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14 Feb 2011 : Column WA99



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA99

Written Answers

Monday 14 February 2011

Armed Forces: Ceremonial Fur Headwear

Question

Asked by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The Ministry of Defence (MoD) adopts a neutral position on the use of real fur in ceremonial clothing and the department is entirely open to the use of faux fur where this provides a suitable and affordable alternative. However, in the case of bearskins, no alternative has yet been identified that matches the impressive properties and visual appearance of black bear fur.

My honourable friend the Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology (Peter Luff) met with representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in July 2010 where he agreed to the MoD testing samples of a synthetic fur identified by PETA as a possible alternative. The department stands ready to proceed with this work once suitable samples are available.



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA100

Bank of England: Financial Policy Committee

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government intend to introduce legislation this year to implement the planned reforms to financial regulation, including the creation of the Financial Policy Committee (FPC). Subject to the approval of Parliament, this legislation is expected to be commenced by the end of 2012. The positions of independent members of the FPC may be advertised before the legislation receives Royal Assent in order to provide sufficient time for the recruitment process to take place, so that the committee is able to meet as soon as possible after commencement.

Banking

Questions

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The following table sets out the number of banks regulated by the Financial Services Authority as of 31 December for the past 10 years.

YearEuropean Economic Area(EEA), other than UKBanks authorised in the EEA entitled to establish branches in the UK but not to accept deposits in the UKBanks incorporated in the EEA entitled to accept deposits through a branch in the UKBanks incorporated outside the EEA authorised to accept deposits through a branch in the UKBanks incorporated in the United KingdomTotal

2001

112

20

92

114

185

411

2002

106

16

90

104

184

394

2003

112

22

90

94

172

378

2004

111

25

86

89

170

370

2005

117

26

91

85

159

361

2006

119

24

95

82

160

361

2007

121

21

100

83

154

358

2008

119

21

98

83

157

359

2009

116

21

95

81

155

352

2010

114

22

92

80

154

348

Asked by Lord Myners

Lord Sassoon: The Government's shareholdings in banks are managed on an arm's-length and commercial basis by UK Financial Investments Ltd.

The contracts of employment for senior staff at Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) are a matter for the boards and management of LBG and RBS.



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Banking: Bonuses

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Throughout the development and negotiation of the capital requirements directive (CRD3) the Government supported the view taken by the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament that the conditions imposed on bank bonuses should support the international framework agreed by G20 members.

Banking: Iceland

Questions

Asked by Lord Laird

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Details of dividends received in the 2009-10 financial year from the Icelandic bank administration processes are set out in the Treasury's Resource Accounts for 2009-10 (HC261).

In the 2009-10 financial year, about £194 million was received from the Heritable administration. Ernst & Young does not anticipate the residential mortgage book to be realised prior to October 2011 when the period of administration ends. To date, 50p in the pound has been paid. In order to recover the remainder of the forecast estimated outcome, the administrators will continue to discuss the strategy for maximizing the realisation of the remaining assets with the creditors' committee. It has not yet been possible for them to forecast a date for the final return to creditors.

In the 2009-10 financial year, about £1 billion was received from the Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander administration. Ernst & Young expects that a significant proportion of the forecast dividends will be paid by October 2012. 53p in the pound has been recovered to date. Certain longer-term assets are not expected to be fully realised by October 2012. Ernst & Young will continue to work with the creditors' committee on a strategy for the realisation of these assets. The company has stated that, consequently, it is not possible at the current time to forecast a date for the final return to creditors.



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA102

Recoveries are yet to be received from the Icesave administration. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme has made a claim in the winding up in Iceland which is subject to litigation there.

Details of dividends received in the 2010-11 financial year will be published in the Treasury's Resource Accounts for 2010-11 later this year.

Asked by Lord Laird

Lord Sassoon: The previous Government paid out £2.35 billion to depositors in the UK branch of Landsbanki on behalf of the Iceland Depositors and Investors Guarantee Fund when the bank failed in October 2008.

On 8 December 2010 officials from Iceland and the UK initialled an agreement for the repayment of this loan. A Bill to ratify the agreement is currently being debated in the Icelandic Parliament. Subject to ratification, the agreement will be signed by the UK and Iceland.

