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Written Answers

Monday 19 January 2015

Accident and Emergency Departments: East Midlands

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the average waiting time in the accident and emergency departments in Nottingham and Derby for every month in the last year.[HL4016]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): Information is not available in the format requested.

Information on the mean and median duration to assessment, treatment and departure, in minutes, in accident and emergency (A&E) departments for Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, by month from April 2012 to March 2013 is shown in the attached table.

This Answer included the following attachment: A&E Waiting Times (A&E Waiting Times.xlsx)

British Transport Police

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have any plans to expand the role of the British Transport Police in providing supervision around transport interchanges.[HL4148]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): The BTP currently polices transport interchanges through hub policing teams. These teams work closely with various partners including the Home Office forces, Network Rail, Transport for London and the train operators to provide a seamless policing model spanning the underground and mainline stations. The aim is to provide a coordinated and focused policing service to keep the general public safe and reduce crime and disorder. There are no plans to expand the role of the British Transport Police (BTP) in providing supervision around transport interchanges.

China

Questions

Asked by Lord Eames

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 17 December 2014 (HL3529), what further attempts have been made to gain an explanation from the government of China for the detention of Alexandra Wilson.[HL3919]

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they propose to take if no explanation for the detention of Alexandra Wilson is received from the government of China.[HL3920]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether action has been taken by British consular officials since the release of Alexandra Wilson to seek an explanation for her detention; if so, what action, and if not, why not.[HL3922]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): Consular staff in Beijing were informed on 3 November that Ms Wilson was being held for working illegally in China on a “Z” visa. Ms Wilson was detained in accordance with Chinese immigration law. There are no plans to follow up with the Chinese authorities as they have explained the reason for the detention.

Asked by Lord Eames

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they consider that the reaction of consular officials in Beijing to the detention of Alexandra Wilson by Chinese authorities was adequate.[HL3921]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance was offered to Alexandra Wilson during her detention and on her release.[HL3923]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: Consular staff offered Ms Wilson and her family consular assistance on a regular basis in line with our Consular charter: Support for British Nationals Abroad.

Consular staff at our Embassy in Beijing were informed on 31 October by Ms Wilson's friends of her arrest. Consular staff called the Chinese police and Dou Ge Zhuang Detention Centre on the 31 October and 1 November but the Chinese authorities would not provide any information on the detention.

After many phone calls consular officers were permitted a 30 minute visit on Monday 3 November. At this time it was confirmed that Ms Wilson was being held for working on an incorrect visa. In line with Chinese law the Chinese police (PSB) stated that it was likely that Ms Wilson would be held for an undetermined period of time and then deported. On 5 November consular staff phoned the PSB who stated that there was no clear release date as yet. Consular officers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London were in daily contact with Ms Wilson’s mother.

On 6 November a Note Verbale was sent to the Chinese authorities expressing concerns over Ms Wilson's health issues and on 7 November our political team wrote to the Chinese Embassy in London highlighting Miss Wilson’s case.

Follow up phone calls were made on 10, 13, 14 and 17 November from consular officers to the PSB regarding a release date. On the 17 November the PSB confirmed that Ms Wilson would be deported on 19 November.

Consular officers in London followed up on 23 November to check with Ms Wilson that she arrived safely back in the UK.

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Criminal Law

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Faulks on 17 December 2014 (HL3232), how many new criminal offences were created from 1 January 2000 to 31 May 2014; and what plans they have to review those offences to ensure that they do not have a detrimental effect on freedom of speech, freedom of thought and individual conscience.[HL3926]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): As set out in my answer on 17 December 2014 (HL3532) I would expect the development of all government policies including criminal offences to include appropriate consideration of the potential impact on areas such as freedom of speech. All new legislation requires a certificate of compliance with human rights or an explanation as to why it does not. The decision to review criminal offences after they are commenced is a decision for individual departments and, where appropriate, for collective Government agreement.

