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John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I know that time is short, but I want to place on record on behalf of the whole House my congratulations to Guru Nanat school in Hayes on the fantastic results that it received this year and on the work that is going on there. I congratulate the Government on the investment in that school, which has produced remarkable results for the whole community.
Fiona Mactaggart: As an MP who helped, together with my hon. Friend, to persuade the Government that that was the right route to take back in 1998, I feel proud of Guru Nanat school's achievement, too. It is an exemplar of how excellent a faith school is capable of being. Other Sikh schools have been supportive. The Government will continue to consider each proposal on its merits. I have personal experience from my constituency of the positive way in which the Department for Education and Skills has responded to demands for Sikh schools.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West raised the issue of the kirpan. As he is aware, my Department and the Department for Transport agreed with Sikh representatives that Sikh staff in security zones at UK airports could carry the kirpan as long as the blade did not exceed 7.5 cm. Unfortunately, in January 2003 EU regulation 2320 set
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out new requirements for airport security. It bans knives, among other prohibited articles, including ceremonial ones with blades longer than 6 cm. In June 2004, we argued strongly before the regulatory committee for retaining the 7.5 cm length, but were outvoted. The Government are therefore in breach of the regulation, and we need, in consultation with the Sikh community, to find a way of meeting it. The Department for Transport recently met Sikh representatives to discuss the matter, and I shall be watching developments. I believe that because the London Eye operates aircraft-type security, the episode to which my hon. Friend referred is a straight read-across from that issue.
On human rights in India, the Government condemn the persecution of individuals or groups because of their religion or belief and deplore any widespread attack on Sikhs in India. We welcome the remarks by Dr. Manmohan Singh in his first press conference as Prime Minister. When asked about the 1984 events, he said: