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Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what the formula is for special educational needs funding in Somerset; and how the formula was applied in the last year for which figures are available; [98461]

(2) what the Government’s guidelines are on the spending formula for special educational needs funding in Somerset. [98455]

Mr. Dhanda: The main SEN factor used by Somerset local authority in their funding formula is called ‘School Action’, which is designed to meet the additional education needs of pupils in mainstream schools. This is based on a commercially available social deprivation index. The index looks closely at numerous wealth/poverty factors, and maps this to the post codes of the pupils for each school, so funding is weighted towards the schools with the most pupils from deprived areas within Somerset. The authority also allocates funds for ‘School Action Plus’, which delegates funding for named pupils with complex needs identified through an audit or statement. The authority also funds SEN co-ordinator activities in individual schools.

Somerset’s section 52 budget statement for the current financial year 2006-07, shows that the authority has allocated through these factors just over £15.5 million. During the year an additional £0.8 million (held in the school specific contingency) is earmarked to schools for changing needs of individual pupils for School Action Plus.

In May 2004 the Department published guidance for local authorities, “The Management of SEN Expenditure” which provides information and suggested approaches for local authorities to manage SEN expenditure. The guidance can be accessed online at www.teachernet.gov.uk/senexpenditure.

Student Loans

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what appeals process is available to parents in relation to income assessments made by the Student Loans Company. [98501]

Bill Rammell: If the parents or the student wish to appeal against the financial notification letter received from the SLC, they would normally be required to write to their local authority (LA) asking that their application be re-assessed. Similarly they would approach the LA if they wished for an explanation as to how the entitlement was reached. Where necessary LAs’ formal appeals arrangements can be called upon.


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However, the London borough of Brent is one of 11 LAs taking part in a pilot being run by the Student Loans Company to test out different arrangements for the delivery of student finance. The pilot unit based in Darlington is dealing with all aspects of student finance applications which would previously have been dealt with by the London borough of Brent. If a parent or student in this case was dissatisfied, they would need to approach the application processing unit in Darlington asking that the application either be re-assessed or for an explanation regarding the entitlement.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what guidance he has issued to the Student Loans Company on the consideration of a parent’s number of dependents when calculating parental contribution to their child’s tuition fees. [98502]

Bill Rammell: For students starting in 2006/07, a loan is available to meet the full cost of tuition fees. This loan is not means-tested, so there is no parental contribution required. For students starting in 2005/06, and earlier, £1,050 of income for each child who is wholly or mainly dependent on the parent is disregarded in the income assessment for the grant for fees. This disregard also applies where a child is wholly or mainly financially dependent on the spouse/civil partner or co-habiting partner of the natural/adoptive parent. The child does not have to reside in the household that is being assessed.

The £1,050 disregard is also applied to the income assessment for students starting in or before 2006/07 when considering entitlement to HE or maintenance grants as appropriate and maintenance loans.

This is set out in the Student Support Regulations 2006 (as amended) at paragraph 3(3) and schedule 4. The Department’s guidance to local authorities can be found at the following web address:

Teachers Dress

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what his policy is on the use of (a) the niqab, (b) the chador and (c) the burka by teachers; and if he will make a statement. [94329]

Jim Knight: It is for the employer, as part of the terms and conditions of employment agreed with employees, to establish an appropriate dress code relevant to the individual setting taking into account the requirements of the post and equality and diversity matters. The Department for Education and Skills has not issued any guidance on this matter.

Truth in Science

Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what advice he plans to give to schools on the information pack circulated to all schools by Truth in Science. [94516]

Jim Knight [holding answer 18 October 2006]: It is up to schools to decide what teaching resources they
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need to help them deliver the national curriculum for science effectively. Neither intelligent design nor creationism are recognised scientific theories and they are not included in the science curriculum, the Truth in Science information pack is therefore not an appropriate resource to support the science curriculum.

