21 Mar 2013 : Column WA167

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA167

Written Answers

Thursday 21 March 2013

Agriculture: Genetically Modified Crops

Question

Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of research by scientists at the European Food Safety Authority published in Issue 57 of Science in Society regarding the potential dangers to human health posed by the virus Gene VI when it overlaps with the cauliflower mosaic virus CaMV 35S promoter.[HL6250]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The research paper in question was published in 2012 in the journal GM Crops and Food: Biotechnology in Agriculture and the Food Chain. It provides an overview of the different variants of the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) promoter region, including overlapping fragments of the virus gene VI, that have been used to produce genetically modified plants. CaMV is a virus that infects plants of the Brassica, or cabbage, family but not animals or humans.

Some websites have highlighted this paper and claim that the presence of the viral gene VI or parts of it, in authorised varieties of genetically modified (GM) plants is a health concern and such plants might not be safe for human consumption.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which carries out the risk assessment of GM plants, has refuted this interpretation of the data presented in the published paper. All GM plant applications assessed by EFSA since its creation in 2002 that contain fragments of CaMV have included a detailed analysis of the inserted fragments and no safety concerns were identified in relation to the sequence of the inserted fragments of the viral gene.

Agriculture: Single Farm Payment

Question

Asked by Lord Empey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what additional steps they are taking to ensure that farmers comply with the European Union decision that land claimed for single farm payment entitlement is clearly defined by a physical boundary where land parcels are shared but not legally established commons.[HL6258]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): Under the existing arrangements in England, each land parcel which is used to claim under the single payment scheme must be mapped according to its physical boundary. This also applies when the land parcel is shared. Guidance on how farmers should map their land is contained in the RLE1 Guidance which can be found on the website of the Rural Payments Agency at: http://rpa.defra.gov.uk/rlel and will also be placed in the Library of the House.

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA168

Airports: Security

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 11 March (WA 1), in the light of the prevalence of electronic check-in, what steps they take to ensure that boarding passes are genuine and accurately prove a passenger's intention to fly; and whether they consider that an additional check of identity documents would increase security.[HL6235]

Earl Attlee: The Department for Transport continuously monitors any changes to the threat faced by airports and acts to work with the industry to improve security, as appropriate. The department feels that the current security measures in place are sufficient and has no plans to increase regulation in this area.

Alcohol: Minimum Pricing

Question

Asked by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will announce the outcome of the consultation on minimum unit pricing for alcohol.[HL6327]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): The alcohol strategy consultation closed on 6 February. The Government will consider all views and will respond in due course.

Bahrain

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Bahrain since January 2012 concerning (1) attacks on peaceful protesters and medical personnel, (2) arbitrary detentions, (3) the use of military courts to try civil offences, (4) deaths in custody and allegations of torture, (5) refusal of access to United Nations and independent observers, (6) killings by military or police forces, and (7) death and life imprisonment sentences; and what replies, if any, they have received. [HL6207]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): We have raised our human rights concerns with the Bahraini Government, particularly around the recent two year anniversary of the unrest. We have urged the need for restraint to be exercised in all circumstances and even when faced with violent provocation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my honourable friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), visited Bahrain on 11-12 March and discussed with the Ministers for the Interior, Justice and Human

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA169

Rights, the Bahraini Government’s reform programme and where the UK could provide further practical assistance in implementation. He reiterated our call for due process to be carefully and transparently followed in cases of detention or arrest. He also pressed that investigations into allegations of human rights violations by officials must be carried out effectively, with those found guilty given sentences that are proportionate to the convictions.

We were saddened by the deaths of two protesters and one policeman following clashes last month and have urged thorough investigations to be conducted. We publicly expressed our dismay at the decision by the Cassation Court to uphold the life sentences of 13 activists for their part in protests in 2011, not least as there are reports that some of the individuals concerned had been abused in detention, denied access to legal counsel and were coerced into confessing. We also publicly expressed our disappointment in the Court of Cassation’s decision to uphold all the convictions and sentences against nine medical personnel for their involvement in the 2011 unrest.

Regarding the use of military courts to try civil offences, the National Safety Court was abolished in October 2011. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry recommended that all convictions and sentences rendered by these courts, where fundamental principles of a fair trial were not respected, be subject to full review in civilian courts. We support this recommendation and expect the authorities to continue reviewing cases that have not yet been looked at.

