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The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): Information on the numbers of schools or teachers teaching Spanish in the United Kingdom is not collected centrally. Last year, nearly 40,000 school students were entered for GCSE or SCE standard grade examinations in Spanish in the United Kingdom.
Lord Henley: The Equal Opportunities Commission operates an equal opportunities policy and keeps it under review. An equal opportunity statement is placed in all advertisements for posts. The commission's recruitment practices are designed to ensure that no groups are unfairly excluded from applying for posts and that appointments are made solely on merit. The Government, therefore, see no need to institute any such inquiry.
Lord Henley: The Government have no plans to reconstitute the Equal Opportunities Commission or to alter its procedures as regards chairmanship in order artificially to introduce a different gender mix.
Lord Henley: Members of the Equal Opportunities Commission are appointed according to the usual procedures and criteria for appointment of members of non-departmental public bodies, which have recently been updated. The criteria for fitness to be a commissioner include interests, knowledge and relevant experience. The chairman and latest deputy chairman were appointed as a result of open competition for the posts. The other commissioners were appointed following full consultation with appropriate bodies.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The Iraqi chemical warfare capability was well known at the time of the Gulf War and has been subsequently confirmed by UN investigations. The incident at Kamisayah is being investigated by the US authorities, but it is understood that US troops involved were 5km from the bunkers when they were detonated. A preliminary study of the health of those involved shows that there is nothing at present to suggest they were exposed to chemical agents. No British forces were in the vicinity of the Kamisayah bunkers.
Earl Howe: Once Greenwich ceases to be a naval establishment, the continuing naval connection will be in the historical importance of the site. My right honourable friend the Defence Secretary announced on 28th March (Official Report, cols. 689-90) that he would expect a future trust "to pay particular regard to the college's historical associations with the Royal Navy". We intend that the naval heritage of the site should be given prominence in the objectives of a trust and that the trustees should include naval expertise. Various proposals have been made by the National Maritime Museum and others for the interpretation and celebration of the naval past of the site. It will be for a trust to take such ideas forward with interested parties. The historical association with Greenwich Hospital will be strengthened by the reversion of Trafalgar Quarters to the charity for conversion to sheltered accommodation in keeping with its founding objectives.
Earl Howe: Following the first phase of analysis of the bids for HMSO, the Government have invited three of the shortlisted bidders to continue in the competition. These are: an independent consortium backed by Mercury Asset Management, 3i and Capita; National Publishing Group, a consortium led by Electra Fleming; and Westminster Information Systems led by NatWest Ventures.
It is the Government's intention, subject to meeting the safeguards required by Parliament, to identify one of these three as preferred bidder by early August and to complete the sale as planned during the summer, when an order will be introduced under Section 6 of the Government Trading Funds Act 1973, as amended, to wind up the HMSO Trading Fund.
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): Most European Union actions to discourage the use of tobacco take place within the framework of the Europe Against
Railtrack expects to let the bulk of the contracts for work related to the renewal, involving the power system, track and infrastructure, in 1996. It has recently let two development contracts for a transmission-based signalling system.
Viscount Goschen: The terms of the InterCity West Coast Franchise Agreement are a matter for the Franchising Director to discuss with bidders for the franchise when invitations to tender are issued in due course.
Lord Lucas: The United Kingdom had not received formal notification of restrictions on the importation of British beef from any of these countries prior to the export ban imposed by Commission Decision 96/239 on 27th March 1996. The United States of America, however, has not accepted imports of British bone-in beef since 1989. After 1989, negotiations concentrated on securing access to United States markets for boneless beef, and these were successfully concluded in July 1994 when an export health certificate was raised to accompany exports of boneless bovine meat and meat products to the United States of America. A copy of this export health certificate is enclosed and a copy has been placed in the Library. From August 1994 to March 1996 inclusive, some 6 tonnes of boneless beef and beef products, with a value of around £108,000, were exported to the United States of America as recorded in the Overseas and Trade Statistics. These data are provisional.
Negotiations continue on securing wider access to United States markets, although in regular discussions with representatives of industry the USA has not been identified as a priority market for the export of beef.
Hong Kong introduced an import ban on 28th March, the day after Commission Decision 96/239. The Hong Kong authorities have made it clear that the decision had been taken in the light of the Commission decision and specifically to restore confidence in the beef market in Hong Kong.
While Australia had not formally notified import restrictions on British beef before Commission decision 96/239, it only imported beef in the form of canned cooked meats and bovine meat in hermetically sealed containers. When an exporter finds a potential market he will obtain export health requirements from the country in question. These requirements are forwarded to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which raises the necessary export health certificate, provided that the requirements are reasonable, negotiating with the authorities in the importing country as required. The ministry therefore only becomes aware of import restrictions when a potential new market (product or country) is being explored. It has not been approached by exporters to agree export health requirements with the Australian authorities for the export of fresh beef or any beef products other than those already mentioned.
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