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Written Statements

Volume 481: debated on Thursday 23 October 2008

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 23 October 2008

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Global Entrepreneurship Week

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Competitiveness and Small Business has made the following ministerial statement.

This year is the first ever Global Entrepreneurship Week, an initiative inspired by DBERR and co-founded with the Kauffman Foundation in the USA. Between 17 and 23 November, people in more that 70 countries will participate in a variety of events: collaborating online, sharing ideas and developing entrepreneurial solutions to shared problems.

Global Entrepreneurship Week will enable potential entrepreneurs to network globally. It will engage people in school, at home, on the web and at work. Through this initiative, the next wave of entrepreneurs will be inspired and emerge. In doing so, they will begin to acquire the knowledge, skills, networks and values needed to grow innovative, sustainable enterprises that have a positive impact on their lives and the lives of those around them.

Global Entrepreneurship Week is being run for the Government by the “Make Your Mark” campaign—which aims to inspire young people, aged 14 to 30 years, as well as older entrepreneurs, ethnic minorities and women to be enterprising in the broadest sense, developing a creative, can-do attitude with the skills to spot opportunities and the confidence to pursue them. This agenda is crucial to the future aspirations of millions of people as well as the economic future of the UK—encouraging business start-ups, social enterprises and the development of an enterprising workforce. Wednesday 19 November and Thursday 20 November will be Women’s Enterprise Day and Social Enterprise Day respectively.

“Make Your Mark” is funded by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and is led by Enterprise Insight—a campaign coalition founded by the UK’s leading business organisations, the CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, Institute of Directors, and the Federation of Small Businesses, in partnership with the main enterprise development organisations and working closely with Government Departments, education bodies, regional development agencies and others.

Global Entrepreneurship Week will form part of the UK’s fifth Enterprise Week. Last year, Enterprise Week was an enormous success and generated community interest in entrepreneurship; 584,000 people attended the 5,270 events run by 3,002 organisations. The single largest activity was the “Make Your Mark” challenge. This involved 38,000 students from schools, colleges and universities working in over 7,000 teams, a 94 per cent. increase on 2006. One in six secondary schools took part. There were significant increases in the number of events specifically aimed at women/girls and ethnic minorities—respectively these were 275 and 385 events, representing 108 per cent. and 274 per cent. increases on 2006, and there was more than double the number of social enterprise events, 354, a 55 per cent. increase on 2006.

Solutions for Business

Effective business support can help individuals realise their entrepreneurial potential, help businesses start and succeed, and help communities prosper and flourish—whether the economic climate is stable or uncertain.

Most support is provided by the private sector, but where there is market failure it is appropriate for the Government to intervene.

Today I am setting out how the Government are simplifying publicly funded support to make it more effective, easier to access and value for money. Businesses have said they want a simpler system focused on their needs and this is essential in the current circumstances.

A single “Solutions for Business Funded by Government” package of measures includes:

Business Link as the main access route, offering impartial assessment and referral to bespoke packages of suitable support.

A single portfolio of 30 targeted support products and services shared across Government for consistency—nationally, regionally and locally. This includes new and existing products, bringing together the best of Government help. By March 2009 all will be in place, all underpinned by a robust economic rationale.

A uniform look and feel to all “Solutions for Business” products, ensuring recognition and a sign of quality

These measures will make it easier for companies—small and large, new or existing, starting or growing—to find the right products to help them with common business issues such as start-up, finance, export, skills, environment, innovation and growth.

The “Solutions for Business” package offers a long term, sustainable remedy to publicly funded support and sets out the Government offer to business. The products will be tightly managed, monitored and evaluated to ensure they continue to meet business needs and are effective. And, the portfolio will be kept flexible and responsive to business need with new products added, or taken away, accordingly.

We envisage that as a result of these measures business will benefit by up to £1.4 billion per year as products work harder for them alongside £1.5 million per year in saved search costs.

To support this announcement the Government are publishing:

“Solutions for Business: Supporting Success”, which explains the new approach and the range of business support products and services that become available between October 8 and March 2009.

“The Economic Drivers of Government Funded Business Support” which sets out the business case for each of the products and how business support can contribute to improving the UK productivity.

