Written Ministerial Statements
Tuesday 16 November 2010
Business, Innovation and Skills
“Skills for Sustainable Growth”
Today I am publishing “Skills for Sustainable Growth”—the Government’s new strategy for skills. The strategy takes full account of responses to the skills consultation which I announced on July 22.
Our ambition is to transform the nation’s performance so that we have a world-class skills base that provides a consistent source of competitive advantage. As skills can also transform life chances, we must make sure that everyone can access skills opportunities to extend their wider benefits throughout society. Drawing on the responses to our consultation exercise, our goal is to build a skills system where learners are in the driving seat. We understand that in a modern economy, businesses and individuals are better than Government at deciding what skills they need.
The strategy is based on the coalition principles of fairness, shared responsibility and increasing freedom. Funding for skills will focus strongly on those with the greatest need. For others, there will be a shared responsibility between employers, citizens and Government for ensuring skill needs are met, and an expectation of co-funding with contributions that reflect the benefit each receives. To underpin the informed choices individuals and employers invest in, we will improve access to information about skills through a new all-age careers service. A reformed skills system, freed from unnecessary bureaucracy and regulation, will be better able to respond to their demands.
Apprenticeships will be at the heart of the system we will build, supported by a system of valued qualifications. There will be a new role for employers in shaping the skills system and particular support for small and medium-sized enterprises. We need employers to get involved, to shape the system and utilise the skills of their work force, so that they get the most from their investment. We will support them in implementing proposals they make for raising their game on skills.
As a principle of fairness, Government retain a responsibility to ensure that everyone has the basic skills they need to access employment and participate in society. In supporting learners we will offer every adult a lifelong learning account which provides access to the new FE student loans. To inform empowered learners by providing independent advice and guidance we will create the all-age new careers service because we know that good careers guidance is the basis for increasing social mobility. We will also develop a new model for adult and community learning—the budget for which will be protected—that will support the development of the big society and create progression routes to formal learning.
The strategy sets out a vision for a radical reform of the skills system, transforming and simplifying the skills landscape, and introducing new freedoms and flexibilities for providers. Above all we must abandon the culture of bureaucratic central planning and allow the energy, commitment and the resourcefulness of individuals and employers full rein.
Copies of “Skills for Sustainable Growth” will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
ECOFIN (17 November 2010)
The Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 17 November 2010. The following items are on the agenda:
Directive and Regulation on VAT treatment of insurance and financial services
ECOFIN will hold an initial discussion on proposals to modernise the VAT exemption for financial services, reflecting market developments over the last 30 years. In addition to a proposal to amend the VAT directive, the European Commission has proposed a detailed regulation that would ensure the law is applied consistently across the EU.
The Government are keen to promote economic growth and competitiveness through modernisation of the legislation, increasing certainty and reducing compliance costs for business, and ensuring fairness of treatment, while at the same time protecting UK revenues and limiting opportunities for avoidance.
The Government will continue to seek harmonised VAT exemption for financial derivatives and for investment management aimed at retail investors, as well as equal treatment for outsourcing across the whole sector. The Government will also reject any proposals to remove Government choice in respect of the option to tax.
Implementation of the 2009 budget
The Court of Auditors will present its annual report. The UK continues to press the case for value for money and greater accountability in the EU budget.
Follow-up to October European Council
ECOFIN will take note of the deliberations of the European Council, especially as regards the taskforce report on economic governance and levies and taxes on financial institutions.
The European Council endorsed the taskforce report which explicitly excludes the UK from any sanctions flowing from economic governance reforms. With regards to levies and taxes on financial institutions, the Government strongly support national levies on banks and other tax measures where appropriate to complement wider reforms aimed at reducing the probability and impact of banking failures.
Follow-up to the G20 Seoul Summit on 11-12 November
Ministers will hold an exchange of views on the main outcomes of the G20 summit, which is scheduled to discuss the following issues of interest to ECOFIN: the global economy and imbalances, the framework for growth, reform of the International Monetary Fund, financial regulation, and trade.
Financing of measures against climate change
ECOFIN will adopt conclusions on financing of measures against climate change. The Government support the conclusions, which will build credible action on the ground and strengthen the EU position at the UNFCCC climate negotiations in Cancun in December.
The Council will adopt conclusions on a report on pensions. The Government welcome this report: it emphasises the importance of fiscal sustainability and extending working lives; and that the focus of EU activity in this area should be on exchanging country experiences and collecting comparable data and information.
The Council will adopt conclusions on the annual report on EU statistics, which reviews the progress made on statistical governance. It welcomes the support given by Eurostat to provide assistance to Greece in the area of statistics; the efforts of the Greek authorities to correct deficiencies in this area; the recommendations of the Van Rompuy taskforce to strengthen EU statistics; and progress made in the revision of the European system of accounts. The Government are content with the conclusions as drafted.
Baltic Sea area
The European Investment Bank will give a presentation on its contribution to the European strategy for the Baltic sea area, followed by an exchange of views by Council. The Government welcome the work of the EIB in the Baltic sea region, which aims to make the region environmentally sustainable, prosperous, accessible, attractive, safe and secure.
