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21 May 2003 : Column WA79

Written Answers

Wednesday, 21st May 2003.

Belfast Agreement: Ulster Scots Language

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the memorandum from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland to the Members of the Inter-department Charter Group of 2 June 2001 which referred to the use of minority languages applies to Ulster Scots as required in the Belfast agreement; and, if not, why.[HL2583]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I am not aware of a memorandum dated 2 June 2001. I would however refer the noble Lord to the Answer given on 9 January (Official Report, col. WA 233) which deals with an internal minute of 21 June 2001 addressing the obligations arising under Article 10 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In Northern Ireland Article 10 currently applies only to Irish.

Northern Ireland: Carryduff Primary School

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a site in Carryduff has been acquired for the proposed St Ita's primary school; at what stage is the planning for this school; what is its proposed enrolment; whether funds have been allocated for the scheme; and when it is programmed to begin work on site.[HL2596]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The new St Ita's primary school was included in the Northern Ireland Office's capital programme announced in March 2001, when funding of £4.5 million was made available for the building of a 496–525 pupil school. Work on the building of the school was originally programmed to start in February 2002. Due to difficulties in obtaining full planning permission for the site at Purdysburn Road, Beechill, Castlereagh, it did not prove possible to meet this timescale. The issues surrounding planning permission have been resolved and detailed planning of the new school is well under way. It is estimated that work on site should begin in approximately six months' time.

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals there are to redevelop St Joseph's primary school in Carryduff; at what stage is the planning; what is the proposed enrolment; whether funds have been allocated for this school project; and when it is programmed to begin work on site.[HL2597]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: The school is part of a cluster of schools being taken forward under the public/private partnerships programme. A project board has been established to oversee the project, personnel have been trained in PPP procurement procedures and consultants are currently preparing an outline business case. The long-term enrolment is between 496 and 525. As the project is still at the early planning stages a date to begin work on site has not yet been established. However, it is not expected to be before spring 2005. The project will be subject to a value-for-money deal being secured with a private sector partner.

Northern Ireland Civil Service: Equality Officers

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who is responsible for assessing the impact of Northern Ireland Civil Service equality officers, and for balancing costs against measurable results.[HL2631]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Priorities for government expenditure are agreed by Ministers, and departmental accounting officers are responsible for the efficiency and effectiveness of all expenditure under their control.

Northern Ireland Fair Employment Legislation

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have reviewed the impact of Northern Ireland anti-discrimination and equality law since 1973; if so, on how many occasions; whether they have published the results of these reviews; and when they intend to review the impact of the Equality Commission established under the Northern Ireland Act 1998.[HL2632]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Northern Ireland fair employment legislation has been reviewed on two occasions, with reviews published in October 1987 and in June 1997. As a result of these reviews two White Papers were published. Fair Employment in Northern Ireland (Cm 380) was published in May 1988 and Partnership for Equality (Cm 3890) was published in March 1998. Copies of these White Papers are available in the Library.

Following each review, the fair employment legislation was amended. In 1989 the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act included the extension of the law to cover indirect discrimination in employment, the introduction of compulsory monitoring by employers and the establishment of the Fair Employment Commission and the Fair

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Employment Tribunal. In 1998, the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 further strengthened the law and included the extension of coverage to goods, facilities and services.

In relation to disability discrimination law, government set up the UK Disability Rights Task Force to consider how best to secure civil rights for disabled people and its report From Exclusion to Inclusion was published in December 1999. This covered both legislative and non-legislative issues.

The Northern Ireland Executive response to these recommendations entitled Improving Civil Rights for Disabled People was published on 18 September 2001. A report on the Northern Ireland consultation was published in December 2002. The consultation document and consultation report are available on the OFMDFM website:

Amendments to the legislation will be taken forward as necessary.

The Equality Commission's strategic objectives and performance measures are agreed by government on a tri-annual basis. The commission will shortly publish its 2003–06 corporate plan. The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland's annual business objectives and performance are monitored on an ongoing basis by OFMDFM and are reported on in the organisation's annual report and accounts which is laid before Parliament and the Assembly. Non-departmental public bodies are normally subject to review on a five-yearly basis. Consideration is currently being given to such a review of the commission.

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Northern Ireland Fisheries

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals there are to provide direct financial aid to the fishing vessels in Northern Ireland.[HL2651]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The fisheries measures in the Northern Ireland Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity, co-funded by European Structural Funds and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development include a number of measures directly applicable to fishing vessels: decommissioning of fishing vessels; safety equipment and training; and marketing and quality on board fishing vessels.

I have put forward proposals for a new fishing vessel decommissioning scheme, and possible arrangements for transitional aid for fishermen. In addition, I shall make grant-aid available towards the extension of satellite monitoring arrangements later this year.

Northern Ireland: Vehicle Testing

Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many MoT certificates have been issued in the last five years by each of the MoT test centres in Northern Ireland.[HL2653]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Driver & Vehicle Testing Agency carries out the full range of statutory roadworthiness tests in Northern Ireland. These include tests on motor cars and motor cycles for which a vehicle test certificate (MoT) is issued as well as other categories such as heavy goods vehicles, taxis, buses, etc for which other certificates are issued.

Information by centre is maintained on the basis of applications received. Figures for the past five years are presented in the table.

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The figures include all categories of vehicle for which a test is required and an application has been received. Retests have been excluded.

The figures include a small proportion of applications for which a test certificate is not issued. These comprise tests cancelled by the applicant, applicants who fail to appear for an appointment and those who do submit for a retest after failing a test.

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Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the average waiting time for applications to be processed in each of the MoT test centres in Northern Ireland.[HL2654]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: In 2002–03 the Driver & Vehicle Testing Agency had an overall target waiting time for vehicle test activity of 21 days. The table below outlines the average waiting time at each of the agency's 15 test centres during the year.

CentreAverage Waiting Times 2002–03
Armagh16.86 Days
Ballymena16.10 Days
Belfast18.04 Days
Coleraine22.25 Days
Cookstown20.79 Days
Craigavon12.47 Days
Downpatrick14.67 Days
Enniskillen23.42 Days
Larne16.30 Days
Lisburn14.47 Days
Londonderry24.52 Days
Mallusk21.49 Days
Newry19.09 Days
Newtownards27.11 Days
Omagh26.43 Days
Overall Average20.31 Days

While the overall target was met, the phased closure of test centres during the year to facilitate the installation of new vehicle test equipment has had a distorting effect on the waiting times achieved at individual centres.

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