some default text...

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA277

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA277

Written Answers

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Apprenticeships

Question

Asked by Lord Storey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Garden of Frognal on 17 December 2012 (WA 267), what progress has since been made on implementing the recommendations made by the Richard Review of Apprenticeships. [HL5239]

Baroness Garden of Frognal: The review was published on 27 November 2012. The review aims to ensure that apprenticeships meet the future needs of the changing economy, deliver high quality training, qualifications and skills which employers and learners demand, and maximise the impact of public investment. The Government will set out their response in spring 2013, and then consult on implementation.

Armed Forces: Consultants

Question

Asked by Lord Rosser

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the expenditure on consultants by the Ministry of Defence in each of the past two financial years; what is the estimated expenditure on such consultants for the current financial year; and what is the projected expenditure on such consultants for each of the next four financial years.[HL5310]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): Expenditure on external assistance by the Ministry of Defence and its trading funds was £26 million in financial year 2010-11 and £19 million in 2011-12. I am withholding the information for future years as it relates to the formulation of government policy. The department shall, however, continue to publish the annual outturn on external consultancy, with a breakdown by category of expenditure, in UK Defence Statistics: http://www.dasa.mod.uk/ modintranet/UKDS/UKDS2012/c1/table109.php.

Armed Forces: Naval Bases

Question

Asked by Lord Moonie

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to safeguard electricity power supplies to each of HM Naval Bases over the next 20 years, and what is their estimate of increased power requirements over that time.[HL5609]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): Each of Her Majesty’s Naval Bases (HMNB)—Clyde, Devonport and Portsmouth

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA278

has back-up generators to safeguard their electricity supply in the event of any disruption to the national grid.

There will be an increase in demand for electricity at HMNB Clyde from 2017 when it becomes the base port for all in-service submarines. It is currently estimated that the demand for electricity will increase by some 30%. The naval base is currently assessing how best to meet future electricity demand.

It is estimated that the demand for electricity at HMNB Devonport in the future will remain at the current level. The reduction in demand as a result of the decision to move the Trafalgar class submarines to HMNB Clyde by 2017 will be offset by the increase resulting from the decision to establish HMNB Devonport as the Centre for Amphibious Operations. An energy from waste (EfW) combined heat and power plant is under construction at HMNB Devonport that will supply the naval base and dockyard with 25 megawatts of power when it is commissioned in late 2014. This plant is expected to meet the electricity demand of the naval base for a period of 25 years, with the grid supply and permanent stand-by generators available to provide power in the event of an EfW plant outage.

HMNB Portsmouth has identified a significant increase in the demand for electricity in the future when it becomes the base-port for the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier. The Ministry of Defence is currently working to quantify the full future power requirement for the naval base.

Armed Forces: Post-service Welfare

Questions

Asked by Lord Touhig

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what mechanisms exist to ensure co-ordination among agencies in provision of healthcare, housing, and welfare to military veterans on their resettlement into society; and what assessment they have made of the “one stop shop” for military veterans' resettlement resources established in Scotland.[HL5673]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The Ministry of Defence works with other government departments, devolved Administrations and voluntary sector organisations to ensure that the needs and circumstances of military veterans are understood, with the aim of improving their access to services and to assist with their transition to civilian life.

The Armed Forces covenant underlines our commitment to ensuring that all the service community, including family members and ex-service personnel, receive the support and recognition which they deserve. In December 2011, a new Cabinet sub-committee was established to oversee the covenant programme of work and ensure that momentum is maintained. This committee works closely with the Covenant Reference Group, which is chaired by the Cabinet Office and brings together a range of representatives from government

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA279

departments, the Local Government Association, the devolved Administrations, service charities and families’ federations.

Within the Ministry of Defence, the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency provides assistance to veterans on a number of issues that may affect them in their civilian life, including those associated with healthcare, housing and welfare.

Veterans First Point in Edinburgh was established in 2009 with joint funding from the Scottish Government, NHS Lothian and the MoD as one of a number of pilot projects set up to address the mental health needs of veterans. The organisation is not specifically linked to resettlement, but aims to provide a one-stop shop for veterans. The MoD no longer has a direct involvement, as the original mental health pilot project is now complete, but the evaluation, carried out by the University of Sheffield in 2010, confirmed that Veterans First Point provided a valuable service.

Asked by Lord Touhig

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have a promotional campaign to inform military veterans of their entitlements upon resettlement into society, and specifically about priority status for housing accommodation.[HL5674]

Lord Astor of Hever: The best opportunities which the Ministry of Defence has to inform personnel of their entitlements is before they leave service. All service leavers are made aware of the resettlement provision to which they are entitled and, regardless of rank, are entitled to some form of resettlement provision, consisting of time, money and training (depending on length of service).

The resettlement support is graduated, with those having served six or more years receiving the full resettlement programme, which includes a three-day career transition workshop, use of a career consultant, a job-finding service, retraining time and retraining grant. The majority of resettlement provision is undertaken by the Career Transition Partnership (CTP). This is a partnering arrangement between the Ministry of Defence and Right Management Ltd, a leading outplacement company.

In addition to the interviews and briefings in the service leavers’ unit the CTP/MoD also have a voice in the various resettlement magazines such as Quest and Pathfinder. Furthermore the CTP publishes the Focus on Resettlement and Connectperiodicals, as well as providing additional information on the CTP website. The Army will issue every person selected for redundancy in tranche 3 with a DVD that will explain what services the CTP offers and what support the soldier can expect.

Regular briefings on civilian housing information, including social and private schemes, are given to service personnel. In line with the Armed Forces covenant, the Government remain committed to ensuring that members of the Armed Forces are not disadvantaged in their access to housing, whether it be home ownership, private rented accommodation or social housing. Members of the Armed Forces are given the highest priority in the Government’s FirstBuy scheme, and placed at the

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA280

top of the priority list for all other government-funded home ownership schemes, such as shared ownership.

Those who are unable to make a successful transition to their own home or privately rented accommodation can apply for social housing without having to prove the local connection' which can be a challenge if the service person has been mobile throughout their career.

In addition, the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency provides a Veterans Welfare Service which can be contacted at any time. This provides a free helpline service and information for veterans on a variety of issues, for example, welfare support. This is in addition to the variety of support and services provided across Government as part of our commitment to the Armed Forces covenant. Service leavers are also entitled to lifetime job finding support through either the Officers Association or the Regular Forces Employment Association.

Asked by Lord Touhig

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the advertisement campaign promoting the Veterans Agency in the north-east of England in 2005-06.[HL5675]

Lord Astor of Hever: The Raising Awareness campaign in the Newcastle/Tyneside area during March 2006 was deemed a success. The number of calls to the Veterans Agency Helpline from that area both during, and after the campaign rose by 33%, and valuable lessons were learned that helped refine and improve subsequent campaigns.

Armed Forces: Type 45 Destroyers

Question

Asked by Lord Moonie

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the build cost difference of Type 45 destroyers of first and last of class.[HL5608]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The build contract for the Type 45 destroyer does not quote a separate price for each of the six ships in the class. The majority of the equipment purchased through the supply chain is bought in batches of either three or six units, with no separate price breakdown for the first and last units.

Arms Trade Treaty

Question

Asked by Lord Browne of Ladyton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why there was no reference to the Arms Trade Treaty in their Mid-Term Review.[HL5462]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The coalition’s mid-term review contains many of the Government’s achievements and

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA281

objectives but it is not an exhaustive list of them all. A robust, effective, legally binding and global arms trade treaty will offer the prospect of a better future to millions who live in the shadow of conflict.

The UK has played a leading role over the past seven years in international efforts to achieve such a treaty and it continues to be a high priority for the Government. In July last year, we made important progress on a draft text. In November, we and key partners secured overwhelming support at the UN for a conference to conclude the treaty in March 2013. A treaty is now within our grasp and the Government will spare no effort to secure it.

