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28 Nov 2002 : Column 440Wcontinued
Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many funded places in playgroups and nursery schools have been awarded for children aged three years and under in Northern Ireland; and how many children in their pre-school year have not been provided with a funded pre-school place in Northern Ireland in each of the last two years. 
Jane Kennedy: The funded places allocated to private and voluntary providers are only available to children in their immediate pre-school yearthose aged between three years two months and four years two months. Places in the statutory sector are, as has been the case since the early 1970s, open to children from two years old to the lower limit of compulsory school age. The number of children attending statutory nursery schools and units who had not attained the age of three (the basis on which data is collected) by the date of the schools census was 992 in the 200001 school year and 1,423 in the 200102 school year.
In the current school year I expect places to be provided for more than 90 per cent. of the relevant cohort of children. Given that participation in pre-school education is voluntary, this level of provision should be sufficient at regional level to meet the expected demand. However, there may be occasions where a funded place is not available in a specific locality but no information is collected centrally on such cases.
Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will amend existing legislation in Northern Ireland to ensure that priority is given to providing a funded place for each child in immediate pre-school year. 
Jane Kennedy: Under the current pre-school admissions regulations, statutory nursery schools and units are required, in all cases, to give applications in respect of children in their immediate pre-school year priority over those in respect of younger children. The funded places allocated in the voluntary/private sector are only available to children in their immediate pre-school year. I am therefore content that the current arrangements are sufficient.
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Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will allocate resources to the University of Ulster and Queen's University, Belfast in line with their performance in the Research Assessment Exercise. 
Jane Kennedy: The Draft Budget approved by the Executive prior to suspension contained an increase in line with inflation for university research funding. The final Budget proposals will be published in December. Until then I am not in a position to comment on the matter.
Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress is being made towards introducing a rural rates relief scheme to assist access to rural retail and Post Office services in Northern Ireland. 
Mr. Pearson: On 28 March 2002 the Northern Ireland Executive agreed that the proposed Northern Ireland scheme, which was due to come into effect in October 2002, should be suspended following an assessment that to proceed with the scheme as outlined in the original legislation would not have the desired effect.
As the outcomes of the wider Review of Rating Policy and the Non-Domestic Revaluation were likely to impact on any new Rural Rate Relief Scheme, my predecessor as Minister of Finance and Personnel, Dr. Sean Farren, decided to defer putting forward alternatives until both these exercises were completed. Both the Review and the Revaluation are nearing completion and I will shortly be considering the implications for the Rural Relief Schemetaking account of alternative business reliefs that may emerge from the Review and the impact analysis emerging from the Revaluation exercise.
Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the sustainability strategy is for his Department; and if he will make a statement on how it has changed since the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. 
Angela Smith: Under devolution, the Northern Ireland Executive's first Programme for Government (which set out the plans and priorities of the devolved Administration) included a commitment that sustainable development would be a key theme running through the Executive's work and priorities. This theme has been reflected in subsequent editions of the Programme for Government.
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XPromoting Sustainable Living", which set out proposals for a sustainable development strategy for Northern Ireland.
The responses to the consultation exercise are currently being analysed. This work will take account of the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Thereafter officials will bring forward a draft Northern Ireland Sustainable Development Strategy for consideration by Ministers.
David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the vacant post of top fruit adviser for the apple industry; and what the timescale is for an appointment to this position. 
Mr. Pearson: The position of top fruit adviser in the Agri-Food Development Service is vacant due to the promotion of the previous incumbent. This officer is currently providing support to the local top fruit sector through his current role as senior horticulture adviser.
The Prime Minister: It is established practice under section 2 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information not to disclose information relating to proceedings of the Cabinet and Cabinet Committees.
Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Prime Minister what research papers his policy unit has produced on allowing private institutions to award degrees; what costings the unit has made of the cost implications; and if he will place copies in the Library. 
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Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Prime Minister what disciplinary action was taken against the individuals responsible for errors discussed in the report of the Intelligence Services Commissioner for 2001. 
The Prime Minister: The agency concerned has dealt with each incident in the appropriate way. As the Intelligence Services Commissioner's report makes clear, those concerned acted entirely in good faith. Lessons have been learned from each incident to help ensure that the errors are not repeated.
Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when she last met the Scottish Executive to review the role played by Scottish Enterprise in generating employment in Scotland; and if she will make a statement. 
Mrs. Liddell: I meet regularly with colleagues in the Scottish Executive and Scottish Enterprise to discuss the Scottish economy. The labour market in Scotland is in healthy shape; employment is close to historic highs and the unemployment rate is around the lowest for a generation.
Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will list the grants funded by her Department for which individual members of the public and organisations may apply, and if she will make a statement as to (a) the total of such funding in the last financial year, (b) the total number of awards and (c) their administrative costs. 
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