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Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what representations he has received proposing changes to the method of calculating interest on student loans since June 2007. 
Bill Rammell: During the third reading of the Sale of Student Loans Bill on 23 January representations were made by my hon. Friends the Members for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson) and for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) who suggested that the consumer prices index (CPI) should be used in place of the retail prices index (RPI) when determining the rate of interest on student loans.
My hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) has also made representations on this matter in early-day motion 263 which suggests changes to the method of calculating interest on student loans.
In addition the Department has received some 206 written representations since June 2007 about the student loan interest rate. We are not able to say how many of those proposed changes to the method of calculating interest.
We do not believe that it is necessary to change the way interest is calculated. Student loans are not like commercial loans. The Government make no profit but subsidise the interest rate and absorb other associated costs. Interest is charged using a widely recognised measure of inflation, so students only pay back in real terms the amount they originally borrowed. This is achieved by linking the interest rate for student loans to the annual rate of inflation as defined by the RPI. The interest rate is recalculated each year at the beginning of September using the RPI figure from the previous March. This is the methodology that has always been used. Over time it ensures the student loan interest rate will be equivalent to the rate of inflation but with a time lag.
For the vast majority of student loan borrowers, who have income contingent loans, any increase in interest rate will not affect borrowers' ability to pay, or the amount that they are liable to pay each month. Repayments are linked to the ability to pay and this amounts to 9 per cent. of earnings above £15,000.
To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what assessment he has made of the effect on the pharmacy profession of his Department's proposal to withdraw funding for the
teaching of students studying for qualifications deemed to be of an equivalent or lower level to those they have already received; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: The vast majority of pharmacy students already study the subject as a first degree rather than as an equivalent or lower level qualification. The redistribution of £100 million by 2010 would enable the same number of pharmacy students to be funded as now but with even more studying the subject as a first degree. In that way we will increase and widen participation which is our top priority. We also value those who have already got a first HE qualification and who want to retrain in a different subject. There will be opportunities for them available, for example, through Foundation Degrees and employer co-funded provision.
In addition, there will be a review mechanism each year to look at individual subjects of particular economic or social importance. We are asking the Funding Council each year to look at levels of demand for subjects which might in future be regarded as key because of their economic or social significance, and to advise us on the best way forward. The first such review should take place starting in December 2008, in the light of entry data for the 2008-09 academic year. That would be an opportunity to have another look at pharmacy and other subjects in the light of the data that will then be available.
Mr. Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many employers in the North West signed up to the Skills Pledge, in each year, broken down by (a) sector and (b) size of employer. 
Mr. Lammy: As at December 2007, the available information indicated that there were 39 employers in the North West who had made their commitment to the Skills Pledge, since it was launched in June 2007. 21 of the 39 employers in the North West had fewer than 250 employees with the remaining 18 having between 250 and less than 5,000. A breakdown by sectors is not currently available.
Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many defendants on bail between pleading guilty or being found guilty and sentence subsequently failed to attend court for sentencing in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. 
The information sought was not centrally recorded prior to the introduction of a new IT system in October 2006. Consequently, it is not possible to provide the requested information prior to this without incurring disproportionate cost.
The following table details, for Crown court cases dealt with in Northern Ireland between October 2006 and September 2007, the number of defendants on bail between pleading guilty or being found guilty and being sentenced who had a least one bench warrant issued against them. All have since been sentenced.
|Crown court cases dealt with 1 October 2006 to 30 September 2007|
Maria Eagle: The requested figures are in the following table. The latest period for which the statistics are available is the year to September 2006 and so pre-date the creation of the Ministry of Justice.
|Ministry of Justice agencies staff under 18 years old, as at 30 September 2006|
|Headcount as at 30 September 2006||Full-time equivalent as at 30 September 2006|
|(1) Source: Former Department for Constitutional Affairs Central HR Information System.|
(2) Source: Annual Civil Service Employment Survey.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) pursuant to the answer of 5 February 2008, Official Report, column 1110W, on departmental marketing, how much his Department has spent on (a) corporate display materials, (b) publications, (c) public information booklets, (d) building signage, (e) hard stationery and (f) lanyards since its establishment; 
Maria Eagle: Since the Ministry of Justice was established on 9 May 2007, my Departments HQ costs for the items listed in the question, incorporating the Ministry of Justice branding, have been as follows:
Some of the agencies have been in existence for less than the five years specified and therefore, where possible, we have provided the data available to us. Details of spending which the agencies provided are given as follows (figures rounded to the nearest 1,000):
|(1) HMCS created on 1 April 2005.|
(2) OPG created on 1 October 2007.
(3) NOMS created in May 2004.
(4) Figures not available for these years.
(5) The Tribunals Service created on 1 April 2006.
(6) OCJR figure covers public information booklets and publications only.
Bridget Prentice: The Government have made no estimate of the number of people not registered to vote in each London borough. However, the Electoral Commission undertook a pilot research study in 2007 to examine possible methods for measuring the accuracy and completeness of the electoral register in Greater London.
I understand from the Electoral Commission that the methodologies used in the London pilot were shown to be unsuitable for drawing firm conclusions about the integrity of electoral registers. This was particularly the case for borough by borough analysis, due to small sample sizes. The pilot study brought to light some key registration trends in Greater London; in particular, it estimated that 80 per cent. of those who were eligible, were registered. Due to small sample base
sizes at the borough level, the data is not sufficiently robust at local authority level to provide reliable estimates.
Recent changes brought about by the Electoral Administration Act 2006 have placed a greater emphasis on getting eligible electors registered. During the annual canvass, Electoral Registration Officers are required to take all necessary steps to ensure that electors are encouraged to register, which include sending the canvass form more than once, making house to house enquiries and inspecting other records that they are permitted to inspect.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 6 February 2008, Official Report, column 1188W, on Firearms Act 1968: convictions, what proportion of those convicted over the age of 18 years received custodial sentences. 
Maria Eagle: The information requested on persons aged 18 and over found guilty and sentenced to immediate custody for offences under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 is provided in the following table.
|Number of defendants proceeded against at magistrates courts and found guilty at all courts for offences under Section 5 of the 1968 Firearms Act, broken down by police force area and age group, England and Wales, 2006( 1,2,3)|
|Found guilty||Number and percentage of those aged 18 and over sentenced to immediate custody|
|Police force area||Proceeded against||All ages||Aged 18 and over||Number||Percentage|
|(1) These data are on the principal offence basis.|
(2) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.
(3) The found guilty column may exceed those proceeded against, as it may be the case that the proceedings in the magistrates court took place in the preceding year and they were found guilty at the Crown Court in the following year, or the defendants was found guilty for a different offence to the original offence proceeded against.
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