We are not aware of the Government refusing access to Bahrain for the United Nations.

A team of technical experts from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Bahrain in December and reported good co-operation from across the Bahraini Government. In addition, we await with interest to hear the findings of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, who is due to visit Bahrain in May.

Banking

Question

Asked by Viscount Waverley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the United Kingdom is well equipped to flourish as a centre for Islamic banking and finance; and whether they intend to introduce further legislation in that area.[HL6062]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): On 11 March 2013, the Government launched the UK’s first Islamic finance task force, to support development of the UK’s Islamic finance sector, increase inward investment and strengthen the UK economy.

The task force will have three key objectives:

to act as UK ministerial champions for the World Islamic Economic Forum in London on 29-31 October;to engage with the United Kingdom Islamic Finance Secretariat (UKIFS) and others to promote and raise the international profile of the industry; and

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA170

to use Islamic finance to facilitate inward investment and strengthen the UK economy, including through our ongoing support for sovereign wealth funds looking to invest in UK infrastructure.

Further information is available on the Treasury’s websitel.

1 http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/press_2013.htm

Building Stability Overseas Board

Question

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there is a dedicated member of the Building Stability Overseas Board who has explicit responsibility for gender, peace and security.[HL6242]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The Government’s work to prevent and end instability and conflict overseas takes full account of the need to promote UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women peace and security, through both the building stability overseas (BSO) strategy and the Government’s national action plan (NAP) on UNSCR 1325 women, peace and security. The strategy stresses the need to address violence against women and support women's role in building peace. Rather than an individual with responsibility for gender, peace and security, in overseeing the implementation of BSO strategy, each member of the BSO board ensures that these commitments are met. Cross-Whitehall implementation of the NAP is led by the head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s conflict department who is also a member of the BSO board.

Climate Change

Questions

Asked by Lord Donoughue

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Verma on 13 February (WA 158), concerning statistical models for global temperatures and the likelihood of a linear trend with first-order autoregressive noise relative to a driftless third-order autoregressive integrated model, what is their assessment of the relative likelihood of those models.[HL6132]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Verma on 5 February (WA 31–2), whether they have considered using the statistical software R to produce a trend estimate on a driftless third-order autoregressive integrated model.[HL6133]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): I refer the noble Lord to the Written Answer I gave on 13 February (Official Report, col. WA158) on the subject of statistical models for assessing observed global temperature time series.

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA171

I reaffirm that my officials would be willing to arrange a meeting with you to discuss this subject, in relation to the series of questions you have tabled on this topic over recent months.

Work on statistical modelling is undertaken at the Met Office, which chose to use a relatively simple linear trend plus first order autoregressive process (AR1) model to be consistent with that used in the fourth assessment report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) for assessing changes in observed near-surface temperatures. This statistical model is used for summary or descriptive purposes.

Cyclists: Speed Limits

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 7 March (WA 413) concerning cycling speed limits, whether, in the light of the ability of cycles to exceed speeds of 20 miles per hour, they will review the law to make it an offence for cyclists to exceed speed limits.[HL6332]

Earl Attlee: We currently have no plans to amend the law. Although speed limits do not apply to bicycles, a cyclist can be prosecuted for riding dangerously or carelessly.

Most cyclists travel under 15 mph and because of the effect of air resistance, cycling over 20 mph soon exceeds the aerobic maximum output of most cyclists.

Elections: Mailings

Question

Asked by Lord Tyler

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what were the costs of freepost election address mailings to each elector or household (1) in the 2010 General Election, from each candidate and (2) in the 2009 European Election, from each party list; and what were the costs on a per elector basis in England, London, Wales, and Scotland respectively.[HL6093]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The total cost of election mailings at the 2010 general election was £28,655,271 for England and Wales, and £2,055,519 for Scotland. The average cost per elector was 71p in England and Wales, and 53p in Scotland.

The total cost of election mailings at the 2009 European election was £35,439,760 for England and Wales, and £2,719,070 for Scotland. The average cost per elector was 88p in England and Wales, and 71p in Scotland.

Figures are not specifically available for London.

Not all parties and candidates would have sought delivery of an election mailing to every elector/household in any constituency or electoral region, and will have chosen either to have them delivered per elector or per household which would attract different costs.

