to the UK (or 2.9% of the UK's GVA) in 2009.
Animation UK produced a report in September 2011, which estimated the animation industry has revenue of £300 million. However, this figure does not include revenue associated with animation from larger production companies with animation production capabilities, visual effects companies and other animation support services including supplies and studio hire etc.
The Government have not conducted international analysis of government financial support for the film and television animation sectors, but again, the economic estimates found in the annual report for the creative industries report may be useful.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration they have given to the recommendation in the House of Lords Communications Committee report on The British Film and Television Industries-Decline or Opportunity? (First Report, Session 2009-10, HL Paper 37), for "the extension of the film tax credit, on a pilot basis, to children's programmes and animated productions made for television". [HL16169]
Baroness Rawlings: The Film Tax Relief was designed with a primarily cultural aim of promoting the sustainable production of films with British cultural content that may not otherwise be made. The Government do, however, keep all aspects of the tax system under review.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many (1) firearms, and (2) shotgun, temporary permits were issued under the terms of the Firearms Act 1968 to holders of (a) expiring, or (b) expired, certificates
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To ask Her Majesty's Government whether any firearms or shotgun certificate holders have been allowed to retain their (1) firearms, or (2) shotguns, in cases where for administrative reasons chief officers of police failed to issue the appropriate (a) temporary permit, (b) firearms certificate, or (c) shotgun certificate, on or prior to the date of certificate renewal, according to the information held on the National Firearms Licensing Management system computer; and, if so, how many certificate holders have been affected in each of the past three years in each police force area.[HL16246]
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether any (1) firearms, and (2) shotgun, certificate holders have been sent letters by chief officers of police which were not temporary permits and purported to give authority for the retention of firearms and shotguns, in each of the last three years in each police force area; if so, how many such letters were sent, and how many of those in receipt of such letters held expired certificates and had submitted applications to renew their firearms or shotgun certificates; and on what legal basis any such letters were sent.[HL16248]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they have taken following the Forced Marriage Unit's review of the implementation of its multi-agency statutory guidance for dealing with forced marriage to highlight the need for communication and information-sharing between relevant agencies when a Forced Marriage Protection Order is granted. [HL16147]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government are currently considering all the recommendations of the recently published review on the implementation of the statutory guidance. The review focused on how statutory agencies have applied the strategic principles for dealing with forced marriage and provides a number of recommendations for improving their response.
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To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Northover on 23 November 2011 (WA 268), whether they will publish the research they are conducting into whether their programmes in fragile and conflict-affected states are generating maximum value for money. [HL16163]
Baroness Northover: The Department for International Development (DfID) is strongly committed to sharing the findings of its research. This is particularly true when it comes to fragile and conflict-affected states for which research and evidence-gathering is instrumental in generating maximum value for money. DfID's research and evidence website (www.dfid.gov.uk/r4d) publishes DfID-funded research including that on working in fragile and conflict-affected countries. Also, in recognition of the challenges of working in fragile and conflict-affected states, on 1 March DfID published a How to Note entitled "Results in Fragile and Conflicted Affected States and Situations", which includes a section on value for money (http://www.dfid.gov.uk/What-we-do/Publications/). The guidance shares good practice on measuring and managing for results in fragile and conflict-affected states and is intended for use by country offices.
Further, a new project scoring system and annual review format have recently been introduced. Project officers are now required to assess whether expected outcomes are being achieved and whether the project remains good value for money. With time, the new system will inform DfID, with a greater degree of rigour, on the value for money of its programmes, including in fragile states.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what diplomatic efforts they are making to end the blockade of Gaza; and what plans they have to revive industry in Gaza so that the population is not reliant on aid.[HL16310]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We regularly discuss the political and economic situation in Gaza with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. In these discussions, we have argued for a relaxation of Israeli access and movement restrictions on Gaza; expressed our concern
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The UK supports the Palestinian Authority and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to provide basic services, such as education and health, to the people of Gaza. About 50% of our support to the Palestinian Authority and 30% of our support to UNRWA benefits residents of Gaza. We provide 2,400 vulnerable families with work and an income through our support for UNRWA's back-to-work programme, and we help to develop the private sector by supporting 304 small companies in Gaza and generating jobs for more than 1,800 unemployed Gazans. We help 24 United Nations (UN) agencies and 132 international non-governmental organisations to get aid and goods into Gaza through our support to the UN Access Co-ordination Unit and the Palestinian Authority's crossing co-ordination committee.
