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British Sign Language

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): A wide range of courses and qualifications in the use of British Sign Language (BSL) is available throughout the United Kindom, including London.

The Government made a position statement on 18 March recognising British Sign Language (BSL) as a language in its own right regularly used by a significant number of people. At the same time, the Government announced that they would make available £1 million to fund a discrete programme of initiatives to support the statement. Among its priorities is increasing opportunities for people to learn BSL to a professional level. A working group comprising key government departments and organisations of and for deaf people, including the Council for the Advancement of

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Communication with Deaf People, has been established to advise on priorities for allocating the additional funding. We will respond to the working group's recommendations in due course.

Agriculture: Self-sufficiency

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it was appropriate for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stand at the Royal Show to display a placard stating "But in the 21st century self-sufficiency is no longer necessary or even desirable. What's more, the old system is not working properly. Our farmers' incomes are at the lowest level since the 1930s and farm productivity is 20 per cent lower than the world leaders".[HL4099]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The text is derived from the Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food—Facing the Future document published last year, which set out the current position on sef-sufficiency and concluded on page 10 that "in an increasingly globalised world, the pursuit of self-sufficiency is no longer regarded as either necessary or desirable". This conclusion reflects the changed risks to food supply since the drive for self-sufficiency was launched after the Second World War, and against the current risks and the current level of self-sufficiency, the negative effects of further increasing production need to be taken into account.

The strategy also stated on page 11 that "incomes for farmers have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1930s; productivity is low—20 per cent behind world leaders in food production—and extremely variable . . . ". The reference to world leaders in food production and the figure of 20 per cent is a reference to competitiveness in the UK's food processing sector. More detail can be found in the economic and statistical analysis published in the strategy, a document which has been in the public domain for many months and is evidence based.

The Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food document is available to view at: http:/www.defra.gov.uk/farm/sustain/default.htm.



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