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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The Bonn conference on Afghanistan will be hosted by Germany and chaired by the Government of Afghanistan. It will focus on three main themes: the political process; the international community's long-term relationship with Afghanistan; and the civilian aspects of transition. Our objectives are for the conference to revitalise the Kabul Process, make progress on the political track, and reiterate the international community's long-term commitment to Afghanistan. We are working with the Afghans and our international partners to help ensure that the conference will be a success and we look forward to participating.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with representatives of the Government of China, Chinese airlines, and the deputy administrator of the Civil Administration of China about the expansion of runway provision in south east England; and what was their response. [HL12461]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Government officials have discussed runway provision, as a factor contributing to the availability of landing slots at Heathrow, with the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority and Chinese airlines on several occasions. Chinese officials have made representations calling for additional landing provision at Heathrow in order to enable direct flights. We have not received representations on runway expansion specifically, either at Heathrow or elsewhere in the UK.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The Chief of the Air Staff has accepted an offer from the United States Navy to place Royal Air Force personnel into the United States Navy maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft community. Discussions are ongoing with the
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The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government undertook a consultation on the UK's air passenger duty from 23 March to 17 June 2011. The Government are reviewing the considerable number of responses submitted by interested parties and will publish a summary of responses later this autumn.
The Government believe that the entry of aviation into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme from 1 January 2012 offers a good prospect for ensuring aviation meets its obligation to reduce global CO2 emissions.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The Queen sent a letter of congratulation to President Aliyev to mark Azerbaijan's national day on 28 May. Government representatives have participated in events to mark the 20th anniversary of Azerbaijan's independence on 18 October.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have made representations to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances regarding requesting that the group should ask the Government of Bangladesh for an invitation to visit the state in good time for the group to submit a report for consideration by the Universal Periodic Review of Bangladesh in 2013. [HL12476]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The UK has a policy of accepting all requests for visits by all special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council and regularly calls upon other UN member states to adopt a similar policy, as well as to accept specific requests for country visits. We believe it is important to respect the
26 Oct 2011 : Column WA151
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether NBNK Investments plc has been released from restrictions placed on its bidding for Northern Rock; and, if so, when NBNK was advised of this release; and when they received information on Northern Rock covered by a confidentiality agreement.[HL12539]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): We are continuing to explore the sale of Northern Rock in the best interest of the taxpayer. The Government are unable to comment on the specifics of individual parties.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Since November 2010, including the visit by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to China, over 50 commercial signings worth more than £4.83 billion have been witnessed by Ministers or linked to ministerial visits. These visits are also used further to encourage China to open its domestic markets.
The Prime Minister's visit to China in November 2010 emphasised the UK and China as partners for growth, indicating the complementary nature of our two economies which, if exploited to the full, will provide a boost to both countries' growth.
To demonstrate the significant potential for collaboration, the UK and China agreed to increase the value of bilateral trade (goods and services) by 2015 to US$100 billion a year. Within this the UK intends to raise exports to China to US$30 billion per year over the same period.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the Turkish Cypriot Leader, Dr Dervish Eroglu's four points proposal for settlement of the oil and gas exploration issue, presented to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during their meeting in New York on 24 September. [HL12516]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The UK is aware of the Turkish Cypriot proposal on the oil and gas exploration issue. It is for the leaders of the two communities to work together on any proposals to share the potential revenue from any oil or gas found in Cyprus's exclusive economic zone.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations have they made to other European Union member states and the European Commission regarding implementing a Union-wide ban on the export of drugs to be used for executions by lethal injection.[HL12497]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): At the request of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, the head of the export control organisation within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills wrote to the European Commission on 30 November 2010 to inform it that the UK had introduced national controls on the export of the drug sodium thiopental to the United States of America for use in lethal injection, and to make the case for the Commission to consider the introduction of equivalent EU-wide controls on the export of that drug.
Following the Government's decision to extend national controls to the other drugs that currently appear in the lethal injection protocols of some states in the United States, my honourable friend the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise wrote to the Commission on 12 April 2011, giving it notice of the UK's intention to introduce further national controls but reiterating that our preferred solution would be for an EU-wide control on the export of specified drugs to the United States (and indeed any other country that practises execution by lethal injection).
