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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I would not dream of commenting on the capacity of EDS to bid for other contracts. At present, the system has not been robust. It is getting better; it is improving steadily. More cases are coming through; they are not coming through as quickly as we would want. I must say that EDS has changed its senior management working with us and, as a result, we are seeking to overcome the problems. As I said, I do not want to be complacent about the new computer, but most people are getting their money accurately to the nearest pound on time.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, my question is tangential to that of the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott. The Minister says that she is not complacent; I am sure that she is not, but does not this raise the whole issue of IT within government departments and the inability to make joined-up expertise available throughout government? That is not purely a government problem, as all who are involved in industry know, but is it not time to flag up that someone should really get a grip on the matter, because we have example after example over a period of 10 or 12 years in which things have gone wrong? Will the Minister use her influence to get a proper supremo with proper expertise at the heart of government to deal with IT systems?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I agree with all that the noble Baroness said, apart, possibly, from her last sentence. She is absolutely right. I was reading some recent research from Oxford and Cambridge that found that only 15 per cent of major computer products are successfully delivered in both the private and public sectors. Obviously, we need to get a better grip on the matter. Part of the difficulty in this case is that it was originally a private finance initiative
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contract in which we bought a service, not a specified computer. What I have learnt from this is to buy last year's computer and then tweak it.

The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, was the CSA's new IT system subject to the full gateway review process, which is precisely what my noble friend Lady O'Cathain is asking for?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, it went through that gateway procedure and was given a clean bill of health.

Lord Christopher: My Lords, I warm to the Minister's earlier passion, but does she think that what she said indicates the necessity for a much closer relationship, whatever that may be, between the agency and the Inland Revenue, because all these people do not go overseas?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Yes, my Lords, I am happy to consider that, but the basic issue is that if the CSA was transferred to the Inland Revenue, it would have the same computer and the same staff. Most CSA recipients, especially lone parents, are not taxpayers and therefore not within the Inland Revenue frame. Many of us would regard the Inland Revenue as having its hands full with tax credits at the moment. It has certainly shown no wish to perform that work. It is not inconceivable that, in years to come, that may be a perfectly sensible move to make. However, at present, whatever happens, whether it falls under the Inland Revenue or the Department for Work and Pensions, we have, first, to bottom out the computer problem and, secondly—I cannot emphasise this enough—we must continue to build a culture of compliance so that some non-resident parents do not walk away from their responsibility and dump the care of their children on other people.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, the Minister said that the system is coping well with 90 per cent of people on benefit from the CSA. How many families are being failed by the system currently? How quickly are they dealt with and how?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, forgive me, I said private cases. The CSA has 1.3 million cases, which involve 2.5 million adults. Three-quarters of those cases are on the old system and the money is flowing well and satisfactorily there—most Members of Parliament tell me how much better it is than even a few years ago. A quarter of the caseload, about 350,000, are on the new system. Of those, 25 per cent are what we call private cases in which she is in work and he is in work. In those cases, 90 per cent of the money is flowing. The rest are cases in which the lone parent is on benefit, and that is where we are getting only 50 or 60 per cent success rates because of the problem with the interface between the computers.

What I was trying to say in response to the right reverend Prelate was that those lone parents are being denied the £10 that they would gain from being under the new system compared to the old. Their benefit
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money, which can range from £150 to £200 a week, according to their housing circumstances, continues to flow. So the people who are losing out now are those lone parents who are on the new system, who are not getting a £10 premium.

Iran: Human Rights

Lord Clarke of Hampstead asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the focus of the recent agreement is Iran's nuclear programme. The agreement does not refer to all elements of our dialogue with Iran, nor all of our concerns about Iranian policy. We continue to have serious concerns about human rights and regularly raise them with the Iranian authorities. The United Kingdom and other European Union governments co-sponsored the resolution on human rights in Iran adopted by the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on 17 November.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her helpful answer. Does she agree with the conclusions that appear on the EU website about its serious concern about serious violations of human rights? In 2002, 2003 and as recently as October of this year, the Iranian regime promised to do certain things about human rights, but violations continue to take place.

Further, does my noble friend believe that it is right for this country or the European Union to enter trade agreements with a government who systematically murder hundreds of their people? In particular, I ask her about two children, Kaveh Habibi-Nejad, a 14 year-old boy flogged to death for eating in public during Ramadan and Atefeh Rajabi, a 16 year-old girl publicly hanged for what they call an act incompatible with chastity. Will my noble friend ask the Iranian authorities what justification they have for carrying out such wicked atrocities?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, on the question about the EU website, it is because we agree with so much of what our colleagues elsewhere in the European Union are saying that we supported the General Assembly resolution to which I referred in my initial Answer. My noble friend will also be interested to know that, with our support, on 24 November the European Union called on the Iranian authorities to express concern at the increasing number of arrests and incidence of harassment of journalists and non-governmental organisations activists, as well as the Christian and Bahá'- communities.
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However, my noble friend is especially exercised by the question of the execution of juveniles. I myself have raised some of these cases with the Iranian authorities. The deeply disturbing case of the young girl of 16 who was executed in public is an appalling example of the dispatch of a child in horrendous circumstances. I have also raised the case of a 13 year-old allegedly sentenced to death by stoning for incest. We have been told that she will not be executed and that she and her brother have been transferred to welfare organisations. So I am aware of those abuses of human rights and I and my colleagues raise them with the Iranian authorities.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there will be a lot of sympathy with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, about those revolting practices? Does she recall that, on Monday, I asked her whether the Iranian undertaking to suspend uranium enrichment, which was part of the deal under the diplomatic agreement with the EU foreign ministers, had any time limit? She replied that the aim was to provide long-term objectives. Since then, we have heard from Tehran that in fact the agreement is purely temporary. That does not sound very long term at all. Can she explain the discrepancy? What is the right story here?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, first, I hope that I made clear that I not only have sympathy with but support the points raised by my noble friend about the particular practices that he adduced to your Lordships.

On the agreement that we have reached, which the noble Lord said is claimed to be a temporary arrangement by the Iranians, if he reads the terms of the agreement, he will see that it mentions sustaining the suspension of those activities. The agreement that we reached on Monday through the International Atomic Energy Agency involves the suspension of the activities that have given cause for concern while negotiations on a long-term agreement are under way. The negotiations on that long-term agreement will begin within the next few weeks—I think that the timescale is the first couple of weeks of December—and it is that long-term agreement that will provide the objective guarantees. Monday's agreement will stay in place until the long-term agreement can be put in place through negotiation.

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