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Fire Service

Geraint Davies: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the objectives of the Government's plans for modernisation of working practices in the Fire Service, with special reference to the impact of his plans on public safety. [86432]

Mr. Raynsford: The Government believe that the Fire Service is in need of change and reform. It is a service which can make much better use of its existing resources; a Service which has to consider new ways of working and which needs to forge better partnerships; and a service which needs to attract a more diverse workforce, that better reflects the community it services. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister believes that by addressing these areas the Fire Service can further contribute to public safety.


John Cryer: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the impact of the proposed changes to local government finance on (a) the London Borough of Havering and (b) schools within the London Borough of Havering. [85416]

Mr. Raynsford: The provisional local government finance settlement for 2003–04 was announced in the House of Commons on 5 December 2002, Official Report, column 1065 and incorporates the changes made to the formula grant distribution system following the full scale review.

As part of the settlement, the London borough of Havering will receive #154.4 million formula grant for the 2003–04 financial year, which represents an increase of #5.2 million, or 3.5 per cent. over 2002–03. Havering's formula spending share for schools funding stands at #110.039 million for next year.

Irish Forum for Peace and Reconciliation

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representation he had at the Irish Forum for Peace and Reconciliation; and what assessment he has made of this initiative. [86013]

Mr. MacShane: I have been asked to reply.

The most recent meeting of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation was held on 27 November 2002. An official of the British Embassy in Dublin attended.

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HMG welcome dialogue across a number of different fora, including the Irish Forum for Peace and Reconciliation.

Regional Government Officers

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to his answer of 2 December, Official Report, column 517W, on regional Government officers what guidelines within the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information relate to the provision of information by civil servants in Government regional offices to hon. Members. [86962]

Mr. Leslie: The Code of Practice on Access to Government Information contains guidance on the release of information relating to a Department's area of responsibility. The Code applies to requests for information from any person and there are no specific provisions for hon. Members.


Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what measures he is taking to ensure that all new schools, public buildings and commercial premises are fitted with sprinklers. [86504]

Mr. Leslie: There are no immediate plans to introduce amendments to the Building Regulations in relation to the provision of sprinklers.

However, the Building Regulations are under constant review and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister proposes to begin work on a major revision of the fire safety aspects of the Regulations in 2004. The important issue of fire safety in schools, public buildings and commercial premises, are items that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will be reviewing. As with any new guidance within an Approved Document, any decision in the future with regard to fire precautions in schools, public buildings and commercial premises would need to take account of a range of views, expert advice and of course a full Regulatory Impact Assessment.


Clergy Office Holders

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners if he will make a statement on the clergy's status as office holders. [84626]

Mr. Bell: An analysis of the clergy's status as office holders can be found at paragraph 76 of the DTI's discussion document on Employment Status in relation to Statutory Employment Rights (URN 02/1058). The Archbishops' Council is preparing a response to this document, and a copy of the response will be made available when it is issued.

Local Authorities

Miss McIntosh: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners what representations the Commissioners have received concerning the proposed enforcement of local authority

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licensing on church venues and the payment of fees for musical performances in churches; and if he will make a statement. [84506]

Mr. Bell: Matters of this kind relating to Anglican cathedrals and churches in use, and matters relating to places of worship of other denominations and faiths, fall outside the formal responsibilities of the Church Commissioners.

However, the Bishop of London's speech in Another Place on the Second Reading of the Licensing Bill drew attention to concerns expressed on behalf of churches, cathedrals and other people from the wider community about the provisions in the Bill regarding the use of places of worship for Xentertainment" such as concerts and plays. Unless these are for the purpose of religious meetings or services or incidental purposes, they would fall within the licensing requirements in the Bill, even though they are not Xcommercial" in character. I understand that Church of England staff are now in discussion with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport about this issue.


Assets Recovery Agency

Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) police officers and (b) civil servants have been seconded to work with the Assets Recovery Agency in Northern Ireland. [85885]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 9 December 2002]: I have been asked to reply.

Recruitment of staff for the Northern Ireland branch of the Assets Recovery Agency is in hand for it to begin operations, as planned, in February 2003. One civil servant has been seconded from the Northern Ireland Office to assist the project manager. These local staff are supported by the national implementation programme team in London. Further appointments, including that of the Agency's Northern Ireland Assistant Director, will be made shortly.

Fire Dispute

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to the answer of 2 December 2002, ref 84475, on which occasions, and by whom, representatives of the Fire Service of Northern Ireland have attended meetings of the National Joint Council and Employers Side in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [85715]

Jane Kennedy: One of the two members of the Fire Authority Board appointed by the Authority to represent it on the National Joint Council has attended National Joint Council meetings on the following dates: 26 February, 28 May and 30 October; and Employers Side meetings on 26 February, 28 May, 17 July, 21 August, 2 and 13 September, 28, 30 and 31 October and 5, 6, 11, 12, 21 and 28 November this year.

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The acting Chair of the Fire Authority attended three Employers Side meetings on 17 July, 21 August and 2 September. He was replaced as one of the two Authority representatives on JNC in October this year by another member of the Authority, who subsequently attended one Employers Side meeting on 28 November.

The Fire Authority for Northern Ireland appoints two of its members to represent it on the National Joint Council. The representatives take their mandate from the Authority and are subject to re-appointment each year.


Mental Health

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills by what means parents of children with mental health problems excluded from school, are able to influence the level and type of education undertaken by local education authorities. [85640]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Whenever a child is excluded from school the parent has the right to make representations to the governing body; and if the exclusion is a permanent exclusion the parent may also appeal beyond the governing body to the appeal panel. Governing bodies and independent appeal panels must consider the parent's representations and all relevant factors relating to the child's exclusion.

Where a child has been excluded, the LEA should involve the parents at an early stage in discussions about alternative school places, and keep parents in touch with progress. An individual re-integration plan must be drawn up taking into account the context and culture of the pupil, and should be discussed with the parents.

Local education authorities (LEAs) have a duty to provide suitable education for those children who cannot attend school because of their medical needs,

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including children with defined mental health problems. In such cases parents should be full collaborative partners in the education process.

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