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To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 18 October (WA 95), whether they have sought and received reports from the Scottish Government on the location and state of health of Abdul Baset al-Megrahi since his release.[HL3080]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The British Government have not sought or received reports from the Scottish Government on the location and state of health of Abdul Basset al-Megrahi since his release in August 2009.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the role of agriculture in post-conflict stabilisation; and what steps they have taken to promote joint working across government in meeting the needs of post-conflict countries in Africa. [HL2887]
Baroness Verma: The experience of the UK and our international partners in post-conflict environments is that economic interventions, including in agriculture, can be an important tool for stabilisation. Addressing short-term economic needs by rehabilitating infrastructure, procuring from local markets or resolving property disputes can help change perceptions, relationships and behaviours and provide incentives against violence. Early interventions to create jobs can deliver a critical peace dividend, and create the political space to address underlying conflict drivers.
The strategic defence and security review recognises the need to tackle instability and conflict overseas, including in Africa, through an integrated approach across government. The forthcoming Building Stability Overseas strategy, to be published in March 2011, will address this in greater detail. We already carry out joint conflict analysis across government to inform our strategies, most recently in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. The Africa programme of the tri-departmental conflict pool remains an important means of strengthening collaboration between the Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence.
Earl Attlee: The Health Protection Agency has undertaken an assessment of the risks from the Rapiscan Secure 1000 X-ray backscatter security scanner. It concluded that the scanner does not give rise to any unacceptable risks to health.
During the consultation, points were raised on whether passengers should be allowed to choose an alternative screening method. These are being considered and will be addressed in the Government's response to the consultation, which is expected to be announced shortly.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the role of military diplomacy in achieving the United Kingdom's foreign policy and development objectives, including conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction.[HL3047]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government's new national security strategy recognises the importance of using all the instruments of national power effectively together to address emerging risks before they become crises that can affect our security. This was the result of a national security risk assessment process undertaken since May 2010, and the subsequent National Security Council decisions on the national security tasks and planning guidelines as set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review. The review clearly outlines that more defence engagement should be directed towards conflict prevention, security sector reform and capability building in priority countries. Defence diplomacy and our ability to project power overseas are essential elements in an integrated comprehensive approach to building our prosperity and protecting our security.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what preparations they are making for the drafting of an effective arms trade treaty, covering all conventional weapons and ammunition; and whether they consider the present timetable and negotiating period to be realistic.[HL3162]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK Government continue to support efforts to secure a robust and effective international arms trade treaty, which has the widest possible scope. A cross-Whitehall team, including representatives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for International Development, are developing the UK position on all aspects of the arms trade treaty, including its implementation and application. This work is undertaken in consultation with UK defence industry and non-governmental organisations, and includes issues relating to reporting, monitoring, verification and inter-state co-operation.
There remain two Preparatory Committee meetings in 2011, ahead of the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in 2012. Although this remains a challenging timescale, it is achievable if we can maintain the positive momentum generated during the first UN meeting in July, at which the UK played a full and constructive role.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The UK welcomes the contribution of civil society to the UN process on the Arms Trade Treaty. Saferworld's guide is another tool that highlights some of the practical issues related to the negotiation and implementation of the Treaty that UN Member States will have to address. The UK has been pleased to support Saferworld's work on this issue through its Strategic Programme Fund.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK enjoys good relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-ASEAN-and its members on a broad range of issues, including trade and investment, education, and defence.
The UK considers the ASEAN region to be strategically important, not least due to the number of emerging economies within it. UK priorities for the relationship are to strengthen existing economic ties and to promote democracy and good governance. Security issues, including counterterrorism and piracy, are also important issues. To this end the UK supports and encourages ASEAN in its aim to be a social, economic and political-security community by 2015.
Ministerial engagement with ASEAN has been increased since the election. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has met a number of ASEAN heads of government where he has urged the early conclusion of bilateral trade agreements with the EU and lobbied on behalf of British business. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary plans to visit the region in the new year. My honourable friend the Minister for Asia, Jeremy Browne, and I have both visited the region, and my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister met a number of ASEAN heads of government at the Asia-Europe meeting summit in October. My honourable friend the Minister for Asia also took part in the EU-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting, and has met the London-based ambassadors for ASEAN members.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): As I told the House on 14 October (Official Report, col. WA 86), we are working with the Audit Commission to consider a range of options for the future of local audit, including options for moving the in-house audit practice into the private sector. This necessarily involves making estimates of the costs of options, a process which is currently in progress.
