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Written Statements

Volume 476: debated on Monday 2 June 2008

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 2 June 2008

Children, Schools and Families

Non-EEA Pupils (Academies)

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools and Learners (Lord Adonis) has made the following written ministerial statement:

“1. I intend to introduce charges for education at academies for non-EEA pupils in specific circumstances, decided on a case-by-case basis.

2. Colston’s Girls’ school is a private school that will convert to academy status in September 2008. It currently has two non-EEA pupils on its educational roll. They are in year 11 and had expected to complete their education at the school to Year 13. Under the current immigration regime, they will be in breach of the requirements of their visas if they attend the new academy, because it is not an “independent fee-paying school outside the maintained sector”.

3. The Minister of State for Borders and Immigration has confirmed that he will make an exception to the immigration rules for these pupils, allowing them to complete their education as planned. This exception has been granted on the basis of these pupils not accessing education at UK taxpayers’ expense. In order to satisfy this requirement, I am introducing charging for education into the academy’s funding agreement. This will enable the academy to charge these pupils for their education and ensure that they do not benefit from public funds.

4. The ability to charge for education will only be introduced into the funding agreement of this academy. Should an equivalent situation arise with any future academy, I shall consider requests for similar treatment on a case-by-case basis. UK and EEA pupils will not be charged for their education at any academy.”

Young People (Alcohol)

I am today laying before Parliament, with the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Health, the youth alcohol action plan, which fulfils a commitment made in the children’s plan last year. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The youth alcohol action plan sets out the Government’s plans to tackle young people’s drinking in five ways: working with the police to improve how we deal with young people drinking in public places; working with the alcohol industry to develop tougher standards in relation to young people; developing a national consensus on young people and alcohol; supporting parents through better information about alcohol consumption by young people; and supporting young people to make sensible decisions.

Our Departments have called for views on these proposals. The relevant materials are available from the DCSF website at: www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations/.

This exercise will run until 30 June 2008.

Defence

Training

I am pleased to announce the award of a contract to Ascent valued at £635 million, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and VT Group, for the UK military flying training system, which is designed to meet the long-term flying training needs of the UK armed forces.

Ascent has been appointed as training system partner to work with the Ministry of Defence to incrementally procure and deliver flying training capability, the first part of which is a ground-based training environment, funded under a private finance initiative, for the advanced jet trainer, Hawk 128. Our intention is to add other elements of flying training in due course so that all flying training is brought within a single training architecture, making UK military flying training system the first step in a 25-year programme.

This contract signals our intention to overhaul our training schemes and bring them together into one modern and cohesive programme. The focus, as it always has been, will be on delivering first-class training to produce high-calibre, well-trained personnel for Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Army aircrew. We will continue to ensure that our flying personnel are equipped to meet contemporary and future threats, but the new contract should allow us to reduce overall costs and also improve training throughput to frontline units by improving the overall training times for aircrew and reducing delays between flying courses.

This is a significant milestone for UKMFTS, which will enable us to exploit the strengths of the Ministry of Defence, the armed forces and the private sector to deliver outstanding military capability.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Exceptional Assistance Measures for Victims of Terrorist Incidents Overseas

Since 2004, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has offered specific consular assistance for British victims of terrorist incidents and their families. This assistance, known as the Aftercare Plan, recognised that in many cases travel insurance explicitly excluded acts of terrorism from cover. The plan provided support to victims of terrorist attacks overseas and family members in the exceptional circumstances where travel insurance was not available to meet support and repatriation costs.

Acts of terrorism overseas, as opposed to other crimes, justify this level of support because we consider terrorism to be acts taken against society as a whole, in which individuals are usually random victims. Although the same might be said of other serious, violent incidents, these measures are distinctly for incidents we deem to be acts of terrorism.

