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6 Feb 2008 : Column WA177



6 Feb 2008 : Column WA177

Written Answers

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Afghanistan: Human Rights

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Government were concerned to hear about the case of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh. We are opposed to the death penalty. We fully support the right to freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial. We are pursuing the matter in Afghanistan through the EU and UN. The office of the UN Special Representative in Afghanistan has already been called publicly for a review of the case.

Malalai Joya was suspended by her peers in Parliament in May 2007 after a media interview in which she said that the Afghan Parliament was worse than a “stable or zoo”. She was suspended under Parliament's Rules of Procedure. Ms Joya has the right to challenge the decision, but has not yet chosen to do so. The Government, together with EU partners, regularly raise the importance of freedom of expression in Afghanistan and look forward to Ms Joya and Parliament resolving this internal parliamentary issue.

Africa: Leadership Course

Lord Luce asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The British Council's “Inter Action” programme seeks to develop a powerful network of like-minded leaders, supporting inter-cultural dialogue, across a wide range of countries, and provide these individuals with new skills to defuse conflict within communities and among factions.

Since 2004, 1,200 emerging leaders from 19 African countries have completed the “Inter Action” course, with a further 1,800 people having participated in the programme through associated events and conferences.

Agriculture: Foot and Mouth Disease

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Two farmers who had livestock culled during the foot and mouth outbreak in 2007 also had meat in cold store on their premises. This meat was destroyed. Compensation is not payable for consequential losses, but Defra met the costs of collection and disposal in these instances.

Animal Welfare: Squirrels

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The red squirrel reserves in northern England were chosen as being the sites most likely to sustain populations of red squirrel, through a combination of factors including favourable habit, defendable location, management potential and supportive landowners.

The buffer zones are the surrounding area of land, typically the 5 kilometres from the edge of the reserve that grey squirrel control habitat management is being targeted in order to protect the reserve areas from grey squirrel incursion. This land varies between reserves from open moorland, thorough mixed woodland and farmland to urban areas.

Work is currently under way to re-map the buffer zones in order to take greater account of land use and topography, which will help direct future habitat management and grey squirrel control efforts.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: A three-year PhD study of the epidemiology and transmission of the disease in grey squirrel started in June 2007 at the Moredun Institute funded by the Scottish Executive. The Wildlife Ark Trust has also raised funding for the first stage of a programme to develop a squirrel pox vaccine for the red squirrel.

Armed Forces: Gulf War Veterans

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave today to the noble Lord, Lord Addington.

The War Pension Scheme is an individual case jurisdiction scheme and, therefore, the rules of the scheme are applied to the particular evidence and facts of a case. After investigation, it is clear that the mistake made when reviewing Mr Walker's assessment relates solely to the particular circumstances of his case and has no bearing on other cases. There are no plans, therefore, to undertake a review of other Gulf War cases.

Armed Forces: War Pensions

Lord Addington asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The War Pensions Scheme provides no-fault compensation for ex-service personnel disabled as a result of service before 6 April 2005. Awards are based on the percentage degree of disablement due to service, which is assessed by comparing the condition of the claimant with a normal healthy person of the same age and sex. In cases where the evidence shows that an individual's degree of disablement due to service has changed since the last assessment was made, the assessment may be revised on review and the pension rate changed as appropriate.

The Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (formed 1 April 2007), which is responsible for making this decision, strives to ensure that all decisions made are in accordance with the rules of the scheme and in accordance with the evidence. It is with regret that not all the correct procedures were followed in this case. In light of that error, any case where a reduction in war pension assessment is proposed is now subject to a further check to confirm that the new decision is appropriately supported by the rules and in line with the evidence before the reduction is implemented.

Aviation: Overbooking

Lord Luce asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government have not given any specific advice to airlines concerning overbooked flights. Airlines should be aware of their obligations under Article 4 (1) of Regulation (EC) 261/2004. These are to agree conditions and benefits with passengers who volunteer to surrender their reservations. Additionally, under the regulation, passengers are offered the choice between reimbursement, within seven days, of the full cost of the ticket or re-routing.

Aviation: Passengers Denied Boarding

Lord Luce asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government do not hold this information as airlines are not required to report cases of denied boarding. However, the Air Transport Users Council (AUC) recorded 536 complaints in 2006-07 about denied boarding. Some of these would have been about foreign airlines. These form 5 per cent of the total number of complaints handled by the AUC. The percentage of passengers who complain out of the total number who are denied boarding is not known.

Lord Luce asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Regulation (EC) 261/2004 does also apply to downgraded passengers on British airlines. However, the Government do not receive information on how many passengers have been downgraded over the year. The Air Transport Users Council has statistics for the number of complaints made about denied boarding, but there is no separate category for downgrading.

The compensation rights are quoted in Article 10 (2) of the regulation: the air carrier will reimburse the passenger, within seven days, with a percentage of the price of the ticket, according to the distance travelled. This being:

(a) 30 percent of the price of the ticket for all flights of 1,500 kilometres or less; (b) 50 percent of the price for all intra-Community flights of more than 1,500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres; (c) 75 percent of the price for all flights not falling under (a) or (b).

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Benefits: Incapacity Benefit

Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The department uses the World Health Organisation's international statistical classification of diseases and related health problems to administer incapacity benefits.

The latest version of this list has been placed in the Library.

Cameroon

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We are in discussions with our international partners, including the Commonwealth Secretariat, about governance and democracy in Cameroon, including the question of possible amendments to the constitution. While this is a matter for Cameroonians to decide, the UK has stressed to the Government of Cameroon the importance we attach to a full, free and fair debate about altering the constitution. Opponents to the abolition of presidential term limits should be free to express their views and have the right to free assembly.

Our High Commission in Yaoundé makes regular representations to the Government of Cameroon about maintaining freedom of expression, including lobbying against the imposition of any kind of restriction of press freedom.

Children: Asylum Seekers

Baroness Thomas of Winchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): Children of asylum seekers are already included in the child poverty statistics unless they live in households that have been resident in the UK for less than six months or live in communal addresses such as hostels, hotels and boarding houses.



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Conservation: Old Street Magistrates' Court

Lord Howarth of Newport asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Old Street Magistrates' Court is not a holding on the estate of Her Majesty's Courts Service (an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice). Up until 1 April 2005 magistrates' courts were the responsibility of locally managed magistrates' courts committees. In June 2004, the Greater London Magistrates' Courts Authority agreed a surrender of their leasehold interest in Old Street Magistrates' Court back to the freehold owners of the site (the Metropolitan Police Authority), who paid the GLMCA a capital payment in consideration of the lease surrender and disposal of their equity interest.

Crime: Honour Killings and Coercion

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): It is generally for the independent Sentencing Guidelines Council to produce guidelines for the courts on sentencing. It has published a guideline on Overarching Principles: Domestic Violence, which is available at the following link: www.sentencinguidelines.gov.uk/guidelines/council/final.html. The council has also recently consulted on draft guidelines on “Assaults and other offences against the person” and a definitive guideline will be published soon. Where a defendant is convicted of murder, the mandatory sentence is life and the statutory principles which the court must follow in deciding the minimum term to be served before release may be considered by the Parole Board are set out in Section 269 of and Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Crime: Northern Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Where a defendant in a criminal case does not surrender to his bail the court will issue an arrest warrant or a bench warrant requiring the police to bring him to court.

Information on the number of arrest and bench warrants issued and executed in Northern Ireland was not centrally collated prior to the introduction of a new IT system in October 2006. Consequently, it is not possible to provide the requested information for the years prior to 2007 without incurring disproportionate cost.


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