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Written Answers

Volume 707: debated on Wednesday 11 February 2009

Written Answers

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Afghanistan

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have received representations from the government of Afghanistan or from Afghan non-governmental organisations about those people detained without trial at Bagram Air Base and other detention centres, including those at Khost, Kandahar and Jalalabad; whether the International Committee of the Red Cross is allowed full access to all detainees; and, if not, what action they will take. [HL1077]

The UK has not received representations from either the Afghan Government or from Afghan non-governmental organisations regarding detention facilities at Bagram airbase, Khost, Kandahar or Jalalabad. Access by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to detainees held by US authorities is a matter for the ICRC and the US.

Whenever UK forces detain an individual in Afghanistan, the ICRC is informed and has full access to these persons when in UK custody. The UK has an agreement with the Afghan Government that any person detained by UK forces and transferred to Afghan custody will be accessible to the ICRC and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.

Aluminium

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether aluminium plants at (a) Wylfa and (b) Lynemouth will be closed as a consequence of European Union state aid rules and the large combustion plants directive; and what steps they will take to avert these closures and save the 1,100 jobs that could be lost. [HL911]

Lynemouth—the large combustion plants directive requires operators of large combustion plants to reduce their emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust. The directive exempts those plants which make direct use of the products of combustion in manufacturing processes.

Aluminium smelting is an electrochemical process which requires large and uninterrupted quantities of electricity. For that reason, Alcan's Lynemouth smelter has its own dedicated, coal-burning combustion plant. The European Commission takes the view that this plant should be subject to the directive. The Government, and the owners of the plant, Rio Tinto Alcan, take a different view, arguing that it falls within the directive's exemption regarding manufacturing processes. The correct interpretation of the relevant provisions of the directive is now a matter for the European Court of Justice, since the Commission has instigated infraction proceedings against the UK for not applying the directive to the Lynemouth plant.

Anglesey Aluminium—the Anglesey aluminium plant takes its electricity from the Wylfa nuclear power station and is therefore not directly affected by the large combustion plant directive.

Arms Trade

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to prevent British arms-brokers operating overseas from trading weapons and ammunition without effective control and supervision; and, if so, when. [HL1075]

Since their introduction in 2004, the UK's trade controls have covered trading by UK persons overseas in torture equipment and long-range missiles and in any military list goods for supply to an embargoed destination. The Trade in Goods (Categories of Controlled Goods) Order 2008, which came into force on 1 October 2008, extended these extraterritorial controls to small arms, MANPADs and cluster munitions. The trading activities of UK persons anywhere in the world are therefore now controlled for these goods and, where relevant, their ammunition.

The Export Control Order 2008, which comes into force on 6 April 2009, will further extend the extraterritorial trade controls to cover light weapons and will introduce controls on the transport of these and other similar goods of heightened concern and their ammunition between overseas countries.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will legislate to control arms transfers by British companies' subsidiaries which are located overseas. [HL1076]

The Government gave careful consideration to the scope for introducing specific controls on the activities of overseas subsidiaries of British companies during the 2007 review of export controls. As noted in their responses to the review consultation, the Government concluded that to do so would not be legally viable and that such controls would be impossible to enforce. Furthermore, effective controls already apply to the export and trade from the UK of controlled goods and technology that an overseas subsidiary is likely to require. The Government are also pursuing, via the EU, further powers which, while not specific to overseas subsidiaries, would enhance our ability to control the export of goods that do not normally require a licence when they leave the UK but might be routed via overseas subsidiaries for use by the military in destinations of concern.

British Citizenship

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many persons were granted full United Kingdom citizenship during 2008, broken down by country of origin. [HL1053]

The latest available data indicate that 90,555 persons were granted British citizenship in the period January to September 2008. This figure is provisional and rounded to the nearest five.

Summary statistics of persons granted British citizenship for October to December 2008 will be published on 24 February 2009.

Statistics on persons granted British citizenship by previous nationality are published in Home Office National Statistics statistical bulletins. Data for 2008 are scheduled for publication in May 2009. This annual publication will include details of previous nationality for persons granted British citizenship during 2008, after the necessary data quality assurance processes have been completed. Data for 2007 can be found in table 4 of Persons Granted British Citizenship United Kingdom, 2007. This publication may be obtained from the Library of the House and from the Home Office research, development and statistics website at www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration1.html.

Broadcasting: Audio Description

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to increase targets for audio description television services. [HL1069]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what evidence would be required to raise audio description targets to at least 20 per cent of television broadcasts. [HL1070]

The Communications Act 2003 sets minimum targets for audio description of programmes by broadcasters. However, it is the responsibility of Ofcom to ensure that these requirements are met.

