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Written Answers

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Armed Forces: Meat

Questions

Asked by Lord Blencathra

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much meat from animals killed by the halal method was purchased for the United Kingdom military whilst serving in the United Kingdom in each of the last five years.[HL2119]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether United Kingdom military ration packs contain meat from animals killed by the halal method.[HL2120]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): Ministry of Defence (MOD) personnel in the UK and permanent bases overseas are served through a number of catering, retail, leisure and other multi-activity contracts. Halal meat is purchased under these arrangements but information on the volume procured is not held by the MOD.

Armed Forces personnel serving on operations, exercises and HM ships and submarines, are catered for under a single food supply contract with Purple Foodservice Solutions Ltd (PFS). The PFS contract includes the provision of Operational Ration Packs (ORPs). Individual 24 hour ORPs are available in 60 different menus, of which 10 are halal.

All food procured for MOD personnel must comply with MOD food quality standards. These standards comply with all UK and EU production standards, Farm Assurance or equivalent. This includes the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which covers Halal slaughter.

Asylum: Finance

Questions

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have assessed the effectiveness of the combination of the Azure payment card and support under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 in enabling refused asylum seekers to meet their basic needs.[HL2277]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to abolish the Azure payment card and amend legislation to enable the provision of cash support for all refused asylum seekers until they are either given status in the United Kingdom or return to their country of origin.[HL2278]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much they have spent on administering the Azure card system since its inception.[HL2279]

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their forecast annual cost for administering the Azure card payment scheme in the coming year.[HL2280]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the conclusion of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee that “section 4 is not the solution for people who have been refused but cannot be returned” as stated in their report Asylum (7th Report of session 2013–14, HC 71).[HL2281]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The Azure card is issued to destitute failed asylum seekers accommodated under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 because they are temporarily unable to leave the United Kingdom. The card can be used at most of the main supermarket chains to purchase food and other essential items. The performance of the card is kept under regular review but the Government is satisfied that it is an effective way of ensuring that recipients are able to meet their essential living needs and are not left destitute.

The Government therefore has no plans to abolish the card or change legislation to allow people supported under section 4 to receive cash instead.

The total administrative costs of the card scheme since it was introduced in 2009 are approximately £1,515,000. Estimated administrative costs for the current financial year are £200,000.

The Government published its response to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report about asylum procedures in December 2013 (cm 8769). A response to the Committee’s views on section 4 support was set out on page 18-19.

Bahrain

Questions

Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will call on the government of Bahrain to drop charges against Nabeel Rajab and Zainab al Khawaja for the expression of political views.[HL2189]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): Our Ambassador to Bahrain has raised both cases with the Government of Bahrain and emphasised the importance of ensuring that due legal process is respected and international norms of justice adhered to. We will continue to monitor both cases closely.

Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of their reply to the letter to the Foreign Secretary from Index on Censorship and other human rights non-governmental organisations on the latest detentions of human rights activists in Bahrain.[HL2192]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: To date, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not received a letter from Index on Censorship on this subject.

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Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to fund an investigation into children held in prison in Bahrain, similar to the report funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office concerning the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law.[HL2211]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: Our Embassy in Bahrain has raised the rates of imprisonment of young people on several occasions with the Ministry of the Interior and senior members of the Government of Bahrain. We support the recommendation to address the management and rehabilitation of juveniles in the justice system, in the Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission and the Ministry of Interior’s Ombudsman’s office reports earlier this year. We encourage the Government of Bahrain to implement these recommendations promptly and plan to provide UK support in the field of juvenile justice.

Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the government of Bahrain in respect of the charges against Nabeel Rajab and Zainab al Khawaja.[HL2236]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: Our Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain has raised both cases with the Government of Bahrain and emphasised the importance of ensuring that due legal process is respected and international norms of justice adhered to. We will continue to monitor both cases closely.

Charity Commission

Question

Asked by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the annual budget for the Charity Commission; and whether it has been increased as a result of the Government's Big Society policy.[HL1989]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): The Charity Commission is a regulator of the charitable sector. The Commission’s annual budget has been reduced over the last five years, as it has increasingly focused on its core regulatory functions. Its annual budget was £21.4m in 2014/15.

On 22 October the Prime Minister announced additional funding of £8m over three years to boost its ability to tackle abuse.

