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Central Government capital support for investment in schools has increased from under £700 million in 199697 to £5.5 billion this year and will rise further to over £6.3 billion by 200708. Progress is being made year-by-year in improving the quality of the school building stock. The bulk of schools capital is now allocated by formula to authorities and schools so that they can address their local priorities, including the replacement of decayed temporary accommodation, on which we have set a high priority.
My Department has not issued guidance on periods of use of temporary classrooms. The periods will vary, depending largely on the quality of construction when new and on how well they are maintained.
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Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will list the refurbishment projects in her Department that (a) are in progress and (b) will start in the next six months; what action is being taken to ensure that timber for those projects will be procured from legal and sustainable sources; and whether guidance will be issued to contractors on each of these projects to ensure that the timber used on site during refurbishment also comes from legal and sustainable sources. 
Maria Eagle: There are no refurbishment projects in progress that include the procurement of wood and we do not have any refurbishment projects in the next six months that would include the procurement of wood.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which subjects are assessed by her Department as of strategic national importance in the allocations to university departments by the Higher Education Funding Council; and how many departments have closed in 2005 in each of these areas; and if she will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: Information on the closure or opening of university courses and departments is not collected centrally by either my Department, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), or the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA). HEFCE does not fund individual university departments but allocates block grant to Institutions which are autonomous organisations responsible for their own academic direction and strategic use of funds. Within that framework, we asked HEFCE for advice on how to secure and strengthen subjects of strategic national importance. After considering the views of the Higher Education sector and others with an interest, we will be responding formally to that advice shortly and a copy of that response will be placed in the Library.
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate she has made of the percentage of university students who studied abroad for a proportion of their higher education in each year since 1990. 
The latest available figures are shown in the table. Figures for 2004/05 will not be available until December 2005. Comparable figures for earlier years are not available centrally.
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|Exchange students studying abroad(29)|
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what percentage of first year students at university in (a) London and (b) England were from black and minority ethnic communities in each of the last five school years. 
|White||Black and ethnic minorities(31)||Total known||Unknown||Total||Percentage black and ethnic minorities(31)(5508130032)|
|Higher education institutions in London|
|Higher education institutions in England|
Caroline Flint: Since 1983, the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Food Standards Agency have received 33 representations on cases of adverse effects related to aspartame consumption.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what independent research was (a) carried out and (b) evaluated by the Government before the approval of aspartame for human consumption in the UK; and what research evaluated by the Government was commissioned and funded by the sweetener industry. 
Caroline Flint: G.D. Searle and Company, the United States manufacturer of aspartame, provided the research considered by the Government on aspartame prior to its approval in the United Kingdom in 1982. In addition to the Company's submission, a number of papers published in the scientific literature were considered. The safety of this sweetener has been assessed subsequently, most recently in 2001, using data obtained from the published scientific literature.
(4) what measures she has taken to ensure the shortest possible delay between the declaration of an avian influenza pandemic and the production of an effective vaccine. 
Caroline Flint: Vaccine specifically against a pandemic strain of influenza virus needs to be developed to match that particular strain. This work can only be done once that strain has emerged and been identified, although preparation can shorten the lead-in time. We are working closely with manufacturers, the World Health Organization, the European Commission and other countries to ensure that a vaccine can be developed as quickly as possible once a pandemic flu strain emerges. Departmental officials have met with representatives from six major manufacturers to discuss how to minimise the delay in production and secure early access to vaccine for the United Kingdom population.
Maintaining health services will be key in reducing the impact of a possible flu pandemic and healthcare workers may need to be prioritised for vaccine. As part of our ongoing work on preparedness we have invited manufacturers to tender for a contract to supply a limited amount of H5N1 vaccine. This vaccine would be based on the strain currently circulating in South East Asia and could offer some protection against an H5N1 flu strain. This strategic stockpile could be used as a first line of defence for priority groups, such as NHS workers, while a vaccine against the exact flu strain is manufactured. Experts will also be able to carry out further clinical studies on the H5N1 vaccine to learn more about how it works against the virus.
Caroline Flint: Avian influenza (bird 'flu) is continuing to circulate in South East Asia and other countries. In the period of December 2003 to September 2005, this H5N1 strain of the flu virus has infected 115 people in four countries, 59 of whom have died. In order for the avian flu to develop into a pandemic, the virus would need to mutate to become more transmissible between people. To date, there have been very few examples of person-to-person spread. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that the evidence suggests that "the viruses are continuing to evolve and pose a pandemic threat".
Once a pandemic has emerged and spread beyond the source country the likelihood of the United Kingdom remaining unaffected is extremely remote. That is why we published the UK influenza pandemic contingency plan in March 2005 and are continuing to develop preparedness plans. We are also working with countries and institutions internationally to share and develop our planning.
On 20 July, we invited manufacturers to tender for a contract to supply a limited amount of H5N1 vaccine and we propose to purchase between 2 and 4 million doses for the United Kingdom. This strategic stockpile could be used for research or as a first
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line of defence for priority groups, such as National health service workers, while a vaccine against the exact flu strain is manufactured. This vaccine may provide some limited protection against pandemic influenza, if the pandemic arose from the H5N1 strain.
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