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IACS Payments

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the delays in making Integrated Control and Administration System (IACS) payments. [21106]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 6 December 2001]: Several thousand man days of effort on the processing of CAP payments have been lost by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) as a result of industrial action. This action comes on top of the diversion of significant numbers of staff to deal with the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak. In addition the need to develop computer software upgrades for the bovines schemes to reflect regulatory changes has meant that the start of advance payments has been delayed. Moreover, because of the need to perform FMD cross-checks in order to establish entitlement to aid progress with processing is slower than normal.

As a result of these factors advance payments on the livestock schemes are expected to be made within the advertised payment windows but later than would have been the case in a normal year.

The Arable Area Payments Scheme (AAPS) under which payments are made in a regulatory payment window running from 16 November to 31 January is the scheme mainly affected by industrial action. In a normal year approximately 60–70 per cent. of the aid would be paid in the first two to three weeks of the window. This year the figure will be a little over 50 per cent. The Rural Payments Agency is taking all reasonable steps to mitigate the impact of the industrial action to ensure that payments delays are kept to the absolute minimum.


English Language Schools

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which regulations cover schools which specialise in teaching English as a foreign language. [20834]

John Healey: There are no specific regulations applying to private English language schools but such schools must comply with general regulations applying to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and, if appropriate, legislation relating to children.

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Internet Access

Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of schools in England and Northern Ireland have internet access. [21268]

John Healey: The information requested is shown in the table.

Schools connected to the internet: 2001

Secondary(1)more than 99
All schools(2)97

(1) Results from a sample survey indicated that nearly all secondary schools were connected to the internet.

(2) An estimate for all maintained primary, secondary and special schools. Other types of schools excluded.

These figures are based on a sample survey. Responses were received from 785 primary, 753 secondary and 330 special schools: response rates of 67 per cent., 64 per cent., and 66 per cent. respectively of the chosen sample.

For information on schools connected to the internet in Northern ireland, I refer the hon. Member to the Northern Ireland Department of Education.

British Educational Communications and

Technology Agency

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the administration costs of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency were in 2000–01; and what she expects them to be in 2001–02. [21296]

John Healey: In 2000–01 the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency's overall income from grant, project and contract funding was £19.8 million. Of this, core grant funding from this Department was £4,725,000 and administration costs were £1.2 million. In 2001–02 administration costs are expected to be of a similar level to the previous year.

Pupil Exclusions

Linda Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what research her Department has commissioned into the underlying causes of school exclusions. [22294]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: My Department is funding a study tracking 200 pupils from point of permanent exclusion from mainstream school in years 9–11 over a two year period. This will report in september 2002. My Department is funding jointly with the Home Office an evaluation examining the Crime Reduction in Secondary Schools Programme and Alternative Education Initiatives. This will report in May 2002.

I refer my hon. Friend to two recently completed research projects: Outcomes in Secondary Education for Children Excluded from Primary School (DfES Research Report 271) and Reasons for Exclusions from School (DfES Research Report 244). Both can be accessed at

13 Dec 2001 : Column: 956W

Information and Communications Technology

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to increase awareness of information and communications technology in schools and further education colleges. [21811]

John Healey: 97 per cent. of all schools are now connected to the internet. The National Grid for Learning (NGfL) is the main vehicle for promoting and facilitating the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in schools. The Government's £1.8 billion investment in the NGfL programme has developed the ICT infrastructure, effective links to the internet and access to educationally valuable content for schools.

The Prime Minister announced on 10 December £50 million to fund 'Curriculum Online'; which is the world's first partnership between the Government, leading public/private broadcasters and innovative software producers to provide ICT based materials for every curriculum subject to transform learning in schools.

£230 million has been made available by the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) to fund a programme to give serving teachers in the maintained sector the opportunity to receive ICT training.

The National Learning Network (NLN) is embedding ICT into further education. Investment of £158 million in the NLN is improving the ICT infrastructure, developing staff skills, providing learning materials and guiding effective learning, teaching and management within colleges.

Trade Unions (Skills Development)

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps her Department is taking to support the role of unions in developing skills. [21810]

John Healey: Trade unions have a key role to play in promoting the development of learning and skills in the workplace. To help them do this our Department has provided financial support through the Union Learning Fund since 1998. The ULF budget is £7 million this year. This source of funding is helping trade unions use their influence with employers, employees and others to encourage greater take up of learning at work and boost their capacity as learning organisations. It has so far benefited over 25,000 people in the workplace through a wide variety of projects ranging from tackling basic skill needs to advanced professional development. It has also led to the development of a new breed of activist, the union learning representative, and helped to establish a network of over 3,000 learning representatives nationwide.

Union learning representatives are ideally placed to help and encourage workers to improve their skills, particularly among low skilled workers and those with literacy and numeracy problems. That is why we have included a clause in the new Employment Bill that will give statutory backing to union learning representatives. This will reinforce the invaluable role that union learning representatives are currently playing in the workplace to promote work force development and open up new training opportunities for their colleagues.

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Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many regulations her Department has proposed to Parliament since June; what regulatory impact assessments have been made for those regulations her Department has implemented in 2001; and what plans her Department has to reduce the number of regulations affecting small businesses. [21974]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Department has laid 89 regulations before Parliament since June; during the same period, no regulatory impact assessments have been made for those regulations, but a total of four regulatory impact assessments have been made for 2001 so far, and these were for the following regulations:

Following the machinery of Government changes in June, policies for which the Department is responsible only impact directly on the private sector (including small businesses) within a limited number of discrete areas. Consequently, the Department's Regulatory Reform Action Plan, which will form part of the forthcoming Government-wide Plan, focuses mainly on measures to remove and simplify existing burdens on front-line delivery services within the public sector.

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