|Stephen Williams MP
|6th August 2010
Stephen Williams' Parliamentary Written Questions
Written questions are the simplest and easiest way for back bench MPs to gain information from government ministers. Below you will find some of the questions that Stephen has asked in order to help him hold the government to account on key areas of interest to his constituents.
27 February 2007 - Foundation Degrees
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the answer of 15 January 2007, Official Report, column 801W, on foundation degrees, whether he met (a) the Higher Education Funding Council for England, (b) the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, (c) Universities UK, (d) the Russell Group of universities, (e) the 1994 Group of Universities, (f) the Campaign for Modern Universities, (g) the Association of Colleges and (h) the 157 Group of college principals to discuss Clause 19 of the Further Education and Training Bill prior to the publication of the Bill.
Sir Andrew Foster's report into the future role of further education colleges, published in November 2005, recommended that
"consideration should be given to allowing some colleges, that meet quality criteria the ability to award their own qualifications, rather than working through awarding bodies".
Prior to the publication of the Further Education and Training Bill, departmental officials discussed how these proposals might be taken forward from the Quality Assurance Agency and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The views of the Association of Colleges and other representative bodies from the further education sector were also taken. The Department then launched a written consultation on November 2006, and in response received over 30 written submissions on the proposals from a wide range of stakeholder bodies. There have been numerous discussions about the proposals too. The representations we have received have been instrumental in modifying the proposals of Clause 19 to ensure that the views of the further and higher education sectors, and other interested parties, are taken into account.
22 January 2007 - Disability Living Allowance
(1) how many applications for disability living allowance were received in (a) 2005 and (b) 2006; and what percentage of applications was approved;
(2) many applications for disability living allowance were received in (a) 2005 and (b) 2006 on grounds of mental health; and what percentage of applications was approved.
The information is not available in the form requested. The available information is that in the 12 months ending on 31 May 2005, 432,670(1) initial claims to disability living allowance were decided, of which 201,100(1) (46.5 per cent.) resulted in an award of the benefit. In 23.5 per cent.(2) of the claims which resulted in an award of the benefit, the main disabling condition was recorded as "mental health". For the 12 months ending on 31 May 2006, the corresponding figures were 422,030(1) claims decided, of which 197,850(1) (46.9 per cent.) resulted in an award of the benefit. In 23.2 per cent.(2) of the claims which resulted in an award of the benefit, the main disabling condition was recorded as "mental health".
(1) Source: DWP 100 per cent Management Information Data. Figures are rounded to the nearest 10.
(2) Figures are based on a 5 per cent. sample and are therefore subject to a degree of sampling variation
Figures do not include first awards made as a result of reviews or appeals since decisions following reviews or appeals occur considerably later than the initial decision.
16 January 2007 - Foundation Degrees
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the answer of 19 December 2006, Official Report, column 1863W, on foundation degrees, if he will list the organisations which have provided informal feedback welcoming the provision in the Further Education and Training Bill.
The Association of Colleges, which represents the interests of Further Education Colleges in England and Wales, has welcomed the proposals in Clause 19 (Power to award Foundation Degrees only) of the Further Education and Training Bill. In addition, the Mixed Economy Group and the 157 Group of leading Further Education Colleges have been similarly supportive of the move. Positive feedback has also been received in my Department from individual college principals within the FE sector who feel that the proposals are enabling, and that they will facilitate the sector's vital role, emphasised by Lord Leitch's recent report on skills, in providing high-quality training that is flexible and responsive to employers' and learners' needs.
Monday, 15 January 2007 - Foundation Degrees
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the answer of 19 December 2006, Official Report, column 1863W, on foundation degrees, if he will list the interested parties in the further and higher education sectors with whom his Department held informal discussions.
The Department is in constant dialogue with representatives from a wide range of organisations in both the further and higher education sectors and beyond. These discussions are often essential for exploring the desirability or feasibility of policy decisions before any explicit proposals are formulated. The proposals in clause 19 (Power to award Foundation Degrees only) of the Further Education and Training Bill emerged from such ongoing discussions.
11 January 2007 - Schools
We already know that, in the run up to 2012, the Government are going to spend billions of pounds on rebuilding schools or building new schools, which is welcome. However, we also know that by the time we get to 2012 the number of pupils being educated in those schools will have fallen. Do the Government recognise that that challenge of demographic change requires not only that they respond with new buildings, but that they transform the curriculum being delivered within those new buildings so that we drive up attainment and staying on rates at 16?
As we roll out the building schools for the future programme-a £45 billion investment in secondary school buildings and transforming secondary education-we will certainly look to local authorities to make sure that they take proper account of falling rolls and propose imaginative schemes to address that. That will work alongside the most ambitious reform of qualifications, with the introduction of specialised diplomas, for many years. We want to make sure that local authorities, in their vision for building schools for the future, are also accounting for the needs in relation to the 14 to 19 reforms.
