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4 Nov 2003 : Column WA83

Written Answers

Tuesday, 4th November 2003.

Northern Ireland Railways: Templepatrick Station

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Northern Ireland Railways Templepatrick station will be opened. [HL4666]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): Translink has advised that their plan to build a halt in or around the Templepatrick area in order to complete the Antrim to Bleach Green line project, has had to be deferred in order to meet other pressing operational priorities associated with the introduction of the new rolling stock.

Northern Ireland Railways: A D Little Review

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the main conclusion of the A D Little Report of April 2002 into Northern Ireland Railways. [HL4667]

Baroness Amos: The A D Little Review of April 2002 concluded that Translink are continuing to operate Northern Ireland Railways at risk levels that are not unreasonable and that significant progress has been made, and is continuing to be made, in addressing key safety risks.

Police Service of Northern Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current establishment figure for the Police Service of Northern Ireland; and how that compares with the proposed figure for 2003.[HL4669]

Baroness Amos: The Independent Commission on Policing recommended a regular force of about 7,500 officers, with a proposed figure of just over 7,100 in 2003. The actual strength of the PSNI at 30 September 2003 was 7,291 regular officers, including 256 trainees. It is anticipated that the regular strength, including trainees, will reach 7,450 by the end of March 2004. It is also worth bearing in mind that the Chief Constable retains the support of the full-time reserve, currently numbering 1,701 officers. claire

Cory Report

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they received Judge Cory's report about deaths arising from alleged collusion between security forces and paramilitaries in both the

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    Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; and when this report will be published.[HL4701]

Baroness Amos: Justice Peter Cory presented his findings in the cases of Patrick Finucane, Billy Wright, Rosemary Nelson and Robert Hamill to the British Government on 7 October 2003. As specified in the judge's terms of reference, the Government will publish the final reports, subject only to any necessary adjustments to ensure that the privacy and right to life of individuals is protected, and that the Government's obligations in relation to ensuring justice and protecting national security are maintained. The reports will be published as soon as possible in line with these terms of reference.

East Belfast: Bus Lanes

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to make the bus lanes in East Belfast operational 24 hours a day.[HL4721]

Baroness Amos: The chief executive of Roads Service has written to the noble Lord in response to this Question. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library.

Northern Ireland: Schools Using Renewable Energy

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of schools in Northern Ireland are currently using electricity created by renewable energy.[HL4724]

Baroness Amos: At present 87 per cent of grant-aided schools in Northern Ireland are now using electricity from a renewable source.

Northern Ireland Parades Commission

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their policy to reduce the workload, and the funding, of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission through the support of bodies which promote cultural tolerance.[HL4767]

Baroness Amos: The Government welcome the contribution that bodies that promote cultural tolerance can bring to resolving contentious issues in Northern Ireland. The Government have no plans to reduce the level of funding available to the Parades Commission, but look forward to a time when there are no contentious parades in Northern Ireland.

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North/South Ministerial Council: Budget 2003–04

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 1 July (WA 79) concerning the budget of the North/South Ministerial Council for 2003–04, how much has been spent to date; whether they expect the budget to be underspent or overspent at the end of the financial year; and what is the period of the financial year in question.[HL4769]

Baroness Amos: The financial year runs from 1 April 2003 to 31 March 2004. Up to 30 September 2003 the North/South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat (North) has spent £286,000 of the allocated budget of £672,000. It is anticipated that the budget will not be fully spent and an easement of £30,000 was declared in the September monitoring round, resulting in a revised allocation of £642,000.

East Belfast: Community Infrastructure

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they propose to take to address the issue of weak community infrastructure in East Belfast.[HL4770]

Baroness Amos: East Belfast is currently benefiting from a number of government initiatives and programmes focusing on the issue of weak community infrastructure.

The Local Community Fund which aims to develop local community capacity and leadership is targeted at specific areas with the greatest needs. Communities in Pottinger, Avoniel, The Mount, Willowfield and Ravenhill will benefit directly under this fund through the allocation of a total of £418,000 this year.

The Outreach Programme which is a three-year initiative totalling £2.9 million is supporting two projects in East Belfast. The "East Belfast Parent Support Initiative" and the "Ballybeen Regeneration Project" will receive funding totalling £455,000 to address, among other things, issues of weak community infrastructure.

Through environmental improvements in East Belfast Groundwork (NI) and local communities are working together to increase capacity and improve infrastructure.

Local community leaders are considering the need for a pilot community convention in East Belfast aimed at creating practical ways to help local people tackle disadvantage and work in partnership with government bodies.

The Department for Social Development's Belfast Regeneration Office South and East Team have this year committed £414,904.00 towards 24 projects in East Belfast, which are related directly to addressing weak community infrastructure.

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The Government's strategy for neighbourhood renewal, "People and Place", launched in June this year, is a seven to 10-year strategy, which has as one of its key strategic objectives the development of confident communities that are able and committed to improving the quality of life in the most deprived neighbourhoods.

East Belfast: Connswater River

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to improve the aesthetic quality of the Connswater River in East Belfast.[HL4771]

Baroness Amos: Further to my Answer of 28 January 2003 (WA 141), the Urban Pollution Management Study for the Connswater area is currently being undertaken by the Water Service of the Department for Regional Development and is due for completion in early 2004. This study will inform any improvements to the sewer system needed to meet the required water quality standards. This is the first major review of the impact of urban pollution on the Connswater system. It will identify potential solutions to control discharges of storm sewage and problems with sewage related litter in the Connswater River, with the aim of achieving improved water quality in the future.

In the mean time, the Water Service has installed screens on the Connswater Road pumping station. These have resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of sewage related debris coming from this particular source.

East Belfast: Housing

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration they have given to promoting "Living Over the Shop" initiatives in East Belfast.[HL4772]

Baroness Amos: The Northern Ireland Housing Executive, in conjunction with Derry City and Lisburn City Councils, has initiated pilot "Living Over the Shop" schemes in Lisburn and Londonderry. These pilots are currently about half way through their three-year project life and will be evaluated in detail in due course. Following this consideration will be given to extending the scheme to other areas including East Belfast.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to improve the housing stock in East Belfast and undertake environmental improvements to areas of open space.[HL4781]

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Baroness Amos: In the period up to 31 March 2004, the Housing Executive proposes to improve housing stock in East Belfast through the progression of urban renewal schemes, a programme of planned maintenance schemes to some 3,800 dwellings, and grant aid for the private sector. In addition, land will be released for private sector development and for the provision of 130 new social housing units by housing associations. Ongoing maintenance and upkeep of planted areas within the Housing Executive's ownership will be carried out.

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