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To ask Her Majesty's Government what grades of officials in the Northern Ireland Officer are allowed to use hire cars; what are the criteria for such use; and who makes the decision on such use. [HL3375]
All business travel arrangements for staff below grade A must be authorised in advance by a more senior officer of at least middle manager (grade B2 or
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During 2007-08, the department adopted a policy to make greater use of taxis rather than private hire cars where it is more cost-effective. This policy has led to an increase in taxi costs but has generated estimated whole year net savings of £150,000.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the British Embassy in Washington is aware of the Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's encouragement of United States Senators and Congressmen to table resolutions on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, as stated on 30 April in the Irish parliament's Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday agreement; and whether the embassy will prepare an information pack on the subject for Congress and the White House. [HL3990]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Our embassy in Washington continues to monitor activities in the US Congress which relate to reserved and excepted matters concerning Northern Ireland. Should the subject be raised by members of Congress, the embassy will consider the need to prepare an information pack.
To ask Her Majesty's Government following the report of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on the possibility of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and the minority dissenting report which concluded the Commission had exceeded its remit, whether the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been asked to, or has considered, exercising his powers under paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 7 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to dismiss the Chief Commissioner or a Commissioner. [HL3881]
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 19 May (WA 299), whether the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has built confidence amongst the community in Northern Ireland in the way outlined by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee on 1 April. [HL3913]
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: As can be seen from the uncorrected transcript of his oral evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee (available at www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/ pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmniaf/uc404-i/uc40402.htm), the Secretary of State's reference to building confidence was a reference to the commitment made in the Belfast agreement, not to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. He said:
I think that the original proposition at the time of the Good Friday agreement, to recognise that there might be human rights in Northern Ireland, which could be different from the rest of the United Kingdom, precisely because of the Troubles, was very important to identify and to use as mechanism to build confidence.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland meant in saying at the meeting of the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee on 1 April that many of the proposals of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission go well beyond any proposals in either the Joint Declaration or the Good Friday agreement. [HL3914]
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The full uncorrected transcript of the Secretary of State's oral evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee on 1April, in which he explained his meaning, can be found at www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmniaf/uc404-i/uc40402.htm.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission was given a specific brief to advise on a Bill of Rights reflecting the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland. It is the Government's opinion that the Commission has gone further than expected by producing such a wide range of proposals. However the Commission is entitled to make these recommendations and has not exceeded its statutory powers by doing so. The Government will consult publicly on their response to the advice in due course.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether an assessment has been made of the benefits to the United Kingdom, outside London, of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games; and what evidence there is to indicate that those benefits will occur. [HL2926]
Lord Davies of Oldham: The Government are committed to maximising the benefits of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games across the UK. The Government's legacy action plan, Before, During and After: Making the Most of the London 2012 Games,sets out how we will ensure that benefits of the Games extend beyond sport to wider opportunities, and beyond London to the rest of the UK. The publication of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games annual
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Both immediate and long-term benefits from the Games will be realised in and outside London. There are community activities and educational and cultural programmes throughout the UK. The free swimming initiative, a key part of the plans to ensure a long-term legacy, means that four out of every five local councils in England have signed up to provide free swimming for over-60s, with more than 200 offering it for young people. The 2012 Get Set website offers a huge variety of educational resources and opportunities targeted at three to 19 year-olds, with more than one in 10 schools and colleges already registered on the site. Around 650 events were held throughout the UK to celebrate the launch of the Cultural Olympiad, a four-year cultural programme designed to celebrate the spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The programme includes opportunities for people from across the UK to be involved in the Games, both in major and local or regional projects.
The economic benefits of the Games for the whole UK are already evident. Nine hundred and thirty-five businesses have won over £3.5 billion of work supplying the ODA with 98 per cent of ODA contracts awarded to UK-based businesses, just under half (45 per cent) of which are outside London.
We are working across government and the Olympic family to develop ways of measuring, analysing and evaluating the wide range of impacts, including those on the economy, sport, physical activity, regeneration and sustainability. The aim of this work is to ensure that we are able to make a rigorous assessment of the benefits of the Games in return for the significant public investment.
Government, together with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), has established a nations and regions group, bringing together representatives from each of the nations and regions of the UK with a view to maximising the benefits of the Olympics across the country.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The UK and EU have agreed memorandums of understanding covering the transfer of suspected pirates captured off the Horn of Africa to Kenya.
In order to assist Kenya with providing the facilities and legal processes related to the trial and detention of these prisoners, the European Commission recently approved assistance through the United Nations Office
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The contact group on piracy off the coast of Somalia on 29 May 2009 endorsed the creation of an international trust fund to assist with the cost of prosecuting pirates and support regional development that is deemed important in counterpiracy work.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to encourage companies to recognise British Forces Post Office addresses so that members of the Armed Forces serving abroad may place orders for goods and services online. [HL3893]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): In order to assist internet shopping using British Forces Post Office (BFPO) numbers, BFPO has entered into contracts with over 1,300 internet shopping companies. BFPO vouches for the identity and, indirectly, the creditworthiness of the individuals and ensures the delivery of the purchases. A list of these companies is readily available to service personnel on the BFPO website, which can be found at the following link at www.bfpo.mod.uk.
To ask Her Majesty's Government why the Kings Stag and Hazelbury Bryan Post Offices in Dorset are due to be closed, contrary to the results agreed following the network change programme consultation. [HL3683]
The Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business (Baroness Vadera): My noble friend the Secretary of State has made clear during the passage of the Postal Services Bill the Government will not support any further programme of Post Office closures. But because 97 per cent of the network is privately owned and operated, neither Government nor Post Office Ltd can commit to maintain an absolute number of offices at any given time.
I understand from Post Office Ltd that the Hazelbury Bryan post office branch was not proposed for closure under the network change programme but will close on 26 May due to the sub-postmaster's resignation.
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Kings Stag post office was proposed for replacement with an outreach service during the network change programme. Kings Stag post office closed in March and Post Office Ltd is working to establish an outreach service in that area.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): The amount of off-peak capacity available across the rail network varies considerably. Some routes are busy with trains for much of the day, others have substantial unused off-peak capacity.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the total value of rail tickets sold using the (a) 1625 railcard, (b) senior railcard, and (c) disabled persons railcard in 200809; and how much revenue was received from the sale of those railcards. [HL3949]
To ask Her Majesty's Government how much net revenue (after deducting administrative expenses) was received by the train operators from the sale of (a) 1625 railcards, (b) senior railcards, and (c) disabled persons railcards in 200809. [HL3950]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the annual value of potential rail travel by persons aged 60 or over if the senior railcard or an equivalent were issued free of charge. [HL3952]
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Government do not themselves conduct exploration or development activities for oil or gas in any part of the United Kingdom. The Irish Sea area is geologically prospective and a range of companies are involved in such activities in the region. DECC's most recent strategic environmental assessment, published in January of this year, indicated that DECC would expect to offer more licences for areas in UK waters including the Irish Sea.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the situation in Sierra Leone; what discussions they have had with the government of Sierra Leone; and what plans they have to review their assistance programme to that country. [HL3805]
Lord Tunnicliffe: The situation has been thoroughly assessed as part of country planning over the past 12 months. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Ivan Lewis, visited Sierra Leone on 1 and 2 April and discussed these issues with the president and political leaders. The
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To ask Her Majesty's Government what recent contacts they have had with Impregilo, the preferred bidder to build an airport in St Helena; what were the results of those contacts; and what assessment they have made of the impact on the bidding process of the pause in negotiations announced in December 2008 [HL3804]
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