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Indonesia: Ahmadiyya Muslims

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We are aware that the Indonesian Government are currently considering a recommendation from a governmental advisory body that a ban should be imposed on Ahmadiyya. Anti-Ahmadiyya demonstrations have taken place in different parts of Indonesia, and several mosques have been damaged.

Our ambassador in Jakarta raised UK concerns about the possible ban with the Indonesian authorities on 28 April 2008. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials in London have also met with representatives from the UK Ahmadiyya Association to hear their concerns. At the UN Human Rights Council examination of Indonesia under the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva on 9 April, the UK raised concerns about the treatment of the Ahmadiyya community. We are also discussing the issue with our EU partners.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and look for opportunities to raise the issue of respect for religious freedom with the Indonesian authorities.

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Iraq and Iran: Territorial Waters

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): There is no naval blockade of Iraqi territorial waters. An exclusion zone has been established around two Iraqi oil platforms, situated in Iraq's territorial waters. Within these, the right of innocent passage is suspended. This has been formally promulgated by a notice to mariners. The Government of Iraq are negotiating with Kuwait and Iran to agree maritime boundaries.

Iraq: Sewage

Baroness Northover asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Crawley: We are unaware of any official reports having been made on the operability of Baghdad's sewage plants as a result of the Baghdad security plan. However, we are aware that a spokesman for the Government of Iraq has stated that, as at 3 February this year, none of the city's three sewage plants was operating at capacity. These problems were directly attributed to the neglect with which Saddam Hussein's regime treated the maintenance of Iraq's infrastructure.

The Joint Reconstruction Operation Centre, responsible for co-ordinating and synchronising reconstruction efforts in Baghdad, announced on 2 March that in the past year 80 per cent of the city's water distribution system and 60 per cent of the sewerage system had undergone reconstruction, as a result of co-operation between the Government of Iraq and coalition forces. Work is also continuing on extending the capacity of these systems. The US Army Corps of Engineers reports that a $2.3 million upgrade to sewer lines and water pumping stations in one of Baghdad's suburbs, which will help prevent health hazards to more than 115,000 area residents, is due to be completed in June, and that it is undertaking many other projects to improve Baghdad's infrastructure.

The UK Government are not currently involved in any work to improve Baghdad's sewage system. However, by May of this year the Department for International Development will have improved access to water for more than 1 million people in southern Iraq, by: undertaking infrastructure repair projects; providing training facilities for Iraqi engineers; and by providing technical advice for a major sewage installation in al-Amarah, replacing open sewage channels and providing up to half of the city's population with access to a piped sewage system.

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Israel and Palestine: Gaza

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Crawley: The Department for International Development (DfID) has been monitoring the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip closely. Assessments show that it is extremely serious and that there are significant risks to public health.

Due to fuel shortages, 60 million litres of raw and partially treated sewage flow into the Mediterranean each day and 90 per cent of mains water is polluted. Hospitals have between one and five days of fuel supply remaining. Electricity cuts and low supplies of fuel for generators mean that hospitals are at risk of being unable to keep essential equipment running such as refrigeration for vaccines.

Palestinian militants' actions are aggravating the humanitarian situation—we condemn these actions. This leads to more misery for the people of Gaza. The violence needs to stop and basic humanitarian supplies, including fuel, should be allowed in and properly distributed to those in need. We have urged the Government of Israel at all levels, to ensure that, in line with their own public commitments, their actions do not result in a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Israel and Palestine: Gaza Sewage

Baroness Tonge asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Crawley: Sewage systems in Gaza have been severely affected by the Israeli restrictions placed on fuel and electricity supplies as well as construction supplies such as cement. Due to fuel shortages, 60 million litres of raw and partially treated sewage flow into the Mediterranean each day. We continue to raise our concerns about access restrictions to Gaza with the Israeli Government, in public and in private.

Several donors and agencies are involved in efforts to construct sewage plants in Gaza. The office of the quartet headed by Mr Blair, the quartet representative, (who was appointed by the US, UN, EU and Russia), is working closely with the World Bank and the Government of Israel on ensuring that key construction supplies can enter Gaza for the North Gaza Sewage Plant and to facilitate stalled sewage projects in central Gaza.

The UK Government support the work of Mr Blair and have seconded four staff to his team. The Foreign Secretary regularly meets with Mr Blair to express our support for his work, most recently on 1 May before the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in London on 2 May.

