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The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Postal and proxy voting, along with all other areas of electoral law are kept under review. As part of this process, we will carefully consider the findings and any recommendations contained in the reports of the Electoral Commission into the conduct of the recent general election.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, following the Prime Minister on 9 June (Official Report, Commons, col. 325) calling the Electoral Commission a "vast bureaucracy", they will transfer the supervision of the electoral process to the Home Office and local electoral registration offices. [HL465]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what has been the total cost per annum of aborting babies who were conceived following in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment; how long after embryo transfer, on average, such abortions take place; how many such abortions were carried out under Section 1(1)(c) of the Abortion Act 1967; and what counselling patients received prior to commencing IVF treatment and prior to the abortions in question.[HL230]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Information about the cost per annum of abortions following in vitro fertilisation (IVF), or how long after embryo transfer terminations take place, or the number of abortions carried out after having IVF under Section (1)(1)(c) is not collected centrally.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority advises that a woman undergoing IVF treatment must be given a suitable opportunity to receive counselling about the implications of her treatment. The counselling service should comply with current professional guidance on good practice in infertility counselling and be provided only by qualified counsellors. This applies to all patients undergoing IVF treatment. Prior to the abortion procedure, women are fully informed of choices available to them, including alternatives to an abortion. This includes written information that can be take home before the procedure.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their stance on the proposal that they submit draft budget proposals to European Union finance Ministers and the European Commission for scrutiny before submitting the budget to Parliament.[HL322]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what will be the sanction for not submitting draft budget proposals to European Union finance Ministers and the European Commission for scrutiny before submitting the budget to Parliament.[HL323]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government have made their position on this issue very clear at meetings of the EU Economic Taskforce. The Chancellor and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury have said at those meetings that the UK will not submit its budget to the EU before it has been approved by this House. To date, there have been no proposals for sanctions under this process.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government are supportive of proposals to introduce an EU wide regulatory regime for credit rating agencies. The European Council in June 2009 agreed that the supervision of credit rating agencies should be undertaken by the European Supervisory Authorities. On 2 June 2010, the European Commission published a draft amending regulation to implement this decision.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 8 June (WA 35), what assessment they have made of the impact of Turkey's proposed accession to the European Union on the United Kingdom's influence in the European Union; and what influence the reaction of the British public will have on the Government's policy in that regard.[HL468]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government assesses that Turkey's accession to the EU would not directly affect the UK's influence as accession only transfers power from the acceding country to the EU. However, the Government believe that Turkish accession would be to the wider benefit of the UK and EU, contributing to our security, stability and prosperity. The UK has close relations with Turkey and a wide-ranging bilateral dialogue, including on international issues, trade, security, energy, and several other areas.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how they will consult organisations affected by changes to the provision of government funding in 2010-11; and what support will be made available to those organisations that lose contracts that had been previously agreed.[HL328]
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach on 7 June (WA 19), why the Cabinet Office does not centrally maintain details of the numbers of surplus staff held within individual departmental redeployment pools; and whether they will reconsider that decision to enable greater redeployment of such personnel and to reduce redundancies.[HL394]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: A jointly agreed protocol for dealing with surplus staff situations ensures that maximum redeployment already takes place as part of the surplus management and redundancy mitigation processes. The current protocol is under review.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they will take to implement the pledge in The Coalition: our programme for government that "we will explore a range of measures to bring empty homes into use."[HL428]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The Government are looking closely at the cause and nature of empty homes and the full range of potential measures to bring empty homes back into use, as part of a well functioning housing market.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have finalised the draft protocol between the Homes and Communities Agency and the Local Government Association on housing and regeneration announced on 3 July 2008.[HL549]
Baroness Hanham: The protocol was finalised in June 2009. It was published in July of that year and can be found in the Homes and Communities Agency's Corporate Plan of 2009, and on its website at the following address: http://www.homesandcommunities. co.uk/public/ documents/Central_Local_Agreement_Housing_and_Regeneration.pdf.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the estimated cost of the administration of the Housing Market Renewal programme in (a) Communities and Local Government, and (b) the Homes and Communities Agency; and how many staff are employed on housing market renewal work in each organisation.[HL551]
Baroness Hanham: My department's spend on the administration of the Housing Market Renewal Programme forms part of the department's running costs which are set out in the departmental annual report 2009. CLG (policy) employ two FTE staff on HMR work and a further two FTE staff are employed by HCA (policy). In addition, there is input from HCA regional offices and across the government office network.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the number of ethnic Uzbeks killed in the current fighting in Osh and Jalalabad in southern Kyrgyzstan; what proportion of the total number killed that represents; whether there is evidence that ethnic Uzbeks have been targeted; and, if so, what assessment they have made of the cause of that.[HL443]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We have heard reports that over 2,000 people may have died during the recent unrest in Kyrgyzstan. There have been casualties among both ethnic-Uzbek and ethnic-Kyrgyz populations. The UN has estimated that that as many as 260,000 people have been displaced by the unrest, over 100,000 of whom have sought refuge in Uzbekistan. The causes of the fighting are not yet clear.
