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Baroness Cumberlege: The Department of Health is responsible for the Health Education Authority and will contract for specific services with the authority. Under the new arrangements other government departments are also able to contract directly with the Health Education Authority.
I very much welcome the report which shows that, during its first year of operation, the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Tribunal has met the targets it was set for dealing with appeals. This is an excellent start. The SEN tribunal president, staff and members have worked very hard and have achieved a great deal during the year. This has been achieved despite extreme and unexpected pressure--the tribunal has done well to adapt to meet this. The report is a tribute to their hard work. The tribunal has been very well received by both parents and local education authorities. It has gained a deserved reputation for impartiality, informality and, above all, fairness. This is something which I applaud. This is an excellent base on which to build. I hope the tribunal will continue the excellent work it has begun.
Lord Henley: A variety of measures have been taken to improve the response of the education service to religious, cultural and ethnic diversity in modern British society. These include action on teacher recruitment, school uniforms, meals and delivery of the curriculum. It is also open to minority groups to make proposals to set up separate schools.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): Service officers may on retirement apply for positions in mainstream civil service grades in the Ministry of Defence, subject to their having the appropriate qualifications and experience, In addition, those having relevant experience not obtainable outside the armed services may be employed as retired officers. These are civil service posts. New parameters for the recruitment to the retired officer grades are about to be introduced. The main points are a minimum age of 50 for recruitment under normal circumstances, and a system of fixed term appointments of up to five years. Staff already in retired officer posts will retain their existing terms of appointment.
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