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1 July 2010 : Column WA291

Written Answers

Thursday 1 July 2010

Afghanistan

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We are aware of reports of the Deputy Secretary of the Afghan Lower House of Parliament's remarks regarding a call for the execution of Christian converts from Islam. The remarks were made during a debate over a recent series of Afghan television reports, which showed video footage of Afghans converting to Christianity. As a result, two international non-government organisations (Norwegian Church Aid and Church World Services) have been accused of proselytising and are currently under investigation by Afghan authorities. Under Afghan law, proselytising is illegal and conversion from Islam is a capital offence. We are following the investigation closely, but cannot pre-empt the findings at this stage.

The Government are opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances and continue to strive for the global abolition of capital punishment. The Government also strongly support the right to freedom of religion or belief, including full implementation of those norms laid out in Article 2 of the Afghan Constitution which provides for freedom of religion. As an EU member, the UK adopted a set of EU council conclusions on Freedom of Religion or Belief. These conclusions reaffirm the EU's commitment to promote and protect freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, including the right to adopt, change or abandon one's religion or belief, of one's own free will. The Government are working to support all individuals who face discrimination and persecution on the basis of religion, including Christians, wherever they are in the world. Pending the outcome of the investigation, we will raise this matter with the Afghan Government as necessary. We are not aware of any reports of converts to Christianity being tried or executed for apostasy in Afghanistan.

Airports: Holding Rooms

Question

Asked by Baroness Stern

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The issue of airside passes is controlled by Birmingham International Airport acting under the guidance of the Department for Transport. Aviation security records show that the deputy head of the

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Secretariat for the IMB chair contacted the airport management in July 2009 to inquire about the process for obtaining passes and explaining the statutory role of the IMB.

The airport contacted the Department for Transport to clarify the role of the IMB, which did not appear among the list of statutory bodies held by the DfT. It would seem that an initial delay arose while clarification was sought over the use by the IMB of the word "exemption".

The DfT corresponded directly with the IMB to explain that exempted status was confined to a small number of groups seeking access to airside areas-for example armed police patrols.

All other persons, including control agencies, are subject to body and baggage searches. Once it had been confirmed that IMB members were not seeking- exempt status, to which they would not have been entitled, the process for obtaining passes was set in train. A further delay ensued because, as with all applicants for passes, references had to be obtained and a suitable sponsor identified. Local UKBA management only learnt of the issue in late October 2009 and immediately intervened to support the pass application process. At no time was there was any objection in principle to the issuing of the passes.

Asylum Seekers

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): In February 2003 the previous Government announced that anyone wishing to make an asylum claim would need to do so in person, and postal applications for asylum would no longer be accepted. This change was made as part of the reform of the asylum system and sought to minimise potential abuse. Although we expect individuals to make their claim at a port of entry, it ensures that those who submit a claim for asylum as their circumstances have changed while in the UK are properly introduced to the asylum system.

The applicant is fingerprinted and photographed and the identity of the applicant is verified. This also ensures that cases are routed quickly to the responsible case owner to progress the case.

Bank of England

Question

Asked by Lord Myners



1 July 2010 : Column WA293

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Information on the annual salaries and bonuses of the governor and deputy governors of the Bank of England for 2009-10 is shown in the table below. Further information is available in the Bank of England's 2010 annual report.

Salary (£)Benefits (£)Total (£)

Mervyn King Governor

302,885

2,878

305,764

Charlie Bean Deputy Governor

252,497

1,795

254,292

Paul Tucker Deputy Governor

252,497

5,617

257,664

Information on the annual salary and bonus of the chief executive of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) for 2009-10 is shown in the table below. Further information is published in the FSA's 2010 annual report.

Salary (£)Performance Related Bonus (£)Other emoluments and benefits (£)Total (£)

Hector Sants

500,000

108,000

134,011

742,011

Banking

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings and discussions with a range of key stakeholders as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous Administrations, the Government do not disclose the outcome or results of all such meetings and discussions.

Banks

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The sale of banks, local banks and parts of banks are monitored by government departments and other public institutions, including HM Treasury, the

1 July 2010 : Column WA294

Financial Services Authority, the Bank of England and the Office of Fair Trading, in line with their individual objectives, powers and responsibilities. These frameworks are typically set out in legislation and applied by the relevant department or institution on a case-by-case basis.

Council Tax

Question

Asked by Lord Ouseley

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The Government believe that democratically elected local authorities are perfectly capable of taking decisions about the provision of local services. We therefore have no plans to issue any such guidance.

Courts Service: Estates

Questions

Asked by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): It is not anticipated that any compensation payments will be due to contractors, consultants and suppliers as a result of the decision to defer the building of a replacement magistrates' court in central Birmingham. The deferment will require discussion with the various landowners and, accordingly, we are currently taking advice regarding our options.

Asked by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

Lord McNally: A long lease for the Masshouse site was purchased for £13.48 million plus VAT in June 2009. It is estimated that in line with the overall property market adjustments since the agreement to purchase the site was made, its current value may be slightly lower. We are taking advice regarding our options.

Asked by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale



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Lord McNally: As the replacement magistrates' court scheme has only been deferred currently there are no plans to dispose of the site. However, we are taking advice on the options available to Her Majesty's Government.

Crown Prosecution Service

Questions

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): In common with other departments, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has frozen all external recruitment of permanent, interim and agency staff, with possible exceptions for business-critical and front-line delivery posts. Any recruitment we undertake is in accordance with the Civil Service Commissioners' recruitment principles and appointments are made on merit, following fair and open competition. The CPS is committed to promoting equality and diversity in employment and development of staff. The CPS reviews its employment data to ensure that our workforce is representative and takes necessary action in the light of evidence and trends. Gender balance in employment is reviewed regularly as part of regular assessment of the CPS's Diversity Delivery Plan.

Asked by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is funded at an appropriate level for 2010-11 to effectively discharge its obligations in the prosecution of criminal offences and the recovery of criminal assets. Funding for future years will be determined as part of the 2010 spending review process.

Elections: Voting System

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Irish citizens are eligible to vote in parliamentary, European parliamentary and local government elections if they are resident in the UK. Residence at a particular address within an area for electoral registration purposes is for the local electoral registration officer to determine.

This position reflects the historic ties which exist between Ireland and the United Kingdom. Since 1985 British citizens resident in the Republic have been

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entitled to vote in elections to the Irish Parliament. The Government have no plans to change the voting rights of Irish citizens at Westminster elections.

Embryology

Questions

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised that it has issued 23 research licences where the aim of the research was to derive human embryonic stem cell lines. None of the persons responsible for these licences has applied to alter their licences to include the use of human embryos for unrelated purposes.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Earl Howe: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised that it is not required in law to collect and hold information about the use of eggs in research. The information it does hold is, therefore, incomplete and limited.

Further Education: Vocational Qualifications

Question

Asked by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): In the 2008-09 academic year, over 3 million vocational qualifications were awarded. In 2007-08 over 2.4 million vocational qualifications were awarded, and in 2006-07 over 2 million vocational qualifications were awarded. This information was published in the Data Service's March 2010 Statistical First Release.



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Gaza Flotilla

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My honourable friend Alistair Burt has raised these specific issues with Israel's ambassador to the UK. Our ambassador to Israel and other members of our embassy in Tel Aviv have also raised the matter on a number of occasions with the Israeli authorities. It has also been raised by the EU presidency, on behalf of EU Heads of Mission, with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


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