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17 Dec 2008 : Column WA35

17 Dec 2008 : Column WA35

Written Answers

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Afghanistan: Aid


Asked by The Earl of Sandwich

Lord Tunnicliffe: UK government financial assistance to Helmand, as with the rest of Afghanistan, comprises contributions from the Department for International Development (DfID), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Afghanistan Drugs Interdepartmental Unit (ADIDU), and the tri-departmental Stabilisation Aid Fund (SAF). Helmand is a UK priority because success there is vital to Afghanistan's future. It is Afghanistan's largest province; its political influence within the Pashtun heartland is central to the future, either of a political settlement or of the insurgency, and it lies at the core of the narcotics trade.

The reason for the increase in funding to Helmand in 2008-09 is the introduction of the SAF, which by design focuses primarily on stabilisation activities. Final decisions on the future split of resources between Helmand and the rest of Afghanistan have yet to be made, though we expect to maintain a similar balance.

UK financial aid to Afghanistan2006-072007-08

in Helmand (£ million)



in the rest of Afghanistan (£ million)



Afghanistan: Provincial Reconstruction Teams


Asked by The Earl of Sandwich

Lord Tunnicliffe: Provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) operate under International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) direction across Afghanistan, and are interim institutions designed to help extend the reach of the Afghan Government, improve security, and facilitate stabilisation and governance work. Most provinces in Afghanistan remain fragile. PRTs allow

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stabilisation and development work to take place where a lack of security prevents development agencies and the Government of Afghanistan from operating independently.

In Helmand, the UK-led PRT is helping to focus civilian and military activity on supporting provincial governance and stabilising the principal population centres, which is a critical basis for longer-term development. The UK continues to discuss the role and future of PRTs regularly with the Afghan Government, ISAF, UNAMA, other donors, and civil society groups. Afghan government and UNAMA co-ordination on security, stabilisation and development issues has improved in recent months and this will help in setting exit strategies for PRTs, about which a public debate has not yet begun.

Armed Forces: Snatch Land Rover


Asked by Lord Ashcroft

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): I refer the noble Lord to the Written Statement made on 16 December 2008 (Official Report, cols. WS 105-06).

Benefits: Disability


Asked by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The Fairer Access to Care Services (FACS) guidance sets out how councils should assess an individual's needs; they should assess the person's wider needs (including their potential needs), and make specialist assessments of particular needs, where required. The assessment should be rounded and person-centred to lead to appropriate eligibility decisions and services provided that promote independence. Professionals need to explore the intensity of particular needs and instability and predictability of problems from day to day or over longer periods of time. The FACS should be followed whether or not the person being assessed is likely to receive services provided by the local council or through direct payments. A copy of the guidance has been placed in the Library.

It is important that the needs-led focus of assessment is retained. Those on direct payments are able to pay for services when they need them. The flexibility inherent

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in direct payments means that individuals can adjust the amount they use each week and “bank” any remaining funds until the extra needs arise. The local councils are also able to set up procedures for making additional payments in emergencies—for example, when symptoms are aggravated.

The National Assistance Act 1948 sets out the framework within which local authorities may decide what people can afford to contribute. Capital assets and income have always been taken into account in making this assessment. Charging for non-residential social services is discretionary. It is for councils to decide on whether and how to set charges. The legal basis is that charges generally should be reasonable, and that no one should be asked to pay more than they reasonably can. The guidance aims to ensure in particular that service users on low incomes are protected from charging and that any charges levied on disability benefits are subject to an assessment of the costs to service users of coping with disability, to ensure their reasonableness.

Charities: Fraud


Asked by Lord Morris of Manchester

Lord Patel of Bradford: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Charity Commission. I have asked the commission to reply.

Letter from Andrew Hind, Chief Executive, to Lord Morris of Manchester, dated 12 December 2008

As the chief executive of the Charity Commission, I have been asked to respond to your written Parliamentary Question on allegations of fraud within charities.

Any allegation of fraud or other financial abuse involving a charity is a matter of serious concern to the commission. An allegation of that nature will be given immediate attention and we will quickly assess what is the most appropriate action to take. That will depend on the facts of each case.

This process will usually include us needing to validate and verify the reliability and credibility of the concerns, including the allegations and any evidence produced, along with the source of the concerns. We also consider previous commission involvement, and scrutinise information held by us. We liaise with other regulators, law enforcement and other agencies. I hope that I can reassure you by confirming that if it is clear straight away that there is cause to suspect a crime may have taken place, the commission would immediately contact the police. If further evidence emerges during our engagement with the charity, we would again not hesitate to contact the police.

The commission has published a Risk and Proportionality Framework for our compliance work, which is publicly available on our website,, and explains the

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commission's approach and sets out the criteria it uses to decide whether to investigate a case further. I will arrange for a copy of this to be placed in the Library of the House.

I hope this is helpful.