Copies of the documents will be placed in the Libraries of the House and will be available on the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform website at:

These measures take forward the commitment made by the Government in Budget 2006 to simplify the current publicly funded support framework by 2010 to give business customers a better service. Better business support underpins our strategies to make the UK the world’s most enterprising economy and will reinforce the wider steps the Government are taking to help business at the present time. It will also help Government achieve social and environmental goals; widening inclusion and helping companies go green.

Children, Schools and Families

Education and Skills Bill

Today the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families will table amendments to the Education and Skills Bill in advance of its Report stage in the other place. The amendments relate to national curriculum testing at key stage 3.

On 14 October, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families announced that from the summer of 2009, children would not be required to take key stage 3 national curriculum tests.

In light of this, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State is tabling these amendments now in order to remove the obligation on schools and local authorities to administer key stage 3 tests from 2009 onwards.

The effect of section 88 of the Education Act 2002 requires the national curriculum, including assessment arrangements, to be in place at the start of the school year in order for it to be implemented that year.

The amendments provide an exemption for assessment arrangements from the general requirement that schools implement the national curriculum as it stands at the start of the school year.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin will write to interested peers to outline in more detail our reasons for no longer requiring children to take national curriculum tests at key stage 3. A copy of this letter will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education

The importance of good quality Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education—PSHE—has never been greater. PSHE has a major contribution to make to young people’s personal development and well-being—a key indicator of the success of a 21st century school.

The issues it covers are central to young people’s well-being:

Drugs, alcohol and tobacco

Emotional health and wellbeing

Sex and relationships education

Nutrition and physical activity

Personal finance


Careers education

Work related learning.

There has been progress in PSHE over the years as a result of: the National Healthy Schools Programme which requires schools to meet criteria for PSHE; the national PSHE CPD programme which has trained over 8,000 teachers; QCA units of work and assessment guidance; departmental guidance on SRE, drugs, safety and financial capability; work with ITT providers; research on why PSHE thrives; and the recent £11.5 million boost for financial capability support programmes for schools. Through their subject reports, Ofsted describe an improving picture. In 2005-06, primary school pupils’ achievement in PSHE was good in about four out of five schools. At KS3 and 4 achievement was good or better in over half of lessons.

However, we know that concerns about the quality of teaching and learning in PSHE persist, particularly around sex and relationships education. Teachers can be required to teach PSHE without any training. We must improve the skills and confidence of the teaching workforce. Young people are telling us provision is not meeting their needs, particularly in relation to the relationships aspect of SRE and drug and alcohol issues. Such evidence was most recently highlighted in the UK Youth Parliament report and in subsequent research commissioned with young people to inform the SRE review.

The SRE and drugs/alcohol reviews published today also provide evidence, including from young people themselves, that the quality of what is on offer varies significantly and is not meeting young people’s needs. We are grateful to all those who have worked on these reviews.

The reviews have made a number of recommendations. These include strengthening the reach and impact of the current PSHE CPD programme; developing an ITT route for training PSHE specialist teachers; updating the Department’s guidance to schools on SRE and drugs education; and including a measure of the quality of PSHE in the indicators that Ofsted will use to assess the contribution that schools are making to their pupils’ well-being.

In our overall forward work on PSHE we will be governed by the following principles:

all children and young people should receive a common core of information and practical skills, consolidating the current non-statutory programmes of study, to help them grow and develop as individuals, as members of families and society so that they can live safe, healthy, productive and responsible lives;

parents should be fully involved with schools on PSHE learning, and it should be taught in a way that reflects a school’s ethics and moral values;

there should be a national framework setting out this common core entitlement;

the quality of teaching and learning needs to improve, better to meet the needs of young people;

PSHE should be planned and delivered by trained, competent and confident teachers with support from expertise beyond the school;

effective provision should lead to improved outcomes for children in terms of knowledge, skills, understanding and behaviour.

The reviews have also recommended that PSHE as a whole should become a statutory subject in both the primary and secondary phases. This is already the case for some elements:

secondary schools must provide sex education (which is defined in law as including HIV/AIDS and other STIs);

all schools must have a sex education policy, though this does not need to include relationships;

all schools must have regard to guidance on teaching about marriage and inappropriate teaching materials;

all schools must teach pupils about the effects of drugs (including alcohol, tobacco, volatile substances and medicines) within the national science curriculum;

all schools must have a drug policy which outlines the school’s response to all drug matters;

careers education must be provided at key stages 3 and 4;

work-related learning must be provided at key stage 4.

