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Written Statements

Volume 696: debated on Monday 12 November 2007

Written Statements

Monday 12 November 2007

Armed Forces: Afghanistan

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

As part of our ongoing support to current operations, I am today announcing the formation of a temporary brigade headquarters to command UK forces in Afghanistan over the period October 2009 to April 2010. The brigade, which will be known as 11 Light Brigade, will be formed from existing service personnel and will be based in Aldershot.

The current deployment of UK troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is planned until 2009, although we have always made clear that our commitment to Afghanistan is a long-term one. The precise size and duration of the UK military in Afghanistan will depend on a number of factors, including the ability of Afghan security forces to take greater responsibility for the security of their own country. However, to ensure that any forces we might deploy are properly prepared and commanded, it is necessary for the brigade headquarters to be established now. We will keep our planning assumption under review, but currently we assess that this HQ would disband on its return from Afghanistan.

Armed Forces: Defence Technology Plan

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Ministry of Defence has today announced the development of the defence technology plan (DTP), a cost-balanced list of research and development (R&D) priorities for the MoD. The DTP will build upon the defence technology strategy (DTS), published in October 2006, and will provide clear direction to the R&D community, allowing industry and academia to better direct its investment in defence technology. Population of the DTP will continue throughout 2008.

The DTP will be a plan starting with capability-driven research goals, showing how the goals will be met by R&D activity supporting later phases of acquisition.

The DTP will set out the R&D programme by presenting a number of high level R&D objectives in the form of technology road maps. Each R&D objective will be described in similar terms to allow the R&D board to provide strategic direction and oversight of the entire programme.

The DTP is being developed by R&D staff in consultation with the wider stakeholder community and will be owned by the Defence R&D Board. The DTP will have a dynamic online format, allowing regular updates when necessary and will be available in three versions; a government version available on internal networks, a defence industry version available to appropriately security-cleared companies and a public version available on the internet.

Armed Forces: Service Complaints Commissioner

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

A number of improvements have been made to the service redress of individual grievance process (the service complaints process) under the Armed Forces Act 2006 in the light of recommendations made by Nicholas Blake QC. One of these is the establishment of the post of Service Complaints Commissioner, which will introduce an element of independence to the system and provide assurance that the system is working fairly and effectively. I am pleased to announce that Dr Susan Atkins has been appointed to the post of commissioner. She will have a comprehensive induction prior to taking up full duties when the new service complaints process comes into effect in January 2008.

As commissioner, Dr Atkins can receive complaints directly from service personnel, or allegations made on their behalf by family members or other third parties, about any wrong against a service person in relation to harassment, bullying or other improper behaviour, and will have the power to refer them to the chain of command for action. She will be notified of the outcome. The commissioner will also provide an annual report to the Secretary of State for Defence on the fairness, effectiveness and timeliness of the service complaints process which will be laid before Parliament and published.

The appointment of the commissioner is an important step towards the full implementation of the new service complaints process which is due to come into effect in January 2008.

Armed Forces: Service Personnel

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

We are asking a lot of our service personnel, who are performing magnificently on operations across the world, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. In turn, it is only right that we support them as best as we can.

As a result of the recent high tempo of operations, we have quite rightly seen a greater focus on the support that we offer to our people and their families—both in theatre and at home.

Over the past year, we have made significant improvements to the welfare package and to the support that we provide. These include: a rebate on council tax and a tax-free operational allowance for those on operations; an increase in financial support provided for coroners dealing with inquests, along with additional support for bereaved families; extension of the mental health assessments and provisions for both veterans and those serving on operations; a commitment to spending £5 billion over the next decade on accommodation; and a significant pay rise for junior soldiers, sailors and airmen and women.

There have been significant improvements to in-theatre medical treatment and facilities, and it is widely recognised that we provide first-class clinical treatment for those injured through both the NHS and the defence medical services. Better treatment and better equipment mean that our personnel are surviving injuries that they would not have previously survived. As a result, we have a number of casualties and personnel sustaining serious injuries who will need enduring support. As a Government, we are committed to making sure that the care pathway from initial injury to rehabilitation is as good as it can be.