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): Subject to the passage of the Education Bill, schools will be under a duty to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for their pupils from September 2012. The guidance should contain information on the full range of 16 to 18 education or training options, including apprenticeships. Schools are free to determine how to fulfil the duty based on the needs and circumstances of their students.
The department will publish statutory guidance to support schools in fulfilling their new duty. This will set a clear expectation that schools should secure face-to-face careers guidance where it is the most suitable support, in particular for disadvantaged children and those who have special needs. The guidance will also contain a clear description of the quality standard for careers guidance so schools have relevant information when they are commissioning independent support for their pupils.
An assessment of the effectiveness of careers guidance should focus on outcomes, not inputs. We will look to schools to ensure that their pupils achieve and progress, and monitor this by publishing data on the destinations that pupils move on to after school.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the reports sent to Lord Howell of Guildford by Lord Alton of Liverpool detailing continuing violence and intimidation directed at Egypt's Coptic community.[HL12368]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: There has been a resurgence of violence between Christians and Muslims in Egypt. The Coptic community has been calling for greater protection, equality and new legislation. We have raised our concerns about the dangers of sectarianism and extremism in Egypt with the authorities and urged that respect for human rights be enshrined in the constitution, including guarantees for minority rights.
On 10 October my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary issued a statement expressing his deep concern over the unrest and the loss of life that took place in Cairo on 9 October. He urged all Egyptians to refrain from violence, support the Egyptian Prime Minister's call for calm and for all sides to engage in dialogue. He said that the freedom of religious belief needs to be protected and that the ability to worship in peace is a vital component of a democratic society.
To ask Her Majesty's Government who were the three nominees submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 1998 to enable it to choose the British judge at the European Court of Human Rights; what will be the process for selection of nominees when Sir Nicolas Bratza is replaced next year; and whether the three nominations will be made public.[HL12530]
This information is publicly available on the Parliamentary Assembly's website at: http://assembly.coe.int//Main.asp? link=http://assembly.coe.int/Documents/WorkingDocs/doc98/Edoc7985.4.htm.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): In his letter to the Governor of the Bank of England on 6 October 2011, the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed that the asset purchase facility (APF) continues to include facilities for the purchase of private sector assets up to a maximum of £50 billion. Private sector assets which are eligible for purchase by the asset purchase facility (APF) are set out in the letter of 29 January 2009 sent by the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Governor of the Bank of England. Eligible private sector assets include paper issued under the credit guarantee scheme, corporate bonds, commercial paper, syndicated loans and asset- backed securities.
Baroness Northover: The Department for International Development (DfID) spend on consultants in each financial year since 2007-08 is set out in the table below. The total spend figures cannot be broken
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|Year||Consultancy Spending £'000s|
The drop in spend for 2010-11 is due to application of the central government definition of consultancy and the introduction of a stringent business case process to ensure consultancy is managed effectively and approved only where it is deemed to be an operational necessity.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The Ministerial Code published by the Prime Minister sets out the standards of conduct expected of Ministers. The Prime Minister recently agreed to amend the code to include publication of all meetings with newspaper and other media proprietors, editors and senior executives. This information has been published for Cabinet Ministers back to May 2010. It is being published routinely for all Ministers as part of the quarterly publications by departments. The code is normally revised and reissued after a general election.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what meetings have been held since the formation of the coalition Government between Ministers in the Cabinet Office and external organisations engaged in commercial lobbying at which the issue of transparency in lobbying activities was discussed; with whom those meetings were held; and on what dates.[HL12554]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Government publish details of Ministers' meetings with external organisations routinely. The Cabinet Office publishes this data online at: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/ministerial-gifts-hospitality-travel-and-meetings-external-organisations.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Chequers is administered by independent trustees who receive an annual grant from the Cabinet Office towards its maintenance and to cover civilian staff employed at Chequers in accordance with the Acts.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): We do not hold this information centrally, but in the case of England, we accept the estimates given on the NHS Choices website. This reports that there are, on average, 73 lower limb amputations a week in England because of complications of diabetes, of which 80 per cent are potentially preventable.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to ensure that there are sufficient podiatrists to reduce the number of preventable diabetes-related foot and lower limb amputations carried out each year in the United Kingdom. [HL12586]
Earl Howe: It is for local National Health Service organisations to commission a comprehensive service for people with diabetes that includes podiatry services. Workforce planning is also a matter for local NHS organisations, on the grounds that they are best placed to assess the health needs of their local health community against guidance on good practice, and plan the workforce to meet those needs.
