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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what plans he has for the future role of post-16 specialist colleges in provision of education and training; and what mechanisms are in place for discussions between the Skills Funding Agency and local authorities acting as local commissioners. 
Mr. Simon: Specialist colleges are, and will continue to be, an important part of the FE delivery landscape. The funding received by these colleges, which is currently provided by the Learning and Skills Council, will, from 2010 onwards, be provided through the Skills Funding Agency or local authorities.
For 16 to 19 education and training provision, local authorities will lead this conversation. Strategic priorities will be set by Regional Planning Groups whose membership will include: local authorities, the Regional Development Agency, Skills Funding Agency, Young People's Learning Agency and Government Office. This collaboration will inform, challenge, and question the alignment of 16 to 19 commissioning with skills and economic priorities.
Mr. Simon: We fully recognise the need to move forward quickly with the further education capital programme, and regret the need to delay decisions further. Sir Andrew Foster is currently working on his report, but we expect it to be published shortly.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what proportion of the cost of further education college rebuilding projects in England has been funded by (a) the Learning and Skills Council and (b) colleges themselves in each year since 1998. 
Mr. Simon: Capital funding for further education colleges is administrated by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). As the information requested pertains to decisions and records held by the Council, Geoff Russell, the acting LSC chief executive will write to my hon. Member with the further information requested. A copy of his letter will be placed in the House Libraries.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how much (a) further education colleges and (b) universities paid in value added tax (VAT) in 2007-08; and what estimate he has made of the savings each will accrue as a result of the reduction in the rate of VAT. 
Mr. Lammy: We do not collect data about the amount universities or further education colleges pay in value added tax. This is a matter for individual institutions. However, we have asked some of our key delivery partners to estimate the impact. The main benefit of the VAT reduction for universities and further education colleges will be to reduce the level of irrecoverable VAT they incur on the services they purchase. Using an estimate of the amount universities and further education colleges spend on services, our broad estimate is that this will save around £185 million over the 13 months of the VAT reduction. This is an estimate, which is not based on forecast VAT expenditure, so the amount of actual savings could vary significantly.
Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what recent steps he has taken to encourage universities to increase the volume of scientific research they undertake. 
Mr. Lammy: The Government seek to encourage excellent research, rather than volume for its own sake. Nevertheless, the volume of research staff submitted to the recent Research Assessment Exercise 2008 did increase by 12 per cent. relative to the previous exercise in 2001. 87 per cent. of this research was independently assessed to be internationally recognised, internationally excellent or world class. We therefore welcome this increase in excellent research.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many complaints (a) the Patent Office and (b) his Department have received on the (i) registration and (ii) administration of patents since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Lammy: The Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the operating name of The Patent Office, has records of complaints received since the year 2000. Records prior to that have not been retained. These records do not distinguish between registration and administration. Information on recent complaints received since 2006 is available on the IPO website at:
|Number of complaints||Including Box 49|
|(1 )To date.|
These figures include complaints received by the IPOs parent Department, currently the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and before that the Department for Trade and Industry, and forwarded to the IPO for action. It is unlikely that any complaints made to the parent Department about patent registration or administration would not have been referred to the IPO.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what funding his Department has allocated for the provision of (a) staff training and (b) apprenticeship places in local news organisations in the last 12 months. 
Mr. Simon: The Skills Pledge is a voluntary, public commitment by employers to support their employees to develop their basic skills, including literacy and numeracy, and work towards relevant, valuable qualifications to at least Level 2 (equivalent to five good GCSEs).
Since the launch of the Skills Pledge in June 2007 we have made excellent progress. The latest available figures up until December 2008 show that nine organisations in your Hemel Hempstead constituency and 97 organisations in Hertfordshire have made the Skills Pledge. Please note that these figures include both public and private organisations.
21. Jeremy Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of progress on major defence procurement programmes relating to future expeditionary capability. 
Mr. Quentin Davies: The Department is making significant progress on its procurement programmes for future expeditionary capability. Examples include the entry into service of two new C17 aircraft and the recent acceptance off contract of the first Type 45 destroyer.
Mr. Kevan Jones: The Ministry of Defence officially commemorates the final resting place of all those who die in Service and the UK Government contribute close to £40 million each year towards the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to mark and maintain the graves, and the official memorials for those who have no known grave, of some 1.7 million Commonwealth service personnel who died during the two world wars.
However, the Department does not have the responsibility for war memorials. This responsibility rests with the owner of the memorial, which, in the case of the Lutyens War Memorial in Bury, is the trustees of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum, an independent charity.
Mr. Hutton: I am unable to provide the data for the last six months as information on ammunition expenditure is only collated at the end of each roulement. Data for the current roulement, HERRICK 9, will only be compiled once it comes to an end in April.
17. James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assistance UK forces have provided to the government of Afghanistan's counter-narcotic operations; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hutton: UK troops, as part of the International Security Assistance Force, support Afghan security forces to target narcotic traffickers and facilities that are supporting the insurgency. UK forces have also provided support to both the Poppy Eradication Force and the Governor-Led Eradication plan within Helmand province.
Mr. Hutton: The military vehicles used in the Afghan theatre, and elsewhere, are procured to meet requirements defined by the user. As such we will not hesitate to meet requests put to us by our operational commanders for any changes or upgrades to the equipment available to them.
While it is not possible to make every vehicle invulnerable to every possible attack, much has already been achieved in enhancing the protected mobility options available to commanders on the ground through our continuing programme of making improvements to the protection level of vehicles in service and procurement of new vehicles types.
24. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of provision of service accommodation for armed forces personnel and their families; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: A condition survey has been carried out on Service Family Accommodation (SFA) in England and Wales as set out in my written ministerial statement on 17 March. This confirms that the vast majority of properties fall within the two highest standards for condition. The National Audit Office has recently assessed independently that SFA in the two highest standards for condition meet or exceed the Governments Decent Homes Standard. We recognise that some properties do not meet the high standards to which we aspireand that Service personnel and their families deserveand more needs to be done, but we are making progress even though we are having to make good decades of underinvestment.
Mr. Hutton: Progress has been made but the insurgency remains resilient. The majority of people can go about their daily lives but, in certain areas of the country, particularly in the south and east, significant security challenges remain.
Mr. Quentin Davies: The cut and sew tendering process is scheduled to begin next month. Careful planning is under way to ensure that the best possible clothing is available to our armed forces personnel, while ensuring best value for money for UK taxpayers.
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