Thursday 29 January 2015
Business, Innovation and Skills
The Government are taking a number of steps to secure improved standards among alternative providers of higher education.
Britain’s system of higher education is renowned worldwide for its high quality, a reputation that continues to strengthen as demonstrated by the results of the recent research excellence framework. It is essential that this reputation for quality continues to strengthen in all parts of the sector.
Among alternative providers of higher education some institutions contribute strongly to this reputation through exceptionally high levels of student satisfaction and the employability of graduates.
As the National Audit Office (NAO) has shown, some, however, have raised questions over the consistency of the delivery of quality provision to appropriately qualified candidates by some alternative providers.
The Government have already taken a number of steps to tighten standards among such providers, such as requiring, in 2014, all alternative providers to re-apply to be designated using a more robust designation process.
We will now take the following further steps to provider greater assurance of quality specifically:
Alternative providers will need to be re-designated every year, rather than remaining designated indefinitely. This will not apply to the seven providers with degree-awarding powers that have courses designated for student support.
As a condition of designation providers will undergo a strengthened quality assurance process, higher education review, which will apply to all higher education providers and be the common review framework of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in England.
From now on alternative providers will be required to have registered any student with the relevant qualification awarding body before a claim for tuition fee support for that student can be made.
A “fit and proper person” test will apply to all directors of alternative providers as a specific requirement of the annual designation process, in line with practice in the publicly funded sector. Changes of directors, or their circumstances, will need to be notified during the year, as well as at the annual designation point.
Alternative providers will be required to submit information on students’ previous qualifications, demographic characteristics and achievements. This information will be published through the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Subject to consultation we intend to introduce a minimum English language requirement to ensure that students studying for qualifications at alternative providers have sufficient language skills to succeed at their course.
We will require alternative providers, subject to consultation, to provide students with good quality information on: student satisfaction ratings, graduate salaries and employment, tuition fees, financial support and the cost of accommodation—through the key information set, which already applies to HEFCE-funded providers.
We will remove the student number cap from the seven providers with degree-awarding powers that have courses designated for student support, and allow providers offering validated degrees the flexibility to increase the number of students they recruit by up to 20% in 2015-16. We will retain the cap on all other alternative providers. From 2016-17 we will allow providers with a strong performance to expand, while reducing student numbers for other providers.
A rapid response investigatory team has been established, headed by the Government Internal Audit Agency and including the Student Loans Company, HEFCE, the Quality Assurance Agency and BIS. The team will be able quickly to investigate allegations of abuse of the system.
Pearson, whose qualifications are delivered by some of the alternative providers about whom the NAO have expressed concerns, have strengthened their internal quality assurance process, introducing annual approval and student re-registration and increasing the level of proficiency in English required of student entering higher national courses.
Taken together these measures will improve the assurance that only quality alternative providers can be designated, that they recruit only students who are suited to their courses, and that student numbers in alternative providers are at appropriate levels in each provider.
The Government are determined to ensure that the strong reputation for quality in UK higher education continues and strengthens.
Communities and Local Government
Local Goverment Update
I would like to update hon. Members on a series of announcements relating to local government.
Promoting joint working with NHS and councils this winter
The Coalition Government are committed to greater joint working between our local public services, to help save money and improve frontline services.
From April 2015, through the £5.3 billion Better Care Fund, we are starting to transform the way we deliver health and social care services, so that they provide a properly joined-up service for patients. It will prevent up to 160,000 A and E admissions and save over £500 million in the year ahead. We have approved 97% of the local Better Care Fund plans, and the final few plans are being reviewed now.
Ahead of its April introduction, and in light of the expected cold winter, to help further promote joint working, we are announcing a total of £37 million of additional funding to local authorities, so that they can step up their efforts to get people home as soon as they are ready to leave hospital, and avoid the need for people to go into hospital in the first place.