Ofcom intends to investigate awareness, take-up and usage of audio description and will conduct an analysis of the social and financial implications of any possible increase in audio description quotas as part of its 2009 access services review, before considering recommending any increase in the audio description targets to the Government.

BT: Debt Collection

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will instigate an investigation into the use by BT plc of different debt collection agencies to collect the same debt from the same customers or their relations for the non-payment of invoices due to complaints of poor quality of service. [HL1149]

The Office of Fair Trading has issued guidelines setting out the type of behaviour it considers to fall within the category of unfair business practices which will call into question fitness to be given or retain a consumer credit licence. Among the unfair practices identified in the guidelines are “using more than one debt collection business at the same time resulting in repetitive and/or frequent contact by different parties” and “not informing the debtor when their case has been passed on to a different debt collector”. All businesses engaged in debt collection are required to hold a consumer credit licence—as does BT itself. The Office of Fair Trading would consider any evidence it receives of consumer credit licence holders failing to adhere to its guidance and would take proportionate action if appropriate to do so.

Crime: Domestic Violence

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the provision of support services for victims of domestic violence in small towns and rural areas. [HL544]

We have not made an assessment of the provision of support services for victims of domestic violence in small towns and rural areas. The provision of local services must be determined locally, by local authorities, based on local need and priorities.

Cyprus: Property

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Malloch-Brown on 12 January (WA 93), how they will monitor the measures to be introduced by the government of Cyprus to address the practice of property developers using title deeds of completed houses as collateral for future loans, in order that the interests of United Kingdom citizens with property in Cyprus are protected. [HL951]

We await the measures by which the Cypriot Government will address the issue of property developers retaining the deeds of properties which have been purchased outright. Our high commission will maintain contact with the Cypriot authorities and action groups formed by British citizens, such as the Cypriot Property Action Group, and will make representations to the Cypriot authorities as appropriate in the interests of British citizens.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Malloch-Brown on 12 January (WA 93), whether they will discuss with and provide assistance to the Government of Cyprus to ensure legislation is introduced to protect the interests of British citizens who have bought property in Cyprus and who are unable to obtain the title deeds to the properties they have purchased because property developers who hold the deeds have mortgaged the land on which their properties are built. [HL952]

The Government, through their officials in their high commission in Cyprus, will continue to raise the issue of retained title deeds with the Cypriot authorities. However, it is not for the Government to intervene in the Cypriot legislative process.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Malloch-Brown on 12 January (WA 93), whether they will have further discussions with the Government of Cyprus to ensure British citizens who have bought property in Cyprus receive their title deeds immediately after purchase has been completed. [HL953]

We will continue to raise the issue of retained property deeds in our high commission's contacts with the Cypriot authorities.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Malloch-Brown on 12 January (WA 93), whether, in their discussions with the Government of Cyprus, they will seek to ensure that United Kingdom citizens who have already completed their purchase of property in Cyprus receive their title deeds at the earliest opportunity. [HL962]

While the Government cannot get involved in individual cases they will continue to raise the issue of retained title deeds, through regular contact between their high commission in Nicosia and officials of the Cypriot Government.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Rape

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are returning to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) women asylum applicants who say they have suffered rape or other sexual violence, particularly in the north-east of the DRC. [HL1023]

All asylum and human rights claims, including those from nationals of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international obligations. The independent courts have recently confirmed that there is no general risk to Congolese and that we should continue to examine claims on a case-by-case basis.

Fluoridation

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the South Central Strategic Health Authority, in conducting a public consultation on the desirability of a water fluoridation scheme under the Water Act 2003, should have followed the provision of Criterion 2.3 of the Cabinet Office guidelines on consultation that “as far as possible, consultation should be completely open, with no options ruled out”, given that other approaches to improving dental health are available. [HL1282]

In the document Public Consultation on the Proposal for Water Fluoridation in Southampton and Parts of South West Hampshire, South Central SHA indicates that Southampton PCT was prompted to request a consultation after alternative options such as “education on tooth brushing and using a fluoride toothpaste and the importance of having a healthy diet” had not proved successful. I consider this meets with the Cabinet Office guidelines.

Forced Labour

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ask the World Trade Organisation to establish a study group on the protection of workers, with particular reference to slavery, forced labour and the exploitation of children. [HL184]

The International Labour Organisation, rather than the World Trade Organisation, is the appropriate forum for discussions on labour issues, and is actively engaged in initiatives aimed at combating slavery, forced labour and the exploitation of children.

