Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



26 Jan 2011 : Column WA163

Written Answers

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Air Services: Wales

Question

Asked by Lord Jones

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): The matter of funding for the north-south air services is entirely a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government.

Alcohol

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The coalition agreement contains a commitment to stop the sale of alcohol below cost price and as a result we have no intention of introducing minimum unit pricing. We feel duty plus VAT is the best starting point for tackling the availability of below-cost alcohol and stopping the worst instances of deep discounting.

We acknowledge the views of supporters of minimum unit pricing but recognise that there are a number of real challenges to delivering such a policy. These include issues of legality, proportionality and fairness and the cost and burden to businesses. However, we continue to keep all policy under review.

Azerbaijan

Questions

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The United Kingdom's bilateral relations with Azerbaijan cover an increasing number of areas of mutual interest. We value our relations with Azerbaijan, as signified by the Minister for Europe's official visit there in October 2010. The Government hope to continue to strengthen our relationship with Azerbaijan across a range of issues, including shared commercial interests. At the same time, we will continue our support for a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and for Azerbaijan's efforts to meet its international human rights obligations.

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Lord Howell of Guildford: The European Commission and the Government of Azerbaijan will shortly launch negotiations concerning a draft agreement on a visa facilitation regime and on a readmission agreement. The UK is not part of the Schengen group and therefore any negotiations conducted by the European Commission regarding visas will not affect UK government policy. We are unaware of any linkage between this issue and that of future exports of gas from Azerbaijan to European countries.

Banking: Bonuses

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government are in discussion with the banks to see whether a new settlement can be reached whereby smaller bonuses are paid than would be paid otherwise and there is greater transparency in relation to remuneration than hitherto. If the banks cannot commit to such a settlement, the Government have made it clear to them that nothing is "off the table". The Government will keep both Houses informed of all relevant policy developments.

Burma

Questions

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Baroness Verma: In 2010 the Department for International Development provided £1,057,000 for cross-border humanitarian assistance to Burma from Thailand and China.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Baroness Verma: The future aid budget for Burma is being considered as part of the wider review of the Department for International Development's (DfID's)

26 Jan 2011 : Column WA165

bilateral programme. The shape of DfID's programme and spending over the next four years will be made known after this review.

Business: Entrepreneurship

Questions

Asked by Lord Harris of Haringey

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Government are committed to making this decade the most entrepreneurial and dynamic in our history. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is currently reviewing the way in which it promotes an enterprise culture and encourages start-ups.

Asked by Lord Harris of Haringey

Baroness Wilcox: The Government are committed to making this decade the most entrepreneurial and dynamic in our history. Following the spending review, we are putting in place an approach to enterprise promotion and education to ensure that our funding will be targeted in the most effective way. Final decisions on funding have yet to be made.

Asked by Lord Harris of Haringey

Baroness Wilcox: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills keeps records of all projects that it funds. However, these cover a wide range of activities across the department and the relevant financial information is split between a number of areas of spend and a number of individual databases within the department. We cannot therefore readily separate out expenditure on projects specifically relating to entrepreneurship and enterprise.

Citizens Advice Bureaux

Questions

Asked by Lord Boateng



26 Jan 2011 : Column WA166

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Government value highly the work of the Citizens Advice service but funding for citizens advice bureaux is not a matter for central government but for local authorities, which are better able to determine the structure and level of funding of advice services in their area to meet local needs.

Local spending decisions are, and will continue to be, for local authorities. However, the Government do not expect local authorities to respond to this freedom by passing on disproportionate cuts to other service providers, especially the voluntary sector.

Asked by Lord Boateng

Baroness Wilcox: Central government have not been notified of the closure of any citizens advice bureaux since the spending review settlement 2010. The Government are aware that local authorities that fund citizens advice bureaux are facing tough decisions but do not expect them when making those decisions to pass on disproportionate cuts to other service providers, especially in the voluntary sector.

Asked by Lord Boateng

Baroness Wilcox: Central government have not been notified of the closure or proposed closure of any citizens advice bureaux since the spending review settlement 2010. The Government are aware that local authorities that fund citizens advice bureaux are facing tough decisions but do not expect them when making those decisions to pass on disproportionate cuts to other service providers, especially in the voluntary sector.

