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2 July 2009 : Column WA65



2 July 2009 : Column WA65

Written Answers

Thursday 2 July 2009

Afghanistan

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Minister for Europe (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The UK works closely with the Afghan authorities to support a strengthening of the criminal justice system across Afghanistan. The UK is clear that all detainees should be treated humanely. It is right that the International Committee of the Red Cross have access to those detained at the Bagram detention facility.

The question of prisoners detained at Bagram is a matter for the US and Afghan Governments as Bagram is a US detention facility. President Obama has set in motion a comprehensive review of detention policy and practice, including in Afghanistan. We welcome this and await its outcome.

The formal justice system in Afghanistan faces many challenges, including a shortage of trained judges and legal representation. The UK and international community are supporting the strengthening of the justice sector to address these; for example, at the national level the UK is building the capacity of the Criminal Justice Task Force and, through the Department for International Development, has supported the World Bank's Justice Sector Reform Project.

The UK also supports human rights in Afghanistan. Since 2001 the UK has given nearly £2 million to support the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). The AIHRC has over 500 staff across Afghanistan, actively tackling human rights issues, including false imprisonment.

In its 2007 annual report, the AIHRC stated that its Monitoring and Investigation Unit, in close co-operation with the Afghan Ministry of Justice, prepared a list of 2,392 people who were in prison after the completion of their sentences or who were otherwise illegally detained. The AIHRC later released an update stating that 819 of those who were illegally detained had been released and the sentences of an estimated 1,500 more had been determined.

Architects: Fees

Question

Asked by Lord Tebbit



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The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The services of an architect, surveyor or any person acting as a consultant or in a supervisory capacity are liable to VAT at the standard rate in most circumstances, even when supplied in connection with building works which themselves qualify for the zero rate of VAT.

Azerbaijan

Question

Asked by Baroness Cox

The Minister for Europe (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): We are aware that both Armenia and Azerbaijan report incidents in which their servicemen have been held by the other side.

We encourage both sides to work towards a peaceful, negotiated settlement and to explore the possibilities for confidence-building measures to reduce tension along the line of contact and international border between the two countries. We expect all countries to respect international humanitarian and human rights law in dealing with captured soldiers and civilians.

Bees

Questions

Asked by Lord Moynihan

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): Decisions on what projects will be funded under the insect pollinator initiative will be made by the funders on the basis of whether they fulfil the eligibility criteria, address the issues outlined in the research call and on the basis of their quality. Therefore, it is not possible to predict at this stage what proportion of funds will be allocated to specific areas or research bodies, including the National Bee Unit and higher education institutions. A meeting will be held in London on 3 July to launch the call for proposals and further details can be found on the Living With Environmental Change website.

Asked by Lord Moynihan

Lord Davies of Oldham: No formal assessment has been made of the University of Sussex's research plan for honey bee health and well-being. However, the

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Food and Environment Research Agency's chief scientist is intending to visit the university in August to discuss bee health research.

Broadcasting: Analogue Radios

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

The Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting (Lord Carter of Barnes): The recently published Digital Britain report set out our vision for the delivery of a digital radio upgrade programme by the end of 2015, when we would expect all services carried on the national and local DAB multiplexes to cease broadcasting on analogue. In order to help achieve this, we have urged manufacturers to pursue opportunities to develop devices which convert analogue sets affordably, but this is not a pre-requisite. We also welcome manufacturers' commitment to producing sub £20 DAB sets within the next two years.

Civil Partnerships

Question

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Minister for Europe (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The French Government have confirmed to us that, with effect from 14 May 2009 when the amendment passed into French law, parties to a civil partnership formed under the British Civil Partnership Act 2004 now enjoy equivalent legal status under French law to couples who have concluded a pacte civil de solidarité.

Climate Change: Greenhouse Gases

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We closely follow the impact of policy announcements by the United States and other major countries on plans to mitigate their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in

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line with their legal obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Under the convention, parties are required periodically to report their climate policies and emissions inventories to the UNFCCC secretariat. We take a strong interest in these reports, and use the data presented to inform our understanding of countries' progress in reducing emissions through existing policies, and the further actions that will be required from countries in order to avoid dangerous climate change.

The Government are also monitoring unilateral announcements by major countries on the mitigation actions that they expect to undertake in future. Current negotiations on the overall shape of a future international climate change agreement foresee the adoption at Copenhagen later this year of new, improved international rules for measuring, reporting and verifying the impact of countries' emissions reduction policies.

