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Written Answers

Thursday 6 November 2008

Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The right honourable the Lord Newton of Braintree OBE DL was appointed as chairman of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council with effect from 1 November 2007. The chairman receives a salary of £55,223 per annum by way of remuneration. Additionally, since 1 November 2007 Lord Newton has been paid £1424.25 by way of travel and subsistence expenses.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: As chairman of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council (AJTC), Lord Newton of Braintree OBE DL attends as an observer at the Tribunals Service Management Board, which has discussed drafts of government consultations on proposals for transferring tribunals to the first-tier tribunal. Lord Newton has been involved in discussions with Ministry of Justice officials about the tribunal reform proposals and the arrangements for the transfer of existing tribunal jurisdictions, including that of the Pensions Appeal Tribunals for England and Wales (PAT), to the first-tier tribunal within the new unified structure. Lord Newton is also a member of the Tribunal Procedure Committee, which developed the procedural rules for each chamber of the first-tier tribunal, including the war pensions and Armed Forces compensation chamber, and the upper tribunal.

British Overseas Territories: Historic Sites

Lord Jones of Cheltenham asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not have a role in recognising historic sites in St Helena. The list referred to in the response of my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Gillian Merron, to the honourable Member for Chorley (Lindsay Hoyle) on 13 October 2008 (Official Report, col. 966W) was provided by the St Helena Government.

The 11 historical sites are:

St Paul’s Cathedral;

Plantation House;

Longwood House;

Ladder Hill complex;

Seafront fortification (Jamestown);

The Castle;

St James’s Church;

The Ladder;

High Knoll Fort;

Banks Batteries and Lines; and

remainder of Jamestown, but particularly lower conservation area.

These sites have been identified by the St Helena Government as major historical sites, based on information in the land development control plan. The St Helena Government do not hold a current register containing all sites considered to be historical or heritage sites. However, a register drawn up in 1974 detailed 208 listed buildings. The St Helena Government, in conjunction with the National Trust, are working to produce an updated list with a revised figure which will be made available to the House.

British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat: Taxis

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat has not incurred any expenditure on taxis over the past five years.

Courts: Sharia Law

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): There are two principal types of issue in which consent orders are presented in family cases: (i) orders about residence of and contact with children, and (ii) financial orders following dissolution of a marriage or civil partnership. In each case, the court has an obligation to scrutinise the proposed order to confirm that it complies with the relevant legal principles.

In the case of orders for residence or contact, the court must examine the proposed order in accordance with Section 1 of the Children Act 1989, under which the child's welfare is the paramount consideration. Consent orders for residence and contact are normally made at a hearing at which the parties are present; the practice direction issued by the president in May 2008 provides that such orders should not be made in the absence of the parties unless the court is satisfied that there is no risk of harm to the child.

In the case of financial orders, the court must apply the relevant provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 or the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (as appropriate); the parties to a proposed consent order are required to provide details of their financial circumstances and other relevant information to enable the court to consider whether the order satisfies the criteria laid down by statute.

There is no visible evidence available to a court that an application for a consent order has been made following negotiations and agreement made by the parties at a Sharia council. Therefore these applications are treated in the same way as any other application within family proceedings.

There are many forms of alternative dispute resolution available to assist parties to reach an agreement in family cases, but whichever method is used by the parties, the principles applied by the court are the same. The court cannot simply “rubber-stamp” an agreement in a family case, whatever the process by which the agreement has been reached, and courts can and do ask for further information where there is any doubt about the propriety of a proposed order. Any order made by consent and submitted to the court, whether the product of an agreement by a Sharia council or not, might be made by coercion and it is the function of the court to question any order which appears unfair.

An order which on its face involved an undue advantage to one party or set out arrangements for contact which excluded care or contact with one parent would be the sort of order which alerts a court to potential coercion and the need to ask for further information and, if appropriate, to refuse to make the order requested.

The statutory basis for any enforcement in the courts of any agreement facilitated by a Sharia council is the Arbitration Act 1996, established by the previous Government. There are no plans to change this.

Defence: Inflation

Lord Moonie asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Measures of inflation in the economy generally—eg, the GDP deflator—reflect changes in the prices of outputs, after allowing for improvements in efficiency in the inputs used in their production. Since defence outputs are not priced, measures of inflation in defence necessarily reflect changes in the prices of inputs of goods and services bought by the Ministry of Defence. These inputs include labour services, construction and maintenance works, bespoke defence equipment (with long-term contracts usually incorporating specific variation of price clauses) and commodity purchases (such as fuels and food). Work is under way to produce a new aggregate measure of defence input inflation.