Representation of the Council at the G20 ministerial meetings
Ministers will discuss the presidency proposal that the EU should be represented by the Commission in the G20 finance ministerial meetings. The Government do not see a need to change the existing arrangements, whereby the EU presidency represents the EU and the Commission is an observer.
Meeting of the EU and EFTA Ministers of Finance and Economy
Ministers will meet their European free trade area counterparts and discuss topical issues of mutual interest, including financial regulation and intelligent fiscal consolidation.
Culture, Media and Sport
Parliamentary Oral Question (Correction)
My hon. Friend, the spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the House of Lords, Baroness Rawlings, has made the following written ministerial statement:
The answers I provided to supplementary questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch on Ofcom on 11 November 2010, Official Report, column 277 were incorrect.
I would like to clarify that Ofcom remains in schedule 7 of the Public Bodies Bill and there are no plans to remove it. There are certain functions that the Government intend should remain outside the scope of future reviews and the powers in the Bill. These include the economic and network regulatory functions of bodies such as Ofcom, where the Government wish to ensure that regulatory stability is maintained.
The Government have identified several of Ofcom’s duties which should be amended or removed. The purpose of these changes is to return the policy setting role to the Secretary of State, to reduce unnecessary expense and to avoid duplication. These proposals do not include changes to Ofcom’s economic and network regulatory functions. To facilitate these proposals Ofcom is named in schedules 4 and 5 of the Public Bodies Bill.
Children's Workforce Development Council
The Department for Education is to cease funding work force development activity through the Children’s Workforce Development Council, and will bring CWDC’s ongoing core activities into the Department.
We have taken this decision as part of the arm’s length body review; it reflects our commitment to channel as much resource as possible directly to the front line, and to ensure that central Government Departments are directly accountable. The Secretary of State has written to the chair to confirm this decision, to explain that the CWDC will cease to be a non-departmental public body and to say that he has asked departmental officials to work closely with CWDC on a transition plan for the transfer of functions and responsibilities, in the expectation that all such transfers will be completed by 2012. It will be important during the transition period to continue to engage employers in work force development.
In the Secretary of State’s letter, he has taken the opportunity to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of CWDC’s staff and the organisation’s significant contribution in leading work force reform and improving life chances for children and young people since it was established in 2005.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Waste Water National Policy Statement
The Planning Act 2008 provides for national policy statements (NPSs) that set out Government policy for particular types of development. It requires the draft NPSs to be publicised, consulted on, and laid in Parliament with the intention of enabling public and parliamentary debate to take place.
Public consultation on the waste water NPS for England started today, 16 November 2010, lasting for 14 weeks. At the same time I have laid it before Parliament for a period of scrutiny (the “relevant period”) ending 17 May 2011.
The waste water NPS sets out our need for waste water infrastructure to protect public health and ensure the health of our water environment with the consequent benefits for our water supply and biodiversity. Although we intend to slow the growth in demand for new waste water infrastructure in England, through the use of sustainable drainage systems for example, we will need to continue investment in new waste water infrastructure. This will modernise outdated infrastructure, meet future demands from a growing population and the effects of climate change, and fulfil our EU obligations.
Two projects of potential national significance have been identified through this process: the new sewage treatment works at Deephams in north-east London and a sewerage collection and a transfer scheme along the Thames in London (the Thames tunnel). In line with the Planning Act 2008, the waste water national policy statement has been drafted on the basis that once the particular projects are designated, development consent will be determined by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). The Government announced in June 2010 their intention to amend the Planning Act 2008 and abolish the IPC and replace it with a major infrastructure planning unit (MIPU) within the Planning Inspectorate. Until such time as the Planning Act 2008 is amended, the IPC will continue as set out in that Act
Publication of the draft waste water NPS follows my statement of 7 September 2010 in which I indicated that development consent for the Thames tunnel should be dealt with under the regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects. I intend to bring the tunnel within the direct scope of the Planning Act 2008 by amending the thresholds in section 14(3), Part 3 of the Act 2008. I plan to consult on the draft order in early 2011. Thames Water also commenced in September a separate consultation on the site specific issues raised by the proposed development of the Thames tunnel in September 2010.
The waste water national planning statement (NPS) is available on the DEFRA website at the following link:
Adult Social Care
We are today publishing the Government’s plans for adult social care services—“A Vision for Adult Social Care: Capable Communities and Active Citizens”. Alongside the social care vision, the Department has launched a consultation on “Transparency in outcomes: a framework for adult social care”—a new strategic approach to quality and outcomes in adult social care.
The vision sets the context for the future development of social care services. It is the first step, followed by the Law Commission’s work on reforming the legal framework next spring and the Commission on Funding of Care and Support next summer, towards the White Paper on care and support at the end of 2011. This will set out plans to establish a modern and financially sustainable framework for care and support, and the requirements for new legislation.
