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Lord Hylton: My Lords, do the severe loss of life, possibly the greatest in recent years in any single country, and the refugee flows coming from Algeria, indicate that there is an interest in all outside powers achieving non-violence within Algeria?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords; I could not agree more. There must be that interest. I think we have all heard with increasing horror the reports of the violence. I remind noble Lords that the EU troika mission went to Algeria earlier this year, as did a group of MEPs. Our ambassador in Algeria has made a point of keeping us informed of what is happening and of looking at the sites of the alleged massacres. We continue to keep a close eye on what is happening.
Earl Russell: My Lords, will Her Majesty's Government enter into consultations with other governments about how far policies which send large numbers of refugees, often destitute, into territories of other countries, should properly be regarded as internal affairs within the meaning of Article 2 of the UN Charter?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the point that the noble Earl raises does not apply solely to the problems in Algeria. We could cite similar problems. The example of Burma springs to mind. The noble Earl raises an interesting point. I shall consult my colleagues responsible for policy on these issues and write to him after I have done so.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, at present we are continuing to encourage the Algerians to change their mind. There seems to be a very strong view in Algeria, not merely confined to the governing party. When I met a group of Algerian women MPs earlier this year, it was not only those from the governing party but from opposition parties, too, who were very hostile to the idea of the UN rapporteurs. The matter must be pursued in the ways that I have described in answering the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. However, the noble Lord is right to return to my other point; namely, it is possible to do this without visiting the country. However, I think that we would all agree that the best way to do so at present is by visiting Algeria.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, what is the Minister's response to the accusation of Amnesty International that the international community has failed to take action to break the cycle of violence in Algeria; and to its criticism of the United Kingdom--not least in its presidency of the European Union--for failing to table a specific new resolution on Algeria calling for the appointment of the UN special rapporteur at the recent annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, those criticisms were not very fair at all, given the stance that the United Kingdom has taken, particularly during its presidency: my honourable friend Mr. Fatchett has led the troika mission; we have not only kept in touch, but have received regular reports from our ambassador, on which I have reported previously to this House; and we have encouraged groups of MEPs to visit that country. I mentioned the visit from the Algerian women MPs. A group of MPs from the United Kingdom will visit Algeria later this year. We hope that, through that sort of dialogue, we shall persuade the Algerians that a UN rapporteur is necessary in their country.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that, of the women MPs who came to this country, those from the opposition side took a different line when they were away from their colleagues on the government Benches in relation to the visit by UN rapporteurs. Does she agree that there has to be a time-limit within which Algeria must comply with this process; and that it would be a good idea if the inquiry by the special rapporteurs from outside the country, which I was pleased to hear the Minister mention, could be initiated at some point in the future if an invitation has not been given by the Algerian Government at that date?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, so the answer is "none". If and when an education action zone is established in areas where education is deemed to be failing--which is the rationale for the policy--will the education action forum have the power, if it is deemed necessary, to dismiss a teacher or teachers who are failing, using either the normal or the fast-track procedure?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the answer is not, "No"; it is that these procedures have yet to be adopted, and we shall receive a report in October. As regards action zones, procedure agreements operate between local education authorities or governing bodies. Those will remain the employers in most cases. The fast track will be part of the normal procedure, and that procedure is with the governing body or the local education authority.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, my question was: who will have the power in the case of a teacher failing? When the education action zones are set up, will the power reside with the education action forum, or not?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the position of the education action forum in those circumstances will be almost equivalent to that of the local education authority. But in many cases the governing body will be the employer. Therefore the procedure rests with the employer in the first instance.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, my understanding is that virtually all local authorities have now adopted the procedure. Negotiations are taking place with the local teacher unions. Virtually all bodies will have adopted the procedure within a very short time.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, is there any appeal procedure under the fast track in relation to dismissal for incompetence? If so, how does one establish the competence of those who judge competence?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the existing procedures, and all procedures throughout industry, have means of judging incompetence, subject to a fair assessment by the person accused of incompetence. The point of the fast-track procedure is that in extreme circumstances teachers can be dismissed within four weeks from the beginning of a process to the end, but that in a normal assessment of incompetence no longer than two terms would elapse, whereas at present that period can be two or more years.
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