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Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The timescale for completion of the Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance will depend on how quickly outstanding issues can be resolved, in particular concerning interception of telecommunications, data protection, the role of the European Court of Justice and the territorial scope of the application of the convention. The Austrian Presidency has indicated that it will give high priority to finalising the convention during its six-month term of office (ending December 1998).

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School Organisation Plans: Adjudication

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, under the proposals set out in the School Standards and Framework Bill, in the event that an organisation committee is unable to agree on a matter for determination and the matter is referred to the adjudicator, the adjudicator could:

    (a) agree with the majority viewpoint;

    (b) agree with the minority viewpoint;

    (c) reject both (a) and (b) in favour of determining an alternative solution.[HL2485]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Where a school organisation plan is referred to the adjudicator, the adjudicator may select any option put forward by the school organisation committee, or propose a further option to the committee. However, the adjudicator may not impose an option on the committee with which none of the groups on the committee is in agreement. Where a school organisation proposal is referred to the adjudicator, the adjudicator may approve the proposal, reject it or, after consultation, approve it with modifications, such as a change in the implementation date.

Foundation Schools: Admission Arrangements

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Blackstone, on 24 June (WA21-22) concerning local education authorities' powers, where a foundation school has in place admission arrangements which are not agreeable to the local education authority, who agrees the admission arrangements; and whether the foundation school has an absolute veto over any changes to its admission arrangements.[HL2486]

Baroness Blackstone: Under the provisions in the School Standards and Framework Bill, the governing body of a foundation school will be responsible for determining the school's admission arrangements after having consulted locally. If the LEA has an objection to a foundation school's admission arrangements, it may refer the matter to the adjudicator. Where the objection concerns admissions criteria relating to a person's religion or religious denomination, the adjudicator will refer the objection to the Secretary of State. The decision of the adjudicator, or the Secretary of State, will be binding.

Education Action Zones

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list all schools in each education action zone together with Key Stage 2 test results: and, where appropriate since records began, GCSE results for the past three years.[HL2482]

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Baroness Blackstone: A copy of the information requested has been placed in the Libraries.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is for each education action zone:

    (a) the total sum of money available to the zone;

    (b) the breakdown on moneys available for the zone including government local education authorities, voluntary and private sectors.[HL2483]

Baroness Blackstone: The Government will provide a direct grant of up to £750,000 per zone per annum. Additionally, each zone will raise £250,000 a year from independent sources. Contributions towards this can be in cash or kind. The Government are currently finalising the details on how grants will be made to zones. The relevant allocation information will be published shortly and I will write to the noble Baroness when this is available.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What process will have to be followed for any or all schools in an education action zone:

    (a) to disapply pay and conditions of service for teachers;

    (b) to disapply the National Curriculum.[HL2484]

Baroness Blackstone: The legislation for disapplying the teachers' pay and conditions document is set out in Clause 13 of the School Standards and Framework Bill 1998.

The legislation for disapplying parts of the National Curriculum for development work or experimentation is set out in Section 362 of the Education Act 1996.

Grammar Schools: Selection Ballots

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the earliest date by which a ballot could be held following the verification of a petition to end selection at one or more grammar schools.[HL2547]

Baroness Blackstone: According to the draft Education (Grammar School Ballots) Regulations, parents would need to request a ballot by way of a petition signed by at least 20 per cent. of the relevant parents. Should this happen, then a ballot would be held during the 1999-2000 school year.


Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to combat the growing problem of piracy and armed robbery at sea.[HL2621]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Her Majesty's Government have improved the published advice to UK shipowners and seafarers in order to ensure that they are fully aware of

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the risks and take all possible precautions against attacks. Where attacks on UK nationals have occurred, we have asked the governments concerned, most recently in Indonesia and Brazil, to investigate the incidents and take steps to avoid repetitions. We are also encouraging wider international action to combat what is a global threat to safety at sea and international trade. This year we have helped finance counter-piracy missions organised by the International Maritime Organisation. In the autumn we will draw the attention of the UN General Assembly to the problem. All these measures have been in consultation with the UK shipping industry and trade unions, including through recent discussions hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

East Timor: EU Troika Visit

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What conclusions they have drawn from the recent visit to East Timor by the European Troika heads of Mission from Jakarta.[HL2622]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The EU/Troika Ambassadors from Jakarta visited East Timor from 27 June to 30 June 1998. They were accompanied by the representative of the EU Commission based in Jakarta and a representative of the EU Council secretariat. This was the first visit to the territory undertaken by EU ambassadors. It was undertaken at the initiative of the British Presidency of the European Union.

The purpose of the visit was to mark the EU's continuing concern about the situation in East Timor, to improve our knowledge of the situation there and to support the UN process of searching for a fair, comprehensive and internationally acceptable solution to the problem.

We very much regret the death of Orlando Marcelino da Costa who was shot in Baucau during the Troika visit on 29 June and have asked the authorities to carry out a full investigation into the incident.

Although marred by this tragic incident, the visit achieved its objectives. The ambassadors met a broad cross-section of interlocutors, including key local political figures, members of the security forces, community leaders, the churches and NGOs. They made clear the EU's engagement in the search for a solution, a message which was widely appreciated.

The outcome of the visit will be considered with EU partners under the Austrian Presidency of the EU.

War Widows' Pensions

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total cost (at today's prices) of war widows' pensions in 1997-98 and in each of the four preceding years.[HL2460]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is set out in the table.

£ million

1997-98 prices1994-951995-961996-971997-98
War Widows Expenditure318462503475


1. War widows expenditure can only be estimated.

2. The figure for 1997-98 is based on estimated out turn (1998 Departmental Report).

Tree Preservation Orders

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to reform the tree preservation order system.[HL2659]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): We have today issued a consultation paper, setting out the Government's proposals for reforming the tree preservation order legislation. Copies have been placed in the House library.

A review of the legislation was completed in July 1994. This revealed widespread support for tree preservation orders as an effective means of protecting selected trees and woodlands in the interests of amenity. But it also identified a number of reforms which would help streamline the system and address its main weaknesses.

The Government believe that the 1994 review struck a good balance between the need to ensure that local authorities are able to protect trees effectively and the need to provide an open, efficient and fair system in which the general public can have confidence. We therefore propose to reform the system in line with the 1994 review when a suitable opportunity to amend the primary legislation arises.

In the meantime, we also intend to update the tree preservation order regulations. Draft regulations are included in the consultation paper. They would implement some of the reforms from the 1994 review and some new proposals which we believe would further improve the system. These include more streamlined procedures for keeping tree preservation orders up to date; new measures to speed up tree preservation order appeals to the Secretary of State; new provisions on the payment of compensation under the tree preservation order system; and clearer procedures for dealing with felling licence applications which involve protected trees.

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