The Aftercare Plan, now more than three years old, has been revised to reflect the FCO’s experience with victims and families, and to reflect that travel insurance is now more likely to cover terrorism. Our new policy is called “Exceptional Assistance Measures for Terrorist Incidents Overseas”, in order to more accurately describe the purpose of this financial assistance and our role in providing support to victims and their families.

As was the case with the Aftercare Plan, this provision is not a form of compensation. It is a means by which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can recompense for actual expenditure, following a terrorist incident overseas, where there is no other available source of financial assistance. The measures aim to alleviate the immediate needs of those affected.

FCO Ministers will only consider activating the assistance measures for those British nationals who have taken all appropriate steps to provide for themselves in case of an emergency abroad, but find themselves without resources as the result of a terrorist incident.

Key elements are:

i) The measures will only be activated as a last resort, where financial assistance is not made available through other means, that is, from the Government of the country where the incident took place, insurance providers or other agencies and organisations;

ii) Assistance, under these measures, will not be made available to those who have travelled without travel insurance, or to a country or region for which the FCO had advised against all travel;

iii) The measures do not cover medical care in the UK or long-term care in relation to conditions relating to the effects of the terrorist incident;

iv) Ministers retain a residual discretion to activate the measures for all British nationals who have become victims of a particular terrorist incident in such very exceptional circumstances.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

EU Competitiveness Council

I am pleased to confirm the agenda items for which DIUS is responsible, at the forthcoming EU Competitiveness Council on 29-30 May in Brussels. The research session of the Council will be held on 30 May and will be chaired by Mojca Kucler Dolinar, Slovenian Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology. A ministerial dinner will also be taking place on 29 May to discuss the location of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

I will be attending both the ministerial dinner and the EU Competitiveness Council. There are five substantive agenda items:

Political agreement on a Council regulation establishing a joint undertaking to implement a joint technology initiative (JTI) for fuel cells and hydrogen. The UK supports the objectives of this JTI which we see as important for engaging UK businesses in European research and would like to see it launched this year.

Possible adoption of a Council resolution on a Commission recommendation on the management of intellectual property in knowledge transfer activities and code of practice for universities and other public research organisations (“IP Charter Initiative”). The UK supports this resolution.

Possible adoption of Council conclusions on “European Research Infrastructures and their Regional Dimension”.

Possible adoption of Council conclusions on “Family-friendly Scientific Careers: Towards an Integrated Model”.

Possible adoption of Council conclusions on the launch of the Ljubljana process, towards full realisation of the European research area (ERA).

There will be four further items taken under any other business:

i) Communication from the Commission on “Better Careers and More Mobility: a European Partnership for Researchers” (Information from the Commission).

ii) Outcome of the informal meeting of Competitiveness Ministers in Brdo, Slovenia, on 15-16 April 2008 (Information from the presidency)

iii) Proposal for a research and development programme aimed at enhancing the quality of life for older people through the use of new information and communication technologies (ICT) (AAL).

Proposal for a decision on the participation of the Community in a research and development programme aimed at supporting research and development performing SMEs (Eurostars joint programme).

(Information from the presidency on the state of play).

iv) Commission recommendation on a code of conduct for responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies research (presentation by the Commission).

At the ministerial dinner the presidency is aiming to reach common agreement on the location of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (BIT) administrative headquarters.

International Development

AIDS Strategy

I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses a copy of DFID’s AIDS strategy 2008-2015.

This strategy sets out the UK’s priorities for “Achieving Universal Access—Halting and Reversing the Spread of HIV in the Developing World”. The seven year strategy, which replaces “Taking Action”, the UK’s successful strategy for HIV and AIDS from 2005-08, is the product of an extensive consultation process, with extensive inputs from those working on HIV and AIDS in developing countries—in the UK and internationally—including other funding agencies and the United Nations, including UNAIDS.

