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The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The review of the National Curriculum for the year 2000 is looking at all areas of the school curriculum. This includes outdoor and adventurous activities, which is one of six areas of activity in the National Curriculum for Physical Education. We will be consulting widely on draft proposals for a revised National Curriculum during the summer, before final decisions are taken.
Lord Hoyle: The Government's programme of constitutional reform seeks to involve people more closely in the decisions which affect their lives. Freedom of information is a fundamental part of that process and should significantly transform the relationship between citizens and the state.
The Government hope to publish a draft bill on freedom of information in May. We will allow for a period of public consultation, as well as appropriate pre-legislative scrutiny by the Public Administration Committee of the House of Commons.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has, therefore, established the Advisory Group on Openness in the Public Sector to advise him on the steps needed to be taken ahead of legislation. The group, which has already had an informal meeting to discuss its programme of work, is being chaired by Lord Williams and the membership is drawn from a variety of backgrounds. Some bring a specialist knowledge of an area of public service to the group's work, while others have a particular interest in freedom of information. Details of the membership of the group are being placed in the library.
In the meantime, the Government are taking action now to extend openness and accountability. On 10 February, Her Majesty in Council approved an Order extending the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration to an additional 111 executive non-departmental public bodies and 47 advisory non-departmental public bodies, with effect from 15 March. By bringing these bodies within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction, this order has the effect of bringing them within scope of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.
Other member states will be interested to know of the intentions of the United Kingdom about our participation in Justice and Home Affairs matters after the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, in accordance with Article 4 of the Protocol integrating the Schengen acquis into the framework of the European Union and by the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The United Kingdom is committed to active and effective co-operation in the JHA field. We demonstrated that during our Presidency last year. Our citizens have a common interest in ensuring that effective action is taken to combat international organised crime; we shall continue to play a full role in such European Union level co-operation. We have been playing an active part in preparation for the incorporation of Schengen and for the establishment of the new Free Movement Chapter under Amsterdam. We are also keen to assist in the development of a useful agenda for the special European Council in Tampere later this year.
Our starting point is the Protocol on frontier controls, to which all member states agreed at Amsterdam. The United Kingdom Government will maintain its former controls, in line with that political agreement.
Subject to the Amsterdam Protocol, the United Kingdom wishes to approach participation in Schengen and the Free Movement Chapter positively. Indeed we are keen to engage in co-operation in all areas of present and future JHA co-operation which do not conflict with our frontiers control.
We are therefore ready to participate in law enforcement and criminal judicial co-operation derived from the Schengen provisions, including the Schengen Information System. We have been in the forefront of European Union co-ordination in the fight against crime and drugs and we shall maintain that position. We are also interested in developing co-operation with European Union partners on asylum--an European Union-wide phenomonen--and in the civil judicial co-operation measures of the Free Movement Chapter.
Our intention to maintain our frontier controls has implications for our participation in the direct operation of external frontier controls. For similar reasons, enhanced visa co-operation raises difficulty for us. But, within this constraint, we shall seek discussions with European Union colleagues to maximise the scope for mutual operational co-operation in combating illegal immigration, without prejudice to the maintenance of our national immigration controls. We shall also look to participation in immigration policy where it does not conflict with our frontiers-based system of control.
We realise that much detailed discussion with our European Union partners will be necessary in order to pave the way for co-operation in these areas. We shall shortly put forward a formal request for participation.
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