20 Oct 2014 : Column WA49

Written Answers

Monday 20 October 2014

Access to Work Programme

Questions

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government in how many cases customer complaints regarding the application and assessment process of the Access to Work scheme have led to reconsideration of the decision made.[HL1942]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of Access to Work awareness training for Jobcentre Plus staff.[HL1943]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they will ensure that the application process for the Access to Work scheme is service-user focused, particularly with regard to deaf users.[HL1944]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): Access to Work does not publish data on Service delivery performance as such data is collated for Management information only and therefore not subject to the assurance required to share with stakeholders.

No formal assessment of awareness has taken place but all Jobcentre Plus staff learn about the Access to Work programme as part of their extensive training. In addition, all relevant sections of DWP guidance signpost staff to additional information about Access to Work. Access to Work staff also deliver either face to face or telephone based learning sessions for Jobcentre Plus colleagues on request.

Access to Work aims to make the application process accessible to all service users. Officials are currently engaging with Deaf users, disabled people's organisations and other experts to ensure that Access to Work has the best possible customer service so that we can help as many Deaf, and other disabled, people to fulfil their potential in the workplace as possible.

Corporation Tax: Northern Ireland

Question

Asked by Lord Lexden

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they intend to announce the outcome of their consultation exercise on the devolution of corporation tax rate setting powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly. [HL1960]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Wales Office (Baroness Randerson) (LD): In ‘Building a Prosperous and United Community’ the Government committed to make a decision on whether to devolve corporation tax powers to Northern Ireland no later than Autumn Statement 2014. Significant legislative and technical work has taken place to date and we remain on track to meet this timetable.

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Driving: Disqualification

Question

Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they intend to bring into force section 137 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.[HL1882]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): The Government is working to put the necessary computer changes and other processes in place to allow for the commencement of section 137 of the Coroner and Justice Act 2009, which requires a court to extend a driving ban to take account of the period an offender spends in custody.

Glen Parva Young Offender Institution

Question

Asked by Lord Beecham

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with NHS England regarding the design of the proposed secure college at HM Young Offender Institution Glen Parva, and with what outcome.[HL1886]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): The Ministry of Justice has placed great emphasis on the importance of healthcare provision in the Secure College Pathfinder and has engaged NHS England officials throughout the design process. NHS England continues to play an integral role in the project. As a result, modifications have been made to the location and layout of the healthcare facilities in the design to ensure young people will have safe and timely access to healthcare and to better replicate healthcare provision found within the community.

Government Departments: Staff

Question

Asked by Lord Browne of Belmont

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many (1) permanent, and (2) non-permanent, members of staff have been employed by the Northern Ireland Office since 1 January 2014.[HL2091]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Wales Office (Baroness Randerson) (LD): The figures for permanent and non-permanent staff employed by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) since 1 January 2014 are as follows:

MonthPermanent StaffNon-Permanent Staff

January 2014

93

2

February 2014

93

2

March 2014

96

2

April 2014

94

0

May 2014

95

0

June 2014

95

1

July 2014

96

1

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August 2014

98

1

September 2014

100

1

These figures are for Home Civil Servants only who are employed directly to work in the core NIO. In addition, the NIO also has 51 members of staff who are employed by the Northern Ireland Civil Service but are seconded to the NIO.

In Vitro Fertilisation

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the risks of clinical trials of mitochondrial replacement therapy; and what safeguards will be put in place in such trials. [HL1962]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): The safety and efficacy of two mitochondrial donation techniques proposed for clinical use, Maternal Spindle Transfer and Pronuclear Transfer, have been the subject of three scientific reviews carried out by an Expert Panel convened by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The Panel reported in April 2011, March 2013 and June 2014.

Any regulations that would allow mitochondrial donation would also bring into place important safeguards through the HFEA’s licencing procedures. For a licence to be issued to a provider of mitochondrial donation they would first have to demonstrate that they could carry out the procedure safely and effectively.

Iraq

Question

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made so far by the International Humanitarian Partnership with establishing the proposed three camps, each to house 15,000 persons, for refugees who have fled from the fighting in Iraq; how that progress compares with the anticipated schedule; how many refugees are believed to be in need of shelter; which ethnic or religious groups are being assisted in those camps by the International Humanitarian Partnership; and what assessment they have made of what is likely to happen to those who are not provided for by those camps.[HL1961]

Baroness Northover (LD): The International Humanitarian Partnership (IHP) is building one camp in Shekhan which will provide shelter for up to 6,000 people. Camp construction is on schedule and should be ready to provide shelter by mid-November. The IHP was initially requested by UNHCR to build three of the sixteen camps that will provide shelter to those who have been displaced by the conflict in Northern Iraq.

