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Fast Track Learning Programme

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) where, and in what form, academic

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requirements for the Fast Track Learning programme were published prior to its launch; and what changes have been made to the requirements subsequently; [151609]

Ms Estelle Morris: The academic requirements for the Fast Track Teaching programme reflect the demands it will make on those who will participate. The key requirements were published on the Fast Track Recruitment website at the time of the launch in October 2000. They have not been changed since that date. 1,574 applications were received by the closing date of 31 January. In common with accelerated progression schemes for other professions, applicants will undergo a rigorous staged assessment process. We expect that process to continue into April. To date over 400 applicants have proceeded to the second stage. Of those who did not, 21 have asked for their applications to be reviewed. In one case the review has resulted in the applicant progressing to the second stage.

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School Transport

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will estimate the annual cost of providing private taxi hire for the purposes of school transport in (a) Devon and (b) the United Kingdom. [151881]

Jacqui Smith: In 1998-99, the latest year for which figures are available, Devon local education authority spent £11.9 million on home to school transport. The figure for England for the same year was £444 million. These figures are for all forms of transport: we do not have any means of estimating the amount spent on taxis.

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how much his Department spent on school bus transport in the last financial year; and if he will break down the sums allocated to each LEA. [152009]

Jacqui Smith: My Department does not allocate money to local education authorities specifically for school transport. Money for this purpose is included in LEAs' standard spending assessments, but it is up to individual authorities how they spend it. In 1998-99, the latest year for which figures are available, LEAs in England spent a total of £444 million on all forms of school transport; we do not have a breakdown of how much of this was on buses.

Disability Rights Task Force

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when he will publish a response to the report of the Disability Rights Task Force, "From Exclusion to Inclusion." [152415]

Ms Hodge: I am delighted to announce that the Government's response to the Task Force, entitled "Towards Inclusion--civil rights for disabled people", is published today. Copies are available in the Library of the House.

We are already taking forward the Task Force's recommendations on civil rights in education in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill, which received its Third reading in the House of Lords on 1 March. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), announced on 7 December that he would be consulting separately on the Task Force's civil rights recommendations on transport. The Disability Rights Commission, on which the Task Force made previous recommendations, has been open to the public since 25 April 2000.

"Towards Inclusion" describes our proposals for amending the Disability Discrimination Act's provisions on the definition of disability, employment and access to goods, services, facilities and premises. These proposals will have a major impact on promoting equality for, and safeguarding the rights of, disabled people. They include: covering more people with HIV and cancer; ending the DDA's small employer exemption by 2004; bringing within scope of the DDA occupations and employment such as the police, fire-fighters, prison officers, barristers and partners in business partnerships. By making these changes, we will bring over 600,000 disabled people, in a range of jobs and occupations, into its scope. We will also improve the process for making tribunal complaints; extend the scope of the DDA to cover most functions of public

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bodies--not just services to the public as now; and introduce a new duty for public bodies to promote equalisation of opportunities for disabled people. We are seeking views on our proposals by 8 June. In addition, we have asked the DRC, as part of its role to monitor and review the DDA, to consider further some other Task Force issues.

"Towards Inclusion" also describes how we have taken forward the Task Force's non-legislative recommendations and outlines the wide range of positive Government action for disabled people over the last four years, in all areas of life.

Our 1997 manifesto made a major commitment to disabled people. We promised to support their comprehensive and enforceable civil rights. With the help of the Disability Rights Task Force, the steps we have taken over the last four years--and what we now propose in "Towards Inclusion"--meet this commitment. We are on the way towards creating a truly inclusive society for disabled people.

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Guinea

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the number of refugees in Guinea. [151684]

Clare Short: There are currently around 310,000 Sierra Leonean refugees, and around 122,000 Liberian refugees, in Guinea. Many have been there for a number of years. There are also significant numbers of internally displaced Guineans in the south of the country, in the area adjoining the Liberian and Sierra Leone borders.

Intellectual Property Rights

Mr. Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the composition, terms of reference and scheduled date of reporting of the planned commission on intellectual property rights. [152141]

Clare Short: The process of selecting the commission is under way, but not yet completed. A selection panel will sit at the end of March and propose recommendations for its membership to me thereafter. The terms of reference are as set out in the White Paper "Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor". We expect the commission to report by the end of this year.

HIV/AIDS

Mr. Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much money her Department has contributed to research to identify a microbicide to prevent HIV transmission in the last four years; and which research organisations received funding. [151631]

Clare Short: My Department is a major source of international support for reproductive health commodities including male and female condoms. An effective microbicide would be an important addition to the list of reproductive health commodities and would also offer people more choice and control in protecting themselves from infection.

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In the last four financial years, we have made the following contributions to organisations in support of research and development, and advocacy for microbicide development:




DEFENCE

Departmental IT Policies

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the IT projects his Department plans to undertake in the next year; and if he will state in each case the (a) expected date of commencement and completion and (b) cost. [151473]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 26 February 2001]: A number of new Defence IT-related projects are planned to commence during the coming financial year. It is impracticable to list all new initiatives, but the most important is the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII), which will enter its initial assessment phase during 2001-02. This is planned to provide a computing infrastructure across the whole of Defence, and is an important step forward, since it represents a change from stand-alone IT projects to the development of a single Defence-wide computing infrastructure on which both office and business applications will be mounted. The DII is based on, and is planned to subsume, a number of related IT projects. Other business application projects being considered include DRUMM (material management capability), DSMS (Defence Supply Management System), P2P (Purchase to Payment, a component of the Defence e-Commerce programme) and SGIS (Surgeon General's system). All of these are in their formative stages, with completion expected over the next three years. Since contracts for these projects have yet to be awarded and are subject to commercial confidence, I am withholding the information under Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the IT projects currently undertaken in his Department; and if he will state the (a) expected completion date and (b) cost of each project. [151503]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 26 February 2001]: Information Technology is a key component of many Ministry of Defence (MOD) projects, both large and small. Consequently the MOD has a large number of information-related systems in service, under development or planned. Many projects are relatively small and are undertaken within the delegations given to budget-holders and Defence agencies. Comprehensive records of these projects are not held centrally. As part of the MOD response to the McCartney report on improving Government IT projects, records are being compiled for medium to large-scale projects. Since these records include commercial in confidence details of projects, I am withholding the information under Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. Some 45 projects are currently listed and work continues to complete the list and ensure that all useful data have been captured.

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