We know that the umbrella body for the service in England and Wales (Citizens Advice) is working closely both with the membership of the bureaux and with the network of local authorities to ensure that this highly valued service has a sustainable future.

Asked by Lord Boateng

Baroness Wilcox: The following Ministers have met with Gillian Guy, the chief executive officer of Citizens Advice since the spending review settlement in October:

4 November-Vince Cable and Edward Davey (BIS's Secretary of State and Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs);



26 Jan 2011 : Column WA167

7 December-Jonathan Djangoly (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice); and

1 December-Gillian Guy spoke alongside Edward Davey at the Debt and Personal Finance APPG meeting on Consumer Voice.

Gillian Guy is due to meet with Lynne Featherstone (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities) on l February.

Community Relations: New Cross Fire

Questions

Asked by Lord Boateng

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Two public inquiries-namely, Lord Scarman's (1981) and the Macpherson inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence (1999)-are pertinent in that they looked at the relationship between young people and the police. However, no specific assessment has been made of the impact on community relations, policing and public confidence in the inquest system following the deaths of 13 young Afro-Caribbean people in Lewisham in 1981.

Following an order by the High Court in 2002, a second inquest was conducted into the deaths by His Honour Gerald Butler QC sitting as assistant deputy coroner in 2004. The inquest lasted 10 weeks and heard evidence from 210 witnesses. The coroner concluded that the fire was most probably deliberate but, as he could not be sure beyond reasonable doubt, he returned an open verdict.

Asked by Lord Boateng

Baroness Hanham: We are aware that a special church remembrance service was held at St Andrew's United Reformed Church in Brockley Road on Sunday (January 16) and a new commemorative memorial plaque was put on the house in New Cross Lane to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of 13 young people from the Afro-Caribbean community in Lewisham. Central government have no further plans to mark the 30th anniversary.

In terms of enhancing the safety of young people at places of entertainment, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires the "responsible person"

26 Jan 2011 : Column WA168

to risk-assess the building and ensure that appropriate fire precautions are in place to minimise the risk to life in the event of a fire. Fire safety in private dwellings is the responsibility of the householder.

Criminal Records Bureau

Question

Asked by Lord Moonie

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) does not hold this information. The bureau is responsible for processing applications that have been made in the prescribed manner under Part V of the Police Act 1997. Applications are made by registered bodies (organisations that are registered with the CRB for the purposes of using the CRB checking service) on behalf of employers who are entitled to ask exempted questions under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions Order) 1975. Therefore, there is no central record of such costs.

Education: Dance

Question

Asked by Lord Hall of Birkenhead

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): In the schools White Paper The Importance of Teaching, published in November, we stated that there is much that children need to learn and experience that sits outside the traditional subject disciplines, so we will ensure that there is space in the school day to provide a rounded education for all. Dance contributes both to children's physical and to their cultural education and is deservedly popular.

Dance is an integral part of physical education within national curriculum physical education, which sets out the statutory requirement for all pupils aged five to 16 in maintained schools. We have just announced a review of the national curriculum, in which we have said that physical education will remain compulsory at all key stages. The first phase of the review will draft a new programme of study for physical education. This will be prepared and available to schools by September 2012, with teaching in maintained schools from September 2013.

Energy: Gas

Question

Asked by Viscount Waverley



26 Jan 2011 : Column WA169

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): This is a commercial matter for gas shippers. However, an increasing proportion of our gas demand is likely to come via pipeline from Norway and via LNG terminals from Qatar, Trinidad and Tobago, Algeria, Egypt and potentially a variety of other sources, including Australia. Currently, we import no gas directly from Russia and we are unlikely to do so in five years' time.

Equality Act 2010

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

Baroness Verma: I refer the noble Lord to the Answers given on 1 November, Official Report, col. WA 348, and 29 November, Official Report, col. WA 401.

Twenty statutory instruments relating to the Equality Act 2010 have now been made and published and are listed on the Government Equalities Office website, at the following link, which also makes clear the purpose of each one: www.equalities.gov.uk/equality_act_2010/details_of_statutory_instrumen.aspx

Decisions about outstanding measures and future secondary legislation will be made and announced in due course.

