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2 Dec 2009 : Column WA39

Written Answers

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Afghanistan and Pakistan

Questions

Asked by Baroness Warsi

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): It has been the longstanding policy of successive Governments not to comment on operational matters.

Asked by Baroness Warsi

Lord West of Spithead: It has been the longstanding policy of successive Governments not to comment on operational matters.

Aviation Security Act 1982

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): The Government have no plans to undertake any significant review the provisions of the Aviation Security Act (ASA) 1982. However, the Policing and Crime Act 2009 will make amendment to the Aviation Security Act 1982 in respect of policing at airports.

Bank of England: Monetary Policy Committee

Question

Asked by Lord Barnett

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The Bank of England Act 1998 sets out the statutory framework for the Bank of England, including the role and composition of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), and provides that a representative of the Treasury may attend, and

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speak, at any meeting of the committee. Dave Ramsden, Chief Economic Advisor to the Treasury, attends as the Treasury representative. Monetary Policy Committee attendees are recorded in the minutes published by the Bank of England following each meeting.

Cabinet Office

Question

Asked by Lord Wallace of Saltaire

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): The Government carefully consider lessons learnt from past machinery of government changes when formulating machinery of government advice, and generally publish a written document describing significant machinery of government changes. The Cabinet Office has not recently prepared or commissioned reports into machinery of government changes, although a similar report was published in 2002 on the creation of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. A copy is available in the Libraries of the House.

Counterterrorism

Questions

Asked by Baroness Neville-Jones

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): OSCT spend on Publicity and Advertising since its inception has been:

2007/08-No spend;2008/09-£26,051;2009/10 (as at 31 November)-£20,000.

This expenditure includes promoting a competition to encourage architects to incorporate counterterrorism-related safety measures into crowded places design, an open call to academia and industry for expressions of interest in taking forward work on Chemical Biological Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive subjects, and branding design work for the Olympic Security Directorate.

Some minor additional spend on external advertising for certain key posts within OSCT has occurred in 2008-09 and 2009-10 but the cost is incorporated into the attraction costs of the recruitment firms employed to manage the individual campaigns and not readily identifiable.



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Asked by Baroness Neville-Jones

Lord West of Spithead: There have been no internal or external reports produced this year into the effectiveness of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT).

However, from 2008-09, for the first time we had a dedicated public service agreement on counterterrorism. A number of indicator sets measure success against our overarching aim to reduce the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from international terrorism. These are subject to a biannual assessment by Her Majesty's Treasury. By its nature, the PSA delivery agreement contains information about the UK counterterrorism effort that could be potentially useful to those who threaten the UK and its interests. Performance against the PSA is therefore classified.

Asked by Baroness Neville-Jones

Lord West of Spithead: The single security and intelligence budget, which includes government spending on counterterrorism and intelligence, was announced as part of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review. It is forecast to rise from £2.5 billion in 2008-09 to £3.5 billion in 2010-11. The new version of the United Kingdom's Strategy for Countering International Terrorism will be delivered within this envelope.

Breaking down this budget by specific counterterrorism and intelligence activities, beyond what is published already, would reveal our capabilities and details of the security and intelligence agencies' spending. It has been the policy of successive Governments not to reveal these details.

The provision of counterterrorist protective security measures has long been based upon the principle that the "user pays". However, there has been central government expenditure in respect of the "Protect" strand of the strategy and some information has been made publicly available. This includes:

£5 million for 2009-10 to support regional and local delivery of work in England and Wales to improve the protection of crowded places as set out in the Government's consultation document "Working Together to Protect Crowded Places.";£2.7 million for the period 2007-08 to 2008-09 to increase the size of the National Barrier Asset; and more than £1.5 million in 2008-09 to support additional Counter-Terrorist Security Advisers posts.

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Crime: Domestic Violence

Question

Asked by Lord Sheikh

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Government's national domestic violence delivery plan sets out our framework for tackling domestic violence. One of our objectives is to improve the justice system's response to domestic violence by supporting victims and managing perpetrators. Activities which support the delivery of this objective include:

updating domestic violence training for the police and Crown Prosecution Service to ensure a consistent and appropriate response to victims;rolling out to all police forces the new risk assessment checklist which covers domestic violence, stalking and harassment and "honour"-based violence; andincreasing the number of the specialist domestic violence court systems to provide a multi-agency approach to supporting victims thereby bringing more offenders to justice.

We also recently published our government strategy Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls, which includes a section on the response of the criminal justice system. One of the priorities is to bring more offenders to justice by improving reporting and conviction rates. We are also currently considering a number of proposals submitted by Chief Constable Brian Moore which address perpetrators of violence towards women and girls and will provide a full response in the new year.

