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Ballistic Missile Defence: UK/US Dialogue

Lord Howell of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government enjoy a regular dialogue with the United States Administration, and with our other allies in NATO, on ballistic missile defence and related issues.

Repatriation of Bodies within the EU

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We offer as much assistance as possible to bereaved relatives. However, the arrangements for repatriation of bodies are undertaken by specialist independent international funeral directors who have been involved in the preparation of a Draft Council Directive on Intra-Community Transfers of Mortal Remains. Their aim is to raise standards throughout the European Union, which can fall well short of those acceptable in the UK.

Cayman Islands: Public Sector Trade Union Representation

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 25 October (WA 41), how many people in the public sector in the Cayman Islands are members of trade unions.[HL4397]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There are no trade unions in the Cayman Islands representing the public sector. There is a recognised Civil Service Staff Association with full representation and bargaining rights. It currently has 400 members. The association represents all members of the Civil Service regardless of whether or not they are members.

Sudan: Return of Abducted Persons

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they are taking to prevail upon the National Islamic Front government of Sudan to allow humanitarian aid and human rights organisations access to all parts of Sudan to assist with the identification, rescue and return to their homes of men, women and children who have been abducted into slavery.[HL4358]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal Following last year's EU sponsored UNCHR resolution on human rights in Sudan, the Sudanese Government established the Committee for the Eradication of Abduction of Women and Children, which is now working with UNICEF and Save the Children Fund. Since the committee's inception last year a number of abductees have been returned. The Government of Sudan has made clear publicly that it is committed to the success of the committee and has said that it sees abduction as totally unacceptable and contrary to both Islam and Christianity.

Our Ambassador has been active in visiting the areas affected and through the EU we have been part funding the committee. Our Ambassador has also been attending the committee workshops in order to show our concern, and, most importantly, to urge greater effort, because there is still much work to be done. We continue to press all sides to allow access to all vulnerable areas of Sudan and are working closely

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with the UN towards an improved "Operation Lifeline Sudan".

North Korea: Diplomatic Relations

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What the timetable will be for the establishment of diplomatic relations with North Korea; and how they intend to make it clear that this does not signal approval of the conduct of the North Korean regime in terms of both its human rights record and the risk of nuclear proliferation.[HL4327]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There is no timetable for establishing diplomatic relations with North Korea. We have agreed to discuss, in principle, the opening of diplomatic relations, and we are considering with the North Korean authorities how best to take this forward.

Establishing diplomatic relations is a channel of communications. In our dialogue with North Korea, we shall continue to press on issues of concern such as human rights and nuclear proliferation. Establishing diplomatic relations will enable us to do this more effectively.

School Performance Tables: Age Group Anomalies

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they approve of the practice of allowing children who are falling behind at school, or who have come to England from abroad and need time to catch up, to drop back a year; and, if so, whether they will amend the format of schools performance tables so that year group performance is measured rather than age group performance.[HL4401]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): We recognise that some pupils are working behind their normal year group for sound educational or other reasons. Decisions on such matters are for individual schools in consultation with parents.

We announced in July that pupils who have recently arrived from overseas with English language difficulties may, on the request of a school, be excluded from the information published in the annual school performance tables. We accept that such pupils will not do their best in National Curriculum tests or public examinations until they have had a chance to improve their language skills and to become more familiar with the school curriculum. We have no plans, however, to make further changes in the way we report on achievements in the school performance tables.

The primary school tables report on the achievements of all pupils eligible for assessment at the end of National Curriculum Key Stage 2, before they proceed to secondary education. New Progress Tests in English and mathematics are being introduced in May 2001. These tests, taken at the end of Year 7, are

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for pupils who do not achieve the expected level at the end of Key Stage 2 and will help to ensure that these pupils catch up with their peers as soon as possible. The secondary school tables report on the GCSE and GNVQ achievements of all pupils who by age are in their final year of compulsory schooling. This both ensures that a consistent approach to the calculations is taken for all schools in the country and provides parents and others in local communities with valuable information on the achievements of children as they reach these crucial stages in their education.

Basing the GCSE/GNVQ information on the achievements of all pupils in Year 11, regardless of their age, could introduce inconsistencies into the data, since decisions on such matters as the year group in which individual pupils are educated are entirely for local determination and policies vary from one school to another. Doing so could also encourage an increase in the number of pupils completing their compulsory schooling with no GCSE or GNVQ passes if as a consequence more pupils are held back. This year 32,000 pupils in England reached school leaving age with no GCSEs or GNVQs. Although that figure has fallen over recent years as a consequence of our policies to improve standards in schools, we want to do all we can to reduce it still further. We hope that the big expansion of nursery education and the emphasis on catch up provision for those behind their peers will help to ameliorate the problem.

Motorway Construction

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many miles of new motorway were completed in England and Wales in each year between 1956 and 1999.[HL4498]

Lord Whitty: The information is not available in the form requested and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the amount spent on motorway building and widening schemes in each year between 1956 and 1999:


    (a) at actual prices; and


    (b) at adjusted 2000 prices.[HL4499]

Lord Whitty: (a) The information is not available in the form requested and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

(b) The information is not available in the form requested and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

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Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many miles of new motorway are expected to be completed in 2000 and 2001.[HL4500]

Lord Whitty: The final 10-mile section of the M60 Manchester Outer Ring Road between Denton and Middleton opened to traffic on 30 October 2000. This is the only new motorway completion planned for 2000 and 2001.

Road building in Scotland and Wales is the responsibility of the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly.

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much they forecast will be spent on motorway building and widening schemes in 2000 and 2001 respectively.[HL4501]

Lord Whitty: The Highways Agency spent £125 million in 1999-2000 and forecasts it will spend some £145 million on motorway building and widening schemes. These figures include design and construction costs for schemes under construction, those already open but where final accounts have not been settled, and those planned. They do not include DBFO shadow tolls or land costs.

Budgets for 2001-02 have not been established to this level of detail.

Road building in Scotland and Wales is the responsibility of the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly.


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