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Mr. Boswell: In 1994, the Department and its executive agency recruited 339 staff. We estimate the recruitment costs to the Department to have been approximately £210,000.

Projections at local education authority level are not available.

Student Loans Company

Mr. Byers: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to her answer of 20 January, Official Report , column 720 , on what date she was informed of the allegations made concerning the Student Loans Company; what was the nature of these allegations; at what date management consultants were invited to tender to carry out an investigation into the allegations; if she will identify those consultants who were invited to tender; which consultant submitted the lowest tender; on what date the contract was awarded; on what date the provisional findings were received; and if she will place a copy in the Library.

Mr. Boswell: My right hon. Friend was informed of the most recent allegations of impropriety at the Student Loans Company on 5 October 1994. Tenders for the contract to carry out an investigation were invited from three organisations--Robson Rhodes, Ernst and Young and Coopers and Lybrand --on 10 October 1994.

The contract was awarded to Coopers and Lybrand on 12 October. The winning tender was not the lowest. The contract was awarded to the tenderer who was considered to offer the best value for money. Lowest cost alone is not necessarily the best indicator of this. My right hon. Friend received a report of Coopers and Lybrand's provisional findings on 9 January 1995. The investigation into the allegations is not complete. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the nature of allegations which are still under investigation, nor to make public provisional findings. The full conclusions of the investigation will be reported to the Public Accounts Committee in the usual way.

Boxing Skills

Mr. Galbraith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education (1) if she will give the names and locations of any other schools that have applied for, or will be participating in, the basic boxing skills training scheme similar to that given at Croxteth community school; when the scheme will be launched; and what will be the extent of Government funding;

(2) what funding has been made available to Croxteth community school to teach basic boxing skills.

Mr. Forth: The boxing skills training scheme at the Croxteth community school is privately sponsored and attracts support of £5, 000 through the Government's sports match scheme. Information about similar schemes is not collected centrally.


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SCOTLAND

Health Care International

Mr. McAllion: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what offer of regional selective assistance has been made to the Abu Dhabi Investment Group in relation to its bid for the Health Care International hospital at Clydebank; on what this RSA assistance will be spent; if the offer is conditional on the original employment targets at the Health Care International being achieved; and what these targets are.

Mr. Stewart: No further offer of regional selective assistance has been made. If a new investor were prepared to take the project forward, it is possible that the balance of existing offer could be transferred. Such a transfer would be subject to appropriate conditions and would be based upon the project being taken forward as previously envisaged. If the offer were transferred, the unpaid balance of grant would be released by stages, in line with the achievement of job targets which would otherwise have applied to HCI. These targets envisaged the ultimate creation of 1,800 direct new jobs at Clydebank.

Gemini Housing Association

Mr. Michael J. Martin: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) what funds Scottish Homes has made available to Gemini Housing Association;

(2) which housing associations have been invited to make a bid to take over Scottish Homes's property in (a) Springburn, (b) the Royston area and (c) Dennistown;

(3) when the board of Scottish Homes decided that its officers and staff would form Gemini Housing Association;

(4) how many officers of Scottish Homes have been involved with the setting up of Gemini Housing Association;

(5) how many hours Scottish Homes's officials and staff have devoted to the running of Gemini Housing Association during 1994.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The information requested is a matter for Scottish Homes. I have asked its chairman, Sir James Mellon, to write to the hon. Member with the relevant information.

Competitive Tendering

Mr. Gallie: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, if he has decided on the compulsory competitive tendering timetables to apply in Scotland.

Mr. Lang: The Government are committed to ensuring that the benefits of local government reorganisation and compulsory competitive tendering are realised across Scotland. To achieve both aims, a flexible programme is required, linked closely to Scottish circumstances.

I therefore issued a consultation paper on compulsory competitive tendering and local government reorganisation last July. I have considered carefully the responses submitted and have decided on certain adjustments to the timetables proposed in the consultation paper.

For work subject to CCT under the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980, competition will be reintroduced with effect from 1 July 1997. By this date, contracts must be commenced. There will be no


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exemptions for construction contracts worth over £0.5 million. For work subject to the Local Government Act 1988, competition will be reintroduced and contracts will require to be let between July 1997 and July 1998.

The new manual services, security services and vehicle management will follow the same timetable as for the existing 1988 Act activities.

The new professional services will require to be let between April 1998 and April 1999. Authorities will have flexibility during that period to decide the areas of work that they wish to put out to competition first.

The timetable for housing management remains unchanged. However, the dates will now refer to when contracts are let rather than when the contracts commence. This is in line with the timetable for professional services.

WALES

Schools, Clwyd

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will visit (a) Penyffordd voluntary primary school and (b) Penyffordd county primary school, Clwyd; and if he will meet the governors of each school.

Mr. Richards: Neither my right hon. Friend nor I have any plans at present to visit Penyffordd voluntary primary school or Penyfford county primary school. We will, however, bear these in mind when arranging our future programmes of school visits.

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received concerning his Department's allocation of money for schools in Clwyd; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Richards: The Department has received many representations on the issue of education funding in Clwyd in 1995 96 from school governors, head teachers, parents and others. My right hon. Friend does not set individual county education budgets. It is for each local authority to determine how much of its available resources to direct towards the services it provides, including education, in the light of its statutory responsibilities and its perception of local needs and priorities.


