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5 May 2011 : Column WA163



5 May 2011 : Column WA163

Written Answers

Thursday 5 May 2011

Armed Forces: Compensation

Question

Asked by Lord Morris of Manchester

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The review of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) carried out by Admiral, the Lord Boyce, re-examined the increases made to the tariff levels in 2008 and concluded that the top level of lump sum of £570,000, that had been doubled, remained appropriate.

Lord Boyce also looked closely at the compensation arrangements in place for those who suffer multiple injuries arising from a single incident. He concluded that in these instances some compensation will be paid for each injury up to a maximum level for a single tariff level one injury of £570,000. The rationale behind this was that there comes a point where the injuries sustained by an individual are most profound and that therefore a consistent approach should be taken to lump sum payments.

It should be noted that the guaranteed income payment element of an AFCS award can be the most financially beneficial part of the compensation package. This tax-free payment paid from the point of discharge for life is worth many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and is not capped.

It is important that the title of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme is understandable, accessible and transparent. We therefore have no plans to change it.

Bahrain

Question

Asked by Lord Patten

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The intervention by Gulf Co-operation Council forces-at the legitimate invitation of the Bahraini Government-must be consistent with our calls on the Government of Bahrain to respect the right to peaceful protest, respond to the

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legitimate concerns of the Bahraini people, persist with attempts to allow a swift return to peaceful conditions, and create an environment in which dialogue can take place. We believe that Saudi Arabia, like other states in the region, supports a successful dialogue in Bahrain. We have seen no concrete evidence that Gulf Co-operation Council forces have done anything other than safeguard installations.

Banks: Big Society Bank

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The exact terms and nature on which the banks will provide the finance are yet to be determined. The four largest UK banks will support the establishment of the Big Society Bank (BSB) with the injection of £200 million of capital over two years, commencing in 2011. Capital invested through the BSB will mean more financing available for front-line organisations. The BSB will work with social investors, social lenders and other organisations that support the front line to grow a sustainable social investment market. By investing in products developed by intermediaries and encouraging others to invest in social change, BSB will grow the pool of capital and range of financial options available for investment in front-line social sector organisations. This will give these organisations more scope to increase their sustainability and resilience.

China

Questions

Asked by Lord Patten

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): We have received no further information from the Chinese Government on Gao Zhisheng's whereabouts. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my honourable friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne) wrote (on 3 May) to the Chinese ambassador, requesting information on a number of individual cases of concern to the British Government, including Gao Zhisheng.

It is difficult to estimate accurately the number of dissidents who have disappeared in China, in part due to a lack of transparency and uncertainties over legal status within the Chinese system. However, we have noted with deep concern the growing number of arrests and disappearances in China in recent weeks of activists,

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artists, journalists, lawyers, writers, bloggers and others for exercising their universally recognised rights to freedom of expression. We will continue to raise these cases with the Chinese Government.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Lord Howell of Guildford: We are deeply concerned by recent reports of violence at the Kirti Monastery. We have raised these concerns both with the Chinese embassy in London and with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Beijing, asking for information and calling for restraint. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my honourable friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne) has written to the Chinese ambassador raising his concerns at recent human rights developments in China, including the situation at Kirti Monastery. The letter calls on all parties to exercise restraint, so that violence is avoided and human rights are respected. Our embassy in Beijing has also written to the MFA's special representative on human rights along the same lines.

We remain committed to engagement with China on human rights. Long-term stability in Tibet and Tibetan regions can only be achieved through respect for human rights and genuine autonomy for Tibet within the framework of the Chinese constitution. Meaningful dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese authorities is the best way to make this happen.

Crime: Gun Crime

Question

Asked by Lord Campbell of Alloway

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The Government are committed to tackling violent crime including gang-related violence. Combining early intervention work with tough enforcement and empowering local communities to prevent the spread of violence will be crucial to these efforts. £18 million has been made available by the Home Office over two years to tackle gang gun and knife violence.

Gang injunctions were introduced as a civil tool, in January 2011, to allow the police or a local authority to apply to a county court (or the High Court) for an injunction against an individual who has been involved in gang-related violence. Courts may place a range of prohibitions and requirements on an individual, including those that prohibit the person from being in a particular place or that require them to participate in rehabilitative activities.



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Cybercrime

Question

Asked by Lord Jopling

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The United Kingdom signed the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime in 2001. The Government strongly support the convention, which we see as the main international agreement to support the fight against cybercrime.

The UK has made all of the necessary changes to domestic legislation to make us compliant with the convention, and we are now in the final stages of ratifying it.

Government: Contracts

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Since January 2011 departments have been required to publish details of all new contracts over £10,000 including the identity of the contractor and whether it is an SME on the contracts finder website: www.contractsfinder.businesslink .gov.uk/.

To provide this information in regard to contracts let before January 2011 would incur disproportionate cost, although limited data on the value of government spend with SMEs are included in the Operational Efficiency Programme Benchmarking Report for April 2009 to May 2010: http://data.gov.uk/dataset/oep-benchmarking-data-2009-10.

Health: Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

Question

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): A good practice guide entitled Transforming Respiratory and Sleep Diagnostic Serviceswww.improvement.nhs.uk/physiologydiagnostics/documents/RespiratoryGoodPractice_060209.pdf was published by the department in 2009 for healthcare professionals. A copy has been placed in the Library. The department is also working with the British Lung

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Foundation on identifying the issues in relation to obstructive sleep apnoea for people with the condition in England.

