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Written Answers

Volume 688: debated on Thursday 11 January 2007

Written Answers

Thursday, 11 January 2007.

Afghanistan: Helmand Province

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many of the Reserve Forces deployed to the Helmand province of Afghanistan are volunteer reserves; and how many are regular reserves. [HL745]

The Ministry of Defence does not keep statistics on those deployed specifically in Helmand province because of the extensive internal movements. As at 30 November 2006, some 320 reservists, of whom seven were regular reservists were deployed in the Operation HERRICK (Afghanistan) joint operational area.

Armed Forces: International Law

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are obliged to consult the law officers of the Crown about the compatibility with international law of any proposed use of force by the Armed Forces before engaging or participating in any act of war or military intervention. [HL556]

The circumstances in which it will normally be appropriate to consult the law officers are set out in paragraph 6.22 of the Ministerial Code. The Government take all appropriate steps to ensure that any overseas military operations are commenced and conducted in compliance with all relevant obligations under international law, which will include taking legal advice as necessary. This will generally include seeking legal clearance from the law officers before any decision is taken to commence military action.

Armed Forces: Steven Roberts Inquiry

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Who in the Ministry of Defence authorised the evidence of Mr David Williams, director of capability, resources and scrutiny, for the inquest into the death of Sergeant Steven Roberts in Iraq. [HL1059]

Mr Williams was the director in charge of the organisation responsible for managing urgent operational requirements for equipment at the time, and was directly involved in advising Ministers and senior military personnel on the work being undertaken against the possibility of military engagement in Iraq. Mr Williams’s attendance was put forward by the MoD's counsel at the inquest as the person best able to answer the specific questions raised by the coroner. The coroner accepted Mr Williams as a suitable witness.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many prosecutions are pending in the United Kingdom for international corruption. [HL1051]

No prosecutions are currently pending in the United Kingdom for offences of corruption by a British person or company of a foreign public official. A number of investigations into suspected offences of corruption in these circumstances are being conducted.

Governance and Transparency

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there are differences of emphasis between their official policies of good governance and transparency applied in Africa and those applied in the Middle East; if so, whether there can be any universal criteria on these issues; and, if not, whether they will revise their objectives accordingly. [HL1067]

The Government attach great importance to building universal standards of good governance and transparency in all parts of the world, including Africa and the Middle East. Most recently, this was demonstrated at the inaugural conference, which concluded in Amman on 14 December, of states parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC)—the world's first global anti-corruption agreement.

The UK worked to achieve positive conference outcomes, including agreement on the way corrupt assets are handled. We also supported agreement on the need for development agencies to take full account in their programmes of the need to tackle corruption, and on the need to ensure effective international co-ordination of targeted technical assistance.

The UK will continue to engage strongly in international efforts on these issues and expects to field representatives on all the new UNCAC groups of experts which will be set up to work on asset recovery, mechanisms to review compliance, and technical assistance. We regard this work as applicable everywhere and it is not the intention of the Government to agree to regional or national variations in their objectives.

Iraq: Basra

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the situation in and around the city of Basra, Iraq, for which they have responsibilities, particularly whether (a) local and provincial government is functioning effectively; (b) electricity, water and services have been restored and, where possible, improved; (c) schools and hospitals are working at full capacity; and (d) non-governmental organisations are helping to meet the needs of the population.[HL837]

The Basra provincial council has been responsible for delivering basic services since Iraqi sovereignty was established in 2004. The UK, along with other international partners such as the UN, has worked alongside the Basra provincial council to help it effectively meet the needs of local people. DfID’s capacity-building programme has built up the financial management and budgeting capacity of governorate institutions, trained over 50 governorate officials, and refurbished offices and resource centres in all four provinces. We have worked with the Basra provincial council to produce a three-year development strategy, which the council is now using to plan and implement essential repairs to water and sanitation services, electricity infrastructure and roads.

International assistance has helped to stabilise Iraq's water and electricity infrastructure following decades of neglect and underinvestment. Since 2003 over $3.5 billion has been spent on electricity infrastructure in Iraq, increasing peak generation capacity to 5,350 megawatts in July 2006, compared to a pre-2003 capacity of 4,200 megawatts. The World Bank estimates that to improve generation capacity to meet projected demand for electricity in Iraq will take 10 years and $20 billion. DfID-funded repairs have added or secured 350 megawatts to the national grid so far, and improved power supply to 1.5 million homes around Basra. On completion of our current programmes in mid-2007, DfID will have added or secured 470 megawatts to the national grid.

Around $1.3 billion has been spent on over 300 projects to repair and improve water and sanitation infrastructure in Iraq. DfID's work on water and sanitation in Basra will improve access to water for around 1 million people. But decades of neglect and an ageing infrastructure means that overall access to drinkable water and sewage systems remains similar to pre-2003 levels.

