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Written Statements

Volume 498: debated on Monday 26 October 2009

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 26 October 2009

Business, Innovation and Skills

EU Informal Competitiveness Council

The following statement provides information on the EU Informal Competitiveness Council that took place in Umeå, Sweden on 14 and 16 October. My officials Andrew van der Lem, head of EU strategy (at the industry and internal market sessions on 14 and 15 October) and Professor Adrian Smith, director general of Science and Research (at the Research Council sessions on 15 and 16 October) represented the UK.

At the internal market session on 14 October, priorities for future EU single market policy were discussed. The Commission is planning to make proposals by 2012 on a new single market package. In discussion, member states prioritised recovery from the economic crisis and financial stability, focusing on external (i.e. outside EU) competitiveness, improving the business environment and boosting consumer confidence. The importance of implementation of the EU services directive was also stressed. The UK emphasised the need for a joined up approach to EU single market, industry and research policy, with a focus on outcomes, the evidence base and external competitiveness. The UK also stressed the need to make the EU single market more accessible. The presidency concluded there was broad support for a new Commission package on the single market.

At the industry session on 15 October, the presidency hosted a discussion on eco-efficiency from a competitiveness perspective, which included presentations by two businesses and a policy think-tank. The EU presidency suggested that EU member states should take a global lead in promoting growth and jobs through an eco-efficient economy. There was general support among member states that economic growth and environmental protection can be mutually reinforcing, not conflicting. However member states also stressed the need for a global “level playing field” and the importance of agreeing a global deal at the United Nations climate change conference at Copenhagen in December. In the informal breakout sessions, the UK stressed the need for the EU to be a good place to do business, for EU companies to have access to global markets, for a global carbon price to be agreed and for targeted EU funding and EU public procurement to help develop a low carbon economy.

At the research Council sessions on 15 and 16 October, on the afternoon of the first day research ministers held discussions in break out groups on the future governance structures of the European Research Area (ERA); the outcome of these discussions was considered in a plenary session in the morning of the second day. While there was little support for the idea of establishing regular “ERA Ministerial” meetings, there was agreement that links between research, innovation and education policies needed to be strengthened and that the mandate of the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST) advisory committee needed to give that body a more strategic role. Ministers also discussed expected cost overruns on the international ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) nuclear fusion facility. The UK stressed the need to find an acceptable solution to the funding issue.

Correction to Response to Parliamentary Question

I would like to inform the House that a written answer I gave on 6 July 2009, Official Report, column 597W, to the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and Poole North (Annette Brooke) was incorrect. To the question

Annette Brooke: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will make provision for the vehicle scrappage scheme to be open to persons who have taken on the registration of a vehicle over 10-years-old which was initially registered in the name of their deceased spouse. [281255]

The correct answer was:

We have reviewed this issue carefully given that we consider the case of a recently bereaved spouse or civil partner to be particularly compelling and we would want to be as helpful as possible to those in this situation, while still ensuring that the scheme and compliance with the rules can be administered simply and abuse can be minimised. We therefore propose, subject to the agreement of vehicle manufacturers, that where a bereaved spouse or civil partner shares the same address as the person who was the former keeper of the car, that the requirement that the old vehicle must have been registered to the keeper continuously for 12 months before the order date of the new vehicle should be cut to six months (on a rolling basis).

In addition to complying with other rules of the scheme, the bereaved would need to produce an original or certified copy of their marriage certificate or certificate of civil partnership and of their spouse/civil partner’s death certificate for the dealer to verify and copy.

We have written to the manufacturers to seek their agreement to this change and will put revised guidance on the Department’s website at: http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/sectors/automotive/scrappage/page51068.html as soon as we are clear which manufacturers have agreed to this change to the scheme.

I have written to the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and Poole North to apologise for the administrative error, and provide the correct answer. I would also like to apologise to the House. The Department’s procedures for dealing with the answering of parliamentary questions have been revised to avoid any future occurrence of this error.

Children, Schools and Families

Young People's Information, Advice and Guidance

Today I will be launching a new strategy to transform information, advice and guidance (IAG) for young people.

“Quality, Choice and Aspiration” sets out our plans to deliver 21st century IAG that reflects what young people tell us they want and is more accessible and relevant, reflecting a rapidly changing economy. In line with our plans to raise the participation age to 18 our strategy will set out our ambition for every young person to receive careers education to 18. The reforms we are setting out today will make sure every young person, whatever their background, can aim for the top.

Raising the quality of IAG requires a new approach, one that brings together young people, those working in business and older peers, because they are often best placed to provide an understanding of all the different types of jobs young people might aspire to and the qualifications they will need to fulfil their ambitions.

Children begin to think about their future careers at an early age, so our strategy will support schools and parents working together to nurture the aspirations of children and develop their strengths, whether they are practical, academic or both.

This generation of young people look to the internet for knowledge in most areas. So this strategy signals a step change in online advice and guidance so young people are able to access IAG on Facebook, YouTube, blogs and other social networking sites.

Reflecting our approach to 21st century IAG, the strategy will include a number of new proposals:

piloting approaches to teaching about careers in primary school and plans for primary schools to work with universities to give younger pupils an experience of higher education and the wider world of work;

provide support and resource for schools and parents to engage with young people from an early age to talk about career opportunities;

the ambition that every young person to have access to a mentor—two new national mentoring champions will help increase mentoring opportunities between schools, businesses and higher education;

more help for disadvantaged and disabled young people in accessing work experience so that all young people—regardless of their background, ethnicity or gender—can realise their full potential;

a £10 million fund to support innovative ways of delivering careers education.

