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Ethnic Diversity

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans the Government have to increase ethnic diversity in higher education. [205770]

Dr. Howells: Minority ethnic groups are well represented in higher education. Recent research conducted by the Institute of Employment Studies found that they represent approximately 16 per cent. of the undergraduate population compared to 9 per cent. of the working population. However, the pattern of minority ethnic participation in undergraduate study is a complex one.

Government are supporting a range of activities and policies to promote equality of opportunity for those from all ethnic groups at various stages of their education: Aimhigher, a national outreach programme,
 
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aims to raise the attainment levels and aspirations of young people from non-traditional and disadvantaged backgrounds; the Government's Aiming High Strategy is helping to raise the academic achievement of ethnic minority pupils in our schools; and university access plans submitted to the Office for Fair Access will, where appropriate, include details of activities to reach out to under-represented minority groups or subgroups.

In addition, the Government plans to lay a Bill before Parliament to establish a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights which will champion equality, diversity and human rights.

Field Trips

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what plans he has to encourage schools to undertake field trips; [205368]

(2) how many school field trips were sanctioned by each county council in each of the last five years; [205369]

(3) how many school field trips Norfolk county council funded in each of the last five years. [205370]

Derek Twigg: We are at the very early stages of exploring an Outdoor Learning Manifesto, along the lines of the Music Manifesto I championed earlier this year. We are doing this in conjunction with a wide range of partners such as field studies centres, voluntary and commercial outdoor learning organisations, NGOs, subject associations and other government departments.

We do not collect data on the amount of school field trips sanctioned and or funded by county councils.

GCSE Results

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of 15-year-olds have achieved (a) five GCSEs at A*-C and (b) at least one GCSE A*-C in each year since 1997, broken down by parliamentary constituency. [203525]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: The information requested has been placed in the Libraries.

Graduate/Non-Graduate Incomes

Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate he has made of the average income of (a) a graduate and (b) a non-graduate over a 35-year career; and what estimate he has made of the average yield from (i) income tax and (ii) national insurance contributions of (A) a graduate and (B) a non-graduate over a 35-year career. [204932]

Dr. Howells: We estimate that the average gross lifetime earnings of a graduate with a first degree are just over £1 million, in real terms at 2001 prices, and that the average amount of lifetime income tax and national insurance paid is around £325,000. This is based on data from the Labour Force Survey, and relates to earnings between the ages of 21 and 59. Estimated average gross lifetime earnings for the working population as a whole are around £675 thousand, and the average amount of lifetime income tax and national insurance paid is
 
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around £175,000. We would expect the estimates for non-graduates to be lower than these figures. Figures are rounded to nearest £25,000.

Gymnasiums

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many gyms are available to the staff in the Department; and what the cost of providing them was in the last year for which figures are available. [204365]

Derek Twigg: My Department is committed to providing staff with pro-active occupational health policies and uses health awareness programmes to promote and encourage healthy lifestyle options.

Staff who work in London and Sheffield have access to on site gyms. Both gyms are funded by the Civil Service Sports Council and are supported locally by staff using the facilities. The department's financial commitment to both gyms is nominal and covers space, cleaning, heating and lighting. Staff working in London also have access to the Civil Service Sports Council Recreation Centre in SW1 which is only five minutes from the department's headquarter offices.

In Sheffield, Runcorn and Darlington corporate discounts have been negotiated locally with both local authority and private fitness and leisure centres. My department does not subsidise individual members of staff using these facilities.

For staff that prefer alternative fitness programmes there are local arrangements in place during lunchtime and after work, subject to demand, for exercise classes such as yoga, aerobics and pilates. The department's financial commitment is again nominal and covers space, cleaning, heating and lighting.

Human Rights Act

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many cases have been brought against his Department under the Human Rights Act 1998; and what has been the cost in (a) legal fees to defend cases and (b) compensation payments. [200832]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: Very few cases brought against the Department have been founded solely on a claim for a breach of a Convention right. Convention rights will more often be relied on as part of other legal proceedings. We do not collect central records of all cases in which the Human Rights Act 1998 is relied on, nor of the cost to the Department of legal fees or compensation payments in cases which include this human rights element.

However the case of Douglas v. Secretary of State for Education and Skills was founded wholly on a claim for an alleged breach of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms taken together with Article 2 of the First Protocol to the Convention. The Department successfully defended the claim and as a result no compensation was ordered. No order for costs was made so the Department bore its own costs which came to £20,586.
 
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In addition the current case of Williamson v. Secretary of State for Education and Skills is concerned mainly with Article 9 of, and Article 2 of the first protocol to, the Convention. This case has not been concluded; it has been heard in the House of Lords but judgment has not been given.

It is not possible to apportion costs and compensation payments for those other cases in which a human rights claim was included without reviewing all cases brought against the Department since October 2000. This would give rise to disproportionate cost.

International Students (Visas)

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what representations he has received on (a) current and (b) proposed charges for visa extension applications made by international students. [205313]

Dr. Howells: In 2003, my Department received a number of representations from institutions and other organisations in the education sector on the introduction of charges for applications to extend leave to remain in the UK. Representations have also been received from institutions and students expressing concern regarding the proposed charges and the impact upon international students.

Invoice Payments

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the average length of time was between the date of invoices issued to his Department from a supplier and payment by the Department of the invoice in the last 12 months for
 
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which figures are available; what percentage of these invoices were paid within 30 days of the date of issue of the invoice; what percentage of these invoices remained unpaid after 90 days; and if he will make a statement on the Department's policy on the payment of invoices issued to it. [200618]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: I have been asked to reply. During the period 1 April 2003 to 31 March 2004 the Department paid supplier invoices, on average, within 15 working days (unaudited figure). During this period, the Department paid 95.4 per cent. of undisputed invoices within 30 days or the agreed credit terms. Data on invoices remaining unpaid after 90 days is only available at disproportionate cost.

The Government are committed to improving the payment culture in the UK in order to create a fair and stable environment for business transactions. Government departments and their agencies should aim to pay all invoices not in dispute within 30 days or within the agreed contractual terms if otherwise specified. The Department supports this policy.


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