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Written Answers

Thursday 24 July 2014

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014

Question

Asked by Lord Greaves

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the process leading up to the issue of guidance on Parts 1 to 7 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014; and when they will issue such guidance.[HL1223]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): The Coalition Government has consulted with a wide range of stakeholders in preparing guidance to Parts 1-7 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. The Home Office published statutory guidance on Parts 1-6 of the Act on 21 July on the GOV.UK website. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will issue guidance on Part 7 shortly.

Arthritis

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the advice given by healthcare practitioners to patients with knee osteoarthritis. [HL1083]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): No assessment has been made of the advice given by healthcare practitioners to patients with knee osteoarthritis. In 2008, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published ‘Osteoarthritis: the care and management in adults’, which sets out best practice on the diagnosis treatment, care and support of patients with this condition, including patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee.

Healthcare practitioners in the National Health Service are expected to take NICE clinical guidelines fully into account when exercising their clinical judgement. However, the guidance does not replace the knowledge and expertise of practitioners, who should make decisions on a case by case basis, taking into account the individual circumstances of each patient.

The NICE Osteoarthritis clinical guideline was updated and replaced in February 2014 and can be found on the NICE website at the following link:

www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg177/resources/guidance-osteoarthritis-pdf.

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Asylum

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the analysis in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' Global Trends Report of the number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide.[HL1009]

Baroness Northover (LD): The Department for International Development (DFID) is concerned by the increase in the number of people displaced from their homes in 2013 as highlighted in the Global Trends report. The report indicates the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced around the world now stands at 51.2 million, an increase of 6 million reported in 2012 and, for the first time since the end of World War II, exceeding 50 million people.

DFID is providing assistance to refugees and internally displaced people in many of the world’s major crises. One of the agencies receiving support is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which works in over 120 country contexts to assist displaced people, including: Syria, Kenya, South Sudan and Afghanistan. This assistance helps to meet basic needs and helps displaced people rebuild their lives whilst they await return, integration into their new community/country or resettlement. Last year UNHCR received £94 million in UK funding.

Cyprus

Questions

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 9 July (WA 44), whether their “policy on recognition” remains a negative one; and how such a policy contributes to “renewed efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement”.[HL1104]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The UK recognises the Republic of Cyprus. Like all other states, except Turkey, we do not recognise the self-proclaimed “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. It is for the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to reach an agreement on how to live together on their shared island. It is on that basis that the UN has supported the two communities in their negotiations since 1977. This approach is in line with our international commitments, and we will continue to support UN efforts to facilitate a comprehensive and lasting settlement.

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 9 July (WA 44), how their "full support for the goal of reunification" of Cyprus creates a practical working basis for a solution; and what consideration they

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have given within that policy in respect of resolving the legacy of EOKA-B activity prior to the Turkish intervention in 1974.[HL1105]

Baroness Warsi: The leaders of the two Cypriot communities agreed the basis for a solution in their Joint Declaration of 11 February 2014. We fully support them in turning that set of principles and parameters into the reality of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality.

The UK’s approach on Cyprus is unrelated to the past activities of EOKA-B. The British Government recognises the difficult history of Cyprus, but we will continue to urge both sides to look forward towards a comprehensive, just, and lasting settlement.

Dementia

Questions

Asked by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support research into (1) Parkinson’s dementia, and (2) dementia with Lewy bodies. [HL1139]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): At the G8 dementia summit in December 2013, the G8 countries agreed to work together to tackle and defeat dementia. The declaration, built on the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge, announced the G8’s ambition to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy by 2025 and to increase collectively and significantly the amount of funding for dementia research.

Investment in dementia research by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has increased from £12.6 million in 2009-10 to £26.8 million in 2013-14.

The NIHR Newcastle Dementia Biomedical Research Unit focuses on Lewy body dementia, including Parkinson’s disease patients who later develop dementia. This unit is receiving £4.5 million NIHR funding over the period 2012-17. Other current NIHR investment in this specific disease area includes a £2.1 million multicentre study of the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor donepezil in early dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease, and a £1.9 million programme grant for research on improving the diagnosis and management of Lewy body dementia in the National Health Service.

