On 15th January 2015, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, received answers to written questions on the subjects of religious freedom in Egypt, prostitution and the Somerset Rivers Authority.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Egypt on behalf of Mohammed Hegazy. [HL3910]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns): We are concerned about the case of Mr Mohammed Hegazy, who converted to Christianity in 1998. We raised Mr Hegazy’s case at official level with the Egyptian Embassy in London on 7 January.
We deplore all discrimination against religious minorities and constraints on their freedom to practise their faith. The Government of Egypt has clearly stated its commitment to protecting the rights of minorities and of the need for religious tolerance, and the Egyptian constitution contains protection for freedom of religious belief. It is important that these rights are respected.
In September our Ambassador to Egypt called on the Patriarch of Alexandria, and officials from our embassy in Cairo recently met members of the Coptic Christian community to discuss the challenges they face.
The British Government will continue to raise concerns about such cases with the Egyptian authorities.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 17 December 2014 (HL3283), what plans they have to introduce legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex. [HL3908]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates): The government currently has no such plans, and I refer to my answer of 17 December 2014 to question HL3283 on this matter.
Somerset Rivers Authority
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what legal basis the newly created Somerset Rivers Authority will have; how it will interact with the county council and other local authorities; and how it will be funded in the long term.[HL3998]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): The Somerset Rivers Authority will be a new joint body in the form of a partnership between existing local organisations. The County Council and five district councils in Somerset will be member organisations and each have a representative on the Authority’s board. The other member organisations will be the Environment Agency, the local Internal Drainage Boards and Natural England. The Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee will also be represented by a member on the Authority’s Board. A review will be carried out to identify a long-term, local funding solution from 2016/17. On 8 December the SoS announced that the SRA would receive funding of £2.7m for 2015/16; £1.9m from Defra and £800,000 from local partners.
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