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20 July 2009 : Column 800W—continued

Members: Correspondence

Sir George Young: To ask the Leader of the House when she plans to reply to the letters of 2 June and 6 July from the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire on the rules on registration of earnings. [287811]

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Barbara Keeley: My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House has recently met with House authorities on this issue and will reply in full in light of the outcome of that meeting.

Political Parties and Elections Bill

Mr. Hurd: To ask the Leader of the House whether she plans to bring forward proposals to amend controls on expenditure from the communications allowance during the pre-candidacy regulated period to be introduced on commencement of the provisions in the Political Parties and Elections Bill. [289079]

Barbara Keeley: My right hon. and learned Friend hopes to bring forward the necessary amendments after the summer adjournment.

Scottish Grand Committee

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Leader of the House what consideration the Government have given since November 2003 to arranging for a sitting of the Scottish Grand Committee; and if she will make a statement. [288410]

Barbara Keeley: The Government keep the matter of Grand Committees under constant review. My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader and I are happy to hear any suggestions, from my hon. Friend, on the matter.

Written Questions

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Leader of the House what recent assessment she has made of the quality of answers given by Ministers to parliamentary questions for written answer. [288401]

Barbara Keeley: My right hon. and learned Friend and I keep the quality of answers given to written parliamentary questions under constant review.

We welcome the recent report of the Procedure Committee on this subject and will be carefully considering the proposals in that report.

Children, Schools and Families

Children: Disabled

Mark Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what steps he has taken to ensure that all English local authorities meet the readiness criteria for the distribution of Aiming High for Disabled Children short breaks funding in 2010-11; [287707]

(2) which local authorities did not meet the readiness criteria for the distribution of Aiming High for Disabled Children short breaks funding by March 2009. [287708]

Ms Diana R. Johnson: The Department has contracted with the organisation Together for Disabled Children (TDC) to support local authorities and primary care trusts in improving short break services.

Early in 2008 the Department asked those local authorities that fell outside of short break pathfinder areas to undertake preparatory work on short break service reform, ahead of receipt of major new funding from April 2009. Nine criteria were set against which robust preparation could be measured.

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TDC informs us that by March 2009, 15 authorities had met six, seven or eight of the criteria, these were: Brent, Hackney, Havering, Hounslow, Kingston upon Thames, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Darlington, Northumberland, Redcar and Cleveland, St. Helens, Warrington, Southampton, Kirklees, Wiltshire

Three non-pathfinder local authorities had met less than six criteria, these were: City of London, Oldham, Sheffield.

The remaining 111 non-pathfinders authorities met all the criteria.

TDC also reports that as of the end of June 2009, 122 of the 129 non-pathfinder areas had met all nine criteria, a further six had met eight criteria, while one authority had yet to meet four criteria.

The short break national programme has now moved beyond the preparation stage and all areas have received short break funding. Readiness criteria are not being applied to the 2010-11 financial year, however TDC continue to concentrate their resource on those authorities where progress is slowest, and are providing remedial support where readiness criteria remain unmet.

Education Maintenance Allowance

Joan Ryan: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what measures his Department has in place to reassess a student's eligibility for the education maintenance allowance in the event of a change in the student's financial circumstances. [287046]

Mr. Iain Wright: For most young people, eligibility for education maintenance allowance (EMA) is subject to an assessment of their household income based on the financial year prior to the academic year in which they start their course. A successful assessment provides a young person with a guaranteed entitlement of up to three years of EMA on the same rate regardless of whether their income increases. If there is a drop in income from one year to the next then a young person may apply to be reassessed for the subsequent academic year. They could be assessed as eligible for EMA where they were not previously, or an increased rate of it. They would receive the EMA guarantee based on the rate awarded following the most recent assessment.

There are a limited number of exceptional circumstances in which a young person may apply to be reassessed for EMA during the academic year. Those circumstances are:

The financial needs of young people can be affected by a range of circumstances, including reductions in household income due to redundancy, or reduced working hours. Other mechanisms exist to help with the costs of
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supporting young people aged 16 to 19 in learning. Child benefit provides support for parents regardless of income, and tax credits are designed to tailor support to current circumstances and to be responsive to changing needs.

In addition to the support provided to families, discretionary learner support funds are made available via the Learning and Skills Council to colleges and local authorities. This funding is provided to enable schools and colleges, using their discretion, to help individual learners facing hardship and financial barriers to learning that are not addressed through other mechanisms. This funding can be used to respond to any hardship needs of learners that may arise through sudden changes in circumstance.

