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3 July 2006 : Column 690W—continued


Pupil Data

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the collection by schools of pupils' personal data, with particular reference to fingerprints. [82201]

Beverley Hughes: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 27 February 2006, Official Report, column 504W, to the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb).

Race Equality

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the implementation of the statutory duty to promote race equality in schools. [78948]

Jim Knight: Ofsted, as the inspectorate for children and learners in England, routinely evaluates and reports to the Department on the work carried out by schools in eliminating unlawful racial discrimination. Ofsted inspection reports have found schools’ compliance with the specific duties has improved since the introduction of the statutory duty which came into force for schools in 2002. In 2005 Ofsted published a thematic inspection report Race Equality in Education identifying good practice in schools and Local Authorities. The report found areas of strength in promoting racial harmony and raising ethnic minority achievement in schools but weakness in effectively handling racist incidents.

We are working closely with the Commission for Racial Equality and Ofsted to support schools in taking forward the requirements of the Act.

School Closures

Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what criteria have to be met before a rural primary school can be closed; what process has to be followed by (a) the Government and (b) the local education authority; and what right of appeal parents have at each stage of the process. [81003]

Jim Knight: Changes to local school organisation, including school closures, are decided under local decision-making arrangements. Ministers have no role in the process. Individual proposals are determined by the local authority if they published the proposals and there are no objections. In all other cases the proposals are decided by the local School Organisation Committee (SOC) or the schools adjudicator, if the SOC cannot reach a unanimous decision.

SOCs and schools adjudicators must have regard to Decision Makers’ Guidance issued by the Secretary of State when deciding proposals. The guidance includes a presumption against the closure of rural schools and sets out a range of factors that must be considered for the different types of proposals. For rural school closures the factors include: whether the case is strong and in the best interests of educational provision in the area; the overall effect of the closure on the local community; the transport implications and whether the possibilities of federated or extended schools to increase viability have been considered.

Where a local authority or governing body plan to close a school they must first consult interested parties, allowing sufficient time for people to consider the proposal and respond. Then, after considering views, and if they wish to proceed, the proposer must publish statutory proposals. Following publication and a six- week representation period the proposal will be decided by the appropriate decision maker. Once statutory proposals have been approved there is a duty for them to be implemented.

Parents are able to register their views on a proposal during the consultation and representation periods. Any comments made during the representation period
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are taken into account when the final decision is taken on the proposal. More information can be found on the Department’s School Organisation website at www.dfes.gov.uk/schoolorg

School Sports

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) if he will take steps to increase the amount of time allocated to sport in schools in the national curriculum; [81220]

(2) what recent research he has commissioned into the types of physical education taught in schools. [81221]

Jim Knight: Head teachers are responsible for curriculum planning and it is for them to decide how much time they devote to physical education and sport in the national curriculum. The Department for Education and Skills shares an ambitious PSA target with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to increase the percentage of five to 16-year-olds who take part in at least two hours high quality PE and school sport each week, to 75 per cent. by 2006 and on to 85 per cent. by 2008. The long term aim, by 2010, is for all children to be offered at least four hours of sport every week. This will comprise at least two hours high quality PE and sport at school and the opportunity for at least a further two to three hours beyond the school day, delivered by a range of school, community and club providers.

The annual National School Sport Survey is our prime tool for measuring progress towards these targets. The results of the 2004/05 survey showed that schools in school sport partnerships provided, on average, 15 different sports for their pupils. These ranged from football, which was provided by 97 per cent. of schools, to less traditional sports like rowing, bowls and squash. The results of the survey were published in September 2005 and copies were placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Schools Budget

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to his Answer of 22 May 2006, Official Report, column 1373W, on school finance, when he expects the information to be available. [80625]

Jim Knight: In my reply to the hon. Member's earlier question to which he refers I explained that the Department is awaiting a complete dataset relating to the 2006-07 financial year. The Department now has the full dataset but is in the process of validating it. I will write to the hon. Member once the checks have been completed.

Sustainable Communities

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what progress has been made towards implementing the recommendations of the Egan review of skills for sustainable communities. [79288]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.


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Sir John Egan was commissioned in April 2003 by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister to review the skills and training required to deliver sustainable communities. His “Review of Skills for Sustainable Communities” was published in April 2004. His key recommendation was the formation of a national centre to drive forward a new integrated approach to skills development.

The Government responded by establishing the Academy for Sustainable Communities (ASC) to improve the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to deliver and maintain sustainable communities across the country. The ASC's aim is to challenge the tendency to adopt a silo approach by encouraging greater cross-profession and cross-organisation working. It focuses in particular on broader, generic skills such as project management, visioning, communication, partnership working and community engagement.

It is not a major training provider but rather looks to influence other providers and to lead the market where gaps exist. Through the establishment of a learning framework and resource hub, it will inform and spread best practice across the range of sustainable communities' issues and professions.

The ASC is also working with partners in the EU to identify generic skills gaps across Europe and share good practice between member states. It will host a European Skills Symposium in Leeds in November 2006.

International Development

Abortion

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to his answer of 20 June 2006, Official Report, column 1763W, on abortion, if he will require organisations which he funds to sign a statement that they do not support or participate in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation as a condition to further funding; and if he will make a statement. [81161]

Mr. Thomas: DFID does not provide funds to organisations that support or participate in coercive abortion or sterilisation. We do not intend to request organisations which are funded by DFID to sign such a statement.

Correspondence

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the average cost to his Department was of replying to a letter written (a) by an hon. Member and (b) by a member of the public in the latest period for which figures are available; and how much of that sum is accounted for by (i) officials' time, (ii) cost of stationery and (iii) postage costs. [80487]

Mr. Thomas: The Cabinet Office, on an annual basis, publishes a report to Parliament on the performance of Departments in replying to Members/
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Peers correspondence. The Report for 2005 was published on 30 March 2006, Official Report, columns 76-78WS.

