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Written Answers

Monday 27 October 2014

Accident and Emergency Departments

Question

Asked by Baroness McDonagh

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what has been the impact since 2009 of the closure of accident and emergency departments on neighbouring hospitals. [HL2242]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): The reconfiguration of local health services is a matter for the local National Health Service. All service changes should be led by clinicians and be in the best interests of patients, not driven from the top down.

It is for NHS commissioners and providers to work together, with local authorities, patients and the public, in bringing forward proposals that will improve the quality, safety and sustainability of healthcare services.

Any changes must be supported by the Government’s four tests for service change, namely:

- support from general practitioner commissioners;- clarity on the clinical evidence base;- robust patient and public engagement; and- support for patient choice.

Once a decision on a local case for change has been made, it is up to the NHS to ensure its local services meet the needs of its population.

More generally, we would expect any local plans for changes to acute services to take full account of the impact on neighbouring hospitals.

Apprentices

Question

Asked by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many new apprenticeships have been created in (1) the United Kingdom, (2) the South West of England, and (3) Bristol, in the last 12 months.[HL2141]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) (Con): Provisional data for the 2013/14 academic year show there were 432,400 apprenticeship starts in England, 45,200 in the South West Region and 2,970 in Bristol Local Authority. It is not possible to directly compare 2013/14 estimates with figures from previous years.

The Department does not collect Further Education information relating to the devolved administrations.

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Army Reserve

Question

Asked by The Marquess of Lothian

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many army reservists have been recruited in the last 12 months; and what was the target number of such recruits during the same period.[HL2059]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): The UK Armed Forces Quarterly Personnel report, which is published by Defence Statistics, shows Reserve trained and untrained strength figures, as well as movements into the Future Reserves 2020 population, at www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-armed-forces-quarterly-personnel-report-2014. Target figures for recruiting and trained strength were set out in the written ministerial statement and paper that the former Defence Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond) released in the other place on 19 December 2013, (Official Report, column 124WS).

The trained strength of the Army reserves Future Reserves 2020 population as at 30 June 2014 was 19,290, against the March 2015 target of 19,900.

Asylum

Questions

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many asylum seekers have had their application refused but could not be returned to their country of origin in each of the last five years.[HL2078]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The information requested in the noble Lord's question could only be obtained through a manual search of individual case files, which would incur a disproportionate cost. However, we do publish information on the outcome of asylum applications which may assist the noble Lord. This can be found at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/345774/asylum2-q2-2014-tabs.ods

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance is offered to failed asylum seekers in order to help them return to their country of origin.[HL2079]

Lord Bates: The Home Office operates two Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) schemes for those without permanent immigration status in the UK and for which failed asylum seekers are eligible. These are:

Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP) for those who have sought asylum and those with discretionary leave in the UK. Returnees receive support in acquiring travel documentation, flight to the country of return and

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onward domestic transport, airport assistance at departure and arrival airports and up to £1500 worth of reintegration assistance per person.

Assisted Voluntary Return for Families and Children (AVRFC) is for families comprising of a maximum of 2 adult parents or legal guardians and at least 1 child (under 18), and also unaccompanied children (under 18) who have either sought asylum or who are in the UK illegally and wish to return home. Returnees receive support in acquiring travel documentation, flight to the country of return and onward domestic transport, airport assistance at departure and arrival airports and up to £2000 worth of reintegration assistance per person.

Asylum: English Language

Question

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance is given to successful asylum seekers who wish to learn English.[HL2080]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) (Con): Refugees recognised by the UK Government, along with their husband, wife, civil partner and children, are eligible for funding to attend an English for Speakers of Other Languages course. The level of funding is determined by existing eligibility rules, which are set out in the Skills Funding Agency’s rules at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/287917/Funding_rules_2014_15.pdf. Education and skills funding is devolved and the eligibility criteria apply to England.

Those isolated by their lack of English can also access pre-entry level English training through the Department for Communities and Local Government’s £6million Community-Based English Language programme, which offers tuition to 24,000 adults most isolated by their lack of English in 29 target areas.

Asylum: Finance

Questions

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the current rate of support provided to asylum seekers; and how many of those who receive such support they estimate to live below the poverty line.[HL2077]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The Government ensures that asylum seekers are not left destitute by providing accommodation and a cash allowance to cover their essential living needs.

