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To ask Her Majesty's Government how many internally displaced people are currently living in Afghanistan; what are their living conditions; whether plans have been made for their resettlement; and if so, who is responsible for implementing those plans. [HL15901]
Baroness Northover: The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates 447,524 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Afghanistan as of January 2012. IDPs have limited access to proper housing, clean water and sanitation. They suffer from hunger and experience high unemployment.
The Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MORR) is developing a strategy with UNHCR to manage population movements and ensure minimum standards of living for returnees. This will include basic healthcare for 4 million returnees, clean water and sanitation for 533,161 families and education for 1.5 million children. A National Steering Committee will be established by the MORR and UNHCR to co-ordinate efforts and monitor progress.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what they consider to be a reasonable administration fee for the return by airlines of paid air passenger duty to those passengers who do not in the event travel. [HL16028]
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they consider that air passenger duty that has been paid but that has not been reclaimed by those passengers who do not in the event travel should be kept by the airline that has collected the tax or be paid to HM Treasury; and what estimates they have made of the sums involved.[HL16029]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Airlines, not passengers, are responsible for paying air passenger duty (APD) to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. A liability only arises on the departure of a passenger on a flight from a UK airport. Generally, airlines pass on the duty charge to their passengers, although they are not required to do so by law. No estimates of the total value of charges collected by airlines ahead of passenger departures are available.
The provision of refunds for a passenger who has paid, but does not fly, is a matter for airlines. The Government expect APD liable aircraft operators to observe the Office of Fair Trading's guidance on unfair contract terms.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): Sir David Lees is currently serving his first term as chairman of the Court of the Bank of England, which expires on 31 May 2012. Her Majesty the Queen has approved the Chancellor's and Prime Minister's recommendations for Sir David's re-appointment for a second term.
The Bank of England Act 1998 states that: "appointment as director of the bank shall be for a period of three years". However, Sir David has indicated that he will step down from court at the end of 2013, once he has overseen the transition of the bank's new responsibilities and personnel.
Appointments as non-executive directors of court are subject to the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments' code of practice. As such, the vacancy will be advertised at the appropriate time before Sir David's departure.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with European Union Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva regarding the cutting of European Union aid to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium. [HL15938]
Baroness Northover: Department for International Development (DfID) staff frequently discuss financial support for the Thailand Burma Border Consortium with European Commission counterparts as well as with other donors. DfID has consistently made clear that the well-being of Burmese refugees in Thailand should not be adversely affected by funding reductions.
Additionally, through the British embassy, the UK provided support for capacity building and for programmes on democracy, human rights and governance with funding of around £500,000 in 2011-12 to civil society in Burma.
To ask Her Majesty's Government why some organisations working in the Thailand-Burma border that receive grants from the Department for International Development reclaim costs incurred from the Department for International Development rather than receiving a normal grant.[HL15941]
Baroness Northover: As standard practice the Department for International Development (DfID) does not make advance payments through grants, but instead requires organisations to reclaim costs in arrears. This helps ensure better management of British aid funds. Some organisations working in the Thailand-Burma border, on an exceptional basis, receive grants from DfID as it would be too difficult for them to operate without first receiving an advance. Before agreeing to advances full justification, on a case-by-case basis, is required. Such arrangements are kept under review to ensure that they continue to be necessary and meet the required standards of financial accountability. In all such cases our determination is to ensure the full value of British taxpayers' money.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what funding they provide to women's organisations for projects supporting women and children who have been subjected to rape and sexual violence by the Burmese army.[HL15942]
Baroness Northover: The UK does not have programmes in Burma that provide direct assistance to women and children who have been raped by members of armed forces. However, the Department for International Development does provide support for legal assistance centres in Burmese refugee camps in Thailand, which can help in dealing with rape cases.
