Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 703: debated on Monday 30 June 2008

Written Answers

Monday 30 June 2008

Animal Welfare: Game Birds

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What regulations apply to game birds being reared by intensive methods. [HL4244]

Game birds reared for sporting purposes are currently covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This Act makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal, and also contains a duty of care so that people responsible for an animal must take such steps as are reasonable to ensure its welfare.

In addition, the Government are proposing to use powers under the Act to produce a code of practice, which will provide guidance on accommodation and management methods, including aggression reduction. Any code would be subject to public consultation and endorsement by Parliament.

In preparation for the introduction of a code, a Defra-commissioned study into the welfare implications of using bits and spectacles is currently underway and is expected to be completed in November 2008. The results of the research will then be subject to peer review and will inform members of the working group tasked with writing the code.

We are aware that there are also concerns about the use of cages for the breeding of game birds, and Defra has asked the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) to assess this system of management and report back on its findings. It is anticipated that the report will be ready by autumn 2008 and it will inform the working group about this type of breeding system, and the extent to which any identified problems can be addressed through a code of practice.

Armed Forces: Compensation

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What compensation is paid to members of the Armed Forces for (a) the loss of a leg; (b) the loss of an arm; and (c) the loss of sight in an eye while on active service. [HL4304]

The levels of compensation paid under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme vary significantly according to severity and type of injury. For example, a larger amount of compensation is paid for an above the knee amputation than is paid for a below the knee amputation. Full details of the levels of compensation paid under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme are contained in the statutory instrument, the Armed Forces and Reserve Forces (Compensation Scheme) Order 2005 (2005 No 439) (which is available at: www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20050439.htm) as then subsequently amended by SI 2006/1438; SI 2007/2609 and SI 2008/39.

Army: Strength

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they will take to increase the number of troops in the Army, as recommended by the Chief of the General Staff at the Royal United Services Institute on 12 June. [HL4348]

We keep the size of the Army, like the other two services, under regular review. Where possible, we have rebalanced Army manpower better to meet current and future challenges, and the Army's manpower requirement remains at around 102,000. Further requirements will be kept under review. The more immediate priority is to ensure that we achieve full manning as rapidly as possible and we have recently approved a series of measures to improve recruitment and retention.

As we announced in March this year, we are conducting a review of Reserve Forces to ensure that they remain appropriate to support defence now and into the future and are better integrated with the Regular Forces.

British Citizenship

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 17 June (WA 141) concerning the cost of naturalisation as a British citizen, when the current fee was set; whether the fee has varied; and, if so, how. [HL4376]

The current fee of £575 for naturalisation as a British Citizen (excluding the £80 fee for the citizenship ceremony) was set on 2 April 2007.

The variation in the fee for an application for naturalisation over the past 10 years is detailed in the table below. The fee is based on an application made by a single person and does not include the fee for the citizenship ceremony which was introduced in January 2004.

From: Naturalisation Fee

12 June 1997

£150

1 January 2004

£150

1 April 2005

£200

2 April 2007

£575

Children: Deafness

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consideration they have given to the key findings of the National Deaf Children's Society's recent survey of the needs and views of deaf children and young people as they affect government departments; and what action they will be taking. [HL4148]

The National Deaf Children's Society's report Changing Your World Youth Consultation was launched on 10 June 2008. This said that young people want to see more mainstreaming of activities for deaf children and young people. The Youth Opportunity and Youth Capital Funds which we introduced in 2006 give young people a direct say over activities and facilities in their area. It is a universal programme with a focus on reaching disadvantaged young people, including those with disabilities. Young people can participate in three ways: as an applicant for funding, as a grant giver; and as a beneficiary of the activity or facility provided through the programme.

Young people also want more information and advice made available to them. The National Core Offer was launched as part of Aiming High for Disabled Children on 15 May 2008. The National Core Offer is a statement of the standards which families with disabled children can expect across the country from local services. It is concerned mainly with early years, education, youth, social care and health services, but is also relevant for those delivering housing, leisure and transport services.

The core offer will ensure that parents of disabled children are involved in determining provision; have a single assessment of need where possible; are clear what they are entitled to and how to access the service; give disabled children and young people the option of being fully involved in the development of local services and designing their package of care; and are not subject to multiple assessments before services are provided.

Climate Change: Committee Chairman

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will appoint a successor to the current chairman of the Climate Change Committee; and, if so, what steps they are taking to do so. [HL4257]

We intend to appoint a successor to the noble Lord, Lord Turner, who has announced his intention to stand down from his post as chair of the Committee on Climate Change in the new year. As with all appointments to the committee, the appointment will be made in a fair and transparent way (and against set criteria), regulated by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

We plan to start the recruitment process soon. The intention is that a new chair will be appointed in time to ensure a well-managed transition and a thorough handover.

Companies: Registration

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many companies were registered in the most recent year for which records exist; of these, how many companies were newly registered during that year; and how many companies withdrew their registration during that year. [HL4246]

2,543,753 companies were registered with Companies House at the end of March 2007.

