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Nautical Studies GCSE

Mr. Bruce George: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the future of the GCSE in nautical studies; and what consultation his Department has held on proposed changes. [115861]

Mr. Wicks: The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) is working with the awarding bodies to develop advice on the list of GCSE titles to be offered from 2001. No decisions have been reached at this stage. If proposals are made to remove titles from the approved list, QCA will seek the views of interested organisations before submitting final recommendations. We shall consider QCA's advice very carefully before decisions are made.


Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many full-time higher education students took an ERASMUS year of study in another European country (a) outwards from the UK and (b) inwards to the United Kingdom in each of the last five years. [116016]

Mr. Wicks [holding answer 22 March 2000]: The latest available information on numbers of full-time higher education students in the ERASMUS programme is given in the following table.

YearOutward mobility from UKInward mobility to UK

(19) Provisional


Mr. Patrick Hall: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to tackle literacy problems among secondary school pupils. [114604]

Mr. Wills: I refer my hon. Friend to the oral reply given to our hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Ms Ryan) earlier today, Official Report, column 1102.

Teachers (Development)

Mr. Ernie Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on continuing professional development for teachers. [114617]

Ms Estelle Morris: We are committed to supporting high-quality professional development to become an entitlement for every teacher. We are consulting on a draft framework for continuing professional development to provide the opportunity, support and recognition that teaching needs to become a learning profession.

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Schools (Sheffield, Heeley)

Mr. Bill Michie: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what representations he has received in respect of (a) school closures, (b) school mergers and (c) changes in schools' catchment areas affecting the constituency of Sheffield, Heeley. [114623]

Ms Estelle Morris: No representations have been received by my Department about school organisation matters in Sheffield, Heeley.


Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many (a) men and (b) women were in an apprenticeship scheme in England and Wales on 1 March. [114594]

Mr. Wicks: The latest date for which information is available on those participating in Modern Apprenticeships and National Traineeships is 26 December 1999, when there were 143,300 in Modern Apprenticeships, 47 per cent. of which were women, and 72,700 in National Traineeships, 56 per cent. of which were women.

Modern Apprenticeships are a key part of the Government's response to the need to prepare young people for an economy based on high-level skills. We have recently announced a consultation on reforms to drive forward improvements to Modern Apprenticeships to enhance work based training opportunities enabling all young people to reach their potential and ensure economic success.

As part of this National Traineeships and Modern Apprenticeships have been renamed as Foundation Modern Apprenticeships and Advanced Modern Apprenticeships.


Nuclear Warheads

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans the United Kingdom has to decommission nuclear warheads prior to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in April. [115356]

Mr. Hoon: I have been asked to reply.

The Government are committed to the goal of global nuclear disarmament and take their responsibilities as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty very seriously. We have already given up our maritime tactical and air-launched nuclear capability and all these weapons have been dismantled. The Chevaline warheads from our previous strategic nuclear deterrent force, Polaris, are currently being dismantled. Trident is now our only nuclear system. We announced in the Strategic Defence Review that we will maintain fewer than 200 operationally available warheads for Trident. We now have significantly fewer nuclear weapons than any other Nuclear Weapon State. We have no plans to make any further reductions to our nuclear deterrent prior to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

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Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many bodies of Kosovar Albanians known to have been killed by Kosovan Serbs and Yugoslav police and armed forces since June 1998 have been found. [115333]

Mr. Vaz: The International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has said that over 2,000 bodies have so far been exhumed from 195 grave sites by investigators working on behalf of The Tribunal. This is out of a total of 529 reported grave sites, most of which are still to be investigated. Work on remaining sites will resume in Spring this year. Besides known grave sites, other sites may come to light as work progresses, but a high proportion of bodies may never be recovered given the degree to which Serb forces attempted to destroy evidence.

Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is his estimate of the number of Kosovar Albanians forced out of Kosovo prior to the start of NATO's bombing campaign. [115332]

Mr. Vaz: Before the airstrikes began there were over 210,000 people internally displaced within Kosovo and 70,000 refugees outside Kosovo. The vast majority of the Internally Displaced Persons and 50,000 of the refugees were Kosovo Albanians.


