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Police: Northern Ireland

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Rooker): Under the terms of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, the Secretary of State's only obligation when appointing members of the Policing Board during suspension of the Assembly is to ensure that the board, as a whole, is representative of the community in Northern Ireland. Therefore he is not required to use the results of the Assembly elections or apply d'Hondt to the allocation of seats to political members.

Political Parties: Funding

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

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 establishes detailed legal regimes for donations and loans.

Part IV of and Schedule 6 to that Act establish the rules for the reporting of gifts, which fall under the category of donations. The regime includes the following measures. All donations above £5,000 (cash or otherwise) must be reported to the Electoral Commission on a quarterly basis (or weekly, in the run-up to a general election). The Act also contains restrictions on the sources of donations so as to prohibit foreign or anonymous donations to political parties. All individual donors must be on the electoral register in the UK. In addition, Part IX of and Schedule 19 to PPERA introduced a requirement that
 
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shareholder consent must be obtained before a company makes a donation to a political party or incurs political expenditure. It also requires the disclosure of political expenditure in directors' annual reports to shareholders.

Part III of the Act requires political parties to maintain accounting records. The making of loans to a political party must be included in the accounting records.

An annual statement of accounts is required to be provided to the Electoral Commission, which makes it available for public inspection. Political parties are not required to identify the makers of loans in their statements of accounts.

A loan will be treated as a donation only if there is a gratuitous element to it. The definition of donation in Section 50(2)(e) of the Act includes,

This is to be assessed by having regard to

(Section 50(4)). Accordingly, the more detailed provisions applicable to donations will not apply generally to loans.

Population

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Bach): The Government have undertaken no assessment of the maximum population which the United Kingdom can sustain.

Railways: Accidents

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The British Transport Police (BTP), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) and the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) undertook initial investigations into both incidents. Until an initial investigation has been concluded, it is not possible to determine which bodies need to be involved in more detailed investigations.
 
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Railways: Franchises

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The operation and staffing of trains is a matter for train operators.

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: A franchisee wishing to operate more trains than the minimum required under the franchise agreement, and willing to do so without additional subsidy, will normally be at liberty to do so provided sufficient capacity is available.

Regulation: Small Businesses

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: All departments will publish simplification plans later this year following approval by the Prime Minister's Panel for Regulatory Accountability. Plans will be subject to independent scrutiny by the Better Regulation Commission and updated by departments at least annually.

In advance of approval, draft plans have been published by the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Health, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Health and Safety Executive and the Food Standards Agency.

Royal Navy: Sonar

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Bach): This Government are taking action to explore the potential impact of undersea noise on the marine environment, particularly marine mammals.
 
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For example, Defra commissioned research from the Zoological Society of London in 2004 to look at the feasibility of examining the ears of stranded dead cetaceans to see if they show any signs of damage from marine noise. The results of this research are due to be reported to my department in May 2006.

The results from this project will advance the objectives of ASCOBANS (Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas). It will also make a valuable contribution towards the UK's cetacean biodiversity action plans, which call for studies into the effects of underwater sounds on cetacean species.

In addition, the Department for Trade and Industry is currently funding two projects, which are being carried out by Subacoustech Limited. The first of these is estimating, measuring and controlling the environmental effects of man-made noise on the marine environment. The second project is a feasibility and demonstration study based on active and passive detection of marine mammals.

Somalia: Pirates

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The UK is not seeking a United Nations Security Council resolution. The president of the United Nations Security Council issued a statement on Somalia on 15 March 2006 (S/PRST/2006/1 1). This includes the following reference to piracy:

The full text of the statement can be found on the UN website at www.daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N06/272/81/PDF/N0627281.pdf?OpenElement.

The UK is a member of CTF-150, a coalition naval task force whose area of operations includes the waters off the coast of Somalia. CTF-150 vessels operate regular naval patrols in the area, which act as a deterrent to illegal activities. Under international law, these activities are restricted to international waters.
 
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In 2006, there have been two incidents of CTF-150 vessels intercepting and capturing pirates off the coast of Somalia.


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