449,722 new companies were incorporated with Companies House in the financial year 2007-08. 225,440 companies were dissolved by Companies House in the financial year 2007-08, of which 125,780 were voluntary dissolutions.

Definitive figures to the end of March 2008 should be available on the Companies House website at: www.companieshouse.gov.uk during July 2008.

Criminal Records Bureau

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the cost to an organisation of a Criminal Records Bureau check; and whether an individual who has recently been checked for one employment would need a separate check to work with children as a volunteer; and [HL4063]

Why payments are required for each Criminal Records Bureau check on an individual performing different roles during the same time period within the same geographical area. [HL4064]

The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) charges £31.00 for a standard disclosure and £36.00 for an enhanced disclosure. The CRB continues to process disclosure applications for volunteers free of charge.

Payment is required for each CRB check, regardless of whether an individual has had a previous disclosure. All applications are processed individually and the fee was last prescribed in 2006. This is in accordance with Part V of the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Record) Regulations 2002 which states that a disclosure shall be issued to any individual who makes an application in the prescribed format and pays the prescribed fee, which was last prescribed in 2006.

Disclosures are primarily designed to be used by an employer at the point of recruitment for a particular position. Ultimately it is for each employer, and not the CRB, to decide whether a new disclosure should be applied for, bearing in mind their legal and other responsibilities and subject to any statutory requirements.

There are a number of reasons why an employer may not wish to accept a disclosure that has been processed for a previous employment position, including:

the disclosure may not be at the right level (there are two different levels of CRB check; standard and enhanced);

the older a disclosure is the less reliant the information is, because the information it contains may not be up to date; and

information revealed through a CRB check reflects the information that was available at the time of its issue—a person may have committed a crime in the intervening period.

The disclosure process may also include a search to establish whether an individual is subject to a direction under Section 142 of the Education Act 2002, or a check against them, Protection of Children Act and Protection of Vulnerable Adults (PoCA 2and PoVA) lists.

Each disclosure is specific to the circumstances of a particular job application and any decision to disclose any non-conviction information held by individual police forces is unique to that position.

Data Loss: Rosemary Nelson Inquiry

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the risk to witnesses, especially those from the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, of the loss of a disk containing confidential data by the Rosemary Nelson inquiry; and what safeguards have been put in place to prevent further loss of protectively marked material. [HL3859]

The initial investigation and advice from the PSNI has stated that there are no grounds to suspect that there will be any adverse consequences as a result of the loss of these data. Further risk analysis of the data is being carried out by those organisations involved. It is not believed that the disk has been stolen.

The Rosemary Nelson inquiry has also identified a number of steps to prevent any further loss of protectively marked material and is taking a proactive approach to ensuring that security guidance is understood and followed.

The Government have appointed an independent security adviser to review all the arrangements that are in place at each of the Northern Ireland public inquiries for the handling and storage of protectively marked material.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether any member of staff attached to, or any member of, the Rosemary Nelson inquiry has been dismissed or suspended as a result of the loss of a disk containing confidential data. [HL3861]

The PSNI is conducting an investigation into the loss of the disk, and it would be inappropriate to comment before that investigation is complete.

The Government have also engaged an independent security adviser to review all the arrangements at the Rosemary Nelson inquiry, and the other independent public inquiries, for the handling and storage of protectively marked material to determine events surrounding the loss of the disk and make recommendations.

Employment: Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the estimated numbers in the United Kingdom of (a) temporary workers (including domestic workers), (b) agency workers, and (c) workers who fall between these two categories; and what are the estimated numbers in each of the above categories who will get extra protection from the proposed United Kingdom legislation implementing the European Union legislation on workers' rights. [HL4110]

The Labour Force Survey estimates the number of temporary workers to be about 1.4 to 1.5 million. The recruitment industry estimates there are about 1 million agency workers. The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is currently in the process of updating its own estimates, through independent research, of the number of agency workers.

Farmers' Markets

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will introduce measures to encourage the further development of local farmers' markets through local and regional agencies. [HL3966]

The Government want to encourage farmers' markets which are sustainable and have done this in a number of ways: directly by providing funding under our grant schemes; and indirectly by working with other bodies such as FARMA (the organisation representing farmers’ markets—merger of the Farm Retail Association and the National Association of Farmers' Markets) and local authorities to facilitate the establishment of farmers' markets.

Our support for this work continues with the award, last autumn, of funding under the agriculture development scheme to FARMA for a project to develop a national producer verification scheme for farmers' markets and an assurance scheme for farm shops. As a result of this project, it is hoped that the combination of producer verification with the farmers' market certification scheme will result in strengthened consumer confidence in farmers' markets.

This support has been complemented, at a regional level, by the regional development agencies (RDAs) for a range of activities linked to the promotion of quality regional and local food culture. RDAs are also responsible for the delivery of part of Defra's Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), which was agreed by the European Commission last year. Support is available under this programme for improving the competitiveness of a wide range of rural businesses, which could include farmers' markets.

