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Examination Bodies (Standards)

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what action he is taking to ensure that examining bodies maintain consistent and mutually coherent standards. [102922]

Mr. Wicks: The Education Act 1997 confers powers on the ACCAC and QCA to keep under review all aspects of external vocational and academic qualifications. This year, Ministers endorsed detailed arrangements, developed by the ACCAC, CCEA and QCA, for the regulation of external qualifications. These arrangements set out the criteria which these bodies are applying to accredit qualifications to a national framework and will use to monitor the performance and practices of examining bodies in the delivery of these qualifications.

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Curriculum 2000

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what action he is taking to ensure that Curriculum 2000 qualifications are of equal rigour and reflect equal attainment to their predecessors. [102921]

Mr. Wicks: All the AS/A level and GNVQ specifications to be introduced for teaching from September 2000 will have to meet the demanding criteria set out by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. These are designed to ensure that the rigour of the qualifications is at least fully maintained. In approving these criteria, Ministers took steps to strengthen the rigour of the new A levels by requiring all candidates to take a demanding synoptic test at the end of the course covering the who syllabus, and by allowing only one opportunity to re-take individual modules. Ministers have also taken steps to upgrade the GNVQ assessment regime.

Accommodation Transfers

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to transfer buildings (a) from the Further Education Funding Council to the Learning and Skills Council and (b) from TECs to local Learning and Skills Councils; and what will be the net cost of transfers, sales and reprovision. [102923]

Mr. Wicks: It is our intention that the Learning and Skills Council should take over the lease on the Further Education and Funding Council's main premises in Coventry. Government Offices are currently undertaking an exercise, in consultation with TECs, to identify suitable premises for the local Learning and Skills Councils. Our priority will be to work closely with TECs to make the most cost effective use of existing premises wherever possible, either for the LSC, for a franchisee of the Small Business Service or for other local activities. It is too early at this stage to estimate the net costs of transfers, sales and reprovision.

Medical Techniques

Mr. Tredinnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many medical schools offer training in complementary and alternative medical techniques; what percentage this constitutes of the total number of medical schools; and if he will make a statement. [103477]

Mr. Wicks: This information is not collected centrally.

Student Drop-out Rates

Mr. Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many students left each United Kingdom university before completing their course in (a) 1996, (b) 1997 and (c) 1998. [103131]

Mr. Wicks: Information published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in "Higher Education Performance Indicators" gives for the first time projected non-completion rates for students beginning full-time degree courses in 1996-97 for each of the HE institutions in the UK. A copy is available in the Library. This information will be published annually.

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RUC (Macpherson Report)

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his discussions with the Royal Ulster Constabulary Chief Constable in respect of recommendations 20, 21 and 22 of the Macpherson Inquiry report regarding procedures, record keeping and policy directive adherence at scenes of crime. [101858]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 8 December 1999]: Following the publication of the Macpherson Report, discussions took place on a tripartite basis between representatives of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Police Authority for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Office to consider the implications of the Report in the wider context of policing in Northern Ireland.

In relation to recommendation 20, the RUC is acutely aware of the importance of effective co-ordination of police resources and activity at major incidents. Consequently all existing Force orders, manuals of guidance and policy are being distilled into generic procedures which will ensure clear roles and lines of responsibility.

On recommendation 21, the experience gained by the RUC in three decades of investigating major crime has resulted in tried and tested procedures. There are current RUC Force instructions concerning records made by individual officers and specialist units in relation to their functions and strict rules require the retention of all such records as long as an investigation remains open.

As for recommendation 22, the RUC in line with GB constabularies is to obtain an updated version of HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System) and the resourcing requirements are addressed in the draft ACPO Major Incident Room Standardised Agreed Procedures (MIRSAP). These guidelines, which should be confirmed early in the new year, will define the resources necessary to operate HOLMES investigations. A Detective Inspector is dedicated to the overall supervision of all HOLMES units deployed throughout the RUC, which includes checking on the adequacy of resources and that difficulties are reported.

Ministerial Meetings

Mr. David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what arrangements (a) he and (b) Ministers in his Department have put in place for the taking and keeping of minutes of meetings between Ministers and people outside his Department. [102370]

Mr. Mandelson: Decisions on the format of minutes of meetings will depend on the nature of the discussions.


Mr. William Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list the H-blocks in the Maze Prison which are still in use; which group of convicted terrorist prisoners are in occupation of each block; and if he will list the H-blocks in use and which groups occupied each on 1 December 1998. [102161]

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Mr. Ingram: At the present time, five of the eight Blocks are in use. Loyalist prisoners occupy three Blocks and Republican prisoners occupy the remaining two.

This was the position on 1 December 1998 also.

Mr. William Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects the next H-block in the Maze Prison to be cleared of prisoners; and which one it will be. [102159]

Mr. Ingram: I an unable to forecast when the next H-block within Maze Prison will close.

Prisoner releases between now and July 2000, when Maze is expected to close, are relatively small. The situation will be kept under review.

Prisoners (Rehabilitation)

Mr. William Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list the organisations dealing with rehabilitation of terrorist prisoners which receive funds from the public purse; which department funds them; and what sums went to each such organisation in each of the last five years and the current year to date. [102158]

Mr. Ingram: Rehabilitation services are provided by the Prison Service to all prisoners in Northern Ireland mainly through educational and vocational training courses and services. In addition, welfare and rehabilitation services are provided by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland.

Overall costs for the last five financial years are:


Prison Service Education and VT costsPrison Service payments to Probation Board for NI

(22) To date

Other bodies such as the Training and Employment Agency and the Local Enterprise Development Unit have provided services on occasions at no additional charge.

During the current financial year, in accordance with commitments in the Good Friday Agreement, a number of individual payments have been made for the delivery of courses for the rehabilitation of prisoners released from HMP Maze at an overall total of £16,215.

Ex-prisoner groups also receive funding from the EU Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation. Since the beginning of this Programme, £4.3 million (of which the Government fund 25 per cent.) in respect of Measures 4.4 and 4.6 has been allocated to ex-prisoner groups. Groups may also have received EU funding from District Partnerships and other funders.

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