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Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am aware of that in general terms, and welcome it. However, the decisions on the old ELBS were taken by the previous Government on grounds with which we agree. The scheme did not primarily benefit the poorer countries. A substantial and increasing proportion of the books
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I believe that the distribution of the textbooks was under the aegis of the British Council, although I may be wrong. If it was, have consultations ensued with the British Council about any proposed changes? What is the result of those consultations?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Lord may be slightly out of date, in the sense that the decision was taken some time ago. Distribution was not primarily through the British Council but through commercial publishers. The subsidy was to the publishers rather than reducing the price in the shops of the developing countries.
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that only up-to-date textbooks will be subject to this scheme and not out-of-date textbooks? As a supplementary question, what plans have the Government to make these up-to-date cheap textbooks available to UK students who are suffering financial hardship?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the books in the bibliography are as up-to-date as we can make them although in these areas some wisdom lasts for some time. However, the scheme does not apply to distribution of British educational books within the UK.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Minister mentioned the web in his Answer. Can he tell the House to what extent the purchasers of textbooks from developing countries are benefiting from the low priced books which are generally available on the virtual bookshops such as amazon.com? One way to assist might be to enable developing countries to get on to the Net so that they can benefit from the reductions in prices that those virtual bookshops are offering.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I appreciate the noble Lord's point. The uptake of the web is very different in different developing countries. In the Indian sub-continent particularly there is quite a substantial access to the web and therefore to information in this form.
Lord Hardinge of Penshurst: My Lords, I should mention that I am responsible for the production of the bibliography referred to earlier. It is a good initiative, but very much smaller than the ELBS. Is the Minister aware of DfID's own working group on books and information, which was set up specifically to suggest replacements for ELBS, and which has been reconvened by the present Government? Will any of its main
Lord Whitty: My Lords, some of the proposals from the working group are under consideration now. In the meantime, a number of specific projects which arise from the principles reached by that group are already under way, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
Baroness David: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I very much regret the absence of the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, today? She made that firm commitment that there would be a new scheme to replace the ELBS scheme, and a number of us believed her. The commitment was made in response to a number of Questions and even an Unstarred Question. I do not believe that it was a subsidy for the publishers, and I do believe that the ending of the scheme has been greatly to the detriment of education in a number of countries. Can we hope that this Government will be a bit more imaginative?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am very well aware of the noble Baroness's participation in the earlier debates on this matter. I can commit the Government to being imaginative in this field, as in many others.
Earl Russell: My Lords, a moment ago the Minister spoke of wisdom having a long life. Is he aware that information tends to have a rather shorter life? Does it help to apprehend that point if he imagines teaching a course on British political parties with the aid of textbooks published in 1963?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am not entirely aware of the particular publication to which the noble Earl refers. However, there are textbooks on political parties which still contain some wisdom and which were written before 1963. I would not wish to deny them to political students in other countries.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I was concerned about the noble Lord's remark about not wishing to participate in supplying books for tertiary education in developing countries. Does that not follow on the rather regrettable elements of the Government White Paper? It is the Government's stated intention to lift people out of poverty; but as to taking them forward to prosperity, the Government have no interest. Would it not be better to emphasise the provision of university education and that level of textbook in developing countries, so that they gain the ability to lift themselves out of poverty rather than relying on us?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I was repeating some of the reasons why the previous government closed down the scheme. I did not intend to imply that we were against supplying tertiary textbooks under this or any other scheme. All I was saying was that the previous
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful for that reply. As tilting devices have been found on crashed motorcycles, indicating a deliberate intention to defy speed limits, will legislation be introduced to confirm the illegality of such devices in order to improve safety on the roads, as about 1,200 people a year are killed on our roads as a result of excessive speeds?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble Lord about the dangers of speeding. It is the major contributory factor in up to one-third of injuries caused on our roads. However, I have confirmed the illegality of these plates. The enforcement of the law is a matter for the police. As yet, we are not aware of any prosecutions brought against vehicle keepers for fitting or using these number plates. Nevertheless, we believe that such prosecutions could be brought and should be successful were they to be brought.
Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, is there any evidence of a large number of motorcyclists tilting their number plates? I am very interested in the whole question of number plates--I had something to do with introducing the reflective plates that were greatly opposed at the time. I do not believe that motorcyclists are as irresponsible as some people seem to believe they are. Can my noble friend confirm that?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, as there have not been any prosecutions, it is very hard to assess the extent of the problem. There have been recent press reports of the type alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, and the police have expressed concern. This is not
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, encouragement to prosecute is a matter for the Home Secretary and the Home Office rather than my department. If we perceived this to be a growing problem, we should have to address it. If there were any question of uncertainty in the law, we should have to examine the regulations to see whether they adequately covered the problem. Harking back to the point made by my noble friend Lord Carmichael, we do not at present regard this as a major problem. The legislation is there, and police forces will consider what they need to do to enforce that legislation.
The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, if tilting devices, which I have not heard of in relation to motorcycles, are not allowed, what is the position regarding the ordinary piece of clingfilm from the kitchen drawer, which I am told is much more favoured, not by motor-cyclists--because, as the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, said, they are usually a fairly respectable lot--but by many drivers?
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