Therefore, average costs have been provided to reflect the actual overall expenditure divided by the relevant electorate.

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA172

Embryology

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 11 March (WA 12), whether they will describe how their definition of pronuclei has changed between passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in 1990, amendment of that Act in 2008 and publication of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s Scientific review of the safety and efficacy of methods to avoid mitochondrial disease through assisted conception in 2011.[HL6215]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 has included references to pronucleus and pronuclei since the Act was amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 but the amended Act does not define these terms. No reference to pronucleus or pronuclei was included in the Act prior to this amendment.

In respect of the use of the term by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the authority has advised that it has nothing further to add to the information provided to the noble Lord in my Written Answer of 11 March (Official Report, col. WAl2).

Eritrea

Question

Asked by Lord Chidgey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that 3,000 Eritreans fled Eritrea in 2012 for the refugee camps in Eastern Sudan. [HL6081]

Baroness Northover: The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that approximately 400 to 600 persons entered refugee camps in the east of Sudan each month in the second half of 2012, with the large majority of refugees and asylum-seekers originating from Eritrea. The figure has reduced from around 2,000 persons/month in early 2012. UNHCR provides food, shelter and primary health support to new arrivals, and ensures access to basic services and protection support in the refugee camps. The UK continues to provide support to the common humanitarian fund to meet current needs within Sudan.

EU: Taxation

Question

Asked by Lord Pearson of Rannoch

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the legal basis for (1) the Eurozone financial transaction tax, and (2) the European Union cap on bankers' bonuses; and what voting arrangements apply in each case.[HL6095]

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA173

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): The legal basis of the European Commission’s proposal for the implementation of a financial transaction tax through enhanced co-operation published 14 February is Article 113 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and Council decision 2013/52/EU of 22 January 2013 authorising enhanced co-operation in the area of financial transaction tax. The procedure for voting on enhanced co-operation proposals under Article 113 is that only those member states participating in the enhanced co-operation procedure are entitled to vote, and agreement is reached only through unanimity of those participating member states.

The capital requirements directive (CRD) IV proposals on remuneration have been proposed under on Article 53(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. CRD IV will be agreed by the ordinary legislative procedure, with the joint agreement of the Council (by qualified majority voting) and the European Parliament.

Finance: Funding for Lending Scheme

Question

Asked by Lord Sharkey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to extending the Funding For Lending Scheme to Community Finance Development Institutions.[HL6061]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): The Bank of England and Treasury are actively considering whether there are potential extensions to the funding for lending scheme that will boost lending further. All options which support the scheme’s objectives to boost lending further will be considered, taking into account prevailing market conditions.

Flooding

Questions

Asked by Lord Patten

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the effects of regular dredging of waterways on the incidence of flooding and standing water in farming areas in England.[HL5987]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): In 2010 the Environment Agency carried out a pilot study at several locations in England to assess the effect of watercourse maintenance and dredging on flood risk to people and property.

The study showed that dredging can in some cases reduce flood risk locally, but it is not suitable in all locations and should be considered on a location-by-location basis.

The Environment Agency has not carried out any specific assessment of the impacts of regular dredging on standing water on fields adjacent to main rivers.

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA174

Asked by Lord Patten

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord De Mauley on 27 February (WA 323), what is their assessment of the action to be taken to improve the management of flood waters in Curry Moor before the winter of 2013–14.[HL6037]

Lord De Mauley: Since the initial summer flooding of the Lower Tone, the Environment Agency has been working with local organisations and communities to consider how best to manage future flood risk on Curry Moor. This work has considered a number of options including the East Lyng cut, adjustment of the Hook Bridge spillway and raising of the River Tone banks at key locations. It has also considered carrying out dredging at particular places on the Rivers Tone and Parrett.

Initially this work identified what was technically possible and the likely costs and benefits of each option. Work is now being undertaken to quantify further costs and benefits of these options. The outputs of this work and potential funding options will be discussed by the Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee in April.

In the period from April 2012 to January 2013, the agency spent over £1.9 million on maintenance and operational activities to address the impact of flooding on the Somerset Moors and Levels as a whole, with £250,000 spent in July alone specifically on managing the floods across Curry Moor.

Gaza

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the number of truck loads of produce which have exited Gaza during the recent ceasefire.[HL6221]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): According to the UN access co-ordination unit, 130 truckloads of goods have been exported from Gaza since the recent ceasefire.