The table below sets out the current weekly allowances provided to asylum seekers and various categories of dependants that may also be supported.

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LEVELS OF CASH SUPPORT FROM 18 APRIL 2011
£

SINGLE PERSON

Aged 18 or over (excluding lone parent)

36.62

Aged 25 years or over (excluding lone parent), where the decision to provide cash support was made before 5 October 2009 and the person reached age 25 prior to that date.

42.62

QUALIFYING COUPLES

Both 18 years or over

72.52

LONE PARENT AGE 18 OR OVER

Age 18 or over

43.94

PERSONAL ALLOWANCE FOR DEPENDENT CHILDREN

Person aged under 16

52.96

Person aged 16 but under 18 (except where the person is a member of a Qualifying Couple)

39.80

The Government has reviewed the allowances and concluded that the allowances are sufficient to cover the essential needs of asylum seekers and their families.

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to review the azure payment card for asylum seekers as a result of the new report by the British Red Cross on the humanitarian cost of the card. [HL2223]

Lord Bates: The Azure card is issued to destitute failed asylum seekers who require support because they are temporarily unable to leave the United Kingdom and can be used at most of the main supermarket chains to purchase food and other essential items. The performance of the card is kept under regular review and the views of reputable partners such as the Red Cross are carefully considered but the Government is satisfied that it is an effective way of ensuring the individuals are able to meet their essential living needs and not left destitute.

Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many asylum claimants are left without any state support, on reaching the age of 18.[HL2227]

Lord Bates: There is no reason why any asylum seekers should be left without support on reaching the age of 18. Unaccompanied asylum seeking children are looked after by local authorities and most will continue to be supported in this way after the age of 18 under leaving care legislation while they remain in the UK.

Any asylum seeker that does not have an entitlement to leaving care support would be eligible to support from the Home Office under the provisions of section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 if they were destitute.

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Charities: Registration

Questions

Asked by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the average time taken by the Charity Commission to approve a new charity for registration; what is the target time for the completion of charity registrations; and what proportion of applications for registration are completed within the agreed target time. [HL1987]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many outstanding applications for registration by the Charity Commission there are; and how any backlog will be addressed.[HL1988]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Charity Commission. I have asked the Chief Executive to reply.

Letter from Paula Sussex, Chief Executive, Charity Commission to Baroness Hayter dated October 2014.

As the Chief Executive of the Charity Commission I have been asked to answer your written parliamentary question asking what the average time taken by the Charity Commission to approve a new charity for registration is; what the target time for the completion of charity registrations are; and what proportion of applications for registration are completed within the agreed target time [HL1987] and your further question asking how many outstanding applications for registration by the Charity Commission there are; and how any backlog will be addressed [HL 1988]

The average time taken to register a successful application with The Charity Commission is 45 working days. This is outside the internal target to complete successful within 40 working days due to long term absences within a small team of 21.4 FTE. By comparison, the target of the Scottish regulator is 90 working days.

The Commission has redeployed senior case support to the Registration function, recruited additional staff and moved lower risk case work to First Contact to free up resource to deal with the more complex and bespoke registration cases in order to continue to reduce the average time taken to successfully register a charity whilst also retaining a robust and rigorous assessment of charitable status.

The time taken for successful registration depends on the issues and complexity of the application received. The most straightforward applications that are completed in full when submitted are currently registered within 3-4 working days. Those that are more complex and require further consideration or input take longer.

All applications received by the Commission are assessed within 24 hours of submission and those with an urgent deadline for registration are prioritised.

The Charity Commission currently has 1,210 open applications in the process of registration. During the same period last year, the Commission had 1,787 open applications in the process of registration. It is usual to have between 1,200 - 1,700 applications in this process, most of which are waiting for a response from the applicant on technical or administrative issues.

All figures are correct to the end of August 2014.

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Children: Poverty

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recent report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, which suggests child poverty reduction targets will not be met, what steps they will take to ensure that those targets are met.[HL2264]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): We remain committed to our goal of ending child poverty by 2020.

