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1 Mar 2006 : Column 747W—continued

Wind Turbines

Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what work is being undertaken to test the feasibility of straight-bladed vertical-axis wind turbines. [54774]

Malcolm Wicks: None.

This is primarily a matter for wind turbine manufacturers.


Child Care Support

Mr. Bone: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality if the Government will take steps to increase support for women who do not work and who look after their children at home. [52314]

Meg Munn [holding answer 15 February 2006]: Government have introduced a variety of measures to support parents and carers in various aspects of their lives. These include a range of benefits and increased access to pensions that have and will continue to benefit many women.

Many non-working mothers have benefited substantially from measures introduced by the Government since 1997, such as tax credits. Child tax credit provides support to families with children, which is payable alongside child benefit to the main carer (usually the mother), regardless of whether they are in work or not. Budget 2005 announced a commitment to increase the child element of child tax credit at least in line with average earnings up to and including 2007–08. From April the child element of child tax credit will be worth up to £1,765 a year for each child.

Also the introduction of Home Responsibilities Protection (HRP) and the state second pension have both been successful in helping women who care for their children full-time to secure a better income for their retirement. Around 1.8 million of the 1.9 million carers who will benefit from the state second pension are women.

We have made progress in the support offered to parents and are committed to improving this wherever possible.
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Adult Education

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will list schools which offer parents access to adult and family learning opportunities. [53597]

Phil Hope: The information requested is not available. However a baseline survey of 3,300 maintained schools published in September 2005 showed that 85 per cent. of nursery schools, 59 per cent. of primary schools and 58 per cent. of secondary schools were offering some form of adult education (including family learning and parenting courses). We will have more details following the 2006 schools' census exercise.

Beacon Colleges

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) whether an upper limit has been set on the number of Beacon colleges in any one area; [54822]

(2) what the criteria are for colleges to obtain Beacon status; and if she will make a statement. [54823]

Bill Rammell: The overall aim of the Learning and Skills Beacon arrangements is to help improve quality across the learning and skills sector as a whole. Colleges and other providers are awarded Beacon status both to recognise their excellence and to ensure the spread of quality nationally.

There is a four stage selection process for Beacon status, as set out on the Department's Beacon website

First, providers are assessed against inspection-related criteria.

Secondly, the LSC and the Department consider the candidate providers, in terms of provider type and region, so as to ensure that there is a reasonable geographical spread and mix by type of provider, thus enabling the maximum impact on the quality of the sector as a whole. There is no upper limit on the number of Beacons in any one area.

After taking account of the first two stages, individual providers are invited to submit proposals on how they will assist improvement and reform nationally. These are considered by an independent advisory panel consisting of a number of key organisations in the sector.

Finally, the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education makes decisions on the award of Beacon status.

Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many cases are waiting to be allocated to a caseworker in the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS); and what the average length of time was for allocation of new cases to a caseworker in each CAFCASS region in the last year for which figures are available. [51160]

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Maria Eagle: This is a matter for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). Anthony Douglas, the CAFCASS chief executive, has written to the hon. Member with this information and a copy of his reply has been placed in the House Library.

Letter from Anthony Douglas, dated 27 February 2005:

Higher Education

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures she has taken to improve procurement in the higher education sector; and what savings have been made as a consequence. [53433]

Bill Rammell: This Government are committed to improving efficiency and value for money in education. The Government are working with the higher education sector by:

We will be measuring efficiency gains from a range of specific initiatives which contribute to our Gershon efficiency target, including those in the higher education
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sector. These are set out in our Efficiency Technical Note at In most cases, the gains are recyclable at the front line into other activities rather than being clawed back by the Department. The Department is reporting progress towards our overall efficiency target through existing departmental reporting processes. We reported progress towards our target in the Department's autumn performance report and will report further progress in the departmental annual report which we expect to publish in April.

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