EU: Regulations

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Figures for Council regulations adopted by the European Union are held on a yearly rather than a monthly basis. Between 2002 and 2009 inclusive, 2191 Council regulations were adopted by the European Union. Figures for 2010 are not yet available.

Government Departments: Staff

Questions

Asked by Baroness Seccombe

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The number of full-time equivalent civil servants employed by the Cabinet Office in the requested years is detailed in the table below.



26 Jan 2011 : Column WA170

YearFull-time EquivalentPublished at:

01 April 1997

1,027

http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/Assets/css97_tcm6-2540.pdf

30 September 2010

1,620

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_labour/Table6AllDepts.xls

Copies of the documents have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I refer the noble Lord to the reply given to the noble Lord Bassam of Brighton on 17 November, Official Report, cols. WA210-11.

Health and Social Care Bill

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): In modernising the National Health Service, we aim to create a patient-centred health service that achieves outcomes that are among the best in the world. The Bill contains the legislative changes necessary to best support this aim; every aspect of the Bill is designed to improve the quality of the care that patients receive, the efficiency of the services that provide them and the accountability of services to their populations.

Patients and the public will be put at the heart of the NHS, giving them more control over their care and a greater say in decisions about health services. Patient choice will stimulate improvements in the quality of health services and improve patient satisfaction with the care that they receive. The Bill supports this by creating HealthWatch at a local and a national level to ensure the patient's voice is no longer lost in the system. The new NHS Commissioning Board will also have a legal duty to promote patient choice in the NHS.

The NHS will focus on what matters most to patients-high-quality care, not narrow process measures, which have damaged patient care. A relentless drive to improve outcomes, supported by a new NHS outcomes framework, will enable health services to deliver better care for patients. The Bill supports this by placing a duty of continuous quality improvement (defined in terms of clinical effectiveness, safety and patient experience) on the Secretary of State, the NHS Commissioning Board and commissioning consortia. In addition, the Bill provides that the Care Quality Commission and Monitor in its new role as economic

26 Jan 2011 : Column WA171

regulator will ensure safe and robust health services by monitoring, reviewing and reporting on quality and financial issues.

Providers and professionals will be empowered to innovate and drive up the quality of patient care, freeing them from bureaucratic control and making services more directly accountable to patients and communities. The Bill supports this by creating a coherent framework for the NHS that stops political interference in day-to-day decisions and improves accountability by conferring functions directly on the organisations responsible for exercising them. The Secretary of State will retain only those controls necessary to discharge core functions and, instead, transparent institutions-with roles and responsibilities clearly defined in legislation for the first time-will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the NHS.

Health: Diabetes

Question

Asked by Lord Morris of Aberavon

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The research report Growing up with Diabetes: Children and Young People with Diabetes in England states that, in January 2009, 22,783 children and young people aged nought to 17 years in England were recorded as having diabetes. Of these, 21,136 were classified by type and the vast majority (20,488) had type 1 diabetes.

It is extremely difficult to estimate the cost of treating type 1 diabetes in under-18s. Diabetes is a complex condition that affects all parts of the body, making it difficult to calculate an exact cost.

Health: Primary and Community Care

Question

Asked by Lord Mawson

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Primary care contractors enter into a contract with the National Health Service to deliver care and services for local people who choose to use the services offered based on the personal experience of the care that they receive from these contractors. This Government are committed to ensuring that all local communities have increased choice to access the care that they want, including their primary care provision.



26 Jan 2011 : Column WA172

Health: Social Enterprises

Question

Asked by Lord Mawson

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The department does not hold this information centrally.

Homeless People

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): This Government are committed to tackling and preventing homelessness. We have established a cross-government working group on homelessness bringing together Ministers from eight government departments to address the complex causes of homelessness and rough sleeping. A new approach to evaluating rough sleeping levels has been introduced so that there is clear information in all areas, to inform service provision and action to address the problem.

We have protected homelessness grant funding, with £400 million over the spending review period. This will be made available to local authorities and the voluntary sector to support their work to tackle homelessness.

We have made an additional £190 million available for discretionary housing payments and other forms of practical support alongside the Government's package of welfare reform measures.