Under the terms of the agreement, Iceland would pay 3.3 per cent interest to the UK from the date the agreement is signed. Repayments of the principal would begin in 2016 and be complete by 2046. The full £2.35 billion plus interest would be repaid under the terms of this agreement.

Banking: Levy

Question

Asked by Lord King of West Bromwich

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The bank levy has been designed specifically to target risky short-term funding which led to serious liquidity problems that played a key role in the financial crisis. By design, the levy is not charged on insured customer deposits and applies at only half-rate to uninsured customer deposits (except for those from financial institutions) and to funding that has over one year remaining to maturity. The levy therefore ensures that banks make a contribution reflective of the risks they pose to the UK financial system and wider economy. The treatment of deposits also reflects the general desirability of encouraging banks to increase the proportion of their funding from deposits.

The Government are also clear that competition drives efficiency and helps to ensure that consumers are able to access the wide range of financial products that they need. As part of its remit, the Independent Commission on Banking is looking at the state of competition in the industry and how customers and taxpayers can be sure of the best deal.



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Banking: Royal Bank of Scotland

Questions

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): On 26 November 2009 the previous Government and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) signed full and legally binding agreements in respect of RBS's participation in the Asset Protection Scheme. On 11 January my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer described the terms of that agreement concerning remuneration as "thoroughly inadequate".

Asked by Lord Myners

Lord Sassoon: HM Treasury and UK Financial Investments have meetings and discussions regularly with the management of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), as they do with other organisations. As with previous Administrations, it is not the practice of the Government to comment on such meetings and discussions.

The Government agree with Lord Turner of Ecchinswell that a public account of the reasons for the failure of RBS would be desirable, and look forward to the Financial Services Authority's publication of its summary report into that failure in the spring.

Asked by Lord Myners

Lord Sassoon: As a quoted company, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is required to produce a Directors' Remuneration Report and put that to an advisory shareholder vote. UK Financial Investments (UKFI) will therefore be able to vote on this report.

UKFI will vote all the Government's shares wherever they are eligible to do so. UKFI will inform RBS in advance of its intentions and rationale, and will disclose on its website how it has voted on each resolution.



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA104

Burma

Questions

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We remain deeply concerned by the regime's continued refusal to respond to Aung San Suu Kyi's call for dialogue and national reconciliation. Without an inclusive and just political settlement, peace, stability and economic development will continue to elude Burma. We are concerned that restrictive laws controlling freedom of expression in the new Parliament do not promote accountability and good governance but instead will hamper opposition parties from playing an effective role in policy reform. We expect that senior government positions will be filled by military figures from the existing leadership. This and the Government's recent rejection of the National League for Democracy's appeal against dissolution leaves little room for doubt that the military's intention is maintain their grip on power.

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Lord Howell of Guildford: We remain deeply concerned about the continued imprisonment of Su Su Nway and all other political prisoners in Burma. Their immediate and unconditional release remains one of the international community's long-standing demands. Our ambassador in Rangoon most recently raised political prisoners directly with the Burmese authorities on 26 January and will continue to highlight our concern in future discussions with them. We also helped to secure a strongly worded human rights resolution at the UN General Assembly in November that demanded the release of all political prisoners. We highlighted this issue again during an examination of Burma's human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review on 27 January. Our embassy in Burma is in touch with the International Labour Organisation and others close to Su Su Nway to ensure that she receives appropriate attention, in particular regarding her health.

Children: Care

Question

Asked by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA105

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The Department for Education does not collect this information. All local authorities are strongly advised to appoint virtual school head teachers to help ensure that they fulfil their duty to promote the educational achievements of the children they look after. Although precise figures are not available, it is clear that nearly all local authorities have such posts or their equivalent.

Circuses: Animals

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): Defra officials and veterinarians have considered a variety of relevant scientific research publications on this issue that were evaluated by a panel of academics and veterinarians to inform a report commissioned by Defra in 2006 on the welfare of wild animals in travelling circuses. Veterinarians have also considered the scientific review "Are wild animals suited to a travelling circus life?" by the University of Bristol (Iossa et al, Animal Welfare 2009, 18; 129-140).

We are currently considering the 13,000 or so responses to our consultation on the use of wild animals in circuses before we publish a summary. In the meantime, I have been meeting with representatives of welfare groups and the circus industry. An industry body has proposed a self-regulatory system, but no final decisions have yet been made.

