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18 Jun 2007 : Column 1467W—continued

Pupils: Per Capita Costs

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what timetable he has for matching spending per pupil in the maintained school sector with funding for pupils in the independent educational sector. [142682]

Jim Knight: The Government’s long-term ambition is for all pupils to have access to the same level of support and opportunities that are currently available to pupils in the independent sector. In this context, the Government will aim—over time, and adjusting for inflation—to increase levels of funding towards today's private sector day school levels.

The Comprehensive Spending Review settlement for education announced in Budget 2007 allows the Government to take a significant further step towards this ambition, with total per pupil resource and capital funding rising from under £2,500 cash in 1997-98 to £4,800 in 2005-06, £5,550 in 2007-08 and £6,600 in 2010-11.

Progress over future spending reviews will depend on the Government's fiscal position, demographic change, and progress by schools in continuing to deliver improvements in results and wider support for parents and pupils.

Science: Higher Education

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many university science departments closed in each of the last 10 years; and what steps he is taking to seek to prevent further closures. [143561]

Bill Rammell: Information on the closure, merger or opening of particular university departments is not collected by the Department. However, some science subjects are starting to become more popular and the measures we are taking to increase demand and the extra £75 million announced last year should help to sustain capacity as demand increases. We have consistently made clear that if a science department closes at one institution, the Higher Education Funding Council for England should seek to maintain capacity elsewhere and we announced last year that the Council should report to us on how provision can be maintained in this way.

The latest figures from UCAS for students applying to enter full-time undergraduate courses in 2007 show
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that applications for the main science subjects have risen significantly: Physics is up by 12 per cent., chemistry by 11 per cent. and biology by 6 per cent.

Sure Start Programme

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many Sure Start children's centres have been set up; and what assessment he has made of progress towards the Government's target to have 2,500 centres by the end of 2008. [143553]

Beverley Hughes: As of 14 June 2007 there were 1,306 designated Sure Start Children's Centres and we are on track to meet our target of delivering 2,500 centres by 2008. DfES have appointed the consortium, Together for Children, to work with local authorities to help build their capacity to plan, commission and project manage the roll-out of sustainable high quality children's centres. Support plans are being implemented with the agreement of all 150 local authorities, with the level and type of support tailored to their individual needs.

Vocational Education: Finance

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the impact on attendance rates in education to employment and other vocational courses of the replacement of training grants by educational maintenance allowances. [139287]

Phil Hope: This is a matter for the Learning and Skills Council. Mark Haysom, the Council’s 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 Mark Haysom, dated 18 June 2007:

Vocational Guidance

Mr. Boris Johnson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to establish an all-age strategy for career advice and guidance public service provision in England following the recommendations of the Leitch Review of Skills. [143120]

Phil Hope: We will set out the Government's response to the recommendations of the Leitch Review of Skills in an implementation plan to be published in the summer.


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Westminster Kingsway College: Finance

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the effect on (a) level 1 and (b) other entry level places available at Westminster Kingsway College of budget changes; and what assessment he has made of the financial position of Westminster Kingsway College. [139781]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 4 June 2007]: We have increased investment in further education by 48 per cent. in real terms between 1997 and 2006. In line with our Skills Strategy, first set out in the Skills White Paper 2003, public funding needs to be focused on helping those without the basic and level 2 skills for employment and further progression in learning. This is a planned and continuing strategy to respond to the skills challenges we have as a country. As part of this strategy, my Department recognises the importance of colleges maintaining provision at lower levels to support progression and flow through to higher levels.

The Department does not hold information on publicly funded post-16 places at local or regional levels. Mark Haysom, the Learning and Skills Council’s Chief Executive has written to the hon. Member with the information you have requested and a copy of his reply has been placed in the House Library.

Letter from Mark Haysom, dated 11 June 2007:


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Young People: West Lancashire

Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what proportion of young people in West Lancashire constituency were not in education, employment or training in each of the last 10 years; [143520]

(2) how many people not in employment, education or training were aged (a) under 19, (b) under 21 and (c) under 25 years in West Lancashire constituency in each year since 1997. [143528]

Bill Rammell: The following table gives the estimated proportion of 16 to 18-year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEET) in the Lancashire local authority area in each of the last three years:

Proportion of 16 to 18-year-olds NEET
Percentage

2004

7.9

2005

8.1

2006

7.7


These figures are drawn from the client management systems maintained by Connexions services. Local authority level information is available only from 2004, and is not available for the West Lancashire constituency area. Comparable figures are not available for older ages.

Connexions data relate to young people known to the service; those who attended independent schools or were at school outside England are unlikely to be included. The age relates to those of calendar year age 16 to 18 on the date of measurement.

