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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) is conducting a public consultation on the draft of a possible code. The consultation ends on 20 June. We shall consider the code further in the light of responses to this consultation.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the 20 non-departmental public bodies and agencies being reviewed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for possible abolition or merger.[HL319]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): The Government are committed to reducing both the number and cost of public bodies. We are looking at the need for the functions carried out by all the public bodies for which BIS has responsibility and whether those functions should continue to be carried out by a public body. We expect that this will result in a reduction of around 20 bodies through mergers or abolition. Final decisions on which bodies should be merged or abolished have yet to be taken. However, the coalition programme for government committed to supporting the creation of local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) to replace regional development agencies. These will be local partnerships between councils and businesses, with the option for a regional-level LEP where there is public support for this.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the 13 non-departmental public bodies or agencies reporting to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills described by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, as being "got rid of, merged or having their funding cut"; and what is their estimate of savings to public expenditure.[HL320]
Baroness Wilcox: The Government are committed to reducing the number and cost of public bodies. BIS has already taken action to reduce the number of its public bodies by 13 compared with last year. The 13 bodies are:seven regional industrial development boards, which have been closed down;Ufl/Learndirect is to operate as an independent training provider from 1 August and will be eligible on the same basis as other training providers for funding from the Skills Funding Agency;Learning and Skills Improvement Service, which from April 2011 will be owned and funded by the further education sector, rather than by BIS;Institute for Learning, which as an independent membership body will become progressively self-funding by March 2013;Standards and Verification UK, public funding for which will end in March 2011;Investors in People UK, which has merged with the UK Commission for Employment and Skills; and
As a result, savings of over £50 million are already being made in 2010-11 and additional annual savings of £24 million are estimated from 2011-12 onwards. In addition to the savings to BIS, the abolition of the Hearing Aid Council will mean savings of £1 million a year to the industry.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Government announced over £6 billion of in-year savings in May 2010. Of this, £3.85 billion relates to savings categorised as wasteful or inefficient including planned reductions in spend on IT, property, recruitment and quangos. The Government are also taking steps to ensure that all areas of discretionary expenditure, such as consultancy and travel, are reduced. Where it is possible government contracts will be renegotiated to ensure the best value for the tax payer.
£1.165 billion of savings will also be made in local government by reducing grants to local authorities to reflect their contribution to the £6.2 billion, and the devolved Administrations will contribute £704 million. A further £0.52 billion will be saved by stopping low value spend. As the Chief Secretary to the Treasury said in his announcement of the £6.2 billion savings, "we want to protect the key front-line services which people depend upon ..." For example, money allocated to individual school budgets, to local authorities for Sure Start, and funding for core 16-19 participation will be protected from any in year spending cuts. The Government will also remove the ring fences around over £1.7 billion of grants to local authorities in 2010-11, to give them greater flexibility to re-shape their budgets and find savings in the areas set out above, while maintaining the quality of services to their customers. Devolved Administrations have been given the option of deferring their share of the £6.2 billion until the next financial year.
Earl Attlee: The Department for Transport plans to carry out during summer 2010 a review of the rail price elasticity recommendations provided in the most recent passenger demand forecasting handbook. This review will add to the evidence base which informs Ministers' policy decisions.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the cost to public funds of any closure of Refugee and Migrant Justice and other not-for-profit organisations due to legal aid funding arrangements, including the cost of payments to providers prior to their closure.[HL185]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The current legal aid funding arrangements have applied to most not for profit (NfP) organisations since October 2007, although Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ) has had alternative transitional arrangements.
If any provider ceases to have a legal aid contract for whatever reason, then the LSC will have to make an assessment of any potential financial issues in the individual circumstances. This will consider payments on account made, claims to be billed and whether for example the provider will be continuing to conclude cases for existing clients. One reason that LSC funding arrangements aim to reconcile claims against payments is to ensure that public funds are protected.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many academies with sixth form students do not offer A-levels in (a) English language, (b) English literature, (c) mathematics, (d) biology, (e) chemistry, (f) physics, and (g) geography.[HL221]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The department does not hold information about the A-level subjects that are offered by academies. Academies, like other providers, will take account of demand for subjects when offering A-level courses. Academies in federations are also likely to have a cross-site arrangement in the A-level courses on offer.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how they will "facilitate inclusive admissions policies in as many [faith] schools as possible", as set out in The Coalition: Our Programme for Government; what effect that will have on the ability of such schools to determine their admissions policies; whether they intend to set quotas for such schools; and what assessment they have made of the impact on the ethos of such schools.[HL128]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): The department has strong and productive working relationships with all faith groups, founded on respect for the high quality education they have provided for many years, and I am looking forward to continuing working with them on these issues.
As set out in The Coalition: Our Programme for Government, we will work with providers of faith based education to ensure that the schools they run serve their communities. All school admission arrangements have to comply with the statutory requirements of the school admissions code and related legislation. This ensures that all school places are awarded in a fair and open way. Schools that are their own admission authority will continue to be able to set their own admission arrangements and must ensure that they are compliant with the code. Many faith schools already admit children that are of another, or of no faith, helping ensure that their intake reflects the diversity of these communities. To support our new expansion of the academies programme we have made it clear that existing faith schools that convert to become academies will retain the ability to set their own admissions criteria and may continue to use faith based criteria in line with the admissions code.
We fully understand how important it is for schools to have and express their own distinct ethos. This is why the admissions code allows all schools to include in their admission arrangements a factual statement about their ethos. However, this is just one way for a school to communicate its ethos; schools are also free to develop and underline their ethos through their curriculum, assemblies and daily acts of collective worship.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will discuss whether to recognise the independence of Somaliland within the boundaries of former British Somaliland with countries in the region and with the European Union.[HL399]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government currently have no plans to discuss the recognition of Somaliland with countries in the region or with the European Union. However, we keep our policy on
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To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the situation in Uganda and reports that the Allied Democratic Forces are regrouping in eastern Congo near the Ugandan border area where international companies are preparing to produce oil.[HL256]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): There have been some recent reports on the Government of Uganda's concern that the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) are regrouping in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. We have not received any information that either corroborates or contradicts these reports, but we will continue to monitor the situation and maintain our contacts with the Ugandan military. We currently assess that while the ADF is capable of carrying out small military operations, it does not in itself threaten the overall stability of the region.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many public sector employees would be involved in the commission to investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights; and at what salaries they would be employed.[HL379]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Government will make a Statement to Parliament on the appointment of the commission on a Bill of Rights and the estimated resources and associated costs in due course.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the Government of South Africa's new requirement that St Helenians holding a British overseas territory citizen's passport must apply for a visa before travelling to South Africa, and the amount of notice which was given of this requirement. [HL296]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Our high commission in Pretoria has been in contact with the Government of the Republic of South Africa over visa requirements for St Helenians holding British Overseas Territories Citizen (BOTC) passports. I am pleased to say that the South African Department of Home Affairs has confirmed that BOTC passports will continue to be accepted for entry to South Africa without a visa.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to assist the efforts of the Government of St Helena to persuade the Government of South Africa to relax the new requirement for visas for St Helenians visiting South Africa under medical emergency arrangements.[HL297]
Lord Howell of Guildford: Our high commission in Pretoria has been in contact with the Government of the Republic of South Africa over visa requirements for St Helenians holding British Overseas Territories Citizen (BOTC) passports. I am pleased to say that the South African Department of Home Affairs has confirmed that BOTC passports will continue to be accepted for entry to South Africa without a visa.
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