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Lord Shutt of Greetland: Taxis are used by staff in the Northern Ireland Office travelling between a residential address and a government building only for work-related purposes and where it is the most cost effective means
20 July 2011 : Column WA331
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Shutt of Greetland on 6 June (WA 52) concerning a taxi journey from home to work by a member of the staff of the Northern Ireland Office on 13 May, when was the expense authorised; by whom; and why.[HL11334]
Lord Shutt of Greetland: The expense for the taxi journey was authorised on 12 May 2011 by the appropriate line manager. Authorisation was given to accommodate a member of staff working unsocial hours taking account of both cost and the availability of public transport.
Baroness Rawlings: Following the machinery of government changes in January 2011, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) became the sole sponsor of Ofcom. Previously, DCMS shared sponsorship of Ofcom with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). When Ofcom takes responsibility for postal services from Postcomm later this year, BIS will sponsor the postal services work that Ofcom will do.
Baroness Rawlings: The matter raised is an operational one for the independent regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), which is accountable to Parliament rather than Ministers. Accordingly, my officials spoke to Ofcom, who advised:
"Ofcom is the communications regulator in the UK responsible for the licensing of television and radio services. Ofcom has a positive duty under the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996 to be satisfied that any person holding a broadcasting licence is, and remains, fit and proper to hold those licences.
There has been one occasion when Ofcom has determined that it was not satisfied that two licence holders were fit and proper to continue to hold their licences. This concerned licences held by Bang Media (London) Ltd and Bang Channels Ltd. The notice of revocation was published on 25 November 2010 and can be found in full on Ofcom's website".
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Garden of Frognal on 4 July (WA 22), when Ministers will agree the principles of the Government's ticket allocation for the 2012 Olympic Games; and whether they will place a copy of the principles in the Library of the House when they have done so.[HL10972]
Baroness Garden of Frognal: The development of the ticketing strategy is on-going and is not likely to be completed until much nearer to the Games. After the Games, the Government will publish a list of those guests to whom they allocated tickets, and the cost to Government of those tickets.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Garden of Frognal on 4 July (WA 22), how many of the tickets that have been allocated to the Government for the 2012 Olympic Games are for sessions when medals will be awarded.[HL10973]
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Garden of Frognal on 5 July (WA 48), how many tickets for the 2012 Olympic Games will be reserved for International Federations to apply for; and which are eligible to apply.[HL10974]
Baroness Garden of Frognal: A total of 8.8 million Olympic tickets are available. 5 per cent of these tickets are available for purchase by the International Olympic Committee, international federations and other global sports bodies represented at the Games, international broadcast rights holders and prestige ticketing partners. There are 26 sports in the Olympic Games, each with its own international federation that governs that sport. Each orders a small number of tickets, primarily for their own sport. These are separate to the 75 per cent of tickets made available through the UK application process.
Of the remaining Olympic tickets 12 per cent are for purchase by the 205 national Olympic committees competing in the Games and 8 per cent for purchase by sponsors and stakeholders (global and domestic).
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Garden of Frognal on 4 (WA 22), whether they will publish a full list of all business leaders allocated tickets for the 2012 Olympic Games.[HL10975]
Baroness Garden of Frognal: After the Games, the Government will publish a list of those guests to whom they allocated tickets, including business leaders, and the cost to the Government of those tickets.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Garden of Frognal on 4 July (WA 22), whether the domestic political leaders allocated tickets for the 2012 Olympic Games will be required to pay for them.[HL10976]
Baroness Garden of Frognal: The allocation of tickets to domestic political leaders will be limited to those who have a specific job to do at Games time in support of government objectives. Government departments will be charged for the tickets they request.
Baroness Verma: The UK provided £30 million in financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the financial year 2010-11 through a World Bank trust fund. This helped the PA provide basic services, such as healthcare and education, to Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza. The PA spent 18.2 per cent of its budget on education in 2010.
Baroness Verma: The Department for International Development's (DfID) total gross public expenditure for Peru in the years 1996-97 and 1997-98 were £3,537,000 and £4,097,000 respectively. Total DfID spending, across all countries on health and population, was £116.11 million in 1996-97 and £117.44 million in 1997-98.