A total of £25 million of this will help over 9,500 people with additional support packages to move from hospital either back to their home or into residential care; the further £12 million will mean up to 3,500 more people a week will get home from hospital more quickly this winter, with the local authority putting in place carers and equipment to meet their needs, freeing up much-needed hospital beds within the NHS.
Social services have to be part of the solution to the high demand on hospitals at the moment. We know that they can help by getting people home more quickly when it is safe to do so once they have been discharged. We also know that the best social care can prevent people from having to go to A and E in the first place by supporting the elderly to live with dignity and independence at home.
Extending local business rate retention
The Coalition Government have introduced new financial incentives to councils to support locally- led enterprise and economic growth, as part of our programme of decentralisation and as part of our long-term economic plan.
Since 2013, local government has kept half of all business rate revenues and business rate growth. But we want to go further over time to increase these incentives.
Last year, we announced proposals to allow 100% local retention of business rates on shale oil and gas sites. In October, we published a technical consultation on draft regulations to implement this measure. We received 25 responses. A majority of those supported retention of 100% of business rates on shale oil and gas by local government. Having considered the responses we have decided to continue with our proposals as set out in the technical consultation. This policy will ensure that local councils that host shale oil or gas sites can benefit from millions of pounds in business rates paid. The measure could be worth up to £1.7 million for a typical site and will be funded by central Government.
Shale will help to improve energy security, create jobs and meet carbon targets benefiting the UK through improved energy security and economic prospects. Local councils and communities have an important part to play in securing those improvements and we believe they should also share in the economic opportunities and benefits of shale. Tough environmental protections are in place, and are being further enhanced as announced to the House during the Infrastructure Bill on Monday.
The associated secondary legislation has been laid before Parliament, and the responses to the consultation published. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the provisions will come into force in April 2015.
Promoting recycling and protecting the local environment
The Coalition Government are committed to making it easier for families to recycle, whilst avoiding unfair stealth taxes on hard-working people.
The Government are aware that some local authorities have introduced, or plan to introduce, a charge to local taxpayers wanting to use civic amenity sites to dispose of household waste and/or household recycling. This is in clear breach of the previous legislative provisions passed by Parliament to ensure that such services are provided free of charge to householders.
Such short-term stealth taxes will not only inconvenience local residents and reduce recycling, but will actively harm the environment, by encouraging fly-tipping and backyard burning. In the Republic of Ireland which has a series of taxes on household waste collection, the domestic burning of household rubbish is the biggest single source of the emission of toxic dioxins into the air. Such pollution crosses local authority boundaries, creating a wider externality and harm to the public good.
We have therefore published proposals to close down the legislative loophole and reinstate the original principle that Parliament established, that such public goods should be free to local taxpayers. A short, statutory consultation paper has been published, and subject to due consideration of the responses, we are minded to introduce the necessary secondary legislation in this Parliament.
Curtailing powers of entry
The Coalition Government have sought to stand up for civil liberties, including curtailing unnecessary state powers of entry, stopping the abuse of surveillance powers and curbs on the use of CCTV as “cash cameras”.
Using powers under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, we propose changing the law that officials from the Valuation Office Agency, an arm of HM Revenue and Customs, should no longer have automatic right of entry into homes and businesses in order to value them for council tax and business rates. A tribunal will now scrutinise and need to approve any use of the VOA’s power of entry. It is proposed to change the law though secondary legislation in this Parliament, subject to approval by Parliament. A statutory consultation has been published.
This complements the steps we have taken to stop a council tax revaluation in England and terminate the tax revaluation database to protect hard-working people from unwanted tax rises.
Increasing local accountability in decision making
The Coalition Government have introduced a series of measures to increase local accountability and transparency in local government. Decentralisation should be accompanied by greater local scrutiny.
We are now publishing a short technical consultation on proposals to reform, update and consolidate the “functions and responsibilities” rules in local government law. These provide a framework and guidance on which part of a local authority should be ultimately responsible for taking decisions, across committee, cabinet and mayoral systems, across the accumulated body of local government law from the 19th century onwards.
