Thursday 9 July 2009
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I wish to inform the House of changes to cross-compliance and of an agreement that has been reached on the approach to recapture the environmental benefits of set-aside. This follows public consultation earlier this year.
To meet the requirements of the common agricultural policy health check for the protection of water resources, new standards will be introduced to cross-compliance. These will require farmers to comply with the existing domestic abstraction licensing regime for irrigation activities and to restrict the spreading of inorganic fertiliser and manure where it is likely to adversely impact on water quality. In addition, farmers will be encouraged to implement buffer strips as a voluntary measure to further protect water resources, and the success of this approach will be monitored. We will also consolidate four existing standards relating to soil into one, providing farmers with increased flexibility and clarity and removing the need for derogations to access waterlogged soils. Further simplification will come from clarification of the existing standard protecting hedgerows, which will encourage traditional hedgebank management. Lastly, on land not in agricultural production, greater flexibility will be allowed by confirming that a range of non-agricultural activities can be undertaken.
The Government have agreed with the National Farmers’ Union, the Country Land and Business Association and other partners to set targets to help farmland birds, biodiversity and water quality, through an industry-led voluntary approach to recapturing the environmental benefits of set-aside. This Campaign for the Farmed Environment will be led by the farming industry and is an opportunity to create a successful model for future voluntary partnerships between government and farmers. The voluntary approach is aimed at the three key beneficiaries of set-aside—farmland birds, other biodiversity and resource protection—through voluntary action and encouraging the uptake of the most valuable options within environmental stewardship.
Under the new agreement, by June 2012 farmers will:
double the uptake of the agri-environment entry level scheme in-field options, covering 40,000 hectares on top of current levels;
increase uncropped land by 20,000 hectares from January 2008 levels. The campaign will also seek to improve the environmental management of at least 60,000 hectares of this land; and
introduce voluntary measures on other land covering at least 30,000 hectares and up to 50,000 hectares.
All this will be on top of a baseline of the land already being managed for environmental benefit, which will be measured this autumn. The campaign will tailor activities at a local level working through county groups that will be set up by farmers. I have made it clear that there is a mandatory fallback, which could be introduced at a future date if the campaign is judged not to be working, but we will give it our full support.
I will place a copy of the memorandum of understanding signed by the partners in the Library of the House.
Armed Forces: Air Operations
My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bill Rammell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The RAF Regiment provides essential protection to our air assets and Armed Forces serving on operations in Afghanistan. It is structured, equipped and trained for this specialist role. Its RAF Force Protection Wing Headquarters and RAF Regiment Field Squadrons allow air operations to continue despite hostile action, by protecting the base assets, personnel and particularly aircraft on flight paths approaching and departing the base. It is currently delivering in this role on operations at a number of air, joint-service and international operating bases in Afghanistan and, until recently, in Iraq.
I should like to inform the House that, in order to increase the RAF Regiment’s capability, I have decided to establish an additional RAF Force Protection Wing Headquarters and RAF Regiment Field Squadron.
The new RAF Force Protection Wing Headquarters and Regiment Field Squadron will increase the time that their personnel spend between operational deployments, will bring harmony levels more into line with guidelines and will have a positive effect on retention of skilled personnel.
Recruitment and training are under way to meet the additional 12 personnel required for the RAF Force Protection Wing Headquarters and 172 personnel for the RAF Regiment Field Squadron. Both units will be formed in October 2009 and are scheduled to deploy on Op Herrick in April 2011.
An ongoing basing study has determined that the optimum basing solution for the new RAF Regiment Field Squadron will be either RAF Shawbury or RAF Leuchars. The basing work for the headquarters is at an earlier stage and the options have yet to be refined. The final outcome of the studies is expected by autumn 2009.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am delighted to announce that the Government are to honour the vital contribution made by the military and civilian members of the Government Code and Cypher School who served at Bletchley Park and its outstations during the Second World War. A commemorative badge will be awarded to all surviving veterans in recognition of their great success in intercepting and decrypting enciphered messages. Enigma is the most widely recognised example of this work, but Bletchley Park and its outstations had many more successes against different cipher machines and manual ciphers. The thousands of people who worked at Bletchley Park and its outstations played a vital part in the war effort, and kept their work secret until the Government avowed its success. The awarding of a commemorative badge is a fitting recognition of their loyal service.
