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Written Statements

Volume 710: debated on Monday 27 April 2009

Written Statements

Monday 27 April 2009

Communications Data

Statement

The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Jacqui Smith, has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have today published a consultation, Protecting the Public in a Changing Communications Environment, which addresses the issue of communications data. The consultation explains how existing access to communications data by the police, security and intelligence agencies and by others helps protect and safeguard the public; how the rapidly changing communications environment will make it harder for these agencies and other authorities to obtain access to these data when they need to do so; and the measures we need to take to maintain existing police and agency capabilities in the future. It rules out the option of creating a central database to collect and hold communications data. I am inviting views on the changes we propose and how we will continue to strike the balance between respect for individual privacy and protection of the public.

Communications data are information about a communication, not the content of that communication. For a given telephone call, communications data can include the telephone numbers involved, and the time and place the call was made, but not what was said. For an e-mail it might include the e-mail address from which the message was sent, and to where it was sent, but not the content of the message.

Used in the right way, and subject to important safeguards to protect individuals’ right to privacy, communications data can play a critical role in keeping all of us safe. They enable investigators to identify suspects and their associates; provide vital clues in solving life-threatening situations such as kidnaps, and evidence supporting alibis and prosecutions; support lawful interception of communications; and assist the emergency services to help or locate vulnerable people. They are also critical to safeguarding our national security, and in particular to countering the terrorist threat.

Communications data are currently retained by the communications companies for their own business purposes, and access by public authorities to any of those data is tightly regulated under the safeguards specified in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and overseen by the Interception of Communications Commissioner.

The existing regulatory framework which governs access to communications data is based upon the principles of necessity, proportionality, oversight and accountability.

Communications data are as vital a tool for investigating and prosecuting crime for our international partners as they are for the UK. Many other countries will face a loss of this capability due to the technological changes in the communications industry. Although other countries will face the same challenges as the UK, we will be among the first to be affected for several reasons:

the UK telecommunications environment is one of the most dynamic in the world, due to deregulation;

many leading western European countries still have dominant national fixed-line companies, whereas the UK has a more “open” market which encourages the spread and use of communications;

the UK’s competitive communications market encourages companies to find new ways to cut costs and offer new services, many based in the complex world of the internet.

Some of these new services will be offered by the companies in the UK that operate the existing communications networks, but many others will be offered by overseas companies outside UK jurisdiction. They have no need to retain data or provide agencies and the police here with access to them. Consequently, it will become increasingly more difficult to obtain the communications data needed to support public safety. We therefore need to take action to maintain this crucial capability, ensuring that the necessary strict safeguards are retained.

The consultation rules out creating a central database of communications data. However, doing nothing in the face of these changes is also not an option. Therefore I am inviting views on other ways in which current capabilities can be maintained in future. Communications companies will continue to be at the heart of the proposed system. They would continue to store data as they do today. But we will need to find ways of collecting and storing data relating to communications services provided from overseas providers.

Any reduction in communications data capabilities will seriously impair the effectiveness of our police and other services to protect the public. Criminals, terrorists and paedophiles are often among early adopters of new technology. We must ensure that our law enforcement agencies can continue to obtain communications data in the face of great technological change.

Copies of the consultation are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

Equality Bill: Age Discrimination in Health and Social Care

Statement

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

The Government are today publishing the Equality Bill. The Bill outlaws unjustifiable age discrimination against people aged 18 and over by those providing services and exercising public functions. Secondary legislation under the Bill will allow conduct that does not contravene the ban to be specified and the ban can be brought into force at different times in different sectors.

To support delivery of the Equality Bill’s age provisions in health and social care, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson) has asked Sir Ian Carruthers, chief executive of the South West Strategic Health Authority, and Jan Ormondroyd, chief executive of Bristol City Council, to lead a national review from the south-west region. The review will provide the Secretary of State with advice and recommendations in the form of a published report in October 2009, which will set out what it will mean in practice to implement the ban in health and adult social care and what actions need to be taken. In the light of these recommendations and the Government’s desire to implement the ban as soon as practicable, the review will set the date(s) from which the provisions relating to age in health and social care should commence.

A national joint implementation unit will also be hosted by the south-west region.

The review will work in a transparent and collaborative manner, drawing on the expertise of a wide range of stakeholders including third-sector organisations.

The Secretary of State has also asked Sir Ian and John Dixon, immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, jointly to chair the Department of Health Advisory Group on Age Discrimination, which was announced in a Written Statement on 11 November 2008. The group will support the review.

The review will support the Government’s broader aspiration to deliver high-quality care for all, including by means of more personalised, age-appropriate services.

Equality Bill: Multiple Discrimination

Statement

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Government Equalities Office (Maria Eagle), has made the following Statement.