Baroness Hanham: As I told the House on 14 October (Official Report, col. WA 86), the Audit Commission has estimated that its 5 per cent efficiency savings target would have yielded £4.5 million savings in 2010-11 and that increasing efficiency savings to 10 per cent would have yielded around £5 million extra recurring savings.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimates of the costs of abolishing the Audit Commission were supplied by its chief executive and accounting
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Baroness Hanham: As I stated in an earlier Written Answer today [HL2788], we are currently working with the Audit Commission to consider options for the future of local audit and this work includes making estimates of the costs of options. As part of this process, the commission's chief executive has, on 17 August 2010 and 11 October 2010, provided my department with information on certain of the commission's potential liabilities. We will be drawing on this information when making our estimates of the cost of options for disbanding the commission, which will be reflected in the impact assessment which we will publish when introducing any legislation to effect these changes.
For other public bodies that are to be disbanded, I refer the noble Lord to the Minister for the Cabinet Office's Statement on the public bodies review programme on 14 October 2010 (Official Report, col. 505).
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have taken to influence the level of bonuses paid to bank directors and traders; and what is their assessment of the effectiveness of this action.[HL2844]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government have taken decisive action to tackle unacceptable bank bonuses. The Financial Services Authority has consulted on the revision to the remuneration code and new rules will be in place by 1 January 2011 covering all bonuses paid thereafter. The revised code will ensure remuneration is consistent with effective risk management and bank employees will no longer receive all their bonuses in cash while leaving their shareholders, and potentially the taxpayer, exposed to the long-term risks they take. Alongside this, the Government have developed world-leading policies that directly target the risks inherent in the banking sector and will work to increase competitiveness in the industry. The Independent Commission on Banking has been established with a specific mandate to investigate these issues and the Government have introduced a levy that incentivises less risky banking activities. In combination, these measures will address the problems of remuneration and excessive risk-taking.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the size of debt acknowledged by the Government of Iceland as due to the United Kingdom in respect of failed Icelandic banks; and how much interest has accrued on this debt to date.[HL2846]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Discussions are ongoing to reach agreement with Iceland to repay the loan made by the previous Government in respect of Iceland's obligations under the deposit guarantee directive to UK depositors in Icesave.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): As set out in the coalition's programme for government, the Government recognise the concerns expressed on the system of devolved funding. However at this present time the priority must be to reduce the budget deficit and therefore any decisions to change the current system must await the stabilisation of the public finances.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: We are committed to empowering entrepreneurial public sector workers to bid to take over the services they deliver by forming employee-led mutuals. The Cabinet Office public sector mutual pathfinder programme is leading the way in this respect. The Cabinet Office is working with departments to develop a new right for entrepreneurial public sector workers to form employee-owned co-operatives and mutuals and we would encourage all employees to consider this as an option.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what precautions they are taking to ensure that the organisations which the Privy Council endorses and regulates maintain and make available to the public the records and archives of their activities, particularly with respect to the Institute of Landscape Architecture; and, where such archives are not maintained, what measures they will take to review the value of such archives and transfer them to safekeeping in other centres.[HL3150]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Chartered bodies are independent and their record keeping and archival provision are not regulated by government. For those chartered bodies that are subject to the Freedom of
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The Privy Council does not have any kind of policing role in respect of chartered bodies, and the council's powers over certain statutory bodies would not extend to that body's records. There are no plans to review the Privy Council's role in these matters.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach on 25 October (WA 224), why they have increased the redundancy compensation provided for in the Superannuation Bill for those civil servants leaving on a voluntary basis from 15 to 21 months' pay; and why they intend to cap compensation for those who are obliged to leave compulsorily at 12 months' pay.[HL3250]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The Government have not amended the levels of compensation set out in the Superannuation Bill. The caps remain at 15 months for voluntary departures and 12 months' pay for compulsory. [The details and terms of the new, proposed, compensation scheme, which includes a limit of 21 months' pay for those going on a voluntary basis, were reached through discussions with the unions.]
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach on 22 July (WA 240), how Civil Service posts exempt from the Civil Service recruitment freeze because they are business-critical are advertised to attract candidates from the private and public sectors. [HL3327]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Recruitment and the advertising of Civil Service vacancies, with the exception of the top 200 posts, are delegated to individual departments. Therefore, it is the responsibility of each department to determine how best to advertise Civil Service posts that are exempt from the recruitment freeze, to ensure they attract the best possible candidates from both the private and public sectors. As a minimum, all departments have committed to advertising their vacancies on the Civil Service jobs site.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): There are three regional conflict advisers (RCAs) deployed in Africa, covering the Horn; West Africa; and east and central regions. The current RCAs in Africa do not have armed forces experience. RCAs are recruited for their specialist conflict expertise in line with the Department for International Development conflict technical competency framework and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office generic competency framework. RCAs are funded from the tri-departmental conflict pool.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assurances have they received that the United Nations has mechanisms in place to ensure that Bosco Ntaganda has no role in joint operations with the Congolese Government.[HL2948]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UN has received written assurances from the Government of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that Bosco Ntaganda is not involved in any joint operations between the UN and the Congolese army (Forces Armees de la Republique Democratique du Congo-FARDC). The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo stands ready to assist should the DRC authorities need help apprehending him.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Department for Transport plans to engage external consultants to manage the programme of restructuring and downsizing of its staff numbers; and what is the estimated cost of this work.[HL3032]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, will chair the independent advisory panel for the Regional Growth Fund, supported by Sir Ian Wrigglesworth as deputy chair. The role of the panel is to provide independent advice to Ministers on how the fund should be deployed.