We continue to press the Israeli Government at ministerial and official level to ease access restrictions further.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Israel concerning recent attacks on Gazan fishermen within the six mile fishing limit.[HL6255]

Baroness Warsi: The UK regularly makes representations at both ministerial and official level to the Israeli authorities on the urgent need to ease restrictions on Gaza. Most recently, officials from our embassy in Tel Aviv raised our concerns with the Office of the Co-ordinator of Government Activities

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA175

in the Territories on 21 January, and with the Israeli National Security Council on 28 January, over Palestinian casualties caused by Israeli Defence Forces operations.

Health: Antibiotics

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what government advisory committees relating to antimicrobial resistance have been in existence in the last five years; what is their current status; what are the current guidelines on the differing lengths of antibiotic courses for urinary tract infections; and on what research those differences are based.[HL6236]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections is the key source of scientific advice on antimicrobial resistance. It is a departmental expert committee, which was established in 2007 to advise the Government on strategies to minimise the incidence of healthcare associated infection and to maintain the effectiveness of antimicrobial agents in the treatment and prevention of microbial infections. In addition, the Government can draw on the expertise of the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Antimicrobial Resistance Co-ordination Group.

The Health Protection Agency and the British Infection Association published guidance (last reviewed in November 2012) on the Management of Infection Guidance for Primary Care. This guidance, which has been endorsed by the Royal College of General Practitioners, includes recommendations for urinary tract infections on the type of antibiotic to be prescribed, the dose and the duration of treatment. The guidance is evidence based, and the sources of research that underpin the guidance are contained in the document. A copy of Management of Infection Guidance for Primary Care has been placed in the Library.

Health: Sickle Cell Anaemia

Questions

Asked by Baroness Benjamin

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is being done to include community organisations in delivering specialised sickle cell disorder services to sufferers and their carers.[HL6274]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The interdependence of specialised, local and community care is well recognised within the National Health Service. Clinicians have proposed that a pathfinder working group is formed to look at the patient pathway and identify opportunities to deliver meaningful change.

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA176

Asked by Baroness Benjamin

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consultation has taken place to ensure a smooth transition between the specialised sickle cell disorder services commissioned by the National Health Service Commissioning Board and those services commissioned by the clinical commissioning groups.[HL6275]

Earl Howe: No formal consultation has taken place specifically on the transition of sickle cell services. However, the NHS Commissioning Board has recently consulted on the detailed service specifications for specialised haemoglobinopathy services, which includes the provision of services for patients with sickle cell. The board is in the process of finalising its 2013-14 service specifications and commissioning policies and is expected to publish them very shortly.

Horses

Question

Asked by Lord Greaves

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made an assessment of the problem of horses fly-grazing on pastures or areas of grass such as sports fields; and, if so, what advice they are giving and what action they are taking.[HL5950]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): There is legislation in place to deal with the problem of fly grazing. However, the Government sympathise with landowners and horse welfare organisations about people who graze their horses on other people’s land without their permission. The Government urge local authorities and other interested parties to work together and share best practice in order to deal with instances of fly grazing. The Government have not specifically assessed this problem in relation to sports fields. Defra is also working closely with the Home Office in the development of new measures to tackle anti-social behaviour to ensure that they can be used to deal with people who leave horses on other people’s land without their permission.

Human Rights

Questions

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many cases brought against the United Kingdom Government are currently pending at the European Court of Human Rights.[HL6188]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): On 31 December 2012 there were 3,308 cases pending against the UK according to the 2012 annual report of the European Court of Human Rights.

The majority of all applications submitted to the Strasbourg court are disposed of without the need for a judgment, for example where an applicant has failed to complete and submit an application form within the allotted time or where the application is otherwise declared inadmissible. By way of illustration, in 2012, there were 24 judgments in UK cases, with 10 judgments finding violations against the UK.

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA177

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many cases were lodged against the United Kingdom Government at the European Court of Human Rights in each year since 2009.[HL6189]

Lord McNally: Information is not available in the form requested.

The United Kingdom is not notified of most of the cases lodged against it at the European Court of Human Rights each year because they are declared inadmissible or struck out before being communicated to the United Kingdom. Therefore, the Government do not hold a record of each of the applications lodged against the United Kingdom each year.