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This proposal has now changed and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has taken charge of building the two other camps.

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) has received 860,000 displaced persons in successive waves. Of these, it is estimated that approximately 390,000 are in need of shelter. Of the £23 million that DFID has provided in response to the crisis, £17.5 million is funding United Nations (UN) agencies and NGO (Non-Government Organisation) partners to provide shelter, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and protection services. We continue to respond to the crisis on the basis of needs although we recognise that many of those who are receiving assistance belong to religious or ethnic religious groups that have fled persecution.

The UN is working on a revised Strategic Response Plan (SRP) which will provide an assessment of the overall needs of refugees and IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). This SRP will include the shelter requirements for displaced persons up to December 2015. Our Advisors on the ground are working closely with aid agencies, the UN and the KRG to ensure that there is both an accurate assessment of need and an effective plan for meeting it.

Maryam Rajavi

Question

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, following the United States removal of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) from the list of foreign terrorist organisations and a French court’s dismissal of terrorism and financial misconduct charges, they will lift the bar on Maryam Rajavi visiting the United Kingdom.[HL2008]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The Home Office do not routinely comment on individual cases. The Home Office has obligations in law to protect this information. This case is also subject to ongoing legal proceedings.

Middle East

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the number of Palestinian civilians killed as a result of Israeli military action during the period of the most recent peace negotiations. [HL1945]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): Since the agreement of 26 August by all parties to a ceasefire in Gaza, four Palestinians have been killed by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). On 23 September, the IDF killed two Palestinians in Hebron suspected of involvement in the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June. On 10 September, a 22 year old Palestinian man was killed by the IDF in al-Amari refugee camp.

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The IDF claimed he was about to throw an explosive device. The incident occurred as clashes broke out during an IDF arrest operation in the al-Amari camp. A 16 year old youth died on 7 September from wounds he received, allegedly from a rubber bullet fired by the Israeli police, during clashes with the police in Jerusalem on 31 August.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on any future two-state negotiations of Israel’s recent designation as state land of land at Gvaot outside Bethlehem.[HL1948]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:: The British Government's assessment of Israel’s decision on 31 August to expropriate almost 990 acres of privately owned Palestinian land near Bethlehem, is that this presents an obstacle to peace and takes us further away from a two state solution at a time when negotiations to achieve this objective urgently need to be resumed. We have strongly urged the Government of Israel to reverse this decision.

Nationality: Somalia

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach on 9 July (HL396), whether the new Somali constitution drafted in 2012 is now in force; and, if so, whether it contains an article prohibiting the withdrawal of citizenship if a Somali becomes a citizen of another country.[HL2101]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): The question of whether the new Somali constitution, drafted in 2012, is now in force is subject to ongoing litigation proceedings. A hearing took place recently and a decision is awaited, which we expect will clarify the position.

Palestinians

Questions

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance the European Union is providing to the Palestinian Authority to help to remove rubble in Gaza. [HL1946]

Baroness Northover (LD): The EU and its Member States pledged to provide 450 million Euros in response to the Palestinian Authority’s National Reconstruction and Recovery Plan for Gaza, which includes clearance of rubble and Explosive Remnants of War.

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that where buildings are reconstructed in Gaza following Israeli military action they are better protected in the event of any future military action.[HL1947]

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Baroness Northover: At the Gaza Reconstruction Conference in Cairo last week, the UK committed £20 million to support the disposal of unexploded ordnance and rubble clearance and to provide longer-term assistance through the Palestinian Authority and UN agencies for recovery and reconstruction. This announcement is in addition to an existing funding of more than £17m in emergency assistance for those displaced by the conflict. Our support for the World Food Programme appeal has, for instance, enabled the provision of food vouchers to 300,000 people for one month. Strenuous efforts must be made to avoid a repetition of the conflict. We are working closely with international partners to break the cycle of violence through negotiation of a sustainable political settlement and the lifting of economic restrictions, which would allow peace, prosperity and security to follow.

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made since the ceasefire of 26 August towards securing full access to Gaza for medical, relief and reconstruction supplies; and whether all urgent medical cases now have access to treatment in Israel and Egypt.[HL1979]

Baroness Northover: The World Health Organisation reports that access for medical and relief supplies remains similar to pre-conflict levels, and there has been no change in procedures for the transfer of urgent medical cases to Israel or Egypt. The UK continues to support the UN Access Coordination Unit to improve the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza. We welcome the agreement between Israel, the PA and the UN on the mechanism for the import of construction materials, and stand ready to support its implementation.