Final decisions on recommendations put forward by the advisory panel will be made jointly by a ministerial group under the chairmanship of the Deputy Prime Minister, which also includes the Secretaries of State from Communities and Local Government, Transport, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the additional energy costs to households in the United Kingdom arising from the European Union target of generating 30 per cent of electricity from renewable sources within ten years.[HL2889]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): The UK's target under the renewable energy directive (2009/28/EC) is to ensure that at least 15 per cent of energy consumed across electricity, heating and transport comes from renewable sources by 2020. The UK national renewable energy action plan sets out a lead scenario showing how the UK might meet this target and in this lead scenario around 30 per cent of electricity would come from renewable sources in 2020.
Actual costs of meeting the overall 15 per cent target will depend on how technology costs and the market evolve between now and 2020. We know that the short-term price impacts of increasing renewable energy will be negligible. By 2020 we estimate that, when taken in isolation, deploying renewables will increase domestic electricity bills by 26 per cent (£105) compared to what they would have been without these measures. However, when taken together with all energy and climate change policies we expect domestic electricity bills to fall by 5 per cent (£26). Any calculation of "additional" costs of renewable energy depend on
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To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Statement by Lord Howell of Guildford on 22 October concerning the European Union General Affairs Council (WS 86-9), how they intend to ensure that the European Union External Action Service does not encroach upon or replace national diplomatic services and supports all member states' objectives, especially in so far as those matters apply to the United Kingdom.[HL3105]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The External Action Service Decision makes clear that the European Union External Action Service (EEAS) "shall support and work in co-operation with the diplomatic services of the Member States". It is our policy to ensure that the rights and competences of member states are fully respected, not just by the High Representative, but by every other institution that forms part of the European Union. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is working together with other departments and our posts to ensure that the balance of competences is respected. We have instructed diplomatic posts to be extremely vigilant about any evidence that this is not happening and proactively address any risk. There is regular inter-departmental consultation at official level to report, monitor and resolve any competence problems.
The new Secretary General of the EEAS, Pierre Vimont, has just been appointed, and we expect that the full team of senior officials will be in place shortly. The work of defining the policy objectives of the EEAS will therefore now begin in earnest. We will work closely with all key interlocutors to ensure that those objectives complement our own.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Statement by Lord Howell of Guildford on 22 October concerning the European Union Foreign Affairs Council (WS 86-9), whether they will explain the purpose of the Union for the Mediterranean; and what is its annual cost.[HL3104]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The purpose of the Union for the Mediterranean is to address common challenges faced by countries in the Mediterranean region including economic and social development, climate change, food security and energy issues, as well as increasing regional integration and cohesion.
The interim budget of the Secretariat is €780,000 and covers the period May to November 2010. The final budget of the Secretariat has not yet been agreed but is expected to be funded by voluntary contributions from participating countries as well as the budget of the European Union. The Government are committed to keeping costs down and has made clear that the EU's contribution must be funded from within existing financial resources.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government published a consultation document on the implementation of the Second Electronic Money Directive on 21 October 2010. The consultation includes draft implementing regulations. The consultation and draft regulations are accessible on the Treasury's website: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/8439.htm.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): All pork products served in the House of Lords are British with the exception of the bacon on sale in the River Restaurant, which is Dutch. For the reasons previously given on 13 May 2009 (Official Report, cols. 1035-37), it is uneconomical to serve British bacon in that particular restaurant.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hanham on 25 October (WA 231) concerning the closure of Government Office North East, whether any estimates of the costs of closure, or any decisions as to which functions would be continued and by whom, were made prior to the decision to close the office. [HL3179]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): I can confirm that while broad estimates of closure costs for the Government Office Network as a whole informed the Spending Review process, no detailed costs related to Government Office North East have yet been drawn up. Departments have been considering which functions need to continue in their Spending Review preparations, but no department has made a decision on continuing functions. Departments are finalising their plans post Spending Review and these will allow more detailed cost estimates and confirmation of continuing functions in due course.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hanham on 25 October (WA 231) concerning the closure of Government Office North East, when, and in what form, and with what responses, consultation on the closure of Government Office North East and other government offices and the future of the network and its functions took place; and whether they will publish the responses.[HL3180]
Baroness Hanham: Discussions have taken place with trade unions and central departments on the future of the Government Office Network, including the Government Office for the North East, as part of the spending review process over the summer. Local authorities have also commented on the Government Office Network as part of a wider written consultation on reducing the burden on local government. This took place immediately after the publication of the coalition's programme for government in May. Discussions with the departments and other interested parties are ongoing with regard to continuing functions and arrangements for surplus staff. It would be premature to publish information relating to this at present.
