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Written Answers

Friday 13 July 2012

Afghanistan

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will discuss with the government of Afghanistan the release, on parole or probation if necessary, and resettlement of women found guilty of moral crimes. [HL1362]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Working with our international partners, we continue to have a regular dialogue with the Afghan Government on human rights and continue to press the Afghans to uphold their commitments under the Afghan Constitution. We also press them to implement the human rights obligations that they have committed to, including the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Bahrain

Question

Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why the United Kingdom did not support the joint declaration about human rights violations in Bahrain, issued by 28 countries during a United Nations Human Rights Council debate on 28 June.[HL1276]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK did not sign up to the joint statement as we did not consider it appropriate at this stage to raise Bahrain under agenda item four. A number of other countries, including the United States and other European Union member states, agreed with our assessment and also did not sign the statement.

We agree with much of the substance of the Swiss-led statement and our overall objective remains to support improvements in Bahrain’s human rights records. However, we do not believe that the situation in Bahrain is comparable with the situation in the other countries raised under this item such as Syria. As a consequence the UK did raise concerns about the situation in Bahrain under agenda item ten.

Progress has been made in a number of areas relating to human rights. The Bahrain Government have established a Special Investigations Unit to investigate allegations of torture and mistreatment, amended the penal code to ensure greater accountability for officials connected with torture charges, and introduced a police code of conduct imposing strict rules on the use of force.

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But clearly much more needs to be done and the UK, as a long standing ally, is supporting Bahrain on its path of reform.

Banking

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will ensure that the Serious Fraud Office has sufficient financial resources to secure the professional advice necessary to investigate the manipulation of LIBOR.[HL1368]

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): The Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has confirmed that he has taken on these allegations for investigation. If the SFO requires further resources with which to do so, the Prime Minister has made clear that these will be made available.

Burma

Questions

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Burma about establishing a joint national and international board, to assess the number of political prisoners in Burma.[HL1331]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We have raised with the Government on a number of occasions the need for an independent investigative mechanism to assess the circumstances and numbers of political prisoners in Burma, in line with the recommendations made by United Nations Special Rapporteur Quintana. We have not made specific representations about the make up of that body. Following a significant release of some political prisoners in January, we have continued to call for the unconditional release of all political prisoners. The Prime Minister, my right honourable friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) raised the issue of remaining political prisoners with President Thein Sein during his visit to Burma on 13 April. Around 25 political prisoners were released most recently in July.

We recognise the importance of establishing an appropriate mechanism whereby cases can be discussed and independently verified, leading to further releases of remaining detainees, where it would be appropriate to do so. We continue to press the Government of Burma to release all remaining prisoners, and to clarify the status of those remaining as a matter of urgency.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have held with Ko Ko Gyi from the 88 Generation Students regarding his comments on the ethnic Rohingya of Burma.[HL1333]

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Lord Howell of Guildford: We are aware of the comments made by Ko Ko Gyi regarding the status of the ethnic Rohingya of Burma. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials subsequently discussed these with him on 12 June. There are many people both within and outside of Burma who continue to question the Rohingya’s right to live within Burma’s borders. The UK continues to raise awareness of the issues affecting the Rohingya, and strongly supported a United Nations resolution at the Human Rights Council in March which called on the Government of Burma to recognise the right of members of the Rohingya ethnic minority in Rakhine State to nationality and to protect all of their human rights.

During respective visits to Burma this year by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) and Prime Minister, my right honourable friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), they raised the issues affecting the Rohingya directly with President Thein Sein, and met with members of the Rohingya community to hear their concerns first hand.

During the visit of Aung San Suu Kyi from 18-26 June to the United Kingdom, both the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary discussed with her the issues affecting the Rohingya community.

We will continue to highlight the need for the Government of Burma to recognise the basic human rights of the Rohingya, with them directly, with our international partners and within international institutions, until the issue is resolved.

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have received regarding a helicopter firing on a boat of ethnic Rohingya refugees fleeing from Burma.[HL1350]

Lord Howell of Guildford: We are aware of unconfirmed reports of a helicopter originating in Rakhine State firing on boats carrying ethnic Rohingya fleeing Burma. We are continuing to clarify the situation, but have no further information on the validity of these reports at this stage.