Baroness Northover: The UK is greatly concerned about shortages of medical supplies in Gaza. The Al-Shifa Hospital has had difficulties with obtaining some supplies, particularly drugs for chronic diseases and primary healthcare. However, we understand that the hospital currently has sufficient stocks of the items needed to provide medical care for people injured in recent events. The Ministry of Health in Ramallah recently sent 222 pallets of drugs and medical disposables to replenish stocks at the Central Drug Store in Gaza, which should help to alleviate the shortages that have been affecting medical facilities across the Gaza Strip.
We continue to urge all parties to improve co-ordination and enable uninterrupted access for medical supplies into Gaza. The UK is providing predictable financial support, worth up to £110 million over the next three years, to the Palestinian Authority to help deliver essential services, including medical supplies, to Gaza and the West Bank.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what provision is made by the Department for Communities and Local Government for childcare for employees'
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Staff with a child under the age of five are eligible to receive childcare vouchers from the department to assist with their parental responsibilities. The amount received is determined on the amount of hours the individual works. Staff are only allowed to receive vouchers for one child per applicant and if their child enters school before the age of five they must inform the department as they will no longer be eligible for the voucher scheme.
Separately, the department also operates a salary sacrifice scheme to enable staff to sacrifice a specific amount of their salary and instead receive that amount in childcare vouchers. The saving for staff here is that they do not pay tax or national insurance contributions on the salary amount they sacrifice, up to set amounts. Under the salary sacrifice scheme the child must be under 16 years of age (or 17 if they are disabled) and any childcare vouchers can only be used with registered or approved childcare providers.
The Government have changed the salary sacrifice rules for childcare vouchers with effect from April 2011. Under the new rules, higher rate taxpayers who sign up to the salary sacrifice scheme after 5 April 2011 are only eligible for tax and national insurance relief on up to £124 per month. Basic-rate taxpayers and staff already in the scheme will continue to receive relief on up to £243 per month.
Since 5 April 2011 the department determines the limit of tax relief by undertaking a basic earnings assessment at the start of each tax year (or when staff first join the scheme). If staff opt out of childcare vouchers for a period of more than 12 months, their earnings will be assessed when they re-order their vouchers and at the start of each new tax year. Basic-rate taxpayers who have joined after 5 April 2011 are also assessed at the beginning of each tax year to determine if they continue to be eligible to continue to receive tax relief of £243 per month.
The department also allows staff to take advantage of the Westminster Holiday Playscheme, which runs during the summer. Staff are eligible to apply for the scheme where they are a permanent or a fixed-term member of the department and have a child between the ages of four years and nine months and 12 years. The department funds 50% of the cost of places for staff.
To ask Her Majesty's Government when the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence expects to complete the development of a quality standard on secondary prevention following a heart attack.[HL16396]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): We have asked the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to develop a quality standard on secondary prevention of myocardial infarction and cardiac rehabilitation, as part of a library of approximately 170 National Health Service quality standards. NICE has not yet published a timescale for the development of this quality standard.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to improve awareness among medical professionals of diabetic ketoacidosis, and to improve monitoring of and early treatment for those at risk.[HL16289]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The prevalence of the acute complications of diabetes can be reduced through education of people with diabetes and all front-line health professionals about how to diagnose type 1 diabetes quickly, avert hypoglycaemic episodes and how to prevent diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
Guidance for health care professionals about DKA can be found in various publications such as NICE Diabetes in Adults Quality Standard. Of the 13 items in this quality standard one is specific to DKA, another to hypoglycaemia. The quality standards provide authoritative definitions of good quality care for use by clinicians and commissioners. NICE is about to develop a quality standard for children. It is for the National Health Service to have regard to these quality standards.
There are many local and national educational and training opportunities for doctors and other clinical professionals working with people with diabetes, including identifying and treating DKA. Career progression to specialist level should include participation in relevant continuing professional development programmes at regular intervals to maintain competence; this applies to doctors, nurses, podiatrists and dietitians.