To ask Her Majesty's Government when staff in Government Offices due to be closed will be able to apply for voluntary early severance and retirement packages in accordance with the existing schemes at Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions.[HL3370]
Baroness Hanham: The release schemes in the Department for Communities and Local Government and Department of Work and Pensions are not open to staff working in the Government Office Network.
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To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the current annual cost of the Behavioural Insights Team in the Cabinet Office, and how much has been paid to Professor Thaler or any individual or entity associated with him.[HL2762]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The Behavioural Insights Team in the Cabinet Office has seven full-time staff. It has an annual budget of £520,000 which covers payroll and fixed overheads (desks, telephones, IT). The budget includes £50,000 set aside for project evaluation. Mr Richard Thaler is working for the team on a pro-bono basis. The Behavioural Insights Team meets Mr Thaler's travelling expenses to the UK.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what powers they have to ensure the delivery of planned housing growth in the designated growth areas in which central government funds have been provided for economic and social infrastructure projects. [HL3120]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): This Government have revoked the regional strategies which dictated the level of housing growth in particular areas. It is for local authorities to determine the right level of housing provision. The new homes bonus, announced in the spending review, will reward local authorities that build more homes with match funding for six years.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The payment of rent is a contractual obligation between the tenant and the landlord. It is not the role of the housing benefit system to underwrite those contractual arrangements. However, there are safeguards in place that allow local authorities to pay benefit directly to landlords.
For tenants whose benefit is assessed according to the Local Housing Allowance rules, the local authority can make payments to the landlord if it considers the customer is unable or unlikely to manage their rental payments.
Other tenants in the private rented sector and those who have tenancies with registered social landlords can choose to have their benefit paid to the landlord. The local authority can also decide to make payment to the landlord if they consider it to be in the tenant's best interests.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the application by Iceland to join the European Union; and whether their support of the application is conditional on reaching satisfactory agreement with Iceland on the repayment of amounts owed by Iceland to Her Majesty's Government. [HL3070]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The UK fully supports Iceland's EU application. Iceland, like other candidates, must meet the membership criteria. We are committed to reaching a negotiated settlement with Iceland. We secured language in European Council conclusions to ensure Iceland's existing obligations are addressed as part of the accession process.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The Government's obligations under Article 34 of the convention are to ensure that we facilitate the naturalisation of refugees in the UK, when they become eligible to apply.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: A UK court would not ordinarily interfere in the regulatory matters of an international, non-UK based sporting federation. Appeals against decisions of a federation are often resolved by arbitration. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is an international arbitration body set up to settle disputes related to sport. Its arbitrators are all high-level jurists and the CAS is generally held in high regard in the international sports community.
However, there are circumstances where a UK court might consider such a matter; for example where the relevant contract or instrument that set up the particular body provides that a matter should be heard by a UK court.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they are making to the Governments of Iraq, Iran and the United States and to the United Nations Secretary-General, in the light of the wounding of residents of Camp Ashraf by Iraqi forces during October, the installation by Iranian intelligence agents of loudspeakers in the camp walls broadcasting continuous threats, and the need of some residents for medical care and treatment. [HL3062]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): On 25 October 2010 the Chargé d'Affaires at our embassy in Baghdad raised concerns with the Iraqi Human Rights Minister. Our embassy officials regularly discuss the situation with the Camp Ashraf special adviser in the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI), most recently on 21 October, with EU colleagues and with the Iraqi Government Ashraf Committee. On 24 October 2010, officials also spoke with the US about the latest developments at the camp. In addition, officials have visited four times in the past year, most recently on 18 August, to ascertain whether any of the residents qualify for consular assistance.
Camp Ashraf is in a sovereign and democratic Iraq. Any decisions on the future of the camp are for the Iraqi Government. The UK has underlined the need for the Iraqi authorities to deal with the residents of Camp Ashraf in a way that meets international humanitarian standards.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear, we are very disappointed by the continuation of settlement activity, following the recent expiry of the settlement moratorium.