The consultation includes proposals to make clear the important role of Full Council in relation to budget setting in non-mayoral cabinets, as well as greater scrutiny by Full Council on the controversial issues of parking and waste collection. This framework provides a democratic check and balance to prevent the abuse of executive power, and ensure elected local councillors are able to represent the views of their local residents.
Protecting an independent local press
The Coalition Government are committed to protecting an independent free local press. Localism and a healthy local democracy requires not just scrutiny by councillors, but also by the press and public.
The Government have sought to take action on the practice by a small number of local authorities to publish local authority newspapers, which push out and undermine an independent press, and which constitute an inappropriate use of taxpayers' money.
Further to the Written Statement of 13 October 2014, Official Report, Column 2WS, we have warned a small number of councils about their breaches of the local government publicity code. Today, I can announce the conclusions to date of the review into the actions of the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council.
On 25 September 2014, the council was served written notice of a proposed direction requiring it to comply with the provisions in the March 2011 Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity relating to frequency of publication of council newsletters, newssheets or similar publications.
Having had regard to representations received from the council about its publicity - specifically the newspaper produced by the council, to information available to him about the Royal Borough of Greenwich council’s publicity, and to an Equality Statement about enforcing the 2011 Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, the Secretary of State today gave the Royal Borough of Greenwich council notice of a direction that he proposes to give to the authority under section 4A of the Local Government Act 1986, directing it to comply as soon as practicable and in any event by 31 March 2015 with the provision in the March 2011 Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity that: “Where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, news sheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly”.
The council has 14 days to make written representation to the Secretary of State about the proposed direction. Following this, the Secretary of State will take his final decision about whether or not to issue the direction. Subject to due process and consideration, we are prepared to use our formal legal powers to intervene wherever it is in taxpayers’ interests and those of a free and fair local democracy. If the local councillors wish to issue their own weekly material at their expense or those of their political party nothing prevents this, other than prevailing electoral law.
We have been carefully considering the representations from those other local authorities that received written notices on 25 September 2014 before deciding what action to take, and will make further, separate announcements to the House shortly on the individual cases. Each decision will be taken on its own merits.
I will be placing copies of the documents associated with these announcements in the Library of the House.
The Government would like to thank the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) and the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gurkha Welfare for leading an inquiry into grievances held by members of the Gurkha veterans’ community. This inquiry has provided the Gurkha veterans’ community an independent forum within which their grievances have been listened to, considered and ultimately debated in Parliament. The Government would like to pay tribute to the manner in which the Gurkha community have participated in this unique inquiry and taken the opportunity to present evidence about the grievances which some hold.
In response to the inquiry’s findings the Government will implement a number of measures which will mean greater financial and social support for Gurkha veterans from both the Government and the charitable sector. These measures include the provision of £5 million of additional funding from LIBOR fines announced in the autumn statement. This money will be made available over the next five years to the Gurkha Welfare Trust, a charity which supports Gurkha veterans. This funding will be able to support the provision of additional care and support for Gurkha veterans in Nepal or the UK.
The Government will also set up a fund to compensate retired Gurkhas who left the brigade after marriage to a non-Nepalese. The Government recognise that the approach to mixed marriage was a matter of cultural importance to those within the Brigade of Gurkhas at the time. However they do not believe this policy reflects the values which the Armed Forces and the United Kingdom holds in the 21st century. They have therefore decided to set up a scheme to offer a payment to those directly affected by this policy. Details of the scheme and how Gurkhas can claim will be published in due course.
In addition to these measures in response to the APPG report, the Government have also awarded £960,000 to Gurkha Homes Limited. This money is from the £40 million Veterans Accommodation Fund launched in 2014 using money from LIBOR fines. This will see 32 new homes built in four locations across the UK for Gurkha veterans. This will enable up to 64 Gurkha veterans and their spouses or partners to live in high quality affordable accommodation while integrating into local communities.
