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Education Maintenance Allowance

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has to extend the Education Maintenance Allowance pilot scheme to the constituency of Buckingham. [24839]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: We have no such plans at present. We will be taking decisions on any future extension of the scheme on the basis of the rigorous evaluation, which is currently being conducted.

GCSE (Road User Studies)

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will introduce a GCSE in Road User Studies based on the GCSE run by the Northern Ireland Education Department. [24156]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: We are keen to ensure that all young people should have the opportunity to study subjects that interest them. However, we have no plans to introduce a GCSE in Road User Studies as there are other GCSE qualifications that cover elements of the subject area, for example, Design and Technology GCSE. Other vocationally related qualifications approved for use include the Motor Vehicle and Road User Studies Certificates offered by the City and Guilds of London Institute, the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) and the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC). There is also the Motor Vehicle Foundation Studies Certificate offered by the Awarding Body Consortium (ABC).


Fuel Poverty

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has for the provision of emergency heating for pensioners on the waiting list for heating insulation under fuel poverty schemes. [12519]

Mr. Meacher: The majority of new heating installations under the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme are now being completed within 12 weeks of the date of home survey.

19 Dec 2001 : Column: 422W

Where there is a risk of severe delay, and the householder has no form of alternative heating, the HEES scheme managers will provide portable heating appliances.

As fuel poverty is a devolved matter, it is the responsibility of the respective Parliament and Assemblies to comment on the situation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made as to the number of people who would be in fuel poverty in (a) England and (b) the Isle of Wight if there were a 5 per cent. rise in fuel prices. [23678]

Mr. Wilson: I have been asked to reply.

The UK Fuel Poverty Strategy, which was published in November 2001, states that for the purposes of estimating the effects of price changes on future numbers in fuel poverty, a reasonable range of price movements by 2010 to consider would appear to be: for domestic gas prices—an increase of 15 per cent. to a fall of 10 per cent. in real terms; and for domestic electricity prices—an increase of 5 per cent. to a fall of 2 per cent. in real terms

If electricity prices were to rise by 5 per cent. and gas prices by 15 per cent. then the number in fuel poverty in England could increase by around 0.8 million. If electricity prices fell by 2 per cent. and gas prices fell by 10 per cent. then the numbers in fuel poverty could fall by around 0.3 million. Future gas and electricity prices are uncertain and will be affected by a number of factors. It is difficult to estimate the precise impacts of price changes on the numbers in fuel poverty. The figures presented give a broad indication of the changes in fuel poverty which might be expected from the stated changes in energy prices.

It is broadly estimated that a 5 per cent. increase in fuel prices may increase the number of households in fuel poverty in England by around 0.4 million. Data are not available to produce estimates of fuel poverty on the Isle of Wight and it is therefore not possible to estimate the impact of changes in fuel prices on fuel poverty on the Isle of Wight.

19 Dec 2001 : Column: 423W

Sustainable Development Summit

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will include a representative of the Scottish Executive in the United Kingdom delegation to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. [13148]

Mr. Meacher: The devolved Administrations have been closely involved in the development of the UK's position on the World Summit on Sustainable Development. We will certainly want to ensure that they are represented at the Summit, but the precise composition of the UK's delegation will be a matter for the Prime Minister nearer the time.

Home Energy Efficiency Scheme

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) is the predicted and (b) was the average period between initial application for a (i) HEES and (ii) HEES Plus grant and completion of the home improvements in (A) England, (B) each English region and (C) each local authority area in each month since June 2000; and what performance targets have been set regarding waiting times for HEES customers. [19349]

Mr. Meacher: The Eaga Partnership Ltd. and TXU Warm Front Ltd. manage the Home Efficiency Scheme, marketed as the Warm Front Team, under contract. The table shows the average timelines for each of the English regions since the launch of the scheme in June 2000. It is not possible to provide the further breakdown requested by the hon. Member.

The scheme managers have a target time for completion of work following application. This is set at 40 days for insulation measures, and 120 days for heating measures. The delays experienced by householders have been due to the national shortage of gas heating engineers.

Time taken from date of application to payment of grant(40)

1 June 2000 to 31 December 20001 January 2001 to 30 June 20011 July 2001 to 30 November 2001
East midlands22011070
Yorkshire and Humber21011070
West midlands22013070
Average for England23013070
HEES plus:
East midlands23012070
Yorkshire and Humber22013070
West midlands25014070
Average for England25014070

(40) There is usually a period of one to eight weeks between the date of actual installation and the receipt of the invoice from installers.

19 Dec 2001 : Column: 424W

Genetically Modified Organisms

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice she has received from the Food Standards Agency regarding the labelling of GMOs. [21209]

Mr. Meacher: The Food Standards Agency Board considered their position on the labelling of foods containing GMOs and foods produced from GMOs in a public meeting on 19 September. The minutes of this meeting and a statement by the Agency are available on their website. A copy of the statement has been placed in the Library of the House. The Board's advice, in summary, was to maintain the current labelling rules supplemented with the introduction of a provision for "GM-free" labelling.

Departmental Sickness Absence

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many days were lost due to sickness absence in the Department in each of the last four years. [21336]

Mr. Morley: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 15 October 2001, Official Report, column 1078W, to the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (David Maclean).

The Department is committed to the effective management of sickness absence, and has included targets for a reduction in days lost due to sickness in a Service Delivery Agreement (SDA).

Responsibility for attendance matters within the Central Science Laboratory, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science Agency and the Rural Payments Agency—all former MAFF Agencies—has been delegated to the Agency Chief Executives and I have asked them to reply direct. The Pesticides Safety Directorate and Veterinary Medicines Directorate Agencies are covered by the Departmental response.

Residential Gardens

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under what powers local authorities can take action to deal with residential gardens which become dumping grounds for household and other rubbish; and if she will make a statement. [22715]

Mr. Meacher: The illegal disposal of waste without a waste management licence or registered exemption (commonly known as fly-tipping) is a criminal offence. In the event of a conviction, severe penalties are available to the courts, including an unlimited fine or imprisonment of up to five years.

Section 59 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, provides the local authority or the Environment Agency with the power to effect the removal of fly-tipped waste (including that which is fly-tipped in residential gardens) and to recover costs from those responsible.

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