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Written Answers

Friday 23 January 2015

Armed Forces: Cadets

Question

Asked by Lord Lexden

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to encourage more maintained schools to work with independent schools in establishing new cadet units.[HL4268]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): Many of our most respected independent schools and some state schools have for over 100 years looked to military themed activities to give their pupils a sense of discipline, adventure and achievement.

Partnership with an existing cadet unit provides many benefits to state funded schools wanting to set up new units under our Cadet Expansion Programme. Partnership helps to share good practice and transfer skills, especially into schools with no prior military experience. There are many established independent school cadet units willing to partner with state schools.

To date 23 of the 65 schools approved to establish a cadet unit under the Cadet Expansion Programme are benefiting from such a partnership. While we strongly encourage partnership to help schools establish a new unit, we also encourage them to develop their aspirations to establish a stand-alone unit that is able to deliver the cadet experience to many more of their pupils.

Armenia

Question

Asked by Lord Kilclooney

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made any representations to the government of Armenia about the detention and trial of Azerbaijani citizens Shahbaz Guliyev and Dilgam Askerov; and whether they recognise as legitimate Armenian court procedures in occupied Nagorno-Karabakh.[HL4180]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): The UK has not made any representations to the Government of Armenia about the detention of Shahbaz Guliyev and Dilgam Askerov in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. However, we have discussed this case with the International Committee of the Red Cross who are able to access Nagorno-Karabakh and have visited the detainees several times. The UK does not recognise the so-called ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’ and therefore does not recognise the legal framework or Court proceedings in question.

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India

Questions

Asked by Lord Ahmed

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of India regarding human rights issues in the Jammu and Kashmir region.[HL4129]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): Allegations of human rights abuses on both sides of the Line of Control in Kashmir must be investigated thoroughly, promptly and transparently. Officials from our High Commissions in New Delhi and Islamabad regularly discuss the situation in Kashmir with the Governments of both India and Pakistan, and visit the region to witness the situation on the ground first-hand. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), has spoken to both his Indian and Pakistani counterparts about regional issues in recent months.

Asked by The Earl of Sandwich

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which United Kingdom-based or indigenous aid agencies and non-governmental organisations working to reduce poverty in India currently receive funding from the Department for International Development; and which will continue to receive funding from the Department for International Development after its official programme closes.[HL4195]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Northover) (LD): DFID’s financial grant aid to India will cease in 2015, as we move towards a new UK-India development partnership. After 2015, our partnership will be based on sharing skills and expertise, investing in private sector projects that benefit the poor whilst generating a return, and working together on global development issues. While current funding to NGO’s will end as individual projects come to a close over 2015/16, individual future projects involving Technical Assistance may find that NGO’s are the most appropriate partner.

International Organization for Migration

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will consider contributing to the core budget of the International Organization for Migration.[HL4061]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Northover) (LD): The UK already makes a core contribution to IOM’s budget through its assessed annual contribution.

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Iraq

Question

Asked by Lord Kilclooney

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the human rights situation of Yazidi women in areas of Iraq controlled by ISIS.[HL4185]

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.

The human rights situation for many living in areas under ISIL control is gravely concerning, including for Yezidi women. We have received reports, including a recently published Amnesty International report, of the ordeal faced by these women and others abducted by ISIL including rape, sexual abuse, forced marriage, forced conversion and women being sold as slaves. Through the Department for International Development we are funding activities to protect vulnerable civilians including through legal assistance and support groups for women. We continue to explore what further support we might be able to provide to vulnerable groups and internally displaced persons.

Mesothelioma

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the breakdown of the mesothelioma research funding applications made to the Medical Research Council in the last five financial years between the separate categories of Centre Grants; New Investigator Research Grants; Research Grants; Programme Grants; and Trial Grants.[HL4065]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) (Con): In Earl Howe’s written answer of 06 January 2015 (HL Deb, c173W) it was specified that the 10 applications were for grants and fellowships. Although fellowships are not mentioned in this question, we are including them in the response so that the numbers align.

Of the 10 applications for grants and fellowships relating to mesothelioma that were received by the MRC between 2009/10 and 2013/14:

- Five were fellowships of which were three were funded. All of the fellowship applications were for Clinical Research Training Fellowships;- Five were grants, of which:One was a Centre Grant (funded)Two were New Investigator Research Grants (unfunded)Two were Research Grants (unfunded)

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Northern Ireland Government

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether their agreement in paragraph 37 of the Stormont House Agreement to “make full disclosure” to the proposed Historical Investigation Unit includes the handing over of all relevant files and documents in the possession of the security services and the Army; what is the current United Kingdom legislation applying to existing bodies that is said to prevent “damaging onward disclosure of information”; and whether they can guarantee, in the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland, that the legislation will meet their duty to keep people safe and secure and will be compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[HL4115]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Wales Office (Baroness Randerson) (LD): The Stormont House Agreement made clear that the UK Government will make full disclosure of all relevant information held by UK Government departments to the Historical Investigations Unit.

There are various statutes which contain provisions designed to prevent damaging disclosure of sensitive information. These range from the Official Secrets Act 1989, which applies generally and deals with disclosure of Government information, to other approaches that deal with specific legal processes, such as the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 which governs disclosure of information by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Appropriate legislation will be drafted to provide for the specific requirements of the Historical Investigations Unit regarding onward disclosure, in line with arrangements for existing bodies and consistent with the Stormont House Agreement.