Climate Change: Deforestation

Question

Asked by Lord Eden of Winton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): While there is so far no internationally agreed methodology for determining national strategies, the decision on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) agreed in Cancun contains relevant principles for how to operationalise REDD+, and a work programme though which relevant methodological guidance will be developed. The experience provided by countries in drafting REDD+ Preparation Plans-as the first step towards receiving finance from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility managed by the World Bank-will be relevant to this work. And the REDD+ Partnership, to which the UK is an active participant, provides a platform for REDD+ countries to share lessons on development and implementation of national REDD+ strategies.



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA106

Economy

Question

Asked by Lord Ouseley

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government are aware of the latest figures from Markit and believe that putting the public finances and spending on a sustainable footing is essential to support household finances in the medium term.

Education Maintenance Allowance

Question

Asked by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): We are working with the Young People's Learning Agency, which administers the education maintenance allowance scheme on behalf of the Department for Education, to assess any costs that may arise from the reduction in value of Capita's contract. Peter Lauener, the YPLA's chief executive, will respond separately to the noble Baroness on the question regarding penalty and compensation payments, and a copy will be placed in the House Libraries.

Education: Languages

Question

Asked by Baroness Coussins

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The Languages Trends survey 2010, published by CILT, the National Centre for Languages, in January 2011 showed that in 21 per cent of maintained secondary schools and in 92 per cent of independent schools in a representative sample, 75 per cent or more of pupils were studying languages at key stage 4.

Elections: Registration Forms

Question

Asked by Lord Greaves



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA107

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Government do not have a role in encouraging party political activity on the ground, but remain committed to considering what more can be done to improve registration rates.

Responsibility for registering electors lies with individual electoral registration officers (EROs) based within local authorities. Each ERO is under a duty to take all steps that are necessary to maintain their registers.

The Electoral Commission provides guidance to EROs in undertaking electoral registration, and sets and monitors performance standards for EROs. It also undertakes work to promote public awareness of electoral registration.

On 15 September the Government announced our intention to speed up the implementation of individual electoral registration (IER) so that it comes into force in 2014. IER will involve the collection of identifying information from individual electors.

To complement the move to IER the Government intend to test data matching schemes during 2011 with the aim of identifying eligible electors who are not on the electoral register. Participating EROs will be able to compare the electoral register against other public databases and find people missing from the register. If these test schemes are successful, the Government will consider rolling out data matching nationally as a means of encouraging electoral registration.

Energy: Biofuels

Questions

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

Earl Attlee: Information on the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO), including data on meeting the obligation and compliance with the standards, can be found on the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) website at www.renewablefuelsagency.gov.uk/carbon-and-sustainability/rtfo-reports.

Amendments to the Renewable Transport Fuel (RTFO) Order 2007 are being considered to implement both the transport elements of the renewable energy directive (RED) and aspects of the closely related fuel quality directive (FQD).



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA108

The RED and FQD contain mandatory sustainability criteria for biofuels. These include that biofuels must deliver a GHG saving of at least 35 per cent, and must not be sourced from areas of high biodiversity, or from high carbon soils (such as rainforests or wetlands).

All biofuels will have to meet mandatory sustainability criteria in order to be counted towards meeting the targets in the RED and FQD, subject to certain exceptions. We will be consulting soon on proposals to implement the RED and FQD, including on how to ensure biofuels used in the UK meet mandatory sustainability criteria set out in the directives.

Further information can be found on the carbon and sustainability page of the RFA's website at www. renewablefuelsagency.gov.uk/carbon-and-sustainability.

EU: Levies

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The National Audit Office identified £398 million relating to the UK's European Union (EU) expenditure which was disallowed, because it did not meet European Commission guidelines, and £601 million representing the Government's estimate of historic expenditure which the EU may in future determine was similarly ineligible for EU funding. The Government remain concerned at the level of funding disallowed in this inherited account and is determined that improvements must be made to manage taxpayers' money more efficiently.

These sums have been factored into departments' resource accounts, and will have no impact on the planned delivery of public services.

However, as the UK abatement means that the UK finances about 70 per cent of any receipts from the EU budget, 70 per cent of the funds disallowed will be returned to the UK taxpayer.