Figures published on the European Court of Human Rights website dating from September 2011 state that from the beginning of its operation until 1 January 2011, the court issued 14,029 inadmissibility decisions in applications lodged against the United Kingdom and 3,172 applications against the United Kingdom were pending. Further statistical analysis on the website from September 2011 noted that only 3% of all of the applications lodged against the United Kingdom resulted in judgments. For example in 2012, the court issued 24 judgments in United Kingdom cases and found at least one violation in 10 of those judgments.

The European Court of Human Rights provides a figure in its published annual report for the number of applications against the United Kingdom that are awaiting judicial decision at the year end. These annual figures do not include applications against the United Kingdom that have been both received and disposed of during the year in question. The UK figures for each year end since 2009 are as follows:

2009

1,620

2010

3,172

2011

3,663

2012

3,308

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support, if any, is offered to (1) individuals, (2) non-governmental organisations, and (3) groups of individuals, who seek to bring cases against the United Kingdom Government at the European Court of Human Rights. [HL6190]

Lord McNally: Applicants to the European Court of Human Rights do not need to be legally represented in the first stages of proceedings. The great majority of applications are declared inadmissible without being communicated to the Government.

Once the court has communicated an application to the United Kingdom Government, the court requires that an applicant must have legal representation. The court has a legal aid scheme for applicants who can apply once their application has been communicated to the Government.

No domestic legal aid is available for applications to the European Court of Human Rights.

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA178

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have received, since 2010, from other member countries of the Council of Europe with regard to the United Kingdom’s (1) current, and (2) long-term, membership of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its Protocols.[HL6192]

Lord McNally: The Government discuss reform of the European Court of Human Rights with other member states of the Council of Europe regularly but have not received any formal representations on the UK’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights since 2010.

There is a widespread agreement of the need to reform the Strasbourg court. The successful negotiation of the Brighton Declaration during the UK’s chairmanship of the Council of Europe last year demonstrates the Government’s commitment to pursue effective reform of the European Court of Human Rights.

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of withdrawal from the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its Protocols as regards the United Kingdom’s relations, status and membership of (1) the United Nations, (2) the European Union, (3) the Council of Europe, (4) the Commonwealth, and (5) other international organisations of which it is a member and treaties to which it is a signatory.[HL6193]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): As set out in the coalition agreement, the Government remain committed to the European Convention on Human Rights and have no plans to denounce or withdraw from it.

Human Trafficking

Questions

Asked by Baroness Doocey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many of the children referred by the UK Border Agency in 2012 to the National Referral Mechanism for Victims of Trafficking entered the United Kingdom without a parent or legal guardian.[HL6263]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many of the children referred by the UK Border Agency in 2012 to the National Referral Mechanism for Victims of Trafficking first arrived in the United Kingdom by air travel.[HL6265]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): The UK Border Agency will normally encounter a potential victim during an enforcement operation or once a claim for protection has been received. Many have not entered

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA179

the UK using genuine documentation or do not retain the documentation that they used to travel to the UK so confirming the details of their arrival and whether they were accompanied is often not possible.

Asked by Baroness Doocey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many of the female children referred by the UK Border Agency to the National Referral Mechanism for Victims of Trafficking in 2012 were victims of sexual exploitation.[HL6267]

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: In 2012, UK Border Agency referred 22 female children into the national referral mechanism as potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Of these, seven female children have so far received a conclusive decision, and less than five have been conclusively accepted as victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. In order to maintain the anonymity of those individuals conclusively accepted, the precise figure is not given in this response.

Hungary

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of current and proposed constitutional changes in Hungary and their implications for Hungary's continued membership of the European Union.[HL6238]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): While the proposed constitutional changes are primarily a domestic issue for Hungary, the Government are following the debate closely. Membership of the EU places us all under an obligation to maintain the highest standards of rule of law and political pluralism. We therefore welcome the Hungarian Government’s stated commitment to EU law and values and their offer to work constructively with both the European Commission and the Venice Commission to address the concerns that have been voiced.

Israel

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made representations to the government of Israel regarding the recommendation in the report Children in Military Custody that “the maximum period of detention before production at court should be reduced to 24 hours and the periods of detention without charge should be reduced in line with Israeli youth law”; and, if so, with what result.[HL6217]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): Our embassy in Tel Aviv has raised the recommendations in this report with the Israeli authorities on a number of occasions and will continue to do so, underlining the need for provisions for Palestinian children in custody to mirror those for Israeli children.