These commitments are a clear demonstration that the Government are willing to address previous injustices and concerns held within the Gurkha community where it is appropriate to do so. It is also a statement of the enduring gratitude felt by the nation to the Gurkha community for their service. These measures will help to ensure that Gurkha veterans have the opportunity to live in retirement with the further support and gratitude of the British Government.
The Government’s full response has been placed in the Library of the House.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is today publishing the forty-third progress report on developments in Afghanistan since November 2010. With the conclusion of the NATO led ISAF Mission on 31 December 2014, this will be the final progress report.
On 4 December the UK Government and the Afghan Government co-hosted the London conference on Afghanistan. At the conference, President Ghani set out his reform agenda for Afghanistan and the International Community, led by the Prime Minister, signalled its strong support for the new Afghan Government.
The Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) and NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) were ratified by the Afghan Parliament between 23-27 November. NATO Foreign Ministers provided formal agreement to the launch of the new NATO Resolute Support Mission on 2 December.
During November and December President Ghani and CEO Abdullah failed to agree on nominations for Cabinet Ministers. A Cabinet was finally announced on 12 January.
On 27 November, a British Embassy vehicle was attacked in Kabul, resulting in the death of a UK national security contractor and an Afghan member of British Embassy staff. An Afghan civilian was also killed in the attack. A further UK civilian was wounded as well as 33 Afghan civilians.
The last UK personnel left Southern Afghanistan on 23 November.
I am placing the report in the Library of the House. It will also be published with attachments online at: http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/afghanistan-progress-reports.
Foreign Affairs Council
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 19 January in Brussels. The Foreign Affairs Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini.
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Dimitris Avromopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, and Miguel Arias Canete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy were in attendance for some of the discussions at the FAC.
A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at:
Ministers discussed relations with Russia in restricted format. The High Representative, Federica Mogherini, highlighted the need for the EU to remain united in its support for Ukraine, financially and politically. Full implementation of the Minsk agreement was essential to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine. Sanctions remained an important element of the EU’s approach. Ministers discussed the EEAS Russia issues paper, which set out options on what other EU instruments could be used to increase leverage. Commissioner Hahn outlined the need to engage with Russia on the EU’s own terms.
The Foreign Secretary stressed that there should be no softening of the EU position, given there had been no constructive steps by Russia on the Minsk commitments. The EU should be ready to respond when Russia met its obligations. The Foreign Secretary also highlighted that Russia could no longer be considered a strategic partner to the EU.
The High Representative outlined her proposal to mainstream counter-terrorism in EU foreign policy by publishing the strategy on foreign fighters in Iraq/Syria; embedding security experts in EU delegations in the MENA region; maximising use of EU agencies; and improving communication with partners in the region and at home. She urged speedy adoption of the EU directive on passenger name records (PNR).
Discussion centred on the source and spread of radicalisation in the region. Many Ministers agreed on the need for better EU communications and the need for enhanced co-operation, including with Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Algeria. A recommendation was made for a broader approach encompassing Boko Haram and other groups in the Sahel to be discussed at the February FAC. Ministers also agreed on the need to counter both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Lunch with Arab League Secretary General Elaraby
Ministers discussed the middle east peace process, Libya and counter-terrorism, with Secretary-General Elaraby. The Foreign Secretary agreed that countering terrorism in the region was a priority for both the EU and the Arab League, and urged the Arab League and the Arab states to improve the human rights situation in order to unlock greater EU assistance. Elaraby reassured EU Ministers that Arab Ministers shared their condemnation of terrorism.
The High Representative undertook to strengthen further formal and informal links between the EU and Arab League, both at working level and at political level. In the margins of the Council, Ms Mogherini signed a memorandum of understanding with Elaraby furthering co-operation between the EEAS and the Arab League.
Due to the extended discussion on Russia, the substantive point on Libya was postponed until February.