Cuba

Questions

Asked by Lord Patten



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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): We are greatly concerned about the high numbers of political prisoners in Cuba and the conditions in which they are held. We are also troubled by the existence and use of pre-criminal social dangerousness charges to target behaviour that contradicts Cuba's socialist norms. These pre-emptive charges, often used against political dissidents and critics, allow the authorities to imprison individuals before they have committed any crime, on the suspicion that they are likely to commit an offence in the future. This has included prostitutes, unemployed people and alcoholics.

It is difficult to get accurate figures on the number of political prisoners in Cuba, as the Government of Cuba tightly control information about their prisons. Furthermore, there is inconsistency in reporting cases and many go unreported. We therefore have to rely on a range of sources to get estimates. A report published in August by the unofficial Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation documented 208 cases of political prisoners. Fifty-three of the 75 political prisoners arrested during the 2003 clampdown remain detained. Amnesty International recognises 57 prisoners of conscience in Cuba.

Based on a fact-finding mission to Cuba this year, Human Rights Watch documented more than 40 cases in which the Government have imprisoned individuals under the dangerousness provision. In April 2009 our embassy in Havana wrote to the Ministry of Justice in Cuba, asking how many people had been charged with social dangerousness in the past five years. We are still waiting for a response. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation believe that there may be between 3,000 and 5,000 prisoners in Cuba convicted of pre-criminal dangerousness.

We continue to raise our concerns about political prisoners regularly with the Cuban authorities in London and Havana. Human rights also form an important part of the EU's political dialogue with Cuba, including monitoring a list of political prisoners in poor health. Although we have not specifically pressed for Red Cross access to Cuban prisons, during Cuba's universal periodic review at the UN Human Rights Council in February, the UK recommended that Cuba allow independent international observers including UN special rapporteurs to review the prisons. In addition to highlighting concerns about political prisoners, the UK also recommended that Cuba refrain from using such laws as those against dangerousness, enemy propaganda and contempt for authority to restrict the rights of freedom of expression and association.

Egypt

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool



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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): Our embassy in Cairo is aware of demonstrations, riots and the burning down of buildings belonging to Coptic Christians in towns near Qena. The Egyptian police have arrested a number of people suspected of involvement in the riots, but the situation remains volatile.

The Egyptian Government have undertaken a number of initiatives to promote tolerance, interfaith harmony and prevent sectarian violence, but sectarian tensions and discrimination do still occur. We continue to press the Government of Egypt to ensure effective implementation of their initiatives at all levels.

Energy: Power Stations

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government will support a programme of up to four full chain commercial-scale carbon capture and storage demonstration projects in Britain, to be operational by 2020. In addition, there are likely to be a number of research and development and pilot projects that test capture technology only-for example the Environmental Transformation Fund's support for an oxy-fuel combustion project at Doosan Babcock in Renfrew.

EU: Foreign Affairs

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The presentation on 10 November 2009 to the French National Assembly by French Europe Minister, Pierre Lellouche, on European issues was wide ranging. He mentioned not only working closely with Germany but also the key role of the UK.

On the European External Action Service (EEAS) it will be important that all of the EU member states work closely, together with the EU institutions, to ensure that the EEAS can fully support the High Representative in seeking to make the EU's external action more coherent and effective.



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Finance Sector: Market Share

Question

Asked by Lord Saatchi

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Food: Hospitals

Questions

Asked by Lord Hylton

Baroness Thornton: Purchasing decisions are made at a local level, as National Health Service strategic health authorities and trusts are separate contracting authorities responsible for their own procurement. Under procurement regulations, buyers are unable to specify the purchase of local food as such, as this discriminates against non-local suppliers from the United Kingdom and European Union member states.

On 6 May 2009, the department published guidance entitled, Sustainable Food - a guide for hospitals. Advice to the NHS in this document included:

the use of local, in-season ingredients where possible, to minimise energy used in food production, transport and storage; andspecifying food from farming systems that minimise harm to the environment, such as certified organic produce.

A copy of this document has been placed in the Library and is available on the department's website, via the following link at www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/Publications PolicyAndGuidance/DH_098881.

Asked by Lord Hylton

Baroness Thornton: The department does not routinely collect this information.

However, evidence from NHS Supply Chain (NHS SC), which has approximately 60 per cent of the spend on food by the National Health Service, shows that in the past 12 months, purchasing decisions by NHS trusts have favoured conventional products rather than organic. NHS SC's estimate for the purchase of organic food by the NHS trusts that it supplies is about 4 per cent.

No figures are available for local produce.


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