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Mr. Michael Forsyth : Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Employment Service agency under its chief executive. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from M. Fogden to Ms Clare Short, dated 15June 1994 : The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question about the number of claimants who have been issued with warning letters for not actively seeking employment ; the number of decisions on actively seeking employment ; and the number of disallowances for actively seeking employment in each quarter since April 1990. The statistics you asked for on adjudication officers' decisions on actively seeking employment for each region and for Great Britain as a whole are contained in the quarterly summary entitled "Analysis of Adjudication Officers' Decisions". Copies are held in the Library of the House. The latest available information relates to the quarter ending December 1993.

I enclose a table showing by Region, and for Great Britain, the number of warning letters issued to clients whose worksearch activity was not considered to be adequate. This information is available for the period up to March 1994.

I hope this is helpful.


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Warning Letters Issued by Region and Nationally for each quarter from April 1990 to March 1992                               

                          |April to  |July to   |October to|January to|April to  |July to   |October to|January to           

                                     |1990      |1990                            |1991      |1991                            

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Northern                  |789       |731       |695       |394       |365       |697       |438       |403                  

Yorks and Humberside      |714       |476       |637       |398       |403       |394       |359       |312                  

East Midlands and Eastern |463       |447       |453       |338       |337       |272       |225       |242                  

London and South Eastern  |3,024     |2,941     |2,339     |1,895     |1,484     |1,830     |1,653     |1,839                

South Western             |530       |716       |533       |400       |371       |276       |273       |354                  

Wales                     |688       |464       |386       |311       |309       |185       |232       |206                  

West Midlands             |1,354     |1,015     |853       |634       |561       |707       |606       |567                  

North Western             |1,435     |1,521     |1,247     |1,032     |1,123     |1,061     |1,382     |1,671                

Scotland                  |2,234     |2,149     |1,623     |1,001     |1,022     |1,134     |794       |1,010                

                          |-------   |-------   |-------   |-------   |-------   |-------   |-------   |-------              

Great Britain             |11,231    |10,730    |8,766     |6,403     |5,975     |6,556     |5,962     |6,604                


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Warning Letters Issued by Region and Nationally for each quarter from April 1992 to March 1994                               

                          |April to  |July to   |October to|January to|April to  |July to   |October to|January to           

                          |June 1992 |September |December  |March 1993|June 1993 |September |December  |March 1994           

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Northern                  |300       |290       |163       |185       |124       |142       |164       |251                  

Yorks and Humberside      |282       |292       |166       |163       |140       |107       |82        |83                   

East Midlands and Eastern |203       |202       |78        |98        |160       |139       |121       |35                   

London and South Eastern  |2,126     |2,250     |1,758     |1,515     |1,007     |935       |682       |692                  

South Western             |406       |388       |271       |349       |228       |369       |390       |555                  

Wales                     |233       |183       |71        |72        |41        |31        |38        |69                   

West Midlands             |619       |486       |235       |190       |153       |144       |170       |261                  

North Western             |1,678     |2,006     |1,510     |1,057     |601       |344       |206       |208                  

Scotland                  |887       |612       |337       |363       |217       |98        |44        |76                   

                          |-------   |-------   |-------   |-------   |-------   |-------   |-------   |-------              

Great Britain             |6,734     |6,709     |4,589     |3,992     |2,671     |2,309     |1,897     |2,230                


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HM Inspectorate of Mines

Mr. Hardy : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what action was taken by Her Majesty's inspectorate of mines in regard to the under- reporting of dust counts in British mines which was referred to the inspectorate earlier this year ; and when the inspectorate was first aware of the under-reporting.

Mr. Michael Forsyth [pursuant to his reply of 4 November 1993] : I wish to announce that the report of the investigation by the Health and Safety Executive's inspectorate of mines into respirable dust sampling at British Coal Corporation mines is released today. The investigation was undertaken following allegations of widespread tampering with dust sampling equipment and expressions of concern about discrepancies between the results of routine statutory sampling of respirable dust and check sampling undertaken by BCC. The mines inspectorate has thoroughly investigated these allegations but has found no evidence to substantiate them. It has also reviewed the procedures for monitoring dust levels.