The Children's and Young People's Diabetes Network (sponsored by NHS Diabetes) has a five-year strategy on improving outcomes for those with type 1 diabetes. This year the focus is raising awareness of the consequences of late diagnosis and this will include DKA.
The National Diabetes Inpatient Audit gives data on how many people develop DKA or severe
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The annual National Diabetes Audit (NDA) looks at the prevalence of recorded episodes of DKA. One of the recommendations of the last NDA is to address the fact that children and young people with diabetes have the worst rates of very high risk glucose control and of the acute metabolic complication DKA.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether patients suffering from Parkinson's dystonia and non-Parkinson's dystonia have equal access to treatments of last resort, and whether they expect the creation of the NHS Commissioning Board to change this position.[HL16367]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Deep brain stimulation is available for the treatment of dystonia. Health professionals are able to refer suitable patients for this treatment who meet the criteria detailed in the guidelines issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. This will continue to be the position following the introduction of the NHS Commissioning Board.
No final decisions have yet been taken on which services the NHS Commissioning Board will directly commission from April 2013. Work is currently underway with National Health Service commissioners to develop the list of services.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how eligibility criteria for treatments such as deep brain stimulation will be determined following the passing to the proposed NHS Commissioning Board of commissioning of specialised services.[HL16368]
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they expect the NHS Commissioning Board to consult the Dystonia Society and other patient groups on
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Earl Howe: Health professionals are able to refer suitable patients for this treatment who meet the criteria detailed in the guidelines issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. This will continue to be the position following the introduction of the NHS Commissioning Board.
No final decisions have yet been taken on which services the NHS Commissioning Board will directly commission from April 2013. Work is currently under way with National Health Service commissioners to develop the list of services.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the result of the Comparison of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatments Trials by the Center for Preventive Ophthalmology and Biostatistics showing that the drug Avastin is as effective as Lucentis in treating macular degeneration; and how much they estimate might be saved by the National Health Service if Avastin were used instead of Lucentis.[HL16446]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): There are a number of published and ongoing studies of Avastin (bevacizumab) in the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and we will keep the evidence on this issue under review. Avastin (bevacizumab) is not licensed for the treatment of AMD and we have made no estimate of savings to the National Health Service if it were used instead of Lucentis (ranibizumab).
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether pneumococcal conjugate vaccine will be offered through the National Health Service for the prevention of invasive pneumococcal disease in adults with chronic respiratory disease and other conditions that constitute at risk groups; and, if so, when.[HL16345]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)-the independent experts who advise the Government on vaccination-has asked the Health Protection Agency to undertake a study of the impact and cost-effectiveness of the use of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in clinical risk
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In the meantime, guidance in the pneumococcal chapter of the Department of Health "Green Book", Immunisation Against Infectious Diseases, should continue to be followed. Currently, PCV is not recommended for use in at risk adults such as those with chronic respiratory disease.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they will take to encourage the World Bank to increase the number of bank-funded reproductive health projects which address the risk of maternal injury due to unsafe abortion.[HL16286]
Baroness Northover: The Department for International Development has welcomed the increased focus on reproductive health articulated in the World Bank's Reproductive Health Action Plan 2010-15. However, we continue to push for improved reporting of results and increased commitment to priority interventions including family planning, preventing adolescent pregnancy and addressing unsafe abortion.
We also welcome the collaboration between NGOs and the World Bank to develop a scorecard for monitoring and evaluating the RHAP 2010-15. This will help ensure that the RHAP focuses on results and is harmonised with existing frameworks including the health-related millennium development goals and the United Nations' global strategy for women's and children's health.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Prime Minister, my right honourable friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) both raised universal suffrage for elections in 2017 and 2020 with the Chief Executive of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government, Donald Tsang, during his visit to the UK in September 2011. Ministers regularly raise the issue with the SAR Government during their visits to Hong Kong. In 2010, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my honourable friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne) issued a public statement welcoming the agreements
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In the latest six-monthly report on Hong Kong, the Foreign Secretary stated that the best way of guaranteeing Hong Kong's rights and freedoms is for Hong Kong to move to a system of full universal suffrage. We will continue to follow closely progress towards this goal.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the continuing relevance of the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s declaring illegal the use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.[HL16239]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We are aware of reports that the highest authorities in Iran, including the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, have argued that the use of nuclear weapons is "haraam" or prohibited.
