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Mr. McFadden [holding answer 21 July 2008]: Encouraging business growth is a key aim of the Department, and Enterprise: Unlocking the UK's Talent (available at http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file44992.pdf), published in March 2008, announced a number of new measures designed to support business growth. For example the Government are:
encouraging women's enterprise, an area where the UK is lagging behind major competitors, through initiatives such as women's business centre pilots;
improving access to finance to support business growth such as extending eligibility to the Small Firms Loan Guarantee;
encouraging innovation, a key driver of growth, through initiatives such as the launch of innovation vouchers.
Although the global outlook is uncertain, through maintaining a stable macroeconomic environment, the Government have created an environment conducive to businesses growth, and contributed to a thriving business sector:
The UK has a record number of businesses4.7 million at the start of 2007around 970,000 (26 per cent.) more than in 1997;
Private sector employment has risen by 1.7 million (8 per cent.) since 1997;
Business survival rates are higher than a decade ago92 per cent. of VAT registered firms still registered after one year; 71 per cent. after three years.
The UK is the only G7 economy to have avoided any quarters of contraction in output since 2001, in spite of slow growth in key export markets in the recent past; and over the past 10 years the UK has enjoyed more stability in terms of GDP growth and inflation than in any decade since the war.
Mr. Hunt: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether the Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting has been assigned an office in his Department. 
Chris Bryant: Under the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978, House staff are employed by the House of Commons Commission. The Act requires the Commission to keep staff conditions of service broadly in the line with those in the Home Civil Service. This requirement applies to redundancy arrangements. The Members Estimate Committee report, Review of Allowances (HC578), considered the central employment of Members staff by the House but rejected this in favour of Members themselves remaining the employer.
Members staff are employed by Members, under standard contracts prepared by the Department of Resources. The contract requires the Member to review annually his or her employees salary. Members can then decide whether an increase is appropriate, which could depend on factors such as staff performance and budget constraints. Automatic pay rises would restrict Members ability to match the needs of their office to the resources available.
Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much was spent on salaries for press and communications officers in (a) his Department, (b) its NDPBs and (c) its agencies in each of the last three years. 
Ann McKechin: The figures are as follows and include ERNIC etc; the Office had a reduced number of press officers for part of 2006-07 and assistance was provided by staff of the Government News Network.
Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many and what proportion of staff in his Department are disabled; and what the average salary in his Department is of (a) full-time disabled staff, (b) full-time non-disabled staff, (c) part-time disabled staff and (d) part-time non-disabled staff. 
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: Consultation is the first part of the five stage statutory process for proposed changes to school provision, including closures. The later stages are publication of proposals; a period for representations; decision and implementation, if approved.
Proposals are decided under local decision making arrangements. Ministers have no direct role in the process. However, proposers are required to consult with interested parties and take into account their views when reaching a decision on whether to progress with proposals.
Ed Balls: Secondary schools standards have risen substantially over the past decade with the number of schools not reaching our basic benchmark of 30 per cent. Five A*-C GCSEs including English and Maths down from over 1,600 in 1997 to a provisional 475 in 2008.
Our National Challenge programme will ensure that by 2011 every school will have at least 30 per cent. of its pupils over the basic benchmark and today I have written to all National Challenge heads updating them on our progress with our plans.
10. James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment he has made of the prospects for the academies programme over the next three years; and if he will make a statement. 
Jim Knight: The prospects for the academies programme are secure. In addition to the 130 academies now open, four are projected to open in January 2009, 80 in September 2009 and a further 100 in 2010. The Government are committed to establishing at least 400 academies nationwide.
Ed Balls: 106 schools have already become trust schools, the large majority of them in collaborative trusts with other schools. And last month I announced that a further 65 schools have successfully applied to enter the trust schools programme. This brings the total number of schools seeking to apply trust status to 378, including three national challenge trusts. I expect a further round of application from schools at the end of November 2008.
Beverley Hughes: We exceeded the 2008 target, with over 2,900 childrens centres offering services to almost 2.3 million children under five and their families. By 2010 there will be a centre for every community. The most recent wave of the National Evaluation of Sure Start found that Sure Start Local Programmes have had a positive impact on a number of outcomes. The report showed a marked improvement on the findings of the earlier study published in 2005.
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: For the strategic centrally managed BSF programme the average capital cost of a new secondary school was £26 million. This average does however mask big variations across projects owing to the size and type of school, local cost pressures, site constraints and other abnormal factors.
The Department does not hold capital cost information on new primary and secondary schools delivered by local authorities through their devolved capital programmes, nor on authorities revenue expenditure on establishing new schools.
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