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5 Oct 2009 : Column WA373



5 Oct 2009 : Column WA373

Written Answers

Answers received between Wednesday 22 July and Monday 27 July 2009

Afghanistan

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

Lord Taylor of Warwick: As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister stated on 15 July 2009 (Official Report, col. 282), the purpose of our mission in Afghanistan is to prevent terrorism coming to the streets of Britain. The UK, along with 41 other countries, contributes to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in support of the democratically elected Government of Afghanistan. We are complementing military action with commitments to build the capacity of Afghan security forces and with economic and social development programmes to give the people of Afghanistan a stake in their future.

Armed Forces: Leave

Question

Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Several schemes exist to facilitate home leave outside the UK: Domiciled Collective Leave (DOMCOL), DOMCOL Substitute, Get You Home (Early Years) (Overseas Assistance) and Commonwealth Enlistment Compassionate Travel (COMECT).

The DOMCOL scheme grants authorised periods of absence to visit the country of domicile to eligible service personnel. Dependent on certain conditions, personnel are eligible for 45 working days' leave in their home country, with travel at public expense, on completion of each five years' service outside the home country.

DOMCOL Substitute allows those personnel who are not eligible for DOMCOL to accumulate up to 25 per cent of annual leave to enable them to visit their home country at their own expense.

Service personnel in their first three years of service serving in the UK can make use of the Get You Home (Early Years) (Overseas Assistance) scheme which provides a contribution towards one return journey a year for the first three years of service to a qualifying address abroad.



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Central Asia: Regional Security

Questions

Asked by Viscount Waverley

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The UK values its strong, open and growing relationship with Kazakhstan. Energy security and supplies, together with the resultant commercial opportunities, are especially important. The UK is the third largest investor in Kazakhstan with over US$5 billion invested since independence in 1991. Bilateral trade is worth some US$3.5 billion annually.

Good governance and regional security issues will also feature prominently in the coming months as Kazakhstan assumes the chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010. We look forward to further progress on the governance and human rights commitments set out by Foreign Minister Tazhin at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Madrid in 2007. We have made it clear that the UK stands ready to help to ensure that Kazakhstan has a successful OSCE chairmanship.

Asked by Viscount Waverley

Lord Malloch-Brown: The UK maintains a constructive and balanced relationship with Uzbekistan. That relationship also takes account of the EU sanctions regime imposed after the tragic events in Andijan (eastern Uzbekistan) in May 2005.

Our main priorities are to support good governance, democracy and human rights. We raise our concerns in a critical but constructive dialogue with the Uzbek authorities in Tashkent and in discussions with the Uzbek embassy in London. In addition, the EU has a comprehensive and results-oriented annual human rights dialogue with Uzbekistan, which includes a focus on the need for further progress in Uzbek promotion and protection of human rights.

Regional security is also a priority given the potential for instability in the Ferghana Valley (straddling the Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik borders). There are several factors that may contribute to unrest there: growing poverty, a fall-off in remittances, and the relocation of extremists from Pakistan/Afghanistan into central Asia. We believe that Uzbekistan could have an important and positive influence in Afghanistan and more broadly.

Asked by Viscount Waverley



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Lord Malloch-Brown: Kyrgyzstan remains one of the poorest countries of the region. Our main priorities are to support good governance, democracy and human rights. Members of the UK Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) visited Kyrgyzstan in September 2008, following a July 2007 Kyrgyz IPU visit to the UK. President Kurmanbek Bakiev faces an election on 23 July 2009, and we look forward to the post-election conclusions of the observation mission being undertaken by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which includes participants from the UK.

The Department for International Development runs a programme worth some £7 million per year that has key themes of governance, service delivery, accountability and some regional HIV/AIDS work.

Asked by Viscount Waverley

Lord Malloch-Brown: Tajikistan is the poorest of the former Soviet republics and is faced by rising economic hardship caused by a slowdown in growth and a fall in remittances, as well as the risk of overspill from the conflict in Afghanistan. Our main priorities there are good governance, democracy and human rights.

The Department for International Development's programme is worth about £6 million this financial year and is focused on private sector and rural development, good governance and improving the effectiveness of the international aid effort. DfID's programmes also include some regional HIV/AIDS work. In 2008, the UK also provided significant emergency support in response to a major winter energy and humanitarian crisis.

Asked by Viscount Waverley

Lord Malloch-Brown: Our priority is to support Turkmenistan in becoming a stable and prosperous partner for the UK and EU. We are pleased that UK companies are expressing interest and seeking to develop business links in Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan can play a key role in the development of a southern corridor bringing gas from the Caspian region to the EU, and help diversification of supply routes to ensure energy security. To that end, we and our EU partners supported Turkmenistan's initiative last year for a UN resolution on the secure transit of energy supplies.

We are working to support further reform in Turkmenistan in contacts with the Turkmen authorities and stand ready to help the process in whatever way we can. In addition, the EU has a comprehensive and results-oriented annual human rights dialogue with

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Turkmenistan, which includes a focus on the need for further progress in Turkmen promotion and protection of human rights.

We are also looking to work more closely with the Ashgabat-based UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia and encourage substantive progress towards its core objectives (that include drug trafficking, terrorism and organised crime; environmental degradation, water and energy management; and issues relating to Afghanistan).