We also actively monitor the longer term impact of mitigation actions on global concentrations of carbon dioxide and other GHGs in the atmosphere, including through research conducted by the Meteorological Office Hadley Centre. However, we would expect a lag of several years between any significant changes in greenhouse gas emissions and the measurable atmospheric effects that would result from this, due to inertia in the global climate system.

Climate Change

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government recognise that if we do not take action now to stop climate change getting worse, the ice sheets will continue to melt, the impacts on future generations will be irreversible and the costs of taking action unaffordable. That is why the UK is pushing for an ambitious global climate change deal in Copenhagen later this year that will meet our objective of keeping global temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius. This will mean nothing less than a 50 per cent reduction in global emissions by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels).

In the EU, we have already committed to a 20 per cent reduction in EU emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2020, and if other countries make ambitious commitments in December, the EU is prepared to increase this commitment to 30 per cent. This is by far the most ambitious mitigation offer on the negotiation table so far.

At a national level, future sea level rise around the UK coast due to the effects of climate change is a major concern. In November 2008, the Environment Agency, working with the Met Office Hadley Centre, published some climate change research findings as part of the Thames Estuary 2100 project (TE100).

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The research outlined that relative sea levels could rise between 0.2m and 0.88m by 2100. This figure allows for small land movements over that time, but does not fully account for the remote possibility of future rapid changes in ice flows in the Atlantic or in Greenland, which could lead to the upper figures being much higher.

In response, the Environment Agency commissioned the Met Office to consider this gap in ice flow science. The work investigated a most extreme scenario, known as High + +. This suggested a higher range of sea level rise of up to 1.9m. This is regarded as a remote possibility, highly uncertain and highly unlikely in this century. As we go forward, we will refine our projections in the light of what is happening in practice and as science deepens our understanding.

Defra manages the impacts of sea level rise through a range of policy approaches including supporting flood adaptation and resilience. Long-term strategies and plans, such as Thames Estuary 2100, have been prepared on the basis of current understanding and are designed to be adaptable to ensure that future challenges can be met.

Cyprus: Property

Questions

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

The Minister for Europe (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): Property issues of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots have been affected by the breakdown of relations between the two communities. Ultimately we believe the complex issue of property can only be fully resolved through a comprehensive settlement on the island.

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: Ultimately we believe the complex issue of property can only be fully resolved through a comprehensive settlement on the island. We fully support the efforts of the two leaders on the island to find a settlement to the Cyprus problem by Cypriots, for Cypriots. Good progress has already been made but we would urge the two leaders to intensify their efforts in order to take advantage of the limited window of opportunity to solve this longstanding problem.



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Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: We are aware of the establishment of a "claims commission", the Immoveable Properties Commission, in the north of Cyprus. However, as with all individual cases, it is up to individuals how they choose to take up their claims. Ultimately we believe the complex issue of property can only be fully resolved through a comprehensive settlement on the island.

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: This would be a matter for courts and judicial process; as such we are unable to comment further.

Data Controllers

Questions

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): No assessment notices have yet been served by the Information Commissioner's Office because they are among the provisions in the Coroners and Justice Bill, currently before Parliament.

The Government are currently considering which data controllers, in addition to government departments, should be brought within the scope of assessment notices under proposed new Section 41A(2)(b) of the Data Protection Act (inserted by Clause 156 of the

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Bill). Any proposals to include additional data controllers within scope will follow consultation with the persons concerned.

The Government are separately considering the arguments that have been made in favour of amending the Bill to extend further the assessment notice scheme to cover a broader range of data controllers, including those in the private sector.

Education: Scholarships

Question

Asked by Lord Luce

The Minister for Europe (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The inter-departmental working group on scholarships first met on 19 February 2009. It will continue to meet on an ad hoc basis. It was set up to improve working level co-ordination between departments and other interested organisations and has no specific remit to produce recommendations.

Energy: Meters

Question

Asked by Lord Teverson

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Prepayment meters enable customers to monitor and control their expenditure, and can also be a valuable alternative to disconnection for non-payment of bills. Ofgem's recent market probe, however, identified that some customers were paying an unjustified premium for their pre-payment meter. Under pressure from Government and Ofgem's findings suppliers have reduced the premiums paid by customers where they were not cost-reflective. Ofgem is currently consulting on licence modifications to ensure that this situation cannot reoccur.


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