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Written Answers

Volume 715: debated on Monday 14 December 2009

Written Answers

Monday 14 December 2009

Bees

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what proportion of the £10 million bee and pollinator health fund they plan to spend on honey bee health research. [HL549]

Under the terms of the insect pollinator initiative's funding consortium, it is not possible for any single member, including Defra, to ring-fence funds for any particular area. Full proposals from invited applicants must be submitted by 7 January. The proposals will be subject to peer review on the basis of their scientific quality, impact and strategic relevance.

Courts Service: Estate

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Statement by Lord Bach on 13 October (WS 21–2) on the proposed closure of certain courts, what are the courts within reasonable travelling distance of Louth, Gainsborough, Launceston and Cullompton; and, in the event of closures, whether those other courts will be used for all business that would have been dealt with by the closed courts. [HL387]

Further to my Statement on the 13 October to consult on the proposed closure of 21 significantly underutilised courts. The courts within reasonable travelling distance of Louth, Gainsborough, Launceston and Cullompton, which are already being used and in the event of closure will continue to be used for the business that would have been dealt with by the closed courts, are as follows:

Louth

Skegness Magistrates' Court (24 miles away).

Gainsborough

Lincoln Magistrates' Court (20 miles away).

Launceston

most criminal business at Bodmin Law Courts (22 miles away);

some criminal cases at Liskeard Magistrates' Court (20 miles away);

for family cases, either Bodmin or Liskeard, according to availability and the convenience of the parties.

Cullompton

virtually all criminal business at Exeter Magistrates' Court (14 miles away);

family business at Exeter Combined Court Centre (14 miles away); and

for occasional non-police prosecutions, Honiton Magistrates' Court (11 miles away).

Democratic Republic of Congo

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the assessment of the International Rescue Committee study that around 45,000 Congolese people die every month as a consequence of war and that the majority of those are children; and whether they have estimated the total number of civilian lives lost in war and genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda in the past 20 years. [HL474]

The UN estimates that around 800,000 people were killed during the genocide in Rwanda and that since 1998 over 5 million people have died as a result of continued fighting and instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The number of people, notably civilians, which continue to be caught in the conflicts in eastern and northern DRC, is unacceptably high and it is a regrettable reality of war that it is often the most vulnerable that get hit the hardest. However, those responsible for the atrocities should be held to account. We continue to actively support the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo in their peacekeeping efforts in the region and encourage states in the region to implement effective long-term action towards regional stability.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will suggest a plebiscite to determine the level of support for the armed militias operating in the east of the Congo and North and South Kivu, in order to assess arguments that there is popular support for armed struggle there. [HL475]

Congolese armed groups in North and South Kivu signed an agreement on 23 March 2009 with the Congolese Government, as part of an on-going peace process, in which they agreed to integrate into the Congolese Army, and to transform into political parties. Political parties meeting registration criteria should of course be able to stand in the local elections, due end of 2010/early 2011. The overriding desire of the Kivus population is for long-term peace and security, and we judge that this agreement offers the best chance of achieving this. Through the EU Security Sector Reform mission in Congo, we are supporting army integration; we also regularly encourage progress on the political aspects of the agreement. In these circumstances a plebiscite is not appropriate.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they decided that Rwanda should join the Commonwealth; and when that matter was debated or approved by either House of Parliament. [HL542]

Rwanda first applied to join the Commonwealth in the mid-1990s, and was considered in the run-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Edinburgh in 1997. At that stage, the UK supported the then criteria, which included the need for a constitutional link with an existing Commonwealth member. As such, Rwanda would not have been eligible to join.

The 2007 CHOGM in Kampala saw a review of the membership criteria and the condition of a constitutional link was replaced by a close link to an existing Commonwealth member state. The UK has supported Rwanda's bid to join the Commonwealth from this time onwards. This matter has been discussed publicly since. However, it is not the practice to ratify such decisions made by the Commonwealth or member states in national parliaments—including that of the UK.