European Commission: Legislation

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA109

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government have begun initial work on examining the balance of the European Union's existing competences and what they mean for Britain. This review needs to be undertaken before we can determine the way forward.

Finance: Derivatives

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The European Commission has recently consulted on reforms to the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID), including reforms aimed at improving transparency in derivatives markets. One of the proposals is to introduce a new category of trading facility for derivatives. This will help implement the G20 commitment that by 2012 all standardised over-the-counter derivatives contracts should be traded on exchanges or electronic trading platforms where appropriate.

The consultation document can be found on the Europa website at ec.europa.eu/internal_market/securities/isd/mifid_en.htm.

The Commission has said that legislative proposals are scheduled for spring 2011, and we will work closely with the Commission as these are developed.

Finance: Hedge Funds

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Financial Services Authority (FSA) oversees the activities of all hedge fund managers operating in the UK. The FSA's supervisory approach includes the periodic collection of regulatory data from these hedge fund managers, including an enhanced set of systemically relevant data from the largest hedge fund managers and their counterparties (for example, prime brokers), which are also subject to more intensive relationship managed supervision.

In response to the commitments made at the G20 London Summit in April 2009, there are a number of European and international regulatory developments which are relevant to the supervision of hedge fund managers. At a European level, these include the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive, on which political agreement was reached in October 2010. At a global level, a number of regulatory proposals

14 Feb 2011 : Column WA110

have been put forward by forums including the International Organisation of Securities Commissioners and the Financial Stability Board.

The Government will continue discussing with the FSA and, against the backdrop of the regulatory reform proposals, with the Bank of England how it proposes incorporating these developments into its supervision of hedge fund managers. Furthermore, the Government will also be discussing the operation of the revised regulatory framework following the completion of the regulatory reform process including the role and co-ordination between the new Consumer Protection and Markets Authority, the Financial Policy Committee and the Prudential Regulatory Authority.

Finance: World Economic Forum

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): In the UK, it is the responsibility of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of England to determine the appropriate monetary policy stance based on its judgment on the outlook for inflation in the medium term. The MPC's remit remains to maintain price stability according to the Government's two per cent inflation target as measured by the 12-month increase in the Consumer Price Index.

The G20 is working hard to co-ordinate countries' individual actions to achieve our common goals. For example, the Government have taken decisive action to restore fiscal sustainability and economic growth through the recent Spending Review and the creation of the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

Questions

Asked by Lord Myners

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Government announced on 7 January that the Freedom of Information Act will be extended to the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Asked by Lord Myners



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA111

Lord McNally: The Government announced on 7 January that the Freedom of Information Act will be extended to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

Gaza Flotilla

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government have consistently called for a full, credible, impartial and independent investigation into the Gaza flotilla incident. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made this clear in his Statement of 15 June 2010 and we have consistently underlined these points in our discussions with the Government of Israel.

Part one of the Turkel Commission report appears to be a thorough analysis of the evidence before the commission, and included international involvement. The participation of Lord Trimble and Brigadier-General Ken Watkin as international observers was essential. Both observers stated clearly that they thought that the commission was independent. However, it is clear that although the commission made efforts to hear both sides, not all relevant evidence was available to the commission. This is to be regretted.

Clearly this is a complex issue. We are studying the report in detail and await the second and final part of the report in due course. It is now important that the UN Secretary-General's panel of inquiry can draw on the full evidence available as part of its own ongoing investigation.

Ghana

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We are aware of concerns surrounding the relocation of individuals living illegally near railway lines in Accra. We have been contacted directly by UK non-governmental organisations with reports that individuals have died and been injured during previous evictions. Staff at our High Commission in Accra will raise these concerns with Ghanaian officials at the earliest possible opportunity.

Government Departments: Policies

Question

Asked by Lord German



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA112

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: A number of Cabinet committees consider issues relating to barriers to work. The list of Cabinet committees and their terms of reference can be found at www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/resources/cabinet-committees-system.pdf.