Our view is that all settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal and an obstacle to peace. We look to the Government of Israel to take all necessary steps to prevent settlement construction so that direct talks can continue. The Foreign Secretary discussed these issues with Israel's ambassador to the UK on 19 October.
Lord Howell of Guildford: Violations of Lebanese airspace by the Israeli Defence Force occur on a daily basis. This contravenes UN Security Council Resolution 1701. UN Security Council Resolution 1937 adopted on 30 August 2010, has once again called for all concerned parties to strengthen their efforts to implement all provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006), which includes respecting Lebanese sovereign territory (including airspace).
The UK and other international partners have made representations calling on Israel to cease overflights of Lebanese territory. We continue to call on all parties, including Hizballah, to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will place in the Library of the House a list of all cases heard in (a) Crown Courts, (b) magistrates' courts, and (c) County Courts, in which Mr Neil Forbes FRCVS has given evidence for the prosecution.[HL2912]
The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is responsible for the prosecution of criminal cases in the magistrates' courts, the youth court and the Crown Court in England and Wales. It prosecutes approximately 1.3 million defendants per annum. An initial inquiry of the accounting system has not revealed any expert witness payments made to Mr Neil Forbes. More detailed inquiries would require a member of staff to manually sift through CPS records, which would incur a disproportionate cost.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): As of 26 October 2010 there have been 27 judicial review applications issued against the Legal Services Commission in relation to the proposed new legal aid contracts for civil (non-family) law. One of these is the Law Society's recent judicial review (family), which included a group of interveners, some of which were related to non-family cases.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Stability in the eurozone is important for Britain and it is right that eurozone members look at how to strengthen governance arrangements for the eurozone. We will look closely at what is being proposed, but as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has already made clear, we will not support anything that involves a further transfer of powers from Westminster to Brussels.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The day-to-day administration costs of local enterprise partnerships are expected to be met by the partners that are contained within the partnership.
Further details on funding that may be available for local enterprise partnerships, such as the regional growth fund, can be found in the Local growth: realising every place's potential White Paper published on the 28 October 2010, which is available in both House Libraries.
I refer the noble Lord to the White Paper, Local growth: realising every place's potential (a copy of which is available in the House Library), published on
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The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills announced in the other place on 28 October which local enterprise partnerships have been given the go-ahead to set up their boards and begin dialogue with central government on how we can help them realise the ambitions set out in their proposals. Other partnerships will receive feedback on their proposals in due course so they too can establish their boards and enter into similar discussions with central government.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The Milton Keynes Partnership Committee was established to co-ordinate and implement the delivery of growth and ensure that homes, infrastructure, jobs and community facilities are provided in Milton Keynes as part of a joined-up approach. A recent review of the local investment plan targets for the Milton Keynes area, which was endorsed by the local council and delivery and investment partners, indicates that sustainable growth is being achieved as envisaged. Details of this publication can be found at http://www.miltonkeynespartnership.info/DocLibrary/LIP%20refresh%202010.pdf.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration they gave to the threat to the critical national infrastructure of a high-intensity electromagnetic pulse, produced either by malign intent or as a result of solar activity, in preparing the latest National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review.[HL3148]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: In preparing the latest National Security Strategy, the Government assessed and prioritised all of the major national security risks to the UK. The risk of severe disruption to information received, transmitted or collected by satellites, including disruption caused by a high-intensity electromagnetic pulse, was considered as part of this process. We also
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The Strategic Defence and Security Review set out our approach to all of these risks and the resources we will dedicate to tackling them. As we set out in the review, the Government will establish a national space security policy which will address all aspects of the UK's dependence on space, including the risks from an electromagnetic pulse (whether natural or deliberate) on satellites or their ground stations critical to our security and the economy.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Prior to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) being established in statute, its staff were formally employed by HM Treasury. There are currently 12 full-time staff working for the OBR.
