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To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they plan to review the quota system for gallantry medals in light of the intensity of fighting in Afghanistan. [HL1790]
The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The integrity of the operational honours system is paramount and British gallantry medals are highly respected. While honours are considered on a case-by-case basis and awarded according to individual merit, commanders are guided by a flexible quota system based on the number of people deployed on each mission and the intensity of combat. Gallantry awards recognise the bravest of the brave and are only given in extraordinary circumstances, therefore, their numbers will be limited. These decisions are outside of ministerial remit, but I understand there are no plans to change the current system.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will issue appropriate units of the United Kingdom forces in Afghanistan with tactical beacons (TACBEs) in order to improve their ability to communicate. [HL1958]
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: Tactical beacons (TACBEs) are no longer in service for use by UK Armed Forces. However, deployed personnel in Afghanistan whose duties put them at risk of isolation are equipped with effective means of communication.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that United Kingdom companies know of opportunities for Afghan mining contracts. [HL2000]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): On 27 January UKTI organised a trade and investment event in the margins of the London Conference on Afghanistan to raise awareness of commercial opportunities in a range of sectors in Afghanistan, including mining.
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the estimate in the report by the International Action Network on Small Arms, Oxfam and Saferworld, Africa's Missing Billions, that the cost of armed conflict in Africa since 1990 was equivalent to the money given in aid during the same time. [HL1944]
Lord Brett: I agree that the extraordinary cost of armed conflict in Africa severely hampers development. This is why HMG have steadily increased, over the past decade, the amount of their budget allocated to resolving and preventing conflict in Africa. The Department for International Development's (DfID's) 2009 White Paper, Eliminating World Poverty: Building our Common Future, set building peaceful states and societies as one of its key objectives. The White Paper pledges to allocate at least 50 per cent of its new bilateral funding to fragile countries and those affected by conflict and triple its direct project funding for security and justice.
Conflicts in Africa can only be managed and resolved in a sustainable manner by people and institutions on the continent, so HMG continue their support for African conflict prevention and resolution capability. HMG also seek an international treaty to regulate the arms trade, one of the key elements in reducing the flow of small arms in Africa. The UK has played a lead role internationally in arguing for an arms trade treaty (ATT). We are committed to working for a strong and transparent ATT over the next two years. We very much welcome the UN's approval of the ATT resolution which, for the first time, sets a clear timetable for negotiation of a treaty.
Asked by Lord Jones of Cheltenham
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their forecast of the cost to HM Treasury of freezing beer duty in the forthcoming Budget. [HL1980]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their forecast of the cost to HM Treasury of discontinuing the beer duty escalator. [HL1981]
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): Table 6 of the tax ready reckoner gives the impact upon Exchequer revenues of a 1 per cent increase in beer and cider duties in 2010-11 as £30 million. This figure can be adapted to give an approximate indication of the cost of different duty policy options.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how the police are protecting armed forces homecoming parades from unlawful protesters. [HL1789]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The role of the police is to facilitate peaceful protest, to keep the peace, to uphold the law and to prevent the commission of offences. Police tactics and decisions on how to achieve this difficult balance are a matter for the independent judgement of chief officers of police.
While the Government and police are committed to facilitating peaceful protest, we are clear that people have the right to go about their lawful business without fear of harm or intimidation. It is unacceptable for protest to cross over into violence or intimidation and the police will use the range of powers they have to deal with any activity that crosses this line.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, Quentin Davies, on 3 November 2009 (HC Deb, col. 832W), on what basis decisions to source meat supplies from countries other than the United Kingdom are taken where United Kingdom personnel are not resident in the countries concerned. [HL1918]
The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): As a public procurement organisation, the department is bound by the EC Public Procurement Regulations which are implemented in UK law by means of the Public Contract Regulations 2006. Under the regulations it is unlawful to act in an anti-competitive manner by specifying in which country goods should be sourced. All procurement subject to the exception provided for in Article 346 of the treaty, must be undertaken in accordance with the treaty principles of non-discrimination; equal treatment; transparency; mutual recognition and proportionality and contract award decisions are based on obtaining best value for money for the taxpayer through open and fair competition in line with MoD acquisition policy.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many asylum cases they are dealing with; and how many of them are legacy cases. [HL1857]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): In 2008 asylum intake was 25,935.
Published figures show that at the end of September 2009 there were 9,300 asylum applications (excluding dependants) awaiting an initial decision.
Information on asylum applications is published annually in the Control of Immigration: Statistics United Kingdom bulletin and on a quarterly basis in the Control of Immigration Quarterly Statistical Summary.
These publications are available from the Library of the House and from the Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate web site at:
http://www. homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration-asylum -stats. html.
There were approximately 215,000 cases remaining in the legacy backlog, as of December 2009.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 15 December 2009 (WA 192), how many of the 9,275 failed asylum seekers have now been removed. [HL1723]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Of the 9,275 unsuccessful removals of failed asylum seekers for the period 1 April 2008 to 30 November 2009, 4,303 have since been successfully removed from the UK (2,754 in financial year 2008-09, and 1,549 in financial year 2009-10 to 5 February).
