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2 Apr 2003 : Column 731Wcontinued
Mr. Norman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the system of education grant distribution in recognising the additional costs associated with educational provision for children with special needs; 
Mr. Miliband: The new system for distributing education grant is known as Education Formula Spending Shares. The distribution formula recognises the additional costs associated with educational provision for children with special needs in two ways. Firstly there is an uplift of £1,300 in the under five, primary and secondary formulae for pupils with additional educational needs. This draws on evidence from research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (a copy has been placed in the Library) on the costs schools face for pupils with additional educational needs. Secondly, there is a separate funding block recognising the costs associated with provision for high need pupils. This uses a formula to estimate how many children in each authority have very high costs, using measures of the proportions of children with parents on income support and of low birth weight, and distributes £6,801 per high cost pupil. This figure is based on historical evidence of what local educational authorities spend on average on such pupils.
The additional financial support provided to primary and secondary schools for children in general with special needs and in particular for those on the autistic spectrum is for local education authorities to decide: many have factors in their local formulae for such provision.
Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the additional cost is to each local education authority of the increase in employers' contributions to the Teachers' Pension Scheme announced on 13 March in the (a) financial year 200304 and (b) school year 200304. 
Mr. Miliband: It will not be possible to calculate the additional cost of the increase in employers' contributions to the Teachers' Pension Scheme for each local education authority for 200304 until we have analysed the contributions data for March and April 2003.
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Nationally, a total of £650 million has been transferred into Education Formula Spending to meet the costs of the 4.75 per cent. increase in employers' contribution that arises from the inclusion of the costs of pensions increase on the scheme. This comprises a baseline adjustment to the Education Formula Spending total of £586 million; £20 million to meet the additional costs of Threshold grant payments; and a £44 million transfer to the Learning and Skills Council in respect of sixth forms.
|(1) staff and other administration costs £000||(2) Programme expenditure £000||(3) Column (1) as percentage of column (2)|
|1 July 1999 to31 March 2000||1,482||5,036,528||0.03|
Mr. Paul Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on his Department's (a) responsibilities and (b) assets with regard to civil contingency planning; what funds are committed; what action he is taking within his Department to improve such planning; and what action he is taking in collaboration with other departments. 
Peter Hain: I refer the hon. Member to the answer he received from the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, on 21 March 2003, Official Report, column 958W, which explains the cross-Government arrangements for civil contingency planning. Detailed plans for Wales are the responsibility of the lead Department (which will be the National Assembly for Wales in respect of transferred functions). My Department works with both the Civil Contingencies Secretariat and the Assembly to facilitate this process.
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how to deal with claims from organisations that the information they provide to the Department is commercially confidential. 
Peter Hain: Release of information by my Department is covered by the Open Government Code of Practice on Access to Government Information (Second Edition 1997). While each request must be considered on its merits, Part 2 of that Code sets out the exemptions from the right of access. Some of these exemptions relate to categories of information regarded as confidential, examples include the privacy of an individual, third party commercial confidences, and information given in confidence. Decisions to provide or refuse access to such information are subject to a public interest test.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the expected saving to public funds from the Private Finance Initiative schemes due to become operational in 2003. 
Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with (a) train operating companies, (b) the Strategic Rail Authority and (c) ministerial colleagues on the removal of certain rail services between Wales and London. 
Peter Hain: I have regular meetings with ministerial colleagues on a range of subjects including transport issues. I have recently met with the SRA and Wales and Borders Railways and discussed train services to and within Wales.
Mr. Ingram: Our discussions with BAE Systems and Thales to determine the structure of the Alliance for the Future Aircraft Carrier programme are continuing. During the course of those discussions, BAE Systems and Thales have been working together extensively and
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design activity has continued in parallel. We expect to be in a position to commence formal joint working on the next phase of assessment shortly. Subject to the normal internal approvals, we remain on course to award the main build contract for the carriers in the spring of 2004.
John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the weight limit was prior to the recent change of the weight limit for free postage for British armed forces to two kilograms; and if he will make a statement on the reasons for the change. 
Mr. Ingram: There is no free postage to United Kingdom armed forces personnel other than Forces Free Air Letters ("blueys") and the electronic equivalent, the e-bluey, which are available to authorised BFPO numbers, including all those in the Gulf.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make it his policy to raise the two kilogram weight limit on packages that may be sent free of charge to the armed forces personnel in the Gulf. 
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 1 April 2003]: There is no free postage to United Kingdom armed forces personnel other than Forces Free Air Letters ("blueys") and the electronic equivalent, the e-bluey, which are available to authorised BFPO numbers, including all those in the Gulf. I also refer the hon. Member to the answers given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State on 31 March 2003, Official Report, column 651, to the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) and Official Report, column 661, to the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay).
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