Gaza

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will seek an early meeting of the Middle East quartet to discuss possible war crimes committed against civilians in the recent military action in Gaza; and, if so, what follow up action will be needed. [HL562]

As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary told the House of Commons on 19 January 2009 (Official Report, col. 501),

“those allegations must be closely and speedily investigated. Obviously, the three key parties to that investigation are the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Government of Israel, and we are in touch with all of them”.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the Government of Israel concerning reparations for its action in Gaza. [HL912]

The UK would welcome an Israeli contribution to the wider reconstruction effort. The most essential Israeli contribution that we continue to press for is the immediate free and unhindered passage of humanitarian aid, reconstruction materials, and staff of UN agencies and international non-governmental organisations through the Gaza crossings.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they and the Middle East quartet are working (a) to create a permanent and effectively monitored cease-fire in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank; and (b) to achieve the opening of all crossings into and out of Gaza. [HL1122]

We, and the quartet members, are strongly supporting—both politically and practically—efforts to make the ceasefire sustainable by tackling smuggling and reopening the crossings. We are also backing ongoing Egyptian efforts to embed the ceasefire and address division in Palestinian politics.

Health: GPs

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made by primary care trusts in commissioning comprehensive well-being and prevention services under the GP access and responsiveness programme; and to what extent the six key goals, including sexual health, have been taken into account in that programme. [HL1111]

The GP access and responsiveness programme is focused on driving improvements in patients' experience of accessing general practitioner (GP) services, as reported through the national GP patient survey. The next-stage review committed primary care trusts (PCTs), working with their local partners, to commission comprehensive well-being and prevention services, customising those services to meet the needs of their local populations. Efforts are focused on six key goals: tackling obesity, reducing alcohol harm, treating drug addiction, reducing smoking rates, improving sexual health and improving mental health. In line with this, PCTs have produced five-year strategic plans outlining their priorities for investment in improving the health of their local populations. Many of these strategies will combine focused efforts on the six key goals with strategies to improve patients' access to GP services.

Health: Labyrinthitis and BPP Vertigo

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the current treatment by general practitioners and hospitals of patients suffering labyrinthitis and BPP vertigo. [HL1195]

Health: Primary Care Trust Boards

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the statement by Baroness Andrews on 21 January (Official Report, House of Lords, col. GC 112) that the appointments to primary care trusts “are of local people on the advice of local authorities”, what are the procedures for appointment of non-executive members of primary care trust boards; what arrangements are made for local authorities to provide such advice; and what is the statutory basis for its provision. [HL1009]

The Secretary of State's powers to appoint non-executive members of primary care trusts (PCTs) are delegated to the Appointments Commission (an executive non-departmental public body of the department). The Appointments Commission recruits members using a fair, open and transparent process and makes appointments on merit, in line with the requirements of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, who regulates the process.

Local authorities do not have a role in the selection of non-executives to PCT boards. However, the Appointments Commission, in collaboration with the recruiting organisation, also works closely with local authorities to target campaigns and encourage applications and preference is given to local candidates.

The Appointments Commission is to continue working with the department and other stakeholders to explore options for how local engagement in the recruitment of key local National Health Service public appointments can be strengthened further.

Health: Rheumatism and Arthritis

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what measures the National Health Service will take to improve treatment modes and after-care for rheumatism and arthritis sufferers. [HL1196]

The musculoskeletal services framework, published in July 2006, a copy of which has already been placed in the Library, provides the NHS with guidance to help improve health and social care services for people suffering from conditions such as rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis.

This framework sets out how the National Health Service (NHS) can use a wider range of health professionals including physiotherapists, nurses and pharmacists in addition to general practitioners and hospital consultants to provide faster treatment, in more convenient settings, such as closer to home, rather than in hospital.

Houses of Parliament: Bribery

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will introduce legislation to prohibit bribery of members of either House of Parliament in relation to proceedings in Parliament and to require parliamentary privilege to be waived in relation to bribery charges. [HL1139]

The Government are committed to reform of the law of bribery and intend to bring forward a draft bribery Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny this Session. This follows the publication of the Law Commission report Reforming Bribery (HC 928) in November last year. We are currently considering its recommendations and related issues, including parliamentary privilege.

Human Rights: Same-sex Relationships

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the answer by Lord Bach on 23 October 2008 (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 1127), whether they have amended or withdrawn their intervention before the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Horst Schalk and Johann Kopf v Austria (Application No 30141/04); and, if so, what are the terms on which they have done so. [HL1144]

The Government have carried out a review of their policy on the application to same-sex relationships of the concept of “family life” in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In light of that review, the Government wrote to the European Court of Human Rights on 15 January this year to indicate that, while it is ultimately a matter for the court to decide, we would not argue against the possible future development of the court's case law in this area. However, in our view any such future development should have prospective effect only. A copy of that letter has been sent to the noble Lord, and I have now placed a copy in both Libraries.

