Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much the Department spent on lawyers in each year since 1997; how many (a) actions, (b) settlements and (c) court cases there were in each year and what the costs of each settlement were. 
|Financial year||Total cost (£)||Number of files worked on by TSD|
The column headed "Total cost" shows the total annual cost to the Department of services relating to litigation in courts and tribunals (including services which did not result in the issue of proceedings).
The Treasury Solicitor's Department's charges for services relating to litigation (which form by far the greatest part of the annual total) include the cost of (a) lawyers (including solicitors and counsel) and other staff, (b) services and disbursements not attributable to the cost of lawyers (such as court fees) and (c) for the years up to 200102, costs and damages paid to other parties in litigation by the Department.
The column headed "No. of files worked on by TSD" shows the number of "files" worked on by the Treasury Solicitor's Department in each year. On receipt of instructions from the Department, a "file" is opened by the Treasury Solicitor's Department to provide a reference for billing purposes. Such a "file" will usually correspond with a court case (or action), but this is not always so. For example, a number of cases may be dealt with under one "file" reference; or there may be a "file" for a claim which is resolved before the issue of court proceedings. Many of the "files" will have been worked on in more than one year. If so, the "file" is included in each of the relevant years.
A breakdown of this information to give details of the number of cases, how many of these were settled or proceeded to a full hearing, and the legal costs of each case on an annual basis could only be provided at disproportionate cost.
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Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether it is the policy of the Department to retain for the benefit of future (a) historians and (b) applicants under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 the same (i) complete categories of files, (ii) numbers of files and (iii) representative examples of files from categories of files destroyed as had been preserved prior to the passage of that Act. 
Mr. Stephen Twigg: In accordance with the Public Records Act 1958 S.3, the selection of records of enduring historical value for permanent preservation at The National Archives (TNA) will continue to take place in Department for Education and Skills under the guidance and supervision of TNA staff. The Department will also comply with the Code of Practice on Records Management, issued by the Lord Chancellor under S.46 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which underlines the importance of having clear selection policies and disposal schedules in place.
|Number of registered files|
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what changes have been promulgated in each of the past five years to the guidelines or other criteria for the retention or destruction of departmental files. 
Since 1999, the Department has periodically reviewed and produced schedules, for the disposal of records which are specific to its administrative activities, for both existing and new work. It also disposes of its records in accordance with over twenty guidance notes produced by The National Archives (TNA) over the last five years, covering disposal schedules, managing records in the electronic
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environment, as well as overarching records management guidance. Further details of this guidance can be found on TNA's website at:
Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many claims of disability discrimination in higher education and further education have been made in England in each year since 2002 (a) in total and (b) broken down by county court; and if she will make a statement. 
Derek Twigg: My Department remains fully committed to the work we are all taking forward across Government to improve the rights of disabled people. Clearly education plays an important part in removing the barriers to participation in society and we will continue to ensure that it does so. Compliance with the DDA is made clear to all our delivery partners.
We do not collect this information centrally and it is not a contractual obligation which we place on our delivery partners. To collect such information would require putting in place systems whereby each FE/HE institution would need to complete regular returns, which would add both bureaucratic and financial burdens. To conduct a one-off exercise to respond to your question would incur disproportionate costs as we would need to approach all FE/HE institutions directly for the information.
We have, however, asked the DRC for information on the number of cases they have been involved with and they have informed us that since 2002 they have funded five post-16 cases which have been issued in the county court. Four were resolved before hearing and one is ongoing.
May I refer the hon. Gentleman to my previous answers of 11 January 2005 and 20 December 2004, with particular reference to the following measures we are taking: guidance for schools entitled "Stand Up for Us: Challenging Homophobia in Schools" and the publication of the research report "Homophobia, Sexual Orientation and Schools: a review and implications for action". "Stand Up for Us" was produced by National Health Schools Standard colleagues with support form both the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health and is specifically designed to inform teachers on how to deal with issues surrounding homophobic bullying. The research report, which was produced by the Thomas Coram Unit, will be used to inform future developments in our work with schools. The Key Stage 3 behaviour and attendance strategy includes a training module on preventing bullyingincluding homophobic bullyingand schools can access additional support from their local Behaviour and Attendance Consultant.
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Might I also highlight the first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) History Month in February 2005. A website has been developed to support this which will suggest activities and events for schools and colleges and offers teachers specific lesson plans and assembly suggestions to encourage and support schools in marking LGBT History Month. It will also provide an online notice board of events and link to current news relevant LGBT History Month. See more at http://www.lgbthistorymonth.org.uk
The activities above all support teaching staff in countering homophobic bullying. We aim to provide them with the tools they need to convey the message to their pupils that homophobic bullying, like any other form of bullying, cannot be tolerated and that we must challenge homophobic language and attitudes wherever we find them.
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