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13 Nov 2003 : Column WA207

Written Answers

Thursday, 13th November 2003.

Ulster-Scots Agency

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what date the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure was first requested to allow an appointment of an education and language officer by the Ulster-Scots Agency, why there has been a delay; and when permission will be given.[HL4722]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): The Ulster-Scots Agency approached the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) in June 2002 seeking additional staff. The agency provided details of the staffing requested on 9 July 2002.

In July 2002 DCAL, on behalf of the agency, commissioned the Business Development Service (BDS) to develop an organisational structure that would reflect the operational needs of the agency. The work was undertaken in two stages. The first involved a review of four core administrative posts, and on 2 October 2002 DCAL asked BDS to proceed to the second stage, which included drawing up a job description for a director of education and language.

The evaluation of the post was delayed due to BDS experiencing difficulty gaining relevant information from the agency and work pressures in DCAL. However, the agency is now considering a draft job description prepared by BDS, and when this has been agreed, DCAL will press ahead with the completion of the approved interim procedures process to allow the agency to advertise the post.

Northern Ireland: Tourism in County Antrim

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 16 October (WA 128), what practical steps have been taken or are planned to support Ulster Scots cultural tourism in County Antrim by:

    (a) the Northern Ireland Tourist Board;

    (b) Tourism Ireland; and

    (c) The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure; and whether they are satisfied with progress in this area since 1998.[HL4975]

Baroness Amos: A range of programmes and initiatives by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), Tourism Ireland and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) have the potential to impact upon cultural tourism in Northern Ireland including Ulster Scots tourism.

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Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB)

The NITB, in conjunction with the Departments of Agriculture and Environment, has developed the Natural Resource Rural Tourism Initiative (NRRTi). Approximately £3 million of NRRTi funding is targeted at selected rural areas in much of County Antrim, most notably the Causeway coast and Antrim Glens areas. NRRTi programmes which benefit cultural tourism in the Antrim area are cultural environmental improvement projects an events action programme and a programme aimed at increasing opportunities to enjoy the area. Tourism Ireland (TIL)

Tourism Ireland is responsible for marketing the island of Ireland as a whole as a premier tourism destination in overseas markets. It does not have a remit to support activities in specific counties/council areas. However, a number of its programmes and promotional activities have the potential to impact positively on the development of Ulster Scots tourism throughout Northern Ireland. Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL)

DCAL supports the Ulster-Scots Agency, which has strategic responsibility for the development of Ulster Scots heritage in Northern Ireland. DCAL is also responsible for the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) which holds information and educational resources on the history and heritage of Northern Ireland, most of which are available to those researching their family history. DCAL also sponsors the International Face to Face group, which draws its membership from all government agencies and non-departmental public bodies who have an international remit. This group is currently identifying a number of strategic opportunities to present and promote the rich cultural and artistic life of Northern Ireland in our key international markets. DCAL has secured an annual budget of £250,000 to progress this work and it will provide an opportunity to showcase excellence, reflecting the diverse cultural transitions of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland: MoT Tests

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 16 October (WA 128), how many applications there have been for MoT tests in Northern Ireland in each month from October 2001 to date. [HL4978]

Baroness Amos: The Driver & Vehicle Testing Agency carries out the full range of statutory roadworthiness tests in Northern Ireland. These include tests on motor cars and motor cycles for which a vehicle test certificate (MoT) is issued as well as other categories such as heavy goods vehicles, taxis, buses, etc, for which other certificates are issued.

Details of vehicle test applications received between October 2001 and September 2003 are presented in the table (the figures exclude retests).

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Vehicle Test Applications All categories October 2001–September 2003


Northern Ireland: Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For each year since 2000, how much funding the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure was allocated; what was the underspend each year; and what were the reasons for any underspend.[HL5242]

Baroness Amos: The budget allocation for 2000–01 was £72,047,000. Actual expenditure incurred during the year was £70,289,000, an underspend of £1,758,000. The major variances were in respect of:

    1. Difficulties and delays in recruitment of staff.

    2. Slippage on various consultancy and other direct expenditure.

    3. Slippage on inland waterways work programmes.

    4. The outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 resulted in the closing of the public angling estate, therefore reducing spend on bailiffing and maintenance.

The budget allocation for 2001–02 was £89,583,000. Actual expenditure incurred during the year was £79,431,000, an underspend of £10,152,000. The major variances were in respect of:

    1. Total resources allocated in 2001–02 for regrading of library staff to be phased over the financial years 2001–02 and 2002–03. In addition there was slippage on the library capital programme.

    2. Delays in disbursement of the executive programme funds.

    3. Slippage in recruitment for the North/South Language Body and Waterways Ireland.

    4. Slippage in cultural diversity programme including the Golden Jubilee, included with central administration and miscellaneous services.

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The budget allocation for 2002–03 was £98,729,000. Actual expenditure incurred during the year was £93,081,000, an underspend of £5,648,000. The major variances were in respect of:

    1. Slippage on central administration costs due to slippage in staff recruitment.

    2. Slippage on library capital projects.

    3. Underspend on museums due to closure of Navan Fort and slippage on MAGNI review.

    4. Slippage on W5 Odyssey Product Renewal Fund and capital expenditure.

    5. Slippage in Cultural Diversity Programme including Thanksgiving Square, Duncrun Initiative, Football in the Community and Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland projects.

    6. Slippage on Waterways Ireland recruitment of staff programme and capital expenditure on headquarters building.

    7. Reduction in non-cash items due to overestimate of OSNI early retirement provision plus lower than projected depreciation and cost of capital charges due to disposals. Also notional costs were less than projected.

    8. Delays on executive programme funds including creativity seed fund, salmon net compensation scheme, libraries ELFNI project and PRONI freedom of information project.

Parliamentary Website: Languages Other Than English

Lord Norton of Louth asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Further to his answer of 10 November (WA 157), what plans there are to ensure that brief guides to the House of Lords written in languages other than English can be accessed through the home page of the House of Lords site on the Internet and not through pages that require a knowledge of English in order to locate them[HL5530]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): I am grateful for the noble Lord's suggestion, and have asked officials to examine it. I shall write to him when I have more information.

Replica and Deactivated Firearms

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy concerning the sale and control of replica and deactivated firearms and the prevention of crimes arising from their use or their possible reactivation.[HL4875]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We are currently introducing new controls in the Anti-social Behaviour Bill which will make it an offence to possess an imitation firearm in a public place without reasonable excuse. Under the

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Firearms Act 1982, imitation firearms that are readily convertible to fire live ammunition are treated in law as real, working guns. It is also a criminal offence to possess a firearm or imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of unlawful violence.

The standards for deactivating firearms were made more stringent in 1995 and we are not aware that guns deactivated after this date are being readily reactivated.

Under the provisions of the current Criminal Justice Bill, anybody convicted of possessing a prohibited firearm—which will include converted or reactivated handguns—will be liable to a five-year minimum sentence.

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