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Chinese Christians

Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Chinese authorities concerning recent political attacks on Christian churches and the death of a Chinese Christian, Liu Haitao, following his detention. [145854]

Mr. Battle: We are concerned at the disturbing reports of the destruction of non-official Catholic and Protestant Churches, and Buddhist and Taoist temples in Wenzhou, China in late 2000 and the death of Liu Haitao. Such activities run contrary to the provisions on religious freedoms contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which China signed in October 1998.

We regularly press the Chinese authorities to respect these provisions and to permit free religious worship outside the parameters of the official Churches in China. We did so at the latest session of the UK/China human rights dialogue in October 2000. We have raised specific concerns about the destruction of Churches and Temples in Wenzhou, and the case of Liu Haitao. We will address again the whole issue of freedom of religious belief in strong terms during the next round of the high level UK/China human rights dialogue in Beijing between 12-14 February.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [145421]

Mr. Hain: I welcome the involvement of both sides in discussions on the basis of the proposals put forward by President Clinton. I hope that the parties will seize the opportunity to bridge the gaps on his proposals. We continue to appeal to both sides to take further steps to halt the violence, action which is essential to build confidence and lay the foundations for further progress in the negotiations. Britain remains closely engaged. At the Prime Minister's request and with the Foreign Secretary's support, Lord Levy visited Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan between 5-9 January, as the Prime Minister's personal envoy. He urged the Israelis and Palestinians to take urgent steps to build confidence and to re-engage in negotiations.

European Charter for Regional or

Minority Languages

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he plans to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. [145776]

Mr. Vaz: The Government plan to ratify the Charter within the next few months.

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EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT

Top-up Fees

Mr. Kilfoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what recent discussions he has had with universities' representatives on the introduction of top-up fees. [145311]

Mr. Wicks: My right hon. Friend meets university representatives from time to time in the normal course of business and discusses various issues. The Government's position on "top-up" fees is clear--we are opposed to them and have legislated to prevent universities from levying such charges. Nor are "top-up" fees necessary. The Government have invested £1.7 billion (18 per cent. in real terms) in additional planned resources in higher education over the six years between 1998-99 and 2003-04.

Teachers' Salaries

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment which areas will benefit from the new teacher salary arrangements; and what assessment he has made on the impact on areas near London. [144725]

Ms Estelle Morris [holding answer 11 January 2001]: The new teachers' pay arrangements will be based on recommendations to be made shortly by the independent School Teachers Review Body. It is not therefore possible at this stage to say which areas will be affected. The Secretary of State will consult key stakeholders, including employers and trade unions, before implementing any changes.

All teachers with the appropriate years of service are able to apply to be assessed for the threshold. For those teachers who are successful it will mean a pay increase of £2,001 and access to a further pay scale of up to £30,000. Teachers taking on additional management responsibility will receive further payment.

School Health Care

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what requirements there are for schools to provide medical and nursing arrangements for their pupils; what plans he has to increase the requirements; and if he will make a statement. [144954]

Jacqui Smith: Maintained schools must by law have an appropriate room for medical and dental examinations and for caring for sick or injured pupils, but there are no statutory requirements for schools themselves to provide medical and nursing arrangements for pupils. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has a duty to provide for medical and dental inspections and treatment for school pupils. Local education authorities and school governing bodies are required to make arrangements for encouraging and assisting pupils to take advantage of this provision. We have no present plans to change these various requirements, and have published good practice guidance on carrying them out.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps he has taken to encourage local education authorities to promote awareness of Holocaust Memorial Day in schools. [145409]

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Jacqui Smith [holding answer 15 January 2001]: Awareness of Holocaust Memorial Day has been directly promoted in schools through the development of an Education Pack, which was launched on 9 November as part of the build up to the day on 27 January. The Pack has been produced by an Education Working Group of experts from non-government organisations, including the Holocaust Educational Trust who, on behalf of the working group, are making the pack available to all schools. So far, almost 30,000 copies have been distributed to schools, community groups, local authorities and others.

Information about Holocaust Memorial Day and the Education Pack has been provided in publications which the Department sends to schools and local education authorities, through the HMD website and in the general press. As a result, a number of local education authorities have requested copies of the Education Pack to support local initiatives.

Free School Meals

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many pupils are eligible for free school meals in each constituency. [144116]

Ms Estelle Morris: The available information on pupils eligible for free school meals has been placed today in the House of Commons Library.

PRIME MINISTER

Annual Reports

Mr. Baker: To ask the Prime Minister how many responses were received from the general public using the feedback forms in the (a) 1997-98, (b) 1998-99 and (c) 1999-2000 Government annual reports; how many members of staff were responsible for evaluating responses in each of those years; and what action was taken by the Government as a result of these responses. [145372]

The Prime Minister: Approximately 90 feedback forms, letters and e-mails were received from the public in response to the 1997-98 Government Annual Report, 99 in response to the 1998-99 Report and 110 so far in response to the 1999-2000 Report. In each case, one member of staff was responsible for collating the responses alongside other duties. The responses have helped to inform the process of developing and implementing policy, along with other forms of consultation.

Qualified Majority Voting

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list those elements of QMV agreed at Nice for which the UK has secured an opt-out; and if he will identify the legal case for each opt-out. [144636]

Mr. Vaz: I have been asked to reply.

Under the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland agreed at the Amsterdam inter-governmental conference and annexed to the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the

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European Community, the UK has an opt-in to all aspects of the free movement articles that moved to QMV at Nice (Articles 65 and 66, and parts of Articles 62 and 63).

Under the Protocol on certain provisions relating to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland agreed at the Maastricht inter-governmental conference and annexed to the Treaty establishing the European Community, Articles 111(4) and 123(4) of the Treaty establishing the European Community which moved to QMV at Nice do not apply to the UK unless we join the single currency.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on Home Affairs issues subject to QMV under Article 67 TEC. [144635]

Mrs. Roche: I have been asked to reply.

Under the current Treaty arrangements, Article 67 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community (TEC) provides that most measures under Title IV (visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to free movement of persons) shall be adopted by unanimity, but makes exceptions in relation to two aspects of rules on visas for intended stays of no more than three months which are decided by Qualified Majority Voting. Article 67 also provides a mechanism from 1 May 2004 for the Council to decide unanimously, after consulting the European Parliament, to move all or parts of the areas covered by Title IV to the Article 251 co-decision procedure, which includes qualified majority voting in the Council. Finally, Article 67 also provides for two further aspects of the rules on visas for intended stays of no more than three months to be decided under the Article 251 co-decision procedure, including qualified majority voting in the Council, from 1 May 2004.

The arrangements described will be amended as a result of the agreement reached at Nice. I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on 9 January 2001, Official Report, columns 510-12W, for a description of the changes in question.

However, under the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland, which is annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty establishing the European Community, the United Kingdom does not participate in and is not bound by measures under Title IV TEC unless it exercises its right to opt in.


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