Archive of ‘Written Answers’

Ghana11.13.12

Lord Sheikh: To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the Government of Ghana concerning the Presidential elections there in December. The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The UK has an ongoing dialogue with the Government of Ghana about the upcoming presidential elections. Most recently, in his visit in October, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my honourable friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mr Simmonds), discussed the elections with Vice-President, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, Deputy Foreign Minister, Chris Kpodo, and Trade Minister, Hannah Tetteh, as well as the opposition under Nana Akufo-Addo. The UK will continue to engage with the Government of Ghana on this issue in the run-up to, and following, the elections in December.   Lord Sheikh: To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have given any guidance to the Government of Ghana about the implementation of the proposed freedom of information law; and, if so, what that guidance was. Baroness Warsi: Our high commission in Accra ran a project funded in financial year 2009-10 to bring two freedom of information experts to Ghana to engage with relevant stakeholders as the Ghanaian Government were developing a Right to Information (RTI) bill. In partnership with local civil society organisations they ran a fact-finding mission to identify Ghana's requirements and then ran a two-day workshop with senior public servants to draw together ideas for the implementation process. The key outcome of the workshop was the development of an action plan outlining major activities necessary to work towards the successful implementation of RTI in Ghana, should it be adopted into law.   Lord Sheikh: To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they have taken through the Commonwealth to support economic growth in Ghana. Baroness Warsi: The Commonwealth has the potential to contribute significantly to the prosperity of its members given we share the core values, of democracy, rule of law, good governance, human rights and similar legal systems. In financial year 2012-13, UK contributions to Commonwealth organisations will amount to approximately £40 million, which includes £16 million in funding to the Commonwealth Secretariat. The Commonwealth Secretariat's Economic Division aims to strengthen policies and systems that support economic growth in Commonwealth member countries. This is achieved through helping countries take advantage of opportunities, and improve their ability to manage long-term economic development. In 2012, the secretariat helped train 220 national facilitators from both Ghana and Kenya in implementing programmes in financial literacy, and supported a conference in Accra on private equity for African institutional investors. In September, the secretariat co-hosted a workshop on venture capital for Ghanaian policy-makers and regulators to help unlock local capital for private sector investment in Ghana.   Lord Sheikh: To ask Her Majesty's Government what assistance they have given to the Government of Ghana to help it meet the United Nations' millennium development goals. Baroness Northover: The UK Government provide financial and technical support to the Government of Ghana in a range of areas to help Ghana accelerate its progress towards the millennium development goals. Examples include assistance to the Ghanaian Government's national malaria campaign; malaria is the biggest cause of deaths of children under five and a major cause of the death of pregnant women. Last year, UK aid distributed 2.35 million bednets to protect against malaria and help achieve universal national coverage. This year UK aid is providing an additional two million bednets. UK aid's programme up to 2015, including the results we will achieve, is outlined in the DfID Ghana Operational Plan 2011-15. These results includes supporting 70,000 girls to stay in school with assistance through both the Ghanaian Government and NGOs, helping the Ghanaian Government to extend their cash grant programme to 100,000 of the poorest people, which will help tackle hunger and malnutrition among other things, and helping 50,000 people to grow their businesses through access to better support and services.   Lord Sheikh: To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to boost trade between Ghana and Britain. Baroness Garden of Frognal: UK Trade and Investment's (UKTI) teams in London and Accra offer potential exporters a range of services and support, including market research, the identification of local agents and distributors, participation in trade missions, and product launches. In recent months, UKTI has given particular support to companies in the oil and gas, education and construction sectors. During a recent visit to Accra, FCO Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, hosted a breakfast meeting with UK investors and visited a hospital being built by a UK company, which won the contract with High Commission support. Between 2010 and 2011 bilateral trade between the UK and Ghana increased by 32%, to nearly £1.2 billion.    