Aviation: Air Quality

Question

Asked by Lord Tyler

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to updating air quality regulations in commercial passenger aircraft to make installation of carbon monoxide detectors mandatory. [HL5568]

Earl Attlee: Responsibility for establishing requirements for aircraft equipment now rests with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). EASA currently has no plans to mandate the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors. Should evidence emerge that there is a need for such equipment EASA will propose an amendment to the relevant rules.

Banking: European Central Bank

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the proposal for the European Central Bank to hire 2,000 staff to fulfil its role as the eurozone’s single financial supervisor; and whether the United Kingdom would be liable to contribute to the additional costs involved.[HL5532]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): The European Central Bank (ECB) has not made a public announcement on how many additional members of staff it would need to be effective in its role as the new single supervisor, a goal which the Government share. The ECB is best placed to determine this figure.

While the ECB regulation is yet to be finalised, the council agreed that the ECB would be able to levy credit institutions—but only within its supervisory remit, for an amount equal to costs relating to the performance of its supervisory tasks. As such, it would be those banks, to be directly supervised by the ECB and not the United Kingdom, who would liable to contribute to additional costs.

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA282

Banking: LIBOR

Questions

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to ensure that the majority of the penalties to be paid by the Royal Bank of Scotland for manipulation of LIBOR, and collusion with others in that process, will be funded from amounts otherwise to be used for bonus payments; how they agreed the baseline bonus fund; and what steps they took to ensure that the baseline was not inflated to cover potential penalties arising from LIBOR manipulation.[HL5411]

Lord Newby: The Government changed the system so that revenue from UK fines can be used to the benefit of the taxpaying public. The net new money raised from banks for their misdemeanours in financial markets will go to people and specific causes which demonstrate the best of British values, including military good causes.

The Chancellor has made it clear that, on this occasion, the US fines should be met in full from past, present and future reductions in bonuses and variable remuneration for RBS.

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the light of the disparity in the declared level of fines imposed by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) on those banks engaged in LIBOR fixing and money laundering compared with those set by United States regulators, they will invite the FSA to justify its decisions on fines.[HL5412]

Lord Newby: This question has been passed on to the FSA, who will respond. A copy of the response will be placed in the Library of the House.

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many individuals are facing criminal prosecution in the United Kingdom for involvement in LIBOR manipulation. [HL5413]

Lord Newby: In July 2012, the Serious Fraud Office (SF0) formally launched an investigation into the manipulation of LIBOR.

At the end of July, the director of the SF0 confirmed that he was satisfied that existing criminal offences are capable of covering conduct in relation to the alleged manipulation of LIBOR and related interest rates. It was also confirmed that the investigation has been extended to a number of financial institutions.

The investigation remains ongoing. As such, it would not be appropriate for the Government to comment, so as not to prejudice or prejudge the investigation.

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA283

Benefits

Question

Asked by Lord Wigley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many persons in (1) Wales, and (2) England, received (a) the disabled worker element, and (b) the severe disability element, of working tax credit in 2011-12. [HL5502]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): Information for the 2011-12 financial year will be available in May 2013. The latest available financial year data is for 2010-11. The following table shows the average number of families and the number of disabled/severely disabled adults within those families, who benefit from a higher tax credit award due to being eligible for the disabled and/or severe disability elements of working tax credit.

Average number of in-work families benefiting* from the disabled and severely disabled worker elements, with the number of disabled and severely disabled adults in 2010-11.

Disabled Element (thousands)Severely Disabled Element (thousands)
FamiliesAdultsFamiliesAdults

England

91

92

24

25

Wales

8

8

3

3

* These figures cover those with the disabled and/or severe disability adult element who (a) have children and have child tax credit above the family element, or (b) have no children and have a positive working tax credit award.

Further up-to-date figures are available, based on HM Revenue and Customs provisional statistics12. This publication takes a snapshot of the tax credits population and, therefore, shows the number of claimants at a particular point in time based on the family circumstances on that date. The following table shows the number of families and the number of disabled/severely disabled adults within those families, benefiting from a higher tax credit award due to being eligible for the disabled and/or severe disability elements of working tax credit as at the 1 December 2012.

Latest snapshot estimate of the number of in-work families benefiting* from the disabled and severely disabled worker elements, with the number of disabled and severely disabled adults.

Disabled Element (thousands)Severely Disabled Element (thousands)
FamiliesAdultsFamiliesAdults

England

88

89

21

21

Wales

7

7

2

2

* These figures cover those with the disabled and/or severe disability adult element who (a) have children and have a positive award, or (b) have no children and have a positive working tax credit award.

1 http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/statistics/prov-main-stats.htm

2 http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/statistics/prov-geog-stats.htm

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA284

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they decide whether someone is self-employed for child benefit purposes; whether national insurance contributions must have been paid previously; and whether child benefit payments are taken into account in assessing whether someone being economically self-sufficient has the right to continue residing in the United Kingdom.[HL5640]

Lord Deighton: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) determines a claimant’s self-employment status in the same way that it would for a UK national, establishing whether that person had a contract for services with someone who was employing them and that activity was in some way remunerative; or if that person was undertaking some trade or profession and that trade or profession, while not immediately remunerative, was undertaken with the prospect that it would at some time be profitable.

There is no requirement for an individual to have been paid national insurance contributions previously before they can be considered to be self-employed for right to reside purposes.

Before an individual can receive child benefit, they must first have a right to reside.

Burma

Questions

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what mechanisms are in place to ensure that the European Union arms embargo on Burma is not violated.[HL5450]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is responsible for enforcing arms embargoes.

HMRC uses a risk-based, intelligence-led approach and conducts regular physical and documentary checks on all exports of armaments from the UK, including any attempting to be exported to Burma. HMRC also conducts checks on UK nationals trading armaments outside the UK to detect any illegal activity, including sales of armaments to Burma.

HMRC treats the enforcement of EU sanctions as a priority.

Asked by Baroness Nye

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the United Nations High Commission for Refugees review into Burma’s 1982 citizenship law and its conformity with international standards will be complete; and, if so, whether it will be made public.[HL5506]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): I refer the noble Baroness to the answer given by the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for East Devon, (Mr Swire), on 21 January

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA285

(

Official Report

, col. 92W). British officials in Burma have been liaising with the UN High Commission for Refugees on its review into Burma’s 1982 citizenship law and its conformity with international standards. Decisions on the timeframe for the completion of this review and whether it will be made public have yet to be made. The issue of citizenship was also raised by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) during his recent meeting with the Burmese Foreign Minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, in London on 11 February.

Asked by Baroness Nye

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to ensure that their initiative on sexual violence in conflict includes rape and sexual violence by the Burmese army in Burma.[HL5507]

Baroness Warsi: The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague)'s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) is global in reach. It aims to deter and end impunity for crimes of conflict related sexual violence wherever these occur.

We continue to receive disturbing reports of the use of sexual violence by the military in Burma. We are concerned that the Burmese authorities have done little to investigate. The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire), raised our concerns with the Burmese Foreign Minister in December 2012 and pressed Burma to take action on this issue, including by signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We welcomed the UN General Assembly Human Rights Resolution on Burma agreed on 26 November 2012. The resolution, which was agreed by the Burmese Government, represents a clear commitment for them to work with the international community to take necessary measures to ensure accountability and end impunity, including by undertaking a full, transparent and independent investigation into all reports of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law including allegations of targeted rape and other forms of sexual violence. We will continue to raise the issue of human rights abuses in Burma at every opportunity with the Burmese Government at ministerial level and through our embassy in Rangoon, reminding them of their commitment. We will also continue to raise our concerns with our international partners, and with the UN.

Asked by Baroness Nye

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether President Thein Sein of Burma has fulfilled his commitment made in November 2012 to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office in Burma.[HL5508]

Baroness Warsi: During their meeting on 11 February, the Foreign Secretary, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), urged the Burmese Minister for Foreign Affairs to follow up

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA286

on the commitment made by President Thein Sein to open an office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We continue to make clear that a UNHCR office in Burma would support more constructive relations between the international community and the Burmese government on human rights.

