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Government Departments: Websites

Lord Norton of Louth asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform & Cabinet Office (Baroness Vadera): The Government issue advice to departments on the design, development and management of their websites in the form of standards and guidance that can be found on the Central Office of Information (COI) website under guidance. A new set of quality standards is being developed by COI as part of Transformational Government and in response to a recommendation in the Public Accounts Committee 16th Report, Government on the Internet. This is to ensure that citizens receive a consistent, high quality user experience when accessing any government online service. As part of the set of new guidelines, COI is developing specific guidance for website developers and managers on usable design and content, to be published by March 2009.

Health: Clinical Physiologists

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): We expect to publish the modernising scientific careers next steps document in November 2008. It will offer a way forward for the regulation of the totality of the healthcare science workforce. The latter will be subject to a separate consultation in 2009 and all matters relating to the regulation of clinical physiologists will be considered.



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Issues relating to the current practice of clinical physiologists are for local clinical governance procedures.

Home Office: Visa and Border Policy

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The head of the UK Border Force, Brodie Clark, responded to Lord Marlesford's correspondence dated 12 and 28 August 2008 on the 11 November 2008. I apologise for the delay in responding to this correspondence.

House of Lords: Appointments

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I am not aware of any such consultation.

Housing and Planning

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): None. The department's Validation of Planning Applications: Guidance for Local Planning Authorities, published in December 2007, provides advice to local planning authorities on the requirements for information to accompany planning applications. The Government considered whether a visual impact assessment should be included in the guidance, but concluded that it should not. However, local planning authorities may request additional information if they consider it is needed in order to determine an application.

Immigration: Removal Centres

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Possession of the aforementioned guide is not contrary to the interests of safety and security within the meaning of the detention centre rules. As this is not a government publication I do not consider it appropriate to place a copy of the guide in the Library of the House.

Any deviation in this particular case was a genuine error by the private contractor operating the centre.

IRA

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I am advised that there have been 15 dissident republican attacks recorded in this calendar year. The Police Service of Northern Ireland has advised that statistics for previous years are not available in the format requested. The PSNI is also unable to provide information on charges relating specifically to dissident republican attacks as they are not attributed to individual dissident groupings. The Public Prosecution Service does not record what organisation a suspect is believed to represent in its conviction statistics.

Israel and Palestine: Gaza

Baroness Northover asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Tunnicliffe: The UK Government have repeatedly made clear, including during talks with both Israeli and Palestinian officials last week, that while we support Israel's right to ensure the security of its citizens, Israel also needs to ensure that vulnerable people in Gaza have access to the full range of humanitarian supplies they need. The Foreign Secretary reiterated this position during talks with Israeli Ministers during his recent visit to Israel.

We continue to call for the full implementation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, and to work with all parties towards a full reopening of all crossings so that humanitarian supplies, commercial goods and people can get through.



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Baroness Northover asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We have serious concerns about the Israeli restrictions on Gaza and the impact they have on the lives of Gazans. Although there is no permanent physical Israeli presence in Gaza, given the significant control that Israel has over Gaza's borders, airspace and territorial waters, Israel retains obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention as an occupying power. The Fourth Geneva Convention is clear that an occupying power must co-operate in allowing the passage and distribution of relief consignments. The restrictions currently imposed on the passage of relief supplies are, as we see it, a disproportionate response to the security threat.

The extent of Israeli restrictions, and the threat to Israel from militants in Gaza, varies constantly. Rather than focus on whether the restrictions at any given time amount to collective punishment, we have consistently pressed the Israeli Government to comply with their obligations under international law and allow passage of relief supplies. This was the message my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary delivered in his meetings with Israeli leaders during his recent visit to the region.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Tunnicliffe: The European Union-Israel Association Agreement is the framework for the EU's relations with Israel. Through the various sub-committees and working groups established under that agreement, the EU can address areas of concern, including human rights. We will continue to raise our concerns about human rights issues with Israel and the Palestinian Authority both bilaterally and with EU partners.

