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Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the terms of reference are for the monitoring project being undertaken by Consensia to observe the recruitment process of the Northern Ireland police service; how many volunteers have been tasked to participate in this scheme; what the personal specifications were for volunteers; how they were selected; what the composition is of the monitoring teams, broken down by (a) gender and (b) perceived community origin; and what discussions took place with the civil service trade unions concerning the use of volunteer staff. 
Jane Kennedy: Observation of recruitment to the new Police Service of Northern Ireland is being undertaken by a pool of voluntary Community Observers, who are independent of Consensia and who are currently managed by the Police Authority for Northern Ireland. They will become the responsibility of the Policing Board when it is established.
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Applicants for the roles were selected on the basis of the evidence they provided in their application form, and subsequently at interview stage, to demonstrate that they possessed these qualities and skills. A merit list was then compiled from which a pool of 63 Observers was selected.
|Perceived community origin||Number|
No discussions took place with the civil service trade unions concerning the use of volunteer staff. The process used was in accordance with best practice guidance for the selection and appointment of volunteers.
In connection with the Department's arrangements for appraising asset management plans, we are, however, planning to publish later this year analyses of authorities' premises information for benchmarking purposes. These should include some information on temporary accommodation, although not on a year-by-year basis.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate she has made of the backlog of school buildings repair and maintenance work in Somerset; and if she will make a statement. 
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Authorities' data on the repair and maintenance backlog, supplied as part of DfES' arrangements for appraising asset management plans, are being validated with a view to publishing analyses for benchmarking purposes later this year.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many teaching staff have (a) been employed in further education colleges and (b) left further education in each of the last four academic years. 
1. The latest available data are for 199899
2. Information on the number of teachers who leave further education is not collected centrally
John Healey [holding answer 3 July 2001]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department announced on 28 March 2001 that capital provision for further education would rise to £177 million in 200304. The base funding is £110 million in each of the years 200102 and 200203. Allocations to individual further education colleges are made by the Learning and Skills Council throughout the year in response to bids.
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 3 July 2001]: Sure start works with parents-to-be, parents and children to promote the physical, intellectual and social development of babies and young children. The Government's current plans are to establish 500 local programmes by 2004, in disadvantaged neighbourhoods throughout England. Of
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John Healey [holding answer 3 July 2001]: We continually monitor the rapid response fund to ensure it is used as intendedto provide specialist advice, training and other support to people involved in redundancies that have a significant impact on the local labour market and where no alternative existing provision is available. Proposals are considered against a variety of criteria that include the impact of the redundancy on the local labour market, the level of partnership involvement, clear outputs and value for money. We also expect training proposals to be matched as far as possible to the needs of employers with vacancies so that people can move quickly into new jobs. DfES officials make every effort to ensure bids submitted via regional development agencies are processed as quickly as possible and provide an initial approval decision within three working days. The fund is designed to be as flexible as possible and, within the last year, we have introduced changes to increase its flexibility and make it more responsive to local needs. Demand is high and has increased significantly over the last six months.
Mr. Lepper: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when she expects to announce the findings of the early process evaluation and customer satisfaction surveys in relation to individual learning accounts. 
John Healey: The Department is pursuing a range of measures to tackle the digital divide in order to help increase people's employability, to enable them to use new technologies to enrich their lives, and to encourage lifelong learning for all. Our measures help provide access and the skills needed for individuals to use information and communication technologies (ICTs), particularly for those most at risk from exclusion. We are providing public access to new technologies and the internet through UK online centres. There are almost 1,500 centres now open, with 6,000 centres planned in total by the end of 2002. We are investing in wiring up communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas in England, enabling people to explore the internet in the comfort of their own homes and to develop skills, access job opportunities and become more involved in their communities. We are also
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making progress in improving computer/pupil ratios, to ensure that in future all school leavers should be able to use and benefit from new technologies. 88 per cent. of all schools are now connected to the internet.
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