Archive for Africa, House of Lords, Written Answers

Angola11.13.12

Lord Sheikh: To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the recent general elections in Angola. The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): In a Statement on 12 September, following the Angolan elections of 31 August, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my honourable friend the Member for Boston and Skegness, (Mr Simmonds) said: "I welcome the re-election of President dos Santos and congratulate the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) on its success in the third election in the Republic of Angola. I commend the Angolan people, political parties and civil society on the peaceful environment in which the elections were held. Despite concerns about the electoral process, such as unequal access to the media, problems with voter rolls, and lack of timely accreditation for election observers, the Angolan authorities' commitment to take action to address such concerns is commendable. This is an important step toward further strengthening Angola's democratic institutions and will help to build confidence for future elections. I look forward to continuing to strengthen our bilateral relationship with the Angolan Government, and to further engagement with the Angolan people".   Lord Sheikh: To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to promote democracy in Angola. Baroness Warsi: The UK firmly believes that democracy is the system of government that provides the best route to building accountable and responsive states which are best able to safeguard human rights and promote development. Our embassy officials in Luanda regularly engage with the Angolan Government on democratic and human rights issues, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has funded a range of projects which have democracy at their heart including: a project run with Angola's Secretary of State for Human Rights to promote human rights and democracy among the Angolan population; anda project with a coalition of national election observers to provide funding to enable them to observe and report on the 2012 general election.   Lord Sheikh: To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the independence of the Angolan Electoral Commission. Baroness Warsi: The Angolan law on the organisation and functioning of the National Election Commission and the Constitution of February 2010 make clear that the National Election Commission must be an independent body. The commission is made up of 17 members including its chair, who must be a judge, and 16 others designated by the National Assembly. Membership is broad: the commission's central decision-making body is its plenary, in which one representative from each political party and coalition with at least one parliamentary seat and up to five representatives from political parties and coalitions without a parliamentary seat can participate.   Lord Sheikh: To ask Her Majesty's Government what reports they have received about recent civic unrest in Angola. Baroness Warsi: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, through our embassy in Luanda, carefully monitors the security situation across Angola. Since March 2011, there have been a number of demonstrations and political rallies in Angola, including during August (the month of the recent general election). Some of these gatherings have resulted in outbreaks of violence.   Lord Sheikh: To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of Angola's candidacy for graduation from the group of less developed countries. Baroness Warsi: Since the end of civil war in 2002, Angola has made remarkable economic progress, becoming Sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest economy. It is important the newly elected Government of Angola make sure that the economic boom benefits as many citizens as possible. I particularly welcome President dos Santos's pre-election pledge to work on reducing the disparity between rich and poor. Angola's aspiration to graduate from the group of less developed countries (LDC) is welcome. If Angola meets the UN requirements and thus graduates, this will help achieve the UN goal set in May 2011 of at least half the current LDC countries graduating within a decade.  

Archive for Africa, House of Lords, Written Answers

People Trafficking11.21.11

Lord Sheikh: To ask Her Majesty's Government what sanctions can be imposed on companies who employ trafficked individuals. The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): If there is sufficient evidence against an individual within a company, that s/he knowingly employed and exploited trafficked victims, those individuals can be prosecuted for offences of human trafficking or conspiracy to commit trafficking offences. The maximum penalty is 14 years' imprisonment, a fine, or both. Furthermore, if there is evidence that a company has profited from the employment of trafficked individuals, there can be consideration of offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to seize any profits they have made. If a company in a Gangmasters Licensing Authority-regulated sector has knowingly employed illegal migrants who are victims of trafficking, their licence can be revoked under Gangmasters Licensing legislation. They could also be issued with fines by the UK Border Agency of up to £10,000. The Gang masters Licensing Act 2004 also creates offences for persons who enter into arrangements under which a gangmaster supplies him/her with workers or services while not under the authority of a licence. The sanction which applies here is a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 51 weeks, or a fine, or both. Sanctions for illegal activities including human trafficking can also be imposed on companies by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) by taxing the income, profits, and gains from human trafficking.  

