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9 Dec 2004 : Column 708W—continued

Chemistry Department (Exeter University)

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the impact on science research of the closure of the chemistry department at Exeter university; and if he will make a statement. [200634]

Dr. Howells: I have been asked to reply. It is too early to early to make a detailed assessment of the impact on science research as a result of the proposed closure of Exeter's chemistry department. However, the quality of chemistry research in English universities has increased significantly. 50 per cent. of departments were rated five or five* in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) compared with only 20 per cent. in 1996. 27 per cent. were rated four as compared with 23 per cent. in 1996. Overall the UK currently ranks fourth in the world for the number and share of world citations in physical sciences.

I have asked HEFCE to advise me on higher education subjects or courses of national strategic importance, including science subjects, where intervention might be appropriate to strengthen or secure them. HEFCE will be entering into a strategic dialogue with universities, colleges, employers and other partners to consider this matter.


Local Government Pension Scheme

Tony Cunningham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 1 December 2004, Official Report, column 125W, on the Local Government Pension Scheme, for what reason the amendments to the Local Government Pension Scheme to remove provisions that allow some scheme members to retire with unreduced pension benefits before the age of 65 years will come into effect before the consultation on the full scheme is completed. [203728]

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Phil Hope: The proposed changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme are designed to amend the current Scheme, from 1 April 2005, to reflect pension policy regarding retirement age and to help stabilise employers' costs. The consultation exercise which began on 4 October is the first step in a longer term exercise to devise a new and modernised Scheme for the future which will build on the principles of affordability and sustainability being achieved by earlier regulatory changes. It is programmed to take effect in 2008.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Evans: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, to how many written questions tabled in the last parliamentary session his Department had been unable to provide a substantive answer before the end of the session [199642]

Phil Hope [pursuant to the reply, 29 November 2004, Official Report, c. 41W]: It was not possible to provide a substantive answer to four questions prior to the prorogation of Parliament. Those questions were answered on 21 July 2004, Official Report, column 35WS, in accordance with the arrangements announced by the Leader of the House in a written ministerial statement.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many written questions for his Office were unanswered when Parliament prorogued; and how many of the unanswered questions were tabled in each of the previous months of the 2003–04 Session. [201544]

Phil Hope: None.

Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) whether he has been informed of breaches of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers in his Office since its implementation; [201273]

(2) how many appeals were made by civil servants to the Civil Service Commissioners regarding special advisers in his Office between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004; and when each appeal was lodged. [201367]

Phil Hope: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 8 December 2004, Official Report, column 578W, by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Ruth Kelly).


Women Prisoners

23. Julie Morgan: To ask the Minister for Women To ask the Minister for Womenwhat assessment she has made of the effects of the imprisonment of women on their families. [203438]

Jacqui Smith: The Prison Service recognises the importance of maintaining family ties while a mother is in prison.

There is a package of measures to assist in mitigating the effects of imprisonment, such as Intermittent Custody, training for new prison officers and for those who are working specifically with women, to better understand the issues.
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IT Industry

25. David Taylor: To ask the Minister for Women what recent assessment has been made of the need to recruit more women into the IT industry. [203440]

Jacqui Smith: The Government will continue to support a number of initiatives, including the information technology degree by e-Skills UK (the Sector Skills Council for IT sector) to encourage girls to seek careers in information technology. We are working with employers to address the situation by encouraging flexible working practices. The new Resource Centre for Women in SET will make working with employers in this area one of their top priorities.

Employment (City of York)

26. Hugh Bayley: To ask the Minister for Women To ask the Minister for Womenhow many women have paid jobs in the City of York parliamentary constituency; and how many had paid jobs in 1997. [203441]

Ms Hewitt: The number of women employed in the City of York is 39,234 out of a female working population of 47,300. I am pleased to note that unemployment is now at a 25 year low.

Commission for Equality and Human Rights

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister for Women if she will make a statement on the progress towards a Commission for Equality and Human Rights. [203434]

Jacqui Smith: We will be introducing legislation in this Session to create a Commission for Equality and Human Rights. The policies underpinning the legislation, which will allow the Commission to champion equality, diversity and human rights, and promote good relations between communities, were published on 18 November in the Government Response to the "Fairness for All" White Paper consultation.

Work-life Balance

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Minister for Women what plans she has to offer advice on work-life balance issues to women in work. [203439]

Ms Hewitt: The Women and Equality Unit published "Advancing Women in the Workplace" a good practice booklet for employers on how to improve the position of women at work, which covers work-life balance policies. The Department also provides a wealth of guidance around maternity law and best practice.



Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, when he will announce his preferred route for the A21 from Robertsbridge to Flimwell; and if he will make a statement [203697]

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Mr. Jamieson: It was anticipated that a decision would be made on this scheme earlier in the year but it was found that further detailed appraisal was necessary. That said, the new procedures recently announced will mean that further progress is subject to regional priorities.

Bus Lanes

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many miles of bus lanes have been built in each year since 1997. [201607]

Mr. Darling: The total length of bus lanes built in England for the financial years 2001–02 to 2003–04 are shown in the following table. Figures are not available for years prior to 2001–02.

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much money was raised through fines from cars driving in bus lanes in each year since 1997; and to what uses such funds are put. [201608]

Mr. Darling: My Department does not collect data on the amount of fine income from bus lane enforcement. In London, bus lane enforcement is the joint responsibility of Transport for London and London boroughs, and under the London Local Authorities Act 1996 any surplus income from enforcement of bus lanes must be used for transport purposes. Outside London, responsibility for bus lane enforcement currently rest with the police. Any fines for misuse of bus lanes which they impose are reported within the general offence type "neglect of traffic directions" and separate information is not therefore available.
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Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the average usage rates for bus lanes were in each year since 1997. [201609]

Mr. Darling: Although there is no data on bus lane use nationally, there is evidence of increasing patronage on guided bus ways. Patronage has generally increased on the five routes where guided bus ways have been introduced. For instance, the Ipswich route has seen journeys increase by 75 per cent. between 1995 and 2001.

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