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6 Jun 2005 : Column 363W—continued

Disabled Facilities Grants

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many families in Northern Ireland have benefited from the abolition of the means-testing of parents of disabled children as part of the disabled facilities grants process since the abolition took place. [2272]

Mr. Hanson: The information requested is not currently available. However since the abolition of the means test came into effect on 16 February 2004 the Housing Executive has approved 61 applications for disabled facilities grant in respect of children. The Housing Executive will be undertaking research to determine how many of these would likely have benefited from the abolition.

Education Funding

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action is being taken by the Department to review funding levels in the education system. [2010]

Angela E. Smith: I met Education and Library Board chairs and chief executives on 26 May, and listened carefully to the concerns they expressed about the funding position. I have also visited a number of schools to see the position. I advised boards of the importance Iattach to sound financial management to ensure that the maximum possible resources are provided for front line services. In that context I stressed the need for further development of collaborative working and shared services across boards and have reiterated my predecessor's commitment to make available initial funding of £0.5 million per board in 2005–06 to facilitate this. I await proposals from boards.

Emergency Services (Attacks)

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many attacks there have been on the emergency services in Northern Ireland, broken down by service, in each of the past 12 months; and (a) how many people have been successfully prosecuted for carrying out these attacks and (b) how many prosecutions are ongoing. [2269]

Mr. Woodward: The number of attacks on fire services, as recorded by the Fire Authority for Northern Ireland, is set out in the following table.
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Attacks on fire fighters
Damage to applianceDamage to appliance and injury to personnelInjury onlyHostile crowdTotal

Of the total of 301 incidents recorded, 223 involved a hostile crowd but no injury or damage was sustained to personnel or equipment.

The number of attacks on ambulance services, as recorded by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, is set out in the following table:

Physical attacksVerbal attacksVehicle equipmentTotal

Statistics in relation to the specific offence of 'assault on police', for the last 12-month period for which they are available, are as follows:


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Some assaults on police, depending on their seriousness, may be recorded as other 'violence against the person' offences, for which a breakdown is not readily available.


In 2003, the latest year for which statistics are available, there were 339 convictions (successful prosecutions) for the specific offence of 'assault on police'.

Victim information in relation to court proceedings is not contained within the Northern Ireland Office court datasets, unless the victim is identified within the offence title. Thus, the number of successful proceedings against other emergency services is not available. Press reports indicate that one attacker has recently been convicted for an attack on a fire fighter.

Details relating to prosecutions ongoing are held at Police District Command Unit level, and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

English as an Additional Language

Mrs. Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what training will be made available at the beginning of the autumn term for teachers who will be teaching English as an Additional Language (EAL) child for the first time; whether on-going training will be provided for (a) other teachers and (b) classroom assistants in schools with EAL pupils; and whether teacher-training colleges in Northern Ireland have included EAL in the curriculum. [1226]

Angela E. Smith: The Education and Library Boards' Curriculum Advisory Support Service (CASS) provides for the teaching of English as an Additional Language (EAL) either by means of peripatetic teachers teaching the pupils or by training the teachers in schools where there is a need. CASS respond to and prioritise requests for training according to the level of funding available and they are currently in the process of preparing their training programmes for the 2005/06 academic year.

Stranmillis University College has for some years offered optional training to its BEd students in relation to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and an additional certificate is awarded to those who complete successfully the course. St. Mary's University College is currently planning for the integration of issues relating to EAL into the teacher education curriculum, offering all academic staff training in this area in the forthcoming year.

Information for classroom assistants is not held centrally. I will write to the hon. Lady with this information, and on the outcome of the Boards training programmes, as soon as possible and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

Flag Flying

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he intends to ban the flying of (a) sectarian and (b) national flags from public property. [516]

Angela E. Smith: There are no plans to introduce new or amending legislation to deal with the flying of sectarian flags or national flags from public property.
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Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to raise awareness of glaucoma in Northern Ireland; and how many people in Northern Ireland have suffered blindness as a result of glaucoma in each of the past five years. [2182]

Mr. Woodward: Information on instances where glaucoma has led to blindness is not held centrally. No specific campaigns have been undertaken but information on glaucoma is available from a number of sources, including the Royal National Institute for the Blind, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the International Glaucoma Association.

Health Care Trusts

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many procedures were cancelled in each health trust in the Province in each of the last five years. [1438]

Mr. Woodward: This information is not collected centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

High Hedges

Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to consult on the introduction of legislation in Northern Ireland to deal with problems associated with high hedges. [1452]

Angela E. Smith: A consultation paper will be published in September 2005 to collect information about the scale of the nuisance high hedge problem in Northern Ireland. This will enable the Department to produce a regulatory impact assessment, and providing it supports a legislative solution, a policy consultation paper is expected to issue before Christmas seeking views on proposed legislation.

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