The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) will be handling applications for badges. The GCHQ website (www.gchq.gov.uk) contains the necessary details, which will also be available on request from GCHQ and at Bletchley Park and other museums. The commemorative badge will be launched at Bletchley Park on 16 July and a celebratory event will be held later this year.
Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
My honourable friend the Minister for Marine and Natural Environment (Huw Irranca-Davies) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The 2008-09 annual report and accounts for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science will be laid before Parliament today.
My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ian Pearson) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I will attend the budget ECOFIN to be held on 10 July in Brussels. The preliminary draft budget for the European Communities for 2010 will be discussed, with council looking to agree its first reading position in preparation for a conciliation meeting with the European Parliament, which will be held directly after budget ECOFIN.
Items on the agenda are as follows:
preparation of the conciliation meeting with the European Parliament; and
establishment by the council of the draft budget for the European Communities for 2010.
EU: Agriculture Council
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Minister for Food, Farming and Environment (Jim Fitzpatrick) represented the United Kingdom at June’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg. Richard Lochhead MSP also attended.
There were six substantive agenda items under agriculture and fisheries, as well as a number of AOB items.
On agriculture, presidency efforts to agree council conclusions on the future of direct payments under CAP reform were rebuffed. With six statements of opposition (including the UK), the document was adopted as presidency conclusions.
Ministers endorsed the council conclusions on the reform of less favoured areas. Ministers also endorsed the council conclusions on agricultural product quality.
At a closed lunch, Ministers discussed the difficulties in the dairy sector. The Commission informed the debate, which took place in light of recently adopted European Council conclusions on the dairy sector, with a quarterly report on dairy market trends. A number of member states spoke on the present difficulties in the milk market and questioned the role and power of retailers in managing prices. However, none came forward with ideas of what additional measures could be introduced beyond those already in hand.
There were nine agriculture AOB items. The Dutch Minister encouraged Ministers to reflect on the specific recommendations from CSD-17 in respect of agriculture and climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate change negotiations. The incoming presidency (Sweden) also plans to discuss this, notably at its informal council in September. The UK underlined the importance of the debate and distributed copies of its recently published climate projections for the UK.
The presidency then briefly reported the conclusions on the EU paying agencies conference held under its auspices.
France introduced its paper calling for the rapid implementation of recommendations made by the European Parliament in respect of the Commission’s 2008 communication on food prices and the soon-to-be-adopted recommendations of the high-level group on the competitiveness of the agri-food industry. Many member states shared the French concerns, though the UK cautioned that any new regulation needed to be proportionate and evidence-based.
The presidency outlined the progress that it had made on the control of trade in illegally logged timber. Member states, including the UK, urged rapid action to agree the dossier and called for inclusion a ban on the import of illegally logged timber. Sweden, as incoming presidency, said that it aimed to reach a council common position by December 2009.
The presidency also concluded that the proposed regulation updating and harmonising the animal welfare rules applicable at slaughter was agreed and would be adopted as an “A” point in due course.
Ministers were then updated on the progress of the welfare of animals used in scientific research dossier. Sweden confirmed that it would be a priority during its presidency.
Next, the presidency explained its work to reach compromises on the proposals to ban the use of seven pesticides that had not been approved by the relevant regulatory committee. Compromises had been reached on three, which would be approved as “A” points at the June Environment Council. Work was continuing on the other four.
The presidency reported on the limited progress made on the proposal to modernise, simplify and clarify the 30 year-old rules on food labelling.
Finally on agriculture, the UK thanked the Commission for the flexibility that it had shown so far to help to reduce the compliance costs of sheep EID, but stressed that the dossier remained of concern within the UK because of the impact on the farming industry. The UK put forward further proposals for reducing the costs of the regulation while retaining the benefits and protection provided by sheep EID. However, the proposals were not supported by the Commission.
On fisheries, the council adopted pre-prepared conclusions on the importance of the aquaculture industry, principally welcoming the Commission’s April communication designed to give new impetus to the sustainable development of aquaculture in the EU.
Ministers then held a structured debate on some of the key issues outstanding in the negotiations to agree a new control regulation for EU fisheries, which governs the obligations for monitoring fishing activity to ensure compliance with EU legal obligations. On the main issues, member states were broadly in agreement that there should be tighter controls and better use of technologies to ensure a more cost-effective and workable enforcement regime.