Investment in dementia research by the Medical Research Council (MRC) has increased from £14.8 million in 2009-10 to £25.3 million in 2012-13 (the latest available figure).

In July 2014, the MRC launched the UK Dementias Research Platform (UKDP), a multi-million pound public-private partnership, developed and led by MRC to accelerate progress in, and open up, dementias research. The UKDP’s aims are early detection, improved treatment and ultimately, prevention, of dementias. The MRC is providing £12 million funding for UKDP for an initial period of five years. This is supplemented by a further £4 million from six partner companies, a

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mixture of cash contributions and valuable company resources such as research tools, analytical capabilities and expertise.

The UKDP is creating the world’s largest population for study for dementias research, bringing together two million participants aged 50 and over, from 22 existing study groups within the United Kingdom. Included are people from the general population, people known to be at-risk of developing dementia, and people diagnosed with early-stage dementia. Plans are for the UKDP to be used for all types of neurodegenerative diseases research and this would include Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

Within the MRC dementias portfolio, spend on projects with a specific focus on Lewy body dementia was £1.7 million in 2012-13.

Asked by Baroness Gale

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they have put in place to address the need for training for health professionals concerning Parkinson's-related dementias.[HL1237]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they are involving people with Parkinson's in the Department of Health's Dementia Challenge.[HL1238]

Earl Howe: We are working closely with a wide range of organisations on the implementation of the Challenge, including the Dementia Action Alliance; the Alliance includes organisations representing people with Parkinson’s such as Parkinson’s UK.

By October 2013, 108,000 National Health Service staff had received Tier 1 training on dementia, enabling them to spot the early symptoms of dementia, know how to interact with people with dementia and ensure that patients receive the most appropriate care. The Government’s refreshed Mandate to Health Education England, published on 1 May 2014, builds on this by setting an ambition for a further 250,000 NHS staff to receive Tier 1 training on dementia by March 2015, with the tools and training opportunities being made available to all staff by the end of 2018.

Over 100,000 social care workers have received some form of dementia awareness training through workforce development funding from local authorities and care providers.

Developing Countries: Abortion

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they consider the European Commission policy on the provision of abortion to girls and women impregnated by rape in conflict areas compatible with (1) the Geneva Conventions, and (2) the paper Safe and unsafe abortion: The UK’s policy position on safe and unsafe abortions in developing countries; and what discussions they have held with the European Commission on the subject.[HL1156]

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The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The UK is in regular dialogue with other EU bilateral donors and the European Commission to protect and promote women’s and girl’s access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. This includes safe abortion services in line with our policy on safe and unsafe abortion. The UK remains one of only a handful of international donors willing to tackle this highly sensitive issue.

General Practitioners

Question

Asked by Baroness Manzoor

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to improve general practitioner facilities and training and the provision of primary healthcare services.[HL1024]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): NHS England have advised that they are working with clinical commissioning groups, Health and Wellbeing Boards and other local partners to ensure that joint strategic plans identify where premises developments are needed and how the capital and revenue for these premises developments will be met.

Additionally, the Department has recently set out its ambitions for primary care in publishing Transforming Primary Care. A copy has already been placed in the Library. The changes to the general practitioner (GP) contract for this year will help ensure that patients aged over 75 and those with the most complex needs receive more personalised and proactive care.

The Government has also invested £50 million, through the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, to develop new ways of improving access to GP services.

The Department has recognised the need to increase the GP workforce and between September 2010 and September 2013, the number of full time equivalent GPs has risen by 1,051. Additionally, the Department has included in its mandate to Health Education England (HEE), a requirement that “HEE will ensure that 50% of trainees completing foundation level training enter GP training programmes by 2016”.

A new Chief Inspector of General Practice has also been appointed and the Care Quality Commission is inspecting standards in GP practices and taking action where it finds poor care.