We also acknowledge that some of the accommodation for service personnel and their families is not up to scratch and we are now rectifying decades of under investment. But we have also said that we want to ensure that our forces have the opportunity to get on the housing ladder if they wish and we are looking for the best mechanism to achieve this.

We believe that now is the right time to take stock and for the Government to set out their agenda for service personnel, their families and veterans. Our intention, therefore, is to publish a Command Paper setting out our existing support and, in the context of the challenges facing our service personnel today and in the future, the Government's vision for further support. We believe that we are doing a lot to enhance the support we offer our forces in areas such as accommodation, education, health care, family support, transition to civilian life and caring for our casualties. However, we can do more in all of these areas and we are committed to doing so.

We envisage engagement with key external stakeholders from the charity sector and our service families' federations.

Also, we will conduct a parallel study into encouraging greater engagement, understanding and pride in the UK Armed Forces by the nation as whole.

We expect that both these studies will be published in spring 2008.

EU: Economic and Financial Affairs Council

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Alistair Darling) has made the following Written Statement.

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held on 9 October in Luxembourg. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury attended for the UK. The items on the agenda were as follows:

Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact

Ministers adopted a Commission recommendation to abrogate the excessive deficit procedure of the United Kingdom under Article 104(12) of the treaty, and a recommendation for the Czech Republic to take further action in order to end their excessive deficit, in accordance with Article 104(7) of the treaty.

The UK supports a prudent interpretation of the stability and growth pact (SGP) which takes into account the level of debt, the influence of the cycle and the level of public investment. The UK Government welcome the abrogation of the UK EDP.

Public Finances in the EMU

Following their discussion at ECOFIN in July, Ministers agreed conclusions on the Commission's annual public finances report and accompanying proposals aimed at improving the effectiveness of the preventive arm of the stability and growth pact by effectively applying the revised stability and growth pact.

Quality of Public Finances

Ministers adopted conclusions on the role that the modernisation of public administration can play in enhancing competitiveness, delivering better services, achieving better value for money and ensuring the control of government expenditure. This follows the discussion at the September Informal ECOFIN in Lisbon, at which the UK welcomed the sharing of experience between member states.

Developments on the economic and financial situation

Ministers discussed the current economic situation and disturbances in global financial markets, and the possible policy responses to the issues raised. The UK is committed to pursuing an effective, considered global response to these global financial market issues, and believes the financial stability forum provides the best route to pursue these aims.

Better Regulation

Ministers agreed conclusions on better regulation and its role in improving EU competitiveness. The UK welcomes the calls for further progress to be made both at member state and EU level towards reducing administrative burdens in the EU.


Ministers agreed conclusions on the economic aspects of flexicurity, which welcomed the Commission's work on developing an approach towards shared principles to develop labour market flexibility alongside support by social systems. The UK believes that fiscal sustainability is critical in the face of Europe's changing demographics.

Dialogues with third countries

The Commission presented Ministers with an update on its ongoing dialogues with third countries, including the USA, Japan, China, India and Russia, and focused on the economic, financial and regulatory aspects of the discussions.

Financial Services Clearing and Settlement

Ministers agreed conclusions on clearing and settlement, which covered the ECB's proposed Target 2 Securities project, the implementation and functioning of the code of conduct, progress on removal of the Giovannini barriers and the ESCB/CESR standards. These initiatives are intended to address deficiencies in the European clearing and settlement landscape—an area where the council has long been pressing for change. The UK welcomes progress in improving the European clearing and settlement landscape.

Financial Services— EU arrangements for Financial Stability

Ministers agreed conclusions on the long-running discussion of how to take forward EU arrangements for financial stability. The UK strongly supports efforts to improve financial stability arrangements, including financial crisis management arrangements in Europe, by ensuring that all member states have robust national crisis management arrangements, and welcomes improvements to cross-border communication and co-operation in financial crises.

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Alistair Darling) has made the following Written Statement.

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held on 13 November in Brussels. The items on the agenda are as follows:

Lisbon strategy: The new three-year cycle

The next governance cycle for the Lisbon strategy will run for three years from 2008-11. The council will discuss draft conclusions on the next three-year cycle for the Lisbon strategy, prepared by the Economic Policy Committee. It will also take into account a recent European Commission communication prepared at the request of the 2007 Spring European Council.

