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Sri Lanka: Assistance

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The conflict in Sri Lanka, which has escalated recently, has been ongoing for many years. DFID has been providing assistance to non-governmental and international organisations which provide relief and rehabilitation directly to those affected. In 1999-2000 almost £3.5 million was channelled through Save the Children, OXFAM, UNICEF, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Marie Stopes International. We expect to provide at least a similar amount this year.

Pakistan: Bilateral Assistance

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: We have agreed to provide technical assistance to assist the administration to prepare some of the key reforms which would enable the UK and multilateral institutions to re-engage in Pakistan.

Corruption: Civil Law Convention

Baroness Cohen of Pimlico asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I am pleased to be able to announce that I have today signed the civil law convention during the course of the Conference of the European Ministers of Justice.

The Government have strongly supported the programme of action undertaken by the Council of Europe in the fight against corruption. The civil law convention is an innovative and important international legal instrument which will enable

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victims of corruption to obtain appropriate remedies in the civil courts of all states which ratify the convention. The United Kingdom is not in a position to ratify the convention at present because the requirements of the convention with regard to the rules of limitation for civil proceedings go further than is provided for by current UK law. However, the Law Commission is currently considering the rules relating to limitation of actions and the Government will review this issue as soon as the Law Commission's report is available.

Butler Report

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the report by His Honour Gerald Butler QC concerning the handling of the case of R v Doran and others has been delivered, what information concerning it will be published, and what action the Government will take in response.[HL2733]

The Attorney-General (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The report by his Honour Gerald Butler QC was delivered on 14 April. On 22 July 1999 (Official Report, House of Commons, cols. 608-9) my predecessor as Attorney-General indicated the Government's intention to make a summary of the report and its recommendations available to both Houses. In the event, it is possible to make the report available in full, and I have therefore today lodged a copy of the report in the Libraries of both Houses, together with a copy of the Government's response. In addition, the summary included in the report and the inquiry's recommendations, together with the Government's response to them, are being made publicly available on the HM Customs and Excise Internet site [], and copies of the full report will be available on request to HM Customs and Excise at a cost of £8.

All the recommendations made to me in the report which are capable of acceptance immediately have been accepted. Further work is required by other recommendations and such work is being set in hand.

With the agreement of the Chairman of Customs and Excise Commissioners, His Honour John Gower QC, assisted by Sir Anthony Hammond KCB QC, has agreed to carry out an immediate review of the role of Customs as a prosecuting authority. The terms of reference are:

    "Having regard to the Butler Report and the Hosker Report, the tripartite system operated within Customs and Excise in relation to the investigation and prosecution of offences, and to all other relevant considerations, to examine:

    (1) whether or not some or all of the prosecutions at present conducted by the Solicitor's Office of HM Customs and Excise should continue to be conducted by that Office;

    (2) to the extent that it is concluded that the Solicitor's Office should not continue to conduct some or all of those prosecutions, whether such prosecutions should be conducted by an existing prosecution authority, or by some other body;

    and to make recommendations".

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I anticipate receiving this report by the end of October this year.

Departmental Cars

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What type of cars are used in government departments; and whether they will show in tabular form which departments and make or makes of cars.[HL2458]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The types of cars used are a matter for individual government departments, which are responsible for ensuring that they achieve value for money. The information requested by the noble Lord on the makes of cars used is not held centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Belfast Agreement: Parity of Esteem

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are still committed to the concept of "parity of esteem" as set out in the Belfast Agreement; and whether this accords with the views of the Republic of Ireland's Foreign Minister.[HL2488]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Both the British and the Irish Governments are fully committed to the Belfast Agreement and all of the principles contained within it, including the concept of parity of esteem.

Questions for Written Answer

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked the Leader of the House:

    Why seven Questions for Written Answer tabled between 11 and 19 April remained unanswered on 16 May.[HL2525]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Leader of the House has asked me, as Minister with responsibility for Questions for Written Answer, to reply to the noble Lord's Question HL2525.

The Government's aim is to provide accurate and full answers to all Questions for Written Answer tabled in the House of Lords within 14 days. In the majority of cases this target is met. However, some questions which need close co-ordination between various departments and which also lie within a fast moving policy area may not always meet this target.

I have looked at the seven questions to which the noble Lord refers and all but one fall into this category. The exception was due to a failure of communcation between departments. We have tightened up the system and will continue to do so as much as possible.

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Northern Ireland: Learning Disorder Assessments

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) Which education and library boards in Northern Ireland allow free assessment to school children who may be suffering from an education learning disorder such as dyslexia; (b) which boards offer assessment on a fixed or quota basis; and (c) for those boards offering assessment on a restricted or quota basis, what is the reason and the basis for such restrictions.[HL2587]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: No education and library board offers assessment by an educational psychologist solely on a restricted or fixed quota basis, though all boards, except the southern and south-eastern education and library boards, operate priority systems. The arrangements vary from board to board but, in general, pupils who are being assessed with an eye to a statement of special educational needs, at stage 4 of the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, are given priority over pupils who require a diagnostic assessment at stage 3 of the code. The southern and south-eastern boards operate on a first come, first served referral system. In every board area emergency referrals are seen on an ad hoc basis.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps are being taken by Belfast Education and Library Board to improve assessment, understanding and support offered to those suffering from education learning disorders such as dyslexia.[HL2588]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Belfast Education and Library Board operates a peripatetic support service for children with dyslexia; in the current year 142 pupils are receiving individual tuition in their schools from the service, which is also providing advice and support to the teachers of a further 42 pupils. In addition, the service operates a weekly open clinic in Ulidia Teachers' Centre where teachers can receive advice on teaching dyslexic pupils. A further 60 children with more extreme dyslexia problems are provided with a one-year part-time intensive reading course at one of the board's three reading units. In addition to the peripatetic support service, outreach teachers from the reading units support some 500 pupils with serious reading difficulties, including dyslexia, with twice-weekly individual tuition in their own schools. The children who receive the above supports have all been assessed by an educational psychologist.

Over the past 10 years the numbers of such pupils for whom the Belfast board has provided this type of support have risen approximately fivefold.

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