The national curriculum for science clearly sets down that pupils should be taught: how uncertainties in scientific knowledge and scientific ideas change over time; the role of the scientific community in validating these changes; variation within species can lead to evolutionary changes; and, similarities and differences between species can be measured and classified.

Youth Centres

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many youth centres there are in (a) Leicestershire (b) the East Midlands and (c) England. [97233]

Mr. Dhanda [holding answer 26 October 2006]: Youth centres are delivered locally by local authority youth services and national and local voluntary youth organisations. Information is not held centrally on the number of youth centres at local, regional or national level.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many youth centres there are in (a) Lancashire, (b) the North West and (c) England. [98048]

Mr. Dhanda: Youth centres are delivered locally by local authority youth services and national and local voluntary youth organisations. Information is not held centrally on the number of youth centres at local, regional or national level.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Bovine Tuberculosis

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice his Department is seeking from abroad on a vaccine to control bovine TB. [97949]

Mr. Bradshaw: Defra officials have visited Ireland several times recently, to discuss the UK and Irish work programmes and areas of potential future collaboration, particularly regarding the design of badger field studies and licensing requirements for BCG. The Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) has active research links with Irish, New Zealand and United States researchers. The VLA is also collaborating in a Wellcome Trust funded project on vaccination of cattle with BCG in Ethiopia.

Also, Defra’s TB research programme, which includes a significant element of vaccines research, was reviewed this year and involved international experts.

Further information on the Defra vaccine research programme is available on the Defra website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tb/research/vaccine.htm.


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Tuberculosis

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much the Department has allocated to finding a vaccine to control (a) cattle and (b) wildlife borne tuberculosis; what stage trials have reached; and when it is likely to reach a conclusion. [97594]

Mr. Bradshaw: In the last eight years, we have invested over £4.7 million in vaccine development for badgers and over £6.3 million in vaccine development for cattle. We have committed approximately £5.5 million per annum to future funding. Parallel work in relevant diagnostic projects is also done to support the vaccine work.

The research programme for producing an effective vaccine against tuberculosis in cattle and badgers is broadly in line with the timetable set out in the Krebs Report:

Research programme

Years 1-5

Identification of candidate vaccines and development of differential diagnostic tests

Years 5-10

Experimental investigations of vaccination protocols

Years 10-15

Field trials


The first stage started in 1999 and is ongoing. We are now planning and taking forward the second stage, testing candidate vaccines in naturally infected cattle and badgers, and developing novel vaccine delivery systems. We are taking advice from independent experts on these complex issues and collaborating with researchers from outside Great Britain.

However, developing a vaccine is a long-term aim. Scientific research takes time and success cannot be guaranteed. A successful vaccine is about 10 years from completion and vaccines will only ever form one part of a balanced package of measures to control bovine TB.

Circus Welfare Working Group

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the remit is of the Circus Welfare Working Group; and what timetable has been set for its work. [97521]

Mr. Bradshaw: The remit of the Circus Welfare Working Group is to provide, and consider, evidence relating to the transportation and housing needs of non-domesticated species. Further information, including the timetable set for its work, is available on the Defra website at:

Fly-tipping

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the possible effect on the levels of fly-tipping of increases in landfill tax. [94774]

Mr. Bradshaw: Increases in landfill tax do not necessarily mean that fly-tipping incidents will also rise.
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There is no data to suggest that countries with higher levels of landfill tax than the UK have a significant problem with fly-tipping. Nevertheless, the Government continue to monitor levels of fly-tipping and ways in which the effects can be mitigated. Defra has also allocated £2 million of the receipts from landfill tax in 2006-07 from the Business Resource Efficiency and Waste programme to help the Environment Agency tackle illegal waste activity in the business community.

In April 2004, the Flycapture database was set up to help local authorities and the Environment Agency improve information on the scale of fly-tipping and to help focus resources and identify trends in this growing environmental crime. Flycapture is enabling central and local government to demonstrate the true nature, extent and scale of fly-tipping. The data will be used to develop more effective, evidence based policies and strategies.