I also refer the noble Lord to the letter of 20 October 2010 from the right honourable Grant Shapps on the spending review's settlement for housing, which includes our plans to build more affordable homes and to renovate poor-quality social housing. A copy of the letter is available in the House Library.

Immigration: Detention

Question

Asked by Lord Tebbit

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The number of people who might be detained for immigration purposes who are not free to leave the

26 Jan 2011 : Column WA173

jurisdiction of the UK because, for example, of ongoing court or criminal proceedings is not centrally recorded and this information could be obtained only by the examination of individual case records at disproportionate cost.

There are likely to be few, if any, cases at any given moment and generally these individuals will be kept in detention only if they pose a harm to the public or there is reason to believe that they will not comply with conditions of temporary release.

Iraq

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government welcome the initiative taken by Iraqi religious leaders to gather in Copenhagen on 14 January 2011 to promote tolerance between religious communities. It would not be appropriate for the British Government to tell the Government of Iraq what should be on the agenda at the Arab League summit. However, we can encourage the Government of Iraq to listen to the wishes of religious groups in Iraq.

NHS: Procurement

Question

Asked by Lord Beecham

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): When any employee co-operatives or mutuals are going to be awarded the opportunity to supply services to a contracting authority, the arrangement is likely to be viewed as a public contract for services and so will be captured by EU procurement rules unless the specific circumstances mean that the arrangement falls outside the rules or a general exemption applies.

There is no specific exemption for social enterprises or employee mutuals, so each procurement involving a "spin out" must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Circumstances where the rules might not apply to employee mutuals could include where there is no market for the services-eg where the services are very

26 Jan 2011 : Column WA174

specialised and have always previously been carried out by public authorities-or where the mutual remains "in house" for an initial period. Possible exemptions include:

the award of service concessions;the award of service contracts to joint ventures where the private sector involvement has already been competed; andcircumstances where a mutual that is also a contracting authority has been granted an exclusive right to provide a particular service.

Social enterprises and mutuals are subject to European Union competition rules if they are undertakings for the purposes of those rules. Whether or not social enterprises and mutuals are undertakings will depend on the circumstances and in particular on whether they are engaged in economic activity, offering goods or services on a given market. The EU treaty prohibits anti-competitive agreements, concerted practices or abuses of a dominant position by undertakings that affect trade between member states. Anti-competitive practices are also prohibited by the Competition Act 1998.

NHS guidance addresses the application of EU and UK procurement law to the procurement of NHS-funded health services and reflects the overarching principles that procurement must be transparent, proportionate and non-discriminatory, with equality of treatment for different types of provider and providers from different EU member states. This guidance applies in the same way to the award of new contracts irrespective of whether the provider is an NHS body, social enterprise or other public, private or voluntary sector organisation. The proposals outlined in the Health and Social Care Bill (19 January 2011) would build on this approach by establishing concurrent powers for Monitor, as economic regulator, to enforce competition law within the health sector in England where this is needed to address conduct that restricts competition against the patient and public interest.

NHS: Reform

Questions

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): In Liberating the NHS: Legislative Framework and Next Steps (December 2010), the Government proposed a phased transition over four years, to allow enthusiasts to proceed early and to give them time to plan, test and learn under existing legal and accountability arrangements.

Pathfinders and early implementers are already coming together to test the new arrangements and share learning, ahead of the first full dry run of the arrangements in 2012-13. Subject to parliamentary approval, we intend the new system to be fully operational by 2013-14.



26 Jan 2011 : Column WA175

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

Earl Howe: The Government's commitment to deliver up to £20 billion of efficiency improvements will require National Health Service organisations to work together to ensure that patients are not unnecessarily admitted to hospital-for example, through better management of patients with long-term conditions in, or closer to, their own homes. This will be reinforced by the proposed modernisation plans, since by aligning general practitioners' (GPs') clinical decisions with the financial consequences of those decisions there will be a strong incentive to prevent avoidable, expensive emergency admissions to hospital.

In addition to reducing avoidable admissions, there is also scope for further increasing day case rates and reducing lengths of stay for patients who are admitted to hospital. This is a key way in which hospitals can meet the 4 per cent efficiency requirement that is incorporated in the tariff prices that they will receive in 2011-12. It is also supported by the extension of best practice tariffs, which base hospital payments on best and most efficient clinical practice, rather than simply average costs incurred.