9 January 2007 - Student Finance
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many UK domiciled initial participants in higher education have not applied to the Student Loans Company for any financial support in the academic year 2006-07 to date.
Data are not available on the number of initial participants in higher education in academic year 2006/07 who have not applied to the Student Loans Company for any financial support.
Figures for English domiciled students for 2005/06, which have been derived from the latest available data, show that 898,000 higher education students were eligible for a maintenance loan from the Student Loans Company. 801,000 of these students applied for a maintenance loan. By subtraction, 97,000 students did not apply for a maintenance loan.
Figures for initial participants and those eligible for financial support other than maintenance loans cannot be derived from the available data.
14 December 2006 - Foundation Degrees
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which organisations were consulted prior to the publication of the Further Education and Training Bill on the granting to further education institutions of the power to award foundation degrees.
The proposal in Clause 19 of the Further Education and Training Bill emerged after informal discussions with a number of interested parties in the further and higher education sectors, following a recommendation by Andrew Foster in his report that the issue of foundation degree awarding powers for some further education colleges should be looked at. The proposal has also taken into account the challenges set by Lord Leitch in his recent report about the need to expand our higher level skills base. Since the publication of the Bill, we have written to a wide range of stakeholders and interested bodies to seek their views. We have made clear our commitment to working with partners in both the further and higher education sectors to make the proposals function effectively. We have already had informal feedback welcoming the provision in the Bill.
19 December 2006 - Foundation Degrees
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills from which organisations he has received representations since the publication of the Further Education and Training Bill on the granting to further education institutions of the power to award foundation degrees.
At the present time, my Department has received representations on the proposals in Clause 19 of the Further Education and Training Bill from Universities UK, the Coalition of Modern Universities, the Association of Colleges, and the National Union of Students. The current consultation period runs until 12 January 2007, and we expect to receive further responses in the intervening time. We have made clear our ongoing commitment to working with partners in both the further and higher education sectors to make the proposals function effectively.
14 December 2006 - Truth in Science
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate he has made of the number of schools which have (a) been contacted by and (b) received materials from Truth in Science Ltd.
The Department does not collect information on the number of schools that have been contacted by Truth in Science Ltd. We understand however that the 'truth in science' packs have been sent to every secondary school in the United Kingdom.
11 December 2006 - Truth in Science
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what representations his Department has received from Truth in Science Ltd. on the teaching of (a) creationism and (b) intelligent design in schools.
The Secretary of State has received correspondence from Truth in Science Ltd. seeking clarification of the Department's view on the suitability of their teaching materials. Officials have responded that schools are under a duty to follow the science programme of study which sets out the legal requirements of the national curriculum. They have explained that the programme of study clearly states pupils should be taught: how uncertainties in scientific knowledge and scientific ideas change over time; the role of the scientific community in validating these changes; that variation within species can lead to evolutionary changes; and, similarities and differences between species can be measured and classified. The letter also states that neither intelligent design nor creationism is a recognised scientific theory and they are not included in the science curriculum. The Truth in Science information pack is therefore not an appropriate resource to support the science curriculum. The letter also mentioned that the Department is working with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) to ensure that schools are completely clear as to the reasons for this position.
29 November 2006 - Carbon Dioxide Emissions
To ask the honourable Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what progress has been made on plans to offset the carbon dioxide emissions produced by overseas select committee visits.
The Commission and the Members Estimate Committee decided on 19 June to make annual contributions to the Government's carbon offsetting fund to cover the carbon costs of parliamentary air travel booked through the parliamentary travel office. The House of Lords House Committee decided to do likewise on 18 July. Carbon dioxide emissions resulting from overseas select committee visits will be offset as part of this arrangement. A first payment, covering the current financial year, is expected to be made in April 2007.
8 November 2006 - Student Maintenance Grants
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the answer of 25 October 2006, Official Report, column 1926W, on student maintenance grants, what the basis is of the estimate that 30 per cent. of new full-time English domiciled students would receive a full grant.
The Department's forecasts that around 30 per cent. of new full-time English domiciled students who started their course in September 2006 will be eligible to receive the full maintenance grant is based on data from the Student Loans Company. This includes household income assessment and HE grant entitlement data for students who applied for support in the 2005/06 academic year. We also take into account growth in household income between 2005/06 and the current academic year.
Figures on the distribution of the new maintenance grant will be published for the first time in the National Statistics Statistical First Release "Student Support for Higher Education in England, academic year 2006/07 (Provisional)" on 28 November 2006.
6 November 2006 - Creationism
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what representations his Department has received on the teaching of creationism in schools.
