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10 Oct 2006 : Column WA131

Written Answers

Tuesday 10 October 2006

Afghanistan: Security and Stability

Baroness Northover asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): The Government's decision to deploy as part of stage 3 of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force was based on rigorous UK military planning and assessments, including a preliminary team that deployed in late 2005 to Helmand. The Government's view then, as now, was that the Taliban and other illegally armed groups represented a significant impediment to the country's near-term reconstruction, particularly in the south. That is why we deployed a robust force including attack helicopters and artillery.

The level of forces required for the ISAF operation is kept under continual review. We announced on 10 July 2006 (Official Report, col. 511-17) a number of enhancements to help accelerate the planned reconstruction activity. We are working with NATO allies and non-NATO troop contributors to ensure that commanders on the ground have access to the resources they need to carry out the ISAF mission. Bringing about reconstruction and development in Afghanistan will require substantial economic, developmental and political support for some time to come. The precise force package that will need to be deployed to support the Afghan Government in this task will evolve over time.

Agriculture: Milk Production

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Price negotiations are private and commercial matters in which the Government cannot and should not get involved provided competition law is respected. However, the Government recognise that many farmers are affected by low farmgate prices, particularly in relation to rising production costs. Evidence shows that there is a wide disparity in the costs of production between the most and least efficient dairy farmers. An important part of the challenge, therefore, is for the least efficient producers to identify potential efficiency gains and to work towards decreasing production costs and increasing profitability.

There is widespread acceptance in the dairy sector that improved efficiency is part of the solution to the industry's difficulties along with improvements in innovation and better relationships across the supply chain. Through the Dairy Supply Chain Forum we are encouraging improvements in all these areas. Defra has also awarded a number of substantial grants under the Agriculture Development Scheme to help through, for example, benchmarking.

Armed Forces: Medals

Lord Whitty asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The service of those who served in Malaya (under British rule) up to August 1957 has been recognised. The Naval General Service Medal 1915-62 and the General Service Medal 1918-62 with the clasp “Malaya” was awarded for service between 16 June 1948 and 31 July 1960, to those who met the eligibility criteria.

I believe that the special medal to which my noble friend is referring is the Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM). The PJM has been conferred by the Government of Malaysia,

They have established, as part of the overall eligibility criteria, the qualifying period of service for the PJM as 31 January 1957 (Independence Day) to 12 August 1966.

Banks: Unclaimed Assets

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McKenzie of Luton: The Government welcome the contribution of the independent Commission on Unclaimed Assets to this issue. The commission's proposals, including those for a social investment bank, will be carefully examined by the banking industry and the Government.

The Government are committed to seeing genuinely unclaimed assets reinvested in society and we strongly welcome the banking industry's commitment to introduce such a scheme. We are clear that under any scheme individuals will retain the right to reclaim their assets at any stage. With that in mind, we will continue to assess the legal and accounting issues involved, and we welcome the industry's commitment to introduce a comprehensive reuniting programme prior to the launch of the scheme. The industry's steering group will continue to look at all the issues around reuniting, definition, operation and distribution.

Christian Festivals

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Government made clear during passage of the Equality Act 2006 that they recognise the central historical and cultural significance of Christianity in our country's story and value the contribution Christian groups play in all aspects of national life. The Government have also given the undertaking, under the European Convention on Human Rights, to:

This undertaking itself reflects the longstanding UK tradition of freedom of religion, and those who choose to follow their own religious or cultural traditions must be free to do so as long as they remain within the law.

Drivers: Working Hours Regulations

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: Colleagues in the Department for Transport have recently met with their counterparts in Dublin. The Irish ministry is currently establishing a road safety authority which will be taking responsibility for a range of functions including road haulage enforcement. The department’s Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and the new authority will be working closely to address enforcement issues including non-compliance of drivers’ hours regulations.