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Israel and Palestine: Projects

Baroness Tonge asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Crawley: The UK Government remain in close contact with the European Commission and European Union members on support to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) and the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP). Most recently, we discussed these issues with the EU at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in London on 2 May. This brought together senior representatives from across the international community to discuss how to support the Palestinian Authority and its economy.

Improving the economic prospects of the Palestinian people is a high priority for our work in the region. The housing and tourism projects are being promoted by the quartet representative, Tony Blair, who is working with the parties to develop plans to promote Palestinian economic development. We are following the development of these projects closely and are in regular contact with Mr Blair and his team.

The UK Government urge both parties to comply with their road map commitments, including Israel's obligations on settlements and outposts.

Baroness Tonge asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Crawley: Through regular discussion with the Palestinian Authority we ensure that UK aid is closely linked with the priorities of the Palestinian Authority (PA). We have aligned our direct financial assistance behind the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP) to strengthen Palestinian institutions and to provide basic services. Once there is a negotiated two-state solution leading to a viable Palestinian state, the need for international aid should diminish. In the mean time, aid is playing a vital role.

The UK Government consider that Israeli settlement building anywhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal under international law. This includes settlements in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank. We continue to raise our concerns on continuing settlement activity with the Israeli Government at all levels.

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Law Commission

The Earl of Dundee asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Law Commission has a statutory duty to keep the whole of the law of England and Wales under review with a view to its systematic development and reform. This includes the repeal of obsolete and unnecessary legislation, including secondary legislation. However, the Commission must prioritise the allocation of its resources. It focuses its limited resources in this area of work on the repeal of obsolete primary legislation. This indirectly repeals obsolete secondary legislation because statutory instruments lapse when their enabling power is repealed.

It is good practice for each department to keep under review the existing body of secondary legislation for which that department is responsible.

Natural Environment Research Council

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) supports UK research involving joint working at national, European and international levels. The council already directly supports Europe-wide scientific collaboration, for example by participating in European Union (EU) Framework Programme schemes, and European Space Agency missions. This helps to ensure that the UK research and training community has a European outlook and European connections in most aspects of environmental science.

NERC's centres already work closely with European researchers, and NERC enables researchers it funds, including students, to spend time in European research organisations. In addition, some scientists from other EU countries receive NERC funding to carry out research projects in UK institutions. The international team at NERC's head office plays a key role in seeking and promoting collaborative opportunities, and NERC also supports the UK Research Office (UKRO) in Brussels.

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Palestine: Financial Assistance

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Crawley: The Department for International Development (DfID) has fully spent its budget of £41.6 million for the Palestinian people in 2007-08—as reported to Baroness Crawley on 14 March 2008. This includes £15.6 million provided to the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), £18.45 million through the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM), £3 million for private sector arrears, £2.55 million in capacity-building support to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), £1 million in support to the Palestinian Civil Police and £1 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

DfID provided an additional £32 million in March 2008, which increases DfID's total support to the Palestinian people in 2007-08 to £63.6 million. This includes £10 million to the TIM (included in the figures above), £20 million for the PNA's budget through the new World Bank trust fund and a further £2 million to the ICRC.

Passports: Interviews

Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) in partnership with local authorities is currently testing a secure, video-conference system to ensure it meets both customer and business requirement. The initial phase of customer experience testing was conducted at the beginning of the 2008 and was positively received with minor recommendations informing the final service design. Owing to the small volumes of customers eligible for the service and so as to generate significant volumes against which to verify the solution, testing is likely to continue until the end of July 2008. Thereafter, it is anticipated the Remote Communities Service will be rolled out to 26 video interview offices during the summer of 2008.

Consultations with local authorities and other government departments are ongoing in an effort to further improve the service through provision of additional office locations.

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Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): Midwives are asked to signpost Healthy Start to all clients and my department encourages NHS organisations to order posters and leaflets. Information is included in the pregnancy book, given by midwives to all first-time pregnant women, equivalent publications in the other UK countries, and government leaflets about benefits and tax credits. Application leaflets can be picked up locally, ordered by telephone or downloaded from the internet.

Questions for Written Answer: Guidance to Civil Servants

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

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government

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(Baroness Andrews):
Cabinet Office guidance for civil servants on drafting Answers to Parliamentary Questions was published in February 2005. A copy of the guidance is in the Library of the House. It can also be found on the Cabinet Office website at

In addition, the Department for Communities and Local Government provides general guidance to staff on the handling of all Parliamentary Questions on its intranet.

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