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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there have been reports of schools having difficulty in recruiting teachers, particularly maths teachers. However, we should not overstate the problem. It is a fact that 99 per cent. of all maths posts are filled at present. Nevertheless, it is clear that we need to improve on that. The Green Paper on teachers which was published last December will, I believe, transform our approach to recruiting across all subjects and will ensure that we attract a greater share of talented people to be teachers by offering better pay, prospects and support. I should

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mention in addition the short-term package which was announced last October to seek to address recruitment difficulties. It contained financial incentives for maths and science teachers and provision for funding recruitment advisers to help schools in areas which are experiencing particular difficulties.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am sorry that the Minister was not able to answer the question about the performance of neighbouring secondary modern schools because there is overwhelming, irrefutable evidence about what happens in secondary modern schools in areas where there is a widespread availability of grammar school places. I refer, for example, to Northern Ireland, where the secondary modern schools do very much better than other comparable schools in other parts of the country.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Baroness referred to Northern Ireland which I suggest is very different from other parts of the United Kingdom. Perhaps I may point out that in Scotland, where there is no selection, the equivalent results are also higher than those in England. There is no consistent relationship between the structure and the performance of the different secondary education systems.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, may I ask--

Noble Lords: Next Question!

Otterburn Inquiry: New Issues

3.8 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the public inquiry into the continuing military use of the artillery firing range at Otterburn has been re-opened.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the Secretary of State considers that a number of new issues, which have arisen since the closure of the original inquiry into MoD proposals for development at Otterburn need to be aired before he takes a final decision. These include issues raised by the recent Strategic Defence Review. These issues are identified in the Government Office's letter to parties dated 17th December 1998, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that the Army possessed the range 30 years before the national park was created and that the land would otherwise have become a vast Forestry Commission plantation of conifers? Does not the Army need the range for its

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latest, very effective guns in the same way that I was able to calibrate my 25-pounders in the Second World War before I took my battery abroad?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Army and the MoD do indeed require training facilities on the site. That is not the issue. The issue is whether the infrastructure improvements proposed by the MoD would impact on the national park as a whole or on the A.696. It is not a question of whether or not the MoD should continue to occupy the site.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, if the SDR indicates that there should be a reduction in the amount of artillery training at Otterburn, can the Minister say whether there will be an increase in the amount of dry training which takes place there, bearing in mind the importance of dry training on the local economy? It will also be a great deal quieter for those of us who live just off the edge of the training area and have to hear the 25-pounders and the AS90.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as has already become evident, there are a number of conflicting concerns involved. In the first instance, these are matters for the inspector at the re-opened inquiry and then for the Secretary of State. However, I am not in a position to comment further.

Lord Carver: My Lords, despite the bangs that may take place around an artillery firing area, is the Minister aware that those areas are extremely suitable for the preservation of wildlife of all kinds?

Lord Whitty: Indeed, my Lords, that is one of the considerations the Northumberland National Park is putting to the inspector, along with other issues raised by noble Lords.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, can the Minister say whether the inquiry will take into account the fact that Otterburn is probably the only place within the United Kingdom where the AS90 can be tested?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, in its initial evidence the MoD put those points to the inspector, and will no doubt do so in its subsequent evidence to the inquiry.

Earl Howe: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Army has gone to very considerable lengths to minimise the environmental impact of its proposals for Otterburn? Surely we would do well to bear in mind the point made by my noble friend Lord Campbell. It is the stewardship by the Army of Otterburn over a period of 80 years or so that has preserved its natural features that we know and value today.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I recognise the importance of that both in terms of the environment and in terms of the local economy. Nevertheless, there are other considerations which must be taken into account; for example, the impact on the national park as a whole and

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the impact on the rest of the infrastructure which might be affected by the MoD proposals. Those factors will all be considered by the re-opened inquiry.

Viscount Slim: My Lords, is the Minister aware that this sort of thing causes considerable unease in military circles? The Army today is small enough. It may be more technically proficient than it ever has been, but the requirement for training areas is paramount. In fact, those of the green and various other environmental organisations could learn a good lesson in Otterburn if they were to see how the wildlife and the flora and fauna are better kept than is the case in many parts of the woodlands and forests of Britain.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the contribution by the MoD to the management of its rural estates, including Otterburn, is widely recognised. Nevertheless, intensified use of such sites has an impact on the area surrounding the site itself. It is that which is being taken into account in this inquiry.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, can the Minister say who reopened this public inquiry, and exactly why?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it was the Secretary of State in response to further representations made. The position was that the inspector completed the formal part of the inquiry at the end of 1997 and was in a position to deliver a report in the autumn of last year. However, in between we had the Strategic Defence Review and various parties raised the question with the department as to whether that changed the position. Therefore, between the end of the inquiry and the delivery of the report, conditions were claimed to have changed. It is that factor which the inspector is now considering.


3.14 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I beg leave to ask Her Majesty's Government a Question of which I have given private notice.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their policy in the light of developments relating to Gibraltar.

Lord Carter: My Lords, before my noble friend Lady Symons answers the noble Lord's Private Notice Question, perhaps I may remind the House that the Companion states:

    "Private notice questions are taken immediately after starred questions, and should not be made the occasion for immediate debate.

    Proceedings on private notice questions follow the rules for starred questions ... In particular, supplementary questions should be short and confined to not more than two points. Comment should be avoided".

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the Spanish authorities have been angered by an agreement reached

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on 3rd February between the Chief Minister of Gibraltar and local fishermen about fishing in British waters around Gibraltar. Although this agreement builds on an earlier ministerial understanding, the Spanish introduced unjustifiably long delays at the border crossing. We protested to the Spanish Foreign Minister and made representations in Brussels. The delays have since lessened. The Foreign Secretary and a Spanish Foreign Minister will meet on 21st February.

Her Majesty's Government regret the use of border controls as a policy lever and will continue to defend Gibraltar's legitimate rights with determination. The keystone of our policy remains the 1969 commitment, which I quote:

    "We will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes".

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