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29 Mar 2004 : Column 1193W—continued

Student Loans

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to his answer of 5 February 2004 reference number 151860, what proportion of graduates the model assumed would have debts on graduation due to (a) maintenance loans, (b) fee loans and (c) fee and maintenance loans combined, broken down by bands of £1,000. [154379]

Alan Johnson [holding answer 10 February 2004]: Of those students entering higher education after 2006, our modelling for the RIA assumed broadly that (a) 85 per cent. would leave HE with a debt based on maintenance loans, (b) 80 per cent. would leave with debt based on loans for fees, and (c) around 70 per cent. would leave with debt for both maintenance and fee loans combined.

The distribution of the level of debt—especially broken down into narrow ranges—is not an explicit output of the model. Moreover, it will not be static as it will depend on a number of factors and assumptions which change over time, such as: parental income, value of loans available; and the interaction of other model assumptions, including course length and whether a student completes their course.

We estimate, using the assumptions in the Regulatory Impact Assessment, and figures for the expected average debt for 2002–03, that the average debt of students starting in 2006 will be around £15,000.

Sure Start

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what his policy is on Sure Start;

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and what staffing resources have been allocated to implement Sure Start in Somerset in 2003–04. [161864]

Margaret Hodge: Sure Start is a vital part of our commitment to achieve better outcomes for all children. The Chancellor, in his budget speech, restated that commitment when he announced £669 million additional funding for Sure Start by 2007–08 which will pay for children's centres in all of the 20 per cent. most disadvantaged wards in England by 2007–08; 100,000 new childcare places, some of which will be to support nursery education places and a pilot to extend a free part-time early education place to 6,000 two years olds in disadvantaged areas.

£2.551 million has been allocated to Somerset for general Sure Start grant activities in 2003–04.

A further £2.244 million has been allocated to three Sure Start Local Programmes and two Mini Local Programmes in Somerset for 2003–04 (although this funding is controlled by the programmes rather than the local authority). The Department does not collect information on how this funding is allocated to meet staffing requirements.

In addition, the three Sure Start Local Programmes have a maximum capital allocation of £3.325 million. This funding is for use during the first three years of a programme's life. The Mini Sure Start in Chard also has an approved capital allocation of £250,000.

Somerset is also developing 363 new full time child care places across the county through the Neighbourhood Nursery Initiative. Total revenue grant allocated for 2003–04 is approximately £455,000.

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Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the merits of Sure Start centres offering a facility for (a) consumer and (b) financial advice; and if he will meet the Consumers' Association to discuss the matter. [163361]

Margaret Hodge: Sure Start local programmes and children's centres are required to provide services which deliver the Sure Start Unit's PSA targets, including a target to reduce the number of children in workless households. Services are expected to be based on evidence of what works. Consumer and financial advice, including advice on in-work benefits for example, is already provided by many Sure Start local programmes and this will also be the case in children's centres.

I would be happy to consider a request for a meeting with the Consumers' Association and suggest they contact my office with a possible agenda.

Telephone Tapping

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what consultation his Department has had with higher education institutions about the tapping of the telephone conversations and e-mails of foreign students; and if he will make a statement. [163675]

Alan Johnson: None.

Universities (Work Experience)

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if his Department will encourage universities to offer credits for work experience on university courses. [163417]

Alan Johnson: The use of credit systems is a matter for higher education institutions. However, in the White Paper, "The future of higher education", we asked the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to work with partners in the sector to build upon the best current practice, and to scale this up so that there is widespread and consistent use of credit across higher education. The work is being taken forward as part of a wider exercise to review systems for measuring and recording student achievement, initially through a scoping group chaired by Professor Bob Burgess, VC at the University of Leicester. Professor Burgess is expected to report with recommendations for future action during the summer. More specifically on work experience, the newly introduced two-year foundation degrees combine academic study with work based learning, with the work based element forming part of the overall assessment toward the final award. Employers are actively involved in the design and review of courses to ensure that students are gaining a HE qualification that is relevant to employment in their chosen area.

University Science Departments

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) if he will list the university science departments that have run (a) with a deficit and (b) in credit over each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement; [163992]

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Alan Johnson: Higher education institutions are required to prepare audited financial statements each year. Those statements do not, however, record income and expenditure at the level of individual departments within the institution. Details are not, therefore, available.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) takes account of the additional costs of science subjects as part of its funding methodology. The funding it pays to institutions is, however, provided as a block grant and it is for the individual institutions to determine the levels at which to fund their departments based on the funding from HEFCE and their other income.


Coastal Defence

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what forecasts have been made for funding allocations for the coastal defence budget for the next 10 years. [163575]

Mr. Morley: Total provision for Central Government funding to the flood and coastal defence operating authorities (Environment Agency (EA), local authorities (LAs) and internal drainage boards (IDBs)) for maintenance and improvement of defences against flooding, both coastal and otherwise, and coastal erosion is £467 million in 2004–05 and £539 million in 2005–06.

The operating authorities decide how best to invest this money within the constraints of Defra's funding criteria so funds are not specifically set aside for coastal defences as such. I hope to reserve allocations within the overall 2005–06 figure for the EA, LAs for coast protection, LAs for flood defence and IDBs in October following analysis of operating authority forward plans.

Funding to 2007–08 will be considered in this year's Spending Review. Longer-term funding needs are being considered as part of Defra's "National Assessment of Defence Needs and Costs" and I hope to be in a position to publish findings in the summer.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans were made by her Department for conferences and seminars in conjunction with its consultation on the draft UK National Allocation Plan for the EU Emissions Trading Scheme; what the total cost of organising each of those events was; and how many people attended in each case. [161393]

Mr. Morley: Defra has held three general consultation seminars, the costs and attendances are as follows.

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DateCost (£000)Attendance
16 June 20033,500180
10 September 200312,000250
28 January 20047,000450

DTI have also held sector specific meetings with industry to discuss aspects of the consultation.

Disposable Nappies

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how long it takes for disposable nappies to decompose in landfill sites; and what percentage of the waste going to landfill this represents; [161667]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 22 March 2004]: Disposable nappies consist of fluffed pulp, the largest component, and plastic. They also contain absorbent gel. The rate of breakdown will depend on the conditions of landfill and the other types of waste deposited. Generally landfill sites in the UK have a high moisture and organic content and therefore waste, including the paper and gel parts of nappies, will degrade relatively quickly.

Plastics are generally resistant to degradation and, depending on the type, some will take years to breakdown, others may last indefinitely.

The Strategy Unit in its report 'Waste Not Want Not' estimated that in 2000–01 nappies comprised around 2 per cent. of household waste, equivalent to 350,000 tonnes.

Nappies from the home are classed as household waste and can be disposed of in the normal household waste. Properly regulated landfill is a proven method of dealing with waste safely and can be relied on if alternative methods of dealing with waste are not provided. Our view is that good waste management practice adequately regulated can and does cope with disposable nappies.

Following the publication of the Strategy Unit report 'Waste Not Want Not' the Government accepted the recommendation that the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) should take forward (as part of an overall waste minimisation initiative) work on supporting re-usable nappies through the provision of support for new businesses and information to parents. The details of the programme are still being worked up.

The aim of the WRAP programme is to achieve an average diversion of 225kg/yr per participating household. WRAP'S target is to convert 155,000

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households to re-usable nappies by end of fiscal year 2006. This is an ambitious target and if achieved would create a reduction in household waste of 35,000 tonnes (per annum).

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