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Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, will the Minister cast her mind beyond the insular attitude of her party and consider that, across the Channel, where there is selection, people choose schools related to the abilities of childrenvocational, academic and so on? Does the Minister recognise that some children benefit from being at an academic school and some benefit from being at a vocational school? Why not abandon the past and allow that the grammar schools have contributed? The Government's real problem is that they are not prepared to face the issue of vocational schools. Cannot the Minister break away from the ideological battles of the past?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the noble Lord will agree with me that one of the difficulties with his question is how we define the words "academic" and "vocational". Some of our great vocational trades and professionsmedicine, for examplerequire high academic standards. They are false labels.
In the past, the difficulty was that we chose a system that decided that, at 11, somebody was better than somebody else. We have no wish to return to that; we wish to ensure that children and young people can follow the career route to their profession or trade that best enables them to achieve their full potential. That is best done, not in a system that says to children of 11 that their route has been chosen but in one that allows them to have a breadth of experience, recognising that in the past we have used false labels.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that, for most peopleif not allin local authorities who decided things for the education committees that they managed, it was not a question of something being better or worse? There was a recognition that children are different, one from another, and that a good education service ought to cater for those who are different and more academic than others.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I recognise the excellent work that people have done on education committees for many years. I make no criticism of them for that work. However, there is no doubt in my mindand I went to a grammar schoolthat, whether the intent was there or not, those from my area who attended schools that were not grammar schools did not receive the kind of education that I did: it was different. For many of them, it was considered to be not only different but lesser than the education I received.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, I am greatly saddened at the deaths in both communities. We are in close contact with the Indian authorities which are responsible for the safety of British nationals. They have offered escorts for those stranded. Our staff in Mumbai are doing all they can to assist those in difficulty and to seek information on those still missing. They maintain lists of those who register. Our travel advice provides current information for families in the UK.
Lord Ahmed: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her reply. I want to take this opportunity to thank the FCO staff, the resident clerks, our High Commission in New Delhi and the Consulate in Mumbai for the help and assistance that they have provided to the British families and their relatives in India. What efforts are being made to find the two British citizens, Shakil and Saeed Dawood, who have been missing for six days and whose driver and cousin were murdered in front of them?
Is my noble friend aware that yesterday's Independent contained a report that the BJP leaders, like Deepak Patel, led mobs of terrorists who attacked and killed 42 people? Will the Government consider proscribing VHP and other terrorist groups on the list of terrorist organisations as they have attacked and murdered innocent British citizens in Gujarat?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comments about the staff of the FCO. In such circumstances, the work of our consular staff comes to the attention of the public but they work constantly on such issues even when there is no crisis.
My noble friend asked specifically about what is being done to help the two British citizens who are missing. We are working very closely with the Indian authorities on that. We have pressed them and they have assured us that they are doing all that they can to find those citizens.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, does the Minister accept that communal violence, from whichever source, perpetrated on the religious beliefs of any individual is unacceptable? Will she support the action of the Chief
Furthermore, does she consider it appropriate that rather than focusing on communal issues as regards this matter, it is in the interests of all communities to work through the existing channels to try to bring a semblance of peace in that region?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord and we appreciate all the efforts of the Indian Government to restore calm. On 1st March national leaders of the main political parties issued a joint appeal for calm, and deployment of the army has helped to bring the rioting under control.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, in contacting the Indian authorities about the horrific sectarian killings, particularly in Ahmedabad and Godhra and about the difficult and long-standing issues surrounding the Ayodhya Temple site, will the Minister ensure not only that we look after the interests of British nationals, as the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, rightly urged, but that we make absolutely clear to the Indian authorities that they have our full support in dealing with these matters in an even-handed way?
Furthermore, does the Minister agree that any suggestion that the authorities, or arms of the authorities, might have stood aside to allow mob violence in the name of revenge is completely wrong and that any such suggestion will be brought down by the Indian authorities? Will the Minister indicate that the authorities will have our support in an even-handed approach?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, that is precisely why we have appreciated the efforts which have been made by the Indian Government to restore calm. It is very important that as regards the violence in Gujarat the Indian authorities are seen to be doing all that they can. We were very pleased that the national leaders of the main political parties issued a joint appeal. In the context of the communal violence, that statement was most important.
Lord Paul: My Lords, what has happened in Gujarat is a great tragedy and we condemn everyone who is responsible for it. As some of the comments made in this country have unnecessarily divided the community, will the Minister ensure that that is not allowed to happen?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Paul. I am aware that in one or two cases what has happened in Gujarat has spread to the streets of the United Kingdom. We are extremely concerned about that and we shall do all that we can to ensure that that does not occur.
Lord Saatchi: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House for allowing me to ask whether he would mind elaborating on his reason for refusing a Private Notice Question this afternoon concerning the sale of the Treasury silver. I thank him for that. A Treasury spokesman is quoted in a newspaper today as saying that the sale is going ahead.
If the Treasury is so anxious to achieve savings and efficiency, as its spokesman says today, why does it not look to the administrative expenses of the Chancellor's own department which are due to rise, on his own budget forecasts, not by £100,000, the value of the silver, but by £500 million over the next four years?
When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, sought a Private Notice Question to be heard on 29th October last year, the proposed sale was the next day. It seemed to meand I know that the House agreedthat it was right to give time for the noble and learned Lord to raise that matter. It was raised.
Since then, my noble friend Lord McIntosh has answered a number of questions, one being as long ago as 12th February. That is the best part of a month ago. One of his answers on 12th February to, I believe, the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, was that,
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