This strategy has been informed and influenced by the important report “Fair Access to the Professions” by my right hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn) and his panel, published this summer. The plans outlined today build on my right hon. Friend’s report and take forward the majority of the recommendations relevant to IAG.

Now more than ever young people need access to good IAG. This strategy sets out our vision. It puts in place the building blocks for an IAG system which gives every young person the high-quality support they need to release their talents, thus setting them on the path to success.

I am placing a copy of the strategy in the Libraries of both Houses.

Health

Standing Commission on Carers (Annual Report)

Last week the Standing Commission on Carers published its first annual report, which I have today placed in the Library.

Entitled “Carers at the heart of 21st century families and communities—work in progress”, the report concludes the first stage of the Commission’s work (2007 to 2009) and highlights progress made against the main themes of the national carers strategy. It sets out future challenges and opportunities, and contains a number of recommendations and suggestions for the Government, delivery partners and the next phase of the Commission. I welcome the report and thank the Commission members for their work in scrutinising delivery of the strategy and their advice about future direction. The Government will carefully consider the recommendations and look forward to continuing to work with their stakeholders to achieve real benefits for carers.

Direct Payments for Health Care (Consultation)

A consultation has been launched on the Government’s proposals for piloting direct payments for health care. Subject to parliamentary approval, the Health Bill provides power to make regulations allowing direct payments in authorised pilot schemes. The consultation document outlines how we propose to use this power.

The direct payment pilots would form part of a wider pilot programme, announced in “High Quality Care For All”, to explore personal budgets in the national health service.

Personal health budgets are intended to help create a more personalised NHS, by giving people more control over their care. Primary care trusts are already able to offer personal budgets that do not involve giving money directly to individual patients. The Health Bill would provide the additional option of a direct payment: where individuals receive money to arrange and pay for their own services.

This England-only consultation will last 12 weeks, finishing on 8 January 2010.

The consultation document has been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office. It can also be found at: www.dh.gov.uk/en/Consultations/Liveconsultations/DH_107425

Home Department

National Identity Service (Cost Report)

The “Seventh Cost Report of the National Identity Service” is being laid before Parliament today. It sets out an estimate of the public expenditure likely to be incurred on the scheme over the next ten years, in accordance with section 37 of the Identity Cards Act 2006. It reports on developments over the past six months, since the “Sixth Cost Report” was published on 6 May 2009. Copies of the report will be available in the Vote Office.

Justice

MAPPA Annual Reports

The “Eight Annual Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements” (MAPPA) reports are published today. MAPPA bring together the police, probation and prison services in each of the 42 areas in England and Wales into what is known as the MAPPA “Responsible Authority”. Other agencies are under a duty to co-operate with the Responsible Authority; including social care, health, housing and education services.

The aim of MAPPA is to ensure that the risk management plans drawn up for the more serious and complex offenders benefit from the information, skills and resources provided by the individual agencies being co-ordinated through MAPPA.

This year has seen major developments. Following very effective collaboration with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), we issued revised national guidance in April 2009 which incorporates learning from recent years. The guidance introduced new guidance on managing terrorist offenders, improved guidance on the particular demands of managing children and young persons within MAPPA, detailed guidance on the vital issue of disclosure of information about offenders, and the use of a new national documents set. The guidance represents a significant step forward in terms of establishing a detailed MAPPA framework with agreed good practice and performance standards to ensure consistent application of MAPPA across the country.

We also introduced two review processes, which are absolutely vital in terms of improving public protection practice and in showing that the agencies are willing to review cases of serious further offending by MAPPA offenders in order to identify whether there is any respect in which practice fell short of what the public has a right to expect. There is now an agreed process for reviewing specifically MAPPA management of offenders in cases of the most serious reoffending: the MAPPA serious case review. In addition, for the first time, there is a national police internal management review process in relation to the police management of registered sexual offenders.

Also for the first time this year, a national MAPPA training manual has been introduced based on best practice from the regions and supporting the new guidance.

The annual reports describe how the arrangements work locally and include key public protection achievements in each of the 42 police and probation areas of England and Wales. They report on progress against local business plans, outline next year’s plans, and provide contact points for further information. They also provide statistical information on the number of offenders eligible for MAPPA and how they are managed.

Electronic copies of every area report are being made available to the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

Work and Pensions

Lone Parents and Work

This week we are embarking on the next phase of our package to help more lone parents into employment and also support family life. Lone parents with a youngest child of 10 or above, making a new or repeat claim for benefit, will no longer be able to claim income support but will claim jobseeker’s allowance if they are capable of work, or employment and support allowance if their capability for work is limited by a disability or health condition.

The Government intend to provide additional support to help lone parents moving onto jobseeker’s allowance balance their work and family life and we will ensure that all lone parents meet with a New Deal for Lone Parent adviser within the first two weeks of their claim to discuss what extra support they need.

We are also today taking further steps to ensure that lone parents can seek part-time work that fits with family life. We are referring to the Social Security Advisory Committee proposals for new regulations under section 6 of the Jobseekers Act 1995 to allow lone parents with a child aged up to 12 the right to restrict availability for employment to hours that reflect the child’s normal term time school hours. The draft regulations will then be submitted to Parliament for approval. Guidance to Jobcentre advisers will ensure that this is implemented in practice.