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India: Welfare of Women

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The practices of making dowry payments and of sex-determination testing are both outlawed under Indian law. But dowry payments continue to be a widespread problem across India, particularly in rural areas, and sex-determination tests continue to be misused, resulting in the termination of a disproportionate number of pregnancies of female foetuses.

Both the Department for International Development and the British Council are involved in project work in India, some of it funded by the FCO's Human Rights Project Fund, targeted at promoting the empowerment and welfare of Indian women at most risk. Through this work we hope to raise awareness of the issues around women's rights—including dowry payments and female foeticide. Our High Commission in New Delhi also regularly raise human rights issues with the Government of India.

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Age Discrimination

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

    Whether they consider that the victims of age discrimination in the fields of education, housing, the provision of goods, facilities and services to the public, and public sector provision, should be given equal legal protection to that enjoyed by the victims of sex and race discrimination; and, if not, why not.[HL3820]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Unfair age discrimination is intolerable wherever it occurs. The Government's priority is to introduce effective and workable legislation outlawing age discrimination in employment and vocational training. That in itself requires the resolution of a number of complex and sensitive issues, which are discussed in our consultation—Equality and Diversity: Age Matters—launched on 2 July. We shall be following it up with a further consultation in 2004 on the draft legislation itself.

In responding to our previous consultation—Towards Equality and Diversity—Age Concern England, the Third Age Employment Network, and the Association of Retired Persons Over 50 felt that legislation should be extended to goods and services.

The Government believe that legislating against age discrimination at work will help to form less ageist attitudes generally. Demographic and economic factors will also provide powerful incentives for providers of goods and services to change discriminatory attitudes and eliminate discriminatory practices.

National Radiological Protection Board

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the expertise of the National Radiological Protection Board, its independence and United Kingdom-wide remit, will be preserved under the Health Protection Agency.[HL4262]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): The Health Protection Agency was established as a special health authority on 1 April this year and works in partnership with the National Radiological Protection Board.

As announced in November 2002, we intend to introduce legislation to establish the agency as a non-departmental public body as soon as parliamentary time allows. We intend that the non-departmental public body will take responsibility for the National Health Service Act functions currently discharged by the special health authority (which will be wound up) and for the other functions identified in the consultation paper Health Protection: A consultation document on creating a health protection agency (June 2002). These include advice to the United Kingdom

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Government, the National Assembly for Wales and (should they so wish) the Northern Ireland authorities on radiation protection. Detailed arrangements for the non-departmental public body will be set out in the legislation.

The Scottish Executive has conducted a separate consultation exercise on future arrangements for health protection in Scotland. Decisions in the light of this, including any implications they have for the functions to be given to the Health Protection Agency, will be announced in due course.

Food Supplements

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What actions they are taking to ensure that maximum permitted levels of nutrients in supplements under the Food Supplements Regulations are set on the basis of safety, rather than nutritional need; and what help they intend to give manufacturers to enable them to prepare dossiers for the Food Safety Authority to facilitate the addition of nutrients to the list of permitted ingredients.[HL4264]

Lord Warner: The Government continue to argue for maximum permitted limits for vitamins and minerals in food supplements to be set on the basis of thorough risk assessments and will continue to press this view strongly at every opportunity.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has succeeded in getting the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to hold a meeting between representatives of the United Kingdom food supplements industry, the relevant Scientific Panel in the EFSA and the European Commission to discuss dossier requirements. The meeting will take place on 14 October. Furthermore, officials at the FSA have already had discussions with industry representatives to aid interpretation of dossier requirements and have offered to comment on proposed dossiers before these are submitted to the EFSA.

Sexual Health: Government Response to Select Committee Report

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish their response to the Third Report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Health, on sexual health.[HL4387]

Lord Warner: The Government's response to the Third Report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Health, on sexual health, Cm 5959, has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Library.

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Children: Performance Prospects and Economic Background

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House copies of the research papers on which were based the views about the different performance prospects of poor and rich children in the Guardian on 22 January, which were said to be related to remarks by a Minister in the Department for Education and Skills.[HL3779]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The research is described on pages 22–23 of the 2003 DfES publication Education and Skills: The Economic Benefit. The original research is by Leon Feinstein called Inequality in the Early Cognitive Development of British Children in the 1970 Cohort published in the journal Economica (2003), 70, p73–97. I am placing copies of the DfES publication in the House of Lords Library as requested.

Science Teaching: Fieldwork

Baroness Walmsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are reviewing the science GCSE and A-level curricula to consider the current provision for fieldwork; and[HL4295]

    What assessment they have made of the resource implications for all secondary schools of providing science and biology fieldwork for pupils; and[HL4296]

    Whether they had considered the document Teaching Biology Outside the Classroom: is it heading for extinction?, published by the Field Studies Council and the British Ecological Society; and[HL4297]

    What assessment they have made of the implications for enviromental awareness of the reduction in the number of school pupils who have access to fieldwork as part of the science and biology curriculum; and[HL4298]

    What information they collect centrally regarding the number of secondary schools which do not provide science and biology fieldwork opportunities for all pupils; and what are their strategies for encouraging the provision of such opportunities.[HL4299]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: There are no plans to review the provision for fieldwork within science GCSE or A-level. The existing science national curriculum at key stages 1 to 4, together with current GCSE and A-level syllabuses, encourages fieldwork. There is also a pilot at A-level which places particular emphasis on it. Additionally, all primary and secondary schools are required to make provision for fieldwork for all pupils as part of the geography curriculum. The department has considered the document Teaching Biology Outside the Classroom: is

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it heading for extinction? published by the Field Studies Council and the British Ecological Society. No assessment has been made of the implications for environmental awareness through pupils' access to fieldwork as part of the science and biology curriculum. The department does not collect information centrally about the provision of science or biology fieldwork opportunities for pupils. Growing Schools encourages schools to use the "outdoor classroom" as a resource in all subjects including science. The chief executive of the Field Studies Council and a representative of the National Association of Field Studies Officers are members of the Growing Schools National Advisory Group.

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