Ministers endorsed the EEAS’s action plan for climate diplomacy ahead of COP21 in Paris, and agreed on the need for the EU to have a clear climate change policy. Commissioner Canete identified securing ambitious commitments and credible climate finance as the two main challenges. Ministers called on the EU to support countries through technical assistance, expertise and funding.
The High Representative updated Ministers on her thinking on the future of EU special representatives (EUSRs) and her intention to appoint EUSRs for the middle east and central Asia. Ministers also noted recent events in Cuba and Colombia.
Ministers agreed without discussion a number of other measures:
The Council adopted conclusions on Democratic Republic of Congo/Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR);
The Council adopted conclusions on Tunisia;
The Council appointed Mr Lars-Gunnar Wigemark as new EU special representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1 March 2015 to 30 June 2015;
The Council approved the EU position for the 15th meeting of the EU-Armenia Co-operation Council on 20 January in Brussels;
The Council endorsed the six-monthly progress report on the implementation of the EU strategy against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, covering activities in the second semester of 2014;
The Council agreed to launch the EU common security and defence policy mission in Mali (EUCAP Sahel Mali) on 15 January 2015. It also allocated a budget of €11.4 million for the mission in the period until 14 January 2016;
The Council decided to appeal against the judgment of the General Court in the case Council v. Hamas of 17 December (T-400/10). The Court had annulled, on procedural grounds, the Council’s decision to maintain Hamas on the EU list of terrorist organisations. During the appeal, Hamas will stay on the terrorist list;
The Council established the EU military advisory mission in the Central African Republic (CAR). This mission sets out to support security sector reform in the CAR. It also authorised the HRVP to open negotiations with the CAR authorities for an agreement on the status of this mission.
Law Commission: Government Response
The Government are today publishing, on behalf of all four countries, “Regulation of Health Care Professionals: Regulation of Social Care Professionals in England—the Government’s response to Law Commission report 345, Scottish Law Commission report 237 and Northern Ireland Law Commission report 18 (2014) Cm 8839.” The response has been laid before Parliament and is available in the Library of the House.
In accordance with the protocol between the Lord Chancellor and the Law Commission I am providing a full response to the Commissions.
I would like to thank the Law Commission, the Scottish Law Commission and the Northern Ireland Law Commission for their report, published in April 2014, and for their hugely helpful work reviewing complex professional regulation legislation.
The Government are grateful for this thorough and considered review of complex legislative framework governing regulation of health care professionals and in England, social care professionals. We have accepted the large majority of the Law Commissions’ recommendations in full, and others in part.
There are a small number of areas where we disagree with the Law Commissions’ recommendations—where we wish to take a different approach, or where further work needs to be done. However, we overwhelmingly support the Commissions’ ambition for improvements and where appropriate, greater consistency across the regulation of health professionals including robust governance structures for regulatory bodies, enabling innovation in education and leaner processes to enable the regulatory bodies to take swifter action to ensure public protection.
We are now taking the opportunity to consider the Law Commissions’ report and draft Bill, and to work closely with the regulatory bodies to build on the good work the Law Commissions have done. The Government remain committed to legislative change and we are seeking to make changes to enhance public protection through secondary legislation to address a number of priority areas that we have identified in discussion with the regulatory bodies.
In addition, the Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill, presented by my hon. Friend, the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) is also seeking, with Government support, to introduce consistent objectives for the PSA and for some of the regulatory bodies, and a requirement for those regulators’ panels and committees to have regard to the objectives when determining whether a practitioner is fit to practise and when determining what sanctions might be appropriate. This builds on the Law Commissions’ recommendations 13 and 85.
We consider the Law Commissions’ report and draft Bill are a significant advance towards making sure that our professional regulation system is fit for the future, and the Government are committed to legislate further on this matter in due course. As the Government move forward on professional regulation legislation, we will make sure it is right, not only for the regulatory bodies, but also for the public, patients, and registrants. The Government’s response can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/writtenstatements
Language Controls: Health Professionals
We greatly value the contributions that health care professionals from all over the world have made, and continue to make to our NHS, but it is essential that they have sufficient knowledge of the English language to provide safe patient care. In 2014, changes were introduced to strengthen the law in this area for doctors, by introducing language controls for European economic area (EEA) doctors wishing to practise in the UK.