Businesses: Invoice Payments

Question

Asked by Lord Harrison

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what analysis they have made of the benefits to the United Kingdom’s gross domestic product of enforcing (1) early payment schemes, and (2) prompt payment schemes, on suppliers of government services.[HL5379]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The Government recognise that being paid promptly for work done is vital to enable companies to manage their cash flow and reduce time wasted on chasing invoices. We are determined to do everything we can to help business manage cash flow and to transform the culture of late payment. Central government policy is to pay undisputed invoices within five days and to pass 30 day payment terms down supply chains.

The Government have launched the Prompt Payment Code, a payment initiative developed by government with the Institute of Credit Management (ICM) to help small businesses. More information can be found at: www promptpaymentcode.org.uk/.

Central government are also increasingly making use of project bank accounts (PBAs) that address both the speed and certainty of payment to the supply chain. Presently only used on construction contracts, we are expanding the use of PBAs to facilities management contracts. Over the next three years it is expected that some £4 billion of expenditure will flow through project bank accounts.

No analysis has been made of the direct impact of these policies on the United Kingdom’s gross domestic product.

Children: Sexual Abuse and Exploitation

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the sexual abuse and exploitation of children by gangs and groups in England. [HL5515]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): Child sexual exploitation is a crime which the Government take extremely seriously. The Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan that we published in November 2011 recognises that this abuse can take many forms and can involve gangs and groups of offenders. The action plan sets out a co-ordinated programme of action for a wide range of national and local organisations to: raise awareness; protect young people at risk; prosecute, convict and

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA287

imprison offenders; and help victims and their families get their lives back on track.

In July 2012, the Government published a progress report on the implementation of the action plan. The report outlined encouraging progress by statutory and voluntary sector organisations at both national and local levels, but emphasised that there is still further work to be done. My honourable friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, has made it clear that he attaches a very high priority to keeping up momentum. He chairs regular meetings with a wide range of interested parties through which progress is assessed and all involved are held to account and challenged to do more

Education: Schools Forums

Questions

Asked by Baroness Hughes of Stretford

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether 14-19 Partnerships, as defined by the Schools Forums (England) Regulations 2012, are in existence in every area represented by a schools forum.[HL5488]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): The department does not collect data on the numbers of 14-19 Partnerships in England. Where they do operate, it is currently a requirement that they are represented on the schools forum.

Asked by Baroness Hughes of Stretford

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which Schools Forums include in their membership a representative from (1) a further education college, or (2) a sixth form college.[HL5489]

Lord Nash: The department does not collect data on the membership of individual schools forums in England. There is currently no legal requirement for schools forums to include representatives from further education colleges or sixth-form colleges.

Energy: Carbon Emissions

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their most recent forecast of the total cost in cash terms of meeting the United Kingdom's 2050 carbon target.[HL5573]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): There are uncertainties around how the 2050 carbon target will be met, however, in the Carbon Plan (December 2011), the department put forward four plausible example pathways that meet the target. Details of the pathways, including associated estimates of full energy system costs, can be examined in the report and using the 2050 Calculator: a tool which allows users to examine the full range of physically possible scenarios for meeting the 2050 carbon target: http://2050- calculator-tool.decc.gov.uk/

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA288

The costs of technologies out to 2050 are uncertain, however the table below shows our best estimates for the four pathways, which vary between £4,735 and £5,120 per person per year on average between 2010 and 2050. These costs include all capital, operating and fuel costs for the whole energy system including cars, power stations and insulation, but exclude the cost of not tackling climate change and the costs of changing people's behaviour, such as encouraging them to turn down their thermostat. The table also shows that if climate change wasn't tackled and climate change turned out to have no impact, the cost would be £4,690 per person per year on average between 2010 and 2050.

These are just some of the possible scenarios. In cash terms, it might be cheaper to meet the carbon target than not, even if the costs of climate change damage are excluded. This depends on the future cost of fossil fuels, the extent to which technologies such as electric vehicles fall in cost and the extent to which people are willing to change behaviour. Using the tool, members of the public can explore these uncertainties.

Amortised annual per capita total energy system costs to 2050
PathwayTotal (£)

Not tackling climate change

4,690

Higher renewables

5,120

Higher nuclear

5,329

Higher CCS

5,265

MARKAL 3.26

4,735

Energy: Fossil Fuels

Question

Asked by Lord Harrison

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on United Kingdom financial stability of the levels of investment by financial institutions in the fossil fuel sector; and whether they will take steps to ensure that companies disclose adequate information to allow investors accurately to price the effects of any future regulatory changes and technological developments in that sector.[HL5571]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): The independent Financial Policy Committee (FPC) at the Bank of England has the primary objective of identifying, monitoring and taking action to remove or reduce systemic risks to the UK financial system. The FPC considers a diverse spectrum of risks to the financial system as part of its deliberations, and is presented with a broad array of data and market intelligence.

Should the FPC conclude, at any point, that levels of investment by financial institutions in the fossil fuel sector pose a systemic risk to the financial system, it will report and explain that risk in its six-monthly financial stability report. Where the FPC has identified risks, it is able to offer advice and recommendations to relevant bodies to address these risks.

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA289

Energy: Green Deal

Question

Asked by Lord Harrison

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to include voltage optimisation in the Green Deal, and to recognise it as an energy device eligible for reduced VAT.[HL5381]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): DECC is engaging closely with the voltage optimisation industry and has commissioned the independent Scientific Integrity Group, which reports to the government contractors working on the standard assessment procedure (SAP), to review evidence from industry and other sources on the efficacy of voltage optimisation as an energy efficiency measure. We look forward to the views of the expert group to enable us to determine whether voltage optimisation is included as a measure in the Green Deal.

The Government do not have any plans to extend the existing VAT relief scheme.

Energy: Severn Barrage

Question

Asked by Lord Cope of Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what evidence they have received about the effects of building a Severn barrage.[HL5653]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): The Feasibility Study Conclusions and Summary Report for DECC’s Severn tidal power feasibility study published in October 2010 contained an assessment of the effects of a Severn Barrage, and can be accessed via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/50064/1._Feasibility_Study_Conclusions_and_Summary_Report_ _15_Oct.pdf.

Conan Hafren (now known as Hafren Power) submitted an outline business case to DECC in November 2011. This was followed by supplementary information in February 2012 in answer to a request from DECC for further details. Hafren Power submitted a further outline business case document in February 2013.

In February 2013, the Bristol Port Company submitted information on possible economic effects of a Severn barrage.

EU: Finance

Questions

Asked by Lord Wigley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken in the European Council to resolve the difficulties in accepting, and putting into operation, recommendations of the European Court of Auditors on the finances of the European Union.[HL5501]

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA290

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): The European Court of Auditors (ECA) produces an audit report on the EU accounts each year, which is a key component in evaluating the financial management of the EU budget. At the European Council on the 8 February, EU Leaders agreed council conclusions for the seven-year EU budget framework, in which, among other issues, they address financial management in the future financial framework. In particular, member states agreed that the future financial framework must not only ensure appropriate levels of expenditure, but also its quality. Among other things, they agreed that the elements needed to ensure the appropriate quality of expenditure must include flexibility, evaluation and review, emphasis on results, simplification of delivery and an appropriate use of financial instruments.

The council conclusions also confirms that all sectoral legislation relating to the next multiannual financial framework, as well as the new financial regulation and the inter-institutional agreement on co-operation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management, should contain substantial elements contributing to simplification and improving accountability and effective spending of EU funds. The UK fully supports this view.

The full council conclusions may be accessed through following public website link: http://www.consilium.europa. eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/135344.gdf.

The UK continues to take the financial management of the EU budget extremely seriously and, on the 8 February 2013, the UK, along with the Netherlands and Sweden, voted against recommending discharge to be given to the Commission with respect to the 2011 EU budget. The three member states also issued the following joint statement: http://www.europarl. europa.eu/document/activities/cont/201302/20130213ATT61014/20130213ATT61014EN.pdf.