To ask Her Majesty's Government by what name the database on which police keep records of domestic extremists is known to the Association of Chief Police Officers; and what discussions have been held with Ministers regarding this database and citizens' right to privacy.[HL9307]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Browning): The National Domestic Extremism Unit database holds information on domestic extremism. Ministers routinely discuss a range of policing matters and citizens' rights to privacy with a wide range of bodies. The police must at all times comply with the legal framework governing the management of police information.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there is any evidence from domestic homicide reviews undertaken since 2001 that the training of police officers in England and Wales on risk identification, assessment and management is adequate.[HL11068]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Browning): Evidence from domestic homicide reviews has informed the development of risk assessment tools and police training-including the development of the domestic abuse, stalking and honour based violence (DASH) risk identification, assessment and management model accredited for use throughout the UK.
On 13 April, the Home Office implemented Section 9 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004. This means that local areas and agencies are expected to undertake a multi-agency review following a domestic violence homicide to assist all those involved in the review process in identifying the lessons that can be learnt from domestic homicides with a view to preventing future homicides and violence.
The Home Office is establishing an expert group which will have responsibility for quality assuring the reports and cascading lessons learnt nationally. Our overall aim is to identify the lessons that can be learnt from domestic homicides with a view to preventing future homicides and violence.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how they will ensure that the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment and Honour Based Violence Risk Model is used as an accredited training package in the light of restrictions on police budgets in England and Wales.[HL11069]
Baroness Browning: The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Council accredited the domestic abuse, stalking and honour based violence (DASH) Risk identification, assessment and management model to be implemented across all police services in the UK from March 2009. Although we understand that the majority of forces currently use DASH it is for individual forces to decide which risk assessment models to use and the training their officers and staff receive.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what anti-corruption measures and procedures are currently in place in the prison service; and what is their estimate of the level of corruption in the prison service.[HL11171]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The National Offender Management Service (NOMS), in partnership with law enforcement agencies, is fully committed towards preventing, detecting and acting robustly against all forms of corrupt activity.
A dedicated corruption prevention unit (CPU) continues to work with regional corruption prevention managers, prisons and partner agencies to raise staff awareness, develop an understanding of the extent and nature of staff corruption and where practicable, to prosecute identified instances of corrupt behaviour. Each prison has an identified local corruption prevention manager with responsibility for raising awareness of the risks from corruption, helping staff in reporting and taking forward action in including working with the police in support of prosecution.
A joint memorandum of understanding was agreed between the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and NOMS in October 2008 and gives the primacy for investigating and prosecuting individual cases of staff corruption to the police. Where there is insufficient evidence to support police prosecution, NOMS uses internal disciplinary proceedings to take action, up to and including dismissal, of any member of staff who is found to be involved in corrupt activities
The majority of staff working in prisons perform their duties with the utmost professionalism and integrity. Criminal activity is by nature covert and difficult to quantify. No organisation, including the Prison Service, can provide accurate estimates of the level of corruption.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 21 March (WA 123), which Council of Europe countries do not permit prisoners to vote; of those
20 July 2011 : Column WA336
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): I understand Lord Howell of Guildford placed information in the Library of the House on prisoner voting rights in Council of Europe member states. This information note can be found at the following address: http://deposits.parliament.uk/
The House of Commons Library has separately produced a table showing prisoners' voting rights in a number of Council of Europe member states: http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN01764
There are gaps in both lists and some slight discrepancies between the two. This will reflect non-responses to requests for information from some member states and the difficulty determining with certainty the precise regimes in place for prisoners voting given differences in political and judicial systems and processes between member states.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will provide an analysis of the non-identifiable spending over the past five years on recreation, culture and religion as summarised in table 9.12 of Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses 2011.[HL11102]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Table 9.12 in the Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses 2011 National Statistics release shows that in each of the past five years, approximately one-third of expenditure on recreation, culture and religion was non-identifiable. Expenditure is non-identifiable when it cannot be classified as benefiting particular regions or countries and is deemed to be incurred on behalf of the United Kingdom as a whole.
The table below shows the detail on items of non-identifiable recreation, culture and religion spending, the majority of which is Department for Culture, Media and Sport spending. The largest area of spend is broadcast licence revenue.
|Non-Identifiable Spending on Recreation, Culture and Religion (£ Millions)|
|Dept Name||Spending Area||2005-06||2006-07||2007-08||2008-09||2009-10|
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the finding in the Chartered Institute of Marketing white paper on public sector marketing that to bring about positive behaviour, change needs enough time to embed.[HL10896]
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The Central Office of Information (COI) has published a guide to communications and behaviour change for government communicators. http://coi.gov.uk/documents/commongood/commongood-behaviourchange.pdf.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the current estimated costs of building the Intercity Express Programme train when built as an all electric version and as a bi-mode (diesel and electric) version respectively.[HL11145]
Earl Attlee: The eventual cost of building the rolling stock is an issue for Agility Trains, the train manufacturer. As the procurement process has not yet concluded, details of Agility's latest costs remain confidential to Agility Trains and the Department for Transport.