Immigration

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will adopt a statutory time limit for immigration or asylum detention comparable to that of other European Union countries. [HL1181]

Immigration: Georgia

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 22 July 2008 (WA 264), on what dates the person who prepared the refusal of entry clearance document on 1 April 2005 and the entry clearance officer who interviewed Anna Zurabishvili on 30 March 2005 were appointed to the Tbilisi embassy. [HL750]

Immigration: Mental Illness

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many detainees now in immigration or asylum detention were mentally ill when detained; and how many have become mentally ill while in detention. [HL1180]

There is no single definition of mental illness and the term can cover mild mental disorders such as anxiety and depression and more serious psychotic disorders.

International Polar Year

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will increase financial support to the Arctic Synoptic Basin-Wide Oceanography programme to coincide with the International Polar Year. [HL982]

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), which is funded by the department, has allocated approximately £1.6 million in funding to the Arctic Synoptic Basin-wide Oceanography project between 2007-08 and 2010-11. NERC has not received any request for extension of the original award or for additional financial support. Any such request would have to go through the normal NERC assessment processes.

Israel

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what arms or components for arms were sold to Israel in (a) 2007, and (b) 2008; and what was the cost of each item. [HL915]

The Government publish detailed information on export licences issued, refused and revoked, by destination, including the overall value and a summary of the items covered by these licences, in their annual and quarterly reports on strategic export controls.

The Government's annual reports, published since 1997, and quarterly reports, published since 2004, are available from the Libraries of the House and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website at www.fco.gov.uk/en/about-the-fco/publications/publications/annual-reports/export-controls1.

The latest date for which information is available is 30 June 2008. BERR officials will shortly be publishing the report for the quarter ending 30 September 2008.

Israel and Palestine

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the joint mechanism, provided by Section 5 of the Annapolis joint understanding between Israel and Palestine, has implemented any of the road map obligations; if so, which obligations; and, if not, why. [HL145]

Since Annapolis, US General Fraser and more recently US General Selva have led a road-map monitoring team.

There have been some improvements, most notably in Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank. However, significant problems remain. The humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to be a concern. While overall movement and access for Palestinians in the West Bank has improved, the number of net closures has increased. And Israel has not fulfilled its commitments to stop building in settlements. Indeed since Annapolis there has been a significant increase in settlement activity.

We continue to support the road-map priorities and actively encourage both parties to fulfil their commitments.

Local Information Networks

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what guidance they have given to local authorities on setting up local information networks (LINks), what is the timetable according to which they must be set up, and what action can be taken by citizens if this timetable is not adhered to. [HL1198]

Local authorities (LAs) with social services responsibilities are under a duty (set out in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007) to make arrangements for the activities of local involvement networks (LINks) to be carried on in their area. They do this by contracting with an independent organisation—known as the host—that facilitates the establishment and running of the LINk. The duty came into effect on 1 April 2008.

The department issued two guidance documents in August 2007 to help LAs prepare for LINks (Getting ready for LINks—Planning Your Local Involvement Network, and Getting Ready for LINks—Contracting a Host Organisation for Your Local Involvement Network). The second document contained a model contract for LAs to use as a reference. These documents are available on the department's website at www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/Publications PolicyAndGuidance/DH_077266. Copies have been placed in the Library. The department also allocated a one-off payment of £10,000 to each local authority to assist in the procurement process.

Last year LINk leads received monthly bulletins updating them on policy developments and giving them practical information. As part of the programme of support a compendium of guidance to aid implementation was produced by the NHS Centre for Involvement, and expert advisers were available to visit LAs to provide help and advice; good practice has also been shared more widely at workshops and seminars.

To allow for the possibility that LAs might not have contracted a host organisation by 1 April 2008, they were placed under a transitional duty to ensure that LINk activities could be carried on by other means. This transitional duty ended on 31 December 2008.

If citizens are concerned that there are no arrangements in place for LINk activities to be carried on in their area, they should raise this with the appropriate LA, the statutory body under the duty to make such arrangements.

NHS: Constitution

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government when the term “constitution” was first used in relation to the document now known as the NHS Constitution; whom they consulted before deciding to use the term “constitution”; what consideration was given to how the British public understand the term “constitution”; and what other terms were considered. [HL1169]

When announcing the launch of the NHS next-stage review, on 4 July 2007 (col. 963), my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health said that the review would also look at the case for a new NHS constitution.

A Consultation on the NHS Constitution, published on 30 June 2008 alongside the final report of the NHS next-stage review, explained how the draft NHS Constitution was developed, drawing on an extensive programme of research and informal consultation. This was then followed by full public consultation, before the final NHS Constitution was published on 21 January 2009.

