Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

28 Oct 2003 : Column WA23

Written Answers

Tuesday, 28th October 2003.

Judicial Appointments Annual Report 2002–03

Baroness Ramsey of Cartvale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Judicial Appointments annual report for 2002–03 is to be published and what information this edition will contain.[HL5144]

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Judicial Appointments annual report, covering the period 1 April 2002 to 31 March 2003, is published today. This year's report shows that:

    697 appointments were made in 2002–03 from 3,449 applications.

    Appointments of minority ethnic candidates rose from 7.8 per cent in 2001–02 to 8.9 per cent (this includes lay appointments) and is more than double the 1999–2000 figure which was 4.2 per cent.

    Women accounted for 31 per cent of appointments and although this was a decrease of 3 per cent compared with 2001–02, the figure remains significantly higher than it was five years ago when the first report was published.

    The pilot assessment centre in October/November for the deputy district judge (civil and magistrates) competitions and the deputy Queen's Bench master competition was a success. The Commissioner for Judicial Appointments' audit of the pilot was very positive.

The report also explains other recent action on equal opportunities.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The report is also available on the department's website at

Southern Africa: Weapons Control

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they and the New Partnership for Africa's Development are assisting the Southern African Development Community to harmonise and enhance weapons control; and if so, how.[HL4842]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): The UK Government are supporting efforts to harmonise and enhance weapons controls in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region through assistance to NGOs, such as Saferworld and SaferAfrica, and to governments such as Mozambique and Tanzania.

Saferworld and SaferAfrica are working with SADC member states on the implementation of the

28 Oct 2003 : Column WA24

SADC Protocol on the Control of Firearms and Ammunition. Examples of activities include analysis of existing arms control legislation in the region and assistance in the development of harmonised legislation across SADC. SaferAfrica is also working with the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-Operation Organisation in training police officials on cross border operations to detect and destroy illicit arms caches in regions of conflict.

Saferworld and SaferAfrica also assisted the Government of Tanzania in the development of a comprehensive national action plan on small arms, which is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. The UK continues to fund the implementation of this plan and is also providing funds for detailed, countrywide assessments of the small arms problem in Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia. These assessments should serve as the basis for detailed national action plans in the future.

At the AU/NePAD peace and security workshop held in Addis Ababa in February 2003, SaferAfrica ensured that arms issues were included on the agenda. Small arms are one of the eight priority issues identified in the NePAD action plan.

This work is funded under the Global Conflict Prevention Pool's small arms and light weapons strategy, a £20 million programme designed to reduce armed violence and weapons proliferation around the world. Rebo

Africa: Key Commodities

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What studies they are undertaking into the issues surrounding the decline in prices for Africa's key commodities; what necessary remedial action has so far been identified; and what consequential policy is being implemented.[HL4933]

Baroness Amos: Currently, about half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa rely upon "traditional" agricultural commodities (in particular cocoa, coffee, tea and cotton) for over 50 per cent of their exports. These commodities also underpin the livelihoods of millions of some of the poorest people in the region, even in countries where agriculture's relative importance, as measured by macro-economic indicators, is less significant.

The long-term decline in commodity prices, and the associated negative shift in the producers' terms of trade, has been well documented since at least the 1950s. The current fall in prices is, however, particularly severe. By 2002, the IMF estimated that world cotton prices had fallen to a 17-year low and coffee prices has reached a 30-year low. This trend is the consequence of several factors including:

    (a) Increased supply from the expansion of production in developing countries—including, but not exclusively, relatively new exporting countries such as Vietnam in the case of coffee;

28 Oct 2003 : Column WA25

    (b) The relatively slower rate of growth of demand for commodities in their developed country markets; and

    (c) The impact on certain, but not all, commodities of trade distorting policies of many developed countries.

Given the general level of understanding of the problem, we are not and do not intend to carry out further studies to review the causes of declining commodity price other than to analyse in greater detail the impact of developed country policies and the realistic implications for developed countries of their removal. This is in order to inform the development of the UK's position in continuing trade and CAP reform negotiations and to help steer our own development assistance.

Declining commodity prices have serious consequences for developing countries and poor people. But this impact primarily stems from their dependence upon a narrow range of commodities rather than the movement in price itself. The key to tackling this problem therefore lies in economic diversification. Diversification is however a long-term objective. In the interim, the UK Government, through their bilateral and multilateral development programme, are supporting a range of innovative approaches to assist commodity-dependent exporting countries (and poor people in those countries) reduce their vulnerability to volatile commodity prices.

The UK's policy on commodities will be set out in the forthcoming UK Government and industry report Assisting Commodity Producers. This report will consider how UK industry and government can work together to address the negative impact of commodity dependence. Furthermore, the Government are working to secure a more development-friendly reform of international agriculture trade rules and to reduce the impact of trade distorting policies; for example, reform of the common agricultural policy.

Gulf War 1990–91: Vaccines

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to paragraph 3 of Annex A to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 9 October (WA 67) which states that pertussis was not recommended for use with adults and was not licensed as an adjuvant for anthrax vaccine, what degree of obligation was placed upon those deployed in 1990–91 to receive the vaccinations.[HL5094]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): I refer the noble Lord to the Ministry of Defence paper; Implementation of the Immunisation Programme Against Biological Warfare Agents for UK Forces During the Gulf Conflict 1990–91 dated 20 January 2000, a copy of which is

28 Oct 2003 : Column WA26

available in the Library of the House. It is also available on the Internet at:

Skill Force

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evaluation has been carried out of the Skill Force youth initiative.[HL5176]

Lord Bach: Skill Force is a nationwide Ministry of Defence-originated and Department for Education and Skills-supported youth initiative to re-engage disaffected 14 to 16 year-olds with mainstream education. There are currently 23 teams operating in around 100 schools with 3,000 participants. Pupils drop two GCSE options in favour of a more vocationally based education. Skill Force mainly uses former military instructors who have recently left the armed services to deliver a wide range of key skill-based subjects to young people who are in danger of becoming disaffected with the formal academic education system.

Evaluation of the first 12 schemes showed that Skill Force had been very successful in reducing truancy and exclusions by around 80 per cent, and had had a positive impact upon behaviour. As a consequence, DfES has helped to fund a further 11 schemes which have been operating for a year as part of the Behaviour Improvement Programme.

The Institute of Education, London University has recently conducted an independent and comprehensive evaluation of Skill Force. The report concluded that:

    "Overall, Skill Force is an extremely well managed programme which provides a unique service to schools. It has been successful in meeting the needs of any disaffected students, improving their motivation, confidence, communication and social skills. It has reduced exclusions, improved behaviour, attendance, attitudes towards education and attainment and also provided students with a range of practical, vocational qualifications. It offers excellent value for money. The comments from students and parents provided in this report are a testament to the opportunities it offers. Perhaps more importantly it has the support of school management. The ethos of Skill Force is positive, 'can do' and focused on problem solving. The challenges outlined above will be tackled with enthusiasm and solutions found."

We are today placing a copy of this report in the Library of the House. We are currently assessing, with the Connexions service, the impact that Skill Force has had upon participants entering employment, training and education on leaving secondary school in July 2003 at the end of the initial two-year course. The Ministry of Defence and the Department for Education and Skills will continue to work together on the longer-term future of Skill Force. Huw

28 Oct 2003 : Column WA27

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page