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11 Jan 2006 : Column 680W—continued


Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's relations with Syria. [33594]

Dr. Howells: The Government have concerns about Syrian support for the insurgency in Iraq, its continued interference in Lebanon and its support for Palestinian rejectionist groups and Hizballah, which are having a destabilising effect on regional stability. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary most recently raised some of our concerns with Syrian Foreign Minister Shara'a during the Euro-Med Summit in Barcelona. We want a better relationship with Syria, but Syria needs to change its behaviour and play a constructive role in the region and on the world stage.

UK Embassies/Consulates

Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether any (a) embassies and (b) consulates are combined with two or more countries to provide a service for British citizens. [39865]

Dr. Howells: While we share office accommodation with other countries, in no single post do we provide a combined service for British citizens.

UN Convention Against Torture

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what definition the Government use of (a) mental and (b) physical severe pain or suffering as set out in Article 1 of the UN Convention Against Torture. [37965]

Mr. Straw: The international community, including the UK, has resisted formal definition of what constitutes severe physical or mental pain or suffering, as used in the UN Convention Against Torture's definition of torture. Whether any particular treatment would cause an individual severe mental or physical pain or suffering depends on the specific circumstances
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of a case. A definition could not be exhaustive, leaving the possibility for argument that some types of clearly torturous behaviour were not in fact forbidden as torture. Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 provides that a public official commits torture if he intentionally inflicts severe pain or suffering on another in the performance of his duties, and does not define severe pain or suffering".

As the UN Human Rights Committee noted in 1992, with regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: The Covenant does not contain any definition of the concepts covered by article 7 [prohibiting torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment], nor does the Committee consider it necessary to draw up a list of prohibited acts to establish sharp distinctions between different kinds of punishment or treatment; the distinctions depend on the nature, purpose and severity of the treatment applied."


Channel Islands

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether she plans to visit the Channel Islands to discuss (a) electoral and (b) legal reform. [40519]

Bridget Prentice: The Department of Constitutional Affairs is responsible for the UK's relationship with the Channel Islands and DCA Ministers visit the Islands from time to time to discuss a wide range of topics. There are no Ministerial visits planned for the immediate future.

Channel Islands are not part of the United Kingdom. They have their own legislative assemblies, administrative, fiscal and legal systems and their own courts of law. Responsibility for electoral or legal reform is a domestic matter for them.

Solicitors (Complaints Procedures)

John Mann: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of complaints procedures in relation to solicitors for (a) those with literacy problems and (b) other vulnerable groups. [40696]

Bridget Prentice: I am satisfied that the Law Society and the Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman (OLSO) have mechanisms in place to identify and assist customers with literacy problems, and other vulnerable groups, who wish to complain about their solicitor.

The Law Society can provide literature in different languages and in different formats, including in Braille and large print and on audiotape, and it can arrange translations and organise sign language interpreters. It can also appoint a Local Conciliation Officer where a customer requires assistance to formulate responses and encourage greater telephone communication if written communication is difficult.

The OLSO can produce information in large print and on different coloured paper and offers a translation service. It provides a tape recorder service, has a Hearing Loop installed and the facility to use BT Type
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Talk. In addition, its Support Staff, who receive incoming calls, have received Mental Health Awareness training.

Solicitors (New Regulatory Body)

John Mann: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what locations she is considering for the new independent regulatory body for solicitors [40693]

Bridget Prentice: The Government published a White Paper on 17 October 2005 setting out proposals for the future of Legal Services in England and Wales.

The Government will bring forward legislation to establish a new oversight regulator, the Legal Services Board (LSB). The location of the Legal Services Board will be determined taking into account a number of factors, including putting the needs of consumers first.


2012 Olympics

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what organisational structures are being established in order to ensure the security of the London 2012 Olympics. [37795]

Paul Goggins: The security proposals were a strong feature of the London bid. The planning, preparatory and operational arrangements will be delivered through a multi agency structure that will ensure maximum priority is accorded to all aspects of security and public safety. These arrangements will be overseen by a Cabinet-style committee chaired by the Home Secretary.

Antisocial Behaviour

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he has taken to encourage the take-up of individual support orders for young people subject to anti-social behaviour orders. [37758]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Promoting individual support orders (ISOs) and increasing their up-take forms part of our overall drive to reduce antisocial behaviour. The Home Affairs Committee's report on antisocial behaviour acknowledged the usefulness of ISOs in tackling antisocial behaviour and recommended additional Government funding to increase take-up. On 29 June the Government announced that they will make an extra £0.5 million available this financial year for ISOs. This money is ring-fenced and given to the Youth Justice Board (YJB) to allocate to youth offending teams (YOTs). The YJB are also promoting their take up with the YOTs.

Departmental Estate

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the former (a) buildings and (b) land of (i) his Department and (ii) (A) non-departmental public bodies, (B) agencies and (C) independent statutory bodies for which his Department is responsible which have been sold since 7 May 1997; what the sale price of each (1) was at the time of sale and
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(2) is at current prices; and whether the money accrued was (x) retained by his Department and (y) claimed by the Treasury. [40139]

Mr. Charles Clarke: This information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Expenditure

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many widescreen televisions have been purchased by his Department for use in London headquarters in each of the last five years; and what the cost was in each year. [39149]

Mr. Charles Clarke: No widescreen televisions were purchased in the five years leading up to the move to the new Home Office HQ at 2 Marsham street.

Leading up to the move to 2 Marsham street in February 2005 a business case was put forward to the Director General, Resources and Performance for a series of widescreen televisions in the new building. This was signed off.

The aim was to deliver a Home Office in-house television channel to replace posters/promotional materials etc. The business case requested 78 widescreen TVs to be ceiling and wall mounted within 2 Marsham street. No widescreen TVs were requested for other London buildings as the technology was not in place within other buildings to run this channel.

The cost was £330,000. This budget was signed off on the clear proviso that all posters (we had over 100 poster sites in the London based Home Office buildings) were to discontinue and no more centrally produced promotional materials were to be published.

By discontinuing posters/materials etc. we are making net savings of £139,000 (2005–06), £144,000 (2006–07), £149,000 (2007–08) and £154,000 (2008–09). The cost of procuring and delivering the widescreen TV channel would therefore be covered and breaking even by 2008.

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