Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 28 February 2008

Written Statements

Thursday 28 February 2008

Crime: DNA Database

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Identity (Meg Hillier) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Further to my Written Ministerial Statement on 25 July 2007, I am pleased to announce the following additional appointments to the ethics group that provides Ministers with independent ethical advice on the operation and practice of the national DNA database (NDNAD):

Mr Derek Campbell; and

Mrs Julia Selman Ayetey.

Employment: DWP Commissioning Strategy

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Purnell) has made the following Statement.

We have made clear progress over the past decade in tackling poverty and promoting social justice. But we need to do more. We are determined that we will continue to tackle child poverty and to drive for an 80 per cent employment rate. We have become more ambitious about who we believe can work.

We will be focusing efforts on helping people on employment and support allowance to look at what they can do, not what they cannot. We will also be expecting single parents to look for work when their youngest child is seven rather than 16. Achieving fair life chances for all will mean opening up second chances, through opportunities to learn, develop new skills, enter employment and make progress at work.

The employability market is large and diverse. Every year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spends nearly £1 billion on partnerships with the private, public and voluntary sectors. In England, the European Social Fund (ESF) finances further provision commissioned by DWP. We need to spend that money cost-effectively to get the best result for every customer and to increase the number of people going into sustained work. To achieve this, we need to achieve a step change in the performance of employment provision.

That is why I am pleased to announce to the House the publication today of a Command Paper entitled DWP Commissioning Strategy.

The commissioning strategy’s new approach to sourcing, procuring and managing employability provision will harness the innovation and expertise of the private, third and public sectors to support people into work. This strategy implements a key part of the radical vision outlined by David Freud in his report Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity, published in March 2007.

The commissioning strategy is a major milestone in our welfare reform programme and provides a comprehensive and compelling vision of the way we will work with providers. It aligns clearly with the ambitions of other developments, such as the Leitch review of skills, the report of the National Employment Panel’s Business Commission on Race Equality in the Workplace and the joint Communities and Local Government/Department for Work and Pensions paper on area-based strategies to reduce worklessness in England.

We are creating a market for the long term—we are committed to this and want to help to develop a critical mass of providers who will work with us in delivering personalised services for each individual that focus on work or work-related activity for those clients who will benefit. The strategy takes us away from a mindset of top-down control and devolves initiative and innovation to the front line. Furthermore, it sets out the high value we place on developing long-term relationships with partners who demonstrate that they share our commitment, including those commitments in the public sector statutory duties, to promote equality through all we do.

We have consulted extensively with existing and potential providers, other parts of government, representative groups, employer organisations and other stakeholders, as well as reviewing the responses to the consultation exercise. We have also sought to learn from best practice internationally: from the United States, Australia and the Netherlands. However, our ambition is to make our employability provision even more advanced and effective in its conception and delivery. We want our welfare provision to be a world leader in increasing skills and in tackling worklessness.

Health: Modernising Medical Careers

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 16 April 2007, my right honourable friend the former Secretary of State for Health announced an independent review to examine the processes underlying modernising medical careers and to make recommendations to ensure that any necessary improvements could be implemented for 2008 and the future.

The review was chaired by Sir John Tooke, dean of the Peninsula Medical School, chair of the Council of Heads of Medical Schools and chair of the UK Health Education Advisory Committee.

Today, the department publishes its response to Sir John’s interim and final reports. The response has been placed in the Library and copies are available to honourable members from the Vote Office.

The review that he chaired was conducted independently of the four health departments and had its own independent secretariat. Its interim report was published on 8 October 2007. Following consultation with the medical profession and others involved, the final report of the review was published on 8 January this year.

Sir John and his colleagues have produced an excellent, wide-ranging review of the serious problems that arose within specialty training in 2007, the causes of those problems, and what needs to change as a result of them.

I would like to thank Sir John, his colleagues on the review, and all organisations and individuals who have given evidence to it and responded to its interim report. The Tooke review marks a significant step forward in ensuring that excellence and high achievement remain at the heart of medical education and training in this country.

Progress has already been made. For example, one of the key lessons of 2007 was the need to develop policy and process in consultation with the medical profession, the NHS and others involved. That is why we have established the MMC programme board. Over half the board’s members are drawn from the medical profession. I have accepted all the programme board’s recommendations. The complexity of this area of policy means that there are 47 separate sets of recommendations to consider within Sir John’s interim and final reports.

While not all of them are the direct responsibility of the department, we accept the overwhelming majority of Sir John’s recommendations. For example, we accept Sir John’s recommendation that the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB) and the General Medical Council (GMC) should merge to establish a single organisation for standards in medical education and training.

A small number of Sir John’s recommendations have implications that we need to consider very carefully. As Sir John’s report itself makes clear, the reform of postgraduate medical training should proceed in an evidence-based way, in which structures of governance and accountability are made clear, and in which training is carefully dovetailed with the needs of patients and other policy considerations.

