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10 Feb 2005 : Column 1742W—continued


Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures (a) are in place and (b) he plans to introduce to ensure that people and bodies in the arts field can work together to increase the range, quantity and quality of activities for prisoners. [213359]

Paul Goggins: Arts can make a significant contribution to the effective and humane operation of the prison regime. Financial support to arts activities for offenders are provided centrally to several national arts organisations. It is recognised that the arts can act as a gateway into education for prisoners who have not been engaged with formal learning. Most prisons now have a head of learning and skills, a post funded by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), and the heads determine the part that arts activities can play within the establishment.

At a prison arts conference last year a guide on provision of voluntary sector activities in prisons was launched for heads of learning and skills and managers in the voluntary sectors.

The unit produces a regular e-mail newsletter for arts organisations working with offenders, hosts a Forum for Arts and Offenders, and provides training to artists wanting to work with prisoners. The Unit for Arts and Offenders will be members of the newly formed NOMS Voluntary and Community Sector Advisory Group. Activities being undertaken by arts organisations in prisons and the community are documented in the Directory of Arts Activities in Prisons, which has been produced annually by the Unit for Arts and Offenders with financial support from DfES.
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Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how (a) his Department and (b) the Prison Service establishes and maintains links between prisons and local employers. [213358]

Paul Goggins: The National Offender Management Service is developing a joint prison probation strategy for establishing and maintaining links with employers. These links are focused on sectors that have significant labour shortages nationally and regionally, such as: construction; catering; industrial cleaning; utilities; sports and fitness; driving, and distribution. Opportunities are also being explored in horticulture and information communication technology. These sectors were identified following consultation with the Confederation of British Industry, Jobcentre Plus and Sector Skills Councils.

The Prison Service is taking the lead on a cross-Government work programme for engaging with employers which has been agreed by the Employment, Training and Education Sub-Board of the Reducing Re-offending Programme Board. This work programme includes contributions from NOMS, the Probation Service, Jobcentre Plus, DfES and the Learning and Skills Council. Its aim is to build on existing work to encourage employers to contribute to the training of offenders and to commit to the recruitment of those who achieve an agreed level of skills.

At a local level, employer links are being developed and maintained by the Heads of Learning and Skills and Resettlement Managers in establishments. They work closely with Jobcentre Plus, Learning and Skills Councils and voluntary organisations to involve employers in work and training programmes for prisoners, and to encourage them to recruit prisoners upon their release.

The Prison Service is currently developing an employer database, holding information on those who are willing and able to offer work to ex-offenders. This will enable prisons to access information about opportunities in their local area, and on a national basis to assist prisoners who are held at establishments outside their home areas.

Queen's Flight

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on how how many occasions departmental Ministers have used the Queen's Flight in each of the past five years. [213441]

Mr. Charles Clarke: Travel by Ministers makes clear that special flights may be authorised when a scheduled service is not available, or when it is essential to travel by air, but the requirements of official or parliamentary business or security considerations or urgency preclude the journey being made by a scheduled service. In respect of overseas travel by Ministers, since 1999 the Government have published an annual list of all visits overseas undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. The list published in 1999 covers the period 2 May 1997 to 31 March 1999. Where RAF/private charter aircraft are used this is shown in the list. The Government have also published on an annual basis the cost of all Ministers' visits
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overseas. Copies of the lists are available in the Libraries of the House. Information for 2004–05 will be published in due course.

In respect of domestic ministerial travel, information is not held centrally and could be answered only at disproportionate cost.

All ministerial travel is undertaken in accordance with the rules set out in the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House.

Research and Development

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much and what percentage of the Department's expenditure went on research and development in each year between 2001–02 and 2003–04. [206984]

Fiona Mactaggart: The information relating to the amount and percentage of research and development costs of total planned expenditure for the Core Home Office is shown in the table.
R and D spend
(£ million)
Percentage of total expenditure

(28)As published in the Police Science and Technology Strategy 2003–2008 January 2003.
(29)As published in the Police Science and Technology Strategy 2004–2009. May 2004.
(30)As published by HM Treasury in Science and Innovation: working towards a ten-year investment framework". March 2004.

River Police

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he has taken to ensure an integrated policing approach across the boundaries of different police forces responsible for sections of the River Thames. [206819]

Ms Blears: Policing of the River Thames is an operational matter for the forces concerned. However, the need for greater and more effective collaboration across force boundaries is an issue highlighted by the recent police reform White Paper Building Communities, Beating Crime". Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary have been commissioned to examine this issue as part of a wider study into whether the current 43 force structure in England and Wales is the right one to meet today's and tomorrow's policing needs.

Secure Juvenile Units

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many secure unit places for juvenile offenders there are in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement. [214366]

Paul Goggins: Local authorities contract with the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales to provide 235 secure places in local authority secure children's homes across England and Wales.
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Visa Extensions (Students)

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department is taking to achieve a reduction in the costs of processing a visa extension for an international student. [214567]

Mr. Browne: International students bring significant economic and social benefits to the UK. In recognition of this, students seeking to vary or extend their conditions of stay in the UK will be charged a reduced fee for postal applications. Our analysis, which is set out in the recently published Regulatory Impact Assessment, indicates that at the level proposed, the postal charges were unlikely to have a significant impact on the UK's ability to attract and retain international students. However, in order to ensure that remaining to study in the UK remains a competitive option, we have decided that charges should be at a lower rate of £250 for the standard postal service. The higher, premium fee is an optional service which students can take advantage of if they so choose.

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of grants of visa extensions for international students granted an incorrect period of extended leave in the last period for which figures are available. [214568]

Mr. Browne: We have put in place a central point of contact for correcting errors supported by UKvisas, UKCOSA and the British Council. All error cases reported to us are fully investigated and where there is a clear case of maladministration we will correct the error free of charge. We have successfully reduced delays in processing such cases . Targeted sampling of decisions in student cases to reduce error rate has identified training needs and reduced the numbers of students given incorrect leave in country.

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