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15 Jun 2010 : Column 389Wcontinued
Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what the (a) name and (b) version is of each computer software package used by his Department to calculate travel costs. 
Mr Davey: The Department does not own any computer software packages to calculate travel costs. The Department uses the Buying Solutions travel frameworks to book travel for air, rail car hire and accommodation.
Buying Solutions travel frameworks offer substantial savings to Government Departments on travel spend by offering specially negotiated Government rates not available outside of the frameworks.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what assessment he has made of the effect of the recent recession on (a) the West Midlands and (b) other regions of England; and what steps he plans to take in the West Midlands to alleviate these effects in areas within his Department's responsibilities. 
Mr Prisk: Early data suggests that the recession may have had a significant impact on those areas that were already lagging, with the regions and sub-regions with the highest initial unemployment experiencing the highest increases. For example latest data for 2008 indicates that GVA growth between 2007 and 2008 was 3.0% in the West Midlands, below the English average of 3.5% and the lowest of the English regions; and in the period from 2007 to 2009, the West Midlands saw the largest percentage point increase in the unemployment rate of all the English regions, rising by 4.6 ppts compared to the English average of 2.6 ppts.
The Government will shortly be announcing details of its proposals for local enterprise partnerships, which are joint local authority-business bodies to promote local economic development. These may take the form of existing RDAs in areas where they are popular.
Angela Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what plans he has for the future provision of bonuses to students who meet targets related to attendance and achievement. 
Mr Gibb: I have been asked to reply.
It is for schools to decide on whether to use rewards and incentives with their pupils.
Lisa Nandy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent discussions he has had on post-qualification admissions to higher education. 
Mr Willetts: I have had no recent discussions on post-qualification admissions to higher education.
Lisa Nandy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many people from Wigan constituency entered higher education in each year since 1996. 
Mr Willetts: The number of entrants from Wigan constituency to UK higher education institutions are shown in the table. Figures are provided for the academic years 1996/97 to 2008/09. Information for the 2009/10 academic year will be available from the Higher Education Statistics Agency in January 2011.
|Entrants( 1) from Wigan constituency( 2) -UK higher education institutions( 3) , academic years 1996/97 to 2008/09|
|(1) Covers all-aged undergraduate and postgraduate entrants to full-time and part-time courses.|
(2) The table does not include entrants where the constituency of the student cannot be established due to missing or invalid postcode information.
(3) Excludes the Open University due to inconsistencies in their coding of entrants across the time series.
Figures are on a HESA snapshot basis as at 1 December and are rounded to the nearest five.
Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)
Lisa Nandy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what plans he has to review the number of undergraduate student places; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr Willetts: We have secured funding for an additional 10,000 undergraduate and foundation degree places in 2010-11. Beyond that we will assess the requirement for student places in the context of our response to the Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance chaired by Lord Browne and the next spending review. In doing so we will want to ensure that the quality of higher education courses is not diminished.
Andrew Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what (a) in-house and (b) external lobbying activity (i) each regional development agency and (ii) the National Secretariat for Regional Development Agencies has undertaken for the retention of regional development agencies since the general election. 
Mr Prisk: Cabinet Office guidance on NDPBs is that it will always be an improper use of public funds for NDPBs to employ PR or other consultants to lobby Parliament or Government Departments in an attempt to influence government policy or obtain higher funding. I will ensure that all RDA chief executives are reminded of this responsibility.
Andrew Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills which public affairs firms have been hired by (a) each regional development agency and (b) the National Secretariat for Regional Development Agencies in the last 12 months. 
Mr Prisk: No public affairs firms have been hired by any regional development agency or the regional development agency national secretariat in the last 12 months.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills whether he plans to alter previously planned expenditure on the Train to Gain programme in the West Midlands in (a) 2010-11 and (b) 2011-12. 
Mr Hayes: We have announced our intention to immediately reallocate £200 million of Train to Gain funding. This will provide 50,000 new adult apprenticeship places and an extra £50 million in further education infrastructure projects.
The Skills Funding Agency is now looking to implement this change. However, it is not possible at this time to provide information on the impact it may have on individual institutions in the West Midlands, and therefore spend in a particular region.
Tom Blenkinsop: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many (a) disabled people, (b) people from ethnic minorities, (c) females and (d) young people have received assistance from the Union Learning Fund. 
Mr Hayes: The Union Learning Fund (ULF) is overseen by unionlearn, the TUC's learning and skills arm, under a grant arrangement with the Department. Information on the assistance provided to these groups of learners is currently not held in respect of all ULF activity. However, it is available where ULF projects are directly involved in providing learning opportunities through U-net, unionlearn's network of online learning centres. The latest full year information, provided by the TUC, for 2006/07 to 2008/09 shows that out of a total of 17,240 course participants, 8,311 (48.2%) were female, 1,802 (10.5%) were from an ethnic minority, 778 (4.5%) were disabled and 1,193 (6.9%) were young workers (under 25). In April 2010 a new contractual requirement was introduced for all ULF projects to record this level of information to cover all areas of activity.