Housing Associations: Appointments

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Housing Corporation appoints individuals to the governing body of an association having assessed the knowledge, skills and expertise required to address the underlying concerns in the particular case. The persons chosen also have to possess the interpersonal skills necessary to operate effectively at board level and to represent the association at the highest level in its dealings with other bodies. The corporation often appoints people who have direct and current experience of the work of the sector, mainly at board or executive levels. However, such experience is not a prerequisite for serving as an appointee and a number of successful appointments have come from the business world at large. The corporation has recently established a pool of expert individuals who will be available to act as statutory appointees in the future.

The corporation has made 110 appointments to the governing bodies of housing associations during the last five years. Appointees do not represent any particular interests and, like other board members, have a prime duty to act in the best interests of the association. The ethnic background of the persons to be appointed is not a prime consideration. The corporation has not asked appointees to provide statements on their ethnicity over the past five years.

The corporation made the appointments to the board of Presentation Housing Association having assessed the knowledge, skills and expertise required

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to address its underlying concerns about the association. It did not ask the appointees to provide statements on their ethnicity or gender.

India: Orissa

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): An EU delegation is currently planning to visit Orissa, though the timing has not yet been confirmed. An official from our High Commission in New Delhi will take part in that delegation.

India: Religious Freedom

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): FCO Ministers have not held such discussions with leaders of the Hindu faith in the United Kingdom but we welcome the Hindu Council UK statement on 4 September, which condemned the violence against Christians in Orissa and called for “those on both sides of the conflict to return to the peaceable relationship both communities in the area have enjoyed in the past”. The Department for Communities and Local Government engages regularly with Hindu organisations in the UK, including the Hindu Forum of Britain, Hindu Council UK and the National Council of Hindu Temples.

Iraq: Christians

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Tunnicliffe: Approximately 2,400 Iraqi Christians have fled Mosul over the past three weeks to the Nineveh Plain, Syria and Kurdistan. Those displaced are currently being hosted by families or in churches and other public buildings.



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The Department for International Development's (DfID) assistance and protection for these Iraqi Christians is delivered by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Programme (WFP), as part of our wider financial support this year for work with Iraqi internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees.

UNHCR responded by rapidly sending an international team to Mosul. Together with the ICRC and the WFP, it has distributed emergency assistance including food parcels, blankets and hygiene kits to those displaced. UNHCR is also engaged in providing emergency shelter and shelter rehabilitation in Mosul and across Nineveh.

Within Iraq, the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM) is registering new internally displaced people (IDPs). The MoDM is also due to provide cash payments to IDPs who have fled Mosul. A legal office is being established in Bartellah, in order to administer these grants. IDPs from Mosul in Kurdistan and Nineveh are being registered on a single database which will make the registration process quicker and more reliable.

In Syria, UNHCR has fast-tracked the registration of those refugees from Mosul who have travelled to Damascus and Aleppo (around 40 families). Field officers travelled to the Qamishli area close to Iraq, where refugees have been arriving. Following registration, families facing financial difficulties are assessed for emergency grants and food assistance.

The security situation in Mosul has now improved and the flow of displaced people has stopped. Attention is turning to sustainability over the next few months. The UN held a co-ordination meeting on 27 October involving UN agencies, the ICRC, the International Medical Corps (IMC) and the MoDM, with the aim of agreeing how to meet the needs of families displaced for up to three months.

Israel and Palestine: Gaza

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The UK has no plans to make representations to the Government of Israel about restrictions on United Kingdom citizens wishing to visit Gaza.

We advise against all travel to Gaza. We believe that terrorist groups continue to maintain the intent and capability to kidnap foreigners. If, despite this advice, British nationals decide to travel to, or remain in, Gaza they do so at their own risk. The level of consular assistance we can provide there is very limited.

NHS: Vacancies

Baroness Tonge asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The number of vacancies in medical and surgical non-training posts in the National Health Service in each primary care trust has been placed in the Library.

Political Parties: Funding

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): Any proposal to substantially increase public funding would need to command cross-party consensus and the confidence of the public, and the Government's judgment is that these conditions do not currently exist. There is, however, broad agreement that the source of donations to parties should be transparent; and the Political Parties and Elections Bill, which is currently under consideration in another place, includes provisions designed to improve the transparency of political donations.

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: In order to donate to UK political parties, companies must be registered and carry on business in the UK. The Government acknowledge the concerns which have been expressed about the scope for evasion of the ban on foreign donations contained in these provisions. The Government are willing to discuss how these might be improved. We believe this may be most usefully done in the context of debates on the Political Parties and Elections Bill, which is currently progressing through Parliament.


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