The Department regularly receives correspondence about the teaching of creationism in schools. Most express concern about the possibility that creationism could be taught in the science curriculum.
The Government's view are that creationism is not a recognised scientific theory and should not be taught in the science curriculum. There are, however, opportunities to discuss it in Religious Education, where pupils learn about different beliefs and faiths.
31 October 2006 - Child Trust Fund
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations the Government has made to Child Trust Fund operators requesting that they provide ethical investment options.
The Child Trust Fund has been specifically designed to allow ethical investments. Details of the providers offering ethical investment options are available in the Child Trust Fund information booklet. The choice of provider is a decision for each individual.
30 October 2006 - Dentistry
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many dentists with NHS contracts have been registered in (a) Bristol and (b) Bristol West in each year since 2003.
The latest full year information is provided in the following table. Information for the full year ending 2006-07 is not yet available. The latest available information shows that there were 105 dentists on open national health service contracts in Bristol North Primary Care Trust (PCT) and 124 in Bristol South and West PCT as at 30 June 2006.
The number of NHS contracts and the service associated with these contracts provides a guide to the level of NHS dental services available. Management information shows that 93.4 per cent. and 98.3 per cent. of dental service respectively was preserved in these two PCTs following the launch of the reforms.
The PCTs are actively re-commissioning the small percentage of service associated with the rejected contracts. Nationally PCTs are finding no shortage of dentists willing to take on additional NHS activity.
Bristol North PCT 101
Bristol South and West PCT 117
Bristol North PCT 102
Bristol South and West PCT 115
Bristol North PCT 113
Bristol South and West PCT 132
Bristol North PCT 120
Bristol South and West PCT 140
25 Oct 2006- Education and Skills: Student Finance
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the cost was to his Department of subsidising the interest rate on accumulated student debt for 2005-06; and what the Department's estimate is of any change in this annual cost as a result of the Higher Education Act 2004 and the deferral of variable tuition fees.
Future cost estimates are calculated on a long-term basis over the lifetime of loans as part of the resource accounting and budgeting (RAB) charges, which take into account both interest subsidy and write offs. There are separate RAB charges for maintenance and fee loans. My written statement of 10 November 2005 provides future estimates of maintenance and fee loan RAB charge costs for AY 2006-07.
25 Oct 2006- Education and Skills: Student Finance
The new maintenance grant and the equivalent special support grant were introduced for new full-time English domiciled students who started their course in September 2006 or later. The grant is means-tested and my Department anticipates that around 30 per cent. of new full-time English domiciled students in 2006/07 will receive the full grant, while around 50 per cent. will receive either a full or partial grant.
Figures on the distribution of the new maintenance grant will be published for the first time in the National Statistics Statistical First Release "Student Support for Higher Education in England, academic year 2006/07 (Provisional)" in November 2006.
19th October 2006 - Education and Skills - Aim Higher Campaign
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much his Department has spent on advertising for the Aim Higher campaign in each year since its inception.
The Aimhigher campaign was launched in 2001 with the aim of raising the aspirations of young people and their parents so that going on to higher education became a real option for them. Since its launch, the Department has spent the following on advertising:
Under the Aimhigher Student Finance banner, the Department has also ran advertising to raise awareness and understanding about the financial help available for students entering higher education. Since its launch in 2003, the Department has spent the following on advertising:
17th October 2006 - VAT (Fruit Drinks)
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what consideration his Department has given to reducing VAT on pure fruit drinks.
These same agreements do allow the UK to introduce a reduced rate of VAT of not less than 5 per cent. for foodstuffs which are not zero-rated. While all taxes are kept under review, the use of VAT reduced rates have been used where the tax system offers the most effective and best-targeted support for our social objectives, when compared with other policy instruments.
The 2004 Wanless report on public health highlighted difficulties of principle and practice with dietary based tax changes to support public health. To date, the Government have therefore focused resources to encourage healthy eating choices outside the tax system.
12th October 2006 - Student Finance
What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the "Aim Higher" programme in informing potential students of the financial support available to them.
The new student finance package is better and fairer, giving more help to those who need it most. Assessment of our "Aim Higher" student finance information campaign has shown that awareness of tuition fee loans among potential students has increased significantly, and the assessment of other "Aim Higher" promotional activities, such as road shows, has been positive. We will continue our efforts to ensure that all students get the facts about what they are entitled to.
Under freedom of information rules, I have a copy of the media analysis of the "Aim Higher" campaign, which the Minister has referred to. Although he will take some comfort from the finding that his remarks were "consistently on message", he should be less comforted by the fact that the penetration of the message was highest among social class A and lowest among social classes D and E, which is the opposite of what the campaign was meant to achieve. Will he ensure that this year's campaign is directed at schools and colleges where participation in higher education is at its lowest?
