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Written Answers

Monday, 31st January 2000.

House of Lords: Excluded Hereditary Peers

Lord Williams of Elvel asked the Chairman of Committees:

    How the provisions for access to the House by hereditary Peers excluded under the Provisions of the House of Lords Act 1999 will be enforced.[HL728]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): Access to the facilities of the House by excluded hereditary Peers will be enforced by the staff of the House if misuse of the agreed privileges occurs. Junior staff may not know who is an "excluded hereditary Peer"; but when any breach of the agreed provisions is reported to management, appropriate action will be taken immediately. Enforcement of the rules governing access to the facilities of the House by excluded hereditary Peers is ultimately the responsibility of Black Rod.

Sport Action Zones

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the launch of Sport Action Zones by Sport England and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on 17 January: (a) which are the regeneration budgets that have been identified as possible partners to the Sport Action Zones in order to complement Lottery funding; (b) what discussions have been held to identify such partners; and (c) with whom such discussions have been held.[HL634]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Sport Action Zones are an initiative of Sport England's Lottery Sports Fund Strategy. The first 12 zones were announced on 17 January. Sport England has not at this stage identified any specific regeneration budgets which might be applicable to Sport Action Zones. However, the managers of each zone will seek to identify opportunities locally for sport to be included in regeneration strategies and budgets. The delivery of the Sport Action Zone objectives will require very close co-operation between Sport England and all local interests, including local authorities, sports associations, governing bodies, community groups, TECs and those involved in work on Housing Action Zones and Education Action Zones. Through such co-operation it is hoped to attract additional finance, both public and private, into the area aimed at increasing sporting opportunities and participation.

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Investment Clubs: Tax Treatment

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to modernise the tax treatment of investment clubs in the light of the growth in the number of such clubs from 350 in 1997 to 5,318 now.[HL655]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government are always happy to look at any proposals to modernise the tax system.

Special Educational Needs Training

Lord Baker of Dorking asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much money they are currently making available through the Standards Fund to support the training of staff working with special educational needs children.[HL623]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): In the current financial year, we are supporting £35 million of local education authority expenditure through the Standards Fund in the area of special educational needs. We expect that about £21 million of that money will be spent on training. We are increasing the supported expenditure under the grant to £55 million in 2000-01, of which we expect that around £26 million will be spent on training.

Small Schools Support Fund: Dorton House

Lord Baker of Dorking asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Small Schools Support Fund, announced in October 1999, extends to special schools in the maintained sector but is not available to non-maintained schools like Dorton House in Sevenoaks, Kent, whose quality has been recognised by OFSTED.[HL654]

Baroness Blackstone: The Small School Support Fund will be delivered through DfEE's Standards Fund. The primary aim of the Standards Fund is to enable the Secretary of State and local education authorities to direct funding on specific educational priorities to raise educational standards in the maintained sector. Although Dorton House, as a non-maintained school, is therefore not directly eligible for support from the Standards Fund, current guidance to local education authorities is clear that eligible expenditure under the Standards Fund may include expenditure reimbursed by an LEA which is incurred by the persons responsible for the maintenance of a special school not maintained by the LEA.

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Pensioners Receiving Less Than Full State Pension

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many pensioners at present receive less than the full state pension because of incomplete contributions; what is the average shortfall per pensioner; and what is the total reduction in the budget for the state pension as a result.[HL540]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): At 31 March 1999 there were 3.4 million people receiving less than the full state pension because of incomplete contributions. This figure includes married women who are receiving a full rate Category B pension, which is 60 per cent of the basic pension, based on their spouses' contributions. The average weekly shortfall per pensioner is £25.79. These figures are reflected in estimates of benefit expenditure. Notes: 1. All figures are for those pensioners resident in Great Britain only. 2. Figures include women who are receiving a full rate Category B pension either based on their own or their spouses' contributions. These include women who have paid no contributions themselves or a reduced rate contribution under the married woman's option. Figures also include pensioners on other categories of the basic state pension who are receiving less than the full Category A rate. 3. Statistics are derived from a 5 per cent sample of the Pensioners Strategy Computer System as at 31 March 1999. 4. Numbers of pensioners are rounded to the nearest 100,000. 5. Costs are provided by the Government Actuary's Department and are in 1999-2000 prices and benefit rates.

Continuing Care: Revised Eligibility Criteria

Lord Rix asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action is being taken about the revision of continuing care policies in respect of people with learning disabilities following the Appeal Court decision in the case of North East Devon Health Authority ex parte Coughlan.[HL705]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We have issued interim guidance that health and local authorities, in consultation with each other, should satisfy themselves that their continuing and community care policies and eligibility criteria and other relevant procedures are in line with the Court of Appeal judgment on the Coughlan case and existing guidance, and take further legal advice where necessary. Where authorities revise eligibility criteria following any review, they should consider what action they need to take to reassess service users

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against the revised criteria [HSC 1999/180: LAC(99) 30]. The guidance applies to all client groups, including people with learning disabilities.

Children Act 1989: Report

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will next report on the Children Act 1989.[HL793]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Health, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and the Lord Chancellor have published a report on the Children Act 1989, pursuant to their duties under Section 83 of the Act. Copies are available in the Library and the Printed Paper Office; and have been sent to all local authorities in England and to a wide range of organisations. A copy of this document can also be found at the following website:

Mersley Farms, IoW: Alleged Breach of Environmental Controls

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Health and Safety Executive is intending to prosecute the owner of Mersley Farm, Isle of Wight for illegal disposal of containers of Cymag, and, if not, why not.[HL221]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The disposal of pesticides is enforced by the Environment Agency. However, as a result of the publicity surrounding HSE's prosecution of the owner of Boswell Farm for a range of breaches of pesticides and health and safety legislation, it came to the attention of HSE that unknown packages had been buried on Mersley Farms, Newchurch, IoW. HSE urgently followed up this information to the point of being able to offer the Environment Agency good sources of intelligence on the locations. The HSE has had no direct involvement in the investigation of the allegations now being carried out by the Environment Agency. A decision on whether or not to prosecute for the alleged contravention of environmental legislation will be taken by the agency in the light of the conclusions of its investigation.

The Community Legal Service

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To what extent the Community Legal Service will give assistance in advising and representing the alleged victims of unlawful discrimination in relation to proceedings under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act

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    1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; and[HL595]

    To what extent the Community Legal Service gives assistance to law centres and community action groups to enable them to advise and represent the alleged victims of unlawful discrimination in relation to proceedings under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.[HL596]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Community Legal Service will be launched in April 2000. As part of the Government's legal aid reform programme, I intend to focus resources on priority areas, one of which will be advice on social welfare work, including employment rights. In addition, the Community Legal Service will bring in new providers such as not-for-profit advice agencies and law centres, which have particular expertise in these areas of law. Victims of unlawful discrimination will therefore have access to high-quality advice.

Publicly funded help will also be available for representation in court proceedings brought specifically under these Acts, subject to the standard tests of the applicant's means and the funding assessment. However, a large proportion of cases are brought in employment tribunals, for which public funding is not available for representation. The Government are currently reviewing the procedures of all tribunals to assess how they comply with our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and EU law. Once we have better control of the scheme through the legal aid reforms, it will be possible for us to consider extending representation to tribunals if a need for it is established.

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