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Age Discrimination

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

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Baroness Blackstone: Building on Partnership, the Government's response to All Our Futures, states our commitment to tackling age discrimination wherever it is found. We are already introducing measures that will make a difference to older people in employment, health, education and transport. Making legislation an effective way of tackling age discrimination is a complex task and our priority is to introduce age legislation in employment, vocational training and guidance. Legislation alone does not achieve the culture change that it is needed to end unfair age discrimination. The partnership approach of the Better Government for Older People programme has driven forward many improvements and reforms across the whole range of public services, which will help to effect a culture change. We want to build upon the success of that partnership approach.

Students Absent through Illness:Financial Support

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any source of funds available to a student intermitting a course in higher education because medically unfit to work and unable to rely on assistance from parents or other relations.[HL854]

Baroness Blackstone: Under the Education (Student Support) Regulations, full-time students who are absent from their course because of illness are entitled to continue to receive student support for the first 60 days of absence. Before academic year 1998-99 this was only 28 days. Local education authorities have the discretion to decide whether such students should continue to receive support after the first 60 days' absence. We have encouraged local education authorities to exercise their discretion and to be sympathetic to the student's position in considering cases which come to them. Among the factors they will consider in coming to a decision is the possibility of financial hardship.

Students who remain ill for more than a period of 28 weeks may become eligible at that stage to receive income support and housing benefit. Local education authorities have the discretion to continue support to sick students waiting to receive income support.

Additional assistance for students studying in the UK who are absent from their course due to illness may be available through hardship funds. These allow universities and colleges to provide discretionary support for students in particular need; and a total of £86.6 million has been made available in England for the 2000-2001 academic year.

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Trans-Pennine Rail Franchise

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the status of the Blackpool-Preston-Hebden Bridge-Leeds-Scarborough express service in relation to the new trans-Pennine rail franchise.[HL788]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): This service has not been included in the core proposition for the trans-Pennine express franchise. The Strategic Rail Authority is awaiting proposals from shortlisted bidders for this franchise. Their proposals need not be confined to the core proposition.

Bus Services

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What further steps they are taking to promote the reliability of local bus services following the decision of the Transport Tribunal not to uphold the standards set by the Traffic Commissioners in recent cases in Bristol and Leeds.[HL832]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: We attach great importance to improving the reliability of local bus services. There is a general objective in the transport 10-year plan to secure improvements in punctuality and reliability and there is a specific target to be achieved by June 2001 for no more than 0.5 per cent of services to be cancelled for reasons within an operator's control. The doubling of local transport capital spending over the next five years announced on 14 December 2000 should allow local authorities to provide up to 4,500 kilometres of busways, quality bus corridors, bus lanes and other traffic priority measures, all of which should help to improve bus reliability.

Additional funding has been made available this financial year for monitoring to ensure that services are being run according to the registered details. My department and the Traffic Commissioners are considering the implications for future disciplinary proceedings of the Transport Tribunal's recent decisions on the appeals by Yorkshire Rider Ltd and First Bristol Buses Ltd.

Mapping of Access Land

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the mapping of access land under Part I of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, including in particular--

    (a) the appointment of consultants or agents to carry out the mapping;

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    (b) the definition of areas in England for the first or pilot mapping programmes;

    (c) regulations for the mapping of access land; and

    (d) the setting up of local access forums.[HL786]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Countryside Agency let a contract in January this year for the mapping of open country and registered common land. The agency has identified two lead mapping areas, in the north west and south east of England. The north west area includes Lancashire, Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and the Peak District National Park. The south east area includes Kent, Surrey, East and West Sussex and the outer London boroughs which border this area. The Countryside Agency expects to publish for consultation draft maps for these lead areas in the autumn.

The Government are currently drafting regulations for the mapping of access land and the establishment of local access forums, and we expect to consult on such regulations before the summer. Once these regulations have been made, access authorities will be under a duty to establish forums under Part V of the Act.

Sustainable Livestock Programme

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the results of research undertaken under the sustainable livestock programme are always free for publication, even when supported financially by (a) industry and (b) the Government.[HL758]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): All projects in the sustainable livestock production LINK programme are supported by both industry and public funds. Results for each research project are free for publication once the research consortium has had the opportunity to patent or benefit from the intellectual property generated by the research.

Royal Parks: Cars driven on Footpaths

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why two cars, escorted by three police motorcyclists, drove southward in Hyde Park down the footpath and cycle track at 6.30 p.m. on Monday 5 February at a time when it was heavily used by both pedestrians and cyclists due to the Tube strike; who was being escorted; and why these cars could not have used the parallel Park Lane; and[HL661]

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    Whether cars are permitted to be driven on footpaths or cycle tracks in the Royal Parks; if not, under what legislation their drivers could be prosecuted for so doing; and by whom.[HL662]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Responsibility for the subject of these questions have been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, William Weston. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given. Letter from the Chief Executive of the Royal Parks Agency, William Weston, dated 26 February 2001.

I have been asked by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to reply to your Parliamentary Questions about vehicles using the footpaths in the Royal Parks because this is an operational matter for which I am responsible.

I am afraid that I cannot say why two cars escorted by the police were travelling through the park on Monday 5 February or who was in them. Cars being escorted through the park in this manner are usually carrying people in a high security category and are escorted by the Metropolitan Police Special Escort Section. It happens rarely and they do not let us know when they are going to do so, both for security reasons and because they sometimes make a last minute decision to do so to avoid being caught in heavy traffic.

The only vehicles allowed to drive on the footpaths and cycleways in the Royal Parks are those driven by Royal Parks staff and contractors on official business, those servicing the parks' facilities, and the Royal Parks Constabulary for operational reasons. We are aware that the Metropolitan Police occasionally use the park footpaths as a short cut, presumably for operational reasons, but we discourage this as much as we are able to because it could be a hazard to park users.

House of Lords Staff: Photographic Guide

Lord Harrison asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether the House will provide a vade-mecum of those who work in the House of Lords; and whether he will ensure that such a guide will contain up-to-date photographs of those listed.[HL776]

The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Tordoff): A 1996 photographic guide to all the staff of the House is available in the Library. A new guide is in the process of preparation. Black Rod's Office provides a photographic guide to senior staff in that office and I understand that the Clerk of the Parliaments is considering the production of a similar guide to senior officials of the House. Dod's Parliamentary Companion provides a photographic guide to Members of the House and it would not be an appropriate use of public funds to provide a second such guide. Guides to Members' staff, party officials or civil servants would be for their employers to determine.

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Black Rod: Advertisement of Appointment

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Further to his Written Answer on 12 February (WA 22), who decided that readers of broadsheets such as the Independent or the Daily Telegraph and tabloids like the Daily Express, the Daily Mail,

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    the Mirror and the Sun were unlikely to provide suitable potential candidates for the Black Rod appointment; and what was the cost of the advertisements published.[HL777]

The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees: The decision to place the advertisements was taken by the Leaders and the Convenor, on the advice of the Clerk of the Parliaments. The cost of the advertisements was £3,742.37 for The Times and £5,358 for the Guardian.

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