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Race Relations Act Section 19D

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Filkin: Beverley Hughes has made a new authorisation under section 19D of the Race Relations Act 1976 (as amended) to allow a certain proportion of the permits issued under the new sectors based schemes in the hospitality and food processing sectors

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to be available for issue only to nationals of countries who are due to accede to the European Union on 1 May 2004.

This reflects the Government's commitment to these countries to give greater access to the UK labour markets in the period leading up to the date of their accession to the European Union.

A copy of the new authorisation, which came into force on 30 May, has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration

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

    What is the average amount of time, during the past five years, in which complaints of maladministration submitted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration under the code of practice on access to government information have been dealt with, from the initial statement of the complaint to publication of the Parliamentary Commissioner's final determination.[HL2942]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The conduct of her investigations and the timing of publication of her reports are matters for the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.

Light Pollution

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to lessen light pollution.[HL3029]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): A number of Government initiatives in recent years have looked at the scope for mitigating the effects of light pollution.

In 1997 the Government published Lighting in the Countryside: Towards good practice. This guide was aimed at minimising the intrusiveness of lighting in the countryside, but its advice applies equally to lighting in urban areas. Lighting in the Countryside advises local authorities to consider a policy in relation to lighting in their development plans, and for supplementary planning guidance to elucidate those policies.

The 1998 Transport White Paper A New Deal for Transport—Better for Everyone states that, "where lighting is essential, it should be designed in such a way that nuisance is reduced and the effect on the night sky

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in the countryside minimised". The Highways Agency when providing new lighting or renewing existing lighting systems installs modern low-spillage luminaires. The Government have made £300 million in PFI credits available in 2003–04 to help local authorities in England (outside London) modernise their street lighting. In London a further £85 million in PFI credits will be available for street lighting over the next three years. This support is additional to that through revenue support grant. Modernisation of street lighting should result in reduced light pollution compared with older systems.

In October 2002 the Government issued a consultation paper entitled Living Places—Powers, Rights, Responsibilities. One of the issues the paper addresses is dealing with nuisance lighting, which it notes is a general contributor to light pollution. The paper sought opinions as to whether the Government should introduce new regulations for positioning of external lighting (other than street lights) and the powers to extend the statutory nuisance regime to include lighting. The paper also asked local authorities, householders and building developers whether they considered that the guidance in Lighting in the Countryside needed updating. The Government are currently considering the responses and are expecting to publish a summary document in the coming months. lynne

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

    Whether they will define light pollution as a statutory nuisance and introduce regulations to enable environmental health officers to take actions to stop outdoor lights shining into homes.[HL3040]

Lord Rooker: In October 2002 the Government issued a consultation paper entitled Living Places—Powers, Rights, Responsibilities. One of the issues the paper addresses is dealing with nuisance lighting, which it notes is a general contributor to light pollution. The paper sought opinions as to whether the Government should introduce new regulations for positioning of external lighting (other than street lights) and the powers to extend the statutory nuisance regime to include lighting. The paper also asked local authorities, householders and building developers whether they considered that the guidance in Lighting in the Countryside needed updating. The Government are currently considering the responses and are expecting to publish a summary document in the coming months.

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

    What evidence they have of the increase in light pollution in recent years; and how they intend to monitor it in the future.[HL3042]

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Lord Rooker: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does not currently monitor light pollution in England and we have no plans at present to do so.

Local Government Bill Clause 71

Lord Carter asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have fulfilled their commitment made in the House of Commons during the Report stage of the Local Government Bill to make available a note on their broad policy intent with regard to Clause 71 of the Bill on the local retention of business rates.[HL3145]

Lord Rooker: I can confirm that a note on the policy intent with regard to Clause 71 of the Local Government Bill was available in the Libraries of the House from 29 May 2003 in advance of Committee consideration of the Bill in another place. Copies were also sent to Baroness Hanham and Baroness Hamwee. In addition, copies of the revised draft regulations for Part of the Bill and the first draft of the regulations with regard to the 2004 local government elections provisions of the Bill, together with the draft guidance for the new charging provisions currently out to consultation.

Armed Forces: Emergency Fire Cover

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current position on the provision of emergency fire cover by the Armed Forces.[HL3189]

Lord Rooker: The Fire Brigades' Union executive council and the national employers have reached an agreement which will be put to a recall conference on 12 June. As a result I am pleased to announce that the Armed Forces personnel deployed on firefighting duties have been stood down during the run-up to the conference.

Medieval History

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether medieval history should be supported by public funds in British universities; and[HL2822]

    Following recent remarks by the Secretary of State of Education, Charles Clarke, concerning medieval history, what other subjects they consider are not worthy of study[HL2823]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The Government believe that a wide range of disciplines, including medieval history, are worthy of study and public support. That is why we are increasing the unit funding for higher education by 7 per cent in real terms between 2002–03 and 2005–06, compared with the 8 per cent real terms cut which took place between 1992–93 and 1994–95 when the noble Lord was Secretary of State for Education.

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Schools: Broadband Connection

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they respond to the decision of Education Bradford to purchase high-speed internet access well in excess of the Department for Education and Skills' guidelines of a 2Mbps synchronous connection for primary schools and an 8Mbps synchronous connection for secondary schools.[HL2996]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: In November 2002, the Prime Minister announced all schools should be connected to broadband by 2006. Typically, it is hoped primary schools will be connected at a minimum of 2 megabits per second (Mbps) and secondary schools at a minimum on 8 Mbps.

However, where higher capacity bandwidth is available and is cost effective, my department would encourage LEAs and schools to consider installing even faster internet connectivity. It is envisaged that the bandwidth schools require will increase over time as the availability and use of digitally rich resources, video conferencing and collaboration devices continue to grow.

Education Bradford plans to connect all Bradford schools at 10Mbps using fibre optic cabling. This increased bandwidth will enable schools in Bradford to benefit considerably from the teaching and learning opportunities high-speed Internet access offers. In addition, the use of fibre optic technology will enable cost-effective and timely upgradeability to even higher bandwidths as schools' bandwidth requirements increase.

My department supports LEAs in connecting schools at bandwidths higher than the recommended minimum where local conditions and infrastructure permit, providing local schools have been consulted and have agreed to this approach.


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