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they will take in response to any attempt by the European Parliament to increase the multiannual financial framework agreed by the European Council; and what assessment they have made of the European Parliament's role in the budget-setting process and the role of national parliaments to raise taxes to finance the European Union.[HL5533]

Lord Deighton: The European Parliament must now give consent to the multiannual financial framework deal agreed by the European Council. The Prime Minister has stated that, although the European Council is prepared to accept some flexibilities about how spending is divided between budget years and areas of spending, any agreement by the European Parliament must be within the framework that member states have now agreed.

The European Parliament's role in the budget-setting process for the multiannual financial framework is to give consent to the MFF expenditure deal agreed at European Council, voting by absolute majority.

Any new taxes to finance the European Union would have to be included in the own resources decision (ORD). The ORD is agreed by unanimity in council

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA291

and approved by the member states in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. In the UK this is done by the Parliament’s ratification of the own resource decision. The European Parliament is consulted on the ORD but its approval is not required.

EU: Funding

Question

Asked by Lord Wigley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the qualifying threshold for eligibility for European Union structural funds for the post-2013 period will continue to be based on the Gross Value Added per capita figures in the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics II areas.[HL5543]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): For the 2014-20 period, all UK regions will continue to be eligible for funding for European Union structural funds. Thresholds for regional categories are based on gross domestic product per capita (measured in purchasing power parity).

EU: Regulation

Questions

Asked by The Earl of Shrewsbury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they encourage the reduction of unnecessary European Union regulation in cases where such regulation is deemed by them to cause significant harm to the competitiveness of United Kingdom industry. [HL5491]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they are ensuring that all key regulatory agencies in the United Kingdom, including the Environment Agency, are aligned with and committed to a policy of reducing unnecessary European Union regulation, where such regulation can be seen to cause significant harm to the competitiveness of United Kingdom industry.[HL5492]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie): The Government’s guiding principles for EU legislation* are aimed at maximising the UK’s influence in Brussels and ending the gold-plating of EU legislation in the UK. They set out the approach that both departments and their agencies should take in response to EU measures. The guiding principles ensure that the Government do not place unnecessary EU regulatory burdens on UK businesses, which may hinder their growth and competitiveness. The Government remain committed to this agenda.

* https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/78800/Guiding_Principles_for_EU_ legislation.pdf

EU: UK Membership

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Viscount Younger of Leckie on 11 February (Official Report, col. 456) that “we do not see a

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA292

two-tier Europe coming forward”, how this approach aligns with their support for fiscal oversight for the eurozone and the assertion by the Prime Minister that the United Kingdom will not participate in it. [HL5535]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): Europe has always been multi-faceted and it is in the UK’s interests that the EU has the speed and flexibility of a network, not the cumbersome rigidity of a bloc. As a result of the crisis, the euro area is integrating further, including strengthening fiscal oversight. However, the Government do not accept the concept of a two speed Europe. While the UK is not involved in closer integration in the euro area, it leads the EU on many issues—the single market, improving Europe’s competitiveness, taking tough action on Syria, Iran, Burma and euro area members are often our closest allies.

European Parliament

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will advocate that any future discussions to revise the treaties establishing the European Union should include the option of the European Parliament reverting to an assembly composed of representatives elected by and accountable to national parliaments. [HL5534]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): We will work to enhance the role of national parliaments in European Union matters, including by using existing mechanisms such as improved consultation, and through the reform of institutions. The test for any discussion on treaty change will be whether it is in Britain’s national interest.

Falklands War Veterans

Questions

Asked by Lord Touhig

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 8 January (WA 29–30), whether they have reiterated the concern of service-related, noise-induced hearing loss to general practitioners or secondary care clinicians since 2007.[HL5477]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 8 January (WA 29–30), whether a guideline for prioritisation exists for secondary care clinicians in their consideration of military veterans, or whether a clinician's prioritisation of a patient is wholly discretionary. [HL5478]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 8 January (WA 29–30), whether a regulatory or accountability body exists to audit prioritisations made by secondary care clinicians in relation to treatment of patients. [HL5479]

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA293

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 8 January (WA 29–30), whether priority-care status for a military veteran's service-related injury expires, and in particular in respect of Falklands War service injuries. [HL5480]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have gathered demographic or quantitative reports of veterans who requested priority-care status and the requests granted by secondary care clinicians. [HL5481]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The department continues to reiterate to the National Health Service and general practitioners (GPs) the priority treatment arrangements for veterans with a service-related health problem. Advice has been provided to the NHS on how priority treatment should be applied, but it is for clinicians to determine whether the issue is service related (and thus meeting priority treatment requirement) and also to consider the clinical needs of others when applying priority treatment for a veteran. Priority treatment applies to all veterans with a service related condition and is not time limited in any way.

The requirement to provide priority treatment has been noted in NHS operating framework documents, leaflets produced by the department and included in the e-learning package for GPs that has been put in place in partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners. In addition, specific guidance on priority treatment has been produced by the NHS on how this should be applied when using the Choose and Book system within the NHS. The Armed Forces covenant restates the priority treatment requirement and the Government’s mandate to the NHS requires the NHS Commissioning Board to meet the Government’s commitments as set out in the covenant.

There is no regulatory body in place to audit priority treatment nor is information gathered on the demographic or quantity of veterans who have requested priority treatment. In the event that a veteran is denied priority treatment then they should raise this with their GP or ask their secondary care provider for details of how to complain.

Fire and Rescue Service

Question

Asked by Baroness Smith of Basildon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of spending reductions on the number of fire fighter posts.[HL5471]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): I refer the noble Baroness to the answer of Tuesday 5 February 2013 (Official Report, Commons, col. 126W).

Food: Labelling

Question

Asked by Lord Morris of Aberavon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what powers they have to deal with the false labelling of goods; whether they have considered imposing import

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA294

restrictions on falsely-labelled goods; and whether they have considered the placing of evidence about false labelling in the hands of the prosecuting authorities.[HL5558]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie): Where there are sector-specific rules requiring labelling, for example for labels on food or on textile products, those rules include enforcement mechanisms which empower the appropriate enforcement authorities to take action against non-compliant or inaccurate labels, if necessary through the courts.

More generally, the requirement is that information provided to consumers, including information on labels, should be accurate and not misleading. The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 prohibit misleading commercial practices by traders as regards consumers. This includes actions which mislead as to, for example, the properties of products to the extent that the average consumer is likely to make a decision they would not otherwise have made. It also includes misleading omissions which mislead by omitting or hiding material information which as a result is likely to cause the average consumer to make a decision they would not have otherwise made.

The regulations apply criminal offences and penalties and are enforced by local authority trading standards officers and the Office of Fair Trading. These enforcement authorities also have powers to seek formal undertakings not to repeat a particular practice and to take injunctive action in the civil courts. The department and I regularly advise that any evidence of non-compliance with the regulations should be brought to the attention of the enforcement authorities to consider what action may be necessary or appropriate.

We have no plans to impose general import restrictions on goods falsely labelled. Import restrictions must be enforced at the ports. While in some cases it might be relatively easy for the authorities at the ports to establish that a label on a product is false, in others, for example where complicated tests might be necessary, it would not appear to be practical.

It is the responsibility of the trader placing products on the consumer market to ensure that any labels are accurate and comply with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. Furthermore, if the retailer can establish that an offence was due to the act or default of another person, and that an offence occurred despite his having taken all reasonable precautions and exercising all due diligence to avoid an offence, then the enforcement authorities also have the power to prosecute the other person in respect of an offence.

Gaza

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1860 of 2009 regarding access to Gaza, in the light of post-ceasefire negotiations,

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA295

the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the development of truck-seeking equipment. [HL5556]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): Improving access to Gaza, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1860, remains a priority for the UK and is a subject we raise frequently with the Israeli authorities. We are urging all sides to take advantage of the continuing talks in Cairo to address the fundamental issues facing Gaza, including more open access for people and goods, and an end to the smuggling of weapons.