The Department of Health has since been working with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the General Dental Council (GDC), the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI), and with other stakeholders, to look at ways to ensure more rigorous language competency tests can be applied for nurses, pharmacists and dentists from within the EEA. This would bring language controls for EEA health care professionals in line with the language tests and controls applied to non-European applicants who wish to treat patients in the UK.
For this reason, on 3 November 2014 the Department went out to consult on proposals to allow these regulatory bodies to apply language controls to healthcare professionals seeking entry to their registers, to ensure they have a sufficient knowledge of the English language to enable them to practise safely in the UK.
The Department has today published a consultation report, “Language controls for nurses, midwives, dentists, dental care professionals, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians—proposed changes to the Dentists Act 1984, the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001, the Pharmacy Order 2010 and the Pharmacy (Northern Ireland) Order 197—A four country consultation report” which sets out our findings has been placed in the Library of the House. It is also available online at:
The proposed legislative changes to strengthen language testing of health care professionals will be an effective way of ensuring the language competence of all overseas nurses, midwives, dentists, dental care professionals, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. This change in the law will mark an important milestone in improving patient safety and care.
The Health Care and Associated Professions (Knowledge of English) Order 2015 will be laid in Parliament shortly.
The Government’s review Transforming Care: A national response to “Winterbourne View Hospital: Department of Health Final Report (2012)” looked at why Winterbourne View happened and set out a programme of work to take every step we can, to ensure this does not happen again. The Government committed in Transforming Care to produce a report two years on to account for progress. This report is a collective account from partners across the health and care system to reflect the cross-system effort that has continued over the past year to tackle the root causes of the abuse and treatment of people at Winterbourne View.
The report sets out what has been done, providing an update in the annex of all the original actions in Transforming Care and what has been completed or is continuing. A significant number of the recommendations have been achieved. We now know how many people are in in-patient settings, where they are and who is responsible for them. NHS England has introduced care and treatment reviews for everyone in in-patient settings, with a multi-disciplinary team from health and social care, alongside experts by experience. One hundred and eighty one people are benefiting from £7 million DH capital funding to support people inappropriately placed in in-patient settings to move to more suitable housing. We have strengthened the accountability and corporate responsibility arrangements to assure the quality and safety of care services. A duty of candour which requires providers to inform service users where there are failings in care came into force for NHS providers last November, and will be extended to all other providers registered with the Care Quality Commission in this April. A fit and proper person’s test which requires providers to ensure that directors are fit to carry out their role came into force last November for NHS providers in NHS trusts, foundation trusts and special health authorities. All other providers will be required to comply by this April. The introduction of the forthcoming statutory offences of ill-treatment or wilful neglect will also send a clear message throughout the health and care system that intentionally poor care will never be tolerated. We have new guidance on minimising restrictive interventions and work is underway to improve data about the use of restraint. A more rigorous registration, assessment and inspection approach is in place for learning disability services. The Care Act 2014 enshrines new principles for adult social care including the principle of individual well-being which encompasses people having control of their day to day life, suitable accommodation and being able to contribute to society. The Act requires local authorities to consider people’s views, wishes and beliefs and focuses on the outcomes people themselves want to achieve. The Act also underpins and reinforces the importance of good quality, independent advocacy and will support people, their families and carers to raise concerns.