Lord Howell of Guildford: We are deeply concerned by the recent upsurge in violence in Kyrgyzstan. We continue to monitor developments closely. As EU Foreign Ministers agreed on 14 June it is important that the violence ceases immediately, that public order is restored by lawful means, and that there should be an inter-community dialogue as a matter of urgency.
21 Jun 2010 : Column WA148
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the number of ethnic Uzbek refugees who have crossed the border into Uzbekistan as a result of the current unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan; and what discussions they have had with the Government of Uzbekistan about the action that country is taking to create appropriate conditions for the refugees.[HL445]
Lord Howell of Guildford: According to Uzbek officials, there are over 100,000 refugees already in Uzbekistan. The Uzbek Government have responded quickly to this humanitarian crisis to provide food, shelter and medical assistance. At the request of the Uzbek Government, the UN in Uzbekistan is exploring options for a co-ordinated international response to the current situation and is already deploying staff and aid supplies. We are in contact with the UN and with the Uzbek Government through our embassy in Tashkent. Basic short-term needs are being met, but it seems likely that significant international assistance will be needed in the longer term.
Lord Howell of Guildford: Both the Kyrgyz Provisional Government and the Uzbek Government have stated their suspicions over the influence of outside forces in provoking the current unrest. Roza Otunbaeva, Head of the Provisional Government in Kyrgyzstan, has publicly accused ousted President Bakiev of being behind the tensions. We are also receiving unofficial reports of violence being instigated by groups coming from outside Osh and Jalalabad. However, such assessments are currently impossible to verify and we do not have evidence of external forces influencing the events in the region.
Lord Howell of Guildford: On 15 June the European Commission earmarked up to €5 million for emergency aid to assist vulnerable victims of the unrest. This is on top of the €6 million allocated from its Instrument for Stability in support to the crisis in April. The UK contributes to approximately 15 per cent of EU expenditure. In addition, the UK routinely offers assistance
21 Jun 2010 : Column WA149
Lord Howell of Guildford: The Department for International Development is monitoring the situation closely and in close touch with the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The UK provides core funding to these and many other international humanitarian agencies.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic wrote to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 14 June covering an appeal for humanitarian and financial aid. The Department for International Development is in close touch with the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, with regards to the ongoing events in Kyrgyzstan. The UK provides core funding to these and many other international humanitarian agencies.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they wish to see from the Kazakhstan 2010 chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in order to support requests for a concluding summit.[HL483]
Lord Howell of Guildford: The Kazakhstan chairmanship should look to organise a summit which respects the breadth of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's mandate and cover all three security dimensions (political/military, human and economic/environmental). Any summit should have real substance on issues including conventional arms control, protracted conflicts, transnational threats, improved conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms, energy security and democracy and human rights.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): As stated in our coalition document, the Government plan to bring forward detailed proposals to foster diversity, promote mutuals and create a more competitive banking industry.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the statement on 21 May by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, that the recent elections in the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno Karabakh were illegal.[HL421]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK fully supports the statement made by Baroness Ashton on 21 May in relation to the recent Nagorno Karabakh "elections". The UK does not recognise Nagorno Karabakh as a state and consequently does not recognise the constitutional and legal framework within which these "elections" were held. Baroness Ashton's statement was made on behalf of the EU, on the basis of recommendations from EU ambassadors in Baku and member state representatives in Brussels, including the UK. Similar statements have been made by the EU in relation to previous "elections" in Nagorno Karabakh. We strongly support the conflict settlement efforts of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group to find a solution for Nagorno Karabakh on the basis of international norms and principles.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking in support of the statement by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, that the EU could play a greater role in supporting efforts by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group to achieve a settlement of the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh based on the norms of international law and the Helsinki Protocols.[HL422]
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