To ask Her Majesty's Government when the Office for Budget Responsibility will have its own telephone rather than the one currently listed on its website which connects to a Treasury voicemail giving several options none of which is specific to the office.[HL3368]
To ask Her Majesty's Government when the Office for Budget Responsibility will have its own telephone rather than the one currently listed on its website which connects to a Treasury voicemail giving several options none of which is specific to the office. [HL3368]
As detailed in my recent letter to the Chair of the Treasury Committee, (which can be found on our website at: http://budgetresponsibility.independent.gov.uk/d/letter _rchote_to_atvrie.pdf), we have identified potential accommodation for the OBR and plan to complete a move into our new offices before Christmas. This will involve a move to a new telephone system for the OBR and a new enquiry number will be posted on the website when this happens.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will maintain the previous Government's support for a suitable memorial at the 2012 Olympic Games to honour the 40th anniversary of the murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games.[HL2932]
Baroness Garden of Frognal: The formal commemoration of the Munich attack, as with every Games since, is a matter for the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC has paid tribute to the memory of the athletes at several occasions and will continue to do so at appropriate times. They will have the support of the Government in doing this.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is committed to taking a multifaith approach to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and has established a faith reference group to engage with all faiths.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 27 September (WA 549), when the High Commission in Islamabad will next make representations to the Government of Pakistan on the importance of blasphemy laws being reformed.[HL3229]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): During a conversation with my honourable friend Alistair Burt, the Minister for South Asia, on 13 October 2010, Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities, stated his commitment to reforming the blasphemy legislation in Pakistan. My honourable friend welcomed this, and pledged UK support for such reforms. Officials from our High Commission in Islamabad maintain regular contact with the Ministry of Minorities on this subject, most recently on 16 October 2010. Alongside our partners in the EU, a human rights dialogue has been established with the Government of Pakistan, where the issue will also be raised.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what powers they have in relation to a local authority shown to have provided false information about parking signage in order to obtain permission for a designation order for civil parking enforcement.[HL2868]
Earl Attlee: The Secretary of State has the power to revoke a statutory instrument that designates the whole or part of a local authority's area as a civil enforcement area for parking contraventions. An application by a
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Earl Attlee: Detailed consideration was given to an application for a special direction, in respect of a time-limited goods vehicle loading bay in Fleet Road, Fleet, allowing the relevant prescribed sign to be placed in conjunction with a bay marking-but without the loading only carriageway legend as prescribed.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what advice was given in 2001 by Stephen Sauvain QC about controlled parking zones in Harrogate and Scarborough; and whether they made this advice available to the court in the case of Herron v the Parking Adjudicator.[HL2871]
Earl Attlee: The Government are not responsible or accountable for legal advice prepared by and for others, and had no powers to make this advice available to the court in the Herron v the Parking Adjudicator case.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and my honourable friends the Minister of State for Northern Ireland and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury have worked closely, constructively and urgently with Northern Ireland Ministers to find a solution for investors in the Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS). This has been a very complex matter. The ministerial working group chaired by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland considered
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Further details on the nature of the Executive's scheme including the timescale envisaged will be announced by Northern Ireland Ministers in due course. The normal public spending treatment will apply to the loan provided to the Executive and it will be for Northern Ireland Ministers to ensure that their scheme meets relevant value for money, propriety and state aid requirements.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Our Government are strongly committed to elevating our relations with all our partners across the Gulf including the State of Qatar. This is a key priority for this Government, as demonstrated by the engagement of Ministers across government under the Gulf Initiative. We are working to expand our existing co-operation in culture and sport, education, defence and security, trade and investment, and foreign policy co-operation. High-level visits such as the State Visit of His Highness the Emir of Qatar from 26 to 28 October 2010 celebrate and help develop our partnerships.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the C2C Essex Thameside franchise has been extended; if so, for what period of time; and whether a further extension will be needed for the National Express (Greater Anglia) franchise.[HL3109]
Earl Attlee: Currently, an extension to the C2C Essex Thameside franchise has not been agreed. The National Express East Anglia franchise will terminate on 16 October 2011. A new contract will be needed from this date.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they will take against train operators who do not substantially improve the time taken to buy a ticket at many stations, bearing in mind that many passengers find it impossible to use self-service ticket machines or the internet.[HL3108]
Earl Attlee: Train operators are required by the terms of their franchise agreements to use reasonable endeavours to ensure that passengers do not have to queue at a ticket office for more than five minutes during periods of peak demand or for more than three minutes at any other time.
In the event that a train operator has failed to make reasonable endeavours to comply with this element of its franchise agreement, the Secretary of State has statutory powers to enforce compliance. Consideration of enforcement action against individual operators will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what advice or requests have been given in the past to local authorities about the appropriateness of making charges to close roads for the purpose of facilitating Remembrance Sunday parades; and whether there is any current advice.[HL3000]
Earl Attlee: We have not received any requests for advice, nor given any, that specifically refers to Remembrance Sunday parades. In accordance with the coalition Government's policy on local determination, it is for the traffic authority to decide whether or not to bear the cost of such closures.
Earl Attlee: In accordance with the Secretary of State for Transport's announcement on 26 October which I repeated (Official Report, cols. 1153-56), the M20 Junction 10a scheme will now be reviewed to see if it still represents value for money and can be progressed for a potential start in a future Spending Review period.