Government Departments: Documents

Question

Asked by Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington

To ask Her Majesty’s Government where documents that had resided in the Home Office library can now be accessed following the relocation of that department from Queen Anne’s Gate.[HL5445]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): In December 2004 the Home Office library relocated from Queen Anne’s Gate to its new HQ at 2 Marsham Street. The complete stock of books and publications was moved to the new Home Office library at that time.

In the subsequent years departmental business has looked to online resources for rapid access to updated reference information. In the same period departmental publications have been produced increasingly in digital formats rather than physical formats and added to the Home Office website.

The department’s stock of books and publications has also been reduced through transfer of material in line with machinery of government changes to the department.

As a result of all these changes the Home Office today has a very small number of books and publications in the remaining physical collection available to its staff.

Health: Asthma

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to develop a strategy for the prevention of asthma.[HL5464]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Government have no plans to develop a strategy to prevent asthma, as asthma is not currently preventable. The focus should instead be on helping people with asthma to be free of symptoms so that they can lead as normal a life as possible. We published An Outcomes Strategy for COPD and Asthma

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA296

in July 2011, along with a suite of accompanying tools and resources to support the National Health Service and other organisations in delivering this strategy. A copy of the strategy has already been placed in the Library.

Health: Measles

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of recent increases in the number of cases of measles; and what assessment they have made of any link to a reduction in the uptake of MMR vaccinations ten years ago.[HL5511]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): Data from the Health Protection Agency show that, in 2012, 2,016 laboratory confirmed cases of measles were reported in England and Wales. This is the highest annual total since enhanced laboratory confirmation commenced in 1994.

Almost 70% of all cases in 2012 were in children between the ages of one and 18 years, with the highest proportion (592 cases) occurring in those under five years of age. There were 429 cases occurring in those aged 10 to 14 years, the age group who were routinely offered measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine when coverage was at its lowest level. Therefore, a minority of cases in 2012 can be attributed to the fall in coverage with MMR vaccine in the early part of this century.

However, although MMR vaccination uptake is currently at historically high levels, while measles is circulating unvaccinated individuals of any age will be at risk of contracting measles. Therefore, it is important that parents of unvaccinated children, as well as older teenagers and adults who may have missed MMR vaccination, should make an appointment with their general practitioner to get vaccinated.

Health: Mesothelioma

Question

Asked by Lord Wigley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many former (1) teaching assistants, (2) nursery nurses, (3) school secretaries, (4) school caretakers, (5) school cleaners, and (6) school kitchen staff, in England have died of mesothelioma during the past 10 years. [HL5500]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): Statistics on deaths from mesothelioma by occupational group are published periodically by the Health and Safety Executive. The classification of occupations used allows identification of (1) teaching assistants, (2) nursery nurses and (3) school secretaries but not (4) school caretakers, (5) school cleaners or (6) school kitchen staff.

The statistics are based on the last occupation of the deceased as recorded on death certificates and do

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA297

not reflect the lifetime employment of the individuals or, therefore, the number of deaths caused by asbestos exposure during the course of work in these occupations.

HSE has advised that during the period 2001-2010 the number of mesothelioma deaths for identifiable occupations is as follows:

(1) teaching assistants (listed occupational group is educational assistants)— 8;(2) nursery nurses—9; and(3) school secretaries—8.

These are figures for Great Britain. There are no available data on the actual number of former school staff that have died of mesothelioma as a consequence of asbestos exposure in schools.

Health: Patient Confidentiality

Question

Asked by Lord Black of Brentwood

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there are any special confidentiality or gagging orders, beyond the normal requirements of patient confidentiality, in place among former staff at Basildon and Thurrock General Hospitals NHS Trust. [HL5646]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The department is not aware of any special confidentiality or gagging orders, beyond the normal requirements of patient confidentiality, in place among former staff at Basildon and Thurrock General Hospitals. However, it should be noted that contracts of employment are a matter between the employing organisation and its employee and the department is not party to these agreements.

Such orders cannot be enforced where they attempt to prohibit the raising of concerns covered by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, such as safety and propriety issues. The department has made clear to the National Health Service that it should prohibit the inclusion of confidentiality “gagging” clauses in contracts of employment and compromise agreements which seek to prevent people from speaking out on issues of patient safety or other issues in the public interest.

Health: Sexual Health

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will publish their sexual health strategy.[HL5467]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The sexual health policy document will be published as soon as possible.

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA298

Higher Education: Grants

Question

Asked by Lord Smith of Clifton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was or will be the total cost to public funds for the years 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 of (1) full, and (2) partial, maintenance grants paid to students from England in full-time higher education. [HL5231]

Baroness Garden of Frognal: The cost of maintenance grants in 2011-12 was published in November 2012 by the Student Loans Company in its statistical first release. These costs are shown in the table below, along with BIS expenditure forecasts for subsequent years.

Costs by academic year (£m)2011-12 (actual)2012-13 (forecast)2013-14 (forecast)2014-15 (forecast)

Full grant

£1,111m

£1,190m

£1,220m

£1,300m

Partial grant

£224m

£230m

£240m

£250m

Total

£1,335m

£1,420m

£1,460m

£1,550m

Homelessness

Questions

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proportion of homeless migrants in each region of the United Kingdom are from (1) member states that acceded to the European Union on 1 May 2004, and (2) countries from outside the European Union. [HL5524]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The department collects figures from individual English local authorities on numbers of homelessness acceptances by foreign national households, broken down for each A10 nation, “other EEA nations” and “non-EEA nations”.

England totals for numbers of Foreign National households accepted as homeless, broken down for each A10 nation, “other EEA nationals” and “non-EEA nationals” are published each quarter in DCLG Live Table 786 at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical- data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness. Figures for individual local authorities can be provided on request.

Figures for the other constituent parts of the United Kingdom are a matter for the relevant devolved authority.

In terms of rough sleeping in London, detailed nationality information is held on the CHAIN database. A breakdown for people identified as sleeping rough in 2011/12 using the CHAIN data is given on page 5 of the department’s statistical release Rough Sleeping Statistics England, Autumn 2012. This is available at https://www. gov.uk/government/publications/rough-sleeping-in-england-autumn-2012.

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA299

The majority (53%) of London’s rough sleepers are foreign nationals; 28% of rough sleepers are from central and eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 or 2007.

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what financial support they offer to local authorities and their partners to reconnect rough sleepers from (1) European Union member states, (2) European Economic Area countries, and (3) non-European Economic Area countries, to their home areas.[HL5525]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to address (1) low literacy rates, and (2) poor English language skills, amongst homeless migrants in the United Kingdom.[HL5527]

Baroness Hanham: It is vital that migrants who come to this country are able to support themselves so they do not become destitute.

Homeless migrants, who satisfy residency rules and are in receipt of qualifying benefits may be entitled to attend courses in English and English for speakers of other languages.

We are investing £470 million over four years (from 2011-12 to 2014-15) to help prevent and tackle homelessness, rough sleeping and repossessions. This includes £34 million to the Greater London Authority to tackle rough sleeping across the capital. Those local authorities who face problems with rough sleeping by economic migrants may chose to fund reconnection services. The Greater London Authority funds such a service in London.

We have also provided £20,000 to the Passage Day Centre in London to develop a “Before You Go” campaign in the key Eastern European countries, highlighting the problems faced by destitute economic migrants. We are currently considering a further campaign including work with churches in home countries in the expanded EU.

House of Lords: Savings Strategy and Financial Plan

Questions

Asked by Lord Campbell-Savours

To ask the Chairman of Committees what has been the saving from the reduction in Overseas Office funding for parliamentary delegations arising out of the House of Lords savings strategy and financial plan approved in 2010.[HL5292]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Sewel): The financial plan approved in 2010 made savings of 12% in the budget for delegations to the interparliamentary assemblies in FY 2011-12. In cash terms this was £20,833. The outturn expenditure was reduced from £154,527 in 2009-10 to £115,932 in 2011-12.

