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To date, the Secretary of State has not exercised the power in Section 69(3) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 relating to the removal of signs by giving directions to a local traffic authority.

Russia

Questions

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): It is in our interests to work with Russia to address a range of global issues, including the economic crisis, the Middle East peace process, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and security in Afghanistan. To this end we have increasingly regular high-level bilateral contact. Deputy Prime Minister Kudrin visited London on 4 February 2009 for discussions on the global economic crisis, including meetings with my right honourable friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Foreign Secretary. The Chancellor and Deputy Prime Minister Kudrin issued a joint statement after their talks. President Medvedev is also

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expected to come to the UK for the G20 Summit in April. It is particularly important to engage with Russia on economic issues, to achieve a co-ordinated global response to the current crisis, and to maintain our important trade and investment relationship.

However, significant differences remain. In our bilateral relationship, we have outstanding issues over the refusal of Russia to provide real co-operation with the investigation into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko and over the closure of British Council offices in St Petersburg and Ekaterinburg. Internationally we remain deeply concerned by Russia's breach of its international obligations in Georgia. We will continue to press Russia to resolve these issues.

Asked by Lord Hylton

Lord Malloch-Brown: I refer the noble Lord to the answer given by my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham on 11 February 2009, Official Report, col. WA206.

Schools: Bullying

Questions

Asked by Baroness Gould of Potternewton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): The department will be launching our new guidance on how to prevent and tackle bullying related to gender and gender identity in the spring. We will ensure that the issue of sexual bullying and sexual harassment is considered and addressed in this guidance.

We do not collect data on sexual bullying centrally although we are aware of some ad hoc surveys. We intend to introduce a new statutory duty on schools to record all incidents of bullying between pupils later this year, and will specifically consult on whether schools should be obliged to record sexual bullying incidents.

Schools: Evolution

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): The science programme of study already sets out the legal requirements of the National Curriculum. It clearly states that pupils should be taught:

how uncertainties in scientific knowledge and scientific ideas change over time;the role of the scientific community in validating these changes;that variation within species can lead to evolutionary changes; and,similarities and differences between species can be measured and classified.

Severn River Crossing plc

Question

Asked by Baroness Scott of Needham Market

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): Section 18 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 does not permit HM Revenue and Customs to disclose information relating to the tax affairs of individual businesses.

Sport: Young People

Question

Asked by Lord Clement-Jones

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): At the time of publication the Government were already in the process of implementing many of the measures recommended in the report. Local authorities already have much more flexibility on the use of funding which will allow them to fund projects on a longer term basis. For example, a total of £222 million has been made available for a three-year period from 2008-11 to provide activities for disaffected young people at risk of antisocial behaviour and crime. The total amount of ring-fenced funding (excluding schools) will reduce from 11.2 per cent in 2008-09 to 8 per cent in 2010-11. The Government are also investing heavily in activities and facilities ensuring that they are available at times when young people need them. Investment of more than £200 million in the myplaceinitiative will transform the facilities available for young people alongside strong encouragement to LAs to open facilities and provide activities on Friday and Saturday night. To help ensure that services are responsive to young people's needs, the Government are also

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investing more than £60 million a year until 2010-11 to allow young people to make decisions on what positive activities and facilities should be funded in their local area.

Sri Lanka

Question

Asked by The Earl of Sandwich

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We discuss the situation in Sri Lanka regularly with the Sri Lankan and Indian Governments, expressing our view that for peace to be sustainable, an inclusive political process that takes fully into account the legitimate concerns of all Sri Lankan communities—Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim—is essential. We also continue to engage with the broader international community on the need to make progress towards a lasting political solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Taxation: Inheritance Tax

Questions

Asked by Lord Inglewood

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The number of chattels conditionally exempted in each of the years requested is as shown in the table below:

Chattels conditionally exempted from inheritance tax
Year of designation as exemptNumber of chattels

2005

699

2006

5,718

2007

1,451

2008

1,256

Estimated values of chattels conditionally exempted are recorded separately from the number of items and sometimes at a later point in the process. The values for a year shown in the table below do not therefore correspond to the yearly counts of items above.

Chattels conditionally exempted from inheritance tax
YearEstimated value (£ millions)

2005

231

2006

47

2007

65

2008

83



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5,023 chattels have ceased to benefit from conditional exemption since 1 January 2005. The value recorded (which excludes the value for a small number of cases where for technical reasons there was no tax charge on cessation) amounts to £39 million.

