Miss Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will set out, including statistical information, the effect on the Morecambe and Lunesdale constituency of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. 
13 Feb 2001 : Column: 92W
|Number of vacancies
|Vacancy rate (Percentage)
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the impact of tuition fees and the abolition of maintenance grants on (1) student drop-out rates; 
Mr. Wicks: We have no evidence to suggest that the student support arrangements we introduced are affecting non-completion rates or the demand for higher education. The non-completion rate in the UK has remained broadly steady at 17-18 per cent. since 1991-92. Data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) on the number of people accepted for entry to full-time and sandwich courses in higher education in the UK in 2000-01 show an overall rise of 1.5 per cent. or over 5,000 students compared to the previous year. This follows an increase in enrolments in both 1998-99 and 1999-2000.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many students have been expelled from universities in England and Wales as a result of non- payment of debts in each of the last five years. 
Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what recent representations he has received from higher education bodies and institutions on the recommendations of the Bett report. 
Mr. Wicks: My Department has received several representations from higher education bodies, institutions and individuals. The Bett report was to the employers, not the Government. However, the Government recognise that funding is a factor in recruitment and retention of staff and is providing £50 million in 2001-02, rising to £110 million in 2002-03 and £170 million in 2003-04, to support increases in academic and non-academic pay. The Higher Education Funding Council for England is currently consulting institutions, representative bodies and unions on the human resource strategies which will underpin the allocation of funds.
13 Feb 2001 : Column: 93W
Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment he has made of the effect of the cost of living in the south of England on recruitment of non-academic staff in higher education. 
Mr. Wicks: My Department has made no such assessment. The recruitment of staff is a matter for higher education institutions. However, the Government are providing £50 million in 2001-02, rising to £110 million in 2002-03 and £170 million in 2003-04, to support increases in academic and non-academic pay. This will give higher education employers more flexibility to address recruitment and retention difficulties and modernise their reward systems.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many children are assisted with their fees with the music and ballet scheme; how many are recruited annually; and what is the average cost per child to public funds. 
Ms Estelle Morris: In the current academic year 2000-01, 749 children hold aided places under the music and ballet scheme at an average cost per pupil to public funds of £14,845. All parents using the scheme are required each year to make a declaration of the family's income in order for their contribution towards school fees to be assessed.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the conclusions of the recent review of the music and ballet scheme and the subsequent consultation with interested parties. 
Ms Estelle Morris: We value the music and ballet scheme, and want to see it continue and develop. The final report on the review was received in summer 1999 and we consulted more than 60 organisations and other interested parties in the autumn of that year. We announced last April that we accepted, in principle, all 20 recommendations in the report: they covered scheme objectives and decision-making, scheme development, and financial arrangements (including the restructuring of the parental contribution scales). In response to one of the key recommendations, we established last summer an advisory group for the music and ballet scheme to advise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the operation, monitoring and future development of the scheme.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what studies he has commissioned into the future demand for supported employment involving the first or rehabilitated employment of persons disabled and out of work and of the unit cost of widening access to employment for those in these categories. 
Ms Hodge: My Department has not commissioned recent studies into the likely future demand for supported employment, though such studies have been commissioned in the past. I announced radical improvements to the Supported Employment Programme on 8 December 2000 which will result in the programme being opened up, for the
13 Feb 2001 : Column: 94W
first time, to people who were formerly claiming incapacity benefits or were long-term unemployed. The programme will be known as Workstep from April 2001.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what studies he has commissioned into incentives to move into open employment from supported employment and the likely impact on those providers of supported employment who fail to qualify for those incentives. 
Ms Hodge: My Department has not commissioned studies into incentives to move into open employment from supported employment, although my Department and the Employment Service receive regular feedback from providers and clients on this issue. We will continue to provide the training and support people need to progress from supported to mainstream employment. This is an important part of the modernised Supported Employment Programme (Workstep) which I announced on 8 December 2000. We expect that rates of progression from the programme will vary between providers and we will monitor the effects of incentives during the early years to see if there is a need to make any changes.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what studies he has commissioned into the nature of open employment taken by those leaving supported employment and into the skill grades and remuneration involved compared with those available under their previous supported employment. 
Ms Hodge: My Department has not commissioned studies into the nature of open employment undertaken by people leaving supported employment because the numbers making such a move have been very small. One of my aims in modernising the Supported Employment Programme is to introduce improvements which will increase the numbers of people who move from the programme and into mainstream employment. The modernised programme, which will be known as Workstep from April 2001, will be subject to evaluation to provide information about what happens to people who leave it.
Mr. Watts: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what monitoring he has carried out of the responses of the Council of the University of Liverpool to the Royal Liverpool Children's Inquiry; and what assessment he has made of the ability of the Council of the University of Liverpool to investigate the matter and take disciplinary action where appropriate. 
Mr. Wicks: My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for Education and Employment in the Lords has asked the Council of the University of Liverpool to keep her informed of progress in the Council's consideration of disciplinary action of those employees of the University named in the Redfern report on the Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital. I understand that the president of the University Council has already established a panel of lay members of Council to take this work forward. I am confident the Council will properly discharge its duties.
13 Feb 2001 : Column: 95W