Defra has also funded a research report by the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science into the causes and incentives of fly-tipping. The report concludes that there are a number of separate causes of fly-tipping.

Although the research recognises that one of these causes may be the cost of legitimate waste disposal, the landfill tax is an important instrument in reducing our reliance on landfill and moving to more sustainable waste management options. Diverting biodegradable waste from landfill will also cut harmful greenhouse gas emissions and signals the Government’s serious commitment to tackle climate change on all fronts. The actual increases, together with the knowledge of the future rate of tax, is sending a strong signal. This will change behaviour, while allowing business time to adjust and make the necessary investment in alternative waste treatment routes.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate the Environment Agency has made of the levels of fly-tipping in each year since 2001. [94775]

Mr. Bradshaw: Flycapture, the national database of fly-tipping incidents, was set up in 2004 by Defra, the Environment Agency and the Local Government Association, to record fly-tipping incidents dealt with by the Environment Agency and local authorities. Data on fly-tipping levels are therefore only available from April 2004 onwards.

Flycapture data shows that in England, 926,534 incidents were reported in the period April 2004 to March 2005. There were 1,034,518 incidents reported from April 2005 to March 2006.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 introduced new measures which will help local authorities and the Environment Agency to combat fly-tipping. The 2005 act also introduced increased penalties for the offence.

Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government have also funded the Environment Agency to develop Flycapture Enforcement, a local authority capacity building training package aimed at improving skills in enforcement and helping to improve efforts in prosecuting fly-tippers.


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Guard Dogs

Mr. Bailey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the welfare of dogs used for security of business premises; and what steps his Department is taking to promote the welfare of such dogs. [98759]

Mr. Bradshaw: Currently, the welfare of dogs used for security of business premises is covered by the Protection of Animals Act 1911. This Act makes it an offence to ill-treat or cause unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animal in England and Wales. We are not aware of any specific welfare concerns regarding the use of dogs for security purposes.

The Animal Welfare Bill, which is currently before Parliament, will reduce animal suffering by placing on those who own or are responsible for animals a duty to take steps to ensure their welfare. The Bill will help animal welfare agencies to take action when an animal is being treated contrary to its welfare needs, even if it is not immediately suffering. This means that all domestic or captive animals, including dogs used for security of business premises, must be cared for in accordance with the best animal management practices.

Home Composting

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government are taking to provide incentives for local authorities to promote home composting. [94771]

Mr. Bradshaw: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) on 2 October 2006, Official Report, column 2553W.

Increasing the rate of home composting is an important way to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste being sent to landfill and therefore should help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Performing Animals Working Group

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who the members are of the Performing Animals Working Group; what the remit is of the group; what the criteria are for membership of the group; how many meetings of the group have taken place; if he will place in the Library the minutes of its meetings; and how often the group meets. [97520]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Performing Animals Working Group was a stakeholder group convened to discuss the proposals outlined in Defra's Regulatory Impact Assessment for regulating performing animals. The group met twice; on 27 October 2005 and 15 December 2005. A summary of these meetings is available on the Defra website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/welfare/bill/perform_wg.htm.

Membership of the group included representatives of welfare organisations, including the Royal and Scottish Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to
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Animals, Dogs Trust and Born Free Foundation; representatives of the audio-visual industry, including Performing Animal Welfare Standards International (PAWSI), the Production Guild, the Animal Consultants and Trainers Association; and representatives of the circus and zoo industries.

The group was disbanded after its second meeting, when it was felt that it would be more appropriate for consideration of how self-regulation might work to be taken forward by PAWSI, which was invited to run its own group with industry, welfare organisations and other interested parties. As this group is not a Defra working group it would not be appropriate for my Department to provide details of its membership, meetings and minutes.

We will assess the progress of the PAWSI group in spring next year and, based on this, will consider the options on how to take the regulation of performing animals forward.


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