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Written Statements

Volume 689: debated on Wednesday 31 January 2007

Written Statements

Wednesday 31 January 2007

Administration and Works Committee

The Administration and Works Committee considered at its meeting yesterday rules on the use of mobile phones by Members and a proposal to provide annunciator screens in the Chamber.

The Committee agreed that the following rules should apply to the use of mobile phones in the House:

Mobile phones must continue to be silent in:

The Chamber;

The Prince's Chamber and Peers' Lobby;

Division Lobbies during Divisions;

The Moses Room;

The Library, the Salisbury Room and the Writing Room;

All Committee Rooms while committees are sitting;

All bars and restaurants.

Mobile phones may be used with discretion in all other parts of the House.

The Committee also agreed that annunciator screens should be experimentally provided in the Chamber to assist Members during debate. The two large screens erected for State Opening on the walls above the galleries on either side of the throne will be used for a trial period of one month. Feedback on the utility of these screens will be sought through the usual channels.

EU: German Presidency

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Margaret Beckett) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I will today lay before the House the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Command Paper on prospects for the European Union in 2007. This is the latest in a series of forward looks to the work programmes of the respective European Union presidencies.

Copies will be placed in the Library of the House. Additional copies can also be obtained from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. A copy will also be available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (

The last White Paper was published in July 2006. This was a look forward to the programme of the Finnish presidency. The White Paper I am laying before the House today looks ahead to 2007, focusing primarily on the priorities of the German presidency over the next six months.

The German presidency will concentrate on a delivery agenda across a wide range of subjects. We welcome in particular the presidency's focus on climate and energy security, which will form the basis of an Energy Action Plan to be discussed at the spring European Council on the 8 and 9 March. This will be an opportunity for EU leaders to agree practical and ambitious action to reduce emissions, promote energy efficiency and liberalise the EU's energy markets. We can also expect discussion regarding the next stage in the EU Better Regulation agenda, where EU leaders will consider targets for reducing administrative burdens on business, as well as new priorities to help realise the full potential of the single market. These are essential elements in delivering the EU's growth and jobs strategy and a more competitive, outward-facing Europe.

The German presidency also plans to take forward work in key areas such as competitiveness, the European neighbourhood policy and the future of Europe. We look forward to progress towards the further liberalisation of postal services and the reduction of mobile roaming costs. Under the German presidency, we will also see significantly increased funding for research and a new, independent European Research Council better to channel these funds—an important part of the innovation agenda, which EU leaders prioritised following the informal October 2006 summit in Lahti. The presidency will take forward work to strengthen and reform the EU's relations with neighbouring countries to the east and south, as well as areas of strategic interest such as central Asia. The EU will also continue to work with international partners to address the challenges posed by Iraq, Iran and the Middle East peace process.

The German presidency will hold an informal meeting of heads of state and government on 25 March in Berlin to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the treaties of Rome. A declaration will also be issued to celebrate this important event. In line with the conclusions of the June 2006 European Council, and following consultation with member states, the presidency will present a report on the future of Europe at the June European Council. The Government’s approach to these conclusions was set out in the Written Ministerial Statement of 5 December 2006 (Official Report, 10WS) by my right honourable friend the Minister for Europe, Mr Geoff Hoon.

Prioritising climate, energy security and economic reform, better regulation and external relations demonstrated that the EU remains an important mechanism for delivering on issues of concern to our citizens and where international action is vital. We welcome these priorities of concern to our citizens and where international action is vital. We welcome these priorities and look forward to working with the German presidency over an important six months.

Land Charges

I have today laid before Parliament Local Land Charge Fees: Guidance for Registering Authorities on Setting Fees for Local Land Charge Services in England (Cm 7026). This guidance has been prepared in the light of the responses to the consultation paper of the same name (CP (L) 25/06) published by my department on 23 October 2006.

Registering authorities in England will set all fees for local land charge services (except the fee for a personal search of the local land charges register) from and including 1 April 2007. They must have regard to the guidance when specifying and publishing these fees.

This guidance may be revised in the light of the outcome of the work being undertaken by my department and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to review the setting of fees for personal searches of the local land charges register and to commission guidance on the setting of property search fees generally, as announced on 25 January in the DCLG's consultation paper Home Information Pack Update: Towards 1 June.

I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses copies of the guidance and the analysis of the response to the consultation paper published by my department today.

NHS: Foundation Trusts

My honourable friend the Minister of State (Andy Burnham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The chairman of Monitor, the statutory name of which is the Independent Regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts, has today announced that, in accordance with Section 6 of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003, Monitor has decided to authorise the following NHS acute trusts as NHS foundation trusts from 1 February 2007;

County Durham and Darlington Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust

Birmingham Children's Hospital NHS Trust

Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust

Monitor's announcement brings the total number of NHS foundation trusts to 58. A copy of Monitor's press notice has been placed in the Library. NHS foundation trusts are the centrepiece of structural reform for NHS providers in acute and mental health services. The Government are committed to offering all NHS trusts the opportunity to become NHS foundation trusts at soon as is practicable, and further waves are set to follow. Monitor is now authorising trusts on a monthly basis.

Schools: Draft Admissions Code

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Schools and 14-19 Learners (Jim Knight) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On Monday 8 January, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Alan Johnson) laid before Parliament the new School Admissions Code in draft form for 40 days as required by Section 85 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.

This Statement brings to the attention of the House the correction slip which has been issued in respect of the penultimate sentence of paragraph 3 of the introduction (page 7). This currently states that:

“This Code has been made following a consultation under section 85(2) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, as provided by section 40(9) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, and has been approved by Parliament as required under section 85(3) of the 1998 Act”.

This statement is inaccurate in relation to its description of the prescribed parliamentary procedure, as the draft code in fact attracts the negative procedure. The sentence as corrected should state:

“This Code has been made following a consultation under section 85(2) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, as provided by section 40(9) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, and having been laid before each House for 40 days as provided by section 85(3) of the 1998 Act. Neither House has resolved not to approve it. The Secretary of State has therefore issued it in the form of the draft under section 85(5) of the 1998 Act”.

The Government apologise for the error. The timing of this new School Admissions Code is crucial. Admission authorities for all schools must complete consultation on their proposed admission arrangements by 1 March, and make a final determination of what these arrangements will be by 15 April in the calendar year before the academic year in which they will apply. The new code must therefore be in force before 1 March 2007 if it is to apply to admissions in September 2008. The Government consider that it would be unacceptable for the unfair practices and criteria that will be prohibited by this new School Admissions Code to be permitted for another year. As the School Admissions Code must be issued in the form of the draft, my department has therefore issued a correction slip to the draft currently laid before both Houses which I have placed in the House Libraries.

If neither House resolves to reject the code (as corrected), I intend to bring it into force on 28 February 2007. It first affects school admission arrangements currently being determined for entry in the 2008 academic year. The code sets out a strong framework for setting fair and equitable admission arrangements and prohibits the use of unfair criteria so that no child is disadvantaged compared to another in admissions.