Submitted by the Department for Education
Your letter to Michael Bichard of 9 June requested
further information on certain Parliamentary Questions recorded
as being 'blocked' by the Table Office because of Ministers' refusal
to provide answers.
The information you have requested accompanies this letter.
19 July 2000
(63275): Mr Paul Keetch MP asked to list the areas
where (a) the New Deal Gateway and (b) one or more New Deal options
are delivered entirely by private sector providers; and if he
will list monthly expenditure and client outcomes for each of
these private sector providers up to the latest date for which
the figures are available.
(94594): Mrs Claire Curtis-Thomas MP asked what money Sefton
Metropolitan Borough Council had received from the New Deal programme
and how money had been spent.
Information exchanged or agreed between the parties to any contract
in relation to the costing of any contract or bid is considered
confidential. To disclose such information would have potential
to harm the relationship and trust maintained between the parties
concerned and could potentially erode the suppliers' ability to
compete in the market.
With the exception of the price of winning competitive tenders,
which Employment Service usually voluntarily publishes in the
Official Journal for the European Community, all subsequent financial
information shared between the parties to the contract remains
This practice has been endorsed by the Office of Government Commerce,
an office of HM Treasury.
(67410): Mr Damian Green MP asked what estimate he has
made of the number of 18 to 24 year olds who will enter the New
Deal in (a) 1999-2000, (b) 2000-2001 and © 2001-2002.
The Department's earlier explanation of the answer given to this
parliamentary question made the point that the answer had not
in fact withheld information.
We imagine that the Committee's request for a fuller explanation
may stem from the fact that the detailed answer given to this
parliamentary question in January 1999 began with the sentence
"By convention, the government does not publish forecasts
That sentence was not, however, indicating that the Department
possessed information which it was unable or unwilling to reveal
in answer to the question. The point of the sentence was to make
it clear that the information provided in the remainder of the
answer did not constitute or derive from an estimate or forecast
of unemployment. Rather, the information provided was about the
Government's planning assumptions for participation in the New
Deal for Young People, and the point being made was that those
assumptions were based not on forecasts or estimates of unemployment
but on the actual levels of unemployment pertaining at the time
the assumption was drawn up.
The key point is that the Department does not make forecasts of
unemployment. This parliamentary question asked for the Government's
estimate of the numbers who would participate in the New Deal
for Young People. The answer set out to ensure that we did not
mislead people into thinking that we had estimates or forecasts,
when all we in fact had were assumptions about participation,
needed for planning purposes, and based not on forecasts or estimates
of unemployment - which we do not make - but on current levels
(68423): Mr Francis Maude MP asked what additional legislation,
not currently before Parliament, was assumed in the production
of his Department's spending allocation for 1999-2000 to 2001-2002
in the Comprehensive Spending Review.
There is a long-standing convention that legislative proposals
for each year are not announced before the Queen's Speech at the
start of the relevant Session.
The refusal to release details of legislative proposals is covered
by Exemption 10 of the Code of Practice.
(68869): Mr David Chaytor MP asking for (a) a list of further
education college with a category C financial rating; and (b)
the current deficit for each college.
The Department considers that it acted appropriately in response
to this question.
The question raised two points. The first, on Category C financial
rating, referred to information where responsibility for collection
lies not with the Department but the FEFC. The FEFC has always
maintained the practice of treating the list as "commercial
in confidence". It would have been a breach of trust for
the Department to have published FEFC's information. The Parliamentary
Answer did, however, give a summary appraisal of the category
C position, reporting that 84 of the 435 FE colleges came into
The second point, on deficits, was fully met through the explanation
to the MP that audited end-year information on deficits was available
in the Commons Library in a publication of the Further Education
Funding Council (FEFC).
(69691): Mr Peter Ainsworth MP asked how many tenders his
Department has received for the provision of digital broadcasting
The Department was not, at that stage, in a position to divulge
details of the tenders received, for reasons of commercial confidentiality.
The Department recognises the right of companies to withdraw from
competitions without undue publicity, which could prove commercially
damaging to them.
Part I of the Code of Practice on Access to Public Information
talks of the need to balance release of information with "the
need to maintain high standards of care in ensuring the privacy
.commercially confidential information". The Department's
answer to PQ 69691 was in accordance with that and with Part II,
section 13 of the Code of Practice, which exempts from disclosure
"information including commercial confidences, trade secrets
or intellectual property whose unwarranted disclosure would harm
the competitive position of a third party".
Papers relating to the Education Digital Broadcast Services Competition
(such as the invitation to tender) were subsequently placed in
the House Library. Further details of the companies involved were
made publicly available once contracts for a trial demonstration
were in place.
(72237): Mrs Theresa May asked what advice the Department
has issued to local education authorities on the use of genetically-modified
foods in the school meals services.
The Department does not believe that the answer to this PQ withheld
The question in February 1999 asked what advice the DfEE had issued
to local education authorities on the use of genetically-modified
foods in school meals services. The answer given - that responsibility
for determining the content of school meals rested with local
education authorities and the governing bodies of grant maintained
schools - was a factually correct statement.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was, of course,
responsible for the arrangements for rigorous safety assessments
of all genetically-modified foods sold in the UK, under the terms
of the EC Novel Foods Regulation; and for advice to the public
on these matters. It had not therefore been necessary for the
DfEE to issue any additional advice to local education authorities,
particularly given the authorities' own responsibility for the
content of school meals.
The latter responsibility will be modified when the regulations,
to be laid shortly under powers contained in section 114 of the
School Standards and Framework Act to prescribe national nutritional
standards for lunches at schools maintained by local education
authorities, come into force. The DfEE proposes to issue advice
and good practice guidance on the implementation of these regulations.