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12 Oct 2004 : Column 238W—continued

School Transport

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made in implementing the recommendation of the Northern Ireland Assembly regarding (a) seats and (b) seatbelts for all school children travelling to and from school in buses. [189611]

Mr. Gardiner: In 2003 the Department of the Environment commissioned transportation consultants to carry out an initial cost benefit assessment and draw up Terms of Reference for a full Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) of the Environment Committee's seating and seatbelt recommendations.

This research confirmed that these recommendations have very large capital and operating cost implications set against a small safety benefit. The consultants advised that, in order to complete a robust RIA, more data on travel demand, bus operations and school pupil casualty rates were needed. The Department is currently collating and collecting this information.

The Department of Education has no plans to amend the existing arrangements until the results of the RIA are known. All new Education and Library Board buses have seat belts fitted as standard. It will, however, take some time to replace the existing fleet which consists of almost 700 buses at present. Board buses are maintained to a higher standard than is required under current legislation.
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School Travel Plan Pilot

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment the Government have made of the operation of the School Travel Plan Pilot; and what plans there are to extend its scope. [189671]

Mr. Spellar: The Chief Executive of Roads Service (Dr. Malcolm McKibbin) has been asked to write to the hon. Gentleman in response to this question.

Letter from Dr. Malcolm McKibbin to Mr. Roy Beggs, dated 27 September 2004:

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Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many self-employed people there were in Northern Ireland by the (a) end of 1998 and (b) end of 2003. [189609]

Mr. Gardiner: The Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates that there were 95,000 self-employed people in Northern Ireland at winter 1998–99 and 111,000 self-employed people at winter 2003–04.

Sickness Absence

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment has been made of alternative methods for verifying absence from work through sickness. [188527]

Mr. Spellar: Following UK-wide consultation, as announced in "Pathways to work: Helping people into employment: the Government's response and action plan" [CM 5830], the Government have undertaken research to explore the potential for extending statutory certification to nonmedical health care professionals.

Sports Facilities

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what provision is being made to increase sports facilities in Northern Ireland prior to 2012. [189747]

Angela Smith: The Sports Council for Northern Ireland is presently planning a number of schemes which will include provision to increase sports facilities where required in advance of 2012. These include a new Sports Grounds Development Programme, Soccer Strategy programme and community based and performance focused Lottery capital programmes. The Sports Council is also currently developing a sports facilities strategy to help determine levels of sports facilities likely to be needed in Northern Ireland in the future, including prior to 2012. In addition to this, I am presently giving consideration to the possibility of a multi-sports stadium for Northern Ireland. The Department of Social Development (DSD), through its Regional Development Offices, and with assistance from the EU Peace 2 Programme, is contributing to and providing funding for the development of a wide range of multi-sports facilities in Northern Ireland. Moreover, in implementing the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy over the next 7–10 years, DSD will continue to support regeneration proposals that incorporate sport as part of the comprehensive regeneration of disadvantaged areas.

Teachers (Sick Leave)

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to his answer of 20 May, Official Report, column 1216W, on teachers' sick leave, when he intends to write to the hon. Member for East Antrim. [189695]

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Mr. Gardiner: I wrote to the hon. Member for East Antrim on 1 October indicating that the number of teachers who took sick leave of 20 days or more during each of the last five academic years is as follows:
Number of teachers with 20 or more days sick leave

I have arranged for a copy of the letter to be placed in the Library.


Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps are being taken by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to encourage maximum use of the former TK-ECC site in Dundonald, following its recent sale. [189660]

Mr. Gardiner: As the factory and its associated site are privately owned, Invest NI has no direct role in encouraging its use to be maximised.

However, Invest NI stands ready, if requested, to work with the owners and their agents to market the property in line with the existing employment/industrial use for which it is currently zoned.

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