Wednesday 4 November 2009
Armed Forces: Service Children's Education
My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary and Minister for Veterans (Mr Kevan Jones) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The chief executive of Service Children's Education has been set the following key targets for 2009-10.
Key Target 1—Foundation Stage
56 per cent of children to achieve at least 78 points in the EYFS profile with at least a score of six in each of the scales in personal, social and emotional development and communication, language and literacy.
Key Target 2—Key Stage 1
89 per cent of pupils to achieve at least a level 2c+ in reading;
87 per cent of pupils to achieve at least a level 2c+ in writing;
95 per cent of pupils to achieve at least a level 2c+ in mathematics;
percentage of pupils achieving a level 3+ in reading should match or exceed the national average;
percentage of pupils achieving a level 3+ in writing should match or exceed the national average; and
percentage of pupils achieving a level 3+ in mathematics should match or exceed the national average.
Key Target 3—Key Stage 2
the percentage of pupils achieving a level 4 in both English and mathematics should match or exceed the national average;
the percentage of pupils achieving a level 5+ in English should match or exceed the national average;
the percentage of pupils achieving a level 5+ in mathematics should match or exceed the national average;
the percentage of pupils achieving 2 levels of progress in English between KS1 and KS2 should match or exceed the national average; and
the percentage of pupils achieving 2 levels of progress in mathematics between KS1 and KS2 should match or exceed the national average.
Key Target 4—Key Stage 3
76 per cent of pupils to achieve level 5 or above in both English and mathematics;
82 per cent of pupils to achieve level 5 or above in science;
34 per cent of pupils to achieve at least 2 levels of progress in English between KS2 and KS3; and
70 per cent of pupils to achieve at least 2 levels of progress in mathematics between KS2 and KS3.
Key Target 5—Key Stage 4
54 per cent of pupils to achieve 5 or more A* - C including English and mathematics in GCSE and equivalent examinations (SCE to base figures on 3 year moving average);
69 per cent of pupils to progress by 2 levels in English between KS3 and KS4; and
34 per cent of pupils to achieve 2 levels of progress in mathematics between KS3 and KS4.
Key Target 6—Key Stage 5
72 per cent of entries to achieve grades A-C at A level.
Key Target 7
To achieve an overall parental customer satisfaction rating of at least 85 per cent in the 2009-10 parental survey.
My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Sadiq Khan) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
I am today issuing a consultation paper on the distribution of concessionary travel special grant funding for local authorities in 2010-11.
Following the extension of the statutory bus concession in April 2008 to provide free off-peak local bus travel anywhere in England, the Government have provided additional special grant funding to local authorities of £212 million in 2008-09, followed by £217 million for 2009-10 and £223 million for 2010-11. This is in addition to the funding that Government provide each year for concessionary travel through the formula grant process, bringing total spending on concessionary travel to around £1 billion a year.
A special grant report, which specified the amounts to be paid to authorities for the three years from 2008-09 to 2010-11, was approved by Parliament in March 2008. The formula used to distribute the extra funding was based on data on eligible local population, visitor numbers, retail floor space and current bus use. As such it was designed to take account of likely demand in areas such as coastal towns, urban centres and other places likely to experience an increase in costs.
There is no evidence that the additional special grant funding is insufficient in total to meet the costs of the new concession. However, I am aware of some distributional issues that have arisen that have led to around 30 (out of over 260) travel concession authorities at risk of a significant shortfall in funding. At the same time, I am aware of other authorities that may have received more funding than they require to meet the additional costs of the improved concession.
It is for this reason that I am today launching a consultation on whether to allocate the special grant for 2010-11 using a revised distribution, which seeks better to match the pattern of costs being incurred by local authorities. Any revised grant distribution developed after the consultation will be published in the form of a special grant report which will itself then be the subject of parliamentary scrutiny in due course.
Earlier this year we also consulted on the way in which concessionary travel will be administered from 2011. Over 200 responses were received to the consultation and we are in the process of considering these responses. I expect to be able to make a further announcement on the outcome of this consultation in due course.
I would like to emphasise that the funding distribution and administrative issues should by no means detract from the success of the national bus concession, which the Government will continue to offer to older and disabled people in England. These changes make no change to either the services pass holders are entitled to use, or to who can receive the concession. Concessionaires themselves should therefore not notice any difference in the service they receive, under the proposals suggested.
The introduction of free off-peak local bus travel throughout England from 1 April 2008 has given the opportunity for greater freedom and independence to around 11 million older and disabled people. No older or disabled person in England now need be prevented from local bus travel by cost alone and the scheme represents a major step forward in tackling social inclusion for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Library of the House.