Government Departments: Air Travel

Question

Asked by Lord Rooker

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much was spent on first class air travel by the Department for International Development in the latest convenient period; and what was the justification for such expenditure.[HL1041]

Baroness Northover (LD): According to DFID records, no staff have flown first class during this financial year.

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Higher Education: Appeals

Question

Asked by Lord Storey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Viscount Younger of Leckie on 3 July (WA 280), what plans they have to expand the authority of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator to include considerations of academic judgment or to establish an alternative official body to do so.[HL1171]

Lord Bates (Con): We have no such plans. The 2004 Higher Education Act precludes the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education from considering complaints about a university’s academic judgement.

The Higher Education system in England is based on the key principles of institutional autonomy and academic freedom. Both are essential to foster a strong Higher Education sector that can shape its own future in response to the needs of learners and employers.

As such matters relating to academic judgement are the responsibility of individual higher education institutions. The interpretation of academic judgement is ultimately for the courts to decide.

In Vitro Fertilisation

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 9 July (WA 49), whether they consider that the inability of three reviews to find evidence to suggest any of the techniques evaluated are unsafe constitutes evidence that such techniques are safe; and if so, what is the purpose of the recommended experiments that should be completed before the techniques could be used in clinical practice.[HL1011]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): All three reviews have found no evidence to suggest any of the techniques evaluated are unsafe.

The experiments recommended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority convened Expert Panel’s June 2014 report are designed to contribute towards the decision as to when mitochondrial donation should be offered in treatment.

Iraq

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Parliament of Iraq following its election of a Speaker, and in particular regarding the prospects of the early formation of a new government.[HL1187]

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The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): Our Ambassador in Iraq has discussed the formation of a new, inclusive Iraqi government with the new Speaker, Salim al Jibouri, and representatives of the major political parties. We welcome these first steps towards formation of the government and urge the Iraqi parliament to make swift progress on the election of a President and appointment of a Prime Minister.

Israel

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent discussions they have had with other European governments, following the failure of negotiations, concerning the use of economic sanctions as a way to end Israel’s occupation of the Occupied Territories. [HL1008]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The UK has frequent discussions with other European governments about next steps on the Middle East Peace Process. The Foreign Affairs Council agreed Conclusions on 21 July 2014 which made clear that the only way to resolve the conflict is through an agreement that ends the occupation, that ends all claims and fulfils the aspirations of both parties. The conclusions reiterate the EU’s commitment to implement existing EU legislation applicable to settlement products. The UK firmly opposes calls to boycott or sanction Israel.

Libya

Question

Asked by Lord Chidgey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the recent Libyan general election, and in particular the impact of violence on the turnout; and whether they plan to increase development aid and to provide expertise to help stabilise the country.[HL1133]

Baroness Northover (LD): The Libyan General Election was held on 25 June, despite challenging security conditions. The UK provided significant support to help ensure that the Election took place, including providing over £500,000 for a joint UN-Libyan Electoral Assistance Programme. Around 630,000 Libyans cast their vote out of a total 1.5m registered voters. The full results are due to be announced shortly.

Whilst the elections themselves passed off relatively peacefully, the recent escalation in violence risks undermining the process. Violence and the threat of violence are unacceptable and endanger the stability of the state, and the Libyan people’s aspirations for a secure and prosperous future.

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The UK is providing assistance, including technical expertise, to help Libya tackle its political, security and economic challenges. The UK recently committed £62.5 million for a comprehensive Security, Justice and Defence programme which will support stabilisation in Libya over the next three years.

Lyme Disease

Questions

Asked by The Countess of Mar

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the testing of the cerebrospinal fluid of patients suspected of having Lyme disease using the Trinity Biotech kit at the Health Protection Agency’s Lyme Borreliosis Unit began; how many patients' samples were tested in that way; and how many patients were recorded as being positive over that period of time.[HL998]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): The Trinity Biotech blot has been in use since 2007 by the former Health Protection Agency's Lyme Borreliosis Unit for testing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and proved very reliable. It has also been used in this way by other laboratories in Europe. However, CSF antibodies will not be present if there is no evidence of any other antibodies in the serum. Data is not collected centrally on specific samples from patients as the final diagnosis is made by the clinician on the basis of the test results and the clinical presentation.

