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Written Answers

Volume 716: debated on Friday 15 January 2010

Written Answers

Friday 15 January 2010

Armed Forces: Craigiehall

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration they have given to the future of the Army headquarters at Craigiehall, near Edinburgh; and when they will make a decision on its future. [HL1142]

I refer the noble Lord to the Answer my honourable friend the Minister for Armed Forces (Bill Rammell) gave in the other place on 5 January (Official Report, col. 32W). I can, at this stage, only reiterate that it is too early to say when the Army's top level review will conclude and what impact its findings will have on particular establishments or locations.

Armed Forces: Medals

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will authorise the granting of a commemorative medal to those who served in Bomber Command during World War II; and what are the reasons for their decision. [HL886]

The Ministry of Defence has a long-standing policy not to issue commemorative medals to service personnel other than for Royal Coronations and Jubilees.

Since the end of World War II, the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals (known as the HD committee), which is responsible for recommending to Her Majesty The Queen on the award of new medals, has a consistent and well-established policy that it will not consider the belated institution of awards and medals for service given many years earlier. The reason for this policy is that the present HD committee cannot put itself in the place of the committee which made the original decision and which would have been able to take account of the views of all interested parties at the time. In addition, if an exception were to be made for one case, then it would be almost impossible to refuse to reconsider every other claim for the retrospective institution of an award or medal.

There were no medals awarded purely for service in a particular command during World War II. Those who completed the minimum qualifying period of service in operational areas were eligible for the 1939-45 Star and those with long service in non-operational areas received the defence medal. In addition to the 1939-45 Star and defence medal, a series of campaign stars were created for participants in particularly hazardous campaigns, and many Bomber Command personnel qualified for the much prized aircrew Europe Star or, for example, the France and Germany Star.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are considering the award of a United Kingdom national defence medal for Her Majesty's Armed Force personnel who have served since the end of World War II. [HL933]

The arguments in favour of the medal were set out in May 2009 in a document prepared by the National Defence Medal Society entitled, the National Defence Medal—Veterans Recognition Report. The points made in the report have been carefully considered. My honourable friend, the Minister for Veterans, wrote to the society on 20 September 2009, stating that it has been concluded that it is not appropriate to institute a new national defence medal.

The HM Armed Forces Veterans Badge was introduced in May 2004. The lapel badge is a fitting tribute, where veterans can demonstrate that they have served their country as members of the Armed Forces. Many veterans wear the badge on a daily basis and many more on parades.

Crown Dependencies

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how the costs of imprisonment on the United Kingdom mainland of a person convicted for a criminal offence in a Crown Dependency are shared. [HL987]

The transfer of prisoners between the United Kingdom and the Crown Dependencies (the Bailiwick of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man) is governed by the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997. The criteria for transfers were set out by the then Home Secretary's Statement to Parliament on 28 October 1997.

Where a prisoner meets the criteria for transfer, the cost of detention following transfer falls to the receiving jurisdiction in the United Kingdom. Where the transfer of a prisoner falls outside the normal criteria then the cost of detention is met by the transferring jurisdiction. In each case the cost of the actual transfer of the prisoner is met by the transferring jurisdiction.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo regarding concerns about corruption, impunity and human rights abuse in that country. [HL1147]

We lobby the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) vigorously through our embassy in Kinshasa on the human rights situation in the country and we welcome President Kabila's zero tolerance policy on human rights abusers. We continue to press for measures to be taken on impunity for serious abusers, including the handover of Bosco Ntaganda to the International Criminal Court. We take the issue of impunity seriously, and have lent support to developing the justice sector in DRC. We are providing around £80 million over five years to increase accountability of the security sector through strengthened oversight mechanisms, technical assistance and training.

We also lobby strongly for, and support, action to be taken on sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). Our action to combat this is focused on four levels: prevention; strengthening medical and psychosocial response; support during the judicial process; and advocacy to generate political action by the DRC Government. The Security Council recently passed Regulation 1888 which was co-sponsored by the UK. It renews Security Council Regulation 1820 on women and conflict, and creates a technical task force to look at sexual violence, as well as a UN special envoy.

The UK in addition continues to push for legal action against five senior commanders of the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) accused of committing sexual violence and who were named by the UN Security Council during their visit. We will continue to stress the importance of ensuring the implementation of the UN peacekeeping mission's policy of withdrawing support from FARDC units implicated in serious human rights abuses.