Turning to fishing opportunities for 2010, the Commission pointed to its communication setting out the intended approach to setting catch limits for 2010. When taken with existing multi-annual recovery and management plans for certain stocks, and the scientific advice due for publication on 26 June, an accurate impression of the likely outcomes for each stock can be determined. The UK and others supported the high-grading ban and the UK noted that economic impact assessment should be undertaken before TAC reductions were agreed to.
Finally under any other business, the Commission gave an oral six-monthly report on CFP simplification, noting more streamlining and the deletion of some obsolete regulations. The Commissioner also thanked member states for having responded well to their obligations on bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (John Denham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Today I am announcing the successful proposals for England to receive a share of the Migration Impacts Fund. The fund provides £35 million across the UK for 2009-10 financed by a levy on migrants and, subject to a review in the autumn, a similar amount in 2010-11. This money will be used to tackle illegal working practices and reduce local pressure on public services.
This funding works alongside the Government’s points-based system, which means that only those migrants whom the country needs can come here. The money will be made available quickly and directly to local services across the country, including police, schools and hospitals.
These front-line services, police, councils, the NHS and voluntary organisations have identified projects in their area that will make the biggest difference to insulating them and local people against the impact of migration.
Every region of England will benefit, with the amount each receives being weighted towards the areas where international migration has had the greatest short-term impact.
Projects receiving funding include those introducing tougher measures to crack down on rogue employers, those creating more teachers in schools to ensure good results for all and those increasing GP registration to cut pressures on emergency services and A&E.
Fairness in employment
The vast majority of employers are responsible but a small minority attempt to flout the law, undercut minimum wages and exploit low-paid workers, many of whom are migrants. We are funding projects that will protect existing workers through enforcing the minimum wage and by increasing awareness of health and safety regulations ensuring that all employers meet their obligations to all workers.
There is no evidence of unfair access to migrants in social housing. However, in some areas local authorities report concerns that the housing used by migrants can be overcrowded or in poor condition. This can lead to local tensions and cohesion issues. Funding is being targeted to this by cracking down on rogue landlords to improve the quality of neighbourhoods for all residents.
Children and young people
Funding will be targeted at those schools dealing with a sudden influx of pupils whose first language is not English. This will support extra multilingual teachers, freeing up teaching time for the benefit of all the class and helping new arrivals to settle in quickly.
More English language lessons
Being able to speak English is vital in order to find work and to play a full role in the community. Funding provision through the MIF will mean that migrants will be paying for their own classes and ensure that they can access local services properly, reducing the pressure on services and the cost to public services from translation and interpretation.
Migrants to this country should understand our laws and sign up to our shared values. Funding will be provided for projects that tackle anti-social behaviour and will support extra police community support officers.
Local services report that migrants often do not understand how to access local healthcare in the most appropriate and therefore cheapest way. Funding will be targeted to increase GP registration relieving pressures on A&E.
Every project has been assessed on the basis that it will help migrants to integrate into local communities and in doing so benefit the settled community. The agreed grant allocation for this year will be paid in one instalment.
Northern Ireland: Youth Justice Agency
My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Paul Goggins) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
I have placed copies of the Youth Justice Agency’s annual report and accounts for 2008-09 in the Libraries of both Houses. This is the agency’s sixth annual report since its inception on 1 April 2003. It achieved 10 of its 14 key performance targets and 18 of its 22 development objectives.
Regional Development Agencies
I have approved the appointments for the new RDA board chairs listed below.
Robert Hough—Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWRDA); and
Rob Douglas CBE—South East England Regional Development Agency (SEEDA).
Robert Hough will commence as chair on 17 August 2009.
Rob Douglas will commence as chair designate, to ensure continuity from 1 September 2009, and will take up post as chair from 2 November 2009.
The new appointments will be initially until 13 December 2012.
The appointments have been made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice.
I have placed further details of the appointments in the Libraries of both Houses.
School Teachers’ Review Body
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Part 2 of the 18th report of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) is being published today, which reviews the appropriateness of the pay award for September 2009 and 2010 which was referred in June 2008. I am grateful for the careful consideration which the STRB has given to this matter. Copies of the report have been laid before Parliament today and my detailed response to it is available in the Vote Office, the Printed Paper Office, the Libraries of the House and at www.teachernet.gov.uk/pay.