The report is also clear, however, that we have not made nearly enough progress to transform services. This cannot be tolerated. We recognise that there is still much more to do to reduce the need for in-patient care. There are many people with very complex needs, in many different types of in-patient settings and we need to ensure the right decisions are made about their care, listening to individuals, their families and carers. All partners involved in Transforming Care have agreed the need for a single programme to collectively drive forward the changes needed. A strengthened programme will be put in place, which takes into consideration the recommendations of Winterbourne View—A Time to for Change (2014) by Sir Stephen Bubb, and will drive a better co-ordinated approach to achieve faster and sustainable progress. The details of this approach can be accessed at: http://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/gual- clin- lead/ld/transform-care/.
Partnership working is essential. We are clear that this cannot all be done from Whitehall. There has to be a change in culture and behaviour in local areas. We understand that this is not easy which is why, building on learning from work over the past two years, we are determined to make a difference for people and their families in the decisions about admission and discharge from hospitals. We are looking to consult on a range of potential future measures to strengthen people’s rights in the health and care system. This is likely to include options for ensuring people’s individual well-being is at the heart of decisions in both health and social care, and issues around how the Mental Health Act is applied.
Copies of the Winterbourne View Two Years On report have been placed in the House Library. It can also be accessed at:
Security Industry Authority
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) has today made the following written ministerial statement:
The 2012-13 and 2013-14 annual report and accounts for the Security Industry Authority are being laid before the House today and published on: http://www.gov.uk. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.
Service Personnel: Deaths
Together with my hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces, with responsibility for defence personnel, welfare and veterans, I present the latest of our joint statements in which we report progress with coroner investigations into the deaths of UK service personnel resulting from active service overseas. Once again we take the opportunity to honour our armed forces and to thank every one of them for all that they willingly give on behalf of us all. Most of all we remember those who have sacrificed their lives, and the families who have to try to live without them.
Our statement gives the position at 23 January 2015 on open investigations conducted by the senior coroners for Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Swindon and other coroner areas in England and Wales.
Once again we have placed tables of supplementary information in the Libraries of both Houses. These show the status of all cases, including whether there has been or will be a service inquiry—known during the earlier years covered as a board of inquiry.
The Ministry of Defence’s Defence inquests unit continues to assist coroners—including a cadre of coroners who have had special training in handling service personnel inquests—to make sure that everything possible is done to progress and complete investigations quickly and thoroughly. If on any future occasion it would be appropriate for an investigation into the death of a UK service person resulting from active service overseas to be held in Scotland rather than England or Wales, section 12 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 makes provision for this.
Coroners and their staff have to combine compassion and rigour, carry out a determined search for the truth with sensitivity and understanding. We thank them for all their work on service personnel deaths. Again we must thank the Chief Coroner for his work with coroners to improve processes, and once more we express our sincere gratitude to everyone who supports and informs bereaved families throughout the investigation.
Since 2007 the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Justice have jointly made additional funding available to assist the senior coroners for Oxfordshire and for Wiltshire and Swindon. Repatriations of service personnel who have died overseas have mainly taken place within those coroner areas, at RAF Brize Norton and RAF Lyneham respectively. The additional funding enables the senior coroners to conduct service personnel inquests in balance with the local case load.
Current status of inquests
Since our last statement on 30 October 2014, Official Report, column 30WS, there have been four inquests into the deaths of service personnel on operations. They bring the total of inquests into the deaths of service personnel who have died on active service or who have died in the UK of injuries sustained on active service to 618. No formal inquest has been held into three deaths of injured service personnel in Scotland. Two of these deaths were taken into consideration at inquests into deaths which happened in the same incidents. In the third case a serviceman had made a partial recovery but died from his injuries, and it was decided not to hold a fatal accident inquiry.
Coroners’ investigations which have been opened
Deaths in Afghanistan
As at 23 January, 13 coroner investigations are open into the deaths of service personnel on operations.
The senior coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon has retained six of the open investigations, while the senior coroner for Oxfordshire has retained five. Senior Coroners for areas closer to the next of kin are handling the other two open coroner investigations. Six hearing dates have been listed.
We will continue to inform the House of progress.
Tables detailing inquests into service deaths can be viewed as attachments online at: