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Children: Disappearances Abroad

Lord Eames asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We are confident that the level of co-operation between the Portuguese and UK police authorities is satisfactory, and we have been assured by the Portuguese authorities that they are doing everything possible to find Madeleine and return her safely to her family. The UK is lending support to the Portuguese investigation, at their request. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has the overarching national co-ordinating role for the UK contribution, and several UK agencies are lending support.

Climate Change

Lord Leach of Fairford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): The writers of the guidance to teachers which accompanied the climate change pack were chosen on the basis of their knowledge, expertise and experience to write material to support the teaching of geography, science and citizenship in schools. We do not believe that any of those consulted on the guidance are sceptical of the strong scientific consensus that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause of the climate change observed since the start of the industrial era. However, all those who contributed to the guidance are aware that a small minority of scientists do not share this consensus view, and this is appropriately reflected in the teacher guidance accompanying the pack.

Commission for Rural Communities

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

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) was established on 1 October 2006 under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 as a new non-departmental public body to provide evidence-based, impartial advice on rural issues, both to government and across the wider public sector. It also provides an independent voice for people in rural England and is tasked with ensuring that the development and implementation of government policies take account of the particular characteristics of rural areas. The Act requires the CRC to have a particular regard for

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persons suffering social disadvantage and rural areas experiencing underperformance.

The CRC has already presented evidence to and engaged with the Government on a range of issues, including the review of the rural post office network, affordable rural housing and the impact of migrant workers in rural areas. Its annual rural-proofing report is part of its “watchdog” role and helps ensure that policies across government take account of rural needs. It is also increasingly engaged in dialogue with local government and other agencies with responsibility for economic and social regeneration. The Government will continue to pay close attention to the advice and recommendations they receive from the CRC.

Common Agricultural Policy

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): Malnutrition remains a formidable development challenge, with an estimated 824 million people in the developing world affected by chronic hunger in 2003. Every day 25,000 people die of hunger, and over half of the 10 million child deaths that occur each year are of children who are underweight in childbirth.

DfID supports global and national assessment processes such as those conducted by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); it does not try to replicate them.

We are not aware of any work that has been conducted to determine whether any of the deaths caused by malnutrition and related causes can be directly attributed to the European Union common agricultural policy (CAP). CAP subsidies have led to overproduction of agricultural commodities, and these have distorted developing country markets. This is one of the reasons that the UK Government are a strong supporter of CAP reform. We want to see significant reductions in trade-distorting subsidies for agricultural products, which would enable developing countries to compete more effectively on international markets and to capture the gains from trade that could help to reduce poverty and malnourishment.

Crime: Business

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Since 2004 the Home Office has provided more than £1 million funding to the Action Against Business Crime Group (AABC) to set up 120 new business crime reduction partnerships in towns and cities across England and Wales. It has also, in partnership with stakeholders, produced a booklet to enable businesses to undertake a crime prevention survey of their premises. More than 125,000 copies of the booklet have so far been printed and distributed. Top-tips postcards have also been produced, giving more general advice to retailers and other businesses on how to reduce the risk of being a victim of crime.

A new strand of the forthcoming crime reduction strategy will include a renewed focus on working with business to see what more can be done to tackle crime problems. Measures will be taken to raise the profile of business crime among crime and disorder reduction partnerships (CDRPs) by highlighting the need to tackle it in the public service agreement delivery plan. The Home Office will also seek to raise the profile of crime against businesses, to ensure that CDRPs consult and engage with the business community as part of their wider community consultation to identify local priorities.

It will be a key part of the Home Office's new business crime strategy to encourage business to work closely in partnership with the police and local authorities through CDRPs to inform local crime reduction strategies. Where a partnership has a significant business crime problem, it would be expected to ensure that an appropriate target for this is included in the local area agreement. The Home Office will support this by improving the quality of information available on business crime, through regular criminal victimisation surveys and better crime recording categories.

Neighbourhood policing has been introduced across England and Wales to deal with low-level crime and anti-social behaviour, and in some communities this will include, for example, police community support officers working in partnership with local businesses.

Embryology

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The terms nucleus, pronucleus and genetic structure are not defined in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. With respect to nucleus and pronucleus, the appeals committee that considered the application that resulted in awarding licence R0153 was satisfied that the pronucleus is not the same as the nucleus. Having reached agreement on this distinction, the committee considered that the prohibition contained in Section 3(3)(d) of the Act did not extend to the proposed research involving the pronuclei.

