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Written Answers

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Asylum Seekers

Question

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many Syrians refused asylum in the United Kingdom in 2013 are (1) not in the United Kingdom following a forced removal, (2) not in the United Kingdom following a voluntary removal, (3) in a detention removal centre, and (4) remain in the country but not in detention.[HL5080]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): Of the total number of Syrians refused asylum in 2013:

(1 ) Twenty four have returned following an enforced removal.

(2) The number of those not in the UK following a voluntary departure is low, ,so in line with Home Office practice on published data, the number cannot be published to protect the identity of those involved.

(3) Twenty remain in Immigration Removal Centres.

(4) When an asylum claim has been refused, all applicants are encouraged to return voluntarily to their country of origin. The Department cannot therefore provide reliable data in answer to this part of the question. However, the Government has made a commitment to introduce exit checks by 2015 which will improve our ability to identify those who have overstayed their visas and to measure migration.

Bahrain

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had concerning the imposition of sanctions against the government of Bahrain until it complies with international human rights law.[HL5485]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The British Government has not held any discussions on imposing sanctions against the Government of Bahrain. We are supportive of the reform programme in Bahrain and regularly discuss human rights with the Bahraini government.

Benefits

Questions

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many benefit claimants have been sanctioned since June 2013; how many dependants those claimants had; and, if total figures are not yet available, when they will be published.[HL5522]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): Figures on the number of Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance benefit claimants who have been sanctioned up to September 2013 which is the latest data available, are published and can be found at:

https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/

Guidance for users is available at:

https://sw.stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/webapi/online-help/Stat-Xplore_User_Guide.htm

The information requested in relation to Income Support Lone Parents (ISLP) shows that there have been 15,040 ISLP sanctions between June 2013 and September 2013.

Source

Income Support Computer System

Notes

1) Income Support Lone Parents receive a fixed sanction of 20% of the personal allowance rate of a single claimant [not aged less than 25] for each failure to attend/participate in a Work Focused Interview until 10 pence is left in payment. This sanction lasts until the individual attends and participates in a Work Focused Interview. In the case where there is more than one sanction in place the claimant need only attend/participate in one Work Focused Interview in order for all related sanctions to be removed from their benefit. .

2) Sanctions are only available up to September 2013 for Income Support Lone Parents

3) Figures are rounded to the nearest 10.

Information on the number of dependants these claimants had is not readily available and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Asked by Baroness King of Bow

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many Jobseeker's Allowance claimants have been sanctioned in each year since 1996 and in each month since October 2012.[HL5620]

Lord Freud: Statistics on the number of Jobseeker's Allowance benefit claimants, who have been sanctioned, from April 2000, the earliest data we have, up to September 2013 which is the latest data available, are published and can be found at:

https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/

Guidance for users is available at:

https://sw.stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/webapi/online-help/Stat-Xplore_User_Guide.htm

Central African Republic

Question

Asked by Baroness Berridge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the African Union and to the government of France in the light of the allegations of human rights abuses in the recent report by Amnesty International, Ethnic Cleansing and Sectarian Killings in the Central African Republic. [HL5492]

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The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): We have frequent discussions with both the African Union and the Government of France on the security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, including the disturbing reports of human rights abuses.

Amnesty International’s report highlights the importance of the international peacekeeping effort in preventing ethnic and sectarian killings. Our immediate focus is supporting the UN Security Council-mandated African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) force alongside the French deployment. They are already on the ground, have a robust enforcement mandate, and are able to act immediately to increase security and humanitarian access. We have supported the UN Security Council to keep the situation under regular review, including what more can be done to strengthen existing efforts given the severity and urgency of the situation.

Children: Children’s Rights

Question

Asked by Baroness Massey of Darwen

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to address violations of children's rights in England.[HL5594]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): The UK Government has committed to give due consideration to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) when developing new policies and legislation:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm101206/wmstext/101206m0001.htm#1012063000011

The rights set out in the UNCRC are secured through a range of different methods, including through legislation, guidance and requirements in various national minimum standards. If those requirements are not being met, children can access a range of complaints mechanisms, with support from advocates where necessary, to address any violation of their rights. Ultimately, where a child has exhausted these other forms of redress, it is open to them to bring a challenge to the courts (for example, under the Human Rights Act 1998).