To ask Her Majesty's Government by how much theft of railway cable has increased in the past six years; what effect this has had on the safety, performance and costs of the railway; and what action they will take to strengthen the legislative basis for dealing with the problem.[HL11299]
Earl Attlee: Officials from the Department for Transport met recently with Home Office officials to discuss the issue of metal theft and to explore possible options to combat this crime, which affects not just the railways but also the power supply industry, churches and other historic buildings.
Metal theft including cable theft has emerged as one of the fastest growing crime types. It hits the railway particularly hard and causes levels of disruption out of all proportion to the value of the material stolen. The increase in cable theft has mirrored the soaring price of copper on world markets. The Deputy Chief Constable for the British Transport Police (BTP), who is also the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) lead for metal thefts, has described the thefts as one of the force's biggest challenges after terrorism. ACPO in conjunction with the Home Office have devised a national four element strategy which focuses on:increasing the effort required to steal metal;increasing the risk to offenders;reducing the ease and rewards to offenders stealing stolen metal; andincreasing the risk for the dealers handling stolen metals.
BTP has a number of dedicated pro-active cable crime teams operating in areas of the country that suffer from cable theft. This year, with the support of Network Rail, BTP is deploying even more officers and crime scene investigators to problem locations. BTP continues to work closely with train operators, other police forces, the scrap metal industry and others with an interest to eradicate the problem. Methods used to deter and catch the thieves include a dedicated BTP task force with increased patrols, intelligence led policing and additional dedicated officers; the use of the Network Rail helicopter, CCTV, forensic marking, trembler alarms and other devices to protect the cable; the introduction of new type of cable that is easier to identify and harder to steal; and fast response teams to get trains on the move as quickly as possible following an incident.
Information relating to cost of replacement cables and disruption to services is not held by the Department for Transport but by Network Rail. The national figures for cable theft (May 2011) are detailed below:
|Financial Year||No. of incidents"||Delay minutes1||Compensation cost*||Total Cost**|
To ask Her Majesty's Government, following the award of the new intercity trains contract to Hitachi, how many jobs created (a) in Newton Aycliffe, and (b) overseas, will be for (1) skilled workers involved in designing and building trains, and (2) assembly and servicing workers.[HL11090]
Earl Attlee: Agility Trains, a consortium of Hitachi and John Laing, remains preferred bidder for the Intercity Express Programme contract. The assembly and maintenance of the new trains will be undertaken in the UK. Hitachi has suggested that at least 500 skilled jobs will be created at the company's proposed new manufacturing and assembly facility in Newton Aycliffe, and many thousands more will be safeguarded in the associated maintenance work and wider supply chain. The company has said that it intends to use local suppliers where possible. It has not identified the number of additional jobs that would be created abroad as a result of the contract.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether any discussions took place with, and any concessions were offered by, the Government of Japan during negotiations with Hitachi regarding the new intercity trains contract about the ability of British engineering companies to compete in Japan.[HL11091]
Earl Attlee: On each of the occasions that the Secretary of State has met the Japanese ambassador to the UK and other Japanese government officials, he has emphasised the importance and benefits of allowing British companies to compete on a level playing field for engineering and other contracts within Japan. Furthermore, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office continues to ensure that this matter is raised in the EU-Japan regulatory reform dialogue.
Network Rail is developing plans to accommodate longer trains at Waterloo. The infrastructure requirements for these trains will include bringing the former international platforms back into domestic use, subject to value for money and affordability constraints.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the latest data obtained by Ofsted on the extent of setting and streaming in schools, broken down by subject and year group; and what guidance on setting is currently given to schools.[HL10805]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): Ofsted holds data on the number and proportion of lessons observed during inspections in which setting, streaming or banding by ability is used. Its data do not separately identify these categories. Since the data are based on lessons seen by inspectors, they may not represent arrangements in the school as a whole, and may not therefore be an indicator of the use of these forms of grouping at a national level.
