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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Government do not consider that international human rights standards reflect any particular religious tradition. The ideas and values underpinning the notion of human rights come from a wide range of religious, philosophical, ideological and cultural traditions. Human rights, by definition, are universal. They have also been elaborated collectively by states, particularly through the organs
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To ask Her Majesty's Government what action is being taken by the Commonwealth to uphold freedom of religion and the conscientious right to change one's religion, in the legislation and practice of all member states. [HL2974]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Harare Commonwealth declaration of 1991 enshrines the Commonwealth's commitment to the liberty of the individual under law and equal rights for all Commonwealth citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed, or political belief. The Commonwealth actively supports the adoption and ratification of international and regional human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, across its 53 country membership and helps to enhance the capacity of institutions in member states to promote, monitor, and protect human rights.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the current security and humanitarian status of Camp Ashraf in Iraq; what assurances they have received from the government of Iraq regarding the safety of members of the People's Mujaheddin Organisation of Iran resident in the camp; and whether, subsequent to the planned withdrawal of the British military from Iraq, international monitoring of human rights in Camp Ashraf will be maintained. [HL2864]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Our Ambassador called on the Iraqi Human Rights Minister, Wijdan Salim, on 13 April 2009 to raise the issue of Camp Ashraf and make her aware of the level of interest in this issue in the UK, including in Parliament. Minister Wijdan assured our ambassador that doctors and medical supplies were permitted to enter the camp. The Minister also confirmed that families were allowed to visit the camp. Also on 13 April, consular officials at our embassy in Baghdad visited the camp to clarify whether any of the residents warrant UK consular assistance.
We remain concerned that the human rights of all residents of Camp Ashraf are fully observed. There is no evidence to suggest that the Government of Iraq intend forcibly to relocate the residents to a country where they have reason to fear persecution based on
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The International Committee of the Red Cross follows developments at the camp closely. It also discusses on a confidential basis the camp with the Peoples Mujaheddin Organisation of Iran (MeK), the Iraqi authorities and the US, which retain a presence at the camp in a monitoring and advisory capacity.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We were given consular access to Mrs Maryam Kallis on 8 April 2009. We raised the urgent need for consular access (under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which Syria is a state party) within 24 hours of her arrest on 14 March 2009, and repeatedly followed up at both official and ministerial levels with the Syrian authorities thereafter. We have also requested a full explanation of the reason for her detention.
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): On 1 April 2008 lead responsibility for prison healthcare was transferred to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. Additional funding was provided to develop mental health services within prisons. This has facilitated the recruitment of specialist staff to improve the services available for those prisoners suffering from mental health problems and strengthen the interface between healthcare in prison and in the community.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 20 April (HL2393) concerning energy efficiency initiatives in the Northern Ireland Office, how the 170 separate energy efficiency initiatives were identified; and what are the initiatives. [HL2934]
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): The 170 initiatives referred to in the previous Answer relate to the efficiency initiatives the department committed to as part of the 2004 spending review and were not specifically energy efficiency initiatives.
These initiatives were identified as part of a co-ordinated exercise across all business areas to identify efficiency savings as part of the 2004 spending review (SR04). Due to the number of initiatives and the amount of underlying detail it would be possible to provide details of all initiatives only at disproportionate cost as outlined in previous Written Answer HL1593. However, the Northern Ireland Offices revised efficiency technical note, which is published on the internet at www.nio.gov.uk, provides an overview of the Northern Ireland Offices SR04 efficiency programme and the workstreams within which the savings were planned.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 18 December 2008 (WA 72) concerning payments to staff of the Northern Ireland Office, how that answer relates to the Written Answer on 5 February 2009 (WA 180) saying the Northern Ireland Office does not pay danger money; and [HL1594]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the name of the allowance paid to staff in the Northern Ireland Office, which is now called a special environmental allowance, when it was introduced in 1992. [HL1597]
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): The Revised environmental allowance referred to in the Answer given on 18 DecemberOfficial Report, Column WA 72was first introduced in 1991 but paid only to staff working in prisons and police stations. It was extended in 1992, as previously explained. The Answer on 10 FebruaryOfficial Report, Column WA 180made clear that the Northern Ireland Office does not pay danger money.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will seek, before or after devolution, to establish a Prison Commission for Northern Ireland, similar to those for Scotland and for England and Wales, with appropriate and comprehensive regional terms of reference. [HL2915]
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): Her Majestys Government currently have no plans to establish such a commission for Northern Ireland. Following the devolution of criminal justice and policing functions, the establishment of such a body would be a matter for the Northern Ireland Administration.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress is being made in implementing the 44 recommendations of the Northern Ireland Prison Ombudsman, following the death of Mr Colin Bell; and whether the Review Team has reported; and, if not, when their report is expected. [HL2920]
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: On 9 January the Prison Service published its action plan in response to the recommendations. I am advised by the service that, to date, 17 of the 43 procedural and management recommendations have been fully implemented with the others partially actioned. The review team is due to report shortly; its report will include an assessment of implementation. The review team was asked to address the 44th recommendation.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): Within London, litter clearance on the verges of the A40 is carried out every seven days by the affected London boroughs, with the central reserves being cleared every six weeks. Transport for London is responsible for the other sections of the A40 within London (called the Westway) and carried out litter clearance on 23 March eastbound and 30 March westbound.
Three district authorities and the Highways Agency are responsible for verge clearance on the A40 between London and Oxford. The Highways Agency carried out nearside verge clearance for the section within its responsibility (the Denham area) in the week commencing 6 April, and because they require scheduled closures the central reserves were last cleared in the week commencing 29 December. South Buckinghamshire District Council, Wycombe District Council and South Oxfordshire District Council carry out clearances at regular intervals, the most recent of which were between 17 and 21 April.
The Highways Agency is responsible for litter clearance on the M11. Between junctions 4 and 5 northbound litter was cleared at six locations from 31 January 2009 and 21 April 2009. Between junctions 7 and 4 southbound litter was cleared at nine locations between 24 January
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To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ask Somali authorities for assistance in their efforts to combat piracy in the region; and whether they intend to pursue a policy of seeking international support for recognition of this country within the former British colonial frontiers of Somaliland. [HL2971]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Government are working hard with the international community to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia but the long-term solution will be to address the root causes of piracy. Somalia will play a leading role in this with support from, and in co-operation with, the international community, as reaffirmed during the UN-led meeting on Somalia in Brussels on 23 April 2009. Lord West (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office) and I discussed the issue of piracy with Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, Somalias Deputy Prime Minister, during his visit to the UK on 20 and 21 April 2009.
My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary also discussed piracy with the Leader of Somaliland, Dahir Rayale Kahin, on 6 March 2009. Officials have discussed the issue with the Somaliland authorities since.
We are aware of Somaliland aspirations for independence but our position remains the same as the rest of the international community: that we do not currently recognise Somaliland as an independent state. We will not therefore be seeking international support for recognition of Somaliland.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): The Vehicle Operators and Services Agency checked approximately 1 per cent of heavy goods vehicles at Dalar Hir, and 1.3 per cent at Liverpool in the year April 2008 to March 2009 expressed as a percentage of goods vehicles passing through Holyhead and Liverpool ports in 2007.
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