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Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many applications for adult learning grants have been made in the North East; how many have been granted; and what the average grant has been. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Since the start of September 2004, 538 applications for the Adult Learning Grant have been received from learners in the North East. 284 applicants have been awarded the weekly grant. 159 applications are under consideration. The average weekly payment of the grant is £29.30 per week.
Mr. Dawson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how he plans to measure the effects of amendments to the notification scheme for private fostering set out in section 44 of the Children Act 2004. 
Margaret Hodge [holding answer 13 December 2004]: The new data collection exercise that was introduced from April 2004 to capture information on private fostering arrangements, together with the results from inspection against the National Minimum Standards to be introduced next year, will be significant in measuring the effects of the amendments to the private fostering notification scheme made by section 44 of the Children Act 2004.
As agreed during the debate on the Children Bill in the House of Lords, at a suitable point during the lifetime of the registration provisions in the Act we will publish a report on the impact of the new measures, including an indication of whether in light of this we are minded to move towards a registration scheme for private foster carers.
[holding answer 13 December 2004]: A new annual data collection exercise that will capture information on the number of notifications of new
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private fostering arrangements received during the year was introduced from April 2004. Data relating to 200405 will be published in late 2005.
Mr. Dawson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many people were prosecuted for failing to notify a local authority of their intention privately to foster a child in (a) 200102, (b) 200203 and (c) 200304. 
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what resources have been allocated to regional Learning and Skills Council offices for (a) start up, (b) running costs and (c) outreach work. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: This is a matter for the Learning and Skills Council. Mark Haysom, the Council's Chief Executive, will write to the hon. Member with this information and a copy of his reply will be placed in the Library.
Mr. Ivan Lewis: All good procurement and contract management should be rooted in a very clear understanding of the skills that the contractor needs to demonstrate to deliver the contract outcome we seek. To support this approach, guidance was developed by my Department in November 2003, with the assistance of the Treasury and Office of Government Commerce, to outline how Government Departments working within the scope of the procurement policy and legal framework can consider the literacy, language and numeracy skills required to deliver contracts, and how they can work with prospective and existing contractors to ensure that their staff have, or are able to develop relevant skills.
In July this year the Adult Basic Skills Committee called on Departments to actively embrace this guidance. Many have already provided details of how it has been incorporated into their public sector procurement practices. Departments are currently in the process of preparing a report to demonstrate the actual effect this guidance has had. My Department, in conjunction with others, is looking at how this guidance may be further developed to help promote the wider skills agenda.
Mr. Ivan Lewis:
As part of the Government's Skills Strategy, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), the Learning and Skills Council and the Skills for Business Network are working in partnership with sectors and awarding bodies to develop a new Framework for Achievement.
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Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether he has been informed of breaches of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers in his Department since its implementation. 
Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on how many occasions between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004 departmental special advisers travelled (a) domestically and (b) abroad in an official capacity; what places were visited; and how much each visit cost. 
Mr. Charles Clarke: There was one official visit abroad by a special adviser in this Department during the specified period, to Belgium, Germany and Poland. The cost of the trip was £743. Information for domestic visits is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Ivan Lewis: This is a matter for the Learning and Skills Council. Mark Haysom, the Council's Chief Executive, will write to my hon. Friend with this information and a copy of his reply will be placed in the Library.
The Government's Skills Strategy "21st Century Skills: Realising Our Potential" (July 2003), set out its plans for increasing opportunities for adults to develop their skills. In addition, the Chancellor's Pre-Budget Report last week announced the extension of our Employer Training Pilots to all areas from 2006/07 and a New Deal for Skills to help the unemployed secure the training they need for sustainable employment.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what action he is taking in conjunction with the devolved administrations to harmonise vocational qualification frameworks across the UK, with particular reference to the needs of national and EU-based employers. 
Credit development is at the heart of qualifications reform, and is at different stages in different parts of the UK. As the recent Framework for Achievement consultation document shows, we are considering how best to move towards convergence on credit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We believe that the framework can be developed over time to articulate with the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework and facilitate credit transfer arrangements with European credit systems.
For employers, the new framework will mean that vocational qualifications are more responsive to their needs. The framework will provide opportunities for employer training to lead to recognised achievements within it, and ensure that what people achieve is relevant to their role as an employee.
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