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Students (Portsmouth, South)

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of full-time students stayed in education in the Portsmouth, South constituency after the age of (a) 16 and (b) 18 years in (i) 1997 and (ii) 2001; and if she will make a statement. [66469]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: Data on the percentage of students staying on in full-time education are not calculated for areas smaller than LEAs as reliable estimates cannot be made. Participation rates at sub-national level are only available for 16 and 17-year-olds.

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The percentage of 16 and 17-year-olds in full-time education in Portsmouth LEA, which includes the constituency of Portsmouth, South, in 1997–98 and 1999–2000, the latest year for which figures are available, is set out in the table:

16 and 17 year olds in full-time education: Portsmouth LEA

Age1997–981999–2000
167370
175555

Participation rates by LEA are published in an annual statistical bulletin, 'Participation in Education and Training by Young People Aged 16 and 17 in Each Local Area and Region, England'.


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Primary Schools

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on recent independent surveys regarding educational standards at primary school level in (a) maths, (b) reading, (c) science, (d) vocabulary and (e) non-verbal ability; and if she will make a statement. [65118]

Mr. Miliband: We are aware of the University of Durham Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS) tests. The results of the national curriculum Key Stage 2 English tests show a 12 per cent. point increase in the number of pupils achieving the expected level for their age since 1997. That increase is reflected in the reading component which shows a 14 per cent. rise. We are confident of the validity of these increases, as are schools throughout the country.

Bilateral Ministerial Meetings

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when Ministers in her Department have held meetings with Ministers and officials of the Irish Government since 1 June 2000; when and where each meeting took place; which Ministers were involved in each meeting; which Irish Government departments were involved in each meeting; and which Ministers and officials from the Irish Government attended each meeting. [63073]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: From 1 June 2000 there have been no meetings between Ministers in this Department and Ministers and officials from the Republic of Ireland Government.

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cases there are of disputes over payment between her Department and contractors employed during the foot and mouth epidemic; and what the total value is of unpaid disputed invoices. [53248]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 29 April 2002]: The accounts of the principal contractors used by DEFRA during the FMD outbreak have been the subject of detailed examination. This has been an extensive exercise as the contractors concerned carried out work to the value of hundreds of millions of pounds involving the generation of tens of thousands of invoices.

As part of the verification and substantiation of contractor invoices, the Department has employed forensic accountants to examine the invoices of 107 of the largest contractors. In total these 107 companies have submitted invoices worth £474 million and, to date, the Department has paid £402 million in respect of these claims. The Department is withholding payment of the

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remainder until it is satisfied that contractors have provided sufficient evidence of work commissioned and carried out.

Wide-ranging issues have arisen on the accounts. These include legal issues such as matters of contractual interpretation, forensic accountancy issues and evidential issues involving the assessment of both a large amount of documentation and proofing of witnesses.

Some of these disputes will inevitably result in court proceedings although DEFRA remains committed to resolving matters by mediation where appropriate.

Committee Mandates

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the mandate of the Advisory Committee on Rural Development is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if she will list the items currently under its consideration; if she will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if she will make a statement. [61713]

Mr. Morley: The mandate of the Advisory Committee on Rural Development is set out in Commission Decision 98/235/EC. The UK is not formally represented on the committee; members are directly appointed by the Commission, drawn from across the EU, on the basis of their socio-economic interests.

The Commission, together with member states, is currently conducting a review to bring existing legislation on the conduct of comitology committees into line with Council Decision 1999/468/EC, to "simplify the requirements for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission". As an obligation to this decision, the Commission undertook to publish an annual report on the working of committees. The first report was deposited in the Libraries of both Houses on 26 February (Com (2001) 783 Final). As part of the review process, the UK Government have encouraged the Commission to produce and maintain an electronic database of every comitology committee, its agendas and recent actions, to be available through its website.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the mandate of the Advisory Committee on the Common Agricultural Policy is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if she will list the items currently under its consideration; if she will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if she will make a statement. [61721]

Mr. Morley: The mandate of the Advisory Committee on the Common Agricultural Policy is set out in Commission Decision 98/235/EC. The UK is not formally represented on the committee; members are directly appointed by the Commission, drawn from across the EU, on the basis of their socio-economic interests.

The Commission, together with member states, is currently conducting a review to bring existing legislation on the conduct of comitology committees into line with Council Decision 1999/468/EC, to "simplify the requirements for the exercise of implementing powers

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conferred on the Commission". As an obligation to this decision, the Commission undertook to publish an annual report on the working of committees. The first report was deposited in the Libraries of both Houses on 26 February (Com (2001) 783 Final). As part of the review process, the UK Government have encouraged the Commission to produce and maintain an electronic database of every comitology committee, its agendas and recent actions, to be available through its website.

Sheep

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she plans to make it her policy to stop sheep that are susceptible to TSEs from breeding. [61552]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 13 June 2002]: The Government launched a national scrapie plan in July 2001 after full consultation with the sheep industry and other stakeholders. The plan is a long-term programme whose aim is to increase the level of TSE-resistance in the sheep flock by means of breeding programmes which encourage the use of resistant animals. Participation by sheep breeders in the plan is at present on a purely voluntary basis, but as part of the consultation it was made clear that these measures would be made compulsory at some stage.

Energy Efficiency

Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what schemes the Government have introduced since May 1997 to promote energy conservation and energy efficiency within the services sector; and what their impact has been on energy consumption per square metre within (a) commercial, (b) retail and (c) Government offices. [63373]

Mr. Meacher: The Government has introduced a wide range of measures to encourage energy efficiency in all sectors of the economy, including the commercial, retail and public sectors, which includes the Government Estate. The Climate Change Levy was introduced in April 2001 to encourage the more efficient use of energy. As part of the Climate Change Levy package, an Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme was introduced to provide fiscal incentives for businesses to invest in energy efficient technologies. The Carbon Trust was also set up to encourage business and the public sector to take up low carbon and energy efficient savings and measures.

The Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme provides free information and advice to these sectors. Since 1997, it has been delivering targeted energy efficiency briefings to boardrooms in the retail sector to raise awareness of energy efficiency, which has had a positive response. The Programme has also concentrated on providing groups within the commercial office sector with information on the business benefits of taking up energy efficiency measures.

The Government Estate has had energy efficiency targets since 1990–91. We introduced a new 1 per cent. per year greenhouse gas reduction target in 2000–01, which will be reported on later this year. We are also developing new energy efficiency targets for the Government Estate, based on an assessment of the Estate's performance against national standards.

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The Best Practice Programme estimates its impact on annual energy efficiency improvements for the commercial and retail sectors. Actual consumption and floor space data are not collected on an annual basis, but for calendar years 1998–2000, total energy efficiency improvements stimulated by the Programme are estimated to have been 7 per cent. for the retail sector and 6 per cent. for the commercial sector.

Annual consumption and floor space data are collected for the central Government Estate (excluding Ministry of Defence) to monitor performance against the Estate's energy efficiency target. Energy consumption in the Government Estate per square metre fell by 6 per cent. between 1997–98 and 1999–2000. Since this figure is collected on a different basis from the figures quoted above for the retail and commercial sectors, it cannot be directly compared.


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