In our view such arguments have not stopped the Iranian Government from seeking a nuclear weapons capability. The International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed its concerns about military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme and Iran is currently enriching uranium to 20 per cent on a scale that has no plausible civilian justification.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there has been an escalation of the use of lethal force against protesters by the Israeli military, in the light of the death on 24 February in al-Ram village of a Palestinian civilian, and the recent injury to Mohammed Tayseer Yousef Abu Awwad; and whether they have any plans to make representations to the Government of Israel on these cases.[HL16313]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government support the general right to peaceful protest everywhere, including Palestinians' legitimate right to protest non-violently against the occupation. We urge all parties to ensure that everything is done to avoid violent clashes and casualties. It is not clear that there has been an escalation in the frequency of such occurrences.
Officials at our embassy in Tel Aviv raised these issues with the office of the Co-ordinator of the Government Authorities for the Territories. We have been assured that the Israeli Defence Forces regretted the death of Tal'at Ramya, and have opened up a full military investigation (as is standard procedure in the instance of a civilian death).
We stressed the importance of full, transparent investigations of civilian deaths during the handling of protests, particularly in light of the death of Mustapha Tamimi in December 2011 during protests in Nabi Saleh in the West Bank, who was killed by a tear gas canister wound to the head. We continue to raise the issue of the Israeli Defence Force handling of these protests with the Israeli authorities.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the ruling by the Supreme Court of Israel that Israeli companies are able to profit from the natural resources of the West Bank because of the "prolonged and continuing" nature of the occupation; and whether they have plans to discuss with the Government of Israel their application of the rules of usufruct under the fourth Hague Convention.[HL16312]
While our officials in Israel are aware of these allegations, our lobbying of the Israeli Government focuses on the most urgent issues including those that pose the greatest threat to a two-state solution, to the continuation of the peace process or to the lives of ordinary Palestinians. This specific issue has not been raised with the Israeli authorities.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what contact they have had with the Government of Libya about the desecration of the graves of British soldiers who were killed in Libya in the Second World War; and what action is being taken.[HL16143]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) raised our concerns about these incidents with the Libyan Foreign Minister in New York on 12 March. Our ambassador has also raised the issue with the Libyan Prime Minister, al-Kib, with the Minister of Interior, with the National Transitional Council Chairman, Abdul Jalil and with the Deputy Foreign Minister. Officials from our embassy in Tripoli
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In response to these incidents, Foreign Minister Khayyal and Chairman Abdul-Jalil made statements condemning the attacks, and the Transitional Government have published a statement, describing the damage as "unethical, irresponsible and criminal" and making clear that the Libyan Government "severely denounces such shameful acts and vows to find and prosecute the perpetrators according to Libyan law". The Libyan authorities have instructed the police to make regular patrols to ensure no further attacks occur. We will continue to reiterate to the Libyan authorities the importance of a thorough investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice. We are also in contact with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and are assisting with their forthcoming visit to Libya to investigate these incidents.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Henley on 5 March (WA 393-94), how many (1) Romanians, and (2) Bulgarians, have migrated to the United Kingdom since those countries joined the European Union on 1 January 2007, according to the International Passenger Survey; and whether the Office for National Statistics uses that figure or the Annual Population Survey figure to calculate net migration into the United Kingdom.[HL16437]
As Director-General for the Office for National Statistics, I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question, further to the Written Answer by Lord Henley on 5 March (WA 393-4), how many (1) Romanians. and (2) Bulgarians, have migrated to the United Kingdom since those countries joined the European Union on 1 January 2007, according to the International Passenger Survey; and whether the Office for National Statistics uses that figure or the Annual Population Survey figure to calculate net migration into the United Kingdom (HL16437).
The International Passenger Survey estimates that (1) 16,000 (SE 26%) Bulgarian citizens and (2) 27,000 (SE 14%) Romanian citizens migrated to the United Kingdom between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2010.
