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Northern Ireland Civil Service: Recruitment

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The recruitment policies of the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) determine that all eligible persons shall have equal opportunity for employment and advancement in the NICS on the basis of their ability, qualifications and aptitude for the work.

All those appointed to positions within NICS must satisfy certain servicewide requirements for appointment. One requirement includes meeting a standard in relation to the absence of certain unspent criminal convictions. Very minor unspent convictions do not preclude applicants from appointment.

The aim is to ensure as far as possible that the business needs and reputation of the NICS are considered alongside best practice in terms of the rights of former offenders. It is the intention of Her Majesty's Government that all appointees (including former offenders) to the NICS will continue to be assessed in the above way.

Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: There is no standard definition of culture and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure does not operate under any specific definition.

In establishing its vision for culture and the arts DCAL undertook a wide-ranging consultation exercise in 2000 with many stakeholders which resulted in the publication of Face to Face—A Vision for Arts and Culture. A key conclusion of this exercise was that culture keeps evolving and the department has sought to recognise that in its responses.

Northern Ireland Civil Service: Remuneration

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Amos: The figures quoted in the reply on 22 April are the minimum and maximum of the scale and do not represent an increase for any individual to £229,449. No awards within this scale, with effect from 1 April 2004, have yet been made.

Northern Ireland: Education

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: No sixth form need close. The present range of A-level options, that in some schools is fewer than 10 subjects, is clearly inadequate. Costello highlighted the need to expand this. It is envisaged, however, that many sixth forms will not do this as providers but as enablers through constructive access arrangements and co-operation with other local schools and FE colleges.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The Department for Education in Northern Ireland plans to consult schools on the final proposals for the common funding formula over the next few months, with the aim of implementing common funding in April 2005. Work on the impact of the proposals is still under way and I am, therefore, unable to provide details of the consequences for schools in Belfast. The implementation of common funding will be undertaken within finite budgetary constraints, and central to this will be the issue of manageability, especially for schools facing reductions in their relative budget share.

North/South Language Body

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: I have nothing further to add to my Answers of 12 November 2003 (WA 197) and 20 November 2003 (WA 353).
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Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: Frank McGuinness' term of appointment ended on 29 February 2004.

Ms Patricia Kelly is still in receipt of her salary and we continue to review her position.

Police Service of Northern Ireland

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The Government accepted, subject to the security situation, the recommendation in the Patten report that "the future police service should not include a full-time reserve". In October 2002 the Chief Constable put forward a human resource strategy to meet the staffing needs of the Police Service over the next eight to 10 years, which the Policing Board endorsed. This included a phased rundown of the full-time reserve over an 18-month period from April 2005, subject to no further deterioration of the security situation and the continued success of the recruitment campaign for the service.

The Chief Constable has publicly stated that he will complete a review of these matters after this summer. The Secretary of State will await the outcome of the Chief Constable's advice to the Policing Board and Ministers before further decisions are taken on the full-time reserve.

The Government recognise the major contribution that members of the reserve have made to the maintenance of law and order in Northern Ireland and the high price that they and many of their families have had to pay in doing so.

Detailed discussion on arrangements on severance are continuing. The Government are committed to ensuring that the FTR are treated no less favourably than the terms currently on offer under the voluntary severance scheme.

Olympic Advisory Group

Lord Moynihan asked her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The UK acts as the unofficial co-ordinator of the OAG. David Veness heads the UK team and informally chairs meetings of the seven member countries (the UK, US,
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France, Germany, Spain, Israel and Australia). Plenary meetings of the OAG, i.e. with the Greek authorities present, are normally chaired by the Greek Minister of Public Order.

Afghanistan: Narcotics Production

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No information is currently available for 2004.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conducts an annual survey into the level of opium poppy cultivation and production in Afghanistan. The most recent survey, published in October 2003, showed that the level of opium cultivation in 2003 was 80,000 hectares and production was 3,600 tonnes.

Estimates of the size of the illegal drugs economy are that it is between 1.3 billion and 2 billion dollars, compared with a legal economy of 4 billion to 5 billion dollars. Some opiates are consumed in Afghanistan but the vast majority is exported.

The UNODC is in the process of assessing the 2004 harvest in conjunction with the Afghan Government. Its report will be published in the autumn.

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