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Joint Nature Conservation Committee: Consultation

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: We have today made the responses to the consultation exercise available on the websites of JNCC and my department, and I have also placed copies in the House Libraries. We are now considering the responses.

War Disablement Pension Claims

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): When claims for War Disablement Pension are considered by the War Pensions Agency some contended service links are relatively straightforward but others are more complex, requiring careful consideration and perhaps some discussion with an expert caseworker who is a particularly experienced Medical Adviser. Following recent criticism of the phrase "political overtones", the use of this term has been reviewed to clarify its intentions, and a revised verison of the overarching guidance on this matter is in the process of being published.

War Pensions Scheme and Disabled Living Allowances: Award Criteria

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: Conditions for the award of Constant Attendance Allowance and Mobility Supplement under the War Pensions Scheme include the requirement that the need for attendance or help with mobility must be due to the disablement for which a War Disablement Pension was awarded. Entitlement to Disability Living Allowance is governed by different legislation, does not depend on the circumstances in which the disability arose and can take other factors into account.

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French and German Teaching in Public Sector Schools

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

    What proportion of pupils in public sector schools in the United Kingdom are taught the French or German language respectively. [HL244]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The department does not hold information on the proportion of pupils who are taught particular languages in public sector schools. Information which is available on numbers who enter for a foreign language GCSE in England, however, indicates that about 68 per cent take French and around 27 per cent take German.

It is not our policy to promote specific languages, although French and German remain the most popular subjects for study in secondary schools. Pupils have a statutory entitlement to learn at least one foreign language from the age of 11, and we want to support and enhance opportunities for language learning in primary schools. We have already published a scheme of work for primary French and materials for primary German. We have done a great deal to strengthen the position of foreign language teaching in schools, particularly through the Specialist Language Colleges. The expansion of the Specialist Schools programme, with their role as "hubs" of excellence, will provide enhanced opportunities for primary schools to access language expertise.

BBC World Service: Grant-in-Aid

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the subvention made by the Treasury, in real terms, to the BBC World Service in each year since 1996; and what is the agreed Treasury subvention in the financial years 2001-02 to 2003-04.[HL169]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): Government Grant-in-Aid for BBC World Service broadcasting for the years 1996-97 to 2003-04 is set out in the table below in real terms.

BBC World Service Grant-in-Aid (£m real terms, 2001-02 prices)

Year£ million

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Year£ million

BBC Short-wave Services

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to discontinue financial support for the BBC world short-wave service to North America and the Pacific Ocean area. [HL191]

Baroness Amos: The Government have granted the BBC World Service £64 million extra for 2001-04 to enable it to take forward plans to modernise equipment, including short-wave transmitters, and expand online and FM services globally. Operational decisions on resources allocation are for the World Service within the framework of overall objectives agreed with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. On other aspects of the question I refer the noble Baroness to the Answer I gave to Lord Quirk on 27 June, Official Report, cols. 354-357.

Foot and Mouth Disease: Local Authority Costs

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for reimbursing those local authorities who have experienced substantial extra unforseen costs due to their work during the foot and mouth crisis. [HL270]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Lord Falconer of Thorton): On 24 April, my honourable friend the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Beverley Hughes) announced the activation of the Bellwin scheme to provide emergency financial assistance to local authorities to help them meet some of the costs of responding to outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. This scheme is based on Section 155 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, which permits only the reimbursement of expenditure incurred by local authorities on, or in connection with, the taking of immediate action to safeguard life or property, or to prevent suffering or severe inconvenience, in their area or among its inhabitants. Funding rate relief for small businesses does not, therefore, fall within the scope of this scheme.

On 22 March, my right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment announced an increase in the central government contribution to local authorities to fund rate relief from 75 per cent to 95 per cent for small businesses which are suffering hardship as a result of foot and mouth disease in 151 rural authorities in England. This applied for an initial period of three months. Details of the arrangements

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were given in Special Grant Report No. 80, which was laid before the other place and approved by Parliament on 2 April 2000.

A new Special Grant Report No. 86 was debated and passed in the other place on Monday 16 July. It continues the terms of SGR No. 80 for a further six months, so the grant will be available for the period 1 April to 31 December. It also extends the terms of the scheme to provide more grant to the worst affected authorities. Any eligible authority which grants relief worth in total more than 8 per cent of its net budget requirement will receive central funding of 98 per cent for spend above that level, as opposed to 95 per cent below it (75 per cent through the pool in the usual way plus special grant of either 20 per cent or 23 per cent). Grant will also be available to 37 specified authorities in the worst affected areas for relief given to properties up to £50,000 rateable value, as opposed to £12,000 rateable value in the other 114 rural authorities.

In addition authorities covered by Special Grant Report No. 80 will benefit from a temporary reduction of 50 per cent in contributions to the National Non-Domestic Rate Pool between April and August.

London Underground: Air Conditioning

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of the safety risks, what advice they have sought about the introduction of an immediate emergency programme of investment in air conditioning in both stations and rolling stock on London Underground. [HL273]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: We have been informed by London Underground that their technical staff, in liaison with one of the world's expert consulting engineers on air conditioning, are reviewing the possibility of introducing air conditioning on the Underground network. We have also been informed by London Underground that they have an ongoing risk assessment programme which closely monitors health and safety risks to passengers.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they have sought from the Health and Safety Executive about the danger of loss of life on London Underground resulting from the high temperatures in trains stuck between stations at peak times. [HL274]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Safety is London Underground's top priority. Regulation and enforcement is the responsibility of the independent Health and Safety Executive, rather than the Government. We understand that, following an incident at Liverpool Street Underground Station last September, London Underground conducted a formal review of its procedures for responding to incidents which result in trains stopping between stations. The report was provided to the Health and Safety

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Executive and trade union representatives in March. We understand that the report made a number of recommendations and that the Health and Safety Executive will ensure these recommendations are implemented.

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