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The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): It is for SchlumbergerSema to decide if the medical examiners they employ should be medically qualified and registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). The GMC provides guidance on the duties of a doctor registered with them, and makes it clear that serious or persistent failure to meet these standards may put their registration at risk.

Schools and Prisons: Cost of Providing Meals

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The Department for Education and Skills and the Home Office do not collect information on the average cost of a lunch provided by a school or prison.

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Education: Specialist Science Teachers

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they will take to remedy the shortage of teachers who specialise in science.[HL5010]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: In September 2000, the Government introduced £6,000 training bursaries for postgraduate trainee teachers and £4,000 golden hellos for those who go on to teach priority subjects, including science, in a maintained school. Since September 2002, these incentives have been reinforced by the repayment of teachers' loans pilot scheme for new teachers of priority subjects. Recruitment to courses of initial teacher training in science accordingly rose by 15 per cent between 1999–2000 and 2002–03. Figures published by the Graduate Teacher Training Registry on 1 October showed that 10 per cent more graduates had been offered and accepted teacher training places in science for 2003–04 than last year. Partly as a result of these increases, the number of unfilled vacancies for science teachers has fallen by 23 per cent in only two years.

The Government will build on these achievements over the coming years. The Teacher Training Agency is currently developing a number of new initiatives to bring more science specialists into the classroom. These include enhancement courses designed to allow prospective teachers of chemistry and physics to bring their subject knowledge up to the required level for entry on to a postgraduate teacher training course. Joan

Income Contingent Student Loan Scheme

Baroness Sharp of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What estimates are included in the public accounts in relation to the annual cost of servicing the debt outstanding on the income contingent student loan scheme; and how those costs are calculated.[HL5073]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Accounting for the cost of servicing the student loan debt was prescribed by the Financial Reporting Advisory Board in its paper Resource Accounting Treatment of Student Loans—FRAB 30(3). The cost of servicing the debt is made up of three elements. The formulas for calculating each of these costs are as follows: Cost of capital: Average outstanding balance of loans multiplied by the HMT cost of capital rate. Inflation adjustment: (Opening loans balance plus provisions opening balance) multiplied by (headline line rate of inflation minus cost of capital). Unwinding the discount: Opening balance on provisions multiplied by the headline rate of inflation.

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The costs relating to income contingent loans included in the resource accounts are as follows:

Financial YearCost of Capital £000Inflation Adjust-ment £000 Unwind-ing the Discount £000 Total £000

Key Workers: Housing Grants

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a teacher who receives a grant of up to £100,000 towards the purchase of the home is obliged by contract to continue working in London for a minimum period following receipt of the grant; and what are the terms of such a contract in the event that the recipient should leave London or give up teaching before the minimum period is reached.[HL5053]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The package of assistance announced by the Secretary of State on 21 October is designed to help retain good teachers within London with the potential to rise to leadership positions within the profession, by enabling them to purchase the types of homes that suit their needs but which may have been beyond their means until now. In order to be eligible for the scheme teachers will also need to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to teaching in London. In the event that a teacher chooses to leave London, or leaves teaching in the maintained sector (including academies) for more than two years, we would normally expect the loan to be repaid. This two-year period is to allow eligible teachers the ability to undertake sabbaticals, periods of secondment or career breaks, without any penalty.

Individual Pension Funds

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why it is necessary to have a lifetime cap on the total value of individual pension funds.[HL4873]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): I refer the noble Lord to Simplifying the taxation of pensions: increasing choice and flexibility for all published by HM Treasury and the Inland Revenue in December 2002.

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School Minibuses

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether teachers may drive school minibuses as "volunteers" without having gained a D1 entitlement on their licence, by passing an appropriate test and reaching the required medical standards.[HL4985]

Lord Davies of Oldham: There are two separate circumstances in which a driver is able to drive a minibus without needing to pass a specific test for the category of vehicle, or to meet the higher medical standards required of drivers of passenger-carrying vehicles (PCVs). Drivers who obtained full category B (car) entitlement before 1 January 1997 were also granted D1 (not for hire or reward) minibus entitlement. Volunteers driving a minibus for a non-commercial organisation and not for hire or reward are exempted from the requirements, provided that specific criteria are met.

Although both the above exemptions are conditional on the vehicle being used "not for hire or reward", there is no definition in domestic legislation of "hire or reward". It is not for my department to judge whether a teacher's contract of employment and the circumstances surrounding the use of the vehicle constitute hire or reward. Each individual case would need to be considered according to the intended use of the vehicle and the contractual arrangements that are in place between the employer and employee. Ultimately, only a court of law could provide a definitive view of a particular case.

Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link infrastructure will be used for domestic train services.[HL5056]

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Strategic Rail Authority published a consultation document on Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) domestic services on 20 October. The SRA and Ministers will consider, in the light of the responses, whether a package of services has been identified which offers value for money and is affordable.

"Jambo": Recovery of Zinc Sulphide Cargo

Lord Mackenzie of Culkein asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of the estimated 3,300 tonnes of the zinc sulphide cargo carried by the "Jambo", which sank at the entrance to Loch Broom earlier this year, has been removed by salvors; and whether all of the cargo will be removed.[HL5080]

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Lord Davies of Oldham: More than half the cargo, an estimated 1,900 tonnes of zinc sulphide, has been recovered.

The advice from the Scottish Environment Group is that the cargo poses a low or negligible environmental risk. A monitoring programme has been put in place to study the local environmental impact, if any, that is caused by the residual cargo remaining on the seabed over the coming months. We will consider any revised advice from the Scottish Environment Group if there is any change in the circumstances.

The Minch: Rights of Passage

Lord Mackenzie of Culkein asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in light of the difficulties experienced in the removal of cargo from the "Jambo", a review of policy will be undertaken in relation to the passage of vessels carrying hazardous cargoes through the waters of the Minch.[HL5081]

Lord Davies of Oldham: There is a continuing right of passage through the Minch and this has to be maintained under international law.

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In August 2002, the department began undertaking a programme of vessel traffic surveys at sites around the UK that are environmentally sensitive and which may be at risk from shipping. The department proposes to undertake a comprehensive radar survey of vessels using the Minch early next year. This will allow a full assessment of existing traffic patterns and allow a review of the risks associated with shipping in the Minch.

In the longer term, amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention agreed by the International Maritime Organization in 2002 will make it a requirement, with effect from 31 December 2004, for ships over 500 gross tonnes to carry automated identification systems. Coastal states wishing to install shore-based equipment will be able to monitor shipping around their coasts. For example, this will enable the UK to continuously monitor and record ship movements in the Minch and elsewhere.

In partnership with the General Lighthouse Authority, the Government are participating in a test programme for transmitting navigational information for display on the electronic charts now used by many ships. The Northern Lighthouse Board has installed appropriate shore-based equipment in the Minch as part of this test programme.

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