Archive for House of Lords, People Trafficking, Written Answers

Uganda03.22.11

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the Government of Uganda about its role and responsibilities within the Commonwealth.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Uganda is well versed on Commonwealth issues, principles and values, having hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November 2007 and having held the chair-in-office role for the next two years.

In July 2010, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham underlined to President Museveni the importance of free, fair and peaceful democratic elections. The Commonwealth Observer Group was invited by the Government of Uganda to observe the February 2011 elections. In a statement issued just after elections, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham urged all political stakeholders in Uganda to reflect on the assessments of the EU and Commonwealth observers, build on the positive developments, and address the shortcomings identified in order to strengthen pluralistic, multi-party democracy in Uganda.

Our High Commission in Kampala is in contact with the current Ugandan representative on the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, who is the Commonwealth Youth Caucus's Africa regional representative.

Furthermore, we have lobbied Ugandan Ministers, including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs and Information, on specific human rights issues including respect for the rights of sexual minorities, media freedoms and freedom of assembly. We also continue to engage with the Government of Uganda on international security and peacekeeping priorities. As a troop-contributing country to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Uganda is making a major contribution to the international community's goals in Somalia.

We and our partners were concerned about allegations of corruption around the financing of CHOGM, and are continuing to urge the Government of Uganda to act on the report of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what recent reports they have received about the political situation in Uganda.

Lord Howell of Guildford: Our high commission in Kampala reports regularly on all aspects of the UK's bilateral relationship with Uganda. This has included full assessments of each stage of the recent electoral process, our bilateral trade, investment and development relationships, the situation with regards to respect for human rights, and security and prosperity in the East Africa and Great Lakes regions.

We also receive representations and reports on all of these areas from key stakeholders in Ugandan politics, including the Ugandan Government, opposition parties and interested non-governmental organisations. Last month, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham, the Minister for Africa, met MPs and Peers to discuss our assessments of the political situation in Uganda.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the Government of Uganda about the promotion of equal rights to its citizens irrespective of sexuality.

Lord Howell of Guildford: We have made clear to the Government of Uganda on several occasions that we are opposed to actions that will have a negative effect on the human rights of Ugandans, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. This includes our opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, tabled by a private Member, which would further criminalise homosexuality if passed into law. We have also raised our concerns to the Ugandan Government over an article that appeared in a Ugandan tabloid newspaper late last year, which apparently incited violence against homosexuals.

Our high commission in Kampala is in close touch with civil society groups that are campaigning for LGBT rights in Uganda, to which they have offered their support.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the recent presidential elections in Uganda.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My honourable friend Henry Bellingham noted in his statement of 22 February 2011 that we fully endorse the preliminary findings of the EU and Commonwealth observation missions to Uganda, which noted that while there have been improvements in the overall conduct and transparency of the elections, they were marred by avoidable shortcomings in their organisation. We share the observer mission's concern that the power of incumbency was exercised to such an extent as to compromise severely the level playing field between the competing candidates and political parties.

We will encourage all those elected and all Uganda's political stakeholders, including Uganda's Government, political parties and the Electoral Commission, to reflect on the assessments of the independent observers, build on positive developments, and address the shortcomings identified in order to strengthen pluralistic, multi-party democracy in Uganda.

Archive for Africa, House of Lords, Uganda, Written Answers

Sudan03.22.11

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what reports they have received about the political situation in Sudan following the announcement by Omal al-Bashir that he will not seek another term in office; and what is their assessment of that situation.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): President Bashir's announcement that he would not seek re-election is in line with Sudan's constitution, which imposes a two-term limit on any President. As the next presidential elections are not due to take place until 2015, the full impact of his announcement is yet to be seen. Other factors will influence the political situation over the coming months, including the likely amendments to Sudan's constitution following the completion of the comprehensive peace agreement and the secession of south Sudan in July.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what reports they have received about the recent violence in Abyei, Sudan.