A copy of A Consultation on the NHS Constitution has been placed in the Library and it may also be found at www.dh.gov.uk/en/consultations/closed consultations/DH_085812.

NHS: Health Informatics

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what guidance they have issued to strategic health authorities and primary care trusts as to the role of health informatics in the commissioning cycle. [HL1324]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the benefits of health informatics in improving the commissioning capabilities of primary care trusts. [HL1325]

The National Health Service (NHS) operating framework for 2009-10 outlined the need for informatics planning, with board-level ownership and support, to deliver information-enabled service transformation. A copy has already been placed in the Library. An associated document, Informatics Planning for 2009-10, provides further guidance, including a link to supporting tools for chief executives and other key stakeholders. A copy has been placed in the Library. Both documents, published on 8 December 2008, can be accessed from the department's website at www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/Publications PolicyAndGuidance/DH_091445.

The informatics planning guidance is set in the context of the NHS next-stage review report High Quality Care for All, the health informatics review, and the drive to achieve world-class commissioning standards. The Government firmly believe that the achievement of this vision for the NHS relies crucially upon the provision of integrated information across health and social care.

NHS: Principles

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the joint statement on NHS principles, published on 3 July 2008, was presented to Parliament. [HL1170]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what purpose is served by the joint statement on NHS principles, published on 3 July 2008. [HL1171]

To ask Her Majesty's Government who initiated the discussions that led to the joint statement on NHS principles published on 3 July 2008; what discussions and meetings were held to draft the statement; and who attended those meetings. [HL1172]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what consultation took place with non-government groups in the drafting of the joint statement on NHS principles published on 3 July 2008; and with whom this consultation took place. [HL1173]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what role the joint statement on NHS principles, published on 3 July 2008, has played in the drafting of the NHS Constitution. [HL1174]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to publicise the joint statement on NHS principles, published on 3 July 2008. [HL1232]

The joint statement on NHS principles was published on 3 July 2008 as a joint press release from the department, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly. It made clear that, while health is a devolved responsibility, the core principles on which the National Health Service operates are shared across the UK; the 60th anniversary of the NHS was an opportunity to reaffirm this.

The statement reflected discussions between the devolved Administrations, and was based on the principles published in the draft NHS Constitution on 30 June 2008. There was no formal consultation on the statement itself, but the draft NHS Constitution drew on an extensive process of informal consultation, including a major deliberative event that involved many stakeholders from non-government organisations. A consultation on the NHS Constitution explained how the draft NHS Constitution was developed, and how the principles in it derived from the founding legislation of the NHS and from the principles in the NHS Plan of 2000.

Since then, full public consultation on the constitution last autumn has revealed broad support for the principles, and they were restated in the final NHS Constitution published on 21 January 2009. The NHS Constitution applies to the NHS in England only, although the Handbook to the NHS Constitution emphasises that the core principles of the NHS are shared across all parts of the United Kingdom.

In The NHS Constitution: Government Response to Consultation, we set out the steps we intend to take to publicise the constitution as a whole, including the principles.

Copies of the documents referred to have been placed in the Library. The final NHS Constitution and its related publications may also be found at www.dh.gov.uk/nhsconstitution. A Consultation on the NHS Constitution may be found at www.dh.gov.uk/en/consultations/closedconsultations/DH_085812.

Northern Ireland Office: Benefits

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what benefits are not devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive; and why they are not devolved. [HL1066]

Northern Ireland has had a separate social security system and a separate national insurance fund for many years.

Responsibility for social security, child support and pensions in Northern Ireland rests with the Department for Social Development.

Pakistan: Blasphemy Laws

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Malloch-Brown on 27 January (HL175), whether they will formally raise with the Government of Pakistan the protection of prisoners accused under blasphemy legislation. [HL1094]

There are no plans to specifically raise the protection of prisoners accused under blasphemy legislation with the Government of Pakistan.

Officials in London and Islamabad regularly meet with representatives of civil society and human rights organisations to monitor the treatment of minorities including those charged with offences under blasphemy legislation. The protection of prisoners has not been raised during these discussions and no cases have been brought to our attention. We will take this up in discussions with human rights organisations to establish whether there are any prisoners who are at particular risk.

We continue to take opportunities to share UK best practice with prison authorities in Pakistan as part of our wider co-operation with the Government of Pakistan and to ensure that prison standards for all prisoners are in accordance with international human rights standards.

Passports

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether United Kingdom passports issued by United Kingdom diplomatic missions overseas contain the full biometric data which is included in passports issued in the United Kingdom; and, if so, since what date. [HL975]

Full validity passports, issued by UK missions overseas, are identical to the passports issued in the UK by the Identity and Passport Service (IPS). The rollout of this new biometric passport was completed by the IPS, for UK applicants, in March 2006, and at our overseas missions by August 2006.