The STRB has recommended that teachers’ pay be increased by 2.3 per cent from September 2009 and September 2010; with adjustments to the inner London pay scales from September 2009 and September 2010.
I am grateful to the STRB for these recommendations which, subject to the statutory consultation process, I intend to accept and implement in full. These recommendations represent the second and third year of a three-year pay award and confirm recommendations first made by the STRB in January 2008.
I also note the STRB’s recommendations for regular diversity and equality data collection; encouraging schools to use existing recruitment and retention flexibilities in shortage subjects; and consideration being given to the introduction of new measures to improve the supply of mathematics teachers. My detailed response contains further information on all of these recommendations.
Annexe to Written Ministerial Statement of 9 July 2009.
School Teachers’ Review Body recommendations and response from the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls)
[The following sets out the full set of recommendations from the School Teachers’ Review Body and published in the 18th Report part 2 (Cm 7652) on 9 July 2009, together with the response from the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. The STRB’s recommendations below are in bold.]
The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): Part 2 of the 18th report of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) is being published today. It covers the review of teachers’ pay which was referred to the STRB in June 2008. Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office, the Printed Paper Office and in the Libraries of the House and at http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/pay.
In making its recommendations, the STRB was required to have regard to considerations a-f set out in the remit letter of 25 June 2008. This report reviews the appropriateness of the teachers’ pay award for September 2009 and September 2010. It also makes recommendations about regular diversity and equality data collection; encouraging schools to use existing recruitment and retention flexibilities in shortage subjects; and consideration be given to the introduction of new measures to improve the supply of mathematics teachers. I am grateful for the careful and detailed attention the STRB has given to these matters. I am inviting comments on the STRB’s report and my response to its recommendations by 5 August 2009.
The STRB has recommended:
an increase of 2.3 per cent from September 2009 and 2.3 per cent from September 2010 in the values of the pay scales and allowances;
that there be an adjustment to the main and upper pay scale for inner London as proposed in STRB’s Seventeenth Report Part One: a minimum starting salary of £26,000 for teachers in inner London from September 2009 and £27,000 from September 2010 and consequential adjustments to the main pay scale; and further enhancement in the value of the upper pay scale in inner London from September 2009 and September 2010.
I am grateful to the STRB for conducting its review of teachers’ pay and subject to the statutory consultation process I intend to accept and implement its recommendations in full. These recommendations represent the second and third year of a three-year pay award and confirm recommendations first made by the STRB in January 2008.
Other matters arising from the STRB’s review
The STRB has further recommended that the department:
undertake regular data collection and analysis to monitor developments in the teacher workforce related to issues of diversity and equality. This should include an ongoing review of matters relating to equal pay and of the extent to which the teaching profession reflects the diversity of the population it serves;
should review and strengthen the ways it encourages schools to use existing recruitment and retention flexibilities to address local teacher shortages in mathematics and other priority subjects; and
should consider the introduction of new financial and other incentives and measures to improve the quantity and quality of the supply of mathematics teachers. If asked to do so, the STRB would welcome the opportunity to explore the form these might take in a future remit.
I agree with the STRB’s recommendation about data collection and analysis. That is why my department is developing the new school workforce census which will provide comprehensive data on an annual basis about the individual characteristics, contract details and pay of school teachers. The development is being piloted with a view to full live rollout in 2010. The data collected from schools and local authorities in England will include age, gender, ethnicity, disability and qualifications—all at individual teacher level—to allow detailed analysis related to diversity and equality issues.
I note that the STRB recommends that my department should take steps to encourage schools to use existing recruitment and retention flexibilities to address teacher shortages in mathematics and other priority subjects at a local level. Following an earlier consultation on how best to encourage increased use of existing pay flexibilities, there was no appetite for any action plans or guidance or other communications. However, a note was added to the 2008 model pay policy, which states schools should consider making use of existing pay flexibilities within the school teachers’ pay and conditions document—particularly to help with the recruitment of teachers of shortage subjects such as mathematics, science and, in Wales, Welsh. Schools will be expected to meet the costs of any payments from within the budgets they have available. I would like to invite consultees’ views on whether any other strategies might usefully be adopted.
