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20 Jan 2009 : Column WA199

Iraq: Security


Asked by Baroness Northover

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Over the past two and a half years, responsibility for security in the 18 provinces of Iraq has been gradually transferred from the coalition to the Government of Iraq. The transfer of a province was based on a joint assessment, by the coalition and the Government of Iraq, of the security situation in each province and the capability of the Iraqi security forces based there. In the period May 2006 to October 2008, responsibility for the security of 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces was transferred to the Government of Iraq. Following the expiry of UNSCR 1790 on 31 December 2008, the Government of Iraq now lead in maintaining security throughout Iraq with multinational forces focused on training and supporting the Iraqi security forces in delivering this mission.

Basra province was transferred to Iraqi control in December 2007 and since then UK forces have been training and assisting the Iraqi army, navy and marine units based there. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced to the House of Commons on 18 December 2008 (Official Report, Commons, col. 1233) UK forces' remaining tasks in southern Iraq should be completed by 31 July 2009, following which we will move to a normalised bilateral defence relationship with Iraq.

Responsibility for sustaining and building on the significant reductions in violence in Iraq since 2007 now rests, therefore, with the sovereign Iraqi Government. The UK will continue to provide active and wide-ranging support to the Government of Iraq's efforts, not only through direct military assistance as outlined above, but also through support in fields such as governance, regional diplomacy, economic development, and security and justice sector reform, all of which have a bearing on Iraq's future stability and security.

Pakistan: Blasphemy Laws


Asked by Lord Patten

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): With our EU partners, we regularly raise our concerns over the situation of religious minorities in Pakistan including the application of the blasphemy laws and the need to reform or repeal discriminatory legislation. Officials in London

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and Islamabad regularly meet with representatives of civil society and human rights organisations to monitor the treatment of minorities and inform our policy more widely. The UN Human Rights Council undertook a universal periodic review of Pakistan's human rights records in May. The UK participated in this dialogue and obtained a commitment from the Pakistani delegation that checks would be introduced to regulate investigations into allegations of blasphemy and apostasy.

Our high commission in Islamabad is also supporting programme and project work to enhance civil society's capacity to act as advocates for human rights, improve access to justice and promote human rights in Pakistan.

Schools: Disruptive Children


Asked by Lord Steinberg

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): The overwhelming majority of schools are orderly places. The Government recognise that a small minority of pupils present challenging behaviour problems and back head teachers' authority to intervene to tackle bad behaviour and to prevent problems from spiralling out of control.

We have significantly strengthened schools' powers to discipline by introducing a range of legislation to protect schools from challenges to their disciplinary authority and to reinforce parental responsibility. New measures in the fourth Session Children, Skills and Learning Bill include extending the existing power to search pupils for weapons to also include alcohol, illegal drugs and stolen property.

In addition to new legal powers, we have also provided schools with high-quality training, materials and consultancy support to enable them to promote positive behaviour. We are also helping them to form partnerships with other schools, police and other agencies to strengthen behaviour management.

Terrorism: 7 July Bombings


Asked by Lord Laird

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): In total 56 people died in the 7 July 2005 London bombings. This figure includes the four bombers. We do not consider it possible for a person to be a victim of their own crime.

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