Written Ministerial Statements
Tuesday 20 January 2009
Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Regulation and Redress in the UK Housing Market
I am today laying before Parliament the Government review on regulation and redress in the UK housing market. The report for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Department for Communities and Local Government was prepared by Professor Colin Jones of Heriot-Watt University. The review was announced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) during the passage of the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of the House.
Children, Schools and Families
Vetting and Barring
Following the coming into force of secondary legislation made under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and debated and approved by Parliament, I can confirm that from today new arrangements come into effect which mean the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) will from now take barring decisions on new referrals under the current barring schemes. This is a further important step towards the full implementation of the new vetting and barring scheme which is being established under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.
The safety of children and young people is our top priority. Today’s transition is an important part of our reforms to ensure we have the toughest ever vetting and barring system for all those working with, or seeking to work with, children and vulnerable adults.
Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA)
The ISA was formally established in January 2008 to take forward transitional and preparatory work in readiness for the new vetting and barring scheme. The ISA is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Home Office. Chaired by Sir Roger Singleton, the ISA will be responsible for making all barring decisions under the new vetting and barring scheme, to be established by the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act. This scheme will replace the current List 99, Protection of Children Act (PoCA) list, the Disqualification Orders handed down by the courts, and the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (PoVA) list with new lists barring individuals from working with children and vulnerable adults.
On 17 March 2008, I reported that, as part of the transition, we would begin to transfer the administration of List 99 casework to the ISA, which, since 31 March 2008, has advised the Secretary of State on the barring decisions, under the provisions of paragraph 1 of schedule 8 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act.
From today, under transitory provisions, the ISA will receive all new referrals made under the current barring schemes—List 99, PoCA, and PoVA—on safeguarding grounds and consider these cases for possible inclusion on the lists maintained by the ISA for barring individuals from working with children or vulnerable adults. In cases where action has been taken to consider a case before 20 January 2009, the decision will remain with the Secretary of State. The ISA will also be responsible for automatically including all individuals on the barred lists who have committed relevant offences, defined in regulations that were approved by Parliament in December 2008.
In addition to considering new referrals the ISA must, in accordance with statutory instruments which came into force on 7 April 2008, include, or consider including, in the new barred lists all those individuals who are barred under the current schemes. It is our intention that, where possible, this work will be completed before the new vetting and barring scheme is in place.
Progress on List 99
I would also like to update the House on progress on List 99 further to my statement on 17 March 2008.
Amended List 99 regulations came into force on 28 February 2007. These regulations extended the range of offences that will result in automatic inclusion on List 99 to include cautions as well as convictions for sexual offences against children. These changes have ensured that anyone aged 18 or over who is convicted of, or cautioned for, a relevant offence from 28 February 2007 will be automatically included on the list regardless of whether there is evidence that they have been in previous employment in the education and children’s work force.
The regulations have been implemented vigorously and effectively since they came into force.
In my statement of 17 March 2008, I reported that, as at 13 March 2008, the number of individuals on List 99 was 8,036. As at 19 January 2009 the total number on List 99 is 12,992. The vast majority of the further increase in the number of individuals on List 99 is as a result of the implementation of the amended List 99 regulations that came into force on 28 February 2007.
In my March 2008 statement I also reported further progress made in following up the commitment made on 19 January 2006 by the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend for Bolton, West (Ruth Kelly), to ask Sir Roger Singleton to examine cases where Ministers or officials had decided since 1997 not to include individuals on List 99 where there were sexual offences that indicated a risk of harm to children. I also reported that my predecessor had decided to extend this examination to include all cases where there were sexual allegations between 1997 and 2005, in addition to all cases involving sexual offences or allegations before 1997. The aim of this was to establish whether any individual posed a risk of harm to children and if any action should be taken.
This important and painstaking work has been given the highest priority. In total 2,560 relevant case files have been reviewed by Sir Roger Singleton’s panel 1,741 of these files were from the period 1940 to 1997 and 819 were cases from the period 1997 to 2005. In my statement of 17 March 2008 I reported that as a result of the panel’s examination of these cases, and further information gathered from the police, 46 individuals had been barred. This work is nearing completion and the number of individuals who have been barred has now increased to 50.
I am extremely grateful for the work of Sir Roger Singleton who has continued to advise me on these cases.