Under existing legislation parents have the right to withdraw their children from sex education, except insofar as the sex education forms part of a national curriculum programme of study—for example, the biological elements of science.

However, all other aspects of PSHE are non-statutory.

There are strong arguments for making the whole of PSHE a statutory subject. This would underline the key role PSHE has to play in young people’s personal development. It is consistent with the emphasis in the children’s plan on schools developing young people in the round, as well as ensuring that they receive an excellent education, and with the priority we expect schools to give the issues that it covers. We have decided therefore that PSHE should have statutory status. In making this decision we want to work with schools and stakeholders to ensure that young people’s experience at school addresses their needs and supports them as they develop.

We also recognise three areas of concern:

first, that making PSHE statutory would increase the pressure on the curriculum. It will be essential to ensure that schools have flexibility to tailor a curriculum to suit their pupils;

second, there are concerns that a statutory programme of study for PSHE would cut across the existing rights of school governing bodies to determine their own approach in sensitive areas such as SRE;

third, we need to take into account the position of the very small minority of parents who already withdraw their children or those who might want to in the future.

These are complicated issues that need to be worked through thoroughly. I have therefore asked Sir Alasdair Macdonald to engage with stakeholders and report on how our intention to make PSHE statutory, and the legitimate concerns of schools and parents, can be translated into a practicable way forward. I have asked Sir Alasdair to report to me in April 2009.

Home Department

Dutch DNA Profiles: Police Investigation

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary undertook that Ministers, would report to Parliament once the police investigation, following liaison with the Dutch authorities over data from a disc containing Dutch DNA crime scene profiles were complete. I am today able to fulfil that commitment.

As previously reported, this followed an initiative to exchange data between the UK and the Netherlands. The Dutch authorities shared a disk containing 2,159 DNA profiles from crime scenes in the Netherlands, which were searched against the UK national DNA database. It is important to note two operational implications of searching these data. First, it cannot be assumed that the DNA from the Dutch crime scenes opens up a significant line of inquiry and identifies offenders, as there may be an innocent reason for some DNA, for example on a discarded cigarette end, being found at the scene. As with CPS policy here, we understand that the Dutch authorities will not take executive action on the basis of a DNA result alone and need to consider carefully the significance of a DNA match in each case. Secondly, many of the crime scene DNA profiles contained incomplete or partial information. These profiles have required additional scientific analysis by the UK and Dutch authorities to confirm whether or not there was indeed a match between a person sampled in the UK and a DNA profile from the Netherlands.

Once the Dutch disc was passed to the National Policing Improvement Agency in January 2008 action was taken quickly to address public concerns. The custodian of the national DNA database immediately began batching and comparing the Dutch crime scene profiles against the UK DNA database, with details of the complete DNA matches passed to the Dutch in March 2008. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) set up a gold group chaired by Gary Pugh, chair of the National DNA Database Strategy Board. This group comprised police and prosecuting interests and the Home Office and was set up to steer and direct operations, deal with any requests for further co-operation from the Dutch and to deal with any public protection issues triggered by intelligence about links with unsolved crimes in the Netherlands. The key objective was to identify individuals on the UK DNA database whose DNA matched samples recovered from crimes scenes in the Netherlands so that any dangerous offenders would be identified and the risks posed by them effectively managed. The individuals have been located and a detailed risk assessment carried out. Mr. Pugh has reported that the work of the group has now been completed and that the gold group is being stood down.

Of the 2,159 DNA profiles received from crimes scenes in the Netherlands, 22 full matches were established against individuals on the UK DNA database. Ten of the individuals identified have committed offences in the UK since January 2007 and represent a total of 13 convictions. The individuals were convicted of a range of offences, the most serious being one case of aggravated burglary. Cases are pending against four individuals in respect of six other alleged offences with the most serious being attempted robbery.