Guantanamo Bay

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): On 6 July 2010 my right honourable friend the Prime Minister confirmed to Parliament that we will continue to request the release and return to the UK of Shaker Aamer. The Government have reiterated this request to the US Government on numerous occasions. Most recently, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary raised Mr Aamer's case with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on 17 November 2010, and following this my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister raised Mr Aamer's case when he met Secretary Clinton at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe summit in Kazakhstan on 1 December 2010. Senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials are continuing discussions with their US counterparts on this issue. The outcome of these discussions remains uncertain. Any decision regarding Mr Aamer's release remains in the hands of the United States Government.

Guatemala

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We are very concerned about the threats made to Norma Cruz. Our ambassador is in regular contact with her and has raised her case with the Guatemalan Minister of the Interior. Ms Cruz's case is also being monitored by the European Union's Filter Group on Human Rights, of which the British embassy is an active member. My honourable friend Jeremy Browne lent his personal support to an anti-domestic-violence campaign backed by Ms Cruz's non-governmental organisation Fundacion Sobrevivientes and our embassy on his official visit to Guatemala in November.

Higher Education: Overseas Students

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): We have received 590 applications for Highly Trusted Status (HTS) from tier four sponsors who were not automatically deemed highly trusted. Of these we have granted 421, refused 105, rejected 13 and 11 have been withdrawn. The remaining 40 applications are under consideration.

All applications for HTS must come from A-rated sponsors. Any B-rated sponsors who apply will be automatically refused.

A list of Highly Trusted Sponsors can be found on the UK Border Agency's sponsor register, a copy of which has been placed in the House of Commons Library.

Housing: Mortgages

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government are committed to ensuring an open and competitive market, which will ensure that the banks and building societies lend appropriately to home buyers. Decisions concerning the pricing and availability of mortgages remain commercial decisions for banks and building societies, and the Government do not seek to intervene in these decisions.

Inflation

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government regularly take into account a wide range of factors in their assessment of the economy. The Bank of England continues to monitor risks to the inflation outlook in its quarterly Inflation Reports, which can be found on the Bank of England website. The next Bank of England Inflation Report will be released on Wednesday 16 February. The Report will provide the Bank's updated assessment of the inflation outlook.



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Iraq

Question

Asked by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We are aware the Ministry of Human Rights has completed their report. We have been given sight of this and subsequently requested permission to share the report with UK Parliament. This request is currently being considered by the Council of Ministers. We will continue to urge the Iraqi Government to make this report public.

Israel

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): I refer the noble Baroness to my response of 11 January 2011 (Official Report, col. WA 432).

The UK is concerned by these reports. While the UK recognises Israel's security concerns, we do, however, expect Israel to uphold international and human rights law. Officials have made inquiries and understand that there may be a case to answer. We continue to follow this.

Asked by Lord Hylton

Lord Howell of Guildford: We are aware of this incident following the demolition of residential structures in the Bedouin village of Al-Daqeqa. Our embassy in Tel Aviv has made enquiries to the Government of Israel about the demolition of Bedouin villages in the Negev.

We call upon Israel to find viable and sustainable solutions to avoid the demolition of homes and the destruction of livelihoods this causes and to ensure that the 2009 Prawer Committee, which was established to implement the 2008 Goldberg Commission recommendations, finds solutions to the residential issues of Bedouin communities living in the south of Israel.



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA115

Asked by Lord Hylton

Lord Howell of Guildford: We have not raised this specific case with the Israeli Government. However, we have an ongoing dialogue with the Israeli Government on human rights. We urge Israel to ensure that all cases where Palestinians are killed by Israeli security forces are investigated openly and transparently, and that where actions are found to be outside of the military's rules of engagement, appropriate action is taken against those involved.

Israel and Palestine

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): I refer the noble Baroness to my response of 25 January 2011 (Official Report, cols. WA 145-46).

Asked by Baroness Tonge

Lord Howell of Guildford: We have not had any discussions on Palestinian Nakba day. However, we are concerned about the breakdown in negotiations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are working closely with the US and the EU to see a return to negotiations. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear that the entire international community, including the US, should support 1967 borders as the basis for resumed negotiations.

Asked by Lord Dykes

Lord Howell of Guildford: The draft Palestinian UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on settlements is consistent with our longstanding policy. But focus remains on how to secure a return to direct negotiations between the parties. We are considering the current draft resolution in this light and are discussing with UNSC partners including the US.