The decision on new applications to join is taken by all the Commonwealth Heads of Government. Commonwealth Heads of Government voted unanimously to allow Rwanda to join the organisation in Trinidad in November.

Disabled People: Student Allowance

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they held, or plan to hold, discussions with the Student Loans Company in 2009 over the future administration of applications for the disabled students' allowance. [HL468]

Ministers are in close and regular contact with the Student Loans Company about all aspects of their current and future administration of the student support system, including the disabled students' allowances.

Dublin: British Embassy

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many staff were employed in the British Embassy in Dublin on 1 January of each year since 2000. [HL453]

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not have records of staffing figures prior to 2005, but the numbers of UK-based staff at the British Embassy in Dublin every January from 2005 onwards are as follows:

1 January 2005—17;

1 January 2006—16;

1 January 2007—15;

1 January 2008—14; and

1 January 2009—14.

Dyslexia

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make freedom passes and disabled passes available to those with dyslexia. [HL506]

There are no plans at present to extend the eligibility criteria of either the England-wide bus concession or the London freedom pass travel scheme which is the responsibility of London councils to include people with dyslexia. Any decision to expand the scope of the entitlement would bring associated costs and would require careful consideration of its full impacts.

However, local authorities have the discretionary power to offer additional concessions to their residents, for instance by extending the concession to include other groups of people. Such enhancements are funded from their own resources, based on their judgment of local needs and their overall financial priorities.

Education: ESOL

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people participated in a publicly funded English for Speakers of Other Languages programme in each of the last three years. [HL375]

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people completed a publicly funded English for Speakers of Other Languages programme in each of the past three years. [HL424]

Learner participation and achievements on English for Speakers of Other Languages courses (ESOL) are published in a quarterly statistical first release (SFR). The latest SFR was published on 22 October and shows information on LSC-funded participation and achievement on ESOL programmes in table 5.1 for 2005-06 to 2008-09 (provisional): http://www.thedataservice.org.uk/statistics/sfroct09.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much they have spent on English for Speakers of Other Languages programmes in each of the past three years. [HL425]

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages programmes will be available for the next three years. [HL426]

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is responsible for the funding of post 16 further education and skills training. Since 2001, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) has formed part of the Skills for Life strategy.

As set out in the Skills Investment Strategy (November, 2009), planned investment in Skills for Life will be around £600 million in 2010-11 through the adult learner responsive and employer responsive route.

The New Approach to ESOL (May 2009) gives a greater role for local authorities, working with the LSC, FE colleges, training organisations and other partners, to identify and meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in their area who need to improve their English skills and to enable ESOL provision to have a greater focus on social inclusion and community cohesion. This new approach is being rolled out across local authorities in England.

The following table provides estimated LSC spend on Skills for Life ESOL learners over the past three years for which full year data are available.

Year

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

Estimated spend

£298 million

£289 million

£284 million

Source: Learning and Skills Council

Investment for FE and skills provision over the next three years will be dependent on the outcomes of the next spending review.

Embryology

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Drayson on 3 December (WA 67), who bore the additional cost to allow the completion of the planned research if it was not borne by the Medical Research Council (MRC); and why MRC approval was a factor if no further MRC funding was involved. [HL677]

The one-year extension awarded to the University of Newcastle for the project “Improving the efficiency of human somatic cell nuclear transfer” involves no additional costs. The Medical Research Council (MRC) sometimes grants extensions to the duration of research projects, at no additional cost to the MRC, to allow the completion of the planned research. Such a time-only extension is the standard mechanism employed by the MRC for allowing grants to fulfil their original objectives. An extension to the duration of a project allows the host institution to reallocate the original funding awarded by the MRC over the extended time period agreed. Formal approval is required for all proposed changes to the duration of an MRC award.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Drayson on 3 December (WA 67), what were the original objectives; why they were not fulfilled within the original timescale; and how the additional time will meet the objectives unless research costs are met. [HL678]

