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EU Growth and Stability Pact

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The European Commission published proposals for a Stability Pact (COM(96)496) to promote budgetary discipline in stage three of EMU on 16 October 1996. HM Treasury submitted an explanatory memorandum on 31 October 1996. The House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities referred the explanatory memorandum to Sub-Committee A, which produced a report (2nd Report, Session 96/97) and debated it on 4 December 1996.

The Dublin European Council in December 1996 requested that the ECOFIN Council examine the Commission's proposals for Council regulations and prepare a resolution recording the commitments of the member states, the Commission and the Council to a strict and timely application of the treaty and the legal provisions on budgetary stability.

The European Commission adopted amended proposals for the two Council regulations on 19 March 1997 (COM(97)116 and (COM(97)117). At the Noordwijk Informal ECOFIN in April 1997, Finance Ministers reached political agreement on a revised version of the Commission package. HM Treasury submitted an explanatory memorandum on the revised package on 3 June 1997. The package was subsequently agreed, accepting some amendments by the European Parliament, by the ECOFIN Council on 9 June and by the European Council at Amsterdam on 17 June 1997.

School Security

Lord Eames asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The shootings at Columbine High School are a tragic incident and our sympathies go out to the bereaved, the injured and their families.

Her Majesty's Government treat the issue of school security very seriously. We will consider carefully any lessons that might be learned from this incident when the investigations have been completed. Much excellent work has already been done on school security since the Cullen Report on the Dunblane tragedy and the report from the Government's Working Group on School Security were published in 1996. In direct response to the Dunblane incident and the recommendations in the working group's report,

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the law on firearms was tightened and the legislation on offensive weapons was extended to cover schools. Guidance on improving school security has been made available to authorities and schools. The Government also continue to make funding available for measures to improve school security.

Education authorities have an important responsibility for ensuring that their schools are safe and secure for staff and pupils. As well as having security strategies, they should ensure that risk assessments have been undertaken at individual schools to enable security needs to be identified and prioritised, especially in applying for or distributing school security funding.

We recognise however that it is difficult for authorities to guarantee school security under all circumstances and there are limits to what can sensibly be done to protect against the most extreme incidents. A proper balance must be struck between making schools secure and keeping them accessible. Schools have a valuable role to play at the heart of their communities, and education authorities should take appropriate measures to ensure reasonable security without turning schools into impenetrable fortresses.

Military Low-flying Activity in the UK

Lord Monkswell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the pattern of military low flying activity in the United Kingdom during 1998.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The amount of low flying training carried out in the UK Low Flying System during 1998 was some 16 per cent. less than for 1997. This reduction was due in part to the number of aircraft and aircrew deployed on activities overseas. The distribution of low flying training across the UK has not changed significantly. We have today placed in the Library of the House a paper giving a detailed account of low flying training in the UK Low Flying System for 1998. Further copies can be obtained from the following address:

    Secretariat (Air Staff) 2

    Ministry of Defence

    Room 8247

    Main Building


    London SW1A 2HB

Operation Allied Force

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What United Kingdom forces have been committed to Operation Allied Force.[HL2264]

Lord Gilbert: We have today authorised the committal of a significant number of additional RAF aircraft to Operation Allied Force, the NATO air and naval action. We are committing an additional four

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Harrier GR7 ground attack aircraft, four Tornado GR1 and a Tristar tanker to Op Allied Force in response to a request from SACEUR for additional air assets. These aircraft will join the more than 700 UK and other allied aircraft already involved in air operations in the Balkans.

Including the deployments we are announcing today, the following UK units, or elements thereof, are currently committed to Operation Allied Force:

    Royal Navy

    HMS Invincible

    HMS Newcastle

    HMS Iron Duke

    HMS Grafton

    HMS Splendid

    RFA Fort Austin

    RFA Bayleaf

    7 Sea Harrier FA2 aircraft

    10 Sea King helicopters.

In addition, HMS "Turbulent" is currently patrolling in the area.

    Royal Air Force

    16 Harrier GR7s

    12 Tornado GR1s

    3 E3-D Sentry AWACS

    4 Tristar tankers

    4 VC10 tankers

    1 Nimrod.

Clinical Toxicology

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current time devoted to clinical toxicology in the curricula of medical schools in the United Kingdom; and whether this includes the acute and chronic clinical effects of exposure to toxic chemicals found in agriculture, industry and the home.[HL2146]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): This information is not available centrally.

Individual university medical schools determine their own undergraduate medical curricula in the light of the recommendations from the General Medical Council's Education Committee, which has the statutory responsibility to determine the extent of knowledge and skill required for the granting of primary medical qualifications in the United Kingdom. The committee's most recent recommendations were published in the 1993 report Tomorrow's Doctors, copies of which are available in the Library.

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The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total number of fully qualified clinical toxicologists employed exclusively by the National Health Service for each year since 1990; and by which health authorities or NHS Trusts they have been employed; and[HL2143]

    For each year since 1990, what was the total number of fully qualified clinical toxicologists contracted to the National Health Service who were also employed by, or had consultancies with, other organisations; with which health authorities or NHS trusts they were contracted; and with which other organisations they were employed or contracted to.[HL2144]

Baroness Hayman: The information requested is not available centrally.

British Railways Board Land Sales

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In respect of land in British Rail ownership, and further to the Written Answer by the Lord Whitty on 12 April (WA 98) and the Answer by the Lord Whitty on 12 April (H.L. Deb., cols. 500 and 501):

    (a) whether they will list the "key players in the industry" with which the British Railways Board was required to consult on the disposal of its land holdings before reporting to the Government (as referred to in the White Paper on Transport, July 1998, Cm 3950, paragraph 4.35);

    (b) what are the criteria used by the board in deciding which sites would be appropriate for transport use;

    (c) what forecast of rail passenger and freight traffic growth was used in establishing the criteria; and

    (d) whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the board's report, including a list of all sites not already disposed of, divided into those considered by the board to be suitable for transport use and those not considered suitable.[HL2040]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Further to my Written Answer of 12 April, I can advise as follows:

    (a) the BR Board wrote to a large number of transport operators, local authority groups and other interested parties inviting their comments on the criteria to be used to determine which of their property holdings had transport potential;

    (b) the board proposes that the assessment of transport potential should pay particular attention to: large sites available for intermodal/other freight terminals; land adjacent to existing passenger stations which might be used for improved access, interchange facilities and car parking; land already identified by transport operators and local

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    authorities as having a specific transport use in the foreseeable future; land adjacent to already identified pinch-points on the network; and land for which the infrastructure for the former transport use remains in situ;

    (c) traffic forecasts were not used as the board was not trying to second-guess demand but to establish where sites have physical potential for transport purposes;

    (d) Ministers are still considering the board's review of its property portfolio.

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