The ‘2014-17 Child Poverty Strategy’, published in June this year, outlines our plans to tackle the root causes of poverty, by:

1. Raising the incomes of poor children’s families by helping them get into work and making work pay.

2. Supporting the living standards of low-income families.

3. Raising educational outcomes of poor children.

Work remains the best route out of poverty. That is why the Government is introducing Universal Credit which will lift around 300,000 children out of poverty due to increased entitlements. This Government is also focused on breaking the cycle of poor children going on to become poor adults. That is why the Government has introduced policies - such as the pupil premium, worth £2.5 billion in 2014-15, to support poor children to reach their full potential and close the attainment gap between them and their more advantaged peers.

The Government will publish a response to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission Report in due course.

Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions

Question

Asked by Lord Moynihan

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Gardiner of Kimble on 22 October (HL2135), whether they will list the fraud and corruption legislation which, in addition to the Gambling Act 2005, they believe meets the requirements of the Council of Europe’s draft convention to combat the manipulation of sports competitions.[HL2377]

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): The Fraud Act 2006 and the Bribery Act 2010 constitute the fraud and corruption legislation that, along with the Gambling Act 2005, meet the requirements of the Council of Europe’s draft convention to combat the manipulation of sports competition.

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Currencies

Question

Asked by Lord Harris of Haringey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what work is being undertaken by HM Treasury in respect of bitcoin and other digital currencies in the context of the speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 6 August; and what consultation has taken place with the UK Digital Currency Association, as the representative body of those United Kingdom businesses engaged with digital currency.[HL2072]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): On 6 August, the Chancellor announced a major programme of work looking into digital currencies and associated technologies, with a particular focus on whether they should be regulated. The Government is now considering the benefits offered by digital currencies and the technology that underpins them, and whether it should take action to support innovation in this area. At the same time, the Government is examining the risks presented by digital currencies, and assessing whether action is required to mitigate any concerns. The Government is engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, including the UK Digital Currency Association, as part of this work.

East Coast Railway Line

Question

Asked by The Marquess of Lothian

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to improve the East Coast Railway line; and in particular to increase speed between London and (1) Newcastle, and (2) Edinburgh.[HL2061]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): Her Majesty’s Government has significant plans for the East Coast Main Line and the InterCity East Coast franchise. The competition for the franchise is expected to provide a number of material improvements for passengers, many of which are set out in the Prospectus and Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the franchise. These include the delivery of the new state-of-the-art Class 800/801 trains from the Intercity Express Programme, which will both improve the environment for passengers and reduce journey times.

The Government’s Rail Investment Strategy for the period 2014-2019 includes £240 million for improving the East Coast Mainline with the aim of providing a material reduction in journey times between London and Edinburgh by 2020. The ITT for the new franchise seeks to build on this by specifying that the maximum journey time between London and Edinburgh reduces from 4 hours 26 minutes in 2013, to 4 hours 17 minutes in 2020 to ensure that benefits from our investments in the IEP fleet and infrastructure are delivered. It does not specify a reduction in journey times to Newcastle but it is expected that these will also reduce to achieve the overall reductions to Edinburgh. As the ITT sets

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out our minimum requirements for the franchise, we expect that bidders will strive to improve upon these times.

Email: Fraud

Question

Asked by Lord Stone of Blackheath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 7 October (HL1909), what success the police have had in identifying perpetrators of phishing emails; and what success the Action Fraud reporting has had in identifying and convicting the perpetrators of those crimes.[HL2062]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The National Crime Agency (NCA) is working to disrupt the use of phishing by serious and organised cyber criminals. A recent operation, delivered in collaboration with the Metropolitan Police, resulted in the conviction of three offenders for a total of 21 years in prison for conspiracy to defraud and other fraud related offences. The NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit provides support to regional and local policing teams’ investigations into phishing, where appropriate.

Action Fraud is the UK’s central reporting service for fraud and financially motivated cyber crime: it is not an investigative service. All reports of fraud are made to Action Fraud rather than local police forces, and are then analysed by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. Both are run by the City of London Police, the national lead force for fraud.

Reports received by Action Fraud are evaluated to assess the information available which could assist an investigation, and to identify links between seemingly unconnected incidents. Where there is enough evidence available and a viable lead, actionable intelligence packages are created and sent to the appropriate police force to consider whether enforcement activity should take place. It is then for the local force to respond.