I refer the noble Lord to my previous Answers of 19 May 2009 (col. WA 290) and 5 May 2009 (col. 95W), in which the original objectives are outlined. I will ask the chief executive of the Medical Research Council to write to the noble Lord with further information on the progress of this ongoing study. A copy of his letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Engineering and Technology Board

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what recent meetings they have held with the Engineering and Technology Board about increasing the number of graduates in the long term. [HL562]

Government Ministers and officials meet with representatives of the Engineering and Technology Board (ETB)—alongside other engineering institutions —on a regular basis to address a range of engineering issues, including the need to ensure that we have sufficient graduate engineers to meet the major challenges of our time.

The ETB delivers a number of initiatives supported by Government to raise awareness of engineering careers. This includes the Big Bang Fair and some parts of National Science and Engineering Week as well as working with the Royal Academy of Engineering and others on Tomorrow's Engineers.

Engineering UK, the ETB's annual commentary on the UK's engineering and technology labour market, provides insight into how we strengthen Britain's engineering base for future growth.

EU: Gendarmerie Force

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the status of the European Gendarmerie Force; which countries take part in it; at what cost; and in what circumstances they anticipate its deployment in the United Kingdom. [HL325]

The European Gendarmerie Force is a police force with a military status that has full police powers, capable to respond to the full spectrum of police missions, both under civilian and military control.

The European Gendarmerie Force is a multinational initiative of five EU member states—France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain—aimed at improving crisis management capability in sensitive areas. It will support peacekeeping missions around the world. Romania joined on 17 December 2008. The cost is borne by the participating countries.

The UK is not party to the European Gendarmerie Force. The Government currently foresee no circumstances under which they would give their consent for a European Gendarmerie Force operation to be run in the UK.

Food: Local Slaughter and Processing

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what proportion of Common Agricultural Policy spending in England is used to encourage local slaughtering of animals and local food processing; and whether they plan to increase the proportion. [HL357]

It is not possible to calculate the proportion of Common Agricultural Policy spend on local slaughtering and local food processing, not least because there is no recognised definition of “local”.

However, the Government recognise that consumers increasingly want to know how the food they buy has been produced and its provenance. We have helped to facilitate this choice by providing funding for a range of measures to help regional and local food producers improve their access to market. Examples include: support for local abattoirs; the encouragement of food hubs, farm shops and farmers' markets and shared distribution facilities. Funding for these initiatives came from:

the additional £5 million over five years (03/04 to 07/08) which Defra made available to Food from Britain (FFB) to support the quality regional food sector;

the regional development agencies' (RDA) single pot funding; and

the rural development programme.

Gaza

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they or the European Union take any legal, political or economic action against individuals and organisations that encourage or support Israelis settling in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. [HL404]

The UK, and the EU as a whole, regard settlements as illegal under international law.

The EU/Israel Association Agreement, in force since 2000, provides for products from Israel to be imported into EU countries at a preferential tariff rate. The EU does not recognise as part of the State of Israel territories occupied by Israel since 1967. EU policy is that goods from settlements do not receive preferential treatment.

In accordance with this, HM Revenue and Customs immediately refuses claims to Israeli preferential rates of duty where the place of production and accompanying postcode, as shown on the proof of origin, is located in a settlement. Since February 2005, HM Revenue and Customs has rejected some 529 proofs of origin and demanded some £338,000 customs duty.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice also makes very clear the risks of investing in illegal settlements.

Higher Education: Colleges and Universities

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the use of the words college or university in the names of institutions of higher education is monitored or regulated. [HL365]

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many (a) universities, (b) colleges, and (c) other institutions of higher education there are in the United Kingdom. [HL366]

In 2008-09 there were 165 higher education institutions in the United Kingdom. The latest information from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is provided in the table below.