Extended Schools: Finance

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what guidance his Department has issued to local education authorities on the distribution of extended schools funding in respect of children (a) with special needs and (b) entitled to free school meals. [286237]

Ms Diana R. Johnson: The Government are committed to every school providing access to a core offer of extended services and has provided significant funding to support the delivery of extended services, including committing over £1 billion in the period 2008-09 to 2010-11. Funding is allocated to local authorities. DCSF guidance states that local authorities should work closely with their schools and other children's service partners through the children's trust to develop and agree strategic plans for using the extended services funding. Local authorities are strongly encouraged to devolve as much of their extended schools funding to schools as possible. In determining allocations, local authorities are encouraged to consider the needs and context of schools and their
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population, including levels of deprivation, of which free school meals is one of the indicators. DCSF guidance also states that extended activities and services will be of particular benefit to disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs.

As part of this funding, there is over £200 million of extended services subsidy. This is focused on supporting the access to extra-curricular activities by disadvantaged children, including children eligible for free school meals. The DCSF has issued the message to local authorities that all subsidy funding is to be passed to schools to help increase the level of participation for those children. The DCSF has, working with the Council for Disabled Children, issued guidance: "Extending Inclusion-Access for disabled children and young people to extended schools and children's centres: a development manual", emphasising the importance of making extended services accessible to all children. This is available from

Residence and Guardianship Orders

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many (a) residency and (b) guardianship orders there were in force in each local authority social services area in each of the last five years. [286436]

Bridget Prentice: I have been asked to reply.

The number of residency and special guardianship orders made in England and Wales over the last five years are contained in the following table.

In the majority of cases individuals, not local authorities, apply for these orders in private law proceedings. Special guardianship orders came into force on 30 December 2005 and are provided for in sections 14A to 14G of the Children Act 1989.

A court may resolve a local authority's public law application by making a residence or special guardianship order to a named individual.

Residence and Special Guardianship Orders for England and Wales
Private Law Public Law
Residence Special Guardianship Residence Special Guardianship


























These figures are for 'Orders made' not orders in force

School Meals

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families which local authorities have applied for the exceptional capital funding for new kitchens in schools announced in December 2007; which local authorities have received such funding; and if he will make a statement. [286960]

Ms Diana R. Johnson: The Department announced in 2006 that it would make £150 million targeted capital funding available in the next spending review period to local authorities to build new kitchens in areas of greatest need. Bids totalling £49,908 million were received in this first round and approved from the following local authorities:

Local a uthority

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Bids from Gloucestershire and Hull did not meet the criteria. Payments to successful LAs are being phased over the three years 2008 to 2011 according to the needs of the individual authorities.

The Government announced in December 2007 that local authorities could bid for the remaining £100 million to support the improvement of kitchens and dining areas in order to improve school lunch take up.

Bids were received from 133 authorities and totalled just under £200 million. Although the bids varied significantly, all of them met our criteria. It was therefore decided to apply an across the board cut of just under 50 per cent. so that all LAs received a proportionate amount of their bid.


Members' Constituency Work: Hemsworth

Jon Trickett: To ask the Solicitor-General if the Attorney-General will meet the hon. Member for Hemsworth to discuss a constituency issue. [287705]

The Solicitor-General: A meeting has been scheduled with the Attorney-General.

Patrick Brendon Smith: Sentencing

Mr. Timpson: To ask the Solicitor-General whether the Attorney-General considered lodging an appeal against the sentence imposed on Patrick Brendon Smith by Preston Crown Court in October 2008. [288093]

The Solicitor-General: Mr. Smith was convicted of attempting to abduct a child and was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment. Section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 empowers the Attorney-General to refer certain sentences to the Court of Appeal for review. The offence of child abduction is not an offence to which section 36 applies and the Attorney-General could not therefore consider referring the case.

Women and Equality

Breast Feeding

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what recent representations she has received on the proposals in the Equality Bill in relation to a mother breastfeeding in a public place who is asked to (a) leave that place by a person in authority and (b) stop breastfeeding by a member of the public. [288049]

Michael Jabez Foster: Following Second Reading of the Equality Bill, interested organisations raised concerns that, as drafted, the Bill reduced the existing protection against discrimination for pregnant women and new mothers. This drew our attention to an unintended consequence of the drafting which would have potentially allowed discrimination against pregnant women or new mothers if this could be shown to be reasonable. Therefore
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on 9 June, we tabled amendments to the Bill which represent a return to the level of protection given against pregnancy and maternity discrimination under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (as amended). These amendments were briefly debated on 16 June and agreed, and now stand part of the Bill.

The Bill makes absolutely clear that breastfeeding mothers are protected from sex discrimination in relation to provision of services to the public, whatever their baby's age. So a woman who is breastfeeding her baby in a restaurant or on a bus cannot lawfully be asked to leave, or get off, for that reason. At present we have no plans to bring forward proposals to provide a legal right for women to breastfeed in public places.

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