3 Mar 2014 : Column WA277

Written Answers

Monday 3 March 2014

Armed Forces: Medals

Question

Asked by Lord Ashcroft

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have any plans to extend the Bomber Command campaign medal to ground crews.[HL5515]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): In his independent Medal Review, Sir John Holmes concluded that the aircrew of Bomber Command had been treated inconsistently with those who served in Fighter Command. The award of the clasp to Bomber Command aircrew to be worn on the 1939-45 Star brings this Command into line with Fighter Command aircrew who were awarded a Battle of Britain clasp.

The position regarding Bomber Command ground crew is that they, like those of other commands and Services who gave valuable service in the UK, were recognised by their entitlement to the Defence Medal. This matter has been fully considered and we understand that Sir John has no plans to review his recommendation to award the clasp to aircrew only.

Coroner’s Inquests

Question

Asked by Lord Turnberg

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many inquests in 2012 were still pending 26 weeks after death.[HL4903]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): The Ministry of Justice collects annual data from Coroners on the number of cases where an inquest was either concluded, or adjourned, in England and Wales. In 2012, the average time taken was 26 weeks.

In 2012, of the 30,562 inquests concluded or adjourned, 10,746 (35%) took longer than 6 months.

The information can be found in the csv file that accompanies the Coroners Statistics 2012.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coroners-statistics

Significant reforms have been put in place to drive improvement of the coroner system, including a requirement for all investigations to be completed within six months unless there are extenuating circumstances and for the Chief Coroner to be notified of any investigation which lasts longer than a year. Post-mortem examinations and inquests can now be held outside of the coroner’s area, to help reduce delays, and coroner’s investigations can be transferred to another district if necessary.

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA278

Discretionary Social Fund

Questions

Asked by Baroness King of Bow

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why they ended funding to local authorities for the Crisis Loan and Community Care Grant element of the discretionary Social Fund.[HL4970]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions Ministers had with representatives of local government before deciding to end funding for the Crisis Loan and Community Care Grant elements of the discretionary Social Fund.[HL4971]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): The nationally-run Community Care Grants and Loans were poorly targeted and failed to help those most in need. So, in April 2012 as part of wider welfare reform, the Department for Work and Pensions transferred responsibility to local authorities so councils could deliver and tailor new local support as part of their existing services to their communities.

Councils will continue to provide support to those in their community who face financial difficulties or who find themselves in unavoidable circumstances, but there is no requirement to replicate the previous approach adopted by central government.

In contrast to a centralised grant system that was poorly targeted, under the Department for Work and Pensions reforms, councils can now choose how best to support local welfare needs within their areas—what is right for, say, urban Camden may not be for rural Cumbria. Some councils have already chosen to wind down their dedicated schemes following underspends this year.

In the next Spending Round period, from April 2015, central government continues to provide support to local authorities through general funds as part of the Coalition Government’s commitment to reducing ring-fencing and ending top-down Whitehall control.

This decision was taken at the Spending Round 2013 by the Department for Work and Pensions, reflecting in part the ongoing need for welfare reform to help pay off the deficit left by the last Administration. The Government consulted widely with local authorities on service pressures and finances as part of the preparation for the Spending Round and this was laid out alongside December's Local Government Finance Settlement.

I would observe that those on benefits are able to apply for benefit advances. In addition, community-run credit unions can provide affordable, responsible credit, and the Government is supporting them with £150 million of investment over the current Spending Review period.

Asked by Baroness Lister of Burtersett

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when and where they first announced that the money devolved from the Social Fund to fund local discretionary welfare provision would no longer be provided as separate funding after 2014–15.[HL5077]

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA279

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The nationally-run Community Care Grants and Loans were poorly targeted and failed to help those most in need. So, in April 2012 as part of wider welfare reform, the Department for Work and Pensions transferred responsibility to local authorities so councils could deliver and tailor new local support as part of their existing services to their communities.

Councils will continue to provide support to those in their community who face financial difficulties or who find themselves in unavoidable circumstances, but there is no requirement to replicate the previous approach adopted by central government.

In contrast to a centralised grant system that was poorly targeted, under the Department for Work and Pensions reforms, councils can now choose how best to support local welfare needs within their areas—what is right for, say, urban Camden may not be for rural Cumbria. Some councils have already chosen to wind down their dedicated schemes following underspends this year.

In the next Spending Round period, from April 2015, central government continues to provide support to local authorities through general funds as part of the Coalition Government's commitment to reducing ring-fencing and ending top-down Whitehall control.

This decision was taken at the Spending Round 2013 by the Department for Work and Pensions, reflecting in part the ongoing need for welfare reform to help pay off the deficit left by the last Administration. The Government consulted widely with local authorities on service pressures and finances as part of the preparation for the Spending Round and this was laid out alongside December's Local Government Finance Settlement.

