Written Answers to Parliamentary Questions - October 2010
18 October 2010
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the (a) export of components for F-16 aircraft and Apache helicopters (i) to Israel and (ii) to the US for incorporation in military equipment to be supplied to Israel and (b) other military exports to Israel.
Alistair Burt: All export licence applications for the export of military equipment to Israel are assessed on a case by case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. Further details about UK military exports to Israel and all other destinations are available in the UK Strategic Export Controls Annual Report.
James Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the progress of Israel's application to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Alistair Burt: We can confirm Israel joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in May 2010.
Mr Slaughter: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer to the then Member for Milton Keynes South West of 18 March 2010, Official Report, column 973W, on the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation and Development: Israel, what further progress has been made in resolving the outstanding issues relating to the scope of statistical data provided by the Israeli authorities to the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation and Development. 
Alistair Burt: Israeli accession to the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OECD) does not demonstrate an acceptance of illegal settlements or stand in the way of Palestinian statehood. Israel put forward statistics which include areas which are deemed by the UK and the wider international community to be occupied territory. However, the OECD Secretariat have included the following footnote regarding Israeli data in all pre- and post-accession reports that use Israeli data. The UK worked to agree this with EU and OECD partners in order to ensure clarity on the status of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
"This report/review/document is not intended to cover the territories known as the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. However, for technical reasons, it uses Israel's official statistics, which include data relating to the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It is without prejudice to positions regarding those territories, which most members of the international community regard as occupied territory under the terms of international law."
James Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the economic situation in the Gaza Strip. 
Mr Duncan: I have been asked to reply. There are several recent reports on the economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs), but none specifically on Gaza. These include reports produced by the World Bank, IMF and Palestinian Authority for the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting of the donor support group to the Palestinian Authority, held in September.
The World Bank report 'The Underpinnings of the Future Palestinian State: Sustainable Growth and Institutions' is available at:
www.worldbank.org on the west bank and Gaza page.
The IMF report 'Macroeconomic and Fiscal Framework for the West Bank and Gaza: Sixth Review of Progress' is available at:
www.imf.org on the west bank and Gaza page.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics also produces regular reports on various aspects of the economy in the OPTs, such as employment figures and activity of various sectors, which are available on their website at:
Mr Slaughter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the answer to the then hon. Member for Milton Keynes South West of 18 March 2010, Official Report, column 1022W, on EU external trade: Israel, how many (a) cosmetic companies and (b) importers were targeted for checks; what the nature of the checks was; what documentation was required and from whom; whether the investigations have been completed; and whether any mislabelling has been detected. 
Mr Gauke: For reasons of commercial confidentiality HMRC is unable to say how many cosmetic companies and importers were targeted for checks. However, it has undertaken checks in respect of a range of cosmetic products imported from Israel. So far, two duty demands have been issued in 2010 where the accompanying proof of preferential origin showed that the goods were produced in a settlement. HMRC will continue to make regular checks on imports from Israel which receive preference under the EU-Israel agreement. However, the majority of cosmetic products attract a free rate of customs duty outside of any preferential tariff arrangement.
Mr Slaughter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the contribution of the former Exchequer Secretary on 27 January 2010, Official Report, column 320WH, whether he has yet received a copy of the reports of the fact-finding mission of the European Commission to Israel and Palestine in 2009. 
Mr Gauke: HMRC has not received copies of reports of the fact finding missions to Israel and Palestine in 2009. However, it understands that in April 2010 the EU Commission provided an EU Council Working Group with a brief oral report of its findings in which it concluded that the 2005 Technical Arrangement is working satisfactorily.
Mr Slaughter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the answer to the then hon. Member for Milton Keynes South West of 18 March 2010, Official Report, column 1022W, on EU external trade: Israel, what progress HM Revenue and Customs has made in checking exports made under the EU-Israel Agreement from settlement companies listed in the 2009 research paper prepared by the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies. 
Mr Gauke: HMRC has examined customs import declarations from all companies mentioned in the research paper. There were no imports from a number of the companies. For some of the companies that did export goods to the UK, the proofs of preferential origin covering goods indicated that the goods were produced in Israel. HMRC is returning the proofs concerned to the Israeli authorities for verification of the origin of the goods. HMRC has already issued duty demands for goods imported from four of the companies in the paper whose goods have been established as originating in a settlements location.
Mr Slaughter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the answer to the then hon. Member for Milton Keynes South West of 10 March 2010, Official Report, column 676W, on Israel: EU external trade, whether the consignment with commodity code 34013000 is still under investigation; and whether HM Revenue and Customs has received confirmation of its place of production. 
Mr Gauke: Goods covered by commodity code 34013000 are under investigation. HMRC asked the Israeli authorities in September 2010 to verify the origin of three consignments of the products concerned. A response is awaited.
