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AONB Protection

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: As announced in the Queen's Speech, the Government intend to introduce legislation to give people greater access to the countryside and to improve protection for wildlife. I cannot disclose further details of the legislation before it is introduced in Parliament.

New Deal for Disabled People: Expenditure

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): £195 million (£186 million for Great Britain) has been set aside for the New Deal for Disabled People over the lifetime of this Parliament. As at 31 December 1999, £11.75 million had been spent on pilots offering extra help and support for people on incapacity benefits who want to work. We hope to make an announcement shortly about the next stage of the New Deal for Disabled People taking account of emerging findings from the pilots. None of the £195 million has been set aside specifically for care packages for severely disabled people in full-time employment. However, it is open for personal advisers to provide a wide range of in-work support, including arrangements to supplement care packages where necessary to meet individual needs.

New Deal for Young People

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Blackstone: Under the New Deal for Young People there are four options, all of which involve some form of training. Figures for these to the end of November 1999 are as follows:

OptionsEnglandSouth Yorkshire
Full Time Education and Training53,0202,855
Voluntary Sector20,540657
Environment Task Force18,350872

For the Self-Employment Route within New Deal we gather clerical information for Great Britain. The latest provisional figures to the end of January 2000 show that nationally 1,671 young people have started test trading under the Self Employment Option, and 346 young people have gone into independent self-employment. This figure is not broken down to separate regions.

Learning and Skills Bill [H.L.]

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans have they to strengthen the provisions of the Learning and Skills Bill (H.L.) to ensure that both the national and local learning and skills councils will have statutory responsibility to develop the skills of the workforce regardless of age.[HL986]

Baroness Blackstone: We recognise that there needs to be a substantial improvement in participation and achievement at every level of attainment. That is why we are devoting significant additional resources to post-16 learning to allow access to learning for all those who need it: £3.9 billion in 2001-02, compared to £3.1 billion in 1998-99: an extra £800 million.

However, we have made clear that the learning and skills council will be required to give priority to the learning of 16 to 19-year-olds, fulfilling our commitment given in the White Paper Learning to Succeed to give all 16 to 19 year-olds an entitlement to education and training, whether full-time or part-time, if they want it. We have made a distinction between provision for the 16 to 19 age group and adults, as we have one of the sharpest declines in participation from 16 to 18 of many countries in Europe.

The local learning and skills councils will have discretion to secure the right balance and mix of post-19 provision in their area. We expect further increases in the number of adults in learning.

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will strengthen the provisions of the Learning and Skills Bill (H.L.) to ensure that the plans of local learning and skills councils are based upon a statement of the needs of their areas regarding education, training and workforce development; and[HL988]

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    Whether they intend to amend the Learning and Skills Bill (H.L.) to confirm that the remit of the learning and skills council at both the national and local level should include the identification of labour market needs, the instigation of economic regeneration initiatives and the undertaking of social inclusion projects that will provide equal opportunities to persons aged 16 or over.[HL987]

Baroness Blackstone: The noble Lord has tabled the above two Questions which we feel can be appropriately linked.

We have set out in the LSC Prospectus the importance of the LSCs activities being integrated with local economic development. Local LSCs will achieve this by consulting about their plans with RDAs, local authorities, the Employment Service and local economic development partnerships.

In support of workforce development and regeneration activities, the LSC is expected to develop a system which is responsive to the needs of the economy, local areas and particular industries and sectors. In particular, the LSC will support workforce development by working with employers, trade unions and many others, including Investors in People UK, the Small Business Service and the University for Industry. It will also work closely with National Training Organisations and their developing frameworks for sector workforce development plans. At a local level the LSCs will prepare local workforce development plans which reflect the national framework and build on the work of local Learning Partnerships. This work includes an analysis of local labour market and skills needs and build on the work of RDAs in identifying regional skill needs.

Also, local LSCs will have a range of flexible budgets amounting to around 10-15 per cent of the overall funding to support workforce development, local regeneration initiatives, equality of opportunity projects and initiatives, improving access to learning opportunities and marketing and promotion activity.

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to amend the Learning and Skills Bill (H.L.) to ensure that the workplace learning route has equal status, support and funding to the school or college route.[HL989]

Baroness Blackstone: The Learning and Skills Council will aim to fund all providers on an equitable basis. We have said in the Prospectus that the LSC will need to encourage and support providers offering a high quality service, whether they be employers, colleges, school sixth forms or private or voluntary sector training providers.

We are committed to creating a new system which is coherent, accessible and responsive to the needs of individuals, businesses and communities. The allocation of the majority of the LSC's funds will therefore depend on demand from individuals and businesses about the learning opportunities they wish

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to pursue, which will in turn inform the decisions taken by the local LSCs.

The majority of funds will be allocated to national rates within a funding formula. However, we expect that 10-15 per cent of LSC budgets will be for provision which is not included in the national tariff and will be made at the discretion of the local LSC and can be used, for example, for improvements in the quality of local provision and workforce development.

Special Advisers

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 31 January (WA 12), in what way "strengthening the centre of Government to co-ordinate and oversee the delivery of policy is quite different from the Government's programme of devolution and local government reform"; and[HL921]

    Whether the increased use and cost of special advisers as a means of "strengthening the centre to ensure a firm political focus and greater co-ordination in the work of this Administration" (HC Deb., 2 February, 645W) is consistent with their programme of devolution and local government reform; and, if so, in what way.[HL996]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Our decision to have a strong centre to provide strategic focus and drive to the work of this Administration is not inconsistent with our programme of devolution and local government reform, which is bringing decision-making closer to local people.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been any instances where the terms of the Model Contract for Special Advisers have been substantively varied to accommodate the specific requirements of any individual; and, if so, in what respect.[HL923]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Significant variations have been made in respect of four appointments: the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff and Chief Press Secretary to reflect the fact that they are not restricted to an advisory role, and the UK Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator and his deputy to reflect their cross-governmental advisory role in tackling drugs related issues.

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