Freedom of Information

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the estimated cost, including civil servants' time, of answering Freedom of Information requests from the Taxpayers' Alliance to the Home Office. [HL3947]

The Home Office has been able to identify only one Freedom of Information request it has received from the Taxpayers’ Alliance. This was answered within the £600 cost ceiling, laid out by the Act.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the estimated cost incurred by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform in answering Freedom of Information requests from the Taxpayers' Alliance pressure group, including civil servant time. [HL4074]

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform does not hold information on estimated costs of responding to individual requests. Complying with the Freedom of Information Act does not require compilation of such estimates. Searches of our records indicate we have not dealt with any requests from the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

Genetically Modified Crops

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which genetically modified crops have potential for increasing food production if grown in (a) Great Britain or (b) the European Union; what would be the likely increase in production in respect of each crop; and what scientific evidence exists to support their view; and [HL4353]

What alteration there would be in production costs per unit of output for genetically modified food crops, compared with conventional crops. [HL4355]

At present, genetically modified (GM) maize, soya and oilseed rape crops are being grown in various countries, mainly for animal feed use. These crops have been modified for resistance to certain insect pests or weedkillers. They have not been modified to confer an intrinsic yield benefit, although they may increase production indirectly, by, for example, reducing the level of pest damage relative to that experienced with the equivalent conventional crop. They may also reduce production costs by facilitating lower pesticide usage. The same thinking applies to other GM crops under development with new traits like drought-tolerance and disease-resistance. If successful, these could increase production in areas with difficult growing conditions and therefore be part of the solution to meeting future challenges.

It is not possible to give precise estimates for the likely effect that the cultivation of GM crops would have in the UK or European Union (EU) on the level and cost of food production. The impact would vary depending on the type of crop in question and the specific context in which it was used. Consistent with this, the available evidence on current GM production outside the EU reports variable impacts in different regions and growing seasons.

Health: Dentistry

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people were registered with a National Health Service dentist in Essex in each quarter since 2001; and what percentage of the population of Essex this represented. [HL4310]

Information is not available in the format requested. Quarterly information for the years under the old contractual arrangements would be available only at disproportionate cost.

Under the new dental contractual arrangements, introduced on 1 April 2006, patients do not have to be registered with a National Health Service dentist to receive NHS care. The closest equivalent measure to registration is the number of patients receiving NHS dental services (patients seen) over a 24-month period. However, this is not directly comparable to the registration data for earlier years.

Information on the numbers of patients seen by an NHS dentist in England, over the previous 24-month period, for each quarter of 2006-07 is available in Table F1 of Annex 3 of the NHS Dental Statistics for England: Quarter 4: 31 March 2007 report. Information is provided by strategic health authority (SHA) and by primary care trust (PCT). This report, published on 19 June 2007, is available in the Library and is also available on the information centre for health and social care's website at: www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/dentalq4.

This information is based on the old contractual arrangements, which were in place up to and including 31 March 2006. The NHS Dental Activity and Workforce Report : 31 March 2006, published on 23 August 2006, is available in the Library and is also available on the information centre for health and social care's website at: www.ic.nhs.uk/statistics-and-data-collections/primary -care/dentistry/nhs-dental-activity-and-workforce-report-england-31-march-2006.

Table F2 provides the information as a percentage of the population.

Information on the numbers of patients seen by an NHS dentist in England, over the previous 24-month period, for the first three quarters of 2007-08 is available in Table C1 of Annex 3 of the NHS Dental Statistics for England: Quarter 3: 31 December 2007 report. Information is provided by SHA and by PCT. This report, published on 5 June 2008, is available in the Library and is also available on the information centre for health and social care's website at: www.is.nhs.uk/pubs/dentalstats0708q3.

Table C2 provides the information as a percentage of the population.

All the reports have been published by the information centre for health and social care.

Health: Midwives

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they have taken to address the shortage of midwives described by the Royal College of Midwives. [HL4382]

The department is continuing to work closely with strategic health authorities (SHAs), the Royal College of Midwives and other stakeholders to expand capacity in the maternity workforce. The NHS in England: The Operating Framework for 2007-08 (copies of which are available in the Library) required primary care trusts to assess local maternity services and workforce capacity. SHAs shared their interim workforce plans with the department in February 2008 to expand by up to 4,000 midwives by 2012, based on the current rising birth rate trend. Locally driven measures, including supporting midwives to return to work in the National Health Service through return to practice programmes, improved leadership, and mentoring are being supported with targeted funding of £1.5 million in 2008-09.

Immigration: Assisted Voluntary Return

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the elasticity of demand for assisted voluntary return packages offered to failed asylum seekers by the International Organisation for Migration, and whether they will consider increasing the benefits of these packages as a means of reducing the need for extra detention places. [HL4299]

The Government want failed asylum seekers who are in the UK illegally to leave voluntarily and, in co-operation with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), it operates the assisted voluntary return (AVR) schemes to help them to do so. This offers failed asylum seekers a means of return which is both dignified and sustainable.