To ask Her Majesty's Government which part of the Road Traffic Act prevents local authorities allowing closed road motorsport events; and whether they will make an assessment of the economic effect on local communities if they were permitted.[HL3325]
Earl Attlee: Section 12 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 makes it an offence for any person to take part in a race or trial of speed between motor vehicles on a public way in Great Britain. Section 13 allows competitions or trials involving motor vehicles, other than a race or trial of speed, provided they are authorised by regulations made under this section.
The European Union does not have a bilateral programme for Russia but continues to provide €15 million (£13 million) per year for student mobility and academic exchanges. The Commission has reduced funding to China, from an average of €32 million (£28 million) per year committed for 2007-13 to an average of €15 million (£13 million) per year for 2011-13 to allow for increased allocations to other countries in Asia such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to take account of China's economic development.
Earl Attlee: There are two major investments. Network Rail's £400 million signal renewal scheme on the south Wales main line will continue. The Department for
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The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is responsible for producing independent economic and fiscal forecasts. The Chancellor has asked the OBR to publish a new forecast on 29 November. This forecast will incorporate the OBR's assessment of the effect on aggregate demand of the spending review 2010.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the arrangements for funding (a) conflict prevention, and (b) post-conflict reconstruction; and how those arrangements will be affected by any reforms within Government following the spending review 2010. [HL3049]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Since 1 April 2009 the Government have funded conflict prevention, stabilisation (post-conflict reconstruction) and discretionary peacekeeping activity from the conflict pool. Funding for the pool is provided through the spending round separately from departmental expenditure limits and is managed jointly by the Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence. The conflict pool for 2010-11 is £178.5 million, which is allocated to four regional programmes (Africa, the Middle East, wider Europe and South Asia) and one thematic programme (Strategic Support to International Organisations). In addition to the conflict pool, conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction activities are also funded by the Stabilisation Unit or bilaterally through Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence.
The spending review and the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) have both underlined the importance the Government attaches to conflict work, in particular long-term conflict prevention and stabilisation programmes. The conflict pool will be sustained over the next spending review period, increasing to around £300 million in 2014-15. A new Building Stability Overseas strategy will be published in spring 2011 and the conflict pool will be a key instrument for delivery of this strategy. Priorities and allocations for the conflict pool for the next financial year will be determined in the coming weeks. We will seek to maintain a range of activities in priority regions where the risk and impact of conflict is greatest.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, following the spending decisions announced in Spending Review 2010 which reduce Government money available for building homes, how they will ensure that everybody
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Despite the fiscal constraints, the Government have secured a package that will help deliver the homes this country needs over the Spending Review period. Commencing in April 2011, the new homes bonus will be a powerful fiscal incentive for local authorities to deliver more homes. We have put aside over £900 million of funding and the scheme will match-fund the council tax on every new home for each of the following six years.
The Government are investing over £2 billion to make existing social homes decent and £4.5 billion to fund 155,000 new affordable homes over the next four years. We are also committed to tackling homelessness. We have established a cross-government ministerial working group to address the complex causes of homelessness and rough sleeping. We have also protected homelessness grant, providing £400 million over the Spending Review period to prevent and tackle homelessness.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The Government's plans for changes in the United Kingdom's approach and capacity for resilience in an emergency, within the resources available through the 2010 Spending Review, are set out in Chapter 4 of the Strategic Defence and Security Review published on 19 October.
These changes affect: the emphasis to be placed on preparedness for the highest priority risks to the United Kingdom as identified in the national risk assessment; a continued focus of attention on meeting realistic targets for priority capabilities within the national resilience capabilities programme; a new focus on building community resilience, and on supporting small and medium-sized enterprises to improve their business continuity; and the establishment of a new Infrastructure Security and Resilience Advisory Council to enhance co-operation between public sector bodies and private sector providers of national infrastructure and so improve their resilience to all kinds of hazard and threat, particularly with regard to cyber attacks.
Earl Attlee: Preparations for keeping road networks operational during the winter are a matter for each local highway authority. On 22 October, the Secretary of State for Transport made a Written Ministerial Statement which I repeated to the House of Lords (Official Report, cols. WS 90-92), in response to the final report (transportwinterresilience.independent.gov.uk) of the independent review of the resilience of England's transport systems in winter which was published that day. In the Statement, he noted that the Government had established a national strategic stockpile of salt, and commissioned guidance for local authority winter service practitioners on efficient provision of winter service. Merseyside may benefit from these and other actions in response to the recommendations of the independent review.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 20 October (WA 178) concerning the admission of Turkey to the European Union, how they are able to define Turkey as a European state when 90 per cent of its geographical area and its population lies in Asia.[HL3106]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): There is no internationally agreed formal definition of "Europe". The long-standing decision of successive Governments to avoid agreeing any definition or establishing an official view of what constitutes "Europe" has been deliberate. The decision to leave Europe as a "flexible" definition chimes with realities as the concept of Europe has undergone many permutations. This flexible position is also adopted by the European Union's institutions and treaties and by the most authoritative UK body on this topic, the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names.