However, hospitals must also ensure that patients are not discharged from hospital inappropriately quickly and, for that reason, from April 2011 hospitals will receive no payment for patients readmitted within 30 days of a previous elective admission.

The avoidance of unnecessary hospital admissions and enabling patients to return home quicker when they are admitted will also be supported by the additional investment to support social care-rising to £2 billion per year by 2014-15-announced in the spending review. This includes funding for reablement, which has shown significant benefits in helping people to regain independence after a crisis and in cutting emergency readmissions to hospital.

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

Earl Howe: The White Paper Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS (July 2010) set out the Government's vision of a patient-centred National Health Service. Patients should expect there to be "no decision about me without me", with greater choice and access to information that helps them be fully involved in decisions about their care.

A more active role for patients represents a significant change to the relationship that many patients have with their doctor. The Government consulted on how to support this change in Liberating the NHS: Greater Choice and Control. This consultation closed on 14 January and the Government will publish their response in due course.



26 Jan 2011 : Column WA176

The first duty of doctors and other clinicians will always be providing high-quality care to their patients. They will be helped to do this by a new focus on improving outcomes, the removal of top-down targets that do not benefit patient care and greater freedom to innovate and improve. Commissioning by general practitioners (GPs) will further strengthen the relationship between patients and the NHS. The Health and Social Care Bill places legal duties on GP consortia and the new NHS Commissioning Board about promoting the involvement of patients and their carers in decisions about their services and enabling patients to make choices.

Questions for Written Answer

Question

Asked by Lord Jopling

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): I regret that so many Questions for Written Answer were late. Officials have been reminded of the importance of providing prompt answers. All outstanding PQs have now been answered.

Religious Intolerance

Question

Asked by Lord Alderdice

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The police may carry out a risk assessment on any individual who may be at threat by such statements and offer adequate protection. It would not be appropriate to comment on details of protective security arrangements.

The Government are committed to ensuring that everyone has the freedom to live their lives free from fear of targeted hostility or harassment on the grounds of a particular characteristic, such as their religious beliefs, and are taking action to ensure that the criminal justice services and partners locally are equipped to prevent and tackle such targeted hostility. A range of legislation is in place to enable the police and probation service to take action against those making statements designed to inflame racial or religious hatred. We will continue to keep the effectiveness of these measures under review, including the regular collection and publication of hate crime incidents and prosecutions.



26 Jan 2011 : Column WA177

Schools: GCSEs

Question

Asked by Lord Quirk

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): In 1995, 361,797 pupils aged 15 entered nine or more GCSEs. In 2010, 253,342 pupils at the end of key stage 4 (typically those aged 15) entered nine or more GCSEs. This is a fall of 30 per cent.

The percentage fall in London was 15.7 per cent while outside London it was 31.9 per cent.

While it is not possible to compare all school types between 1995 and 2010, those that are possible are given below.

Percentage change in pupils entering nine or more GCSEs between 1995 and 2010

Community schools*

53.9 per cent fall

Voluntary aided schools

46.7 per cent rise

Voluntary controlled schools

31.8 per cent fall

City technology colleges

70.2 per cent fall

Independent schools

26.8 per cent fall

*Called county schools in 1995

In 1995, performance data were not matched to any parental socioeconomic information. Therefore, a comparison is not available.

The main reason for the decline in the number of pupils entered for nine or more GCSEs is the increased availability and take-up of equivalent qualifications. If equivalent qualifications are included, a greater proportion of pupils entered nine or more GCSEs or equivalent qualifications in 2010 (83 per cent) than entered for nine or more GCSEs when equivalent qualifications were not counted in 1995 (63 per cent). In 2004, non-academic qualifications were first treated as equivalents to GCSEs for performance tables purposes and included in the calculation of performance indicators.

Taxation: Cuts

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): At the June 2010 Budget, the Chancellor announced that the 2011-12 income tax personal

26 Jan 2011 : Column WA178

allowance for those aged under 65 would be increased by £1,000 in cash terms, taking it from £6,475 now to £7,475 in 2011-12.

