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18 Mar 2003 : Column 649Wcontinued
25 February 2003Veterinary Officer pushed into slurry pit
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement about the effect of the proposed reform of the common agricultural policy on Welsh farming. 
Mr. Morley: We have undertaken various economic and impact assessments of the Commission's reform proposals, which conclude that overall the reforms would have a positive effect on farmers and farm incomes in the UK. Results of the main analysis will be published later this month. The likely effects of the proposed reforms in Wales are a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government.
|Number on roll||Number of pupils with a statement of special educational needs||Number of pupils in every 1,000 with a statement of special educational needs(2)|
(2) The number of pupils with statements expressed as a proportion of the number of pupils on roll.
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There are no plans to end the supply of free milk to children in nursery or day care under the welfare food scheme. The consultation document, "Healthy Start", included a proposal to broaden the nutritional scope of the scheme by offering children in nursery or day care a choice of milk or fruit.
Mr. Charles Clarke: The current policy regarding religious education is set out in the Department for Education and Skills circular 1/94. All RE syllabuses in schools should seek to develop pupils' knowledge, understanding and awareness, not only of Christianity, but also the other principal religions represented in the country, including Sikhism.
Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans there are to make unfair discrimination on grounds of age unlawful in Northern Ireland and to ensure equality of access and opportunity for older people. 
Mr. Browne: We plan to issue our proposals for legislation to tackle age discrimination for consultation in the summer. We intend that legislation will be made before the deadline of 2006 imposed by the European Directive.
The consultation in 2001 on the general content and scope of a single Equality Bill asked some general questions about age discrimination. There are many complex issues to be addressed and we want to ensure that we take account of expert advice and comments in taking forward this work.
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In addition to new legislation, Departments have a duty under section 75 (i) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between persons of different age.
We have also established a Working Group under the Promoting Social Inclusion initiative to look at factors which cause older people to be at risk of social exclusion. The Working Group will present Ministers with a draft policy and strategy document for public consultation, setting out clearly defined recommendations as to what preventative and other measures are required.
Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what system for transfer of pupils between primary schools and secondary schools will operate after the planned abolition of the 11 plus examination. 
Jane Kennedy: No decisions have been taken about new transfer arrangements. I am considering carefully the views expressed in meetings with political parties, the education sector and parents, along with the responses to all the strands of the consultation, before determining the next stages of the review of post-primary education. My aim is to maintain the current high levels of achievement and build a modern and fair education system that enables all children in Northern Ireland to fulfil their potential.
Angela Smith : Funding has been provided to soccer for many years. However on 7 February 2003, following advice from the Soccer Strategy Advisory Panel, I announced that the IFA's proposed Development Plan offered a sufficient basis for moving forward on the development of Soccer in Northern Ireland. I also made it clear that, before funding relating to the plan can be provided, I would require assurances that:
the governing body's new executive and accountability arrangements are in place; and
accountability requirements for Government funding, including implementation, monitoring and evaluation, are satisfied.
Angela Smith: The number of courses that take place in any organised coursing event on the island of Ireland is subject to the policy and rules of the Irish Coursing Club. The policy for coursing in Northern Ireland is set by the Department for Social Development in conjunction with the ICC.Environment and Heritage Service of the DOE issue permits to allow the netting of hares for use in coursing events. Under the conditions of these permits, EHS officials monitor the catching of
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hares before the event and the return of the hares to the wild after the event. The officials have no role in coursing events, consequently I am unable to answer the hon. Member's question.
Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the recent research of the Northern Irish Hare Survey; and what actions he proposes to implement its recommendations on the hare's status as a quarry species. 
The report provides a current population estimate and compares these results with data collected in a 1997 survey. It also assesses the merits of two survey techniques and makes recommendations for future Irish hare monitoring. Professor Montgomery's team concludes that a method of survey known as 'Night Driven Transect Survey' allows a reliable estimate of hare abundance to be calculated.
The 2002 Night Driven Transect Survey produced an average density estimate of one hare per square kilometre in Northern Ireland, an estimate similar to that reported in 1997. The present report concludes that hares are widespread and are found most frequently in upland areas. Hares were more frequently recorded in County Antrim during the survey and were less frequent in County Tyrone. The survey technique is not a census and so the sample survey gives an estimate of 14,000 hares for Northern Ireland, with lower 95 per cent. confidence limit of 7,000 and an upper confidence limit of 25,200.
The contract also required the Queen's University Team to make recommendations for practical measures which could improve the status of the Irish Hare in the medium to long term. One of the recommendations was as follows: "Removal of the Irish Hare from the quarry list and protection given under the Wildlife Order."
In the Irish Hare Species Action Plan, published by DOE in October 2000, a number of actions are listed for consideration. Section 5 deals with Policy and Legislation and Action 5.1.3 recommends that DOE "Review, and if necessary, increase the level of protection given to the Irish Hare in the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985". My Department has appointed consultants to consider the implications of local Biodiversity Action Plan recommendations on the legal status of species, including the Irish hare, and recommend changes where appropriate. I will ensure that the consultants give very careful consideration to Professor Montgomery's recommendation to remove the Irish Hare from the quarry list. The report resulting from this contract is due in June 2003.
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and The Game Preservation (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2002) and will bring forward any amendments considered necessary in the usual way.
Mr. Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has received a copy of Professor Montgomery's report commissioned by his Department on the hare population in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela Smith: Professor Montgomery's report, entitled "The Northern Ireland Irish Hare Survey 2002", was received by my Department on 14 February 2003. I welcome the opportunity to make a statement to The House on the results of the survey.
The best evidence available suggests a major decline in Irish hare numbers in Northern Ireland during the latter half of the 20th century. This decline has been largely attributed to a loss of suitable habitat brought about mainly by agricultural intensification and changing patterns of grassland management.
A comprehensive estimate of the population density of Irish hares throughout Northern Ireland was published in 1997. That survey reported that the Irish hare had a widespread distribution and occurred at low densities.
The Environment and Heritage Service responded to the findings of the report by publishing a Species Action Plan in 2000 that listed a number of specific measures geared "to maintain the existing range and to demonstrate a population increase by 2005; and to double the present population by 2010 over as much of the range as possible."
To assess achievement of the Species Action Plan targets, and to have current information on the distribution and abundance of Irish hares, requires a system of regular and effective monitoring of population density and distribution.
Professor Montgomery's report provides a current population estimate and compares these results with data collected in the 1997 survey. It also assesses the merits of two survey techniques and makes recommendations for future Irish hare monitoring. Professor Montgomery's team concludes that a method of survey known as 'Night Driven Transect Survey', allows a reliable estimate of hare abundance to be calculated.
The 2002 Night Driven Transect Survey produced an average density estimate of one hare per square kilometre in Northern Ireland, an estimate similar to that reported in 1997. The present report concludes that hares are widespread and are found most frequently in upland areas. Hares were more frequently recorded in County Antrim during the survey and were less frequent in County Tyrone. The survey technique is not a census and so the sample survey gives an estimate of 14,000 hares for Northern Ireland, with a lower 95 per cent. confidence limit of 7,000 and an upper confidence limit of 25,200.
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Hare friendly agricultural practices in agri-environment schemes.
Removal of the Irish hare from the quarry list and protection given under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985
Increase in awareness of the plight of the Irish Hare by liaison with farming groups, the rural community and DARD.
This assessment of the current status of the Irish hare in Northern Ireland is welcome, although the success of the Species Action Plan will be judged ultimately on a sustainable increase in the population of this special creature.
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