Higher Education: Student Loans

Question

Asked by Baroness Howells of St Davids

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): The Student Loans Company (SLC) applies the same repayment arrangements to all borrowers who move overseas after leaving their course, regardless of their nationality.

Under these arrangements, the SLC requests information about earnings, and provides the borrower with a monthly repayment schedule under the terms of the contract of the loan. The SLC informs the borrower of the amount they will need to repay each month in pounds sterling.

Repayments can be made in a number of ways: debit/credit card; cheque; standing order/direct debit; or by logging into the online account on the student loan repayment portal.

There is a system of banded thresholds for countries outside the UK, which takes account of the relative cost of living in other countries. This means that repayment will remain based on ability to repay, wherever the borrower lives.

If any borrowers are due to repay and are not doing so, the SLC will recover arrears and outstanding balances until they expire. The SLC will use external collection agents to trace the borrower and start to collect the debt and will pursue borrowers through the courts if necessary.

Houses of Parliament: Members

Question

Asked by Lord Trefgarne

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Lists of Ministers (paid and unpaid) have been placed in the Libraries of the House. I have also sent copies of the lists to the noble Lord.



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Immigration

Questions

Asked by Lord Avebury

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The Government have developed a fresh approach to managing the return of families with children who do not have a legal right to be in the UK. The aim is to maximise the opportunity for families to take responsibility for how they leave the country and to avoid the need for their departure to be enforced by the UK Border Agency. Most elements of this new process were introduced nationally on 1 March. All families with children that remain unlawfully in the UK could potentially go through this new returns process. The number of families who go through the different stages of the new process will depend on the decisions they take about their departure and therefore is difficult to predict accurately, but we hope that most families in this position will take the opportunity to leave at the earlier assisted or required return stages. This new approach will not apply to children who are unaccompanied.

Asked by Lord Avebury

Baroness Neville-Jones: Families will be able to receive visits from any existing legal adviser, and will have full access to telephones and faxes to send and receive calls and correspondence.

The UK Border Agency has also asked the Legal Services Commission to provide a programme of legal advice surgeries to families held at the pre-departure accommodation.

Asked by Lord Avebury

Baroness Neville-Jones: Open accommodation is not detention, so families may come and go from the accommodation as they please. They have the opportunity to seek legal representation at any time while they are there if they choose to do so. In addition, families housed in open accommodation will have had previous opportunities in the return process to access legal representation, including when they were given seven days' notification of their move into such accommodation.

Guidance on open accommodation and the new family returns process is in Chapter 45 of the Enforcement Instructions and Guidance and can be found on the

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UK Border Agency website at: http://www.ukba. homeoffice.gov.uk/policyandlaw/guidance/enforcement.

Immigration: Detention

Question

Asked by Lord Avebury

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The Government are committed to ending the detention of children for immigration purposes. When a family has no legal right to be in the UK, the Government believe that it is better for children for the family's departure from the country to take place in a managed and planned way, with the parents taking control over the arrangements and without the need for the UK Border Agency to enforce a particular method and timing of return upon them. That is the principle which underpins the fresh approach to managing family returns which was introduced on 1 March.

The average cost of detention is £110 per night. The UK Border Agency does not maintain separate data on the cost of detaining children.

Immigration: Tinsley House

Question

Asked by Lord Avebury

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The Government set out on 16 December their new approach to family returns in a document entitled Review into Ending the Detention of Children for Immigration Purposes. A copy of the document, which sets out the circumstances when families may be held at Tinsley House, is available on the UK Border Agency's website at: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/consultations/26-end-child-detention/.

Where families are held at Tinsley House, their stay will be time-limited: the normal maximum will be 72 hours, which may be extended in exceptional circumstances to a maximum of seven days with ministerial authorisation.

NHS: Pre-registration Training

Question

Asked by Baroness Emerton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The final outturn commissioning figures for 2010-11 and the detailed planned commissioning figures for 2011-12 are not yet available.

Both sets of figures will be available by the end of May 2011.

People Trafficking

Question

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): All victims of trafficking are offered a minimum 45-day recovery and reflection period. Some victims are UK nationals and some are EU citizens not subject to immigration control. Those that are subject to control may be eligible for a residence permit if their personal circumstances warrant them remaining in the UK or if they are co-operating with the authorities in a criminal investigation or proceedings. Victims of trafficking may also qualify to remain in the UK for a reason other than their victim status under the Immigration Rules.

However being a victim does not automatically entitle someone to remain in the UK indefinitely. Where a recognised victim of trafficking does not meet any of the above criteria the expectation must be that they return to their own country. In all cases voluntary departure is the preferred option and repatriation would only be enforced where it was deemed safe and appropriate to do so in accordance with the UK's domestic and international obligations.

Violence Against Women and Children

Question

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The definition of violence against women and girls used in the Government's Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy is taken from the

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United Nation Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) which defines such violence as:



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Where women or girls suffer physical, sexual or psychological harm through trafficking or their involvement in prostitution they should receive protection including through the actions set out in our cross-government action plan on violence against women and girls. A separate strategy on human trafficking will be published shortly.


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