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Lord Whitty: My Lords, I should clarify this point before it goes on the record. The organisations which represent the majority of the industry were in favour of something like a full passport system, although some had some qualifications. Since then, some of the other organisations have become convinced of the need for such a system. I did not want that to go uncorrected.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, I am only telling the noble Lord what his department said. It is absolutely clear that only 25 respondents were in favour of passports only for horses entering the food chain.
The Minister mentioned a number of countries which are issuing passports for all, but they are in the minority in Europe. He then saidI think that it rather gave the game awaythat other EU countries have taken up the other alternative. As the Minister admits, the other alternative is passports only for horses that enter the food chain.
The Minister then produced another argument put forward by vets concerning prescribed medicines. There is a plan that certain medicines should be given only to horses with passports. I accept that that is a valid point but the response to it is that if a horse or pony needed the medicine, the owner could instantly apply for a passport. Indeed, under the Government's current rules if someone does not have a passport for his horse, the vet can treat the horse and give the owner or keeper a certificate which is then put into the passport at a later date. Therefore, horses would not be prevented from being treated with the medicines that they have now.
The Minister also talked about the minimum value legislation. That is under threat from Europe and is likely to be declared illegal by the EU. It is stopping many more horses going abroad.
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The Minister said that if these regulations fall, we shall come back to the ones that we first introduced, which did not work. They did not work then and they will not work now. This is the opportunity for the Government to come forward with some workable regulations at a minimum cost to the industry.
House adjourned at thirteen minutes before ten o'clock.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Government have amended the United Kingdom's declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice under Article 36(2) of the Statute of the Court. A copy of the revised declaration, set out in a letter dated 5 July 2004 to the United Nations Secretary-General, has been placed in the Library of the House.
The revised declaration makes two main changes to the former declaration dated 1 January 1969. The first updates from 24 October 1945 to 1 January 1974, the cut-off date for the acceptance of the court's jurisdiction, thus excluding stale claims. The effect is that jurisdiction is not accepted in respect of disputes which arose before 1 January 1974. The second is to broaden the scope of the previous Commonwealth exception, so that jurisdiction is not accepted in respect of any dispute with the government of any other country who are or have been a member of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth exception is of long standing and is retained by a number of Commonwealth countries.
Though these changes are of general application, their immediate significance is that they prevent any Commonwealth country from circumventing the present limitations by withdrawing from the Commonwealth and then instituting proceedings against the United Kingdom in respect of an existing dispute. The Government have acted to prevent such a move as they believe it is against the spirit of the existing Commonwealth exception.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My right honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr Ivan Lewis) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
In July 2003, the Government launched the National Skills Strategy, 21st Century Skills. The skills strategy is primarily a strategy for England, reflecting the devolution of responsibility for education and training to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The strategy's aim is to ensure that employers have the right skills to support the success of their businesses, and individuals have the skills they need to be both employable and personally fulfilled. Significant progress has been made in the first year of
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the strategy, and today we are holding a key conference and the Skills Alliance is publishing a progress report to set out the successes to date and the challenges for the year ahead. There is now a real momentum for change and a strong sense of shared purpose and enthusiasm, and I would like to make you aware of the following achievements.
The Skills Alliance has brought together key partners with an interest in skills and productivitythe Department for Education and Skills, the Department for Trade and Industry, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Treasury, the CBI, the TUC, the Small Business Council and the key delivery organisations led by the Learning and Skills Council. The Skills Alliance's role is to oversee effective implementation of the strategy and, today, has published its first annual report on progress.
The skills strategy emphasised the need to move away from a supply-driven education and training system towards a demand-led approach. We are driving this forward by: improving our understanding of employers' skills needs and their contribution to raising productivity; working with employers to ensure that the skills of their employees are effectively deployed to support business development; and ensuring that skills demand drives the design of training programmes and qualifications.
The Success for All reform strategy, launched in November 2002, has been a key factor in raising standards, improving quality, and ensuring that colleges and post-16 providers become more flexible and responsive to employers' needs. I am very pleased with the way in which the further education sector is embracing these reforms and that standards and responsiveness are improving.
During the year, colleges and other training providers have successfully continued to expand the existing flow of people with skills, training and qualifications, thus meeting the needs so far of individuals and of employers, including: basic skills200,000 learners achieved at least one skills-for-life qualification this year. Since 2001, 2.3 million learners have taken up 4.6 million skills-for-life learning opportunities. Level 2260,000 more adults in the workforce achieved qualifications at least to full level 21 at the end of 2003 compared to autumn 2002. The proportion of adults in the workforce qualified to level 2 is now 71 per cent2. Apprenticeships246,000 1624 year-olds were enrolled by the end of March 2004. There have been over 1 million entrants to the programme so far.
Foundation degreescurrently 24,500 students are enrolled on foundation degree courses, with employers involved in both the design and delivery. Overall flow of qualificationsnearly 3 million qualifications were achieved by adults in 200203.
Other progress on the key areas within the strategy includes: for employersthere are over 60,000 employees on ETP through 10,000 employers, 18 sector skills councils, better business support, in particular for SMEs, and new apprenticeship family launched.
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For individualsover 2,200 low skilled individuals benefiting from financial help with adult learning grant pilots, we are about to begin phased introduction of new level 2 entitlement in package of support in NE and SE, fewer adults without a full level 2, better IAG all over the country with reformed service standards.
On qualificationsthe work on reform of qualification system for adults will be set out at the Skills Strategy One Year On event, the Tomlinson proposals for 1419, and new qualifications to meet employer need. With colleges and training providerswe continue to build on Success for All reform, strategic area reviews underway, new LSC business cycle, plan led funding, upwards trend in college success rates, and we are about to consult on reform of fees and funding.
Through partnershipsnew Skills Alliance and regional skills partnerships, NEP report to drive welfare to workforce development agenda including through New Deal for skills, Government leading by example and addressing skills issues in all departments/bodies.
These achievements represent significant progress during the year. We have been heartened by the widespread support that the strategy has received, the recognition that we have to get the implementation right if we are to achieve our national economic and social objectives, and the determination shown by organisations and individuals across the board to play their full part.
However, there is much more to do, and it will require sustained commitment over a period of years to address the deep-seated barriers to skills investment, and so achieve our economic and social goals.
Copies of the Skills Alliance: Skills Strategy Progress Report; Skills Strategy Progress Report Technical Supplement On Underlying Data and Evidence; Government Meeting Its Responsibilities; and the Skills for Life Annual Review 20032004 have been placed in the Library and are available in the Vote and Printed Paper Offices.
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