The department has not provided specific guidance to schools on setting. However, case studies showing the effective use of setting in schools will be made available on the department's website shortly.
|Primary schools: Lessons observed on inspection by lesson grouping 2009-10 (all subjects)|
|Year Group||Total||Class setted, streamed or banded by ability where pupils are placed within an ability range within the school||Mixed ability class||Other1||Class setted, streamed or banded by ability where pupils are placed within an ability range within the school||Mixed ability class||Other1|
|Primary Schools: Mathematics|
|Year Group||Total||Class setted, streamed or banded by ability where pupils are placed within an ability range within the school||Mixed ability class||Other1||Mixed ability class||Other1|
|Primary Schools: English|
|Year Group||Total||Mixed ability class||Other1||Mixed ability class||Other1|
|Primary Schools: Science|
|Year Group||Total||Mixed ability class||Other1||Mixed ability class||Other1|
|Secondary schools: Lessons observed on inspection by lesson grouping 2009-10 (all subjects)|
|Year Group||Total||Mixed ability class||Other1||Mixed ability class||Other1|
|Secondary Schools: Mathematics|
|Year Group||Total||Mixed ability class||Other1||Mixed ability class||Other1|
|Secondary Schools: English|
|Year Group||Total||Mixed ability class||Other1||Mixed ability class||Other1|
|Secondary Schools: Science|
|Year Group||Total||Mixed ability class||Other1||Mixed ability class||Other1|
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the statement by Lord Howell of Guildford on 29 June (Official Report, col. 1758) "that armed guards on UK registered vessels would be technically illegal", under what statute that is so.[HL10783]
Earl Attlee: At present, published government policy is strongly to discourage the deployment of private armed guards on board UK flag vessels, but HMG are now considering amending this to a position which recognises that engaging armed personnel is an option for UK flagged ship owners to combat piracy in exceptional circumstances.
The Home Office is currently looking at the applicability of UK firearms legislation on board UK flag ships on the high seas. If legal opinion is that the Firearms Act 1968 does apply, a decision will need to be made as to whether it is appropriate and feasible to grant the authority of the Secretary of State for the possession of prohibited firearms (classes of firearms that are not sanctioned to be kept on board as part of ships equipment) in these circumstances. On the assumption that the Firearms Act 1968 does apply to UK flagged ships on the high seas, without such an authority it would be illegal to carry such firearms on board UK flagged ships. Even in circumstances where possession of firearms is duly authorised, their use must also be lawful. Use of such weapons other than in self defence or defence of others risks criminal (and civil) liability.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many alleged pirate vessels have been intercepted during anti-piracy operations off Somalia by the Royal Navy; how many have been returned to the alleged pirates; and what fuel and provisions have been given to their crews.[HL10784]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): Since October 2008, when the UK began counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa, there have been 31 separate interceptions of suspected pirate vessels by the Royal Navy. On 24 occasions, those intercepted were allowed to use one or more of the intercepted craft to return to Somalia, with enough of their own fuel and provisions to reach land. On five occasions it was necessary to give the suspected pirates an adequate supply of fuel, food or water to safely reach nearest land.
In a number of the aforementioned cases, where more than one suspected craft has been intercepted, the suspects have been transferred to one vessel to return to land, and the others destroyed. 20 such vessels have been destroyed to date. Furthermore, five vessels have been returned to their rightful owners.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Stornoway and Lerwick based emergency towing vessels will be withdrawn in September; and, if so, what alternative arrangements have been put in place to deal with any future shipping casualties or emergencies in the northern waters of the United Kingdom.[HL11033]
The figures given on court proceedings relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences it is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what resources could be made available to improve the funding of adult social care by (a) withdrawing all free television
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The table below provides estimates of the expenditure associated with various forms of support for older people. The figures are expressed in cash terms and rounded to the nearest £10 million.
The estimates are based on Department for Work and Pensions expenditure forecasts combined with information on the tax paid by older people from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs Survey of Personal Incomes, and information on the overall numbers of pensioners from the Office for National Statistics population projections.
|Support for older people, millions of pounds, cash terms|
The Government are preserving key benefits for older and vulnerable people and are committed to protecting the statutory entitlement for concessionary bus travel, ensuring that older people can maintain greater freedom and independence.
In 2008-09, approximately £860 million was spent by local authorities on reimbursement to bus operators for statutory and discretionary concessionary travel schemes for older and disabled people in England.