Civil Servants

Question

Asked by Lord Blencathra

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to institute checks on United Kingdom civil servants to determine whether any of them support the creation of an Islamic State in the United Kingdom.[HL2121]

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): All Civil Servants are subject to recruitment checks (including of unspent criminal records) and the provisions of the Civil Service Code. Line managers are expected to report concerns about staff, including for example, expressions of support for extremist views, actions or incidents.

Civil Servants in sensitive roles are subject to national security vetting. The information supplied as part of the vetting process is checked against records held by the Security Service and the police.

East Coast Railway Line

Questions

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the annual average cost of each seat on the East Coast rail service in (1) standard class, and (2) first class. [HL2187]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): The average cost of each seat on the East Coast rail service, calculated by adding direct rolling stock costs (staff including drivers and guards, materials, leasing, operating and maintaining, fuel, retail costs net revenue, logistics) and dividing by total number of seats are as follows:

1) Standard Class: £9,750 per annum2) First Class: £16,339 per annum

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what impact they consider that the long-term access rights for Grand Central on the East Coast Main Line will have on the premium payments generated by the Intercity East Coast franchise.[HL2254]

Baroness Kramer: The Department for Transport has forecast premiums for the purposes of the competition for the InterCity East Coast franchise. These forecasts take into account Grand Central’s access rights at their current levels. The Invitation to Tender for the InterCity East Coast franchise competition includes a Risk Assumption relating to the impact of an expansion of Open Access operations.

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the long-term access rights for Grand Central on the East Coast Main Line require them to pay the same access charge as Intercity East Coast; and, if not, why not.[HL2255]

Baroness Kramer: Grand Central will not pay the same access charges as Intercity East Coast as Open Access Operators do not pay Fixed Track Access Charges (FTAC). However, both Franchised and Open Access Operators pay Variable Track Access Charges (VTAC) since these are set to reflect the direct ‘wear and tear’ costs that train services impose on the network when they are run.

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For Control Period 5 (CP5) the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has held Open Access (both passenger and freight) VTAC at CP4 levels, whilst Franchised Operators pay the new, higher CP5 rates.

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether East Coast Rail has carried out any study or projections of what would be the effect of converting one carriage on the East Coast intercity from first class to second class.[HL2274]

Baroness Kramer: East Coast has conducted some limited analysis on the effect of converting first to standard class carriages on the franchise. Their analysis shows that standard class is not currently capacity constrained. As such, they consider that there is no immediate demand for more standard class carriages and, especially considering the upcoming introduction of the new InterCity Express trains, such a conversion is not likely to provide the best outcome for East Coast passengers or taxpayers.

Egypt

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Egypt about recent arrests of students, and the placing of private security companies, on university campuses there.[HL2222]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): The Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), asked that the Egyptian government address the large number of people being held in detention during his meeting with President Al-Sisi at the UN General Assembly in New York on 23 September. John Casson, our Ambassador in Cairo, discussed the recent university protests with Ahmed el-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, on 14 October. The UK believes that freedom of expression, including the right to protest peacefully, is important in any democracy.

European Rail Traffic Management System

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made as to progress in other countries of the European Union of the successful installation of the European Rail Traffic Management System on any busy mixed traffic railway.[HL2252]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): Network Rail, which leads the industry deployment of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), is fully engaged within European groups involved in ERTMS rollout. In particular Network Rail is looking closely at the Danish deployment, which will deliver ERTMS onto mixed

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traffic corridors. The assessments of Network Rail are fed into national planning activities for ERTMS implementation.

Free Movement of People: Republic of Ireland

Question

Asked by Lord Mawhinney

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what role the free movement of people between the United Kingdom and Ireland, however defined, plays in the Anglo-Irish agreement and in the documents which underpin it. [HL2282]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): Free movement of people between the United Kingdom and Ireland within the Common Travel Area has existed since 1923 and therefore predates both the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the subsequent British-Irish Agreement. The free movement of people between the two jurisdictions is not provided for by either Agreement.

Illegal Immigrants: France

Question

Asked by Lord Condon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the current situation in Calais with regard to the number of people, from a number of countries, illegally seeking to enter the United Kingdom by secreting themselves in vehicles travelling to ports in Kent; and whether the situation has improved, or deteriorated, in recent months.[HL2198]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): There has been a sharp rise in numbers of illegal immigrants in Calais and the surrounding area, since 2013. This stems from the fact that France, unlike the UK, is part of the border free Schengen Area. We are clear that it is for the French to maintain law and order on their soil, but it is in the UK's interest to work with France to secure the border at Calais and other key ports.

