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Hilary Benn: Uganda has a well-developed and consultative process for deciding the Government's annual budget. Donors are involved throughout, and have an opportunity to endorse the budget at the annual public expenditure review. This level of consultation allows partners, including the UK, to ensure Government meets its commitment to prioritise poverty reduction. Allocations to the Government's "Poverty Action Fund" (PAF), for example, have risen from less than 20 per cent. to over 37 per cent. of the Government's budget in the past six years. These allocations have been fully protected during budget execution. Our budget support, and that of other donors, is conditional on our endorsement of the budget and its subsequent execution.
The level of defence spending is a major element of this consultation. The UK has supported a defence review, which is about to conclude. The review's purpose is to develop a long-term strategy for the Army, setting out how roles and capabilities should be adapted to meet the security challenges Uganda faces. It will provide the basis for making well-informed and affordable decisions on the defence budget in the future. We are impressing upon Government the need for consultation around the review's recommendations before future levels of defence expenditure are set. Our aim is to ensure its affordability, and guarantee expenditure for core poverty reduction programmes is not displaced. We will monitor this issue very closely, especially in the context of our budget support.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement about the people living in internally displaced persons camps within Uganda, with particular reference to their need for adequate water, food and security. 
Hilary Benn: The UK remains deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation caused by the conflict in northern Uganda, now in its 18th year. Insecurity prevents normal development activities, resulting in 63 per cent. of households in the north living below the poverty line compared with 38 per cent. nationally. Our immediate concern is the plight of the large number of displaced people across the region. This group of over 1.3 million faces declining levels of food security due to disruption of the planting and harvesting seasons. They also face serious problems of lack of shelter and physical insecurity. A number of local and international organisations are working to address the emerging needs.
We have provided £7.3 million of humanitarian assistance over the last 12 months. This has been channelled through the World Food Programme, UNICEF and the Uganda Red Cross Society. We are currently allocating a further £1.1 million. Linked to this we are financing UNICEF personnel working on the protection of women and children. We have also provided Save the Children Fund with a grant to improve conditions for the increasing number of
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unaccompanied children who are sleeping in town centres at night to avoid abduction by the LRA. We are working hard, in partnership with others, to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches all those in need despite some access difficulties across the region.
The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and I raised the conflict and its humanitarian impact in our discussions with President Museveni during his recent UK visit. We, along with our partners in Uganda and the international community, will continue to encourage the Government of Uganda to bring about a sustainable resolution to the conflict.
We are working with the Learning and Skills Council, further education colleges, and advice and guidance agencies in the 10 pilots to promote this new grant. At this stage, the main focus is on promoting the grant to new learners who started courses during January 2004 and to existing learners who may be eligible but have not applied.
Mr. Ivan Lewis: It is estimated that lower skills contribute up to 20 per cent. of the UK's productivity gap with France and Germany. The key to productivity is a highly skilled workforce. The Skills Strategy published in July sets out our programme to raise our skill levels to compete with the best in the world. It will be driven forward by the Skills Alliance.
Mr. Stephen Twigg: Employers at primary schools must ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the health and safety of staff, pupils and visitors to the school site. The employer will usually be the local education authority. In practice the associated tasks are usually delegated to the school staff, for example ensuring drinking water taps are labelled.
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Mr. Miliband: The minimum funding guarantee for schools, which is based on a 4 per cent. per pupil increase with adjustments for changes in pupil numbers, will apply for the financial year beginning 1 April 2004. The guarantee will also operate in the 200506 financial year, on a basis to be finalised when we have reviewed the way it is working in its first year. The guarantee is an important element of our arrangements for stabilising school funding over the next two years.
15. Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to assist areas which have difficulty in raising private finance sponsorship required to make a specialist school application. 
Mr. Charles Clarke: The Department funds the Specialist Schools and the Youth Sport Trusts to assist schools to raise sponsorship. The Trusts can also act as a broker between sponsors and schools requiring assistance.
We have also created a "Partnership Fund", made up of Government and private sector funding, to help schools which can demonstrate that, in spite of their determined efforts over time, they have not be been able to raise the necessary level of sponsorship.
16. Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment of the needs of Nottingham schools he has made ahead of his decisions on the Schools for the Future school building programme. 
Mr. Miliband: We published our criteria for prioritisation in the Building Schools for the Future programme in July 2003. This covered education need and vision, and readiness to deliver the programme. All authorities wishing to be in the first year of the programme put forward their proposals on that basis. All proposals have been rigorously assessed and we are announcing the outcome of that today.
17. Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will reduce the level of payments of university tuition fees for graduates who take up and remain in modestly paid jobs. 
Alan Johnson: The income-contingent repayment scheme for student loans already recognises the needs of graduates who take and remain in poorly paid jobs. Repayments will be 9 per cent. of salary above £15,000 from 2005, and will stop whenever the graduate's salary falls below that threshold. In addition, we propose to write off the outstanding loan after 25 yearsthat too will benefit graduates in low paid jobs.
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Mr. Charles Clarke: There is no relationship between student loans and household debt. Student loans are repaid on an income-contingent basis. We intend that graduates only pay 9 per cent. of their income beyond £15,000 per year. If it falls below £15,000, their repayments stop. Student loans are subsidised by the Government with no real rate of interestso the burden does not increase, however long the repayment period. The Government propose to write off any outstanding student loan amount after 25 years.
Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many charges and of what value have been made in error to graduates whose income did not reach a level where repayment was required for failure to make repayments of student loans. 
Alan Johnson: The information is not available in the form requested. Borrowers with the old, mortgage style, loans may be charged administration fees if they fall into default. This can happen if a borrower's income is below the deferment threshold but they neither apply to defer their loan repayments nor make loan repayments.
Different arrangements apply to the income-contingent loans, where repayment is triggered automatically by the Inland Revenue when the borrower's income exceeds the repayment threshold. Borrowers outside the UK who fail to repay these income-contingent loans to the Student Loans Company when they should, may incur financial penalties.
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