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Ethnic Minority Support: Section 11 Grant

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: We fully recognise the value of work which Section 11 grant has supported, and the importance that local authorities and communities attach to this. We have commissioned a study to consider how such support needed for members of ethnic minorities can best be provided. The exercise is being conducted by the Home Office in collaboration with the Department for Education and Employment. We very much hope that local authorities and other interested parties will contribute views. The findings of the study, which are expected to be available in the spring, will inform our further consideration.

Student Top-up Fees

Lord Alderdice asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support proposals to allow universities to impose fees on students in addition to Her Majesty's Government's proposed tuition fees.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): We have made clear that access to higher education should be on the basis of academic merit, not ability to pay, and that top-up fees for home and EU full-time undergraduate and PGCE students play no part in the Government's plans. The Teaching and Higher Education Bill makes provision for a reserve power to control top-up fees, if necessary. We have undertaken to clarify the relevant clause through appropriate amendment at Committee stage with a view to ensuring that our intentions on the scope of the clause are clear.

Hazardous and Noxious Substances: Carriage by Sea

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea 1996 (which is not in force) does or does not provide for compensation to fishermen who are unable to fish by reason of the release at sea of hazardous and noxious substances; and

    Whether the Protocol of 1996 to Amend the Convention on Limitation on Liability for Maritime Claims 1976 (which is not yet in force) does or does not provide for compensation to fishermen who are unable to fish by reason of the release at sea of hazardous and noxious substances; and

    What are the implications, and for whom, of the exceptions referred to under Article 1.6(d) and

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    Article4.3(a) and (b) of the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea 1996 (which is not yet in force); and

    Why Article 3 of the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea 1996 (which is not yet in force) does not cover, apparently, damage on the seabed beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the [breadth] of its territorial sea is measured; and

    Whether Article 4 of the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea 1996 (which is not yet in force) would permit states to operate a non-commercial dumping service involving the dumping at sea of hazardous and noxious substances; and

    What are the implications for a party which has been subjected to damage under Article 12.8 of the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea Act 1996.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The aim of the Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) Convention is to provide adequate, prompt and effective compensation for loss or damage arising from the carriage by sea of hazardous and noxious substances. The UK was the first signatory to the convention. We are working with other states to co-ordinate ratification of the convention, with the aim of achieving its early entry into force and global application.

Fishermen would be eligible to claim for compensation under the HNS Convention if the release of hazardous and noxious substances were to prevent them from fishing.

The HNS Convention covers damage caused by a wide range of dangerous and polluting cargoes. It does not, however, duplicate the cover provided by existing international conventions (pollution damage caused by persistent oil carried in tankers and damage caused by radioactive materials).

The HNS Convention extends many of the provisions of the existing international liability and compensation regime for oil pollution from tankers to hazardous and noxious substances, particularly as regards geographical scope.

The HNS Convention deals solely with liability and compensation matters. Rules on dumping at sea are

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contained in the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972 and its 1996 Protocol.

Article 12(8) of the NHS Convention would allow compensation claims to be brought directly against insurers or other parties providing financial security for a shipowner. It also restricts the defences that such parties may invoke.

The 1996 Protocol to amend the 1976 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims would increase the limit of shipowners' liability for certain claims arising from the operation of their vessels. The UK was the first signatory to the Protocol. The Protocol would not, in itself, provide compensation to fishermen. It could, however, increase the compensation available for claims subject to limitation under the 1976 Convention.

Scottish Local Authority Staff Numbers

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the number of directly employed persons engaged on full-time and part-time contracts in Scottish local authorities in each of the past five years.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): The available information, from the published results of Scottish Joint Staffing Watch surveys, is given in the table below. A revised Joint Staffing Watch survey was introduced following local government reorganisation in Scotland. Because of changes in definitions and coverage, these data are not comparable with staffing figures for earlier time periods. The footnote to the table identifies a major break in comparability in the data over the period. There was no survey in June 1996. The press release, Joint Staffing Watch--June 1997 Return--Scotland, a copy of which is available in the Library, describes the results of the survey in more detail and explains the differences between the revised surveys and earlier surveys.

Local Authority Staffing Numbers

Full TimePart Time
Pre-reorganisation Joint Staffing Watch
June 1993208,74191,532
June 1994209,45094,162
June 1995208,56196,924
New Joint Staffing Watch
June 1997(1)189,231103,493

Note:

(1) Following local government reorganisation, the new Joint Staffing Watch excludes some 7,000 staff (who were mainly full time employees) in services such as water, sewerage and the children's reporters service, who transferred from local authority control at the time of reorganisation.


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N.I. Medical and Dental Students' Tuition Fees

Lord Alderdice asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who will fund the cost of the special support covering proposed tuition fees beyond year four for Northern Ireland medical students studying at Scottish medical schools; and

    Who will fund the cost of the special support covering proposed tuition fees for medical and dental students studying at The Queen's University, Belfast.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): Details of the funding arrangements are still the subject of discussion between the departments concerned.

My honourable friend the Minister with responsibility for this subject, Mr. Tony Worthington, will write to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, when decisions have been taken.

Wales: Firearm and Shotgun Appeals

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House a list of all firearm and shotgun appeals to which notice of appeal was submitted by the appellants to
    (a) Swansea;
    (b) Merthyr Tydfil;
    (c) Cardiff; and
    (d) Newport (Gwent) Crown Courts for the last two years.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The information requested is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Legal Aid in Damages Claims

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their decision that legal aid should not usually be available to people claiming damages or financial compensation is intended to include those claiming damages or compensation for breaches by public authorities of their statutory duties (including the duties imposed by the Human Rights Bill) or misfeasance in public office or other abuses of public powers.

The Lord Chancellor: I will be consulting widely before I make any final decisions about changes to the scope of civil legal aid. It already appears to me that legal aid should probably continue to be available to bring proceedings for judicial review, housing matters or other social welfare issues, regardless of whether they include a claim for money or damages. It should also, probably, remain for the purposes of defending any

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proceedings currently within the scope of legal aid. More generally, however, it is my intention to move most money, or damages, claims out of the scope of civil legal aid.


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