To test elasticity of demand, over the past two years we have piloted different packages of reintegration assistance to promote AVR. We have listened and learnt from the experiences of applicants, the International Organisation for Migration, non-governmental organisations and refugee and community organisations on how reintegration assistance can be improved better to meet the needs of returnees. We keep our approach to AVR under review. In October 2007 we launched a flexible new approach to the provision of reintegration assistance to address needs on an individual basis rather than a “one size fits all” approach.

In order that all failed asylum seekers can benefit from this package, AVR is also made available to those in immigration detention which helps to manage pressures on detention space.

Immigration: Failed Asylum Seekers

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the effects of the memoranda of understanding they have signed with other countries on arrangements for the return of failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants on the number of nationals of those countries who will need to be accommodated in immigration detention centres over the next five years and the average length of time such persons will spend in immigration detention centres. [HL4350]

We do not need a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to effect returns to the great majority of countries.

The MOUs that we do have are agreements with the governments concerned about the principles and practices of effecting returns—they are not predominantly about numbers, and would have no impact on detention planning.

No assessment has been made of the impact of particular MOUs on detention planning.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

To which countries failed asylum seekers were deported, and how many went to each country, in 1990, 1995, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. [HL4377]

The accompanying table shows the number of principal asylum applicants removed and departing voluntarily from the UK, by destination in each year from 2004 to 2006. Final figures on the total number of principal asylum applicants removed and departing voluntarily from the UK during 2007 will be published in the “Asylum Statistics: United Kingdom 2007” bulletin on 21 August 2008.

Destination data have only been recorded since 2004, so this information is not available for the earlier years specified.

Further information on asylum removals from the UK is available from the Library of the House and the Home Office's Research, Development and Statistics website at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration-asylum-stats.html.

Principal asylum applicants removed and departing voluntarily(1)(2)(3) from the UK, by destination(4), 2004-06(5)

Destination(4)

2004

2005

2006(P)

Albania

1,080

915

1,265

Macedonia

25

30

20

Moldova

65

55

50

Russia

50

60

75

Serbia and Montenegro(6)

1,595

1,305

775

Turkey

270

800

1.590

Ukraine

160

105

90

EU Countries(7)

2,965

2,380

2,160

Other Former USSR

130

140

175

Europe Other

150

135

135

Europe Total

6,485

5,925

6,335

Colombia

175

215

180

Ecuador

145

100

75

Jamaica

445

370

370

Americas Other

150

125

145

Americas Total

915

815

770

Algeria

170

190

215

Angola

85

120

95

Burundi

5

10

5

Cameroon

60

30

40

Congo

35

55

60

Dem. Rep. Congo

15

40

105

Eritrea

-

*

*

Ethiopia

20

35

80

Gambia

45

35

70

Ghana

240

220

155

Ivory Coast

50

15

30

Kenya

115

55

120

Liberia

45

25

15

Nigeria

270

560

640

Rwanda

35

5

15

Sierra Leone

45

65

90

Somalia

25

15

40

Sudan

25

45

75

Tanzania

25

35

50

Uganda

205

225

215

Zimbabwe

105

255

220

Africa Other

240

325

265

Africa Total

1,850

2,370

2,600

Iran

220

355

425

Iraq

425

795

1.725

Libya

20

30

35

Syria

25

30

40

Middle East Other

120

210

255

Middle East Total

810

1,415

2,480

Afghanistan

560

910

965

Bangladesh

310

220

240

China

90

245

270

India

275

340

515

Pakistan

455

660

880

Sri Lanka

410

380

655

Vietnam

15

50

130

Asia Other

255

275

410

Asia Total

2,365

3,070

4,065

Other, and not known

175

140

80

Total principal applicants removed

12,595

13,730

16,330

(1) Persons who had sought asylum at some stage, excluding dependants.

(2) Includes persons refused entry at port and subsequently removed (including cases dealt with at juxtaposed controls), persons departing voluntarily following enforcement action initiated against them and persons leaving under assisted voluntary return programmes run by the International Organization for Migration.

(3) Since 2005, includes persons who it is established have left the UK without informing the immigration authorities.

(4) Destination as recorded on source database.

(5) Figures rounded to the nearest five ( - = 0, * = 1 or 2) and may not sum to the totals shown because of independent rounding.

(6) Serbia and Montenegro continue to be shown as one entity for all years.

(7) Current EU countries, irrespective of the date at which they joined the EU.

(P) Provisional figures.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What mechanisms exist to monitor the fate of failed asylum seekers following their deportation from the United Kingdom. [HL4378]

I refer the noble Lord to the answer I gave to him in my letter of 18 June 2008, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

Immigration: Illegal Entrants

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many illegal Chinese immigrants in the United Kingdom have been repatriated in each of the past five years; how many are awaiting repatriation; of those awaiting repatriation, how many are detained; and where those detained are being held. [HL2337]

The accompanying table shows the number of Chinese nationals removed from the UK to China from 2004 to 2007. Destination data have been collated only since 2004 so information prior to this is not available.