The report identifies weaknesses in the integrity of the sampling instruments and in the arrangements for their security while stored at individual mines. It therefore makes a number of sensible recommendations with the aim of ensuring long-term confidence in the dust sampling programme at mines. These include the proofing of sampling instruments against tampering and improved, more secure, arrangements for the storage of instruments at mine sites. The report also recommends that consideration should be given to the introduction of independent dust sampling and audit procedures. I have today sent a copy of the report to the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) and for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) who wrote to me on the matter. Copies have also been placed in the Library.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Child Support Agency

Dr. Wright : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what is the Child Support Agency's target time for dealing with complaints ; and how many complaints have been dealt with in that time ;

(2) how many complaints have been logged by the Child Support Agency computerised complaints monitoring system ;

(3) how many complaints have been received by the Child Support Agency since its inception ;

(4) what form of redress is available to the complainant if a complaint to the Child Support Agency is not dealt with in the time stipulated for a reply ;

(5) whether he will publish the results of the review into the complaints procedures of the Child Support Agency.

Mr. Burt : The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for Ros Hepplewhite, the chief executive. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Ros Hepplewhite to Dr. Tony Wright, dated 15 June 1994 :

I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Social Security about customer complaints received by the Child Support Agency.


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Your have asked for details of the number of such complaints received, the Agency's target time for dealing with complaints and how many have been dealt with in that time. The Agency's Charter contains a stated aim to acknowledge written complaints within two days of receipt and respond to complaints within 10 working days. From 5 April to 31 March 1994, a total of 10,886 complaints were recorded and, of these, 4,910 were cleared within 10 working days. The first year of the Agency's operations has stimulated a great deal of activity and I am aware that our performance in this area falls below the standard we aim to provide for clients. As part of the normal management process we are continually examining ways in which our service to clients can be improved.

The Agency's computerised complaints monitoring system is under development and it is planned to introduce it later this year. Your ask about the redress available where a client is dissatisfied with the way a complaint had been handled. The Agency's Charter explains that where something has gone wrong, the Agency will be happy to apologise, give an explanation and put the matter right. The client can speak or write to the Customer Services Manager in the centre dealing with the case. If they are not satisfied they can write directly to the manager of the centre or, ultimately, to the Chief Executive.

The Agency has conducted an internal review of its complaints monitoring procedures as part of an ongoing arrangement to examine various management issues. There are no plans to publish a report. I hope this is helpful.

War Pensions

Dr. Wright : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will give details of the war pensions trial complaints system ; on what date the system went into operation ; and how many complaints have been received and processed to date.

Mr. Hague : This is a matter for Mr. Peter Mathison, the chief executive of the War Pensions Agency. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Dr. Tony Wright, dated 14 June 1994 :

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the War Pensions trial complaints system.

The War Pensions Agency has a well established complaints system operating throughout the Agency. This system ensures that complaints are dealt with in accordance with our Charter Standards.

The Agency was launched on 1 April 1994 and since that date there has existed a complaints monitoring system within the War Pensions Parliamentary Group. This system has now been extended to include the War Pensions Customer Services, War Pensions Helpline and War Pensioners' Welfare Service. It is being monitored by the War Pensions Customer Services Manager to assess the suitability for use by the whole of the Agency. It will be evaluated in the autumn of this year.

A total of 186 complaints have been received by the Parliamentary Group in our first month of operation as an Agency.

I hope you find my reply helpful.

Maintenance Assessments

Mr. Ingram : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many absent parents have had their maintenance assessments reduced as a result of the regulatory changes introduced on 7 February ; and what has been the average reduction per week to date ;

(2) how many absent parents have had their maintenance assessments reduced as a result of changes to the parent-with-care allowance introduced on 7 February ; and what has been the average reduction per week to date.


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Mr. Burt : The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for Ros Hepplewhite, the chief executive. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Ros Hepplewhite to Mr. Ingram, dated 15 June 1994 : I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the effect of the changes to Child Support introduced on 7 February 1994.

The total number of cases where a reduction in the maintenance assessment occurred due to the policy changes was 43,800 which includes 4,000 cases where liability was not reduced at the time as the change was below £1. In these cases the change would be taken into account at the next review of circumstances.

Information on the average amount by which the assessment reduced is available for the 93 per cent. of cases that were reassessed automatically by the computer system. In these cases the average reduction was £9.00 a week. Information is not available for the remaining cases which were reassessed clerically.

Specific information is not yet available on the effect of the changes to parent with care allowances. Arrangements are being made to obtain this information.

I hope that you find this reply helpful.

Benefits Agency (Complaints)

Dr. Wright : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security on what date the OTIS--"Opportunity to Improve Service"--computerised system for complaints operated by the Benefits Agency was inaugurated ; how many complaints have been logged from that date ; what percentage of those complaints and suggestions have resulted in a change to the agency's policy or procedure ; and what plans there are for such a system to be adopted by other agencies.

