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Defence Evaluation and Research Agency

Ms Dari Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress of the study into the options for a public private partnership for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. [83391]

Mr. George Robertson: A report on the Public Private Partnership options for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency was submitted by the Ministry of Defence study team to Ministers on 31 March 1999.

The report detailed the progress of the study to date, setting out the team's analysis and the proposed way ahead. In line with their advice, I have agreed that they should consult on the report's findings with key stakeholders, including other Government Departments,

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UK industry and academia, overseas allies, DERA staff and trade unions, before providing me with a final recommendation in the summer.

I would hope to be in a position to make an announcement on the PPP option chosen by the time of the summer recess. However, it is important that all stakeholders are properly consulted and their views taken into account prior to a decision being taken on the final shape of the PPP.

A copy of the consultation document has been placed in the Library of the House.

Defence Logistics Organisation

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the location of the permanent headquarters for the Defence Logistics Organisation. [83539]

Mr. Doug Henderson: We have undertaken a comprehensive investment appraisal and business case study to inform a decision on the location of the headquarters of the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) following its Foundation Year. I am now able to announce that, subject to full consultation with the Trades Unions, the headquarters will be based from 1 April 2000 at Ensleigh in Bath. The headquarters will comprise only a very small proportion of the DLO's staff, but its new location is the best site to enable it to drive forward the revolution in logistic support, deliver the full scale of early business improvements expected from the newly unified organisation, work closely with the Defence Procurement Agency to develop the Smart Procurement initiative and meet the DLO vision to excel as an integrated and responsive defence logistics team. Once agreement is reached with the Trade Unions, transition planning will begin in earnest with the aim of a progressive move to the new location completed by 1 April 2000.

EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT

Business Closures

Mr. Peter Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what support his Department provides for profitable medium-sized businesses facing closure as a result of multi-national corporations rationalising their operations. [82375]

Mr. Andrew Smith [holding answer 29 April 1999]: The closure of any successful business, whether operated by a foreign or indigenous company, is always a matter for regret. The DTI's Invest in Britain Bureau and its partners seek to ensure that, where multi-national firms are considering global rationalisation, the case for the UK is put forward strongly to local management. However, commercial decisions taken in the light of world market conditions rest with the companies themselves.

In circumstances where there are redundancies, the Employment Service stands ready to give the maximum possible assistance to those affected, including counselling, careers guidance and advice on re-training opportunities. In offering support the Employment Service takes account of the skills and experience of the

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employees being made redundant and local labour market conditions. The Employment Service has also targeted help in cases where there are large scale redundancies by setting up Rapid Response Units. These have been established to offer a wide range of co-ordinated support, and to assist people who have unfortunately been made redundant to find jobs quickly.

Discrimination (Sexual Orientation)

Mr. Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to introduce protection from discrimination in the workplace for lesbians and gay men. [83020]

Ms Hodge: We are currently considering our response to the Equal Opportunities Commission's recommendations, following their review of the current sex discrimination legislation. One of the EOC's proposals was that there should be legal protection for gay men and lesbians. We are considering carefully the Commission's recommendations, including whether or not legislation is the most appropriate route.

Roman Catholic Secondary Schools (London)

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many pupils there are in Roman Catholic secondary schools in London; and how many are of Afro-Caribbean origin. [83075]

Ms Estelle Morris [holding answer 4 May 1999]: In January 1998 there were 59,030 pupils in Roman Catholic maintained secondary schools in London, of which 4,438 were of Black Caribbean background and 4,835 of Black African background.

A and AS Courses

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when he expects the QCA to give final approval for the specifications submitted to it by awarding bodies for new A and AS level courses; and when he expects specimen papers, specifications and marking schemes to be circulated to schools. [83289]

Mr. Mudie [holding answer 4 May 1999]: The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority intends to produce by September 1999 synopses of all proposed AS and A level specifications to be introduced for teaching from September 2000. After final approval, the new specifications, together with sample assessment materials and marking schemes, will be published and distributed to schools and colleges by the awarding bodies in December 1999. Although the final specifications will not be available until later in the year, I understand that the awarding bodies plan to make detailed information on their draft specifications available to schools and colleges as soon as possible after they have been submitted to QCA later this Spring.

Employment Service

Mr. Stephen Twigg: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what performance targets will be set for the Employment Service in 1999-2000. [83463]

Mr. Blunkett: The Aim of the Employment Service is to contribute to high levels of employment and growth, and to individuals leading rewarding working lives, by

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helping all people without a job find work and employers fill their vacancies. This aim is supported by six key Objectives.

I am today announcing the targets I have set the Employment Service for 1999-2000 for each of its Objectives.



    Target:


    1. To place 1.25 million unemployed people into work.


    Objective B: To concentrate efforts on helping people improve their employability and move from welfare to work particularly if they have already spent long periods without a job.


    Targets:


    2. To place 190,000 long-term (6 months plus) JSA claimants into work.


    3. To place 38,000 JSA claimants out of work for 2 years or more, including New Deal for over 25s participants, into work:


    4. To place 100,000 New Deal for 18-24 participants into work;


    5. To place 15,000 New Deal for Lone Parents participants into work;


    Objective C: To involve people with disabilities in the world of work by helping them to find and retain jobs and encouraging employers to open more opportunities to them.


    Target:


    6. To place 85,000 unemployed people with disabilities, including New Deal for Disabled People participants, into work.


    Objective D: To set out clearly the rights and responsibilities of people who claim Jobseeker's Allowance and ensure that throughout the period of their claim these rights and responsibilities are fulfilled.


    Target:


    7. To ensure the correct application of the JSA process in at least 96 per cent. of cases checked in quarter four of 1999-2000.


    Objective E: To provide a courteous and professional customer service to all jobseekers.


    Target:


    8. To achieve an 87 per cent. customer service delivery rate.


    Objective F: To deliver these services cost effectively.

Targets for the Employment Service in Scotland and Wales, derived from the national targets, will be announced shortly.

I am also announcing today a review of the aims, Objectives and targets of the ES for the year 2000 and beyond, to ensure they continue to be an accurate reflection of the key role ES has to play in the implementation and operation of our employment policies.

Correspondence

Mr. Collins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when he intends to reply to the letter sent to him by Karen Lloyd and Sarah Varnan of Windermere Road, Kendal on 23 February. [83183]

Mr. Mudie: I am afraid there is no record of the original letter to the Secretary of State having been received in the Department. However, the correspondents copied their letter to the Prime Minister on 19 April. A copy arrived in the Department from the Prime Minister's

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office on 30 April. We will reply within the timetable set by the Department's Correspondence Standard, ie 15 working days from receipt.


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