Trip rates among the over 60s from the National Travel Survey 2008-09 indicate that of those bus boardings per person per year by individuals over the age of 60, around 65 per cent are by individuals aged between 60 and 75; and around 35 per cent are by individuals aged 75 and over.
It could therefore be estimated that (c) costs would be reduced by around £300 million per year if the scheme withdrew free travel passes to people over 75 years of age; and (d) costs would be reduced by around £560 million per year if the scheme restricted free travel passes to people aged 75 and over.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the current food security situation in South Sudan and the extent to which those shortages have arisen from drought or conflict. [HL10951]
Baroness Verma: According to the most recent survey by the World Food Programme (WFP), about 12 per cent of households were severely food insecure and 36 per cent could be assessed as moderately insecure. The rate of severe food insecurity is likely to have increased since the last survey mainly due to global and local food inflation: the latter partly caused by
20 July 2011 : Column WA349
The WFP reports that the current drought in the Horn of Africa will effect South Sudan in two ways. The pastoralist belt in eastern Equatoria is part of the same livelihood zone as northern Kenya and is therefore also affected by the drought; and the steep increase in the price of maize in Uganda is affecting South Sudan since eastern Equatoria, central Equatoria, Jonglei and Lakes States import key food commodities from Uganda, mostly maize grain and maize flour
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government of Sudan have the primary responsibility to protect civilians. We are aware of suggestions that UN peacekeepers may not have responded to recent violence as robustly as their mandate permitted. We have encouraged the Under Secretary-General at the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to examine these claims.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of reports that violence in Sudan has driven tens of thousands of civilians into hiding in the Nuba Mountains; and what steps they are taking to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to them.[HL11025]
Lord Howell of Guildford: We are extremely concerned at the impact on civilians of the ongoing violence in Southern Kordofan, have repeatedly condemned the lack of access afforded to the humanitarian agencies that are attempting to assist those affected, and have called for that access to be granted by all parties. The UK contributed £40 million to the Common Humanitarian Fund in 2011 that will be used to provide safe water, sanitation and emergency shelter to those affected by conflict and internally displaced people in Sudan, including this latest violence. We also allocated a further £15 million for an emergency fund focused on responding to any secession-related crises, which enabled the UN promptly to start the humanitarian response in Abyei and Southern Kordofan.
To ask Her Majesty's Government in what ways United Nations Security Council Resolution 1590, requiring "particular attention" to be given to the "protection of vulnerable groups including internally displaced persons" and to "take necessary action to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence" has been put into effect in South Kordofan. [HL11026]
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Lord Howell of Guildford: In response to the violence in Southern Kordofan, the UN Mission in Sudan set up an area known as the protective perimeter, adjacent to its own compound in Kadugli, where those that had initially been sheltering in churches and hospitals could be provided with humanitarian assistance. This area had provided shelter for an estimated 11,000 internally displaced persons by 20 June.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they raised concerns about the military build-up of Sudanese Government troops and vehicles in a camp at Kadugli, immediately adjacent to the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) camp; whether they queried the relationship between the two forces; and what was their response to reports that UNMIS officials prevented civilians with links to opposition groups from being given refuge there.[HL11027]
Lord Howell of Guildford: The UK Special Representative for Sudan first raised our concerns at the build-up and activity of Sudanese armed forces in Southern Kordofan and in Kadugli with the Sudanese Government on 30 May 2011. We have repeatedly made our concerns known since then, including when the Sudanese Foreign Minister, Dr Karti, visited London on 6 June 2011. We are aware of the reports to which the noble Lord refers, and have encouraged the Under Secretary-General at the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to examine these claims.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have sought a witness statement from the Bishop of Kadugli regarding allegations concerning the role of United Nations peacekeepers in the killing of civilians by Sudanese armed forces; and whether they intend to ask for a referral of these killings and violence against civilians seeking refuge in the Nuba Mountains to the International Criminal Court. [HL11028]
Lord Howell of Guildford: We remain extremely concerned about the situation in Southern Kordofan and continue to monitor it closely. We are aware of reports, including from the Bishop of Kadugli, that UN peacekeepers may not have responded to recent violence to the extent that their mandate authorised. We have encouraged the Under Secretary-General at the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to examine these claims. We will, if necessary, consider action to refer the situation in Southern Kordofan to the International Criminal Court.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how the United Nations peacekeepers in Sudan were selected; what role the Government of Sudan played in selecting those United Nations peacekeepers; and whether the suitability of Egyptian soldiers for this mission was queried by other members of the United Nations. [HL11029]
Lord Howell of Guildford: The recruitment of peacekeeping troops for UN peacekeeping operations is a matter for the UN Secretary-General and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The United Nations has no standing army or police force. For every new United Nations peacekeeping operation, the UN Secretariat must seek contributions of military, police and other personnel from member states, which are under no obligation to provide them.
