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7 Dec 2004 : Column WA31

Written Answers

Tuesday, 7 December 2004.

Metric Units of Measurement

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The EU requirements for harmonisation of units of measurement are set out in Council Directive 80/181/EEC as amended. The directive requires member states to adopt metric units as the primary system of measurement for economic, public health, public safety or administrative purposes (including the making of legislation). Amendments made by Directive 89/617/EEC provide for the continuation in use for specific purposes of certain units, which for the UK include the mile and yard in the context of road traffic signs, until a date to be fixed by the member state concerned.

The Government's guidance issued by the Department for Trade and Industry in 1995 for public sector bodies advises the use of metric units for the conduct of all public sector business, except where the continuation in use of imperial units is specifically permitted. Distances in government publications and statutory instruments other than those relating to road traffic signs are generally expressed in metric units.

The draft Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) (Amendment) Regulations 2005 therefore use metric units of measurement.

Parking: Penalties and Adjudication

Viscount Astor asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: We will take account of the comments and recommendations made in the report, including those relating to the publication of statistics on representations in respect of penalty charges and their resolution, in drafting statutory guidance for parking enforcement authorities under Section 87 of the Traffic Management Act 2004.
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Gypsy and Irish Traveller Children: Education

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Filkin): The number of Gypsy/Roma and Travellers of Irish heritage children in primary and secondary education recorded on the Pupil Level Annual Schools Census in January 2004 is shown below:
Education PhaseGypsy/RomaTravellers of Irish Heritage
Maintained Primary
Secondary Schools

In order to improve the quality of the data, the department is working closely with traveller education services, Gypsy and Traveller families and their representatives. The department plans to issue guidance to local education authorities next year on how to improve the level and accuracy of reporting by Gypsies and Travellers of their ethnicity.

Public Health: Children

Baroness Cumberlege asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Filkin: Section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 was introduced on 1 October 1998 to stop the indiscriminate sale of school playing fields that occurred in the 1980s and early to mid 1990s. Earlier this year, on 27 August, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills announced his intention to tighten up the criteria against which applications for consent to dispose of school playing fields are assessed.

The assessment criteria have been strengthened so that:

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Following consultation with the independent School Playing Fields Advisory Panel, the new guidance was published on 8 November.

We want to reduce the number of cars on the school run and are keen that schools, parents and local authorities do what they can do to improve the situation.

This Government are providing over £50 million this year and next to help support the development of school travel plans. These plans help to identify specific measures which could reduce the number of car journeys. They also promote and encourage more walking and cycling to school or the use of public transport for longer trips. If enacted as drafted, the School Transport Bill would require pilot authorities to consider the travel needs of all pupils and could result in improved walking and cycling infrastructure around schools.

Minimum Wage

Lord Vinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): At present only accommodation, up to the value of the offset, can count towards minimum wage pay. The daily accommodation offset is calculated at a rate of £3.75 (£26.25 a weeek) for each day that the employer makes the accommodation available.

The first report of the Low Pay Commission looked in detail at the question of benefits in kind but concluded that only accommmodation should be able to count towards minimum wage pay. The commission is presently working on its next report on the minimum
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wage, which should be submitted to the Government in February 2005. Its terms of reference allows it to address any matter connected with the minimum wage.

Rural Delivery Review

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): No decisions have yet been made on who will carry out the review. We estimate the total cost will be up to £250,000 including the cost of the departmental staff who will provide the reviewer's secretariat.

The "Chairs' Group" will not be involved in the review as it is concerned with the close working of organisations concerned with the creation of the new integrated agency, namely, the chairs of the Countryside Agency, English Nature, Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency and Defra's Director General—Operations & Service Delivery, together with a senior Defra official representing the Rural Development Service. However, the chairs of the levy boards will be consulted on the terms of reference for the review. Thereafter, it will be for the reviewer to invite views from stakeholders: and these stakeholders will certainly include the chairs of the levy bodies themselves. The weight given to those views will be a matter for the reviewer to consider.

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