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Cuba: Prisoners

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We remain extremely concerned about the plight of all political prisoners in Cuba, including Oscar Elias Biscet, president of the Lawton Human Rights Foundation, and Victor Rolando Arroyo Carmona. We are particularly concerned about those political prisoners who are reported to be suffering from poor health, yet are not apparently provided with adequate medical treatment.

We regularly raise the issue of all political prisoners in Cuba with Cuban authorities, both in London and Havana, and call for their immediate release. During its most recent review of the EU's common position on Cuba in June 2007, the European Council stated “the EU once again urges the Cuban Government, also in Cuba's capacity as a member of the Human Rights Council, to release unconditionally all political prisoners”. In November 2007, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Meg Munn, raised the subject of political prisoners with Jaime Crombert Hernandez-Baquero, leader of the Cuban National Assembly.



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Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Malloch-Brown: We remain extremely concerned about the plight of all political prisoners in Cuba, including Oscar Elias Biscet, president of the Lawton Human Rights Foundation, and Victor Rolando Arroyo Carmona. We are particularly concerned about those political prisoners who are reported to be suffering from poor health, yet are not apparently provided with adequate medical treatment.

We regularly raise the issue of all political prisoners in Cuba with Cuban authorities, both in London and Havana, and call for their immediate release. During its most recent review of the EU's common position on Cuba in June 2007, the European Council stated “the EU once again urges the Cuban Government, also in Cuba's capacity as a member of the Human Rights Council, to release unconditionally all political prisoners”. In November 2007, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Meg Munn, raised the subject of political prisoners with Jaime Crombert Hernandez-Baquero, leader of the Cuban National Assembly.

Cuba: Torture

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We have no evidence of the use of torture in Cuban prisons. However, the most recent report from Christine Chanet, Personal Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cuba, raised concern about prison conditions including: the use of isolation cells; prisoners being beaten; lack of adequate medical supplies; substandard sanitation; and lack of food and water.

The UK is particularly concerned about the conditions of political prisoners who are reported to be suffering ill health without adequate medical treatment. Our embassy in Havana continues to monitor the situations of such political prisoners and maintains contact with their supporters, including their immediate families. We regularly raise the issue of political prisoners with the Cuban authorities, both in London and Havana, and call for their immediate release. Most recently, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Meg Munn, raised the release of political prisoners with Jaime Crombert Hernandez-Baquero, Vice President of the National Assembly of People's Power in November 2007, and Cuban Vice Foreign Minister, Eumelio Caballero, in April 2008.



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Democratic Republic of Congo

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The UN Organisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) continues to seize and collect arms and related materiel in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1493. A register is kept by military staff at the mission, including information on the origin of seized and collected materiel. Due to the sensitive information contained in the register, it is not publicly available. Release of the information could prejudice MONUC's ability to seize further materiel. The information can be made available to the UN Sanctions Committee and was last requested by it in February 2005.

Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform: Name Change

Lord Barnett asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Baroness Vadera): At its inception in June 2007, the department was named to reflect its remit, which creates a single focus on the needs of UK business, while protecting the interests of consumers and employees, and meeting our commitment to the provision of secure and sustainable energy supplies.

Elections: Salford City Council

Lord Smith of Leigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Electoral Commission is wholly independent of government. It was established by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which sets out regulations relating to political parties, party election campaigns and referendums.



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The Government cannot and will not ask the Electoral Commission to examine any election. Decisions to examine particular issues are a decision for the Electoral Commission alone.

Matters relating to candidate donations and expenditure are governed by the Representation of the People Act 1983 (RPA). The RPA requires details of donations received by candidates in local elections to be submitted to the returning officer for the election within 35 days of the election. The Electoral Commission has a monitoring role in relation to the candidate expenditure requirements of the RPA and enforcement is dealt with under either the criminal or corrupt and illegal practices provisions of the Act.

Embryology

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 provides that no licence may permit the culture of a “live human embryo” beyond 14 days or the appearance of the primitive streak, whichever comes first. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is required to ensure that centres comply with this statutory requirement, and it is for the HFEA to decide what inspection measures are needed to satisfy itself that centres do so.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Darzi of Denham: The Government are committed to a ban on human reproductive cloning, and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE)

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Bill maintains this position while superseding the provisions of the Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001.