Asked by The Countess of Mar

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in December 2011, the Clinical Pathology Accreditation Service was made aware of modifications by the Health Protection Agency’s Lyme Borreliosis Unit to the Trinity Biotech immunoblot kit to be used for testing human cerebrospinal fluid.[HL999]

Earl Howe: The former Health Protection Agency's Lyme Borreliosis Unit (HPA LBU) was accredited by Clinical Pathology Accreditation who had access to, and was able to review, all the standard operating procedures of the unit.

The Trinity Biotech Lyme Western Blot is a qualitative in vitro assay for the detection of Immunoglobulin (IgG or IgM) antibodies in human samples against specific antigens/proteins of Borrelia afzelii, Borrelia garinii and Borrelia burgdorferi. The Trinity Biotech Lyme Western Blot is intended as a confirmatory assay for use in testing human samples which have been previously found to be positive or equivocal using an Enzyme Immunoassay and Immunofluroescent Assay or other appropriate screening method. Positive second-tier results are supportive evidence of infection with B. burgdorferi. The diagnosis of Lyme disease should be made based on history and symptoms (such as erythema migrans), and other laboratory data, in addition to the presence of antibodies to B. burgdorferi. The Trinity Biotech blot has been in use since 2007 by the former HPA’s LBU for testing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and proved very reliable. This technique has also been in use widely across Europe during this period as a diagnostic test using CSF as a sample to support the diagnosis of neuroborreliosis.

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Asked by The Countess of Mar

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what evidence existed to show that the Health Protection Agency’s Lyme Borreliosis Unit (LBU) conformed with European Union and United Kingdom legislation for the use of the Trinity Biotech kit for in vitro testing when used with cerebrospinal fluid; and what testing was carried out by the LBU to verify that the use of that test kit was suitable, and sufficiently sensitive, for the detection of European and United Kingdom species of Borrelia infections in cerebrospinal fluid.[HL1000]

Earl Howe: The former Health Protection Agency's Lyme Borreliosis Unit adhered to legislation related to diagnostic testing. The Trinity Biotech Lyme Western Blot technique was widely used in Europe at that time for serum and samples. Controls were run with each batch of the test to verify the tests accuracy and sensitivity. Quality assurance samples were run to ensure independent validation of the results.

Asked by The Countess of Mar

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Health Protection Agency’s Lyme Borreliosis Unit adhered to the Health Protection Agency's published guidelines on Commercial and In-House Diagnostic Tests: Evaluations and Validations in carrying out testing of cerebrospinal fluid of patients suspected of having Lyme disease using the Trinity Biotech kit.[HL1001]

Earl Howe: The former Health Protection Agency's (HPA) Lyme Borreliosis Unit adhered to the HPA’s published guidelines on Commercial and In-House Diagnostic Tests.

Asked by The Countess of Mar

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Health Protection Agency's Lyme Borreliosis Unit informed clinicians and patients of test results on cerebrospinal fluid in accordance with Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency guidance in carrying out testing of cerebrospinal fluid of patients suspected of having Lyme disease using the Trinity Biotech kit.[HL1002]

Earl Howe: The former Health Protection Agency's Lyme Borreliosis Unit (HPA LBU) informed requesting clinicians but not patients of the results on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and also provided a clinical interpretive service to the requesting clinician. Referring laboratories and clinicians managing patients with Lyme disease were aware of the limitations of diagnostic tests for serum and CSF through publications and educational meetings. It is the role of the requesting clinician to be guided by the interpretation of the laboratory result and to use these results in the light of the clinical presentation to make a diagnosis and a management plan for individual patients. It is also important to note that the former HPA’s LBU performed diagnostic tests on samples referred by other laboratories

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Asked by The Countess of Mar

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Health Protection Agency's Lyme Borreliosis Unit informed clinicians and patients of test results on cerebrospinal fluid in accordance with Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency guidance on devices used off-label.[HL1003]

Earl Howe: The former Health Protection Agency's Lyme Borreliosis Unit informed requesting clinicians but not patients of the results on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and also provided a clinical interpretive service to the requesting clinician. There was no approved ‘on-label’ test for CSF at that time, which is why the use of this test was carefully controlled and its quality assured in each test run. It is the role of the requesting clinician to be guided by the interpretation of the laboratory result and to use these results in the light of the clinical presentation to make a diagnosis and a management plan for individual patients. In addition to the controls for the test, the CSF sample was run with the patient’s serum. If the patient had Lyme disease, serology would have demonstrated this and the patient treated appropriately for their clinical presentation whether the CSF was positive or negative.

