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8 Mar 2004 : Column WA137

Written Answers

Monday, 8 March 2004.

Ulster Scots

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency treats Ulster Scots as a distinct ethnic group.[HL1486]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) produces statistics on self-reported ethnic groups, the most comprehensive source being the 2001 census of population. In addition to a number of pre-coded categories, the census question on ethnic group included an open-ended response option enabling respondents to describe the ethnic group to which they considered they belonged. Respondents to this option included persons who described themselves as Ulster Scots.

Northern Ireland Equality Commission

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the percentage breakdown of the staff of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission in terms of religion and gender.[HL1488]

Baroness Amos: The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland provides this information in its annual report which is available in the Library.

The 2001–02 report included the following information on composition of ECNI staff at 31 January 2002.

Community Background Gender
Protestant Roman Catholic Non-Determined Female Male
42.3%53.5%4.2%73.2% 26.8%

The religious and gender imbalances have been recognised by the commission and identified in its review under Article 55 of the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998. An action plan to address these issues has been drawn up and adopted by the commission.

Police Service of Northern Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes have been made to the Police Service of Northern Ireland's recruitment process since the start of 50:50 recruitment.[HL1489]

Baroness Amos: The selection methodology has remained broadly similar throughout the process and consists of an initial selection test, assessment centre, medical examination and vetting.

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The main alteration has been the removal of the physical competence assessment (PCA) from the recruitment process. It is now a requirement to pass this assessment prior to graduation from the training college. This was implemented for the fourth competition after a review of the PCA. The firearms handling test was removed at the same time.

Other changes that have been instituted include allowing those who have been found to be qualified applicants to omit the initial selection test for the next two competitions, and a change in relation to the medical examination to facilitate qualified reapplicants.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many candidates from a Protestant background and how many from a Roman Catholic background have been refused entry into the Police Service of Northern Ireland.[HL1490]

Baroness Amos: As at 12 February, of the 31,943 applicants invited to sit in the initial selection test in the six competitions, 10,993 Roman Catholics and 19,862 Protestants were not appointed. Appointments from competition 4 are ongoing and appointments from competition 5 have started, although the pool is not yet finalised, and the pool for competition 6 is not expected to be ready until April this year.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Policing Board for Northern Ireland has approved their proposal to continue the policy of 50:50 recruitment for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.[HL1491]

Baroness Amos: Section 47 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 states that, in deciding whether and, if so, how to exercise his powers to provide by order that the temporary provisions shall continue in force, the Secretary of State is required to consult the board and take into account any recommendations made to him by the board.

Professor Desmond Rea, on behalf of the Policing Board, wrote to the Government on 4 December last year, in response to the Government's consultation on 50:50 recruitment, and stated that it had not, given the political membership of the board, been possible to give a corporate board response.

Belfast Education and Library Board

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 24 February (WA 39) concerning the funding of the primary schools in Belfast, what further support has been, or can be, offered to Stranmillis Primary School.[HL1575]

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Baroness Amos: The Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB) has responsibility for funding this school. The chief executive has advised that in 2003–04 additional assistance has been provided as follows:

£
Budget Addition37,523
Making a Good Start (P1 pupils)15,958
Code of Practice (based on special needs pupils)371
Assimilation Payments for Principal/Vice Principal5,849
Reading Recovery14,667
Total Additional Funding74,368

In addition, the Belfast Education and Library Board LMS scheme provides for the allocation of funding to schools for defined circumstances, particularly the employment of substitute teachers and support for statemented pupils. Most schools will receive an allocation under these arrangements but the amount allocated to individual schools will not be known until after the conclusion of the financial year in question.

Northern Ireland: Environment and Heritage Service

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals they have to increase resources for the Environment and Heritage Service of the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland. [HL1634]

Baroness Amos: The spending plans for the Department of the Environment published in Priorities and Budget 2004–06 (Northern Ireland) include allocations of £56.3 million in 2004–05 and £56.8 million in 2005–06 for the Environment and Heritage Service. These compare with an allocation of £50.8 million for 2003–04. Copies of this report are available in the Library.

Middle East

Lord Turnberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What encouragement they are giving to the Palestinian Authority to respond to the efforts of the Israeli Government to withdraw settlements from the Gaza strip.[HL1414]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Government regularly press the Palestinian Authority to take visible steps to degrade terrorist capabilities. I did so in the occupied territories on 21–23 January, and most recently on 6 February our Consul General in Jerusalem spoke to the Palestinian Prime Minister.

Both sides need to implement their obligations under the road map and we expect all parties to respond positively and start implementation without delay. We welcome Prime Minister Sharon's reiteration of Israel's commitment to the road map and his subsequent announcement that he will remove

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settlements in Gaza. We would warmly welcome a withdrawal of settlers and the Israeli defence force from Gaza to Israel. We hope it will be the first step to a full, negotiated withdrawal from occupied territories and will improve the humanitarian situation on the ground for the Palestinians.

Gulf War 1990–91: Kuwaiti Prisoners

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Since the defeat of Saddam Hussein, what they have learnt about the fate of Kuwait's prisoners-of-war following the 1990–91 Gulf War; and what role their families will be allowed in the legal process now facing Hussein.[HL1417]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: 572 Kuwaitis, and 33 other nationals, were taken from Kuwait during the 1990–91 occupation. To date, the remains of 75 prisoners of war have now been positively identified from mass graves in Iraq, 67 of which are Kuwaiti. The rest remain unaccounted for. Legal proceedings against Saddam Hussein are a matter for the Iraqis. In December, the Iraqi Governing Council established a special tribunal to try senior members of the former regime. The Iraqi Governing Council are currently discussing the rules and procedures for this tribunal.

Sudan: Darfur

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek the approval of the United Nations Security Council for a mandatory arms embargo on Sudan.[HL1437]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The situation in Darfur requires urgent action. A ceasefire is needed, preferably with international monitoring, to permit humanitarian access to all those in need. We think it unlikely that a mandatory arms embargo through the UN Security Council would help the situation in Darfur within this timeframe. However, an EU arms embargo is in place which we implement rigorously.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the declaration on 9 February of an amnesty and an end to military operations in Darfur, Sudan; and whether they have evidence that it is resulting in a ceasefire and the return of displaced people.[HL1473]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We were pleased that President Bashir's statement of 9 February acknowledged the need to open corridors for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Darfur.

However, fighting continues and, despite the enormous needs, humanitarian access remains very limited. The EU issued a statement on 25 February expressing serious concern at the situation in Darfur, calling for unhindered humanitarian access, and urging all parties to the conflict to agree to an immediate ceasefire, to allow peace talks to resume.

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