Written Ministerial Statements
Tuesday 29 January 2013
Communities and Local Government
Revocation of the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Strategy
I have today laid in Parliament an order to revoke the last Administration’s regional strategy for Yorkshire and Humber. This follows an assessment as outlined in the written ministerial statement of 25 July 2012, Official Report, House of Lords, columns WS66-68.
The revocation of the regional strategy for Yorkshire and Humber and its flawed top-down targets heralds another important step for localism. It delivers a decentralised planning system where local councils and local people can own the planning agenda for their communities and so shape and deliver development where they live. Such engagement is the key to creating a planning system that works with, not against, local communities.
The City of York does not currently have a local plan in place with defined green belt boundaries. The environmental assessment process indicated that revocation of the York green belt policies before an adopted local plan was in place could lead to a significant negative effect upon the special character and setting of York. Following careful consideration of the consultation responses received, we have concluded that the best solution would be to retain the York green belt policies. This approach expresses the importance that the coalition Government place upon the green belt and our recognition of its invaluable role in protecting our treasured environmental and cultural heritage.
Once the order takes effect, development plans across the former Government office region, with the exception of York, will comprise the relevant local plan, and where they exist, neighbourhood plans. In York, the development plan will continue to include the regional strategy’s green belt policies.
The reasons for the decision to retain the York green belt policies, and to revoke all other parts of the regional strategy, are set out in a post-adoption statement, which has been placed in the Library of the House and is available online at: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/ strategic-environmental-assessment-about-revoking-the-yorkshire-and-the-humber-regional-strategy-environmental-report
The order is laid under the negative resolution procedure and will take effect on 22 February. Further announcements on the other regional strategies will be made in due course.
War Pension Scheme Uprating 2013
The new rates of war pensions and allowances proposed from April 2013 are set out in the tables below. The annual uprating of war pensions and allowances for 2013 will take place from the week beginning 8 April. Rates for 2013 are increasing by 2.2% in line with the September 2012 consumer prices index.
(Weekly rates unless otherwise shown)
Disablement Pension(100% rates)
officer (£ per annum)
other ranks (weekly amount)
Age allowances payable from age 65
over 50% but not over 70%
over 70% but not over 90%
Disablement gratuity (one-off payment)
specified minor injury (min.)
specified minor injury (max.)
adult dependency increase
increase for first child
increase for subsequent children
Constant attendance allowance
Allowance for lowered standard of occupation (maximum)
Therapeutic earnings limit (annual rate)
Exceptionally severe disablement allowance
Severe disablement occupational allowance
Clothing allowance (£ per annum)
Education allowance (£ per annum) (max)
Widow(er)s’—other ranks (basic with children) (weekly amount)
Widow(er)—officer higher rate, both wars (basic with children) (£ per annum)
Childless widow(er)s’ u-40 (other ranks) (weekly amount)
Widow(er)—officer lower rate, both wars (£ per annum)
(a) age 65 to 69
(b) age 70 to 79
(c) age 80 and over
Increase for first child
Increase for subsequent children
Increase for first child
Increase for subsequent children
Unmarried dependant living as spouse (max)
Rent allowance (maximum)
Adult orphan’s pension (maximum)
Early Education and Childcare
Today I am publishing a report “More great childcare” which sets out this Government’s plans for improving quality in early education and child care. The report also incorporates the Government response to Professor Cathy Nutbrown’s report—“Foundations for Quality”—on qualifications for the early education and child care work force.
Over the next 10 years we want to substantially increase the supply of high quality, affordable and available child care. The evidence is clear that a good start in these early years can have a positive effect on children’s development, preparing them for school and later life. This is important for individual children and families. It is also important for our wider society and economy.
The proposals set out in “More great childcare” will help providers to thrive, by delivering more for the investment currently made by the Government and parents. This will be achieved through:
Raising the status and quality of the work force;
Freeing high-quality providers to offer more places;
Improving the regulatory regime;
Giving more choice to parents.
This Government want to increase the supply of high quality, affordable child care and early education. We want to see providers striving to raise the quality of provision of early education and child care for babies and young children, an inspection regime that responds with support and constructive challenge, and a clearer, simpler regulatory structure where more money reaches the front line.
