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Plastic Baton Round

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made in phase II of the research programme to find alternatives to the plastic baton round; what the estimated cost is of phase II; if he will place its findings in the Library; and at what stage he intends to open out to competitive tender or introduce an independent element into the research programme. [7112]

Jane Kennedy: Phase II of the research programme has now been completed and I will shortly place a copy of the Steering Group's report in the Library of the House. The report will outline our priorities for further research. To date costings for the research programme are approaching £1 million. Arrangements will be made to ensure close liaison between the Policing Board and the Steering Group leading the research programme.


Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) how many organisations made submissions to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission calling for the right to access to abortion to be included in a Bill of Rights; and what assessment he has made of how many people each of those organisations represent; [11987]

Mr. Browne: These are matters for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The Chief Commissioner has been asked to write to the hon. Member. A copy of his letter will be placed in the Library.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Phil Sawford: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he will announce the new appointments to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission; and when he will announce whether or not the existing commissioners are to be re-appointed. [17453]

Mr. Browne: The Secretary of State announced today the appointment of four new Commissioners following an open competition:

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The new Commissioners will take up their appointments on 1 December.

The Secretary of State also confirmed the reappointment of eight of the existing Commissioners, including the Commission's chair, Professor Brice Dickson. The remaining member of the existing Commission, Professor Christine Bell, is currently on maternity leave. A decision on her position has, at her request, been deferred until after she returns to work.

Departmental Events

David Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what (a) national and (b) international awareness events his Department has participated in since June 1997 in the form of (i) sponsorship, (ii) departmental attendance, (iii) similar departmental activities and (iv) a message of support. [5038]

Dr. John Reid: This information is not collected centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.


Heritage Lottery Fund

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many churches in the Buckingham constituency have (a) applied for and (b) received awards from the Heritage Lottery Fund in each year since the National Lottery began. [16165]

Dr. Howells: Five churches in the Buckingham constituency have sought funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund since the National Lottery began.

In 1995 three churches applied and one—All Saints, Middle Claydon—was awarded a grant for bell repairs. One church applied in each of the years 1997 and 1998 but in both cases the application was unsuccessful. No subsequent application has been made. Since 1999 the Heritage Lottery Fund's published policy for the Joint Places of Worship scheme has been to give priority to economically and socially disadvantaged areas.


Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what action her Department has taken to tackle discrimination against older people. [16329]

Dr. Howells: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport's equal opportunities policy proscribes discrimination based on age as well as that based on gender, marital status, race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, religion, disability or sexual orientation. A number of DCMS policies are specifically aimed at ensuring older people enjoy equality of access to the nation's cultural and sporting heritage. These include an entitlement to a free television licence for everyone over the age of 75; significantly higher statutory targets for subtitling provision on digital terrestrial commercial television; the training of around 8,000 older people to be coaches, administrators, officials, leaders and mentors to youngsters through the Volunteering in Sport project; the People's Network Initiative, linking all public libraries to the internet and, as part of the UK Online programme,

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increasing the use of information and communication technology leisure and lifelong learning by elderly people. In addition, DCMS is represented on the Inter-Ministerial Group on Older People, which is designed to develop a joined-up approach to older people's issues and co-ordinate Government policy for older people.

English Tourism Council

Mr. Flook: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much the English Tourism Council spent on marketing when it harmonised the grading standards in 1999. [16383]

Dr. Howells: The budget for marketing and promotion of the new quality assurance scheme in the financial year 1999–2000 was £250,000 and this was spent on a variety of activities, including: media and industry launches, promotion to the industry at travel fairs and via videos and presentations, mailings to the travel trade, distribution of consumer leaflets and promotion to the media via fact packs.

The Government remain firmly committed to the voluntary scheme and have encouraged the ETC to identify some funds for consumer promotion. This is now likely to take place next financial year, when the ETC's baseline budget will have been increased by 20 per cent. and taking measures to improve quality in the tourism industry is one of its core priorities.

Film Council

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport when the Film Council will be made subject to the (a) rules and (b) methods of accountability of the civil service. [16647]

Dr. Howells: The Film Council is already a non- departmental public body, accountable to Parliament and my Department. The Chief Executive of the Film Council is appointed as accounting officer by my Department's Permanent Secretary, and acts in accordance with Treasury requirements to ensure propriety and high standards of financial management. The Chair and Board appointments are made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The Department's relationship with the Film Council is governed by a financial memorandum which allows the National Audit Office to inspect the Film Council's accounts, and a funding agreement which identifies what the Council must deliver in return for the funding it receives. Expenditure of lottery money is subject to policy and financial directions issued by my Department.

Press Complaints Commission

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what plans she has to assess the operation of the Press Complaints Commission. [17202]

Dr. Howells: The Government support an effective system of self-regulation for the newspaper industry, with a Code of Practice overseen by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). We recognise that, as with any regulatory system, there is always room for improvement. My Department, therefore, continues to monitor the effectiveness of the industry's self-regulatory system, both in terms of the provisions contained in the Code of

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Practice and the PCC's operations, and my ministerial colleagues and I have no hesitation in suggesting improvements to the industry, as and when appropriate.

Television Licences (Residential Homes)

Mr. Dawson: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport when she intends to amend the regulations governing the Accommodation for Residential Care Concessionary Television Licence Scheme to preserve the rights of beneficiaries of the concessionary scheme who remain in a sheltered housing complex or residential home provided or managed by a local authority, a housing association or a development corporation when the social mix or the level of warden cover change. [16875]

Dr. Howells: Consultations between officials and the BBC about the necessary amendments to the television licence fee regulations are currently under way. We intend to bring forward these amendments as soon as we can but it is important that in doing so we do not create any new anomalies or unnecessary administrative burdens.

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