Building on the success of “Taking Action”—galvanised international support, increased funding, improved results—this strategy focuses on addressing the latest challenges. If we are to achieve universal access and to halt and reverse the spread of AIDS, the evidence demonstrates we require a long-term approach, across a range of health systems and services. Our new commitment to spend £6 billion on health systems and services up to 2015 demonstrates the UK’s determination to remain at the forefront of global efforts to achieve universal access. This is in addition to the unprecedented long-term commitment by the UK, announced in September 2007, to provide £1 billion to the global fund between 2008 and 2015.

This strategy commits £200 million over three years to expand social protection programmes, which will help ensure that more orphans and vulnerable children have access to better child nutrition, health and education. The UK remains committed to meeting the needs of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). “Taking Action” helped increase global funding for OVCs. But we now need to ensure the needs of OVCs are systematically met. Evidence shows that this can best be achieved through integrating OVCs’ needs into health, education and social protection plans. We will regularly review this approach by publishing a report following the biennial global partners forum on children affected by HIV and AIDS, to ensure that the approach outlined here supports the most effective ways of meeting the needs and rights of OVCs.

The strategy outlines the key role the UK Government can play in achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010. Within this comprehensive package, the strategy sets out that more effort is needed on HIV prevention. To achieve this, action is required in three main areas:

i) meeting the needs and protecting the rights of those most vulnerable to HIV;

ii) supporting more effective and integrated service delivery; and

iii) making the money work harder, through more effective partnerships.

DFID will work closely with overseas Governments and other agencies, particularly UNAIDS, World Bank, the EU and bilateral agencies, NGOs and civil society groups, including people living with HIV, to ensure progress towards universal access.

The strategy sets out key commitments that the UK will make as our contribution the global response:

We will spend £6 billion on health to 2015. This will help maximise progress on AIDS through closer integration of AIDS, TB, malaria, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and maternal and child health services.

In the health sector, we will work with others to intensify international efforts to increase to 80 per cent. by 2010 the percentage of HIV-infected pregnant women who receive anti-retroviral treatments (ARVs) to reduce the risk of mother to child transmission, both in low income and high prevalence countries.

We will work with others to provide WHO recommended threshold of at least 2.3 doctors, nurses and midwives per 1000 people.

We will work with others to intensify international efforts to halve unmet demand for family planning—including male and female condoms—by 2010, to achieve universal access to family planning by 2015.

We will work with Governments and civil society in eight African countries to develop social protection policies and programmes that will provide effective and predictable support for the most vulnerable households, including those with children affected by AIDS.

We will intensify efforts to increase the coverage of HIV and AIDS sendees for injecting drug users in countries where they are most affected.

We will increase by at least 50 per cent. our funding for research and development of AIDS vaccines and microbicides over 2008-13, to help reduce the impact of the disease on women and girls.

We will work with others to reduce drug prices and increase access to more affordable and sustainable treatment over the long term. This could yield efficiency savings of at least £50 million per annum—enough to cover the cost of anti-retrovirals for an additional one million people every year.

We will ensure the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria implements the Paris declaration for better co-ordination and use of resources.

We will work with development partners, both within and outside the international health partnership (IHP), to ensure that sector-wide approaches to health strengthen the AIDS response and that targeted AIDS programmes also strengthen the wider health system.

Finally, the document outlines how DFID will monitor and measure the outputs of the new strategy and be accountable for achieving results.

I warmly commend this strategy to the Members of both Houses and thank them for their continued interest and support of DFID’s programme to advance global action on AIDS.

Leader of the House

Written Answer (Correction)

It has been brought to my attention that the reply I gave the hon. Member for Fareham (Mark Hoban), 14 May 2008, Official Report, columns 1586W was incorrect.

The correct answer should have been:

The pension contribution of hon. Members increased from 9 per cent. to 10 per cent. of salary in April 2004 for those opting for one fortieth pension accrual. It remained at 6 per cent. of salary for one fiftieth accrual. These pension contribution rates also applied to ministerial salaries.