Asked by Lord Campbell-Savours

To ask the Chairman of Committees what has been the saving from the budget for United Kingdom conference costs and travel arising out of the House of Lords savings strategy and financial plan approved in 2010.[HL5293]

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA300

The Chairman of Committees: The financial plan approved in 2010 made savings of 10% in the budgets for representative travel by Members and staff in FY 2011-12. In cash terms this was £7,300. The outturn expenditure was reduced from £32,320 in 2009-10 to £24,654 in 2011-12.

The savings on the UK conference budget relate to the costs of the CPA centenary parliamentary conference held in London in July 2011, which were shared with the Commons. By shortening the length of the conference and by attributing some of the expense to CPA’s own budget a saving of about £173,000 was made in the Lords UK conference budget for FY 2011-12.

Housing

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they are assisting people who are unable to purchase a home due to the current economic climate.[HL5513]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The Government recognises the particular challenges faced by those unable to buy a home. In England we are providing a range of options intended to help them and others into home ownership, including:

the NewBuy Guarantee scheme, which has brought 95% loan to value mortgages for new build properties back to the market. NewBuy helps both first time buyers, and existing home owners. On 24 January, the Home Builders Federation estimated that there had been 3,000 NewBuy homes reserved since the scheme started;the FirstBuy equity loan scheme, jointly funded by the Government and participating developers, which will help up to 27,000 aspiring homeowners by Spring 2014 with an investment of £900 million;shared ownership which helps people unable to buy a home without assistance to purchase a minimum 25% share paying rent on the remainder; andthe Right to Buy scheme, with the new discount cap of £75,000, will also help more people—including first-time buyers—to realise their aspiration for home ownership.

Under this Government, homeowners are benefiting from lower interest rates; we have effectively reduced the cost of mortgages thanks to the action taken to tackle the deficit: just a 1% rise in market interest rates would have added almost £100 extra on a typical family’s mortgage bill each month.

I can also refer the noble Lord to good news from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, which reported new data on 12 February 2013 stating that the number of first-time buyers reached its largest yearly total in five years.

Human Trafficking

Question

Asked by Lord McColl of Dulwich

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many children identified as potential victims of human trafficking have gone missing from local authority

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA301

care in each financial year from 2005-6 up to and including 2011-12; and what mechanisms are in place to monitor the problem.[HL4890]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): Data on the number of children who go missing from their care placements for more than 24 hours are collected by the Department for Education and shown in the table below. While these figures will include some children who may have been trafficked, it is not possible to disaggregate the number of trafficked or potentially trafficked children.

There are however significant differences between the data collected by DfE and the police on children who go missing from care. We want better, consistent data, and more importantly, better practice to keep these young people safe. An expert group on data has been looking at this issue and has made recommendations.

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA302

We will pilot a new data collection over the next few months. This will, for the first time, collect information on all children who go missing from their placement, not just those missing for 24 hours, enabling better analysis and more effective practice to safeguard these young people. Local authorities have an overall statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This includes preventing and mitigating the risk of them going missing from care. Local authorities work in close co-operation with the police and the UK Border Agency to support, and provide protection for, potentially trafficked children. Our forthcoming revised statutory guidance on children who go missing from home or care will include advice on how to safeguard trafficked children. We have also asked the Refugee Council and the Children’s Society to carry out a review of the practical care arrangements for children in care who may have been trafficked.

Years ending 31 March 2006 to 2012
Coverage: England
numbers
2006200720082009201020112012

Children looked after who went missing during the year

890

970

980

930

820

950

1,510

Source: SSDA903

Inflation

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the Bank of England’s success in achieving the inflation target set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.[HL5409]

Lord Newby: The Chancellor set the remit for the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) at Budget 2012 to target inflation of 2%, as measured by the 12-month increase in the Consumer Prices Index.

The MPC is operationally responsible for monetary policy, which it sets based on its judgment on the balance of risks to meeting the inflation target in the medium term.

The remit recognises that on occasions the actual inflation rate will depart from its target as a result of shocks and disturbances.

Israel

Question

Asked by Lord Steel of Aikwood

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of each of the recommendations in the report Trading Away Peace: How Europe Helps Sustain Illegal Israeli Settlements, published in October 2012.[HL5569]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): We are aware of the report Trading Away Peace published on 30 October 2012 concerning Israeli settlement products, and the EU’s trade with illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We are reviewing the report’s recommendations, along with our EU partners.

The issue of settlement produce is a subject of active discussion with the European Commission and our EU partners. We continue to work to take forward the commitment made by EU Foreign Ministers at the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 14 May 2012 to fully and effectively implement existing EU legislation and the bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products. This includes working with the EU to ensure that settlement produce does not enter the EU duty-free under the EU-Israel association agreement, and that settlement products are not incorrectly labelled as Israeli produce, in violation of EU consumer protection regulations.

Israel and Palestine: West Bank

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will make representations to the Government of Israel so that Area C of the West Bank may be included in the Palestinian Authority’s National Plan from 2013 onwards, in line with the Oslo agreements.[HL5554]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): We are urging Israel to fulfil its obligation under the Oslo agreement to transfer authority over Area C to the Palestinian Authority.

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA303

Money Laundering Regulations 2007

Question

Asked by Lord Harris of Haringey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Sassoon on 19 December 2012 (WA 319) in which he referred to politically exposed persons being defined in the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 as “individuals who have been entrusted with a prominent public function by a state other than the UK, an EU institution or an international body”, whether they consider it appropriate for UK banks generally to treat members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords as politically exposed persons under the terms of those regulations.[HL5538]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): In February 2012, the Financial Action Task Force, the body responsible for setting international standards on combating money-laundering and the financing of terrorism, agreed to extend the definition of politically exposed persons (PEPs) to include domestic PEPs, meaning members of countries’ legislature would be considered PEPs.

Given the risks vary from country to country, the implementation of requirements will be risk-based and not prescriptive. The extension of the definition also forms part of proposals for a fourth EU money-laundering directive to be negotiated this year to reflect the revised global standards. This requirement would not be implemented in the UK until the directive is agreed and the Government have consulted on its transposition.

National Savings and Investments

Question

Asked by Lord Naseby

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why National Savings and Investments no longer supply customers with a single comprehensive list of their holdings; and why there is a delay between the issue of the different lists.[HL5487]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): National Savings and Investments (NS&I) has never provided a consolidated list of all product holdings to its customers. It has, however, offered a consolidated list of holdings for each product type.

As part of NS&I’s modernisation programme, which was agreed at Spending Review 2010, it is moving all products onto a new digital banking system. This work has resulted in a temporary disruption to the service. This process is due to finish by the end of 2013.

NHS: GP Accreditation

Question

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to introducing an interim arrangement for the accreditation and reaccreditation of general practitioners with a special interest; and whether

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA304

they have given consideration to whether the Royal College of General Practitioners, with the support of the relevant speciality organisations, could take on that responsibility from April 2014. [HL5669]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): We are considering a number of options for the future arrangements for accreditation and reaccreditation of general practitioners with a special interest, including the possibility of an interim arrangement. Decisions will be announced in due course.

North Korea

Questions

Asked by Lord Patten

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the numbers detained in prison camps in North Korea.[HL5519]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): We are unable to verify the numbers of people detained in North Korean prison camps because the North Korean Government will not allow independent observers access into North Korea. However, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea assessed that between 150,000 and 200,000 people may be detained in prison camps for political crimes. International non-governmental organisations have made similar assessments.

Asked by Lord Patten

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of religious freedoms in North Korea. [HL5520]

Baroness Warsi: Religious freedom in North Korea is curtailed. North Korea has a small number of state-controlled churches and other places of worship. However, there are numerous and consistent reports from defectors that some people who are involved in religion outside these state-controlled organisations (e.g. in the reportedly 500 house churches) have been imprisoned for practising their beliefs.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea highlighted the issue of religious persecution in his most recent report to the United Nations. The UK has brought this report to the attention of the North Korean Government.