On 20 September 2014, the Home Secretary and French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, signed a joint declaration outlining a number of joint initiatives to tackle increasing migratory flows in Europe. That includes a range of improvements to security and infrastructure in Calais, to strengthen the port and provide greater protection to hauliers and tourists.

Her Majesty’s Government has long been alive to the challenges posed in Calais. Millions of pounds have already been invested in improving security and upgrading technology in Calais. The Government has increased staffing levels in the port and extended security patrols. In addition to physical searches, Border Force officers use detection dogs, heartbeat detectors and carbon dioxide probes to find those hiding clandestinely in vehicles and freight.

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Iraq

Questions

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of Amnesty International's report Absolute Impunity: Militia Rule in Iraq and its account of retaliatory attacks against IS by Shi’a militias in Baghdad, Samarra and Kirkuk.[HL2180]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): We have received reports from Amnesty International and others that Shia Militias have committed human rights abuses against Sunni Muslims in Iraq. The UK strongly condemns the persecution of communities on the basis of their religion, belief or ethnicity. We welcome the commitments made by Prime Minister al-Abadi to reorganising the Iraqi Security Forces, integrating volunteer civilian fighters and dissolving militia groups. He has stressed the importance of bringing arms under State supervision in order to prevent abuses by armed civilians. The UK fully supports the Iraqi government in this as well as its efforts to uphold the rule of law and bring those responsible for all violations and abuses of human rights to justice.

Asked by The Lord Bishop of Coventry

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Iraq about Iraq either acceding to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court or accepting the exercise of the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction with respect to the current situation facing that country.[HL2202]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The UK is a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the principle of universality. We have consistently raised Iraq’s responsibility to observe international laws and obligations in our contact with the Government of Iraq. The UK has not, to date, made representations to the current Government of Iraq regarding to accession to the Rome Statute or accepting ICC jurisdiction in relation to the current situation in the country. Any decision to involve the ICC must be made on the basis of whether the court would prove an effective means of bringing the perpetrators of atrocities to justice. We will continue to look at every available option for ensuring accountability.

Asked by The Lord Bishop of Coventry

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what conversations they have had with the government of Iraq about the implementation of proposals announced by that government in January 2014 to create three new provinces, including one in the largely Christian Nineveh Plains.[HL2203]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: These proposals have not yet been implemented, but we support the new Government of Iraq’s commitment to decentralised governance and greater sharing of power with the

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provinces. This will form an important part of efforts to increase political inclusivity, which is necessary if the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are to be driven out of Iraq for the long term.

Mechanical Engineering

Question

Asked by Lord Browne of Belmont

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from United Kingdom universities in each of the last three years; and how many of those graduates are now employed within that sector in the United Kingdom.[HL2087]

Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con): The information requested is not available.

Mental Health Services

Questions

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they will take to ensure that NHS England ensures parity of esteem as required by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the NHS Mandate for 2013 to 2015 and the Refreshed Mandate for 2014 to 2015.[HL2068]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): The Government holds the National Health Service to account for achieving parity of esteem as required by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, through setting objectives in the NHS England Mandate for 2013-15 and the refreshed Mandate for 2014-15. In addition to measuring progress on specific objectives in the Mandate, outcomes for mental health patients are monitored through the NHS Outcomes Framework, which forms an essential part of the way in which the Secretary of State holds NHS England to account.

Our recently published five-year plan, Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services by 2020, sets out action the Government is taking to provide better access to mental health services within the next year, including the first ever national waiting time standards for mental health services. It also sets out our vision for further progress by 2020.

£40 million in additional funding has been identified to enable change in the current financial year, and a further £80 million will be freed up for 2015-16 to support implementation of waiting times in mental health services.

Asked by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what percentage of patients who attempt to access talking therapies are offered the full choice of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence approved treatments. [HL2136]

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Earl Howe: National data is not available on the percentage of patients accessing talking therapies who are offered a choice of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved psychological therapies.

NICE has recommended a range of psychological therapeutic interventions in its clinical guidelines, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Interpersonal therapy, brief dynamic interpersonal therapy, couple therapy for depression and counselling for depression.