These figures cannot be compared with the national figures published by the Department and used to measure the NEET PSA. Along with not covering the entire population, the Connexions NEET measure excludes those on gap years, or in custody. The PSA measure is for academic rather than calendar age 16 to 18.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan: Drugs

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she is taking to eradicate the poppy crop in Afghanistan; and if she will make a statement. [142719]

Dr. Howells: The UK is spending £270 million over three years in support of the Afghan Government's national drug control strategy (NDCS), to bring about a sustainable reduction in the cultivation, production and trafficking of opium. This includes £130 million on efforts to provide alternative legal livelihoods, introducing new, innovative and sustainable ways for farmers to make a living. The NDCS is a well balanced strategy with four key priorities—targeting the trafficker; strengthening and diversifying legal rural livelihoods; reducing demand; and developing state institutions. As Afghanistan's partner nation on counter narcotics we are helping the Afghans sharpen the implementation of the NDCS and encourage international partners to provide continued support and resources.


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Burma: Human Rights

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government have taken to promote the passage of a resolution on Burma at the UN Human Rights Council in September. [142609]

Mr. McCartney: We have repeatedly raised our concerns about the serious human rights situation in Burma. We co-sponsored a UN Security Council Resolution on Burma in January. However the resolution was not adopted, as two permanent members of the Security Council—China and Russia—voted against, as did South Africa.

We agree that the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) should address the situation in Burma. On 13 March I raised the serious human rights situation in Burma in my address to the HRC in Geneva. The EU raised Burma at the HRC on 23 March, expressing concern about the situation and calling for the release of all political prisoners and an end to the systematic human rights abuses in Burma. The EU also took part in discussions with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma at the March session of the HRC.

We will continue to discuss with our EU partners about how to take the most effective action on Burma at the HRC.

Cambodia: Politics and Government

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support the (a) UK, (b) EU and (c) UN has pledged to aid the bringing to trial of those involved in the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia; and when she expects talks on procedural issues to be resolved. [143224]

Mr. McCartney: The UK is a strong supporter of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, established under an agreement between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the UN. The purpose of the Tribunal is to bring to trial those most responsible for serious violations of Cambodian and international law and custom during the period from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979.

The Tribunal is a hybrid model composed of national and international elements and costs are funded through voluntary contributions. To date, the UK has contributed £1.5 million. The UK is also active in meetings of interested states in New York and Phnom Penh. Other EU states (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Sweden) are also supporting the Tribunal and we encourage others to do so. The UN Office of Legal Affairs is closely involved in the management of the court.

A Plenary Session in Phnom Penh of national and international judicial officers unanimously adopted The Internal Rules of Procedure on 12 June, further paving the way for the process of holding fair and transparent trials.


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Chad: Overseas Aid

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what response the Government have made to France’s request for EU partners to send a force of 12,000 troops to Chad to provide aid for civilians seeking refuge from the Darfur conflict. [142555]

Mr. McCartney: We support renewed French efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in eastern Chad. The UK has long supported the proposal for a UN deployment to Chad, including through adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1706, and welcomes initial preparatory work in this direction by the UN Secretary-General. The UK is prepared to consider other proposals to move the situation forward, including the possibility of an EU role, although no formal request for such a role has yet been made and force numbers have not been discussed.

We remain very concerned about the humanitarian and security situation in eastern Chad. We are particularly concerned about: increasing levels of internal displacement due to inter-ethnic fighting and cross-border attacks from Darfur; the protection of refugees and internally displaced people; the security environment for humanitarian agency operations; and the fragility of the natural resource base to support displaced populations. We and our international partners continue to urge the Chadian government to accept a UN mission.

Chad: Peace Keeping Operations

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the UK has made (a) unilaterally and (b) multilaterally through the (i) UN and (ii) EU to encourage Chad to allow international peacekeeping troops to deploy along its common border with Sudan. [143229]

Mr. McCartney: Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and our high commission in Yaounde (which represents our interests in Chad) visit Chad regularly, most recently at the beginning of June, and raise the issue of UN deployment. A UK delegation, including the UK Ambassador-at-Large for the Sudanese Peace Process, visited N'Djamena in February. The delegation met the Chadian Foreign Minister and senior officials of the Government of Chad and took the opportunity to impress on them the need for Chad to accept a UN mission.

On 16 April my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary called for UN Security Council agreement to a UN peacekeeping operation in Chad, as called for under UN Security Council Resolution 1706. We are working with the UN and partners in the Security Council to seek to address any concerns raised by the Government of Chad about the possible deployment of a UN peacekeeping force, including by sending a UN team to visit Chad. The UK and EU partners have supported a UN mission to Chad in the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council conclusions, for example on 23 April, calling for its urgent deployment.


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China: International Relations

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions she has held with representatives of the Chinese Government on the situation in (a) Darfur and (b) Burma. [143231]

Mr. McCartney: We regularly discuss Darfur with the Chinese Government, including at the UN. We want China to use its influence with the Sudanese Government to ensure Khartoum supports the deployment of joint UN peacekeeping forces in Darfur, as well as committing to a ceasefire and renewed political process. We gave this message to the Chinese Government before President Hu’s visit to Africa earlier this year. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised Sudan with the Chinese Government during her trip there last month, as did my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister during his visit to China in April.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has had no discussions with the Chinese Government about Burma. However, she urged China, in a speech to the Central Party School, to use its influence to improve the situation in Burma when she visited Beijing on 17 May. I discussed the human rights situation in Burma with the Chinese Government on 20 June 2006 and again during my visit to Beijing in July 2006.


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