The annual statistical bulletin on New Criminal Offences Statistics in England and Wales collates and presents statistics on the number of criminal offences created by government departments. This covers the period 1 June 2009 up until 31 May 2014. 1073 offences have been created during this period. The latest edition of the bulletin was published on 11 December 2014. It can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/new-criminal-offences-statistics-in-england-and-wales-may-2014

Statistics are not available for the number of criminal offences created during the period 1 January 2000 to 31 May 2009.

Cyprus

Question

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have actively sought to ameliorate the embargo on the Turkish Cypriot community in accordance with Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 573 (1974); whether they consider that the resolution continues to be binding; and what measures they have taken to ensure that they have exercised equity and equality in dealing with both communities in Cyprus.[HL4002]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): The Government recognises that the status quo in Cyprus causes serious difficulties for Turkish Cypriots, and we support measures aimed at reducing their isolation. We remain committed to supporting the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community including through financial aid and trade liberalisation from the EU. At Cyprus' Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council, the UK suggested that measures

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should be taken to enable Turkish Cypriots to participate effectively in cultural, social and economic life and public affairs. We also support the European Commission’s proposal for a direct trade regulation to enhance the Turkish Cypriot community’s access to EU markets. Disagreements over the legal basis mean that this has unfortunately not yet been agreed.

While resolutions of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly are not legally binding, the hope expressed in Resolution 573 for a lasting settlement of the Cyprus problem remains pertinent today. Indeed, the best way of resolving the challenges faced by both communities is through a comprehensive settlement to end the division of the island. We therefore continue to support strongly UN-led efforts to reunify Cyprus through a lasting and just settlement. The UK supports all communities on the island in their efforts towards this goal.

General Practitioners: East Midlands

Question

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how long patients in Nottingham and Derby have had to wait to get a general practitioner appointment every month in the last year.[HL4015]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): Waiting times for general practitioner appointments are not collected centrally.

Gibraltar: Spain

Question

Asked by Lord Patten

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the apparent incursions by Spanish fishing vessels into British Gibraltar territorial water on 26 December 2014.[HL4018]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): A Spanish fishing vessel was present in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) on 26 December 2014. However, Spanish fishing vessels do not constitute State vessels. Accordingly, our assessment is that this incident did not give rise to any violation of British sovereignty. In accordance with the Constitutional division of responsibilities between the British Government and Her Majesty's Government of Gibraltar, the enforcement of laws relating to the activity of commercial and recreational vessels in BGTW is a matter for the authorities in Gibraltar.

Hepatitis: Drugs

Questions

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance on the use of sofosbuvir in the treatment of hepatitis C has not been published nearly 11 months after it received its marketing authorisation.[HL3887]

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the delay in the publication of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance on sofosbuvir on the health of patients with liver cirrhosis caused by hepatitis C.[HL3888]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of NHS England’s proposal to delay implementation of guidance on sofosbuvir for the treatment of hepatitis C.[HL3889]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) was asked to develop technology appraisal guidance on the use of sofosbuvir within its marketing authorisation for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C in October 2013. Sofosbuvir received its marketing authorisation for this indication in January 2014.

NICE published initial draft guidance in June 2014 which stated it was minded not to recommend use of sofosbuvir within its marketing authorisation and requested further information from the manufacturer. NICE published further draft guidance for consultation in August 2014, in which it recommended sofosbuvir for certain patients. Following consideration of the responses to this consultation on its draft recommendations, NICE requested further analyses from the company, which necessitated additional Committee discussion. NICE then carried out a further consultation in December on a proposal to extend the mandatory timescale for National Health Service commissioners to fund its recommendations on sofosbuvir. A similar consultation was also undertaken for simeprevir, another drug currently undergoing a NICE appraisal for chronic hepatitis C. A timeline of the process for the development of NICE’s guidance on sofosbuvir is published at:

www.nice.org.uk/guidance/indevelopment/gid-tag445

We have not made an assessment of the impact of this delay on patients with hepatitis C. Until NICE’s final guidance comes into effect, NHS England has in place an interim commissioning policy on sofosbuvir with ledipasvir and an interim policy for simeprevir which makes these treatments available to patients meeting specified clinical criteria during 2014-15. So far, this has made an additional £38 million available to cure patients at risk of liver failure. In addition, NHS England has made an assessment of need for patients with cirrhosis from April 2015 and will be finalising its plans shortly for this wider patient group.

