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3 Dec 2002 : Column 729Wcontinued
Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the cross-subsidy effect top-up fees for higher education would have between high cost degree courses and lower cost degree courses. 
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Margaret Hodge: We have announced our intention to publish in January a strategy document setting out our vision for the development and reform of higher education, including the outcome of the review of student support. It would not be right to say now exactly what options we are considering or what analyses we have undertaken.
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Mr. Dobson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the answer of 25 November 2002, Official Report, column 96W, whether (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department were consulted about the proposal to merge Imperial College and University College, London. 
Margaret Hodge [holding answer 2 December 2002]: Neither Ministers nor officials were consulted. The Provost of University College and the Rector of Imperial College sent me a letter on the day they announced their proposals, informing me of their plans.
Figures from the Welsh Development Agency show that initiatives launched by the National Assembly for Wales are already producing increases in business start ups in Wales. In the first half of the year more than 2,000 new businesses have been created in Wales with WDA assistance, an increase of over 60 per cent. compared with the same period last year. The new lending body XFinance Wales" has already injected £17.8 million into 72 new or expanding companies, and 200203 is a record year for RSA offers in Wales. It should bring in £623 million investment from 270 projects and create or safeguard 13,100 jobs.
Peter Hain: On present plans, I shall be attending the Convention on the Future of Europe Working Group on External Relations in Brussels on 34 December. Subject to my commitments as Secretary of State for Wales, I will attend the plenary sessions of the convention, which are expected to be held twice a month in Brussels until the convention ends in June.
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participated on the 25 Plus New Deal on (a) more than one, (b) more than two and (c) more than three occasions. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 2 December 2002]: At September 2002, 534,600 people had started on the New Deal 25 plus (402,340 individuals). Of these 102,820 clients (26 per cent. of all individual starters) have entered the programme more than once, 25,830 (6 per cent. of all individual starters) have entered the programme more than twice and 3,500 (1 per cent. of all individual starters) have entered the programme more than three times.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many staff in his Department have taken part in training weekends in the past 12 months; and at what cost (a) in total and (b) per person on average. 
Mr. Olner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will remove parochial fees from his Department's funeral fund payments and treat the fees for a religious service in line with other disbursements; 
Social Fund funeral payments cover in full the cost of certain necessary, specified charges including fees levied by burial authorities and crematoria. Not everyone wishes to use, or is required to pay for, the services of a minister of religion or other religious fees. However, up to £600 is allowed for other funeral expenses, which gives the person arranging the funeral the freedom to select the items or services they consider appropriate. On 27 November, we announced that from next April this amount will rise to £700.
The Department does not hold information on the range of parochial fees charged for funerals and we have no plans to include fees for a religious service among the charges specified in regulations. However, we will continue to keep the level of support provided for funeral costs under review.
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We are building on the programme's success, focusing more help on the most disadvantaged unemployed people in the most deprived areas of the country. We are, for example: introducing StepUP pilots in 20 deprived areas to provide transitional jobs for people who remain unemployed after the New Deal; starting to roll out the second phase of progress2work, providing recovering drug misusers with the extra help they need to move into work; running the Minority Ethnic Outreach programme in wards within five areas to strengthen the support available to jobless people from minority ethnic communities; and starting pilots in nine areas giving extra support for other disadvantaged groups such as ex-offenders, alcohol misusers and homeless people.
In addition, Action Teams for Jobs and Employment Zones are operating in areas with persistently high levels of unemployment, and have so far helped nearly 78,000 people into work. We are currently developing proposals to extend Employment Zone help to other client groups including New Deal returners.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what research his Department has undertaken into the sustainability of employment under the New Deal; and if he will place it in the Library; 
Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 2 December 2002]: The New Deals have already helped nearly three-quarters of a million people move into work, the vast majority of whom have entered sustained jobs. For example, up to September 2002, nearly 80 per cent. of people moving into work through the New Deal for Young People and the New Deal 25 plus entered sustained jobs.
We have in place a wide-ranging programme of evaluation of the New Deals. This evaluation examines the benefits that the New Deals are providing, including the sustainability of employment. Evaluation reports are placed are placed in the Library as they are published.
Information on the number of people moving into sustained jobs through the New Deal for Young People and New Deal 25 plus are published quarterly in the Statistical First Release. These are also placed in the Library as they are published.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer of 26 November 2002, refence 83513, on the New Deal for Lone Parents, (1) how many of the 152,230 lone parents referred to had previously entered the New Deal gateway (a) once, (b) twice and (c) three times or more; 
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Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 2 December 2002]: The figure of 152,230 provided in my previous answer is the number of individual lone parents who had found work through the New Deal for Lone Parents (NDLP) by the end of June 2002. 28,310 of these lone parents (18.6 per cent. of those who have found a job) had been on NDLP twice, and 5,550 (3.6 per cent. of those who have found a job) had been on NDLP three or more times. Some of these lone parents have used the programme successfully on a previous occasion, as the total number of jobs obtained through NDLP by June 2002 was 172,460.
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