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Schools: Pedometers

Lord Pendry asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: No formal consideration has yet been given to the provision of free pedometers to schools. Knowledge and understanding of fitness and health is one of four key strands running through the PE national curriculum. Schools can choose to use pedometers as part of this element of their PE lessons to help to teach pupils the importance of physical activity to health and wellbeing.

The Government have put in place a range of measures to increase the take-up of opportunities in physical education and school sport and to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity among our young people. We are keen to consider any further measures to ensure that the proportion of five to 16 year-olds receiving at least two hours each week on high quality PE and school sport is increased to at least 75 per cent by 2006. The Government are investing over £1 billion to help to deliver this.

14 to 16 Education

Baroness Maddock asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to expand the provision of 14 to 16 year-old education in further education colleges.[HL 2435]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: There is already extensive provision of vocational education for 14 to 16 year-olds in further education colleges.

In February, the Secretary of State announced further funding for the "Increased Flexibility for 14 to 16 Year-Olds" programme in 2004–06. This will enable over 2,000 schools and about 300 colleges to continue to collaborate over the provision of high-quality vocational learning for about 90,000 pupils. In May, Ministers will be announcing details of the new young apprenticeships programme for 14 to 16 year-olds, which will involve many colleges and is scheduled to begin in September 2004.

In the medium to long term, Ministers will take account of the recommendations of the 14 to 19 working group when deciding the most effective provision for vocational education for 14 to 16 year-olds.

Adult Learning

Baroness Maddock asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will reform financial support for adults so as to encourage learning.[HL 2436]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: We announced in our skills strategy White Paper an increase in the financial support to help adults in further education with the costs of learning through a new adult learning grant. The grant is available on a pilot basis in 10 local learning and skills council areas and we plan to double the size of the current pilot from September by making the adult learning grant available across the south-east and north-east regions.

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Proposals for improving the package of financial support for undergraduates were announced in January at Commons Second Reading of the Higher Education Bill. This includes introduction of a non-repayable grant of up to £2,700 pa for students from poorer economic backgrounds. We are improving the package of support for part-time students, many of whom are mature. In 2004–05 students on low incomes will be able to get a grant of up to £575 for fees and a grant of up to £250 for course costs. We will continue to provide additional, targeted financial support for vulnerable students, through higher education institutions, to ensure that more of them are able to access and remain in higher education. jenny

Wind Farms

Lord Dixon-Smith asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence they have that wind farms constructed to existing planning guidelines have no impact on human health.[HL2300]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government are not aware of any evidence that wind farms constructed to existing planning guidance have an impact on human health.

British Coal: Litigation

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in accordance with its statutory duty, the Department of Trade and Industry's Corporate Law and Governance Directorate and its Companies Investigation Branch will investigate those companies and directors against whom misconduct and unscrupulous practice is alleged in operating as claims farmers and exploiting miners and widows in connection with compensation claims against the former British Coal Corporation.[HL2309]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Where the department's Coal Liabilities Unit has first-hand evidence of wrongdoing it will make referrals to the appropriate regulator. However, in most cases it will be more appropriate for those acting on behalf of an individual directly affected to make a formal complaint.

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the average cost of administering and handling each claim under the British Coal respiratory disease litigation, taking into account expenditure within the Department of Trade and Industry and payments to all contractors and solicitors, but excluding sums paid by way of compensation.[HL2310]

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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The average cost of handling a claim over the course of 2002 and 2003 was approximately £2,700.

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the option of a minimum compensation payment, funded by contractors and solicitors, was not provided for under the British Coal respiratory disease litigation, thereby taking claims out of the scheme and ensuring that public funds were spent on miners and widows.[HL2311]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Compensation is decided following a medical assessment, which takes account of the claimant's level of disability caused by lung disease, the dust levels in the mines he was employed at and the effects of smoking and other conditions for which British Coal was not found liable.

The claims handling agreement negotiated with the miners' solicitors' aims to calculate accurately and fairly the amount of compensation due to each claimant whether this is a relatively small amount or a considerable sum. The agreement respects the court judgment.

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is the case that six years after the High Court judgment in the British Coal respiratory disease litigation over 300,000 miners and widows have yet to receive their entitlement to compensation; and what is their view of this delay.[HL2312]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The claims process is by necessity complex and there was delays at the beginning but with each claim being assessed individually it is inevitable that it will take some time to settle all claims. Over 555,000 claims had been received up to the cut-off date of 31 March 2004, around half of these since last September.

The department and our contractors are doing all we can to speed up this process and as you know we have so far settled some 117,000 claims. We are on target to make 35,000 full and final offers within the first six months of 2004. It is hoped the solicitors dealing with these claims will quickly turn these offers into settlements.

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Department of Trade and Industry did not take sufficient action to prevent claimants under the British Coal respiratory disease litigation failing to meet the registration deadline of 31 March 2004, despite the department's awareness that this was a risk.[HL2313]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The department considers that it did take appropriate action to ensure potential claimants were aware of the deadline. The department's communication strategy was agreed with Mr Justice Turner.

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The department advertised four times in the national and regional press, with extensive coverage in those areas where there are pockets of ex-miners. In addition there has been very extensive advertising and leafleting by solicitors and claims handlers in local papers. To date, only 18 claims missed the deadline. jenny

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the claims made under the British Coal respiratory disease litigation relate to miners or widows who have died since the High Court ruling in their favour in January 1998.[HL2347]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The number of claimants who have died since 1 January 1998 is nearly 45,000 (out of around 300,000 deceased claims). There are no figures for widows.

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why there is no provision for compensation to be paid to surface workers in the British Coal respiratory disease litigation, given that the issue has been outstanding for six years and the High Court scheme was closed before miners and widows knew whether or not they had the right to claim.[HL2348]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The medical expert's advice to the DTI is based on surface dust levels recorded by the Institute of Occupational Medicine. These were not sufficient to cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the great majority of cases. The claimants' solicitors refused to accept this position but have not mounted a successful legal challenge.


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