The draft Human Tissues and Embryo Bill defines “nucleus” as follows:

Genetic structure is not defined in the 1990 Act and is not mentioned in the draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill. When considering this, the appeals committee took “genetic structure” to have a narrow meaning centring on the expression of nuclear genes that result in heritable characteristics. Following on from that, altering the genetic structure would involve alteration to the genes or the genome and the resulting heritable characteristics.

No Members of Parliament were involved in reaching this decision.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Schedule 2 to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 sets out the activities for which licences may be granted. Licences for the purpose of a project of research involving human embryos cannot authorise any activity unless it appears to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to be necessary or desirable for one or more of the purposes specified. Furthermore, the law makes clear that no licence shall be granted unless the authority is satisfied that any proposed use of embryos is necessary for the purposes of the particular research project.



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Research into implantation per se does not exclusively require human embryos, therefore embryos from other species can be, and are, used for research. When reaching decisions about licensing research applications, the HFEA considers whether or not the use of human embryos is necessary or whether it could be achieved using other material, for example animal embryos.

In addition, as part of the peer review process undertaken by the HFEA, members of the scientific community are asked to consider licence applications and comment on the applications. Part of that consideration will include consideration of other studies that would demonstrate the feasibility of any proposed research.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Prior to the publication of the draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, a consultation on the review of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was carried out. Responses were received from a broad range of stakeholders including scientists. In addition, the parliamentary scrutiny committee currently considering the draft Bill will be taking evidence from different groups, including members of the scientific community. The Government have no plans to specifically invite the groups mentioned to present their findings prior to the publication of the Bill.

The Government continue to support all forms of stem cell research and do not make arbitrary distinctions about the best source of stem cells. Through more than 20 years of parliamentary and public debate, we have legislative regulation which is internationally recognised as supportive, flexible and facilitating. Research involving embryos in the United Kingdom is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. In order to receive a licence, the applicant must demonstrate that research is necessary or desirable for the purposes specified in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 as amended.



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Energy: Demand Reduction Trials

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Truscott): Final negotiations are taking place with several energy companies about the details of their proposals for inclusion in the energy demand research project (EDRP). An announcement on the full scope and nature of the EDRP will be made once these negotiations are complete.

Ofgem, which is managing the project on the DTI’s behalf, with advice from a steering group consisting of officials from the DTI, Defra and Ofgem, invited proposals last autumn from energy supply companies and others for participation in the EDRP. Proposals were invited to trial smart meters, associated feedback devices and better bills, together with energy-efficiency advice, as ways to influence consumers to use less energy.

Following a detailed evaluation of the proposals put forward and discussions with various bidders, Ofgem made recommendations to government about the proposals that should be funded. In each case, companies will fund at least 50 per cent of the costs of their trials themselves. The trials will take place over two years from this spring.

Energy: Renewables

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Truscott): The energy White Paper announced changes to the renewables obligation (RO) which are expected to deliver some 13.5 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2015. Electricity is only eligible under the RO if it has been generated and supplied in the UK. The balance is expected to come from non-RO eligible sources such as historical large hydro-electricity stations and conventional energy from waste schemes within the UK.

Imports of electricity are treated separately in government energy statistics and are not counted towards our renewables targets.



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Equality

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

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The code of practice to which the consultation document relates does not come into effect until 1 April 2008. By that date, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) will have been dissolved and the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) will have assumed the role of the EOC in the promotion and enforcement of gender equality.

The functions of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights which are regulatory within the meaning of the consultation document A Code of Practice for Regulators include its powers to provide information and advice under Section 13 of the Equality Act 2006; to issue codes of practice under Sections 14 and 15; to conduct inquiries under Section 16; and its enforcement powers under Sections 20 to 23 (investigations, unlawful act notices, action plans and agreements) and Sections 31 and 32 (public-sector duties: assessment and compliance notices). These functions include securing compliance with the law in some respects; for example, the power to issue unlawful act notices and compliance notices under Sections 21 and 32. They do not include giving assistance to litigants, because that constitutes a function of conducting civil proceedings, which is specifically excluded from the definition of a regulatory function for the purposes of the consultation document.


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