Globalisation: Capital and labour flows

The council will exchange views on the basis of a report on the economic impact of migration prepared by the European Commission, taking into account a paper prepared by the Economic Policy Committee.


The council will be invited to agree conclusions on EU statistical matters, including the 2007 EFC status report on information requirements, the reduction of the statistical burden, EU statistical governance, and the communication of major statistical revisions, as prepared by the Economic and Financial Committee. The UK welcomes work to reduce the statistical burden on member states.


VAT package—The council will discuss a set of measures that will modernise the EU VAT rules for the cross-border supply of services, with particular focus on proposed changes to the rules for the telecoms, broadcasting and e-services sectors. The UK supports the modernisation of the EU VAT regime.

Green taxation: Passenger-car-related taxes—Ministers will discuss Commission proposals for a new directive on linking car taxation to CO2 emissions.

Reduced VAT rates—Ministers will discuss Commission proposals to extend until 2010 most of the new member states' derogations for reduced VAT rates. The UK Government are supportive of the proposal to extend most of the temporary derogations granted to those member states that acceded to the European Union after 1 January 1995.

Global Navigation Satellite System (GALILEO): Financing aspects

Following the discussion at the July ECOFIN, there will be a further exchange of views on the financing of the Galileo project. The UK will continue to express concern with the Commission's financing proposal and argue that the option of reprioritising funds from existing programmes must be considered.

Presentation of the Annual Report by the Court of Auditors Concerning the Financial Year 2006

The council will receive a presentation from the European Court of Auditors on the 2006 general budget. This will be the first presentation that Ministers will hear on the 2006 budget, and will mark the start of the annual discharge process.

Health: Delayed Discharges

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Ivan Lewis), has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In response to questions from the honourable Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), the department placed tables in the Library on 29 October containing the numbers of patients in hospitals whose discharge had been delayed, and the total number of bed nights in each hospital trust lost as a result of such delays (Official Report, col. 1030W.)

Following further investigation of the data collection and reporting systems used to compile that information, I have to report that the information published contained significant errors that overstated the numbers in each category.

Contrary to the impression given by the original inaccurate tables and subsequent media reports, the situation is that bed-days lost because of delayed discharges have decreased by approximately 5 per cent in the past year. The revised information is available in the Library.

Health: Electronic Patient Records

My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Ben Bradshaw), has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government have today laid before Parliament their response to the Health Select Committee Report on the electronic patient record and its use (Cm 7264).

In the response, the Government welcome the committee's findings on the potential of electronic patient records to improve healthcare services and patient safety. While significant progress has already been made, it is recognised that some parts of the national programme for IT in the National Health Service have been subject to delay. The Government also recognise that continuing effort is needed to engage with frontline NHS staff and to communicate the programme plans to the public.

The response is available in the Library.


My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Anne McGuire) has made the following Statement.

We have today received Remploy's final modernisation proposals. Good progress was made during the consultation period under the chairmanship of Roger Poole, and although the negotiations concluded with a formal failure to agree, we feel there has been real dialogue between the company and its trade unions, and progress on both sides. We also expect to receive further representations from the trade unions representing the Remploy workers.

The talks identified some important common ground, in particular:

agreement on the overall funding envelope of £555 million over five years;

the need both for employment services and factory provision;

fewer factory closures;

the importance of gaining more public sector contracts;

the importance of local initiatives in securing the future of Remploy factories by winning more public and private contracts, led by factory managers, trade unions, constituency MPs and other local stakeholders;

the need to reduce management and other overhead costs;

the need to improve working practices, saving £10 million over five years; and

the need dramatically to improve industrial relations.

Ministers have committed that Remploy's revised proposals will receive full ministerial scrutiny before any final decision. We will therefore study them in detail before making a further Statement to the House in due course.

Schools: Funding

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

I am announcing today the first three-year school funding settlement, for 2008-09 to 2010-11. This settlement and the capital settlement announced on 10 October will mean that, by 2011, total funding per pupil will have increased nationally to £6,600. Education spending is projected to rise as a proportion of GDP from 4.7 per cent in 1996-07 to 5.6 per cent by 2010-11. And for the first time, schools will have three-year budgets, enabling them to plan further ahead, to take better long-term decisions, to use their budgets more efficiently and strategically over a three-year period.

