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28 Feb 2006 : Column 666W—continued

Rail Facilities

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he has taken (a) to secure and (b) to improve the rail line north of Ballymena for travellers who use that route. [53491]

Mr. Woodward: The budget announcement on 20 December 2004 made provision for the development of the core part of the Northern Ireland Railways network in line with the funding estimates in the Railway Review Group (RRG) report. It also made provision for an element of capital renewal on the lesser-used lines in accordance with option 2 of the RRG report. The lesser-used lines are those between Whitehead and Larne, and between Ballymena and Londonderry (including a spur to Portrush). The option 2 proposal envisages some £17 million investment on the lesser-used lines over a five-year period and is designed to ensure the maintenance of services at current levels. While this approach effectively secures the delivery of rail services on the lesser-used lines during that five-year period, it makes no provision for any significant improvement to the rail services offered on those lines during that period. It is inevitable that there will be some degree of betterment arising from works to improve parts of the track or to enhance railway stations, but there are no plans to enter into any further funding commitments until it has been possible to review the impact of recent investment in the railways. This cannot be undertaken before 2007.

Recycled Paper

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of copying paper used in each of the last 10 years by each Department in Northern Ireland was from recycled sources. [53143]

Angela E. Smith: At present, Departments' management systems do not hold this level of information. From 1 April 2006 all Departments will be running a 12 month pilot project in which all photocopying paper will be manufactured from a minimum of 70 per cent. post consumer waste.

Spending Review (Efficiency Targets)

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much is expected to be saved as a result of meeting the civil service workforce reductions targets for his Department set out in the 2004 Spending Review; and whether these savings count towards the agreed efficiency target for his Department set out in the Review. [52804]

Mr. Hain: Current civil service reduction forecasts in the NIO are expected to generate savings of £6.2 million by March 2008. These savings are included within the overall efficiency gains in this Spending Review period for the Department.

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much of the agreed efficiency target for his Department set out in the 2004 Spending
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Review is to be cashable; and under what budget headings these cashable efficiency savings will be re-spent. [52822]

Mr. Hain: While the departmental target was £90 million for the SR04 period, current forecasts indicate savings of £94.6 million, of which £63 million will be cash releasing (i.e. 66 per cent.). These cashable efficiency savings will be re-spent in a wide range of expenditure areas which underpin the Department's priorities, including policing and security, criminal justice and political development.

Student Drop-outs

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many students in Northern Ireland have completed further education courses on-line in each of the last 10 years. [53189]

Angela E. Smith: Currently nine of the 16 colleges are offering courses on-line. The extent of on-line learning varies from college to college. The Department for Employment and Learning does not hold information relating to on-line courses.

Teaching Staff (Absenteeism)

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 13 February 2006, Official Report, column 1534W, on teaching staff (absenteeism), what assessment he has made of the reasons for the differential in absenteeism rates among teaching staff in the various sectors in Northern Ireland. [53820]

Angela E. Smith: The Department is aware of the higher level of absenteeism among teachers in some sectors and, in spite of extensive research by the group established by teachers' employers to examine teachers' absenteeism, it has not been possible to identify the specific reasons for the different rates. The Department and employing authorities are committed to reducing teacher absenteeism, and this has now reduced significantly: between 2002 and 2004 the average absence rate has reduced by 1.9 days per teacher per annum. Work is ongoing on a teachers' health and wellbeing strategy, which, when agreed and implemented by employers, will help to reduce sickness absence levels even further.


Downing Street Seminar

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the (a) schools and (b) organisations which attended the seminar held at Downing Street on 9 February; and if he will make a statement. [52555]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the press briefing given by my official spokesman on 9 February 2006, a copy of which is available on the Number 10 website. The meeting was attended by representatives from a wide range of organisations, from both within Government and outside Government.
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Fair Trade

Andrew George: To ask the Prime Minister (1) what his policy is on the procurement of Fair Trade produce for consumption by visitors to his Office; [54081]

(2) how much of his Office's catering budget was allocated for produce to be consumed by guests in the last period for which records are available; and what proportion of that allocation was spent on procuring Fair Trade produce. [54082]

The Prime Minister: For these purposes my Office forms part of the Cabinet Office, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the then Minister from the Cabinet Office (Mr. Alexander) to the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) on 11 December 2003, Official Report, column 574W.


Rail Services

12. Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on railway services. [54031]

Mr. Darling: Railway services in Scotland are a devolved responsibility. Regular discussions take place on rail issues at all levels between the Department for Transport and the Scottish Executive.


13. John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on mechanisms for dealing with issues of cross-over in policy areas devolved to Scotland. [54032]

David Cairns: My right hon. Friend has regular discussions with the First Minister. This is complemented by frequent contact between the Government and the Scottish Executive, at both ministerial and official level.

Identity Cards

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how the introduction of identity cards in Scotland will differ from the rest of the UK. [54027]

David Cairns: The introduction of identity cards is a reserved matter and so procedures for issuing identity cards will be the same in Scotland as in the rest of the United Kingdom.



Tony Baldry: To ask the Solicitor-General whether he received the letter dated 26 January 2006 from the chairman of the three Oxfordshire local justice areas representing all magistrates in Oxfordshire to the area director of the Courts Service concerning the number of prosecutors made available to magistrates courts in Oxfordshire prior to his reply to the oral question from the hon. Member for Banbury of 13 February. [53551]

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The Solicitor-General: No. I had not seen the letter referred to, which had not been copied to the CPS, prior to my reply to the hon. Member's oral question on 13 February 2006, Official Report, column 1002. My office received a copy of the letter on 15 February 2006.

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