We are working with the international community, particularly the World Bank, European Commission, International Monetary Fund and the UN Development Programme, to tackle corruption in the DRC. We are supporting government institutions to develop a more efficient and transparent public financial management system, and are working to improve the quality of government audit and budgeting processes. In addition, through a new civil society fund, we are starting work to make Parliament and civil society stronger in holding government agencies to account.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have assessed British-owned or British-based arms-brokers dealing with armed groups in the Great Lakes region of Africa. [HL1148]

We are not aware of British or British-based arms brokers dealing with armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Any such brokers dealing with armed groups would be liable for sanctions, and their activities would be subject to domestic export control legislation. We take our obligations under sanctions very seriously and will not hesitate to support sanctions against any person or company against whom there is sufficient evidence, including UK-based companies or individuals.

We fully support and welcome the work of the UN Group of Experts, the panel of five UN-appointed officials responsible for investigating compliance with the terms of the arms embargo and the sanctions regime which apply in DRC, into the activities of armed groups in the eastern DRC and how they are funded.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they, the European Union Special Representative and the United States special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa are working (a) to create a permanent and effectively monitored ceasefire in the Kivus, (b) to end the trading of metals from allegedly inhumanely mined minerals in the Congo in European and American markets, (c) to ensure that there is effective justice following alleged deployment of rape as a weapon of war, use of children as soldiers, and other alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, (d) to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and incidences of fistula, and (e) to increase access to education. [HL1149]

(a) Any permanent ceasefire in the Kivus will require close co-operation between the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. We welcome the recent rapprochement between Rwanda and DRC—including the recent exchange of ambassadors—which has lead to greater co-operation and stability in the region. Our ambassador in Kinshasa and High Commissioner in Kigali are in close contact with their respective host Governments and continue to engage on this issue.

(b) The UK fully supports the work of the UN Group of Experts which has led investigations into the companies and individuals benefiting from the illicit trade in natural resources. We are working with the Government of DRC to promote the mining sector and the trade of minerals in a more regulated and transparent way which will inhibit the opportunities of illegal groups to exploit the mining and trade. We also take very seriously our obligations under sanctions and will not hesitate to support sanctions against any person or company against whom there is sufficient evidence, including UK-based companies or individuals.

(c) The UK supports international efforts to prevent crimes against humanity. We have been working with partners on an emergency justice project to help bring the most serious crimes in eastern DRC to justice, including specific provision for crimes of sexual violence. We are working within a security sector reform programme to end the culture of impunity for the security forces, for example providing barracks, pay, etc, to reduce the predation of the army on civilian populations.

The UK is equally committed to playing an active role in international efforts to protect children affected by armed conflict as a member of the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and through the European Union. The UK has also provided very significant financial support to a number of programmes that help children affected by armed conflict. The UK strongly supports the work of international courts and tribunals which are trying the alleged perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community including those against children.

(d) The Department for International Development (DfID) supports a programme of HIV/AIDS prevention, which includes the distribution of condoms and behaviour change and helping the Government develop a national strategy for tackling HIV/AIDS.

(e) DfID leads the international donor group in DRC on education and supports the Government's aspiration to achieve universal free primary education. It is supporting the DRC's primary and secondary education strategy through a teacher census and a school mapping exercise, and we continue to support universal access to education through a scheme for providing insurance for primary school children to attend school.

The UK works with a range of partners on these issues, including the EU and the United States.

Elections: Postal Votes

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many voters requested postal votes for the general elections in (a) 1997, (b) 2001, and (c) 2005. [HL942]

At the national level, data are collected on the number of postal votes issued in each constituency. Neither the Ministry of Justice nor the Electoral Commission collect data on the total number of postal ballot papers which were requested by voters. The Electoral Commission has confirmed that the number of voters who were issued with postal ballot papers for the past three general elections was as follows:

General Election Year

Numbers of voters issued with postal ballot papers

% of voters issued with postal ballot papers

1997

937,205

2.1

2001

1,750,000

4

2005

5,362,501*

12.1*

* Data not available for two of the 646 parliamentary constituencies.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many voters requested postal votes for the European Parliament election in 2009. [HL943]

