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15 Feb 2006 : Column 2105W—continued

Carers (Subsidised Travel)

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to provide subsidised travel for carers in Northern Ireland. [51063]


 
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Mr. Woodward: I have no plans at present to provide subsidised travel for carers in Northern Ireland. The Department for Regional Development is committed to reviewing the Northern Ireland Concessionary Fares Scheme. This review is due to commence shortly. Options for extending provision, including to carers, will be considered as part of this review.
 
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Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to extend the Northern Ireland concessionary fares scheme to include carers; how many people he expects would benefit as a result; how much the extension would cost; and if he will make a statement. [51064]

Mr. Woodward: I have no plans, at present, to extend concessionary travel on public transport to include carers. The Department for Regional Development is committed to reviewing the Northern Ireland Concessionary Fares Scheme. This review is due to commence shortly. Options for extending provision, including to carers, will be considered as part of this review.

Citizens Jury

Mr. Wills: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on how many occasions his Department consulted citizens juries on departmental policies in the last five years; in how many of those consultations the recommendations of the citizens jury differed from existing departmental policy; and on how many occasions departmental policy was changed to reflect the recommendations of the citizens jury. [46245]

Mr. Hain: The Northern Ireland Office has never consulted citizens juries on departmental policies.

Although the Northern Ireland Office has not used citizens juries we do provide an opportunity for stakeholders and the wider public to contribute to NIO polices and legislation including where appropriate focus groups and public meetings. The aim is to increase the involvement of people and groups in public consultation and to seek their views. Consultations are carried out in accordance with the Cabinet Office Code of Practice on Written Consultation and the consultation period will normally last for a minimum of 12 weeks to give the public time to respond. The Northern Ireland Office website www.nio.gov.uk provides a library of consultations and where available the summary of responses and associated revision to the policy or legislation.

Invest Northern Ireland

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions have taken place between representatives of Invest Northern Ireland and (a) each district council in Northern Ireland and (b) Larne Enterprise Development Company in the last 12 months; and what representations Invest Northern Ireland have received from each. [51050]

Angela E. Smith: In the last 12 months, Invest NI staff have represented the agency at 383 meetings of committees/partnerships that have either been council led or have included council involvement. In most cases these meetings involved more than one council. A breakdown for each individual council area is given in the following table.

In addition, staff throughout the agency, and in particular its local office network, are regularly involved in discussions with local councils in relation to a broad range of Invest NI's functions and activities.
 
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In the same period, Invest NI's chief executive also met with ten local councils to update them on Invest NI's current activity in their areas and to discuss any issues of concern (these meetings are also captured in the following table). During this period each council was also invited to meet with Invest NI's chairman and chief executive to comment on Invest NI's 2005–08 draft corporate plan.

Invest NI has invested considerable time and effort to build a positive working relationship with Larne Enterprise Development company (LEDCOM) and staff from the agency have attended a total of 43 formal meetings or events associated with LEDCOM during the last 12 months. In addition there have been many other informal discussions between Invest NI and LEDCOM.


Council
Number of meetings involving representatives of council
and Invest NI
Antrim39
Ards40
Armagh C and DC48
Ballymena43
Ballymoney43
Banbridge43
Belfast CC54
Carrickfergus48
Castlereagh15
Coleraine55
Cookstown37
Craigavon50
Derry CC50
Down43
Dungannon and South Tyrone49
Fermanagh36
Larne42
Limavady33
Lisburn CC16
Magherafelt19
Moyle39
Newry and Mourne57
Newtownabbey39
North Down36
Omagh47
Strabane54

Planning Appeal Commission

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many Planning Appeal Commission hearings were held in Northern Ireland in each of the last 10 years. [51329]

Angela E. Smith: The Planning Appeals Commission is a tribunal non-departmental public body, and the chief commissioner has written to the hon. Gentleman. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library.

Post-primary Education

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will carry out an audit of the post-primary schools estate in Northern Ireland to establish the (a) extent and (b) cost of (i) investment and (ii) divestment that would be necessary to implement the changes proposed in the draft Education (Northern Ireland) Order. [51484]


 
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Angela E. Smith: The changes being proposed by the draft Education (Northern Ireland) Order do not necessarily require accommodation changes. As local collaboration plans are developed to meet the entitlement framework there may be a need to provide facilities in some schools in support of the new arrangements, and these would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has also announced recently an independent review of education in Northern Ireland which will look at the strategic planning of the whole estate, taking account of provision for 14 to 19-year-olds. Conclusions from the review would therefore inform implementation of decisions following consultation on the draft Order.

Tourism

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to assist the hospitality industry in Northern Ireland to improve further the levels of service to visitors. [51357]

Angela E. Smith: The tourism and hospitality sector has been identified as a key area for achieving economic growth in Northern Ireland. There are a number of Government agencies working together to assist the hospitality industry in areas such as customer service, staff skills development and competitiveness by providing a range of initiatives and programmes.

Government supports the People 1st Sector Skills Council to identify the skills needs of the hospitality industry in Northern Ireland and to broker a formal agreement between Government, educators and employers to meet these skill needs. In addition, hospitality and tourism has been identified as a priority skill area for further education by the Department for Employment and Learning.

Invest NI also has an important role to play; client companies of Invest NI, including those with a tourism focus, can avail of a range of support for businesses such as the Business Improvement Training programme which is targeted at delivering company specific projects which address specific training and development issues. Mentoring support may also be provided aimed at helping companies improve their product and service.

NITB as the strategic leader of tourism has as one of the objectives of the Strategic Framework for Action 2004–2007 'The Delivery of Memorable Experiences'. One of the delivery mechanisms for this objective is a series of Masterclasses the aim of which is to raise the performance in the tourism industry and develop international competitiveness. NITB, in conjunction with Tourism Training Trust (TTT) has recently completed a review of the Welcome to Excellence suite of training programmes for the hospitality industry and TTT in conjunction with other tourism stakeholders will be encouraging the hospitality industry to avail of this training.
 
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