Some people experience discrimination because they have a combination of protected characteristics. For example, black women can face discrimination because of stereotyped attitudes or prejudice, which white women and black men in the same circumstances would not encounter. This type of discrimination is known as multiple discrimination. Currently discrimination claims can only be brought in respect of a single protected characteristic. This means that for some people who experience multiple discrimination it is difficult, complicated and sometimes impossible to get a legal remedy.

In the government response to the consultation Discrimination Law Review: A Framework for Fairness Proposals for a Single Equality Bill for Great Britain, published on 21 July 2008, we committed to exploring whether provisions for multiple discrimination could be included in the Equality Bill.

Following this consultation, we have developed a proposal, enabling claims combining two protected characteristics. We are now seeking views from industry, business and all interested organisations on the impact of our proposals through the publication of our discussion document, Equality Bill: Assessing the Impact of a Multiple Discrimination ProvisionA Discussion Document.

This document outlines our proposals in detail. It will form the basis for discussions seeking broad views, particularly from business and organisations, on the impact of a multiple discrimination provision. In particular, we are asking specific questions on the burdens the provisions may impose, particularly on employers, and the steps we can take to minimise those burdens.

The discussion will take place over the next six weeks. In the light of the discussions, we will decide whether protection from multiple discrimination should be introduced and if so how, taking into account progress on the Equality Bill, which we have published today.

I am placing copies of this document in the Vote Office and the Libraries of the House. Copies will also be available on the Government Equalities Office website, www.equalities.gov.uk.

EU: Environment Ministers’ Informal Meeting

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I and my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock), met Environment Ministers from EU member states, candidate countries and the European Commission at an informal ministerial meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, on 14 and 15 April. The theme of the informal council was climate change adaptation and the international climate change negotiations.

On the first day of council, the European Commission presented the EU’s White Paper on adaptation, which had been published the week before council. The presentation was followed by informal discussions on adaptation to climate change.

The UK expressed support for the EU Commission’s proposed approach in the EU White Paper and spoke about the steps being taken in the UK. The UK believes that the EU must lead the way by embedding adaptation in its own policies and programmes. The UK welcomed the idea of establishing an impact and adaptation steering group (IASG) as a way of sharing best practice. Furthermore, it highlighted the need to communicate in a language that resonated with the public, demonstrating that adaptation was about living with climate change which cannot be avoided, and that is about practical steps such as redesigning buildings, resurfacing roads, flood defence and helping people in heat waves.

There was also a strong recognition of the importance of conserving water among member states, but there was not agreement to make it a special case or to have a sectoral approach.

There was also recognition that transboundary issues will need a higher level of governance. There was no general support for new legislation.

The second day of council focused on the state of play of the international climate change negotiations.

Discussions were held on climate financing and the EU’s negotiating strategy going forward to Copenhagen. The UK emphasised the need for further movement in the next set of June councils on options for mechanisms to generate finance and on the institutional structure for delivering and governing finance. The latter was an area the EU had not yet addressed so needed urgent attention.  The UK’s view on topics for further work was well received, though there was little consensus on timing. 

There was also little clarity on how we could feasibly address some of the difficult issues raised in the recent Spring council processes—for example, how any financial burden from any of these or other mechanisms should be shared within the EU and with other non-EU countries.  Ministers agreed to consider these issues further and recommended a joint meeting of senior environment and finance ministry officials before the June councils to help co-ordinate the position for the next set of UNFCCC negotiations.

Justice: Family Courts

Statement

My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I made an oral Statement and laid in Parliament the Government's response to the recent consultation on improving the openness of family courts in December 2008, entitled Family Justice in View. In that paper I announced that we would make a number of changes to current court rules to make family proceedings more open and transparent.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my honourable friend the Member for Lewisham East (Bridget Prentice), laid before Parliament on 6 April the Family Proceedings (Amendment) (No.2) Rules 2009 and The Family Proceedings Courts (Miscellaneous Amendments) Rules 2009. These rules provide for the media to be present at family proceedings but give the courts limited discretion to exclude in set circumstances prescribed in the rules. The rules also make it easier for parties and their legal advisers involved in family proceedings to be able to disclose information for the purpose of advice and support, mediation and the investigation of a complaint. The rules will also make it easier for the person to whom the party has disclosed information to make onward disclosure of it for the same purpose, and with the party's consent, without seeking permission of the court. These new rules of court, which are the first phase of the wider package of measures I announced in December, will come into effect today.

The media attendance rules are supported by practice directions issued by the President of the Family Division.

The second phase of the measures will be the information pilots, which will test the provision of written judgments in more cases than now, and put anonymised versions in the public domain. These pilots will start when the necessary procedures and security arrangements have been agreed and are in place.

