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Rural Social Exclusion: Ministerial Network

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): In my previous Answer on the 3 April (WA 108-9), I explained that the remit of the network is to chase progress across government on implementation of past SEU reports and to act as an informal sounding board for the unit's future work programme. This has yet to be decided.

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My right honourable friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office met with various people during her visit to the Duchy of Lancaster on 25 February 2000. As well as Duchy business, topics discussed included rural issues.

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their definition of a ministerial network, as in the case of that chaired by the Minister for the Cabinet Office in respect of social exclusion; and how such a network differs from a committee.[HL2004]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: A Cabinet Committee relieves the pressure on the Cabinet itself by settling business in a smaller forum or at a lower level, when possible, or at least by clarifying issues and defining points of disagreement. It acts by implied devolution of authority from the Cabinet and its decisions therefore have the same formal status as decisions by the full Cabinet.

The ministerial network is an informal network of Ministers from departments that work closely with the SEU who chase progress on implementation of previous SEU reports and act as an informal sounding board for the unit's future work programme.

Duchy of Lancaster: Membership of Magistrates' Benches

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What records are kept of the membership of magistrates' benches in those areas which are the responsibility of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and how these are monitored.[HL2107]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Records are kept of gender, age, area of residence, occupation, ethnic background and political views of all candidates appointed in the 26 benches in the Duchy area. In addition, records are kept of each magistrate's attendances in court and any leave of absence which has been granted.

Since 1999 advisory committees, which recommend suitable candidates for appointment to the magistracy to the Chancellor of the Duchy, are required to submit an annual report to the Chancellor giving details of recruitment during the previous year, including numbers of people who have applied, their age breakdown, gender, political views and ethnic breakdown. The annual report also includes magistrates on the active list, their gender, age, politics, occupations, attendances and ethnic breakdown. Number of votes cast in the area for each of the main political parties at the last two general elections is also given.

Monitoring is a continuous process with advisory committees checking to see if any emphasis should be placed on their recruitment strategy. For example if the political balance of the bench needs improving.

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Roll-on, Roll-off Ships: MoD Requirement

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many United Kingdom shipbuilders have the capability of designing a roll-on, roll-off ship of the type required by the Ministry of Defence; and[HL1847]

    How many United Kingdom shipbuilders have the capability of constructing a roll-on, roll-off ship of the type required by the Ministry of Defence.[HL1848]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Most major United Kingdom shipbuilders should be able to design and construct roll-on, roll-off ships (ROROs) of this type.

The MoD is currently assessing bids for the provision of roll-on, roll-off strategic sealift. This would not be a straightforward shipbuilding contract. It would involve contracting under PFI arrangements for a long-term shipping service which would include provision of the crews and the operation and maintenance of the ships, which would be owned by the contractor. The MoD is, however doing all it can, within the bounds of fair competition and its EC obligations, to give UK industry the opportunity to participate in building the ships.

Defence Spending

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of gross domestic product was accounted for by defence expenditure in the following years: 1946, 1951, 1956, 1961, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991 and 1996; what was the proportion of GDP spent on defence in the last available year; and what is their estimate of the percentage of GDP that will be taken by defence spending in the years 2001 and 2002.[HL1965]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The information available from our records dates back only to 1950 and is available for financial, rather than calendar, years. The last available year is 1998-99; estimates are given for financial years 1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2001-02.

The figures are:

Financial YearPercentage

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Service Families Accommodation: Mixed Estates

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any service married quarters estates have become "mixed estates" with council tenants; and if so, whether they will (a) list these estates; and (b) give reasons why this has occurred when assurances were given to the contrary by the Ministry of Defence and Annington Homes.[HL 2025]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean : There are no instances of mixed estates which are contrary to the agreement reached at the time of the sale of the families quarters estate to Annington Homes Ltd (AHL) in November 1996.

It might be helpful to clarify what this means in the context of the sale agreement. There are two definitions of mixed estate: one is where civilian residents are "pepper-potted" among military occupants of service families accommodation (SFA) and the second is where civilians occupy houses adjacent to a military "patch". In recognition of the sensitivity of the "patch" ethos, the terms of the sale agreement precluded the former but allowed for the latter. A condition of the sale is that those SFA, identified by the MoD as surplus to operational requirements, are to be disposed of in discrete blocks. As a result, there are estates where civilians are now residing in former service families' quarters which are situated adjacent to or alongside a military "patch"; hence the term, mixed estate.

Prior to the sale, there were some SFA scattered around big towns occupied by Territorial Army and Careers Information Office staffs and this situation maintains. However, there are no examples of mixed estates where military occupants are "pepper-potted" among civilians.

Over 3,000 properties have been released to AHL throughout England and Wales under the terms of the guaranteed release scheme. The majority of these properties have been sold to private individuals and it is not possible to identify each estate where service families are adjacent to civilians.

Armed Forces: Construction of Barracks and Married Quarters

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many new barrack and married quarters estates are being constructed or are due for construction for all three services of the Armed Forces; and what are the cost and area of each project.[HL 2027]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean : The information requested is not held centrally. However, I will write to the noble Lord once this information has been collated and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Postage Stamp Themes

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by Lord Sainsbury of Turville on 16 March (WA 220-21), 27 March (WA 45), 10 April (WA 10) and 14 April (WA 72-3) concerning the Post Office's stamp programme, and in view of the timescale for consideration of special issues being disclosed, whether they will require the Post Office to publish the successful suggestions for special stamp issue during 2002.[HL 2164]

(The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury) of Turville: The Stamp Programme is a matter for the Post Office. What it chooses to disclose about the themes selected for the 2002 Stamps Programme is for it to decide.

Schools: Teaching of Religion

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, following the receipt of legal advice by the Department for Education and Employment early in 1997 that "no religious beliefs urged on pupils would fall foul of Section 376(2) of the 1996 [Education] Act", the Department for Education and Employment has not withdrawn the advisory circular 1/94 (para 32) which states that "syllabuses must not be designed . . . to urge a particular religion or religious belief on pupils".[HL 2166]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): I am unable to identify the legal advice the noble Lord refers to, but if he would like to write to me with further details I shall look into it.

Foundation or voluntary controlled schools that do have a religious character can teach in accordance with the tenets of the religion or religious denomination which accords with their character, instead of teaching the agreed syllabus. Voluntary aided schools teach in accordance with the tenets of the religion of their character but can choose to follow the agreed syllabus. Community schools and foundation and voluntary schools which do not have a religious character follow the agreed syllabus.

An agreed syllabus for religious education is determined by an agreed syllabus conference in each local education authority. It should satisfy the key requirements of the aims of religious education as defined by the agreed syllabus conference. An agreed syllabus must not "provide for RE to be given by means of any catechism or formulary which is

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distinctive of a particular religious denomination". As such, the statement in circular 1/94 that an agreed syllabus should not "urge a particular religion or belief on pupils" is correct.

Section 376(2) is now replicated in paragraph 2(5) of Schedule 19 to the School Standards and Framework Act.

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