Ofcom: Staff

Question

Asked by Lord Adonis

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many permanent staff are currently employed by Ofcom; and how those staff are distributed between the Ofcom offices in London, Birmingham, Haydock and Baldock.[HL5420]

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA305

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: The Office of Communications (Ofcom), which is the independent communications regulator, has set out in the table below details about the number of permanent staff, which are currently employed at each of their offices, including London, Birmingham, Haydock and Baldock:

LocationHeadcount

Riverside (London)

671

Project Park (London)

7

London Total

678

Birmingham

13

Haydock (Merseyside)

11

Baldock (Hertfordshire)

33

Glasgow

8

Belfast

7

Cardiff

4

Non London Total

76

Ofcom Grand Total

754

Olympic Truce

Question

Asked by Lord Bates

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans the Cabinet Office Olympics Legacy Unit has to build upon the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Truce.[HL5283]

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: The Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Unit is responsible for co-ordinating the contributions of all parts of government to the London 2012 Legacy, with responsibility for delivery resting with lead departments. The unit welcomes work to date by both the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Culture Media and Sport to promote the Olympic Truce, with the International Olympic Committee and future hosts Brazil and Russia, as well as through the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace. Important successes before the Games included the passage, with a record number of votes, of the UK-sponsored Olympic Truce resolution at the United Nations and the signing of a statement of co-operation with Russia.

The unit fully supports the continuing work to embed the Olympic Truce ideals in London 2012’s legacy and monitors its progress through regular updates from departmental leads. The Olympic Truce legacy meeting for future hosts next month, co-hosted by the UK Government and the International Olympic Committee, will be an excellent opportunity to make progress and representatives from the unit will attend.

Parish Councils: Tax

Question

Asked by Baroness Scott of Needham Market

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the event of a parish council tax base being altered by the district council after the precept had been set, and the resulting percentage increase in precept exceeding the threshold for triggering a referendum, such a referendum would be required.[HL5482]

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA306

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Local precepting authorities are not included in the council tax referendum principles for 2013-14, which were approved by the House of Commons on 13 February 2013, therefore such authorities will not be required to hold a referendum for any precept increase relating to that financial year. No decisions have been taken on referendum principles in respect of subsequent financial years.

Railways: Crossrail

Question

Asked by Lord Wigley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what has been the total expenditure on London’s Crossrail project to date; and what Barnett formula consequential payments have been made to the Welsh Government arising from that expenditure.[HL5504]

Earl Attlee: The total expenditure committed by Crossrail Ltd at 29 May 2012 was £2,928,548,000. Since then the total expenditure committed by Crossrail Ltd has increased to approximately £3,900,000. The next annual update on Crossrail expenditure will be made in July 2013. This expenditure has been supported by grant payments by the Department for Transport of £2,114 million.

Allocations for Crossrail were determined in the 2010 spending review. The Welsh Government received Barnett consequentials on the changes to the Department for Transport budget in the normal way as set out in the statement of funding policy. No further allocations have been subsequently made for this project.

Railways: European Rail Traffic Management System

Question

Asked by Lord Truscott

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have commissioned any studies to assess what line speed improvements on major railway lines in the United Kingdom could be achieved were the European Rail Traffic Management System to be implemented across such lines.[HL5542]

Earl Attlee: The Department for Transport has not commissioned any studies into the line speed improvements that can be achieved with European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). The department considers this the responsibility of industry to design and deliver. Network Rail will be evaluating line speed improvements for each route on which ERTMS is rolled out.

Railways: High Speed 2

Question

Asked by Lord Birt

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to extend the plan for HS2 to reach Liverpool as well as Leeds and Manchester. [HL5606]

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA307

Earl Attlee: The Government’s initial preferred route announced on 28 January included a rail hub at Crewe that will be used to provide frequent, fast services to Liverpool and other key destinations in the north-west. This hub will enable direct high speed trains to continue seamlessly to destinations like Liverpool reducing the journey time to one hour and 36 minutes from the current two hours and eight minutes.

Over the coming months, the Government and HS2 Ltd will work with MPs, local authorities, station city delivery partners and others, including environment and heritage organisations, to refine the proposals that were announced.

This period of engagement will then be followed by an extensive consultation on the preferred route, stations and depots to begin ahead of schedule later this year. This will be designed to give the public the greatest possible opportunity to comment on the plans. The final route will be chosen by the end of 2014.

Railways: Rolling Stock

Questions

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 12 February (WA 150), whether the proposed extension of the InterCity Express Programme to the east coast main line takes into account the likelihood of Eversholt refurbishing the mark 4 trains currently in use on that line and leasing them to open access operators. [HL5536]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 12 February (WA 150), what assessment they have made of the impact on the re-let franchise for the east coast main vline of the use by open access operators of refurbished mark 4 rolling stock leased from Eversholt. [HL5537]

Earl Attlee: There would be a number of potential uses of the mark 4 fleet if they were to be displaced by InterCity Express Programme (IEP) trains, including continued use on the east coast main line, use by franchise operators on other lines, or use by open access operators. The identity of any future lessee of the trains would be a matter for their owners. Any use of this fleet would also be contingent upon the necessary train paths being available and access rights being approved by the Office of Rail Regulation. No judgment about the future usage of any mark 4 vehicles that might be displaced by IEP trains has been made either in assessing the IEP Phase 2 case or in connection with the future east coast franchise.

Republic of Ireland: Financial Support

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much they are owed by the Government of the Republic of Ireland; and what arrangements they have made for repayment.[HL5498]

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA308

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): The Treasury has, to date, disbursed five tranches of £403,370,000 as part of the UK’s bilateral loan to Ireland. The total amount of principal that remains outstanding is, therefore, £2,016,850,000. Each tranche of the loan has a duration of 7.5 years, with repayment in full at the end of the 7.5 year term.

The Treasury’s statutory report on the UK’s bilateral loan to Ireland, submitted as required by the Loans to Ireland Act 2010 covers the reporting period to 30 September 2012 and is available online1.

The Treasury will provide a further statutory report on the loan as soon as is practicable following the end of the next reporting period, which ends on 31 March 2013.

1 http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/other/ 9781909096097/9781909096097.asp.

Roads: Road Safety

Question

Asked by Lord Condon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the number of road traffic accidents involving young people and their recently announced discontinuation of funding for television campaigns to promote road safety in that age group, how they plan to promote road safety to young people. [HL5484]

Earl Attlee: Road deaths are at a record low and child casualties (aged 0 to 15) have fallen considerably (child fatalities in 2011 were 53% below the 2005-09 average; killed/seriously injured down 21%). Recent published figures also show that child KSIs fell by 1% between the year ending September 2011 and 2012. However, we know that one death is one too many which is why we are focusing our THINK! campaigns where they will have the greatest impact.

We are working closely with local authorities and other partners to ensure our road safety messages are reaching children and teenagers in schools as well as providing educational resources to allow these important messages to be incorporated into the curriculum. We are enhancing the resources provided to schools—both at primary and secondary level—to make them easier to use in the classroom and will be engaging with teachers to encourage greater use of road safety examples in core curriculum subjects such as maths, science and citizenship. We also intend to make THINK! resources available to other groups who engage with children and young people.

Our THINK! campaigns are only one part of our road safety work. We are also investing in infrastructure to make our roads safer and more efficient; taking steps to make it easier for the police to enforce against drivers who break the law; and we have streamlined the process for councils to implement 20 mph zones and limits on their roads.

Royal Navy: Fishery Protection Vessels

Question

Asked by Lord Moonie

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people have been rescued from the sea by Royal Navy fishery protection vessels in each of the past three years.[HL5607]

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA309

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): The term “rescued from the sea” has been defined as person or persons who have required assistance including medical assistance, recovery from stricken vessels, and transfers to search and rescue helicopters or medical facilities ashore.

The numbers of persons rescued from the sea by Royal Navy Fishery Protection Vessels in each of the past three years are shown in the following table.

2011

2

2012

4

2013

9

These figures do not include assistance by Royal Navy Fishery Protection Vessels to fishing vessels that have caught WWII ordnance in their nets.

