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Local Education Authorities

Mr. Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to take on further consultants and service providers for intervention work in local education authorities. [108317]

Ms Estelle Morris: We will shortly be advertising for organisations interested in providing consultancy support and delivering education services in the event of intervention in local education authorities. This will include extending the remit of the work undertaken by consultants to provide a wide range of general management consultancy and advice. Advertisements will appear in the national press and specialist press from 2 February.

Learning Difficulties

Mr. Ashdown: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what is his estimate of the percentage of children with moderate learning difficulties who are fully included in education in mainstream schools in each local education authority in England; and if he will make a statement. [107672]

Jacqui Smith: Information by specific types of learning difficulty is not collected centrally.

However, in January 1999, returns of the Annual Schools' Census showed that, in England, 59 per cent. of all pupils with statements of SEN were being educated in mainstream schools.

Mr. Ashdown: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the Government's policy on the inclusion of children with moderate learning difficulties in mainstream schools. [107671]

Jacqui Smith: Promoting the inclusion of children with learning difficulties within mainstream schools, where parents want it and appropriate support can be provided, is a cornerstone of the Government's special educational needs strategy. The education of children with special needs is a key challenge for the nation, and critical to the creation of a fully inclusive society. There are strong educational, as well as social and moral, grounds for educating pupils with special needs or disabilities with their peers.

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The SEN/Disability Rights Bill--which will be introduced later this session--will strengthen the right to a mainstream place for pupils with special needs. Where parents want a mainstream setting for their child our policy is to try to provide it. Equally, when parents want a specialist setting for their child it is important that their wishes are respected. Our approach has been practical, not dogmatic. We are advocating inclusion by choice and have underlined that there remains a continuing and vital role for special schools. The key objective must be to safeguard the interests of all children and to ensure that they achieve to their full potential.

Unemployment Statistics

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what proportion of those who leave the unemployment pool based on the claimant count reapply for benefit within 12 months of securing employment by region. [107229]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Director of the Office for National Statistics. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Tim Holt to Mr. Dafydd Wigley, dated 1 February 2000:

    Of those leaving the claimant count during 1998 and known to have found work as the reason for ceasing their claim, the proportions of these who started another claim within 12 months of ceasing their original claim, were as follows.

Government Office RegionPercentage
North East45
North West38
Yorkshire and Humberside42
East Midlands37
West Midlands35
South East33
South West36
Northern Ireland31
United Kingdom37



Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) which members of the inquiry team chaired by Lord Burns investigating hunting have been members of a pro-field sports organisation; [106954]

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Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding answer 25 January 2000]: Inquiries with the Secretariat of the inquiry informs me that none of the members of the inquiry team has made a financial or in-kind contribution to a pro-field sports organisation, event or hunt. Nor have any of the inquiry team been members of a pro-field sports organisation.

With one exception, none of the members of the inquiry team has attended a hunt in any capacity. As part of research into hunting Professor Winter was present to observe a hunt on two occasions in 1991-92. The published research, "Economic and Social Aspects of Deer Hunting on Exmoor and the Quantocks", was funded by the National Trust. As a child, Professor Winter was taken to hunts on about half a dozen occasions.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Chapman) of 9 December 1999, Official Report, column 617W, announcing the membership of the inquiry, gave details of Dr. Edwards' and Professor Michael Winter's association with the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. Professor Marsh is a Governor of the College. None of them has had any connection with the beagle pack, which is owned and managed by a Trust (separate from the College) and available to students through a College Student Union Club.

In 1993, the Royal Agricultural College received a small grant from the Standing Conference on Countryside Sports to carry out research into the implications of pheasant shooting.

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Professor Sir John Marsh was Director of the Centre for Agricultural Strategy, which, like the Royal Agricultural College, attended meetings of the Standing Conference on Countryside Sports.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior was commissioned by the British Field Sports Society to carry out an evaluation of the report on deer hunting, "The Behavioural and Physiological Effects of Culling Red Deer", by Professor Patrick Bateson, together with other evidence. Lord Soulsby received expenses, but no payment, for this work.