The UK Government is committed to ensuring that the right to life (Article 2) is protected and that the Government also fulfils its duty to keep people safe and secure, in Northern Ireland and across the United Kingdom.

Parking: Fees and Charges

Question

Asked by Lord Scriven

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the report by the RAC Foundation Local Authority Parking Finances in England 2013/14, what assessment they have made of English local authorities' income from off- and on-street car parking operations to ensure they are not making excessive profits.[HL3704]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): The figures published by the RAC Foundation are based on data returns published by my Department. Council returns’ suggest that profit (“net income”) on parking services was £635 million in 2013-14. Penalty charge income from on-street parking was £343 million. The RAC Foundation observe that

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some councils’ operational costs have fallen due to greater efficiencies, overall gross income has increased; as a result, net profit has risen. Legislation and guidance is clear that on-street parking should not be used as a source of general revenue.

Unreasonable parking charges and fines push up hard-working people's cost of living. If parking is too expensive or difficult, shoppers will simply drive to out of town supermarkets or just shop online, undermining the vitality of town centres and leading to ‘ghost town’ high streets. This Government has rejected the last Administration’s policy of encouraging higher parking charges and aggressive parking enforcement, and is standing up for hard-working people and local shops.

We are introducing a series of reforms, including:

Stopping the abuse or misuse of on-street parking CCTV;Reforming operational parking guidance so it is less heavy handed with motorists, prevents over-aggressive action by bailiffs, positively supports local shops and clearly reinforces the prohibition against parking being used to generate profit;Introducing mandatory 10 minute “grace periods” at the end of on-street paid and free parking, and looking to extend this to off-street municipal parking;Implementing a new right to allow local residents and local firms to demand a review of parking in their area, including charges and the use of yellow lines;Proposing a widening of the powers of parking adjudicators, and updating guidance so the public know when they can be awarded costs at tribunals;Trialling a 25% discount for drivers at appeal stage, reversing the current disincentive for drivers with a legitimate case to appeal; andChanging guidance so drivers parking at an out-of-order meter are not fined if there are no alternative ways to pay.

We have also recently updated the local government Transparency Code to increase information about local parking charges and the number of parking spaces, which we expect councils now to implement as required by the statutory code.

The measures on curtailing parking CCTV are contained within the Deregulation Bill, and I hope that noble peers will be supporting our measures at Report Stage in light of the figures in the RAC Foundation report.

Public Sector: Recruitment

Question

Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the light of press reports that recruits to the armed forces are to be questioned about their sexual orientation, other public organisations require such information to be revealed by job applicants.[HL4051]

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Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): Monitoring the diversity of job applicants is a matter for each public body, though many public bodies do this in order to improve their equality and diversity monitoring more generally.

Public authorities may often collect such information to demonstrate they are complying with the public sector equality duty in the Equality Act 2010.

Job applicants should always have a choice about whether to reply.

Recreation Spaces

Question

Asked by Lord Greaves

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many adopted local plans include the designation of local green spaces; and how many such spaces have been designated.[HL4190]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): We do not collect detailed statistics on individual policies within Local Plans.

Saudi Arabia

Question

Asked by Lord Avebury

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to imposing sanctions on Saudi Arabian ministers responsible for legislation providing for sentences of cruel and unusual punishments, particularly for acts permitted under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[HL4175]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): Currently there are no sanctions in place for Saudi Arabia and we have not considered imposing them on Saudi Arabia.

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr Grayling), and the Saudi Minister of Justice, Dr Al Issa, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will further help us to support Saudi Arabia’s reform efforts in the judicial sector.

Sri Lanka

Question

Asked by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their latest assessment of the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka.[HL4208]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): We continue to have a number of serious concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, such as the harassment of human rights defenders and activists, and attacks

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on religious minorities. President Sirisena has pledged to lead a more democratic and accountable government, including restoring the independence of the police and judiciary, ensuring electoral reforms, and protecting the rights and freedoms of all religions in Sri Lanka. We welcome these early commitments.

Travellers

Questions

Asked by Baroness Whitaker

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the conclusions of the report by the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups Civil Society Monitoring on the Implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy in the United Kingdom in 2012 and 2013, launched on 2 December 2014; and what steps they plan to take in response to that report’s recommendations.[HL4156]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the 2014 Report of the European Commission on the implementation of the European Union framework for National Roma Integration Strategies which was critical of the implementation of some of the 28 recommendations of the 2012 Ministerial Working Group on Gypsies, Travellers and Roma.[HL4263]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): I refer the noble Lady to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Housing and Planning (Brandon Lewis) on 5 January

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2015, UIN reference 218133, and my answer to the noble Lord Avebury on 11 November 2014,

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Zimbabwe

Question

Asked by Lord Luce

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their current assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe; and what level of aid the United Kingdom is providing to that country.[HL4108]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Northover) (LD): The United Kingdom continues to closely monitor events in Zimbabwe, including the recent changes within the ruling party. We remain committed to supporting the aspirations of the Zimbabwean people for a more democratic, stable and prosperous future.

In 2013/14 we provided £106 million in aid to Zimbabwe. This aid focused on helping the country’s poorest people, including providing healthcare, water, sanitation, and access to markets needed for people to earn enough money to meet their basic needs.

No UK aid goes directly through GoZ systems. UK aid is instead channelled through multilateral institutions such as United Nations Agencies, most notably the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as well as international Non-Governmental Organisations and the private sector.

The most up to date figures of DFID spend can be found in DFID’s Annual Report.