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA116

Asked by Lord Hylton

Lord Howell of Guildford: We continue to underline to the Government of Israel that settlements are illegal and must stop. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary discussed these issues with the Israeli Foreign Minister during his visit to London on 24 January 2011. My honourable friend, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Alistair Burt, also discussed these points with the Israeli Government during his visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories on 18 January 2011.

We understand that this specific incident took place after Israeli soldiers dismantled a settlement on Palestinian land. We will continue to underline the need for restraint to avoid needless casualties.

Asked by Lord Hylton

Lord Howell of Guildford: I refer the noble Lord to my response of 31 January 2011, Official Report, col. WA 232.

We are concerned at what appears to be a sharp increase in the level of demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem and Area C (Palestinian territory under Israeli military and civilian control). According to UN statistics, 431 structures, including 137 homes, were demolished in 2010, affecting 594 people, including 299 children. These figures represent a 60 per cent increase in demolitions compared to 2009.

We deplore all civilian casualties that have resulted from the Arab-Israel conflict. We recognise Israel's right to defend itself from acts of violence but call on the Israeli Government to act with restraint and in accordance with international law. We also call on the Palestinian Authority to prevent acts of violence from originating in the Occupied Territories.

Asked by Lord Hylton

Lord Howell of Guildford: We have no plans to engage Hamas in the way Professor Richard Falk suggests. We continue to call on Hamas to renounce violence and take immediate and concrete steps towards the quartet principles.



14 Feb 2011 : Column WA117

Kazakhstan

Question

Asked by Viscount Waverley

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The moves in Kazakhstan recently to extend the President's term in office until 2020 without further elections were cause for concern. We therefore welcome the Constitutional Council's judgement. President Nazarbayev has decided to call a presidential election on 3 April 2011. The Kazakh authorities will have our full support in ensuring that the election is held in accordance with accepted Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe standards and other international standards.

Media: Ownership

Questions

Asked by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

Baroness Rawlings: I refer the noble Baroness to the Written Statement given by the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport on 25 January 2011 (Official Report, col. 3WS and col. 4WS).

National Savings and Investments

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): National Savings and Investments (NS&I) expects index linked savings certificates to remain off sale for at least the rest of this financial year (end March 2011). Sales volumes in the first part of this financial year far exceeded those either anticipated or required by NS&I under its net financing target.

NS&I continues to follow a policy of acting transparently and balancing the interests of its savers, the taxpayer and the stability of the wider financial services market. The position will be kept under regular review and sales will be resumed when NS&I can be confident that conditions will enable it to operate within and to its publicly agreed targets.



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Nigeria

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We have not made representations to the Government of Nigeria about forced evictions in Port Harcourt. However, our High Commission in Abuja recently sponsored a legal advocacy programme for those affected, under strategic programme funds. We continue to raise our concerns on a broad range of human rights issues in Nigeria, at state and federal level, and will raise this specific issue with the governor of Rivers State at the earliest appropriate opportunity.

Pirates: Korea

Question

Asked by Lord Tebbit

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The MV "Samho Jewelry" was re-captured from pirate control on 20 January 2011 by the Republic of Korea Warship Choi Young. The MV "Samho Jewelry" is operated by the Samho Shipping Company in South Korea and Korean nationals were amongst the crew, so the operation was carried out on a national basis. Her Majesty's Government do not comment on other nations' operations.

Royal Navy ships participating in counter-piracy operations are always trained and fully equipped with the appropriate rules of engagement to counter any threats they may face. HMG rules of engagement are robust within the international legal framework and are reviewed on a regular basis.

Poverty

Questions

Asked by Lord Ouseley

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The Department for Work and Pensions does not produce forecasts of the number of households living in poverty. Data for 2011-12 is likely to become available in spring

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2013. The table, below, shows the number of households living below 60 per cent of median equivalised disposable household income in England for the last five year periods where data is available.

Table 1: Number of households in England with income below 60 per cent of median income, Before and After Housing Costs (millions)
YearBefore Housing CostsAfter Housing Costs

2004-05

3.8

4.4

2005-06

3.8

4.5

2006-07

4.1

4.8

2007-08

4.1

4.8

2008-09

4.1

4.9

Asked by Lord Ouseley

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The Government are taking forward work to consider their national approach to issues of social cohesion and integration. As part of the evidence base for developing this, we will consider all relevant factors including economic issues.