Schools: Academies

Question

Asked by Lord Greaves

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what advice they give to schools that are approached by the Department for Education to convert to academy status in relation to sources of independent advice on their position.[HL5622]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): At every stage in the process of becoming an Academy, each school’s leadership and governing body can seek independent advice. Department officials also provide advice in order to support schools throughout the process of becoming an Academy. Information about becoming an Academy is available on the Department for Education website: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/typesofschools/academies

Schools: Sport

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they currently set a minimum number of hours per week for physical exercise in English primary and secondary schools, and if so, what it is, what is the average number of hours achieved, and what steps they are taking to raise the minimum and average.[HL5211]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): The Government do not set a minimum target of hours per week for physical education (PE) to be taught in schools. Indeed, legislation in the Education Reform Act 1988 prohibits the Secretary of State from specifying how much time schools should devote to PE or to any other national curriculum subject.

The last year for which the department holds data on the participation of school children in physical education and sport is 2009-10 when the average time that pupils spent on PE each week was 127 minutes in primary schools and 107 minutes in secondary schools.

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA310

We are currently working with other government departments to explore a range of options to build on the legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and to help to create a sporting habit for life for young people. An announcement will be made shortly.

Smoking: Electronic Cigarettes

Question

Asked by Lord Condon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proposals they have to regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes, in particular in relation to the age of person they are sold to and the potential classification of such products as medication.[HL5483]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): There are a number of products on the market which claim to contain nicotine, such as electronic cigarettes, which are widely available but are not licensed medicines. Currently, any nicotine-containing product (NCP) which claims or implies that it can treat nicotine addiction is considered to be a medicinal product. This approach has allowed NCPs which do not make such claims to be used and sold without the safeguards built into the regulation of medicinal products.

In March 2011, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) published the outcome of a public consultation on whether to bring all NCPs within the medicines licensing regime. The response to consultation highlighted the need for further information to inform a decision. The MHRA is currently bringing to a conclusion a period of scientific and market research with a view to a final decision on the application of medicines regulation in spring 2013. The Government are concerned to ensure that an effective, proportionate regulatory framework exists to ensure acceptable standards of quality, safety and efficacy.

NCPs that make no medicinal claim are currently covered by the provisions of the general product safety directive and associated regulations. There is currently no age restriction on the sale of NCPs. If NCPs were regulated as medicinal products, appropriate age and advertising restrictions would form part of the regulatory regime.

Social Care: Funding

Question

Asked by Baroness Quin

To ask Her Majesty’s Government to what extent they consider regional variations in house prices in formulating their policy on social care funding. [HL5517]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The policy put forward by the Secretary of State in his Oral Statement on 11 February 2013 (Official Report, col. 592-94) ensures that people of the same wealth living in different areas make the same lifetime contribution towards their care costs. This ensures that people are treated equally despite any regional price variations.

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA311

Sudan

Question

Asked by The Earl of Sandwich

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have received about allegations of arrest, detainment and torture of Nuba women in Kadugli in South Kordofan, Sudan; and whether they will make representations to the Government of Sudan on the matter.[HL5613]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): We are deeply concerned at reports that Nuban women have been detained and tortured in Kadugli, Sudan, although we have not received specific information on those detained. We encourage the Government of Sudan to respect freedom of expression fully, and to promote an environment where civil society can exist freely and contribute to a national dialogue. Our embassy in Khartoum continues to make these points on a regular basis to the Sudanese government, as well as pressing for a cessation of hostilities in the Nuba Mountains and full humanitarian access to all those affected.

Syria

Question

Asked by Lord Selkirk of Douglas

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Northover on 11 February (WA 129–30) regarding contributions to humanitarian aid for refugees in and around Syria, what funding has been pledged by the European Union and the United States in response to the growth in refugee numbers.[HL5562]

Baroness Northover: The UK is lobbying the international community at every opportunity to step up their funding for those affected by the crisis in Syria. We welcome all contributions in these very difficult circumstances, but the commitments to which the question refers are not ones for which DfID has responsibility. Further information on European Union commitments can be found at: http://www.ec.europa.eu/echo/files/aid/countries/factsheets/syria_en.pdf and information on United States commitments can be found at http://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/working-crises-and-conflict/responding-times-crisis/where-we-work/syria.

Taxation: Corporation Tax

Questions

Asked by Lord Empey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether HM Revenue and Customs allows United Kingdom companies to offset corporation tax in the United Kingdom as a result of losses incurred in other European Union countries.[HL5474]

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA312

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether HM Revenue and Customs has agreed to the importation of tax losses incurred by Bank of Scotland (Ireland) by the Bank of Scotland PLC.[HL5475]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have been consulted by Lloyds Banking Group on the tax treatment of the losses incurred by Bank of Scotland (Ireland); and, if so, what was their response.[HL5476]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): Corporation tax legislation only allows losses incurred in other EU countries to be relieved against profits arising in the UK in limited circumstances, where a number of strict criteria are met. Chapter 3, Part 5 of the Corporation Tax Act 2010 sets out the criteria.

Taxpayer confidentiality precludes HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) commenting on the circumstances of individual taxpayers.

The Government have not engaged in any consultation with Lloyds Banking Group on the tax treatment of the losses incurred by Bank of Scotland (Ireland).

Taxation: Employment Status

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment as to the employment classification of those selling the Big Issue for the purposes of assessing tax liabilities and benefit entitlements. [HL5056]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): A Big Issue vendor, registered with and operating in accordance with the code of conduct of the Big Issue, is likely to be classed as self employed on the basis that he or she is carrying on a trade. This general view is based on well established principles in respect of determining whether activities amount to a trade, developed from a large body of case law on the matter. Ultimately, however, an individual’s employment status for tax or benefits purposes would depend on the individual circumstances of the case, as the question is, primarily, one of fact.

Taxation: Inheritance Tax

Question

Asked by Baroness Browning

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the tax revenue collected under the inheritance tax lifetime gifts rule (seven-year rule) for each of the years 2005 to date.[HL5552]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): Evidence on tax revenue collected under the inheritance tax lifetime gifts rule is limited, but the tax impact of failed, potentially exempt transfers (gifts

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA313

which are made within seven years of death), is estimated to have been around f300 million in each year between 2005-06 and 2009-10.

UK Biolndustry Association

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what response Ministers have made to the UK BioIndustry Association report Citizens’ Innovation Funds. [HL5544]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie): The Government are committed to creating an environment in which innovation can thrive and help drive economic growth. Ministers have met with the BioIndustry Association to discuss their Citizens Innovation Fund proposal and meetings have also taken place at official level to consider the best way forward.

UN: Ruggie Principles

Question

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what training sessions have been held for staff in United Kingdom embassies on the United Nations Ruggie principles; and whether such sessions are incorporated in the standard training for all staff.[HL5438]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and UK Trade and Investment include the UN guiding principles in their commercial training courses, which are aimed at staff working with businesses

26 Feb 2013 : Column WA314

both in the UK and overseas. The FCO also includes business and human rights on both their introductory and advanced human right training courses, which are open to all staff but are particularly relevant to those with a human rights portfolio. Additionally, a business and human rights toolkit, which includes the UN guiding principles and how to promote responsible business behaviour overseas, is available to staff for further guidance.

Western Sahara

Question

Asked by Lord Steel of Aikwood

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 5 February (WA 55), whether ministers will also meet representatives of the Polisario Front to discuss Western Sahara. [HL5570]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): Ministers do not have direct contact with the Polisario Front.

The Government strongly support UN-led efforts to encourage the parties to the negotiations, Morocco and the Polisario Front, to agree a long-lasting and mutually-acceptable political solution that provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

As part of that process, the UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy to Western Sahara, Ambassador Christopher Ross, visited the region in September and October 2012 and met with a wide range of interlocutors including from the Governments of Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario leadership. Ambassador Ross also paid a visit to London earlier this month, when he met with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the honourable Member for North East Bedfordshire, Alistair Burt, as well as with senior officials.