The presidency of Council of the European Union issued a statement on 14 November, deploring the Israeli Government's decision to close border crossings into Gaza, and warning that this disproportionate action would collectively punish the entire civilian population in Gaza where the humanitarian situation is deeply worrying.

The UK Government and the EU presidency have consistently pressed the Israeli Government to comply with their obligations under international law and allow passage of humanitarian supplies to vulnerable people in Gaza. The Foreign Secretary raised this with Israeli leaders during his recent visit to the region.

We continue to call for the full implementation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, and to work with all parties towards a full reopening of all crossings so that humanitarian supplies, commercial goods and people can get through.



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Israel and Palestine: Prisoners

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We welcome the announcement by the Israeli Prime Minister on the planned release of 250 Palestinian prisoners. We will continue to urge the Israeli Government to either charge or release the elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Assembly and elected mayors.

Kuwait

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The issue of the Bidoon peoples was raised in the most recent EU heads of mission's meeting on 29 October. The Bidoon remain one of a series of human rights issues that the EU raises with the Kuwaiti authorities.

Local Government: Pensions

Baroness Warsi asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The administration costs of the local government pension scheme can be found on the Communities and Local Government website at www.local.communities.gov.uk/finance/stats/pensions.htm. The most recent information, for 2007-08, was published on 15 October 2008.

Manufacturing

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform & Cabinet Office (Baroness Vadera): The Government launched their new strategy Manufacturing: New Challenges, New Opportunities last month. It builds on established and successful support delivered by the Technology Strategy Board, the sector skills councils and the Manufacturing Advisory Service and brings together almost £150 million of new support for UK manufacturing, providing a powerful vision for UK manufacturing in the global economy. The strategy focuses on what the sector needs for success in the long term, including seizing the opportunities of the low-carbon economy, supporting skills, realising overseas opportunities, and improving the perception and understanding of manufacturing.

In addition, we have taken action to help businesses with cash flow, with central government moving to pay all bills within 10 days at the latest. UK banks using the recapitalisation scheme have made an explicit commitment as part of their agreement with the Government that they will maintain, over the next three years, the availability and active marketing of competitively priced lending to small businesses and home owners at 2007 levels. We will help businesses improve cash flow by identifying cost savings through simple measures to use energy more efficiently. Both the Government and the banks have agreed to more than double the funding for the Business Debtline Service by 2010-11. Government schemes for access to finance such as the small firms loan guarantee (SFLG) have been strengthened.

We are providing more help for businesses through advice services such as Business Link, which will provide free “health checks” in England for businesses to identify problems early. We have prioritised training for SMEs in England under the Train to Gain initiative to ensure employees have the skills and business knowledge they need. Finally, the regional development agencies (RDAs) are providing additional help for businesses which includes extending the availability of Selective Finance for Investment in England (SFIE) grants in some regions.

Middle East Peace Process

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): During his recent visit to the Middle East on 16 to 19 November, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary held discussions with key Israeli and Palestinian officials on advancing the peace process. Discussion centred around the need for a comprehensive approach to the Middle East peace process and the need to build support for peace by addressing the humanitarian situation in Gaza and illegal Israeli settlement activity.



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National Parks

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government expect to announce in the early summer of 2009 whether or not they have decided to confirm the national park designation in the South Downs.

I understand that Natural England will be developing policies as quickly as possible to deal with new designation or boundary variation proposals once the South Downs decision is known and any consequential legal issues are resolved.

National Probation Service: Discrimination

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): A tribunal application is in the process of being heard. We will await the outcomes/recommendations once the tribunal process has been completed and will take the appropriate action necessary in due course.

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: Information has been collated locally in each National Probation Service area since 2004. National data are available only since 2006 and show the following:

2006-07Bullying and Harassment 113Sexual Harassment 8 Racial Harassment 18Total 1392007-08Bullying and Harassment 124 Sexual Harassment 8 Racial Harassment 6 Total 138
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