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10 Mar 2003 : Column 82W—continued

Tuition Fees

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what reasons underlie the recent increase in university tuition fees. [100359]

Margaret Hodge: As in previous years, the maximum student contribution towards tuition fees for full-time undergraduates in England and Wales, attending courses at publicly funded institutions of higher education, has increased by £25 in order to maintain its value in real terms.

University Museums (Funding)

Mr. Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on funding for university museums. [101464]

Margaret Hodge: University museums in England receive funding through higher education institutions' block grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). In addition, the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) provides funding of over £9 million a year to selected university museums and galleries. University museums also receive funds from other sources, for example from donations and as a result of providing services.

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Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what figures his Department collates on the incidence of (a) violence and (b) harassment perpetrated (i) by higher and further education staff on students and (ii) by students on higher and further education staff. [101727]

Margaret Hodge: Information is not collected by the Department on the incidence of violence and harassment by further and higher education staff on students, nor by students on staff.

Major injuries and others resulting in more than three days' absence from work as a result of physical violence are reportable to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995. Between 1996 and 2001 there were 117 major injuries and 561 over three-day injuries to all teaching staff as a result of physical violence reported to HSE. These figures include teachers in all schools, further and higher education and adult and other education institutions. Information is not available on whether the assaults were carried out by pupils/students, parents or others.

Work Experience

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to his answer of 24 February 2003, ref 96764, if he will list the independent evaluations of work experience placements which have taken place; and if he will make a statement. [100256]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: There have been two independent national evaluation studies on the pre-16 work experience programme, both carried out by the Institute for Employment Studies: "Pre-16 Work Experience in England and Wales" (IES Research Report, 1996), and "Pre-16 Work Experience Practice in England: An Evaluation" (IES Research Report, May 2001). These evaluations both show that placements are generally satisfactory and well-received by schools, pupils and employers. The second evaluation indicated that overall quality had improved since the first, reflecting the impact of a number of initiatives taken to enhance it, but a very small minority of placements were not of good quality and there was scope for further improvement in aspects of practice in some schools. As I indicated in previous answers to the hon. Member, we are committed to enabling all pupils at Key Stage Four to have at least two weeks of high quality work experience, and have measures in hand to promote this.


Company Pensions

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the shortfalls in company pension schemes as a result of compliance with FRS17. [100530]

Mr. McCartney: There are a number of alternative ways of evaluating the assets and liabilities of pension schemes. The FRS17 accounting standard sets out how pension assets, liabilities and costs should be reflected in

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company accounts. It offsets the long term liabilities of schemes against the current value of assets. The standard is the responsibility of the Accounting Standards Board which is independent of Government. Although companies are currently required to present balance sheet and performance statement information under the FRS17 standard in the notes to their accounts, mandatory full implementation of FRS17 has been deferred until 2005. FRS17 does not in itself create pension liabilities but seeks to make them clear in company balance sheets. It is therefore not appropriate to calculate an estimate of the shortfall in company pension schemes as a result of compliance with FRS17.

Minimum Income Guarantee

Mr. Flight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the estimated take-up of the minimum income guarantee in 2002–03 is; and if he will make a statement; [99148]

Mr. McCartney: The latest available estimate of take-up of Minimum Income Guarantee relates to financial year 1999–2000 and is presented in the DWP report "Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-up in 1999–2000". A copy of the publication is available in the Library. The next edition of the report containing statistics for 2000–01 will be released on 27 March 2003.

Information on the number of people eligible for Minimum Income Guarantee in 2002–03 is not available. The latest published number of recipients of Minimum Income Guarantee as at November 2002 is 1,768,000. This estimate is taken from a 5 per cent. sample of administrative data and may be subject to a small degree of sampling error.

Automated Credit Transfer

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) of 27 January 2003, Official Report, column 649W, in what order he will be sending out invitation letters to recipients of each category of benefit. [95566]

Malcolm Wicks: The mailing exercise for direct payment began in October 2002 with four weekly paid Child Benefit customers and people in receipt of a War Pension. Since then we have continued with these benefits and started to issue mailings to people getting Retirement Pension. From March 2003 we plan to start to write to weekly paid Child Benefit customers.

Also from March 2003 we will start to contact customers in receipt of Jobcentre Plus benefits (Income Support, Incapacity Benefit, Industrial Injuries Scheme Benefits, Severe Disablement Allowance, Bereavement Benefit and Widows Benefit). Jobseeker's Allowance customers will be dealt with as part of their usual contact with the Department and will not receive a mailing.

In summer 2003 we plan to start writing to customers in receipt of Disability and Care benefits including Invalid Care Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance.

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Benefit Payment Methods

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what proportion of benefit claimants he expects to be unable to receive their benefits into a bank or building society account, including a Post Office card account; what types of people he expects to fall into this category; and when the new arrangements for these people are likely to be announced. [100796]

Malcolm Wicks: Around 85 per cent. of our customers currently have access to an account suitable for Direct Payment. For those customers who wish to open a new account information on all of the options available is given in mailings being sent to benefit and pension customers.

There is now a wide range of easy to operate bank and building society accounts available. The availability of these accounts and the Post Office card account will mean that there should be only a small number of people who cannot open a suitable account. However, we have always recognised that there will be a small group of people who we cannot pay directly into an account and they will continue to be paid in the same way they are now until an alternate payment method is available. Work is in progress to develop a solution to make these payments. Once this work is complete we will announce details.

Commonwealth Pensions

Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will uprate the pensions paid to UK pensioners living in all Commonwealth countries; and if he will make a statement. [100877]

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Mr. McCartney: State pension is uprated in some Commonwealth countries and certain other countries abroad where there is a legal requirement or a reciprocal social security agreement to do so.

The Commonwealth countries with which the UK has reciprocal agreements allowing state pension upratings to be paid are, Barbados, Cyprus, Jamaica, Malta and Mauritius. Pensions are not uprated in any other Commonwealth country.

The uprating of state pensions abroad is the subject of a Court of Appeal hearing set for 24 and 25 March 2003. This is an appeal against the High Court's finding that the Government is not in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights by not annually uprating the state pension in countries where there is no agreement to do so.

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