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Lawrie Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will provide details of how his Department will provide financial assistance for Railtrack plc in administration. [8715]

Mr. Byers: Full details of the funding arrangements agreed with the administrators are in the Loan Agreement. Parliamentary approval for this new expenditure in the form of a voted loan (to be repaid when Railtrack plc moves out of administration) will be sought in a Supplementary Estimate for DTLR. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £800 million will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.


Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will publish the letter of 9 October from Vernon Hince, Acting General Secretary of RMT, to the Chief Executive of Strategic Rail Authority and the Chief Executive's reply. [8107]

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Mr. Jamieson: The publication of this correspondence is a matter for the individuals concerned and my hon. Friend may therefore wish to contact them direct.


Sixth Form Education

Mr. Bacon: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the cost of administering the sixth form reforms. [6643]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: We have not made an assessment of those costs. There will be no change to funding for local education authority administrative costs. The Department funds the Learning and Skills Council for its administrative costs. We expect the LSC to deliver its new sixth form funding responsibilities within the overall administrative budget allocated to it. There is no separate element within that overall budget identified for work on school sixth forms.

Specialist Schools

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many schools bidding for specialist status under the specialist schools programme were supported by donations from the Technology Colleges Trust as part of the qualifying sponsorship criteria in the years (a) 1999–2000 and (b) 2000–01. [7689]

Mr. Timms: The Technology Colleges Trust does not itself make donations to applicant schools but raises funds from other donors. Detailed information on the sponsorship included in school applications for specialist status in 1999–2000 and 2000–01 is not readily available and can be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, we do have an analysis of applications for Arts, Technology and Language College status in June and October 1999 and in March 2000, which shows that 37 per cent. of applicants included sponsorship arranged through the Technology Colleges Trust.

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much the planned expansion of the specialist school programme depends on the ability of the Technology Colleges Trust to support financially schools that are unable to find some or all of the required sponsorship. [7690]

Mr. Timms: The Technology Colleges Trust seeks at national level to raise sponsorship that can be allocated to schools intending to apply for specialist schools designation. Many specialist school applications include elements of sponsorship raised in this way. This is one source of sponsorship and has been part of the initiative since it began in 1994 and we expect it to remain so. Funds raised at national level help to ensure that schools are not excluded from the programme because of particular local difficulties in raising sponsorship.

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many schools have failed to achieve specialist school status through their inability to raise the level of sponsorship that is required. [7691]

Mr. Timms: Our network of 685 specialist schools shows that applicant schools across the country, including those from rural and inner city areas, have raised the

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sponsorship required, but we are aware that some schools find this more difficult than others. It would not be practicable to make an estimate of the number of schools that have been unable to raise funds but we have taken steps to ensure all schools have a reasonable opportunity to do so. In 1999, the sponsorship requirement was halved to £50,000 and my Department grant aids the Technology Colleges and Youth Sport Trusts to provide advice to schools about raising sponsorship and raise funds themselves to support applicant schools. We will keep the sponsorship criteria under review.

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has to change the sponsorship requirement for schools wishing to join the specialist schools programme. [7692]

Mr. Timms: There are no current plans to relax or remove the sponsorship requirement except that we are considering the position in relation to very small secondary schools. We will keep the situation under review.

National Academy for Gifted and

Talented Youth

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will fund places at the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth to the most academically able 5 per cent. of the school population whether or not parents can afford to pay fees. [7494]

Mr. Timms [holding answer 15 October 2001]: The tender documentation for the Academy says that tenderers should

Local Education Authorities

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what resources she plans to provide to local education authorities, with particular reference to Worcestershire, prior to the introduction of a new system for setting standard spending assessments for education for the financial year 2002–03; and if she will make a statement. [8037]

Mr. Timms: In 2002–03 the overall increase in Education Standard Spending will be over £1.3 billion or 5.7 per cent.; direct grants to schools will increase by 2.75 per cent.; and Standards Fund grant will increase by £85.6 million. We are currently working up proposals for a reformed system of school and LEA funding for introduction in 2003–04.


Civil Defence Guidance

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what civil defence guidance has been issued to schools since 11 September; [7501]

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Mr. Ivan Lewis [holding answer 15 October 2001]: I have been asked to reply.

Existing Government guidance to local authorities and others on civil defence continues to apply. My Department will shortly issue further guidance for local education authorities to disseminate to schools and others on a range of issues resulting from the terrorist attacks in the USA and subsequent events.

Overseas Domestic Workers

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will change the arrangements for overseas domestic workers who accompany their employers to the United Kingdom. [8743]

Angela Eagle: There is a longstanding concession, outside the Immigration Rules, enabling overseas employers coming to the United Kingdom to bring their domestic workers with them, if they need to do so.

Changes to the conditions under which overseas domestic workers could be admitted to the United Kingdom were laid before the House on 23 July 1998. The primary objective of those changes was to deal with concerns about reports of abuse suffered by such workers. Responding to those concerns, while minimising scope for immigration abuse, presented a difficult balance. We therefore undertook at the time to review the changes in the light of operational experience.

Following this review, a number of changes are being made with effect from today, which we shall include in the Immigration Rules at a suitable opportunity.

In response to concerns raised by the employers of domestic workers, the level of duties needing to be performed by the worker will no longer have to exceed those set down in the International Labour Organisation's International Standard Classification of Occupations.

We remain concerned at reports of abuse of domestic workers accompanying their employers to the United Kingdom and have discussed with Kalayaan, the organisation that represents overseas domestic workers, how this can be prevented. We have decided to continue allowing domestic workers to change employer but will be asking any that do so to inform the Immigration and Nationality Directorate in writing, outlining their reasons for doing so, at the earliest opportunity. This will enable officials to monitor any possible abuse of the concession by either individuals or employers and, if detected, liaise with other departments to ascertain whether any action could be taken.

We are also clarifying what is meant in the concession by the meaning of 'household'. Some United Kingdom- based employers have long argued that, although they reside here, they maintain a household abroad and therefore domestic workers currently working in their overseas residence should qualify under this concession. We will make clear that a domestic worker wishing to come to the United Kingdom is expected to have been carrying out domestic duties under the same roof as their employer for 12 months before applying for entry clearance, or in a household that the employer uses for himself on a regular basis and where there is clear

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evidence of a connection between employer and employee. The domestic worker will also be expected to travel to the United Kingdom with their employer, their employer's spouse or minor child.

This definition should make it clear that the concession is not intended to allow employers who are resident here to recruit domestic workers from overseas. It will also benefit those employers who regularly divide their time between two houses.

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