Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development on how many occasions he has raised Gaza access issues with his Israeli counterpart in the last 12 months; and on what such occasions the Israeli government has acceded to requests for access. 
Mr. Michael Foster: Achieving improved access to Gaza is a priority for the UK Government and the wider international community. We raise the issue of access with the Government of Israel at all available opportunities. On 1 December the Secretary of State spoke with Ehud Barak, the Israeli Minister of Defense on improving access. Last month I met with Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shalom, and with Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon. Earlier in the year both my right hon Friend and I met with the former Minister of Welfare and Social Services, Isaac Herzog, and the Secretary of State also wrote to Ehud Barak.
The collective lobbying of the international community has had some impact. Access for food products has improved since the end of the conflict in January, and in October small quantities of cement, plastic pipes and desalination equipment were allowed in for water and sanitation projects for the first time. Despite this, we remain very concerned about the situation in Gaza and will continue to press the Israeli Government for improved access for humanitarian aid and reconstruction materials.
Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what reports he has received of the aid supplies destined for Gaza in respect of which access to Gaza has been (a) blocked and (b) delayed since the start of the blockade; and what items were involved in each case. 
Mr. Michael Foster: There is no single report confirming which aid supplies have been blocked and delayed since the start of the blockade. What is allowed in remains unclear and subject to unpredictable change by the Government of Israel.
Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what aid supplies for Gaza funded by (a) the UK and (b) the EU have been denied passage to Gaza in 2009; what estimate he has made of the cost to Gaza of such denials; and what assessment he has made of the effect of such denials on the intended recipients of such supplies. 
Mr. Michael Foster: United Kingdom and European Union aid projects in Gaza have been subject to the same access restrictions as other humanitarian projects operating there. Items that have been rejected or delayed since January include foodstuffs, construction materials, agricultural materials and hygiene kits. Although there has been no specific assessment of the cost to Gaza of access restrictions, they continue to impact on the humanitarian response.
The UK Government and others in the international community have considered alternative delivery channels for humanitarian supplies, including delivery by sea. However, we have concluded that such alternatives are neither practical nor sustainable.
The UK considers the immediate and unconditional lifting of all restrictions on Gaza's land and maritime borders as the only viable solution and will continue to lobby the Government of Israel on this issue.
Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how many (a) away days and (b) conferences that took place outside the Postal Services Commission's buildings attended by civil servants in the Postal Services Commission there have been since 2005; and what the cost was of each. 
Mr. Evennett: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills with reference to the Pre-Budget Report, Cm 7747, from which areas of the adult skills budget he expects to make the £300 million savings identified. 
Kevin Brennan: The Government have a strong record of investment in FE and skills. We will focus public spending on those individuals and employers in greatest need and on those sectors that are most vital to Britain's future.
Kevin Brennan: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave to him on 5 November 2009, Official Report, column 1232W, when I explained that data about the number of apprentices made redundant are not currently available. We have put in place for this academic year, from 1 August, arrangements to record the number of apprentices who are made redundant. We expect these data to be available from early in 2010.
Mr. Evennett: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent assessment he has made of the availability of work placements for Level 3 apprenticeships. 
Kevin Brennan: "Our Skills for Growth-the National Skills Strategy" (November 2009) signalled our intention to significantly expand the number of advanced apprenticeships. Not only is this critical to the needs of the economy, it also reflects employer demand. Numbers are now steadily increasing: There were 78,700 starts (provisional) at advanced level in 2008/09 (34 per cent. of all apprenticeship starts), up from 73,000 (32 per cent.) in 2007/08.
The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) will have an important role in helping us drive forward our ambitions for more skilled technician apprenticeship opportunities and stimulate employer demand. NAS is already working with employers and training providers, supported by marketing and communications activity, to ensure awareness of the values and benefits of training at technician level.
Mr. Hunt: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what plans his Department has to commission a study into the effect on demand for broadband of the proposed 50 pence per month levy on fixed telephone lines. 
Mr. Timms: The Department has no such plans. We will carefully monitor the impact of the Landline Duty, but we do not expect it to impact negatively on demand for broadband when set against falling telecoms prices over the last three years.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how much money has been allocated to British-based companies from the 50,521 million euro programme administered by the Research Executive Agency of the European Commission under the Seventh Framework programme; and which such companies have received such funding. 
Mr. Lammy: The UK has remained a strong player in the EU Seventh Framework programme, receiving €1,348 million, equivalent to 13.7 per cent. of all FP7 funding to date. Of this, UK private commercial organisations have received €269 million. This funding has been distributed to 607 UK organisations; details of these are given in the attached annex.
the Marie-Curie Actions of the People programme;
the SME specific activities of the Capacities programme;
a large part of the space and the security themes from the Cooperation programmes;
To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the policies of his
Department and its predecessors in (a) providing support to business and (b) improving levels of skills in (i) England, (ii) the North East, (iii) Tees Valley and (iv) Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency since 1997. 
Economic Impact of Business Link Local Services (BERR 2007) which assessed the effectiveness and value for money of Business Link. This includes a regional chapter (chapter 7).
Business Links Value for Money Evaluation (DTI 1998)
Recently completed research undertaken on behalf of BIS includes an Early Assessment of Business Link Health Checks by the Institute for Employment Studies and a mystery shopping based study of the early stages of the Business Link service conducted by Middlesex University. The reports from these studies were both published on the BIS website on 27 November.
Raising UK skill levels to world class status is a priority for Government and the progress achieved is an important indicator of the success of our policies. The following table shows how skill attainment of the working age population has increased since 1997 in England and in the north-east. Comparable and accurate figures for the sub-regions requested are not available.
Government provide support to employers to increase the skills of their employees through Train to Gain and Apprenticeships. Both programmes continue to go from strength to strength. Since 2006 Train to Gain has supported people to start over 1.4 million qualifications, and over 780,000 qualifications have already been achieved. This has arisen from engagement with 143,000 employers through the brokerage service alone and many more engaging directly with providers. We have rescued and expanded apprenticeships, trebling the number of starts from 65,000 in 1996/97 to 234,000 in 2008/09. Tables showing growth of this programme in the areas requested follow. Figures for sub-regions are not available for qualifications attainments and figures for Tees Valley are not available for programme data.
|Percentage of England qualified to each level in Q4 of each year
|Percentage of north- east qualified to each level in Q4 of each year