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Mr. Simon [holding answer 9 October 2008]: World-class Apprenticeships confirmed our commitment to making apprenticeships a top-quality option for both young people and adults and set out steps to increase the numbers of people undertaking adult apprenticeships. In the summer we published a Draft Apprenticeships Bill to underpin and help sustain the improvements in the quality of the programme. Through this proposed legislation we aim to ensure that apprenticeships are a badge of quality skills for young people, for adults and for employers. The legislation will also drive forward the provision of sufficient apprenticeship places to meet the entitlement for our young people to have an offer of an apprenticeship place by 2013. Last year we abolished the upper age limit for apprenticeships and we are increasing Apprenticeships funding to over £1 billion between 2007-08 and 2010-11. Expanding apprenticeships will play a key role in improving the nation's skills base and we plan to deliver over 250,000 apprenticeship starts and 190,000 successful completions by 2020.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps the Government have taken to reduce the burden of administration within the apprenticeship scheme. 
Mr. Simon: On 7 August this year my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills announced Government proposals to cut red tape concerning Apprenticeships in response to employers concerns. We will remove unnecessary bureaucracy such as demands to store paperwork for up to six years; multiple inspection visits; and minimise reporting requirements at the earliest possible opportunity. In line with the successful actions of some of Britains leading employers, we will introduce improvements including more efficient use of electronic audit and storage, simpler and faster registration and certification processes, and more streamlined payment and reporting systems. These practical measures will enable more employers to meet their present and future skills needs, unimpeded by time-consuming and costly administration.
We are also working with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, who recently surveyed SMEs to establish how the new National Apprenticeship Service can better meet the needs of employers. The
survey focused on, although was not limited to, reducing the administrative burden on business. Together we will consider how best to incorporate the recommendations coming out of the survey.
Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills if he will provide funding for adult learning support at Chelmsford college for 2008-09 to make up for the shortfall contingent on the changes made to the funding formula. 
Mr. Simon: The level of additional learning support (ALS) based on the new funding methodology was finalised through the negotiation and allocation process between the Learning and Skills Council and Chelmsford college as part of wider discussions on overall funding allocations for the college. This resulted in the final funding allocation being agreed for 2008/09. ALS is part of the overall funding allocation for Chelmsford college. The overall funding allocation for the college (including ALS) is £9.7 million in 2008/09 (an increase of 3.7 per cent. compared to 2007/08).
Changes to the way ALS was calculated for 2008/09 were made following consultation across the full range of FE colleges and providers. These changes were introduced to ensure that the funding was better focused on need rather than purely on an historical basis.
We recognise that with any change to funding approach there is a period of transition and to allow for this and to minimise the impact on colleges budgets only 60 per cent. of ALS has been distributed using the formula approach in 2008/09. The remaining 40 per cent. has been allocated on the basis of the historical proportion of the budget.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills which UK companies are involved in the European High Power Laser Energy Research facility; and what financial and other assistance his Department is providing to those companies. 
Mr. Simon: The first phase of the High Power Laser Energy Research facility project (HiPER) was launched in London on 6 October 2008. This event marked the formal start of a three-year preparatory phase that is jointly funded by the European Commission, the UK (through the Science and Technology Facilities Council), and various European partners. A number of UK companies attended the event.
The purpose of the preparatory phase is to establish the technical, legal, financial, industrial and strategic development path for this large scale scientific facility. During this phase the project will develop relationships with potential industrial suppliers, particularly in lasers and optics, over the next three years. There is no substantial procurement in this first phase.
Mr. Frank Field:
To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what fees were charged by colleges for A-level courses to students in
each of the last three years, broken down by college; and what fees are proposed for (a) 2008-09 and (b) 2009-10 in each case. 
Mr. Simon: The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) use a national funding system in which national rates determine the amount of public funding payable for courses funded through the 16-18, adult learner and employer responsive funding models. The actual funding a college or provider receives for a particular course is based on the number of hours required to complete the course.
Learners aged 16-18 at the start of their programme will be entitled to full fee remission and therefore will not be charged fees. Adult learners (aged 19 or over) in receipt of income-related benefits will be eligible for full fee remission. Those who are not eligible for fee remission will be expected to contribute towards the cost of the course in line with the national fee assumption. For the 2008/09 academic year the national fee assumption is 42.5 per cent. of the national funding rate, increasing to 47.5 per cent. in 2009/10.
While a college or provider receives the national fee assumption affecting the level of public funding, it is for colleges and providers to determine the actual fee charged. It is therefore not possible to provide a breakdown of the fees charged to adult learners doing A-levels either at national level or by college.
David Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills if he will recommend that the Learning and Skills Council establish a source of ring-fenced funding for the training of public service interpreters; and if he will make a statement. 
Government funding through the LSC is focused on supporting adults and young people to gain the skills they need for sustainable employment and progression in learning. Investment is prioritised on basic literacy and numeracy, full level 2 and full level 3 qualifications as well as a range of first steps provision offering opportunities for progression below level 2. The LSC also funds some provision at level 4 and above, for example the Diploma in Public Service Interpreters. For courses at this level, where the learner/employer sees the greatest private returns, they are expected to make a contribution towards the cost of the course.
In line with our response to the Leitch Review of Skills we are committed to increasing funding through demand-led routes to ensure that funding is responsive to learner and employer needs. We would therefore not seek to ring-fence funding for a specific course as this would run counter to this aim.
Mr. Simon: Trade unions have a key role to play in promoting the development of learning and skills in the workplace. To help them do this more effectively we introduced the union learning fund in 1998. This source of funding is helping trade unions use their influence with employers, employees and training providers to encourage greater take-up of learning at work and boost their own capacity as learning organisations. The level of funding in each of the last three financial years has been as follows:
With the help of the union learning fund, trade unions and their union learning representatives have been able to develop successful partnerships with employers to raise skill levels in the workplace. There are now over 20,500 trained union learning reps who have helped over 600,000 workers back into learning since the fund was introduced. Over 200,000 were helped last year, many from those hard to reach groups, who employers and training providers find it so difficult to engage with, including over 34,000 workers with poor basic literacy and numeracy skills.
Union learning representatives and other trade union representatives and officers can also access LSC funded training, delivered through a network of approved colleges, to help them carry out their duties more effectively. There is no separate budget allocated for this type of training.
Mr. Simon: The Department welcomed VQ Day as the first national day to celebrate the achievement of those who gain vocational qualifications, and to recognise the contribution made by all those working in colleges and other training organisations who teach and support learners during their courses. Minister of State Bill Rammell attended the launch of VQ Day at the House of Commons, and Secretary of State John Denham attended the national celebration event on VQ Day itself at the Royal Opera House, where he was pleased to give a short speech and meet learners.
Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what alternatives to a custodial sentence upon conviction there are for those offenders who have been diagnosed with severe mental health problems. 
Mr. Hanson: Sentencing is a matter for the courts in the light of the offence, any medical evidence, the history of offending and the implications of a particular disposal for the offender's future management.
People who, on conviction, meet criteria for detention under section of the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) may be given a hospital order under section 37 of the Act, or hospital and limitation directions under section 45A, detaining them in hospital for treatment in the setting that most appropriately balances treatment needs, security and public protection. It is also possible for courts to order offenders who meet certain criteria to be made subject to guardianship under the MHA.
The Government have asked Lord Bradley to consider the diversion of offenders with mental health problems and learning disabilities away from prison and we look forward to considering his report which we expect will be available at the end of the year.
Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many and what proportion of written questions for answer on a named day his Department has answered on the due date in the current Session of Parliament to date. 
Mr. Wills: The Ministry of Justice answered 621 named day written questions on the day specified out of a total of 837 questions from 6 November 2007 up to and including 13 October 2008. This represents 74.19 per cent. We also answered 1,955 ordinary written questions out of 2,548 during the same period. This represents 76.73 per cent.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many successful prosecutions there have been for illegal use of a mobile telephone whilst driving in each year since it became an offence, broken down by police force area. 
Maria Eagle: Available information on prosecutions and convictions in the period 1 December 2003 to end 2006 (latest available) taken from the Court Proceedings Database held by my Department, are provided in the following table. 2007 data should be available later this year.
The majority of use of hand held mobile phone while driving offences are dealt with under the fixed penalty notices scheme. The table does not include fixed penalty notices but does include cases where fixed penalty notices were issued but not paid and subsequently referred to court.
|Proceedings and findings of guilt at magistrates courts for the offence of use of hand held mobile phone while driving( 1,)( )( 2) by police force area, England and Wales, 2003-06|
|Number of offences|
|Police force area||Total court proceedings( 2)||Total findings of guilt||Total court proceedings( 2)||Total findings of guilt||Total court proceedings( 2)||Total findings of guilt||Total court proceedings( 2)||Total findings of guilt|
|(1) Offences under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, Regulations 110(1), 110(2) and 110 (3). Introduced 1 December 2003.|
(2) Includes cases where a fixed penalty notice was originally issued but not paid and subsequently referred to court.
1. It is known that for some police force areas, the reporting of court proceedings, in particular those relating to summary motoring offences, may be less than complete.
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.
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