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimates they have made of the number of ethnic Rohingya arrested since inter-ethnic violence began in Rakhine State, Burma.[HL1351]

Lord Howell of Guildford: The recent inter-communal violence in Rakhine State in western Burma has highlighted the fragility of the situation in Burma and has drawn further and much needed attention to the plight of the Rohingya.

Reports vary on the precise number of deaths and numbers of those arrested from both the Rohingya and Rakhine communities. We are continuing to try and clarify these numbers, though given the difficulty in obtaining indicative figures, it would not be appropriate to comment further. We remain deeply concerned by

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the nature of the humanitarian situation in Rakhine State which we continue to monitor very closely, and our Embassy in Rangoon is in regular contact with members of the Rohingya community.

Crime: Fraud

Question

Asked by Lord Morris of Aberavon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that alleged financial wrongdoing is investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and the City of London police force as appropriate.[HL1296]

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): The Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has formally accepted the LIBOR matter for investigation and the SFO has initiated a criminal inquiry.

EU: Association Agreements

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the adoption by the European Council of the European Union Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, and its affirmation of its centrality in European Union foreign policy, means that the human rights clauses of the European Union-Israel Association Agreement will now be fully enforced.[HL1260]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government fully support the adoption by the European Council of the European Union Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy. The human rights clauses of the European Union (EU)-Israel Association Agreement will continue to be enforced and the EU will continue to make clear to Israel its human rights concerns, particularly with respect to Israeli actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It remains the position of the EU, which the UK supports, that no update of the Association Agreement is possible until progress is achieved in the peace process.

EU: External Action Service

Question

Asked by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what, if any, guidance they have provided to ambassadors, and overseas-based staff, about working with European Union External Action Service ambassadors and heads of delegation and their representations. [HL1299]

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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government's priority, following the establishment of the European External Action Service (EEAS), is to ensure that it supports and complements - but does not replace—the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) has asked ambassadors and staff in our overseas network to ensure that they work constructively with European Union Delegations in pursuit of three objectives:

To ensure that EU external action promotes UK security and prosperity internationally;To ensure that it provides a service which delivers value for money for the UK taxpayer; andTo ensure that the EEAS does not intrude on the competence of Member States.

The Foreign Secretary has also encouraged FCO staff to apply for jobs in the EEAS.

Government Departments: Apprentices

Questions

Asked by Lord Adonis

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the total number of staff employed within the private offices of ministers and the permanent secretary at the Government Equalities Office on 1 June; and how many of them were (1) under the age of 21, (2) apprentices under the age of 21, and (3) apprentices over the age of 21.[HL1421]

Baroness Verma: As of 1 April 2011, the Government Equalities Office has been part of the Home Office and is no longer a separate Government Department. The information requested will be provided by my honourable friend the Minister for crime prevention and anti-social behaviour reduction in response to your similar question HL1318, that relates to the Home Department.

Asked by Lord Adonis

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many apprentices (1) under the age of 21, and (2) over the age of 21, were employed within the Government Equalities Office on 1 June, excluding agencies and non-departmental public bodies.[HL1422]

Baroness Verma: As of 1 April 2011, the Government Equalities Office has been part of the Home Office and is no longer a separate Government Department. The information requested will be provided by my honourable friend the Minister for crime prevention and anti-social behaviour reduction in response to your similar question HL1319, that relates to the Home Department.

Asked by Lord Willis of Knaresborough

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there is any requirement for companies in receipt of Government procurement contracts to offer paid internships for graduates, or apprenticeships. [HL1228]

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Issues such as apprenticeships, internships and tackling unemployment can be included in procurements where it is proportionate to do so and they are relevant to the subject matter of the contract. It is for individual contracting authorities to determine whether the use of internships or apprenticeships are relevant to and will increase the value for money derived from a contract.

