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Life Peerages

Lord Craig of Radley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The Government have said that they accept the principles underlying the main elements of the Royal Commission's report. However, at this stage, the Government do not want to comment upon the detail of the report. Answering this question would be a direct response to Recommendation 103:

"Life peers created between the publication of this report and the enactment of legislation necessary to implement the second stage of Lords reform should be deemed to have been appointed to the reformed second chamber for a period totalling 15 years from the award of their life peerage"

Instead, the Government want to build upon the consensus established by the unanimous report and intend to consult widely and listen carefully to discussion and debate on the Commission's recommendations before coming to their own conclusions.

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Education Action Zones

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there has been any evaluation of the effectiveness of Education Action Zones; and whether there are any plans to publish the findings.[HL1662]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Education Action Zones are being evaluated in a number of ways, including by OFSTED. The results will be published.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What funds have been set aside to create more Education Action Zones and over what timescale.[HL1665]

Baroness Blackstone: There are currently 73 large Education Action Zones already running or in development and another 42 small Education Action Zones will start in Excellence in Cities areas by September. In addition, as part of the expansion of Excellence in Cities announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State on 23 March, there are likely to be further small Education Action Zones established next year.

Post-16 Curriculum Reforms: Funding

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Director of Qualifications at the Department for Education and Employment wrote to the Chief Education Officers of local education authorities in England in November 1999 about the funding implications of the forthcoming reforms of the post-16 curriculum for secondary schools with sixth-forms; and whether


    (a) the "Standard Spending Assessment" for 2000-01 took into account the estimated additional cost of £35 million for implementing the reform;


    (b) the Department for Education and Employment expects local education authorities to pass this money on to secondary schools with sixth-forms;


    (c) how much of the £35 million has been allocated to each local education authority in England; and


    (d) how much this amounts to, per eligible sixth-former, in each local education authority.[HL1623]

Baroness Blackstone: The Director for Qualifications in the Department wrote to Chief Education Officers in England on 29th November 1999, confirming that £35 million, the estimated national cost for 2000-01 of implementing the post-16 curriculum reforms in the schools they maintain, has been included in Education Standard Spending for that year.

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The letter made clear that, while it is for individual LEAs to decide how much funding to allocate to their schools, Ministers expect LEAs to do all they can to support the successful introduction of these reforms. They should give careful consideration to the implications of the reforms in their calculation of school budgets for 2000-01 in the light of the funds available within the overall local authority settlement.

Since the acutal costs of implementing the reforms will vary from LEA to LEA and school to school, it would not be meaningful either to break the national figure down into amounts at local authority level, or to seek to calculate a cost per sixth form pupil.

In addition, schools will be receiving £290 million in special grant for 2000-01, depending on their size. This funding will be part of their delegated budgets: those with sixth forms will therefore be able to use it if they wish to supplement funding received through their LEA's allocation formula to implement the post-16 curriculum reforms.

Education Maintenance Allowance Scheme

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the pilot scheme to provide education maintenance allowances for 16 year-olds and on what basis those involved were selected for the allowance.[HL1666]

Baroness Blackstone: The education maintenance allowance (EMA) pilots started in September 1999. The pilots are at an early stage but we are encouraged by progress so far. There is considerable anecdotal evidence that the EMA is making a real difference to young people's attendance and effort, and in time this should result in better attainment. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has announced that we will be extending the pilot scheme from September 2000, with additional funds made available by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Budget.

Three main factors were used to select the EMA pilot areas. We focused on areas with high deprivation levels, low levels of participation in post-16 education and low attainment at GCSE. In addition, we took into account whether the LEA would provide a statistically reliable sample size.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many 16 year-olds have benefited from the pilot scheme to provide education maintenance allowances for 16 year-olds.[HL1667]

Baroness Blackstone: The latest figures show that 14,122 young people are currently receiving EMAs in the 15 pilot areas.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the pilot scheme to provide education maintenance allowances for 16 year-olds is funded.[HL1678]

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Baroness Blackstone: The education maintenance allowance (EMA) pilots have been funded entirely from new money provided by the Government for this purpose. The Budget included an announcement that a further £50 million is being spent to expand the EMA pilots from September 2000. The expenditure is all "demand led" and the pilot authorities reclaim the money that they spend on EMAs from a Standards Fund set up especially for this purpose.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When it is planned to extend the pilot scheme to provide education maintenance allowances for 16 year-olds to all 16 year-olds.[HL1679]

Baroness Blackstone: We started piloting education maintenance allowances (EMAs) in 15 areas from September 1999. We will be introducing a small number of specialist pilots from this September, to test the effectiveness of a specific payment for transport costs. In addition, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has announced that a further £50 million will be made available to extend EMAs in additional areas from this September.

By September 2000, approximately 30 per cent of sixteen year-olds will be in areas eligible for an EMA. We are convinced that the EMA has the potential to make a real difference to young people's life chances. However, no firm decisions have been taken about any further extensions and we are continuing to evaluate the pilots.

Food Standards Agency and MAFF's Role

Baroness Whitaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's relations with consumers' organisations will be affected by the establishment of the Food Standards Agency. [HL1756]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The Ministry already has well developed relations with consumers and their representative organisations which we intend to build on following separation of the Food Standards Agency on 1 April.

The consumer interest in food safety will become the principal responsibility of the Food Standards Agency. The Ministry's aim already states clearly the central role which consumer benefit plays in our work. This will not change, but the Ministry's first Objective will be amended (the word 'food' in the former Objective will be replaced by the words 'farm produce') to become:

'To protect public health in relation to farm produce and to animal diseases transmissible to humans'.

The Ministry will retain all its other objectives unchanged as set out in the Departmental Report.

We want to strengthen the Ministry's links with consumer organisations. I will be taking specific responsibility for MAFF's relationship with

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consumers. My right honourable friend the Minister and I intend to meet representatives of the main consumer organisations as soon as possible after the establishment of the Food Standards Agency. Our goal is to ensure that consumer concerns are fully reflected in decision making across the Ministry's responsibilities.

We will also be looking to change existing arrangements which no longer serve to deliver real benefits to consumers. The Consumer's Committee for Great Britain was established under the Agricultural Marketing Act 1958. Despite its name, the Committee's statutory responsibilities relate only to the interests of consumers in the operation of marketing schemes made under the Act. As a result of changes over the years, only one such scheme now remains, covering wool, and this scheme does not have any direct impact on consumers. We are considering, along with the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly, whether the Agricultural Marketing Act 1958 should be amended. In the meantime, we intend to leave the Committee in abeyance and not re-appoint members.


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