The Secretariat informs me that Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, Professor Sir John Marsh and Professor Winter received refreshments when attending meetings organised by the Countryside Alliance and, in Professor Marsh's and Professor Winter's case, by the Standing Conference on Countryside Sports. We are informed that neither they nor the other members of the Inquiry team have received any income or other financial benefits from any pro-hunt organisation.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is satisfied that the Committee of Inquiry will provide an objective view on the issues before the Committee.

Local Election Pilot Schemes

Mr. Watts: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what applications he has received from local authorities wanting to run pilot schemes at local elections in May. [108275]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: We hope that the Representation of the People Bill will receive Royal Assent in time to allow the first pilot schemes of innovative electoral procedures to be run at local elections in May.

Clause 10(11) of the Bill allows for applications to be submitted before the Bill receives Royal Assent.

44 local authorities have submitted applications to run 64 pilot schemes.

Of these, 21 involve early voting, 14 involve all postal ballots, eight involve electronic voting or counting, seven involve changes to the absent vote arrangements, six involve weekend voting, four involve a mobile ballot box, two involve an extension to polling hours, one involves voter notification, one involves a freepost facility. Details are set out in the table.

My officials will notify local authorities by 14 February whether my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would be minded to approve their applications should the Bill receive Royal Assent in time for schemes to be run in May.

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Local AuthorityNumber of wardsApplication to pilot
Amber Valley BCWhole authority1. Electronic voting
Whole authority2. Extend entitlement to postal voting
Birmingham MBCWhole authorityEarly voting
Blackburn with Darwen BCWhole authorityEarly voting
Blackpool BCWhole authorityEarly voting
Bolton MBC3 wards1. All postal voting
2. Weekend voting
Broxbourne BC12 wardsElectronic counting
Bury MBC1 ward1. Electronic voting
Whole authority2. Early voting
Chester CCWhole authorityEarly voting
Coventry CCWhole authorityEarly voting
Doncaster MBC1 wardAll postal voting
Eastleigh BC15 wards1. Extension of entitlement to postal vote
2. Saturday voting
Gateshead MBC2 wardsAll postal voting
Gloucester CC3 wardsExtension of entitlement to postal vote
Halton BC2 wardsEarly voting
Ipswich BC2 wardsAll postal voting
Kingston upon Hull CCWhole authorityEarly voting
Knowsley MBC3 wardsEarly voting
Leeds CCWhole authorityExtend hours of polling
Manchester CCWhole authorityEarly voting
Milton Keynes3 wards1. All postal voting
14 wards2. Extend entitlement to postal vote
Whole authority3. Electronic counting
Mole Valley DCWhole authorityExtend hours of polling
North Hertfordshire DC16 wards1. Saturday voting
2. Early voting
3. Change to absent vote arrangements
Norwich CC2 wards1. All postal ballots
2 wards2. Voting on Sunday (using different hours)
Whole authority3. Early voting
Whole authority4. Mobile polling stations
Pendle DCWhole authorityEarly voting
Plymouth CCWhole authorityEarly voting
Redditch BC9 wardsEarly voting
Salford MDC1 ward1. All postal voting
2 wards2. Electronic voting
Solihul MBC1 wardAll postal voting
St. Helens MBC6 wardsEarly voting
Stevenage BC2 wardsAll postal voting
Stoke CCWhole authorityEarly voting
Stratford on Avon DC18 wardsElectronic voting
Sunderland CC8 wards1. Mobile voting
Whole authority2. Early voting
Swindon BC4 wardsAll postal voting
Telford and Wrekin2 wardsEarly voting
Three Rivers DCWhole authority1. All postal voting
2. Early voting
3. Electronic counting
Thurrock C3 wardsAll postal voting
Trafford MBC2 wardsChange to absent vote arrangements
Wakefield MDCWhole authorityWeekend voting
Warrington BC22 wardsElectronic voting
Watford BCWhole authority1. Freepost arrangements as in parliamentary elections
2. Weekend voting
3. Early voting
4. Mobile ballot box
5. Voter notification
6. Proxy voting deadline extension
Wigan MBC3 wardsAll postal voting
Windsor and Maidenhead RB2 wardsMobile polling facility
Wirral1 wardAll postal voting

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1 Feb 2000 : Column: 507W

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