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Public Bodies (Scrutiny)

43. Mr. Rendel: To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission what extra resources the commission will provide to enable the National Audit Office to carry out more examinations of executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies. [54004]

Mr. Alan Williams: Following the commission's consideration in March of the National Audit Office's Estimate for 2002–03, I wrote the Comptroller and Auditor General asking him how the NAO, through further Value for Money Studies (on top of the 50 or so a year at present), could expand the scope of scrutiny—and thus the perceived risk of scrutiny—among accountable bodies, in particular executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies. The commission will consider any proposals in this direction from the Comptroller and Auditor General when they review the National Audit Office's Corporate Plan for 2003 to 2006 in the summer.

Proportional Representation (Scotland)

John Robertson: To ask the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, what recent discussions the Commission has had with the Scottish Executive regarding proportional representation in Scotland. [53997]

Mr. Beith: I understand from the Chairman of the Commission that Commissioners and staff meet regularly with members and staff of the Scottish Executive. However, no discussions regarding proportional representation have taken place with the Scottish Executive. The Commission has no statutory responsibilities in respect of local elections in Scotland and so does not intend to comment on the Executive's current consultation exercise about the possible extension of proportional representation to local government elections.


Pre-school Funding

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, pursuant to the answer of 8 January 2002, Official Report, column 711W, on pre-school funding, when the Ofsted and QCA files referred to will be placed in the Library. [39422]

Margaret Hodge: Following further investigation into the matter with staff operating in the area at the time, we have established that the decision was reached on the basis of verbal discussions between the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the Department for Education and Employment, in 1997. No records of those discussions have been traced.

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Given that the guidelines have been in place for a significant time I will keep the situation under review.

Criminal Damage

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the cost has been of criminal damage to her Department's buildings in each of the last four years. [44834]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The cost of criminal damages against the Department's buildings where the police were involved was approximately £5,000 in 2001. During the previous three years no costs were incurred.

Further Education Colleges

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the effectiveness of the outcomes of imposing efficiency targets on further education colleges since 1997. [52565]

Margaret Hodge: The Government has sought to improve the efficiency of further education since 1997 and colleges have delivered real improvements in value for money. Since 1996–97 the participation funding for each full-time equivalent (FTE) student has remained constant in real terms, while total funding for each FTE student has increased by 12 per cent. in real terms (reflecting the additional funds targeted on much needed capital developments, standards and teachers pay). Over the same period colleges have widened participation among learners, broadened programmes of study for 16–19- year-olds and increased basic skills provision. Qualification success rates for long (24 weeks or over) qualifications have increased from 51 per cent. in 1996–97 to 56 per cent. in 1999–2000 (the latest year available). When shorter courses are also taken into account, qualification success rates have increased from 56 per cent. in 1996–97 to 60 per cent. in 1999–2000. The Government recognises that investment is important for raising standards further and will set out future funding plans for colleges as part of the Spending Review outcome.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what requirements have been (a) placed on and (b) removed from further education and sixth form colleges in the last year for which information is available. [54436]

Margaret Hodge: The following major requirements were placed upon further education colleges and sixth from colleges in England during the financial year 2001–02.

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The requirement to meet the terms of the previous Instrument and Articles of Government was removed.

In addition, the Learning and Skills Council is responsible for funding further education and sixth form colleges, and also places requirements on colleges. I have therefore asked the chief executive of the LSC, John Harwood, to write to you directly on this matter.

Work-based Learning

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of whether there are sufficient resources in the Standards Fund for 2002–03 to improve the provider infrastructure for work-based learning. [53097]

Margaret Hodge: We have increased standards funding from £160 million in 2001–02 to £185 million in 2002–03. We have also ensured that work-based learning providers have access to the new Learning and Skills Standards Fund from April 2002. Local LSCs will allocate standards funding to providers based on individual need and national and local priorities and targets. An evaluation of the impact of the new Fund's operation, including provision for work-based learning, is planned to start in the Autumn of 2002.

Teachers' Salaries

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will award additional resources to the Learning and Skills Council to cover salary increases for (a) sixth form staff and (b) general FE staff agreed as part of their central negotiation structure. [53121]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 29 April 2002]: The investments we are making via the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to support both school sixth forms and further education colleges should ensure that staff receive appropriate salary increases this year. The real terms guarantee (RTG) for schools with sixth forms means that their funding will be protected at least at 2000–01 levels, providing pupil numbers are maintained. Indeed in 2002–03 around two thirds of sixth forms will benefit with higher funding from the LSC's formula funding and the remaining third will be funded at their RTG level.

We are also investing significant funding in the FE sector. In 2001–02, £527 million extra was planned for FE—a 12 per cent. real terms increase, with a further 3 per cent. increase this year. By 2003–04, annual funding for FE will have increased by £1.4 billion compared with 1997–98, a real terms increase of 26 per cent. It is for each college to agree annual pay rises and conditions of employment with its staff in the context of the overall resources available to them. Within the total funds for FE, the Teaching Pay Initiative (TPI) budget is £311 million over the period 2001–04. This is to reward excellent teaching and is over and above any general pay rise.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will take steps to ensure parity of pay scales between teachers working in further education and teachers working in schools. [54625]

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Margaret Hodge: Teachers in maintained schools are subject to national school teachers' pay and conditions. Further education sector colleges are run by independent corporations established under the Further Education and Higher Education Act 1992 and there is no national pay structure in place. Colleges are free to establish pay scales that meet their needs and can be agreed with their staff. This Government have acknowledged the historic funding gap between schools and FE and we have pledged to bring up levels of funding and ensure upward convergence over time. The Teaching Pay Initiative (TPI) budget is £311 million over the period 2001–04. This is to reward excellent teaching and is over and above any general pay rise. The additional investment we are making in the FE sector should help support the pay aspirations of their staff.

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