The June Budget estimated that the increase in the personal allowance will lift 880,000 of the lowest-income taxpayers out of income tax altogether and will be worth up to £170 a year for 23 million basic rate taxpayers. The Government's longer-term goal is to raise the allowance to £10,000, with real-terms steps in that direction every year.

Tunisia

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint): It is too early to tell what effects the current situation in Tunisia will have on Britain's trade with Tunisia. It will be some time before useful assessments can be made. British firms remain involved in a range of business in Tunisia, notably in the energy sector.

We are of course keeping a close eye on the situation as it unfolds. The majority of the population is trying to get back to work. Public offices are reopening and the banking and transport systems are resuming. The country is heavily dependent on tourism and even a short-term disruption could have a significant effect.

Turkey

Questions

Asked by Lord Patten

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): I refer my noble friend to the Written Answer that I gave him on 15 December 2010 (Official Report, cols WA201-02). Our embassy in Ankara raises the issue of respect for all religious minorities (rather than specific groups) with the Turkish authorities in their wider discussions on human rights. The Government support EU efforts to encourage reform in Turkey as part of the EU accession process.

Asked by Lord Patten



26 Jan 2011 : Column WA179

Lord Howell of Guildford: I refer my noble friend to the Written Answer that I gave him on 15 December 2010 (Official Report, col. WA 202). Our embassy in Ankara raises the issue of respect for all religious minorities (rather than specific groups) with the Turkish authorities in their wider discussions on human rights. The Government support EU efforts to encourage reform in Turkey as part of the EU accession process.

Asked by Lord Dykes

Lord Howell of Guildford: Turkey's accession to the EU is a key goal for the Government. This must, however, be subject to rigorous application of the EU's accession criteria. We believe that Turkish accession to the EU would contribute to the security, stability and prosperity of both the UK and the EU. We work closely with EU member states and with the European Commission to encourage and support progress in Turkey's accession process.

We also encourage Turkey to accelerate domestic reforms in line with the EU acquis. We support Turkey's engagement in support of the Cyprus settlement process and call for Turkey to implement the additional Ankara protocol.

Tuvalu

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Tuvalu held parliamentary elections in September last year, which saw Prime Minister Maatia Toafa elected. However, on 21 December 2011 he lost a vote of no confidence and was replaced by Prime Minister Willy Telavi. Demonstrations have taken place in the capital, Funafuti, as part of a political campaign to attempt another change in government. The new Prime Minister has issued a temporary public order banning public demonstrations as a precautionary measure to ensure public safety. We are following events carefully.

Uganda

Questions

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead



26 Jan 2011 : Column WA180

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Sitting Ugandan Members of Parliament reportedly received 20 million Ugandan shillings (£5,500) each on 15 January 2011, allegedly to monitor the implementation of government programmes, including the National Agricultural Advisory Development programme, in their respective constituencies. There are concerns about how these funds will be used in the run-up to presidential and parliamentary elections on 18 February and some Ugandan MPs have declared that they will return the money.

My honourable friend Henry Bellingham raised with President Museveni in July last year the importance of credible and peaceful elections. We will continue to urge the Ugandan authorities to ensure a level playing field for all political parties and, to this end, we are providing assistance, including technical support, to the Electoral Commission. We are also providing support to political parties, through a multi-donor (including the Department for International Development) Deepening Democracy Programme.

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

Lord Howell of Guildford: Uganda has a lively media whose coverage inspires active public debate on current issues and criticism of government policies. But we are concerned about administrative and legal curbs on freedom of expression, in particular the draft Press and Journalism Bill, and the pressures on journalists.

We are, however, encouraged that in August last year Uganda's Constitutional Court ruled that the criminalisation of sedition was incompatible with the constitution's guarantee of freedom of expression. The court abolished the crime of sedition and quashed 14 outstanding charges of sedition brought against journalists and opposition politicians.

Our high commission in Kampala regularly discusses issues relating to freedom of expression with the Government of Uganda and has raised the draft press Bill with the Ugandan Minister for Information. We were not aware that some radio stations were prevented from broadcasting the Buganda Kingdom's conference in December but can confirm that Central Broadcasting Service, the Buganda Kingdom's radio station, was reopened in October last year after being shut down in September 2009.


Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page