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Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many cases of (a) housing benefit and (b) council tax benefit fraud have been detected and how many successful prosecutions have been brought in each year since 1997. 
Malcolm Wicks: We are working in partnership with local authorities to drive up standards across the board and tackle fraud and error. Over half of local authorities have begun to operate the verification framework, making thorough checks on all housing benefit claimants before payments are made.
Information is not available separately for housing benefit and council tax benefit. The number of fraudulent cases and prosecutions reported by local authorities is in the table:
|Year||Number of cases where fraud was established and a weekly benefit saving was claimed(22)||Number of successful prosecutions(22)|
(22) Data are not available for all 409 local authorities. The total for Great Britain includes estimates for local authorities that have not responded. These estimates are based on historical and regional data. This type of estimate is standard practice in reporting totals where there have been non-respondents.
The figures have been rounded to two significant figures.
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Mr. Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the duration is of the contracts for the supply of medical services by SchlumbergerSema; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: The Government are committed to giving speedy and efficient support for people with disabilities and those who are unable to work. It also wants to help people to work wherever possible. The creation of Jobcentre Plus to bring together help with benefits and employment and the national extension of the New Deal for Disabled People are some of the improvements the Government are making to achieve that. It is also important that the processes to assess people's entitlement to benefit and capability for work are timely and effective.
The contracts signed on 20 February 1998, provided for the supply of medical services to support benefit administration for a period of five years, from 1 September 1998 to 31 August 2003 with the option of an extension up to a further two years.
SEMA were taken over by Schlumberger in Spring 2001. New managers have been installed and we have been working with them to improve both current performance and service delivery in the future.
Performance in key areas has improved. In particular there has been a significant increase in the number of incapacity benefit examinations performed and the percentage of medical reports which fail to meet the required standards is now well within the target set in the Government response to the Social Security Select Committee report.
For the future, the company is committed to an improvement plan increasing the number of doctors used on this contract, introducing evidence based medicine (the application of accepted protocols) on an IT platform, and taking part in pilot schemes to reduce the numbers of people failing to attend for examination and the gathering of better quality medical evidence.
The Government believe that an extension to the contract offers the best opportunity to make the service improvements we all want to see and are seeking to agree detailed conditions which is expected to be finalised shortly. The agreement to extend the contract would be subject to confirmation by 31 May 2002.
9. Mr. Watts: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has for increasing funding to further education colleges; and if she will make a statement. 
John Healey: The Government plan to continue their substantial investment in further education. This year total further education funding via the Learning and Skills Council is up by £527 million compared with 200001, a 12 per cent. real terms increase. This brings the planned total to £4,029 million.
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Next year we plan a further 3 per cent. in real terms rise. These are resources to meet our ambitious aims for the learning and skills agenda and confirms the importance of FE in delivering it.
10. Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent assessment she has made of the quality of teaching in further education. 
21. Mr. Bailey: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the quality of teaching in further education. 
John Healey: Since the Learning and Skills Act 2000, Ofsted and Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) inspect Further Education colleges under the common inspection framework. Each inspection includes an assessment of teaching quality. The first five college inspections under the new regime were published in the summer, when 16 per cent. of lessons observed were judged to be less than satisfactory. These are the only inspections published to date and might well not be representative.
35. Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures she is taking to increase participation in further education. 
John Healey: This year we have allocated the Learning and Skills Council an additional £527 million to fund increased participation in further education and raise standards and achievement, a 12 per cent. increase in real terms. Colleges are central to our plans to develop a coherent phase of education for 14 to 19-year-olds. For adult learners, colleges contribute to raising skill levels, improving basic skills, boosting employability and widening access. We have asked the Learning and Skills Council to examine the potential for FE to deliver further growth in adult participation in future.
Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent representations she has received on the recruitment of further education lecturers in England; how many vacancies exist in further education colleges in England; and if she will make a statement. 
John Healey: Neither my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State nor I have received recent official representations on this matter. We have both met with the Association of Colleges recently and my right hon. Friend spoke at the Association's Conference earlier this week. My hon. Friend the Minister for Lifelong Learning met with the Association for College Management earlier this month and is due to meet with the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education in December.
The Department does not collect information on vacancies centrally, as further education colleges are independent corporations. However, I understand from a recent survey by the Association of Colleges that there are 3,000 teaching vacancies in general further education colleges.
Work is under way to ensure that the further education sector benefits from similar recruitment initiatives to those already proposed for schools, such as "Golden Hellos" and the write off of student loans.
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12. Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what preparations remain to be completed prior to the introduction of citizenship as a curriculum subject. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Detailed guidance for Citizenship for 1114 year olds has been circulated to all secondary schools; a new website including an on-line training package for teachers was launched in October; nine regional training events for teachers took place this spring. The first cohort of Citizenship PGCE students started their courses in September; and OFSTED inspection guidance for secondary schools will be published next year.
Guidance for 1416 year olds will also be published in summer 2002. This will be followed soon after by guidance for primary schools. Guidance on assessment in primary schools will be published in summer 2002. Awarding bodies are also developing specifications for the new GCSE (short course) in Citizenship Studies for teaching to start in September 2002.
We will, of course, monitor any additional support schools may need following the introduction of Citizenship next September.
13. Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has to review the working of the research assessment exercise. 
Margaret Hodge: The distribution of funds to support research in universities and colleges is a matter for the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the other UK funding councils.
14. Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will reinstate individual learning accounts. 
John Healey: Individual learning accounts (ILAs) in England will not be reinstated in their present form. However, the Government remain committed to support those who find a lack of money a barrier to returning to education, learning or training. We are developing future plans which build on the successful elements of the ILA programme.
26. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what representations she has received on the ending of individual learning accounts. 
John Healey: Following the announcement of the withdrawal of the individual learning accounts programme in England, we have received representations from hon. Members, individual learning account holders and individual learning account registered learning providers.
Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has to introduce a new scheme to replace individual learning accounts; when she plans to introduce it; and if she will make a statement. 
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John Healey: Individual learning accounts (ILAs) will not be reinstated in their present form. We are developing future plans which build on the successful elements of the ILA programme. I hope to announce more details on the process for developing a further scheme in due course.
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