Social Security Benefits: Advisory Services

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills pursuant to the answer of 3 February 2011, Official Report, column 912W, on social security benefits: advisory services, what proportion of the funding of at least £470 million over the spending review period was additional to funding for such activity in the equivalent funding settlement for the period to 2010-11. [39919]

Mr Hurd: I have been asked to reply.

The £470 million represents the settlement provided for the Cabinet Office to support civil society organisations over the next spending review period (2011-12 to 2014-15). This funding provides for a number of new coalition Government programmes including supporting 40,000

28 Feb 2011 : Column 308W

young people through the National Citizen Service, the Transition Fund, support for the creation of employee owned mutuals and community based funds. In addition to this funding, the creation of the Big Society Bank will unlock new finance for social enterprises, charities and voluntary organisations.

Over the last spending review period (CSR2007), £515 million was allocated to the equivalent Cabinet Office programme to support the sector. Many of these programmes come to an end in March 2011.

South East of England Development Agency: Land

Amber Rudd: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what estimate he has made of the (a) size and (b) monetary value of land assets held by the South East of England Development Agency. [42286]

Mr Prisk: Details of the value of the South East of England Development Agency’s assets, including land, are contained in its Annual Report and Accounts (HC206). Detail of the extent of its land assets were provided to my hon. Friend for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) on 28 October 2010, Official Report column 458W.

Space Technology

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills when he expects to make an announcement on the Government's space policy. [41418]

Mr Willetts: The formal documents to create the UK Space Agency are expected to be laid before parliament by April 2011.

Students: Finance

Jeremy Lefroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what arrangements are in place to recover domestic student loan repayments from graduates living and working overseas; and what proportion of expatriate graduates with student loan liabilities made repayments in the latest period for which figures are available. [42273]

Mr Willetts: The Student Loans Company (SLC) applies the same mechanisms to all borrowers who move overseas after leaving their course.

The SLC has established repayment arrangements for borrowers who move abroad, whether temporarily or because they live in another country. The SLC requests information about earnings and provides the borrower with a monthly repayment schedule under the terms of the contract of the loan. The SLC converts the income into pounds sterling and tells the borrower the amount they will need to repay each month in pounds sterling.

Repayments can be made in a number of ways: debit/credit card; cheque; standing order/direct debit; or by logging into the online account on the student loan repayment portal.

There is a system of banded thresholds for countries outside the UK, which takes account of the level of affordability in other countries. This means that repayment will remain based on ability to repay, wherever the borrower lives.

28 Feb 2011 : Column 309W

At 30 April 2010, 8,800 English domiciled borrowers living overseas were earning above the threshold for the country and making repayments. A further 2,200 were in arrears and 1,200 had not provided details of income and were therefore considered in arrears. Therefore 72% of eligible borrowers were in repayment.

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what progress he has made on proposals to introduce an early repayment levy for those repaying student loans early; and if he will make a statement. [42998]

Mr Willetts: The Government are committed to the progressive nature of the repayment system. It is therefore important that those on the highest incomes post graduation are not able unfairly to buy themselves out of this progressive system by paying off their loans early. Any early repayment mechanism would need to ensure that graduates on modest incomes who strive to pay off their loans early through regular payments are not penalised.

The Government will consult on early repayment mechanisms in due course.

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent steps the Government have taken to provide financial assistance to those entering further education. [43002]

Mr Hayes: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has an established range of financial assistance which has enabled adults to participate and remain in further education.

In the November publication “Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth”, the Department made a commitment to create an enhanced adult learner support fund over the next two years. This will simplify the support for learners and providers, while ensuring future funds target those learners most in need of assistance to succeed.

28 Feb 2011 : Column 310W

Students: Loans

Mr Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will estimate the number of graduates resident in (a) the London borough of Bexley and (b) London who have not made any student loan repayments since the present system of student finance came into operation. [41396]

Mr Willetts: The estimated number of borrowers residing in Bexley or London who have not made any loan repayments since the present system of income contingent loan repayments came into operation is shown in the following table:

  Latest known address (1)

Bexley London

Number of borrowers(2)



(1) This corresponds to the address given by the borrowers when they opened the last loan account. The borrower may have moved elsewhere since. (2) The table covers all cohorts liable to repay with at least one tax year processed—i.e. those who came into repayment during tax year April 2000/01 to April 2008/09 inclusive. Note: Figures are rounded to the nearest 100.

Esther McVey: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what the policy of the Student Loans Company is on arrangements for practising Muslim students to pay interest on student loans. [41445]

Mr Willetts: The interest rate charged is applied uniformly across all student loan customers, based on the type of loan held and relevant legislation.

There are no separate arrangements for members of any particular faith. The Government have no plans to change this policy as part of the proposed reforms of student finance.

The Government believe that student loans would not be covered by Islamic rules because their overall terms are so much more favourable than those available commercially.