Not all psychological therapeutic interventions therapies are appropriate for all patients. The decision on the most appropriate therapy for each patient should be made between a patient and their clinician.

In 2012, the Department agreed significant additional investment of £22 million in Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) over three years up to 2015. The additional funding will be used to extend the range and availability of evidence-based therapies and is in addition to the investment made in 2010 of £400 million in the IAPT programme up to 2015.

Middle East

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Israel concerning the deaths outside Al Amari refugee camp, of Mohammed al Qatari on 8 August, and his cousin Issa al Qatari on 10 September. [HL2209]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): While we have not raised these specific cases with the Israel authorities, we do have regular discussions with them to encourage them to use a minimal level of force. Officials from our Embassy in Tel Aviv have also spoken on various occasions to the Israeli police and the Israel Defence Forces to urge them to avoid the use of live fire and to exercise restraint in both Gaza and the West Bank, as well as about the process for investigating such incidents.

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the peace-building and reconciliation work of Parents Circle/Bereaved Families Forum in Palestine and Israel; and whether they provide any financial help to it or to its United Kingdom charitable partner Friends of the Bereaved Families Forum. [HL2239]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The work of this organisation, and its emphasis on the importance of reconciliation to achieve peace, appears laudable.

While Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have met with their partner organisation (the Friends of Bereaved Families Forum), we do not provide financial support to either of the groups.

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Ministers: Conduct

Question

Asked by Lord Tebbit

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Northover on 18 August (HL1666), which section of the Ministerial Code deals with the expression of personal views which are not Government policy whilst answering questions at the despatch box.[HL2084]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): I refer the noble peer to the answer I gave on 26 September, Official Report, Column WA514.

Motor Vehicles: Excise Duties

Question

Asked by Lord Trefgarne

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, following the introduction of paperless processing of vehicle excise duty, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency will continue to issue written notices to vehicle owners when their licences are due to expire. [HL2073]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will continue to issue printed renewal reminders which will be sent to vehicle keepers before the vehicle excise duty is due to expire.

Pakistan

Question

Asked by The Lord Bishop of St Albans

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Pakistan concerning the relationship between blasphemy laws there and that country's human rights commitments, particularly in the light of the Lahore High Court’s decision to uphold the death penalty passed against Asia Bibi.[HL2276]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): We regularly raise at the highest levels Pakistan’s human rights commitments including the misuse of blasphemy laws both against Muslims and against religious minorities. We are concerned to hear about the case of Asia Bibi and reports that a court has upheld the imposition of the death penalty. We have consistently pressed the Government of Pakistan on the issue of the death penalty and expressed our principled opposition to it in all cases and we will ensure that we continue to do so.

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Palestinians

Questions

Asked by The Marquess of Lothian

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proposals they have to ask Israel to contribute to the international funds being raised for the reconstruction of Gaza. [HL2149]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): The UK has no plans to request Israeli funding for the reconstruction of Gaza. The UK welcomes the generosity shown by the international community in response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. At the Gaza reconstruction conference on 12 October the UK pledged an additional £20million to help kick start the recovery and get the Gazan people back on their feet. Our current focus is on engaging Israel and other parties to ensure the unimpeded delivery of aid, including through the UN mechanism on construction materials which both parties have approved. The UK is pressing them to now make swift progress towards a durable ceasefire agreement.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what reports they have received from the government of Israel concerning the implementation of recommendations in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office-funded report on the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law.[HL2212]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The UK has made repeated representations to Israel on their treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including child detainees. Since the publication of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office-funded independent report on Children in Military Custody in June 2012, there has been some limited progress. This includes a pilot to use summons instead of night-time arrests, and steps to reduce the amount of time a child can be detained before seeing a judge. We have welcomed the steps taken to date, but we have called for further measures, including the mandatory use of audio-visual recording of interrogations, investigation into continued reports of single hand ties being used, and an end to solitary confinement for children. The Government has been working with the delegation who compiled the Children in Military Custody report to make a return visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the near future.

Prisoners: Foreign Nationals

Question

Asked by Lord Browne of Belmont

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what has been the total annual cost of imprisoning foreign national offenders in United Kingdom prisons in each of the last four calendar years.[HL2092]

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The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) does not calculate separately the annual cost of imprisoning foreign nationals in England and Wales. NOMS does not analyse cost by prisoner nationality, as costs recorded on the NOMS central accounting system do not allow identification of costs attributable to holding individual prisoners.

