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10 Nov 2004 : Column 757W—continued

Children Bill

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what provisions in the Children Bill in respect of children do not apply to the children of those seeking asylum in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [194677]

Margaret Hodge: Asylum seeking children are not excluded from the Children Bill. Its provisions are designed to ensure that services work to improve outcomes for all children, and this includes those who are the children of asylum seekers or themselves seeking asylum. The Children's Commissioner will have the function of promoting the views and interests of all children, including those seeking asylum.

The immigration service is acutely aware of the need to offer protection to vulnerable children. A number of new procedures have been introduced to ensure that any concerns about children are acted upon and to promote close working with local authorities and other agencies. Unaccompanied asylum seeking children are supported by local authorities in the same way as UK children and are therefore afforded the same protection.

Contact Centres

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what funding has been available from the Joint Investment Fund for (a) contact centres and (b) supervised contact centres in each of the last three years. [192529]

Margaret Hodge: The £3.5 million DfES/Sure Start Joint Investment Fund was announced in March 2004 and represents a major investment in child contact centres for the three financial years 2003–04 to 2005–06. In 2003–04 £100,000 was made available. In 2004–05 £1.8 million is being made available and in 2005–06 £1.6 million will be available.

Of the £3.5 million, £2.5 million has been allocated to the establishment of 14 new supervised contact centres in England. A sustainability fund of £430,000 will provide financial support to existing supervised and supported contact centres who are members of the National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC). £570,000 of training and consultancy support will be made available to supervised contact centres.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many contact centres are in operation in England; and how many of these are supervised contact centres. [192530]

Margaret Hodge: A mapping exercise conducted by the (former) Lord Chancellor's Department (now the Department for Constitutional Affairs) in autumn 2002,
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identified approximately 520 voluntary sector child contact centres in England and Wales. 483 of these centres were based in England.

Of the 483 centres in England, 47 offered supervised child contact services only, while a further 73 centres offered both supervised and supported child contact services.

Under the 2002 Spending Review, funding has been made available through a DfES/Sure Start joint investment fund to establish 14 new supervised contact centres. This funding was announced in March 2004, The operation of these new supervised centres will be supported by £2.5 million from the total £3.5 million joint investment fund, up until March 2006.

Departmental Staff

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of the staff in his Department in (a) 2002 and (b) 2003 were people with disabilities. [196121]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office on 9 November 2004, Official Report, column 619W.

EU Diploma Recognition

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many times during the Greek presidency of the EU the Co-ordination Group to promote uniformity of application of the general system for the recognition of higher education diplomas (first general system) met; when and where these meetings took place; which UK Government expert was present at each meeting; what (a) technical and (b) financial issues were raised by the UK Government expert at each meeting; what recommendations the Committee produced during that period; what actions were (i) proposed and (ii) taken by (A) the EU and (B) the UK Government as a result of the Committee's recommendations; and if he will make a statement. [196676]

Dr. Howells: A meeting of the EU Co-ordination Group was held on 24 June 2003 in Brussels. The agenda comprised points of information from the Commission and discussions on other technical areas on the recognition procedure including assimilated diplomas, lists of regulated professions and statistical reports. No decisions were made.

Fair Trade

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether it is his policy to ensure that hospitality within his Department is sourced from fair trade producers wherever possible within the boundaries set by the public procurement rules. [197063]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: I refer the hon. Member to the answer provided by the Chief Secretary on 9 December 2002, Official Report, column 92W which read as follows:

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In line with Government procurement policy the evaluation of tenders is based on value for money considerations having due regard to propriety and regularity. The use of fair trade products was given due consideration alongside other requirements during the last catering service procurement with a subsequent clause included within the contract requiring that Fair trade goods are offered for sale in all DfES Head Office restaurants.

Foundation Schools

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether schools applying to become foundation schools are obliged to consult on their proposal; how long the required period of consultation is; and what guidance the Department issues on how the consultation should be carried out. [196089]

Mr. Miliband: The Governing Body of any school that wishes to change category to become a foundation school must first consult interested parties. They must have regard to the Secretary of State's guidance on consultation. The guidance does not stipulate the length of a consultation period nor the form that consultation should take. However, the guidance makes it clear that the proposers must allow adequate time and provide sufficient information for consultees to form a considered view and must also make clear how the consultees can make their views known. The proposers must be able to show that they have taken account of views expressed during consultation in reaching their decision on whether to publish proposals.

We are currently consulting on plans to introduce a new fast track process for community and voluntary controlled secondary schools to change to foundation category. If implemented, these will remove the requirement to consult interested parties earlier before formally publishing the proposals, although they will be advised to discuss their plans with their local education authority. Local people will, of course, have the opportunity to make their views known about the proposals after publication and governing bodies will be required to take account of representations received.

Home Education

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures are in place to monitor the provision of education at home. [194768]

Margaret Hodge: Parents who elect to home educate their children must ensure that they receive full-time education of a good quality and suitable to each child's age, ability and aptitude and to any special needs they may have. It is the duty of local education authorities (LEAs) to monitor the quality of education being provided to home educated children of compulsory school age. Precisely how this is done, and how often, is
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a matter for the LEA. My officials are currently drafting guidelines for LEAs on elective home education, which are due to be issued early next year.

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