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Independent Commission on the Voting System

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Independent Commission on the Voting System is an independent body and is responsible for its own procedures.

I understand that the commission has held public meetings in Cardiff (on 10 March), Belfast (on 12 March), Edinburgh (on 24 March), Leeds (on 6 April), Birmingham (on 28 April), Manchester (on 21 April), Plymouth (on 29 April) and Newcastle (on 5 May). A

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further public meeting will shortly take place in London (on 1 July). In addition, members of the commission have attended a number of other meetings to which they have been invited.

A wide variety of groups and individuals were invited to the public hearings, including various community/interest groups, political parties, local government representatives, business interests, academics, trade union representatives and, in most cases, the local Members of Parliament. On average, 80 people attended each meeting.

The meetings were publicised by means of poster campaigns in public buildings, including libraries, citizens advice bureaux, schools, colleges and universities, and advertisements and articles in the regional press. In addition, the chairman and other members of the independent commission gave interviews to the local media, radio and television before the public meetings.

After the independent commission has reported, a referendum will be held to enable the public to express a view on whether they wish to retain the first-past-the-post system for elections to the House of Commons, or adopt the system recommended by the independent commission as the most suitable alternative.

The independent commission employs four full-time staff and its monthly salary bill is approximately £9,500.

The commissioners themselves receive travel and subsistence expenses for travel outside London, paid at normal civil service rates.

Schools: Definition

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which forms of early years care and education, both in institutions and in non-institutional settings, are not included in the definitions of "school" and of "specified nursery education" in clause 121 of the School Standards and Framework Bill.[HL2285]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Clause 121 of the School Standards and Framework Bill applies to schools defined in section 4(1) of the Education Act 1996 (as amended): every institution for providing primary education, secondary education, or both primary and secondary education which is outside the further education sector and the higher education sector. Independent schools are included in that definition.

The clause also applies to children receiving education suitable for children under compulsory school age not in a school but provided: by a local education authority; by those receiving government grant under present or future funding arrangements for early years development plans; or in any educational institution

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which falls outside the definition of school only because no full-time primary education is provided there.

It does not apply to persons or institutions providing only child care and not education.

Agenda 2000: Tenant Farmers

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    During their negotiations on the development of Agenda 2000 environmental and rural policy, what account they have taken of the facts that in Great Britain tenant farmers' activities are bound by the tenant farmer's agreement into which the farmers have already entered and that if they do anything outwith the remit of the agreement they could risk losing their tenancy.[HL2260]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): As part of our consultation process on the Commission's Agenda 2000 proposals, we have invited comments from many organisations including the Tenant Farmers Association. The Government will take full account of the views of these organisations during the negotiations.

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Quarantine: Advisory Group Report

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to receive the report of the Advisory Group on Quarantine.[HL2343]

Lord Donoughue: The Chairman of the Advisory Group on Quarantine, Professor Kennedy, envisages a delay in the advisory group's report, which had been expected this month. It is important that all the evidence be considered most carefully, and given due weight, before the advisory group's report is submitted. We now expect that the report of the Advisory Group on Quarantine will be published in the summer or early autumn. A full public consultation will then be held.

Advisory Board on Family Law: Annual Report

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Advisory Board on Family Law intends to publish its first annual report.[HL2387]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Advisory Board on Family Law has today published its first annual report and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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