The HFE Bill contains, in proposed new Section 3ZA(5) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, a regulation-making power to allow the meaning of the terms “permitted eggs” and “permitted embryos” to be extended to include eggs or embryos that have been treated in such a way as specified in those regulations to prevent the transmission of serious mitochondrial disease. This regulation-making power will enable such embryos and eggs to be implanted in a woman if the technology becomes available and is proven safe. Evidence of safety would clearly be a key element to be taken into account in drawing up and debating, for affirmative resolution, any such regulations.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Annual Reports

Lord Grocott asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) lays annual reports before Parliament under statute on behalf of two of the non-departmental public bodies it has responsibility for. The first is the annual report of the Foreign Compensation Commission, which is produced as a requirement of the Foreign Compensation Act 1950. The second is the annual report of the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission, which is laid pursuant to Section 2(6) of the Marshall Aid Commemoration Act 1953. The FCO also lays before Parliament the annual report and accounts for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. The laying of the accounts is a statutory requirement of the Companies Act 2006.

The FCO, including FCO Services, also lays its own annual departmental reports before Parliament. These reports are not laid under statute.

Health: Clinical Trials

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The Government are not aware of any research that involved deliberate chronic exposure of humans to diazinon.



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The Committee on Toxicity (COT) is in the process of reviewing the evidence related to potential adverse health effects of organophosphates and this will include government-commissioned studies of sheep dippers, who may have been inadvertently exposed to diazinon. The COT will also consider relevant evidence published in the scientific literature. It is unlikely that this work will be completed before the end of 2009.

Health: Orthopaedic Procedures

Lord Smith of Leigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): There are no plans to revise the national Confirmation of Payments by Results (PbR) Arrangements for 2008-09, which were published in December 2007. Copies of the PbR Arrangements have been placed in the Library.

We continue to work with the Specialist Orthopaedic Alliance, specialist hospitals and their host strategic health authorities, to try to ensure that all specialised service providers are adequately rewarded under PbR. It is our intention to move forward with a number of enhancements for the 2009-10 tariff, which will include the introduction of more sensitive payment currencies that will better differentiate between routine and complex cases.

Health: Prescribing and Dispensing

Baroness Cumberlege asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): All general practitioners (GPs) can prescribe to their NHS patients. A patient, with primary care trust (PCT) approval, may ask a doctor to provide pharmaceutical services on certain grounds including they are resident in a controlled locality, which is at a distance of more than 1.6 kilometres from any pharmacy, or the patient would have serious difficulty in obtaining any necessary drugs or appliances from a pharmacy by reasons of distance or inadequacy of communication. This can apply anywhere in the country.



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If a new pharmacy opens in a controlled locality, or if an area is no longer considered rural by the PCT, GPs are required to reduce their dispensing.

Baroness Cumberlege asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Darzi of Denham: All General Practitioners (GPs) may prescribe for their patients. GPs may also dispense medicines to their patients in certain circumstances including that the patient would have serious difficulty in obtaining because of distance or inadequacy of communication or that the patient lives more than 1.6 kilometres from the nearest pharmacy.

The principle of GPs dispensing has historically been seen as an exceptional measure, normally where there may not be a convenient community pharmacy and patients have no choice but to travel a considerable distance to the nearest pharmacy.

The choice of having medicines dispensed by a GP is currently one that is available to less than around 7 per cent of patients. As part of the consultation promised in the White Paper Pharmacy in England: Building on StrengthsDelivering the Future we will be consulting on proposals making changes to the control of market entry for dispensing medicine that will examine options for improving services and patient access. Consultation over any proposed changes will be carried out late in the summer. Copies of the White Paper are available in the Library.

Health: Sodium-induced Hypertension

Lord Wade of Chorlton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The 2006 Health Survey for England estimated that around one-third of adults have hypertension. However, it is not possible to estimate how many people in the United Kingdom are at risk of sodium-induced hypertension specifically as high salt intake is only one of the risk factors that contribute to hypertension. Other risk factors for hypertension include overweight, physical inactivity, and alcohol consumption. Copies of the survey are available in the Library.

Lord Wade of Chorlton asked Her Majesty's Government:


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