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Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what options, other than reducing funding on students studying for an equivalent or lower qualification, were presented by the Higher Education Funding Council for England as alternative ways to raise funding for new higher education priorities. 
Bill Rammell: The Government considered a number of policy options in the course of the comprehensive spending review, as would be expected. We decided to alter the rules for the payment of teaching grant to give a greater priority to first-time students in higher education because this is intrinsically a fairer way to spend public money, and because doing so is consistent with our ambitions for higher level skills and increased access to higher education. Other ways of releasing more funding to support new students would have been providing less money for student support; reducing the unit of funding for teaching; or cutting back, on funding for research.
Mr. Walter: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what assessment his Department made of the accuracy of the statement by the Chief Scientific Adviser broadcast on 27 November 2007 that the push-pull system of maize production in Africa involved genetically modified crops; what steps his Department took to correct the elements of the statement which have been demonstrated to be inaccurate; and if he will make a statement. 
[holding answer 16 July 2008]: In the Daily Mail on 18 December 2007, the then Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King was reported as acknowledging that he had made an honest mistake about the push-pull system of maize production. The technique, which has been developed by Rothamsted Research and local research institutes in Africa, does not currently involve genetic modification of the crops. Under the technique, repellent crops are planted between
the rows of maize to drive the stemborer pests away from the maize (push) in combination with plants around the field that attract stemborers away from the maize (pull). Rothamsted Research reports that trials in Kenya and Uganda have helped participating farmers increase their maize yields by 20 to 50 per cent.
One of the push plants also controls a parasitic plant, the African witchweed, that otherwise causes even greater crop losses. The genetic basis of the mechanism is being studied by Rothamsted Research and its African collaborators under new funding from the Department for International Development and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
Ian Pearson: A biennial study of the UK space industry is undertaken by the British National Space Centre. The nearest available figures for the total turnover of the UK space industry are £3 billion and £4.8 billion for 1999-2000 and 2004-05 respectively.
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what proportion of the global market for space products and satellite-enabled services he estimates will be provided by UK enterprises by 2015. 
Ian Pearson: No estimate of the proportion of the global space market that will be provided by UK enterprises by 2015 has been made. The British National Space Centre (BNSC) undertakes a biennial survey of the UK space industry and the latest published results, which are for 2004-05, indicate that the UK share of the global market at that time was 7 per cent. The UK Civil Space Strategy 2008-12 published earlier this year contains an objective to grow the UK share by 2015. This is a challenging objective as the market itself is growing at between 12 and 15 per cent. per year.
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the British National Space Centre's UK Civil Space Strategy in encouraging exports of British technology and high value-added services. 
A biennial study of the UK space industry is undertaken by the British National Space Centre (BNSC). The latest information available is for the year 2004-05 and shows sales outside the UK at £1.28 billion. BNSC works with industry and UKTI through its
Trade Promotion and International Collaboration advisory group to provide effective support to industry in export markets.
Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how much was repaid to graduates who (a) were paying off their loans and (b) had paid off their loans as a result of overpayments to the student loans company in each year since 2001. 
Table B shows that the number of borrowers making over-repayments from 2001-02 to 2006-07 amounted to 3 per cent. of all borrowers making repayments over this period. The table also shows the amount refunded to borrowers who over-repaid over the same period amounted to just 1 per cent. of the total amounts repaid by all student loan borrowers.
There are a variety of circumstances why borrowers overpay but this mainly occurs when loans come to the end of repayment. Over-repayments from mortgage style borrowers will only arise once their loan has been cleared where the borrower has failed to cancel repayment arrangements with their bank.
For student loan borrowers with income contingent repayment loans, repayments are predominantly made through the tax system. Due to the time lag in the Student Loans Company (SLC) receiving information from HM Revenue and Customs it is possible for borrowers to over-repay before the SLC becomes aware that their repayments should stop.
Where the pattern of payments shows that repayment will be completed during the coming year, the SLC invites borrowers to get in touch to discuss when repayments should stop. Borrowers are then able to make manual repayments. If they do not respond promptly to the SLC, or ignore the invitation, they will probably overpay.
From June this year the SLC is introducing a new website facility specifically for repaying customers. This will give borrowers the ability to view their most current statement and it will also give them the chance to calculate their balance based on what they can see in their payslips.
The SLC is working on further improving the loan end process and has been asked to put in place arrangements which will reduce the number of borrowers over-repaying at the end of repayment. Those arrangements, which are likely to be voluntary, are expected to be in place towards the end of next year.
|Table A: Number of student loan borrowers who have received refunds due to making over-repayments|
|(a) Borrowers paying off their loan||(b) Borrowers who have paid off their loan|
|Financial year||Number overpaying||Amount repaid (£)||Number overpaying||Amount repaid (£)||Total number of borrowers receiving refunds for overpayments||Total refund amounts (£)|
| Notes: 1. Includes all customers (income contingent and mortgage style) who have passed their Statutory Repayment Due Date (SRDD) irrespective of their current status. 2. English domiciled customers only. Source: Student Loans Company|
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