§ Mr. Kidney
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what financial support his Department has given to the Pre-school Learning Alliance in each year since April 1997. 
§ Ms Hodge
The Department has provided the following Financial Support to the Pre-school Learning Alliance (PLA) since 1997:
£ Marketing, quality and training infrastructure Section 64 grant: core funding Total 1997–98 1,578,000 420,000 1,998,000 1998–99 1,585,000 420,000 2,005,000 1999–2000 1,590,000 420,000 2,010,000 2000–01 1,600,000 450,000 2,050,000 Total 6,353,000 1,710,000 8,063,000
During the same period £640 million has been made available to fund places for three and four-year-olds—around 50 per cent. went to the voluntary sector. I am encouraged that over 80 per cent. of new free nursery places for three-year-olds created during 1999–2000 were in the voluntary and private sectors.
In March, I announced that, for the third year running, we are making available £500,000 for a further round of small grants for pre-schools and playgroups facing financial difficulties. This will give groups breathing space in which to consider their longer term plans.
In recognition of the challenges facing the sector we have announced the provision of £250,000 for specific projects to help pre-schools and playgroups develop and grow, as the early years sector expands.