Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


NHS Bank

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The NHS Bank has been operating in shadow form this year, overseen by the Department of Health Director of Finance and Investment and four strategic health authority chief executives. The future legal form and management arrangements are still under consideration.

School Admission Arrangements

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

6 Nov 2002 : Column WA115

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Eighteen hundred copies of each of the draft codes were printed, and 1,000 copies of the draft regulations, with electronic copies also being available via the department's website. The consultation was targeted towards admission authorities, as they would have the most direct interest in changes to the codes and regulations. This is why all local education authorities, as the admission authorities of community and voluntary controlled schools, were consulted, along with a representative sample of foundation and voluntary aided schools, which are their own admission authorities, and a smaller sample of other non-admission authority schools. Representative bodies of all school types were also consulted, as well as numerous national bodies. As part of a drive to reduce the amount of paperwork sent directly to schools, the department routinely consults representative samples, rather than going to every individual school.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the consultation period for school admissions and admission appeals lasted for only 25 days.[HL6266]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The consultation period was shorter than normal as during the passage of the Education Act 2002 we stated our commitment to introducing changes to school admission arrangements from the 2004–05 academic year. This more compressed consultation schedule was therefore necessary in order to have the codes and regulations ready to come into effect from January 2003, so that the necessary work arising from them could be completed to affect 2004 admissions.

Much of the content of the new codes and regulations had already been the subject of consultation in September 2001 and of further debate during the passage of the 2002 Act. The department supported the paper consultation with a number of meetings around the country, at which over 400 local authority representatives and headteachers were able to give views. The consultation documents were also posted on the department's consultation website.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why all school and local education authorities were not consulted about proposals for admissions and admission appeals policies.[HL6267]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: All local education authorities were consulted in writing, along with a representative sample of foundation and voluntary aided schools, which are their own admission authorities, and a smaller sample of non-admission authority schools. As part of a drive to reduce the amount of paperwork sent directly to schools, the department routinely consults representative samples, rather then going to each individual school. The documents were also available on the

6 Nov 2002 : Column WA116

department's website, and 400 representatives of local education authorities and schools were consulted at meetings. The central themes of the new codes of practice and regulations were the subject of an earlier consultation beginning in September 2001.

Interdepartmental Childcare Review

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Interdepartmental Childcare Review will publish its findings.[HL6363]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The report from the Interdepartmental Childcare Review, led by my noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare, is being published today. The key conclusions of the report build on the announcement by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Spending Review statement on 15 July. The increased spending for childcare will lead to:


    the creation of at least 250,000 new childcare places by 2005–06, on top of the earlier target of new places for 1.6 million children by 2004;


    the establishment of new children's centres to provide childcare, family support and health services in one centre, reflecting the early lessons of Sure Start, to benefit up to 650,000 children in disadvantaged areas by 2006.

In addition, the integration of responsibility for childcare, early years education and Sure Start within a new interdepartmental unit will ensure new services will be co-ordinated to best meet the needs of children, families and communities.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Vote Office, Printed Paper Office and the Libraries.

Women: Increase in State Pension Age

Baroness Greengross asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they have taken to inform women affected by the increase in the state pension age for women from 2010; what percentage of women they estimate to be already aware of the increase; and whether they have taken steps to discover what such women have done in response.[HL6158]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): I refer the noble Baroness to the Answer I gave her on 31 January 2002 (WA 57).

Changes to the state pension age for women are publicised as part of the current marketing campaign on pensions education for people of working age. This is a multi-million pound campaign which encourages people to plan for retirement and consider the full range of pension options and issues.

6 Nov 2002 : Column WA117

The campaign includes a press advert specifically about the change to state pension age for women and we have undertaken direct marketing activity, which includes press inserts and direct mailings targeted specifically at women. These materials all highlight the fact that the state pension age for women is changing.

This activity has taken place since research undertaken in March 2000 which showed that 30 per cent of women aged 18-55 were aware that changes to the state pension age had been made. Since then, as outlined above, there has been considerable further activity to publicise these changes and we have distributed more than 2 million pensions information guides.

The effectiveness of the pensions education campaign is measured on an ongoing basis.

Social Fund

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they intend to do about the Social Fund following the report of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, Unfair and Underfunded.[HL6281]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The Government welcome this report, which adds to the debate in this important area.

We keep the Social Fund under continuous review and are already examining a number of issues raised by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux in its report.

Television: Audio Description

Lord Thomson of Monifieth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made under the Broadcasting Act 1996 in providing audio description services for visually-impaired television viewers; and what proposals for improvement will be made in the forthcoming Communications Bill.[HL6172]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): The Broadcasting Act 1996 sets a 10 per cent target for audio description to be reached by the 10th anniversary of the start of the digital terrestrial television (DTT) service. The Independent Television Commission (ITC) has set interim targets for audio description of programmes on DTT according to the start date of each service.

6 Nov 2002 : Column WA118

The draft Communications Bill issued earlier this year extends the requirements for audio description on DTT to digital cable and satellite platforms.

Green Tourism

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What initiatives have taken place in the last two years to encourage green tourism.[HL6253]

Baroness Blackstone: There are initiatives at national, regional and local level, including marketing campaigns, rural development programmes and business advice and accreditation schemes, such as Green Lantern in Lancashire.

IRA Ceasefire

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current state of the IRA ceasefire.[HL5926]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government's judgment, taking account of all the relevant factors, is that the IRA ceasefire remains intact. However, ceasefires on their own are not enough and there is a need for all paramilitary organisations to move beyond ceasefires and to commit to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page