Horses

Question

Asked by Baroness Mallalieu

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to ensure that individuals who carry out equine dentistry are properly trained and qualified.[HL1395]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): Defra is beginning a review of how a range of activities undertaken by non-veterinarians should be controlled in the future. The review will include factors such as training and qualifications.

Equine dentistry is one of the procedures we intend to review in more depth with industry groups and representatives of the veterinary profession, to ensure high standards of competency, knowledge and application of animal welfare are incorporated in future controls.

Indonesia

Question

Asked by The Lord Bishop of Chester

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the escalating violence in West Papua, including the killing of a leader of the independence movement Mako Tabuni, whether they will press for the United Nations to send observers to West Papua, and make representations to the government of Indonesia to allow access to West Papua for journalists and humanitarian organisations.[HL1402]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK takes seriously all reports of human rights violations in the provinces of Papua and West Papua. We are concerned about the recent increase in violence in the province of Papua and we are aware of the death of Mako Tabuni on 14 June. Our Embassy in Jakarta has raised concerns about the security situation with the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is monitoring the situation closely. The Embassy regularly encourages more open access to Papua for journalists and humanitarian organisations. We have also taken the opportunity to encourage discussion of Papua at a senior level where possible including when the Prime Minister met the Indonesian President in April 2012. In June a British Parliamentary delegation from the Inter-Parliamentary Union raised their concerns over the human rights situation in Papua with the Foreign Minister, Defence

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Minister and Indonesian parliamentarians. Our Embassy has requested permission from the Indonesian Authorities to travel to Papua twice over the last month.

The UK does not currently intend to press for the United Nations to send observers to West Papua. In May Indonesia had its second Universal Periodic Review, where United Nations member states had the opportunity to comment on the human rights progress in Indonesia. In our statement we raised the situation in Papua, as did a number of other countries. The UK’s priority is to encourage full implementation of special autonomy for the provinces of Papua and West Papua and press for increased focus on economic and social development to address the widespread poverty in the region. We supported the creation in September 2011 of a new Presidential unit, UP4B (Special Unit for Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua), which aims to accelerate development in these provinces and pursue constructive communication with the Papuan people. We hope this unit can now make meaningful progress on governance issues and contribute to efforts to alleviate the widespread poverty and economic marginalisation of ethnic Papuans.

Iraq: Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty

Questions

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to encourage the United Nations towards more effective intervention within Camps Ashraf and Liberty regarding water and medical provision for the residents and protection of their basic human rights.[HL1245]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The United Nations (UN) continues to monitor conditions at both camps and has reassured us that facilities at Camp Liberty meet humanitarian and international standards. The UN also continues to facilitate discussions between the Government of Iraq and the leaderships of both Camp Ashraf and Liberty to find solutions to residents’ concerns. We have urged the Government of Iraq to respect the human rights of the camps’ residents in accordance with international law and Iraqi domestic law.

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have in respect of all deaths in Camps Ashraf and Liberty since 1 January 2011; and what are the details of each case.[HL1246]

Lord Howell of Guildford: According to the UNHCR (the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), there has been one death in Camp Liberty since the process of relocating residents from Camp Ashraf began. We have no further details of this case. The United Nations has expressed difficulties in verifying the details of specific cases, but will continue to monitor the treatment of residents at both Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty.

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Israel

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will make representations to the government of Israel concerning the killing of 13 year-old Ma’moun al-Dam by a missile on 20 June.[HL1252]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK expressed its concern at the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel and urged all sides to exercise restraint and avoid civilian casualties. Continued violence serves no one’s interest.

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will make representations to the government of Israel about the continued incarceration of Mr Hassan Safadi and the solitary confinement of Mr Dirar Abu Sisi.[HL1259]

Lord Howell of Guildford: Officials from our Embassy in Tel Aviv have urged the Office of the Israeli Prime Minister and the Israeli Prison Service to carry out its commitments under the agreement agreed on 14 May which allowed for the ending of the mass hunger strike by Palestinian detainees. These commitments included to limit its use of administrative detention and solitary confinement and to reinstate family visits for detainees. We will continue to monitor the implementation of the agreement and its impact on individual detainees including those named.

