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A memorandum by the National Audit Office for the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee (Department for Work and Pensions: Information Technology Programmes, November 2008) provides a full account of the department's current IT investment.

Health: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Question

Asked by The Countess of Mar

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will consider in August 2010 whether there is a need to review its clinical guideline on chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis.

Health: Contaminated Blood Products

Question

Asked by Lord Roberts of Conwy



5 May 2009 : Column WA101

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): It would be inappropriate to give details of any correspondence which is treated as confidential.

Houses of Parliament: Demonstrations

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Government are committed to protecting and facilitating the right to peaceful protest. Police tactics and decisions on policing protests are matters for the independent judgment of chief officers of police. The policing of demonstrations around Parliament is an operational matter for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Houses of Parliament: Select Committees

Questions

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): None.

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): According to our records, no Ministers at the Department for Children, Schools and Families have refused to give evidence to parliamentary Select Committees.



5 May 2009 : Column WA102

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): There have been no circumstances during the past five years in which a Minister from the Department for Work and Pensions has refused an invitation from a parliamentary Select Committee to attend oral evidence.

Human Rights

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Our missions overseas regularly report on a variety of issues, including on human rights, where appropriate. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's 2008 annual report on human rights highlighted 21 countries of concern, but this is not an exhaustive survey of countries' records on human rights. Nor is it a league table of countries we consider the worst offenders.

For further information the report can be found at www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/pdf15/human-rights-2008.

Iran: Baha'i

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We have serious concerns about ongoing discrimination against Baha'is in Iran. The statement of 15 February 2009 is a worrying indictment of the precarious nature of their community

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and offers increasing evidence of efforts by the Iranian authorities to identify and monitor Baha'is. We are monitoring developments and continue to press the Iranian authorities to take seriously their international human rights obligations and end persecution of its religious minorities.

We have received reports that the seven Baha'i leaders are in good health. However, we are extremely concerned by their prolonged detention and have called repeatedly for the Iranian Government to release them. My honourable friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Bill Rammell, issued a Statement on 16 February 2009, backed by an EU statement on 17 February 2009, calling for the Iranian Government to guarantee a fair trial and allow independent observation of judicial proceedings.

Iraq: NAPS Tablets

Question

Asked by The Countess of Mar

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): During the first three months of Operation TELIC (January-March 2003), nerve agent pre-treatment sets (NAPS) tablets were issued to Armed Forces personnel in single strips of 21 tablets. The recommended dosage rate is one pyridostigmine bromide (30mg) tablet every eight hours i.e. three per day. Thus, a single strip contains a week's supply.

A total of 7,266,504 tablets were supplied to Operation TELIC, in the form of 346,024 strips of 21. These were issued to approximately 32,000 personnel, over a three month period as follows:

MonthStrips suppliedTotal tablets

January 2003

85,573

1,797,033

February 2003

155,541

3,266,361

March 2003

104,910

2,203,110

Total

346,024

7,266,504

NAPS tablets were issued to personnel by their commanders, and self-administered on command. Operational commanders were given the authority to decide when troops should start and stop taking NAPS in order that the use of the countermeasure could be adapted to meet the threat situation at the time.

Due to the policy of self-administration of NAPS tablets, as opposed to administration by a medical officer, no records of their administration are kept. All service personnel receive training on the importance of taking NAPS in theatre and instructions for the use of NAPS are well publicised to command and medical staff.



5 May 2009 : Column WA104

The use of NAPS on Operation TELIC ceased in April 2003. The effects of the medication have been assessed through routine epidemiology and theatre reporting systems. In addition, MoD sponsored a research programme into the possible health effects of the combination of vaccines and tablets which were given to troops at the time of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict to protect them against the threat of biological and chemical warfare. The overwhelming evidence from the programme is that the NAPS that were offered to UK forces at the time of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict would not have had adverse health effects. The tablets issued on Op TELIC were the same as those used in the Gulf in 1990-91.

The MoD also funds the Kings Centre for Military Health Research which looks at the health issues for service people and veterans including those that have served in Iraq.

Marine Environment: Gibraltar

Question

Asked by Lord Tebbit

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): As I stated in my Answer of 1 April 2009 (Official Report, col. WA243), the European Commission adopted Decision 2009/05/EC on 12 December 2008, adopting a second updated list of sites of community importance under the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).

When the sites were put forward, the UK was asked by the Commission to verify those sites which the UK had submitted (as were other member states asked to verify only their own submissions). In our view the designation procedures were deficient and there was a lack of transparency and effective consultation involved.

The UK is deeply concerned that Spain should seek to designate an area of British Gibraltar territorial waters and that this designation should have been approved. We have already made representations to both the European Commission and Spain on this matter and will continue to do so in order to redress this issue. In the mean time, we have placed on record that the UK does not recognise the validity of the Spanish designation.

Northern Cyprus

Question

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): There are likely to have been a wide number of factors influencing the electorate. Our primary focus must be on the settlement negotiations. The UK remains a firm supporter of steps to bring Turkish Cypriots closer to Europe through trade liberalisation and financial aid. We do not expect these elections to have an impact on the settlement process. Mr Talat is still the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community and therefore the negotiator. The talks continue to make good progress. Mr Eroglu has undertaken to support the process, which is an important indicator of his position.

Pensions

Questions

Asked by Lord Laird

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The Department for Work and Pensions is required to review all social security benefits each year to ensure they have retained their value in relation to prices (or, for the standard minimum guarantee in pension credit, earnings). Generally the contributory benefits are increased in line with the retail prices index and the income related benefits increased by the Rossi index which is the retail prices index with the housing elements removed.

The retail prices index and Rossi index for September and the average earnings index (whole economy, including bonuses seasonally adjusted) May to July are generally used to uprate benefits from the following April. The new rates broadly come into force from the first payday on or after the first Monday of the new financial year.

Decisions on uprating are generally taken in the context of the Pre-Budget Report so that any changes can be announced by early December.

Asked by Baroness Hollis of Heigham

Lord McKenzie of Luton: The Government believe that the programme of workplace visits initiated by the Pensions Advisory Service can have a part to play in raising awareness of the importance of retirement planning and that such visits should continue.



5 May 2009 : Column WA106

DWP is working with the pensions industry, employers and the third sector to ensure information on pensions is available to those planning their retirement, drawing on a range of research including lessons learnt from the Pension Education Fund.

Police: Databases

Question

Asked by Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): As at 31 March 2009 there were records on the national DNA database relating to an estimated 4,859,934 individuals included by all police forces, of which an estimated 4,561,201 were from English and Welsh forces.

Private Military Companies

Question

Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently uses five private military and security companies (PMSCs) in both Iraq and Afghanistan to fulfil a number of roles including close protection, static guarding, police mentoring and intelligence analysis. Our current contracts provide a rigorous framework to ensure the highest standards of conduct from the PMSCs we contract. The chain of command is through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and embassy officials on the ground in both countries.


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