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Ministers: Official Residences

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether Chequers was included in official residences under (a) section 4.2 of the July 2005 Ministerial Code and (b) section 6.2 of the July 2007 Ministerial Code; which senior ministers were referred to in section 4.2 of the July 2005 Ministerial Code; and which official residences (i) senior ministers are required to live in for the purposes of the job, (ii) senior ministers are not required to live in for the purposes of the job and (iii) are not occupied by senior ministers. [189462]

Mr. Watson: Official residences are assigned to Ministers by the Prime Minister either on grounds of security or in order to allow them to perform better their official duties. Rules on the use of official residences are set out in the Ministerial Code. Official residences available to Ministers are

Chequers, Dorneywood and Chevening, none of which is owned by the Government, are also used by Ministers. The Government House in Pimlico is no longer required and is in the process of being sold.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what the measure of inflation is by which the cost of official ministerial residences for which other departments are billed by the Cabinet Office is adjusted each year. [189534]

Mr. Watson: Occupying Departments are charged on the basis of actual costs. The elements of the charges which are subject to indexation are those relating to facilities management, which are increased on the basis of the average earnings index and the retail prices index.

Warwick Task Force Group Compact

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) who are the members of the Warwick Task Force Group Compact; what its remit is; and how many times it has met; [179758]

(2) whether an official group within the Government has been established to take forward the implementation of the Warwick Agreement. [179638]

Mr. Watson [holding answer 17 January 2008]: The Public Services Forum Task Group was established to take forward the Government’s 2005 manifesto commitment to develop a compact with contractors and trade unions to ensure that employees working on Government contracts have access to skills, trade unions and advice should they wish. The group is attended by representatives from relevant departments, trade unions, business and the third sector.

The group has met six times.


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Written Questions: Government Responses

Lynne Jones: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he will answer question 178800, tabled on 25 January 2008, on the Iraq draft dossier. [189406]

Mr. Watson: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 29 February 2008, Official Report, column 2025W.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

Aimhigher Initiative: Standards

Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what assessment he has made of the performance of the Aimhigher Initiative in encouraging more pupils from deprived backgrounds to submit a UCAS application. [186615]

Bill Rammell: The Aimhigher programme is a major initiative designed to widen participation in higher education (HE), and increase opportunities for people from under-represented groups to attend higher education institutions and courses where competition for places is fiercest and which offer the highest financial rates of return.

There have been various evaluations of the programme which show that it has had a positive impact on participants' attainment and their attitudes towards HE. In the programme's early years (2001 to 2002) when it was known as Aimhigher: Excellence Challenge (AH: EC), before it became a national programme, research showed that being part of AH: EC

Research conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) showed that over 70 per cent. of universities responding to its survey said that Aimhigher added value to their widening participation policies and activities, that Aimhigher has provided a positive and welcome boost to their own efforts to widen participation in HE, and that this has translated into increased applications.

Given the long-term nature of widening participation in HE, and the complex interplay of factors that affect participation patterns, it is not possible to determine conclusively the effect that Aimhigher has had on applications made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). But we do know that Aimhigher makes a difference, because those who deliver and participate in it tell us so. And they can point at facts that support their case—for example, in the West Midlands over the last five years, the more disadvantaged communities have produced the largest increases in applications and acceptances. Those are the areas where Aimhigher
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operates most intensively. And we know that in England, since the introduction of Aimhigher, there has been a steady increase in the number and proportion of entrants to HE who come from lower social class backgrounds. This is reflected in the most recent UCAS application data for 2008 entry. In England, the proportion of applicants at age 18 coming from lower social class backgrounds is up from 28.2 per cent. in 2007 to 28.9 per cent. this year.

Widening participation requires long-term address and we have announced the continuation of Aimhigher until 2011. We will continue to work with HEFCE to commission a national study to report before the end of 2011 on outcomes across the whole programme since 2004, when the unified, national Aimhigher was introduced. And at local level, Aimhigher Partnerships will determine the extent to which the Aimhigher programme has raised HE awareness, aspirations and attainment among participants and in participating institutions.