Middle East

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they will make to the government of Israel concerning deaths of and injuries to civilians in Gaza between 7 and 9 July.[HL1006]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on 20 July. He urged him to do everything to avoid civilian casualties, to exercise restraint, and to help find ways to bring this situation to an end. I refer the noble Baroness to the Statement on Gaza by the Prime Minister on 21 July 2014, repeated in the House of Lords by the Leader of the House and Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell), official Report, Columns 979-982.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to encourage a halt to the missile strikes on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza.[HL1064]

Baroness Warsi: I refer the noble Baroness to the Statement made by the then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right Hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (York) (Mr Hague), which I repeated in the House of Lords on 14 July 2014, Official Report, Columns 434-437.

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I also refer the noble Baroness to the Statement of 21 July 2014 by the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), repeated in the Lords by the Leader of the House and Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell), Official Report, Column 979-982.

We have called on all sides to de-escalate the situation to avoid further civilian casualties.

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to call on all parties to make an immediate cessation of hostile acts out of and into Gaza, with independent verification.[HL1074]

Baroness Warsi: I refer my noble Lord to the Statement made by the then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), which I repeated in the House of Lords on 14 July 2014, Official Report, columns 434-437. We are in close contact with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and our partners and allies. We continue to press the urgent need for a ceasefire agreed by both sides, based on the ceasefire agreement that ended the conflict in November 2012.

I also refer the noble Lord to the Statement of 21 July 2014 by the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), repeated in the Lords by the Leader of the House and Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell), official Report, Column 979-982.

Occupational Pensions

Question

Asked by Lord Hutton of Furness

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the number and percentage of people who are members of occupation pension schemes by region in (1) England, (2) Scotland, and (3) Wales.[HL1336]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): Information on the proportions of employees with workplace pensions is collected in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings and published on the ONS website. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ashe/annual-survey-of-hours-and-earnings-pension-tables/2013-provisional-results/index.html

Figure 1 shows that overall for the UK, 49.8 per cent of employees were members of workplace pension schemes in 2013. This is an increase from 46.5 per cent in 2012 and is the biggest rise in workplace pension coverage since figures began in 1997.

Figure 9 shows a breakdown of the proportion of employees with workplace pensions by sector and region. This shows a weak relationship between the region where the employer is located and the proportion of employees with a workplace pension. Overall membership was highest in Scotland (55.3 per cent) and lowest in East Midlands (46.7 per cent). In Wales it was 53.2 per cent.

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Offences against Children

Questions

Asked by Lord Kilclooney

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the proposed inquiry into child sex abuse will apply to the United Kingdom as a whole, or solely to Great Britain.[HL1183]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the proposed inquiry into child sex abuse will investigate claims of child sex abuse at Kincora Boys' Home in East Belfast.[HL1184]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): On 7 July 2014, Official Report, columns 23-45, the Home Secretary announced an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse. The inquiry will consider whether public bodies – and other non-state institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. The Inquiry will co-operate fully with Devolved Administrations. However all relevant issues in Scotland and Northern Ireland are now devolved and will be a matter for those administrations to consider. In Wales the inquiry will cover those institutions which concern non-devolved matters. The Home Secretary has made clear that the Home Office will talk to the Devolved Administrations and work with them on this Inquiry.