Mr. Burt : The operation of the OTIS computerised system in the Benefits Agency is the responsibility of Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Michael Bichard to Dr. Tony Wright, dated 14June 1994 :

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the OTIS computerised system for complaints in the Benefits Agency and what plans there are for the system to be adopted by other agencies.

(OTIS) Opportunity to Improve Service was introduced in Newcastle Benefits Directorate on 1July 1991, initially on a pilot basis. It proved successful and is now in operation in Newcastle Pensions Directorate, Overseas Benefits Directorate and Child Benefit Centre but is not used throughout the Agency.

Some Districts are using IT systems to record and analyse customer feedback. However, many offices do not receive enough complaints to justify the need to adopt an IT system for analysing customer feedback. The Benefits Agency is in the process of producing a "good practice guide" to be issued to all business units to ensure that their local systems are operating to full potential.

The Information available on complaints logged on OTIS is 1,404 for Overseas Benefits Directorate for the period 1July 1991 to 31 March 1994, 1,906 for Newcastle Pensions Directorate for the same period, and 5,499 for Child Benefit Centre for the period 2January 1992 to 25May 1994.

As OTIS is used to identify trends rather than monitor individual complaints or suggestions, statistics comparing the number of comments with any change in procedure are not kept.

I understand from the other DSS Agencies that they have no plans to introduce OTIS but some are introducing IT systems to meet their own business needs.

I hope you find this reply helpful.


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Invalidity Benefit

Mr. Hanson : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many invalidity benefit awards have been (a) reviewed, (b) disallowed following review and (c) reinstated on appeal during each of the last 12 months in the Wrexham Maelor and Mid Wales district and North Wales Coast district of the Benefits Agency.

Mr. Scott : This is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member with such information as is available.

Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. David Hanson, dated 14 June 1994 :

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about invalidity Benefit (IVB) awards in the MidWales and Maelor, and North Wales Coast Districts.

The information is available in the format requested, and has been provided in appendices 1 and 2.

The Mid Wales and Maelor District of the Benefits Agency comprises Wrexham District Office (DO) and Newtown Branch Office (BO). The North Wales Coast District comprises Rhyl DO, and Colwyn Bay and Deeside BO's.

The statistics provided are taken from clerical and computer records maintained in the Districts' offices.

I hope you find this reply helpful.


Appendix 1                                                             

Mid Wales and Maelor district                                          

Month          |IVB awards   |IVB awards   |IVB awards                 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

May 1993       |45           |28           |2                          

June 1993      |87           |36           |-                          

July 1993      |42           |25           |-                          

August 1993    |41           |15           |1                          

September 1993 |54           |29           |-                          

October 1993   |38           |20           |1                          

November 1993  |43           |24           |1                          

December 1993  |26           |22           |1                          

January 1994   |68           |30           |-                          

February 1994  |78           |33           |1                          

March 1994     |176          |56           |5                          

April 1994     |150          |61           |4                          


Appendix 2                                                             

North Wales coast                                                      

Month          |IVB awards   |IVB awards   |IVB awards                 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

May 1993       |75           |34           |1                          

June 1993      |96           |60           |1                          

July 1993      |118          |62           |2                          

August 1993    |93           |64           |1                          

September 1993 |119          |57           |1                          

October 1993   |220          |105          |4                          

November 1993  |113          |69           |4                          

December 1993  |95           |56           |2                          

January 1994   |93           |48           |6                          

February 1994  |145          |58           |1                          

March 1994     |183          |79           |1                          

April 1994     |182          |98           |2                          

Social Fund

Mr. Tipping : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the average length of time taken to decide an application for assistance from the social fund


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nationally ; and what is the average length of time taken at (a) East Nottinghamshire, (b) North Nottinghamshire and (c) West Nottinghamshire Benefits Agency offices.

Mr. Scott : The administration of the social fund is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Paddy Tipping, dated 14 June 1994 :

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the average


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time taken to decide a Social Fund (SF) application nationally and in the Benefits Agency's (BA) East Nottinghamshire, North Nottinghamshire, and West Nottinghamshire Districts.

The clearance of SF applications is measured in terms of "x" per cent. of applications cleared in "y" days, and not as an average of the time to decide each individual application. You will be aware that the SF comprises of Community Care Grants (CCG), Budgeting Loans (BL), Crisis Loans (CL), Cold Weather Payments (CWP), Funeral Payments (FP) and Maternity Payments (MP). Each element of the SF has separate and different "x in y" primary and secondary targets, with the exception of CWPs. For CWPs, eligible customers are identified and paid automatically and do not have to make a formal claim. I have provided at Annex A the national and the three Nottinghamshire districts' details for the month of April 1994 (latest available data).