These figures do not constitute part of National Statistics as they are based on internal management information. The information has not been quality assured under National Statistics protocols and should be treated as provisional and subject to change.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 3 December 2009 (WA 63), how much money was spent on removing failed asylum seekers in each of the last three years. [HL1728]
Lord West of Spithead: It is not possible to provide a definitive figure on how much money is spent on removing failed asylum seekers. As I previously explained in my answer of 3 December 2009 (WA 63), due to the many different factors which may or may not be involved in the cost of a removal, we are unable to disaggregate the specific costs and any attempt to do so would incur disproportionate cost.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how much has been paid out of the Consolidated Fund under section 228 of the Banking Act 2009; to what bodies payments were made; and how much of that money was paid retrospectively. [HL1973]
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): A report under Section 231 of the Banking Act 2009 for the period ending 30 September 2009 will be laid before Parliament by the end of
22 Feb 2010 : Column WA173
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Myners on 27 January (WA 329-30), how much Landsbanki paid to the Financial Services Authority to exercise the top-up offered by the United Kingdom Financial Services Compensation Scheme to protect depositors' investments between the €20,887 guaranteed by Iceland's Depositors' and Investors' Guarantee Fund and £50,000; and what proportion of the £1.8 billion repaid to depositors within those limits is expected to be recovered from the bank's assets. [HL1900]
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): This is a matter for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). We understand the amount cannot be disclosed as this is confidential information.
Firms in each class or sub-class contribute to the related compensation costs, in line with their FSA tariff data as was the case for Landsbanki. The FSCS is a creditor in the administration of Landsbanki Islands HF in Iceland. The position on possible recoveries in relation to the firm is not clear. We cannot provide a figure for the likely recoveries as a result.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Myners on 27 January (WA 329-30), whether their objective of minimising costs to the taxpayer in relation to the United Kingdom branch of Landsbanki was met by HM Treasury's repayment to depositors of £4.5 billion. [HL1901]
Lord Myners: On 8 October 2008 the FSA announced that the UK branch of Landsbanki was in default for the purposes of the FSCS. The Chancellor announced that all retail depositors with the UK branch of Landsbanki would receive their money in full. In taking this action the Government had several objectives including maintaining financial stability and the interests of taxpayer protection.
In November 2008 the FSCS began the payout of compensation to UK depositors, which consisted of three elements:(i) under the EC Deposit Guarantee Scheme Directive, deposits up to £16,872, which should be paid by the Icelandic Dpeositors and Investors Guarantee Fund (DIGF);(ii) FSCS eligible deposits above £16,872 and below £50,000 paid by the FSCS; and(iii) balances above £50,000 paid by HMT.
In total, around £4.5 billion has been paid. It is estimated that this includes £2.35 billion that the UK Government paid out to depositors on behalf of the DIGF, £1.4 billion paid out by the FSCS for deposits above €20,887 and below £50,000, and £800 million paid out by the UK Government in respect of deposits above £50,000.
On payout to a depositor, the claim of that depositor against Landsbanki is transferred to the FSCS. However, HMT has a contractual right to recover from the FSCS recoveries referable to the HMT portion (that is, payments to deposits above £50,000). The rights that relate to the depositors' claims of no more than £16,872 will be transferred to the DIGF. However, any such transfer will only take effect upon the coming into force of the "Icesave Refinancing Loan Agreement",
Information provided by the Resolution Committee for Landsbanki indicates that the FSCS and HM Treasury will make significant recoveries of the compensation paid to depositors through the winding up of Landsbanki.
In relation to the compensation paid out on behalf of the DIGF, on 5 June 2009, the UK Government reached agreement with the Icelandic authorities on a process to ensure the UK is refunded. The terms of the loan arrangements are set out in my letter to the House of 13 January (WA154). They include a state guarantee which, under Icelandic law, must be authorised by the Icelandic Parliament in order to take effect.
A Bill was passed in August to this effect but with a number of conditions introduced by the Icelandic Parliament. Following further negotiations, the loan agreement was amended to take account of these conditions. On 30 December, the Parliament in Iceland endorsed the loan arrangement and agreed a state guarantee. However, on 5 January 2010 the Icelandic President announced that he would not sign the Bill that the Parliament had approved, and instead proposed a referendum. A referendum has been scheduled for 6 March 2010.
The UK Government have received assurances from the Icelandic Government that they remain committed to meeting their obligations and intend to repay the loan in full.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Myners on 27 January (WA 329-30), what were the common law powers used to guarantee and repay all the deposits by United Kingdom retail investors in the Icelandic banks. [HL2055]
Lord Myners: The common law powers used by Treasury Ministers to make payments in connection with the retail deposit books of Heritable Bank, Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander and the UK branch of Landsbanki are referred to as the "Ram doctrine".
These payments comprised loans to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme to cover that proportion of the retail deposits protected by the scheme and cash payments to cover the proportion of the retail deposits which were not protected by the scheme.
This doctrine was set out in a memorandum by the then First Parliamentary Counsel, Sir Glanville Ram in 1945. This explains that as a matter of law a Minister of the Crown may exercise any powers that the Crown has power to exercise, except to the extent to which the Minister is precluded by statute either expressly or by necessary implication.
These powers include the power to enter into contracts or to make payments to others.
The statutory authority for the Treasury to incur expenditure in the course of exercising these powers was provided by section 228 of the Banking Act 2009.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether European Union nationals are eligible to claim child-related benefits when their children are not resident in the United Kingdom; and, if so, how much was paid out in each of the last five years. [HL1780]
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): Child benefit and child tax credit is intended to help families in the UK. Generally, therefore, it is not payable in respect of children resident outside the UK. However, under EC co-ordinating regulations on social security for migrant workers and their families, which the UK has administered since it joined the European Economic Community in 1973, a European economic area (EEA) national working in one member state can claim family benefits (child tax credit together with child benefit) in that member state in respect of members of their family resident in other member states.
All claims for family benefits are subject to a wide range of checks throughout the life of each claim. Where claims for family benefits are made under the EC regulations on behalf of children living in another member state, HM Revenue and Customs carries out further checks to verify the information provided by the customer to prevent erroneous or fraudulent claims.
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