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Housing: Home Information Packs

Baroness Scott of Needham Market asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): I refer the noble Baroness to the Written Ministerial Statement entitled “Home Information Packs” on 22 November (Official Report, cols. 140-42WS).

Identity Management

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: Sir James Crosby was appointed to establish and chair the Public-Private Forum on Identity Management in July 2006 with a remit to produce a preliminary report to Ministers by Easter 2007. In March 2007 he discussed his preliminary conclusions with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and was invited to work on with the forum to produce a fuller report later in the year. The report is now being finalised. It is expected to be delivered to Ministers later this year, as agreed with Sir James. No date has been fixed for publication, which may be later this year or next year.

Immigration: Detention and Removal Centres

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): We have an ongoing improvement and replacement programme for immigration removal centres. No immediate closures are planned.

However, we announced in July that two of the four accommodation wings at Harmondsworth are being rebuilt. We are also building a new centre at Gatwick.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord West of Spithead: We have noted the committee's comments following its visits to three immigration removal centres and await its official report with interest.

The detention of families with children is an emotive issue but it is a necessary measure in those circumstances where those concerned, who have no legal basis of stay in the UK, refuse to leave the country voluntarily.

The routine use of prison accommodation to hold immigration detainees ended in January 2002. Immigration detainees, including those who have been convicted for criminal offences, are therefore held in prison establishments only when they present specific risk factors that indicate they are unsuitable for immigration removal centres. Former foreign national prisoners are transferred to the immigration detention estate and allocated to a particular removal centre only following risk assessment.

Immigration Act powers of detention are not time-limited. However, domestic and ECHR case law provides that detention must last for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which it was authorised and must not be of excessive duration. Our detention policies and procedures comply with that principle. Where detention is prolonged it is often as a consequence of attempts to frustrate the removal process.

Iraq: Violence Against Women

Baroness Northover asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We have no information to suggest that the number of attacks on women in Basra has increased over the last few months.



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Basra’s provincial director of police, General Jalil, is raising public awareness of violence against women in the local media. He has also raised the problem with the Ministry of Interior and is attempting to pursue serious investigations into these crimes, including with the support of British police advisers based in Basra.

We condemn all intimidation of and violence against women. We welcome the pledge made by General Jalil to,

Criminal violence, including murder, is an issue which General Jalil and his police force commanders are tackling. The UK military and civilian policing advisers are supporting those forces, both army and police, as they continue to grow in confidence and ability.

Israel and Palestine: West Bank

Baroness Northover asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): UN staff have informed our consulate-general in Jerusalem that they have experienced increased demands for the searches of their vehicles as well as requirements that they obtain permits to enter the seam zone areas (area of land in the West Bank located east of the 1967 borders and west of the barrier). These requirements are creating major operational difficulties for the UN Relief and Works Agency, leading to delays, higher costs and reduced outreach, ultimately limiting its ability to meet the needs of vulnerable Palestinians. Other international agencies, such as the World Food Programme, have been affected by these restrictions.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary raised our concerns about movement and access on his recent visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories on 17 and 19 November.

Lifeboats

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The design and operation of ships’ lifeboat release mechanisms are not standardised and there are at present over 70 different designs made by over 25 different manufacturers. The operation of the release mechanism can also vary between different designs both in operation and visual indication of the status of the hook.



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To address this situation the United Kingdom is working at the International Maritime Organisation to amend the design criteria to mandate that all new on-load systems have standard functionality so that operating controls are the same. The United Kingdom has also recommended that there is a visual sign to clearly show when both hooks are either disengaged or engaged and reset with a standardised colour code.

Maritime Safety

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: International regulations (in the International Maritime Organisation's International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974, as amended) require that ships shall be designed, constructed and maintained in compliance with the structural requirements of a classification society. Any ice strengthening of ships' hulls for operation in ice-covered polar waters is decided by the ship owner in consultation with the classification society. The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) will be publishing early in 2008 an updated set of requirements that its members will be applying in order for a ship to be assigned one of seven ice classes, depending on the severity of the conditions expected to be encountered. The insurers of the vessel will take into account, in their assessment of a ship, any ice class that is assigned by a classification society to a ship that intends operating in such waters.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The UK Government are actively participating both in the ongoing work at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM) and in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to review the safety and environmental protection standards applicable to ships operating in ice-covered Antarctic waters.

The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting has not yet adopted any such guidelines, but has agreed comments and recommendations as to how the existing IMO guidelines for ships in operating in ice-covered Arctic waters could be used as a basis for ships operating in ice-covered Antarctic waters. The

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IMO will consider this issue further at a meeting of one of its technical sub-committees in March 2008. The UK Government are keen to see this work at the IMO finalised as a priority.

The “Explorer” was registered not in the UK but in Liberia. It is not known if the vessel was complying with the existing IMO recommendations for ships operating in ice-covered Arctic waters. However, international regulations (in the International Maritime Organisation's International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974, as amended) require that casualty investigations are undertaken by the maritime administration of the country where the ship is registered and the pertinent findings of such investigations are submitted to the IMO.

Northern Rock

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: Drawings by Northern Rock appear as an asset on the Bank of England's weekly Bank Return under “other assets”. However, this line also includes transactions with the UK Government, foreign central banks and international financial institutions, and as such any movements in “other assets” are not due solely to Northern Rock. The Bank of England does not disclose any breakdown of the components of other assets.

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The loan from the Bank of England to Northern Rock is shown as an asset of the Bank in the National Accounts.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave to Earl Atlee on 3 December (Official Report, col. WA169).

Olympic Games 2012: Transport

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The security programme for the London 2012 Olympic Games is currently being developed with the involvement of key stakeholders including the British Transport Police. Decisions about funding, including that of the BTP, will be made as part of this process.

Parliament: Number of Members

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Government have carried out no such assessment. The relationship between the EU and the UK is governed by the EU treaties. Member states agree any changes to the treaties and the implementation of such changes has always been subject to approval by Parliament.

Prisoners: Education

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Lord Triesman): The Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Holloway has submitted a response to the Learning and Skills Council’s consultation on its document Developing the Offenders' Learning and Skills Service: The Prospectus.

The prospectus consultation response will be published in due course, and a copy will be placed in the Library of the House.

Public Transport: Overcrowding

Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government are tackling crowding on public transport through a combination of investment in additional capacity and improved use of existing capacity.



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The carrying capacity of buses operated as public service vehicles is specifically controlled by the Public Service Vehicles (Carrying Capacity) Regulations 1984, and these are enforced by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency.

In relation to rail transport, we look to the Office of Rail Regulation to enforce applicable health and safety legislation.

Railways: Channel Tunnel

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: We believe the best way of delivering continuing value for money from High Speed 1 is through an open, transparent, competitive process.

This was explained by the then Secretary of State for Transport when he informed Parliament in a Written Ministerial Statement of 30 March 2006 (Official Report, col. 111WS), and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (the honourable Member for Glasgow South), during the Second Reading of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Bill on 20 November 2007.

The Government will not speculate on valuation or who might choose to bid. However, they expect that process to maximise and deliver significant receipts, benefiting the public interest and United Kingdom taxpayers.


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