Lord Howell of Guildford: We are very concerned at the recent clashes in the Abyei region, including those on 27 and 28 February 2011 and 1 and 2 March 2011 between northern and southern groups in the area. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary issued a joint statement with his US and Norwegian Troika colleagues on 15 March 2011 urging both parties to resume their dialogue on post-referendum issues including Abyei. We urge all parties to work to secure full implementation of the agreements made in Kadguli in January this year in order to reduce instability and tension.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the Government of Sudan to end discrimination against citizens who are HIV positive.

Lord Howell of Guildford: While we have not raised this issue specifically, we regularly raise issue of human rights and specifically protection of minorities with the Government of Sudan, in line with both the Sudanese constitution and with their international human rights obligations.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what support they are giving to south Sudan ahead of the preparations for independence on 9 July.

Lord Howell of Guildford: The UK is providing developmental assistance of £140 million to Sudan this financial year, approximately half of which is spent in the south, focused on conflict resolution, security, anti-corruption measures, basic service delivery and governance. We continue to play an active role in supporting the implementation of the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement.

 

Archive for Africa, House of Lords, Sudan, Written Answers

Ivory Coast02.16.11

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the situation in the Ivory Coast.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government remain deeply concerned about the ongoing political crisis in Côte d'Ivoire. We support the strong statements that have been made by the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union (AU). Both have made it clear that Mr Laurent Gbabgo should immediately and peacefully hand over power to President Alassane Ouattara in accordance with the wishes of the Ivorian people.

We note that the AU reaffirmed its position at the recent AU summit and set up a presidential panel of five African heads of state to resolve the crisis. We hope that the panel will find a solution that allows the democratic will of the Ivorian people to prevail.

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the humanitarian situation in the Ivory Coast.

Lord Howell of Guildford: Internally displaced people (IDP) remain concentrated in the western part of the country. It is estimated that there are 19,500 IDP of which more than 9,300 are children.

There are 14 confirmed cholera cases and six deaths according to anecdotal reports from the Red Cross-we are awaiting further details on this. World Health Organisation (WHO) reports a yellow fever outbreak in the north of the country, with 64 suspected cases and 25 deaths. On 22 January 2011 the authorities initiated a vaccination campaign which aims to target 840,000 people over nine months.

Agencies are worried that food security will become a major issue if the current impasse continues. The price of staples, cooking gas and charcoal continues to rise. The cost of food has increased dramatically in refugee hosting communities in Liberia and other neighbouring countries.

There are now more than 33,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia according to latest reports. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) reports that 600 refugees enter Liberia each day. Refugees are being hosted in communities in approximately 25 communities in Nimba County. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is working to construct three refugee camps in Liberia. Delivery of assistance to refugees in Liberia is being hampered by recent heavy rains and the poor state of roads.

A joint UNMIL/Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) rapid assessment of Ivorian refugees in Liberia is under way and will report back soon.

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to impose further sanctions on the Ivory Coast.

Lord Howell of Guildford: The latest amendments to the EU targeted measures on Ivory Coast were made in Council Decision 2011/71/CFSP which was adopted on 31 January 2011. This targeted further individuals and entities obstructing the process of peace and national reconciliation, and in particular who are jeopardising the proper outcome of the electoral process. EU targeted measures are under constant review and EU member states continue to consider, where evidence is forthcoming, whether either individuals or entities meet the listing criteria as stated above and put in place the necessary measures as applicable.

 

Archive for Africa, House of Lords, Written Answers

Ivory Coast02.11.11

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assistance they have given to victims of the conflict in the Ivory Coast.

Baroness Verma: The Department for International Development's (DfID's) humanitarian partners including UN agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) are responding to the needs of an estimated 20,000 internally placed people in Ivory Coast and 30,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia. DfID is closely monitoring the situation in Ivory Coast to check that the needs of affected people are being met as effectively and efficiently as possible through these agencies.