In March 2011, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published a guideline for the care of people with diabetic foot problems in hospitals. The guideline recommends that a multidisciplinary foot care team should manage the care pathway of patients with diabetic foot problems who require inpatient care, and that that team should normally include a podiatrist.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of concerns raised by Action on Elder Abuse about Care Quality Commission inspections and the use of "do not attempt resuscitation" notices.[HL12515]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England and as such is responsible for developing and consulting on its methodology for assessing whether providers are meeting the registration requirements. The CQC can take independent enforcement action where a provider is not meeting these requirements.
The CQC has advised that if when carrying out the dignity and nutrition inspections, it identifed what appeared to be poor practice, it would bring the matter to the attention of staff on the ward and to the hospital's wider notice on the day of the inspection or through its compliance reports.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions or correspondence they have had with Welsh Ministers about any potential Welsh Government liability for financial support for students from European Union countries studying at universities in England as a consequence of the Welsh Government's proposed tuition fee policy.[HL12655]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Rough sleeping figures are published by the department on the DCLG website at the following link: http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/ statistics/xls/1845849.xls.
The Government have acted decisively to introduce a more accurate assessment of rough sleeping levels so that there is clear information in all areas to inform service provision and action to address the problem. Previously only local authorities where there was a known, or suspected, rough sleeping problem were required to provide a count. All areas across England now provide counts or robust estimates, giving a national picture. Latest statistics show 415 rough sleepers in London on any one night in autumn 2010.
This Government are committed to tackling rough sleeping and preventing homelessness. We have maintained the level of homelessness grant, with £400 million for local authorities and the voluntary sector in England over the next four years. A cross-departmental ministerial working group has been set up to address the complex causes of homelessness and improve support for homeless people. It has pledged that for the first time no one should ever need to experience a second night sleeping rough. We also recently announced £42.5 million for the Homelessness Change Programme in England which will provide around 1,400 new and improved bed spaces to improve hostels for rough sleepers and ensure that those coming off the streets get the support they need.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The total staff costs for each financial year are published in the House of Lords Resource Accounts available via http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldresacc.htm.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): The current Session of Parliament will end in spring 2012. The dates for prorogation and State Opening are conventionally announced shortly before the end of the Session.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 13 October at oral questions, what use they plan to make of the International Year for People of African Descent to deliver overseas development assistance in partnership with non-governmental organisations and the African diaspora, and to encourage conflict resolution on the African continent.[HL12450]
UK delivery of overseas development assistance includes working with civil society organisations and the African diaspora. DfID is committed to increasing its work, much of it related to conflict resolution, in fragile and conflict affected states. Civil society plays a vital role in supporting citizens to improve their lives. Civil society organisations are central to delivering services, enabling citizens to be more active in their development and ensuring that policies benefit ordinary people. Through our work with Comic Relief we are supporting the common ground initiative to increase funding to small and diaspora organisations to create real and sustainable change for some of the poorest and most disadvantaged communities in Africa. DfID is planning closer engagement with UK-based African diaspora during the autumn and to build further on links already made, including, most recently, with the Somalian diaspora.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The UK remains concerned by Iran's increasing use of the death penalty. Our embassy in Tehran and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London make regular representations to the Iranian authorities on their use of barbaric methods of execution, including stoning and suspension strangulation, urging Iran to cease their use and implement a moratorium on the death penalty. The UK is aware that approximately 12 people remain under sentence of stoning in Iran and we have made clear that these sentences must not be carried out and would invoke a strong international reaction if they were.
Third party funding is an arrangement whereby a third party with no direct interest in the proceedings agrees to fund litigation in return for a percentage of the damages awarded if the case is successful. I am aware that courts in England and Wales now recognise that some claimants are able to pursue claims through third party funding.