On the key indicator of awareness of the tuition fee loan, which is effectively the end of the up-front contribution to the tuition fee, awareness has risen from 75 per cent. to 84 per cent., which is significant.
13th September 2006 - Asylum & Immigration
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what date each of the reports by the Independent Monitor (Immigration and Asylum Act 2002) were received by the Home Office; and what the date of publication was in each case.
The Independent Monitor of certification of claims as unfounded under section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 has published two annual reports, covering 2004 and 2005 respectively. The final version of the 2004 annual report was received by the Home Office on 1 June 2005 and published on 21 July. The final version of the 2005 report was received on 6 April 2006 and published on 27 April.
In each case the submission by the Monitor of the final version of the report was preceded by a period of consultation on draft versions.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the reasons were for the time taken for the publication of the most recent report by the Independent Monitor (Immigration and Asylum Act 2002) submitted to Government in November 2005.
The final agreed version of the 2005 Annual report of the Monitor of certification of claims as unfounded under section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 was formally submitted to the Home Office on 6 April 2006. The report was published on 27 April. The document submitted to the Home Office on 29 November 2005 was the first draft of the Monitor's annual report. This document was then subject to a period of consultation and discussion prior to being submitted to the Secretary of State. This included the provision of further information requested by the Monitor to enable her to complete the report and the correction of factual errors.
21st June 2006 - Waste Management
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the impact on waste management of (a) the introduction of recycling facilities and (b) mandatory bottle return and recycling schemes in supermarkets.
A report on the success of this project will be available soon.
14th June 2006 - Registered Disabled (Mobility Aids)
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of (a) the number of registered disabled persons who use cycles of various kinds as mobility aids, (b) the extent of the mobility benefits provided as a result of the use of (i) cycles and (ii) other mobility aids and (c) the status of cycles as a mobility aid in relation to Parts 3 and 5 of the Disability Discrimination Act.
Information on the number of registered disabled persons who use cycles of various kinds as mobility aids is not available.
There are several types of cycles on the market designed for use by disabled people. However, we have made no assessment of the extent to which they, or other forms of cycles, are used as mobility aids and information to inform such an assessment is not held centrally. The extent to which cycles benefit the mobility of disabled people when compared with other forms of mobility aids has therefore not been determined.
Similarly, we have made no assessment of the status of cycles as a mobility aid in relation to duties under Part 3 or Part 5 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Part 3 of the Act includes provisions which place duties on service providers not to discriminate against disabled people and to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in the way that they provide their services. Since 5 December 2005, the duties in Part 3 have started to be extended in stages to more areas, including private clubs, public bodies in their carrying out of public functions, and letting of premises. An adjustment for a disabled person who required a cycle as a mobility aid would need to be considered by those with duties under the Act when deciding what may be a reasonable adjustment to make. Factors such as the cost and practicability of making an adjustment, and the resources available to the service provider, private club or landlord may be taken into account in deciding what is reasonable in any individual situation.
Part 5 of the Act concerns accessibility regulations for all land-based public transport (trains, buses, coaches and taxis) rather than private modes of transport.
5th June 2006 - Vehicle Tax Discs
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many applications for vehicle tax discs the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has received through the online service since its introduction; and how many of those applications resulted in tax discs being delivered within the target of five working days.
Since the online service was introduced DVLA has received a total of 2,438,361 transactions of which 2,019,952 were successfully completed. A total of 418,409 transactions failed to process as a result of insurance failures and customers not having the correct MOT certificate. There is no mechanism in place with Royal Mail to monitor the time it takes to deliver individual tax discs to applicants addresses. All tax discs are despatched to Royal Mail by first class mail within one day of the application successfully processing. Royal Mail's first class mail delivery target is 91.5 per cent. within two days of posting.
5th June 2006 - Prescription Drug Costs
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate her Department has made of the cost of prescription drugs that were returned unused and unopened in each of the last five years, broken down by primary care trust.
The statistical bulletin General Pharmaceutical Services in England and Wales 1995-96 to 2004-05, which is available on the Information Centre for health and social care's website at http://www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/genphmsvcengwaldecade05 provides details of the weight of unwanted medicines collected and disposed of through community pharmacies, listed by primary care trust. Pharmacies do not separate out unused and unopened medicines from those that have been partially used. Pharmacies do not separate out returned medicines from used or unused or unopened ones.
21st March 2006 - National Blood Service
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much funding her Department has allocated to the National Blood Service to recruit more bone marrow donors from ethnic minority communities; and if she will make a statement.