The evidence tells us very clearly how important it is for successful outcomes for children that staff are well qualified. As Professor Nutbrown acknowledged, there has been recent progress in developing a more professional work force, and raising quality for children.
But we believe we need to go further, with reform needed to enable early years providers to break out of the low-skills, low-pay, low-status cycle in which the sector has been stuck for too long. Our report, therefore, specifically proposes:
Raising the status and quality of the work force
Graduate level early years teachers, specialised in early childhood development and who will work with our youngest children;
Examining how to attract bright graduates into early years teaching;
A programme of early years educators qualified to level 3, with good GCSEs in English and Maths, trained in child development and with strong practical experience.
Incentives for the first early years educators to work with providers offering early education for two-year-olds from low-income families.
Freeing high-quality providers to offer more places
Changes to rigid rules on staffing to give greater freedom for professionals to tailor group care to children’s needs, with more choice for parents.
Improving the regulatory regime
Reinforcing the emphasis on provider responsibility for quality, with skills and knowledge of staff at the forefront;
Increased involvement of HM Inspectors to further improve the quality of early years inspections;
Targeting inspections on providers most in need of improvement;
Encouraging rapid improvement by enabling providers to request a paid-for re-inspection;
Ensuring Ofsted is the sole arbiter of quality in the early years by removing any duplication of quality assessment by local authorities.
Giving more choice to parents
Increasing choice and diversity for parents, and encouraging new providers into the market;
Developing new childminder agencies to offer training, support and regular quality assurance of childminders;
Reducing obstacles to schools providing care for younger children, down the age range and able to open nurseries on site;
Supporting good providers to expand and respond to parental demand with clearer national standards and expectations and greater funding transparency.
Two of our specific proposals—allowing paid-for re-inspection and introducing childminder agencies—will require a change to primary legislation and we will bring forward measures to do this as soon as parliamentary time allows.
Our report further supports the commitment that this Government have made to ensuring that this country is the most family friendly in Europe. It supports what we have already done to increase early education for all three and four-year-olds to 15 hours per week, and the introduction of the two-year-old programme for children of lower-income families from September 2013. It also supports the revised early years foundation stage statutory framework, introduced from September 2012, and our longer-term ambitions around an integrated review.
We will, subject to consultation, bring forward plans to amend specific elements of the early years foundation stage statutory framework and these proposals will be subject to parliamentary approval in the normal way.
We are, alongside “More great childcare”, today launching a public consultation on how staff:child ratios might be framed in the early years foundation stage statutory framework from September 2013. We will also shortly launch further consultations on: the requirements that qualifications for those working in sector should fulfil; and changes to the welfare requirements set out in the EYFS.
We are clear that we want to give parents more choice of early education. Parents should be able to decide whether home-based care, nursery care, or a combination of the two is best for their child.
Our reforms will benefit both society and the economy by delivering high-quality education in the early years at the same time as helping parents back to work. This will complement the Government’s wider commitments: reforming education, so that we produce bright graduates and skilled school leavers; and reforming welfare, so that it always pays to work.
We will place copies of our report in the House Libraries.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks
Today I am announcing a public inquiry to hear representations to the variation orders to extend the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks, including objections from six local authorities.
The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 requires Natural England to consider from time to time what areas there are in England that meet the criteria for national park status, and whether it is especially desirable that such areas should be designated. In November 2011 Natural England issued variation orders to extend the boundaries of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales national parks. The orders were submitted to the DEFRA Secretary of State in January 2012.
Over 3,000 objections, representations or expressions of support were received in response to the proposals, including objections from five local authorities. It is a statutory requirement that a public inquiry is held if at least one local authority with land in a proposed extension raises an objection to a relevant variation order. I have therefore commissioned a public inquiry into the recommended boundary changes and an inspector from the Planning Inspectorate has been appointed to conduct the inquiry.
As a first step, a pre-inquiry meeting will be held in early March with the inquiry itself expected to open in early June; lasting approximately four weeks. Following the inquiry the inspector will make recommendations to the Secretary of State as to whether he believes the proposed extensions meet the designation criteria as set out in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.
Once the Secretary of State has received the inspector’s report he will then take a decision as to whether the case for designation has been made and he will either confirm the variation orders (with or without modifications) or reject them.