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18 Dec 2002 : Column WA103

Written Answers

Wednesday, 18 December 2002.

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the standard percentage of emergency calls answered within eight minutes by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service; and what is the comparable figure for England.[HL288]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has a target to respond to 50 per cent of all emergency calls within eight minutes. In the year ended 31 March 2002, it achieved this response time for 59 per cent of all emergency calls in the Eastern Board area, 47 per cent Northern, 43 per cent Southern and 57 per cent Western.

Different targets apply in England, where ambulance services are required to respond to 75 per cent of all Category A (Life Threatening) calls within eight minutes. In 2001-02, 14 of the 32 ambulance services in England achieved this target.

Northern Ireland: Primary and Post-primary School Funding

Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in reducing disparity of funding between primary schools and post-primary schools in Northern Ireland; and whether they have any plans to provide equality of funding for the primary school children of Northern Ireland.[HL296]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government are committed to narrowing the funding differential between primary and post-primary schools and have introduced a number of measures to provide additional resources for the primary sector; for example, the "Making a Good Start" initiative, (P1 and P2 classes), assistance to schools to limit class sizes at Key Stage 1 and the budget addition for schools.

Legislation is being prepared which will provide for the introduction of a single common LMS formula. This will allow progress to be made in narrowing the gap through formula allocations and though this must be gradual because of the need to keep the process manageable.

The nature of post-primary curriculum, its mode of delivery and the extent of support arrangements (staffing, equipment and resource materials) are quite different from that of the primary sector and generally more expensive. Thus while the Government are satisfied that primary schools should receive a greater share of available resources, they do not feel that equal funding would be appropriate. Post-primary pupils will therefore continue to require additional funding and as such a differential will remain.

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Northern Ireland Assembly Suspension: Implementation Bodies

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there is a draft international agreement between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland regarding the six implementation bodies in the eventuality of suspension lasting for a certain period of time; why such an agreement was not signed; whether it has been discussed in London/Dublin talks since 14 October; and whether they will publish the draft international agreement.[HL394]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: In an exchange of notes on 19 November the British and Irish Governments agreed a mechanism so that during the period of temporary suspension of the Assembly, decisions (of the North/South Ministerial Council) on policies and actions relating to the implementation bodies, Tourism Ireland (a publicly owned company established as an area of co-operation by NSMC) or their respective functions could be taken. The agreement was made to ensure the continuation during suspension of the necessary public functions performed by the implementation bodies. The agreement, which came into force on 3 December, also provided that no new functions would be conferred on the implementation bodies during suspension. The exchange of notes will be laid before both Houses of Parliament.

Northern Ireland Assembly Suspension: NSMC

Lord Laird: asked her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, following the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly on 14 October, the North/South Ministerial Council created by an agreement of 8 March 1999 following the Belfast Agreement was also effectively suspended, given paragraph 13 of Strand Two of the Belfast agreement.[HL398]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Section 1 of the Northern Ireland Act 2000 makes clear that the functions conferred by Section 52 or 53 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (North-South Ministerial Council and British Irish Council) are not to be exercised during the suspension of the Assembly.

Northern Ireland: Criminal Justice Review

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What decisions have been made on the proposal to appoint an Oversight Commissioner for the Criminal Justice Review in Northern Ireland.[HL776]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government have decided to appoint an Oversight Commissioner to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Review in Northern Ireland. A written Parliamentary Statement on the matter is being made today in another place. The Commissioner will be a person of standing, with appropriate experience of the UK criminal justice system, and will be appointed by open competition. We expect the Oversight Commissioner to make a significant contribution to the full and effective implementation of the Criminal Justice Review.

It is our expectation that the work of the Justice Oversight Commissioner will play a pivotal role in the creation of a criminal justice system which delivers justice effectively and efficiently, and enjoys the support and confidence of all parts of the community.

A copy of the terms of reference for the Oversight Commissioner has been placed in the Library.

Members of the House of Lords: Congestion Charge Payments

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked the Chairman of Committees:

    What will be the arrangements for the payment of congestion charges by Members of the House driving into central London in pursuit of their parliamentary duties.[HL807]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): From 17 February 2003 anyone who drives into the congestion charging zone in central London between 7.00 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays will have to pay a congestion charge. The House Committee decided on 10 December that no additional reimbursement would be available to assist Members in meeting the costs of congestion charging. In the new year, the Administration and Works Committee will consider ways to facilitate payment of the charge within the Palace of Westminster by Members and staff.

Shareholder Executive

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which public enterprises will fall under the remit of the new Shareholder Executive; and to which Minister it will report.[HL327]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): I am answering this Question as Minister reponsible for the Shareholder Executive.

The Treasury and the Cabinet Office are currently working with departments to establish in detail how the Shareholder Executive will help government become a more effective shareholder. The Shareholder Executive will define certain common standards and procedures for departments in their role as

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shareholder and will develop for individual departments plans to define the relationship with the entities, assess resource requirements of the departments to fulfil the role, assist in improving departments' capabilities and advise on specific management, corporate governance, performance monitoring and financing issues.

The precise scope of the Shareholder Executive is part of the detailed work being taken forward with departments. However, it is envisaged that the Shareholder Executive will extend to a range of government shareholdings in companies in the public and private sectors as well as some of the more commercially orientated trading funds.

Biodiesel: Vegetable Oils

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the use of new and used vegetable oils as fuel for compression ignition engines will have any negative effects on the engines, the environment or the development of a viable, high quality processed biodiesel market.[HL525]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: On the environmental performance of the fuel, vegetable oils have a superior carbon life-cycle balance compared to conventional fuels. The Department for Transport is currently considering the options for further research on the local air quality emissions performance of this fuel to supplement the limited publicly available data available in this area.

As with all fuels, any producer of diesel fuels from vegetable oils for sale to the public has a responsibility to the consumer to ensure that the fuel is fit for purpose and, as such, does not damage engines when used. Producers should also ensure that all relevant excise duties are paid.

Subject to these provisos, the use of new and used vegetable oils should be complementary to the development of a viable, high quality processed biodiesel market.

Strategic Rail Authority

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish an organisation chart of the senior management at the Strategic Rail Authority down to assistant director level.[HL564]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: I am placing in the Library of the House a series of charts showing the authority's senior level structure including all posts reporting directly to its executive directors.

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