The UK authorities have been in close liaison with the Dutch authorities since February this year, providing information to progress inquiries in the Netherlands. All relevant additional DNA work and inquiries in the UK have been completed. We have not yet received any requests for action under a European arrest warrant but stand ready to assist as quickly as possible.

This exercise has shown the value of this sort of information exchange in taking forward criminal investigations across borders. I am grateful for the joint working undertaken by the police and prosecuting authorities both here and in the Netherlands. For the future, the UK has agreed the European Council decision on the stepping up of cross-border cooperation, particularly in combating terrorism and cross-border crime (known as the Prüm Council decision) which will provide a mechanism for member states’ law enforcement authorities to search quickly across the EU for matches against DNA and fingerprint data, where a successful “hit” could be followed with a request for detailed information. It will also provide such authorities with direct access to vehicle registration data. All member states must implement this measure within the next three years. It should enable a much quicker and more efficient sharing of data in order to prevent, detect and investigate serious and terrorist-related crime while maintaining appropriate data protection safeguards.


Publication of Rail Accident Investigation Branch Investigation

I would like to inform the House that the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has today published its final report on the rail accident that occurred near Grayrigg in Cumbria on 23 February 2007. A copy of the report is available in the House Libraries. Copies of the report are also available on the RAIB website at:

In summary, the report concludes that the immediate cause of the derailment was the deterioration of Lambrigg 2B points through a combination of failures of the three stretcher bars, the lock stretcher bar, and their fastenings. The unsafe condition arose as a result of a combination of three factors, which were the mechanical failure of a bolted joint, the incorrect set up of the points and a track inspection that was missed on 18 February 2007. It makes a number of important recommendations to the rail industry aimed at ensuring that the lessons are learned from this accident.

I know that right hon. and hon. Members, and the travelling public, will want to be assured that the rail network is safe. The RAIB have already issued urgent safety advice to the rail industry—in June and November 2007—as their investigation progressed. The independent rail safety regulator, the Office of Rail Regulation, has assured me that no further immediate actions to ensure the safety of passengers and staff using Network Rail’s infrastructure are necessary as a result of the report, beyond those that have already been taken.

All RAIB investigations include a review of previous similar occurrences and the action taken in response to any related recommendations. In this context the RAIB reviewed the investigation into the accident at Potters Bar on May 2002.

I will consider the detail of the report carefully and take a decision on the most appropriate way forward, both with regard to the accident at Grayrigg and the derailment at Potters Bar, the inquest for which was adjourned in February 2007 pending the outcome of the investigations into Grayrigg. I will also write to the affected parties shortly to seek their views and anticipate announcing my decision to the House early in the new year.

I appreciate that this will mean a short further delay for the relatives of the bereaved, and I regret this. However, I consider it essential to ensure that the way forward is one that will deliver closure to those who were affected, as soon as possible. I am sure that the House will agree that it is important that full consideration is given to the RAIB report, and that the right decisions are made on how to proceed.

Work and Pensions

Cold Weather Payments

I am pleased to announce that, following advice from the Meteorological Office, the annual review of the Cold Weather Payments scheme has now been completed. Amending regulations were laid on 6 October and will come into force on 27 October, in part, and on 1 November—remaining part— in time for the beginning of the winter period.

Two of the weather stations used to provide data for the scheme last winter, Great Malvern and Fylingdales, are being removed from the scheme and two alternative weather stations, Hereford-Credenhill and Leconfield, are being introduced. Great Malvern, a manned station, is closing as part of a network rationalisation that will place more reliance on automatic weather stations. The Fylingdales station is due to be automated. There is uncertainty over the supply of temperature data during the transition from manual to automatic observations. The alternative weather stations have been chosen to provide a neutral or indeed a more accurate assessment for those eligible.

I have written to each of the hon. Members affected by these changes.

The amending regulations also provide for an increase in the rate of a Cold Weather Payment from £8.50 to £25 for winter of 2008-09 as announced on 11 September.

In order to maintain the policy intention of making Cold Weather Payments to vulnerable groups, people in receipt of income-related employment and support allowance in the main phase have been added to the list of eligible customers, as have those in the assessment phase who have a pensioner or disability premium, or have a child who is disabled or under the age of five.

Cold Weather Payments are separate from, and in addition to, winter fuel payments which are paid to eligible people from age 60.