Following Lord Justice Jackson's recommendations, a working group at the Civil Justice Council has been working on a draft voluntary code of conduct for third party funders. I understand that, following an earlier public consultation, the working group expects to report shortly.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how they intend to reduce the impact of Ministry of Defence changes in capability requirements and programme delays as a result of budgetary factors and procurement processes, as defined in the National Audit Office Major Projects Report 2009.[HL12395]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): Significant work has been undertaken by the department to understand better the cost of the forward programme, and agreement has been reached with the Treasury for a real-terms increase in the level of resources likely to be available for the equipment plan beyond the end of the current spending review period. This will give the department the necessary stability to plan on a long-term basis. The strategic defence and security review and the further work announced on 18 July 2011 (Official Report, cols. 643-645) has brought the defence programme broadly into balance, and the detailed implications are being worked through as part of the department's annual planning round.
We will set out our future policy on technology, equipment and support for defence and security in a White Paper later this year. The Chief of Defence Materiel is providing a materiel strategy for implementation from next year onwards. This is being
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary visited Morocco and Algeria between 16-19 October, where he discussed the situation in Western Sahara with the Governments of both countries.
Following UK efforts to encourage international support for human rights monitoring in Western Sahara, this year's Security Council Resolution stresses for the first time the importance of improving the human rights situation in Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps and encourages the parties to work with the international community to develop independent and credible measures to ensure full respect for human rights. The Security Council will discuss the situation in Western Sahara, including progress on implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1979, later this month.
British officials are closely involved in the enhanced dialogue conducted by the EU delegation in Rabat with human rights defenders from Morocco and Western Sahara. We will continue to raise these issues with Morocco.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will offer alternative civil service employment to staff in the National School of Government to avoid redundancies when it is closed; and how many people are employed by the school and where.[HL12593]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what would be the outcome if an existing primary care trust and the primary care cluster board covering the same geographical area made contradictory or dissimilar decisions; and who would resolve the conflict.[HL12660]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Each cluster of primary care trusts (PCTs) has a cluster chief executive who has been appointed as the accountable officer for each PCT within that cluster. This appointment will have been confirmed by each PCT board. The chief executive is expected to exercise the full range of responsibilities associated with being the accountable officer.
As stated in the PCT Cluster Implementation Guidance, published in January 2011, the role of the statutory boards of PCTs remains key. The guidance set out four potential models for PCT cluster governance to ensure that the statutory role of PCT boards continued to be respected. Early experience of PCT cluster working has suggested that in most localities model 2 within the guidance has most effectively and efficiently provided governance arrangements with absolute clarity about responsibility and accountability. Features of this model include:a single board meeting transacting, as far as is practicable, the board business of all of the constituent PCTs;a single executive team with single chief executive; anda single individual as chair of the cluster.
A PCT cluster board can only take decisions in areas where a PCT board has delegated functions to it, and allows that delegation to continue. It is a key role of the cluster chief executive and their single executive team to resolve any differences between a PCT cluster board and any of the PCT boards.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they consider the community in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to be at peace or at war since the 1974 Turkish intervention that followed the Nicos Sampson-led EOKA-B overthrow of President
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The UK considers that the status quo in Cyprus is unacceptable. We support all efforts to build co-operation. trust and mutual respect between the two communities on the island.
The UK supports the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community, bringing it closer to Europe through both financial aid and trade liberalisation. The EU financial aid regulation, which is currently being implemented, represents the EU's biggest per capita aid programme. This regulation has allocated €259 million to fund projects in Northern Cyprus aimed at bringing Turkish Cypriots closer to EU standards and increasing the potential for future Cypriot reunification.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Shutt of Greetland on 7 September (WA 32), whether they will ask the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission why its register of interests has not been updated for nine months; when the new chief commissioner will list his pecuniary interests; and why details of payments and remuneration from the Government of Ireland to the former chief commissioner for foreign assignments and travel have never been registered. [HL12420]
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Shutt of Greetland on 13 October (WA 255-6) concerning the appointment of the Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission in Northern Ireland, whether authority was sought for the appointee to be part-time. [HL12669]
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Wallace of Saltaire on 3 October (WA 131-2), who decided Hilary Jackson was qualified to chair the panel selecting the new chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission; and what decision-making process was followed.[HL12699]
Lord Shutt of Greetland: Lord Wallace of Saltaire's Answer of 3 October (Official Report, col. WA 131-2) makes clear that the Secretary of State approved the panel membership for the chief commissioner appointment process. It is usual practice for a senior official within a department responsible for making public appointments to an arm's-length body to chair the selection panel, in line with OCPA's code of practice.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will place in the Library of the House all of the correspondence between the Northern Ireland Office and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. [HL12700]
Lord Shutt of Greetland: In recent months, the noble Lord has regularly asked for specific correspondence to be placed in the Library. This has been done except where there were clear reasons against its release.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The Government share with Kazakhstan the ultimate objective of a world without nuclear weapons. Our ambassador to Kazakhstan attended the Astana conference on 12 October to show our support for this goal. The Declaration on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World rightly highlights some of the major achievements over the past 18 months, including the successful 2010 non-proliferation treaty (NPT) review conference. We agree with the declaration's assessment of some of the challenges ahead, not least the need to break the deadlock in the conference on disarmament in order to start negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. The UK looks forward to working with Kazakhstan and our other international partners on the urgent tasks of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and making further progress on disarmament.