NICE’s consultation on extending the funding period closed in December and we understand that it expects to publish the outcome of that consultation, along with its final draft guidance on sofosbuvir, shortly. The Department’s response to the consultation will be published alongside other stakeholders’ comments. We are confident that NICE will carefully consider all the comments it has received before taking a final decision.

NICE currently expects to publish its final guidance on sofosbuvir in February 2015, although this is subject to any appeals being received.

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Iraq

Question

Asked by Lord Judd

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to assist the Kurdistan Regional Government to prevent sexual violence by Islamic State against Yazidi women and to provide medical, psychological, and other support to survivors of this violence.[HL4059]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): The British Government continues to condemn in the strongest terms the atrocities committed by the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) against all communities throughout the areas under its control. We are working closely with the Iraqi government, the Kurdistan Regional government and our international coalition partners to assist and protect civilians wherever we can.

From 7-14 November, the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) conducted a joint scoping mission to Erbil and Baghdad with the Government of Canada. This aimed to better understand the scale of the issue and the services being provided in response to inform UK and Canadian policy and support. Through the Department for International Development we are already funding activities to protect vulnerable civilians such as legal assistance and support groups for women within internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps in the Kurdistan Region. We are continuing to explore what further support we might be able to provide to vulnerable groups and IDPs.

We welcome the commitments that Prime Minister al-Abadi has made to inclusivity, to protecting Iraqi citizens, addressing human rights abuses and holding those responsible to account.

Iraq Committee of Inquiry

Question

Asked by Lord Truscott

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will provide a detailed breakdown of the costs of the Chilcot Inquiry to date.[HL4142]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): I refer the noble Lord to the answer I gave to Lord West of Spithead on 3 November 2014, Official Report, Column 1425. A detailed breakdown of these costs is available on the Inquiry’s website.

Israel

Questions

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority towards achieving access to the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem, and other historic sites, for Palestinians in the West Bank and more widely for visitors from the Middle East and the rest of the world.[HL3972]

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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): We have made representations to the Government of Israel that it is vital that the longstanding status quo in respect of access to Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, and other historic sites, be preserved. We raised the issue of access restrictions numerous times with the Israeli authorities between September and November last year. Since the middle of November, Muslims of all ages have been allowed to worship at Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif. We have also lobbied the Israeli authorities on the wider issues of movement and access of Palestinians between Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 31 December (HL3732), what action they have taken to ensure that Israel has fulfilled its legal obligations under applicable international law. [HL4070]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: We have frequently raised Israel's obligations under International Humanitarian Law and international human rights law with the Israeli authorities, including the obligation of the occupying power to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, and that destruction of Palestinian property is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Livingston of Parkhead on 17 December (HL3408), what representations they have made to Israel concerning the 12 licences for components issued which could be part of equipment used by the Israel Defense Force and include components for combat aircraft, for military radars, and for targeting equipment.[HL4071]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: We regularly discuss arms export licensing with the Israeli authorities. Our Ambassador to Israel briefed the Israeli government on the outcome of the review announced on 12 August. A review of all export licences for material that could have been used in Operation Protective Edge is underway and a decision is due soon.

Israel: USA

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of the United States regarding the United States–Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014.[HL3986]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): Officials from our Embassy in Washington have discussed elements of the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 with their contacts on Capital Hill and in the United States Administration.

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Level Crossings

Question

Asked by Lord Bradshaw

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they expect that the review of level crossing legislation will result in a legislative proposal being put before Parliament.[HL4149]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): We want to bring forward legislation as soon as possible.

However, whilst we have accepted the majority of the recommendations made by the Law Commission, our response to its report noted that there were a number of areas where we believed that further consideration with stakeholders, including the Scottish and Welsh Governments, was necessary before reaching a conclusion.

