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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we took a very sensible view. On 14th October the Security Council voted on a text that demanded Israel should cease the construction of the fence. We considered that that draft had insufficient references to terrorism and, therefore, that it was unbalanced and unhelpful to the implementation of the road map. We abstained in that vote, along with Germany, Bulgaria and Cameroon, and the United States used its veto. A resolution on the fence was subsequently put to an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly where the European Union proposals, which we had been pivotal in negotiating, were brought forward. We believed at that point that we had a more balanced text and voted in favour of the resolution. I hope that, on reflection, the noble Lord will recognise that the United Kingdom Government have played a constructive role in seeking a balanced way forward.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Minister has referred several times to the road map in the present and future tense. I had believed that the road map was now referred to in the past tense. I have read a number of articles in the Washington press and references from the Israeli press which, in effect, assume that the road map is now dead. If that is the case, what are the British Government, with our partners in the EU—which, after all, is one of the four members of the quartet—doing to make sure that the attempt to revive the peace process has not entirely died with the apparent collapse of the road map?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, no matter how gloomy the prospects, I do not accept that the road map has collapsed. I do not accept what has been written in the press in Washington and Israel or in the press in Arab countries. We remain committed to the road map and we support the Palestinian efforts to form a government who can be a genuine partner for peace. The Abu Allah Government are still struggling to survive. I agree that the augurs do not look good, but I would not wish to bury the prospects of that Government succeeding quite so soon. It is important that every possible encouragement is given both to the Palestinian Authority to form a successful government and to the Government of Israel to deal fairly with that government.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the fence built around the Gaza Strip in 1994 has been effective in keeping out terrorists and Palestinian terrorists from entering Israel? Does she agree with me that of the 170 suicide bombings that have taken place in Israel, most of those people have come across from the West Bank? Does she further agree that while there might be a debate about the route of a fence, there can be no debate about the right of Israel to build such a fence?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope I have made it clear that it is not the existence of

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the fence that we believe to be unlawful but the route that is taken. The noble Lord is quite right to remind us that since the fence built around the Gaza Strip has been in place, almost all the suicide bombings have come from the West Bank—indeed, I believe that only one has come from the Gaza Strip. I am sure that that unites Israeli public opinion around the feeling that there is a real necessity for the fence, for the sake of their own security. We wish to urge upon the Israelis that while we acknowledge that and see the difficulties they are facing, we hope that they will be a good deal more sensitive than they being are at present about the routing, which is causing a real problem and real hardship.

Chess in Schools

3.1 p.m.

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they propose to develop and implement the recent Department for Education and Skills initiative to promote chess in schools and colleges; and what benefits they expect will be derived from this initiative.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, we are keen to explore innovative ways of raising levels of motivation and achievement among school pupils. For this reason, we have engaged the British Chess Federation to undertake a small project working with a wide spectrum of school types to explore ways in which this can be achieved within and outside the curriculum through the medium of chess. We will be expecting to learn from the project more about how chess raises achievement.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Given that chess is a young person's sport, that it appeals to them because it is artistic, logical, sociable, vandal-free, and a clash of skills, wills and ideas, can she clarify for the House who is in charge of chess to ensure that such a promotion takes place across the whole gamut of government? Given that Britain has experienced much success in recent years on the chess board, does my noble friend share my sorrow that we were unable to send England's top team to the most recent European championships because of a lack of finance, and that England's and Britain's premier international tournament—the Hastings Open—suffers each year from a lack of the finance and funds that would ensure its continuation?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am not sure who is in charge of chess. It certainly is not me; it certainly is not, and should not be, Her Majesty's Government. I would say it is in the hands of the British Chess Federation and, more importantly, chess players themselves.

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On the important point my noble friend has raised about funding, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport funds the British Chess Federation directly. It is the only governing body in a recognised sport or other activity that receives money directly from the Exchequer. The funding was £60,000 in 2003–04. In addition, the funding chess has received from the lottery over the lifetime of the New Opportunities Fund is about £450,000. I cannot comment on the specifics of why we have been unable to send our chess players, as my noble friend has indicated; I merely point to the fact that funding has been available.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I suppose I should declare an interest as the mother of two boys who once played for the England under-10 championship.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I will pass on your Lordships' congratulations. In their school team, there were 11 boys and one girl. I wonder whether this initiative will encourage girls to take up chess.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I certainly hope that the project we are running with the British Chess Federation, which will ultimately involve eight schools, will encourage all children to participate in chess and see the benefits. I add my tribute to my noble friend's sons, who will probably be very embarrassed to read this in Hansard.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that all after-school activities, not just chess, are of benefit to children? Can she tell us what is happening to the funding of the Kids' Club Network, which has been funded by the New Opportunities Fund? I believe that new arrangements are being made, but I am not sure what is happening.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am sure the noble Baroness meant to say all "appropriate" after-school activities. That was the interpretation I put on her phrase, although perhaps friends in other parts of your Lordships' House did not.

I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Baroness: after-school activities, particularly study support and opportunities to involve children and the community in what we describe as extended good, are critical to the development of educational standards and the support we offer our young people. I pay enormous tribute to Kids' Club Network and to Anne Longfield, who runs it. It has been hugely supportive of the Government's programme of after-school activities and hugely important to their delivery. We support it financially and will continue to do so.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, will the Minister say how much is being spent on the project referred to in her first Answer? What is the source of that funding? Will the noble Baroness further accept that every time

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a national initiative is announced and a sum of money is made available for it, that means less money going into the classrooms in our schools?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the sum involved is £9,000. I think that the noble Baroness will agree with me that it is an appropriate sum of money to enable a project to be kick-started but not so big that its loss will be felt by schools. As a result of that project, we hope we will see a handbook showing how chess can be used to raise levels of motivation and achievement, a report on how the schools work together and guidance on using chess in the curriculum and on setting up out-of-school-hours chess clubs. I think that is real value for money.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, many of us can appreciate in our own mind what the benefits would be from a government initiative on chess playing, but the Question asks what "benefits" the Government think,


    "will be derived from this initiative".

I do not think the Minister answered that Question, and I would be obliged if she did.


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