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA180

During his visit to Israel in November 2012, the Attorney-General, my right honourable friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), discussed the report with the Israeli Attorney-General, Yehuda Weinstein, and other senior interlocutors. Mr Weinstein agreed to further talks between Israeli and British legal experts on the subject. In addition, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials discussed the recommendations and progress on this issue with a senior Israeli legal delegation in London on 31 January.

We welcome a recent Israeli military order which reduces the length of time children can be held in pre-trial detention and an announcement in December by the Israeli State Attorney, reducing, from April, the period a Palestinian minor falling under the jurisdiction of the West Bank military court system can be held before being brought before a judge. We will continue to press the Israeli authorities for further action on the recommendations in the report.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Israel concerning its issuing of licences for oil exploration on the Golan heights.[HL6219]

Baroness Warsi: We continue to follow reports on this issue closely but have not raised it with Israel. We continue to call on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, in all the territories it occupies, including the Golan Heights.

Israel and Palestine

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Israel concerning the arrests of Palestinian MPs Khaled Abu Arafeh and Mohammed Totah, who are currently detained within Israel.[HL6222]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): Our embassy in Tel Aviv has raised the arrests with the Israeli authorities and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

We also regularly raise our concerns with the Israeli Government about the broader questions of administrative detention and the treatment of Palestinian prisoners.

NHS: Chief Executive

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 13 March (WA 69), whether the current NHS chief executive will take up any position with the NHS Commissioning Board when his role is abolished on 1 April; and, if not, why not.[HL6321]

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA181

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Sir David Nicholson will take up appointment as the chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board on a full-time basis from 1 April 2013.

NHS: Private Management

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 11 March (WA 30), why there are no new proposals to allow qualified private firms to manage NHS trusts. [HL6199]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): It is the aim of Government to support all remaining National Health Service trusts to become sustainable providers of high quality healthcare services, through authorisation as foundation trusts (FTs).

Some trusts will not achieve FT status without substantial change, while others, through locally agreed plans, will overcome the challenges they face to become sustainable organisations. For others, it is likely that alternative solutions to achieve FT status will be necessary, such as partnerships with other organisations.

For some NHS trusts, innovative solutions, including the involvement of the independent sector, will be considered as options, but at present there are no agreed plans for any new independent sector managed providers.

The NHS Trust Development Authority (NHS TDA) will fully assume its responsibilities from 1 April 2013 to support the remaining NHS trusts on their FT journey and will advise Ministers as necessary in relation to the consideration of options.

Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Randerson on 11 March (WA 31), what advice they have received on the compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights of the provision in the draft Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill to prohibit a dual mandate for those who are members of both the House of Commons and the Northern Ireland Assembly; and whether a member of the House of Lords will be permitted to be a Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive under the proposed Bill, and vice versa.[HL6237]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Wales Office (Baroness Randerson): It is the Government’s view that the provisions relating to dual mandates in the draft Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill are compatible with the European Convention on

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA182

Human Rights. The Government have committed to providing detailed information on the human rights aspects of all of the provisions when the Bill is introduced.

The effects of the dual mandates provisions are set out in the Explanatory Notes to the draft Bill, also available in the Command Paper (Cm 8563).

Nuclear Weapons

Questions

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 25 February (WA 251–2) whether they sent a delegate to the conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Oslo on 4 and 5 March, and whether they will be sending a representative to the follow-up meeting, which is to be hosted by Mexico.[HL6276]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): After careful consideration, the Government decided not to send a representative to the conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in Oslo.

The Government support fully the objective of a world without nuclear weapons and are committed to working with all nations in pursuit of this shared goal. We fully understand the serious consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and will, alongside our P5 partners, continue to give the highest priority to ensuring that such consequences are avoided. While we recognise the seriousness of this subject and attach the utmost importance to it, our main concern was that the conference in Oslo could divert discussion and focus away from the practical steps required to create the conditions for further nuclear weapons reductions.

We believe that the practical, step-by-step approach that we are taking to progress multilateral nuclear disarmament through existing mechanisms, such as the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and the Conference on Disarmament, have proven to be the most effective means to increase stability and reduce nuclear dangers. We will therefore continue to work together with our P5 colleagues, and non nuclear weapons states, toward strengthening the foundation for mutual confidence and further disarmament efforts.

