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Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what proportion of schools have access to broadband internet access in (a) Lancashire, (b) the north- west of England and (c) England. 
John Healey: Broadband internet access (2mbs or better) is provided through regional broadband consortia (RBCs). The target for August 2002 is for 20 per cent. of all schools (including 100 per cent. of secondaries) to have broadband connections. From the latest consortia returns (28 February 2002):
23 per cent. of schools within the north-west of England (covered by two RBCs) already have a broadband connection and this is expected to rise to 41 per cent. by August 2002;
Nationally, approximately 14 per cent. of schools across England already have a broadband connection and this is expected to rise to 32 per cent. by August 2002, exceeding the current target.
Mr. Ivan Lewis: A total of £60 million was made available to the Neighbourhood Support Fund spread over three years. The current programme comes to an end in September 2003 and it has been successful in reaching out to some of the most disadvantaged young people in our communities. I will review the programme in the light of the departmental spending review.
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will estimate the number of school days lost to truancy each year in (a) the Lancashire education authority area and (b) England. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: The number of days missed due to unauthorised absence in the last three years are presented in the table. Data are based on the annual pupil absence survey that is conducted at the end of May and is based on the first five half-terms of the school year. We can not estimate the figures for the final half-term of the year as year 11 students attend irregularly while they take their GCSE examinations.
|Day pupils of compulsory school age||160,768||6,698,285|
|Total possible pupil sessions(2),(3)||49,196,000||1,987,849,000|
|Total sessions missed||271,216||14,833,790|
|Total number of days missed||135,608||7,416,895|
|Day pupils of compulsory school age||162,979||6,636,828|
|Total possible pupil sessions(2),(3)||50,834,000||1,990,299,000|
|Total sessions missed||281,090||14,479,457|
|Total number of days missed||140,545||7,239,729|
|Day pupils of compulsory school age||162,583||6,607,438|
|Total possible pupil sessions(2),(3)||51,067,000||2,005,657,000|
|Total sessions missed||301,308||15,053,051|
|Total number of days missed||150,654||7,526,526|
(2) Rounded to nearest 1,000
(3) Total pupil sessions are calculated as (total number of pupils) X (total possible school sessions between September and May census date)
9 May 2002 : Column 294W
The Solicitor-General: As part of the cross- Government strategy to reduce street crime, a premium service will target likely offenders and crime areas and will ensure that offenders are investigated and prosecuted with skill and determination. Victims and witnesses will be given extra support. Experienced lawyers and detectives will handle cases and they will work closely together. An extra £6 million is being allocated to the Crown Prosecution Service to free up experienced lawyers to concentrate on this work.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Solicitor-General when she last considered extending the 28-day period for references back to the Crown Prosecution Service of unduly lenient sentences; and what her conclusions were. 
The Solicitor-General: The Criminal Justice Act 1988 (schedule 3) prescribes that notice of an application for leave to refer a case to the Court of Appeal, under section 36 of the same Act, shall be given within 28 days from the day on which the sentence was passed. Legislation would be required to amend this time limit.
Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Solicitor-General how many sentence referrals to the Court of Appeal on the grounds of undue lenience have resulted in sentences being increased in each of the last five years for which figures are available. 
|Year(4)||References to Court of Appeal||Sentences increased|
(4) 1 January to 31 December
(5) There are still cases from 2000 and 2001, which are yet to be heard by the Court of Appeal
9 May 2002 : Column 295W
Mr. Gray: To ask the Solicitor-General how many contracts the Law Officers Department has with consultants; what level of professional indemnity insurance is standard in contracts with small consultants; whether she can make exceptions to the level of professional indemnity insurance; and what recent discussions she has had with other Government Departments about the level of professional indemnity insurance. 
The Crown Prosecution Service in common with other Government Departments employs the services of consultants from time to time. However, the information requested as to the number of such contracts is not recorded centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
The Department's standard terms and conditions of contract for consultancy work only necessitate consultants to hold professional indemnity insurance where this is required by law. The level of indemnity insurance is not specified and where required would be subject to negotiation and agreement prior to the award of any contract.
The Treasury Solicitor's Department has 28 current contracts with consultants who are assisting it on a range of issues. The level of professional indemnity insurance required is related to the nature of the work required and the assessment of risk attached to it.
At the present time the Serious Fraud Office has nine contracts with small or sole trader consultants covering a range of issues, including information technology and security. In addition there are other specific contracts for expert advice related to operational cases.
Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what discussions he has had with the Audit Commission in respect of the guidance contained in its publication Competitive Procurement relating to the operation of best value to the categorisation of the overall performance of local authorities; and if he will make a statement. 
9 May 2002 : Column 296W
Dr. Whitehead: My Department has had no formal discussions with the Audit Commission about its publication Competitive Procurement. The Audit Commission acts independently of Government, and the views expressed in its publications are its own. Having said this the Government welcome the Audit Commission's report, which is based on the evidence of audit and inspection, and recognises it as a valuable contribution to our drive to improving public services. I expect local authorities will find it useful.
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