Civil Service: Senior Posts

Question

Asked by Baroness Suttie

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to encourage women to apply for senior posts in the Civil Service.[HL5590]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): Women comprise over a third of the Senior Civil Service.

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Work commissioned through the Contestable Policy Fund begins in March and will identify and help to remove the blockages faced by women when applying for senior posts.

Genetic Modification

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Earl Howe on 22 January (WA 129) and 6 February (WA 77), whether they consider that an egg or embryo with healthy mitochondria that has had its own nuclear DNA removed and entirely replaced by nuclear DNA from a different egg or embryo is genetically modified as a consequence.[HL5496]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): As the noble Lord is aware from Viscount Younger of Leckie's Written Answer of 12 November 2013 (Official Report, columns. 113-114) there is no universally agreed definition of “genetic modification”. For example, people who have organ transplants, blood donations or even gene therapy are not generally regarded as being “genetically modified”.

While there is no universally agreed definition of genetic modification in humans, the Government has decided to adopt a working definition for the purpose of taking forward the draft mitochondrial donation regulations. The working definition that we have adopted is that genetic modification involves the germ-line modification of nuclear DNA (in the chromosomes) that can be passed on to future generations. We will keep this under review.

On the basis of that working definition, the proposed mitochondrial donation techniques do not constitute genetic modification.

Health: Cancer

Questions

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to improve access to new medicines for patients with pancreatic cancer.[HL5617]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will conduct an assessment of the Cancer Drugs Fund in relation to the provision of new treatments for patients with pancreatic cancer, and in particular in respect of quality of life.[HL5619]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides advice to the National Health Service on the clinical and cost-effectiveness of drugs and treatments. NICE technology appraisal guidance, issued in May 2001, recommends gemcitabine as an option for treating patients with advanced or metastatic adenocarcinoma of the pancreas who meet certain clinical criteria.

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NHS commissioners are legally required to fund those treatments recommended by NICE in its technology appraisal guidance.

Since October 2010, the Cancer Drugs Fund has helped over 44,000 patients in England to access the life-extending or life-improving cancer drugs their clinicians think they need. On 28 September 2013, the Government announced that a further £400 million will be made available to extend the Fund to the end of March 2016.

NHS England is responsible for administering the Cancer Drugs Fund, and decisions on which treatments are afforded priority funding status are taken by an expert clinical panel. In assessing applications for drugs to be included in the national Cancer Drugs Fund cohort policies list, the expert clinical panel uses a scoring tool and one of the criteria in this tool is evidence of impact on quality of life.

For cancer drugs not on the national cohort policy list, regional clinical panels can consider individual applications for funding in exceptional cases.

Asked by Baroness Masham of Ilton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to expedite the appraisal of drugs for pancreatic cancer.[HL5618]

Earl Howe: The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is currently developing technology appraisal guidance on the use of a number of drugs for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Wherever possible, NICE aims to publish draft or final technology appraisal guidance on significant new drugs within a few months of their launch.

Health: Mitochondrial Disease

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Earl Howe on 29 August 2013 (WA 359), 30 October 2013 (WA 259) and 24 February (WA 175–6), how many of the terms employed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to refer to either pronuclear transfer and spindle-chromosomal complex transfer or the outcomes of those techniques they accept as valid; and what external advice and documentation they have relied on in reaching their conclusion that such procedures do not constitute genetic modification.[HL5605]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised that, at the request of the Government, it sought public views through a variety of public dialogue and consultation methods on emerging In vitro fertilisation (IVF)-based techniques to prevent the transmission of mitochondrial disease.

The public's views on this issue are outlined in the Authority's advice for the Government, which can be found on its website at:

www.hfea.gov.uk/6896.htd

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This exercise did not seek to explore the validity of particular scientific and technical terms.

The HFEA convened an Independent Oversight Group to ensure the consultation was balanced and accessible, details of which can also be found on the Authority's website:

http://mitochondria.hfea.gov.uk/mitochondria/about-the-consultation/independent-consultation-oversight-group/

Its role included advising on the materials and wording used during the public dialogue exercise.

Health: Organ Donation

Question

Asked by Lord Empey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what impact the 2011 change, which made it compulsory for drivers applying for a new or replacement licence to state whether they want to be an organ donor, has had on the percentage of the population pledging to donate their organs via the Organ Donor Register; and what has that percentage been in each month of the last three years.[HL5598]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): This information is not held centrally in the format requested. However in the five years up to April 2013 the United Kingdom achieved a 50% increase in deceased organ donor rates and work continues to increase consent and organ donation and transplantation rates.

