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Written Answers

Volume 704: debated on Monday 6 October 2008

Written Answers

Monday 6 October 2008

Crime: Sexual Offences

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consideration has been given to including United Kingdom Armed Forces personnel in the abuse of position of trust offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.[HL5220]

I am not aware that any specific consideration was given to including United Kingdom Armed Forces personnel in the abuse of trust offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. However, the 2003 Act could apply to personnel if they fall within its provisions and, where they do not, personnel are subject to other civil criminal offences such as sexual assault. Additionally, personnel suspected of a breach of trust offence could be tried under the appropriate sections of the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 or the Naval Discipline Act 1957 and, on conviction, face imprisonment. Personnel whose normal duties involve caring for, training, supervising or being solely in charge of service personnel aged under 18 in the Armed Forces are now subject to Criminal Records Bureau checks and will be subject to monitoring under the provisions of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 when it comes into force in 2009.

Cuba: US Sanctions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What effect current United States sanctions on Cuba have on British and European trade and financial dealings with Cuba; whether they have discussed these issues with the Government of the United States in recent months; and, if so, what was the outcome of those discussions. [HL5192]

It is very difficult to assess what possible effect US sanctions against Cuba may have on British or European trade and financial dealings. The Government strongly oppose excessive assertions of extraterritorial jurisdiction, by other states, on UK individuals or companies.

We have made our opposition to US policy clear through our vote every year against the US embargo on Cuba at the UN General Assembly, as we last did on 30 October 2007, and our officials raised the issue again with US officials in Washington in May. The UK and the US agree that though they share the same policy aim—peaceful transition to pluralist democracy—they may differ on how to achieve that aim.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

In each of the past five years, what proportion of crime recorded in the United Kingdom was e-crime. [HL5205]

The requested information is not collected centrally. Police recorded crime data do not differentiate whether crime has been committed in an “e-crime” environment.

The national crime recording standard (NCRS) and Home Office counting rules (HOCR) are the nationally agreed mechanism for police to record crime. They are both publicly available documents that can be accessed at:

Forces return data according to the rules laid out in the Home Office counting rules, but there is not a requirement to separately identify whether this was a result of an “e-crime”.

Government: Mail Delivery

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many items of mail were sent by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and its predecessors in each of the past three years; and what proportion of this was sent by (a) Royal Mail, and (b) alternative delivery and courier companies. [HL4977]

The table below shows the number of items of mail sent by BERR and its predecessor from buildings on its main HQ estate over the past three financial years, with proportions sent via Royal Mail and other delivery companies also included.


Royal Mail

Non-Royal Mail













India: Orissa

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made or intend to make representations to the Government of India concerning the recent attacks, including alleged killings, on Christian communities in Orissa state. [HL5321]

We are deeply concerned by the recent reports of attacks against Christian communities in Orissa state. There can be no justification for such violent attacks against innocent people. On 1 October, I raised the matter with the Indian high commissioner. He informed me that the Indian Government fully recognise the seriousness of these incidents and are engaged with the Orissa state authorities in restoring law and order to that region.

Iran: Kurdish Prisoners

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made to the Government of Iran, and at the United Nations, regarding the number of Iranian Kurdish prisoners on hunger strike. [HL5377]

We are aware that a number of detained Iranian Kurds have been carrying out a co-ordinated hunger strike since the end of August to protest against their treatment in detention—for example, lack of access to lawyers and families, the use of solitary confinement and unfair trials. We have not yet made specific representations to the Iranian Government about this, but the issue is due to be raised in the next EU human rights demarche in Tehran. The UK and the EU are very concerned about the treatment of ethnic minorities in Iran, including increasing discrimination against Iranian Kurds. In recent months large numbers of Kurdish citizens have been detained and Kurdish rights defenders have received lengthy prison sentences and, in some cases, death sentences for peaceful activities in support of their rights. It is particularly worrying that vague national security charges are increasingly being applied to human rights activists. The EU issued a public declaration on 6 August stating that it was “greatly disturbed” by the infringement of rights of Iranian Kurds and the numerous human rights violations against journalists, trade unionists, students and human rights defenders belonging to Iran's Kurdish minority. The statement called on Iran to fulfil its human rights obligations towards all Iranian citizens irrespective of ethnic origin.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have had discussions with the Government of Mauritius about the transfer of sovereignty over certain islands in the British Indian Ocean Territory. [HL5117]

There have not been any recent meetings between the Government and the Mauritius Government on the issue of sovereignty of the British Indian Ocean Territory. However, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam, did raise the issue with my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala last November.

The Government have no doubt about their sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory. Successive Governments have, however, given undertakings to the Government of Mauritius that the territory will be ceded when no longer required for defence purposes, subject to the requirements of international law.

Scotland: Hill and Island Areas

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, and if so how, they will respond to the report of the Committee of Inquiry, The Future of Scotland's Hills and Islands, commissioned by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, in particular to the recommendations addressed to the United Kingdom Government and to the European Union. [HL5390]

Although the Government do not intend to respond formally to the Committee of Inquiry's report, the relevant departments have noted its contents and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scotland Office has agreed to meet with committee members to discuss the recommendations in more detail.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 16 June (WA 139), whether any legislative changes in United Kingdom or European law since 1 May 1997 have affected the rights of workers to strike.[HL5304]

Since 1 May 1997, industrial action law in the United Kingdom has been amended by the Employment Relations Act 1999 and by the Employment Relations Act 2004, and these changes have affected the rights of workers to take strike action. For example, these Acts strengthened the rights of employees not to be dismissed on the grounds of taking lawfully organised, official industrial action. There have been no EU legislative changes during this period concerning the rights of workers to strike, including changes proposed under the treaty of Lisbon, which provides that existing rights and principles recorded in the Charter of Fundamental Rights will continue to have effect as they always have done on EU institutions and member states when implementing EU law. The charter creates no new enforceable rights.

Thailand: Karen Refugees

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they have taken to raise concerns with the Government of Thailand regarding the recent deportation of Karen refugees, including women and children, to Burma from camps in Thailand. [HL5171]

We are aware of reports of forced returns of Karen refugees in Thailand. Our embassy in Bangkok frequently raises refugee welfare issues with the Royal Thai Government. Recent discussions have covered the need for measures to mitigate the impact of the increase in the price of rice, refugees' access to jobs and education and the impact of Cyclone Nargis on the camps.

The Government have increased support for Burmese refugees in Thailand and have recently allocated a further £1 million to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium for its work supporting Burmese refugees in Thailand and internally displaced people inside Burma. In 2007-08, the Department for International Development provided £400,000 for assistance to internally displaced people through community-based organisations inside Burma. This reached over 100,000 displaced people, mostly in Karen communities, living near Burma's border with Thailand.

The UK condemns the continuing human rights abuses and the political, social and economic restrictions from which the ethnic groups of Burma—including the Karen—have suffered under the current regime. Acceptable agreement for the ethnic nationalities is key to a durable solution to Burma's problems. We continue to bring reports of human rights abuses to the attention of the international community, the UN and the UN Human Rights Council.