Pakistan

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will make representations to the government of Pakistan about the independence and comprehensiveness of the terms of reference of the proposed National Commission for Minorities. [HL1186]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): I am pleased by reports that the Government of Pakistan has agreed the framework and composition of the proposed National Commission for Minorities. The British Government regularly discusses human rights concerns with Pakistan. We will follow the work of the commission with close interest and urge the Government of Pakistan to ensure it is empowered to secure progress on these important issues.

Palestinians

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the amount of funding needed to cover out of stock medical supplies and medical referrals out of Gaza.[HL1066]

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Baroness Northover (LD): The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on 10th July that US$60 million was needed to cover out of stock medical supplies and medical referrals out of Gaza. This is now exacerbated by the Gaza emergency. Even before the recent violence the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza had chronic shortages of drugs (28% of drugs had zero stock) and medical supplies (53% of medical supplies had zero stock). Our support to UNRWA and ICRC is already helping these organisations to respond to the current situation, and we are in continuous contact with humanitarian agencies to assess emerging needs as a result of the violence.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they will hold with other European governments concerning the case for lifting the blockade of Gaza and ending the occupation of Palestinian territories. [HL1175]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): We continue to have detailed discussions with other European governments focused on both the current crisis and the need to find a sustainable solution to problems in Gaza, including improving long-term access for people and goods to and from the strip.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they plan to take to open diplomatic relations with Hamas in order to assess the viability of a long-term truce such as Hamas offered in 2006.[HL1176]

Baroness Warsi: Our policy towards Hamas is clear - we have no contact with Hamas, which is a proscribed terrorist organisation. Hamas must renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept previously signed agreements. Hamas must make a credible movement towards these conditions, which remain the benchmark against which their intentions are judged, before we consider a change in our stance.

Postal Services: Competition

Question

Asked by Lord Whitty

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their calculation of the percentage of United Kingdom addressees needed to be reached by end-to-end postal delivery companies other than Royal Mail before there is a threat to the financial sustainability of the universal postal service.[HL1073]

Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con): Ofcom as the regulator for postal services has the primary statutory duty of protecting the universal service and the regulatory powers to intervene if the universal service is ever at risk.

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Ofcom has set out the circumstances under which it would intervene to protect the universal service from any serious threat from competition in their publication: “Final Guidance on Ofcom’s approach to assessing the impact on the universal service”.

Ofcom’s assessment would consider the financial sustainability of the universal postal service and the need for the universal service provider to be able to earn a reasonable commercial rate of return in connection with the provision of the universal service.

The percentage of addresses covered by end-to-end competitors to Royal Mail would clearly be a factor that Ofcom would consider, but as a part of a wider range of factors. Ofcom has therefore not set a threshold of end-to-end delivery coverage by alternative postal operators to determine a threat to the Universal Service. At the present time, end-to-end competition accounts for less than 0.5% of letter volumes in the United Kingdom.

Regional Planning and Development

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they plan to strengthen regional economic power. [HL774]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): The Coalition Government has reversed years of centralisation to rebalance our economy so it can achieve strong, lasting growth that shares prosperity more widely across the country.

We have put power in the hands of local councils and businesses:

39 Local Enterprise Partnerships bringing together business and civic leaders to drive their own economic development and fulfil growth potential.City Deals and Growth Deals offering localities the opportunity for a deal with central government tailored to their local needs and circumstances – devolving power in exchange for local commitment and investment.Introduced the general power of competence that enables councils to do anything that an individual might do, apart from that which is specifically prohibited.Removed ring-fencing from local government grants to give councils the freedom and flexibility over the money they receive and allows them to work with their residents to decide how best to make their spending decisions to fit their local priority needs.

We have radically reformed the local government finance system by removing top-down national targets and strategies and replaced with powerful incentives for local areas to drive growth.

Business rates reform, New Homes Bonus and Community Infrastructure Levy will also ensure councils and communities feel real benefits from development and are incentivised to grow the local economy

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Created 24 Enterprise Zones with the prospect of business rates discounts and planning simplification for businesses and business rates retention for the locality, and supported by £54 million from the Local Infrastructure Fund.

And we are investing in local economies to unlock wider investment, jobs and housing through the Regional Growth Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.