A study by the Government Behavioural Insights team in July 2011 in partnership with Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) and the Department examined how best to increase registration on the Organ Donor Register. In one of the largest public sector studies of this kind, over one million people took part and were tested on eight different ways of asking whether to join the register. Further information can be found at:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/organ-donor-registrations-trialling-different-approaches

Houses of Parliament: Post Boxes

Question

Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask the Chairman of Committees who authorised the sealing of post boxes inside the Palace of Westminster near the Royal Gallery on the morning of Thursday 27 February.[HL5669]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Sewel): Post boxes near the Royal Gallery were sealed on the morning of Thursday 27 February as a security precaution, based on experience and lessons learned from previous events, ahead of the Address by the Chancellor of the

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Federal Republic of Germany to both Houses of Parliament.  The temporary sealing of the post boxes was recommended by the Metropolitan Police Service and authorised by Black Rod.

India: Golden Temple, Amritsar

Question

Asked by The Lord Bishop of Coventry

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what meetings they have had or are intending to have with Sikh organisations in the United Kingdom following the publication of the Cabinet Secretary's report on the Indian operation at Sri Harmandir Sahib.[HL5517]

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 and by the Department for Communities and Local Government on 25th 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 Worker's Association

Young Sikhs UK

Sikh Care Society Heathrow

Sikh Community and Youth Services

Network of Sikh Organisations (UK)

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National Minimum Wage

Questions

Asked by Lord Beecham

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the light of the HM Revenue & Customs report, National Minimum Wage compliance in the social care sector, they will update their evaluation of national minimum wage compliance; and whether they will encourage and monitor the payment of the living wage in the social care sector.[HL5527]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to enforce and monitor national minimum wage enforcement in the social care sector in the light of the evaluation published by HM Revenue and Customs in November 2013; and what extra resources have been made available for that purpose.[HL5544]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions have been held with the Local Government Association about the possible role of local authorities in enforcing minimum wage legislation in relation to social care and generally; and with what result.[HL5545]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie) (Con): The Government is committed to increasing compliance with minimum wage legislation and the effective enforcement of it, including in the social care sector. Everyone who is entitled to the minimum wage should receive it.

The Government has a central enforcement body dedicated to the National Minimum Wage (NMW). HM Revenue and Customs covers all areas of the UK, which ensures a consistent approach, a high quality service and a brand that everyone recognises.

HMRC investigates every complaint made to the Pay and Work Rights helpline. In addition, HMRC conducts risk-based enforcement in sectors or areas where there is a higher risk of workers not getting paid the legal minimum wage. One of the sectors in which HMRC carries out risk based enforcement is the social care sector.

The Government is also taking specific action to improve compliance with national minimum wage legislation in the social care sector. The Department of Health is developing statutory guidance for local authorities which refers to employment law and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) guidance on payment of travel time. This will enable local authorities to assure themselves that the care companies they contract with comply with NMW regulations. This guidance should be available in the Autumn.

BIS is also working with HMRC to identify the communication action necessary to promote the useful information for workers and employers contained in HMRC’s evaluation report on the social care sector. It is also considering the next steps to increase compliance in this sector.

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The Government supports businesses that choose to pay a higher wage when it is affordable and not at the expense of jobs. The decision to pay employees above National Minimum Wage is for employers and their workers and the Government will not be monitoring this. Consequently, the government does not intend to monitor the payment of the living wage.

South Sudan

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the stalled peace talks between the government of South Sudan and the rebel factions, of reports of the discovery of mass graves and allegations that crimes against humanity have been committed.[HL5495]

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The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD)-led peace talks between the Government of South Sudan and the opposition forces are continuing in Addis Ababa but progress continues to be slow.

Reports of attacks in Malakal and the discovery of mass graves in Bor are the latest in a series of disturbing allegations of human rights violations and abuses in South Sudan. We are urging the African Union Commission of Inquiry to act quickly and deploy an investigation team to collect the necessary information.

During the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds)'s meeting in February with South Sudanese Foreign Minister Dr Barnaba Benjamin, he urged progress in the peace talks and accountability for human rights abuses.