The international community has undertaken extensive rehabilitation of schools and healthcare facilities nationwide. Through extensive disease control programmes, the prevalence of leishmaniasis, malaria and polio have all declined. Vaccination campaigns have helped reduce the outbreak of previously endemic diseases and annual campaigns have inoculated 98 per cent of Iraqi children under five years of age against measles, mumps, and rubella.

Specifically regarding non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the current security environment means that there are very few international and Iraqi NGOs working in Basra. However, some NGOs are present and assisting the local population.

NATO: Cost of Operations

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the cost of NATO operations is paid by the countries providing the military contribution to the operation concerned, or whether it is paid by all members of NATO in proportion to their gross domestic product. [HL783]

The majority of the costs of NATO operations lie with the individual nations contributing the force elements. However, certain costs (such as the command structure in theatre and critical theatre enabling capabilities) are commonly funded by all nations to an agreed formula based on gross national income.

Palace of Westminster: Post

asked the Chairman of Committees:

Further to his Written Answer on 11 December 2006 (WA 169), why there is no figure available for the volume of mail received in the Palace of Westminster in 2005, given that in previous Written Answers he has provided figures for 2003 and 2004. [HL1245]

The method for recording the volume of post received in the Palace of Westminster has changed, following the introduction of the new postal services contract. Figures provided in previous Written Answers for the total number of items of post received in both Houses of Parliament in 2003 and 2004 were supplied by the Royal Mail.

Following the introduction of the new postal services contract, key performance indicators, which include monitoring the volume of post received, are being monitored and recorded on a monthly basis. This system was introduced in September 2005 and not January 2006 as erroneously stated in my Answer of 11 December 2006. The Royal Mail has provided an estimate for the total number of items of post received in both Houses of Parliament during 2005 of 4,733,000 items. The House of Lords received an estimated 20 per cent of this total number, giving an annual figure for the Lords for that year of approximately 946,600. Since the beginning of January 2006, the Palace of Westminster's contract monitoring system has provided the following monthly data for inbound mail:



























Railways: East Coast Main Line

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to let the new franchise for the east coast main line service; and what is the estimated cost of carrying out the re-franchising process. [HL996]

The announcement of the successful bidder for the franchise is anticipated in August, with commencement in December 2007. The cost to the department is estimated to be in the region of £2 million. The recovery of these costs has been included in the recently agreed management contract with GNER. Costs to bidders are a matter for it.

Russia: Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they last made representations to the Government of Russia about the alleged use of torture, arbitrary killings and disappearances in the Chechen Republic; what was the result of those representations; and whether they will make representations to the Government of Russia on the admission of the United Nations special rapporteur for torture, under conditions fully acceptable to him. [HL1021]

On 8 November 2006 the fourth round of EU-Russia human rights consultations took place in Brussels. The EU delegation expressed continuing concerns about reports of forced disappearances in the North Caucasus and the alleged torture of those detained in connection with terrorism-related incidents, and asked for information on several individual cases. The Russian delegation acknowledged that there continued to be cases of unacceptable treatment in detention centres, stated that it was working to improve the conditions of pre-trial detention facilities and that it referred all reported cases of abuse and abduction to the criminal courts for prosecution. Russian officials committed to providing information on the status of the named individuals.

The EU stressed the importance of the work of Manfred Nowak, the United Nations special rapporteur for torture. It urged the Russian authorities to extend full co-operation to him and asked for information regarding a new date for his visit, which it emphasised should take place as soon as possible.

The Government remain deeply concerned about continuing reports of human rights violations in Chechnya. We have emphasised to the Russian authorities that security measures can be effective only when they fully respect human rights. Bilaterally, and with EU partners, we will continue to make regular representations to the Russian authorities about our human rights concerns in Russia.

Secure Training Centres: Physical Restraint

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On how many occasions physical restraint occurred at Hassockfield secure training centre in relation to, respectively, male and female black and ethnic-minority clients during each of the 12 months prior to 1 November; and [HL891]

On how many occasions physical restraint occurred at Medway secure training centre in relation to, respectively, male and female black and ethnic-minority clients during each of the 12 months prior to 1 November. [HL892]

The information requested is not currently collected centrally. However, the Youth Justice Board has been consulting with stakeholders on obtaining fuller information about the use of restraint in secure establishments and, beginning in February 2007, it plans to collect data on the ethnicity of young people in custody.

World Wars: Debts to US

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the remaining unpaid debt from the First and Second World Wars has any effect on their relationship with the Government of the United States; and, if so, what effect it has had. [HL1065]

The debt from the First World War and the recently repaid debt of the Second World War have had no effect on our excellent relationship with the Government of the United States.