Where British nationals require urgent travel documentation, they may opt for an emergency passport, a one-page travel document and valid for a single journey, or a temporary passport, which is a high-quality, secure and machine-readable document. Neither has electronic chips. Both these documents will be phased out, starting in 2009, and replaced with a secure emergency travel document which is both machine-readable and includes biometrics.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether United Kingdom passports issued by United Kingdom diplomatic missions overseas contain the full biometric details of the holder which are in passports issued by the Identity and Passport Service in the United Kingdom. [HL1050]

Full validity biometric passports, issued by UK diplomatic missions overseas, are identical to the biometric passports issued in the UK by the Identity and Passport Service. Both contain the same data, including facial recognition biometrics, on their electronic chips.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government in what circumstances a United Kingdom diplomatic mission overseas will issue a United Kingdom passport. [HL1052]

A British national resident overseas can at most British embassies, consulates and high commissions apply for their first full-validity UK biometric passport, renew an existing passport, or replace a lost or stolen passport.

Where British nationals require urgent travel documents, they may opt for an emergency passport, a one-page travel document which is valid for a single journey, or a temporary passport which is valid for up to 12 months. Both of these documents will be phased out starting in 2009 and replaced with a secure emergency travel document which is machine-readable.

Emergency passports can be issued to British nationals (with right of abode or readmission to the UK, and with permanent residence outside the UK or EU), British Overseas Territories' citizens and residents of Hong Kong. In some circumstances, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will issue emergency passports to EU nationals without representation in non-EU countries, and to Commonwealth nationals without representation in non-Commonwealth countries, to return to their country of origin.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government (a) how many Palestinian passport holders applied to enter the United Kingdom in 2000, 2004 and 2008; and (b) how many applications were successful. [HL1056]

The number of applications from Palestinian passport holders for visas to enter the UK received in 2004 and 2008, and the number of visas issued to Palestinians in those years, is shown in the table attached. Reliable data for 2000 is not available.

Year

Applications

Visas Issued

2004

1,152

1,016

2008

157

143

Source: CRS data 27.1.09

Data are unpublished and should be treated as provisional.

People’s Mujaheddin Organisation of Iran

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government following the ruling of the European Court of First Instance on 4 December 2008 ordering the European Union to remove the People's Mujaheddin Organisation of Iran from its asset freeze list, whether they will vote against the group's continued inclusion on the European Union list when the Council of Ministers next meets. [HL713]

Following the judgment of the Court of First Instance of 4 December 2008, the Council considered each entry on the existing list and on 26 January 2009 adopted by unanimity decision 2009/62/EC, which amended the list of persons, groups and entities subject to restrictive measures (and repealed decision 2008/583/EC). The People's Mujaheddin Organisation of Iran is no longer included on the list of persons and entities subject to an asset freeze in the European Community.

Pirates: Kenya

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why they transferred the suspected pirates arrested by HMS “Cumberland” on 11 November 2008 into Kenyan jurisdiction rather than bringing them to trial within United Kingdom jurisdiction. [HL1041]

The suspected pirates detained by HMS “Cumberland” on 11 November 2008 were transferred to Kenyan jurisdiction as Kenya was the nearest country in the region possessing the requisite legal framework to prosecute them and which was willing to accept them. This enabled the prisoners to be transferred in good time to suitable detention facilities and for them to be seen in front of a judge in the shortest timescale possible. The Government consider it preferable for those accused of piracy to be prosecuted in the region in which they committed the offence.

Prisoners: Ex-service Personnel

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what percentage of the prison population consists of ex-service personnel. [HL1255]

The information requested is not available. Data from nationally representative surveys of some 2,000 sentenced prisoners near release conducted in 2001, 2003 and 2004 showed the proportion of prisoners who had previously served in the Armed Forces in those years as 6 per cent, 4 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

We are currently exploring with the Ministry of Defence ways to better identify the number of veterans currently serving prison sentences as well as the factors associated with their offending. Subject to the proposed research complying with Government's data handling regulations, we understand that the Ministry of Defence would aim to publish preliminary findings by the end of 2009.

Prisons: Officers

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the number of prison officers in England and Wales employed in each of the past five years broken down by (a) ethnicity, (b) religious faith, and (c) gender. [HL1298]

Information on the number of prison officers, senior officers and principal officers in England and Wales, broken down by (a) ethnicity and (b) gender is contained in the tables below. The religious faith of prison officers is not currently recorded.