Information on the number of persons awaiting removal from the UK is not centrally collated; it could be obtained only through examination of individual records at disproportionate cost.

While information is published on the number of persons detained solely under Immigration Act powers as at the last Saturday of each quarter, information on the number of people who are recorded as being detained awaiting removal from the UK is not centrally collated; it could be obtained only through examination of individual records at disproportionate cost.

National statistics on removals and persons detained solely under Immigration Act powers are available from the Library of the House and the Home Office's Research, Development and Statistics website at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration1.html.

Removals, voluntary departures and assisted returns(1)(2), nationals of China removed to China, 2004-07(3)

Number of Removals

Year

2004

2005

2006 (P)

2007 (P)

Chinese nationals removed to China

260

460

630

1,065

of which:

asylum applicants(4)

90

245

270

340

non-asylum cases

170

215

360

725

(1) Includes enforced removals, persons refused entry at port and subsequently removed (including cases dealt with at juxtaposed controls), persons departing voluntarily after enforcement action had been initiated against them and persons leaving under assisted voluntary return programmes run by the International Organisation for Migration.

(2) From January 2005 onwards, includes those who it is established have left the UK without informing the immigration authorities.

(3) Figures rounded to the nearest five and may not sum to the totals shown because of independent rounding.

(4) Persons who had sought asylum at some stage, including dependants.

(P) Provisional figures.

Immigration: Refugee Doctors

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to encourage and assist refugee doctors to work in the National Health Service. [HL4321]

A number of strategic health authorities (SHAs) fund programmes of work to support refugee doctors to become “job-ready” for the National Health Service.

In addition, NHS employers working as part of the NHS Confederation, have agreed with SHAs, the European Refugee Fund and the Home Office, to implement a national programme that enables refugee healthcare professionals to compete in the NHS job-market.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many refugee doctors based in the United Kingdom who have met all the requirements to work in the National Health Service are still unemployed. [HL4322]

This information is not collected centrally.

The British Medical Association (BMA) maintains a voluntary register of refugee doctors. As of 4 June 2008 the BMA register shows that 234 refugee doctors are “job ready” and currently not in employment as doctors in the National Health Service.

Source: www.bma.org.uk/ap.nsf/Content/refugeedoctorstats june2008.

Immigration: Restaurant Raids

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the United Kingdom Border Agency has a specific code of practice regarding raids on ethnic restaurants; and, if so, whether they will publish it. [HL4345]

There is no code of practice specifically regarding visits to ethnic restaurants. The UK Border Agency has, however, issued a code of practice for employers on how civil penalties for illegal working are issued and determined and this is available to view at: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/employers/preventingillegalworking/.

UK Border Agency staff are required to follow published guidance on how to conduct enforcement visits. Prior to a visit a thorough risk assessment is completed in conjunction with the police which includes an assessment of impact on the local community. The full guidance is available in chapter 31 of the enforcement guidance and can be viewed at: www.ukba.home office.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/enforcement/oemsectione/.

Immigration: Suicide

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many asylum seekers tried or succeeded in committing suicide in the United Kingdom in 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007. [HL4379]

Immigration: Undocumented Migrants

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will make an assessment of the new European Union directive on the detention of undocumented migrants; whether they will publish it; whether this directive covers those whose documents have expired or who are overstaying leave to enter; and whether a maximum 18-month detention period is appropriate in the absence of a sentence imposed by a court and of other legal safeguards. [HL4352]

Agreement was reached on 18 June 2008 in the European Parliament on the European Returns Directive and it now stands to be adopted at a meeting of the Council of Ministers.

The directive covers all categories of illegal migrants including overstayers and those whose documents have expired.

The UK has not opted into this directive. While there are no plans to undertake an assessment we shall now follow the implementation in member states and its impact on the UK.

We shall provide the European Committees of the Lords and Commons with an update on the directive once final amendments are presented.

Iran: Death Penalty

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Slovenian presidency of the European Union has received a response from the Government of Iran following its statement of 4 June on the death sentences imposed on Behnood Shojaee, Mohammad Fadaei and Saeed Jazee, who were aged under 18 at the time of their alleged offences; and whether they will make representations to the Government of Iran about their obligations under international covenants on death sentences. [HL4235]

Following the 4 June statement about planned juvenile executions in Iran, the EU presidency issued a further statement on 10 June calling for the Iranian authorities to halt the execution of juvenile offenders Mohammad Fadaei, Behnood Shojaee and Saeed Jazee. The embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Tehran also spoke to an official from the Iranian Judiciary to make further representations and draw attention to the EU's statement. The executions of Fadaei and Shojaee, which had been scheduled for 11 June, were subsequently stayed for one month to allow time for further negotiations with the respective families. However, a 17 year-old juvenile offender, Mohammad Hassanzadeh, was executed on 10 June and Saeed Jazee's execution remains scheduled for 25 June.