The Government also funds the Cyber Streetwise campaign, which encourages the public and Small and Medium Enterprises to adopt safer online behaviour. The second phase of the campaign was launched earlier this month, including a refreshed website with further advice and support on adopting sensible online behaviours.

EU Immigration

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will make proposals for better sharing of the burdens now falling on Malta, Italy and Greece from the flow of refugees and migrants seeking to enter Europe.[HL2160]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The Government believes that the best way to help EU Member States who are experiencing high levels of illegal migration and asylum

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claims is through practical co-operation and support to build up their capacity so they can cope with the pressures on their system. We already provide such support and will continue to do so, both through the European Asylum Support Office and bilaterally. We are also working with EU partners to strengthen border security, improve co-operation with source and transit countries and tackle the organised criminal groups involved in people smuggling and human trafficking.

We do not agree that burden sharing in the sense of intra-EU relocation of asylum seekers or refugees as advocated by the countries referred to is the right solution: we believe that such measures would induce even more illegal migrants to risk their lives making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.

EU Nationals

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many European Union migrants were deported or otherwise obliged to leave the United Kingdom in the last five years for (1) criminal behaviour, and (2) inability to maintain themselves.[HL2127]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The number of EEA nationals deported for criminal behaviour for the last five years are:

YearEEA Removals

2009

748

2010

933

2011

1,147

2012

1,653

2013

2,130

The Home Office does not routinely collect data on the number of EU nationals removed due to the inability to maintain themselves.

Frontex

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the ability of Frontex and Frontex Plus to cope with the influx of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea, and in particular to prevent deaths by drowning.[HL2159]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): Frontex is an EU Agency charged with coordination of Member States resources to improve the security and surveillance of the external borders of the Schengen area. The effectiveness of Frontex is entirely reliant on the willingness of the Member States to make those resources available.

Search and Rescue remains outside the competence of the EU or its Agencies, including Frontex.

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We expect the Member States to give a positive response to the request from Frontex for adequate resources to deliver the aims of Operation ‘Triton’. ‘Triton’ is a border management operation which operates closer to the European coast than the current Italian operation ‘Mare Nostrum’. However it will respond to any search and rescue emergency declared within reach of its maritime assets.

GCE AS-level

Question

Asked by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will reconsider the abolition of AS level qualifications in the light of the representations from the A-Level Content Advisory Board about the effect on the take-up of mathematics.[HL2042]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): We are not abolishing the AS level. It will be available as a stand-alone qualification taught over one or two years. The full A level will become a linear qualification with assessment at the end of two years’ study, so that students can benefit from more time spent on teaching and are encouraged to make connections between topics.

General Practitioners

Questions

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the procurement process operated by NHS England in relation to general practitioner practices allows for the track record of the bidders sufficiently to be taken into account in the procurement decision. [HL2184]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why the procurement process operated by NHS England in relation to general practitioner practices allows for references in respect of the bidders to be taken up rather than allowing for a review of their track record.[HL2185]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): NHS England is responsible for procurement in relation to general practitioner practices, as holders of the contract for General Practice. When procuring these services, NHS England must work within the Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition Regulations 2013, and make sure that they take fair and transparent decisions on the best provider to deliver those services for National Health Service patients.

The factors used to evaluate bids, in each procurement process, including the consideration of references and track records, are determined on a case-by-case basis.

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Geothermal Power

Question

Asked by The Duke of Montrose

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the context of Scottish devolution, deep geothermal heat is considered a form of renewable energy and therefore devolved to the Scottish Parliament. [HL2124]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma) (Con): Section D1 of Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998 reserves the generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity. It makes no specific mention of geothermal energy. Since geothermal energy may be used directly for the production of heat and/or electricity, the devolution analysis for geothermal energy is split. Geothermal energy for the purposes of heat, including supplying district heating networks, is a devolved matter; where geothermal energy is utilised for electricity generation, it is a reserved matter (which is consistent with the reserved status of other renewable electricity-generating technologies).

Govia Thameslink Railway

Question

Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the scope and purpose of the deep alliance between the new Thameslink franchise and Network Rail. [HL2007]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): The franchisee of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise, which is Govia Thameslink Railway Limited (GTR), will work closely with Network Rail to facilitate the Government’s multi-billion pound investment in the rail network in the South East through the Thameslink programme.