The information requested is not recorded and could be obtained only by incurring a disproportionate cost.

Darfur

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what resources his Department will be providing as its commitment to the Darfur-Darfur dialogue. [81313]

Hilary Benn: DFID is already providing support for the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), of which the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation (DDDC) forms a part. The DDDC will play an important role in promulgating the DPA and starting the process of reconciliation in Darfur. We are already engaging on publicity work and capacity building for the African Union and the rebel faction which signed the agreement. We are encouraging the African Union to begin holding meetings of the preparatory committee for the DDDC and we stand ready to support it if asked to do so by the organisers.

Ethiopia

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact of the withdrawal of British direct budgetary support to the Ethiopian Government on the human rights situation in Ethiopia; and if he will make a statement. [80617]

Hilary Benn: We withdrew our direct budget support because the Government of Ethiopia breached one of the three commitments underlying our aid partnership—respect for human rights. As set out in our 2005 conditionality policy, a violation of any one commitment could lead to aid being interrupted, withdrawn or delivered in a different way.

We have, therefore, not carried out a formal assessment of the impact of the withdrawal of British budget support on the human rights situation in Ethiopia; however, we are determined to see an improvement. We monitor the human rights situation closely, and many of those detained last November have now been released and an inquiry into the events of June and November 2005 has also been launched by the Government of Ethiopia. We await its conclusions.

All donors have agreed that the development partnership needs a greater focus on governance and human rights. This involves developing programmes to support governance reforms, but it also involves insisting on an open dialogue between government and donors on governance issues. This has begun.

In order to minimise the impact of withdrawing general budget support on the poor, we have developed with the World Bank a new Protection of Basic Services (PBS) grant. The aim is to protect and promote the delivery of basic services by local government in Ethiopia while making the administration of local services much more transparent and accountable to people at the local level.


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EU Aid (Water and Sanitation)

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the effectiveness of the EU's aid efforts on water and sanitation. [79560]

Hilary Benn: The EU, that is the 25 member states and the European Commission, is the largest donor on water and sanitation in Africa, spending over £1.4 billion in the sector in 2003-04. The EU Water Initiative was set up to co-ordinate these efforts, identify gaps and ensure that the money we spend is used more effectively to deliver services to the poor. The UK attaches great importance to more and better aid for water and sanitation, particularly in sub- Saharan Africa where the MDG targets for access to these basic services are so off track.

There has, however, been concern that political commitment to the EU Water Initiative has declined and that it is not delivering its objectives. A further problem is that with very limited monitoring and reporting mechanisms it has not been sufficiently accountable to its stakeholders. We have therefore raised these issues in the EU Water Initiative Steering Group and are now working with a number of other member states to reinvigorate the initiative, including developing proper indicators for monitoring and improving the focus of work in partner countries. We hope this will lead to renewed political commitment and better implementation on the ground.

The EU Consensus on Development, agreed during the UK Presidency, referred to the EU Water Initiative and the importance of increased aid more broadly. In addition, the EU-Africa Strategy also included a reference to access to water supply and sanitation. In raising the political profile of water and sanitation through these policy documents, we hope that other member states will be encouraged to increase their support to the sector, particularly as their levels of development funding increase.

Health Worker Migration

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the effect on health services in developing countries of health worker migration from those countries to the UK. [81830]

Hilary Benn: International health worker migration is a complex issue and one that the UK takes seriously. Some low-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, have less than one health worker per 1,000 population. The proportion of African doctors who leave is very significant. Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Zambia lose between a third and a half of the doctors they train to international migration. This rapid increase in health worker migration has been partly due to staff leaving their country for greener pastures. As a result the UK has been criticised for employing workers from developing countries. However, poor working conditions, poor salaries and a lack of training and opportunity for advancement have meant that many staff in developing
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countries leave the public health service. In addition to this, loss of staff through AIDS has depleted many health services.

The UK NHS has responded by putting in place policies to prevent active international recruitment of health care professionals. The UK is the only developed country to have a code of practice preventing its national health service from targeting health care professionals from developing countries. While the code on its own cannot address all the root causes of migration, it plays an important role in ensuring that recruitment is undertaken in an ethical, managed way. In addition to this, DFID supports efforts to strengthen health services in many countries, including to increase human resources. For example, DFID is providing £100 million over six years to support the Government of Malawi's health sector programme, which includes doubling the number of nurses and tripling the number of doctors over the next six years.

Iraq

Mr. Burrowes: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much the UK has allocated to the Iraqi health care system since 2003. [81011]

Hilary Benn: Improving health care is a priority for Iraq's reconstruction and for the Iraqi people's quality of life. In the health sector, DFID has given funding directly to specialist organisations. Since 2003, we have provided:

During 2004-05, DFID also supported the secondment of a senior adviser from the UK's Department of Health, who provided technical assistance to the Iraqi Ministry of Health in Baghdad.

Mr. Burrowes: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of Iraq's progress towards the UN Millennium Development Goals. [81012]

Hilary Benn: Monitoring progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is the responsibility of the UN, and DFID uses their official
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assessments. The recently published United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report is a comprehensive account of progress to date on each of the goals worldwide, and how great an effort remains necessary to meet them. It can be found at:

It is difficult to assess progress towards the MDGs in Iraq accurately, due to lack of official data. However, UNICEF is currently conducting a Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in Iraq, which will collect data on the MDGs. The results of this survey, expected to issue by the end of 2006, will enable the Government of Iraq and the international community to take better stock of Iraq's progress towards the MDGs. DFID's most recent analysis of the available data on the MDGs in Iraq, conducted in February 2006, identifies the following:


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