UK Higher Education Institutions

Academic Year 2008-09

Country of Institution

University

HE College

England

106(a)

25

Northern Ireland

2

2

Scotland

15

4

Wales

9

2(b)

Total UK

132

33

Source: HEFCE, A guide to UK higher Education' (publication 2009/32).

(a) Includes 19 Schools and Institutes of the university of London; University Campus Suffolk, a connected institution of the Universities of East Anglia and Essex; and one private university, the University of Buckingham.

(b) Includes one institute, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.

Higher Education: Migrant Students

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how organisations permitted to sponsor migrant students are evaluated; and what are the criteria on which they are judged. [HL368]

Full details can be found in the tier four sponsor guidance available on the UK Border Agency website http://www.ukba.homeoffice. gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/employersandsponsors /pbsguidance/

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many migrant student sponsors were listed in the register of sponsors, the register of education and training providers, and any predecessor lists, in each year since 1997. [HL369]

As at 2 December 2009, the UK Border Agency had approved 1,925 organisations to sponsor migrant students under tier four of the points-based system.

The concept of migrant student sponsors was introduced in November 2008 when the tier four sponsor register opened. There were 14,838 institutions on the DIUS register of education and training providers when it closed on 31 March 2009. Information for each year since 1997 is not held.

Higher Education: Overseas Students

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what checks are carried out on foreign students applying to study in the United Kingdom. [HL364]

All visa applicants applying for entry to study under tier four of the points-based system must enrol with an education provider in the UK which has been vetted and given a licence by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Education providers must ensure that overseas students attend classes and comply with their conditions of stay, and report any failure to do so to the UKBA.

Students are also tied by their visas to a particular education provider and need UKBA permission to change. Applicants intending to undertake postgraduate studies in certain designated subjects are assessed for potential WMD proliferation concerns under the academic technology approval scheme, and must submit an ATAS certificate when applying for a visa.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many sponsors of migrant students have been removed from the register of sponsors since 31 March; and for what reasons. [HL419]

Fourteen sponsors of migrant students have been removed from the register of sponsors since 31 March 2009. Of these, six had no accreditation, one entered into liquidation and seven failed to meet their sponsor obligations.

Immigration: Deportation

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people were waiting to be deported in each of the past five years. [HL371]

There is no central pool of information on the numbers awaiting a removal/deportation decision on their case and this information could be obtained by the detailed examination of individual case records only at disproportionate cost.

Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider assigning United Kingdom diplomatic activities for Kyrgyzstan from Kazakhstan to Her Majesty's ambassador resident in Tajikistan. [HL527]

The UK's bilateral relationship with Kyrgyzstan is actively maintained by our ambassador resident in Kazakhstan and by members of his staff. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office keeps its representation and coverage across the region under review, but has no plans to alter existing arrangements at the present time.

Medical Research Council: Projects

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what percentage of projects supported by the Medical Research Council received a one-year extension of funding prior to the publication of data arising from such projects, in each year since 1999. [HL473]

Requests for extensions to research projects proposing significant changes to the original research plan or substantially new work and which would incur additional costs would usually require a new application to be submitted to the Medical Research Council (MRC). The MRC sometimes grants extensions to the duration of research grants, at no additional cost to the MRC, to allow the completion of the planned research. Over 500 such awards have been granted since 2004-05. The purpose of these time-only extensions is to allow the research investigators to fulfil the objectives of the original grant award. Such awards involve no significant changes to the research plans and are therefore not subject to additional peer review.

Data for the period 2004-05 to 2008-09 is provided below, information on projects which were extended using a similar mechanisms before 2004-05 is not available in a similar form.

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

Total Number of MRC Grants*

777

891

1,009

1,084

1,137

Period of extension

Up to 6 months

51

85

67

147

107

7 months to 1 year

3

9

14

15

28

Over 1 year

1

1

2

4

Total number of time-only extensions granted

55

94

82

164

139

* as at 1 April.

