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New Deal (Crewe and Nantwich)

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many people in the constituency of Crewe and Nantwich have benefited from (a) disabled students' allowances, (b) the New Deal for lone parents, (c) the New Deal for partners of unemployed people, (d) the New Deal for people aged 25 plus, (e) the New Deal for young people, (f) Jobseeker's Allowance and (g) jobfinder's grant since May 1997. [156227]

Ms Jowell: (a) In the academic year 1997-98, 81 disabled students' allowances worth £110,488 were paid to students from Cheshire. Figures are not available for subsequent years.

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Disability Rights Commission

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) what the average length of time is for processing an application under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 at the Disability Rights Commission; [156353]

Ms Hodge: These are operational matters for the Disability Rights Commission. I have asked the Chief Executive to reply direct to the hon. Member and to place a copy of his letter in the House Library.

British Sign Language

Mr. Tony Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to grant official recognition to British Sign Language. [156649]

Ms Hodge: I have received many representations on this issue and have met disability organisations to discuss the best way forward. The UK ratified the Council of Europe's Charter for Regional or Minority Languages on 27 March and will be appointing the UK representative to the Charter's Committee of Experts. The Committee of Experts will be able to consider whether indigenous sign languages should come within the terms of the Charter.

Working Age Agency

Mr. Barron: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what progress has been made in setting up the new agency for working age people. [156803]

Mr. Blunkett: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security and I are establishing the new agency for working age people later this year. We announced on 14 March the locations of around 50 pathfinder offices bringing together labour market and benefit services for people of working age. These offices will be the first stage in the launch of this new Agency.

We can further announce today that the new Agency and its local offices will be called "Jobcentre Plus". We shall be introducing the name "Jobcentre Plus" in local offices as they roll out the integrated benefit and employment service, starting with the first pathfinder offices in October. But, more widely, the new Agency will be referred to as "Jobcentre Plus" from today.

Digital Education Delivery

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to develop the delivery of education in schools through digital formats. [156805]

Mr. Blunkett: I am today publishing a consultation paper "Curriculum Online", which sets out our proposals for the next steps in the use of technology to raise standards of education, including consulting on the future of the National Grid for Learning. Copies of the paper have been placed in the House of Commons Library. We are seeking views on the best way to achieve our vision of a consistent and coherent set of electronic resources available across the curriculum. All teachers will have access to the best available resources to support their

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lesson planning and all pupils will be able to use the same materials at home as they do in the classroom, to support their homework and revision, for example.

As a first step towards achieving our vision, I am also announcing today the outcome of our competition for the provision of digital course materials for GCSEs in English, mathematics, science, history, geography and French. We will be investing £42 million over three years in these materials, to be delivered over digital television and other channels. The proposals were assessed against criteria including their educational merits and their value for money and the BBC and Granada Media were judged to have submitted the best proposals. Subject to the necessary DCMS approvals, they will be working together to deliver the six GCSEs, split equally between them.

In addition, I can announce that we will be developing a "Cybrarian"--a virtual librarian service for learners of all ages--using £17.5 million from the Capital Modernisation Fund and a further £5 million of DfEE funding. It will offer much more effective ways of connecting learners with the rich electronic content that they need and will be a powerful tool in efforts to bridge the digital divide, particularly for those traditionally poorly served by electronic resources.

Together these announcements represent another important step forward in our plans to use the potential of technology to reinforce and support our commitment to the best of traditional teaching methods.


Local Health Services

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made in the establishment of local health services. [153485]

Mr. Denham: Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are key agents for securing services that better meet the needs of their population. They are able to play a leading role in improving the health of their community and delivering more integrated local services. PCTs are starting to make this happen. 124 new PCTs have become established this year, bringing the total now to 164. Further PCTs will be established next year.

In addition, £100 million will be provided to Primary Care Groups (PCGs) and PCTs to develop primary care service, an average of £10,000 per general practitioner practice, that are aimed to promote new ideas or ways of working that deliver improved patient services. This might include funding, extra clinics, extended opening hours, training GP specialists or developing other primary care clinicians to deliver, for instance, better heart and cancer services.

We recognise that GPs and other primary care health practitioners are dealing with illness and disease now, which in the recent past could only be dealt with in hospitals. This trend will continue and investment is being made now to make sure that GPs have the time and the expertise to deliver top class care in our communities. Therefore, in addition to existing funding and the new resources available to all PCGs and trusts, from April

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2001 each PCG and PCT will receive £5,000 to support the lead GP or nurse engaged within the local cancer clinical network.

New Personal Medical Services (PMS) pilots are also providing an opportunity to test different ideas for delivering existing primary care focusing on local services problems and bringing about improvements. PMS has proved to be very successful in reaching deprived areas where help is often most needed, making service provision more responsive and equitable.

National Institute for Clinical Excellence

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make available summaries of information submitted to NICE on a commercial-in-confidence basis; and if he will make a statement. [154779]

Mr. Denham: Details of the appraisal process and the publication of evidence are matters for the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). NICE has recently consulted on changes to its appraisal process. I understand that it is proposing that, where information submitted to the institute is designated by a consultee as being 'commercial in confidence', the institute will undertake not to release this information to a third party. However, the institute may ask the consultee to forego such restrictions on release where either there appears to be no obvious commercial reason for the restrictions; or such restrictions would make it difficult or impossible for the institute to show the evidential basis for its guidance.

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