Friday 11 May 2018
I am today laying a departmental minute to advise that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has received approval in principle from Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) to recognise a new contingent liability associated with the NAAFI pension fund. Negotiations are ongoing and the contingent liability will come into force on signature of a pension guarantee.
The departmental minute describes the contingent liability that the MOD will hold as a result of the NAAFI pension guarantee. The maximum contingent liability against the MOD is £223 million. It is usual to allow a period of 14 sitting days prior to accepting a contingent liability, to provide Members of Parliament an opportunity to raise any objections.
NAAFI is a company limited by guarantee controlled by the MOD through the NAAFI council. The guarantee would remove the risk of the MOD, as a result of its relationship with NAAFI, being required by the Pension Regulator to fund all or part of the deficit calculated on a buy-out basis on or before 2021 should NAAFI be wound up. It would save the MOD up to £5 million per annum, this being the current undertaking made annually to NAAFI, to reduce the pension fund deficit. It would also negate the risk of MOD losing the NAAFI’s services in the territories in which it operates creating potential gaps in service affecting MOD personnel.
Good School Places
The Government are committed to creating more good school places through a diverse education system, to ensure that parents have choice and children of all backgrounds have access to the best education. The range of actions we are setting out today helps us to deliver this; extending the opportunity for children, no matter what their background, to access the best education and encouraging cross-sector collaboration in order to raise standards and aspiration for all pupils. This action includes supporting the establishment of new schools and the creation of more good school places, as well as complementary measures in response to the Schools that Work for Everyone consultation. It is intended to incentivise high-performing schools and institutions across the sector to widen their offer to more pupils, and to encourage the sector as a whole to collaborate in order to help all children achieve their potential. I want to see universities, independent schools and state schools working in partnerships that deliver sustainable impact, including by establishing or joining multi-academy trusts where it is beneficial to do so.
The consultation sought views on removing the legislation that inhibit the creation of new selective schools and on lifting the restrictions on the establishment of new faith free schools, and it asked how we could harness the resources and expertise of those in our independent schools and the higher education sector to work in partnership with the state sector. We received several thousand responses, and I was encouraged by the number of those which identified the positive role that selective schools, universities and independent schools do, and could, play in improving educational outcomes across the wider education system. I am building on this through the measures we are setting out today.
The free schools programme is an essential part of delivering good school places where they are needed, and today we are launching Wave 13 for mainstream free schools applications. We are targeting this wave at areas with the lowest educational performance to put free schools in the places most in need of good school places. Free schools have, as do all schools, a role to play in supporting our objectives for integration and community cohesion, and it is important that our free schools programme establishes schools that are inclusive of children of all faith and none. We are retaining the 50% cap on faith-based admissions in free schools.
As previously announced to the House, we will not be enabling the new creation of selective schools, but selective schools play an important role in ensuring our children have access to a good education and have a real impact in helping young people, regardless of their background, fulfil their potential.
To enable existing selective schools to expand and provide more school places where there is local demand, we have today launched the selective schools expansion fund, backed by £50 million in 2018-19. We have also today published a memorandum of understanding with the Grammar School Heads’ Association, which sets out a commitment from the sector to widen access for disadvantaged pupils and to work in partnership with local non-selective schools to improve pupil outcomes locally. I look forward to seeing the action taken by this part of the sector to deliver these commitments.
The whole sector, not just parts of it, has a role to play in supporting the delivery of good school places and in providing the opportunity for all children to raise their aspiration and to achieve their potential. I recognise the role that universities and independent schools can, and in many cases already do, have in this, and I want to see this engagement deepened through greater partnership with the state sector, including working in collaboration in multi-academy trusts, to improve outcomes for pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. I am keen that universities and independent schools with capacity come forward to be involved in school sponsorship and founding free schools, including maths schools. I welcome the joint understanding between the Independent Schools Council and my Department, published today, which sets out how independent schools will look to support these objectives, including how they can help those from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as looked-after children. I will continue to encourage the higher education sector to support these ambitions; to widen access to its institutions for students from under-represented groups and to provide meaningful support to the state sector, and I welcome the action taken to date, including the guidance published in February by the Office for Students on preparing 2019-20 access and participation plans.