I hope you find this reply helpful.


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Annex A                                                                          

Social Fund clearance time performance nationally and for the Benefits Agency    

districts of East, North and West Nottinghamshire for the month of               

April 1994 (latest available figures)                                            

                     |National   |East Notts |North Notts|West Notts             

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

CCG                                                                              

per cent. in 7 days  |82         |83         |88         |70                     

per cent. in 20 days |98         |97         |98         |98                     

BL                                                                               

per cent. in 6 days  |78         |79         |85         |71                     

per cent. in 20 days |98         |98         |99         |98                     

CL                                                                               

per cent. in 1 day   |97         |94         |96         |94                     

per cent. in 2 days  |98         |98         |98         |97                     

FP                                                                               

per cent. in 12 days |71         |74         |73         |74                     

per cent. in 35 days |96         |95         |91         |98                     

MP                                                                               

per cent. in 5 days  |74         |83         |89         |77                     

per cent. in 20 days |97         |97         |99         |98                     

Computerised Benefit Calculation Models

Mr. Donohoe : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) if he will make a statement on the use of computerised benefit calculation models by his Department ; and what policy applies to claimants wishing to obtain access to these systems ;

(2) how much his Department has spent on introducing computerised benefit calculation models throughout the Benefits Agency network ; how many terminals are currently operational ; and if he will list the Benefits Agency facilities where access to these terminals is available to claimants.

Mr. Burt : The administration of benefits is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member with such information as is available. Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Brian Donohue, dated 14 June 1994 :

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions asking about (i) the use of computerised benefit calculation models by his Department ; and what policy applies to claimants wishing to obtain access to these systems and (ii) how much his Department has spent on introducing computerised benefit calculation models throughout the Benefits Agency network ; how many terminals are currently operational ; and if he will list the facilities where access to these terminals is available to claimants.

The Benefits Agency provides a benefit advice and information service from all its District Offices and also from a number of telephone enquiry lines. Staff are supported in this task by a number of tools, including the recently introduced Integrated


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Benefits Information System, a computerised system which includes the facility to produce an estimate of benefit entitlement during an interview with a customer.

The Agency is currently conducting research to determine whether customers would welcome self service facilities to produce benefit calculations, given the large volume of data entry required to produce meaningful estimates of benefit entitlement. Meanwhile there are no such facilities available.

There are, however, computer programmes developed by the Agency which provide general information about benefits such as condition of entitlement, how to claim, rates, leaflets etc. The most common of these is the "West Country Social Security Guide" which can be installed on machines suitable for customer use, where they are available. Such machines are installed in both BA locations and other outlets provided by Local Authorities, Social and Welfare organisations and Citizen's Advice Bureaux, amongst others. There are at least 1,100 terminals running the automated guide. The precise number of these suitable for direct public access is unknown.

Finally, the eventual cost of developing, implementing and supporting the full IBIS toolset is estimated to be £3.8 million. I hope you find this reply helpful.

Incapacity Benefit

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what percentage of carers currently entitled to (a) invalidity benefit and (b) unemployment benefit will be eligible for the new incapacity benefit ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Scott : The information is not available.


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EDUCATION

Clinical Academic Staff

Dr. Moonie : To ask the Secretary of State for Education (1) what assessment he has made of the effects of the delay in translating the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body award to clinical academic staff on the latter's morale;

(2) if he will make a statement on the steps taken since October 1991 to find a long-term solution to the annual problem of implementing the translation of the NHS pay award to clinical academic staff;

(3) what steps he is taking to ensure that young doctors entering academic medicine will be assured of sufficient, well structured, and appropriately rewarded career posts ;

(4) if he will give an assurance to the Committee of

Vice-Chancellors and Principals that he will meet in full the difference between the cost of clinical and non-clinical pay awards for 1994;

(5) if he will make a statement on the process of implementing the 1994 doctors' pay award for clinical academic staff.

Mr. Boswell : The negotiation of pay awards for clinical academic staff is a matter for the university employers, not for my right hon. Friend. Universities will be required to fund pay awards for clinical and non-clinical academic staff in 1994 from within their existing resources. It is also for the university employers to decide how best to recruit, retain and motivate their clinical academic staff.

Rough Sleepers and Beggars

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Education what instructions are given to security staff in his departmental offices in London for dealing with (a) those sleeping rough in departmental doorways and (b) beggars in the vicinity; and how many problems have been experienced with each category in the last three months.

Mr. Forth : No special instructions are issued to the custody guards for dealing with incidents arising from either category. The guards' operational standing orders direct them to notify the local police where the actions of any individuals in bordering public streets are judged to pose a threat to the Department's perimeter security. No problems of this nature have arisen in the last three months.