Courts Service: Budgets


Asked by Lord Thomas of Gresford

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): It has been clear since the publication of the MoJ's CSR07 settlement that the department and its constituent bodies, including HMCS, would have to reduce previously planned budgets. The efficiency savings plan for the MoJ for 2008-09 is under way and HMCS is committed to delivering its contribution to the MoJ savings plan.

We are developing over the next few months the performance and efficiency plan for the MoJ and its constituent bodies, including HMCS, to cover 2009-10. When that plan is agreed for 2009-10 we will be in a position to inform Parliament of the impact on the MoJ, including HMCS.

The judiciary is engaged in discussion of HMCS resources under the terms of the HMCS framework and the concordat between the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice.

We expect there to be a reduction in headcount in HMCS parts of the MoJ but we expect a large part of that to come from reductions in agency staff and contractors. Exact numbers will only be available once we have completed our planning exercise. We have started discussions with the trade unions on this and will continue to involve them as our plans develop.

We will aim to better match courts work to the changing pattern of demand and do not have any current plans to close courts.

The HMCS budget includes an estimate of £28 million as additional income expected as a result of the increases in family court fees on 1 May 2008.

HMRC has changed the focus of its enforcement activity and is targeting higher value cases. This has resulted in a reduction in the expected volume of

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claims from that source. It is not possible to quantify the exact impact this will have on HMCS at this stage.

The modernising money handling project is currently piloting its processes within six court areas. Benefits targeted include reduced headcount for processing payments, economies of scale arising from implementing national supply agreements and further reductions in cash collection costs. The financial impact of these benefits will be measured once the pilots are completed.

Crown Prosecution Service


Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Attorney-General (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): As of 4 December 2008, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) employs 2,942 men and 5,990 women.

Equality and Human Rights Commission


Asked by Lord Ouseley

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): A total of 396 permanent staff and 13 non-permanent staff are employed by the commission. The commission is currently actively recruiting to fill 35 posts. It has had to allow some flexibility within its staffing structure to leave options open for staff of the antecedent commissions (the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission) who are still in a matching process for jobs in the EHRC.

Asked by Lord Ouseley

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Only one member of staff has expressly stated that they will not be accepting the new terms and conditions offered by the commission, irrespective of any resolution to queries raised. A total of 63 members of staff are yet to return their new terms and conditions. This is due to a variety of reasons including timing in relation to job matching appeals, and individuals being absent on maternity and sick leave or secondment. The response rate is steady and continuing and it is anticipated that the number of non-respondents will reduce further.

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Asked by Lord Ouseley

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The commission allows all staff to request the right to continue working beyond age 65. Any reference to age 65 in commission documentation is to provide a point in time reference which is necessary for pension purposes.

Asked by Lord Ouseley

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Since October 2007, the commission has undertaken a variety of communications campaigns covering the three categories:

Equally Different—this project was designed to raise awareness of the commission and its remit, and to inform people of their rights. The commission is particularly proud of its publications Who We Are and What We Do (a guide introducing and explaining what the commission can do to help) and Ours to Own (a short guide explaining what human rights are and how they are relevant to everyone in society);Working Better—this initiative aims to identify and promote innovative ways of working to meet the challenges of the 21st century;Human Rights—the commission is carrying out an inquiry to find out how human rights work in Britain. This is a broad-reaching project which will engage both stakeholders and the public at a number of levels;Modern Multiculturalism—this campaign aims to articulate and promote the commission's vision for a fresh approach to multiculturalism in modern Britain. The commission hopes to develop the debate on issues of identity and citizenship and how they relate to equality and human rights;Flying Rights for Disabled People—this programme helps disabled people understand more about their rights. Under European law, as of 26 July 2008, if you are disabled or have difficulty moving around, you have improved rights to assistance when you fly to and from Europe; andOur Space—the commission teamed up with Skill Force to launch Our Space, a weeklong residential programme for 14 and 15 year-olds in the Lake District.

The commission has an ongoing programme to help it understand public perceptions, knowledge and customer satisfaction in relation to the commission. As part of this the commission conducted a national opinion poll survey in October 2007 which ascertained

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public perceptions of the commission and its remit and opinions about human rights more generally. This research underpinned the Equally Different campaign referred to above. The commission is currently developing further plans in this area.



Asked by Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): I can confirm that these matters were taken into account. Fluoridation of water supplies is an activity or service undertaken by a water undertaker under the Water Industry Act 1991. It has been the policy of successive Governments that decisions on fluoridation should be taken locally. However, the role undertaken by strategic health authorities does not serve to bring fluoridation within the ambit of the duty in Section 1 of the National Health Service Act.

Asked by Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

Lord Darzi of Denham: Strategic health authorities (SHAs) contract with water undertakers to fluoridate their water supplies. The SHAs bear the full costs of fluoridating the water and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health indemnifies the water undertakers for any liabilities arising from fluoridation except where they relate to a criminal offence or fraud or other deliberate wrongdoing, fraud or negligence on the part of an undertaker.

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