On 25 June this year, I announced to the House a package of measures for school funding for 2008-09 to 2010-11. The key features were: a continuation of the spend-plus methodology for DSG distribution, coupled with a fundamental formula review, to start in the new year; a minimum funding guarantee (MFG) dependent on average cost pressures, but with efficiency taken into account; further measures to broaden the membership of schools forums, particularly from early years and 14 to 19 stakeholders; a staged approach to the reform of early years funding; and additional funding for diplomas to be provided through a specific formula grant, with local discretion on how this funding is used to pay for provision.

This Statement sets out the Government's decisions for the next three years on: the overall increase in schools funding, the dedicated schools grant (DSG) and other grants; details of funding for our key priorities; and the level of the MFG for schools. Details of allocations of both the DSG and specific grants to authorities and schools are being sent to local authorities today and I am placing copies in the Library of the House.

The overall level of schools funding will increase by 4.3 per cent in 2008-09, 4.7 per cent in 2009-10 and 5.3 per cent in 2010-11. This includes funding for our key priorities: the personalisation of teaching and learning, support for all pupils to make good progress, the extension of the early years offer to parents, and extended children's services provided from schools. It also takes account of the additional costs of the expansion of the academies programme—our plans allow for a further 50 academies to be opened in each of the next three years, bringing the total to 230 academies open by September 2010.

The strong focus on personalising teaching and learning to the needs of every child will continue over the next three years, with additional sums of £330 million, £535 million, £912 million earmarked within DSG. This additional funding is to support universal roll-out of a personalised offer to all pupils—including those with special educational needs—and will be distributed on the basis of numbers of five to 15 year-olds. In taking decisions on allocations, local authorities and their schools forums should consider our priorities: ensuring all children are making good progress; early intervention to prevent children from falling behind, especially those with special educational needs; targeted support for specific groups, including those ethnic minorities at particular risk of poor outcomes, white working-class children, children in care; and ensuring that the school workforce has the skills and confidence to address the needs of children from these groups.

To complement this increased funding through DSG, we will roll out funding to help improve the rate at which children progress, ensuring all children can meet their potential, and those who are behind expectations, or are falling behind, get back on track. A current pilot of this approach will run until July 2009. We will then make available £138 million in 2009-10, and £315 million in 2010-11, to improve progression in schools. By 2010-11, this funding will enable an additional 300,000 under-attaining pupils a year to benefit from one-to-one tuition in English, and a further 300,000 pupils in maths. Taken together, we will be spending an additional £1.2 billion on personalisation and progression by 2010-11. There will be support for children who have fallen behind in basic literacy and numeracy through the national roll-out of Every Child a Reader and Every Child Counts, with £79 million being made available in 2010-11 via the standards fund. Further funding will be announced shortly for the Every Child a Writer programme.

The increased funding for progression will be delivered through the standards fund for the next three years, as will increases in funding to extend the entitlement to free nursery education from 12 and a half to 15 hours, announced by the Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Beverley Hughes) on 7 November, and for extended schools. Our aim is that from 2011-12 these funding allocations will be mainstreamed into the DSG. We will consider how this can best be achieved as we take forward work on implementing the funding system for 2011-12 and onwards, following the fundamental formula review which starts in January 2008.

Narrowing the attainment gap for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds is one of the strategic objectives of my department and is a key priority for the Government. The most significant attainment gap is between deprived and more affluent pupils—including those in generally affluent authorities. We are therefore allocating £40 million in each of the next three years to support children from deprived backgrounds who attend schools in less deprived local authorities whose overall level of deprivation is in the bottom third, as defined by our new indicator of income deprivation, based on tax credit data. Our strong expectation is that this additional funding will be directed to those schools with the most disadvantaged pupil intakes. Alongside this additional money for deprived children in less deprived authorities, we will continue to press all authorities properly to reflect in their local funding formulae the existing funding for deprivation delivered through DSG.