I am also particularly grateful for the assistance of the police in providing information on individuals who have committed relevant offences to my officials in order that barring can be undertaken.
I am also grateful to the ISA for their advice on List 99 cases and wish them every success in the next phase of this vitally important work.
A Home Office Minister will make a statement to the House in due course on the ISA’s work and progress towards the implementation of the new scheme.
The House of Commons Health Select Committee published its report on dental services on 2 July 2008. We made an interim response on 7 October 2008 and said we would look at what actions would have the most immediate and effective impact on access. We are today laying before Parliament the Command Paper that sets out these further actions.
As set out in our interim response, we are confident that the new dental commissioning arrangements introduced in 2006 give primary care trusts greater powers and flexibility to secure high-quality local dental services that meet the needs of local people. New services are opening all over the country and there were 655 more dentists working in the National Health Service in 2007-08 than in the previous year.
But, as we indicated in October, we know there is more to do and we said then that we would work with professional and patient groups to review how we and the NHS could achieve the maximum benefits for patients from the 2006 reforms.
This further response reports on the results of this work. In particular, it sets out the scope of the independent review of dentistry in England that we have commissioned and the work we said we would undertake with strategic health authorities to agree how to secure rapid improvements in availability of NHS dental services.
We are determined to address the long-standing problems of access to NHS dental services and to secure a sustainable system of high-quality NHS dental services that reflect the overall vision of high quality care for all set out in the conclusions of the NHS next stage review.
Deportations With Assurances (Ethiopia)
I am pleased to announce that on 12 December my noble Friend Lord West of Spithead, Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for security and counter-terrorism and Dr Tekeda Alemu, Ethiopian Deputy Foreign Minister, signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia concerning the provision of assurances in respect of persons subject to deportation on grounds of national security.
Associated side letters recording the position of the two Governments on the application of the death penalty and the terms of reference for the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission’s role as monitoring body have also been exchanged.
This agreement is a practical demonstration of the growing relationship between the UK and Ethiopia in countering terrorism.
Copies of the Memorandum of Understanding and the associated side letters have been placed in the Library of both Houses and on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.
Prison Drug Treatment Review Group
On 17 March 2008, Official Report, column WS22, by way of a written ministerial statement, together with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Dawn Primarolo), Minister of State for Health and the then Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Lewis), announced: additional Department of Health funding for prison clinical drug treatment; a national prison drug treatment strategy review group, to be chaired by Professor Lord Kamlesh Patel; and publication of the executive summary of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, “A Review of Prison Based Drug Treatment Funding, December 2007”.
I am today with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Health announcing the membership of the national prison drug treatment strategy review group. The remit of the review group will be to consider the PwC recommendations, agree a single set of priorities and compile national guidance around the streamlining of the commissioning, delivery, funding and performance management of drug treatment for offenders.
Professor Lord Kamlesh Patel selected the members of the review group based on the knowledge, expertise and experience that each individual can bring. The criteria for membership were as follows:
Ability to make a positive and constructive contribution to making changes in the commissioning,delivery, funding and performance management of drug treatment for offenders;
Knowledge, experience and a respected track record of creating system changes including a commitment to making a difference;
Known and respected amongst their peers either within the fields of drug treatment, criminal justice or in wider change management;
Direct service user and carer experience;
Ability and capacity to actively contribute to the work of the review group including, when appropriate, attendance at additional sub-group meetings or location and project visits.
The list of members will be placed in the House Libraries.
Anthony Leon Peart
On 22 November 2007 the then Minister for Security, Counter Terrorism Crime and Policing, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, and I invited HM Chief Inspector of the CPS, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, HM Chief Inspector of Courts Administration and HM Chief Inspector of Prisons jointly to undertake a review into the circumstances which led to Anthony Leon Peart being at liberty on 29 July 2005, when Richard Whelan was fatally stabbed by him. On that day, Peart had been released from Forest Bank prison, Greater Manchester when there was a warrant outstanding for his immediate arrest.
The Chief Inspectors’ report was published on 28 April 2008 and made a number of detailed recommendations. A cross-agency working group was convened to take forward the detailed work in implementing the recommendations. A number of these have now been implemented in full and significant work has been conducted on those remaining. I have today placed a short report on progress in the Libraries of both Houses and published it on the Attorney-General’s Office website.