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With reference to the statement in the Labour Party manifesto that "we will ensure thatover the economic cyclepublic debt as a proportion of national income is at stable and prudent level", whether the present level of public debt is prudent; and, if not, by how much it exceeds a prudent level.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government's fiscal rules are set out in the Financial Statement and Budget Report, July 1997, along with forecasts for the economy and for the public finances. The ratio of public debt to national income has risen very sharply since 1990. The Government's prudent approach to the public finances, and in particular the deficit reduction plan, means that the ratio is projected to fall steadily from this year onwards.
With reference to the statement in the Labour Party manifesto that "New Labour's objective is to improve living standards for the many, not just the few", by what measure or measures they intend to judge whether this objective has been achieved during their term of office; and whether, by these measures, living standards improved for the many, not just for the few, during the previous government's term of office.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: This Government aim to achieve high and stable levels of growth and employment so that everyone can share in higher living standards. The Government expect to assess this by considering a range of indicators, including measures related to real income per head, income distribution, and the value of public services.
How many public museums and galleries now charge for admission to their permanent displays; what that figure is as a proportion of all public museums and galleries; and what were the comparable figures in 1979.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Of the 1,677 museums and galleries that supplied information to the Museums & Galleries Commission's Digest of Museum Statistics in 1996, 744 charge for admission to the main part of their collections. This means that 44.4 per cent. of the UK museums and galleries which are registered with the
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MGC charge for admission. Comparable figures for 1979 are not readily available and could only be obtained at a disproportionate cost.
Further to the Answer given by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 22 May (H.L. Deb., cols. 4945), to what extent they expect their future policy on access to public museums and galleries to be determined by the results of the research they have commissioned from Glasgow Caledonian University; and whether they intend to take other factors into consideration in formulating that policy.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The original timetable for the delivery of the final results of the research being carried out by Glasgow Caledonian University was November 1997. The Museums & Galleries Commission have however agreed to provide the department with the results as they become available. The Government will take this evidence into account, along with all other material factors, in carrying out its review of admission charges at national museums and galleries.
Further to the Answer given by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 22 May (H.L. Deb., cols. 4945), what were the terms of reference on which they commissioned Glasgow Caledonian University to carry out research into the economics of museum admission charges; when that research was commissioned; and whether any further details of the scope and methodology of that research have since been announced by the university.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The research on admission charges and their impact on museums and galleries by Glasgow Caledonian University was commissioned by the Museums & Galleries Commission in March 1997. The terms of reference are contained in a research brief by the MGC, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The methodology was determined by the MGC in its contract with the Glasgow Caledonian University and we understand that it will consist of a survey of historical and current background to admission charges in the UK and a survey of a representative sample of museums and galleries by means of telephone and postal questionnaires.
Further to the Answer given by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 22 May (H.L. Deb., cols. 4945), what was discussed at the meeting between National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside and the Secretary of State for National Heritage; and what was the outcome of the meeting, in particular in relation to the general admission charge planned to take effect on 1 July 1997.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: On 24 June my right honourable friend the Secretary of State discussed with the Chairman and officials of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside the proposal by the trustees to extend admission charges to the Liverpool Museum, the Walker Art Gallery and other NMGM sites. My right honourable friend indicated that the department hopes to complete its review of admission charges at the national museums and galleries by the end of September. He invited NMGM to consider whether, in view of this, the trustees might defer the extension of admission charges. However, my right honourable friend acknowledged that, ultimately, the decision on whether to proceed with the new charging arrangements with effect from July is a matter for the trustees of NMGM to decide in the light of their fiduciary responsibilities.
What was the outcome of the Culture Council on 30 June 1997.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: EU Ministers of Culture met on 30 June in Luxembourg. Ministers held a public debate on the future direction of EU cultural action, and agreed a decision to ask the Commission to study the options for future cultural action and to bring forward proposals by 1 May 1998. Ministers also agreed a decision to ask the Commission to study whether Article 128(4) is relevant to the Community's approach to cross-border fixed book pricing.
The Council resolved to continue to seek agreement, in conciliation, for the Raphael programme. It discussed the future of the European Cities of Culture initiative.
Ministers then held an exchange of views on audiovisual issues, discussing proposals for a Community Guarantee Fund for film production and the Commission's Green Paper on the protection of minors and human dignity in audiovisual and information services.
What safeguards exist when a child is transferred from an open to a closed training school in Northern Ireland; and whether such safeguards comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): A training school order provides authority for the detention in custody in secure accommodation of a child who has been found guilty of serious or persistent offending and can be made only by a court. Nevertheless it is policy to use open accommodation if practicable, but a child will be placed in, or returned to, secure accommodation if the seriousness or nature of his offending, or absconding or other behaviour while in open
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accommodation, indicates that he may provide a risk to himself or others. This is in accord with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
To what extent "appropriate adults" are available to all children taken into custody in Northern Ireland.
Lord Dubs: Custody officers are required to inform an appropriate adult when anyone who is, or appears to be, under the age of 17 is taken into custody. There are no statistics to indicate to what extent appropriate adults are available when called upon.
Whether they will give an assurance that the best interests of the child will be the primary consideration when 17 year-old children are brought before the Youth Courts in Northern Ireland.
Lord Dubs: The Government are currently considering the comments received as a result of consultation on the draft Criminal Justice (Children) (Northern Ireland) Order, and a decision has yet to be taken as to whether 17 year-olds will be included within the juvenile justice system. In any case Article 4 of the draft order sets out the guiding principles to be observed in dealing with children in criminal proceedings. They are that every court shall have regard to the welfare of any child brought before it and that any delay in dealing with cases is likely to be prejudicial to the child's welfare. However, these principles must be set within the context of the need to protect the public from criminal behaviour.
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