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Stephen Hammond: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport how much in premium payments the Government will receive from Southern Railway Ltd. in respect of the new South Central franchise in each year of the franchise's operation. 
|(1) = part year Nominal £000.|
There will be a reduction in premium in Net Present Value over the core five years 10 month franchise length for the Additional Showcase Stations option purchased of £1.6 million and for the GSM-R option purchased of £9.6 million.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what representations he has received on the future of the Freedom Pass in London, and from whom; how much was spent on the scheme in London in each of the last three years; how much is projected to be spent in (a) 2009-10 and (b) 2010-11; and if he will make a statement. 
London boroughs have been obliged to offer London-wide travel to their eligible residents since the introduction of the GLA Act in 1999. Therefore the only increase in costs London faced as a result of the improved England-wide bus concession-which was introduced in 2008-was for the cost of non-London residents who are aged over 60 or eligible disabled now travelling free on the London bus network at off-peak times.
I have met with London Councils to discuss the special grant funding that has been made available by Government to fund the additional costs of the improved statutory minimum bus concession from April 2008. I have also received letters from a number of London MPs, members of the House of Lords and Councillors of London Boroughs about the special grant funding. Many of these representations were based on misunderstandings over the purpose of the special grant funding.
The purpose of the Special Grant has only ever been to fund the change in the concession referred to above. The majority of funding for concessionary travel continues to be provided through formula grant.
London boroughs report their spending on concessionary travel to the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) as part of their annual local government spending returns. The London Boroughs reported concessionary travel spending of £203 million in 2006-07 and £222 million in 2007-08.
The outturn figures for 2008-09 are not due to be published by CLG until later this month, however the Boroughs' reported concessionary travel budget for 2008-09 was £220 million. For 2009-10 the Boroughs' reported concessionary travel budget is £189 million. 2010-11 budget figures are not due to be published until next year.
London Councils reported in the minutes of their Transport and Environment Committee meeting of 11 December 2008 that the additional costs of the national bus concession were forecast to be £5.1 million in 2008-09. This compares to special grant funding provided to London Councils of £55.4 million in 2008-09.
Although the new special grant distribution that is currently being consulted on would reduce London's grant, it would leave the London boroughs with significantly more funding than the actual burden that has been imposed by the change in the statutory minimum concession.
Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what mechanisms are in place to assess the record of bidders for the Tyne and Wear Metro service contract in respect of (a) treatment of staff and (b) health and safety. 
Mr. Khan: The assessment of bidders for operating the Tyne and Wear Metro service is a matter for Nexus (the Tyne and Wear passenger transport executive). It is a condition of the Department for Transport's funding that the procurement process is carried out rigorously and fairly.
Chris Mole: The Department for Transport defined the strategy and outputs required from the upgrade of the West Coast Main Line and authorised funding of £8.9 billion to date for the works to be provided by Network Rail, supported by Government Grant.
21. Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what progress is being made on the Government's review of tuition fees and student support; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McFadden: The Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance was launched on 9 November. The review will be chaired by Lord Browne of Madingley, who will be joined by six other members chosen for the breadth and depth of their experience and expertise. Its primary task is to make recommendations to Government on the future balance of contributions to higher education funding by taxpayers, students, graduates and employers. It will seek a properly and fairly balanced approach, without placing an unreasonable or counter- productive burden on any single source of funding.
22. Gordon Banks: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent discussions officials of his Department have had with the British Blind and Shutters Association on the safety of looped blind cords; what progress has been made in such discussions; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Rosie Winterton:
Officials met in July with representatives from the British Blind and Shutter Association. The industry initiative 'Make it Safe-how to reduce the risks from looped blind cords and chains' was discussed. The Department and industry agreed a
plan make their guidance available to the widest possible audience, including working with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
23. Chris Ruane: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what estimate he has made of the effect on the level of car production of the extension of the car scrappage scheme; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Lucas: It is not possible to make an accurate estimate of the impact on production of the extension of the scrappage scheme because of unknown commercial factors such as the levels of existing stocks and production time lags.
24. Phil Wilson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what assistance regional development agencies are providing to businesses during the economic downturn; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Lucas: The RDAs have helped more than 50,000 businesses to survive the recession, and are bringing forward regeneration projects worth more than £100 million in order to boost the economy. They have also provided transition loans to 300 companies, protecting more than 10,000 jobs.
Mr. McGovern: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on a mandate for the European Commission to negotiate a free trade agreement with Colombia. 
Ian Lucas: Negotiations between the EU and the Community of Andean Nations were launched in 2007. The mandate was last revised in December 2008 when, as the Andean nations could not agree a common position, Colombia and Peru asked the European Commission to negotiate a multiparty trade agreement with interested Andean countries. Ecuador remains an observer.
Kevin Brennan: Skills accounts are being trialled in the South East, East Midlands, West Midlands, South West and Yorkshire and the Humber regions of England. Skills accounts are available to all adults in these regions. The purpose of the trials is to test, on a small scale, the effectiveness of skills accounts as a means of engaging and motivating adults to take up training. Within the trials, skills accounts are being tested with a range of different customer groups, including benefit claimants. An individual's benefit status is not collected when an account is opened, but is confirmed when an individual takes up a course at a college or training provider.
Mr. Bone: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills when he expects a decision to be made on the outstanding bids for capital funding under the Building Colleges for the Future programme. 
Kevin Brennan [holding answer 16 July 2009]: On 28 August, following the conclusion of its prioritisation exercise, the LSC confirmed that 12 college projects would commence immediately with their new building projects. Approval for the two remaining projects for Manchester (Wythenshawe) College and Skelmersdale and Ormskirk College was given in September.
For those colleges that will not be funded this round, the next steps have already started with the LSC consulting with the sector to agree a robust, fair and transparent process for future capital investment.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent representations he has received from the brick manufacturing industry on the adequacy of financial and other business support available to that industry; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Lucas: I have received no representations from the brick manufacturing industry on these matters. My officials are however in regular contact with the Construction Products Association (the umbrella trade association for nearly all construction products), of which the brick industry is a member, and have met members of the brick industry.
Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how many businesses received assistance from the South West Regional Development Agency in each local authority area in each of the last five years; and how many employees each such business had at that time. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The South West Regional Development Agency has provided assistance to businesses as set out in the following table and is reported in its annual report and accounts. It does not record these figures by local authority area, nor does it record the number of employees of the businesses concerned.
|(1) Business Link figures not included.|
The definition used in the figures above is two days advisory consultancy or grant or equivalent of at least £1,000.
The agency also engages with businesses in a variety of other ways including area action force work and the
regional enterprise gateway. Business Link provides the primary channel for business support within the region, with 103,000 businesses accessing support during 2008/09.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how much expenditure has been assigned to cover the costs of the £500 training entitlement for carers and adults on the working tax credit, as referred to in the New Opportunities White Paper, Cm 7533. 
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills which organisations representing disabled people Ministers in his Department have met in 2009; and with which of those organisations the delays in the payment of student loans and grants was discussed. 
Mr. McFadden: BIS (and prior to that DIUS) Ministers met a number of organisations that brought concerns about people with disabilities to their attention. Of organisations representing disabled people specifically, both Lord Young and Siôn Simon held meetings with the RNIB. Lord Young also met Skill (National Bureau for Students with disabilities), Natspec (Association of national Specialist Colleges) and the Alliance for Inclusive Education. Siôn Simon also met the RNID and Scope. In none of these meetings was the question of student loans or grants discussed.
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