Research papers and data relating to MRC-funded research would normally be published towards the end of a period of grant funding or following the completion of the work. Requests for time-only extensions can be submitted at any time throughout the duration of the grant in line with the circumstances of the particular study. Consequently data relating to a particular study may not necessarily have been published at the time the request to extend the duration of the grant is made.

Northern Bank

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the evidence given to a court in the Republic of Ireland by Ted Cunningham concerning the alleged role played by Phil Flynn when chairman of the Bank of Scotland (Ireland) in the Northern Bank robbery. [HL507]

The investigation into the Northern Bank robbery is ongoing. Consequently the assessment of evidence is a matter for the police and other criminal justice agencies.

Northern Ireland: Equality Commission

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon on 9 November (WA 117), whether a background was assigned using Equality Commission methods for the two commissioners who declared that they do not have a Protestant or Catholic community background. [HL104]

No. The Equality Commission's guidance to employers on monitoring employees and applicants for employment using the residuary method does not apply to public appointments made by the Secretary of State.

Northern Ireland: Justice

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 1 December (WA 30), whether the statement made by the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Dr John Reid, on 24 October 2001 in the House of Commons that outstanding prosecutions and extradition proceedings would not be pursued against supporters of organisations on ceasefire and contributing to the peace process remains government policy. [HL568]

The Government announced in September 2000 that they would not pursue extradition proceedings against convicted fugitives who would appear to qualify for early release under the terms of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998. That remains the case.

In relation to outstanding prosecutions, the Government introduced legislation to address this issue in 2005. This legislation was subsequently withdrawn and there are no plans to reintroduce it.

Pakistan: Torture

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the Human Rights Watch report Cruel Britannia: British complicity in the torture and ill treatment of terror suspects regarding Pakistan. [HL287]

The Human Rights Watch Report draws together allegations made by five UK citizens of Pakistani origin, namely Rangzieb Ahmed, Salahuddin Amin, Zeeshan Siddiqui, Rashid Rauf and an anonymous individual “ZZ”. In each of the cases there were allegations that they were tortured and ill-treated by the Pakistani security agencies while detained in Pakistan. They also allege that British security and intelligence officers were complicit in this alleged mistreatment.

These allegations are not new and we have responded to them in Parliament. We cannot comment in detail on the individual cases for various reasons, including that some are subject to ongoing legal proceedings.

However, it should be noted that English courts have already considered and rejected claims that alleged UK complicity in ill-treatment amounted to abuse of process in the criminal cases of two of these individuals—Rangzieb Ahmed and Salahuddin Amin. The judge in Mr Ahmed's case stated, “I specifically reject the allegations that the British authorities were outsourcing torture”. In Mr Amin's case the judge examined his allegations and found that there was no evidence to suggest that the UK authorities were complicit in the unlawful detention or ill-treatment of Amin in Pakistan. These judgments are publicly available. The Court of Appeal upheld these findings of the trial judges in both cases, pending a final appeal by Rangzieb Ahmed.

The UK does not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment for any purpose.

Pirates: Kenya

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead on 2 December (WA 56), why the Answer referred to the persons captured by HMS “Cumberland” in November 2008 as “eight pirates” rather than eight alleged pirates. [HL544]

On 2 December in response to a PQ HL80 (Official Report, col. WA 56), I referred to eight pirates instead of eight alleged pirates, the latter of which would have been correct in such circumstances. This error is regretted.

Prisons: Costs

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they propose to reduce the running costs of contracted-out prisons at the same level as reductions being made in the public prison service. [HL517]

Services provided by prisons run by private sector operators are stipulated and priced within a contract and therefore cannot be varied in the same way as public sector prisons, without agreement between the authority and the contractor. Directors of Offender Management will be looking at opportunities for disinvestment at contracted prisons within their regions and negotiating with the providers where appropriate.