The Government are committed to tackling the national deficit in a way which protects the vulnerable. The local government finance settlement for 2011-12 was laid in Parliament on 31 January. This settlement has increased the weighting for deprivation from 73 per cent to 83 per cent. This means, for example, that Wokingham will receive £124.77 per person compared to Hackney's £1,043.23 per person of Formula Grant.

We have confirmed commitments announced in the Spending Review by: putting £2.4 billion of social care funding into Formula Grant by 2014-15-that is £1 billion more than for social care grants in 2010-11;providing, through the NHS budget, another £1 billion of additional funding by 2014-15, to break down the barriers between health and social care-we do not want to wait until April for this joint working to start, so we have allocated

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£162 million this year for Primary Care Trusts to spend on social care services for the benefit of the NHS;providing £6.5 billion for the Supporting People programme (which provides housing support to vulnerable people) over the next four years. This equates to an annual average reduction over the four years of less than 1 per cent in cash terms.

Supporting People has been unringfenced since April 2009 and had been moved into Formula Grant from 2011-12.

The Government are also taking action to promote economic growth to provide the conditions for private sector success and address the barriers faced by industry, which will help with long-term job creation.

Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

Baroness Rawlings: Decisions to close public libraries are made at local level by local authorities, not by the Government. However, every authority in England is required to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. This represents the balance to be struck by each local authority in meeting local needs within the context of available resources.

A number of authorities are currently considering closing libraries. Before doing so, it is important that they consider other options for delivering a more efficient service. For example, authorities might consider bringing other council services together with the library service, merging parts of the library service or sharing staff with neighbouring authorities, using volunteers or delivering library services in other community buildings.

Consideration by the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport of whether or not any statutory powers should be used to assess an authority's compliance with the 1964 Act will be made on a case-by-case basis and after careful consideration of all relevant facts and local circumstances.

Questions for Written Answer

Question

Asked by Lord Rosser

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): I encourage all members of the Government Front Bench to respond to Lords Questions for Written

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Answer in good time, as set out in the Companion to the Standing Orders, and I thank the noble Lord for drawing this to my attention.

Refugee Agencies: Funding

Question

Asked by Lord Judd

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): Voluntary sector grants for providing advice to supported asylum seekers will be reduced from April 2011. Since 2005, numbers of supported asylum seekers have fallen by over 50 per cent but levels of grant have not been reduced significantly in this period.

Refugees enjoy access to the job market, housing and other benefits in line with UK nationals. Our expectation is that some of the grant for advice services still available beyond April can be used to advise new refugees on these mainstream services.

Republic of Ireland: Financial Support

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The interest rate on each tranche will be a fixed rate, set by adding a margin of 2.29 per cent to the sterling 7.5 year swap rate at the time of disbursement. Interest will be charged every six months and there will be a repayment of principal at the end of each 7.5 year term of the eight tranches.

Saudi Arabia

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government believe that democracy is a key human right. It can take many different forms, depending on local culture, society and history. Genuine democracies have common features. These include respect for human rights and the rule of law, a politically neutral civil service and decentralised power structures.



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Supporting democracy is in the UK's national interest. Evidence shows that, as a system of government, democracy assists the peaceful pursuit of politics, political change and the management of power in society, as well as respect for human rights. In the long term it supports poverty alleviation, crisis management and conflict prevention. It also supports-but does not guarantee-sustained economic development and reduces corruption. Supporting democracy is therefore integral to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's aims of safeguarding British security and prosperity by preventing conflict and promoting sustainable global growth. We take a country-specific approach.

The UK welcomed the first municipal council elections in Saudi Arabia in 2005 and will continue to encourage the Kingdom to hold the next set of municipal council elections, which are scheduled for 2011.

Taxation: Corporation Tax

Question

Asked by Lord Dykes

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Press and broadcasting companies operating in the UK are subject to tax on their profits in the same way as any other company operating in the UK.

Taxation: VAT

Question

Asked by Lord Higgins

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The answer to this question falls within the responsibilities of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), and I have asked the OBR to reply.

Letter from Robert Chote, Chair of the Budget Responsibility Committee of the Office for Budget Responsibility, to Lord Higgins, dated 14 February 2011.

