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19 May 2004 : Column 1053W—continued

Local Authority Leisure Services

Mr. Reed: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he made of adjusting planning guidance on sports and leisure facilities to take account of the Government's targets to raise participation. [174054]


 
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Keith Hill: National planning guidance for Open Space, Sport and Recreation (PPG17), published in July 2002, already provides the framework for raising participation. It includes an objective for the planning process to promote healthy living and prevent illness. The guidance requires local authorities to assess the future as well as the existing needs of their communities for sports and recreational facilities. Authorities are expected to keep these assessments up-to-date and to use them to set standards for inclusion in their plans.

Tree Preservation Orders

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will take steps to amend Tree Preservation Order legislation so that dying and dead ancient trees are eligible for protection. [173957]

Keith Hill: Local planning authorities currently have powers to use tree preservation orders for the protection of selected trees in the interests of amenity. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has no plans at the present time to amend the legislation for this specific purpose.

EDUCATION AND SKILLS

Child Employment

Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when he will publish his response to the Better Regulation Task Force report on the regulation of child employment. [172449]

Margaret Hodge: I will be replying to the Chairman of the Better Regulation Task Force shortly and will place a copy of my reply in the Library of the House.

Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment his Department has made of the recommendations made in the Better Regulation Task Force report on the regulation of child employment; and if he will make a statement. [173389]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 14 May 2004]: The report by the Better Regulation Task Force on the regulation of child employment contains five recommendations, which I have considered carefully. I hope to make a positive response to the report shortly. A consultation process, as recommended in the report, will be undertaken to ensure that any changes in child employment legislation to be introduced will meet the needs of those subject to it. Before any new legislation is introduced, a full regulatory impact assessment will be carried out.

Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to ensure that existing guidelines and codes of practice regarding the employment of children are enforced at local authority level. [173390]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 14 May 2004]: Local authorities are currently responsible for determining that child employment legislation is
 
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complied with and it is for local authorities to ensure that any guidelines and codes of practice that they may have are enforced at a local level.

Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to propose new clauses to the Children's Bill relating to the regulation of child employment in England and Wales. [173391]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 14 May 2004]: There are no plans to introduce clauses into the Children Bill relating to the regulation of child employment in England and Wales. Any changes to child employment legislation are likely to be introduced by way of a Regulatory Reform Order, as recommended by the Better Regulation Task Force report on the regulation of child employment.

Computers Within Reach Programme

Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many (a) teachers and (b) families in Manchester, Gorton have benefited from the Computers Within Reach programme. [167443]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Computers Within Reach scheme closed on 31 October 2001 having delivered over 24,000 recycled computers to people in 22 pilot areas, at a cost of £7.1 million over two years. Those eligible were in receipt of certain working age benefits or a state pension with minimum income guarantee.

At the same time as funding was made available for the Computers within Reach scheme, funding was also provided for the Computers for Teachers programme. For teachers who met certain criteria, this programme subsidised the cost of a computer. It was subsequently replaced by the current Laptops for Teachers scheme which dispensed with subsidies, and through which sufficient funding will be provided to enable two thirds of teachers to receive a laptop by March 2006.

Of the 24,000 computers delivered through the Computers within Reach scheme, approximately 2,200 were for people in the Manchester area, including those in and around Gorton.

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many families in Tamworth constituency have benefited from the Computers Within Reach programme; and how many teachers have benefited from the Computers for Teachers programme. [173283]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Computers Within Reach (CWR) scheme closed on 31 October 2001 having delivered over 24,000 recycled computers to people in 22 pilot areas, at a cost of £7.1 million over two years. Those eligible were in receipt of certain working age benefits or a state pension with minimum income guarantee.

At the same time as funding was made available for the Computers within Reach scheme, funding was also provided for the Computers for Teachers programme. For teachers who met certain criteria, this programme subsidised the cost of a computer. It was subsequently
 
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replaced by the current Laptops for Teachers scheme which dispensed with subsidies, and through which sufficient funding will be provided to enable two thirds of teachers to receive a laptop by March 2006.

Tamworth was not one of the pilot areas for the CWR scheme.

Early Retirement

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many employees in his Department took early retirement, and at what total cost, in the last financial year. [172175]

Mr. Charles Clarke: In the 2003–04 financial year, 28 employees in my Department took early release packages at a total cost of £2,775.639.

The various categories of early retirement and severance, and details of the various schemes, are set out in sections 11.5 to 11.10 of the Civil Service Management Code and can be found at: http://www. cabinet-office.gov.uk/civilservice/managementcode/.

Education Act Powers

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many times he has exercised his powers under section 58 of the Education Act 2002 to appoint interim executive members to a specially constituted governing body. [173782]

Mr. Miliband [holding answer 17 May 2004]: No interim executive members have been appointed by the Secretary of State to a specially constituted governing under section 58 of the Education Act 2002. However, local education authorities have used their powers under section 57 to establish interim executive boards in weak and failing schools in 11 cases, with the consent of the Secretary of State.

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many times he has exercised his powers under section 56 of the Education Act 2002 to (a) close schools and (b) appoint additional governors. [173781]

Mr. Miliband [holding answer 17 May 2004]: No school closure has been directed under Section 56 of the Education Act 2002.

The power of the Secretary of State to appoint additional governors to a school requiring special measures or which has serious weaknesses is available under section 18 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (SSFA); no appointments have been made under this provision.

However, under section 16 of the SSFA, as amended by Schedule 5 of the Education Act 2002, local education authorities have appointed additional governors to schools causing concern on a number of occasions.
 
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