We have no information on the planned follow-up meeting to be hosted by Mexico but would consider any invitation on its merits, informed by the position stated above.

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the summary point made by the Chair of the conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Oslo on 4 and 5 March, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Norway, Espen Barth Eide, that “it is unlikely that any state or international body could address the immediate humanitarian emergency caused by a nuclear weapon detonation in an adequate manner and provide sufficient assistance to those affected”.[HL6277]

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA183

Baroness Warsi: Any use of nuclear weapons would have grave consequences. The best response is therefore to prevent such an event from occurring in the first place by making progress on multilateral disarmament, on counter-proliferation, and on improving the security of nuclear materials, facilities and specialist knowledge. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Action Plan, agreed by consensus by all NPT signatory states, sets out a wide range of practical measures designed to build the conditions for further progress on disarmament and counter-proliferation. We and our P5 partners will report on progress against the plan in April of next year.

Schools: Academies

Question

Asked by Lord Greaves

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what account they take of the state of a school’s finances in determining whether or not it should become a sponsored academy.[HL5735]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): When considering whether schools should become sponsored academies, the department takes into account two key sets of criteria: a school’s performance over time, and the results of Ofsted inspections. The state of a school’s finances is also an additional factor that can be used when considering whether a school should become a sponsored academy. As part of the pre-opening planning, we ensure that the academy trust develops robust and detailed budget plans to demonstrate how it will live within its budget when the academy opens. If a school has a deficit at the time it becomes a sponsored academy, this will remain with the local authority.

Somalia

Question

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that women and their rights are meaningfully represented at the international conference on Somalia in London.[HL6241]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): While conditions are improving on the ground in Somalia, women in particular face profound challenges to their basic human rights. Female genital mutilation/cutting is almost universal; domestic violence is commonplace; and rape and sexual violence are prevalent, especially among internally displaced populations. We take these issues very seriously, and are seeking to address them, including under my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary’s global initiative to reduce sexual violence in conflict, which he launched in 2012.

In advance of the Somalia conference, which we are co-hosting jointly with the Federal Government of Somalia, the Government are planning to hold an

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA184

event specifically focusing on Somali women and their rights. This will enable discussions of the many issues that face women in Somalia today and generate recommendations which can then feed into the conference itself.

The single biggest challenge facing women in Somalia remains the effect of conflict and insecurity. A key focus of the Somalia conference will be how the international community can better support the Federal Government of Somalia in providing better security for their citizens so that the most vulnerable members of society are protected.

During her visit here in January, Fawzia Yusuf Adam, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Somalia, asked for UK support in tackling women’s issues in Somalia. We are working with the Federal Government of Somalia to ensure that we can use the Somalia conference to take forward progress on this issue. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mr Simmonds), also discussed these issues in depth when he met her in Addis Ababa earlier this year.

Sudan

Question

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking at the United Nations Security Council to ensure that parties involved in the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile comply with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2046. [HL6244]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The UN Security Council receives regular updates on the situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and last discussed this on 12 March. Members were told that the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North had been invited for talks by the African Union with an aim to agree a cessation of hostilities. The UK urged the Government of Sudan to participate in talks without preconditions and to grant full and independent humanitarian access. We will continue to press through the UN Security Council for both parties to attend talks as soon as possible, and without preconditions, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2046.

Taxation: Corporation Tax

Question

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to encourage and support social green behaviour by guaranteeing corporation tax relief for the sponsorship of accredited global carbon-offsetting projects.[HL6055]

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA185

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): A corporation tax deduction will be available to companies on costs incurred through sponsorship of carbon-offsetting projects, provided that these costs are wholly and exclusively incurred for business purposes; not capital expenditure and are not otherwise specifically prohibited.

It is the Government’s view that, in general, a low corporation tax rate with fewer reliefs and allowances will provide the best incentive for business investment with the fewest distortions.

Taxation: Inheritance Tax

Question

Asked by Lord Marlesford

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what the small gift exemption for Inheritance Tax of £250 per year per donee would be in 2013 if adjusted for inflation as measured by the Retail Price Index; and what guidance is offered by HMRC as to the recording of such gifts.[HL6091]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): Inheritance tax was introduced in 1986 and the annual small gift exemption limit at that date was £250 per donee. If the £250 figure had been uprated from 1986 in line with the retail prices index it would currently stand at £620.

