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Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what proportion of schools have access to broadband internet access in (a) Lancashire, (b) the north- west of England and (c) England. [55112]

John Healey: Broadband internet access (2mbs or better) is provided through regional broadband consortia (RBCs). The target for August 2002 is for 20 per cent. of all schools (including 100 per cent. of secondaries) to have broadband connections. From the latest consortia returns (28 February 2002):

Youth Projects

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has for the future funding of the work done by Neighbourhood Support Fund youth projects. [55019]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: A total of £60 million was made available to the Neighbourhood Support Fund spread over three years. The current programme comes to an end in September 2003 and it has been successful in reaching out to some of the most disadvantaged young people in our communities. I will review the programme in the light of the departmental spending review.


Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will estimate the number of school days lost to truancy each year in (a) the Lancashire education authority area and (b) England. [55109]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The number of days missed due to unauthorised absence in the last three years are presented in the table. Data are based on the annual pupil absence survey that is conducted at the end of May and is based on the first five half-terms of the school year. We can not estimate the figures for the final half-term of the year as year 11 students attend irregularly while they take their GCSE examinations.

Number of school sessions (half-days) missed due to unauthorised absences in maintained schools in Lancashire and England

Day pupils of compulsory school age160,7686,698,285
Total possible pupil sessions(2),(3)49,196,0001,987,849,000
Total sessions missed271,21614,833,790
Total number of days missed135,6087,416,895
Day pupils of compulsory school age162,9796,636,828
Total possible pupil sessions(2),(3)50,834,0001,990,299,000
Total sessions missed281,09014,479,457
Total number of days missed 140,5457,239,729
Day pupils of compulsory school age162,5836,607,438
Total possible pupil sessions(2),(3)51,067,0002,005,657,000
Total sessions missed301,30815,053,051
Total number of days missed150,6547,526,526

(2) Rounded to nearest 1,000

(3) Total pupil sessions are calculated as (total number of pupils) X (total possible school sessions between September and May census date)

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Street Crime Initiative

Vera Baird: To ask the Solicitor-General whether she will make a statement on the role of the Crown Prosecution Service within the Government's Street Crime Initiative. [55975]

The Solicitor-General: As part of the cross- Government strategy to reduce street crime, a premium service will target likely offenders and crime areas and will ensure that offenders are investigated and prosecuted with skill and determination. Victims and witnesses will be given extra support. Experienced lawyers and detectives will handle cases and they will work closely together. An extra £6 million is being allocated to the Crown Prosecution Service to free up experienced lawyers to concentrate on this work.

Sentence Referrals

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Solicitor-General when she last considered extending the 28-day period for references back to the Crown Prosecution Service of unduly lenient sentences; and what her conclusions were. [55081]

The Solicitor-General: The Criminal Justice Act 1988 (schedule 3) prescribes that notice of an application for leave to refer a case to the Court of Appeal, under section 36 of the same Act, shall be given within 28 days from the day on which the sentence was passed. Legislation would be required to amend this time limit.

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Solicitor-General how many sentence referrals to the Court of Appeal on the grounds of undue lenience have resulted in sentences being increased in each of the last five years for which figures are available. [53399]

The Solicitor-General [holding answer 2 May 2002]: The following figures are available. These figures represent the number of offenders whose cases were referred to the Court of Appeal:

Number of:
Year(4)References to Court of AppealSentences increased

(4) 1 January to 31 December

(5) There are still cases from 2000 and 2001, which are yet to be heard by the Court of Appeal

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Mr. Gray: To ask the Solicitor-General how many contracts the Law Officers Department has with consultants; what level of professional indemnity insurance is standard in contracts with small consultants; whether she can make exceptions to the level of professional indemnity insurance; and what recent discussions she has had with other Government Departments about the level of professional indemnity insurance. [50841]

The Solicitor-General [holding answer 18 April 2002]: My own Department, the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers, has no current contracts with consultants.

The Crown Prosecution Service in common with other Government Departments employs the services of consultants from time to time. However, the information requested as to the number of such contracts is not recorded centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

The Department's standard terms and conditions of contract for consultancy work only necessitate consultants to hold professional indemnity insurance where this is required by law. The level of indemnity insurance is not specified and where required would be subject to negotiation and agreement prior to the award of any contract.

The Treasury Solicitor's Department has 28 current contracts with consultants who are assisting it on a range of issues. The level of professional indemnity insurance required is related to the nature of the work required and the assessment of risk attached to it.

At the present time the Serious Fraud Office has nine contracts with small or sole trader consultants covering a range of issues, including information technology and security. In addition there are other specific contracts for expert advice related to operational cases.

Professional indemnity insurance levels are not standardised and are set at a level appropriate to the size of the contract and the risk involved.

HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate has one current contract. The contract does not provide for professional indemnity insurance.

It is not the Government's practice to provide details of discussions which form part of the process of policy development and analysis, therefore I am unable to answer your final question.



Best Value

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what discussions he has had with the Audit Commission in respect of the guidance contained in its publication Competitive Procurement relating to the operation of best value to the categorisation of the overall performance of local authorities; and if he will make a statement. [53918]

9 May 2002 : Column 296W

Dr. Whitehead: My Department has had no formal discussions with the Audit Commission about its publication Competitive Procurement. The Audit Commission acts independently of Government, and the views expressed in its publications are its own. Having said this the Government welcome the Audit Commission's report, which is based on the evidence of audit and inspection, and recognises it as a valuable contribution to our drive to improving public services. I expect local authorities will find it useful.

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