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23 Jun 1997 : Column WA145

Written Answers

Monday, 23rd June 1997.

Diplomatic Service Allowances

Lord Chesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to continue unchanged the facilities presently extended to diplomats serving abroad to help them with the cost of educating their children at independent boarding schools in the United Kingdom.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): An independent review of Diplomatic Service allowances, which was carried out last year by Sir Derek Hornby, confirmed the need for allowances for boarding school education. These ensure continuity of education for many Diplomatic Service children. The review recommended some adjustments in the way the allowances are administered. Further detailed work is being carried out on these recommendations.

Judicial Appointments

Lord Merlyn-Rees asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to review the system for appointing judges.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Government propose to consult later this year on the merits of a judicial appointments commission and whether it should be established.

City Technology Colleges

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to maintain the position of the 15 City Technology Colleges.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The central mission of this Government is to raise educational standards. We would like the CTCs to contribute their expertise and experience. We will develop a partnership approach with City Technology Colleges, ensuring that as independent institutions they have fair and open admissions policies and work with local communities and education authorities. As with other state funding, we will want to ensure that there are no unfair privileges involved.

Funding Agency for Schools

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to abolish the Funding Agency for Schools.

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Baroness Blackstone: The Government will be introducing legislation to end GM status, and we are discussing with the Funding Agency what this will mean for it.

Nursery Education: Certificates of Eligibility

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the difference between a certificate of eligibility and a nursery voucher.

Baroness Blackstone: The Government have announced that the nursery education voucher scheme will cease at the end of this summer term. From April 1998, places for four year-olds will be secured and funded through early years development plans. In those local authority areas which do not have approved interim early years development plans for the autumn and spring terms, certificates of eligibility will be a temporary measure to ensure that those children taking places in the private and voluntary sectors are not disadvantaged.

Education: Capital Spending on Buildings

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the current level of capital funding is sufficient both to fund new building and to bring the buildings of all schools, colleges and universities into a good state of repair within three years; and, if not, how much more money is required, and whether it will be provided.

Baroness Blackstone: Local authorities estimate that about £3 billion needs to be spent in addition to present funding to bring current school buildings up to standard. The Further Education Funding Council has reported that a total of £338 million has been spent by the council and colleges to resolve colleges' most pressing capital needs following the 1993 Hunter Survey. The apportionment of funds to support future capital expenditure is a matter for the FEFC: the council currently has a capital programme of £30 million a year. The Higher Education Funding Council for England plans to provide £30 million a year for three years from 1998-99 for special initiatives to improve poor estates. The Government will consider very carefully any recommendations on capital funding by the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, which is expected to report next month.

The development of public/private partnerships is also making an important contribution to improving school, college and university buildings.

Schools: Allocation of Funds

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the present methods of allocating funds to individual schools are in need of improvement, and, if so, when they intend to announce their plans for such improvement.

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Baroness Blackstone: The Government are committed to funding arrangements which do not discriminate unfairly between schools or between pupils. Existing arrangements are being reviewed, and consultations will take place in due course.

Sixteen Year-olds: Education Costs

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the average cost of providing a place at a state school for a 16 year-old in each of Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England.

Baroness Blackstone: There is no reason for schools and LEAs to disaggregate their budgets in a way that would allow the cost of 16 year-olds to be isolated from those for other secondary pupils. Therefore, this information is not available.

University for Industry

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect the University for Industry to open.

Baroness Blackstone: The University for Industry, which will not be a university in the conventional sense, is in the early stages of its development and a final timetable has yet to be agreed. My department is taking urgent steps to bring together a range of interests from across and outside government to agree the way ahead. An announcement is expected soon.

Education and Skills Training

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to the statement in the Labour Party manifesto that one of the underlying causes of inflation, of low growth and of unemployment is "too little investment in education and skills, and in the application of new technologies", how they measure such investments, and what was the amount of such investments in the last financial year for which figures are available.

Baroness Blackstone: The level of past and planned investment in education and skills by the Department for Education and Employment is set out in the current spending plans and full details are given in the DfEE Departmental Report (Cm 3610). Employers' expenditure on training can be estimated by collecting data in a special survey. In 1993 employers' expenditure on training was £10.6 billion. This figure includes wage costs paid to trainees as well as the direct costs of the training. It is not possible to give a precise figure for the level of investment in the application of new technologies. In 1995 the Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research and Development by the public and private sectors was £14 billion. This includes all types of research and development including its application.

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Work Opportunities

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to the statement in the Labour Party manifesto that one of the underlying causes of inflation, of low growth and of unemployment is "too few opportunities to find jobs, start new businesses or become self-employed", how they measure the numbers of such opportunities, and what those numbers were according to the latest figures available.

Baroness Blackstone: The Labour Force Survey is a quarterly survey of households in the UK. It shows that in winter 1996/7 there were 26.5 million people in jobs in the UK, about 70 per cent. of all those of working age. Of those 12.5 per cent. were self-employed. Barclays and Nat West Bank estimates suggest that there were between 350,000 and 450,000 small business start-ups in 1996.

The Government will pursue a stable macro-economic policy as a platform for sustainable, low-inflation growth. Our Welfare to Work policies will aim to improve the employment prospects of unemployed people and those currently outside the labour market who want jobs, by providing opportunities to enhance their skills, enterprise and employability. These policies are essential for creating a successful economy with a high and stable level of employment, where all groups in society can prosper.

Bank of England: Monetary Policy Committee Meetings

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what dates the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England will be meeting, and how soon after each meeting the minutes will be published.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The Bank has announced the dates of the Monetary Policy Committee meetings up to the end of 1997: 9/10 July, 6/7 August, 10/11 September, 8/9 October, 5/6 November, and 3/4 December. The minutes, including a record of any vote, will be published within six weeks of each meeting.

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