During Burma's Universal Periodic Review session at the UN, the UK urged the Government to end impunity for human rights violations. At the Human Rights Council in March and the UN General Assembly in November, the UK supported text that strongly called on the Government to take urgent measures to end the targeting of civilians in military operations, and rape and other forms of sexual violence.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what recent meetings Department for International Development officials have held with civil society organisations from Burma that are based on the Thailand-Burma border.[HL15943]
Baroness Northover: Department for International Development (DfID) officials regularly meet with civil society organisations and non-government organisations based along both sides of the Thailand-Burma border, both bilaterally and at meetings of the Committee for the Co-ordination of Services to Displaced Persons in Thailand. Most recently DfID officials attended the Committee for the Co-ordination of Services to Displaced Persons on 26 January, and met bilaterally with the Thailand-Burma Border Consortium in February.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many cases the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service have allocated to self-employed practitioners in each quarter since the first quarter of 2007.[HL15980]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The Department for Education does not hold this information but I have asked the chief executive of CAFCASS to reply. A copy of his reply will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, following their announcement on 7 January 2011, when they intend to exercise the power conferred by Section 45 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 to reduce the 30-year rule to a 20-year rule.[HL16021]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Government intend to commence Section 45 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 to reduce the 30-year rule to a 20-year rule from 2013, and will bring forward the necessary commencement order in sufficient time to facilitate this.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The processing of personal data must comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, including that all processing must be fair and lawful unless a relevant exemption applies. In addition, under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (as amended), organisations are required to obtain consent to access information on a user's equipment.
On 25 January 2012 the European Commission published a proposal for a new EU data protection regulation that will replace the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC, which the Data Protection Act 1998 transposes into UK law. The Government are working with stakeholders to establish a UK position on the draft regulation, which will meet data subjects' concerns while at the same time not imposing disproportionately burdensome requirements upon public and private sector organisations.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): British and Irish citizens are entitled to register to vote in UK parliamentary elections, local elections, European parliamentary elections and, where relevant, elections to the devolved Assemblies, provided that the other registration criteria are also met.
The Representation of the People Act 1985 provides for British citizens resident overseas to be able to register to vote in UK parliamentary and European parliamentary (but not local) elections in the UK, provided that they have been registered in the past 15 years on the basis of residence in the UK (or were resident in the UK in the past 15 years and were too young to register at the time).
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): As stated in the Renewable Heat Incentive policy document (published in March 2011), we are considering whether to support bioliquids as part of our policy development for the support of renewable heat in households (the non-domestic scheme was launched in November 2011). Further information on timings will be announced shortly.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, with reference to the proposed changes to the regulations for using red diesel in pleasure craft due to come into force on 1 April 2012, (1) which organisations were consulted
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The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): In order to halt infringement proceedings against the UK practice of allowing the use of red diesel to propel private pleasure craft with full duty paid, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reached an agreement with the European Commission to limit the use of red diesel to UK waters and require purchasers to sign a declaration acknowledging that, if used in the territorial waters of another member state, it would be subject to the prohibitions and restrictions of that member state. We maintain that the UK procedures are in accordance with EU legislation. However, without this agreement, there is a risk of an adverse ruling that would lead to the enforced use of white diesel.
HMRC has informed the representatives of marine craft owners in the UK that the use of red diesel with full duty paid to propel pleasure craft is a UK procedure permitted within UK waters. If red diesel is used outside UK waters, users must be aware that they will continue to be subject to the national legislation, including any restrictions and prohibitions, of the member state in whose territorial waters it is being used.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the percentage of civil servants employed by the Home Office who take time off work each year through smoking-related illnesses. [HL16044]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): The Home Office has made no assessment on the percentage of its civil servants who take time off work each year through smoking-related illnesses. This is
7 Mar 2012 : Column WA423
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the percentage of civil servants employed by the Ministry of Defence who take time off work each year through smoking-related illnesses.[HL16046]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The Ministry of Defence does not hold information on whether individual civil servants smoke or not. However, the department does recognise that smoking will make a significant contribution to sickness absence due to diseases of the respiratory system, and to a lesser extent diseases of the circulatory system and neoplasms.
|Cause of Absence
The MoD has robust stop smoking policies in place, including banning smoking in the workplace. We support initiatives to stop smoking and actively encourage employees to give up by involving the NHS and other relevant groups in staff well-being events.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made, as a member of NATO, and in the light of the United Kingdom's commitments to supporting Greece in the event of a loan default, of any current contracts for Greece to procure four frigates and four submarines from Germany and France.[HL15769]
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Lord Astor of Hever on 9 December 2011 (WA 202) and on 24 January 2012 (WA 215), when the undertaking he gave to the House of Lords on 26 October 2011 (Official Report, col. 856) to carry out an independent review of the Honours and Decorations Committee is to be fulfilled; who will chair the review; and what the terms of reference will be.[HL16111]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): I refer the noble and gallant Lord to the answer given by my right honourable friend the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare, and Veterans (Mr Robathan) in the other place on 20 February 2012 (Official Report, col. 599) to the honourable Member for Gosport (Ms Dinenage).