Through Growth Deals we are devolving £12 billion of funding from 2015-16 to 2020-21 to local leaders and businesses to spend on local priorities. The first £6 billion of local projects to have been agreed under the first wave of Growth Deals were announced on the 7th July, and will see investment in local infrastructure, skills, housing, business support and innovation. These projects will provide thousands of new jobs and homes as well as improving infrastructure across the country.

The Deals also mean that places will get additional powers to take greater control over the economic levers they need to unlock growth. More details on the Growth Deals can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/local-growth-deals

We are also for the first time putting £5 billion of European Structural Investment Funds for the 2014-20 period under the strategic direction of Local Enterprise Partnerships, bringing the total resource (including the Local Growth Fund) under the control of Local Enterprise Partnerships to over £17 billion up until 2020.

Taken together, these measures are empowering and strengthening local economies.

Roads

Questions

Asked by Baroness Whitaker

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how the strategic vision for the Road Investment Strategy will take account of the whole built environment.[HL1290]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how the draft Road Investment Strategy's four elements will take account of the need for design of the whole built environment.[HL1291]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): The government’s vision for the Strategic Road Network (SRN) is part of the Road Investment Strategy. The importance of good design, and the use of good design principles, is important and the government will want the company to make use of these principles when intervening to maintain, renew, or enhance the SRN. The expectation on the company in how it delivers its functions is set out in the licence and through which the Secretary of State for Transport can influence the company’s behaviour. The licence already contains requirements to conform to the principles of sustainable development and to have regard to government policy. We are considering further how good design principles are built into the governance framework.

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Asked by Baroness Whitaker

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to Baroness Kramer’s remarks on 3 July (HL Deb, col GC 358), what the “significant further development” as stated in the prefatory note to the Strategic Highways Company: Draft Licence will include in its "robust requirements" in relation to the role of design.[HL1292]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how the proposed requirement in the section on Co-operation of the Strategic Highways Company: Draft Licence to “take account of local needs, priorities and plans in planning for the operation, maintenance and long-term development in the network” will take account of the need for well-being and good quality design. [HL1293]

Baroness Kramer: There is a strong link between quality design and quality of life and as stated in my response of 30 June it is government policy that our major road improvements should follow good design principles. The draft licence already makes it clear that the strategic highways company must comply with sustainable development; paragraph 4.3 of the licence’s aims and objectives defines sustainable development as including the need to improve the quality of life for current and future generations.

The licence has been published in draft to help understanding on the overall governance structure for the strategic highways company and in support of the measures in the Infrastructure Bill. Work is continuing on refining the content of the final document.

Severn River Crossing

Questions

Asked by Lord Wigley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what has been the annual revenue paid in toll fees by users of the Severn Bridge in each of the last five years; and what proportion of such sums were directed to (1) the contractor operating the bridge, and (2) HM Treasury.[HL1269]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): Severn River Crossing plc (SRC) provides details of the toll revenue received for both of the Severn Crossings but does not separately account for the toll revenue received at the M48 Severn Bridge or M4 Second Severn Crossing.

As background the combined toll revenue given in the SRC annual accounts is as follows:

Calendar YearToll revenue (net of VAT) £mVAT paid to HMRC by SRC £m

2009

77.4

10.9

2010

76.0

12.5

2011

77.6

14.3

2012

81.2

14.9

2013

85.4

15.8

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The approximate split of traffic flow on the crossings is 75% on the M4 and 25% on the M48. However, differences in the mix of traffic type between the two crossings means that this can only provide an indication on the relative split of toll revenue.

Asked by Lord Wigley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the cost of maintenance work currently outstanding on the Severn Bridge; and who will bear any outstanding costs at the date when the current operating contract comes to an end. [HL1270]

Baroness Kramer: The Government has not estimated the cost of any outstanding maintenance work on the Severn Bridge as, under the concession agreement, Severn River Crossing plc (SRC) are responsible for maintaining the crossings for the remainder of the concession. SRC must ensure that the crossings are handed back to the Secretary of State for Transport at end of the concession in satisfactory and serviceable condition.

