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2 Nov 2010 : Column WA375



2 Nov 2010 : Column WA375

Written Answers

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Abdul Baset Al Megrahi

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

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.

Africa: Agricultural Aid

Question

Asked by Lord Boateng

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.



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Airports: Security

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

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.

Armed Forces: Military Diplomacy

Question

Asked by Lord Boateng

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.

Arms Trade: Global Treaty

Questions

Asked by Lord Hylton



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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.

Asked by Lord Hylton

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.

Association of Southeast Asia Nations

Question

Asked by Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale

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.



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It is to be noted that three of ASEAN's members-Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore-are members of the Commonwealth, giving us an additional interest in and access to the region.

The UK consistently raises the issue of Burma in its contacts with ASEAN and all its members, particularly as the association has created a commission on human rights.

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.

Audit Commission

Questions

Asked by Lord Beecham

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.

Asked by Lord Beecham

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.

Asked by Lord Beecham

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).

Banking: Bonuses

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

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.

Banking: Iceland

Question

Asked by Lord Myners



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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.

Barnett Formula

Question

Asked by Lord Barnett

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.

Business: Entrepreneurship

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

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.

Chartered Bodies: Record Keeping

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

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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Information Act, the Information Commissioner has a responsibility for promoting good practice in record keeping. The National Archives plays a role in advising on issues relating to the care and preservation of private archives and its advice can be drawn upon by any type of bodies, including chartered bodies.

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.

Civil Service: Redundancy

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

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.]

The new proposed compensation scheme will be imposed in place of the CAPS as soon as practicable after the Bill has gone through the House.

Civil Service: Staff

Question

Asked by Lord Rooker

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.



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Conflict Prevention Pool

Question

Asked by Lord Boateng

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.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Question

Asked by Lord Chidgey

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.

Department for Transport: Staff

Question

Asked by Lord Berkeley

Earl Attlee: The Department for Transport has no plans to engage external consultants to manage any restructuring and downsizing of its staff numbers.



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Economy: Growth

Question

Asked by Lord Rooker

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.

The White Paper Local growth: realising every place's potential laid before the House by the noble Baroness Wilcox on 28 October sets this out in further detail.

Energy: Renewables

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

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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assumptions about fossil fuel prices; with higher fossil fuel prices the relative cost of renewable sources of energy would be lower.

EU: External Action Service

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

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.

EU: Union for the Mediterranean

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

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.



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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.

Finance: Electronic Money

Question

Asked by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

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.

Finance: Interest Rates

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Since March 2009, the Bank has paid Bank Rate of 0.5 per cent on all commercial banks' reserves held at the Bank of England.

Food: Pork and Bacon

Question

Asked by Lord Hoyle

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.



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Government Departments: Closures

Questions

Asked by Lord Beecham

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.

Asked by Lord Beecham

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.

Asked by Lord Beecham

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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Staff working in the GO Network have been informed that there will be a separate release scheme covering all staff in the network. We are working with departments and trade union side in regard to this and details will be released in due course.

Government Departments: Staff

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

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.

Housing

Question

Asked by Lord Rooker

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.

Housing Benefit

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

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.



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If the tenant has rent arrears of eight weeks or more the local authority should make payments to the landlord unless it is in the tenant's overriding interest not to do so.

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.

Iceland

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

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.

Immigration

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

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.

Currently, in the UK, refugees are eligible to apply for citizenship one year after they have obtained indefinite leave to remain.

International Cricket Council

Question

Asked by Lord Williams of Elvel



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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.

Iraq: Camp Ashraf

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

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.

Israel

Questions

Asked by Lord Hylton

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.



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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.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

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.

Justice: Neil Forbes FRCVS

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

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.

Legal Aid

Question

Asked by Lord Bach



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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.

Lisbon Treaty

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

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.

Local Enterprise Partnerships

Questions

Asked by Lord Myners

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.

In addition, some local authorities may want to use shared incentive revenue streams to directly support economic development projects through local enterprise partnerships.

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.

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

Baroness Hanham: Local enterprise partnerships have an important role to play in delivering the right business environment in which private sector jobs and enterprise can flourish.

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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28 October which sets out in detail the role local enterprise partnerships will have in rebalancing the economy and driving forward sustainable growth.

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.

Milton Keynes: Sustainable Growth

Question

Asked by Lord Rooker

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.

The future role and activities of the partnership committee will be considered in the light of the local authority's ambitions for the area and recent spending review announcements.