9th March 2006 - General Medical Services Contract (Obesity)
To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the numbers of obese patients held on registers by general practitioners under the provisions of the new General Medical Services Contract will be collected centrally; and whether she intends to collect information on the numbers and percentages of such patients who are given advice, counselling, treatment or appropriate referrals by those practices.
The new quality and outcomes framework for 2006-07 has been finalised, and includes an indicator which rewards practices for maintaining an obesity register. The recording of body mass index for the register will take place in the practice as part of routine care and will be collected by quality management and analysis system as a percentage of patients. The framework does not currently provide incentives for weight management and advice, and as such no information can be collected on these activities
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the merits of rewarding practices covered by the General Medical Services contract for offering patients advice on weight loss and management.
The negotiation of the new general medical services contract for 2006-07 included a process for gathering and assessing evidence for changes to the quality and outcomes framework, via an expert panel engaged by NHS Employers. The provision of weight loss and management advice was considered by the expert panel, whose reports will by published by NHS Employers at the end of March.
The quality and outcomes framework will be subject to a process of change and improvement over times as part of the negotiation process.
9th March 2006 - Smoking
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what advice the Government received from the Better Regulation Task Force on restriction of smoking in workplaces.
The Government took into account advice from the better regulation task force (BRTF) in deciding on the smokefree provisions of the Health Bill.
The BRTF is an independent body, set up to advise Government on action to ensure that regulation and its enforcement comply with the five principles of good regulation. The Government, through the Cabinet Office, sponsors the BRTF but does not speak for it.
2nd March 2006 - Housing Benefit
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people were in receipt of housing benefit in the most recent period for which figures are available; how many had their housing benefit paid directly to a landlord.
As at May 2004, the most recent figures for which a breakdown is available, there were a total of 3,879,000 households in Great Britain in receipt of housing benefit.
Of these, 1,808,000 were local authority tenants entitled to rent rebates. A further 1,328,000 were tenants of Registered Social Landlords and 744,000 were tenants of private landlords, entitled to rent allowance.
Of the rent allowance cases, 1,218,000 of the tenants of Registered Social Landlord and 417,000 tenants of private landlords had their benefit paid directly to the landlord or their agent.
27th February 2006 - Off Peak Rail Fares
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate his Department has made of the likely change in the number of off-peak rail users as a result of a removal of the cap on saver rail fares.
No decision on the future regulation of Saver Return fares has yet been taken. However, in the absence of regulation, it is likely that train operators would retain Saver fares or create alternatives using modern revenue-management techniques to retain existing passengers and gain new ones.
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether his Department plans to make an environmental impact assessment of its plans to allow rail companies to remove off-peak saver fares on trains.
No decision on the future regulation of Saver Return fares has yet been taken. However, in the absence of any regulation of these fares, it is likely that train operators would retain Saver fares and/or create alternative fares using modern revenue-management techniques to retain existing passengers and gain new ones. Any change to the impact on the environment is therefore likely to be negligible and no Environmental Impact Assessment is planned.
27th February 2006 - Housing Benefit
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many instances there have been of housing benefit being suspended due to a tenant's failure to pay rent in each year since 2000; and in how many cases local authorities then redirected housing benefit payments directly to a landlord at the landlord's request.
Housing benefit is not, and has never been, suspended if a tenant fails to pay their rent.
Currently regulations require that where a tenant in receipt of housing benefit has accrued eight weeks' or more rent arrears, benefit should then be paid direct to their landlord. Although the Department records data for the overall number of rent allowance cases where payment is direct to the landlord, we are not able to identify the reason for direct payments being made.
The Department has been undertaking more detailed research in those local authorities which have been testing the local housing allowance. Information collected to date suggests that around 85 per cent. of local housing allowance claims are being paid direct to the tenants. Of the 15 per cent. who are having their rent paid to the landlord, 9 per cent. are on the grounds of the tenant being assessed as unable or unlikely to pay on their own behalf and 6 per cent. on the grounds of rent arrears.
27th February 2006 - Recruitment of Bailiffs
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how much (a) her Department and (b) NHS trusts have spent on fees for bailiffs recruited to collect payments for anti-viral drugs from people residing in the UK who have been refused asylum or overstayed their visa; and how much has been collected by bailiffs.
It is the responsibility of national health service trusts to decide how to go about pursuing overseas visitors' debt and to ensure that whatever measures are taken are reasonable, based on the individual circumstances of each case. Successive Governments have not required the NHS to provide statistics on the number of overseas visitors seen, nor the costs of providing treatment, including the costs of recovering debts. It is therefore not possible to provide the information requested.
9th February 2006 - Paper Usage and Waste Paper
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(1) what guidance is offered by her Department to (a) private businesses and (b) other Government departments on minimising waste paper and paper usage;
(2) what guidance her Department issues to (a) private businesses and (b) other Government Departments on minimising waste paper.
