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14 Jul 2005 : Column 1204W—continued

Equality Impact Assessments

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland under what circumstances an equality impact assessment would not be conducted when (a) new policies and practices are introduced and (b) existing ones are revised. [10967]

Mr. Hanson: To comply with their statutory equality duty under s75(l) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, public authorities are required to carry out equality screening, and if necessary equality impact assessment of policies, in accordance with their equality schemes and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland's Guide to the Statutory Duties" which is available on the Commission's Website at www.equalityni.org . The results of screening would determine whether or not an equality impact assessment was considered necessary.

Police Service

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects to announce the conclusions of the research programme tasked with ascertaining the necessary vision standards for new Police Service Northern Ireland recruits. [11235]

Mr. Woodward: Following the introduction of new Home Office guidelines relating to eyesight standards for police recruitment in England and Wales, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had specific concerns as they took no cognizance of handling firearms safely, as this is not a requirement for officers being recruited in England and Wales. The PSNI
 
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therefore felt it necessary to initiate a research project, tasked with ascertaining the justifiable requirements for visual standards for recruits to PSNI.

The researchers have completed the practical aspect of this study and are now in the final stages of analysing the results. The findings of their research will be considered in conjunction with the standards that have been adopted in England and Wales.

An exact timescale for the publication of the research is not yet known.

Police Stations

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what criteria were used by his Department when deciding on the closure of rural police stations; and what public consultation had been undertaken prior to the announcement of the proposed closures. [11346]

Mr. Woodward: The closure of police stations is a matter for the chief constable, in consultation with the Policing Board.

The estate strategy, endorsed by the PSNI chief officers and the Northern Ireland Policing Board, lists 61 stations to be reviewed over the next five year period.

On 30 June 2005, the Policing Board approved the closure of the following stations:

The Policing Board agreed to review the following stations in September 2005:

The 9 stations approved for closure are:
DownLondonderryTyrone
ArdglassCastlerockDromore
CastlewellanPlumbridge
Ballygawley
Caledon
Moy
Moneymore

Each district commander is required to conduct the review of his/her station(s) within the terms of the estate review. When closure recommendations are made, local commanders embark on a process of consultation with local communities on both the proposals and on the best way to continue to deliver services locally.

Consultation is by way of public debate/formal presentation/public meeting/private briefings/publicity or a combination of these. The alternative strategies for delivery of policing are outlined at this stage, for example, mobile police stations/ motor cycles/community police teams/identified local beat officers.

DCU commanders conduct a full consultation with their local district policing partnership in every case. In many cases the agreed way for providing police services for the future is formally agreed with the DPP.
 
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On completion of this process, a DCU commander makes a recommendation to the chief constable regarding the future of a particular station and a business case is submitted to the Northern Ireland Policing Board for consideration and endorsement. The chief constable then engages in a formal consultation process with the Policing Board and this process of consultation is currently ongoing.

Press Officers

Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many press officers each Department employed in each year since 1999; and what the cost was in each year. [11115]

Angela E. Smith: The following figures indicate the number of press officers in post in each Department for the year 2004–05. Press officer duties include media liaison; print management; internet; and advertising, as well as servicing Ministers.

It is not possible to produce figures for the other years requested without incurring disproportionate costs
Staff numbers

DepartmentPrincipal information officerDeputy principal information officerInformation officer
DARD111
DCAL100
DE0.7510
DETI101
DFP111
DEL110
DHSSPS111.80
DOE110
DRD121
DSD120.80
OFMDFM23.63
NIO254.5
Total staff13.7518.6014.10

The table shows the number of full time equivalent staff as at 31 March 2005.

The estimated total paybill includes actual salary at March 2005, allowances paid between April 2004 and March 2005 inclusive and overtime payments made between April 2004 and March 2005 inclusive.

School Tests (Reliability Indices)

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what quantifiable validity or reliability indices have been used on (a) the 11-plus transfer test and (b) the proposed pupil profile; [11381]

(2) what technical analysis has been carried out on (a) the 11-plus transfer test and (b) the proposed pupil profile. [11383]

Angela E. Smith: The Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) conducts the 11 plus transfer tests on behalf of the Department of Education. CCEA commissions an external agency to develop the tests which undergo extensive and rigorous testing and analysis to ensure their validity in terms of the elements of the subjects specified for the tests, that they reflect the relevant
 
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programmes of study and that the standard is consistent from year to year. In addition a series of reliability measures are used to ensure internal consistency of the tests. The agency is recognised internationally for its expertise in test development and its staff adhere to a code of practice governing all aspects of test development. CCEA also employs a number of additional quality assurance procedures.

The pupil profile currently being developed will provide a range of useful information on each child's progress, aptitudes, interests and aspirations. It will be based on well-supported teacher assessment rather than a regime of annual testing. CCEA has been developing and trialling the pupil profile over the last two years to ensure that it is robust, manageable and useful for parents, pupils and teachers. Details of the evaluation of the trials to date will shortly be published on the CCEA website. Development work will continue in 2005–06. CCEA will ensure that the pupil profile will meet standards of validity and reliability by benchmarking them against the Assessment Reform Group's principles for effective teacher assessment.

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Asian Tsunami

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of (a) progress with relief and reconstruction work following the impact of the tsunami on Phi Phi, Thailand and (b) the levels of assistance being given to support residents of Phi Phi who lost their homes and wish to return. [9589]

Mr. Thomas: The Government of Thailand have made it clear that they do not want any external financial assistance for post-tsunami recovery, and because of Thailand's relative wealth, DFID do not operate an aid programme there. We have therefore made no assessment of the Thai Government's recovery programme on Phi Phi.


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