National Security

Question

Asked by Lord Harris of Haringey

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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considered the risk of disruption to ground based critical national infrastructure in the UK from a variety of sources.

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.

Office for Budget Responsibility

Questions

Asked by Lord Barnett

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.

Asked by Lord Lea of Crondall

Lord Sassoon: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). I have asked the OBR to reply.

Letter from Robert Chote, Chairman, Office for Budget Responsibility, to Lord Lea, dated 1 November 2010.

As Chair of the Budget Responsibility Committee of the Office for Budget Responsibility I have been asked to reply to your recent question:

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.

Whilst we remain in the Treasury building the OBR can be contacted via the HM Treasury telephone enquiries line on 020 7270 4558 or via email on: obrenquiries@obr.gsi.gov.uk.



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Olympic Games 2012

Question

Asked by Lord Janner of Braunstone

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.

Pakistan

Question

Asked by Lord Patten

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.

Parking

Questions

Asked by Lord Lucas

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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local authority to revoke the instrument would be considered on its merits. There are no other specific powers in current legislation for the Government to investigate or take action against local authorities on such grounds.

Asked by Lord Lucas

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.

Central government does not make assessments in respect of the level of penalty charges issued by individual local authorities.

Asked by Lord Lucas

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.

Presbyterian Mutual Society

Questions

Asked by Lord Mawhinney

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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proposals put forward by the Northern Ireland Executive to deliver a just and fair solution to members of the society. My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the Government's agreement to those proposals in the spending review. It is now for the Northern Ireland Executive to take forward and to implement a scheme to address the needs of PMS members.

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.

Qatar

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

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.

Railways: Franchises

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

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.

The Government will be making an announcement regarding the future of both of these franchises in due course.

Railways: Intercity Trains

Question

Asked by Lord Berkeley



2 Nov 2010 : Column WA397

Earl Attlee: Yes. If a decision is made go ahead with the IEP project, any diesel engines procured will need to comply with Euro IIIb emissions limits.

Railways: Ticketing

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

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.

Remembrance Sunday

Question

Asked by Lord Rennard

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.

Roads: M20

Question

Asked by Lord Rooker

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.



2 Nov 2010 : Column WA398

Roads: Motor Races

Question

Asked by Lord Rooker

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.

We have no plans to make an assessment of the economic effect of allowing races or trials of speed on public ways in Great Britain.

Russia and China: Aid

Question

Asked by Lord Kilclooney

Baroness Verma: The UK's bilateral programme with China will end by March 2011. UK's bilateral aid to Russia will end by April 2011.

EU funding for China and Russia is through the Development Co-operation Instrument and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument respectively, rather than the European Development Fund.

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.

Spending Review 2010

Questions

Asked by Lord Touhig

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

2 Nov 2010 : Column WA399

Transport's £32 million contribution to the capacity enhancement programme for the Cardiff suburban rail network will also continue.

Asked by Lord Higgins

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.

Asked by Lord Boateng

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.

Asked by Baroness Rendell of Babergh

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.

Asked by Lord Rooker

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.

Traffic Signs and General Directions Act 2002

Question

Asked by Lord Lucas



2 Nov 2010 : Column WA401

Earl Attlee: The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 (SI 2002/3113) were made under powers conferred in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, and the Road Traffic Act 1988(b).

Detailed consideration is already given to every application for special direction received from local authorities.

Transport: Severe Weather

Question

Asked by Lord Fearn

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.

Turkey

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

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

2 Nov 2010 : Column WA402

have defined Turkey as a country which could be a member of the European Union and for our purposes Turkey is regarded as a European country.

Turkey: Religious Freedom

Question

Asked by Lord Patten

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.

UK Stabilisation Capacity

Question

Asked by Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale

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.

The Strategic Defence and Security Review published on 19 October 2010 set out the Government's commitment to,

"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",

and,

CSG experts will therefore be deployed to support conflict prevention as well as crisis response. From April 2011 they may be deployed as part of a Stabilisation Response Team.



2 Nov 2010 : Column WA403

UN: Peacekeeping

Questions

Asked by Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale

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.

Asked by Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale

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.

Asked by Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale



2 Nov 2010 : Column WA404

Lord Howell of Guildford: In his statement to the UN Security Council summit on 23 September 2010, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said:

"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.

Zimbabwe

Question

Asked by Lord Luce

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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