There is no fixed definition of a European state in the Treaty on European Union. But in so far as geographical definitions can be made, we and the EU
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To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 27 September (WA 556), what religious freedoms were discussed by the United Kingdom Embassy in Ankara when they met their Turkish counterparts at the beginning of August; and when is their next meeting planned.[HL3234]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Our Embassy in Ankara has a regular dialogue with its Turkish counterparts on a wide range of issues. In the last meeting when religious freedoms were raised, officials discussed respect for non-Muslim religious minorities, including the Syriac and Catholic communities. There is no fixed date for the next such meeting.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what reforms are planned for the United Kingdom Stabilisation Capacity established in February 2010; and how many civilian secondments to conflict and post-conflict mission have been supported this year.[HL3026]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Civilian Stabilisation Group (CSG), established in February 2010 and managed by the Stabilisation Unit, is a pool of over 1,000 civilian experts, who are able to deploy in support of stabilisation efforts in fragile and conflict-affected states. The CSG is constantly refreshed to take account of current and future demand. So far this year, up until 1 October, the Stabilisation Unit has supported 211 CSG deployments across the world.
"Expand the remit of the joint Stabilisation Unit so that it can draw on our 1,000-strong pool of civilian experts from across the public, private and voluntary sectors to help prevent conflict and instability as well as support the UK's response to crises when they occur",
To ask Her Majesty's Government what reforms they have advocated for the review of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission; and what representations they have made for the review about those reforms.[HL3023]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) Review report highlighted a number of important issues which the Government welcome: for example, encouraging the UN to better integrate its activities on the ground, with clear senior leadership, and encouraging the international community to align their efforts behind overarching peacebuilding objectives. As we made clear in our statement to the UN Security Council on 13 October, we see a key role for the PBC in supporting more effective peacebuilding in-country and in transition between peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations, for example in Liberia. We will continue to work through our mission to the UN to support and encourage important reforms, including on peacebuilding.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The Government are committed to working through the UN, wider multilateral actors and bilateral partners to ensure meaningful reform of the international peacebuilding architecture. The noble Lord is aware of the UK's intervention at the 13 October UN Security Council debate on the UK's priorities for the reform of peacebuilding. We continue to engage with the UN on the five key areas outlined in our statement and will continue to seek opportunities to further improve international peacebuilding efforts in fragile states.
The Strategic Defence and Security Review set out how we intend to strengthen our capability on peacebuilding, including through the establishment of stabilisation response teams and working with multilateral partners (in particular the UN) to further improve the international response to peacebuilding. The Building Stability Overseas strategy, to be published in early 2011, will include how we will improve complementarity between our own efforts and wider UN and multilateral reforms on peacebuilding.
"The UN's civilian capacity review needs to set out bold recommendations on how the UN can much more quickly deploy the right expertise to post-conflict countries. This includes making much better use of the capacity of regional organisations and member states, particularly those of the South".
The review is expected to report in February 2011. We will continue to press the UN for a timely conclusion of the review, with realistic, cost-effective recommendations, and in particular for greater involvement in peacebuilding by civilians from countries in the global south.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The power-sharing inclusive Government have made some progress since their inception in February 2009, most notably on the stabilisation of the economy. Progress on political reform has been slower.
Earlier this year, we were encouraged by the appointment of the Media, Electoral and Human Rights Commissions. Progress by the commissions has been slow in the face of intransigence from hardliners; however, we welcome the issuing of newspaper licences by the Media Commission, an essential element in preparing the conditions for credible elections.
There has been a considerable reduction in the severity and frequency of human rights abuses since the formation of the inclusive Government. Despite this, we remain concerned about ongoing abuses, particularly around the rule of law and the hardliners' continued exploitation of their control of the security apparatus and judiciary for political ends. The recent constitutional reform process has shown that state actors still have a capacity for violence and intimidation.
Persistent intransigence from hardliners, including the recent unilateral appointments made by President Mugabe, led Prime Minister Tsvangirai to declare a constitutional crisis earlier this month. We share Prime Minister Tsvangirai's frustration and support him in his determination to remain in the Government. In the absence of a road map to credible and properly monitored elections, the inclusive Government continue to offer the only credible means of transforming Zimbabwe and delivering basic services to its people. But to succeed, it needs a clear commitment from all parties to work together to implement the reforms set out in the global political agreement.
We will continue to work with our international partners in considering how best to work with reformers in Zimbabwe and the region, including South Africa, to improve prospects of reform in Zimbabwe and to prepare for credible and properly monitored elections.
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