Prisons: Mobile Phones

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many (a) mobile phones, and (b) component parts of mobile phones, were seized from inmates in Her Majesty's prisons in each year since 1997. [HL535]

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many (a) mobile phones, and (b) component parts of mobile phones, were seized from inmates in Her Majesty's high security prisons in each year since 1997. [HL536]

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many (a) mobile phones, and (b) component parts of mobile phones, were seized from prisoners convicted of terrorism offences in each year since 1997. [HL537]

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many mobile phones or component parts of mobile phones they estimate to have been in circulation in Her Majesty's prisons in each year since 1997. [HL538]

Prisons in England and Wales are asked to send mobile phones and SIM cards they find to a central unit for analysis. The following table shows the number of mobile phones and SIM cards analysed for all prisons, including high security prisons, since September 2005, when records began. Numbers of mobile phones and SIM cards were not recorded separately until January 2008.

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) does not hold disaggregated information on phones seized from prisoners or information on offence category. The majority of phones and component parts seized are not attributable to individual prisoners.

The number of mobile phones and SIM cards analysed for all prisons, including high security prisons in England and Wales, since September 2005.

All prisons1

High Security Prisons

Mobile Phones

SIM cards

Mobile Phones

SIM cards

2005 (Sep-Dec)

469

35

2006

2,272

294

2007

4,014

396

2008

3,910

4,189

139

249

1This includes the figure for high security prisons.

The figures here have been drawn from administrative data systems. Although care is taken when processing data, the detail collected is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system. The data are not subject to audit.

The figures understate the actual number of finds, because they do not include items retained by the police for evidential purposes and because there has historically been some underreporting. There are phones sent to the central location which are not analysed, and these are not included in these figures. NOMS is putting in place new procedures to improve these statistics.

Tackling mobile phones in prison presents substantial and increasing technological challenges; and while the numbers of phones found clearly indicates the scale of the challenge, it is also a reflection of prisons' increasing success in finding them and better reporting. Due to the covert nature of mobile phone use in prisons, we are not able to estimate the number of mobile phones or component parts in circulation.

NOMS has implemented a strategy to minimise the number of phones entering prisons, and to find or disrupt those that do enter. Prisons have been provided with technologies to strengthen local security and searching strategies, including bodily orifice security scanner chairs, and we are trialling mobile phone signal blocking, in line with the recommendations in the Blakey report, Disrupting the Supply of Illicit Drugs into Prisons.

We have also strengthened the law, through the Offender Management Act 2007 (implemented in April 2008), which makes it a criminal offence with a punishment of up to two years' imprisonment to bring an unauthorised mobile phone or component part into a prison.

Professor Peter Lawrence

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration the research councils have given to points raised by Professor Peter Lawrence in PLoS Biology 7(9); and whether they plan to implement the recommendations described therein to “restore science to its rightful place”. [HL471]

The research councils consider that peer review is effective at allocating funding for research grants and has underpinned the success of the UK's Research Base. The research councils are continually working to improve the peer review system. In 2007 RCUK published a report on the efficiency and value for money of peer review and is currently taking forward its recommendations. An important part of this work is to identify ways of freeing up researchers' time so that they can concentrate more on their research. Research councils have a range of fellowship schemes that support excellent researchers for extended periods of time. Issues for research staff, who are employed primarily to undertake research, are addressed through the sector implementing the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.

Railways: Gatwick Express

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made regarding the Gatwick Express rail service to ensure that next year the same level of comfort and timings will be available as this year. [HL661]

Her Majesty's Government have specified the level of rail service, including service quality and timings in the South Central rail franchise which commenced on 20 September 2009.

The requirements include maintaining the 15 minute non-stop service between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport, on board catering at appropriate times and new service quality targets.

The rolling stock to be deployed on the Gatwick Express services is a matter for the train operating company as long as it meets minimum standards such as luggage space and multilingual announcements.

Roads: A1

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the benefits of creating a dual carriageway on the A1 north of Morpeth to the Scottish border for the economy of the north-east, in particular on businesses' access to markets. [HL395]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the benefits of creating a dual carriageway on the A1 north of Morpeth to the Scottish border for access between Scotland and the north-east. [HL396]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the effect of creating a dual carriageway on the A1 north of Morpeth to the Scottish border on the number of deaths from accidents on that road. [HL397]

To ask Her Majesty's Government why the review of the costs of creating a dual carriageway on the A1 north of Morpeth to the Scottish border is not proceeding, as agreed in the regional funding advice documents issued earlier this year. [HL398]

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are taking account of resilience issues in considering creating a dual carriageway on the A1 north of Morpeth to the Scottish border, taking particular account of the weather on the east coast compared to the west coast. [HL399]

The Al north of Newcastle multimodal study was completed in 2002. This assessed the benefits for the economy of the north east and for access to markets of creating a dual carriageway on the Al north of Morpeth to the border with Scotland, as well as the impact on safety. A copy of the final report is in the Library.

This section of the Al forms part of the regional trunk road network. The north west authorities are responsible for promoting schemes as part of the regional funding allocation (RFA) process. The regional authorities have not prioritised the dualling of the Al north of Morpeth within their RFA advice and the Department for Transport has therefore made no further assessment of any benefits of a dualling scheme on the Al north of Morpeth to the Scottish border.

Notwithstanding this, over the past 10 years, the Highways Agency has invested in 41 projects to improve the Al in Northumbria, and will this year invest a further £4 million.

Tajikistan: Drugs

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what training they provide to the drugs control agency of Tajikistan; and what plans will be implemented in that regard. [HL530]

The Government have contributed to the training of the Tajikistan Drug Control Agency (DCA) officers through a UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) project to build the DCA's information and intelligence analysis capability. The UK has also provided assistance to counter-narcotics work in Tajikistan through the EU's border management programme for central Asia. There are no plans for future UK training for the DCA.

UN: Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the remit of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in central Asia. [HL342]

The UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, headed by ambassador Miroslav Jenca, has been charged by the UN Secretary General inter alia to liaise with the governments of the region and, with their concurrence, other parties concerned on issues relevant to preventive diplomacy; to carry out activities relevant to conflict prevention efforts in the region; to maintain contact with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation and other regional organisations; to provide a political framework and leadership for the preventive activities of UN country teams in the region; and to ensure relative to central Asia a comprehensive and integrated analysis of developments in Afghanistan. Full details of the centre can be found on its website at www.unrcca.unmissions.org.

My honourable friend the Minister for Europe met Miroslav Jenca on 26 November 2009 when he was able to have a wide-ranging discussion about the work of the centre.

US: Extradition

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will take account of the reaction of the Government of the United States, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to the verdict relating to the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in examining requests for extradition to the United States, such as that for British citizen Gary McKinnon, whose actions were influenced by his Asperger condition. [HL682]

The verdict and the proceedings of the trial are a matter solely for the Italian judicial system. Secretary Clinton has not commented on the sentencing of Amanda Knox, but has agreed to a request to speak to Ms Knox's Senator, Senator Cantwell. Extradition requests received by the UK are dealt with under the provisions of the Extradition Act 2003, which provide full and effective safeguards for the subject of the request, including a thorough consideration of whether acceding to the request would breach the human rights of the requested person.

Young Offenders Institutions: Portland

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they plan to close the Rodney Unit at Her Majesty's Young Offenders Institute Portland, as recommended by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons in her report published on 16 November; and, if so, when. [HL515]

Rodney Unit at YOI Portland is scheduled to close by the end of January 2010. Work has already begun to decrease the numbers of prisoners being held on the unit. The decision to close the unit was made by the Director of Offender Management due to the condition of the accommodation. The decision to close the unit had been made by the Director of Offender Management for the South West prior to the visit from HMCIP.