The position of the EU and the Government on the death penalty is clear, and the execution of juveniles is against all international human rights standards. The EU issued a further statement on 13 June which strongly condemned the execution of Mohammad Hassanzadeh in direct contravention of international law and Iran's obligations as set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The statement reiterated that there is “absolutely no justification for the use of the death penalty by the Iranian authorities in the case of juvenile offenders” and called for an end to all executions of juvenile offenders, a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in all instances and for Iran to bring her own legislation in line with the international human rights conventions into which she entered freely and indeed ratified.

We will continue to make representations to the Government of Iran regarding their obligations on these matters.

Iran: Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What response they and the European Union presidency have received to representations made to the Government of Iran concerning (a) persecution of members of the Baha'i faith; and (b) the arrest of seven national leaders of that faith in March and May. [HL4233]

The Government remain very concerned by the treatment of the Iranian Baha'i community at the hands of the Iranian regime and the ongoing detention of all members of the informal Baha'i leadership in Tehran who were arrested in May. These concerns have been raised both bilaterally and through the EU at least five times this year. On 21 May, following a recommendation from the UK, the EU presidency declared its concern about the systematic discrimination and harassment of the Baha'is and called on Iran to uphold the right to practise a religion of choice and to release the six members who were arrested on 14 May. At the last session of the UN Human Rights Council on 6 June, the UK and the EU issued statements about specific issues of concern. Both statements referred to the Baha'is detained in Iran and called for their release. The December 2007 resolution on Iran's human rights situation adopted by the UN General Assembly also secured a strong message of international concern at the situation of the Baha'is in Iran.

Regrettably, there has been no response from the Iranian Government regarding this issue yet. However, we will continue to raise our concerns and to call for their release.

Iraq: Status of Forces Agreement

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are seeking a status of forces agreement between the United Kingdom and Iraq to have effect when the current United Nations mandate expires later this year. [HL4347]

The multi-national force, including British forces, operates in Iraq under the mandate of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1790, and at the request of the Government of Iraq. We are in discussion with the Government of Iraq and coalition partners over our legal requirements following the anticipated expiry of the UN Security Council mandate at the end of 2008, with a view to ensuring that any future UK military assistance to Iraq remains on a sound legal footing.

Mail: Bio-screening

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What estimate they have made of the costs of effective bio-screening of mail in the national postal system to protect recipients from anthrax and other biological and chemical agents; and [HL4409]

What assessment they have made of the risk to recipients of mail delivered through the national postal system of not carrying out effective bio-screening. [HL4410]

The Government have not made an assessment of the costs of introducing screening to the postal system. Screening is, however, in place for high risk recipients. These services are provided on a commercial basis.

Central government departments and the emergency services work with Royal Mail and other operators to ensure that effective measures and procedures are in place for managing any risk to their operations and staff or to members of the wider public from chemical or biological agents in the postal system.

Official Visits: Muslim Delegations

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many delegations from the Muslim community on behalf of the Government have gone abroad since 7 July 2005. [HL4264]

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much delegations from the Muslim community on behalf of the Government on overseas visits have cost the British taxpayer since 7 July 2005. [HL4265]

The projecting British Islam project has cost £442,067 since 7 July 2005. (The figure originally given was £564,162. The Government corrected this in August.)

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which countries delegations from the Muslim community on behalf of the Government have visited; and what benefits these trips have had to the British taxpayer. [HL4266]

Delegations have visited 24 countries with Muslim majorities or significant Muslim minorities since 2005:

Pakistan (three visits);

Bangladesh (two visits);

Indonesia (two visits);

Sudan (two visits);

USA (two visits);

Egypt;

Iran;

Libya;

Afghanistan;

Bahrain;

Qatar;

India;

Singapore;

Malaysia;

Algeria;

Bosnia;

Morocco;

Germany;

Netherlands;

France;

Nigeria;

Kenya;

Tanzania; and

Canada

The aim of the programme is to provide high profile platforms for British Muslims to share their experiences of life in the UK and engage in constructive dialogue with their hosts. The programme has proved effective at challenging widespread misconceptions about the reality of life for Muslims in Britain.

This directly undermines the extremist narrative that Muslims in the UK and the West are oppressed—thereby supporting a key element of the Government's work to challenge extremism. A key aim of each visit is to enable a cross-fertilisation of ideas between British Muslims and influential figures in the Muslim world. We tailor the objectives for each visit to UK priorities on the ground in each country.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What criteria are used in the selection of individuals who participate in delegations from the Muslim community on behalf of the Government on overseas visits. [HL4267]

The criteria for selecting delegates depends on the particular objectives of the visit to each country. We take into account the likely resonance of individuals and their background and experience in the country, links or background in the country and relevant professional experience in the UK. Overall, we aim to ensure that delegations reflect a broad cross section of individuals from across the UK Muslim communities and reflect the diversity of opinion within the British Muslim communities—including young people and women.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which individuals have been a part of delegations from the Muslim community on behalf of the Government since 7 July 2005. [HL4268]

Seventy-three individuals have taken part in the projecting British Islam delegations since 7 July 2005. They include the following:

Lutfur Ali;

Lord Adam Patel;

Yusef Tai;

Asim Siddiqui;