Standard error percentages (SE%) indicate the robustness of each estimate. A migration figure with a standard error percentage greater than 25% is not considered to be reliable for practical purposes.
The Office for National Statistics calculates Long-Term International Migration (LTIM) estimates from the International Passenger Survey (IPS), supplemented with data on flows to and from Northern Ireland, adjustments for asylum seekers and for those who change their intentions. Net migration is calculated from LTIM as the difference between the estimates of inflow and outflow, which is largely based on the IPS. The Annual Population Survey is used to calculate estimates of population stocks resident in the United Kingdom and is not used to calculate migration flows.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the statement on 27 February by Mr Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, that "at least politically speaking, all national parliaments have become, in a way, European institutions".[HL16189]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We have made no assessment of the statement made by the President of the European Council, Mr Van Rompuy. Parliament is, and remains, the highest legislative authority in the UK.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many holders of British passports also hold foreign passports; and whether information on foreign passports held by British passport holders is available to the UK Border Agency at the points of entry and exit to the United Kingdom.[HL16327]
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Henley on 7 March (HL16130), whether they will require a person who holds a United Kingdom passport who applies for its renewal to declare details of any foreign passport that they also hold.[HL16329]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): Records are not held centrally of persons holding both a UK passport and a foreign passport. The UK Border Agency and other relevant law enforcement agencies would seek to access passport records based on operational requirements.
Further to the Written Answer of 8 March (Official Report, col. WA 445), I clarify that there is no requirement for a person applying for a renewal of a British passport to produce or declare any foreign passports they also hold.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hanham on 27 February (WA 302-03), whether the Consumer or Retail Prices Index was meant by the "Prices Index" in her answer that "both pensions in payment and deferred benefits in the proposed Firefighters' Pension Scheme, to come into force from 2015, would continue to be up-rated in line with Prices Index".[HL16249]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): "Prices Index" is the rate of annual increase to pensions awarded within public service pension schemes as determined by HM Treasury under powers in the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971 and Section 59 of the Social Security Pensions Act 1975. The intention is that the proposed Firefighters' Pension Scheme will continue to be up-rated in line with Prices Index.
As I set out in my Written Answer on 27 February, the Government announced in the June 2010 Budget that their policy was to use the Consumer Prices Index instead of the Retail Prices Index as its preferred measure of prices.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Lord Wallace of Tankerness on 21 June 2011 (WA 290), Lord Howell of Guildford on 22 June 2011 (WA 316) and Baroness Browning on 14 July 2011 (WA 213-14), what progress has been reported by the Metropolitan Police Service in its investigation of Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation operative Philip Machemedze, now living in Wales.[HL16259]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Two engineering experts were despatched to Pitcairn soon after the tropical storm and resulting landslides. Their initial assessment is that the cleared road on the Hill of Difficulty is safe for use but that caution should be exercised during heavy rains. Some structures and hillsides on other areas of the island will require repair or preventative work. A full report is expected when the engineers return to New Zealand and, in the meantime, the island's Public Works Department is pressing ahead with works that can be done using island tools and resources.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Neville-Jones on 3 March 2011 (WA 360), whether their records indicate whether and when requests have been made since 1976 to either the Home Secretary, or the Secretary of State, as appropriate in accordance with the legislation relevant at the time, by the South Wales Police Authority or individual members of that Authority, to extend the appointments of Ms Jacqui Gasson and Mr John Littlechild to the South Wales Police Authority and the Cardiff Police Authority prior to the formation of the South Wales Police Authority for (1) a further period of four years in addition to the original appointed time period, and (2) further periods of four years after appointments in excess of (a) eight years, (b) 12 years, (c) 16 years, (d) 20 years, and (e) 24 years. [HL16389]
To ask Her Majesty's Government, in the light of the conclusion by the Chief Inspector of Prisons that the Keller Unit at Styal Prison constitutes a "wholly unsuitable place to safely hold and manage very seriously damaged and mentally ill women", what plans they have for a replacement.[HL16269]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The operation of the Keller Unit was reviewed in 2010 and a number of recommendations were made. Most of these recommendations have been actioned.