Benefit Errors

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the amount of (a) erroneous

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underpayment and (b) erroneous overpayment arising as a result of error by (i) officials and (ii) customers, for each benefit administered by his Department for each of the last three years. [114669]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 14 March 2000]: The administration of benefits is a matter for Peter Mathison, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to my right hon. Friend.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. Frank Field, dated 22 March 2000:

    The figures for overpayments represent the value of debt which has to be recorded. For most benefits (or grouping of benefits) I can provide the information you have asked for in full and this is set out in table A. Where I can provide you with partial data this is explained in the note to table A.

    From the figures in table A you will note that the value of overpayments is increasing. This increase in the value of debt reflects an increase in the identification and processing of overpayments which, in turn, results from increased activity on programme protection initiatives to drive down the levels of fraud and error. The number of overpayment cases processed (for all benefits) has increased from 0.9 million cases in 1996/97 to 1.2 million cases in 1998/99.

    When an underpayment is found the payment is corrected straight away and noted on the individual file. However, the information is not collated centrally. The information I can provide you with is therefore limited, and confined to those benefits where the Agency conducts checking regimes which provide a statistically valid estimate of underpayments. This information is set out in table B which also carries explanatory notes.

    I hope this is helpful.

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Table A: Overpayments

Value of official error Value of customer error
Contributory Benefits(20)17,218,84422,382,56414,800,51721,282,05528,484,42033,869,503
Income Support67,923,62994,419,96771,461,623170,419,299198,510,053220,643,950
Unemployment Benefit(21)50,235159,7817,804947,214909,263263,872
Jobseekers Allowance739,13410,071,1799,530,671702,77619,057,22031,933,785
Attendance Allowance2,003,0422,158,9562,109,5771,485,3584,080,2965,116,223
Disability Living Allowance5,392,50511,078,40311,238,1543,666,4477,231,3378,273,408
Invalid Care Allowance1,981,5104,553,7886,140,9688,090,32125,026,09021,726,441
Child Benefit Directorate(22)----9,599,275----13,927,975
Disability Working Allowance61,671102,27965,00662,18387,597126,510
Family Credit1,704,039910,535881,5232,677,8655,093,3016,918,817
Pensions Directorate(23)9,509,27611,544,82012,332,8921,639,6422,656,6468,328,301
Earnings Top Up(24)--10,0104,543--12,56039,557

(20) Includes contributory benefits processed in District offices: Sickness Benefit, Invalidity Benefit, Retirement Pension, Widows Benefit, Attendance Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance, Mobility Allowance, Family Credit, Invalid Care Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Disability Working Allowance, Child Benefit, Industrial Injuries Death Benefit, Maternity Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Industrial Injuries Death Benefit, Earnings Top Up, Reduced Earnings Allowance, Guardians Allowance.

(21) Unemployment Benefit ceased to be paid on the introduction of JSA in 1996 although some retrospective overpayments are still identified.

(22) Includes Child Benefit, One Parent Benefit and Guardians Allowance--records not kept in 1996-97 or 1997-98.

(23) Includes Retirement Pensions, Widows Benefit, Attendance Allowance and Overseas Benefits.

(24) Introduced in October 1996 but no overpayments recorded until 1997-98.


Figures include non-recoverable overpayments written-off under an Easements Package agreed with Treasury

Table B: Underpayments
£ million

Benefit of official error Value of customer error
Income Support192.8165.4210.9n/an/a40.0
Jobseekers Allowance(25)--20.122.2n/an/a4.0
Incapacity Benefit106.464.877.6n/an/a(26)--

(25) Jobseekers Allowance was introduced during 1996-97.

(26) Incapacity Benefit is not subject to Area Benefit Reviews.


1. These figures are estimates of the monetary value of underpayments based on a statistical sample of each benefit which is checked for customer error or official error.

2. The estimate of customer error is obtained from Area Benefit Reviews. 1998-99 is the first full year of these reviews.

3. The estimate of official error is obtained from Quality Support checks.

4. The values are estimated to 0.1 per cent. of £ million.

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