Mr. Tom Harris: The Department has been involved in some initial procurement work, and has spent £226,000 on consultants. This is to assess the business case and technical specifications, to ensure they represent best value to the taxpayer.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 29 November 2007, Official Report, column 605W, on South West Trains: rolling stock, what assessment she has made of the difference in seated passenger comfort between the Desiro Class 450 units and the previous stock on the mainline journeys between Portsmouth and London; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Tom Harris: Stagecoach South Western Trains (SSWT) have carried out an ergonomic study on the Class 450s compared with previous rolling stock. The findings of this report have been independently reviewed by Passenger Focus, the passenger representation body and have been made public by SSWT on their website.
Derek Conway: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what procedures her Department followed in making the recent franchise agreement with Southeastern Railway Company; and what assessment was made of the likely effect on fares for travellers from Sidcup and Albany Park stations before agreeing the franchise. 
Mr. Tom Harris: In competing and awarding rail franchises, the Department's procedures comply with relevant procurement legislation and Office of Government Commerce guidelines. Evaluations of bids include checking compliance with the Department's fares policy. Such an assessment would not have been made at the level of detail to determine the impact on travellers from Sidcup and Albany Park stations.
The Southeastern franchise is limited to an average annual increase in regulated fares (including those for season tickets, full fare singles and returns) of RPI +3 per cent. for five years from 2007 reflecting the very significant investment in the franchise in recent years including more than £600 million in new rolling stock (some 408 new carriages) and £93 million in power supply, stations, depots and infrastructure.
A new zonal fares structure introduced Oyster Pay-As-You-Go smart ticketing on Southeastern in 2007 and will enable the introduction across national rail in London from 2009. It simplifies the current complex system of individually priced station-to-station fares.
Derek Conway: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment she has made of the potential benefits to travellers from Sidcup and Albany Park stations of the formation of a stakeholder advisory board by the Southeastern Railway Company as part of the franchise agreement conducted by her Department. 
Our review of the bid concluded that this proposal offered sufficient passenger benefit that it was included as a requirement of the franchise agreement. This was completed by April 2007. No specific assessment was made of the likely effect on a stakeholder advisory board on travellers from Sidcup and Albany Park stations.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Part IV, covering sections 19 to 31 of the Act was repealed by the Road Traffic (Consequential Provisions) Act 1988. The Road Traffic Act 1988, or other legislation as appropriate, will contain any successor provisions. The Department will hold files on the range of topics mentioned in Part IV. If the hon. Member has a particular interest he should write with specific details and, within reason, the Department will seek to provide an informative response.
Budget 2007 announced that the Chancellor commissioned Professor Julia King to conduct a review into the fuels and technologies which over the next 25 years could de-carbonise transport. I refer the hon. Member to the terms of reference published by the review on 11 June 2007.
Mr. Tom Harris: Negotiations continue with Network Rail, Virgin Trains and Alstom to determine the optimal way of increasing capacity on the West Coast Main Line. I hope to be in a position to make a further announcement in the new year.
Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much has been spent by the Government (a) through the EU and (b) on a bilateral basis in Bosnia-Herzegovina since the Dayton Peace Accords in November 1995. 
Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 3 December 2007]: The inputted UK share of official development assistance (ODA) to Bosnia and Herzegovina through the EC, between 1995 and 2005, was £186 million. The total ODA through the EC was £1.06 billion. Other significant donors were Germany (approximately £220 million), France (approximately £174 million) and Italy (approximately £144 million).
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) whether his Department plans to make provision for visa applicants to apply online from British visa offices in those countries from which applications must now be made online; 
Dr. Howells: UKvisas has not decided to prioritise certain nationals over others as a matter of policy. The on-line application facility was initially made available in North America and Europe where internet penetration is high and the technical obstacles to implementation were more easily addressed. The gradual roll-out to other countries is linked to the roll-out of the biometric visa programme.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the recent arrest in Slovakia of persons seeking to sell radioactive material to make a dirty bomb; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: We have received reports that on 28 November two Hungarian nationals and one Ukrainian national were arrested trying to sell Uranium near the Slovak-Hungarian border. The matter is still under investigation.
Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what discussions he has had with (a) the Department of Health and (b) Department for Communities and Local Government on the health and social effects on older people of continued participation in learning. 
Bill Rammell [holding answer 26 November 2007]: We recognise the many wider benefits of participation in learning and its vital contribution to personal health and wellbeing, community involvement and quality of life as people age. Learning helps older people to fulfil themselves as active citizens and as members of their families and communities. People who keep mentally and physically active not only live longer but live happier and more fulfilled lives and pursuing learning can play a real part in this. We remain committed to ensuring the continuing availability of a wide range of suitable learning opportunities in every area for adult learners, including older people, and have safeguarded funding for learning for personal and community development at £210 million through to 2010-11.
We continue to work closely with ministerial colleagues in the context of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Ageing Policy (DA(AP)), to take forward the Government's opportunity age strategy, to ensure that longer life is healthy and fulfilling and that older people can participate fully in society. Colleagues at the Department for Work and Pensions lead on Opportunity Age and we are working with them to deliver the opportunities for older people proposed in World Class Skills and in the Green Paper: In Work, Better Off, both published in July this year.
My officials are also working closely with their counterparts in Department of Health and Department for Communities and Local Government on the Opportunity Age Strategy Partnership Group, as well as its Sub-Group on Education and Training, and on the Task Group we have established to steer our reforms in Personal and Community Development Learning.
I know that there are concerns about the impact of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 on fee concessions for older learners and I must make clear that the regulations do not bar providers from offering fee discounts for learners aged 65 and over. They allow for such positive action provided that it can be objectively justified. I refer my hon. Friend to my written statement on 16 May 2007, Official Report, column 35WS.
Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (1) how many apprenticeships were (a) started and (b) completed in the London borough of Bexley in each of the last five years; 
Figures for those participating in apprenticeships can be derived from the Learning and Skills Councils (LSC) Individualised Learner Record (ILR). The table shows the number of apprenticeship starts, achievements and success rates (the proportion
of those who complete apprenticeships in each year and achieve the full apprenticeship framework) from August-July in each year in East London local LSC area.
(Achievements and success rates for 2002/03 and figures at local authority level are not readily available.) The number of learners who started an apprenticeship and the number of achievements and success rates in each year are mutually exclusive.
|Success rates ( percentage )
|Advanced apprenticeships( 1)
|Advanced apprenticeships( 1)
|Advanced apprenticeships( 1)
|(1) Figures for 2002/03 and 2003/04 are for Advanced Modern Apprenticeships and Foundation Modern Apprenticeships.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what the office costs for his Department's special advisers for 2007-08 are expected to be, including costs of support staff; and how many full-time equivalent civil servants work in support of such special advisers. 
Mr. Boris Johnson: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many (a) foundation degrees and (b) apprenticeships were offered in subjects related to (i) construction and (ii) engineering by each institution in London in each of the last five years. 
Bill Rammell: The information requested is shown in the following tables. For (a), the latest available information for Foundation Degree provision is shown in Table 1. Figures are not available for the years prior to 2004/05. The list for 2007-08 is provisional since the exercise of collating courses from all institutions is not yet completed. There are also some courses which are currently in development and these are listed separately.
For (b) the figures for those participating in apprenticeships can be derived from the Learning and Skills Councils (LSC) Individualised Learner Record (ILR). Table 2 shows the number of apprenticeship starts in subjects related to construction and engineering from August-July in each year in the Greater London Region. Figures are shown for the last four years. Figures at institution level and figures for 2002/03 by Region are not readily available.