There is no ‘deep alliance’ between the two organisations. However, in accordance with the TSGN Franchise Agreement, the franchisee shall use all reasonable endeavours to develop an alliance framework agreement with Network Rail. The purpose of this agreement is to provide for closer working between GTR and Network Rail with the specific, stated goals of creating a joint performance management strategy; improving journey times and capacity; and driving fleet efficiency among others.

Heathrow Airport

Question

Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to specify limits in the rules on the numbers of people who can be accommodated in each of the Heathrow short-term holding facilities; and when the rules will be published.[HL2190]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): We are currently exploring a range of measures as part of the rules governing Short Term Holding Facilities to balance the welfare of those people being held, with effective management of the facilities and immigration control. I welcome the noble Lord’s continued interest in this area and his views on the final content of these Rules.

Hunting

Question

Asked by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their policy with regard to the hunting of wild animals with dogs.[HL2138]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): The Hunting Act 2004 prohibits all hunting of wild mammals with dogs in England and Wales, apart from the tightly drawn exemptions set out in the Act.

The Government’s policy is that we will bring forward a motion with a free vote before the House of Commons on whether the Hunting Act 2004 should be repealed when Parliamentary time allows.

Immigration

Question

Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the report by the Legal Action Group, Chasing Status, on the experience of legal long-term resident migrants under new immigration laws. [HL2163]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The Home Office is aware of this report and will consider its contents. It is the responsibility of individuals to ensure that they have a proper basis of stay in the UK and to regularise their position if it is uncertain. The Government has required individuals to demonstrate their entitlement to work, benefits and public services for many years so the number of individuals who only now find they are unable to do so should be small.

Immigration Act 2014

Question

Asked by Baroness Lister of Burtersett

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they intend to set a commencement date for section 65 of the Immigration Act 2014.[HL2214]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): Section 65 of the 2014 Act will insert new registration provisions into the British Nationality Act 1981 for people born to British fathers before 1 July 2006.

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The 2014 Act is being implemented in phases to ensure the provisions are brought into force in an orderly and effective manner. We have not yet set a commencement date for Section 65.

Mediterranean Sea

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of Amnesty International’s report Lives adrift: Refugees and migrants in peril in the Central Mediterranean.[HL1998]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The UK is working with other EU Member States to address the migration pressures in the Mediterranean described in the report, in particular through the EU’s Task Force Mediterranean. This was discussed most recently at the JHA Council on 9 October. We believe it is important to find solutions which address the root causes and do not encourage even greater numbers of people to undertake dangerous journeys. Efforts under the Task Force Mediterranean should therefore be primarily focused on improving border security and asylum processes in Member States, disrupting the activities of people smugglers and putting in place stronger co-operation on migration issues with source and transit countries. The Government does not however support ‘responsibility-sharing’ if that means the relocation of asylum seekers from the Member State in which they first arrive to other EU countries.

Mesothelioma: Compensation

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, with reference to the letter from Lord Faulks to Lord Alton of Liverpool on 18 September and the High Court judgment on 2 October that the review under section 48 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 about mesothelioma proceedings was not lawful, whether they intend to initiate a further review; if so, how it will differ from the last review; and what will be the timetable for it. [HL2000]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): The Government is considering the judgment handed down by the High Court on 2 October. We will set out the next steps in due course.

Middle East

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with other European Union member states about scaling up the resettlement programme for refugees displaced by fighting in Syria and Iraq;

27 Oct 2014 : Column WA132

and what is their policy in regard to applications for asylum from displaced Yezidis and Christians from those countries.[HL2075]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The Government believes that humanitarian aid and actively seeking to end the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are the most effective ways for the UK to help the majority of refugees, rather than increasing resettlement. We have made our position on this clear in relevant discussions with other EU Member States and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We are aware that EU Member States have responded to the crises in different ways; it is right that the international community should consider all available means to relieve the suffering of the Syrian and Iraqi peoples. However, the UK’s overall contribution stands comparison with any in the world.

To date we have committed £700 million to the Syrian relief effort, making us the second largest bilateral donor after the USA, and £23 million in aid to Iraq. UK funding is helping hundred of thousands of refugees; compared with aid, resettlement can only ever support a comparatively small number of people in need. We also support efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict, and we are working with the Iraqi government and the international community to tackle the threat posed by IS and promote an inclusive, sovereign and democratic Iraq which will protect all Iraqi citizens.

