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Paramilitary Violence

17. Mr. Connarty: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to reduce the incidents of punishment beatings and harassment of citizens by paramilitary organisations. [42019]

Jane Kennedy: These attacks are completely the opposite of what the Belfast Agreement was about. Those who sanction them and carry them out are the enemies of a transition to a peaceful society in Northern Ireland. Police investigate all such attacks but their investigations into these offences are often hampered, as the victims generally decline to make a formal complaint. Regrettably therefore prosecutions are therefore extremely rare.

The Government continue to support the police providing them with the resource they require, but it is also important that members of communities from which the perpetrators of these attacks emanate pass on relevant information to the police. This can be done in strict confidence using the Crimestoppers line.

Anti-drugs Campaigns

18. Mr. Hendrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what anti-drugs campaigns the police service in Northern Ireland runs in schools; and if he will make a statement. [42020]

24. Phil Sawford: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what anti-drugs campaigns the police service of Northern Ireland runs in schools; and if he will make a statement. [42026]

Jane Kennedy: The PSNI has developed the Citizen and Safety Education Programme (CASE), in an attempt to establish close links between the police and school community. Health education, which is one of the five elements of the CASE Programme, is delivered to Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 pupils, and focuses specifically on alcohol and the law, drugs and the law and solvent abuse.

In relation to the area of drugs and the law, students are provided with information on the various names that are given to drugs, the appearance of drugs through the use of a "Drugs Toolkit", which drugs are legal and illegal, the different categories of drugs, the effects that certain drugs can have on the body and which drugs are addictive. Students are also made aware of the penalties incurred for possession, production and/or trafficking of drugs.


20. Mr. Tom Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions he has had with victims of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [42022]

23. Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions he has had with victims of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland on Government support for them; and if he will make a statement. [42025]

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Mr. Browne: Since taking up my post as Northern Ireland Victims Minister I have met victims' groups on average twice a month. I am continuing my programme of visits to groups and I also meet regularly with practitioners and academics in the field.

Terrorism (Financing)

25. Mr. Anthony D. Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions there have been with the Irish Government on tackling the financing of terrorism in Northern Ireland. [42027]

Jane Kennedy: Ministers and officials meet regularly with their counterparts in the Irish Government to discuss issues of mutual concern including the financing of terrorist organisations.


27. Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects the process of decommissioning of illegal weapons and explosives to be completed. [42029]

Jane Kennedy: The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning reported, on 23 October 2001, that it had witnessed an event, which it regarded as significant, in which the IRA had put a quantity of arms completely beyond use.

We now want to see further decommissioning by the IRA, and decommissioning by all other terrorist groups. The timing of any future decommissioning events is a matter for the IICD.

Police Manpower

30. Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the manpower strength is of police in Northern Ireland. [42032]

Jane Kennedy: At 15 February the full-time manpower strength was 9,296 officers. This includes 7,004 regular officers (plus 87 seconded to UN duty in Kosovo etc.) and 2,205 full-time reserve officers. In addition there were 1,014 part-time reservists.

Castlereagh Police Complex

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action he intends to take in relation to the breach of security at Castlereagh police complex. [45326]

Dr. John Reid: I refer my hon. Friend to the statement I made in reply to the private notice question earlier today.


Unauthorised Pupil Absences

Mr. Moss: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many unauthorised absences there were (a) in absolute terms and (b) as a proportion of all absences, in (i) secondary and (ii) primary schools, broken down by local authority since 1997–98. [43301]

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Mr. Ivan Lewis: Tables showing the half days missed due to unauthorised absences in (a) absolute terms and (b) as a proportion of all absences in (i) maintained secondary schools and (ii) maintained primary schools by each local education authority in England since 1997–98 have been placed in the Library.

Pupil Information

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) whether her Department obtained the agreement of the Data Protection Commissioner for (a) the Pupil Level Annual Schools Census and (b) the Connexions Service's information gathering; [42132]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 11 March and 14 March 2002]:

Pupil Level Annual Schools Census (PLASC) All information in PLASC about individual pupils, including their ethnicity, is collected from schools under Regulations laid under section 537A of the Education Act 1996, as amended by section 140(1), paragraph 153 of Schedule 30 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.