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the agreement between British Water and the Israeli Industry Centre for Research and Development, MATIMOP, in the light of the alleged Israeli control of Palestinian water resources; and whether the technology used by the new partnership will be of benefit in water desalination within Gaza. [HL15919]
Baroness Northover: While water desalinisation has been identified as an area of common interest for co-operation between British Water and the Israeli Industry Centre for Research and Development, there are no details yet on specific projects under the agreement. It is not possible therefore to make an accurate assessment of whether the new partnership will lead to benefits for water desalinisation within Gaza. We hope that Gaza will be able to benefit from any new technologies developed through the agreement to help address the urgent need for clean water in Gaza. The fair and effective distribution of shared water resources across the Middle East is of great concern to the UK. We regularly discuss the issue of access to water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories with the Israeli authorities.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord McNally on 27 February (WA 286), why the pardons listed since 1997 do not include the pardons granted in 2006 to 306 British soldiers executed for cowardice and similar offences in the First World War, as set out in Section 359 of the Armed Forces Act 2006.[HL16039]
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord McNally on 27 February (WA 286), why the pardons listed since 1997 do not include the 18 exercises of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy that the Northern Ireland Office confirmed as being granted since 1998 in response to a Freedom of Information request in 2010.[HL16040]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The information provided was in respect of pardons granted on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for Justice, and excluded the general pardon under Section 359 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 for servicemen executed for disciplinary offences during the First World War.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have revised their estimate of the amount of savings to be achieved by awarding the contract for police and court interpreting services to a single agency; and, if so, what the revised estimate is.[HL15946]
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will review the contract with Applied Language Solutions to provide police and court interpreting services, in the light of reports of recent disruption to the courts and extra expense incurred by failure to provide adequate interpreting services.[HL15947]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): (1) It is estimated that the improvements will save the Government at least £18 million a year on the cost of interpretation and translation. We still expect to achieve these savings once the contract becomes fully embedded.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether limiting the number of incoming domestic workers from overseas would make it unnecessary to remove protections from those already in the United Kingdom or shortly due to arrive.[HL16085]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): Changes to the overseas domestic worker (ODW) routes announced on 29 February will apply to those who make an application for entry clearance on or
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): Following last week's announcement by the current chief executive of the Office of Fair Trading of his planned resignation, BIS is now considering with the Office of Fair Trading how best to recruit a successor, and we will make an announcement in due course.
Baroness Northover: When making a decision on providing aid to a country, the Department for International Development (DfID) considers a wide range of criteria-including the pattern of, and trends in, public expenditure. Spending on defence versus education and health, for example, is one aspect of this. National budgeting processes are complex and depend on many different factors. DfID therefore assesses the model for public resource allocation and the resulting distribution of the national budget (across sector, geography, type of spend et cetera) on a case-by-case basis.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what strategy is in place to support their intention, as stated on the website of the Department for International Development, of "improving accountability, security and justice for the Palestinian people".[HL15917]
Baroness Northover: The UK's statebuilding programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) is designed to help build the institutions for a capable, accountable and responsive future Palestinian state. Our support to the Palestinian Authority is governed by a memorandum of understanding that sets out shared commitments to respecting human rights and delivering clear and accountable governance in the OPTs.