Prison Officer, Senior Officer and Principal Officers By Ethnicity1

Date

Asian

Black

Mixed

Other Ethnic Group

White

Not Stated/Blank

31-Dec-04

210

483

157

170

21,273

2,062

31-Dec-05

238

518

196

175

22,239

1,196

31-Dec-06

251

538

231

180

22,799

775

31-Dec-07

261

554

252

185

22,621

1,490

31-Dec-08

273

554

266

182

22,896

1,777

Prison Officer, Senior Officer and Principal Officers By Gender1

Date

Male

Female

Total

31-Dec-04

19,510

4,845

24,355

31-Dec-05

19,485

5,077

24,562

31-Dec-06

19,384

5,390

24,774

31-Dec-07

19,672

5,691

25,363

3l-Dec-08

19,910

6,038

25,948

1 Public sector Prison Service only. Information is not available for private prisons.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the numbers of prison officers in England and Wales who are literate in (a) Urdu, (b) Arabic, (c) Hindi, (d) Bangladeshi, (e) Turkish, (f) Kurdish, (g) Albanian, and (h) Persian. [HL1299]

There is not a requirement for the Ministry of Justice to hold information on which languages are spoken by prison officers.

Public Companies

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the working of legislation to monitor the suitability of individuals to act as directors of public companies; what the role of the Financial Services Authority (formerly exercised by the Board of Trade) is in disbarring individuals; and whether they will examine whether the relevant legislation needs strengthening. [HL1001]

Under the Companies Act 2006, the appointment of company directors is a matter for shareholders.

The Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 deals with the disqualification of directors of companies where an abuse of the privilege of limited liability has taken place.

The Financial Services Authority can refuse to authorise directors from undertaking investment business if it considers that a person is not fit for individual authorisation, and withdraw authorisation. It can also impose sanctions for breaches of the Listing Rules or Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

The Government have no current plans to review this legislation.

Questions for Written Answer: E-mail

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Richard on 4 June 1997 (WA 39), whether they are yet able consistently to send by email to a peer who so requests copies of replies to Questions for Written Answer which he has asked. [HL1213]

I am pleased to say that all government departments have agreed to supply an e-mailed version of any Answer whenever the Member tabling the Written Question has so requested. Any Member wishing to receive an e-mailed answer, in addition to the hard copy, can make their request in the Table Office.

Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (Amendment) Order 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Statement on the renewable transport fuel obligation by Lord Adonis on 28 January (WS 23-25), whether the provision to revise the definition of relevant hydrocarbon oil for the next obligation period will ensure that all transport fuel sold in the United Kingdom will be included, regardless of its country of origin. [HL1344]

The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order 2007 (SI 3072) and the draft amendment order 2009 do not make any distinction concerning the country of origin of fossil fuels and biofuels supplied in the UK.

Roads: Pricing

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much they expect the eventual contracts for road pricing to be worth to the selected company or companies. [HL1266]

The estimated value of the contracts currently in place in respect of the demonstrations project is £10 million. The value of any subsequent contracts after the first year of the project would only become clear once their scope has been defined and the procurement completed.

Russia

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the government of Russia about compliance with the 6 July 2005 European Court of Human Rights judgments concerning the actions of Russian security forces in Chechnya; what was the outcome of the most recent such representation; and what further representations they will make. [HL927]

We raise this issue regularly with the Russian Government, most recently at the bilateral human rights consultations in Moscow on 16 January. During those discussions the Russian Government recognised the importance of implementation of European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgments and the need to improve access to redress in domestic courts.

In the bilateral human rights consultations we urged the Russian Government to implement all ECtHR judgments fully. The Russian Government confirmed that they have a paper under discussion, which includes the possibility of Russian courts being able to give direct effect to the European Convention on Human Rights. We will continue to look for ways in which we can support Russian efforts to this end. In addition, the Council of Europe special rapporteur on the independence of the judiciary visited the Russian Federation in June 2008 and the report is expected by the end of January.

The Russian Government have promised to provide more information about their progress during the universal periodic review process in February 2009. We will continue to monitor this issue and raise it where appropriate.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the Government of Russia about the assassination in Moscow of Stanislav Markelov, the lawyer representing the Kungeav family in the case concerning the release from prison of Colonel Budanov; and what was the outcome. [HL928]

We raised concerns about the safety of human rights defenders and journalists in Russia with the Russian Government during bilateral human rights consultations in Moscow on 16 January 2009. The Government supported the EU presidency statement of 20 January 2009 about the murders of Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasiya Baburova, which urged the Russian authorities to investigate these murders promptly and impartially, and to bring all perpetrators to justice. We will continue to raise concerns about the safety of human rights defenders and journalists in Russia.