At the national level, data are collected on the number of postal votes issued in each constituency. The Electoral Commission has confirmed that 6,318,501 voters were issued with postal ballot papers for the European parliamentary election in 2009.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government which 10 parliamentary constituencies had the most requests for postal votes in 2005. [HL944]

At the national level, data are collected on the number of postal votes issued in each constituency. The Electoral Commission has confirmed that the 10 parliamentary constituencies where the greatest number of postal ballot papers were issued as a proportion of the electorate was as follows:

Name of constituency

% of electorate (GB only*)

Newcastle upon Tyne North

45.4

Stevenage

45

Rushcliffe

39.9

Newcastle upon Tyne Central

36.7

Newcastle upon Tyne East and Wallsend

35.4

South Shields

35.2

Jarrow

33.1

Hackney South and Shoreditch

30.6

Tyne Bridge

30.4

The Wrekin

30.4

* Different absent voting arrangements apply in Northern Ireland

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government which 10 parliamentary constituencies had the fewest requests for postal votes in 2005. [HL945]

At the national level, data are collected on the number of postal votes issued in each constituency. The Electoral Commission has confirmed that the 10 parliamentary constituencies where the fewest number of postal ballot papers were issued as a proportion of the electorate was as follows:

Name of constituency

% of electorate (G.B only*)

Stoke-on-Trent North

5.4

Stoke-on-Trent Central

5.3

Liverpool Walton

5.3

Nuneaton

5.2

Bootle

5.1

Airdrie and Shotts

4.9

Luton North

4.9

Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

4.9

Stoke-on-Trent South

4.7

Brent South

4.5

* Different absent voting arrangements apply in Northern Ireland.

Government: Office Equipment

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Barbara Follett, on 9 December 2009 (Official Report, House of Commons, col. 390W), what was the average purchase price, excluding value added tax, of a 500 sheet ream of white A4 80 gsm photocopier paper paid by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and each of its agencies in the latest period for which figures are available. [HL992]

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills currently pays £l.65p for each 500 sheet ream of white A4 80 gsm photocopier paper.

I have approached the chief executives of the Insolvency Service, Companies House, National Measurement Office and the Intellectual Property Office and they will respond directly to the noble Lord.

House of Lords: Website

Question

Asked by

To ask the Chairman of Committees how many hits there were on the House of Lords homepage on the Parliament website in each month in 2009. [HL1138]

The number of page views for the House of Lords homepage on the Parliament website in 2009 was as follows:

Month

Number of page views

January

35,404

February

32,920

March

35,482

April

24,394

May

19,930

June

19,188

July

16,641

August

9,505

September

20,737

October

36,684

November

39,387

December

25,724

Houses of Parliament: Publications

Question

Asked by

To ask the Chairman of Committees how many copies of the latest version of A Guide to Business have been printed; and at which outlets in the Palace of Westminster they are made available to visitors to the Palace. [HL1137]

The print runs for the latest versions of A Guide to Business were as follows:

Language

Copies printed

English

45,000

Spanish

8,000

French

6,000

German

6,000

Italian

6,000

Chinese

5,000

Russian

5,000

Japanese

2,000

Welsh

2,000

The English language versions of the guide are available in the Printed Paper Office, at Peers’ Entrance, outside Room 19 (First Floor West Front), in Peers’ Lobby, in Strangers’ Gallery and in the Information Office. Foreign language versions are available in Westminster Hall, Peers’ Lobby, Strangers’ Gallery and the Information Office.

Houses of Parliament: Website

Question

Asked by

To ask the Chairman of Committees how many hits there were in 2009 on each guide to the House of Lords printed in a language other than English and available on the Parliament website; and whether he will ensure that in future the links to guides from the Parliament homepage are not printed solely in English. [HL1141]

A Guide to Business is available in English, Welsh, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. The English version was downloaded 469 times in 2009, the German version 87 times and the Spanish version 83 times. No data are currently available in respect of the other language versions. All of the translated content on Parliament’s website is available from a single languages page. Parliament's web team is currently investigating the provision of links to the foreign language versions of the guide in their respective languages at a future date.

