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Welsh Arts Council

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on his plans for the appointment of a new chair to the Welsh Arts Council. [63155]

Mr. Michael: The selection process for a new chair of the Arts Council of Wales began in July with an advertisement in the national press. A shortlist of candidates has been drawn up and interviews will take place as early as possible in the New Year.

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Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will take steps to avoid the closure of the A487 across the Cob at Porthmadog, during rebuilding of the retaining walls; and what arrangements he has made for the alternative routing of trunk road traffic during the rebuilding. [63175]

Mr. Hain: The Department is presently in discussion with The Rebecca Trust concerning the condition of the retaining walls on either side of the cob at Porthmadog. Ownership of the walls above the A487 rests with the Trust. The Department's Agents, the North West Wales Trunk Road Agency, have been instructed to inspect the walls and consider possible strengthening schemes, which need to minimise traffic disruption. Some temporary closures may, however, be inevitable due to the narrowness of the A487 across the cob. Only on receipt of the strengthening proposals will the need for alternative routes be developed.

Disability Wales

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what progress has been made in addressing the issues raised in the report of the Welsh Office Social Services Inspectorate in August 1998 on the problems of Disability Wales; and what plans he has for the future funding of Disability Wales. [63149]

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: The final report of the Management Review of Disability Wales was published on 19 November and I have sent a copy to the right hon. Member. I am now awaiting a formal response to the report from the Trustees of Disability Wales.

The Government have a very positive agenda for disabled people, including the establishment of a Disability Right Commission. It is therefore essential that Disability Wales can play a strong and cohesive role during this important period. I hope that the report's recommendations will provide a sound foundation from which the organisation can develop. Welsh Office funding for Disability Wales is secured until 31 March 1999 and I will consider funding for the 1999-2000 financial year in the light of the response from the Trustees to the report by the Social Services Inspectorate for Wales.


Departmental Staff

Mr. Robert Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many people in his Department are currently on secondment from private companies; and if he will list them, their companies and their current responsibilities within Government. [62826]

Mr. Mudie: The Department for Education and Employment currently has 8 centrally managed staff seconded from the private sector. The details are as follows:

SecondeeSeconded fromCurrent position
Prof. Michael BarberInstitute of EducationHead of Standards and Effectiveness Unit
Ms Juliette BrownAqument ServicesPrivate Finance Division
Mr. Richard EdwardsThe Next CompanyNational Disability Council Secretariat
Mr. Anil KumarGlaxo Wellcome PLCHigher Education Funding and Organisation Division
Ms Lindsay OliverInstitute of EducationEffectiveness Division
Mr. Steve Pollock British Broadcasting CorporationUniversity for Industry Transition Team
Mr. Europe SinghBritish Broadcasting CorporationUniversity for Industry Transition Team
Mr. Alun ThomasRoyal National Institute for the BlindNational Disability Council Secretariat

10 Dec 1998 : Column: 287

10 Dec 1998 : Column: 287

Asian Women (Employment Rights)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps the Government are taking to increase the amount of advice and information available to women from the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities on employment rights and opportunities. [62282]

Ms Hodge [holding answer 8 December 1998]: First and foremost, the Government fund the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality to advise all individuals on employment rights. More specifically, the DfEE has adopted a Race Equality Strategy committing it, in all its policies and programmes, actively to promote equality between all ethnic and racial groups. The key principles of the strategy are built into all Employment Service programmes, notably the New Deal. This programme is designed to take account of the particular needs of ethnic minorities, including Pakistani and Bangladeshi women, to ensure that ethnic minority young people have advice and support that meets their particular needs. The Employment Service issues multi-lingual publicity leaflets to publicise its programmes.

We also require Government-funded Training and Enterprise Councils to ensure that all sections (ie by ethnic group, gender and disability) of the eligible local population are fully represented on the programmes they run and the services they deliver. If not, the TEC must increase its participation by identifying and tackling whatever barriers exist to recruitment.

Following a recent Social Exclusion Unit report, the Government have set up an Action Team on jobs to look at the particular difficulties facing people from ethnic minorities looking for work and to identify better ways of helping into jobs people like Pakistani and Bangladeshi women, who face some of the toughest barriers to work. It will report to the SEU in July 1999.

Careers Services are also developing imaginative schemes to support ethnic minority women and prepare them to find suitable work. In Bradford, for example, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are helped by the local Careers Service with information and advice, providing both reassurance and practical assistance, eg with language, to support entry for daughters onto work experience schemes. The local Careers Service also operates a mentoring scheme which draws upon the skills of experienced Pakistani and Bangladeshi community members to train and support young people into jobs.

I recognise that people from ethnic minorities face particular difficulties in moving from education into work. It is because we must find ways of overcoming them that

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I have made this an early priority for my advisory group, the Race Employment and Education Forum, which met for the first time on 20 October.

Education Council

Mr. Rammell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what was the outcome of the Education Council held in Brussels on 4 December; and if he will make a statement. [63164]

Mr. Andrew Smith: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Twigg), on 8 December 1998, Official Report, column 181.

Performance League Tables

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what research he has commissioned on the impact of socio-economic factors on school performance tables. [62584]

Mr. Charles Clarke [holding answer 9 December 1998]: No research has been commissioned on the impact of such factors specifically on performance tables, but in its internal analyses of performance information for school improvement purposes the Department does undertake investigations of the relationship between socio-economic factors and school performance.

Teachers' Pensions

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the review of teachers' pension arrangements and its impact on opportunities for early retirement. [63230]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Working Group on the Review of the Teachers' Pension Scheme has considered all of its terms of reference. These included whether teachers should be allowed to retire early with an actuarially reduced pension at their own request. The Working Group will cover this in its report which I expect to receive in January.

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will report on progress being made by the Working Group on the Review of the Teachers' Pension Scheme; and when he expects it to report. [62923]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Working Group on the Review of the Teachers' Pension Scheme has considered all of its terms of reference. I expect to receive its report in January.

10 Dec 1998 : Column: 289

Job Creation

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to increase local powers (a) over job creation and training programmes and (b) to co-ordinate different publicly funded regeneration and employment projects. [62344]

Mr. Mudie [holding answer 9 December 1998]: (a) We are committed to the principle that local partnerships should be able to develop solutions to identified local needs. Initiatives such as the Single Regeneration Budget and New Deal for Communities offer vehicles for this, and people, jobs and skills are at their heart. It is crucial that all partners involved in activities focused employability work closely together to ensure that local programmes fit as effectively as possible with national programmes such as New Deal.

The Government support the Local Government Association New Commitment to Regeneration Initiative which is seeking a more co-ordinated and flexible approach to regeneration in 22 pathfinder areas. The Government will work wholeheartedly with the pathfinder areas as they seek new and effective ways of meeting the needs and priorities of their localities.

(b) Helping people in deprived communities to obtain jobs is a high priority in all regeneration initiatives. The 17 New Deal for Communities Pathfinders have been asked to put this at the centre of their plans. Guidelines for Round 5 of the Single Regeneration Budget emphasised the importance of employability.

I also refer my hon. Friend to the reply my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister gave on 28 October 1998, Official Report, columns 168-69, which gives detailed information on steps taken by this Government to improve the co-ordination of area-based initiatives.

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