Archive for Africa, House of Lords, Written Answers

Ivory Coast02.10.11

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the number of claims for asylum from countries which share a border with the Ivory Coast.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The table attached shows the number of asylum applications received in the UK, excluding dependants, for nationals of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Mali between 2005 and Quarter 3, 2010.

Information on asylum applications is published monthly, quarterly and annually in the Control of Immigration bulletins and monthly asylum applications tables available from the Home Office's Research, Development and Statistics website at: www.homeoffice. gov.uk/rds/immigration-asylum-stats.html.

Asylum applications (1) received in the United Kingdom, excluding dependants, 2005 to Quarter 3 2010, nationals of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Mali

Country of nationality

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009 (P)

Q1 to Q3 2010 (P)

Burkina Faso

10

*

5

5

*

*

Ghana

230

130

120

140

140

130

Guinea

165

170

120

80

115

70

Liberia

175

50

40

20

15

15

Mali

10

5

5

5

10

5

Total

590

355

290

245

280

220

(1) Figures rounded to the nearest 5 (- = 0. * = 1 or 2) and may not sum to the totals shown because of independent rounding.

(P) Provisional figures.

Archive for Africa, House of Lords, Written Answers

Security Industry11.24.10

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take to increase membership of the leisure security industry among small and medium-sized enterprises.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The Security Industry Authority (SIA) was set up under the Private Security Industry Act 2001 to drive out criminality and raise standards in the private security industry, and is responsible for the mandatory licensing of individuals working in it. Before the SIA will grant a licence, it carries out criminal record and other checks to establish that the applicant has the required training and qualifications. One of the sectors where a licence is required under the 2001 Act is door supervision. Decisions on the employment of door supervisors and other private security industry personnel are a matter for individual businesses, subject to compliance with any legal requirements.

Archive for House of Lords, Security, Written Answers

Crime: Fraud11.23.10

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to address the rise in fraudulent insurance claims.

To ask Her Majesty's Government what measures they will put in place to tackle fraudulent insurance claims.

To ask Her Majesty's Government what mechanisms they will put in place to give companies additional support in detecting cases of insurance fraud.

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to prevent insurance fraud.

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they will take to address the rising cost of undetected fraudulent general insurance claims.

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): Due to improved measurement, prevention/detection capability and consistently raising the profile of insurance fraud both within the industry and in the public domain, the insurance industry has reported an increase in the number of fraudulent insurance claims that are being detected by insurers and through reports from the public who are increasingly playing a role in helping to identify insurance fraud. The use of specialised software by the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) since 2006 has helped to identify more fraudulent activity in particular areas of the industry, particularly in relation to crash for cash frauds and the involvement of professional enablers, which remains a core focus of attention for the IFB and industry in general. The insurance industry is an important partner of the National Fraud Authority (NFA) which co-ordinates the implementation of the National Fraud Strategy with partners in Government, law enforcement, the third sector and industry. As part of this, the NFA works with partners to develop improved information sharing to enable the prevention and disruption of fraudulent activity. The insurance industry is represented by the IFB on a NFA Taskforce to prevent fraud by improving the sharing of information about incidences of fraud across sectors of the economy. The IFB also shares intelligence and data with, for example, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau-operated by the City of London Police-the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Ministry of Justice. Since its formation, the IFB has helped the police make over 426 arrests in connection with organised insurance fraud, resulting in almost 100 convictions to date. Working with its membership and with the police in joint investigations, the bureau has successfully disrupted actions of criminal gangs concerning crash for cash frauds. Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre run by the NFA, refers individuals and businesses with concerns about insurance fraud directly to the insurance industry's confidential Cheatline, managed by the IFB. As part of the insurance industry's continued commitment to reduce fraud, the operational capacity of the Cheatline was increased in September 2010 and the improvements provide a more enhanced facility to deal with the increase in reports being made, which are complemented by online Cheatline reporting.

Archive for Crime, Fraud, House of Lords, Written Answers

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    Lord Sheikh is a Conservative Peer, businessman, academic and philanthropist. This is his website.

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