The figures provided include chattels that have been granted conditional exemption in their own right, and the historically associated contents of historic houses.

Terrorism

Question

Asked by Baroness Northover

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): As part of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR'07) HM Treasury sought to streamline the number of public service agreements (PSAs) across Government, focusing on the highest priority outcomes. This resulted in a slimmed down set of 30 PSAs, reduced from over 100 during SR'04. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) leads on PSA 30 (“reduce the impact of conflict through enhanced UK and international efforts”).

The FCO's Departmental Strategic Objective 6 (DSO6) for 2008-09 to 20 10/11 “Prevent and Resolve Conflict” is linked closely to PSA 30.

In order to achieve PSA 30, the Government are taking a strategic, long-term approach to international security and conflict issues, investing in international institutions, and building UK capability to plan, co-ordinate and deploy civilian and military resources. The UK is looking at the widest possible range of activities, from conflict prevention and resolution through to stabilisation, post-conflict reconstruction, development and other aspects of state-building (including building democratic processes and institutions, the rule of law and respect for human rights) and the important link into long-term and sustainable development.

Of the four indicators which support PSA 30, indicator 2 “reduced impact of conflict in specific countries and regions (Afghanistan, Iraq, Balkans, Middle East, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region, Horn of Africa, Nigeria and Sudan)” and indicator 3 “more effective international institutions, better able to prevent, manage and resolve conflict and build peace” continue the work set out in PSA 2003-06 to “promote initiatives in selected countries,

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including indigenous capacity building, to help avert conflict, reduce violence and build sustainable security and peace” (FCO PSA 4 iii).

The trilateral (FCO, Ministry of Defence and Department for International Development) Conflict Prevention Pool (CPP) and Stabilisation Aid Fund (SAF) support the Government's conflict prevention policy in line with the PSA. The CPP currently supports conflict prevention work in a number of regions (Africa, Americas, Balkans, Russia and Commonwealth of Independent States, South Asia, Middle East and North Africa). The SAF supports stabilisation and reconstruction activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Transport: Heavy Goods Vehicles

Questions

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): The Department for Transport’s Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) routinely reports all breaches of road-safety law by foreign-registered vehicles to the relevant authorities of the state for follow-up action. VOSA also has an arrangement with the Irish authorities for reciprocal visits by enforcement staff to share knowledge and experience about improving compliance. In addition VOSA has seconded a senior member of its staff to the Irish Road Safety Authority to help focus attention on non-compliant operators, and to advise on appropriate and effective enforcement action.

To tackle high levels of non-compliance we intend shortly to introduce new provisions under the Road Safety Act 2006 which will enable VOSA and the police to require a financial penalty deposit from any non-UK driver who fails to comply with GB road traffic law. These provisions, known as the Graduated Fixed Penalty, Financial Penalty Deposits and Immobilisation Scheme (GFP/DS) will enable police officers and VOSA examiners to:

issue fixed penalties to non-UK-resident offenders—in respect of both non-endorsable and endorsable offences; request immediate financial deposits from non-UK-resident offenders (equivalent to an on-the-spot fine)—either in respect of a fixed penalty or as a form of surety in respect of an offence which is to be prosecuted in court; and,

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immobilise vehicles in any case where a driver or vehicle has been prohibited from continuing a journey or in any case where a driver declines to pay the requested deposit.

Subject to parliamentary consideration, the scheme will be implemented in April.

We are also making an extra £24 million available to VOSA over three years to help it to boost further the levels of enforcement.

West Bank

Questions

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The UK's position has been consistently clear: settlements are illegal and their expansion is an obstacle to the peace process.

We frequently raise this issue, including during my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary's visit in

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November, and the visit of my right honourable friend the Minister of State, Bill Rammell, in December.

Asked by Lord Dykes

Lord Malloch-Brown: The Israeli Government, including the Prime Minister, have condemned the violence carried out by the settlers against Palestinian civilians and also Israeli military personnel.

While we welcome this, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary raised the issue with Defence Minister, Ehud Barak on 20 October. My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Bill Rammell, visited Hebron in December to get a first hand appreciation of the problem. We will continue to raise our concerns.

Asked by Lord Dykes

Lord Malloch-Brown: We are aware that settlements continue to grow in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. We are very concerned about this expansion and have made repeatedly clear that we regard it as unacceptable and illegal.


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