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 to what extent they expect any demand deflationary effect of the increase in the rate of VAT to 20 per cent to offset the effect on prices. [HL6499]

The OBR's November forecast incorporated the estimated impact of policy measures announced at or before the June Budget, including the increase in the standard rate of VAT from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent that took effect from 4 January 2011.

Drawing on evidence from previous changes in VAT rates in the UK and elsewhere, the November forecast assumed that around two-thirds of the VAT

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increase would be passed on relatively quickly to prices, with further adjustment over the remainder of 2011. The impact on the annual rate of CPI inflation is to add 0.7 percentage points to the annual rate in 2011-12.

The OBR applied a range of fiscal multipliers to help inform its judgment on the impact of VAT on aggregate demand in the economy. These multipliers are set out in Table C8 of the interim OBR's June Budget document. The interim OBR's June 2010 Budget forecast and the OBR's November forecast assumed that the increase in the standard rate of VAT from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent would reduce the level of real GDP in 2011-12 by around 0.3 per cent. All else equal, this will tend to increase the level of spare capacity in the economy and reduce the level of inflationary pressure.

However, the assessment of the output gap is subject to a wide margin of error and it is difficult to judge the exact degree to which spare capacity will exert downward pressure on inflation.

Transport: Low-carbon

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

Earl Attlee: Our policy for low-carbon transport, as outlined in a local transport White Paper published on 19 January, concerns all areas within England (outside London), both rural and urban. We also published the bidding guidance for the £560 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

Our policy makes no changes concerning road user charging. The Transport Act 2000 gives local authorities in England and Wales powers to fund transport improvements by introducing road user charging schemes or a workplace parking levy. In line with localism, it is open to local authorities to use these powers if they wish to do so.

Uganda

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): In his statement on the tragic murder of David Kato released last week, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham urged the Ugandan authorities to investigate this crime thoroughly and bring the perpetrators to justice. Our High Commission in Kampala has reinforced these points in discussion with the Ugandan authorities. I understand

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that the Ugandan police force has arrested two men in connection with Mr Kato's murder and is continuing its investigations.

UK Trade and Investment: Central Asia

Question

Asked by Viscount Waverley

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint): UKTI is finalising its plans for 2011-12, including visits worldwide by trade delegations which it is supporting. This information will be published in due course on the relevant country pages of the UK Trade & Investment website.

UK Trade and Investment: China

Questions

Asked by Viscount Waverley

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint):Ministerial interaction with Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang:

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland met Vice-Premier Li in Edinburgh on 9 January.

In London, Vice-Premier Li had formal calls with my right honourable friends the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills-the latter was accompanied by three senior company executives from UK businesses operating in China.

My right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers from the Departments of Energy and Climate Change, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Business, Innovation and Skills oversaw the signing of fifteen official and business contracts.

My right honourable friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer hosted a dinner with financial services companies. He also facilitated a presentation on infrastructure investment opportunities in the UK.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills accompanied Vice-Premier Li on a visit to BRE Innovation Park at Watford.

Ministerial Interaction with Business Delegation Accompanying Vice-Premier Li

I gave the keynote speech at the UK-China Trade and Economic Forum on 11 January organised by the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) and attended

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by the Chinese trade delegation, which accompanied Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang on his visit to the UK. Members of the trade delegation also attended the CBBC-organised banquet on 11 January. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills both gave speeches at the banquet, which I also attended.

Asked by Viscount Waverley

Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint: UKTI's delivery partner for China, the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC), organised a Trade & Economic Forum on 11 January, which was attended by the trade delegation which accompanied Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang on his visit to the UK. CBBC mailed the 10,000 UK companies on their database-these companies either already do business with China or have expressed interest in doing business with China. Companies were accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity was reached.



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Waste Management: Landfill

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): I refer to my previous answer of 2 February (WA280). The Government have no plans to re-examine the landfill directive.

The Local Government Spending Review settlement reflected the costs of local authority waste management. The cost of disposing of waste to landfill is being made progressively more expensive through the landfill tax in recognition of the environmental damage caused by landfill. By managing waste more sustainability and reducing the amount of waste they send to landfill, local authorities will reduce their landfill tax liability.


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