Mr Slaughter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the contribution of the former Exchequer Secretary of 27 January 2010, Official Report, column 321WH, how many importers have been issued a financial penalty since the entry into force of the new civil penalty provision for persistent claims of preference outside entitlements; what guidance has been issued on the frequency of false preference claims outside entitlements which constitute persistent submission; whether HM Revenue and Customs is recording the false declarations made by each importer which they have detected; and what the policy of HM Revenue and Customs is on checking the imports of importers who have previously made claims outside preference entitlements. 
Mr Gauke: HMRC has published on its website a schedule, taken from the Customs (Contravention of a relevant rule) (Amendment) Regulations 2009, of those situations in which an importer may incur a financial penalty. It supplements the guidance in HMRC Notice 301 on civil penalties in the customs area.
HMRC also keeps records of false declarations made by importers in respect of the preferential origin of goods. It is HMRC's policy to regularly examine the customs import entries of those importers who have previously made invalid declarations. Demands are issued for the full rate of customs duty, where appropriate.
HMRC is unable to extract specific information in respect of the number of warning letters and penalty notices issued in respect of the new penalty provision, which came into force in December 2009 for the persistent presentation of invalid proofs of preferential origin.
Mr Slaughter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the contribution of the former Exchequer Secretary of 27 January 2010, Official Report, column 320WH, which supermarkets HM Revenue and Customs has contacted to explore potential discrepancies between settlement origin identified by the supermarket's internal tracking system and the customs imports declaration.
Mr Gauke: For reasons of commercial confidentiality, HMRC cannot disclose its dealings with specific UK companies. However, it continues to experience traceability problems as a result of intermediaries rather than supermarkets being shown as importers on customs import declarations. HMRC therefore supports the work of DEFRA in encouraging supermarkets, under voluntary labelling arrangements, to ensure that their suppliers correctly mark the origin of the produce originating in the settlements. This will help HMRC to identify such products at the time of importation.
Mr Slaughter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the contribution of the former Exchequer Secretary of 27 January 2010, Official Report, column 321WH, what changes HM Revenue and Customs plans to make to the 2005 technical arrangements to ensure compliance with the rules on claims for preference.
Mr Gauke: The 2005 Technical Arrangement was concluded in the EU-Israel Customs Co-operation Committee by the EU Commission acting on behalf of the European Union as a whole. Consequently, the UK cannot take unilateral action to amend its terms. However, HMRC will continue to immediately refuse, under the arrangement, claims to Israeli tariff preference where a settlements location is shown on the accompanying proof of origin. It will also continue to return proofs to the Israeli authorities for verification where it has doubts about the origin of the goods concerned.
Mr Slaughter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the contribution of the former Exchequer Secretary of 27 January 2010, Official Report, column 320WH, what steps the European Commission has taken in response to the HM Revenue and Customs request for correct compliance by the Israeli authorities in respect of the precise place of production on the proof of preferential origin.
Mr Gauke: The European Commission continues to monitor the correct operation by Israel of the 2005 Technical Arrangement. It periodically asks member states for information and concerns in respect of the operation of the arrangement. In the last year only the UK has raised concerns about the possibility that the place of production shown on the proof of origin is simply a head office or distribution centre in Israel, and that the goods concerned may have in fact originated in a settlement. HMRC does not have any information about the Commission's current plans for any bilateral contacts with the Israeli authorities.
Ian Austin: To ask the Prime Minister whether he had discussions with the (a) Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and (b) Israeli government on his description of Gaza as a prison camp. 
The Prime Minister: I have nothing further to add to the answer I gave on 6 September 2010, Official Report, column 1W.
Sammy Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps he has taken to seek to secure the release of Gilad Shalit. 
Alistair Burt: The UK has been consistent in its views of the inviolability of Israel's security and for the need to release, unconditionally, Gilad Shalit.
My right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary made the following statement on 25 June 2010, the fourth anniversary of Shalit's capture:
"Today marks the fourth anniversary of the abduction of Israeli soldier, Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit. My thoughts are with Gilad's parents today. I sincerely hope that they will soon be able to welcome their son home.
The UK has long called for Gilad Shalit's immediate and unconditional release and we reiterate that call today. It is also vital that Hamas allows the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Gilad immediately and ensure that he is in good health. His continued captivity without any ICRC access and with only very occasional, minimal contact with his family is utterly unacceptable. We continue to call on Hamas to renounce violence and take immediate and concrete steps towards the Quartet principles and to free Gilad Shalit without delay."
4th October 2010
Lindsay Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his latest assessment is of the humanitarian situation in Gaza; and if he will make a statement.
Mr Andrew Mitchell: The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains fragile. In terms of levels of malnutrition, disease and access to primary healthcare, the humanitarian situation is stable but remains a constant cause of concern. Food insecurity is particular serious, with 75% of Gazans (approximately 1,045,000 people) dependent on food aid. We estimate that the erosion of skills, infrastructure and institutions in the health and water sectors is likely to lead to further deterioration in the humanitarian situation over time.