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Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will answer the letter from the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight, dated 8 October 2001, to the Secretary of State for Defence, which was passed to him. [12920]

Mr. Bradshaw: I received the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight's letter of 8 October to the Secretary of State for Defence on 18 October and replied on 6 November.


Individual Learning Accounts

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many individual learning accounts have been taken up by residents of the Isle of Wight in each year since their inception, and what their total value was; [12562]

John Healey: On the basis of recorded postcode information available, 5,506 people from the Isle of Wight became an individual learning account member through the national framework, launched on 4 September 2000. The figure given is up to 31 October 2001. As a result, 3,038 episodes of learning have been funded so far on

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behalf of these members, resulting in £825,393 total learning costs. Individual learning accounts funded £533,477 of these costs.

The corresponding figures for England up to 31 October 2001, are 2,529,609 people opened an individual learning account, and 1,380,370 episodes of learning have been supported.

Information is not maintained relating to course completion.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what information is collected on the (a) size, (b) capitalisation, (c) corporate status, (d) qualifications of staff and (e) range of courses offered by providers under the individual learning account scheme. [12561]

John Healey: Learning providers registered with the individual learning account centre are not required to provide information about the size, capitalisation, corporate status or qualifications of staff. They do provide information about the range of courses offered to individuals. They are also required to provide health and safety and public liability certification.

New registrations to become a learning provider with the ILA centre ended on 28 September.

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures are being taken to guarantee the quality of (a) the learning providers and (b) the courses on offer, through the individual learning account scheme. [9686]

John Healey: ILAs were designed to encourage more people into learning by helping tackle the financial barriers to learning. It was a key principle of the design that people were able to take responsibility for learning they felt to be most appropriate and most beneficial to themselves. ILAs are not and were not intended to be a guarantee of quality for learning or learning providers.

Of course the Government do not want ILAs to be used for poor value learning or by providers that cause concern. In July of this year, the Department started to receive increasing numbers of complaints from individuals and local trading standards officers. In response the Department took positive actions to tighten up the ILA system to address these problems. We re-registered all learning providers, withdrew blank application forms, suspended all new provider registrations, introduced a revised learning provider agreement that made it harder for providers to act against the ethos of the programme, and made changes to the applications process, for the same purpose. While we have taken this action the first safeguard remains an informed public looking for learning of value to them.

However, it became clear that these changes were not sufficient by themselves to prevent the mis-selling of ILAs. At that point we decided we had no option other than to withdraw the programme, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on 24 October that ILAs are to be suspended from 7 December. The programme has exceeded the Government's expectations in encouraging very large numbers of people to take a new interest in learning, and has quickly expanded beyond its capacity. The programme has attracted over 2.5 million account holders.

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Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what information is collected on the (a) age, (b) gender, (c) employment record, (d) academic/ vocational attainment, (e) social class and (f) location of users of individual learning accounts. [12560]

John Healey: Characteristic information on age, gender, employment, academic attainment and location of the 1,246,449 individual learning account members who had activated their accounts in England, since the launch of the national framework on 4 September 2000, is given in the following tables. Although social class information is not routinely collected, the Department commissioned an evaluation earlier in the year and arranged for a question to be included in this. The report determined that the most frequently represented social class among ILA account holders was C1, which includes non-managerial and non-professional administrative and sales staff as well as nurses and technicians.

Table 1: Analysis of active individual account members—England

By genderNumber
Not supplied3,943

Table 2: Analysis of active individual account members—England

By age groupNumber

Table 3: Analysis of active individual account members—England

By employment statusActive ILA Members
Employed and self-employed3,662
Not employed91,130
Data not supplied28,350

Table 4. Active ILA members by academic attainment at point of entry to ILAs

Highest qualificationNumber
Degree/NVQ4 or equivalent181,491
A-level/NVQ3 or equivalent162,381
GCSE/NVQ2 or equivalent271,455
Data not supplied567,925

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Table 5. Location of individual learning account users

East Midlands103,332
North East45,027
North West128,580
South East175,946
South West118,741
West Midlands222,487
Yorkshire, Humberside94,389
Region unassigned39,689

Faith Schools

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what approaches have been made to her Department by groups wishing to (a) establish new faith schools and (b) bring independent faith schools into the maintained sector in the last 12 months. [12780]

Mr. Timms: Since 1 November 2000, 26 approaches have been made by groups inquiring about the possibility of establishing new faith schools in the maintained sector, including nine about bringing independent schools into the maintained sector. Previous experience suggests that relatively few inquiries become firm proposals to a school organisation committee to establish a new school.


Personal Radios

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the performance and size specifications are of (a) the Thales Defence Systems Bowman personal radio and (b) the CDC Systems personal radio system, with particular relevance to the size of the (i) radio, (ii) microphone and (iii) ear-piece; if a smaller ear-piece design was explored by Thales Defence Systems; what assessment he has made of whether the Thales Defence Systems Bowman personal radio wiring restricts a soldier's range of motion; and if he will make a statement. [11785]

Dr. Moonie: There is no "personal radio system" supplied as part of the Bowman programme. For the purpose of this answer, I have assumed the intended subject to be the Bowman Personal Role Radio (PRR).

PRR was separated from the total Bowman requirement in October 1999 to ensure delivery of these radios to the front line earlier than would otherwise have been the case. The PRR Invitation to Tender was issued in March last year and eight responses were received. CDC Systems did not take part in the competition.

Thales (then trading as Thompson CSF) did submit a bid. However, as it did not win the competition and is no longer involved with Ministry of Defence on the PRR programme, it would be inappropriate for MOD to release commercial information that was obtained as part of the competitive process. I am therefore withholding the performance and size specifications requested in accordance with Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

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I can confirm that the Thales PRR audio ancillaries were assessed during the competition and were not found to restrict the soldier's range of motion.

Marconi ultimately won the PRR contract on the basis that its system offered the best value for money in terms of performance, through life support, programme and cost. Work has progressed extremely well and we expect to better the declared ISD of March 2002.

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