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6 Oct 2003 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday, 6th October 2003.

Cote d'Ivoire Conflict

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have made any estimate of the cost to Burkina Faso of the civil war in Ivory Coast and neighbouring countries; and what extra assistance they have provided for refugees and returnees.[HL4459]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): We have not made any independent estimate but are aware, from assessments carried out by international agencies such as the IMF and World Bank, of the serious adverse impact on the Burkinabe economy of the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire and neighbouring countries. These impacts have been factored into programmes of assistance to Burkina Faso recently agreed by the two institutions.

Our direct response to the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire has focused on assistance (amounting to £0.9 million) to internally displaced people and refugees of many nationalities, including Burkinabes, within Cote d'Ivoire itself. We also contribute via programmes of the EU who in May approved 5.74 million euros to assist vulnerable groups affected by the conflict. Of this sum, 2.1 million euros will be used to assist refugees and returnees to neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso.

Truancy

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Under the Education Act 1996, as amended, how many (a) fines and (b) sentences of imprisonment have been imposed on parents for condoning non-attendance of pupils at schools.[HL4401]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Information about the number of parents fined or imprisoned following a prosection for truancy is not collected centrally.

Students aged over 54

Baroness Greengross asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many students have been refused a student loan because they are over 54 years of age; and.[HL4464]

    How many students over 54 years of age are in the process of taking degrees.[HL4465]

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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The latest figures for 2001–02 show that there were 1,200 students on full-time first degree courses in English HE institutions who were aged over 54. Information on the number of people aged over 54 who apply for a student loan is not held centrally.

Grant for tuition fees, and supplementary grants for living costs (e.g. dependants' grants for students with children and disabled students' grants) are available to all eligible students whatever their age. It is only loans for living costs (which have to be repaid) that are subject to an upper age limit on eligibilty. They are not available to over 54 year-olds (or over 49 year-olds who do not intend to enter employment upon graduation) only because the loan is written off at retirement age (65), and removing this age limit would leave many older graduates with inadquate time for repayment. Students over 54 who face additional costs whilst studying can apply for help from hardship funds.

Education Maintenance Allowance Scheme

Lord Addington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which body they have identified as the national service provider for managing the Education Maintenance Allowance scheme.[HL4578]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland : The Department for Education and Skills has conducted a rigorous procurement exercise. After thorough evaluation the contract to carry out the functions of the assessment and payment body for the national EMS scheme has been awarded to Capita Business Services Ltd.

Further Education: Qualifications of Lecturers and Principals

Lord Addington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to commence Sections 136 to 138 and 140 of the Education Act 2002 on the qualifications of lecturers and principals in further education.[HL4579]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The new Centre of Excellence in Leadership will pilot the Senior Leadership Qualification, a new professional qualification for college principals, from January 2004. Evaluation of the qualification will begin in the summer of 2004. We will consult on regulations under Section 137 in winter 2004. We will launch a consultation to review further education initial teacher training in November 2003, which will include consideration of the implementation of Sections 136 and 138. Section 140 is [ancillary] to Sections 136 and 138 and will be commenced accordingly.

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Examination Standards

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When Ministers became aware that the pass mark for this year's GCSE mathematics was lowered; and for what reasons the pass mark was lowered.[HL4542]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Grade boundaries for an examination are set so that the grades awarded represent continuity and parity of standards over time and across syllabuses. Awarding bodies in England make these decisions under a regime independent of government, regulated by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Ministers and their officials were therefore not advised by QCA of the grade boundary setting decisions in any of this summer's examinations. The Chief Executive of QCA will write to the noble Baroness to explain the decision in question.

Education Act 2002: Sections 2 and 5

Baroness Sharp of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many applications the Secretary of State for Education and Skills has received under Section 2 of the Education Act 2002; and for each application whether it has been:


    (a) approved;


    (b) approved with modification; or


    (c) rejected; and[HL4580]

    When they intend to publish the first annual report under Section 5 of the Education Act 2002 on the powers of the Secretary of State for Education and Skills to suspend statutory requirements.[HL4581]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Three applications under Section 2 of the Education Act 2002 had been received by 22 September 2003, all of which have been approved without modification.

