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Rural Land Register

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Bach): Farmers are issued with maps once the new parcel or boundary change to an existing parcel which they have requested has been completed. This is an ongoing process as farmers are continually making amendments to their boundaries.

Schools: Faith-based Admissions

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): The law is clear that where a faith school is oversubscribed it is permissible for it to give priority to members of its faith, although there is no requirement for it to do so. This policy is consistent with the widely accepted and long-standing historical tradition of church schools. Faith schools cannot refuse admission to non-faith applicants if they have available places and there are insufficient applicants of faith.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Adonis: Maintained faith schools in England and Wales, designated under Section 69(3) of the School Standards and Framework Act as having a religious character, are able to use religious criteria to decide who should be offered a place when they are oversubscribed. No maintained faith school may keep places empty if they have places available and applicants who are not of the faith wish to apply.

Under the provisions of Part 2 of the Equality Bill such schools will continue to be able to use religious criteria. Article 9 of the ECHR recognises rights in relation to religion and belief, and in education terms the convention provides in Article 2 of the first protocol that no person shall be denied education. However, the second part of this article provides that,

Similarly the convention recognises the need for plurality and diversity in state educational provision, and the role of religion in society. The UK has a long tradition of "faith schools": education was historically largely provided by religious bodies, and the demand for such schooling remains strong.

Single Farm Payment Scheme

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Bach): I announced on 31 January that full payments under the single payment scheme would begin in February. The payment window runs until 30 June, and it is expected that all payments that it is possible to make (save those subject to queries such as probate) will be made by that date.

Squirrels

Earl Peel asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Bach): The Forestry Commission undertakes control of grey squirrels on the public forest estate in England according to circumstances, through a risk-based approach. This approach has the aim of conservation of red squirrel populations and other features of high biodiversity and cultural value, and the prevention of damage to property and high-value timber crops. In the past year, areas of control have
 
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included the Forest of Dean, Westonbirt Arboretum and the north England red squirrel reserve buffer zones.

Control is undertaken using best practice but this does not always lead to a successful outcome because of the influence of such factors as habitat type, weather and initial population levels that can vary from year to year.

Earl Peel asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: There is no reliable estimate of the red squirrel population anywhere in the UK because it is very difficult to carry out an accurate census. Numbers are also subject to significant fluctuation depending on environmental factors and breeding success, but our estimate is 140,000.

At present those working on red squirrel conservation in England believe that the population in England may be somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000. A large proportion of these are in Kielder Forest.

The species action plan for red squirrel does not include an estimate of the existing population or a target population figure.

Student Loans Company

Baroness Sharp of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): The Student Loans Company (SLC) does not borrow to make loans to students. Money is paid to students by SLC on behalf of the Secretary of State, and the Department for Education and Skills makes appropriate funds available to SLC for this purpose.

The planned resource cost to the Government of providing up-front loans for fees for (a) English domiciled students attending UK HEIs will be £131 million in financial year 2006–07, rising to £324 million in financial year 2007–08; and for (b) students from other European Union countries attending English and Welsh HEIs will be £10 million in financial year 2006–07, rising to £25 million in financial year 2007–08. The assumptions for fee loans for these estimates are that 25 per cent of new students in 2006–07 are charged the standard rate fee and 75 per cent charged the maximum fee, producing an average fee of £2,550. The figures also assume 80 per cent take-up of fee
 
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deferral by both new and continuing students and 50 per cent of academic year expenditure in the same financial year, 50 per cent in the next. The resource figures are calculated at a fee loan RAB charge of 33 per cent

We do not currently have estimates for financial year 2008–09, which will be considered as part of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.

US Trade Deficit

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McKenzie of Luton: Financial markets react on an ongoing basis to a wide range of factors including announcements providing new information. Markets can sometimes move noticeably in the short term in response to specific events or announcements, particularly where these were unanticipated by the market. However, it is very difficult to isolate the longer-term impact on financial markets from any one announcement.
 
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Water Shortages: East Anglia

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Bach): The Environment Agency is the statutory body with a duty to manage water resources in England and Wales. As part of the agency's management role, it has both national and regional water resource strategies which set out the pressures over the next 25 years.

Water companies have statutory duties to maintain adequate supplies of water. They have 25-year water resource plans which complement the agency strategies and seek to reconcile supply with anticipated demand. These water resource plans are produced voluntarily every five years at present, but will become a statutory requirement under the provisions of the Water Act 2003.

Research required to inform solutions to any projected water shortages would be undertaken by the water companies involved or the Environment Agency. The department has no current plans to support any such research.



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