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government , further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 25 June (WA 32), whether they will propose to the United Nations that it take measures to persuade Israel to place its nuclear facilities under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency. [HL1311]

Lord Howell of Guildford: The UK believes a strong safeguards regime is important to ensure that nuclear programmes are purely for peaceful purposes. The UK has urged Israel to sign up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However in the absence of this we have called on Israel to voluntarily adopt a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. United Nations Security Council Resolution 487 called on Israel to adopt a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. We have also supported resolutions in the General Assembly that have made similar calls.

Israel and Palestine

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they intend to take following the publication of the report Children in Military Custody.[HL1253]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Children in Military Custody report was an independent study

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produced by a team of leading British lawyers and funded by the UK Government. Whilst we recognise that some positive recent steps have been taken to improve the treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military justice system, we share many of the report's concerns. We are engaging with the Israeli authorities to encourage further improvements.

Lord’s Resistance Army

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what efforts they are making, in collaboration with the African Union and other partners, to ensure a cohesive response to acts of violence by the Lord's Resistance Army; and what discussions they have had to that end with the governments of Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan.[HL1334]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK is clear that a co-ordinated international approach is needed to bring the threat of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to an end. The European Union (EU), with UK financial and political support, has helped fund the establishment of the African Union (AU) Special Envoy on the LRA, who has made progress in co-ordinating the response from the four LRA-affected countries. We also regularly press the Governments of these countries and other key players such as the United Nations (UN), the EU, the AU and the United States to adopt a comprehensive approach. We did this most recently at the International Working Group on the LRA in New York on 27 June 2012.

The UK also pressed the UN to create its new Regional Strategy on the LRA, which was presented to the UN Security Council on 29 June 2012. This strategy should ensure a comprehensive response from the relevant UN actors in the region, and the co-ordination of their efforts with those of the AU.

Palestine

Questions

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are investigating allegations of the use of prolonged detentions, solitary confinement, detention without family visits, and of the use of hooding, stress positions and torture by the security agencies of the Palestinian Authority, following the death of the Governor of Jenin.[HL1257]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Our officials from the Consulate-General in Jerusalem visited Jenin on 7 June to investigate the allegations of mistreatment and torture. They spoke to the head of security, Commander Mohammed Araj, and Governor Talal Dweikat. At both meetings they stressed the vital importance of due process being followed in any arrest.

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They also met with officials of the International Committee of the Red Crescent who briefed us on the allegations that they had received regarding mistreatment. Our Consul General to Jerusalem met with the new Palestinian Minister of Justice on 2 July and reaffirmed the need for all allegations of torture and mistreatment to be thoroughly investigated.

Rwanda

Questions

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the government of Rwanda about releasing political prisoners. [HL1189]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We continue to raise our concerns about the fairness of trials of opposition political figures with the Government of Rwanda at the highest levels. We also take every opportunity to lobby Rwanda to change legislation that may be used to stifle free speech and peaceful political opposition. We recognise Rwanda’s sovereign right to safeguard its own national security, but we encourage the Rwandan Government to strike a balance which guarantees fundamental political rights.

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the government of Rwanda regarding the treatment of opposition political parties.[HL1190]

Lord Howell of Guildford: We are encouraged by the government of Rwanda's stated commitment to reform the process for the registration of political parties, to make it fairer and more transparent. With parliamentary elections due in September 2013, we take every opportunity to urge the Rwandan Government to conclude this process as quickly as possible, to allow unregistered parties time to register, enter candidates and campaign openly in 2013.

Turkey

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will make representations to the government of Turkey with a view to promoting political and constitutional, rather than military, solutions to the PKK insurgency.[HL1378]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We continue to support a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. We urge Turkey to take full advantage of the opportunities created by the process of constitutional reform. We have underlined our support for Turkey’s efforts to

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defeat the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and applaud recent steps taken by the government to end the violence, including the agreement on a “roadmap” with the main opposition party. We also welcome the

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Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party’s statement on 19 June calling on the PKK to lay down its arms, and Prime Minister Erdogan’s meeting on I July with independent Kurdish MP Leyla Zana.