At the present time no decisions have been taken on the management arrangements of the Severn crossings after the end of the current concession and so I cannot confirm who will bear the costs of any maintenance needs after the concession. The Government has been clear that any future arrangements will need to make proper provision for repayment of Government costs, future maintenance needs and reflect the needs of road users in both England and Wales.

Social Security Benefits

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Lord Freud on 9 July (HL Deb, col 223), how many people have made use of the “system of advances”, and how many have been helped by “local support frameworks” through local authorities, in the last two years for which figures are available; and whether they consider that those methods have reduced numbers resorting to food banks and loan sharks.[HL1075]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): Statistics on how many people have made use of the “system of advances” is not currently available.

Information on how many people have been helped by “local support frameworks” is not readily available and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Our Local Authority partners are supporting claimants through our local delivery partnerships, and feedback from claimant surveys suggests there is no significant difference between the proportion of UC and JSA claimants accessing funding from third party lenders.

Information on whether these methods have reduced numbers resorting to food banks and loan sharks is not collected by the Department.

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Stabilisation Unit

Question

Asked by Lord Chidgey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many active members of the Civilian Stabilisation Group are (1) deployable civilian experts, and (2) members of the Civil Service Stabilisation Cadre; in the last year, how many of each group, including serving police officers, have been deployed on stabilisation missions; and what is the numerical size, including Crown Agents support, and annual cost of the Stabilisation Unit.[HL1134]

Baroness Northover (LD): There are currently 1448 Members of the Civilian Stabilisation Group; of these 1132 are deployable civilian experts and 201 are members of the Civil Service Stabilisation Cadre. The remaining 115 are serving police officers.

32 Members of the Civil Service Stabilisation Cadre, 64 Serving Police Officers and 363 deployable civilian experts were deployed on stabilisation missions during Financial Year 2013/14.

The Stabilisation Unit currently employs 73 members of core staff and there are 30 Crown Agent staff employed in support of the Stabilisation Unit.

The annual cost of the Stabilisation Unit (the DFID, MoD and FCO-funded Conflict Pool) over the last three financial years is as follows:

2013/142012/132011/12

£10,423,250

£12,343,758

£12,208,061

Syria

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' report Woman Alone: The fight for survival by Syria’s refugee women; and of its assessment of the situation of Syrian refugee families in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan which are headed by women.[HL1010]

Baroness Northover (LD): The UK welcomes the publication of this report, which highlights the distressing reality for women and girls affected by the crisis in Syria. Our assessment is that it accurately describes many of the hardships faced by refugee women who have become heads of their households as a result of the conflict, but also their resilience and bravery in the face of such hardships.

Thailand

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the British Embassy in Bangkok has raised with the government of Thailand the prosecution of journalists from Phuketwan for reporting on abuses against the ethnic Rohingya from Burma.[HL1143]

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The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): Our Ambassador to Thailand has raised our concerns about these charges with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Thai Navy on several occasions over the last few months.

These discussions built on our wider dialogue with Thailand about the plight of Rohingya, which has been led by the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire).

The UK is a staunch defender of the freedom of the media, and it is the responsibility of States to adhere to international protocols governing the treatment of refugees. Protection and assistance should be provided to those who seek shelter within their borders. We will continue to follow this case closely.

Universal Credit

Questions

Asked by Baroness Lister of Burtersett

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made on reaching a final decision on the

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proposal to increase the rent arrears deduction rate under Universal Credit.[HL1126]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimates they have made of the impact on debt levels of the proposal to increase the repayment level of rent arrears to 40 per cent under Universal Credit. [HL1127]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): We recently consulted on the proposal to increase the rate of rent arrears deductions in Universal Credit. We are currently considering the consultation responses.

Deductions from Universal Credit are made after considering the claimant’s individual circumstances and ability to afford the deductions. The maximum that can be deducted for all deductions, including rent arrears, is an amount equivalent to 40 per cent of the claimant’s Universal Credit Standard Allowance. The government will ensure that appropriate support is available to help claimants manage moving to a single monthly household payment, including budgeting and debt management advice.