Suspensions and Expulsions

Mr. Morley : To ask the Secretary of State for Education what action he is taking to reduce the number of children suspended or expelled from schools in (a) Humberside and (b) England.

Mr. Forth : Head teachers are responsible for securing discipline in their schools and for exercising the power of exclusion. The Department has recently issued guidance to all schools aimed at promoting consistent practice in the use of exclusion and ensuring that permanent exclusion is used as a last resort. Changes in the law governing exclusions have been made in the Education Act 1993, which abolishes the category of indefinite exclusion ; places a limit of 15 school days in any one term on fixed-term exclusions ; and enables the Secretary of State to place time limits on the operation of exclusion procedures,


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to reduce to a minimum the time spent by an excluded pupil out of school. These provisions are intended to come into effect on 1 September.

Lancashire Colleges

Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for Education what was the total funding given to each college and sixth form tertiary college in Lancashire for the years 1992-93 and 1993-94 ; and when the figure for the year 1994-95 will be available.

Mr. Boswell : The Further Education Funding Council's total recurrent funding allocations to colleges in Lancashire for 1993-94, covering the 16-month period 1 April 1993 to 31 July 1994, and those for the 12 months ending 31 July 1995, are given in the table. There are no comparable figures available for 1992-93, when the colleges were funded by their local authority using different bases.


Recurrent funding allocations: FE institutions in          

Lancashire                                                 

                          |1994-95   |1993-94              

                          |12 months |16 months            

                          |£         |£                    

-----------------------------------------------------------

General FE                                                 

Accrington and Rossendale |7,761,029 |9,467,703            

Blackburn                 |12,380,111|15,215,054           

Blackpool and The Fylde   |11,949,009|14,459,346           

Burnley                   |5,057,134 |6,457,022            

Lancaster and Morecambe   |5,082,424 |5,987,001            

Nelson and Colne          |5,241,985 |6,484,765            

Preston                   |11,835,929|13,667,024           

Runshaw                   |6,676,909 |7,500,239            

Skelmersdale              |4,381,961 |5,375,412            

                          |-------   |-------              

                          |70,366,491|84,613,566           

                                                           

Agricultural Colleges                                      

Myerscough                |2,767,223 |3,997,557            

                          |-------   |-------              

                          |73,133,714|88,611,123           

                          |-------   |-------              

                                                           

Sixth Form Colleges                                        

Blackpool                 |3,136,722 |4,110,269            

Cardinal Newman           |2,871,029 |3,661,167            

St. Mary's                |2,065,092 |2,877,776            

                          |-------   |-------              

                          |8,072,843 |10,649,212           

                          |-------   |-------              

Total                     |81,206,557|99,260,335           

Cash Limits

Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Secretary of State for Education what changes he plans to announce to cash limits on votes within his responsibility for 1994-95.

Mr. Patten : Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary revised estimates, the cash limits for class X, vote 1-schools, research and miscellaneous services-and for vote 2-higher and further education-will be reduced as follows:


Class and vote |Current cash  |Change        |Revised cash                 

               |£             |£             |£                            

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

X.1            |800,328,000   |- 59,000      |800,269,000                  

X.2            |5,787,121,000 |- 114,328,000 |5,672,793,000                


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The reduction of £59,000 on class X, vote 1 represents a transfer to class X, vote 2 for increased provision for grants to further education establishments for the education of the children of travellers, refugees and displaced persons.

The reduction of £114,328,000 on class X, vote 2 is the net effect of a transfer of £113,600,000 to class X, vote 3 to increase provision for grant in aid to the Further Education Funding Council for student number-related payments ; transfers from provision for grant in aid to the Higher Education Funding Council of £245,000 to the Welsh Office for payment to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales in respect of students on diploma in social work courses in Wales, and £542,000 to the Office of Science and Technology as the council's contribution towards class 3--super-computing time ; and a transfer from class X, vote 1 of £59,000 for additional provision for grants to further education establishments for the education of children of travellers, refugees and displaced persons.

Science and Mathematics

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for Education when he expects to answer the responses to his consultation paper on the supply and demand of newly qualified young people in science and mathematics ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Boswell : The consultation paper invited responses by 30 June. We shall consider what further action to take in the light of those responses.


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NORTHERN IRELAND

Specialists' Waiting Lists

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people not on waiting lists for treatment were waiting to see a specialist in the national health service at the end of March.

Mr. Ancram : There were 62,862 people waiting for their first out- patient appointment in Northern Ireland at31 March 1994.


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