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School Playing Fields

Mr. Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement concerning his new policy on school playing fields.

Mr. Richards: No. Neither my right hon. Friend nor I has announced a new policy on school playing fields.

Absenteeism

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what was the absenteeism rate for (a) the Welsh Office and (b) Cadw in each year since 1991.

Mr. Redwood: The average number of working days absent per member of staff was 9.82 in 1992 and 10.1 in 1993. Statistics on a comparable basis are not available for 1991.

Details for Cadw are not separately identified; they are included in the Welsh Office totals.

Christmas Expenditure

Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many official Christmas cards he and his Ministers intend to send in 1994; how much these cards will cost, (a) to buy, (b) to post and (c) in staff time to sign, address and place in envelopes; and if he will place in the Members' Library a sample copy of the official Christmas card he intends to send this year.

Mr. Redwood: I apologise for not replying to the hon. Gentleman's question sooner.

Ministers in this Department sent out 900 official Christmas cards in 1994 costing (a) £755 to buy, and (b) £200 to post. The disaggregated cost for staff time is not available.

Departmental Employees

Mrs. Maddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many employees for which his Department is responsible were women (a) in 1991, (b) in 1992, (c) in 1993 and (d) in 1994; and, of these, how many were (i) at grade 7 level, (ii) at grade 3, (iii) at executive officer level, (iv) at administrative officer level and (v) at administrative assistant level.

Mr. Redwood: The numbers of individuals were as follows:


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As at 1 April            |1991         |1992         |1993         |1994                       

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

Total women              |1,016        |1,140.5      |1,021        |948                        

Grade 3                  |-            |-            |1            |1                          

Grade 7                  |25           |26           |24           |23                         

Executive officer        |200          |207.5        |191          |190                        

Administrative officer   |295.5        |282.5        |259          |240                        

Administrative assistant |161          |187.5        |157          |158                        

Ministerial Visits (Schools)

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales which schools he and his Ministers have visited since the 1992 general election.

Mr. Richards: School visits undertaken by Welsh Office Ministers since 9 April 1992 are as follows:

Aberdare girls high school

Ashgrove Special School

Bedwas Comprehensive School


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Bishop Vaughan Grant-Maintained School

Bishopston Comprehensive School

Brynhyfryd School

Brynmawr Grant-Maintained School

Coed y Lan Comprehensive School

Corpus Christi High School

Crickhowell High School

Croesyceiliog Comprehensive School

Dame Anna Childs Endowed School

Dynevor Comprehensive School

Eglwys Wen and Melin Gruffydd Primary School


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Eirias High School

Garnfach Infants School

Glan Ely High School

Heol Ddu Comprehensive School

Holyhead High School

John Beddoes School

Llandovery College (Independent)

Llandrindod County Primary School

Llanfigangel Rhydithon County Primary School

Lliswerry Comprehensive School

Llwyn Crwn County Primary School

Maes Dyfan Special School

Marlborough Road Junior School

Palmerston County Primary School

Pencoed Comprehensive School

Pentrepoeth School

Pilgwenlly County Primary School

Radyr Comprehensive School

St David's College (Independent)

St David's High School, Wrexham

Tredegar Comprehensive School

Tregynon (Special Needs) School

Trelai County Primary School

Windsor Clive Infants & Junior Schools

Ysgol Bro Lleu

Ysgol Caergeiliog (Grant Maintained)

Ysgos Croes Atti

Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan (Grant Maintained)

Ysgol Esgob Morgan

Ysgol Glan Clywd

Ysgol Gwynllyw (County Secondary)

Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelin

Ysgol Gymraeg Dewi Sant

Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Brynsierfel

Ysgol Rowen

Company Sizes

Sir Wyn Roberts: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many companies in Wales employ (a) more than 200 persons; (b) fewer than 200 but more than 20 persons and (c) fewer than 20 persons; and what are the percentages represented by each of all companies.

Mr. Redwood: The information requested is not available for companies in Wales. However, a breakdown of census of employment data units, which are roughly equivalent to workplaces, is available and is shown in the table:


                   |Number of units<1>                                      

                   |in                                                      

Size of units      |Wales             |Per cent. of total                   

(Number of                                                                  

employees)         |(thousands)                                             

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

1-24               |52.5              |88.4                                 

25-199             |6.3               |10.6                                 

200 and over       |0.6               |1.0                                  

All sizes          |59.4              |100.0                                

Source: NOMIS.                                                              

<1> The figures relate only to data units with employees. Solo proprietors  

and HM forces are excluded. Also excluded are agricultural and              

horticultural holdings. Some workplaces may comprise several data units     

because of the way the information is collected eg. because of different    

pay arrangements, for weekly and monthly paid staff.                        

Recruitment

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much his Department spent during 1994 on recruiting


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staff to his Department and its executive agencies; and how many staff were recruited.

Mr. Redwood: In 1994, my Department spent £121,000. Forty-one substantive staff were recruited, some from other Departments.

SMART Scheme

Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what consultations he has had with the European Union on the criteria to be used and the control and compliance mechanisms in adjudicating applications for assistance under the SMART scheme.

Mr. Redwood: SMART is a nationwide competition whose guidelines are drawn up by the DTI as the lead Department. The European Commission was consulted and notified of the criteria used for running the competition and judging the entries. All SMART programmes receive EC approval prior to launch.


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