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Written Answers

Wednesday, 15th October 2003.

House of Lords: Thursday Sittings

Lord Carter asked the Chairman of Committees:

    What procedure will be adopted to deal with the results of the questionnaire on the arrangements for Thursday sittings of the House.[HL4865]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): Copies of the questionnaire agreed by the Procedure Committee were sent to all Members of the House, and 368 have been returned. Members were invited to choose one of three options, and the support expressed for each was as follows:

Option 1 (Thursday sittings to continue as at present):63 (17.1 per cent)
Option 2 (House sits at 3.00 pm, rises by about 10.00 pm):100 (27.2 per cent)
Option 3 (House sits at 11.00 am with Starred Questions at the start, rises by about 7.00 pm):200 (54.3 per cent)
Other:5 (1.4 per cent)

The Procedure Committee will meet on 28 October to consider these responses and the comments made in replies to the questionnaire.

Immigration Controls

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to maintain effective immigration controls while ensuring that genuine passengers are able to pass through ports with little inconvenience.[HL4867]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Government are firmly committed to maintaining effective immigration controls while at the same time ensuring that genuine passengers are able to pass through our ports with the least possible inconvenience.

The number of people arriving at UK airports who are found to be inadmissible is unacceptably high. Certain nationals, who are required to hold a valid visa to enter the UK, may transit this country for up to 24 hours without a visa. This provides a relatively easy and inexpensive way for those who are intent on circumventing our immigration controls to do so. We have already introduced measures to tackle this problem with the introduction of a direct airside transit visa requirement for 16 nationalities on 24 June. We now need to take further action and have identified six nationalities (Angola, Bangladesh, Cameroon, India, Lebanon and Pakistan) as posing a particular problem. Therefore from 00.01 hours on Thursday 16 October nationals of those six countries wishing to transit the UK will require a visa to do so.

To avoid undue hardship for those who had already made their travel plans, we have agreed to operate a grace period. Until 23.59 hours on Monday 20 October any transit passenger who bought their ticket on or before 15 October will not be refused

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entry solely on the basis of not holding a valid transit visa. Also, any person on the return leg of a journey they commenced before 16 October and who passed through the UK on the outward leg of their journey will be allowed to transit the UK without a visa until 23.59 on 12 November.

In parallel with those measures we are introducing changes that will allow certain groups of low risk passenger who would normally require a transit visa to be exempt from such a requirement if they are in possession of specific documents. This will include those who are in possession of a valid US or Canadian visa or certain types of residence permits, long-stay visas for entry to an EEA state, or the EU common format residence permit.

We have also decided to remove the requirement for nationals of Croatia, Libya and Slovakia to hold a visa when transiting the UK for up to 24 hours. Finally, holders of diplomatic or service passports issued by the People's Republic of China, and holders of diplomatic or official passports issued by India will also be exempt from the requirement to hold a visa when transiting the UK for up to 24 hours.

Warship Support Agency: Key Targets 2003–04

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What key targets have been set for the Warship Support Agency for financial year 2003–04.[HL4832]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Key targets have been set for the chief executive of the Warship Support Agency for financial year 2003–04. The targets build on progress already made and are as follows:

Key Target 1: Quantity

To meet the 100 per cent available vessel days target.

Key Target 2: Timeliness

To meet the <6.5 per cent upkeep period timeliness target.

Key Target 3: Timeliness

To achieve the 95 per cent target for timely completion of the high priority upgrade programme.

Key Target 4: Quality

To achieve the operational support services target of

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providing the appropriate standard of single living accommodation to 35 per cent of naval personnel.

Key Target 5: Quality

To achieve the operational support services target of meeting the customers' needs ISO quality control comment form targets, as follows:


    Group 1—0 failures


    Group 2—0 failures


    Group 3—<5 per cent failure

Key Target 6: Quantity

To generate the capacity to support the naval force generation plan target with green assessments against all elements.

Key Target 7: Cost/Efficiency

To make the necessary agency contribution to the Defence Logistics Organisation strategic goal of reducing output costs by 20 per cent by 2005 while ensuring that we continue to deliver and indeed where appropriate improve the quality of our outputs.

Oil and Pipelines Agency: Quinquennial Review

Lord Islwyn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the first stage of the quinquennial review of the Oil and Pipelines Agency has been completed.[HL4833]

Lord Bach: The first stage of the quinquennial review (QQR) of the Oil and Pipelines Agency (OPA), an executive non-departmental public body (NDPB), has been completed. The review focused on the OPA and its role as managing agent of the Government Pipeline and Storage System (GPSS).

The stage 1 report found general satisfaction in the performance of the OPA since its inception and that customers both military and commercial were generally content with its stewardship of the GPSS. The report also established that there is a continuing need for the GPSS and hence for it to be managed. Having established this need, the review concluded that the OPA was best placed to discharge this role and, after examining a range of alternative status options for the OPA, considered that it should continue to operate as a NDPB for the present time.

The review also concluded that there were a number of improvements that should be taken forward into stage 2 of the review, the most significant of which are:


    developing the OPA's management and business plans;


    revising the managing agency agreement between the Secretary of State for Defence and the OPA;


    revising arrangements for corporate governance; and


    reviewing the OPA support structure and communications.

We have given my endorsement to the report's recommendations and stage 2 is now underway with

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the aim of completing this work by the end of 2003. A copy of the executive summary of the QQR Stage 1 report has been placed in the Library of the House.

Code of Practice on Access to Government Information: Monitoring Report 2002

Baroness Golding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Code of Practice on Access to the Government Information monitoring report for 2002 will be published.[HL4834]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): The Code of Practice on Access to Government Information monitoring report for 2002 is published today. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Private Foreign Language Schools

Baroness Northover asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for regulating private foreign language schools.[HL4707]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The Education Act 2002 provides a regulatory framework for the registration and monitoring of independent schools which provide full-time education for pupils of compulsory school age. Any private foreign language school which meets the definition of an independent school would be subject to the same system of regulation.

There are no plans to extend the legislative arrangements to private foreign language schools catering for pupils above compulsory school age.

Universities: Admissions

Lord Quirk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many undergraduate places at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the year 2001 were awarded to pupils from each of the following institutions:


    (a) comprehensive schools;


    (b) sixth form colleges;


    (c) independent schools;


    (d) grammar schools; and


    (e) further education colleges; and[HL4609]

    How many undergraduate places in the year 2001 in the Russell Group of universities as a whole were awarded to pupils from each of the following institutions:


    (a) comprehensive schools;


    (b) sixth form colleges;

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    (c) independent schools;


    (d) grammar schools; and


    (e) further education colleges.[HL4610]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The available information, which covers applicants accepted through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) to full-time and sandwich undergraduate courses, is given in the table.

Applicants accepted via UCAS for entry in autumn 2001

Previous educational establishmentOxford and CambridgeRussell Group(2)>
Comprehensive schools1,06316,760
Grammar schools4223,169
Independent schools2,61515,770
Sixth form colleges5237,138
Other maintained schools1,0168,857
FE/HE Colleges1915,921
Other establishments161,179
Not known2225,711
Total6,06864,505

1 Covers applicants domiciled in the UK.

2 The Russell Group consists of the University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, Cambridge University, the University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine, King's College London, University of Leeds, University of Liverpool, London School of Economics and Political Science, University of Manchester, University of Newcastle, University of Nottingham, Oxford University, University of Sheffield, University of Southampton, University College London, University of Warwick, and University of Cardiff.

3 Includes former grant-maintained schools.



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