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Gaza is an integral part of a future Palestinian state. We would welcome a ceasefire in Gaza and the resumption of control by the legitimate Palestinian security forces. Given the crucial importance of reopening the crossing points for humanitarian
7 Jan 2008 : Column WA169
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The quartet (US, UN, EU and Russia) will continue to play an important political role in supporting this process. An important aspect of the quartet's work is focused on efforts to lay the foundation for the establishment of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state. We are working closely with our international partners to support the US-led process that was initiated at Annapolis. All our efforts are behind this. As both sides have made clear, it is for them to work out a solution. But the international community has offered its support and encouragement and the UK stands ready to help them to move forward.
What is their assessment of the extent to which the post-Annapolis processes will help Israel to show an increased willingness to comply with United Nations resolutions past and present, and the United States to avoid future vetoes of such resolutions. [HL925]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We welcome the commitment shown by Israel, the Palestinians and the United States at Annapolis. On 30 November, the UN Security Council warmly welcomed Annapolis and encouraged the parties to pursue their obligations, and will be following developments carefully. This marks the start of a process. We have to work to ensure that the process leads to a comprehensive peace settlement. All our efforts are behind this. As both parties have made clear, it is for them to work out a solution.
We continue to call on the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to adhere to international law and respect all UN Security Council resolutions. We press for the implementation of all Security Council resolutions by all the parties, and we remain committed to their aims. We continue to support a peaceful negotiated, two-state solution in keeping with the road map and Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 1397, 1435 and 1515.
Whether there have been further Jewish settlements in the West Bank since the Middle East conference at Annapolis, Maryland; and, if so, whether they have made any representations to the Government of Israel regarding such settlements. [HL933]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We are concerned by the announcement on 4 December by the Israeli housing ministry about new housing tenders for the Har Homa settlement in east Jerusalem. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary raised our concerns about this new tender with the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on 7 December. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development also raised our concerns about this issue with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak during his recent visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories on 10 December. On 11 December, the EU presidency issued a declaration on behalf of the EU about the Har Homa settlement which urges Israel to honour the commitments under the Road Map and to avoid activities that could prejudge a final status agreement on Jerusalem or undermine progress towards this goal.
The UK continues to make clear that settlements are illegal under international law and settlement construction is an obstacle to peace. The road map makes clear that Israel should freeze all settlement construction, including the natural growth of existing settlements, and dismantle all outposts built since 2001.
Whether, in light of the acute shortage of prison places, they will review all the criminal offences created since 1997 carrying a prison sentence; and whether they will instruct all government departments to be mindful of the shortage when framing legislative proposals to create new imprisonable criminal offences. [HL973]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): It is the responsibility of the Government to have accommodation in prison for all those offenders sent there by the courts. However, the Government's view is that prison should be reserved for serious, dangerous and violent offenders; others are normally better punished in the community. My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice announced on 5 December a package of building and other measures designed to achieve a better balance between supply and demand. The Government do not consider that it would be helpful to review all offences created
7 Jan 2008 : Column WA171
Whether, in the last year, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has made representations to any section of Government concerning proposals for the use of Irish or Ulster-Scots languages; and, if so, to whom, when, and for what purpose. [HL782]
Lord Rooker: I can confirm that the chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission wrote to the Secretary of State on 15 October 2007 to set out the Commission's views on Irish language legislation.
Whether the chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has had face-to-face discussions with the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure concerning issues of language; and, if so, with whom, when and what was discussed. [HL808]
What assessment the Department for Communities and Local Government has made of the ability of small unitary authorities to commission specialist services and facilities, such as special schools and fostering and adoption services. [HL593]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Department for Communities and Local Government has not made any assessment of this issue.
However, the existing smallest unitary authorities (those with a population less than 120,000) are achieving good standards of service delivery for children's services and adult social care, and most have achieved a three or four-star rating overall in the comprehensive performance assessment for 2006.
What is the current position regarding the sale of the Ministry of Defence land and buildings in the vicinity of Chelsea barracks; whether the proceeds will be used to provide better accommodation for service personnel; and, if not, for what purpose the proceeds will be used. [HL668]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): On 5 April 2007, the Ministry of Defence exchanged contracts for the sale of the 5.2 hectares (12.8 acres) Chelsea Barracks site with Project Blue (Guernsey) Ltd. Completion is due on 31 January 2008. The Ministry of Defence is currently disposing of no other land or buildings within the vicinity of the site.
How many requests for mutual legal assistance were received from the United States in the latest year for which the statistics are available; and what were the average and maximum times taken to deal with them. [HL831]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Home Office has received 50 requests for mutual legal assistance from the US since 1 January 2007. Of these, 37 were new requests and 13 were supplementary to earlier requests.
Deal with has been taken to mean either referral by the Home Office to an executing authority or refusal to accede to a request. Of the 37 new requests received, 32 have been dealt with and five are pending.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Iran has seized a total of four Royal Navy boats in two
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Lord Rooker: The PSNI provides protection for those Ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive who qualify for armed police close protection. The provision of drivers for other Ministers is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive.
Lord Rooker: I have been advised by the PSNI and the Army that they do not oppose the removal of the security barrier across Abbey Street in Armagh City. Discussions between government departments to implement the removal of the barrier are ongoing.
Why they collect centrally the number of fixed-penalty tickets paid in respect of the offence of using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving, but not in respect of the offence of cycling on a footpath. [HL604]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Information is collected centrally only on those offences which involve a motor vehicle, including the offence of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
Whether temporary entry permits for those travelling to the United Kingdom are marked clearly in the holder's passport so that other European Union Governments are aware that permanent entry to the United Kingdom has not been granted.[HL1004]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Visas for the United Kingdom show the category of entry clearance applied for and validity. They do not indicate whether permanent entry to the United Kingdom has been granted.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Based on a sample of prisoners discharged in 2005, prisoners serving sentences of less than 12 months were on average held in two prison establishments; those serving sentences of 12 months to less than four years were on average held in four prison establishments; and those serving four years or more (including indeterminate sentences) were on average held in seven prison establishments.
Lord Rooker: The PSNI provides protection for those Ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive that qualify for armed police close protection. The provision of drivers for other Ministers is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive.
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