Parliamentary Education Service

Question

Asked by

To ask the Chairman of Committees what is the financial contribution by the House of Lords to the Parliamentary Education Service; and what is the overall estimated annual cost of providing facilities for visitors to the House. [HL1140]

In financial year 2008-09, the House of Lords contributed £312,486 to the Education Service. Other Lords expenditure on visitor services was £289,051 over the same period. This does not include associated security costs or retail and catering costs and revenues.

Prisons: Drugs

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Bach on 1 December 2009 (WA 31), whether Mr Ellis Sherwood was addicted to drugs when he was sentenced to prison. [HL927]

Mr Ellis Sherwood was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment in July 1988, although he had been in prison on remand since November 1987. Specific information as to whether Mr Sherwood was addicted to drugs at the time he was sentenced to imprisonment is not available.

Professor Peter Lawrence

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Drayson on 14 December 2009 (WA 187), what percentage of Professor Lawrence's recommendations have been implemented by the concordat to support the career development of researchers; and how the research councils have responded to the arguments in Professor Lawrence's article online at the PLoS Biology website or by other means. [HL968]

The concordat to support the career development of researchers was launched in 2008. As a result a range of initiatives are being undertaken to address the issues related to Professor Lawrence's concerns about career development for researchers. More details are contained in the first annual report on implementation of the concordat published in December 2009 at http://www.researchconcordat.ac.uk/ documents/FundersForumDecember09.pdf.

The research councils are continually working to improve the peer review system. An important aspect of this work is reducing the burden on the research community.

Town and Village Greens

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why the National Common Land Stakeholder Group was not consulted on the proposal to consult in spring 2010 on whether to reform the town and village greens registration system. [HL961]

The review of the framework for registering new town or village greens will consider both whether changes are needed to the existing framework, and possible options for change. Our intention to consult was discussed with the national common land stakeholder group on 7 December 2009. The framework has been discussed extensively with members of the group over the past year, and we hope that they will continue to play a full part in the planned consultation process.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what will be the timescale and cost of the proposed consultation in spring 2010 on whether to reform the town and village greens registration system; and whether the consultation will include all commons or only town and village greens. [HL962]

The consultation will relate solely to town or village greens, and is expected to begin in March 2010 and remain open for a minimum of 12 weeks. The costs of the consultation are not yet known, but are expected to be minimal, and will be accommodated within existing budgets.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they received on the town and village greens registration system between the implementation of Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 and the commissioning of the Study of Determined Town and Village Green Applications, produced by Countryside and Community Research Institute and Asken Limited. [HL963]

My department has received many representations about the framework for registering new town or village greens, and particularly requests for assistance and explanation from members of the public. We have also received representations from Members of Parliament, local authorities and others about the consequences of applications for registration, in so far as they affect local authorities, landowners and others.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they will implement the recommendations in Sections 7.7, 7.8 and 7.9 of the Study of Determined Town and Village Green Applications, produced by Countryside and Community Research Institute and Asken Limited. [HL964]

We will consider options for better integration between the framework for registering new town or village greens and the planning system, as part of our forthcoming review of the framework. Those options will have regard to the recommendations to secure better integration included in the report prepared by the Countryside and Community Research Institute and Asken Ltd.

Turkey

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether Turkey has developed or is developing the technology necessary to manufacture nuclear weapons. [HL1036]

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not received any information that Turkey is developing the technology necessary to manufacture nuclear weapons. Turkey is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty and as such has agreed not to develop such weapons. Turkey has civil nuclear sites declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency under safeguards and brought an additional protocol into force in 2001 providing the highest standards of transparency.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether their stance on the treatment of Armenians by Turkey in 1915 and 1916 takes account of its being a criminal offence in other European Union member states to deny that that treatment was genocide. [HL1121]

The Government are aware that several EU member states have adopted legislation recognising the crimes and massacres of 1915 and 1916 as genocide. Terrible suffering was inflicted on Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. We must ensure that the victims of that suffering are not forgotten. The Government's main concern is how we can ensure that the lessons are learnt and relationships are rebuilt to ensure a peaceful and secure future for everyone living in the region.

For this reason, we believe that it is first and foremost for the Turkish and Armenian people to address their common history. We welcome the recent signature of protocols on establishing and developing relations between Turkey and Armenia as an important step in this direction. In particular, we welcome the fact that the protocols provide for an intergovernmental sub-committee to examine historical issues. It is important that this process is owned by the parties directly concerned.