From 1 November 2003, all new central Government Department contracts have been required to apply minimum environmental standards when purchasing certain types of product. At present standards have been set for 27 product types including copier paper (100 percent. recycled with a minimum being 75 percent. post-consumer waste) and paper for printed publications (minimum 60 percent. recycled of which 75 percent. should be post-consumer waste).
Work is underway to expand this list to around 50 products (details can be viewed at:
The OGC website also includes best practice advice for Government Departments.
The Sustainable Procurement Task Force are due to produce an action plan in spring this year setting out recommendations to help enable the UK to be amongst the leaders in sustainable procurement by 2009. We cannot say anything about the content of the action plan as it has yet to be completed and agreed with taskforce members.
24th January 2006 - Paper Usage
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what policy her Department has on minimising (a) waste paper and (b) paper usage within her Department.
All DEFRA sites monitor the amount of waste generated. An annual target of at least 1 per cent. reduction in waste generated is incorporated in site-based Environmental Management Systems. Particular attention is given to paper use and paper waste, which forms a significant proportion of departmental waste. A number of strategies are in place to achieve reductions in paper use and waste, including increasing internet-based and electronic publication of documents, and improved printer efficiency.
23rd January 2006 - Highly Skilled Migrant Programme
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people have been accepted under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme in each year since its introduction; and, how many of those were unemployed on the latest date for which figures are available.
The following table provides detail of the numbers of approvals issued under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) for each calendar year since the programme was launched. These approvals allow individuals to apply either for leave to enter or leave to remain in the United Kingdom as Highly Skilled Migrants. (These data have not provided under National Statistics protocols. They have been derived from local management information and are therefore provisional and subject to change.)
The increase in the number of applications approved followed a review of the programme in October 2003. This review resulted in the introduction of a number of changes to the HSMP criteria to ensure that the programme attracted a greater share of highly skilled individuals to the United Kingdom. Information is not collected to determine if a Highly Skilled Migrant is unemployed. Successful applicants have to demonstrate though that they are able to maintain themselves and any dependants without recourse to public funds.
Initial grants of leave issued to Highly Skilled Migrants are limited to a period of 12 months. Only where a Highly Skilled Migrant has been able to establish that they have taken all reasonable steps to become lawfully economically active in the UK during this initial period, will an extension to their stay, for a further period of 36 months, be granted.
20th January 2006 - Home Oxygen Service
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what consultation took place with (a) general practitioners, (b) pharmacists and (c) patients regarding the quality of products and services supplied by Air Products Ltd and British Oxygen Cylinders before the contract for the new Home Oxygen Service for the South West was awarded in July 2005.
Consultation took place with representatives of clinical staff, including pharmacists, and those representing patients using the home oxygen service to develop the new service specification, which was included with documents issued in October 2004 to all those tendering for the service. Among other things, those submitting tenders included details of the range of equipment offered to support delivery of the new service requirements. Those assessing tenders received for the South West included local clinical and other national health service staff involved in the provision of respiratory care services.
17th January 2006 - Avon Fire Authority
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what discussions his Department has had with (a) the Avon fire authority, (b) the chief fire officer of Avon and (c) fire servicemen and women working in the Avon fire authority about proposals to move fire appliances from Temple Back station, Bristol to Patchway, Bristol as part of the integrated risk management plan.
No representations have been made. It is not the role of Ministers to agree the operational proposals in an authority's plan; that is for elected members of the authority concerned. They are best placed to act on the professional advice of principal officers and to balance the competing local demands on available resources for the benefits of the communities they serve. Furthermore, Avon fire authority's proposals will, of course, be subject to consultation with the local community, as required under the integrated risk management plan (IRMP).
16th January 2006 - Homophobic Crime
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department
(1) what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated relating to homophobic crime;
(2) what guidelines for police forces his Department has published on (a) homophobic-related crime and (b) racially motivated crime;
(3) what recent discussions he has had on homophobic crime; and if he will make a statement;
(4) what duty is placed on police forces to (a) collect and (b) publish statistics related to reported incidences of homophobic crime.
The Metropolitan Police Service conducted a six-month study "Understanding and Responding to Hate Crime" which analysed hate crime incidents, including homophobic crime reported in that period. However, the Home Office has not commissioned any research on homophobic crime. Similarly a number of discussions have been held with stakeholders. These are being used in developing policy to tackle hate crime more effectively including homophobic crimes.
In May this year the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Home Office jointly published a hate crime manual, 'Hate Crime: Delivering a Quality Service'. This builds on the code of practice on reporting and recording racists incidents published and distributed in 2000.
At present no duty is placed on police forces to collect or publish incidents of hate crime.
15th December 2005 - Wheel Clamping
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the conduct of private wheel clamping firms in England and Wales.