Apprentices: Olympic Games 2012

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many apprentices are working on London 2012 projects. [190264]

Mr. Lammy: “World-class Apprenticeships” announced the formation of a London Task Force, which I will chair, to overcome barriers to the growth of apprenticeships in London. The review also said that the Government would be strongly encouraging the companies with which they contract, including those involved in large strategic projects such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games, to employ apprentices on these projects.

There are, at present, 62 apprentices on-site at the Olympic Park. The Olympic Development Authority (ODA) is committed to get at least 2,000 people in apprenticeships and work placements (up to 2012) at the Olympic Park and other venues that the ODA is working on or building.

There are a number of projects funded by the London Region Learning and Skills Council that are supporting apprenticeships in areas that will contribute to the success of the Olympics:

The new National Apprenticeship Service, particularly the new matching service, will have a key focus on the 2012 Olympics. We expect that apprenticeship opportunities linked to the Olympics will increase as time progresses.


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Apprentices: Standards

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many of those providing apprenticeship training courses have had their contracts terminated as a result of poor performance since 2001. [190176]

Mr. Lammy: The practice of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is to contract for apprenticeship places on an annual basis. In the case of a poorly performing contractor, the LSC works in-year to seek to raise performance, which includes agreeing specific improvement actions, rather than moving immediately to terminate a whole contract or the part of the contract that is considered substandard. To do otherwise could put at risk the opportunities of the apprentices concerned. Past performance is a key criterion in the allocation of annual contracts, and the trend over successive years has been for fewer companies to receive LSC contracts for apprenticeship places. Some of this pattern can be accounted for by mergers or acquisitions in the supplier market, but these can be linked to performance issues.

Data setting out the number of companies with which the LSC contracted in each of the years 2001/02 onwards is in the table. It should be noted that one company may hold more than one contract because the LSC contracts by apprenticeship framework.

Number

2001/02

1,761

2002/03

1,084

2003/04

1,005

2004/05

973

2005/06

917


Astronomy Centre

Nigel Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (1) what steps he is taking to ensure the future of the Institute for Astronomy on the Blackford Hill site in Edinburgh; [177874]

(2) what the proposed change in Science and Technology Facilities Council for funding the Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC), Edinburgh is in (a) percentage and (b) cash terms; and what assessment he has made of the likely effect of that change on the ATC's work; [177873]

(3) what staff changes are being considered by the Science and Technology Facilities Council for (a) Daresbury, (b) the Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh and (c) the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. [177872]

Ian Pearson: The UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC), which is owned by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), is a world leader in the design and construction of instruments for many of the world's major telescopes. However, the STFC's demand for its services has declined since the UK joined the European Southern Observatory in 2002.


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The STFC is looking at the future of the Astronomy Technology Centre in relation to the potential demand for its services and the council's science budget allocation. The STFC is exploring the possibility of a partnership that makes use of the unique skills in the ATC and applies them to a wider portfolio, and it will seek to work with the local universities and local funding agencies in taking that forward. It is too early to say what the outcome of these discussions will be.

STFC issued a notice on 2 January calling for voluntary redundancies across all its activities. In line with previous announcements, the SRS (Synchrotron Radiation Source) at Daresbury will close on 31 December 2008, but the STFC has not taken a decision on whether any compulsory redundancies (other than those relating to SRS) will be needed.

Catering

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how much his Department has spent on refreshments for meetings since its establishment; and at what cost per meeting. [171871]

Mr. Lammy: The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills was created as a result of Machinery of Government changes in June 2007. Information on refreshments is not held centrally and therefore this information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Council of Ministers

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what A List items were agreed to by his Department in the EU Council of Ministers in 2007. [180168]

Mr. Lammy: Ministers from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and from the former Department for Education and Skills, together with Ministers from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, agreed the following A items at EU Council meetings.

Education, Youth and Culture Council 15-16 November 2007:


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Education, Youth and Culture Council 24 May 2007:


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