U-net was ranked by Ofsted (in February 2009) to be among the best learning providers in the country with a:
"strong ethos to widen participation, promote social inclusion and equality of opportunity".
Success rates for Black learners rose from 54% in 2007/08 to 81.8% in 2008/09 and for Asian learners from 70.2% to 82.1%-well above the national average.
Mr Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills whether his Department plans to respond to the recommendations of the Skills Commission on teacher training in vocational education. 
I have asked my officials to consider the Skills Commission's recommendations. The report also refers to areas of policy that are the responsibility of
the Secretary of State for Education. I will respond to the recommendations after they have been considered jointly by our two Departments.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what steps he plans to take to increase the skills level of the workforce in (a) Dudley North constituency, (b) the borough of Dudley and (c) the West Midlands. 
Mr Hayes: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is seeking to drive up the skills levels of the workforce by directing public funding where it will bring the clearest benefits.
We will also make sure that employers and individuals have the information they need to make the best choices about investing in training. We have begun to rebalance skills provision by redeploying £150 million of Train to Gain funding to create 50,000 high-quality Apprenticeship places, focused on small and medium sized enterprises. We are also taking action to set colleges and training organisations free from excessive bureaucracy and direct state control, to give them the freedom to respond better to local needs.
The Skills Funding Agency is responsible for the delivery of public funds for skills training, including Apprenticeships. Dudley and the West Midlands will benefit from the refocusing of funding towards higher-quality training with clearer benefits. Over £31 million of public funding will support skills training in the Dudley area in 2010/11 covering a diverse range of programmes to meet the needs of individuals and employers, including apprentices. Learners resident in the Dudley North constituency are accessing these opportunities and others in the wider region to raise their skill levels and improve their lives. £509 million will support skills training in the wider West Midlands region.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his policy is on flying the Union flag each day from each official building for which his Department is responsible. 
Mr Andrew Mitchell: At our UK headquarters in East Kilbride, the Department for International Development (DFID) has chosen to fly the Union flag on a daily basis from its highest centre pole. DFID's UK headquarters in London does not have a flagpole and therefore we are unable to fly the Union flag at this building. The decision on flying the Union flag in our country offices depends on whether they have a flagpole. I am investigating the possibility of procuring a second hand flagpole at minimum cost for DFID's UK headquarters in London.
Lisa Nandy: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether he expects to allocate funding from his Department to (a) peacekeeping and (b) military operations in the next 12 months. 
Mr Andrew Mitchell: I do not intend to allocate funds from the Department for International Development's (DFID's) budget to peacekeeping or military operations in the next 12 months.
DFID resources are not spent on UK military operations.
Funding for the UK's legal obligation to contribute to international peacekeeping will continue to be met through the peacekeeping budget, an annual claim on the Treasury Reserve. UK discretionary peacekeeping activity, will continue to be funded by the tri-departmental Conflict Pool, which is allocated to DFID, Ministry of Defence (MOD), and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) by the Treasury separately from core departmental budgets.
Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he plans to take to reduce levels of child poverty in developing countries. 
Mr Andrew Mitchell: In the coming months the Department for International Development (DFID) will be reviewing its aid programme to determine how we can achieve better value for money for the taxpayer and accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The UK is committed to helping achieve the MDGs, which will reduce child poverty in developing countries. For example as part of our work toward the education MDGs of universal primary education and gender parity in all levels of education, we are funding five million children to go to primary school.
Lisa Nandy: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development when funding his Department expects to allocate for climate adaptation in the next 12 months. 
Mr Andrew Mitchell: I expect the United Kingdom to spend approximately £300 million this year on climate adaptation in developing countries, as part of the Fast Start commitment agreed at Copenhagen. This will help poor people to cope with the impact of climate change, including more frequent droughts and floods. For example in Bangladesh UKaid is helping to protect more than 400,000 very poor people from floods by raising their homesteads onto earth platforms.
Mr Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education what steps he plans to take to ensure that the views of staff and their trade unions are taken into account in the establishment of academy schools. 
Mr Gibb: The governing body, which includes staff representation, must agree that the school can become an academy before an application is made. Guidance issued for schools wishing to convert to an academy provides further detailed information and is available at:
In addition, during the conversion process, the current employer of school staff (either the local authority or governing body) will be required to conduct a TUPE consultation with all staff and the unions as part of the staff transfer process.
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