All prison costs for Scotland and Northern Ireland are a devolved matter and the responsibility of the relevant Minister.

RFA Argus

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the state of readiness of RFA Argus; how many patients she can carry; and whether there are plans to deploy her to the Mediterranean for humanitarian tasks or for rescuing endangered boat-people.[HL1978]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): We do not release information on the readiness levels of our units, on grounds of safeguarding national security. As an integral component of the Government's response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, RFA Argus was recently deployed to Sierra Leone as an aviation support ship with three Merlin helicopters embarked. RFA Argus also has the capacity for a 100 bed medical facility.

Rolling Stock

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have subsidised, or are considering subsidising, the costs of rail operators in converting first class carriages to standard class.[HL2188]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): Government specifies capacity requirements at a high level and seeks input from the industry as to cost effective and timely ways in which this can be delivered. The industry is free to consider initiatives which meet the overall requirements of the Department for Transport's specification. This may include providing additional seating capacity in standard class carriages through conversion of first class carriages. In the case of the recent Virgin West Coast and First Great Western Direct Awards, the Government has contracted with the operators to provide additional capacity in this way.

Saudi Arabia

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Saudi Arabia concerning the seven executions by beheading there in March 2013.[HL2210]

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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): We raised our concerns with the Saudi Arabian authorities when the sentences were due to be carried out, reiterating our opposition to the death penalty and requesting that leniency be shown. Government Ministers, our Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and officials from our Embassy raise the issue of the death penalty with the Saudi authorities, bilaterally and through the EU. While we are fully committed to global abolition we recognise that the total abolition of the death penalty is unlikely in Saudi Arabia in the near future. For now, our focus is on the introduction of EU minimum standards for the death penalty as an important first step, and supporting access to justice and rule of law.

Streatham Station

Question

Asked by Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to make funding available under the Access for All programme to make Streatham overground station accessible; whether matched funding has been promised; and if so, by whom.[HL2395]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): Access for All funding will be made available to provide Streatham station with an accessible route to each platform by April 2018. There is £50,000 in match funding available from Lambeth Borough Council.

Syria

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether Syrian refugees are being refused entry to Jordan; whether they have any information about the situation of any such people; and whether they will make the necessary representations to enhance their well-being.[HL2221]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): The Government has raised the reports of Syrian refugees stranded at their border with the Jordanian authorities. While we respect the rights of the Jordanians to control their border and protect entry against extremists and terrorists, we have stressed the humanitarian imperative that vulnerable people are protected and given refuge.

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Unmanned Air Vehicles

Question

Asked by Lord Judd

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support the formulation of United Nations guidance on the application of human rights law to drone use.[HL2240]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): The Government believes that international law on the use of military force is absolutely clear. There must be a lawful basis for such force to be used and activities must be conducted in accordance with the law of war or international humanitarian law. This is as true when considering the possible use of remotely piloted aircraft systems as it is with any other military asset or weapon. Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems are a relatively new military asset, and their use, whether armed or unarmed, will continue to evolve. However, the existing international legal framework is clear and robust; and, as with any other weapons system, it is fully capable of governing their use. We do not need to rewrite the laws of war in order to be confident that, when used in such lawful circumstances, remotely piloted aircraft systems operate in the same legal environment as other military means. We have set this position out previously including at the UN Human Rights Council in response to the report of the Special Rapporteur.

Viral Haemorrhagic Diseases

Question

Asked by Lord MacKenzie of Culkein

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the agreement in the former Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council on increased pay for nurses caring for persons with viral haemorrhagic diseases such as Marburg fever and ebola is still in force.[HL2095]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): The Whitley Council allowance for “nursing patients with infectious communicable diseases” ended when Agenda for Change (AfC) started in December 2004.

This is because AfC pay bands are related to the National Health Service job evaluation scheme. AfC was designed to ensure equal pay for staff carrying out work rated as ‘equivalent’ or ‘of equal value’. Factors which determined the need for Whitley allowances are measured in AfC by job evaluation. This determines the pay band which feeds through to pay.

Decisions relating to the banding of NHS staff, including nurses and midwives, are matters for the NHS organisation concerned as the employer. They are best placed to determine the content of individual jobs.