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Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the level of UK emergency towing provision; and if he will make a statement. [150658]

Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what recommendations he has received from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on the all year round siting of an emergency towing vessel in the Pentland Firth; and if he will make a statement. [150401]

Mr. Hill: A review of UK emergency towing provision has now been completed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and recommends that the current winter-only arrangements for UK provision in the South West Approaches, Dover Strait, Minch, and Fair Isle should be increased to all-year-round cover. I have accepted this recommendation.

The new arrangements will start from 1 October this year, with the exception of the Dover Strait, which will commence earlier on 1 April. The Dover Strait provision builds on the partnership arrangements introduced last year with our French maritime colleagues.

The report also considered emergency towing provision for the Irish Sea and St. George's Channel area. Although the report concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support an emergency towing vessel for the area on an all-year-round basis by the UK alone, it recommends that provision could be made in partnership with the Government of Ireland. I have accepted this recommendation, dependent upon the Irish Government providing an emergency towing vessel in which the UK Government can share. A dialogue will be maintained with the Irish Government.

These improvements to the UK emergency towing vessel provision are good news for the safety of the UK environment and the seagoing community, and demonstrate this Government's commitment to preventing maritime pollution.

Copies of the review report have been placed in the House Library.


Mr. Anthony D. Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what (a) number and (b) percentages of UK ports are owned by (i) Associated British Ports and (ii) Hutchinson Whampoa Europe Ltd.; and what percentage of the UK port trade each of those companies carried out in each year from 1995. [150264]

Mr. Hill: There are more than 650 ports in the UK, of which about one fifth are commercially active. Associated British Ports (ABP) currently owns 23 ports and Hutchinson Whampoa (Hutchinson Ports (UK) Ltd.) owns three ports.

14 Feb 2001 : Column: 158W

It is estimated that ABP ports accounted for about 21 per cent. of all UK port tonnage in 1999 and Hutchinson Whampoa about 7 per cent. It is not possible to provide accurate figures for earlier years.

Coalfields Regeneration Trust

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the funding of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust. [150625]

Mr. Prescott: I am today announcing additional funding for the Coalfields Regeneration Trust in England of up to £45 million over the three years to March 2005. This reaffirms the Government's support for the coalfields communities and the excellent work of the Trust.

The Coalfields Regeneration Trust is a key element of the Government's long-term programme to bring about the physical, social, economic and environmental regeneration of our coalfields.

The Trust provides supports for local community projects. It also sponsors projects, targeted on workers displaced from mining-related industries, who have been unemployed for a long time and who face particular disadvantages in getting back to work. It has an important role to play in community capacity building, providing a forum for good regeneration practice to be exchanged across the coalfield communities. The Trust is actively building partnerships with local, regional and national agencies and reaching out to the private sector.

With this additional funding the Trust will be able to maintain and develop further its key role in combating poverty, debt and social exclusion in the former coalfield areas.

Chester Street Insurance Holdings

Mr. Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what estimate he has made of the cost to the Policyholders Protection Board of the financial collapse of Chester Street Insurance Holdings; and if he will recompense those who believed they were covered under employers liability insurance by policies held by Chester Street Insurance. [148917]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I have been asked to reply.

This is a matter for the Policyholders Protection Board. I understand that it is working with the provisional liquidators and Chester Street Insurance Holdings, which is currently assessing the information available about existing and potential claims.


New Deal for Disabled People

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what proportion of eligible applicants for the New Deal for Disabled People will be excluded in order to provide a control group for comparative purposes; on what basis they will be selected; and how long the period of exclusion would be before they became eligible for the programme. [147736]

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Ms Hodge [holding answer 30 January 2001]: In pursuing a very innovative New Deal for Disabled People it is important to evaluate how effective the programme is in bringing people on incapacity benefit into work. The most robust methodology available is one based on random assignment and this will be used to evaluate the NDDP national extension. Once the programme is established one in five clients who register with job brokers will be allocated to a control group and have their eligibility deferred. The deferral period will last for 12 months, after which time members of the control group will be invited to take part in the NDDP extension.

The control group will be selected entirely at random. During the deferral period, individuals in the control group will continue to have access to Employment Service programmes, including specialist disability employment programmes, where they meet the eligibility criteria.

Exam Markers

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the availability of exam markers for next summer's public examinations. [147861]

Mr. Wicks [holding answer 30 January 2001]: All necessary steps are being taken to ensure a sufficient supply of examiners. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is monitoring the awarding bodies closely to ensure that the system will deliver this summer's results on time. The awarding bodies' examiner recruitment exercise is well under way. The exact number of examiners needed will not be known until April, when entries have been made.

Student Loans and Debt

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment at what point of net income in tax year 2000-01 a graduate repays more in old-style mortgage loan than in new-style income-contingent loan. [149799]

Mr. Wicks [holding answer 13 February 2001]: Assuming a student loan debt of £5,000 and repayment of a mortgage-style loan over a five-year period, a graduate liable to repay a mortgage-style loan would repay more of that loan each year until annual gross pay of £21,111 was reached. Repayment thresholds for both types of loan are based on gross pay, not net.

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what the average amount of student debt was in each of the last five years. [149454]

Mr. Wicks: Data from the Department's Student Income and Expenditure Surveys show that the average debt of full-time students in higher education in the UK was £840 in 1995-96 and £2,530 in 1998-99, after their savings had been taken into account. The debt figures include student loans, commercial loans and overdrafts as well as informal loans from family and friends. Data for the intervening and more recent years are not available from the survey.

14 Feb 2001 : Column: 160W

Since 1998-99 students entering higher education have been eligible for income-contingent student loans. These are interest-free in real terms and repayment is linked to income so that graduates repay only when they can afford to do so.

Students (Social Background)

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will provide a breakdown of the social backgrounds of (a) university applicants and (b) university students for each of the last five years. [149455]

Mr. Wicks: The available information on full-time students, as given in the following table, covers only those who apply for full-time and sandwich undergraduate courses through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS); data on the family background of students applying for part-time courses are not held centrally.

UK domiciled applicants and accepted applicants via UCAS to full-time and sandwich undergraduate courses in the UK

Year of entry
Skilled non-manual43.049.647.147.148.1
Skilled manual58.260.758.958.557.2
Partly skilled28.332.231.030.831.7
Accepted applicants
Skilled non-manual31.337.335.636.337.8
Skilled manual40.944.844.244.544.4
Partly skilled19.923.522.723.124.2

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