Asked by Viscount Waverley

Lord Malloch-Brown: The central Asia region, and our relationships with its five independent states, is important to a number of the Government's strategic objectives.

The Caspian basin is a region of growing importance for world energy markets. Kazakhstan is set to become one of the world's top 10 oil producers. The UK will potentially be a major importer of central Asian gas. The diversification of supplies to ensure energy security, for example, by the development of a southern corridor bringing gas from the Caspian region via Turkey to the EU, is a key priority.

We remain concerned about human rights and shortcomings in democratic values and the rule of law in many parts of the region. We regularly raise these concerns in our dialogue with central Asian governments and continue to work with EU, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and other international partners to support real reform in these areas.

Central Asia is important to our efforts in Afghanistan as well as to combating drugs, the spread of religious extremism and international terrorism. With EU and other partners, we are monitoring the risk posed to regional stability by water management issues because of competing demands between upstream and downstream states.

We fully support the EU's Strategy for Central Asia. This aims to support the development and consolidation in central Asia of stable, just and open societies that adhere to international norms. It includes good governance, the rule of law, human rights, democratisation, education and training, and regional security and energy issues as key areas for co-operation.

Charity Commission

Questions

Asked by Lord Morris of Manchester



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Baroness Crawley: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Charity Commission. I have asked the commission to reply.

Children: Care

Question

Asked by Lord Pearson of Rannoch

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): If the local authority has concerns about a child's welfare, it cannot take any action to remove a child from the care of his or her parents or other adults with parental responsibility without first obtaining a court order. The Children Act 1989 sets out the extent of the local authority's powers and the limitations on them in these circumstances. Where there is risk to a child's life or a likelihood of serious immediate harm, under Section 44 of the Act the local authority may apply to the family court for an emergency protection order (EPO). This would be to ensure that either the child remains in a safe place or is removed to a safe place. The order will be time limited-the EPO may last for up to eight days, providing time for the local authority to investigate the child's welfare and obtain the evidence it needs to decide whether further protective action is needed, if any. In addition, under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989 the local authority can apply to the court for a care order. As it may take some time for the proceedings to be concluded, the court has power to make an interim care order whenever the proceedings are adjourned. Before making an interim order the court must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the child's circumstances fulfil the criteria for a care order, i.e. that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm due to inadequate parenting or the child is beyond parental control. In any court proceedings of this type, the court's decisions must be made in accordance with Section 1 of the Act-popularly known as the welfare checklist. The child's welfare must be the court's paramount consideration throughout and an order should be made only if the court considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all.



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Education: Pupil Information

Questions

Asked by Baroness Byford

Asked by Baroness Byford

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): The Education (Information About Individual Pupils) (England) Regulations 2006 define the individual pupil data items to be collected from schools in the school census. The regulations can be viewed at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2006/20062601.htm. The provision by all maintained nursery, primary, secondary, middle deemed primary, middle deemed secondary, special and non-maintained special schools, academies and city technology colleges schools is a statutory requirement by virtue of these regulations, which are made under Section 537A of the Education Act 1996.

DCSF cannot answer on behalf of local authorities, which have their own individual data protection obligations, so have answered HL5160 for DCSF.

Section 537A of the Education Act 1996 provides for the Secretary of State to prescribe persons and categories of person who can exchange individual pupil information. Individual pupil information is defined as "information relating to and identifying individual pupils or former pupils at any school". The DCSF uses the powers in Section 537A to provide information about individual pupils to information collators, prescribed persons and prescribed categories of person for:

research and statistical purposes which inform, influence and improve education policy and to monitor the performance of the education sector;matching departmental data sources together to model and monitor pupils' educational achievements and progression;obtaining samples for statistical surveys, and matching data to data obtained from statistical surveys; andoperational purposes including the provision of pupil data for use in school inspections, the pupil test registration process. Individual pupil level

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information is also shared with post-16 learning institutions to minimise the administrative burden on application for a course and to aid the preparation of learning plans.

The Education (Individual Pupil Information) (Prescribed Persons) (England) Regulations 1999 (as amended) prescribe which persons may be provided with individual pupil information. The regulations can be viewed at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1999/19990903.htm. These regulations will be consolidated in the Education (Individual Pupil Information) (Prescribed Persons) (England) Regulations 2009 coming into force on 1 September 2009. These are essentially the same as the regulations they replace, with an update to the description of some of the persons and the addition of Becta and Ofsted to the list of prescribed persons. They can be viewed at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2009/uksi_20091563_en_1.

Financial Services Authority

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The matter raised in this Question is the responsibility of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), whose day-to-day operations are independent of government.

International Conventions

Question

Asked by Lord Judd

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The work being undertaken within Government to examine the potential impact of the convention against enforced disappearance on the law of the UK is ongoing.

This includes analysing the extent to which common law provisions may need to be replicated in statute law, the creation of one or more new criminal offences, and whether the UK required any reservations or declarations upon ratification. It is now clear that primary legislation would be necessary to permit ratification if the Government decide to pursue this course of action. This would be introduced when parliamentary time allowed.


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