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Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate he has made of the cost of the Fast Track teacher recruiting programme for each year from 200102 to 200506; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Miliband: The Fast Track teaching programme is a long-term investment in developing effective leadership in schools; it is not primarily a recruitment programme. So far this year, applications are 19 per cent. higher than they were in the same period last year. The number of Fast Track teachers and trainees currently on the programme is more than double last year's number.
(21) Estimated end of year forecast.
(22) Estimate, dependent on recruitment levels.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many students started three year courses at UK universities in 199798 and 19992000; and how many students graduated from those universities with degrees in 200001 and 200203. 
|Year of entry
Higher Education Statistics Agency
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|Year of graduation
Higher Education Statistics Agency
Alan Johnson: 'Achieving our vision', the Universities UK 2004 spending review submission for England and Northern Ireland, provides details of their assessment of the financial needs of the higher education sector over the next few years. Decisions on resources for all areas of public spending from 2006/07 onwards will be taken later in the year as part of the Government's Spending Review.
Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the bus industry has achieved the target of 99.5 per cent. reliability agreed between his Department and the Confederation of Passenger Transport; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McNulty: Reliability is defined as the percentage of scheduled bus mileage actually run, excluding lost mileage outside operators' control. The baseline for the reliability target is 98.2 per cent. in England in the year to March 2001. Reliability rose to 98.5 per cent. in the year to March 2003. However, it was estimated to have fallen back to 98.2 per cent. (seasonally adjusted) in the period July-September 2003, the most recent quarter for which data are available. We are considering the reasons for this with the Confederation of Passenger Transport.
Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many applications he has received from local authorities to implement bus quality contracts; how many statutory bus quality partnerships have been registered; and which local authorities have introduced them. 
Mr. McNulty: We have to date received no applications for bus quality contracts schemes, though I recently announced the Government's intention to consult on the proposal to reduce the 21-month minimum period that must elapse between the making of a quality contracts scheme and its coming into force. No statutory bus quality partnerships have yet been registered, although informal partnerships are placed in over 130 areas across the country. Plans by West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority and Birmingham City Council for the introduction of the first statutory quality partnership, on the Route 67 bus corridor in Birmingham, are very well advanced.
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Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many people are employed by the Vehicles Inspectorate to undertake bus quality checks; and how many person hours were devoted to bus quality checks in the last year for which figures are available. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), formerly the Vehicle Inspectorate, employs 15 Bus Compliance Officers, two of whom are funded directly by the Welsh Assembly. The Bus Compliance Officers carry out monitoring of local bus services outside London, which involves checking that vehicles comply with their registered timetables and routes. The Officers also investigate complaints about possible instances of non-compliance. In 200203 18,725 man hours were devoted to these activities.
VOSA also employs some 300 Vehicle Examiners who carry out roadworthiness checks on passenger service vehicles (buses, coaches and mini buses licensed to carry more than eight passengers) as part of their duties. During 200203 £24,786 vehicles were examined in spot and fleet roadworthiness checks. Approximately 32,500 man hours were devoted to this work. This figure cannot be broken down to identify the proportion of time spent solely on bus checks.
Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport who the five worst bus operators in terms of punctuality and reliability were in each of the areas covered by the Traffic Commissioners in the last year for which figures are available; which operators have been fined by the Traffic Commissioners for poor performance; and what fines have been paid. 
In 200203, across all traffic areas, traffic commissioners held 41 disciplinary public inquiries relating to local bus services, and in 22 cases financial penalties were imposed (although some were subsequently subject to appeal to the Transport Tribunal), the majority relating to punctuality or reliability. It is not possible to rank them in order of severity, given the wide variation in scale of operation and other factors.
Further details, including breakdown by traffic area are available in tables 17.1 and 17.2 of the "Traffic Commissioners' Annual Reports for 200203". Copies of which are in the Libraries of the House.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many (a) villages and (b) towns have been served by bus services in (i) Devon and (ii) the South West in each year since 1993; and if he will make a statement; 
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(4) how many (a) daily and (b) weekly rural bus services there were in each year since 1993 in (i) Devon and (ii) the South West; and if he will make a statement. 
(3) whether it is his policy to approve the building of one container port in advance of receiving the report of the public inquiry into proposals to build another container port simultaneously elsewhere; 
(4) whether it is his intention to (a) make and (b) publish his decisions on the proposals for container ports at (i) Dibden Bay and (ii) Shell Haven (London Gateway) at the same time; 
(5) if he will make it his policy not to publish his decision on the Dibden Bay container port proposal prior to the publication of the report of the public inquiry into the creation of a New Forest national park. 
Mr. Jamieson: It is the Government's policy to consider each proposal on its merits, having regard to relevant development considerations. The inspector's report of the public inquiry into the Dibden Bay container port application was received in my Department at the end of September 2003 and will be published when a decision is made and announced.
The publication of the report of the public inquiry into the creation of a New Forest National Park is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.