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2 May 2007 : Column 1767W—continued

Between 1997-98 and 2003-04 the value of the special educational needs (SEN) grant under the standards fund totalled £364.4 million (this figure includes Government grant and local authority matched funding). Training was one of the main sub-heads under the fund. It was for local authorities to decide how to use the funding. The fund guidance in 1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2002-03 specifically
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highlighted training in ASDs as one of the areas local authorities may have wished to support.

Since 2004-05 £81 million for SEN has been included in the baseline for the school development grant, which all maintained schools receive, and this increased by 4 per cent. per year in 2004-05 and 2005-06. The school development grant can be used for in-service training. It is a matter for individual teachers and their schools to determine their own training and development needs, including training in ASDs. Local authorities may retain a proportion of this grant, under certain circumstances, to provide specific training in SEN.

In 2002-03 £1 million was made available for higher education institutions to bid for projects to increase training and development opportunities for teachers, learning support assistants and school governorsunder the SEN training and development fund. Three grants were awarded for autism-related projects: £100,000 to Sheffield Hallam university (training initiatives aimed at raising the achievement of children with ASDs); £95,150 to the university of Birmingham (development of an ICT-supported module at masters level); and £50,000 to the university of Greenwich (collaborative project between the university and an ASD outreach service).

Student Loans Company

Mr. Boris Johnson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills for what reasons the Student Loans Company uses the retail price index as its preferred inflation index. [134375]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 27 April 2007]: The Government's policy is to apply an interest rate to student loans which maintains the value of the loan in real terms. Borrowers therefore receive an appreciable interest rate subsidy compared to commercial loans. The retail price index is used as the interest rate because it reflects a range of relevant factors including mortgage interest and council tax.

Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how long transfers of student loan repayments from the Treasury’s consolidated account remain with his Department before being transferred to the Student Loans Company. [132897]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 20 April 2007]: Student loans repayments are not transferred to the Student Loans Company. They reduce the net assets, representing outstanding loans, on the Department for Education and Skills balance sheet. It is only information about repayments made by individual borrowers that is passed to the company to allow it to issue annual statements. Once that information is received by the company, repayments are attributed to each month of the tax year in which they were made by the borrower and monthly interest is calculated accordingly. This ensures that even if there is a delay in repayment details reaching the company, the borrower does not pay any additional interest.

Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much of the student loan repayment transfers received by his Department from
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the Treasury’s consolidated account in each of the last four quarters was (a) repayment of the principal component and (b) interest accrued. [132898]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 20 April 2007]: The Student Loans Company updates accounts with repayment details as they are received from HM Revenue and Customs. Repayments are taken from the total balance owed by the borrower. The Student Loans Company does not break down either outstanding amounts or repayments into principal and interest components.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how much interest his Department earned on student loan repayments collected before annual transfer to the accounts in each of the last five years for which records are available; [131618]

(2) what representations he has received regarding the timing of the transfer of repayments of student loans into accounts; and if he will make a statement; [131619]

(3) if he will change the repayment methods employed by his Department on student loans so that repayments are made monthly. [131620]

Bill Rammell: I am aware that there is a petition on the No. 10 website based on the mistaken premise that borrowers overpay interest on their student loans because the Student Loans Company (SLC) only credits repayments annually. I have received correspondence relating to this.

Although borrowers' accounts are only updated as an annual exercise, the total annual repayment received from each borrower is credited to their account as 12 equal monthly payments, and the interest is calculated on a daily basis on the remaining balance in that month. No borrower pays too much interest as a result of the time lag in updating their account, and nor does the Department gain any additional income.

Student Numbers

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what his estimate is of the likely number of (a) UK and (b) foreign students studying at universities in England in each of the next five years. [132867]

Bill Rammell: Estimates of likely numbers of students have not yet been made for this period. Over the last five years, the number of UK based students at English higher education institutions increased by 200,000 (14 per cent.) to 1.67 million and the number of overseas students at such institutions increased by 80,000 (40 per cent.) to 275,000.

Against that background, we expect many more students from both the UK and abroad to participate in higher education over the next five years.

Under the second phase of the Prime Minister’s initiative, a target has been set for an extra 70,000 non-EU international higher education students and
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30,000 non-EU international further education students to be recruited to UK higher education institutions and further education colleges by 2011.

Universities: Northern Cyprus

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what assessment he has made of the application by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus for recognition of its six universities under the Council of Europe's Bologna process; and if he will make a statement; [134981]

(2) what representations his Department has made to the Council of Europe in respect of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus's application for recognition of its six universities under the Council of Europe's Bologna process; [134982]

(3) what representations he has received on the financial implications for the Turkish-Cypriot universities of their continued non-membership of the Bologna process. [134983]

Bill Rammell: The Government's assessment, which is generally shared by other countries in the Bologna Process, is that the application in question, along with those being considered from Israel, Kosovo and the Kyrgyz Republic, does not meet the criteria for membership of the Process. This is because those criteria require member countries to have ratified the European Cultural Convention. The final decision on this issue will be taken when Ministers meet at the Bologna Process Ministerial Conference in May. The Bologna Process is not a Council of Europe initiative but an independent intergovernmental agreement. The Government have not therefore made any representations to the Council of Europe on this matter. My officials have received representations from Professor Tahir Celik, chair of the Higher Education Board in the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’, concerning his assessment of the potential economic impact of non-membership on universities in the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’.