Police: Recruitment

Question

Asked by Lord Ouseley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many (1) women, and (2) black and minority ethnic people, have been appointed to advertised posts for direct entry to senior ranks of the police service.[HL2022]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): Of the 10 superintendents who are expected to begin their superintendent training next month four (40%) will be women and two (20%) will be from an ethnic minority background. This is significantly more representative than the current make up of the superintendent rank of which 24% are women and 4% are from an ethnic minority background.

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Questions

Asked by Lord Patten

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the role of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as a World Heritage Site.[HL1993]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): The Government has reviewed the status of the World Heritage Site as part of its responsibilities since the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (“Kew”) was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Sites on the World Heritage List are of outstanding universal value to humanity and for the conservation of mankind's cultural and natural heritage. Kew was included as a result of its scientific and economic exchanges throughout the world; contribution to scientific advances; outstanding examples of landscape gardens; and the edifices created by celebrated artists.

UNESCO requires all sites to have a comprehensive Management Plan. Management Plans are generally revised every five years or so. These identify what is important in a World Heritage Site, the threats to the site, and measures to mitigate them; and set out a strategic vision for the future with time measured action plans. The Kew World Heritage Site Management Plan was last revised in 2011 and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport confirmed that this met UNESCO’s requirements. Kew, along with other parts of the Government, continues to keep the status of the site under review.

Government support, coupled with Kew’s other income streams, enables Kew to exercise its duty of expert care over its historic assets, which are available as a resource for the nation, and for the benefit of scientific research. One of the Management Plan’s priorities for 2011-2016 is the building maintenance programme with special priority to Temperate House. A major £35 million restoration of Temperate House has begun, for which Defra is underwriting £10 million.

Asked by Lord Patten

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the role of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as (1) a scientific centre, and (2) an educational and outreach centre.[HL1994]

Lord De Mauley: The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (“Kew”) has a well-deserved global reputation and is widely respected for its pioneering scientific research. The National Heritage Act 1983 defines Kew’s broad objectives and responsibilities, which include scientific research on plants and related subjects; providing related advice, instruction and education; and affording opportunities to the public for the purpose of gaining knowledge.

Defra commissioned an independent review of science at Kew in 2012 to assess the quality, balance, scope, and appropriateness of the programme. This recommended that Kew should develop a clear science strategy and should be very clear where its core strengths lie. Kew’s Director of Science is currently developing a Science Strategy and the results of this should be publicly available in 2015.

The 2012 review noted that Kew showed a good appreciation of the importance of bringing out Kew’s science role to visitors and highlighted the enormous potential for Kew to develop its public awareness and outreach activities. For example, Kew is annually visited by 100,000 children in organised school parties and

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runs several courses and events per year for the public. Kew is currently reviewing its future plans in relation to its offer to visitors and wider public engagement activity. The aim is to ensure that Kew attracts and engages a larger and wider audience, generates more value from those engagements, and creates a positive impact in relation to public understanding of the importance of plants to everyone’s life.

Defra continues to keep Kew’s performance under review against its Key Performance Indicators, which cover scientific research and visitor numbers, and these are published in Kew’s Annual Report and Accounts.

Sanctions: Russia

Question

Asked by Lord Myners

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Society for Worldwide Financial Telecommunications regarding possible sanctions against Russia.[HL1958]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): No representations have been made to the Society for Worldwide Financial Telecommunications by the British Government regarding possible sanctions against Russia.

Social Security Benefits: EU Nationals

Question

Asked by Lord Laird

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many Romanians and Bulgarians have sought social security benefits that were inaccessible before 1 January 2014; and how many such nationals are currently in receipt of child benefit.[HL2128]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): The Government does not record the nationality of the claimant receiving social security benefits including child benefit.

South Sudan

Questions

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will ensure that the recommendations of the Oxfam Report From Crisis to Catastrophe, food security in South Sudan, published on 6 October, are implemented.[HL1964]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the Oxfam Report From Crisis to Catastrophe, food security in South Sudan; and, in particular, how they will (1) assist the humanitarian efforts to create better conditions in United Nations camps, (2) improve co-ordination and delivery of aid to where people are, particularly in hard-to-reach areas, (3) ensure that diverse and sustainable interventions are made, building on local systems, and (4) improve management and planning to prevent future delays.[HL1965]

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Baroness Northover (LD): We remain deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in South Sudan, and have recently announced a further £25 million of humanitarian assistance, making the UK one of the largest donors to the response with total contributions of £150 million this year.