Baroness Northover: The Government brought in new partnership principles in July this year to ensure that the UK now provides aid directly to Governments only when we are satisfied that they share our commitments to:reduce poverty;respect human rights and other international obligations;
When we have specific concerns about a Government's failure to protect their citizens' rights, including those of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, we raise these either directly or in conjunction with international partners at the highest levels of the Government concerned. We may judge that specific human rights concerns are sufficiently serious to merit a suspension of our financial assistance to the Government. If budget support is suspended, we make sure those funds are provided in alternative ways so that the poorest and most marginalised do not suffer as a result.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is their policy to impose sanctions on, or withdraw aid from, countries where abuse of minorities is permitted, in cases other than those in which the minority consists of gay persons.[HL12354]
Baroness Northover: The Government brought in new partnership principles in July this year to ensure that the UK now provides aid directly to Governments only when we are satisfied that they share our commitments to:reduce poverty;respect human rights and other international obligations;improve public financial management;promote good governance and transparency; and fight corruption.
When we have specific concerns about a Government's failure to protect their citizens' rights, including those of minority groups, we raise these either directly or in conjunction with international partners at the highest levels of the Government concerned. We may judge that specific human rights concerns are sufficiently serious to merit a suspension of our financial assistance to the Government. If budget support is suspended, we make sure those funds are provided in alternative ways so that the poorest and most marginalised do not suffer as a result.
Baroness Northover: The Government brought in new partnership principles in July this year to ensure that the UK now provides aid directly to Governments only when we are satisfied that they share our commitments to:
When we have specific concerns about a Government's failure to protect their citizens' rights, we raise these either directly or in conjunction with international partners at the highest levels of the Government concerned. We may judge that specific human rights concerns are sufficiently serious to merit a suspension of our financial assistance to the government. If budget support is suspended, we make sure those funds are provided in alternative ways so that the poorest and most marginalised do not suffer as a result.
The majority of UK Aid is provided to countries indirectly, through multi-lateral agencies or non-governmental agencies. This provision is essential to lifting millions out of poverty, to preventing unnecessary deaths through disease or inadequate medical treatment, and getting children into school.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the statement repeated by Lord Shutt of Greetland on 12 October (Official Report, col. 1733-43), whether in using the word "collusion" in relation to murders in Northern Ireland, they had evidence to substantiate a secret agreement or understanding for evil and illegal purposes, as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary; and whether they will, in the future, adhere to that definition in the use of that word in the Northern Ireland context.[HL12508]
Lord Shutt of Greetland: It is clear from the work carried out by Lord Stevens and Judge Cory that, no matter what definition is used, collusion took place in the murder of Patrick Finucane. The Government accept the conclusions of these reports and we do not seek to impose our own definition.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how they define the phrase "state collusion", which they accept occurred in the case of the murder of Patrick Finucane; and how that definition differs from those used in the Cory and Stevens reports.[HL12529]
Lord Shutt of Greetland: It is clear from the work carried out by Lord Stevens and Judge Cory that, no matter what definition is used, collusion took place in the murder of Patrick Finucane. The Government accept the conclusions of these reports and we do not seek to impose our own definition.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: Sir Desmond de Silva QC will be supported by a small team of staff for his work on the Finucane review, which will include staff seconded from the Civil Service. The appointment of this team is a matter for Sir Desmond and the Northern Ireland Office will assist him as required.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The public sector pay bill accounts for around half of departmental resource spending, so deficit reduction will inevitably impact on the public sector workforce. Not tackling the deficit would be the worst thing for jobs in the medium term.