The new Governor of HMP Styal is currently reviewing the role of the Keller Unit alongside the development of other specialist accommodation in the prison to meet the needs of women with a range of complex problems.
The Women and Equalities Group in NOMS has made proposals about how better to meet the needs of the small group of women prisoners who need long-term close supervision, and NOMS is considering what resources may be reallocated to make some of these changes.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they place any restrictions on the number of media questions which can be asked of the Government each day from the same source; and, if so, what are those restrictions.[HL15951]
Lord Shutt of Greetland: The Northern Ireland Office Information Service does not place any restrictions on the number of media questions which can be asked of the Government each day from the same source.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what savings can be made in moving freight from road to rail, and what plans they have for facilitating this in the light of the energy road map of the European Union.[HL16263]
Earl Attlee: The environmental benefits of moving freight from road to rail depend on a number of factors, which are explained in the Mode Shift Benefit Values: Technical Paper published by the Department for Transport in 2009.
The Government support the shift of freight from road to rail, primarily through the Department for Transport's Mode Shift Revenue Support scheme. This assists companies with the operating costs of transporting
19 Mar 2012 : Column WA147
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my honourable friend the Member for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham), raised this issue with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti at the African Union summit on 27 January. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, my honourable friend the member for Eddisbury (Mr O'Brien) also raised this issue widely with the Government of Sudan during his visits in November 2011 and February 2012.
We have urged both Governments to take seriously their responsibilities towards their citizens, and to adopt a flexible approach to citizenship and free movement, given the strength of the links between the two countries and their peoples. In particular, we have asked Sudan to extend the deadline of 8 April it has imposed for those of southern origin to regularise their status in Sudan or to leave. We have also encouraged South Sudan to put in place the necessary measures to issue all its citizens with documentation. The UK, through the Common Humanitarian Fund and Central Emergency Response Fund has contributed £2.36 million to assist Southern Sudanese returning from Sudan.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the impact on food supplies in South Kordofan and Blue Nile as a result of conflict and adverse climate in the region; and what steps they and humanitarian agencies have taken to provide aid.[HL16318]
Baroness Northover: The UK is concerned with the forecast of severe food shortages over the next few months in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. If limits on humanitarian access and food access continue, parts of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan could reach emergency (integrated food security phase classification 4) levels of food insecurity in early 2012 according to the Famine Early Warnings System Network.
We have given £4.8 million to the World Food Programme to pre-position food stocks close to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states so that those stocks can be distributed as soon as access opens up. The UK contribution will be used to pre-position relief food for 315,000 conflict-affected people for two to three months: 150,000 in South Kordofan; 100,000 in Blue Nile and 65,000 in Abyei. We are giving strong support
19 Mar 2012 : Column WA148
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to ensure cross-government co-ordination for the planning and delivery of humanitarian and other activities in relation to the crisis in Syria.[HL16193]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are planning to provide humanitarian and security assistance and development aid in order to bring stability to Syria in the event that President Assad relinquishes power.[HL16195]
Baroness Northover: The UK Government are gravely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria. The Department for International Development is co-ordinating the UK's humanitarian response, working closely with other government departments, international and UN agencies to ensure aid gets to where it is needed most. The UK is also working with the international community and the Syrian people to achieve a peaceful political transition to a stable future in Syria. The immediate priority is to ensure that assistance can get to those who need it, and to support UN efforts to negotiate access and coordinate the international humanitarian response.
UK support to humanitarian agencies working in Syria is providing emergency medical services and supplies for injured civilians, food rations for over 20,000 people, essential household items for 5,500 people forced to leave their homes, emergency drinking water for 2,750 people, and restoration of damaged water and sanitation infrastructure to ensure access to safe water for over 30,000 people. In addition, the UK is supporting UN efforts to help make food available for up to 1.7 million people caught up in the ongoing violence in Syria, as well as vital medical care.
To ask Her Majesty's Government which government department is taking the lead on planning the United Kingdom response to unfolding events in Syria; which departments are being consulted; and whether their work is being directed by the Bringing Stability Overseas Board, the National Security Council or the Cabinet Office.[HL16196]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The National Security Council (NSC) is co-ordinating HMG's response to unfolding events in Syria. The NSC, chaired by the Prime Minister, has discussed the situation in Syria
19 Mar 2012 : Column WA149
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government share the concerns expressed by the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the European Commission over freedom of expression, including the arrests and lengthy detention without trial of a number of journalists in Turkey.