A revised reporting restriction framework will be the third phase. Primary legislation is needed to give effect to a clearer and more consistent reporting restriction framework applicable across all tiers of family courts, which will support the wider objectives of the transparency programme while respecting the rights to privacy of parties to proceedings, and children. This is because key existing restrictions on reporting are contained piecemeal in primary legislation, and the balanced, flexible and simplified framework which is our aim cannot be achieved through rule changes. We will do this as and when parliamentary time allows.

In December I also announced that we would be reversing the effect of the landmark judgment made in Clayton v Clayton. Since making that statement I have taken the time to reflect and reconsider my position on this issue. I have now come to the conclusion that unless good evidence can be provided to show me that by not reversing Clayton v Clayton the effects to the child will be harmful (and so far no such evidence has been forthcoming), I will not disturb the effects of Clayton v Clayton. I will of course keep this decision under review should evidence emerge of a negative impact. I will also consider the implications of the judgment with interest groups as part of wider discussions on legislative requirements to introduce transparency in the courts.

Ministry of Defence: Intelligence Staff Estate

Statement

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

This Statement follows on from the one that I made on 13 December 2007 (Official Report, col. WS 55).  I am pleased to announce the approval of the plan to collocate intelligence facilities at RAF Wyton under the Programme to Rationalise and Integrate the Defence Intelligence Estate, known as PRIDE.  PRIDE (Wyton) will deliver new, purpose-built accommodation for some key defence intelligence capabilities that will enhance our operational effectiveness and our ability to work in joint operations with our allies.  PRIDE (Wyton) will relocate key intelligence units from RAF Brampton, Feltham, Denison Barracks in Hermitage and Ayrshire Barracks in Mönchengladbach, Germany, to RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire.  This will form a hub for our intelligence collection capability and will enable the organisations to deliver more effective support to front-line operations.  Additionally, the moves will allow the disposal and sale of RAF Brampton, in Cambridgeshire, further contributing to our wider aim to reduce the MoD estate and drive down support costs.

In parallel to this final approval being reached, I can announce the award of the contract for the major construction work to Skanska UK plc, at a cost of approximately £150 million.  This is further good news for the construction industry and will secure a significant number of jobs over the coming four years.

This project constitutes only one part of the PRIDE programme.  The second element is the relocation of the Royal School of Military Survey and the Defence School of Languages from Hermitage and Beaconsfield respectively.  A future location for these units is still being determined but their resultant moves should allow for the disposal of the Hermitage and Beaconsfield sites.  I expect to announce the approval for this project in the autumn of 2010.

Schools: PSHE

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In October 2008, following reviews of sex and relationships education and drugs and alcohol education, I announced that I proposed to give PSHE education statutory status, subject to formal consultation. To prepare for that consultation, and mindful of some of the sensitivities around the subject, I invited Sir Alasdair Macdonald, head teacher of Morpeth Secondary School in London, to conduct an independent review of how statutory status might be achieved in practice and what other steps should be taken to improve the consistency and quality of PSHE education so that all children and young people benefit.

Following widespread consultation with stakeholders Sir Alasdair has completed his report, which I am publishing today. Copies are being placed in both Houses. The report contains a number of important recommendations and I am grateful to Sir Alasdair for these and for the open way in which he has conducted his review.

This Statement sets out the Government’s response and the next steps.

Sir Alasdair has recommended that PSHE education should become part of the national curriculum at both primary and secondary levels. I am attracted to this approach for the reasons set out in the report. The recommendation will be subject to formal consultation alongside that on Sir Jim Rose’s review of the primary curriculum.

Sir Alasdair has made a number of other recommendations which I accept in principle, subject to formal consultation. These are: that at secondary level the existing non-statutory programmes of study should be carried forward and that at primary level the relevant parts of the proposed new programme of learning, “Understanding Physical Development, Health and Wellbeing”, should form the core PSHE entitlement; that governing bodies should retain the right to determine their school’s approach to SRE, to ensure that this can be delivered in line with the context, values and ethos of the school but that this must be consistent with the core entitlement to PSHE education; that governing bodies should retain the duty to maintain an up-to-date SRE policy, which is made available to inspectors, parents and young people and that they should involve parents and young people (in the secondary phase) in developing that policy; that the DCSF should seek the opinions of stakeholders and the wider public on whether to change the name of PSHE education within the secondary national curriculum; and that legislation should seek to exclude PSHE education from the requirement to have statutory levels of attainment but that the DCSF should work with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to find appropriate and innovative ways of assessing pupil progress in PSHE education.

Sir Alasdair also recommended that the existing right of parental withdrawal from sex and relationships education (SRE) should be maintained. The report also stresses that the notion of a common entitlement to all aspects of PSHE education for all children and young people is central to the recommendations of the review and to the future of statutory PSHE education. In light of this, I accept the recommendation, but propose that we will keep the issue under review to ensure this entitlement is met.