HM Treasury does not centrally manage changes to public sector workforces. It is for individual employers to decide what would be the most cost-effective workforce to enable them to deliver public services and live within their spending review settlements.
Employers have been reforming their workforces since the spending review to make the necessary savings and maximise value for money within their settlements. Different workforces have approached the task in different ways. For example, in the Civil Service, a recruitment freeze has been in place since May 2010.
At present, commercial negotiations between the parties are ongoing. A full public announcement will be made when a successful conclusion has been reached and the negotiations between London Midland and the Department for Transport have resulted in an overall proposal that is affordable and represents value for money. This is expected to be in early 2012.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have plans to recommend to the criminal justice agencies the use of Unlock's criminal records disclosure calculator to ensure that offenders are better informed about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. [HL12503]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Government welcome the introduction of Unlock's criminal records disclosure calculator, which they see as a helpful tool for individuals to interpret how the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act applies to them, and will recommend it to relevant criminal justice agencies.
To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent they took the principle of equality into account when signing a memorandum of understanding with the Government of the Republic of Ireland about the promotion of the Irish language. [HL12456]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: On 1 February 2010, the former Government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Irish Government that, among other things, will ensure the widespread availability of the Irish language channel TG4 in Northern Ireland following the digital switchover. The Government see no inconsistency with obligations in respect of equality.
Baroness Northover: The UK has provided funding through the Joint Donor Office in Juba to support work to build the capacity of South Sudan's Audit Chamber, specifically to support the development of a legislative framework and build capacity. The UK is now expanding its anti-corruption and accountability programme in South Sudan. In collaboration with other donors and in consultation with the institutions themselves, we will consider how to increase support to accountability institutions in South Sudan.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what measures, including funding and technical assistance programmes, the United Kingdom is taking to assist South Sudan in building the capacity of South Sudan's National Legislative Assembly both generally and specifically for oversight of government revenues and expenditures. [HL12297]
Baroness Northover: Through the Joint Donor Office in Juba the UK has provided technical support to the Public Accounts Committee of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly in order to enhance its oversight of Government of South Sudan expenditures. In addition, through its defence transformation programme the UK has provided support to help the Public Security Committee to develop public enquiry mechanisms and enhance oversight of the security sector. This support has included deploying a parliamentary clerk from the UK Houses of Parliament.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken towards working with the Northern Ireland Executive as part of the St Andrews agreement to promote Ulster Scots language and culture. [HL12454]
Lord Shutt of Greetland: Most policy responsibility for matters relating to the promotion and protection of Ulster Scots language and culture now resides with the Northern Ireland Executive. The Government retain responsibility for a limited number of policy areas relating to regional, minority and lesser-used languages, and liaise with the relevant Northern Ireland Ministers on matters of mutual interest as appropriate.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government's taxation decisions, including on fuel duty, support their objective to achieve strong, sustainable growth. The Chancellor of the Exchequer keeps all taxes under review as part of the Budget process.
The UK supports Ukraine's aspiration eventually to join the EU. If it fails to apply the rule of law objectively and impartially, Ukraine will not qualify for EU membership. The handling of the cases against Ukrainian opposition figures has exposed the extent to which Ukraine is lagging behind EU standards and expectations in the areas of democracy and the rule of law. More immediately, Ms Tymoshenko's sentence could put in jeopardy the signature and ratification of the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA).
Baroness Northover: The UK supports the focus of the two themes of the Rio+20 conference; namely, (a) green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) institutional framework for sustainable development. Defra is the Whitehall lead on Rio+20 and we are working closely with it in the development of the UK position.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The UK supports the UN Secretary General and his personal envoy, Ambassador Christopher Ross, in their efforts to find a negotiated political settlement, providing for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. As set out in Security Council Resolution 1871, we regard the Moroccan Autonomy Plan as a serious and credible contribution to those efforts.
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