To complement our humanitarian aid, we operate the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme to relocate to the UK the most vulnerable displaced Syrians who cannot be supported effectively in the long term in the region. In addition, the Government carefully considers each asylum application lodged in the UK, including those made by Syrian and Iraqi nationals on the grounds of religious persecution, on its individual merits, to ensure we grant protection to those who genuinely need it.

Nature Conservation

Question

Asked by Lord Blencathra

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the World Wide Fund for Nature Living Planet Report 2014; what proposals they have to halt the destruction of species; and what they consider to be implications of the findings of that report for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.[HL2122]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): The Government considers the Living Planet Report an interesting contribution to increasing our understanding of the scale of the challenge facing species internationally but has made no formal assessment of its findings.

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Internationally, we frame our work on biodiversity under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets. A comprehensive assessment, the Fourth Global Biodiversity Outlook, was published at the recent 12th Conference of the Parties to the CBD. This reported significant progress towards meeting some components of the majority of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. However, in most cases, additional action will be required to meet the targets by 2020. The Parties agreed to take comprehensive and urgent measures to ensure the full implementation of the Strategic Plan, including through the development and implementation of their national biodiversity strategies and action plans.

The Government helps achieve these global targets internationally through elements of Overseas Development Aid (particularly forest protection through the International Climate Fund and contributions to the Global Environment Facility) and through direct and financial support for various international agreements including the CBD, the Convention on Migratory Species and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The Darwin Initiative provides up to £6 million bi-lateral funding annually for developing countries to help meet their obligations under these international agreements, improve biodiversity and natural environment management and reduce poverty; and up to £2 million annually from the Darwin Plus fund for projects in the UK’s Overseas Territories.

The UK Government is also taking a leading role in global efforts to end the illegal wildlife trade. In December 2013, we announced a £10 million funding package to support efforts in developing countries to tackle the illegal trade in wildlife products. In February 2014 we hosted a high-level international conference for leaders from over 40 nations. This resulted in the London Conference Declaration, containing 25 commitments to action on enforcement and criminal justice, demand reduction and sustainable livelihoods.

Domestically, the Government set out its response to the CBD’s Strategic Plan in “Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services”, which aims to halt overall biodiversity loss by 2020. The strategy includes a commitment to achieve an overall improvement in the status of our wildlife and to prevent further human-induced extinctions of known threatened species.

It will be for Parties to CITES to decide how that Convention should respond to the Living Planet Report and other information about the status of species, which may be reflected in future proposals to list endangered species under the Convention.

Non-governmental Organisations

Question

Asked by Baroness Suttie

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which United Kingdom-based development and non-governmental organisations have received more than £1 million from the Department for International Development per year for each of the last three years.[HL2048]

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Baroness Northover (LD): Details of disbursements to UK based Civil Society Organisations (including Non-Governmental Organisations) made by the Department for International Development are available in tables that are too large in size to print in the Official Report. Details are made available online and will be placed in the Library of the House and provided to the Noble Baroness.

Plants: EU Action

Questions

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what input they have had into the redrafting of the proposed European Union Plant Reproductive Material legislation.[HL2168]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): The UK was influential in the drafting of the Greek Presidency’s ‘state of play’ report, presented at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of Ministers meeting on 16/17 June, which was intended to guide the Commission when revising its proposals.

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they consider that the current wording of the European Union Plant Reproductive Material legislation will enable them to protect home gardeners and allotment holders as well as United Kingdom seed producers' interests and the United Kingdom's diverse seed heritage.[HL2169]

Lord De Mauley: The Government did not think that the European Commission’s original proposals made appropriate provisions to protect the interests of UK gardeners, allotment holders and seed producers, and negotiated accordingly in the Council Working Party. However, these proposals have since been rejected by the European Parliament and we await a Commission redraft.

Police: Voluntary Work

Question

Asked by Baroness Smith of Basildon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the number of volunteers working alongside the police in each of the last 10 years. [HL2171]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The Home Office does not collect figures on the number of volunteers who work alongside the police.

