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Lord Whitty: My Lords, there is no central record of all the prosecutions that take place, but I suspect that there are very few. I am aware of a prosecution earlier this year, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which related to fly-tipping the waste of Japanese knotweed.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that this particular pernicious weed, and a number of other foreign species, continue to spread? Although the action taken under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 is entirely laudable, a further approach would be desirable to attack the sites where they flourish.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, certainly the species is aggressive and difficult to shift and so requires some

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effective measures to remove it from places such as river banks, where it creates danger by causing flood problems, and other amenities and land. For that reason, the Government are undertaking a fundamental review of policy on that and other invasive non-native species, which is due to report within the next couple of months.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I understand that this appalling weed, as many of your Lordships may know, is perhaps the largest female clone on the globe. Whether that has any impact on what should be done about it, I do not know. The noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, is looking at me angrily, so I shall move on quickly. Given that the weed is present in perhaps over half the country, is there a good case for introducing biological controls against it, such as appropriate insects and fungi? The invasive nature of the weed is due to the lack of such predators in its environment.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I bow to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, on the subject of female clones. It is certainly true that new methods of control need to be identified. Among the possibilities is that of biological control. It is a strong weed and has such a firm hold because, although it is a non-native species, it has been here since the early 19th century and has established itself. Therefore, one would need a pretty strong biological control system, which might well have side effects. All those points are being considered.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, what is the botanical name of Japanese knotweed?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am extremely glad that noble Lady asks that question. I am sure that I have the name somewhere. No, on second thoughts, I shall have to write to her.

Lord Geddes: My Lords, I do not know whether I can help the Minister. Are we talking about the plant that is known in the United States as Japanese kudzu? This is a serious question because, if it is the same plant, I wonder whether the Minister is aware of the devastating effects that kudzu has had on trees and forests in the southern United States.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it would appear that I have neither the Latin nor the Japanese name for the plant. There have been problems in the United States with the plant that we are discussing, although I am not sure whether it is the same plant as the one to which the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, referred. Japanese knotweed has had devastating effects on parts of other countries besides our own. We have had some success in controlling it in particular areas. As the Environment Agency has said, it has threatened flood defences. There

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is a scheme in Cornwall that takes a focused approach to eradicate the weed, but it is very resource intensive, so we need to find other ways.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, it is called Fallopia Japonica.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I had the Japonica bit, but the other bit failed me.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, far be it from me to minimise the threat from Japanese knotweed, but is it not a fact that the pink-flowered Himalayan balsam is just as threatening? Indeed, it is more so because it is attractive, invasive and difficult to eradicate because of its proximity to watercourses.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, is right that this is another invasive species to which we must pay attention. Of course, it does not have such a strong hold as Japanese knotweed, which was also brought over primarily for ornamental purposes. Some people, at least, find Japanese knotweed attractive. Balsam is among the plants that we shall need to consider under any changed strategy.

Baroness Strange: My Lords—

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords—

Noble Lords: Cross Bench!

Baroness Strange: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, in Streatham, my son is not allowed to put out his garden waste in plastic bags because he has an infestation of Japanese knotweed in his garden, so it has to be burned in situ?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I was not particularly aware of Lambeth Council's approach to the problem, but it is true that one is not supposed to put Japanese knotweed in normal garden waste. The prosecution to which I referred earlier related to that matter.

Foreign Language Teaching in Schools

2.55 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the teaching of modern foreign languages in schools.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, today we published our languages strategy. Our vision is to create an appetite for learning, broadening and enriching the options available. We aim to provide a flexible system of learning languages for all ages; the opportunity for every key stage 2 child to study at least one foreign

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language by the end of this decade; and to ensure that language learning has a key place in the transformed secondary school of the future.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer and congratulate her on finally introducing a strategy. Does she accept that, having produced a strategy, the time will come for delivering it? Is she satisfied that the Government have the resources to deliver it?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his kind words about the strategy. I am satisfied that in spending time on producing the strategy, and through an approach that ensures that we have time to deliver it, we shall have the resources to do so. It will be a strategy of which we can rightly be proud.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the problem in question is as much about public motivation as teacher provision. Will the Minister comment on an earlier government's introduction of compulsory teaching of French at 11?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am not sure that I understand the thrust of the right reverend Prelate's comments. However, I understood the comment about motivation and opportunity. We have to provide the opportunity for children to learn languages earlier, and for all of us to continue with language learning, and to see its relevance and appropriateness, throughout the rest of our lives.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, is the Minister concerned by the fact that our continental neighbours can produce qualified teachers to teach languages from the age of seven, when Her Majesty's Government have to ask retired businessmen and others to help? Does it worry the Government that they cannot produce what our neighbours produce and have produced for many years?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, next year we propose to double the number of qualified teachers coming into primary schools. However, I caution noble Lords against the way in which the "Today" programme, particularly, represented our policies and strategies in terms of other people. There are many people in this country who are bilingual, trilingual, and whatever one calls it when one speaks four languages—quadrilingual, perhaps. Those people can offer us some expertise. By using our teaching assistant route, we propose to enable those people, through a qualification, to offer support in the classroom.

I have just been to a school in London where there were teachers teaching languages, with the support of teaching assistants who could offer a greater variety of languages—Spanish and French, for example.

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Lord Quirk: My Lords, in view of our short-sighted reluctance to learn foreign languages, would the Minister give maximum publicity to page 13 of the strategy document, which states:


    "Businesses need people with language skills . . . German being the most in demand"?

Should that not indeed be virtually self-evident, given the importance of German in Europe, both demographically and economically, with 100 million native speakers and up to another 100 million who are thoroughly competent to use it, not least in the old Austro-Hungarian empire into which the European Union is extending?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I understand the importance of German. The noble Lord, Lord Quirk, rightly said that businesses referred to German as a language of particular concern. Sixty per cent of British trade is with non-English speaking countries. In a survey conducted in four English regions in 2001, more than 45 per cent of respondent companies said that they had experienced language barriers in their business dealings. I hope that noble Lords will enjoy reading the strategy over the Christmas break and will see that there has been and will continue to be business involvement in its development.


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