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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am of course aware that there have been a number of difficult encounters, but my noble friend Lord Faulkner puts his finger on the nub of the issue. We do not yet have a final settlement on Cyprus, try as we and the United Nations have to find one. The question of the legality of ownership is one for the courts. I do not know what the rule of law may be in a final settlement, but whatever it may be, it should of course be upheld.

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This is a complex legal question, and I suggest that the best way forward is to wait for a final settlement and then see these issues resolved appropriately by the courts.

Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the all-party group, the Friends of Northern Cyprus. Is the Minister aware that northern Cyprus is becoming one of the most popular areas in the Mediterranean for British people to buy homes? Is she aware that of the 1,000 homes bought by foreigners in northern Cyprus last year, 95 per cent were bought by United Kingdom citizens? Is she aware that the while the Church of England may be closing churches in England, there is a scheme out to contract to double the size of the Anglican Church in Kyrenia? With the positive news that Turkish Cypriots now invite Greek Cypriots into northern Cyprus and Greek Cypriots are allowing Turkish Cypriots into southern Cyprus, why, after 30 years, have Her Majesty's Government banned British citizens in northern Cyprus moving into their own sovereign base? This has caused a lot of resentment.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I very much welcome the relaxation on the restrictions of freedom of movement across the green line. I do not think, however, that that is any substitute for a comprehensive settlement on the basis of the UN plan. I hope that the advice of the British High Commission—that anybody seeking to buy property in northern Cyprus does so on the basis of sound legal advice—is taken.

The noble Lord raises the point of what is happening in the sovereign bases. Any person who has entered the island of Cyprus through an unrecognised port of entry is considered an illegal immigrant by the government of the Republic of Cyprus. The fact is that people are being checked if they wish to enter the eastern sovereign base. That is because there is much more traffic across the green line. The government of Cyprus view those who have come in through some of the unauthorised ports as illegal entrants. That is the basis of the increased activity to which the noble Lord refers, as those going into the sovereign bases are being checked. I hope I have made that point clear, because it is an important issue and has raised a certain amount of tension.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the Minister is, of course, right that the outcome of this advice clearly depends on the nature of an eventual settlement. Can she bring us up to date with what the prospects are? I think that the Secretary-General of the United Nations rather gloomily said he felt it was the end of the road when the last set of negotiations came to a dead stop. But the offer is still on the table and the ideas are still there. What plans do Her Majesty's Government have for trying to revive the hope that seemed so strong a few months ago that some new kind

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of confederation or arrangement could be achieved and the problems of Cyprus at last be brought to an end?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it is only a short while since the UN plans sadly came to grief. I cannot answer the question as the noble Lord would wish me to without making reference to the fact that I have today answered a Question from my noble friend Lady David on this matter. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have accepted the recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that his term should end with effect from today, in the role that he has undertaken in Cyprus. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, might have cause to chide me gently afterwards if I did not make that clear to him in answering the question.

We take the view, as does the UN Secretary-General, that the UN should not take any new initiatives until the Secretary-General is given reason by all parties to believe that there really is a political will to solve the problem in Cyprus. We all know that an enormous amount of energy has been devoted to the issue in the past few years, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. I am sorry that he is not in his place, because he deserves a great deal of praise and thanks from all sides of your Lordships' House for the work that he has undertaken. However, the fact is that until there is a real political will on all sides to solve the problem, we are unlikely to see much movement.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords—

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, is it not the fact that the decision by President Denktash—

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I believe that it is the turn of the Liberal Democrats.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am grateful. Reverting to the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is the Minister aware that the European Court of Human Rights gave very valuable advice on the question? It made it quite clear that the Republic of Turkey is responsible for any breaches of the human rights convention, including the right to property, in the TRNC in northern Cyprus. Is it not the position that, if British citizens are victims of breaches by the TRNC in northern Cyprus, Turkey will be responsible? On the other hand, if they were the victims of breaches in the Greek-occupied part, the Cyprus Government would be responsible. There are complete remedies already under the European convention.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord misspoke when he referred to the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, which was on Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We are discussing the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner.

In general terms, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lester. However, I am anxious to avoid providing an absolute blueprint for what may be

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difficult questions of property ownership in all circumstances. The fact is that property ownership may happen in a wide variety of circumstances. Speaking from the Dispatch Box, I must be careful about sounding prescriptive about the way in which this issue may be resolved. However, in general terms, of course I can agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Lester, has said.

School Playing Fields

2.53 p.m.

Lord Monro of Langholm asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many school playing fields have been sold in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 respectively; and what percentage of applications that represents in each year.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, between October and December 1998, the Government approved seven applications to sell school playing fields larger than a school sports pitch. Forty-two applications were approved in 1999, 32 in 2000, and 22 in 2001. Applications are scrutinised very carefully and can take several months to assess. As applications made in one year may not be determined until the following year, it is not possible to say what percentage of applications these approvals represent in each year.

Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her reply, although it is somewhat complicated by the dates overlapping. Is she aware that the figures that I received from the National Playing Fields Association this week for all playing fields showed that, over the four years, 3,809 applications had been made and the majority were approved. Why does not the playing fields monitoring group set up by the Minister publish its figures regularly? What has happened to the Minister's promise to reduce sales when they are manifestly increasing?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I can say to the noble Lord that they are manifestly not increasing. The National Playing Fields Association is represented on the group that gives advice to myself as a Minister on behalf of the Secretary of State and takes forward the approvals. I am clear about the figures that I stated for the applications. I am also clear that noble Lords will be aware that other pieces of land are sold off that are not school playing fields. They are small bits of land that could not be used in any circumstances for sport.

I fear that some of the figures that are put into the public arena are adding up different figures from different parts of our environment and coming up with a total. The figures that I gave the noble Lord are correct.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, would my noble friend agree that, while it is important to have

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enough playing fields, it is equally important that those playing fields are actually used? Is she aware that many schools still deny the benefit of competitive team sports? Will she tell me what her department is doing to get the right message across to them?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, it is a delight to have a question from my noble friend. There is no doubt that we wish to encourage all schools to have the right level of competitive team sports as part of a PE and sports strategy. Noble Lords will have heard me speak before about the need to ensure that our children are given the opportunity to have two hours of PE and sport per week to enable that figure to be at 75 per cent. That is part of ensuring that children have a healthy lifestyle and develop the possibilities of having a sport or physical activity that they can continue with for life and which can keep them healthy. That also ensures that we develop the competitive spirit that is necessary and relevant and that we find competitive athletes for the future.

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