PLASC information will be used by the Department solely for statistical purposes. It remains of statistical value after pupils have left school—for example to monitor patterns of progression from school into further education and training, higher education and the labour market, and how these patterns vary between different groups of pupils, including different ethnic groups. In order to be able to derive such statistics PLASC information will be retained indefinitely on an individual pupil basis, as allowed by section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998.

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With respect to pupils' ethnicity, the ethnic groups used for PLASC in January 2002 were based on those from the 1991 national population Census, and from January 2003 will be based on those from the 2001 Census. In neither case is Jewish identified as a separate ethnic group, nor is there any other information in PLASC that identifies pupils as Jewish.

Relatively little of the information in PLASC is provided by pupils or parents—much of it will be known by the school from its own interactions with pupils, or will be received from other sources. The main items that are provided by pupils or parents (in addition to name, date of birth and home postcode) are ethnic group and first language. Schools should seek this information, but pupils or parents have the right to withhold it. Most schools already obtain this information routinely.

The White Paper "Excellence in Schools", published in July 1997, highlighted the need for much better pupil level information to be available throughout the schools sector in order to support the drive to raise standards, and also for a national system of "unique pupil numbers" (UPNs) to enable this information to be collated accurately on a pupil by pupil basis. A consultation document was issued in December 1997 with detailed proposals (including PLASC, UPNs and a central pupil database) addressing the issues raised by the White Paper. This document was sent to LEAs, teacher associations, church and religious organisations, governors' and parents' organisations, the Data Protection Registrar (as she was then), leading civil liberties organisations (Liberty and Charter 88), and a range of other interested organisations (including the Commission for Racial Equality). A summary of the document was also sent to all schools.

Before and after this consultation exercise the Department had meetings with the Data Protection Registrar and her officials, and a series of measures were agreed in respect of the issuing of UPNs, and their use in the collection and collation of pupil level data. These measures aimed to ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act, and minimise any possible threat to the privacy of pupils. The Department continues to discuss the use of UPNs and pupil level information with the Information Commissioner's Office as and when issues arise, and is also planning to discuss with her Office security arrangements for the forthcoming central pupil database.

The Department has no interest in the identity of individual pupils as such. Pupil names and UPNs are collected to enable PLASC information to be linked, pupil by pupil, with Key Stage and examination results which are collected separately, and from one year to the next. Technical staff engaged in this data linking will, for that purpose, need to have access to pupil names and UPNs. The linked data (without pupil names and UPNs) will then be used to carry out statistical analyses of attainment levels, and how these vary according to the various pupil attributes identified in PLASC.

Pupils, or in certain circumstances their parents or guardians, will be able to see the information held about them in the central database, and to ask for correction of any inaccurate data. Details of other organisations or individuals who may, subject to certain conditions, have access to data with pupil names were provided

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in my answer on 28 January 2002, Official Report, columns 109–11W to the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington). Pupils and parents will not be able to control such access except in the case of the Connexions Service, where access will not be allowed if the pupil or their parent (depending on the pupil's age) has instructed that they do not wish it to happen, and in certain circumstances in the case of access by research organisations.

Connexions The Department is in discussion with the Office of the Information Commissioner about the collection of information for Connexions.

There is as yet no national Connexions database containing information about individual young people. Connexions is delivered through local Connexions partnerships, of which 15 are operating at present. Each of these is responsible for the information it holds about young people in its area, and provides information to the Connexions Service National Unit in aggregate form only. We are examining what national approaches will be appropriate to support the work of local Connexions partnerships. Feasibility testing is at an early stage.

Young people have the right to see all information held about them by Connexions, and are able to request correction of any inaccurate data. They are not able to control access to Connexions partnerships' databases, but partnerships must ensure that all processing of information about young people complies with data protection principles.

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