European Court of Human Rights: Judgments

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Further to my Answer of 10 January 2006 (WA 34-42), the latest position on implementation is as follows:

(a) Faulkner (Application no. 30308/96)

The non-statutory scheme for the provision of legal aid in Guernsey continues to operate well. Procedures are ongoing for the enactment of a statutory scheme. Tenders for the provision of criminal and civil legal aid services to the States of Guernsey have now been received. It is anticipated that the panel of legal aid providers and the appointment of an individual to the statutory office of legal aid administrator will be approved in early 2007. Subordinate legislation to give effect to these proposals will then need to be approved by the States of Guernsey. It is expected that a statutory legal aid scheme will be in place by spring 2007.

(b) Hashman and Harrup (Application no. 255494/94)

The Lord Chief Justice and the President of the Queen's Bench Division have agreed to issue a practice direction on bindovers, which is currently being prepared. It is expected that the practice direction will be issued in early 2007.

(c) Murray (Application no. 18731/91)

Public consultation on a number of amendments to police powers closed on 14 June 2006. As a result of the comments received the Northern Ireland Office is undertaking a full equality impact assessment of the proposed changes. It is anticipated that the process will be complete in spring 2007 and the statutory amendments made to the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 will be commenced.

(d) A (in relation to Scotland and Northern Ireland) (Application no. 25599/94)

Northern Ireland has introduced a provision which corresponds to Section 58 of the Children Act 2004 by abolishing the defence of reasonable chastisement in Northern Ireland in relation to all charges apart from summary charge of common assault. The relevant provision is Article 2 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 which came into operation on 20 September 2006. There has been no change in relation to Scotland since my Written Answer of 10 January 2006. However, as the noble Lord may already be aware, the Committee of Ministers did consider the implementation of this case in June 2006 and has postponed consideration until 2007 pending case law. The Government are of the view that the existing law in Scotland, namely Section 51 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, as well as the Human Rights Act 1998, are already compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The Government are committed to implementing all European Court of Human Rights judgments fully in accordance with the United Kingdom's international obligations. Most judgments against the UK are implemented promptly by the lead government department. Delays occur in a few cases, sometimes because of the need for legislation, or because of debate as to the action required to implement the judgment. In cases where judgments are not promptly implemented in their entirety, interim measures may be taken to prevent a recurrence of the violation. The Government do not therefore propose to introduce any new mechanism for the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights since the Government are of the view that existing procedures are already effective.


Lord Whitty asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The Gangmasters Licensing Authority started accepting licence applications to operate in agriculture and the food processing and packaging sectors on 6 April 2006. The offence of acting as a gangmaster without a licence came into force on 1 October 2006. The authority started accepting applications to supply or use workers to gather shellfish from 1 October 2006. At 5 October, 642 labour providers had been registered by the authority.

As part of the application process, labour providers are asked to indicate how many workers they employ. The labour providers that have been licensed have indicated that, in total, they are supplying approximately 365,000 workers. This figure will double-count workers who are employed by more than one licensed labour provider.

Government Departments: Financial Reporting

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McKenzie of Luton: The information to answer this Question in full is not held centrally. As part of the annual fraud reporting process for 2005-06 departments were asked to complete questionnaires about how they managed fraud risk. The data revealed that 35 departments had whistleblowing arrangements or fraud hotlines for staff to report their suspicions of fraud.

Government: Decentralisation

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Government are committed to continuing decentralisation and to strong and accountable local government and leadership. As well as establishing a Scottish Parliament and Assemblies for Wales and Northern Ireland, they have restored London government through the creation of the Greater London Authority. Following consultation, the Government intend to bring forward legislation to strengthen the powers of the London Mayor and Assembly.

The Government do not, however, believe in a prescriptive or “one size fits all” approach. In England, outside London, the Government will continue to support the work of the voluntary regional assemblies in scrutinising regional development agencies, as regional planning bodies, and as regional housing boards. They are also working with cities to help improve their economic performance. However, respecting the outcome of the November 2004 north-east referendum on the creation of an elected regional assembly, the Government have no current plans for the creation of directly elected regional bodies.

The Government have strengthened the authority and visibility of the government offices as a facilitator of partnership working in the regions and localities and are committed to a programme of relocating 20,000 central government posts from London and the south-east by 2010.


Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): Estimates are as follows.

Number of new dwellings built on previously developed landNumber of new dwellings on previously residential landNumber of new dwellings built on greenfield





























































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