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Research Assessment

Alan Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what her policy is in respect of the latest research assessment exercise. [33699]

Margaret Hodge: The Department's policy is to strengthen research excellence and support world-class research. The Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) is a mechanism devised by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the other UK funding bodies to establish the relative quality of research in higher education institutions and to provide a mechanism to allocate the funding available. The RAE does not of itself lead to an increase in resources. Nevertheless, in the light of the significant increase in the quality of research in the 2001 RAE, my Department has made available an extra £30 million in 2002–03 to allow the Higher Education Funding Council for England better to support high quality research in higher education.

University, East Lancashire

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will establish a university in East Lancashire; and if she will make a statement. [32991]

Margaret Hodge: The Secretary of State has no such plans. This would initially be a matter for the interested bodies in the region to consider with the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Arthur Andersen

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what contracts her Department has had since 1997 with (a) Arthur Andersen and (b) Accenture for (i) accountancy, (ii) audit and (iii) consultancy work; and what staff have been seconded (A) to her Department from and (B) from her Department to these firms. [32428]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Arthur Andersen was part of a consortium (including Birmingham City Council and APS Keele) contracted to the Department to provide consultancy services to failing local education authorities following critical Ofsted inspections. The contract was agreed in May 1999; Arthur Andersen withdrew from the consortium in January 2001. Apart from that, the Department has had no contracts with Arthur Andersen or Accenture for the services specified, nor have any staff been seconded to or from my Department to these firms during the period in question.

University Staff

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate she has made of the number of additional university staff required to meet the target of increasing the proportion of 18 to 30-year-olds who take higher education courses to 50 per cent. by 2010. [28527]

Margaret Hodge: There will need to be a significant increase in the number of university staff. The extra staff needed in each year will depend upon: the number of

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students each year as we progress to the target; the number of students to each member of staff; and staff turnover. The number of students each year will be affected by the following factors: the size and age distribution of the population; the proportion of the population attaining the qualifications necessary for higher education; and the proportion of those qualified who choose to enter high education. This will in part depend on the funding levels that are subject to discussion in the spending review. The outcome of the review will be announced in the summer of 2002.

MMR Vaccine

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent guidance her Department has given to nursery schools and other providers of early years education and child care about accepting children who (a) have and (b) have not had the MMR vaccine. [36503]

Margaret Hodge: The MMR vaccine is the safest and most effective way to protect children against measles, mumps and rubella. Though strongly recommended, the MMR is not compulsory and we have issued guidance to local Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships to say that child care and nursery education providers should not exclude a child who has not had the vaccination.

Level 3 Qualifications

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many people undertook level 3 qualifications in 2000–01 who already had level 4 or 5 qualifications; and what the average cost per student of these level 3 courses was in (i) tuition costs and (ii) maintenance support; and if she will make a statement. [36578]

Margaret Hodge: Information from the Labour Force Survey suggests that approximately 60,000 1 people undertook level 3 qualifications in 2000–01 who already held a level 4 or 5 qualification. Average costs per student for these courses are not available.

Skills Shortages

Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the level of skill shortages in (a) the building industry and (b) the road haulage industry. [36868]

John Healey: Employers and their representative bodies have the lead responsibility for identifying and tackling skill needs in their sector. The Department does however monitor broad trends and supports National Training Organisations, Industry Training Boards and the new Sector Skills Councils in carrying out this work. A number of recent assessments have been made.

The Employers Skill Survey 2001 covers 27,000 employers, is commissioned by the Department and carried out by independent researchers. This work reported on skills shortages and skills needs across all sectors of the economy, including the two sectors in

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question. This shows that 7 per cent. of employers in the construction industry, and 6 per cent. in the Other Land Transport 1 industry reported skill shortage vacancies, compared to 4 per cent. of employers overall.

Each sector is also assessed in a series of Skills Dialogues, reports resulting from collaboration between National Training Organisations, Government, funding agencies and education and training bodies to discuss skill needs and skill gaps in the major industrial, business and service sectors. Two relevant assessments from this series are:

Copies of all three reports are available in the House of Commons Library.

Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she is taking to address the shortage of skilled workers in (a) the building industry and (b) the road haulage industry. [36867]

John Healey: Arrangements for training in these industries are a matter for the employers, as in any other industry. A network of National Training Organisations (NTOs), set up by employers and formally recognised by the Government, provides strategic leadership and practical guidance about the learning, skills and qualification needs for a defined sector. The Construction Industry Training Board is the NTO for the building and civil engineering sector and the Road Haulage and Distribution Training Council covers the road haulage industry.

The Government recently announced plans to build a stronger sector network that will engage employers more fully in the planning and delivery of learning and skills. Sector Skills Councils are being set up which build on the achievements secured by NTOs.

The Government have introduced a clear vocational pathway from key stage 3 through Modern Apprenticeships, Foundation Degrees and Graduate Apprenticeships to provide high-level vocational skills across sectors. In addition, it is the Government's intention that 50 per cent. of Further Education Colleges will become Centres of Vocational Excellence. Our commitment was strengthened through our proposals to provide more high-quality, rigorous vocational qualifications at GCSE level as set out in the consultation document "14–19 extending opportunities, raising standards".

Additionally, DfES is supporting three projects totalling £5 million funded by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions as part of the £100 million Road Haulage Modernisation Fund. These are a feasibility study into Transferable Loans Scheme, the Expansion of Young Drivers Scheme and the Demonstration Modern Apprenticeship (MA) Based Project in Road Haulage.

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Mr. Cran: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when a substantive reply will be given to Mrs. F. Cuthbert's letter of 6 November 2000, concerning PC repairs and maintenance. [36837]

John Healey: I replied to the hon. Member's letter of 19 November 2001 on the 14 February 2002.

Sector Skills Development Agency

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when she expects to appoint a chief executive and chairman of the Sector Skills Development Agency. [37020]

John Healey: On 14 February I announced the appointment of Margaret Salmon as chair of the Sector Skills Development Agency. Margaret Salmon is currently a non-executive director with Kingfisher plc and a director of the University for Industry. She is a former chief executive officer of BBC Resources and group personnel director, the Burton Group. Her appointment takes effect from 14 February.

We shall announce shortly the appointment of the chief executive of the agency.

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