The vision sets out a new direction for adult social care, putting people, personalised services and outcomes centre stage and returning social care to its foundations of reciprocity and constructive action by individuals on behalf of the whole community. It sets a challenge for councils to provide a personal budget, preferably as a direct payment, for everyone who is eligible by April 2013. As councils devolve commissioning responsibility to individuals via personal budgets, we expect them to work with providers to broaden the market of care services, particularly small social enterprises, so that individuals can exercise real choice over care services. A consequence of personalisation is that people will increasingly take their own decisions about how to balance their new freedoms with a sensible approach to risk. The vision also calls for an increase in preventive activity in local communities, to keep people independent for longer and contribute to building the big society.
The vision includes examples of how councils, working in partnership with local organisations and people, can develop innovative, efficient services. It encourages people to look to themselves and their communities, not just the state, for solutions and in doing so to grow the big society. It alerts councils to their new leadership role in health improvement and health and well-being boards and the opportunities this offers.
Councils should use the solid basis for social care funding delivered by the recent spending review as a springboard to reform services. In recognition of the pressures on the social care system in a challenging local government settlement, the coalition Government have allocated an additional £2 billion by 2014-15 to support the delivery of social care. This means, with an ambitious programme of efficiency, that there is enough funding available both to protect people’s access to services and deliver new approaches to improve quality and outcomes.
Plans for service reform were outlined in the social care consortium’s partnership agreement, “Think Local, Act Personal” launched at the national children’s and adult services conference on 4 November 2010. Led by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the local government group on behalf of 21 social care organisations, it describes the next steps for councils to personalise services and provide more comprehensive information for people who need advice on care and support services. In addition to this, the consortium has also produced a number of best practice guides.
The key principles for adult social care described in the vision are:
prevention: empowered people and strong communities will work together to maintain independence. Where the state is needed, it helps people to retain and regain their independence;
personalisation: individuals not institutions take control of their care. Personal budgets, preferably as direct payments, are provided to all eligible people. Information about care and support is available for all local people, regardless of whether or not they fund their own care;
partnership: care and support delivered in a partnership between individuals, communities, the voluntary sector, the NHS and councils, including wider support services, such as housing;
plurality: the variety of people’s needs is matched by diverse service provision, with a broad market of high-quality service providers;
protection: there are sensible safeguards against the risk of abuse or neglect. Risk is no longer an excuse to limit people’s freedom;
productivity: greater local accountability will drive improvements and innovation to deliver higher productivity and high-quality care and support services. A focus on publishing information about agreed quality outcomes will support transparency and accountability; and
people: we can draw on a work force who can provide care and support with skill, compassion and imagination, and who are given the freedom and support to do so. We need the whole work force, including care workers, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and social workers, alongside carers and the people who use services, to lead the changes set out in the vision.
Copies of the vision and the consultation document have been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.
Right to Request Social Enterprise Scheme
I am announcing a third, and final, wave of 32 national health service organisations that will join the Department of Health’s “Right to Request” social enterprise scheme.
The “Right to Request” gives all primary and community care staff employed by primary care trusts (PCTs) the right to put a request to their PCT board to set up a social enterprise to deliver health and social care services. Each of these organisations has received the approval of their PCT and strategic health authority (SHA) to pursue plans to set up a social enterprise. With appropriate support, these projects should go on to become successful and financially viable social enterprises that strengthen the delivery of tailored health and social care services in the NHS.
This scheme empowers staff to harness their entrepreneurial skills and exercise leadership to improve services for local communities through social enterprise.
The projects include a wide range of primary and community care for children, families and vulnerable people, such as dental, physiotherapy, bereavement and podiatry services. The proposals range from single service lines to whole provider arms.
These latest projects join the existing group of 29 “Right to Request” projects, bringing the total number participating in the scheme to 61. This represents a major milestone in the delivery of the White Paper commitment to create a vibrant social enterprise sector, and a substantial move towards the transformation of community services.
The growth of social enterprise is a priority for the Government. Social enterprises play a vital role in delivering innovative services and creating capable and confident communities. I am committed to enabling these organisations to have a significant role in the running of health and social care services across the country.
A list of the third wave of projects has been placed in the Library.
Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Annual Report)
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before Parliament the 2009-10 annual report of the appointed person under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The appointed person is an independent person who scrutinises the use of the search power introduced to support the measures in the Act to seize and forfeit criminal cash.
The report gives the appointed person’s opinion as to the circumstances and manner in which the search powers conferred by the Act are being exercised. I am pleased that the appointed person, Andrew Clarke, has expressed satisfaction with the operation of the search power and has found that there is nothing to suggest that the procedures are not being followed in accordance with the Act.
From 1 April 2009 to the end of March 2010 over £63 million in cash was seized by law enforcement agencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland under powers in the Act. The seizures are subject to further investigation, and the cash is subject to further judicially approved detention, before forfeiture in the magistrates court. These powers are a valuable tool in the fight against crime and the report shows that the way they are used has been, and will continue to be, closely monitored.
Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office.