The department plans to publish its first annual report under Section 5 of the Education Act 2002 by the end of October 2003.

School Companies

Baroness Sharp of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they are collecting on the number and nature of school companies being formed under Section 11 of the Education Act 2002.[HL4582]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Regulation 25 of The School Companies Regulations 2002 and Regulation 17 of The School Companies (Private Finance Initiative Companies) Regulations 2002 require information to be sent to the Secretary of State for

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Education and Skills concerning school companies formed under Section 11 of the Education Act 2002. In both cases, the supervising authority for the company must inform the Secretary of State, in writing, within 28 days of becoming the supervising authority of the following: the members of the company; the name and registered number of the company; and the fact that it is the supervising authority for the company.

This will enable the Secretary of State to ascertain the number of such companies. There are no plans to collect information on the nature of such school companies.

Federation of Schools (Amendment) Regulations 2003

Baroness Sharp of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the cost of removing the word "not" from the Federation of Schools (Community Schools, Community Special Schools, Voluntary Controlled Schools and Maintained Nursery Schools) (England) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1965) by means of the Federation of Schools (Community Schools, Community Special Schools, Voluntary Controlled Schools and Maintained Nursery Schools (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2133).[HL4583]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The cost of printing the amendment regulations referred to above (SI 2003/2133) was £686.00. There were no additional distribution costs.

Anthrax Vaccine

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath to a question by Lord Morris of Manchester regarding the anthrax vaccine on 20 January (WA 79) and the replies from Lord Bach to Lord Morris and Lord Clement-Jones to questions tabled on 22 January [HL1248] and 27 February [HL1910] respectively on that and other vaccines used in the multiple immunisation programme for Gulf War troops 1990–91, when they expect to respond to Lord Morris and to publish that response in the Official Report.[HL4499]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): On 17 September 2003, I wrote to Lord Morris of Manchester and a copy was sent to you and also placed in the Library of the House. The text was as follows:


    I undertook to write to you in answer to your Parliamentary Question of 4 February (Official Report, Col. WA 26) about the medical countermeasures used to protect our personnel during the 1990–91 Gulf Conflict.

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    I am very much aware of the fact that you, other peers, and many outside this House including many Gulf veterans, are very keen for your questions to be answered. I am also conscious of the fact that answering them is taking much longer than any of us would like and I can only apologise for the delay. This which [sic] has arisen partly because of the need to seek the advice of an independent Expert Group of the Committee on the Safety of Medicines and the Committee itself. I can assure you that your question has not been overlooked—the Secretary of State for Health, his predecessor, the Minister for Veterans and his predecessor, the Chief Medical Officer as well as myself and numerous officials have been involved at various stages.


    Your question comprises several parts. You asked about the anthrax vaccine administered to personnel in 1991. Officials here and at the Department of Health have undertaken a considerable amount of work, the aim being to enable me to provide you with a full answer on the administration of anthrax vaccine offered to UK military personnel from 1990 to the present day. Work is almost complete and I expect to be able to write to you during the first week the House returns following the Conference Recess (ie the week beginning 6 October).


    In my letter, I will also deal with your questions about pyriodostigmine bromide (Nerve Agent Pre-treatment sets (NAPS)) tablets and whether any other vaccines administered in 1990–91 had similar limitations (ie that they should be used alone). As you know, Service personnel were offered a range of immunisations to protect against disease. These included standard Service immunisations, immunisations for deployment to areas with specific health hazards, immunisations to help protect personnel against the effects of biological weapons, and immunisations for personnel in specific occupational or "at risk" groups. The information required to enable your questions to be answered was not readily available.


    I am copying this letter to Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Williams of Mostyn. It will also be published in the Official Report, and my officials will arrange for a copy to be placed in the Library of the House.


    The response to the question tabled by Lord Morris will be published in the Official Report as soon as it is available.


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