For authorities whose spending was below the formula in 2005-06, we have closed half of that gap over the past two years: we will complete this process over the next three years, with additional sums of £20 million, £40 million and £60 million.

Two further developments of the funding system take account of changing patterns of demography. First, all authorities will receive a minimum cash increase of at least 2 per cent, irrespective of their pupil numbers. That will particularly help those authorities where pupil numbers are rapidly declining. Secondly, for authorities experiencing rapid growth in pupil numbers, or a significant influx of children with English as an additional language, there will be an exceptional circumstances grant, paid out every autumn.

As well as the additional funding for ministerial priorities, we are continuing to provide all local authorities with increases for schools' core funding. I announced in June that the MFG would continue to deliver a minimum per pupil increase for all schools in each of the next three years, which would reflect average cost pressures. Our assessment of cost pressures includes an assumed efficiency gain of 1 per cent for each of the next three years, reflecting the substantial improvement in efficiency which we expect to be achieved across the schools sector and the public sector as a whole. It is based on a cautious but realistic assessment of the wide range of pay and non-pay pressures that schools will face across the next three years.

The result is an MFG for all schools set at 2.1 per cent for each of the next three years, which is affordable within the Comprehensive Spending Review settlement, while allowing us to allocate significant additional funding increases to our key priorities. The settlement provides for the first time three years of funding allocations, and will help schools to plan how they will meet the range of cost pressures they face from pay and non-pay over this period as a whole.

The department is working with our external partners, including representatives of head teachers and governors, to develop support mechanisms for schools to help them make the best use of their resources to improve outcomes for pupils. The aim will be to provide schools with access to a range of support that is tailored to their individual circumstances, exemplifies good practice and provides opportunities for peer review and support. We will announce further details later in the year.

We have received the detailed recommendations of the STRB on teachers' pay from September 2008 and I am grateful to them for their work. We will be announcing our response to the STRB's report when we have carefully considered its detailed recommendations within the wider context of the Government's approach to public sector pay. We will ensure that the Government response to the STRB's recommendations is consistent with the MFG we are announcing today.

As we announced in June, all authorities will receive a basic increase in their DSG per pupil made up of: the MFG at 2.1/2.1/2.1 per cent plus an additional 1.0/0.8/0.8 per cent of headroom; each authority will therefore receive a basic increase of 3.1/2.9/2.9 per cent. Funding for ministerial priorities is equivalent to an additional 1.5/0.8/1.4 per cent per pupil on average, giving an average increase in DSG per pupil for each year of 4.6/3.7/4.3 per cent.

Alongside the increases in DSG for all authorities we will increase direct funding to schools through the school standards grant (SSG) and school standards grant personalisation (SSG (P)), in line with the level of the MFG. Each authority's allocation of school development grant will be increased in line with the MFG, and all schools are guaranteed the same cash allocation per pupil year on year: this will allow some updating of the distribution of this grant, while continuing to protect schools.

The Learning and Skills Council plans to announce increases in the funding rates for school sixth forms as well as the details of its new funding methodology, to be used for school sixth forms and other 16-to-18 provision, including transitional measures to smooth the introduction of the new formula. Sixth form funding will therefore no longer be taken into account when local authorities apply the MFG to schools with sixth forms. We will announce in December allocations of the specific formula grant to support the introduction of diplomas from September 2008. That will augment the £110 million we allocated through DSG in 2007-08 to support practical learning options. That funding is now part of the DSG baseline going forward and we expect local authorities to utilise it to support the roll out of diplomas.

This settlement builds on the foundations of the past 10 years of rapid growth in school funding: every school and local authority will receive increases in funding per pupil each year; but every school will also face the challenge of making their funding work harder in support of our shared aims. On top of the basic increases, there is significant additional funding to support our priorities: the personalisation of teaching and learning, support for all pupils to make good progress, the extension of the early years offer to parents, and extended children's services provided from schools. And a three-year settlement supports schools as they take better informed, long-term, strategic decisions.

Taxation: Double Taxation

My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jane Kennedy) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

A new double taxation convention with Moldova was signed on 8 November 2007. After signature, the text of the convention was deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and made available on HM Revenue and Customs' website. The text of the convention will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.