I note that the STRB has also said that consideration should be given to the introduction of new measures to attract high-quality mathematics teachers in the required numbers. While there is some evidence that the measures we have taken to increase recruitment to shortage subjects such as mathematics and science are working, I would prefer to return to this recommendation once I have further evidence of their impact. Meanwhile I would welcome consultees’ ideas, in the context of the recently published 21st century schools White Paper, as to what might be acceptable forms of any such incentives or measures to improve the quality and quantity of mathematics teachers.
My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
The Government introduced restrictions on smoking in enclosed workplaces, public places and vehicles in England from 1 July 2007. These provisions are described in the Health Act 2006 and aim to save thousands of lives over the next decade by reducing both exposure to hazardous second-hand smoke and overall smoking rates.
The Health Act 2006 includes provisions designed to prohibit smoking in enclosed public places and vehicles, but does not cover ships operating at sea or on inland waters. Therefore, the Government stated their intention to introduce similar provisions to provide protection from second-hand smoke for people on ships operating in UK waters (including the territorial sea and inland waters).
In 2007, the Department for Transport held a consultation exercise seeking first views on how such restrictions should be applied. Following that consultation, draft regulations have now been produced and are being made available for public consultation from today.
The draft regulations being consulted on are made under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. They will apply to all ships operating within the 12-mile UK territorial waters, which include inland waters, provided that they carry passengers or employees, unless the ship is exercising the right of innocent passage or the right of transit passage through straits used for international navigation. These provisions will extend to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland so that a consistent set of UK restrictions can be applied.
Smoking will be prohibited except in areas of the ship designated by the master in accordance with the regulations which may include designated smoking cabins on cruise ships or passenger ferries. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency will hold the responsibility for enforcement of these provisions with a scale of penalties similar to those laid down in the Health Act.
Pleasure vessels such as yachts, motor cruisers, and small private fishing vessels, are exempted from the smoke-free provisions. However, any such vessels carrying fare-paying passengers, or operating with an employed crew will fall into scope of the regulations.
Copies of the consultation paper and draft regulations have been sent to a wide range of representatives in the shipping industry and they will have 12 weeks to respond to the consultation. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House. Further copies of the consultation paper are available on the DfT website at www.dft.gov.uk.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Andy Burnham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
As I announced in my Oral Statement to the House on 2 July (Official Report, col. 497) part of the move to the new treatment phase of our response to the current swine flu pandemic will involve a new way of collecting and publishing information about swine flu.
The treatment phase refers to the period when antivirals are used only for treating those who have contracted the illness; contact tracing ceases as does providing antivirals for prophylaxis. The swabbing and testing of all cases also ceases.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) had previously been collecting, compiling and releasing United Kingdom figures on a daily basis on its website. These statistics set out the number of laboratory confirmed cases, as well as clinically presumed cases.
Because we will rely on clinical diagnosis instead of laboratory confirmation of swabs to identify cases of swine flu, we cannot continue to measure total number of cases in the same way as we have been doing. This is because without testing everyone we would not know how many swine flu cases there are among other cases of influenza-like illnesses.
Therefore, to replace the data previously published, we will need to move to higher level estimates of spread. This will be combined with other key indicators to give a fuller picture of the progress of swine flu.
The Chief Medical Officer will be setting out today the format and content of a weekly situation report, which will cover:
estimates of influenza-like illness cases, estimated using two different surveillance systems;
the number of calls to NHS information lines for colds/flu;
the number of deaths of patients with swine flu (reported deaths where the cases have tested positive for swine flu); and
the number of hospitalisations (any swine flu in-patient over the past 24 hours who has been H1N1 swabbed or clinically presumed)
This change reflects the World Health Organisation- led move away from the comprehensive assessment component of surveillance, where the focus is on characterising the clinical, epidemiological and virological features of a new disease, to the monitoring component, where the focus is on monitoring geographical spread, trends, intensity and impact.
The UK has well established, and internationally respected, surveillance systems for monitoring incidence and assessing the impact of seasonal influenza. These systems have operated well through the normal flu season over the last few years and we will build on them as we refine the revised surveillance system for swine flu.
The revised system will be augmented by additional surveillance activities that are relevant to the pandemic situation. This will include continuing to assess the severity of disease associated with this novel virus, and monitoring changes in the characteristics of the virus.
In addition to this, honourable Members will receive a weekly update on the impact of swine flu in their local area.