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12 Dec 2002 : Column 458W—continued


Bali Bombing

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the relatives of the Bali bomb victims, who went to Bali in the aftermath of the bombing, were assisted by his Department with the costs of (a) hotels and (b) telephone calls to the United Kingdom; and what assistance was provided towards funeral costs. [86836]

Mr. Straw: On 15 October, in the aftermath of the Bali bomb , I announced a package of measures to help the victims of the attack and their families. This included making arrangements to reimburse the costs of bringing home the bodies of those who died, of the medical evacuation of the injured and of paying the travel and certain accommodation costs of up to two relatives of the dead and injured who wished to travel to the region. 12 families have used the package to travel to Bali.

We did not meet the costs of telephone calls, but Vodaphone UK provided each family with two mobile phones, with one month's unlimited calls free of charge.

We paid the repatriation costs for all British victims of the Bali bomb and for ensuring the deceased arrived at their local undertakers. The package did not cover the cost of funeral expenses.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made by his Department in setting up a Bali appeal fund; and if he will make a statement. [86839]

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Mr. Straw: We have no plans to set up a Bali appeal fund. It is open to the families and relatives of the victims of Bali to do this if they wish. Some families have already set up private trusts in the name of the family member they lost.

Emergency Response Team

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what personnel and equipment his Department's Emergency Response Team has. [86838]

Mr. Straw: Personnel, both in the UK and overseas, have volunteered to join the Rapid Deployment Teams, each of which are likely to comprise eight staff. They have a range of skills including consular, media, management, organisational and communications skills. The teams are being equipped with mobile telephones, satellite telephones, laptop computers, printers, fax machines, digital cameras, hand-held radios, office stationery and a first-aid kit.

IT Systems

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much the overspend was on its new IT system; and what fee was paid to consultants on the new IT systems. [82532]

Mr. Rammell [holding answer 25 November]: The FCO's major IT system is Firecrest, developed and delivered by FCO Services since 1997, providing a modern office-wide system to over 10,000 staff in the UK and overseas. The initial programme was expanded over time, and revised budgets approved in step. The total capital costs to date are #106 million compared with initial estimates totalling #118 million. Annual running costs are now around #19 million. The confidential version of this should be completed on budget by mid-2003.

Using this infrastructure, two programmes, Prism and Focus, are being developed. The aim of Prism is to provide an integrated world-wide financial and management accounting and human resources system. The planned expenditure for the programme from inception to the expiry of the contract in early 2009 was #80 million (including a #53 million contract with CGEY). This estimate has now risen to #90 million. Expenditure so far has been #28.3 million, in line with the planned budget. Focus is a programme designed to provide the FCO with a new global registry and intranet, allowing more efficient management, sifting, storage and retrieval of information. A contract for #10.5 million was awarded to Fujitsu in January 2002, as part of an initial budgeted cost of 23 million over six years. This estimate has now risen to #42 million because of the increased scope of the project. Given the scale of this increase and other relevant factors the Secretary of State is conducting an urgent review of the whole future of this programme. A further announcement will be made as soon as possible.

Mombasa Bombing

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether his Department's Emergency Response Team was put on alert immediately following the Mombasa bombing. [86837]

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Mr. Straw: Yes. A Rapid Deployment Team was put on standby to travel to Kenya as soon as news broke about the Mombasa bombing. It was stood down once it became clear that no British nationals were involved in the incident.


Adult Learning

Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which organisations the Government have consulted on the review of the funding for adult learning; and what further consultation is planned. [82888]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Government have already consulted a wide range of external organisations following the announcement of the review of funding of adult learning last July. The first stage of this has included a series of regional Skill Summits. The consultations so far has included representatives from colleges, employers, training providers, voluntary organisations, educational representative bodies, and learners themselves.

The Government welcome the interest that the review has generated and the process of consultation will continue until the review is concluded in the summer of next year.

Classroom Assistants

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what evidence he has assessed on the use of classroom assistants to mind classes in place of teachers. [86493]

Mr. Miliband: On 22 October we published the XDeveloping the role of school support staff" consultation document in which we set out our plans for enhancing the role played by support staff in support of teachers and pupils, as opposed to replacing teachers with support staff. The paper drew on case study material of how schools are already making more effective use of different kinds of support staff and consideration of research carried out by a range of organisations, including Ofsted. The paper proposes for the first time to regulate the involvement of support staff in teaching and learning, based on the principle that qualified teachers must always have responsibility for ensuring high standards within a system of supervision and support staff must be suitably trained for the activities they undertake. The way in which the proposals are taken forward will depend on the outcomes of the consultation. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library of the House.

Connexions Service

Mr. Rooney: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the timetable is for the National Audit Office Review of the establishment of the Connexions Service arising out of the Learning and Skills Act 2000. [86990]

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Mr. Ivan Lewis: It is a matter for the Comptroller and Auditor General to decide which subjects to review and whether or not to report to Parliament on them. As the proposed study on the Connexions Service is still at the feasibility stage, and the Comptroller and Auditor General has not yet approved a full-scale study, it would be inappropriate at this stage to commit him to a definitive timetable.

In general, parliamentary questions about the work of the National Audit Office should be directed to the right hon. Alan Williams, Chair of the Public Accounts Commission.

Supply Teachers

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what evidence he has assessed on the change in the number of supply teachers hours worked in (a) primary schools and (b) secondary schools over the last two years for which figures are available. [86491]

Mr. Miliband: The total number of occasional teachers with contracts of less than one month, working for the whole day of the survey date, fell from 19,600 in January 2001 to 17,500 in January 2002. In the nursery and primary phase, the number of occasional teachers went down by 1,900 to 10,100 in January 2002, and in the secondary sector, by 200 to 6,400. There were also 1,000 occasionals in special schools and providing education outside of school in 2002 (1,100 in 2001). Figures are rounded to the nearest hundred. Information on the number of hours worked is not collected centrally.

Truancy (West Sussex)

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many children played truant from schools in West Sussex each day in each of the last five years for which figures are available; and what plans he has to tackle this. [84762]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Department does not hold absence data for any particular day, only for the total period from the start of the academic year to the end of the spring term (i.e. September to May) each academic year. The number of pupils absent for at least one half day due to unauthorised absence in West Sussex is as follows:

Academic year(21)Number of pupils absent for at least one half dayNumber of day pupil of compulsory school age

(21) September to May


Pupil Absence Survey

Truancy is a multi-faceted and long-term problem which requires a range of responses. We have targeted areas that have experienced high levels of truancy with intensive support and there is emerging evidence that initiatives are beginning to have an impact.

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Recently initiatives include: a Fast-Track to Prosecution pathfinder starting in January 2003 across a number of LEAs will focus on multi-agency early intervention to address truancy; and a national exercise of intensive truancy sweeps taking place this month which will increase the focus on school attendance as a community issue. This is backed up by a sustained publicity campaign raising the profile of school non-attendance.

Other current activities include: requiring LEAs and schools to set targets for improvement through Education Development Plans; providing funding for electronic registration systems for 525 schools with high rates of unauthorised absence; and conducting research into the causes of absence from school in order to fully understand the issues.

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