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Bahrain: Refugees

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The content of discussions between Governments are confidential. Government officials are prohibited by law from discussing the details of any individual asylum case.

Bangladesh: Chittagong Hill

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Crawley: The UK Government are aware of the food shortage occurring in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh and in north-eastern India, receiving reports on the CHT crisis from both the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UNDP will be conducting a needs assessment mission in the CHT, and the European Community for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) is doing so in Mizoram, north-eastern India. These assessments will provide the UK Government, as well as donor partners, a basis to consider the scale of the problem and the needs identified. We will then be able to evaluate how best the international community can respond to this crisis, in consultation with both the Governments of Bangladesh and India. Under an agreement with the Government of India, UN agencies and other donors cannot respond to a humanitarian emergency unless formally requested to do so by the Union Government.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Financial Assistance

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Baroness Crawley: The decision by the United States Agency for International Development has no implications for British development aid in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

British Coal Compensation

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government appointed the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner (LSCC) in 2004 as an independent regulator of the Law Society's complaints handling function. Therefore, the Government do not become involved in discussions on the plan for complaints handling. However, the Government are pleased to note that following a request from the LSCC, the Law Society's 2008-09 plan includes a target related to the handling of miners' cases. It remains the Government's view that the Law Society and LSCC should work together effectively to deliver continued and sustainable improvements for consumers.

Both the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform will continue to work with the LCS, the LSCC, the Legal Services Ombudsman (LSO), coalfield MPs and other bodies to ensure that all claimants under the coal health scheme understand their rights to redress through the LCS where deductions have been made wrongfully from their compensation awards.

The Government have legislated in the Legal Services Act 2007 to create an independent Office for Legal Complaints, which will remove complaints handling from the legal professional bodies.

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Reports by the ombudsman on individual cases are confidential to the parties concerned. It would not be appropriate for the Government to have knowledge of or to comment on individual cases.

The legal profession is independent and as such complaints about solicitors are a matter for the Law Society. However, the Government take a close interest in this issue and seek regular updates from the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to ensure that progress is being made.

The Law Society tells us that in respect of the coal health compensation scheme, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has authorised investigations into 60 firms of solicitors; 20 firms have been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and the SRA has won the first three disciplinary cases heard there. To date, solicitors have refunded more than £3.6 million to miners. This figure is expected to rise as more investigations are completed.

It is also our understanding that the Legal Complaints Service has received 3,383 complaints to date, of which 2,538 have been closed. Of the 2,538 closed matters, 162 were upheld and 1,139 were conciliated. The remainder were closed due to reasons such as the customer resolving the matter with the solicitor without LCS assistance, the complaint being outside the LCS jurisdiction; i.e. the complaint was against a union, or the customer not responding.

The Government have legislated in the Legal Services Act 2007 to create an independent Office for Legal Complaints, which will remove complaints handling from the legal professional bodies.

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Government are pleased to note the improvements that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) have made in dealing with complaints. However, they recognise that still more can be done. The Government are pleased to note that, following a request from the LSCC, the Law Society's 2008-09 plan includes a target related to the handling of miners' cases.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has authorised investigations into 60 firms of solicitors; 20 firms have been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and the SRA has won the first three disciplinary cases heard there. To date, solicitors have refunded over £3.6 million to miners. This figure is expected to rise as more investigations are completed.

It is also our understanding that the Legal Complaints Service has received 3,383 complaints to date, of which

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2,538 have been closed. Of the 2,538 closed matters, 162 were upheld and 1,139 were conciliated. The remainder were closed due to reasons such as the customer resolving the matter with the solicitor without LCS assistance, the complaint being outside the LCS jurisdiction—that is, the complaint was against a union—or the customer not responding.

Both the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform will continue to work with the LCS, the LSCC, the Legal Services Ombudsman (LSO), coalfield MPs and other bodies to ensure that all claimants under the coal health scheme understand their rights to redress through the LCS where deductions have been made wrongfully from their compensation awards.

In January 2008 Bridget Prentice and Malcolm Wicks met representatives of the LCS and SRA, Kevin Barron MP and Lord Lofthouse to discuss the outcomes and way forward from the Rother Valley initiative.

