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Northern Ireland: Human Rights Commission

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: I am advised that, to date, the only expenditure on work between the two commissions has been on expenses for meetings between them, which are held quarterly at alternate venues in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. These expenses are met by the hosting commission.

Northern Rock

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Davies of Oldham: During the period of temporary public ownership, Northern Rock will be managed on an arm’s-length, commercial basis. It is a matter for the company's management to report on its day-to-day business.

Pensions: Maternity Allowance

Baroness Thomas of Winchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): National insurance contributions are credited to women for each week of their maternity allowance period for which they receive maternity allowance. In 1979, the maternity allowance period covered a maximum period of 18 weeks.

Whether women who were paid maternity allowance gained a qualifying year in 1979-80 or any other year would depend on their employment and on their level of earnings before and after the maternity allowance period—which may straddle two tax years.

Women who did not return to work or took low-paid work were eligible for home responsibilities protection for each complete tax year from 1978-79 where they received child benefit throughout the tax year for a child under 16 provided they did not have a reduced rate election in force. Home responsibilities protection works by reducing the number of qualifying years a person needs to get a basic state pension. However, it cannot presently reduce the number of qualifying years needed to get a full basic state pension below 20. Where a woman reaches state pension age on or after 6 April 2010, any years of home responsibilities protection she has acquired will be converted to qualifying years, when home responsibilities protection is replaced by a weekly credit.

Women may top up their national insurance record by paying class 3 voluntary contributions in order to gain a full basic state pension provided they meet the qualifying conditions for doing so. These contributions have to be paid within certain time limits. Currently, the time limit for paying is generally six years. However, for tax years before 1982-83, these contributions needed to be paid before the end of the second year following the deficient year. Class 3 contributions cannot be paid for any years for which a reduced rate election was in force.

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Police: Northern Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: The chief constable has provided the following Answer.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland refers to officers as being operational and non-operational. Non-operational officers provide a support function to front-line policing.

In Fermanagh Area Command Unit there are currently 147 operational officers (of which 39 are attached to neighbourhood policing teams) and 24 non-operational officers.

Republic of Ireland: Human Rights

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: The Government regularly discuss a wide variety of issues with the Irish Government at ministerial and official level. To identify all occasions on which the subject of human rights in the Republic of Ireland was discussed could be done only at disproportionate cost.

Rural Payments Agency

Lord Taylor of Holbeach asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Guidance on how to complete the relevant parts of the form is set out in the How to Complete Your SP5 Application Form booklet issued to applicants. This is designed to ensure that the issue of penalties does not arise.

Schools: Faith Schools

Lord Steinberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): Faith schools have historically been and continue to be an integral part of the school system in England, constituting around one-third of the 20,501 maintained schools in England. They play a very valuable role and have much to contribute to our common aim of building a more just and cohesive society and improving the life chances of all children, particularly the most disadvantaged.

We set out our position in the document Faith in the System in September last year. This is now being taken forward by the faith groups.

We are committed to supporting the establishment of new schools by a range of providers—including faith organisations—where local consultation has shown that this is what parents and the local community want, where the school is willing and able to comply with the requirements on all maintained schools, and where this greater diversity will help to raise standards. This is subject to parental demand and proper local consultation and decision-making.

Sport: Ticket Prices

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Minister for Sport recently had very constructive discussions with both Supporters Direct (including representatives of the Manchester United Supporters' Trust) and the Football Supporters Federation on ticket pricing and the wider concerns of supporters.

This is a matter for the football authorities and clubs. However, the Government have been clear that improved supporter representation, particularly at board level, has a key role to play in finding solutions to these issues and in ensuring clubs remain accountable to the fans who are at the heart of the game.

St Andrews Agreement

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: It means the institutions set up as a result of the Belfast agreement, the interrelationship between them and with other institutions and the functions assigned to them by the legislation that implemented the agreement. Within UK domestic law, the majority of these are covered by the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

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Transport: Motorcycle Speed Limits

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: There are no plans to govern motorcycle engines to a maximum speed of 70 mph.


Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Rooker: I refer the noble Lord to the final sentence of my Answer (Official Report, col. WA 295).

Unfair Commercial Practices Directive

Baroness Wilcox asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Baroness Vadera): If approved by Parliament the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which implement the unfair commercial practices directive, will come into force on 26 May. I would expect this department to set out the procedure for reviewing the regulations in late 2010 or early 2011.

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