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Written Answers

Tuesday, 9th September 2003.

Judicial Appointments

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Chancellor on 1 July (WA 76), which body or individual will be responsible for the appointment of members of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. [HL3785]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): This is one of the issues on which the consultation paper on the Supreme Court (published on 14 July) seeks views. The paper consults on the question of whether the Prime Minister should recommend names to Her Majesty The Queen directly, after consulting the First Minister in Scotland and the First and Deputy First Ministers in Northern Ireland and the legal profession, or whether an Appointments Commission should be asked to recommend the names to the Prime Minister first. It proposes as one model for such a commission that its members could be drawn from the Judicial Appointments commissions or boards, which have been or will be established in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to reflect the UK jurisdiction of the new Supreme Court.

Northern Ireland: Underspending

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Lord Privy Seal on 13 January (WA 1) and the Lord President on 24 June (WA 7) concerning underspending of funding, whether the date for the return of funds is 31 March. [HL3637]

The Lord President of the Council (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The extent of any underspend is measured in the context of the financial year end of the entity concerned, and that is the relevant date as regards the surrender of funds. This is 31 December for North/South Implementation Bodies, and 31 March for Northern Ireland departments.

Northern Ireland: Manhole Covers

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What solutions the Water Service for Northern Ireland have considered for the problem of unstable and faulty manhole covers on the Province's road system; and when any such solutions will be implemented. [HL3863]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: The chief executive of Water Service has written to the noble Lord in response to this Question. A copy of the letter will be placed in the Library.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has taken on non-state violence.[HL4246]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The Chief Commissioner has been asked to write to the noble Lord. A copy of his letter will be placed in the Library.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what issues outside Northern Ireland they have received advice from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.[HL4247]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission put out a press release on the conflict in Iraq on 21 March 2003.

Acts of Parliament since 1997: Prohibited Activities

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 17 July (WA 148), by what process the decision not to provide the information requested was taken; whether they will place in the Library of the House copies of the discussions and estimates which led to that decision; and by what amount they estimated that the cost of providing the information would have exceeded the usual maximum cost allowed.[HL4260]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The decision not to provide the information requested was taken by me, following discussion between officials in the Cabinet Office. It was clear that the costs threshold of £600 would be greatly exceeded, given the considerable time that would be required to sift all Acts for activities banned. It would be contrary to convention if I were to place in the Library the advice I received on this matter.

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they would indicate the activities that have been banned by Acts of Parliament passed since 1997.[HL4261]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: A range of activities has been banned by Acts of Parliament passed since 1997. This information is in the public domain. To collate it would require an official to read through all the Acts of Parliament since 1997 to search for activities banned. The cost of this would well exceed the threshold of £600.

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Interception of Communications Commissioner, Intelligence Services Commissioner and Chief Surveillance Commissioner: Annual Reports

Lord Strabolgi asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will lay before Parliament the annual reports for 2002 of the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the Intelligence Services Commissioner, and the Chief Surveillance Commissioner.[HL4356]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Prime Minister has today laid before both Houses the annual reports for 2002 of the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the right honourable Sir Swinton Thomas, the Intelligence Services Commissioner, the right honourable Lord Justice Simon Brown and the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, the right honourable Sir Andrew Leggatt. Some sensitive information has been excluded from the reports of the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Intelligence Services Commissioner in accordance with Section 58(7) and 60(5) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

The Prime Minister is grateful to the commissioners for their reports and the work that has gone into preparing them.

East Belfast: Drinking Water

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the quality of water currently available for drinking in East Belfast; and, if not, what steps they are taking to improve the quality.[HL3723]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The chief executive of the Water Service has written to the noble Lord. A copy of the letter will be placed in the Library.

Northern Ireland: Devolving Powers to Local Authorities

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are considering devolving extra powers and duties to Belfast City Council and other local authorities which have demonstrated their capacity to share power.[HL3756]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government welcome the continued power-sharing arrangements adopted by many district councils in Northern Ireland. There are no plans however to devolve extra powers specifically to those councils engaged in such arrangements.

Over the coming months, the Department of the Environment proposes to discuss with district councils and other local government interests a number of policy issues that will assist in the determination of future legislation priorities for all district councils.

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Also, in a wider context, responsibilities and functions of local government in Northern Ireland are currently being examined as part of the comprehensive review of public administration.

Northern Ireland: Dyslexia

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans the Northern Ireland Department for Education currently has to support children who are dyslexic.[HL3787]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The educational provision for children with special educational needs is a statutory responsibility of the education and library boards. Most provision for children with dyslexia can be made in school, with supportive organisation and planning, and sometimes with outside assistance from an education and library board reading centre, or peripatetic or outreach literacy support.

Following publication of the report of the Northern Ireland Education Task Group on Dyslexia in May 2002, a follow-up consultative conference was held in September 2002. Consequently, the education and library boards have prepared costed proposals for implementation of the report's recommendations, which the department is currently considering.

In the autumn it is expected that a joint Department of Education/Department of Education and Science working group will complete work on a video to provide support and information for parents of children newly diagnosed with dyslexia and a CD-ROM intended to provide a more detailed toolkit for teachers.

In conjunction with its inspectorate and the education and library boards, the Department of Education is evaluating the effectiveness of two alternative models of intervention on children with dyslexia.

Northern Ireland: Dyspraxia

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans the Northern Ireland Department of Education currently has to support children who are dyspraxic.[HL3788]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: All schools, having concern about any type of special educational need which a pupil may have, operate the five-stage approach as outlined in the Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs. At stage 3 the school may seek external support from the appropriate education and library board's educational psychology service which, if dyspraxic tendencies are suspected, will make a referral to the community paediatrician and may also involve an occupational therapist. The various professionals involved with a pupil then give the school advice and guidelines on how best to support the pupil. Programmes are designed on an individual basis and the child's specific needs are taken into account when educational plans are drawn up.

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In conjunction with its inspectorate and the education and library boards, the Department of Education is evaluating the effectiveness of two alternative models of intervention on children with dyslexia, which is often found alongside dyspraxia.


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