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University Admissions

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will list the meetings she and her Ministers have had with the Director of Fair Access. [208481]

Dr. Howells: I and the previous Secretary of State, Charles Clarke, have each had one brief introductory meeting with Sir Martin Harris, the Director of Fair Access, since his appointment.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what her most recent estimate is of the cost of setting up the independent person or panel with responsibility for reviewing decisions made by the Office for Fair Access. [208505]

Dr. Howells: The Department has followed the guidance set by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA) for this vacancy. The estimated cost of the recruitment process, including advertising costs, is £6,000. We hope to announce the name of the independent reviewer shortly.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the latest figures are for online application to university; and what steps she has taken to evaluate consumer satisfaction with the process. [208646]

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Dr. Howells: As at 11 January 2005, some 200,000 applications for higher education entry in 2005 had been registered with the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) via their online application service, 'ucasapply'. This compares with about 79,000 registrations at the same point last year. The majority of registrations (76 per cent.) were via schools. UCAS has announced that is gearing up to be able to handle over 450,000 electronic applications a year.

I understand that UCAS have arrangements in place to evaluate customer satisfaction with the online application service, and are developing additional ones. In addition to information on how to use ucasapply, schools were sent a questionnaire to gain feedback on their experience of usage. Of those schools that had used ucasapply, 71 per cent. of respondents felt they had all the information they needed, and over 56 per cent. felt that it had cut down the amount of time staff spent on administering applications compared with previous paper-based applications. Schools that have not yet used ucasapply have cited lack of time to learn how to use the online system as the main reason. UCAS has contacted those falling in this category and offered them further support.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to her answer of 21 December 2004, Official Report, column 1719W, on university admissions, whether she plans to publish the conclusions of her review. [208647]

Dr. Howells: As I have said previously, I intend to look at the benchmarks to see if there is any way they can be improved or better understood. I will, of course, share any outcomes from this work at the appropriate time.



Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much funding has been provided by his Department after the first year in relation to the commitment announced in January 2004 to spend £100 million in Bangladesh in support of primary education in that country over six years; and if he will make a statement. [208776]

Hilary Benn: The Department for International Development has provided a total of £8.845 million (US$15.852 million) in the first year of support to the Primary Education Development Programme in Bangladesh.


Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on his Department's policy regarding the retention of e-mails in electronic form (a) after and (b) up to 1 January 2005; and what instructions have been given regarding the deletion of e-mails prior to 1 January 2005. [206964]

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Hilary Benn: I refer the hon. Member for Lichfield to the response given to the hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) on this subject by my hon. Friend, Gareth Thomas, on 12 January 2005, Official Report, column 533W.


Tom Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance he has offered to the Palestinian authorities to train their Police Force; and if he will make a statement. [208750]

Hilary Benn: DFID has developed a £2 million programme of support to the Palestinian Civil Police which aims to help meet immediate operational priorities, and in parallel facilitate longer-term transformational change. Since April 2004, a senior UK police officer seconded to DFID has been working in the region as a Police Adviser and DFID has provided over 50 urgently needed police vehicles (with additional funding of £700,000) as well as some communications, computer and other police equipment. Operational support will help deliver urgently needed equipment and training that will enable the police to patrol the streets effectively and deliver better services to Palestinian people.

In the medium term the Civil Police will only maximise their effectiveness if they engage in a process of organisational change. DFID's assistance will help the Palestinians develop a policing strategy, structures and management capacity to undertake such change. From January 2005, support is being co-ordinated by a European Union Co-ordination Office for Palestinian Police Support which is headed by the seconded UK Police Adviser.

Telephone Usage

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much revenue his Department has received from the use of non-geographic 0870 telephone numbers for the period 1 October 2003 to 30 September 2004. [205847]

Hilary Benn: DFID has no 0870 telephone numbers, and therefore does not receive any such revenue.

Tsunami Relief

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will break down UK assistance to the tsunami-hit area by (a) debt relief, (b) direct aid, (c) bilateral aid and (d) donations in kind. [208964]

Hilary Benn: In response to the tsunami disaster which followed the earthquake in South East Asia, the Department for International Development has committed £75 million towards the immediate humanitarian needs. This assistance is being channelled through United Nations agencies, the Red Cross Movement, non-governmental organisations and by DFID direct action. To date, this includes the sum of £4,665,090 for DFID donations in kind. Our total DFID bilateral aid in 2003–04 to the countries that have been affected by the tsunami was £395,689,000. These are the latest figures available. DFID does not have
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bilateral aid programmes in all the stricken countries: a breakdown of assistance by country is detailed as follows.

On debt relief, Sri Lanka has been added to the list of countries eligible for the UK's multilateral debt relief initiative. The UK will pay 10 per cent. of its debt service costs to the International Development Association (IDA), which amounts to approximately $5.5 million in 2005, $5.8 million in 2006 and $6.2 million in 2007. Paris Club creditors have agreed not to expect repayments from affected countries that request it until the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have completed a full needs assessment of their reconstruction and financing requirements. It is not possible to quantify the value of any relief at this stage as the technical terms remain to be discussed with those countries that apply.
UK bilateral aid to countries affected by Asia tsunami: 2003–04

Financial aid (excluding ATP)
Project or sector aidProgramme aidTechnical cooperationAid and trade provision
Sri Lanka77,390

Financial aid (excluding ATP)
Grants and other aid in kindHumanitarian assistance(9)DFID Debt Relief(10)Total DFID programme
Sri Lanka636678,099

Other programmes
CDC investmentsOtherTotal gross public expenditure
Sri Lanka1,4459,544

(9) Humanitarian assistance comprises food aid and other humanitarian assistance.
(10) This comprises both interest and principal foregone under Retrospective Terms Adjustment. Amounts reported are repayments which would have fallen due each year.
This is mainly non-DFID debt relief, but also includes contributions from other Government Departments to CSOs, British Council and Global Conflict Pool, and small amounts of drug related assistance funded by the Home Office and FCO.

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