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Libya: Goods Subject to Export Controls

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

Baroness Amos: In September 2000 the Government inadvertently issued a licence for a small quantity of military listed chemicals to Libya. This was technically in breach of the UK interpretation of the EU arms embargo on Libya. The chemical was for use in the laboratory analysis of water and sewage samples. The goods have now been exported and the licence has been returned as exhausted. As a result of the error Her Majesty's Government have revised assessment procedures of export licence applications to embargoed destinations. The Government continue to support the EU arms embargo on Libya.

Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill: Human Rights Statement

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I have made a statement under Section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that, in my view, the provisions of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill are compatible with the convention rights. A copy of the statement has been placed in the Library of the House.

Ilisu Dam

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government are not currently providing any assistance to the Ilisu project.

We have recently received the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) for the project and a copy of the report has been placed in the Library of both Houses.

A decision about export credit support requires very careful consideration. We shall therefore be seeking expert advice on the EIAR and consulting our ministerial colleagues before taking a decision.

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Nuclear Weapons: Safety

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide information on the circumstances of each of the accidents involving UK nuclear weapons referred to in the answer given by the then Minister for the Armed Forces on 16 July 1996 (Official Report, cols. 484-85). [HL402]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): We have a good record on the safety and security of our nuclear weapons and continue to place the highest importance on work in this area. We have today placed in the Library of both Houses a table which sets out the circumstances of each of the seven accidents concerned. The information it contains is drawn from records spanning a period of 40 years and confirms that there has never been a weapons accident resulting in the release of radioactive material; there has never been damage to a weapon which risked a radioactive leak or an explosion; there has never been a nuclear weapon lost.

In addition to the three road traffic accidents referred to in the table, our research has identified one other, similar, event which took place in 1960 in Lincolnshire. There was no damage to the weapon involved. Since this event pre-dates the current reporting system it is unclear whether, in today's terms, it would be categorised as an accident.

The Government remain committed to greater openness on nuclear issues wherever possible. A key responsibility, however, must be to protect the safety and operational security of our nuclear forces and the people who support them. The practice of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons at any particular place and at any particular time will therefore continue to be a cornerstone of the Government's policy on nuclear weapons issues.

French and German Teaching

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

    What are their plans to promote the more widespread teaching of French and German to pupils in primary and secondary schools.[HL245]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): It is not our policy to promote specific languages, although French and German remain the most popular subjects for study in secondary schools. All pupils in England have a statutory entitlement to learn at least one foreign language from the age of 11. The national curriculum requires schools to offer at least one of the working languages of the European Union, which, of course, include French and German.

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We do not have a statutory curriculum for modern foreign languages at primary age but primary schools can offer languages as a voluntary option and French is the most popular choice. We are already doing a great deal to support language teaching in primary schools. The national curriculum contains guidance for teaching seven to 11 year olds, and we have published a scheme of work for primary French and further materials for primary German and Spanish. We recently announced further funding of over £200,000 for Early Language Learning initiative, through which we are piloting approaches to extend language teaching in primary schools, gathering good practice and developing classroom materials. We will be building on existing links between primary schools and specialist language colleges. The increasing number of specialist colleges and the developing focus on their roles as hubs of excellence will enhance opportunities for primary schools to access language expertise.

Language Teaching

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What their position is on a proposed pilot project for teaching foreign languages in primary and secondary schools in England which is at present under discussion by head teachers and local education authorities.[HL282]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: We have been discussing with our key European partners of France, Germany and Spain opportunities for enhancing language learning in primary and secondary schools. The department hosted a seminar on 13 July for head teachers and key language partners to discuss the practicalities and potential of a proposal presented by the German Ambassador.

The proposal will complement our plans to widen opportunities for primary language learning, to build on existing links between primary schools and specialist language colleges and to look at the feasibility of bilingual language teaching. We are already supporting an early language learning project and a feasibility study of bilingual teaching will start later this year. Following the seminar, we will be examining targeted bids for support to develop a small number of locally driven pilot projects.

Education Reform White Paper

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the White Paper on education reform.[HL347]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The Government will issue a White Paper on education reform in September 2001.

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Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the future of the Remploy Factory in Barnsley; what disposal strategy has been agreed; and to what extent the workforce has been affected.[HL165]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Remploy is planning to move its operations to a new site on the Fallbank industrial estate later this year. This is within two miles of their existing location, with good public transport and road links and provides an opportunity to ensure Remploy continues in Barnsely with more modern premises and prospects for increased workloading. The new site forms part of the Remploy modernisation strategy and will increase opportunities for the training and development of more disabled people in Barnsley. This approach is entirely in line with the Government's new Workstep programme which seeks to provide more opportunities for disabled people in the labour market.

Remploy is currently in discussion with the local authority about the disposal of its existing site in Pogmoor and has had extensive discussions with the employees and trade unions in the present Barnsley site about the proposed move. The management in Remploy advises me that these discussions have been positive and constructive and that there is full support for the move to the new location from their employees.

Warrington: Pensioners

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many pensioners there are in the Warrington area.[HL210]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The number of people in receipt of retirement pension in the parliamentary constituencies of Warrington as at 30 September 2000 was 31,600. Source: Pension Strategy Computer System at 30 September 2000 based on a 5 per cent sample. Note: Figures have been rounded to the nearest hundred.

Appeal Tribunals: President's Report

Lord Burlison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When he will publish the first annual report of the president of appeal tribunals on the standards of decision-making in cases coming to appeal tribunals.[HL399]

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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I am pleased to publish today the first report by the president of appeal tribunals. Of those cases where the appeal tribunal overturned or amended the decision, the main reasons given were because they took a different view of the same evidence, the presence of the appellant at the hearing shed new light on the existing evidence or new evidence was produced at the hearing.

The president has highlighted some areas where he feels decision-making could improve; for example, placing greater weight on the claimant's oral or written evidence. These points will be carefully considered by the agency chief executives, who are now responsible for monitoring and reporting on the standards of decisions made by their staff. To assist them with this, both the Benefits Agency and the Child Support Agency have set up standards committees, on which the president is represented. I welcome the president's report, which provides an independent view of the standard of Secretary of State decision-making in cases coming to the appeal tribunal.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Library and will be available on the Internet.

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