I also recognise the role that faith providers play in delivering high-performing schools with excellent standards, and that some schools feel unable to establish new schools through the free schools programme as a result of the restrictions on admissions. As mentioned, we are retaining the 50% faith cap, but we are also developing a capital scheme to support the establishment of new voluntary-aided schools for faith and other providers. This route has always been available but has been little used in recent years. Schools created through this scheme will have the same freedoms as existing voluntary- aided schools, including over their admissions.
In addition to ensuring that we create the places that are needed, we also want to improve our understanding of how the education system is serving children from disadvantaged backgrounds. As part of the consultation, we also sought views on how best we can identify pupils from modest and low incomes in order to improve our understanding of how the education system is serving these children. The findings were fed into the technical consultation Analysing Family Circumstances and Education. The Government response to this technical consultation will be published in due course
This package of reforms will help to ensure we are delivering on our ambition to ensure that there is a good school place for every child, whatever their background, and I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders across the education sector over this Parliament, as we take forward this commitment.
I will place a copy of the documents published today in the House Libraries.
Exiting the European Union
General Affairs Council
Lord Callanan, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:
I will attend the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 14 May 2018 to represent the UK. Until we leave the European Union, we remain committed to fulfilling our rights and obligations as a full member.
The provisional agenda includes:
Annotated draft agenda for the European Council on 28-29 June 2018
Ministers will discuss the draft agenda, which covers: migration; security and defence; jobs, growth and competitiveness; innovation and digital; the multiannual financial framework (MFF); and external relations.
Multiannual financial framework (MFF) post 2020
Ministers will discuss the Commission’s MFF proposal that was released on 2 May. Discussion will focus on the priorities for the budget period 2021-27.
Rule of law in Poland / Article 7(1) TEU reasoned proposal
The Commission will inform Ministers of the latest updates on the rule of law in Poland.
The fire in Grenfell Tower was an unimaginable tragedy, and I am determined that justice is done for the victims, survivors, bereaved and the wider community.
On 21 December 2017 I wrote to Sir Martin Moore-Bick, chair of the Grenfell Tower inquiry with my decision not to appoint additional panel members to the inquiry at that time. The Inquiries Act 2005 affords me the power to appoint panel members at any time during the inquiry and I previously indicated my intention to keep the matter under review.
Since December, the inquiry has made significant progress. It has received some 330,000 documents, and expects that figure to grow to 400,000. Sir Martin’s team have conducted a first-stage review of approximately 183,000 documents. The inquiry has confirmed that it is continuing to identify potentially relevant providers of documents as work progresses.
The process of gathering and identifying relevant documents for phase 2 has started in parallel with the phase 1 disclosure exercise. The inquiry has confirmed that it is expecting that a
“significant volume of documentation will be disclosed at this stage”.
Sir Martin has appointed 547 core participants to the inquiry—519 of them individuals from the Grenfell community. This is an unprecedented number.
Given the extent of the tragedy, we should not be surprised by the scale and range of issues that are emerging from the inquiry’s early work.
Phase 2 of the inquiry will be the largest phase in terms of the number of issues to be considered, and it is appropriate for me to reflect now on the two distinct phases of the inquiry’s work and to consider the most appropriate composition of the inquiry panel for phase 2.
To ensure that the inquiry panel itself also has the necessary breadth of skills and diversity of expertise relevant to the broad range of issues to be considered in phase 2, and to best serve the increasing scale and complexity of the inquiry, I have decided to appoint an additional two panel members to support Sir Martin’s chairmanship for phase 2 of the inquiry’s work onwards. I wrote to Sir Martin yesterday, informing him of my decision.
Once suitable panel members have been identified, I will write to Sir Martin again to seek his consent to any appointment, in accordance with section 7(2)(b) of the Inquiries Act 2005.