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Jim Knight: In addition to London and Manchester, by 2009-10 I expect Teach First to have expanded to recruit trainees in the Midlands (covering Birmingham, Coventry and Nottingham) and in Yorkshire and Humberside (covering Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster and Huddersfield), and the existing office in the North West will also recruit for Liverpool.
Mark Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of Government action to combat truancy since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
Jim Knight [holding answer 11 January 2007]: The Department focuses on reducing all absences from schools, not just those which are unauthorised. Overall absence rates have been substantially lower than the 1996-97 rate in all but two of the last nine years. In 2005-06, when absence rates were affected by unusually high levels of sickness, absence was still 0.54 per cent. points below the 1996-97 levelequivalent to 37,000 more pupils in school every single day.
We do not have a direct measure of truancy. Unauthorised absence is often used as a proxy for truancy, but it is an imperfect measure because it also includes lateness and some term time holidays. It is also well known that unauthorised absence tends to rise when schools take a tougher line on absence generally, as has happened in recent years, without reflecting any underlying increase in truancy. The latest figures show no increase in unauthorised absence. That is why the Department has moved away from targets focusing narrowly on rates of unauthorised absence.
The vast majority of unauthorised absence is very short term: of the secondary school pupils with unauthorised absence in the autumn and spring terms 2005-06, 55 per cent. missed only one or two days and 75 per cent. missed 5 days or fewer. But we also now know that a small minority of pupils miss significant amounts of their schooling. That is why we are now focusing our efforts on reducing persistent absence, including persistent truancy, in schools where this problem is most acute. This is proving highly effective. Last year, our targeted challenge and support in 198 secondary schools helped to reduce the number of persistent truants in those schools by 27 per cent., to
reduce the average rate of absence in those schools by 0.63 per cent. and the average rate of unauthorised absence by 0.89 per cent.
Jim Knight: The Government would like to take this opportunity to recognise the important role that the wide range of volunteers play in supporting pupils and teachers in schools. Whether it be parents reading to pupils, learning mentor activities or the participation of undergraduates in schools through our own funded schemes such as the Student Associate Scheme or Undergraduate Ambassadors, they bring with them a wider range of skills, experience and knowledge, which complement the professional pedagogical skills of teachers and trained support staff.
All Cabinet Office expenditure on official hospitality and entertainment is made in accordance with published departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety, based on principles set out in Government Accounting and other HM Treasury guidance.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what the total expenditure by her Office on external consultants was in (a) 2004-05 and (b) 2005-06; and what the estimated costs are for 2006-07. 
For details of my departments spend on external consultants (a) 2004-05 and (b) 2005-06; and the estimated costs for 2006-07, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 29 November 2006, Official Report, columns 767-68W.
Ben Chapman: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster pursuant to the answer of 6 December 2006, Official Report, column 520W, on the Duchy council, what guidance has been issued regarding appointments to the Duchy council in respect of professional background. 
Hilary Armstrong: As Chancellor, I require the Council to ensure that its members have the experience and expertise to discharge its responsibilities, and the balance of such experience and expertise must be considered when making an appointment of a new member of council.
Mr. Francois: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many times the Ministerial Committee on Economic Affairs, Productivity and Competitiveness met in each month between September 2005 and September 2006. 
Hilary Armstrong: Information relating to the proceedings of Cabinet Committees, including when and how often they meet, is generally not disclosed as to do so could harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether special advisers in her Department have made use of an official car in the last 12 months, excluding travel made when accompanying a Minister. 
Mr. Heald: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster pursuant to the answer of 27 November 2006, Official Report, column 347, on special advisers/consultants, how many mobile telephones are provided to special advisers in (a) Downing Street and (b) the Cabinet Office. 
Mrs. May: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on how many occasions in the last five years the publication date of statistics produced by her Department has been changed; what the (a) subject of the statistics, (b) (i) original and (ii) final date of publication and (c) reason for the delay was in each case; and who took the decision to delay the publication in each case. 
Hilary Armstrong: In accordance with the National Statistics Code of Practice (2002), the Head of Profession for Statistics in the Cabinet Office has sole responsibility for determining, pre-announcing and, if necessary, altering the dates of publication of National Statistics and other relevant statistics produced by the Department.
Any decision to change a pre-announced publication date will be based on a range of professional considerations such as the completeness of the underlying data, their fitness for purpose, the need for consistency and coherence, the need to promote widespread access and informed debate, or any earlier accidental or wrongful release. In reaching their decision, the Head of Profession will also take into consideration the detailed procedural guidance given in the National Statistics Protocol on Release Practices. The Code and its 12 supporting Protocols are available in the Library for the reference of Members, and can also be accessed using the following address:
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many young people between 16 and 25 years are not in work, training or education in each local authority area in England and Wales. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what the backlog is for dealing with new cases at Basildon Jobcentre Plus. This is something that falls within my responsibilities as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Basildon Benefit Delivery Centre (BDC) has recently completed a programme of centralising all Incapacity Benefit, Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance work previously carried out at offices throughout the county. The centralisation has caused some backlogs but we have successfully reduced these and expect to see a continued improvement into the New Year. The volume of claims outstanding has been steadily reducing
over recent months and the current position represents a 17 per cent improvement against the position in October 2006.
The latest figures (for week ending 8 December) show that Basildon BDC has a combined total of 3,060 new claims to Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support and Incapacity Benefit outstanding against an expected claim intake figure of 2640. The difference of 420 equates to approximately 1 days intake of claims.
The management team at Basildon are working hard to make significant improvements to their performance. A recovery plan is in place and other BDCs within the network are undertaking work on behalf of Basildon to increase productivity.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many claims there have been for each benefit administered by his Department in each year from 1996-97 to 2006-07; and if he will make a statement. 
|Claims received each year for benefits administered by DSS/DWP|
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