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7 Nov 2002 : Column 734W—continued

Tuition Fees

Mr Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, what percentage of students from families resident in each government office region were (a) exempt from tuition fees, (b) paying less than full tuition fees and (c) paying no fees at all in the academic year 2002–03 [80047]

Margaret Hodge: Data on contributions towards the cost of tuition by government office region for academic year 2002–03 are not available.

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, if he will place in the Library the research analysis that led to his conclusion that a graduate had lifetime earnings #400,000 greater than non-graduates; from which period these data were gathered; whether the sum stated is gross or net of tax; and if he will estimate the sum (a) gross and (b) net of tax. [80065]

Margaret Hodge: The relevant data come from the four quarters Autumn 2000 to Summer 2001 in the Labour Force Survey. The #400,000 figure is gross, and is consistent with conventional practice used by ONS when quoting earnings figures. The equivalent figure, net of income tax, national insurance and other contributions, is around #250,000. For the avoidance of doubt, #400,000 is the earnings premium of a graduate over that of the national average rather than for a non-graduate. The premium over a non-graduate would be significantly higher.

Student Loans

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, what the (a) stock and (b) net annual investment is of student loans; and what the additional cost would be at full market rate of interest. [79851]

Margaret Hodge: At the end of the 2000–01 financial year there were some 2,253,000 borrowers with student loans, either mortgage style or income contingent. This

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includes 705,000 borrowers with loans which have been sold to the private sector. The total amount outstanding on student outlay was #7,833.2m of which #1,789.9m was in respect of loans sold to the private sector.

The resource cost for student loans issued in the 2000–01 financial year was estimated to be #794m.

Student loans are charged interest at the rate of inflation. A full market rate of interest would be higher and would not increase the costs to public funds. It would, however, increase the total amount repaid by HE leavers and graduates. It would also increase the time taken to repay their loans and the likelihood of loans being written off.

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what discussions he has had with the Scottish Executive regarding his Department's review of post-16 student support; [78782]

Margaret Hodge: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State has had no such discussions so far.

SOLICITOR-GENERAL

Paul Burrell

Ian Lucas: To ask the Solicitor-General what discussions her Department had in the case of Regina v. Paul Burrell with the Crown Prosecution Service concerning the making of an application for a public interest immunity certificate. [79838]

The Solicitor-General: No such discussions took place. There was never any question of continuing with the prosecution while withholding disclosure of the information and no attempt was made to do so. No Minister was asked to give a PII certificate or signed one, nor was a draft certificate ever prepared, nor was any consideration given by anyone to preparing such a certificate to place before the judge. The judge agreed to postpone the disclosure of the information in the public interest until further enquiries had been carried out and a fuller picture obtained so as to enable properly informed decisions to be made, in particular as to the future conduct of the trial.

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Solicitor-General, if she will investigate the circumstances surrounding the decision of the CPS to prosecute Paul Burrell; and what the cost of the action was to public funds. [79845]

The Solicitor-General: On the information known to the Crown Prosecution Service at the time of the decision last year to bring a prosecution, I have no reason to doubt the assessment made that there was a realistic prospect of securing a conviction and that the public interest was in favour of a prosecution. The cost of the prosecution to public funds has not yet been ascertained.

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Solicitor-General, if she will undertake an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the court case Regina v. Paul Burrell. [79847]

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The Solicitor-General: A full statement was made by the prosecution and the facts of the case are already known. A copy of the statement has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The Crown Prosecution Service will be considering carefully the lessons of what happened but, as the Prime Minister has stated, there is no need for an inquiry. This was a unique set of circumstances.

Llew Smith: To ask the Solicitor General, what plans she has to review the procedure for issuing public interest immunity certificates. [80095]

The Solicitor-General: None.

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Solicitor-General, which Ministers signed PII certificates in the case of Regina v. Burrell; and which categories of information these certificates covered. [79843]

The Solicitor-General: No Minister was asked to give a PII certificate or signed one, nor was a draft certificate ever prepared, nor was any consideration given by anyone to preparing such a certificate to place before the judge.

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Solicitor-General, if she will make a statement on the discussions between the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions about the prosecution of Paul Burrell prior to the decision to end the case; and when he first discussed the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions to end the case against Paul Burrell. [80059]

The Solicitor-General: The Attorney-General first learnt about the case shortly after his appointment. The Director of Public Prosecutions had drawn the case to the attention of his predecessor in May last year. Thereafter, the case was included in a list of high profile cases in respect of which brief reports are provided to Law Officers on a monthly basis. The Law Officers were not asked for and did not give their views about whether the case should proceed. On Tuesday last week, the Crown Prosecution Service and prosecution counsel drew the attention of the Attorney-General to the new information that had been disclosed by the Palace to the police. Naturally, the Attorney-General's views were sought on how to proceed in the light of that development and he gave them. But in the end, as he made plain should be the case, the decision was made by the CPS following further consideration and having taken leading counsel's advice. At the time that decisions were made, the Director of Public Prosecutions was abroad. He kept in close touch with his office and approved the decision, but there were no direct discussions between the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions. They first spoke directly of the matter on 3 November.

Robert Hamill

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Solicitor General, when the Department of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland received papers on the investigation into the death of Robert Hamill and when he expects a decision on prosecution to be made. [77619]

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The Solicitor-General [holding answer 30 October 2002]: A police investigation file relating to the death of Robert Hamill was received in the Director's Office on 7 August 1997. Following consideration of that file a direction was issued on 27 January 1998 to prosecute one person, Paul Hobson, for the scheduled offence of murder and affray. On 25 February 1999 at Belfast Crown Court Hobson was found not guilty of murder but guilty of affray and sentenced to 4 years imprisonment.

On 12 June 2001 a second police investigation file dealing with matters arising out of the investigation into the death of Robert Hamill was received in the Director's Office. Following consideration of the second file, on 20 August 2001 a direction was issued to prosecute two persons, Michael McKee and Andrea McKee, for the offence of doing an act with intent to pervert the course of justice. On 7 May 2002 at Craigavon Crown Court the two persons pleaded guilty to the offence. Michael McKee was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment and Andrea McKee was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment suspended for 2 years.

On 19 December 2001 a third police investigation file dealing further with matters arising from the investigation into the death of Robert Hamill was received in the Director's Office. Following consideration of the third file together with further material which became available in May 2002, a decision as to prosecution of persons reported in that file will issue shortly.


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