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To ask the Leader of the House further to her Written Answer on 3 December (WA 77), in respect of how many of the Questions that were not answered before the end of the 2008-09 Session was an apology sent to the Member concerned for not having been answered within 14 days. [HL899]
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I remain determined that departments take seriously their responsibilities to answer Questions on time and continue to reinforce that message with them. My office urged all those departments concerned to provide substantive Answers to the six Questions for Written Answer referred to in my Written Answer of 3 December. The precise terms in which they did so are, of course, a matter for the departments themselves.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their stance on the resolution promoted by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference before the United Nations General Assembly on the defamation of religion. [HL1038]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The Government share the concern of the Organisation of Islamic Conference that individuals around the world are victimised because of their religion or belief. We all need to do more to eliminate religious intolerance and to ensure that those who incite hatred or violence against individuals because of their religious beliefs are dealt with by the law.
But the Government cannot agree with an approach that promotes the concept of "defamation of religions" as a response. This approach severely risks diminishing the right to freedom of expression. We believe that international human rights law already strikes the right balance between the individual's right to express themselves freely and the need for the state to limit this right in certain circumstances. International human rights law provides that only where advocacy of religious hatred constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence should it be prohibited by law.
We believe that the concept of "defamation of religions" puts in danger the very openness and tolerance that allows people of different faiths to co-exist and to practise their faith without fear. It risks changing the focus of international human rights law from examining how countries promote and protect the right to freedom of expression to censoring what individuals say. If this happened, people might feel unable to speak out against human rights abuses or hold their government to account. It is also inconsistent with the international human rights legal framework which exists to protect individuals and not concepts or specific belief systems.
For this reason the UK, along with our EU Partners and other like-minded countries, voted against the resolution put forward by the Organisation of Islamic Conference at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly on Combating Defamation of Religions.
To ask Her Majesty's Government on how many occasions Royal Navy units have made contact with suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia; and, for each incident, how many suspects were involved, and whether they were armed. [HL524]
The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Since October 2008 the Royal Navy has carried out compliant boardings on seven suspected pirate vessels. Figures shown below detail the number of suspected pirates involved for each boarding and whether they were armed.
|Incident||Total number of suspected pirates||Armed|
To ask Her Majesty's Government what criteria regarding public access and benefit have been included in the terms of reference for Sir Muir Russell's review of funding for university museums and galleries. [HL1088]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): Institutions in receipt of this funding have been asked to submit evidence to the review against three criteria. One of these asks for "the extent to which the activities of the museums and galleries address the Higher Education Funding Council for England's widening participation objective to promote and provide the opportunity of successful participation in higher education to everyone who can benefit from it, and the broader government objective of increasing public access to such institutions for the wider community to promote lifelong learning and social cohesion. Submissions may also include evidence of public engagement activities directly beneficial to higher education undertaken by the museum/gallery (for example, work contributing to public understanding of the research process and its outcomes)".
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