My noble friend Lord Darzi of Denham is currently leading a next-stage review of the National Health Service. Workforce planning, education and the role of the doctor are crucial parts of my noble friend’s review. One of Sir John’s most far-reaching recommendations—the establishment of a new organisation to oversee postgraduate medical education and training in England—will therefore need to be carefully considered alongside this work.

Housing: Market Renewal

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Iain Wright) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The housing market renewal programme has made a major contribution to restoring confidence in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country. I am therefore pleased to announce that we will be making a further £1.038 billion available to the programme over the period 2008-11.

Having considered business plans prepared by the 12 housing market renewal areas, I am today announcing allocations for individual areas as follows:

Proposed distribution across individual years

£m

Pathfinder

Total allocation

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

Birmingham Sandwell

53

25

17

11

East Lancashire

150

52

50

48

Hull and East Riding

87

30

29

28

Manchester Salford

140

52

46

42

Merseyside

152

54

51

47

Newcastle Gateshead

95

34

32

29

North Staffordshire

114

40

38

36

Oldham Rochdale

90

32

30

28

South Yorkshire

116

46

39

31

Tees Valley

35

13

12

10

West Cumbria

6

3

2

1

Total

1038

381

346

311

Note:

The allocation for South Yorkshire includes an allocation of £12 million over the three years for HMR activity in the south-east Wakefield housing market area of West Yorkshire.

This is substantial new funding and, together with increasing investment from the private sector and support from local authorities and others, it will help the market renewal areas to take forward their ambitious programmes to bring real change to places that only five years ago were facing decline and abandonment.

Since the housing market renewal programme began in 2002, we have invested £1.2 billion, which has helped to refurbish over 40,000 homes, demolish 10,000 properties and construct 1,100 new homes. As the National Audit Office recognised in its report on the programme published last year, all the pathfinders have succeeded in closing the gaps in prices with their regions, and housing markets in local authorities chosen for intervention have, on the whole, performed better than those in other local authorities not chosen for intervention that had the most similar problems of low demand.

The new funding that I am announcing today will help to take forward this work. Three-year funding will provide greater certainty for the housing market renewal partnerships to address long-term market failure. At the same time, we want the partnerships to ensure that they are making appropriate connections to wider housing strategies and making links with growth programmes where relevant.

Figures for year 1 (2008-09) are firm commitments. Those for years 2 and 3 (2009-10 and 2010-11) are indicative and may change by up to plus or minus 10 per cent. These numbers will be confirmed at a later point and will be subject to a number of factors, including progress in working with the new Homes and Communities Agency, progress in making links with growth initiatives, where relevant, and future changes in local markets.

Justice: Cross-border Cases

Today I am publishing a consultation paper on new rules to clarify citizens’ rights when faced with judgments reached in another EU member state in their absence.

The UK is sponsoring this initiative of the Slovenian presidency because we believe that reform is needed to improve the delivery of justice in these cross-border cases.

The purpose of the proposal is to tighten up the regime applicable in cases of trials in absence in the main EU mutual recognition instruments, enhancing the procedural rights of defendants. Trials in absence will not increase as a result of the proposal.

The Slovenian presidency hopes to reach agreement on the proposal very quickly. We are therefore asking for responses to our consultation within six weeks.

Copies of the consultation paper will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are also available on the internet at: www.cjsonline.gov.uk/downloads/application/pdf/2008-02-28_TIA_consultation_ paper.pdf

Science: Nanotechnologies

Today my honourable friend the Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Universities and Skills (Ian Pearson) has made the following Statement.

I am today placing in the Libraries of both Houses copies of a Statement by the UK Government about nanotechnologies.

Nanotechnologies offer potentially huge benefits to society, industry, health and the environment. They can help us to improve our quality of life and respond to some of the key issues of the day, such as climate change.

The Government’s aim is for the UK to derive maximum benefit from these new technologies and their products. However, this must be done in a way that safeguards health, safety and the environment.

The Statement describes what the Government are doing to deliver these objectives, in collaboration with a range of others, including academia, industry, civil society groups and international organisations. It explains the steps that are being taken to:

develop the UK’s research community and understand the potential benefits and risks of nanotechnologies;

encourage UK businesses to “pull through” the ideas generated by the research base; and

ensure proportionate control of risks to health, safety or the environment.

From the start the Government have wanted to understand and address public aspirations and concerns about nanotechnologies. They have funded a series of in-depth discussions between members of the public, scientists and others who are involved in developing and exploiting nanotechnologies.

One of the messages that emerged was a desire for a clear statement about the way in which new and emerging areas of science and technology, such as nanotechnologies, are funded and regulated. This Statement provides that information for organisations across the public sector. It also sets out how the Government and others are responding to other aspirations and concerns aired through public dialogue.

I have established a ministerial group on nanotechnologies to review the situation regularly and to make sure that the UK continues to play a leading role in the understanding, development and regulation of nanotechnologies.