I have been asked to reply.
Since the legal requirement date of 3 May 2005 for vehicle immobiliser (wheel-clampers) operatives to obtain an SIA licence, the Home Office has not commissioned any research on the conduct of private wheel clamping firms in England and Wales.
In July 2002, the Home Office carried out a limited consultation exercise on the specific issue of the practice of towing away vehicles from private land and charging a release fee. The consultation asked three main questions: the scale of any problems currently posed by the towing away of vehicles; the extent to which the practice might grow as an alternative to wheel-clamping when SIA regulation came into force; and how the problem should be addressed.
The responses confirmed anecdotal evidence that there were problems arising out of the practice of towing away, giving rise to widespread public complaint. It was predicted that these problems would increase as operators sought to evade the licensing requirements attached to vehicle immobilising. It was recommended that the problem should be dealt with by extending the licensing remit of the SIA to include this form of activity. This was completed earlier this year.
29th November 2005 - Wheel Clamping
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate his Department has made of the number of private firms that have a licence to operate wheel clamps in England and Wales, broken down by constituency.
The Private Security Industry Act 2001 does not require vehicle immobiliser firms to be licensed. It does require people who work as vehicle immobilisers to be licensed. As of 16 November the number of vehicle immobiliser operatives licences that have been issued regionally are as follows:
Front line operatives: South West - 66; Wales - 30; Midlands - 105; North West 111; North East - 116; Eastern - 43; South East - 187; London - 219 Non front line operative: South West - 10;Wales - 3; Midlands - 21; North West - 16; North East - 9; Eastern - 9; South East - 58; London -22
28th November 2005 - Carbon Dioxide Capture/Emissions
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent estimate the Government have made of the carbon dioxide emissions of the building, maintenance and decommissioning of new (a) onshore wind farms and (b) offshore wind farms over (i) 10, (ii) 20 and (iii) 50 years; and if he will make a statement.
The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee's Fourth Report on Renewable Energy Practicalities included an estimate of the energy payback from wind farms and other technologies.
9th November 2005 - Carbon Dioxide Emissions
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent estimate the Government have made of the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the building, maintenance and decommissioning of a tidal power station over (a) 10, (b) 20 and (c) 50 years; and if he will make a statement.
The carbon dioxide emissions produced by the building, maintenance and decommissioning of a tidal power station will vary on a case-by-case basis.
18th October 2005 - Self-employment (Tax Returns)
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will raise the threshold for annual turnover of the self-employed below which they may use a short version of the income and expenses section of a tax return; and if he will make a statement.
There are no plans to raise this threshold.
12th October 2005 - Homophobic Bullying
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what professional in-service training sessions her Department is providing to teachers and head teachers (a) to enable them to challenge homophobic bullying in schools and (b) to improve the academic attainment and truancy rates of gay and lesbian pupils.
Tackling homophobia in schools is an issue that is taken seriously by the Department We want to ensure that all pupils, whatever their sexual orientation, are safe at school, want to be there, and are able to reach their full educational potential. For this, head teachers and teachers need the right mix of skills and knowledge, and the confidence to use them.
Our Make The Difference anti-bullying conference programme which ran from 2003-04 in each of the nine Government Office regions was targeted at head teachers. The conferences celebrated and shared good practice in preventing and addressing bullying and offered all schools an opportunity to learn at first hand from the very successful. The conference workshops supported schools in addressing aspects such as homophobic bullying, which many schools can find especially challenging.
The Department has also developed a Personal Social Health Education Continuing Professional Development video which shows good teaching practice, this covers the handling of sensitive issues including sexuality and homophobia. The PSHE CPD programme is ongoing to help teachers improve their confidence and competence in dealing with sensitive issues including sexuality.
10th October 2005 - Free Bus Travel
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he will introduce free local bus travel for (a) pensioners and (b) disabled persons.
The statutory entitlement to free off-peak local bus travel in England for people 60 and over and disabled people will come into effect on 1 April 2006.
10th October 2005 - Ward Temperatures
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidelines her Department has issued to hospitals regarding the maximum temperature allowed on wards for the welfare of staff and the comfort of patients.
General guidance on the design and control of environmental temperatures in ward areas are contained in the Department's health building note 04, "Inpatient Accommodation Options for Choice", and health technical memorandum 2025, "Ventilation in Healthcare Premises Design Considerations". No maximum temperature is identified except where related to summertime temperatures when measures should be considered to maintain internal temperature to a value not exceeding three degrees Celsius above external shade temperature.
12th September 2005 - Waste Management
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) waste minimisation and (b) recycling targets the Government have set for local authorities for each year to 2015.
