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Written Statements

Volume 712: debated on Wednesday 8 July 2009

Written Statements

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Construction Industry: Accidents

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Yvette Cooper) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to announce that Rita Donaghy has completed the inquiry and I am today able to announce the publication of her report entitled One Death is Too Many: Inquiry into the Underlying Causes of Construction Fatal Accidents.

I would like to thank Rita (and her peer reviewers) for the thorough way in which she has carried out the inquiry, involving wide consultation with stakeholders.

We know that many in the construction industry work tirelessly to improve health and safety. But more work needs to be done to bring the number of accidents down. This report makes it clear that a culture that expects safe and healthy working and strong leadership is important for delivering further improvements in construction safety. Despite the welcome recent fall in construction fatalities, any death or major injury is a tragedy for individuals, their families and their colleagues.

The report makes far-reaching recommendations for improving safety in the construction industry, extending across safety representatives, building control, the legal system, training and competence, and public procurement. The Government will now consider the report and its recommendations fully over the summer, working with the industry, trade unions and HSE, before responding later in the year.

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

Schools: National Curriculum Tests 2009

Statement

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

Strong accountability is essential if we are to help every child to succeed. The Expert Group on Assessment reported that high levels of school accountability are beneficial for everyone who has a stake in the education system, including pupils, parents and the taxpayer.

Externally marked tests play an important role in our accountability system. The expert group confirmed in its report that external validation of pupils’ performance is vital and that national curriculum tests remain the best way of providing objective information on the performance of each pupil and each school.

I am pleased that the great majority of results of 2009 test results, 99.9 per cent, were made available to schools yesterday as planned. Results have successfully been made available to pupils across all subjects, with 99.87 per cent of results available in English, 99.98 per cent in mathematics and 99.85 per cent in science. We will build on this next year and QCA will seek to award a single-year contract for test delivery in 2010, which is similar in shape to this year.

I can confirm that tests in 2010 will take place as planned in the week commencing 10 May. Having taken account of QCA and Ofqual’s advice, we will seek to implement the expert group’s recommendation on moving the test to mid-June in 2011. This will help to strengthen transition arrangements for year 6 pupils; it will also help to embed our Assessment for Learning strategy and the role of teacher assessment.

The efficient delivery of national curriculum tests and implementation of expert group recommendations play an important part in ensuring that a robust accountability system recognises all school outcomes, providing the greatest possible benefit to children, parents and the public.

Transport: Personnel Security

Statement

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

It is almost a year since the department received the independent report on personnel security in the transport industry by Stephen Boys Smith. Much work has been done since then and I can now give the House an update.

The review was commissioned as a health check on the current arrangements and covered all modes of transport. The review consulted more than 80 stakeholders and the report that emerged contained a detailed assessment of current security processes and recommendations of where changes might be needed. Because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter, the report was not published in full, but a short summary was placed in the Libraries of both Houses and on the department’s website. Relevant sections of the report were issued in full to industry stakeholders.

The report acknowledged that protective security is best applied in multiple layers and noted the importance of the existing physical security regimes. But it also pointed out that, as physical security continues to improve, the potential insider threat is likely to increase, and that, although a number of personnel security measures are already in place, there is a case and scope for incremental change. The overarching message of the report was that the time is right for there to be an increased focus on personnel security and that this should be informed by systematic analysis of the risks. The report also pointed to the need for industry employers to take greater ownership of personnel security, but that the Government have a vital role in providing advice and assistance in mitigating the risks.

We have continued to build on our existing dialogue with the industry with a successful cross-modal conference on 3 October 2008 to discuss how we can collectively improve personnel security in the transport sector. We have established an industry sounding board to help to identify areas of concern to industry partners and to test emerging ideas and proposals within the programme. Following the report’s central recommendation, we are currently carrying out a programme of risk assessments with industry stakeholders to identify priority areas. The outcomes of the risk assessments will inform the detail of the future programme of work, but much continues to be done in the mean time.

We have produced and issued detailed guidance to employers on operating a voluntary regime of overseas criminal record checks. Also, the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) has produced and published detailed guidance on how overseas criminal record information can be obtained and assessed. We have consulted on the introduction of a mandatory requirement for overseas criminal record checks and I am announcing today that such checks will become mandatory for all new staff in posts that are subject to counterterrorism checks. The necessary regulatory changes will be made mode by mode starting with aviation, where it will become a requirement as of 31 August 2009.

On identity, we have been working with colleagues at CPNI and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to promulgate best practice guidance on verifying documents. We are supporting the work of the Identity and Passport Service in the delivery of improved identity services, including the rollout of national identity cards. Stephen Boys Smith concluded that UK identity cards are a useful addition to identity assurance and we support the decision of the Home Secretary that the objective of better identity assurance can be delivered without the need to make ID cards mandatory for airside workers.

We are examining with industry how best to make use of the range of information available as part of pre-employment checks. We have amended and reissued our regulations to reflect the report’s recommendation that the minimum gap period that should be referenced should be extended from 14 to 28 days.

With regard to national security vetting (NSV), we have been engaged in wider discussions across government about the development of NSV policy and process, with the aim of making it more efficient. The department has increased the resources allocated to this area and is actively exploring other options, including contracting work to other vetting service providers.

We have reiterated to industry the need for personnel security measures to be applied down the contracting chain and are exploring how best to use existing inspection regimes to monitor and enforce this.

Personnel security post-recruitment is very important and we are working with colleagues across government to ensure that policies and practice relating to existing employees are consistent, fair and robust. CPNI has published guidance for employers on handling approaches about their staff from security agencies, and DfT is working to establish agreed protocols for the handling of cases where there are security concerns about individuals already in post.

Finally, we are working with industry and CPNI to ensure that personnel security guidance is appropriately disseminated and focused on the requirements of its intended audience. The department is considering ways in which this guidance can be tailored to reflect the variety in the scale and structure of companies in the transport industry.