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Higher Education Participation

The Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education (Alan Johnson): In November 2002 my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge), commissioned a quality review of the Initial Entry Rate (IER) statistic. The review, which was carried out independently in accordance with guidelines published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), was designed to ensure that the IER statistic was rigorous and transparent.

The findings of the review were published on 17 November 2003. The main recommendations were that:

The most recent data available for these measurements are for the academic year 2001–02. The IER figure for 2001–02 was 43.5 per cent. When the recommendations of the quality review are taken into account, the new HEIPR figure for 2001–02 is 43.9 per cent. or 44 per cent. when rounded. Figures for 2002–03 will be produced when data become available.

The full report is available via the ONS website and a copy has been placed in the House of Commons Library.


Autumn Performance Report

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): I have today published my Department's autumn performance report for 2003. Copies have been laid before Parliament and placed in the House Libraries.

The report sets out the Department's progress made on our seven public service agreement targets over the last six months since the publication of the annual report in May 2003.



The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): The Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mike O'Brien) is to visit Pakistan imminently. Pakistan is an important ally and partner of the UK. We work closely with Pakistan in a number of fields, and our bilateral relationship is warm and close. Our mutual commitment to developing this relationship is shown by the successful visits to the United Kingdom by President Musharraf and Foreign Minister Kasuri during the course of 2003.

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Pakistan is a key partner for the UK in the campaign against terrorism. With US, UK and other international support, Pakistan has arrested over 500 terrorist suspects since 11 September 2001, including leaders like Khalid Sheikh Muhammad who is suspected of planning the attacks in New York. We also welcome and encourage measures taken by the Government of Pakistan against organisations which pose a threat to Pakistan's security and to regional and international stability, including efforts to root out the al-Qaeda and Taliban elements which continue to destabilise Afghanistan in particular.

In the political sphere we value Pakistan's membership of the UN Security Council, and have welcomed their constructive contribution in that forum over the last year. We hope to continue and intensify our co-operation in the year ahead. We are also engaging with Pakistan on a whole range of regional and global issues, both bilaterally and in other international fora.

We welcome recent progress in normalising relations between Pakistan and India, including the latest agreements on a ceasefire and resumption of air links. It has taken statesmanship by President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee to achieve the progress so far. This is an encouraging start to a process which we hope, with sustained efforts of both sides to address each others legitimate concerns, will lead to the resolution of all the outstanding issues between them, including on Kashmir.

Our defence relationship is deepening following the re-establishment of the UK-Pakistan Defence Cooperation Forum in early 2002. We greatly value our important and historic links with the Pakistan armed forces. We will maintain and build on this progress.

We have an important trade relationship. The UK is the biggest foreign investor in Pakistan and the UK is the country's 5th largest export market. All this is in the context of an increasingly stable and strong macro-economic environment in Pakistan, and a government committed to liberalising reform, including privatisation. We appreciate the good work being done in this field by the Pakistan-Britain Trade and Investment Forum (PBTIF), and the Pakistan Britain Business Advisory Group (PBBAG). The UK was also a strong supporter of the establishment of the EU/Pakistan Trade Agreement in late 2001.

We are also working together in the field of judicial cooperation through the Joint Judicial Cooperation Working Group.

The UK remains committed to supporting Pakistan's long-term development. We are giving approximately £70 million of development assistance this year, four times more than previously, and last week agreed to the release of an additional tranche of £22.5 million in budget support for the Government of Pakistan's long-term Poverty Reduction Strategy, and the Health and Population Welfare Facility. This bilateral programme is focused on social sector development—particularly in education and health—to make a difference to the lives of those millions of Pakistanis who live in poverty. UK development assistance for Pakistan will amount to over £200 million over the next three years.

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Finally, there are of course strong community links between the UK and Pakistan. 800,000 people of Pakistani heritage are estimated to live in the UK. Over 85,000 Pakistanis visited the UK in 2003, including 6,000 students, and we expect this to rise to over 100,000 next year. Under normal circumstances our visa operation in Pakistan is one of the busiest in the world, and we are working hard to restore a full service following the disruption caused by terrorist threats to High Commission personnel.


Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton): The seventh report to Parliament on the pharmaceutical price regulation scheme (PPRS) was published today.

The report, entitled "PPRS: Seventh Report to Parliament", covers the management and operation of the 1999 scheme, which was introduced in October 1999 including the delivery of the 4.5 per cent. price cut. It explains the Government's objectives for the scheme and gives consolidated information on company annual financial returns. The report sets out the contribution made to the economy by the UK based pharmaceutical

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industry and describes the review of the current PPRS and the publication of the discussion paper seeking views on options for the future.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Library.


Export of Works of Art

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): The report of the review of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art will be published today.

The Review was led by the Director of Arts and Culture at DCMS and supported by the Review Management Team of the Arts and Culture Directorate. An independent Steering Group guided the Review and the work of the Review was informed by a thorough consultation exercise.

The report finds that the Committee is fulfilling Government and Departmental objectives in relation to the protection of objects of national importance and that there is widespread support for its continuation.

The Department will consider in more depth the issues raised by the Review and also issues raised by the Goodison Review on "Saving Art for the Nation", which is due to be published later this week.

Copies of the report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The Review will also be available on the DCMS website