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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Minister of State yesterday laid before Parliament regulations amending the Asylum Support Regulations 2000 to enable an increased rate of voucher support to be provided to under 16 year-old dependants of asylum seekers supported by the National Asylum Support Service with effect from 4 December. The rate will rise from £26.60 to £30.95 per week.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The Government have been concerned since they came to power to tackle the relatively low achievement of African Caribbean pupils in school. The Ofsted report, based on 1997 data, rightly draws attention to worrying evidence from a small number of local education authorities that the relative attainment of African Caribbean pupils worsens between the start and end of
The Government's drive to improve school standards, especially in literacy and numeracy, is delivering higher attainment by pupils of all backgrounds. We plan to extend that drive to Key Stage 3 and to extend the Excellence in Cities programme, which targets areas where ethnic pupils tend to be disproportionately represented.
We are providing targeted finance for African Caribbean and other ethnic minority pupils through the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant. In 2001-02, the grant will support £153.5 million of local expenditure--an increase of 4.5 per cent. We also plan to enhance ethnic monitoring of pupils' progress to allow individual pupil-level achievement to be linked to ethnic group data to ensure better targeted support for groups at risk of poor attainment.
Baroness Blackstone: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Learning and Technology and Jane Davidson AM, Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning, represented the UK at the Council of EC Education/Youth Ministers in Brussels on 9 November. Education Ministers adopted a recommendation on mobility within the Community for students, persons undergoing training, volunteers, teachers and instructors and an associated Mobility Action Plan. The plan sets out a number of measures, which member states can select from according to national circumstances, to promote the mobility of teachers, academics, students and volunteers across Europe.
Ministers discussed a preliminary draft report on the future objectives of education systems. Council agreed that the report, which is to be presented by the education Ministers to the Stockholm European Council in Spring 2001, should aim to identify objectives and priorities common to education systems within member states and facilitate the sharing of information and exchange of good and best practice at a national level.
Ministers received reports from the Commission and Presidency on the conclusions of the Leiden seminar, organised by the Netherlands and French Presidency; on open methods of co-ordination and benchmarking of European education systems;
Youth Ministers held an open debate on the follow-up measures which should be taken following earlier consultations with young people in Europe. Council agreed the importance of involving young people at European level and the need to create regular opportunities for consulting with young people--including those not affiliated to recognised youth networks--at both national and European level. The debate was part of the Commission's consultation process linked to developing a White Paper on the future of youth policy.
The Presidency and the Commission raised the issue of the potential dangers facing young sportsmen and women through over-training, drug abuse and commercial exploitation. The Commission urged the Council to consider taking action to tackle this.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): We are delighted to announce that "Greening Government: the Second Annual Report of the Green Ministers Committee" will be published tomorrow. It provides a comprehensive account of the work of Green Ministers over the past year, and sets out our future work programme. The report reflects Green Ministers' increasing focus on integrating sustainable development into government policies, as well as our continuing efforts to improve the environmental performance of government operations. There is a considerable amount of information at department level to enable the reader to understand the progress each department has made in all areas of our work.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Patient transport for those discharged from hospital is available free where the clinician in charge of the patient determines that there is a need for the hospital to provide transport. Where there is no clinically defined need but the patient is in receipt of benefits such as income support, then he or she is able to receive help under the "Hospital Travel Cost Scheme" which was set up in 1988 as part of the NHS Low Income Scheme to provide financial assistance.
A guide entitled "Help with Health Costs" (HC11), copies of which are available in the Library, describes what help is available with necessary travel costs to and from hospital for National Health Service treatment.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Smoking Kills--A White Paper on tobacco, published on 10 December 1998, sets out the Government's strategy to reduce smoking. The NHS Plan and the NHS Cancer Plan contain further commitments to reduce the health and other impacts of smoking.
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