The Government plan to provide details of claimants under the Coal Health Compensation Scheme to enable the Law Society further to raise awareness among retired miners following the success of the Rother Valley pilot. This will be on a phased basis over the next 12 months.

In January 2008 Bridget Prentice and Malcolm Wicks met representatives of the LCS and SRA, Kevin Barron MP and Lord Lofthouse, to discuss the outcomes and way forward from the Rother Valley initiative.

The Government plan to provide details of claimants under the Coal Health Compensation Scheme to enable the Law Society further to raise awareness among retired miners following the success of the Rother Valley pilot. This will be on a phased basis over the next 12 months.

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Reports by the ombudsman on individual cases are confidential to the parties concerned. It would not be appropriate for the Government to have knowledge of or to comment on individual cases.

The legal profession is independent and as such complaints about solicitors are a matter for the Law Society rather than the Government. However, the Government believe it is important that miners who complain to the Law Society under the coal health

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compensation schemes get the level of service and compensation they deserve.

It is our understanding that the Legal Complaints Service has received 3,383 complaints to date, of which 2,538 have been closed. This has resulted in excess of £700,000 being recovered for former miners or their relatives. The Government are also pleased to note that, following a request from the LSCC, the Law Society's 2008-09 plan includes a target related to the handling of miners' cases.

Both the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform will continue to work with the LCS, the LSCC, the Legal Services Ombudsman (LSO), coalfield MPs and other bodies, to ensure that all claimants under the coal health scheme understand their rights to redress through the LCS where deductions have been made wrongfully from their compensation awards.

The Government have legislated in the Legal Services Act 2007 to create an independent Office for Legal Complaints, which will remove complaints handling from the legal professional bodies.

British Overseas Territories

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): It is the long-standing practice for my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph on behalf of all the Overseas Territories at the Remembrance Day service. There are no plans at present to change that arrangement.

Cameroon: Constitution

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): A Commonwealth delegation visited Cameroon in late February 2008 to discuss issues relating to democratic reform. It was able to raise a number of issues with the Government of Cameroon at senior level, including the wider question of electoral reform.

The Government supported a European Union public statement on 27 March 2008, which noted that any changes to the constitution must be decided by the people and institutions of Cameroon, but emphasised the importance of a broad, free and open debate, involving all elements of Cameroonian society, on the

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proposals for constitutional revision. The statement also said “...the European Union remains convinced that the possibility of a changeover of power, the freedom of the press and the guaranteeing of public freedoms are fundamental to the consolidation of democracy, and draws attention to the urgent need to improve the electoral system and the standard of voter turnout, these being guarantors of the stability that the country needs”.

Care Services

Lord Bradley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): We have been informed by the Commission for Social Care Inspection that it can provide information about the performance of care homes for older people in the Manchester council area against standard 28 of the national minimum standards (NMS) for care homes for older people.

Standard 28 requires a minimum ratio of 50 per cent trained members of care staff to National Vocational Qualification level 2 or equivalent, excluding the registered manager and/or care manager and, in care homes providing nursing, excluding those members of the care staff who are registered nurses.

During the year ending 31 March 2007, of the homes inspected against standard 28 which were still active on 31 March 2007, 73 out of 77 homes met or exceeded the standard.

Comparable information is not available for homes inspected against the NMS for care homes for younger adults.

Colombia: Human Rights

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

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We do not divulge details of the support that we provide to the Colombian Government because to do so could not only endanger the effectiveness of the support but play into the hands of ruthless and powerful drugs-trafficking cartels. The Parliamentary Ombudsman has upheld this decision.

Our work with the Colombian Government, including with the Ministry of Defence, is specifically aimed at countering the threat of cocaine to the UK and at

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helping to improve the human rights situation, including through demining work. We do not offer the Colombian Government training in counterinsurgency operations.

We fully endorse and support the recommendations of the United Nations special rapporteur on actions regarding human rights defenders and we closely supervise the use of British resources in an effort to ensure that the highest operational, ethical and human rights standards are maintained by the people whom we are working with.


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