Diplomas

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which diploma consortia have been approved to run diplomas in each subject area in 2008. [131232]

Jim Knight: On 28 March I was pleased to announce the first 145 consortia (groups of schools, colleges and training providers) across 97 local authorities that have been given approval to offer one or more of the first five 14 to 19 diplomas from September 2008. A total of around 40,000 places are forecast across the country. Approved consortia delivering the diploma from 2008 were banded into two categories.


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Health

Alcoholic Drinks: Labelling

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to bring forward measures to introduce health warnings on alcoholic drinks. [131901]

Caroline Flint: The Department has been working with the alcohol industry for a voluntary agreement on sensible drinking messages and unit information to include on labels.

Alcohol and Drugs: Strategy

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether she made an assessment of the potential for fiscal incentives to contribute to the promotion of responsible drinking prior to the 2007 Budget. [131939]

Caroline Flint: Tax decisions are made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, taking account of a range of factors, including health.

Mr. Burrowes: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the timetable is for the review of the (a) alcohol and (b) drugs strategy; and what consultation is taking place in relation to each such strategy. [135228]

Mr. Coaker: I have been asked to reply.

The Home Office is leading the cross-Government effort on the development of a new Drug Strategy. The existing, and successful, 10-year strategy runs until March 2008. A consultation document is planned to be issued alongside details of the consultation process in May/June 2007. The intention is to consult interested groups and individuals, including service providers and those affected by drugs—users, families and local communities. Subject to cross-Government agreement, the new strategy is likely to be published in late 2007.

The Home Office and Department of Health are jointly leading a review of the Alcohol Harm Strategy for England 2004 and the development of a new Alcohol Strategy with support from the Department for Education and Skills. A series of detailed discussions have been held with key stakeholders from the health, police and young people’s sectors and the alcohol industry to inform the development of the new Alcohol Strategy. The new strategy is due to be launched in summer 2007. A formal consultation is not planned prior to launch, but consultation is likely to be required on implementation of key aspects of the strategy.

Blood Transfusions

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps have been taken to ensure that blood transfusions are avoided wherever possible. [133584]

Caroline Flint: The Department has taken a number of measures to ensure the most appropriate use of blood, and to encourage the national health service to use less blood. Some of the key measures are set out as follows.


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In 1998, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) launched the Better Blood Transfusion initiative to promote and encouraged better/appropriate use of blood and alternatives to transfusion.

In July 2002, Health Service Circular (HSC) 2002/009 “Better Blood Transfusion—Appropriate Use of Blood” was issued. This has been placed in the Library and is available at:

This circular asked NHS trusts and primary care trusts to review and explore the use of effective alternatives to donor blood, and also using the patients own blood.

The CMO’s National Blood Transfusion Committee was established in 2002 to advise hospitals and the National Blood Service on best practice and performance monitoring, improving the safety and appropriateness of blood transfusion practice, listening to and informing patient concerns and promoting high quality and consistent transfusion practice.

The Department and the United Kingdom blood services produced a toolkit for practitioners on better blood transfusion, safe practice, appropriate use, education and training, and monitoring and traceability. The toolkit, which is available at www.transfusion guidelines.org.uk/, aims to help NHS trusts to make the most appropriate use of blood and its alternatives where possible.

A seminar was held on 16 March 2007 to discuss progress and identify ways to maintain or improve the safe and appropriate use of blood over the next three to five years. An HSC will be issued to the NHS on the outcomes.

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps her Department is taking to prevent unnecessary blood transfusions which can be prevented through the use of erythropoietin. [133585]

Caroline Flint: The type of treatment offered to patients is a matter of individual clinical judgment and discussion with the patient concerned.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is currently appraising erythropoietin for the treatment of anaemia induced by cancer treatment and expects to publish final guidance to the national health service in November 2007.

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what alternatives are made available to people who choose not to receive blood transfusions on religious grounds. [133586]

Caroline Flint: Patients have the right to refuse a blood transfusion and this will be respected. However, before refusing a blood transfusion, patients need to fully understand the consequences of doing so. Information is available at www.transfusion guidelines.org.uk/ on alternatives to blood transfusion.

Blood: Contamination

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate she has made of the number of haemophiliacs who were infected with HIV and
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hepatitis C through blood transfusions when they were children, but are unable to receive hardship funds through the Macfarlane Trust and the Skipton fund; and if she will make a statement. [132463]

Caroline Flint: The Macfarlane Trust was set up in 1988 to provide financial help to patients with haemophilia infected with the HIV virus and their families.

The Skipton fund was set up in 2004 to administer an Ex-gratia Payment scheme for patients infected with hepatitis C following national health service treatment with blood or blood products. Haemophilia patients who were infected with hepatitis C are eligible for a payment under the Skipton fund.

Anyone eligible for payments should have received them. The Department is examining two cases where individuals claim that they have not received payments they may be entitled to.

Chlamydia Infection: Screening

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 12 March 2007, Official Report, column 120W, on chlamydia infection: screening, what percentage of primary care trusts participated in the chlamydia screening programme in the most recent period for which figures are available; and which primary care trusts are not participating in the programme. [131888]

Caroline Flint: To the end of December 2006, we had 45 per cent. of primary care trusts reporting data to the Health Protection Agency (HPA). This is an additional 2 per cent. to the 43 per cent. I gave in my reply on 12 March 2007 and covers 35 programme areas. More programme areas have started screening since then. The data for the January to March 2007 quarter will be reported to the HPA at the end of April.

The primary care trusts that have not reported data to the HPA are given in the following list.

PCT name


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