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The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has a target to respond to 50 per cent of all emergency calls within eight minutes. In the year ended 31 March 2002, it achieved this response time for 59 per cent of all emergency calls in the Eastern Board area, 47 per cent Northern, 43 per cent Southern and 57 per cent Western.
Different targets apply in England, where ambulance services are required to respond to 75 per cent of all Category A (Life Threatening) calls within eight minutes. In 2001-02, 14 of the 32 ambulance services in England achieved this target.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government are committed to narrowing the funding differential between primary and post-primary schools and have introduced a number of measures to provide additional resources for the primary sector; for example, the "Making a Good Start" initiative, (P1 and P2 classes), assistance to schools to limit class sizes at Key Stage 1 and the budget addition for schools.
Legislation is being prepared which will provide for the introduction of a single common LMS formula. This will allow progress to be made in narrowing the gap through formula allocations and though this must be gradual because of the need to keep the process manageable.
The nature of post-primary curriculum, its mode of delivery and the extent of support arrangements (staffing, equipment and resource materials) are quite different from that of the primary sector and generally more expensive. Thus while the Government are satisfied that primary schools should receive a greater share of available resources, they do not feel that equal funding would be appropriate. Post-primary pupils will therefore continue to require additional funding and as such a differential will remain.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: In an exchange of notes on 19 November the British and Irish Governments agreed a mechanism so that during the period of temporary suspension of the Assembly, decisions (of the North/South Ministerial Council) on policies and actions relating to the implementation bodies, Tourism Ireland (a publicly owned company established as an area of co-operation by NSMC) or their respective functions could be taken. The agreement was made to ensure the continuation during suspension of the necessary public functions performed by the implementation bodies. The agreement, which came into force on 3 December, also provided that no new functions would be conferred on the implementation bodies during suspension. The exchange of notes will be laid before both Houses of Parliament.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Section 1 of the Northern Ireland Act 2000 makes clear that the functions conferred by Section 52 or 53 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (North-South Ministerial Council and British Irish Council) are not to be exercised during the suspension of the Assembly.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government have decided to appoint an Oversight Commissioner to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Review in Northern Ireland. A written Parliamentary Statement on the matter is being made today in another place. The Commissioner will be a person of standing, with appropriate experience of the UK criminal justice system, and will be appointed by open competition. We expect the Oversight Commissioner to make a significant contribution to the full and effective implementation of the Criminal Justice Review.
It is our expectation that the work of the Justice Oversight Commissioner will play a pivotal role in the creation of a criminal justice system which delivers justice effectively and efficiently, and enjoys the support and confidence of all parts of the community.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): From 17 February 2003 anyone who drives into the congestion charging zone in central London between 7.00 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays will have to pay a congestion charge. The House Committee decided on 10 December that no additional reimbursement would be available to assist Members in meeting the costs of congestion charging. In the new year, the Administration and Works Committee will consider ways to facilitate payment of the charge within the Palace of Westminster by Members and staff.
The Treasury and the Cabinet Office are currently working with departments to establish in detail how the Shareholder Executive will help government become a more effective shareholder. The Shareholder Executive will define certain common standards and procedures for departments in their role as
The precise scope of the Shareholder Executive is part of the detailed work being taken forward with departments. However, it is envisaged that the Shareholder Executive will extend to a range of government shareholdings in companies in the public and private sectors as well as some of the more commercially orientated trading funds.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: On the environmental performance of the fuel, vegetable oils have a superior carbon life-cycle balance compared to conventional fuels. The Department for Transport is currently considering the options for further research on the local air quality emissions performance of this fuel to supplement the limited publicly available data available in this area.
As with all fuels, any producer of diesel fuels from vegetable oils for sale to the public has a responsibility to the consumer to ensure that the fuel is fit for purpose and, as such, does not damage engines when used. Producers should also ensure that all relevant excise duties are paid.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: I am placing in the Library of the House a series of charts showing the authority's senior level structure including all posts reporting directly to its executive directors.
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