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15 Jun 2005 : Column 482W—continued

Visas

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many individuals were refused visas to visit the UK from (a) India, (b) Pakistan, (c) Bangladesh and (d) Jamaica in the last period for which figures are available, broken down by (i) gender, (ii) age and (iii) marital status. [3431]

Dr. Howells: UKvisas does not hold statistics about visit visas in the categories requested. The number of visit visas to the UK applied for and refused during 2003–04, was as follows:
 
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April 2003 to March 2004
Visit visasReceivedRefused
India232,51936,631
Pakistan83,5669,032
Bangladesh24,8399,839
Jamaica23,55210,412

Figures for April 2004 to March 2005 are not yet available. When they are, they can be found, along with further entry clearance statistics, on the UKvisas website at www.ukvisas.gov.uk—Entry Clearance: Facts and Figures".

Weapons Testing (Syria/Iran)

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of (a) the Syrian missile tests on 27 May and (b) the Iranian announcement on 31 May that it had successfully tested a solid fuel motor for the Shahab 3 missile; and if he will make a statement. [3108]

Dr. Howells: Syria has said that the firing of three SCUD missiles, one of which exploded with debris landing in Syria, Turkey and the Mediterranean, was a test of its defensive weapons systems. We do not believe that this represents an attempt by Syria to develop an offensive missile capability.

We are aware of reports that Iran claims to have tested a solid fuel motor for their Shahab 3 missile. Iran's ballistic missile programme remains an issue of serious concern for us and for the international community.

Zimbabwe

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the UK's relations with Zimbabwe. [2846]

Ian Pearson: The United Kingdom has a long and deep relationship with Zimbabwe and its people. We maintain diplomatic relations with the Government of Zimbabwe, including embassies in respective capitals, to promote reform and convey directly our concerns, shared by many in the international community, about the dire situation in the country and the misrule of the current Government. The current crackdown in Zimbabwe is the latest example of the regime's lack of respect for individuals' welfare or human rights. On 2 June the British ambassador raised our protest directly with the Vice President.

But our relations go well beyond governmental contact, and include support to civil society and £71 million of humanitarian assistance provided since September 2001. This includes programmes to help orphans, vulnerable children and pregnant mothers. Department for International Development are presently responding to the current crisis by providing humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable, mainly through the UN and International Organisation for Migration. To date, over 5,000 families have been reached with food, blankets, soap and other forms of assistance. Where appropriate, transport, emergency water and sanitation has been provided.
 
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Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of South Africa concerning the sale of Alouette helicopter spares to Zimbabwe. [3797]

Ian Pearson [holding answer 13 June 2005]: The British High Commission in Pretoria has raised this issue with the South African Government and reiterated British Government concerns over the supply of any military equipment that may be used for internal repression in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have made in response to the Zimbabwean police force's expressed intention to use force during the National Strike to be held on 9 and 10 June 2005. [3925]

Ian Pearson: The British ambassador in Harare condemned the brutal actions of the authorities throughout the recent crackdown in Zimbabwe when he met with Vice President Joyce Mujuru and, separately, Didymus Mutasa, Minister of State for National Security, on 2 and 3 June 2005 respectively. The European Union has also condemned these actions. We continue to monitor the situation on the ground and will consider further protests to the Zimbabwean authorities should the actions of the Zimbabwean police force during the national strike warrant them.

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have made in relation to the Zimbabwean Government's slum clearance campaign. [3926]

Ian Pearson: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave today to the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner), (UIN 3763).

EDUCATION AND SKILLS

Academies

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what new academies are proposed to be built; and what stage discussions with sponsors and local education authorities have reached to date. [4236]

Jacqui Smith: There are 17 open Academies with 10 more set to open in September 2005. There are currently proposals for a further 38 Academies being developed. Of these 38 there are 27 Academies that are in the stage of implementation, meaning that a Funding Agreement has been signed between the Secretary of State for Education and skills and the sponsor to establish and maintain the Academy. There are a further 21 projects in the stage of feasibility testing, where the Department investigates and consults whether an Academy is appropriate in an area once a sponsor has been selected and the LEA confirms it wishes to be involved.

In addition there are around 140 projects in early stages of development where the Department explores whether an Academy can be established in an area in partnership with an LEA and/or predecessor school.
 
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Access Agreements

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many access agreements have been completed between the Office of Fair Access and higher education institutions in England; and if she will place copies of each such agreement in the Library. [3982]

Bill Rammell: 120 such access agreements have been completed with higher education institutions, plus 34 agreements with further education colleges. Copies of all finalised agreements are available on the Office of Fair Access website, www.offa.org.uk

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the deadline is for the conclusion of access agreements between the Office for Fair Access and those higher education institutions in England intending to charge the maximum tuition fees from 2006. [3983]

Bill Rammell: The Office for Fair Access has not set any strict deadlines around the completion of access agreements. It would expect all agreements for 2006 to have been completed in time for institutions to tell prospective students about bursary arrangements before the start of the UCAS application cycle in September 2005, for entry in September 2006.

Action Zones (Pupil Achievement)

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to her answer of 7 June 2005, Official Report, columns 468–69W, on action zones (pupil achievement), what assessment she has made of the research to which she refers. [4905]

Jacqui Smith: Research evidence was considered by Ministers and officials and taken in to account as we reviewed the effectiveness of the Education Action Zones (EAZs). Many of the recommendations were used to inform policy development, especially as the EAZs reached the end of their statutory lifespan and they have been transformed into either an Excellence Cluster (where a zone was not in an EiC area) or an EiC Action Zone (where they were in an EiC area). This has enabled us to develop a more focused strategy with a less bureaucratic structure.

Adult Education Funding

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate she has made of the change in the number of (a) adult education classes and (b) adult education places as a result of the budget allocations agreed by her Department and the Learning and Skills Council in the academic year 2005/06. [3241]

Bill Rammell: Government have been clear about their priorities for adult further education and public funding will increasingly focus on ensuring adults are able to gain a platform of skills for employability. In line with these priorities, state funded adult learner numbers in Skills for Life and full Level 2 courses are expected to continue to increase in 2005/06. However, the Skills Strategy set out the need to rebalance the contributions of Government, individuals and employers towards the costs of learning and we support the case for charging higher fees for provision outside these priority areas, particularly for better qualified learners, for those
 
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studying for pleasure or personal development, and for employers. Colleges and other providers must decide how they can best raise income from non-government sources to support the continued provision of a broad range of courses for adults.


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