United Nations peacekeeping operations are deployed with the consent of the main parties to the conflict. As a particular conflict develops, worsens or approaches resolution, the UN Secretariat will normally consult in confidence with UN member states, the parties on the ground, regional actors and potential contributing countries with the aim of identifying possible options for United Nations engagement.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (a) United Nations' and local estimates of the numbers of people displaced in Darfur between January and April of this year; and (b) the humanitarian and security implications for Darfur.[HL11211]
Baroness Verma: We remain deeply concerned about the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur. The United Nations estimates that over 70,000 people have been displaced in Darfur this year through a combination of military campaigns and inter-tribal conflict. We continue to urge that UNAMID and all humanitarian personnel be granted full and unhindered access to those affected.
We welcome the recent signing of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur between the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement. We continue to urge all other armed groups to agree an immediate ceasefire and to reach a common agreement based on the Doha Document.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what recent reports they have received about the humanitarian crisis facing displaced people in Darfur and what assessment they have made of the effectiveness of the African Union and United Nations hybrid operation in Darfur in protecting civilians.[HL11266]
Baroness Verma: We are deeply concerned about the ongoing fighting between Sudanese Armed Forces and rebel groups that is exacerbating the humanitarian situation in Darfur with over 70,000 people displaced this year.
UNAMID operates in extremely challenging conditions and is hampered by restrictions to its movement by the Government of Sudan and armed groups. We urge UNAMID to fulfil its mandate, particularly to provide security for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and on the protection of civilians, and to act robustly in response to the current security challenges it faces.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 11 May (WA 246), whether there is any further news of Ms Hassan; and whether they have received any further estimate of the number of human rights campaigners who have disappeared in Syria. [HL11096]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): PEN International reported on 8 June that the novelist Raghdah Sa'id Hassan was released on 2 June following a presidential amnesty of 31 May. We are seeking to verify the information, but welcome this news if the report is true.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many submissions on devolving corporation tax were made to the HM Treasury consultation on Rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy by the original closing date of 24 June; how many persons attended the high level consultation meeting on 7 July; how this meeting was publicised across Northern Ireland; and which organisations were invited to attend. [HL10933]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Initial analysis suggests that around 450 responses had been received by 24 June 2011 in response to the HM Treasury consultation on rebalancing the
20 July 2011 : Column WA353
Excluding Ministers and officials from the Northern Ireland Executive, NIO and HM Treasury, a total of about 25 people attended the consultation meeting on 7 July. Invitees included representatives from a broad spectrum of organisations. A full list is given below:
Construction Employers Federation, Queen's University, the Law Society, NI Human Rights Commission, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, NI Manufacturing Group, BDO, Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, Ernst & Young, University of Ulster, the Federation of Small Businesses, Irish Congress of Trade Unions (NI Committee), NI Public Service Alliance, Colleges NI, the Economic Reform Group, Committee for the Administration of Justice, Invest NI, the Centre for Competitiveness, NI Food and Drink Association, Ulster Society Chartered Accountants Ireland, the Confederation of British Industry, KPMG, Enterprise NI, Momentum, Manufacturing NI, NI Chamber of Commerce, NI Independent Retail Trade Association, and the Institute of Directors.
Earl Attlee: Requirements for clarity in public announcements at stations are set out in the Accessible Train Station Design for Disabled People Code of Practice and in guidance on writing a disabled persons' protection policy for rail operator franchises, both published by the Department for Transport.
Statutory Instrument 1990 No. 660, the Merchant Shipping (Emergency Information for Passengers) Regulations 1990, sets out a requirement for public address systems for all ships certified to carry more than 20 passengers.
In addition, there are requirements under the Persons for Reduced Mobility Technical Specifications (PRM TSI) for Interoperability for trains, but these are not published in guidance by the Department for Transport.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have held with residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands regarding the new draft constitution; and what have been the results of those discussions. [HL11152]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): There has been a comprehensive 15-month process of consultation on revisions to the 2006 Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution.