I would observe that those on benefits are able to apply for benefit advances. In addition, community-run credit unions can provide affordable, responsible credit, and the Government is supporting them with £150 million of investment over the current Spending Review period.

Egypt

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the latest estimate they have received of the number of persons detained in Egypt since 1 July 2013; and what representations they are making to the government of Egypt for the trial or release of such persons.[HL5520]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): We have no definite figures on the numbers of persons detained in Egypt since 1 July 2013. Human Rights Watch estimate that at least 3,500 Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been arrested.

In July 2013, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt. Hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), called on the Egyptian authorities to release political detainees or

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA280

charge them in accordance with the law, free from any suspicion that charges were politically motivated. In December 2013, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mr Simmonds), expressed concern about the sentencing of three human rights activists in Egypt. Most recently in February 2014, the Foreign Secretary issued a statement setting out his concerns about freedom of expression and the charging of journalists in Egypt. This month the EU Foreign Affairs Council conclusions called for the Egyptian interim authorities to protect defendants’ rights to a fair and timely trial based on clear charges and proper and independent investigations, as well as the right of access and contact to lawyers and family members.

Energy: Fracking

Question

Asked by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to ensure property is insurable from damage caused by fracking.[HL5573]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma) (Con): There is no reason to expect that hydraulic fracturing activities will have any adverse impact on property in the vicinity. There has been no evidence of any such effect in the UK to date, in over half a century of oil and gas exploration and production. Gas and oil production from shale rock through hydraulic fracturing should be broadly similar to the existing gas and oil production in terms of the impacts on health, local amenities and so on. The activities will be subject to the same robust safety and environmental regime, supplemented by new controls against seismic risks.

In addition, the UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG), which is the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry, has published a Community Engagement Charter for the exploration and production of unconventional gas:

http://www.ukoog.org.uk/elements/pdfs/communityengagementcharterversion6.pdf

The Charter commits the industry to ensure that operators have, in place, insurance as well as response plans for the full range of operational events. The Department of Energy and Climate Change checks that licensees have insurance before granting consent to drill. Licensees are fully responsible for any damage caused by their activities, and have no immunity.

EU: Patent Court

Question

Asked by Lord Bowness

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they expect that the United Kingdom will sign the agreement on the European Patent Court; and what ratification procedures, if any, are needed before it can be done. [HL5592]

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA281

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie) (Con): The Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills signed the agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC) on behalf of the United Kingdom on 19 February 2013.

The Government expects to be ready to ratify the agreement before the end of the current Parliament. The text of the agreement was deposited in Parliament as a command paper on 14 June 2013. This was the first step in the ratification process which will only be completed when the Government deposits an instrument of ratification with the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union as required under article 84(2) of the UPC agreement.

Before formal ratification, it is necessary to make changes to national law to ensure compliance with the UPC agreement. The current Intellectual Property (IP) Bill includes an enabling power which will allow the Government to implement the necessary changes by secondary legislation, subject to the approval of each House of Parliament, later this year. A public consultation on the changes to national law will be run later in the spring of 2014.

Flooding

Question

Asked by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking with regard to the building of flood defences following the recent flooding in the United Kingdom.[HL5572]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): In 2014/15, the Environment Agency will invest £344 million in new and ongoing flood and coastal erosion risk management schemes. Once complete, these schemes will reduce the risk of flooding for around 43,000 homes and businesses across England.

Over the six-year period from 2015/16 to 2020/21, new flood and coastal erosion risk management schemes will reduce the risk of flooding to at least 300,000 additional properties.

Following the recent flooding, the Environment Agency is prioritising repairs to damaged flood and coastal erosion risk management schemes where there is the greatest risk to people and property. Work to fully recover these schemes to pre-flood positions will continue well into the year. The Government has announced that an extra £130 million will be available in 2013/14 and 2014/15 which will fund costs incurred by the Environment Agency during the current emergency response and recovery as well as essential repairs and maintenance to ensure that critical defences are in the necessary condition.

Gaza

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the governments of Israel and Egypt about the availability of fuel in Gaza.[HL5519]

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA282

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): We are encouraging Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other interested parties including Egypt to find both an immediate and long-term solution to Gaza’s energy crisis. The Minister of State for International Development, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr Duncan), held detailed discussions on this issue with Israeli and Palestinian officials during his visit to the region on 12-15 January.

Government Departments: Capital Projects

Question

Asked by Lord Higgins

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what rate of discount is used in evaluating government capital projects such as HS2; and whether the same rate of discount is used for evaluating other government projects and subsidised projects such as wind farms. [HL5554]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): The discount rate used in appraising all public sector projects, including HS2 and renewable energy programmes, is the social time preference rate of 3.5%. The methodology around the appraisal of public sector projects is set out in the Green Book.

Government Departments: Payroll Services

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which organisations the Home Office allows to receive payments by the use of payroll deduction facilities. [HL5285]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): The Ministry of Justice Payroll Services made deductions from salary on behalf of Home Office staff in January 2014 for the 46 organisations listed at Table.

This does not include salary sacrifice schemes offered internally by the Home Office.

HO. Table 1

AFFINITY SELECT INS S

AIG EUROPE UK

BHCA HEALTH SHIELD

BENENDEN HEALTH

BIRMINGHAM HOSP

BUPA CASH PLAN

C & E CLUB WALES

CPSA

CHARITY FOR CS

CS CLUB

CS MED AID ASS

CS SPORTS COUNCIL

CUST FUND

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA283

CUST FUND INS

FAMILY FRIENDLY

FIRST DIV ASS

FORESTER HEALTH PSY

GEN MUN WORKS

HO BOOTLE SP SOC

HO GOLF SOCIETY

HEALTH SCHEME HULL

HEALTHSURE GROUP

ENGAGE MUTUAL ASS

HOSP SAT FUND

HOSP SAV ASS SIN

HOSP SAV ASSN

IPMS PROSPECT

IMMIGRATION UNION

LEEDS & DIST

MEDICASH

NPS MED CASH PLAN

PCS

PSLA ASS

PETERBOROUGH PO SP

SIMPLY HEALTH

SOV PERS ACC PLAN

SOVER HEALTH CARE

SUNLIFE (Friends Life)

TGWU

UNISON

WELSH HOSP

WESTFIELD HLTH SCH

ETHOS

Give As You Earn

PSCF

PSSA

Health: Cancer

Question

Asked by Lord Turnberg

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of value-based assessments by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence on the availability of medicines for patients with cancer.[HL5559]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): The Government has not made an assessment of the impact of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's proposals for value-based assessment as the Institute has not yet published its proposals.

Health: Prescription Prepayment Certificates

Question

Asked by Lord Turnberg

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact the publicity campaign by the Department of Health on prescription prepayment certificates has had on the uptake of those certificates.[HL5557]

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA284

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): The following table shows the number of prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs) purchased in England in each calendar year 2011 to 2013. The publicity campaign to promote the uptake of PPCs commenced in late 2012.

The general trend in PPC uptake has continued to increase steadily over the last three complete calendar years. The increase in 2013 may be due to a number of factors including the publicity campaign, increases in the number of prescription items and a freeze in the price of PPCs.

Annual sales of PPCs in England 1, 2
Year3 month PPCs12 month PPCsAll PPCs

2011

676,844

658,314

1,335,158

2012

684,897

742,873

1,427,770

2013

690,515

832,348

1,522,863

Source

:NHS Business Services Authority

Note:

1. The data includes new and renewed PPC purchases.

2. The figures provided include PPCs which have been issued and refunded at a later date. A patient can apply for a proportional refund of the amount paid for a PPC if their circumstances change and the patient becomes exempt or are entitled to remission from NHS prescription charges.

Housing

Question

Asked by Baroness Turner of Camden

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people they estimate have been incorrectly charged the under-occupancy charge; what plans they have to refund those people; and when any refunds will be paid.[HL5547]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): The department does not hold all the detailed information needed to make a precise estimate of the numbers affected. On the basis of the information available to us in the housing benefit administrative data collected from local authorities, we estimate the numbers affected are likely to be fewer than 5,000 nationally, but there is considerable uncertainty around this estimate.

Local authorities administer housing benefit and it is for them to consider any requests for compensation for late payment of Housing Benefit via their local complaints process.

If a claimant remains dissatisfied with this process they may contact the Local Government Ombudsman.

Human Rights

Question

Asked by Lord Mendelsohn

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 11 February (WA 126), what reports they regularly receive from international non-governmental organisations and private sector organisations evaluating human rights. [HL5506]

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA285

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The Government receives a large number and wide range of reports from international Non Governmental Organisations and private sector organisations evaluating human rights, some of them on a regular basis.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in particular receives a great many such reports. However, many of these are received and held by embassies and high commissions; the promotion of human rights and democracy being mainstreamed within the FCO, its overseas network monitoring human rights in different countries and engaging with local civil society groups. It is therefore extremely difficult to compile a comprehensive list of reports received. Moreover, officials and ministers draw on a wide range of information in policy making, not only reports contributed by external organisations.

Human Trafficking

Questions

Asked by Baroness Doocey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will publish their response to the report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery on the collection, exchange and use of data about human trafficking and modern slavery.[HL5552]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): The Government welcomes the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery’s report on the collection, exchange and use of data about human trafficking and modern slavery. We will consider the recommendations in full, alongside the recommendations arising out of the pre-legislative scrutiny Select Committee, and reflect these through the Modern Slavery Bill which we will introduce later this year, the Modern Slavery Action Plan to be published in the spring, and the National Referral Mechanism review.

Asked by Baroness Doocey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when Ofsted plans to report on the effectiveness of local authorities to help and protect child victims of trafficking. [HL5553]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): This question is a matter for Ofsted. I have asked Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, to write to the noble Lady. A copy of his response will be placed in the House Library.

Immigration

Question

Asked by Lord Condon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to liaise with the French authorities to deter potential illegal immigrants who are coming via Calais and the surrounding area from arriving through Kent ports.[HL5602]

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA286

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): The UK works closely and collaboratively with the French authorities on all matters of border security and cross border criminality to maintain the integrity of our joint border controls.

The Home Office and Border Force have significant engagement with the French, to enhance UK/France co-operation in tackling Organised Immigration Crime.

Border Force also works with the French border control authorities and port security to test and deploy the most effective detection technologies, which has included the investment of £2m to replace and upgrade the Passive Millimetre Wave Imaging (PMMWI) equipment, currently deployed in the juxtaposed locations of Calais and Coquelles.

Over 11,000 attempts to cross the Channel illegally were prevented in the 2012/13 financial year.

Immigration: Deportation

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many children were separated from their parents as a result of deportation in each of the last three years. [HL5319]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): The information requested is not held centrally.

India

Question

Asked by Lord Ahmed

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they recognise the Sikh nation’s right to self-determination under Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966; and, if not, why not. [HL5415]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): This is a matter for the Indian authorities.

India: Golden Temple, Amritsar

Question

Asked by The Lord Bishop of Coventry

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have received from Sikh organisations in the United Kingdom following the publication of the Cabinet Secretary's report on the Indian operation at Sri Harmandir Sahib.[HL5518]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): We continue to take the views of the Sikh community on this matter very seriously, and round-table meetings were hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 4th February

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA287

and by the Department for Communities and Local Government on 25

th

February. The following organisations took part:

4th February

Sikh Council UK

Network of Sikh Organisations (UK)

Federation of Sikh Organisations

Sikh Organisation of Prisoner Welfare

Sikh Community and Youth Services

Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar

Akhand Kirtani Jatha

Sikh Youth Project

Kesri Leher/1984 Genocide Coalition

Akali Dal

Sikhs in England

United Sikhs

City Sikhs Network

Sikh Federation UK

25th February

Sikh Council UK

Federation of Sikh Organisations

Sikh Organisation of Prisoner Welfare

Kesri Leher

Sikh Community and Youth Services

Sikhs in England

City Sikhs Network

Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha

Sikh Federation UK

Indian Workers Association

Young Sikhs UK

Sikh Care Society Heathrow

Sikh Community and Youth Services

Network of Sikh Organisations (UK)

Internet: Young People

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the deaths of Sasha Steadman and Tallulah Wilson, what action they are taking to protect young people who visit self-harm and suicide sites on the internet.[HL5342]

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): The Government takes the issue of child safety online very seriously and has engaged intensively with industry; as a result we have set out a series of measures to help parents keep children safe online. The four main ISPs have committed to giving their customers an easy way to install family friendly filters that will protect all devices in the home. These allow parents to prevent their children from accessing potentially harmful content. All the major ISPs have a category which covers self-harm and suicide, allowing parents to prevent their children from viewing this content.

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA288

In addition, the new national curriculum will see children aged 5 to 16 taught about internet safety in a sensible, age-appropriate way, a really important step to help children and young people understand some of the issues.

However, there is no silver bullet and social media sites and users also need to take responsibility. If individuals are having conversations about harming themselves, then both social media sites and other users should point them to places where they can get help.

We have been clear that we expect social media companies to respond quickly to incidents of abusive behaviour on their networks. This includes having easy to use reporting tools, robust processes in place to respond promptly when abuse is reported and where appropriate, suspending or terminating the accounts of those who do not comply with the acceptable use policies. We will shortly be meeting a number of social media companies to discuss what more might be done to protect young people when they are online.

Iran

Questions

Asked by Lord Carlile of Berriew

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the position of President Rouhani in respect of human rights inside Iran.[HL5540]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): We welcome the initial positive steps taken by President Rouhani on human rights, such as the release of a number of political prisoners in September 2013. However, the human rights situation in Iran remains dire and we are particularly concerned by reports that the rate of executions has increased in 2014. We hope that President Rouhani will act on the pledges he has made, implement social reforms and improve the rights of all citizens in Iran. In the meantime, we will continue to press Iran to improve its terrible human rights record.

Asked by Lord Carlile of Berriew

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the current role of Iran in respect of terrorism in Iraq, Syria and the wider Middle East; and whether they will consider imposing sanctions as a means to reducing any such role. [HL5541]

Baroness Warsi: We remain deeply concerned at Iran’s material support for groups such as the military wings of Hamas and Hizballah, as well as its support for the Assad regime, armed groups in Iraq, and across the broader Middle East. There is a significant body of international sanctions which target such activity. This includes UN prohibitions on the export of weapons by Iran, and EU and UN travel bans and asset freezes on leading members of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA289

Asked by Lord Carlile of Berriew

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what account they have taken of the human rights record of the current government of Iran as part of their negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.[HL5542]

Baroness Warsi: The UK, France, EU, China, Russia, and the United States (E3+3) negotiations with Iran are focussed solely on Iran’s nuclear programme. They do not address broader concerns about Iran’s activity, such as its appalling human rights record. Irrespective of the recent and welcome progress in nuclear talks, the UK continues to press Iran to improve its approach to human rights.

Asked by Lord Carlile of Berriew

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps have been taken to prevent weaponry from Iran reaching Syria across Iraqi airspace.[HL5543]

Baroness Warsi: We have raised concerns with the Government of Iraq about Iranian support reaching the Assad regime through its airspace. Other international partners have raised their concerns in similar terms. There are UN prohibitions on the export of weapons by Iran, as well as a prohibition on third countries procuring arms from Iran. The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is the main body providing support to the Syrian regime from Iran, and the EU and UN have already placed travel bans and assets freezes on leading members of the IRGC and IRGC entities.

Iraq: Chilcot Inquiry

Questions

Asked by Lord Morris of Aberavon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the statement by the Prime Minister on 15 June 2009 (HC Deb, col 21–38) that the final report of the Chilcot Inquiry would be able to “disclose all but the most sensitive information—that is, all information except that which is essential to our national security”, whether the Inquiry continues to operate under those terms.[HL5503]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why the ministerial veto was used to overturn the Information Commissioner’s ruling on the disclosure of the minutes of Cabinet meetings prior to the Iraq war; and why that route was preferred to an appeal to the courts as in the case of Plowden.[HL5505]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): The terms under which the Chilcot Inquiry is operating are set out in the Protocol between the Inquiry and Her Majesty’s Government regarding documents and other written and electronic communication. They have not changed since the Inquiry’s inception in June 2009. A copy of the Protocol is available on the Inquiry’s website:

http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/background/protocols.aspx

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA290

Each request under the Freedom of Information Act is considered on its merits and handled accordingly. The reasons for the use of the veto on the disclosure of Cabinet minutes prior to the Iraq war are a matter of public record.

Israel

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they will take to ensure that the Jordan Valley is not annexed by Israel.[HL5487]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The United Kingdom and our European partners have reiterated, including in the EU Foreign Affairs Council conclusions of December 2012, that we would not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders other than those agreed by the parties.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Israel concerning the deployment of a neutral United Nations force to police the Jordan Valley.[HL5488]

Baroness Warsi: We have had no such discussions. The issue of future security arrangements is one of the subjects for discussions between the parties in the ongoing final status negotiations.

Morocco

Question

Asked by Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Morocco following reports that Sahrawis were injured when Moroccan forces intervened in protests in El Aaiun on 15 February.[HL5534]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): We are aware of reports of an incident. We follow events in Western Sahara closely. We raise human rights issues relating to Western Sahara regularly with the Moroccan authorities, including at senior level in Rabat and during the Embassy’s regular visits to Western Sahara.

NHS England

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they consider NHS England’s policies on disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and on registering meetings with lobbyists to be in line with the policies at the Department of Health.[HL5481]

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA291

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): NHS England's policies on disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is a matter for its board. It must, however, comply with the principles of the Cabinet Office's model code for staff of executive non-departmental public bodies. Assurance is undertaken as an integral part of their internal control, and is subject to scrutiny by their external auditors. As such, NHS England's policies are consistent with the Department's own policies, which are derived from the Civil Service Code.

NHS England supports on-going discussions with the wider health and social care system, patients, the public, industry and their representatives, these being essential to inform their work, learn from best practice elsewhere, identify areas for improvement and encourage innovation. As with the Department, NHS England does not require staff to record all meetings with outside bodies. However, any form of hospitality must be recorded in accordance with their published standards of conduct, and a register of such hospitality is maintained.

Offenders: Reoffending

Questions

Asked by Lord Carlile of Berriew

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what training probation staff in England and Wales will receive in order to apply the new Risk of Serious Recidivism calculator.[HL5315]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what additional guidance will be given to probation staff when using the Risk of Serious Recidivism calculator. [HL5380]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): Public protection is at the heart of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. The National Probation Service (NPS) will carry out a risk assessment of all offenders and will be responsible for the direct management of those offenders who pose the highest risk of serious harm to the public and who have committed the most serious offences. Every offender will be risk assessed prior to allocation to any probation provider and their risk will be reviewed when there are indicators that their risk of serious harm has increased to high. Offenders who are deemed to pose a medium and low risk will be managed by a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC).

In order to assist with the risk assessment of offenders, we have developed a Risk of Serious Recidivism (RSR) predictor which uses the same analytical approach as our existing predictors OGRS and the OASys Violence Predictor (OVP). This is an established methodology subject to quality assurance and peer review. The predictor and user guidance has been thoroughly tested with a number of Trusts and has been shown to be a strong predictor of serious reoffending. Training has begun and will be cascaded through Trusts to all staff who need to use the tool. Comprehensive user guidance has recently been issued to Trusts to facilitate transition to the new processes.

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA292

Prisoners: Vietnamese Prisoners

Question

Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many Vietnamese prisoners are in each of the prisons in England and Wales; and whether they plan to concentrate those inmates in fewer prisons, to reduce the difficulties of communicating with them. [HL5173]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): The table below lists those prisons which at 31 December 2013 held prisoners who gave their nationality as Vietnamese.

There are no plans to concentrate foreign national prisoners in fewer prisons on the basis of their nationality alone.

Access to translation facilities is available in all prisons to enable staff to communicate with prisoners who are unable to speak English.

Altcourse

6

Bedford

2

Belmarsh

3

Birmingham

15

Brinsford

2

Brixton

2

Bronzefield

2

Bullingdon

5

Bure

1

Cardiff

5

Chelmsford

1

Deerbolt

4

Doncaster

1

Dovegate

2

Eastwood Park

2

Exeter

1

Featherstone

7

Feltham

2

Forest Bank

2

Foston Hall

11

Glen Parva

2

Haverigg

1

Hewell

17

High Down

2

Highpoint (North and South)

2

Holloway

1

Holme House

5

Huntercombe

8

Isis

1

Lancaster Farms

1

Leeds

8

Leicester

1

Lewes

1

Littlehey

1

Liverpool

5

Long Lartin

2

Low Newton

2

Maidstone

14

Manchester

4

Moorland / Hatfield

5

Mount

1

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA293

New Hall

5

Northumberland (1)

1

Norwich

3

Nottingham

2

Oakwood

1

Parc

2

Pentonville

5

Peterborough (2)

9

Portland

4

Preston

4

Ranby

5

Risley

6

Rye Hill

1

Stoke Heath

3

Swaleside (Sheppey cluster)

4

Swansea

1

Thameside

1

Wandsworth

2

Winchester

1

Woodhill

5

Wormwood Scrubs

7

Dover IRC

5

Haslar IRC

3

Morton Hall IRC

7

All

247

1) HMP Northumberland is the new name for Acklington and Castington

2) Peterborough is a dual purpose prison for men and women

Prisons: Staff and Safety

Question

Asked by Baroness Stern

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they have taken in the light of the report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons on Norwich prison that A wing of the prison was “not safe” and staffing levels were “completely inadequate”.[HL5442]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): Action has been and is being taken to improve safety on A Wing at HMP Norwich. HMP Norwich now has extra staff from HMP Blundeston (following this prison’s closure), so the prison is now fully staffed. This has allowed HMP Norwich to improve the supervision of prisoners and deal more effectively

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA294

with incidents of violence and anti-social behaviour. A Wing staff have a particularly challenging role as they are responsible for caring for a diverse population of prisoners, and additional managers have now been placed onto this unit to support front line work. This will result in significant improvement in the care of new arrivals at the prison and those taking part in substance misuse interventions.

The new Safer Custody Manager and the Head of Residence and Safety at HMP Norwich are working closely with their teams and partner agency to improve safety, care and decency within the prison. Particular focus is being given to the effective identification and support of prisoners that are at risk of harming themselves. This includes a determined management push to improve the quality of ACCT (Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork) care plans and management.

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is comprehensively reviewing how we manage violence in prisons with a view to introducing further improvements to ensure prisons are safer places for everyone. This will provide Governors with the tools to create safer prison environments and to help reduce re-offending.

Public Order Act 1986 and Communications Act 2003

Questions

Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many prosecutions have been brought in the last 10 years under sections 4A and 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.[HL5205]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many prosecutions brought in the last 10 years under sections 4A and 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 have resulted in a guilty verdict.[HL5206]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): The number of defendants proceeded against at magistrates' court and found guilty at all courts for offences under section 4A and 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 in England and Wales from 2002 to 2012 (latest available) can be viewed in the table.

Defendants proceeded against at magistrates' court and found guilty at all courts for offences under section 4A and 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, England and Wales, 2002-2012(1)(2)
OutcomeStatute2002200320042005200620072008(3)2009201020112012

Proceeded against (4)

Public Order Act 1986 section 4A (6)

2,270

2,494

2,983

3,599

4,337

4,933

5,097

5,879

5,124

4,487

4,343

Public Order Act 1986 section 5 (7)

24,677

26,698

26,824

26,835

29,211

30,933

28,179

26,500

24,248

19,540

13,923

Communications Act 2003 section 127 (8)

*

*

214

355

550

680

872

1,126

1,511

1,680

1,787

Found guilty (5)

Public Order Act 1986 section 4A (6)

1,190

1,351

1,702

2,125

2,653

3,264

3,552

4,099

3,719

3,244

2,957

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA295

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA296

Public Order Act 1986 section 5 (7)

16,672

18,400

19,356

19,608

21,574

23,971

22,620

21,225

19,458

15,802

11,217

Communications Act 2003 section 127 (8)

*

*

143

260

377

498

693

873

1,186

1,309

1,423

* Not applicable

(1) The figures given in the table on court proceedings relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences it is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe.

(2) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.

(3) Excludes data for Cardiff magistrates' court for April, July and August 2008.

(4) Defendants proceeded against in one year may not have their final “case outcome” (i.e. found guilty or acquitted) in the same year (e.g. case may be committed for trial at the Crown Court )

(5) The number of defendants found guilty in a particular year may exceed the number proceeded against as the proceedings in the magistrates' court took place in an earlier year and the defendants were found guilty at the Crown Court in the following year; or the defendants were found guilty of a different offence to that for which they were originally proceeded against.

(6) Public Order Act 1986 s4A includes:

Causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress

Racially aggravated causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress

Religiously aggravated causing intentional harassment alarm or distress

Racially or religiously aggravated causing intentional harassment alarm or distress

(7) Public Order Act 1986 s5 includes:

Racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress

Religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress

Racially or religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress

Harassment, alarm or distress

(8) Communication Act 2003 s127 includes:

Sending or causing sending of grossly offensive / indecent / obscene / menacing or false message / matter by electronic communications network

Source:

Justice Statistics Analytical Services - Ministry of Justice.

Royal Mail: Remuneration

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to Written Answer by Viscount Younger of Leckie on 5 February (WA 65), whether they will be voting on remuneration at the forthcoming Royal Mail Annual General Meeting; and, if so, how.[HL5526]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie) (Con): None of Royal Mail's shareholders, including the Government, have seen the resolutions relating to remuneration that will be tabled at the Royal Mail Annual General Meeting (AGM). It would not be appropriate to speculate on how the Government will exercise its vote at the AGM on these issues.

Taxation: PAYE

Question

Asked by Lord Hamilton of Epsom

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether employers remain able to pay PAYE to HM Revenue and Customs by cheque.[HL5579]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): HM Revenue and Customs accepts payment of PAYE by cheque from employers who have fewer than 250 employees. Large employers (more than 250 employees) must pay electronically.

Further information is available on the HMRC website at:

www.hmrc.gov.uk/payinghmrc.

Transforming Rehabilitation

Question

Asked by Baroness Corston

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that women's rehabilitation centres do not close due to any lack of funding before Transforming Rehabilitation contracts are awarded.[HL5263]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): We invested £5.8m on specific services for female offenders in the community in 2013/14, through Trust contract and partnership arrangements. This figure includes the £3.78m specifically ring-fenced for this purpose. We are committed to the continued funding of existing women’s community services during the transitional period of the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme.

The contracts that are in place between Probation Trusts and Women's Community Services in 2014/15 will then transfer to the respective Community Rehabilitation Companies. Potential new providers of probation services will be required to show how they

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA297

are going to meet the needs of female offenders as they develop their bids and this will be a key evaluation criteria.

Turkey

Question

Asked by Lord Patten

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the recent decision of the Turkish Parliament to remove senior independent officials from the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors and its effect on discussions regarding Turkish accession to the European Union.[HL5574]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): We support the assessment of the European Commission, which has acknowledged the progress made by Turkey in recent years. The Commission has highlighted the need to engage in early consultations on all laws related to both the accession process and the political criteria. Where concerns are raised, the Commission has undertaken to support Turkey to ensure compatibility with EU standards.

We encourage the Turkish government to ensure that the implementation of any reform does not infringe on the principles of separation of powers and an impartial judiciary.

The Minister for Europe, my Rt. Hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), made this clear during discussions on this legislation with the Turkish Minister for Justice in Ankara on 25 February.

The UK is clear that the EU Accession process remains the most effective mechanism for continuing reform in Turkey and we remain fully committed to, and supportive of, that process.