As for many public sector pensions, the increases applied each April to pensions in payment under the parliamentary contributory pension fund, in excess of the guaranteed minimum pension, were linked to the increase in the retail prices index as at the previous September. These increases applied to pensions paid to former Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries.

The percentage increases for the last ten years were as follows:

Date

Increase

%

April 1999

3.2

April 2000

1.1

April 2001

3.3

April 2002

1.7

April 2003

1.7

April 2004

2.8

April 2005

3.1

April 2006

2.7

April 2007

3.6

April 2008

3.9

The percentage increases to ministerial salaries for the last five years are given below:

Date

Increase

%

April 1999

3.2

April 2000

1.1

April 2001

3.3

April 2002

1.7

April 2003

1.7

April 2004

2.8

April 2005

3.1

April 2006

2.7

April 2007

3.6

April 2008

3.9

There was no difference in the percentage salary increases between Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State or Parliamentary Under-Secretaries.

Further information on current and historical rates of ministerial salaries is available in the Libraries of the House.

All Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries are entitled to claim the same parliamentary allowances as any other hon. Members. Previously, Ministers were paid the London supplement as well as claiming additional costs allowance (ACA) for their constituency home unless they were provided with an official residence. This arrangement ceased on 1 April 2005 and now Ministers can opt to receive London supplement instead of eligibility for ACA.

Business Questions (Correction)

During business questions on Thursday 15 May 2008, The Leader of the House said:

“My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has tabled a written ministerial statement on the report by Imelda Walsh, who conducted her review at the Government’s request. I thank her warmly for the work that she has done, and for her report.” (Official Report, 15 May 2008, Vol. 475, Col. 1549).

Unfortunately, this was incorrect insofar as it states that a written ministerial statement was issued. In fact, the Prime Minister announced in an oral statement on Wednesday 14 May that the Government would take forward the recommendations of the Walsh review to extend the right to request flexible working to parents of older children. The Walsh review was published on Thursday 15 May.

Work and Pensions

Joint Birth Registration: Recording Responsibility

My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Family and I are today announcing publication of a White Paper, “Joint Birth Registration: Recording Responsibility”, outlining the Government’s proposals to require unmarried parents to register the birth of a child jointly and to make birth registration a more accessible process.

In June 2007 the Government published a Green Paper seeking views on their proposals on making joint birth registration a legal requirement. There was a good level of response and today we are publishing a White Paper which sets out firm proposals which have been informed by the Green Paper consultation and further work on this issue. Copies of the White Paper are available from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

Currently there are up to 45,000 children born in England and Wales each year who do not have both parents identified on their birth certificate. It is the Government’s ambition to significantly decrease the number of sole registrations in England and Wales.

Registering a birth is a significant act. It is one of the first milestones in the life of a child which can shape its future identity. It is also a key moment for parents, when a mother and father publicly acknowledge that they have responsibility for their child—not only as its legal representative, but also in the expectation that together they will safeguard and promote their child’s health, development and welfare.

“Joint Birth Registration: Recording Responsibility” sets out changes to the law in England and Wales to make joint birth registration a legal requirement for all unmarried parents unless this is decided by the registrar to be impossible, impracticable or unreasonable. Alongside this the White Paper sets out a series of non-legislative measures to promote and support joint birth registration and changes to give mothers a right to insist that the father acknowledges his responsibilities to his child by registering on the birth certificate. Equally, it gives a father a new right to insist that he is registered.

Last year’s Green Paper acknowledged that there will be situations where a joint registration is not a possible or desirable outcome and so set out a list of specific exemptions where a sole registration would be permitted. Following response from stakeholders, we have broadened these exemptions to cover situations where the registrar believes a joint registration would be impossible, impracticable, or unreasonable. Mothers will not be required to name fathers, and fathers will not be permitted to be recorded if a joint registration would compromise the safety and well-being of the child or mother. In developing legislation the Government will work further with stakeholders to ensure the protection of vulnerable women and children.