Manzoor Moghal;

Jawaid Akhter;

Shareefa Fulat;

Dilwar Hussain;

Saifuddin Ahmed;

Fareena Alam;

Waqar Ahmed;

Aiysha Malik;

Mohammed Abdul Aziz;

Nabeel Rauf;

Yusuf Tai;

Shaaz Mahboob;

Ibrahim Mogra;

Dr. Husna Ahmad;

Khurshid Ahmed;

Dr. Musharraf Hussain;

Rukaiya Jeraj;

Sabira Lakha;

Irfan Chishti;

Asim Siddiqui;

Museji Takolia;

Tahir Abass;

Parvin Ali;

Shelina Janmohamed;

Saiyyidah Najmus-sabah Zaidi;

Akhlaq Choudhury;

Kanak Huq;

Rupa Huq;

Fatim Kurji Jumabhoy;

Yasmin Qureshi; and

Mustafa Suleyma.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Who makes the final decision in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on who should be included in delegations from the Muslim community on behalf of the Government. [HL4269]

The decision on who is included in delegations is a collaborative decision between our embassies/high commissions and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, with advice from the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Parades: Northern Ireland

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On what £19,993 was spent in 2007 and £27,794 in 2006, listed under the heading “advertising” in the recent annual report of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission. [HL4181]

The 2006 expenditure included costs in relation to a series of public meetings on parades and an exhibition event in relation to the commission's education pack; in addition to the commission's code of conduct for parades and the annual report and financial statements.

The 2007 expenditure included costs in relation to advertisements from the commission's review of procedures and the position of secretary to the commission, and the production of the annual report and financial statements.

Pilgrimages

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What information they have regarding the levels of deceit and fraud suffered by Muslim pilgrims going to Mecca and Medina arising from the actions of United Kingdom-based pilgrimage arrangers and what action they are taking. [HL4209]

The Government do not hold records of the number of cases of detriment caused to British Muslim pilgrims arising from the actions of United Kingdom-based pilgrimage arrangers. Indeed there seems to be a reticence among pilgrims to bring complaints to the attention of the relevant authorities and this is one of the issues we are aiming to address.

Nevertheless the Government are well aware that there are serious problems in this sector and my department, in conjunction with other government departments, the Civil Aviation Authority and local authority trading standards officers are working to improve compliance with UK regulations on package travel, to inform pilgrims of their consumer rights, and to whom they should complain.

Last year we began an information campaign to inform pilgrims of their rights and my honourable friend the Minister for Trade and Consumer Affairs wrote to all MPs to ask for their help at the constituency level. There is evidence, in terms of a rise in complaints to the appropriate authorities, that this met with some success. We shall build on that this year by better targeting consumer information and publicity via a further pilgrim awareness campaign later in the year, and by seeking ways of ensuring that Hajj and Umrah travel organisers meet their statutory obligations. To begin this process, my honourable friend the Minister for Trade and Consumers Affairs will be holding a meeting in July to which have been invited Hajj travel organisers and we expect Muslim representative organisations to attend. We shall inform them of their responsibilities to their customers and explore with them their ideas on how the Hajj travel industry can improve.

Prisoners: Foreign Nationals

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the effects of the Early Removal of Fixed-Term Prisoners (Amendment of Eligibility Period) Order 2008 (SI 2008/978) and the Early Removal of Short-Term and Long-Term Prisoners (Amendment of Requisite Period) Order 2008 (SI 2008/977) on the number of foreign national prisoners who will need to be accommodated in immigration detention centres over the next five years and the average length of time such prisoners will spend in immigration detention centres. [HL4349]

The chief executive of the UK Border Agency advised the Home Affairs Committee in her letter of 17 December 2007 that there are around 1,200 foreign national prisoners held in immigration detention centres awaiting deportation/administrative removal from the United Kingdom.

Due to the large number of variables involved, it is not possible to anticipate the numbers of individuals that may fall under the early removal scheme for so long a period or whether they can be removed directly from a prison or move to be detained within the UK Border Agency detention estate. However, eligible foreign national prisoners will typically spend a maximum of 24 hours in a UK Border Agency detention centre. In the event that removal cannot proceed due to unforeseen issues then they are returned to prison to continue serving their sentence until removal may recommence.

Questions for Written Answer: Late Answers

asked the Leader of the House:

Further to her Written Answer on 12 July 2007 (WA 249), what steps were taken to reduce the number of Written Questions remaining unanswered after 14 days from 254 on 17 April 2007 to four on 2 July 2007. [HL3920]

There are various reasons for overdue responses; parliamentary recesses often present administrative difficulties for departments. The House returned after the Easter holidays last year on 16 April 2007.

Departments work closely with my office constantly to address the number of outstanding Questions for Written Answer. My office regularly reminds departments of the importance of responding to Questions for Written Answer within the deadline and I will continue to ensure that Answers are provided in a timely fashion.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will Answer the Written Questions, tabled by Lord Laird on (a) 5 March (HL 2322); (b) 12 March (HL 2528); and (c) 30 April (HL 3399); and, in each case, what was the cause of the delay. [HL4238]

These Questions were all answered on 19 June, (Official Report, col. WA 191).

