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Written Statements

Volume 703: debated on Monday 30 June 2008

Written Statements

Monday 30 June 2008

Education: 14-19 Reform

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

Every young person deserves the chance to succeed in education, work and life. Our 14-to-19 changes will deliver that chance and new opportunities for young people in towns, cities and all settings. We know that rural and semi-rural areas face a particular set of challenges and we are committed to supporting these areas to overcome them.

Today I am publishing a report Delivering 14-19 Reforms in Rural Areas. This shows that rural areas are already deploying a range of solutions to ensure that young people get access to provision. With this report, I am pleased to announce that we are investing £23 million over the next two years in 40 rural and semi-rural areas in the country to drive local solutions and innovation, and ensure that choice is a reality for all young people. Specifically, we are funding the post of a transport and access co-ordinator in the 40 most rural areas and making available £1 million in capital to each of the 20 most rural areas.

I am also publishing an independent research survey that looks at 14-to-19 transport. This research found that in the short to medium term transport is not a significant issue for local areas. It has highlighted some longer-term challenges that we will work with local authorities to address as we move forward.

I am pleased to report that we have made very good progress in the development of the new diplomas. The chairs of the phase 4 diploma development partnerships have an excellent reputation in the areas they are leading on:

Professor Hugh Lawlor, chair of the science diploma development partnership, is a professor of education at Canterbury Christ Church University and director of the AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust;

Sir Keith Ajegbo, chair of the humanities diploma development partnership, is a former head teacher who has led a government review on citizenship; and

Dr Terry Lamb, chair of the languages diploma development partnership, is a senior lecturer in education at the University of Sheffield and a governor of CILT, the National Centre for Languages.

Although we are still at a very early stage in the establishment of the phase 4 diploma development partnerships I am very pleased to announce that around 40 employers have already been engaged in them, including organisations such as AstraZeneca, ITN, G&J Seddon, Lovell, the Kier Group, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the NHS, the Eden Project and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

We are also working to encourage independent schools to become involved in diploma delivery. It is important that diplomas be available in all parts of the schools sector. We have held a national conference for independent schools and a seminar for the 14 independent schools which have expressed an interest in diplomas. These include Polam Hall School in Darlington, which is approved for diploma delivery from September 2009, and Wellington College, which has announced that it hopes to deliver the engineering diploma from 2009.

I am also announcing today that we will work with independent schools to produce a protocol that sets out guidance for local authorities, schools and colleges on the arrangements, including fair financial and delivery arrangements, between independent schools and 14-to-19 consortia.

Energy: EU Directive

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Trade and Consumer Affairs (Gareth Thomas) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today depositing copies of the government response to consultation on services directive implementation. This summarises respondents’ views and sets out the Government’s revised plans to implement the EU services directive in the UK. The directive is intended to create a single market for services across the EU by addressing barriers to effective cross-border service provision. The Government are required to implement the directive by 28 December 2009.

The consultation sought views on the Government’s proposals to implement all strands of the directive, which are to:

establish an online single point of contact through which service providers seeking to operate in the UK can find the information they need and complete the necessary formalities;

facilitate greater co-operation between regulatory and supervisory bodies in the UK and in other member states in their supervision of service providers;

strengthen the rights of service recipients and improve the quality of services through enhanced information provision; and

abolish restrictive legislation and practices that unnecessarily hinder service providers from operating in the UK.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of the House and can also be found at: www.berr.gov.uk/europeandtrade/europe/services-directive/page9583.html.

Financial Services Authority: Annual Report

My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Kitty Ussher) has made the following Written Statement.

The annual report 2007-08 of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has today been laid before Parliament. Copies have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

The report forms a key part of the accountability mechanism for the Financial Services Authority under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA), and assesses the performance of the Financial Services Authority over the past 12 months against its statutory objectives.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

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

Today I have deposited copies of The Freedom of Information Act 2000Statistics on Implementation in Central Government. Q1: January-March 2008 in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

This is the quarterly monitoring statistics report analysing the performance of central government in the fourth full year of the Freedom of Information Act.

Local Government: Local Area Agreements

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am announcing today the successful conclusion of local area agreement (LAA) negotiations with all 150 local areas in England. This has been made possible through the sustained commitment and collective enterprise of all involved—across Whitehall, local government, local service providers and communities.

LAAs are about two things: improving the quality of life in local communities and providing better, more responsive public services. They are at the heart of the Government’s commitment to develop a new local performance framework which brings together national standards and priorities set by government with local priorities informed by the strategy developed by the local authority and its partners. As a planned and shared commitment between central and local government, they provide a real basis for tackling the issues that matter most in local communities.

Today is a key milestone in implementing this framework to deliver government commitments at a local level, as well as prioritising the issues that are of most concern to local people. This is a real achievement and represents a new way in which the Government have been able to focus on what matters most in particular places.

This is not an end in itself. The Government will continue to support local authorities and partners as they devote considerable energy to delivering improvements for our communities.

Ministry of Defence: Estate

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

I would like to announce the publication of the defence estate development plan 2008 (DEDP 08) today.

The document may be found at: www.defence-estates.mod.uk/publications/dep08.php and copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

It sets out the framework to 2030 for the coherent development of the estate to meet the future needs of defence and the priorities for investment and rationalisation arising from it. The DEDP 08 articulates our firm intentions for the short term and more general plans for the longer term. It is therefore an authoritative framework document that will drive future development and compliments the Defence Estate Strategy 2006, In Trust and On Trust. It is intended that the plan will be reviewed annually within the MoD.