The Government set targets for England and Wales in Waste Strategy 2000 for the recycling and composting of household waste by 25 per cent. by 2005, 30 per cent. by 2010 and 33 per cent. by 2015.
Each local authority in England was set an individual statutory performance standard for the recycling and composting of household waste for the financial years 2003-04 and 2005-06. For the future, the Government are currently undertaking a review of recycling and composting targets in the light of local authorities' performance against their 2003-04 targets.
No targets have been set for waste minimisation. The review will also consider whether it is appropriate to introduce waste minimisation targets.
12th September 2005 - Waste Management
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures her Department has in place (a) to reduce energy consumption, (b) to minimise waste and (c) to recycle waste; and whether these measures have been adopted by other central Government Departments and agencies.
The following energy and waste management measures are in place within Defra.
(a) We are working with the Carbon Trust on a Carbon Management Programme, which will identify the scope for significant savings in energy consumption and related carbon emissions. Energy consumption at all sites is continually monitored against benchmarks to drive down consumption and facilitate appropriate reaction to increases.
(b) Waste minimisation measures include raising awareness of the amount of waste generated (by waste stream) at individual sites to encourage local action for progressive reduction. Particular efforts are made to reduce paper waste by setting targets and campaigning for more efficient use of paper. Discussions also take place with suppliers to reduce packaging waste. By identifying the potential for re-using goods we divert them from the waste chain.
(c) All Defra sites have facilities for separating waste streams for recycling.
Within Defra we are increasingly managing these issues at local level through site specific Environmental Management Systems, accredited to ISO 14001.
Similar measures have been adopted in other Government Departments and agencies. The Framework for Sustainable Development on the Government Estate is the main vehicle for systematically assessing, reporting and improving Government performance in managing their own land and buildings sustainably. It sets cross-Government targets in all key operational areas including energy, waste and water. The Government are committed to reviewing the framework during 2005.
12th September 2005 - Physiotherapists
To ask the Secretary of State for Health
(1) how many physiotherapists were employed by the NHS in 2004-05 in a (a) junior capacity and (b) senior capacity;
(2) what steps she plans to take to increase the number of junior physiotherapy posts in hospitals in England; and if she will make a statement.
Information collected by the Department does not break down physiotherapists by grade. The latest available figures show that, as at September 2004, there were 19,139 physiotherapists employed in the national health service.
The Department is working closely with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, the NHS workforce review team and NHS organisations to help junior physiotherapists to find first posts of employment. As a result of this collaborative work, there is an action plan in place to ensure local managers have access to a range of strategies across recruitment, commissioning and skill mix. It is the responsibility of local NHS employers and strategic health authorities to ensure there are sufficient numbers of physiotherapists to meet service needs.
20th July 2005 - Malawi
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will list non-governmental organisations in Malawi that seek to reduce poverty to which his Department has allocated funding in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement
DFID financed both directly and indirectly approximately 100 non-governmental organisations in Malawi over the course of the last three years.
DFID Malawi has also supported non-governmental organisations in Malawi indirectly through its support to the National Aids Commission, through the Tikambirane governance programme (managed by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and British High Commission (BHC)) and the National Sexual and Reproductive Health programme with Government of Malawi where responsibility for the direct engagement with civil society is held by our partners. In these instances it is difficult to itemise DFID's share of financing to each non-governmental organisation given the nature of the funding mechanisms used. DFID South Africa also supports non-governmental organisations in Malawi indirectly through the following regional programmes: the Soul City Regional Programme; the Roll Back Malaria Programme; and the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme.
DFID Malawi works in partnership with non-governmental organisations operating in Malawi in order to help promote the outcomes of the Government of Malawi's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. To this end, DFID also works to strengthen civil society's capacity to work with government at the policy level through country, regional and centrally funded initiatives.
18th July 2005 - Departmental Contracts
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the normal payment terms are for his Department to settle the invoices of building contractors who have performed work for the Home Office.
The normal payment terms for the Home Office to settle the invoices of building contractors who have performed work for us is within 30 days of delivery and receipt of a valid invoice.
12th July 2005 - Chechnya
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions the Government have held with the Russian Government regarding its military involvement in Chechnya.
We remain concerned about the human rights situation in Chechnya. We are especially concerned about the culture of impunity, with continuing reports of extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detention and torture. We frequently raise our concerns with the Russian Government, both bilaterally and in multilateral fora. These include concerns about the military component of Russia's response to the problems in Chechnya. Bilaterally, we most recently discussed Chechnya in depth during the UK-Russia Human Rights dialogue on 23 May, when we expressed our belief that effective maintenance of security and actions to counter terrorism should be pursued within a framework that respects human rights and international humanitarian law. We also discussed Chechnya during the EU-Russia human rights consultations held in March 2005.
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