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Written Statements

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 24 October 2007

Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Treasury

Child Trust Fund

The Government's Child Trust Fund initiative is designed to strengthen the saving habit and ensure that at age 18 every young person, regardless of family background, will have access to a financial asset. The scheme will also help bring financial education to life for children, providing a practical and real life example of saving. The latest Child Trust Fund account opening figures, published on 28 September, highlight the continuing success of the Child Trust Fund, with three-quarters of parents opening an account for their child. Data published today also reveal that almost a quarter of children have already received additional contributions into their accounts.

However, there is more to do to reach new parents and to encourage the further involvement of parents whose children have accounts. The Government are continuing their efforts to raise awareness of the scheme and to encourage parents and families to engage with their child's account, by saving for their child's future and by using the Child Trust Fund to help teach children about money and saving.

From today, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will send out reminder letters to all parents who have not used their child's voucher eight months after it has been issued. In addition, HMRC have already begun to roll out a programme of training for Voluntary and Community Sector organisations which will help them to provide face to face support for less financially confident parents. HMRC will also consult from today on whether the requirement for parents to send in their vouchers in order to open an account might be removed, in order to make the account opening process easier.

I will be writing to all Members of Parliament this week with details of Child Trust Fund account opening figures for their constituencies, so that they may consider what more can be done locally to encourage parents to make the most of the opportunities the Child Trust Fund represents.

Health

Health and Adult Social Care (England)

Regulation provides an essential safeguard for patients and users of adult social care services. Patients, service users and the public as a whole look to the regulators and managers of the health and adult social care systems to ensure the services they use are safe and of good quality and that the money they pay through taxes is used efficiently and effectively to provide the best possible services.

The interim report for the NHS Next Stage Review described an ambitious vision of high quality care that is safe, effective and personalised for all. Following a public consultation I am today publishing “The Future Regulation of Health and Adult Social Care in England”—response to consultation. The regulatory framework set out here is an essential building block if we are to make delivering safe and good quality of care a fundamental goal of health and adult social care.

This reaffirms the Government’s vision for regulation and reinforces the Government’s commitment to establish an integrated health and adult social care regulator by outlining the roles and responsibilities for the new regulator that will be created by bringing together the existing functions of the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection, and the Mental Health Act Commission. The integrated health and adult social care regulator will be called the Care Quality Commission.

The Care Quality Commission will take rapid and appropriate action against any registered organisation that is putting patients or users of services at risk. New powers to enforce the required standards will be introduced to give the regulator the ability to choose the most appropriate action for each case. Actions could include increasing the frequency of inspection, undertaking investigations, issuing warning notices, fining providers or restricting the future actions of providers, for example, by closing services.

If the new regulator believes that the services being provided are sufficiently unsafe, or that there is some other serious breach which is putting service users at risk, the new regulator will have the power to stop a provider from providing that care. The Care Quality Commission will have flexibility about how and when to use the enforcement powers. For the first time decisions as to whether services are good enough and the action that should be taken will be completely independent of Government across both health (including NHS services) and adult social care.

The current regulatory system has worked well but has been hampered by artificial barriers between health and social care. The Care Quality Commission will focus on assuring levels of safety and quality of care across health and adult social care services in England. Coherent assessment, inspection approaches and registration of providers will assure patients and service users that no matter which service they choose, that service will meet common national requirements for safety and quality.

The Care Quality Commission will be an authoritative and independent source of information on how well health and adult social care services are being provided. The performance information they produce will be publicly available and, alongside existing sources of information, for example, the NHS Choices website will help patients and users of services decide how and where they want to be treated.

The Care Quality Commission will work to the Government’s principles of good regulation. It will use information and intelligence (including the views of patients, users of services, carers and staff) to target its finite resources to the areas of greatest risk. The new legislation will allow flexibility so that the scope of regulation can be amended to reflect new models of care and new information on the risk to patients and users of specific services.

The regulatory framework has been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Justice

Judicial Appointments

On 8 October I made a written ministerial statement to this House stating my intention to adopt, on a voluntary basis, the provisions of the Constitutional Reform Act relating to a new appointments process for Justices of the United Kingdom Supreme Court. A typographical error meant that the Statement referred to my adoption of Section 8 of the Constitutional Reform Act rather than the relevant parts of the Act, which are Sections 25 to 31 of Part 3 and Schedule 8. I am therefore issuing the amended statement below to correct this mistake.

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 makes provision for a new appointments process for Justices of the United Kingdom Supreme Court. The Act brings these provisions into effect once the Court is operational. The new arrangements aim to increase public confidence in the appointments process by creating greater transparency of appointments and improving competition for these positions. I believe that it is sensible to adopt the new process from now on. This is because those newly appointed to the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords will spend the majority of their career in the Supreme Court

I will therefore adopt Sections 25 to 31 of Part 3 and Schedule 8 of the Constitutional Reform Act on a voluntary basis, as any new appointments made will help to determine the character of the Court. This decision does not impact upon other provisions within the Act that will come into force when the Supreme Court opens for business in October 2009.

A selection commission will be formed when vacancies arise. This will be composed of the President and Deputy President of the Supreme Court and members of the appointment bodies for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. All new judges appointed to the Supreme Court after its creation will not be members of the House of Lords; they will become Justices of the Supreme Court.