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Written Answers

Tuesday, 4th July 2000.

School Standards and Framework Act 1998: Adherence

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action has been taken to ensure that Section 131 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 is complied with--

    (a) by all independent schools, day and boarding; and

    (b) by all those working in nursery education as defined by the Act.[HL3069]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): It is the responsibility of Ofsted, in the case of independent schools, and local education authorities, in the case of nursery education providers, to ensure that the law is adhered to.

English Literature: Teaching in Schools

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

    What measures they are taking to ensure that children leave school with a knowledge of the core texts of English Literature.[HL3080]

Baroness Blackstone: The revised National Curriculum, to be introduced from September 2000, sets out the requirements for teaching English in both primary and secondary schools. In primary schools the range of literature should include works by significant children's authors and long established children's fiction. Since January 1998, primary schools have received on average £5,000 each for the purchase of books.

Children between the ages of 11 and 16 are required to study the works of a range of major writers and poets, both classic and modern. The range should include plays, novels, short stories and poetry from the English literary heritage. Classical authors represented include Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, John Milton and William Wordsworth. Two plays by William Shakespeare must also be studied.

Sierra Leone Diamonds

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have evidence that diamonds are being exported illegally from Sierra Leone via Liberia; and what means exist for identifying such diamonds when offered on world markets.[HL2991]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): There is considerable evidence of the illegal export of Sierra Leone diamonds via Liberia. At present there are no established means for identifying such diamonds when offered on world markets. The UK is pressing for a UN Security Council ban on the import of all Sierra Leone diamonds except those accompanied by a certificate of origin issued by the Government of Sierra Leone and for an exploratory hearing of the UN Sanctions Committee, which would involve other countries in the region, to assess the role of diamonds in the Sierra Leone conflict.

Exports to India and Pakistan: Controls

Lord Lipsey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In what circumstances a licence is required to export strategic goods or technology to India or Pakistan; and what is their current policy regarding exports to nuclear or nuclear-related end-users in India and Pakistan.[HL3120]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: A licence is required to export to India or Pakistan any goods or technology that are listed as subject to control in the legislation under which strategic export controls are implemented or any goods or technology subject to the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) end-use controls set out in Article 4 of Council Regulation (EC) 3381/94 and Regulations 4(1) and 4(2)(b) and (c) of the Dual-Use and Related Goods (Export Control) Regulations 1996.

Where a licence is required, then, as my honourable friend the then Minister of State, Tony Lloyd, said in a Written Answer to the Member for Thanet South (Dr Stephen Ladyman) on 10 July 1998 in another place, we will not allow the export of items listed in the Nuclear Suppliers Group Dual-Use List to nuclear or nuclear-related end-users in India or Pakistan, nor any other goods to these end-users which could contribute to the Indian and Pakistani nuclear programmes. The exception is equipment which would not normally require an export licence but is deemed licensable under the WMD end-use controls and where the initial concerns about WMD end-use are not subsequently substantiated.

Sudan: Ceasefire Violations

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they are doing about the most recent SPLA violations of the ceasefire in Bahr al-Ghazal, Sudan.[HL3123]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have been following with grave concern reports of violations by the SPLA of the humanitarian ceasefire in Bahr al-Ghazal and in particular the attack on the town of Gogrial. We call on the SPLA and the Sudanese Government to exercise restraint, to respect humanitarian principles and the

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agreed ceasefire in that region and to work to negotiate a comprehensive, permanent, effectively-monitored ceasefire throughout Sudan. We reaffirm our support for the peace efforts being made under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and firmly believe that only a negotiated settlement can bring all the people of Sudan the peace and stability they deserve.

BBC Agreement

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will amend the BBC Agreement to enable the Department of Social Security to make certain payments to the BBC in recognition of the fact that, from 1st November, people aged 75 or over will become entitled to free television licences.[HL3178]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Amendment to the BBC Agreement [Command 4797] has been laid before the House of Commons today. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and the Printed Paper Office.

Public Service Pension Schemes

Lord Blackwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which pension schemes are in place for public sector employees; and what additional capital sum would need to be provided for each scheme if current liabilities for future pension payments were to be fully funded out of invested capital.[HL3034]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There are several hundred public sector schemes. Such information for all public sector pension scheme arrangements is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. The only major funded schemes are those for local government employees and public corporations.

If capital sums were to be provided to buy out existing unfunded liabilities the sum required would depend on prevailing investment market conditions. Estimates by the Government Actuary's Department of the long-term liabilities for the main unfunded public service pension schemes suggest that liabilities for future pensions in respect of active and former members--including allowances for anticipated future salary and pension increases--total approximately £295 billion as at 31 March 1998. This is made up of:

NHS Pension Scheme70
Teachers Pension Scheme95
Prinicipal Civil Service Pension Scheme50
Armed Forces Pension Scheme45
Police and Fire Pension Schemes35

Some more recent figures will appear in an annual actuary's report appended to the pension schemes equivalent of resource accounts later in the year.

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Labour Market Flexibility andthe Global Economy

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What studies they are making of the consequences of increasing commitment to a global market economy in the absence of the free international movement of labour; and what policies they are pursuing to meet the economic and social challenges flowing from this.[HL2970]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government are committed to a more integrated world economy as the foundation for global prosperity, and are pursuing policies to encourage a more flexible labour market, including through membership of the EU. The European Single Market has removed all formal barriers to labour mobility between the 15 EU Member States. Budget 2000 went further and introduced changes to the work permit system to attract highly skilled overseas workers where there are skills shortages. These changes followed a thorough review of the work permits system, and are aimed at contributing to the Government's objective of achieving high and stable levels of growth and employment, and prosperity for all.

Political Parties, Elections andReferendums Bill

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention to amend Part XI and Schedule 18 of the Political Parties and Referendums Bill to ensure that the activities of all-party parliamentary groups and associate parliamentary groups are excluded from the definition of political activities.[HL2993]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill will, in line with the Neill Committee's recommendation, require companies to seek prior shareholder authorisation for donations to a political party or organisation. The Bill currently defines a "political organisation" as a registered party or any other organisation which carries on, or proposes to carry on, activities of any political nature in the United Kingdom or any other EU member state. The Government accept that this is a very broad definition, and have undertaken to consider it further. Ministers fully recognise the contribution which parliamentary all-party groups make to political life in this country.

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