Ukraine

Question

Asked by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking with regard to the recent political upheaval in Ukraine.[HL5571]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): From the very beginning, the United Kingdom has been active in working with our EU and international partners for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Ukraine. The Prime Minister, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), has been in close contact with international leaders including President Putin, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Tusk. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt. Hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), has spoken with his German, Polish and Russian counterparts amongst others. He visited Washington on 25 and 26 February for talks with Senator Kerry and the International Monetary Fund and he plans to visit Ukraine shortly.

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA298

We also summoned the Ukrainian Ambassador twice last week to express our deep concern at the situation.

We are working with international partners to mobilise the financial support Ukraine urgently needs. The Chancellor has raised this with partners at meetings of the G7 and G20 Finance Ministers. He will hold further talks with the International Monetary Fund in Washington this week on long-term support to Ukraine. Support will be conditional upon a stable and legitimate government being in place in Ukraine and a commitment to the much needed reforms.

Waterways: Accidents and Incidents

Question

Asked by Lord West of Spithead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the changed criteria for recording boating accidents and incidents on the River Thames. [HL5564]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): The Merchant Shipping (Accident Reporting and Investigation) Regulations 2012 introduced a mandatory requirement to report hazardous incidents as well as accidents involving ships of all types and in all waters. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has not detected a significant difference in the numbers of reports relating to the River Thames and consequently a formal assessment of accidents and incidents in this area has not been undertaken.

Waterways: Boatmasters’ Licence

Questions

Asked by Lord West of Spithead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the change to pass rates in the Boatmaster's Licencing examination since 2007; and what impact they consider training providers supplying essential elements of the syllabus on an ad hoc basis has had on that trend.[HL5562]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) does not hold information in relation to pass rates for Boatmasters’ Licences issued prior to 2007.

Since the introduction of the Merchant Shipping (Inland Waterway and Limited Coastal Operations) (Boatmasters’ Qualifications and Hours of Work) Regulations 2006 on 1 January 2007, the average pass rate for candidates taking the Boatmasters’ Licence examination (underpinning knowledge and practical) is approximately 90%.

There is no mandatory requirement to attend formal training prior to undertaking the Boatmasters’ Licence examination. The MCA does not know whether a candidate has undergone formalised training, and neither have they observed any noticeable impact from training that may have been delivered by training providers.

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA299

Asked by Lord West of Spithead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on the number of accidents and incidents on the River Thames in London of the introduction of the United Kingdom Boatmaster's Licence in 2007.[HL5563]

Baroness Kramer: The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has not detected a significant difference in the numbers of reports relating to the River Thames, and consequently a formal assessment of accidents and incidents in this area has not been undertaken.

Asked by Lord West of Spithead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether inland waterway boat masters across the United Kingdom have to undergo examination every five years. [HL5566]

Baroness Kramer: Boatmasters’ Licences are normally issued with a validity period of five years. To revalidate their licence, Boatmasters must submit evidence of having completed a certain number of service days in the preceding five years. The number of days is dependent on the tier and level of the Boatmaster Licence held. Where Boatmasters cannot provide evidence of the appropriate number of service days, licences may be revalidated through passing a practical boat handling examination conducted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

Boatmasters whose licences are endorsed with a Port of London local knowledge endorsement must pass an oral examination on their local knowledge of the river Thames every five years. The examination is conducted by a board comprised of the Port of London Authority, practitioners from the Company of Watermen and Lightermen and the MCA.

Asked by Lord West of Spithead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many qualified River Thames captains there are today; and how many there were 10 years ago.[HL5567]

3 Mar 2014 : Column WA300

Baroness Kramer: The latest figures produced by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) showed that on 1 July 2013 there were 438 holders of valid Tier 1 Level 2 Boatmasters’ Licences endorsed for operation within the Port of London local knowledge area. This is the appropriate qualification for masters operating on the river Thames between Putney Bridge and Margaretness.

Prior to the introduction of the Merchant Shipping (Inland Waterway and Limited Coastal Operations) (Boatmasters’ Qualifications and Hours of Work) Regulations 2006 on 1 January 2007, licensing of masters working on the river Thames was managed by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen. The MCA does not hold any records of licences issued by the Company.

Western Sahara

Question

Asked by Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the findings of the report Occupied Country, Displaced People, published by the Norwegian Refugee Council, regarding the position taken by states including France, Spain and the United States in respect of the rights of the Sahrawi people; and what representations they have made to the governments of those countries about the situation.[HL5535]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): We are aware of this report. We have regular discussions with UN Security Council members about Western Sahara. We continue to emphasise the UK’s support for the process led by the UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara. This aims to reach a mutually acceptable political solution which provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. We also emphasise the importance of ensuring full respect for human rights both in the territory of Western Sahara and in the refugee camps near Tindouf in Algeria.