The Minister for Europe, my right honourable friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington) and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) discussed these issues at a meeting with Egemen Bagis, the Turkish Minister for European Union Affairs, on 1 March 2012.
The UK welcomes the recent release of four journalists from prison. We also welcome the Turkish Government's recent proposals on judicial reform as an important step towards improving freedom of expression, and are encouraged that further reforms are planned in the future. Along with our European Union partners, we will continue to press for further progress on this urgent issue and hope to see real and lasting developments being made.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government regularly raise the management of oil revenues with the Government of Uganda, including the importance of establishing a clear framework that will sustain investor confidence and ensure revenues can be used for long-term growth and development. In September 2011, the Secretary of State for International Development, my right honourable friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), raised the issue with the Ugandan Minister of Finance. Most recently the Minister of State for International Development, my right honourable friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr Duncan) and I had constructive discussions about Uganda's regulation of its oil industry,
19 Mar 2012 : Column WA150
We regard transparency of oil revenue management to be an important factor in our assessment of our budget support to the Ugandan Government. As such, we agreed targets on revenue management with the Ugandan Government in October 2011, including the annual publication of oil and gas revenues.
We are responding to specific requests for assistance from the Government of Uganda and will, together with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, continue to work closely with them on this important agenda.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Northover on 28 November 2011 (WA 33), how many times the Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Development has met the chief executive of UK Trade and Investment to discuss closer co-operation between the two bodies.[HL16159]
Baroness Northover: The Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Development met the chief executive of UK Trade and Investment twice on behalf of Ministers during the course of 2011 to discuss closer co-operation between the two bodies. A further meeting is scheduled for May 2012.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Northover on 28 November 2011 (WA 33), whether the plan for a proposal to run a joint Department for International Development and UK Trade and Investment conference, possibly focusing on infrastructure, has been taken forward; and whether a date has been decided for the conference.[HL16160]
Baroness Northover: The Department for International Development and UK Trade and Industry are at an early stage in discussing the proposed infrastructure conference with a view to holding it later this year.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Northover on 28 November 2011 (WA 33), whether they will publish the new formal joint Department for International Development, UK Trade and Investment, and Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidelines relating to aid-funded business opportunities. [HL16161]
Baroness Northover: Guidance was drawn up in 2011 on how the Department for International Development (DfID), UK Trade and Investment and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should work
19 Mar 2012 : Column WA151
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Northover on 28 November 2011 (WA 33), how they are measuring the closeness of collaboration between UK Trade and Investment and the Department for International Development's in-country posts.[HL16162]
Baroness Northover: There are no standard metrics in place to measure the closeness of collaboration between the in-country posts of the Department for International Development (DfID) and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) however both organisations are committed to ensure closer collaboration. DfID and UKTI in-country posts have been given clear guidance on how best to work together to promote the UK Government's commercial diplomacy agenda. Commercial diplomacy can support UKTI and DfID agendas; increasing the total number of bidders for an aid project increases competitiveness and improves value for money. Each year, over the past two years, a joint letter from the Permanent Secretaries of DfID and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the chief executive of UKTI has been issued to all of DfID, UKTI and FCO in-country posts requiring
19 Mar 2012 : Column WA152
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make proposals to ensure that all United Nations peacekeepers and police staff are subject to investigation in relation to any allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in countries to which they are deployed, including Haiti.[HL16284]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK takes all allegations of misconduct by United Nations (UN) peacekeepers extremely seriously. The overwhelming majority of peacekeepers uphold the very highest of standards. But there have been cases where peacekeepers have abused the trust placed in them by the very populations they are there to protect. For military peacekeepers, the responsibility for investigating an allegation of serious misconduct and taking subsequent disciplinary action rests, in the first instance, with the Troop Contributing Country. For others, this responsibility lies with the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services. We are committed to working with the UN and Troop Contributing Countries to tackle this problem. We strongly support the UN's zero tolerance policy towards incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse.
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