The UK is currently developing a programme to build the capacity of Palestinian citizens to hold to account the authorities operating in the OPTs. We are supporting the training of Palestinian security personnel in order to deliver better security for the Palestinian people and support human rights. We are developing family protection units and providing training to members of the police and justice sector to improve security and justice services for women who are victims of violence. We are also working with the Palestinian Ministry of Interior to identify how the UK can best support stronger central governance of the security sector.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The UK state pension is payable world-wide but is only up-rated if the recipient is residing outside the UK where there is a legal requirement or reciprocal agreement to do so. There are no plans to change the current arrangements. The Government believe that, particularly in the current economic climate, resource priorities should remain focused on pensioners within the UK.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what evidence exists about the levels of support and representation provided by the Government Equalities Office or the Equality and Human Rights Commissions or both to black and minority ethnic people who allege race discrimination.[HL15967]
Baroness Verma: The Government Equalities Office (GEO) does not provide support or representation to individuals. GEO is creating a new equality, information and advisory service to provide in-depth support. GEO has engaged widely on this and hopes to make a further announcement shortly.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 28 February (WA 350), whether they will consider bids that are non-compliant with the train service requirement specification if they can prove that there is market demand for a timetable change.[HL16074]
The Department for Transport welcomes proposals that enable the delivery of more efficient services and represent better value for money for passengers and taxpayers (incremental options). Bidders are free to propose incremental options that could therefore involve solutions requiring changes to the train service requirement specified. The department will consider purchasing incremental options offered by the winning bidder subject to affordability constraints and economic appraisal criteria.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the current cleanliness of the A13 trunk road between the M25 and Dagenham; and what steps they propose to take to improve the situation.[HL16132]
The last litter-pick in this area was on 24 February. The last inspection was on 28 February and the area was graded to be "mainly widespread distribution of litter and/or refuse with minor accumulations". Certain areas were noted to be in a worse state. The next litter-pick is scheduled week commencing 12 March 2012.
Work on constructing an airport on St. Helena is proceeding on schedule. The contractor has established offices in Longwood and has cleared and prepared lay-down areas in Rupert's Valley. The contractor has started construction of a temporary wharf in Rupert's Bay to facilitate the delivery of equipment and materials for the main works.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Sassoon on 13 February concerning the speeding-up of tax free allowances (WA 138), whether they will now answer the question originally asked of whether the Deputy Prime Minister was expressing the collective view of the Cabinet in calling for a speeding-up of the increase in tax-free allowances.[HL15970]
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government keep all income tax allowances under review. Any decisions on changes will be taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as part of the annual Budget process in the context of decisions on the wider public finances.
Lord Sassoon: At Budget 2011, the Government published "Tackling Tax Avoidance". This document outlined Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs' (HMRC) anti-avoidance strategy with its three key strands of preventing, detecting and counteracting tax avoidance. As part of its efforts to prevent tax avoidance, HMRC advises the Government on effective policy design; engages with its customers to provide certainty on its approach to influence avoidance behaviours; consults on new measures; and carries out risk assessments of new legislation. All of these activities help to minimise opportunities for avoidance from the outset.
Lord Sassoon: The Mirrlees review makes an interesting contribution to the long-term debate on the tax and welfare system in the UK and the Government will consider its findings as they develop tax policy.
The Government have committed to restoring the UK tax system's reputation for stability, simplicity and predictability. The Government have made a number of improvements to the way in which they make tax policy, with consultation on policy design and scrutiny of draft legislative proposals as the cornerstones. Further details may be found online at: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/tax_policy_making_ new_approach.htm.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the Northern Ireland Executive on the financial implications of a refusal by the Northern Ireland Assembly to accept parity with the changes to social security and housing benefit proposed in the Welfare Reform Bill.[HL16026]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): At their request, an official from my department gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Committee for Social Development in March 2011 and set out the Government's position on the impact of any breach of parity. In addition, there are regular meetings at ministerial and official level to discuss implementation plans.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Northern Ireland Executive will be required to implement changes to social security and housing benefit contained in the Welfare Reform Bill, if it is enacted.[HL16027]
Lord Freud: Responsibility for the social security system in Northern Ireland is devolved. There is, however, a longstanding policy of parity with Great Britain. The Northern Ireland Executive will bring forward their own legislation in due course.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they intend to take to improve the management of Ashfield Young Offender Institution in the light of the recent report of HM Inspector of Prisons; and whether they will review the suitability of Serco and GEOAmey as managers or providers of services to custodial institutions.[HL15933]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has agreed with Serco, which manages Ashfield,
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There are no plans to review the suitability of Serco and GEOAmey as managers or providers of services to custodial institutions. With regard to their involvement with the prisoner escort contracts: robust contract management mechanisms are in place, which have brought about improvements in delivery since the latest contracts came into operation in August 2011.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, in the light of the fact that Zimbabwe is no longer a member of
7 Mar 2012 : Column WA432
Following Zimbabwe's withdrawal from the Commonwealth, the UK Government decided to maintain Commonwealth rights for Zimbabwean citizens in the UK, drawing on a precedent set with Fiji. As such, Zimbabwean citizens are still allowed to benefit under any relevant nationality provisions including voting rights. The UK Government look forward to a time when the conditions are right for Zimbabwe to return to the Commonwealth.
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