The defence estate is a strategic enabler and a key supporting capability that underpins force structures and defence outputs. The DEDP 08 will deliver an estate that supports flexible, balanced forces optimised for expeditionary operations, enabling the efficient and effective generation, deployment, sustainment and recovery of military capability. This will be achieved through the development of defence communities. The aim is to have an estate of fewer larger sites in the UK and overseas that will be legislatively compliant and fit for purpose, support both the current and evolving military need and provide value for money. Sustainability remains a key tenet of government policy, and the DEDP 08 reflects the MoD's commitment to this important agenda.

The DEDP 08 sets out the MoD’s key sites in the core sites baseline and divides this into three categories, the core, retained or disposal estate, providing a focus for investment. The core estate consists of large bases or groups of sites that have an indefinite operational future, or individual sites that are expected to support defence outputs for at least 15 years. The retained estate comprises that body of sites where the future is not fully assured and could be subject to review leading to reuse within the department or disposal. Many retained sites may have a planning horizon of 10 years or more. The disposal estate consists of those sites already identified as surplus to defence requirements. However, it is important to recognise that future, unforeseen events and changed circumstances could mean that sites move both into and out of disposal.

The DEDP 08 makes three underlying assumptions to ensure the maximum scope for innovation. The first is that there will be little scope to reduce the existing UK training estate in the short term, as it is vital to the delivery of military capability. Secondly, the MoD is likely to remain committed to maintaining some heavy-armour presence in Germany for the next 25 years. Thirdly, the existing permanent joint operating bases will be required for the foreseeable future.

The DEDP 08 will be widely available and will help to inform the development of regional spatial strategies, local development frameworks and the devolved authorities. In so doing it will highlight development opportunities and serve to better deliver our future plans through the planning process.

NHS: Foundation Trusts

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

The chairman of Monitor—its statutory name is the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts—announced last week that, in accordance with Section 35 of the National Health Service Act 2006, Monitor has decided to authorise the following NHS trusts as NHS foundation trusts from 1 July:

Pennine Care NHS Trust;

Sheffield Care Trust;

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Trust; and

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust

Monitor’s announcement brings the total number of NHS foundation trusts operating in England to 103. A copy of Monitor’s press notice has been placed in the Library.

The Government remain committed to offering all NHS acute and mental health trusts the opportunity to attain the NHS foundation trust standard as soon as practicable. Monitor is authorising NHS foundation trusts on a monthly basis, and further groups of authorisations are set to follow.

Planning: Appeals

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

The majority of planning appeals in England are decided by inspectors, but a small percentage is decided by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, usually because the development is large and/or controversial. Around 27,000 appeals are made each year. In 2007, 110 appeals were determined by the Secretary of State. This Statement sets out the Secretary of State’s policy on recovering planning appeals. It replaces the previous policy on which appeals are recovered for the Secretary of State’s determination, which was set out in a House of Commons Hansard Written Answer for 24 July 2006. These changes are being made following the review of the 2006 criteria promised in the White Paper Planning for a Sustainable Future. They introduce two new criteria; one relates to climate change and energy and the other to World Heritage Sites.

In future the Secretary of State will consider recovery of appeals involving:

proposals for development of major importance having more than local significance;

proposals giving rise to substantial regional or national controversy;

proposals which raise important or novel issues of development control and/or legal difficulties;

proposals against which another government department has raised major objections or has a major interest;

proposals of major significance for the delivery of the Government's climate change programme and energy policies;

any proposal for residential development of more than 150 units or on sites of over 5 hectares, which would have a significant impact on the Government’s objective to secure a better balance between housing demand and supply and create high-quality, sustainable, mixed and inclusive communities;

proposals which involve any main town centre use or uses, as set out in paragraph 1.8 of PPS6, where that use or uses comprise(s) over 9,000m² gross floor space, either as a single proposal or as part of or in combination with other current proposals, and which are proposed on a site in an edge-of-centre or out-of-centre location—as described in table 2 of PPS6—that is not in accordance with an up-to-date development plan document prepared in accordance with the policy in PPS6;

proposals for significant development in the green belt;

major proposals involving the winning and working of minerals; and

proposals which would have an adverse impact on the outstanding universal value, integrity, authenticity and significance of a World Heritage Site.

There may on occasion be other cases which merit recovery because of the particular circumstances.

Schools: Primary Curriculum

Today my right honourable friend the Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Beverley Hughes) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I announced to the House on 9 January that I had written to Sir Jim Rose setting out the remit for the review of the primary curriculum. I am today announcing that as part of that remit I have asked Sir Jim to review two of the early literacy goals for five year-olds included in the early years foundation stage (EYFS) and in the existing foundation stage. In carrying out this work, Sir Jim will consider how we can make sure that the early learning goals for literacy set the right foundation for transition into the new primary school arrangements.

The EYFS is a framework for the early learning and care of children from birth to five. It was created, and debated in Parliament, through the Childcare Act 2006, and comes into statutory force from September 2008. The regulatory impact assessment for the EYFS announced that there would be a post-implementation review of the EYFS from 2010, and my right honourable friend the Minister for Children is today announcing further details of this review. Work will begin immediately to make sure arrangements are in place to monitor and improve early delivery and to gather the necessary baseline data to measure the impact of the EYFS two years on.

Pending the outcome of the 2010 review, we will be making regulations to allow childcare providers to apply for exemptions from the EYFS for two years in circumstances where a majority of parents agree with the provider’s assessment that the established principle which governs their practice conflicts with elements of the EYFS learning and development requirements. This reflects the commitment we have already given to keep under review the case for exemptions. We have taken on board our discussions with representatives of childcare providers and experts in reaching this decision. This process will be administered by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority as part of the role we will give it in advising on children’s learning and development in the EYFS. To ensure public confidence in the process, I have appointed Dorian Bradley, former director of children at Ofsted, as an independent adviser on applications for exemptions.