HL2322 and HL2528 were delayed as a result of an ongoing internal review on communications regarding external bodies. HL3399 was delayed due to an administrative error.

Regeneration

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much was spent on regeneration projects in 2006–07 in (a) the Tendring E01021988 super output area; (b) the Wirral E01007292 super output area; (c) the Doncaster E01007532 super output area; (d) the Liverpool E01006559 super output area; and (e) the Tower Hamlets E01004252 super output area. [HL4224]

The department does not record information on regeneration spending by individual lower super output areas and this information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Rural Areas

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Minister for the South East, Jonathan Shaw, on 20 May (Official Report, Commons, 173W), how it is possible for the total budget for seven years to be known when the matched funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development is still being finalised; and whether the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs portion will cover any shortfall in the anticipated European contribution. [HL4260]

The total EU budget for the seven-year period of the Rural Development Programme for England was approved by the European Commission on 7 December 2007 (Commission Decision C(2007)6320). The Treasury funding which is required to match this European budget is set annually. Matching of the two annual budgets has to be reviewed each year because of, for example, changes in exchange rates and to take account of the rate at which applications for the voluntary schemes administered under the programme are submitted and approved.

The conditions under which the EU funds are allocated enables some limited flexibility to transfer unspent budget into future years. Defra officials are currently engaged with the bodies responsible for administering the schemes to ensure these funds are utilised fully.

Sudan: Abyei

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the impact of the fighting in Abyei, Sudan, on the durability of the Sudanese comprehensive peace agreement; what is the situation of the people who fled the fighting; and what action troops of the United Nations Mission in Sudan have taken to protect civilians in Abyei. [HL3990]

The fighting in Abyei in mid-May posed a serious threat to the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA). The National Congress Party and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement have shown their commitment to implementing the CPA by agreeing on 8 June a road map to resolve the Abyei dispute.

Up to 60,000 people were displaced by the fighting and are being cared for by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Most of the residents of Abyei left the town before serious fighting broke out. The UN Mission in Sudan is patrolling and working with the Sudanese authorities to restore security in Abyei so that the displaced population can return.

Sudan: Darfur

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the present composition of the United Nations Mission in Darfur and the United Nations Mission in Sudan; what is their total strength; and how many personnel have been authorised for deployment. [HL3991]

The UN-African Union joint peacekeeping mission in Darfur is mandated to consist of up to 19,555 troops, 3,772 individual police, 19 formed police units (each of about 140 officers) and 5,569 civilians. As at 29 May, 8,246 troops, 1,669 individual police, one formed police unit and 1,667 civilians were deployed in Darfur.

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) is mandated to consist of up to 10,000 military personnel and an appropriate civilian component including up to 715 police. As at 30 April, 9,307 troops, 631 police and 3,371 civilians were deployed with UNMIS.

Trade: Francophone Countries

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether French parastatal or commercial entities have, over the past four years, offered preferential terms for government or commercial contracts in non-Commonwealth Francophone countries as a result of any French government subsidies; and if so, whether such subsidies are permitted under European Union rules. [HL4293]

We do not hold detailed information on French Government business support programmes.

A number of member states, including France, provide concessional credit through tied aid programmes. Tied aid support, that is aid which is conditional on the purchase of national goods and services, is permitted if provided in accordance with internationally accepted rules.

France also offers export credit support to French exporters through its agency COFACE, which we believe largely mirrors the activities of ECGD in the UK which operates under internationally accepted norms for export credit and export credit insurance.

Turkey: Extradition

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there is an extradition treaty between the United Kingdom and Turkey which would allow United Kingdom citizens who may be involved in property fraud in Turkey to be returned to that country. [HL4373]

The UK and Turkey are both party to the 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition (ECE) and Turkey has been designated as an extradition partner under Part 2 of the Extradition Act 2003. The ECE defines an extradition offence as one punishable under the laws of both the requesting and requested state by a maximum period of at least one year's deprivation of liberty, or by a more severe penalty.

Vehicles: Disposal

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many vehicles are scrapped or exported from the United Kingdom; and how many vehicles are certified to have been recycled by an authorised treatment facility. [HL4218]

Authorised treatment facilities notified destruction of some 1,030,000 vehicles to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) during 2007. The DVLA was notified of some 239,000 permanent vehicle exports over the same period.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many prosecutions the Environment Agency has initiated concerning disposal of motor vehicles other than by an authorised treatment facility; and, of these, how many were prosecutions for (a) moving a vehicle illegally (because it is waste) without appropriate licences or authorisations; and (b) processing the vehicle without using an authorised treatment facility. [HL4221]

Between 3 November 2003 (the commencement date for the end-of-life vehicle regulations) and the present date the Environment Agency has initiated 51 prosecutions in relation to the disposal of motor vehicles and parts. Of these, 49 involved illegal keeping/treatment/disposal and two involved illegal transfer.