However, the Home Office does collect and publish statistics on the number of special constables in England and Wales. Figures for the last ten years can be found in table 3 of the latest ‘Police Workforce, England and Wales’ statistical release, which can be accessed here:

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https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tables-for-police-workforce-england-and-wales-31-march-2014.

Public Expenditure: Northern Ireland

Questions

Asked by Lord Empey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will publish the conditions that apply to the access to the DEL Reserve of up to £100 million by the Northern Ireland Executive.[HL2038]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what will be the consequences for the Northern Ireland Executive if it does not agree with the Treasury, before the end of October, a plan for a balanced 2015/16 budget. [HL2039]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will have to approve Northern Ireland Departmental financial allocations for the remainder of 2014/15 if access to the DEL Reserve is available to the Northern Ireland Executive.[HL2040]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Northern Ireland Assembly will be permitted to amend Departmental Allocations for 2014/15 and 2015/16 following the agreement between the Treasury and the Northern Ireland Executive on access to the DEL Reserve of up to £100 million.[HL2041]

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton) (Con): The NI Executive is expected to manage emerging pressures by identifying savings and reallocating resources within its overall allocations set by the Treasury. The First Minister has made it clear that he believes this is no longer achievable in 2014/15. The Treasury has therefore agreed that exceptional access to the DEL Reserve of up to £100 million will be permitted in-year.

An amount equivalent to the access to the DEL Reserve taken up by the Northern Ireland Executive will be reflected in the relevant control total at Supplementary Estimates and will subsequently be deducted from the Northern Ireland Executive’s 2015/16 control total.

Internal Northern Ireland departmental allocations remain a matter for the Executive itself.

Terrorism

Questions

Asked by The Marquess of Lothian

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the security threat to Britain from current ISIL actions in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. [HL2147]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the threat to the United Kingdom posed by Islamist military action in Nigeria. [HL2150]

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the threat to the United Kingdom posed by Islamists across the Sahel.[HL2151]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The assessment of the threat to the UK from international terrorism is made by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC). JTAC assessments are made independently of Ministers.

The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) increased the UK national threat level from international terrorism to SEVERE (meaning that an attack is highly likely) on 26 August for the first time since 2011. This decision was related to developments in Iraq and Syria where groups including ISIL are planning attacks against the West. As the Prime Minister said on 26 September 2014, Official Report, column 1256, ISIL is a terrorist organisation unlike those we have dealt with before, and represents a direct threat to the British people. They have already murdered two British hostages, and are threatening the life of another. The first ISIL-inspired terrorist acts in Europe have already taken place.

There is also a threat to British nationals and interests from ISIL and groups affiliated with ISIL or Al-Qaeda in Arab and African countries. Amongst these groups are Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, operating in the Sahel, and Boko Haram and Ansaru in Nigeria. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Travel Advice gives our most accurate assessment of the threat from terrorism to British nationals overseas.

UN Convention on Biological Diversity

Question

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have ratified the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in October 2010; and, if not, when they expect to do so.[HL2170]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing is implemented in the European Union through a directly applicable EU Regulation, which was agreed in April 2014. The EU Regulation will come into force in full 12 months after the Nagoya Protocol to allow time for the necessary implementation by the EU Member States. With the Protocol entering into force in October 2014, the UK Government is currently considering responses to its consultation on implementation and also awaiting publication by the European Commission of draft Implementing Acts to provide further detail on the EU Regulation. UK measures will be put in place to implement the EU Regulation and the Implementing Acts via Statutory Instrument (SI). Finalisation of both the EU Implementing Acts and the UK SI is expected by October 2015. The UK will be able to ratify the Nagoya Protocol once the UK SI is in place.

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Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010

Question

Asked by Lord Black of Brentwood

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will bring forward the review of the Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010.[HL2324]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): The Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010 are not due for review until after they have been in force for five years, which will be April 2015. However, Defra is beginning to gather evidence on the operation of the regulations now, with a view to completing the review by summer 2015.

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Wills

Question

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made representations to the Law Society about its practice note on Sharia-compliant wills.[HL2013]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): Her Majesty’s Government has not made any representations to the Law Society about its practice note on Sharia-compliant wills.

The legal profession is independent of government, and is regulated by Approved Regulators, for which the Legal Services Board (LSB) has oversight responsibility. The Approved Regulators and LSB are also independent of government, as are the bodies which deal with complaints about those in the legal profession.