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Question

Asked by The Earl of Sandwich

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): No such compensation has been offered by Israel.

The international community pledged approximately $4.5 billion at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference on 2 March 2009. It is unclear exactly how much of this is new money, but the conference demonstrated the commitment of the international community to assist the people of Gaza. Restrictions on access continue to hamper humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. We have pressed the Israeli Government to allow freer access for vital supplies.

Gaza and the West Bank

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We press the Israeli Government frequently to lessen the restrictions that they place on Palestinians and to cease settlement building.

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 than an occupying power must co-operate in allowing the passage and distribution of relief consignments. The UK has consistently reiterated this message on numerous occasions along with our concerns regarding the current humanitarian situation in Gaza.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has raised this with Isaac Herzog, the Israeli Minister responsible for humanitarian access to Gaza. He also reiterated this message at the reconstruction conference in Sharm el-Sheikh on 2 March 2009. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development also urged the Israelis, during his recent visit to Gaza on 1 March 2009, for improved access and to relax tough restrictions on the type of goods that are allowed across the border. This includes supplies

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of reconstruction material which are urgently needed to help rebuild damaged and destroyed homes, schools, and hospitals.

We continue to be concerned with the ongoing settlement activity, and will consistently urge Israel to freeze all settlement activity. The UK has recently supported an EU statement, issued on 20 February 2009, condemning the plans for a settlement construction in the vicinity of Adam in the West Bank.

Government Departments: IT

Question

Asked by Lord Patten

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): This information is not held centrally but by individual departments.

Government Equalities Office: Discrimination

Question

Asked by Lord Ouseley

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): Public Service Agreement 15 (Address the disadvantage that individuals experience because of their race, disability, age, gender, sexual orientation and religion or belief) is underpinned by statistical indicators which are used to monitor performance. Progress against these indicators is set out regularly by the Government Equalities Office in its departmental reports.

Guantanamo Bay: Binyam Mohamed

Question

Asked by Lord Leach of Fairford



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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): There was no such conclusion of the High Court. The case brought by Mr Mohamed was a judicial review. It was not before a criminal court and did not consider criminal issues. The question of possible criminal wrongdoing that arose in the course of the judicial review was referred to the Attorney-General. This is, as the court acknowledged, the proper legal process.

Health: Cancer Research

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The usual practice of the department's National Institute for Health Research and of the Medical Research Council is not to ring-fence funds for expenditure on particular topics: research proposals in all areas compete for the funding available. Both organisations welcome applications for support into any aspect of human health and these are subject to peer review and judged in open competition, with awards being made on the basis of the scientific quality of the proposals made.

Health: Homeopathy

Question

Asked by Lord Clement-Jones

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The Government do not maintain a position on any complementary or alternative medicine treatments and it is the responsibility of the National Health Service to make decisions on what types of services or treatments they will commission and fund. In considering a referral for any type of treatment, a general practitioner would need to take into consideration safety, evidence of clinical and cost effectiveness as well as the availability of suitably qualified and regulated practitioners.

Iran

Question

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass



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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The UK has serious concerns about the growing number of executions taking place in Iran and the continued use of the death penalty, especially for minors. We oppose the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. The rate of executions has grown year-on-year since 2005. There were more than 300 executions in 2007 and 318 in 2008. Iran has so far executed at least 60 people this year alone, including one juvenile.

We continue to take all available opportunities, bilaterally and through the EU, to make clear to the Iranian authorities our concerns about human rights abuses, and Iran's use of capital punishment in particular. We have raised concerns about the overall use of the death penalty in Iran, and individual death penalty cases, with the Iranian authorities at least six times this year, bilaterally and through the EU. In December 2008 we co-sponsored a resolution on Iran's human rights situation in the UN General Assembly. The resolution expresses deep concern at “the continuing high incidence of executions carried out in the absence of internationally recognised safeguards, including public executions of juveniles”. We also raised our concerns in our statement to the Human Rights Council in March 2009.

Legal Aid

Question

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): On 12 February 2009 the Government announced changes to the family graduated fee scheme for barristers (Official Report, col. WS116). In the past five years legal aid payments to family barristers have increased unsustainably by more than 30 per cent from £74 million to almost £100 million annually with no commensurate increase in case load. Our changes reduce payments to family barristers by £6.5 million annually, and help us to avoid reducing services to the public in order to meet the rising cost of barristers' fees.

Assuming the same volume and type of cases using counsel in the future as in 2007-08, our changes will mean the following net reductions in future expenditure on barristers' fees: (a) public law care proceedings work by 4.2 per cent (£2 million per annum), (b) private law children cases by 9.3 per cent (£2.9 million), (c) ancillary relief cases by 16 per cent (£1.6 million) but from an unsustainably high base. It is incumbent on all those paid by the taxpayer to ensure that taxes

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are spent as effectively and efficiently as possible. However, if in future volumes increase, or cases are longer or more complex, more will be spent. We are not reducing the legal advice and assistance provided to children and families in family cases.

London Living Wage

Question

Asked by Lord Harries of Pentregarth

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): As was explained in the debate of 8 December 2008, the Low Pay Commission ensures transparency is at the heart of the extensive process used to set the national minimum wage. The Low Pay Commission invites the Government to provide evidence, along with trade unions, employers' organisations, academics and voluntary organisations, setting the economic and non-economic backdrop to their recommendations on national minimum wage rates. To enable it to advise and make recommendations to Government, it also undertakes extensive research, analysis, consultation and fact-finding visits throughout the UK to meet employers, employees and representative organisations. The Low Pay Commission's conclusions are set out in a 200 page evidence-based report.

Narrative Reporting

Question

Asked by Lord Sharman

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform & Cabinet Office (Baroness Vadera): The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is responsible for standards of corporate reporting and in that capacity issues guidance as well as monitoring compliance with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006. The FRC has recently issued guidance on various reporting issues to help companies with reporting in the present economic conditions. In line with Section 83 of the Climate Change Act, the Government are committed to producing guidance to help those reporting on their greenhouse gas emissions by 1 October 2009. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will consult widely on the guidance prior to publication in September.



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Palestine

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Salam al-Fayyad is still the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority. We welcome his valuable contribution in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and continue to work with him.

Pensions

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): How any adjustments to the level of public service pensions in relation to prices will be determined during 2009-10 will be considered in the light of developments over the year ahead, including the actual levels of prices.

Petitions

Questions

Asked by Lord Greaves



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The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): As has been the practice of successive Governments, petitions delivered in person to Downing Street are administered by the Metropolitan Police.

From June 2008 to December 2008 approximately 590 petitions were received containing approximately 4,498,600 signatures. This includes petitions received in the post and those delivered in person.

Once petitions are received by the Prime Minister's Office they are recorded and dealt with in the same manner as standard correspondence. The Prime Minister's Office makes arrangements for a reply to be sent and acknowledges receipt of the petition. Full texts of petitions received are not held.

Police: Discrimination

Question

Asked by Lord Pearson of Rannoch



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Under the Human Rights Act, all legislation, including public order offences so far as it is possible to do, must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.


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