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7 Jan 2003 : Column WA167

Written Answers

Tuesday, 7th January 2003.

Queen's Counsel

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

    Further to the answer by the Lord Chancellor on 12 December (HL Deb, cols 377–78), why the power to recommend to the Sovereign who should be appointed Queen's Counsel should be retained by the Lord Chancellor and not delegated instead to the Lord Chief Justice, who is independent of the Executive. [HL724]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): As I explained in my answer to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, on 12 December, the Lord Chancellor is at the end of a line of processes that includes impartial civil servants, the judiciary, the legal profession and now lay assessors. Every stage is open to the closest scrutiny by the Judicial Appointments Commissioner. The Lord Chancellor is also directly and personally answerable to Parliament for the system and policies relating to the award of Queen's Counsel. That kind of accountability could not be appropriate for the Lord Chief Justice. Nor would it be appropriate for the Lord Chief Justice to be responsible for a system which exists to confer benefits on consumers in relation to the provision of services by the legal profession.

Strangford: Schools

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the present enrolments in each of the primary, secondary and grammar schools in the Strangford constituency; and what were the equivalent figures five years ago. [HL303]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The information for 2002–03 is not yet available. The information for 1996–97 and 2001–02 is as follows:

School NameEnrolment 1996–97 Enrolment 2001–02
Primary Schools
Abbey Primary School603636
Alexander Dickson Primary School219194
Andrews Memorial Primary School522436
Ballycloughan Primary School8468
Ballykeigle Primary School5344
Ballywalter Primary School165178
Brooklands Primary School683693
Carrickmannon Primary School8094
Carrowdore Primary School137150
Carryduff Primary School315257
Castle Gardens Primary School419357
Comber Primary School388392
Darragh Cross Primary School8691
Derryboy Primary School8160
Dundonald Primary School587603
Greyabbey Primary School6973
Killinchy Primary School240255
Killyleagh Primary School140116
Kircubbin Primary School79107
Kirkistown Primary School5860
Londonderry Primary School305280
Loughries Primary School8381
Moneyrea Primary School143140
Newtownards Model Primary School400391
O'Neill Memorial Primary School4324
Portaferry Integrated Primary School4887
Portavogie Primary School133186
Regent House Preparatory Department161159
St Finan's Primary School144117
St Joseph's Primary School653825
St Mary's Primary School, Portaferry277246
St Mary's Primary School, Comber3136
St Mary's Primary School, Ballygowan5030
St Mary's Primary School, Kircubbin211158
St Mary's Primary School, Killyleagh137134
St Patrick's Primary School112108
Victoria Primary School, Newtownards572559
Victoria Primary School, Ballyhalbert101119
West Winds Primary School179182
Secondary Schools
Comber High School416361
Dundonald High School609607
Glastry College531586
Lagan College9481,013
Movilla High School858873
Saintfield High School326336
St Columba's High School345280
Strangford Integrated CollegeNot Opened 416
Grammar Schools
Regent House School1,4411,449

7 Jan 2003 : Column WA168

Northern Ireland Film and TelevisionCommission

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Since the creation of the Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission, how much it has grant aided films from an Irish background and how much from an Ulster Scots background. [HL346]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission has reviewed all the feature films assisted by it since its establishment in April 1997, but is unable to assess them in terms of "Irish background" or "Ulster Scots background".

Northern Ireland Arts Council

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 6 November (WA 121) concerning the funding provided by the Northern Ireland Arts Council to Irish and Ulster Scots, whether the council has an action plan to develop a position of equality in funding; and, if not, why not. [HL354]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The council is currently engaged with the Ulster Scots Agency, the Ultacht Trust and Foras na Gaeilge in an in-depth research and needs analysis survey into the arts of Irish and Ulster Scots, which will inform the future development of policy in this area.

7 Jan 2003 : Column WA169

Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund

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

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 17 December (WA 99), whether they intend to lay a statutory instrument before Parliament, in relation to the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund, to extend survivor pensions to unmarried adult dependants and to continue survivor pensions if a spouse remarries.[HL917]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: It is the Government's policy that the cost of extending pensions to surviving adult dependants, and of paying pensions to surviving spouses for life, should fall to members of the fund. Following the vote last year, the trustees were asked to consider how these proposals could best be implemented. The Leader of the House of Commons will be meeting the chairman of the trustees this week to discuss this issue.

Ministers and Civil Servants:Home to Office Travel

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

    Whether it is their policy to encourage Ministers and Permanent Secretaries to use public transport to make their daily journeys to and from their departments.[HL821]

Lord Willilams of Mostyn: All travel complies with the requirements of the Ministerial Code, Travel by Ministers and the Civil Service Management Code as appropriate. In deciding the mode of travel for home to office journeys, individuals will take into account business considerations such as the need to work on official papers, some of which may carry a protective marking. For some individuals, security considerations will also be relevant.

Northern Ireland Civil Service

Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the implementation of recruitment policies and practices in the Northern Ireland Civil Service is satisfactory; and whether the same criteria are applied to the Northern Ireland Civil Service as to the Civil Service in England and Wales.[HL382]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Yes. These policies and practices reflect both employment law as it applies specifically in Northern Ireland and the particular requirements of the Civil Service Commissioners for Northern Ireland. Specific selection criteria depend on the qualities and skills needed for particular posts. The general principle of recruitment on merit in fair and open competition is common to Civil Service appointments throughout the United Kingdom.

7 Jan 2003 : Column WA170

Irish Language Agency

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 28 November (WA 66) concerning the chief executive of the Irish Language Agency, what was the memorandum from a government lawyer to the British Joint Secretary of the North/South Ministerial Council of 8 July; whether they received legal opinions authorised by Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch dated 24 April, 21 May and 22 June; whether these and any other opinions can be placed in the Library of the House; and why these were not referred to in the answer.[HL393]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The legal opinions referred to were taken on behalf of or supplied to the devolved administration and the present Government are not privy to that information.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the recent appointment of a chief executive of the Irish Language Agency, for which proficiency in Irish was a requirement, discriminates against the unionist community in Northern Ireland who do not learn Irish; and, as the agency operates in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with offices in both, which employment laws apply and why.[HL415]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The requirement to have a proficiency in the Irish language may have had a disproportionate impact on the Protestant community in Northern Ireland. The requirement was, however justified because the working language of the Irish Language Agency is Irish and there was therefore, a business need for this. As the work of the chief executive of the Irish Language Agency is carried out wholly or mainly outside Northern Ireland, the employment laws of Northern Ireland do not apply to the appointment; the employment law of the Republc of Ireland would apply to the post.

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