UK support has enabled humanitarian agencies to provide essential assistance in both United Nations camps and ‘hard-to-reach’ areas. Our assistance is providing more than 400,000 people with emergency food and/or livelihoods, 170,000 people with clean water, and 180,000 with improved hygiene and sanitation, and will assist thousands more this year. The UK is also ensuring that its development programmes contribute where possible, by maintaining health and education services through local systems; and by building the resilience of households through livelihoods programmes. We have also funded dozens of staff to key positions in the UN to assist with coordination and planning.

This assistance has helped to prevent deterioration of food security to famine levels. It has also helped agencies deal with the recent cholera outbreak, and provided support to survivors of sexual violence. However, we remain concerned about the humanitarian situation moving into 2015, with the risk of famine still real if conflict continues. Security and access remain major constraints to reaching those in need, especially in the hard-to-reach areas. We continue to stress the important need for all parties to respect the cessation of hostilities, and to allow unhampered access for humanitarian assistance.

We will continue to engage on the recommendations in the report in our role as member of the Security Council and in discussions with UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Governments of the region, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD).

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress is being made in South Sudan to ensure that all parties to the conflict and all armed groups (1) end violence and respect all agreements signed to date, including the Cessation of Hostilities and humanitarian agreements; (2) stop attacks against civilians, their homes and livelihoods, and end the forced recruitment of children; (3) guarantee protection of and respect for humanitarian staff; and (4) guarantee safe and unhindered access for humanitarian aid.[HL1966]

Baroness Northover: The intensity of the conflict in South Sudan has reduced substantially during the rainy season, but low level fighting and restrictions on humanitarian access in violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) continue. Steps towards a wider ceasefire were agreed in principle by the main warring parties in August, but an implementation matrix has not yet come into effect.

A further round of peace talks convened by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was held from 22 September to 5 October, with the mediators reporting some progress around the formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity to lead the country out of conflict. We expect talks to

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resume again after regional consultations, and the UK government continues to offer its full support to this process.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has stepped up patrols and continues to focus on protection of civilians and creating the conditions for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, in line with its renewed mandate agreed on 27 May 2014. Additional UN troops from regional forces have also been deployed in support of teams monitoring CoHA implementation. UK support has enabled humanitarian agencies to provide essential assistance in both UN Protection of Civilian (PoC) camps and in ‘hard to reach’ area. However, security and lack of access remain major constraints to reaching those in need and we continue to stress the important need for all parties to respect the CoH, and to allow for unhampered access for humanitarian assistance.

On 25 September, South Sudan’s Foreign Minister recommitted to his country’s 2012 Action Plan on Children and Armed Conflict at an event hosted by the Minister for Africa in New York. However, we continue to receive credible reports of the use of child soldiers in some areas.

Syria

Question

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they and their allies are taking to protect the Kurds of northern Syria from destruction by terrorist forces; and in particular, what is being done to prevent Kobane being taken by ISIL.[HL1980]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): The situation in Kobane is deeply worrying. As the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), set out in an oral statement to Parliament on 26 September, Official Report, column 1255, the UK will tackle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) using all the resources at our disposal. These include humanitarian efforts, which Britain is already leading, aimed at helping those displaced by ISIL’s onslaught, and diplomatic efforts to engage the widest possible coalition of countries. There is now a coalition of over forty countries including a number of Arab countries. We support the air strikes being conducted by the US and the five Arab nations against ISIL in Syria.

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease

Question

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the reasons for the incidence of exposure to and infection by ebola among women. [HL1971]

Baroness Northover (LD): There is significant potential for women and girls to be more at risk as victims of the outbreak. Women are the primary health care providers for their families and communities, form the bulk of healthcare workers in hospitals as nurses and

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cleaners, and are often responsible for handling female bodies for burial which brings them into direct contact with the disease. In addition, given that pregnant women are more likely to have contact with health services, they experience greater exposure to infections in health facilities.

West Africa

Question

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made an assessment of the impact of cuts in the United Kingdom’s aid to Sierra Leone and Liberia on the healthcare systems of those countries.[HL1970]

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Baroness Northover (LD): Britain is the largest bilateral donor to Sierra Leone and our support has been consistent over this Parliament. We spent £51 million in 2010/11, rising to £68 million in 2013/14. This compares to £44 million in 2009/10. In response to the recent Ebola outbreak the UK is leading the international response and has rapidly scaled up its support for Sierra Leone, committing £125m to contain, control and defeat the disease. This includes a £20 million package of support to improve public services in Sierra Leone.

In 2012, the UK’s share of multilateral spend through the European Development Fund, World Bank, African Development Bank, and GAVI was £18.2 million for Sierra Leone and £14.9 million for Liberia.