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Following the recent Budget, how much excise duty is imposed on (a) a pint of beer and (b) a pint of cider at the following alcoholic strengths: (1) 0.5 per cent, (2) 3 per cent, (3) 5 per cent and (4) 7 per cent. [HL2669]
|Amount of Excise Duty imposed on a pint of:|
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): Initially people on incapacity benefits will continue to be reassessed at appropriate intervals by the personal capability assessment. We plan to assess them under the new work capability assessment from April 2010, as and when customers are due to have their benefit entitlement reassessed. This means that over a three-year period, everyone on incapacity benefits will have been reassessed using the new test.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): We have no plans to change the current uprating arrangements of UK state pensions paid to recipients residing in overseas territories.
Whether the progress report on measures to improve compliance with part L of the building regulations, mentioned on page 21 of the 2007 energy efficiency action plan, is available to the public. [HL2581]
Whether and when they have made representations to China about minorities other than Tibetans who are the victims of discrimination and persecution in China, such as the Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang province. [HL2765]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We regularly raise our concerns with the Chinese Government about discrimination and persecution of minority groups in China, including the Uighur community in Xinjiang. Minority rights was a main theme at the most recent round of the UK-China human rights dialogue which took place in Beijing at the end of January, with a focus on the protection of religion and education. British officials also met local authorities in Xinjiang in April 2007.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We have been in regular contact with the Chinese authorities both in Beijing and London regarding events in Tibet and the surrounding region. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister spoke to Chinese Premier Wen on 19 March urging the Chinese Government to address the underlying issues in Tibet by re-engaging in dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to Chinese Foreign Minister Yang on 21 March, further emphasising the need for dialogue. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear he will pass on similar messages to the Dalai Lama when he visits the UK in May this year. We are encouraged that both sides have indicated that they are prepared to engage in dialogue.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Officials from across the breadth of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have responsibility for advising Ministers on issues relating to the Commonwealth and its member states. The International Organisations Department leads on issues relating to the Commonwealth as an international organisation. In the past year officials in the following directorates, in the UK and at posts overseas, have worked, and briefed Ministers, on Commonwealth matters: Africa Directorate; Americas Directorate; Asia-Pacific Directorate; Communications Directorate; Consular Directorate; Defence and Strategic Threats Directorate; EU Directorate; Finance Directorate; Global and Economic Issues Directorate; International Security Directorate; Migration Directorate; Overseas Territories Directorate; Protocol Directorate; South Asia and Afghanistan Directorate; and Policy Planning Staff and Research Analysts.
Lord Malloch-Brown: There is a Commonwealth co-ordination team within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's International Organisations Department. The team has three core officials, though these are supported by senior officials and a much larger number of staff working both across individual Commonwealth countries and thematic issues on the Commonwealth agenda. In the three months leading up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala, the team of core staff increased to seven.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Malloch-Brown on 12 March (WA 229), whether, in the light of President Christofias's comments in Brussels on 14 March that the European Commission should not advocate lifting trade and travel embargos against Turkish Cypriots and that he will not negotiate a settlement based on the United Nations plan, they will consider the application of international human rights standards to the people of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. [HL2601]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The UK strongly supports the EU's commitment of 2004 to end the isolation of
1 Apr 2008 : Column WA148
While efforts to ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community are important, ultimately this isolation will only be fully lifted in the context of a UN-brokered comprehensive settlement to reunite the island. A new opportunity has opened up to make decisive progress towards a comprehensive Cyprus settlement. It is important that energy is focused on capitalising on this opportunity and that obstacles are not placed in the way of any new negotiation.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Malloch-Brown on 12 March (WA 229), whether, given the current status of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the European Union, they will consider the economic situation of Turkish Cypriots with a view to seeking an equitable solution to the division of the island since 1974. [HL2602]
Lord Malloch-Brown: The fact that Turkish Cypriots are European citizens is just one of many reasons why the UK and the EU have sought to improve their economic well-being. This has been done by means of the aid regulation and by supporting their access to European markets on preferential terms. We want to put market forces at the service of a settlement, by integrating Turkish Cypriots into the economy of Europe, and promoting the economic integration of Cyprus. A recent conference held in Nicosia by the Peace Research Institute of Oslo found that each family in Cyprus would benefit by €5,500 per year (on average) if the island was reunified. This underlines the importance of all parties engaging with the efforts of the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement of benefit to all Cypriots.
Whether there will be a review of devolved government arrangements in Scotland; if so, what its terms of reference will be; and whether there will be a similar review of arrangements in Wales. [HL2655]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Advocate-General for Scotland gave details of the commission to review the Scotland Act in a Written
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How many diplomatic staff are in the British embassies in (a) Kazakhstan; (b) Tajikistan; (c) Uzbekistan; and (d) Turkmenistan; and what is the annual cost of each of those diplomatic missions. [HL2679]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The numbers of UK-appointed staff employed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at our missions in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and the annual running costs for these missions, excluding the salaries and allowances of UK-appointed staff, are set out in the table below.
|Country||Number of UK Civil Servants at Mission||Annual costs £|
Lord Malloch-Brown: We are not aware of any formal representations from British business for stronger representation in central Asia. UK Trade and Investment is represented in the region through a commercial section at our embassy in Astana and a trade office in Atyrau (both in Kazakhstan). Elsewhere in the region, our ambassadors are active in support of British business. In Turkmenistan, this has primarily been in the oil and gas sector; in Uzbekistan, our ambassador supports the activity of the Uzbek-British Trade and Investment Council and, in Tajikistan, our ambassador has lobbied on behalf of a UK company active in the country.
Our diplomatic representation in the region, and globally, is kept under regular review in order to ensure that the overseas network helps deliver the Government's international priorities, including in support of British business.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): In December 2007, in line with other departments, my department published a simplification plan. The plan summarises all the initiatives that the department is carrying out to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy in education. A copy of the plan can be found at the following website: www.dfes.gov.uk/reducingbureaucracy/.
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