In early 2010 a UK adviser, Kate Sullivan, was appointed to make recommendations for constitutional and electoral reform. She published an initial set of recommendations in July 2010 and consulted widely, including holding public meetings, in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Political parties, civil society and members of the public had an opportunity to comment. Revised recommendations were published in November 2010 and a draft constitution was published on 8 March.
A team from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office visited the Turks and Caicos Islands in May for public consultations on the draft constitution. The team held public meetings on all the permanently populated islands and met with a wide range of Turks and Caicos Islands society, including political parties, local communities, the Advisory Council and the Consultative Forum. It heard suggestions on many issues, including the voting system, a transparent path to citizenship and the powers of the governor.
Following those meetings, the Minister for the Overseas Territories invited a delegation from the Turks and Caicos Islands to visit London from 15 to 16 June so that he could hear first hand their views on the draft constitution. The delegation included representatives of political parties, the Advisory Council, Consultative Forum, the church, the youth ambassador and the chair of the All Party Commission. The talks concluded with the announcement of a final constitution package.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what advice they have received from the European Commission about their proposal for permitting longer semi-trailers of up to 2.05 metres on British roads and whether such a proposal would be consistent with European Union directive 96/53/EC.[HL11251]
Earl Attlee: Since the previous Question on this subject from the noble Lord, officials have received a letter dated 30 June from the Commission. The letter confirmed that directive 96/53/EC permits longer semi-trailers only if the criteria for one of the exemptions set out in Article 4.4 are fulfilled. The Government's view, previously communicated to the Commission, is
20 July 2011 : Column WA355
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of current visa requirements for short-term visitors on foreign artists, photographers and musicians seeking entry to the United Kingdom.[HL10987]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Browning): Foreign artists of various disciplines successfully use the different routes of entry which the immigration system provides for those coming to the United Kingdom, depending on their purpose in coming and intended length of stay. Tier 5 of the points-based system has a category specifically for creative artists coming for periods of up to a year where the purpose involves paid work. They may currently be granted an additional 12 months maximum period if the original sponsor requires the migrant to stay beyond the original period granted. Creative artists who are non-visa nationals entering the UK for a period of three months or less do not require a visa although they still need a certificate of sponsorship. Outside the points-based system, the entertainer visitor visa enables entry, for up to six months, for those coming to perform at or take part in important cultural festivals and for other specific purposes such as charity events and music competitions.
The Government are reviewing all immigration routes of entry. We are consulting currently on Tier 5 of the points-based system and will look at the issue of entry by short-term visitors as part of this work.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Browning on 6 July (WA 86), where an employer has agreed a scale rent dispensation with HM Revenue and Customs to reimburse allowable travel and subsistence expenses incurred by employees in performing their duties, whether such payments are excluded from the salary package that counts towards the appropriate salary for issue of Tier 2 intra-company transfer visas. [HL11159]
Baroness Browning: The UK Border Agency will not take into account any payments which are made purely for the purpose of reimbursing expenses incurred by employees in performing their duties as opposed to payments to cover the cost of living in the UK.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the outsourcing companies Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, Infosys and Cognizant Technology Services, when seconding workers to the United Kingdom and seeking intra-company transfer visas, have agreed scale rates with HM Revenue and Customs to cover subsistence, accommodation and business travel-related expense payments made to their seconded employees; if so, whether they will publish those scales; and what are the proportions allowed for each type of payment.[HL11243]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): HM Revenue and Customs may agree that an employer can use scale rates for the purposes of determining whether certain expenses payments can be made without deduction of tax and national insurance contributions. Where such scale rates are agreed individually with an employer as part of a dispensation, the agreement is subject to taxpayer confidentiality rules and the information requested in relation to the companies in question is covered by the same rules of confidentiality that apply to all taxpayers.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Government encourage all eligible individuals to engage with the democratic process and to vote. This is especially important among young people, who are traditionally under-represented in figures on registration and turnout. The Government, politicians, political parties, electoral administrators and wider groups with an interest in the democratic process all have a role to play in encouraging participation.
In particular, the Government have responsibility for the statutory framework for electoral registration in the UK. 16 and 17 year olds can already apply to register as "attainers" to ensure they are able to vote as soon as they turn 18. In the context of the move to individual electoral registration, we are considering how to make it as easy and secure as possible for citizens to register to vote and we are exploring how online services might support this. Further research will also be conducted to identify the groups that are currently under-registered including young people.
The research findings will be used to inform our approach to improving registration levels among these groups and will also inform wider work to promote public awareness of registration and participation of young people in the voting process.
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