The annual limit for the exemption in the predecessor taxes to inheritance tax (estate duty and capital transfer tax) stood at £250 in 1980.

Specific guidance on recording gifts for exemption purposes and the importance of keeping records for inheritance tax purposes is explained on the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) websitel. Advice is also available from the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline (0845 30 20 900).

1 http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/inheritancetax/pass-money-property/exempt-gifts.htm

UK Border Agency

Question

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the actual, specific and itemised costs incurred by the UK Border Agency when processing applications for (1) asylum, (2) a family reunion for refugees and asylum seekers, and (3) a Home Office Travel Document. [HL6191]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): Costs incurred by the UK Border Agency in processing asylum applications vary widely because of the range of possible circumstances and outcomes, so it is not possible to provide a single answer to this element of the question. The most detailed information on the cost of asylum applications is contained in a costing study carried out by Accenture on behalf of the National Audit Office and published in 2009.

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA186

The report can be found here: http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/0809/management_of_asylum_appl.a spx

A copy has been placed in the Library of the House of Lords.

The current unit cost of processing a family reunion application is published as an attachment to the annual written statement on immigration fees laid before both Houses. The latest statement, which relates to fees operative from 6 April 2013, can be read here: http://www.homeoffice. gov.uk/publications/about-us/parliamentary-business/written-ministerial-statement/immig-nationality-charging-wms/

This statement was placed in the Library of the House of Lords on 25 February.

The current unit cost of a convention travel document and a certificate of travel is also published as an attachment to the annual written statement on immigration fees referred to above.

United Arab Emirates

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of claims by six defendants in the current mass trial in the United Arab Emirates that they were tortured while in custody; and whether they will take action to ensure fair trials in that country, including those held in absentia, together with access for qualified international observers.[HL6208]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): We are aware of the claims made to the court by some of the defendants. Our relationship with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) allows us to discuss important issues such as human rights, even if we do not always agree. Where we have concerns we make these clear to the Emirati authorities as part of our broader strategic engagement. Where legal cases are ongoing we respect that process, but communicate the importance of international norms, including allowing intentional observers to attend. We have raised with the UAE at ministerial level the importance we attach to observing international human rights standards and due process in cases of detention or arrest and will continue to do so.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Question

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the use of unmanned aerial vehicles is regulated in the United Kingdom.[HL6308]

Earl Attlee: The use of unmanned aircraft, including remotely piloted aircraft systems, is covered by the Air Navigation Order 2009 and Rules of the Air Regulation 2007. Guidance on the use of such aircraft is contained in the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) publication CAP 722—Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations in

  21 Mar 2013 : Column WA187 

UK Airspace

, which is available from the CAA website: http://www.caa.co.uk/application.aspx?catid=33& pagetype=65&appid=11&mode=detail&id =415

Women: Peace and Security

Questions

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is taking to raise awareness and monitor the use of the toolkit for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 by British Embassies and Government Offices overseas. [HL6239]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The women, peace and security toolkit has been distributed to all diplomatic posts and Foreign and Commonwealth Office departments on a number of occasions since it was developed.

The toolkit is aimed at helping posts develop country based activity on women, peace and security issues and highlights the practical work that can be done on this issue to our worldwide network. At six pages, it is very accessible and includes guidance to post on prevention, participation and protection issues, as well

21 Mar 2013 : Column WA188

as further information on resources and cross government training. Civil society organisations have contributed to the development of the toolkit.

In January, we requested feedback from all diplomatic posts on the toolkit so that stakeholder feedback can be taken into account before the spring 2013 revision. The spring revision will also fully reflect my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary’s preventing sexual violence initiative.

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to women's rights organisations in (1) Afghanistan, (2) the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and (3) Nepal, as part of the evaluation and development of the United Kingdom's National Action Plan on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.[HL6240]

Baroness Warsi: We regularly consult women’s rights organisation as part of our wider dialogue with civil society on the Government’s national action plan (NAP) on UN Security Council resolution 1325 both in the UK and overseas. In Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nepal staff have held discussions with women’s groups on issues affecting them, including as part of the development and implementation of the NAP. There will be a consultation process for the development of the 2014 NAP both in the UK and in these countries.