Scotland Office: Staff Sickness

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the average number of days taken off on sick leave by staff in the Scotland Office administrative section in 2008. [HL1065]

All staff in the Scotland Office are on secondment from the Scottish Executive or the Ministry of Justice, which as parent departments maintain records of absences incurred under their respective absence management policies.

St Andrews Agreement

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what was agreed at St Andrews concerning the cross-border implementation bodies; and who were parties to the agreement. [HL1107]

Paragraph 19 of annexe A to the St Andrews agreement proposed that the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government, under the auspices of the North/South Ministerial Council, appoint a review group to examine the efficiency and value for money of existing implementation bodies and to consider the case for additional bodies and areas of co-operation within the North/South Ministerial Council where mutual benefit would be derived.

The St Andrews agreement was an agreement between the British and Irish Governments and was based on the twin foundations of power-sharing and support for policing and the rule of law. All the political parties in the Assembly support these principles.

Sudan: Darfur

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government when and in which forum the Government's current policy of returns to Sudan will be reassessed, in light of the recent cancellation of the Darfur guidance case. [HL1275]

The case listed as country guidance by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) on 16 to 19 February has been conceded on its particular facts. Alternative cases to consider as country guidance are currently being considered by the AIT and the adjourned hearing is expected to be re-listed within the next few months. Returns of non-Arab Darfuris to Sudan will continue to be suspended pending the outcome of the case.

Telecommunications: Security

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the security implications of the integration of behavioural targeting technology and other new technologies in core telecommunications infrastructure. [HL755]

The question of whether behavioural targeting technology, or indeed any other technology connected to telecommunication networks, poses a security risk is a matter for the owner of those networks. The Government have not commissioned a separate assessment of the security of any behavioural targeting technology and have not received any representations on this matter.

Torture

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will respond to the report from REDRESS The UK, Torture and Anti-Terrorism, where the problems lie, published in December 2008; if so, when they will publish their response; and whether they will take any remedial action before then. [HL1026]

I refer you to the Answer given by my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown of 5 February 2009 (Official Report, col. WA 150). We have received a copy of the Redress report. We welcome such input and have taken note of its contents, but are unable to respond in detail to every report issued.

United Kingdom: Borders

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government where are the United Kingdom's air, land and sea borders; whether those borders are recognised in international law; and whether they are codified in domestic law. [HL681]

The UK has only one land boundary, namely the one in Northern Ireland between the UK and Ireland. The status of Northern Ireland is regulated in the Belfast agreement of 1998, and the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

The UK's sea borders are denoted by the limit of the territorial sea, a maximum of 12 nautical miles from the coastline, as set out in the Territorial Sea Act 1987. The territorial sea was established in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The UK's air borders are determined under the Chicago Convention on international civil aviation of 1944, which provides that the UK has sovereignty over the airspace above its territory, including its territorial sea.

Vehicles: Disposal

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the purpose and utility of the retrospective consignment note required by the Environment Agency from the operator of an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF) when the ATF conveys each end of life vehicle to a shredder operator; and whether there are any fees associated with that requirement. [HL596]

Most movements of hazardous waste in England and Wales require a hazardous waste consignment note. This provides information about the waste and is part of the tracking system that is intended to ensure that hazardous waste is transported by appropriate carriers and ends up at suitable facilities. Undepolluted end-of life vehicles are classified as hazardous waste. The consignment note template can be downloaded from the Environment Agency's website free of charge. Sites that receive consigned hazardous waste must submit a quarterly return to the Environment Agency and pay a fee according to the number of consignments received. The fees received in this way finance the necessary control systems for hazardous waste in England and Wales.

Depolluted end-of-life vehicles are not classified as hazardous waste and a consignment note would not be required when transporting them between an authorised treatment facility and a shredder operator.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the number of vehicles disposed of using a scrap metal shredding machine rather than first being depolluted at an Authorised Treatment Facility. [HL597]

It is an offence under the End-of-Life Vehicles Regulations 2003 to dispose of an end-of-life vehicle through a scrap metal shredding machine without that vehicle having been depolluted at an authorised treatment facility (ATF). All shredder sites and ATFs are subject to Environment Agency inspection and enforcement regimes.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the number of sites with a scrap metal shredding machine which is not co-located with or immediately adjacent to an authorised treatment facility. [HL598]

Scrap metal shredding machines operate on 38 sites in the UK, and all but four are located on or adjacent to authorised treatment facilities.

Working Time Directive

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Vadera on 12 January (WA 130), whether, if they do not gain sufficient backing from other European Union member states for their policy on the Working Time Directive, they will refuse to implement the directive. [HL852]

Negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers on a revised working time directive are ongoing.

The Government and a majority of member states remain of the opinion that the Council's common position is the best compromise on working time and so will continue to push for the important flexibility that it brings—both for workers and for member states.