The Department for Transport has produced a Level Crossing Reform Action Plan which explains how this work will be taken forward including an indicative timetable for bringing forward legislative proposals during 2016. Initial discussions with stakeholders are already underway.

Milk

Question

Asked by The Lord Bishop of St Albans

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to strengthen United Kingdom food security through ensuring that the supply of liquid milk produced in the United Kingdom is sufficient to meet United Kingdom consumer demand, in order to reduce reliance on imported milk. [HL3996]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): Milk commodity price increases during 2013 stimulated milk production in the UK (also in the EU and across the world). UK milk production for January to November 2014 was 9% up on the previous year and 7% higher than the average seen over the past 10 years. Liquid milk is expensive to transport and has a short lifespan in its raw state. UK imports are at very low levels: around 1% of total UK production. In 2013, the UK imported 132 million litres of raw milk, predominantly intra-trade between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Domestic production of liquid milk in the same period was 13.2 billion litres.

Ministry of Defence: Civil Proceedings

Question

Asked by Lord Blencathra

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which law firms have received legal aid funding in relation to claims against the Ministry of Defence in the last five years; and in each case how much funding has been provided.[HL3957]

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The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) cannot separately identify legal aid which has been awarded to bring actions against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) without disproportionate costs. Opponent details in legal aid cases are not systematically recorded by the LAA as there is no legislative or business requirement to do so.

Motor Vehicles: Litter

Question

Asked by Lord Marlesford

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have invited tenders for the scoping study to obtain the evidence on which to base regulations on littering from vehicles as required by the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014; and when they expect the study to be completed.[HL4041]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): Defra invited tenders for the scoping study on 10 December last year. The study is expected to be completed by the end of March this year.

Muslim Brotherhood

Question

Asked by Lord Luce

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to publish their recent review of the Muslim Brotherhood.[HL4109]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): I refer the noble peer to the answer I gave on 13 October 2014, Official Report, Column WA13.

Northern Ireland Government

Questions

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland was involved in all parts of the talks leading to the Stormont House Agreement, contrary to the Belfast Agreement of 1998.[HL3949]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Wales Office (Baroness Randerson) (LD): The Irish Government’s involvement in the talks leading to the Stormont House Agreement was consistent with the well-established three-stranded approach to Northern Ireland affairs.

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether any additional agreements were concluded further to the Stormont House Agreement; and, if so, when those will be published.[HL3952]

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Baroness Randerson: As the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland confirmed in her statement on the Stormont House Agreement, repeated in this House, there are no side deals to the Agreement.

Palestinians

Question

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are aware of any current discussions concerning Gaza's gas fields; and what assessment they have made of the ownership of those gas fields.[HL4068]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): The gas fields off the coast of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories continue to be a matter of commercial discussion. We are in regular contact with British Gas, the Palestinian Authority and the Israelis about the exploration of offshore oil and gas.

Ownership of the gas field is based on location within maritime borders.

Pensions and Social Security Benefits

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what arrangements are in place administratively and legislatively to reduce public sector pensions and social security benefits in the event of the consumer and retail price indices September 2015 recording negative growth and deflation; and what preparations they are making for that eventuality.[HL4116]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): Decisions about the up-rating of social security benefits, and subsequent changes to public sector pensions, are taken annually following the publication of September’s price inflation, so such decisions would be for a future Government.

Russia

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, and if so, why, they have supported an informal paper calling for European Union member states' media regulators to censor Russian broadcasters and arguing that the European Union should aim to influence behaviour and attitudes amongst key audiences. [HL4052]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): The British Government supports freedom of expression and of the media. We do not support censorship of broadcasters,

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Russian or otherwise. The informal discussion paper, which we and other EU partners have supported, does not advocate media censorship, but proposes a coordinated response to Russian disinformation. The paper makes clear that rules designed to promote objective broadcast

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media reporting and transparency of interests, and to prevent incitement of hatred or propagation of violence and war, with due respect to freedom of expression must be observed, and complaints investigated by regulators.