Sir Alasdair’s report makes a number of other recommendations about improving teaching and learning in PSHE education. I propose to make an early start on implementing them.

The full list of recommendations, and the Government’s response, is attached.

Macdonald review of making PSHE education statutory:Key recommendations and Government response

Macdonald recommendation

Government response

1. PSHE education should become part of the statutory national curriculum, in both primary and secondary phases.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.

2. At secondary level, PSHE education should become a foundation subject in the national curriculum, with the existing non-statutory programmes of study forming the basis for public consultation on the core entitlement.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.

3. At primary level the proposed new programme of learning, “Understanding Physical Development, Health and Wellbeing”, should form the basis for public consultation on the core entitlement.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.

4. Governing bodies should retain the right to determine their school’s approach to SRE, to ensure that this can be delivered in line with the context, values and ethos of the school. However, this must be consistent with the core entitlement to PSHE education.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.

5. Governing bodies should also retain the duty to maintain an up-to-date SRE policy, which is made available to inspectors, parents and young people. Moreover, governing bodies should involve parents and young people (in the secondary phase) in developing their SRE policy to ensure that this meets the needs of their pupils, and reflects parents’ wishes and the culture of the communities they serve.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.

6.The DCSF should consult school governor and faith school representatives about any supplementary resources, guidance and support they need and work with them to ensure that this is in place before statutory PSHE education comes into force.

Accept.

7. The existing right of parental withdrawal from SRE should be maintained. Where parents do choose to withdraw, schools should make it clear to them that in doing so they are taking responsibility for ensuring that their child receives their entitlement to SRE through alternative means. This right of withdrawal does not extend to the existing statutory elements of the national curriculum requirements regarding sex education in science at key stages 1 to 4 and we recommend that this should continue to be the case. Furthermore, there should be no right of withdrawal from the whole or any other aspect of PSHE education.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.

8. The DCSF should review the status of all of its existing, separate guidance relating to the issues covered in PSHE education. The DCSF should then publish in due course an overarching document that sets out the common principles underpinning effective PSHE education and applies them to delivery of the core entitlement.

Accept.

9. Alongside or within the consultation surrounding the core national curriculum entitlement for PSHE education, the DCSF should seek the opinions of stakeholders and the wider public on whether to change the name of PSHE education within the secondary national curriculum.

Accept and will consult.

10. The DCSF should commission further research that will establish and report on the prevalent models of delivery for PSHE education and their effectiveness in improving outcomes for children and young people. However, other subjects in the national curriculum are not subject to prescription regarding delivery and we see no reason why PSHE should be any different.

Accept.

11. All initial teacher training (ITT) courses should include some focus on PSHE education. We agree with the recommendation from the SRE and drugs and alcohol education review groups that the DCSF should work with the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) to investigate a dedicated route for ITT that will, in time, create a cohort of specialist PSHE education teachers.

Accept.

12. The DCSF should also work with the TDA to consider a PSHE enhancement option in ITT, as well as promoting PSHE education through the masters in teaching and learning and Advanced Skills Teachers programme.

Accept.

13. The DCSF should continue to support a PSHE CPD programme. The DCSF should also work with the TDA and local authorities to explore the other types of CPD on offer in PSHE education. This should aim to identify local provision of CPD in PSHE education that is collaborative, sustained and evaluated, in order to exemplify good practice in guidance.

Accept.

14. CPD should also be available for support staff and the wider children’s workforce involved in PSHE education.

Accept.

15. The DCSF should work to raise the profile of PSHE education among school senior management teams.

Accept.

16. We recognise the important contributions that external organisations and visitors can make to the PSHE curriculum and recommend that schools are encouraged to identify opportunities where this wider input can be made appropriately. Furthermore, the DCSF should consider how best to disseminate examples of effective practice more widely across local authorities.

Accept.

17. Legislation should seek to exclude PSHE education from the requirement to have statutory levels of attainment.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.

18. The DCSF should work with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to find appropriate and innovative ways of assessing pupil progress in PSHE education.

Accept.

19. The DCSF should consider further ways of promoting pupil and parent engagement in the development and delivery of PSHE education, and how to disseminate good practice in this area.

Accept.

20. We are satisfied that the existing accountability framework and planned well-being indicators will provide sufficient monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of a school’s PSHE education programme. Therefore, the review recommends that no additional requirements should be placed on schools in terms of inspection.

Accept.

Wales: Legislative Competence (Environment) Order

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of Sate for Wales has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to inform the House that the proposed National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Environment) Order 2009 has been laid today as Command Paper 7608. Copies of this can be found in the Printed Paper Office and will be placed in the Library from noon. I have written to the House of Lords Constitution Committee and to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee to request they undertake pre-legislative scrutiny.