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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 24 February 2005


Crown Prosecution Service

23. Mr. Allen: To ask the Solicitor-General pursuant to the answer of 2 December 2004, Official Report, columns 206–07W, on the Crown Prosecution Service, what progress has been made with the planned review of interaction between prosecutors and the police in the process from arrest to charge. [217649]

The Solicitor-General: A review of the charging arrangements in Nottinghamshire took place during December 2004. An action plan setting out a number of recommendations for improvement was provided to the Area after the review. Work on these actions has commenced and is being taken forward by the joint charging team.

A follow up visit to the Area, by the joint Crown Prosecution Service and police charging team to assess progress against the action plan, will be made in the spring.

24. Andy Burnham: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on reform of the Crown Prosecution Service. [217650]

The Solicitor-General: The CPS reform programme aims to put prosecutors at the heart of the Criminal Justice System, providing a prosecuting service that meets the needs of victims and communities. This means prosecutors having a bigger role at each stage of the criminal justice process from charge through to sentence and working in co-operation with others in the criminal justice process while maintaining that independence of decision-making which is the hallmark of British prosecutors.

Child Witnesses

25. Mr. Jim Cunningham To ask the Solicitor-General what steps the Crown Prosecution Service takes to prevent trauma suffered by children serving as witnesses at trials. [217652]

The Solicitor-General: Crown Prosecutors work closely with the police and other agencies to ensure that children, receive the help and support they need to cope with the court process and to assist them to give their best evidence through a range of special measures, including the use of screens, giving evidence in private, video recorded evidence in chief, live TV links, and the removal of wigs and gowns.

The introduction of witness care units across the country will further improve the experience for children. These will offer a single point of contact for witnesses, parents and carers, and a detailed needs assessment will
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be carried out to identify a witness's specific support requirements. A tailored support system can then be provided to them.

In relation, to child witnesses, witness care units can be expected to support children by, for example, arranging pre-trial court visits, providing an explanation as to what will happen in court, arranging a home visit, providing safe and easy access to court on the day of trial and also making contact with the local, school if there are difficulties in that regard.

Information Technology

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on the use of information technology to improve efficiency of working between the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts. [217653]

The Solicitor-General: Information technology has a key role to play in delivering a modernised, joined-up criminal justice system. The Crown Prosecution Service is working with the courts and other criminal justice system colleagues to secure more efficient use of information technology.

Examples of current initiatives are the use of secure e-mail between criminal justice practitioners, which will facilitate the effective trials management programme.


School Meals

8. Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has to involve parents in assessing the quality and nutritional value of school meals. [217634]

Ruth Kelly: Parents will be the front line of the drive to improve school meals, with an independent school food trust and tougher standards on processed food introduced in the new school year. Many schools already ensure that children eat healthy school meals. However, parents need to work with schools to improve the quality and nutritional value of their child's school meal. Further information on this initiative will be available in due course.

Vocational Education

10. Syd Rapson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans she has to increase the take-up of vocational training in schools and colleges. [217636]

Ruth Kelly: On 23 February I placed before the House the Command Paper "14 to 19 Education and Skills". This should lead directly to an increase in the numbers undertaking vocational education and training in schools and colleges. Diplomas and better training facilities will make vocational education an attractive choice offering real opportunities. These proposals build on the success of our Apprenticeship and Increasing Flexibility programmes which have already provided a high quality vocational education for over 1 million young people.
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Building Schools for the Future

16. Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when she expects schools in Northumberland to benefit in the building schools for the future programme. [217642]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: Building Schools for the Future aims to transform secondary schools in 15 waves of investment from 2005–06, subject to future public spending decisions. We recently announced over £40 million capital for Northumberland over the next three years. Further, by 2011, we aim to support at least one secondary school of the future in the county. Its northern and central areas should join Building Schools for the Future between 2014 and 2017, followed by its western and south-eastern areas.

18. Mr. Peter Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when she expects to announce the next stage of funding under the Building Schools for the Future Programme. [217644]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: We aim to announce the prioritisation of waves four and five of Building Schools for the Future, which will access funding in 2008–09 and 2009–10, in the autumn of 2006 following the settlement of the 2006 Spending Review.

Special Schools (Gloucestershire)

17. Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the future of special schools in Gloucestershire. [217643]

Margaret Hodge: Under arrangements introduced in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, the consideration of proposals for establishing, altering, or discontinuing maintained special schools are a matter for local decision making. It is for the local School Organisation Committee to consider any objections received when they make their decision on proposals. If the School Organisation Committee cannot reach a unanimous decision, it will pass the case to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator for determination.

Education Select Committee Report

19. Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the recent report of the Education Select Committee on Public Expenditure on Education and Skills. [217645]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: We welcome the report on Public Expenditure from the Education and Skills Select Committee.

We are compiling a reply to the recommendations and will shortly be sending our reply to the Committee.

Music Manifesto

Kevin Brennan: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on progress in implementing the music manifesto. [217640]

Derek Twigg: We are making good progress. A Manifesto Champion and Steering Group are in place and drawing up plans for future shared activities.
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More than 180 organisations and individuals have signed up to the Music Manifesto. Together they have made more than 100 pledges of programmes and resources to support the key aims—including one from Lloyds TSB who pledged £10 million for musical instruments earlier this month. DfES pledges alone amount to more than £220 million.

Broadband Access

Mr. Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of (a) primary and (b) secondary schools in (i) Leicester, South and (ii) England have broadband internet access. [217983]

Derek Twigg: My Department does not hold information specifically for Leicester South. As at the end of December 2004, 43 per cent. of primary schools and 100 per cent. of secondary schools in Leicester City had broadband connections, and 43 per cent. of primary schools and 98 per cent. of secondary schools in Leicestershire had broadband connections. This compares to 69 per cent. of primary schools, 99 per cent. of secondary schools and 72 per cent. of all schools in England with high speed broadband connections. We are on track to connect all schools by 2006.

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