House of Commons: Members' Expenses and Allowances
My right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement.
Today the Committee on Standards in Public Life, under its chair, Sir Christopher Kelly, has published its report setting out recommendations for a new framework for parliamentary allowances.
People in this country need to be able to have full trust and confidence in their Parliament. What happened under the old allowance system has knocked that confidence.
We come into Parliament not to serve our own self interest—but to serve the public interest. But that is not the impression the public have. We have all acknowledged that, and recognised that to ensure that we have a system in which everyone can have confidence we needed to take action.
We have already made changes, and the Kelly report is another important step on that path to restoring public confidence.
Dealing with the past
Before I turn to the Kelly report, I should like to remind the House of the action that we have already taken.
To deal with the past we are ensuring that any overpayments—including those which were simply a mistake—are paid back. That is the work that the Members Estimate Committee, which is chaired by you, Mr Speaker, commissioned from Sir Thomas Legg.
We have already taken action to change the current allowance system. In order to allow for the period while wholesale reform of our allowances is being considered we introduced interim measures last May to pare back allowances, as a result of a meeting of the party leaders and the Members Estimate Committee.
Restrictions in the current system
Amid the enormous attention paid to past problems, no one should overlook the fact that we have already decided to:
cap the monthly amount that can be claimed on mortgage or rent;
prevent a Member changing the designation of main or second home;
abolish the second home allowance for outer London Members; and
stop claims for furniture, stop claims for cleaning, and stop claims for gardening.
Parliament has not sat back waiting for Kelly. The current allowance system is already very different from the one which allowed for the claims which have angered both the public and the House.
Independently setting our allowances in the future
We have also recognised that, for the future, it is no longer appropriate for us to set or administer our own allowance system. That is why in July we passed the Parliamentary Standards Act, which set up the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority which will decide on our allowances and run the system.
So, just as we no longer vote our own pay increases, we will play no part in setting or administering our allowances.
The Kelly report
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister, in March, asked Sir Christopher Kelly, the chair of the Committee on Standards in Public life, to review the system of MPs’ allowances.
I should like to thank Sir Christopher and his committee for the important work they have undertaken and also thank all those, including many honourable Members, who gave evidence to his committee.
His report was published only this morning. But it is obviously right for the House to hear an early Statement and have the chance to air initial views.
Why we have allowances
MPs representing constituencies outside London need to be able to live both in their constituency and in Westminster because they need to work in both places. We do not want a Parliament where the only people who can come to Westminster as MPs are those who are wealthy enough to afford to pay for two homes out of their own pocket. Nor do we want to undermine the importance of MPs working in two places—both in the constituency and in Westminster. Both are important. Nor do we want to have a situation where you cannot have your family with you if you are an MP. The Kelly report recognises that the allowances are there so that Parliament works properly on behalf of people in this country:
that the constituency link is sustained;
that Parliament is not barred to people on modest incomes, and
that Parliament is not barred to people with a young family.
The Kelly report acknowledges this.
The Kelly report covers 138 pages and puts forward 60 recommendations. Among the key recommendations are two that I should like to draw particularly to the attention of the House:
that Members should not be able to claim for mortgage interest but only for rent or hotels. They recommend that for those with existing mortgages they should be able to continue to claim for one further Parliament; and
that Members should not be reimbursed for the employment of family members. Those who currently do will be able to continue to do so for one further Parliament.
The acting chief executive of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Andrew MacDonald, has been appointed and has begun work and you, Mr Speaker, have today announced that Professor Sir Ian Kennedy has been selected as the new chair-designate of IPSA. I will put the Motion to confirm his appointment to the House in the next few days. The other members of the authority will be appointed shortly.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has already started the work of setting up the new allowance regime for MPs. A new allowances regime will be in place to come into effect in the new Parliament—as recommended by Sir Christopher Kelly.
In the light of this, the Government welcome and fully accept the Kelly report which should be taken as a whole. It will be for the IPSA to take it forward. This is the approach Kelly’s report itself recommends.
Keep existing transition rules
Until such time as the IPSA takes the Kelly report forward, we will retain the current restricted allowance rules and every claim is of course published and available for the public to see.
No vote—leave it to IPSA
Mr Speaker, because we decided in July that in future we would play no part in our allowance system and it would be done independently, it does not make sense for us now to vote on the future shape of our allowance system. Instead, that is the job of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. After all, that is what we set it up to do.
The Parliamentary Standards Act lays down that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority must consult MPs and others when drawing up the allowances regime. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority will set to work immediately and we expect, following such consultations, it to proceed as quickly as possible to put into effect the Kelly recommendations on allowances.
The events that lie behind the recommendations in the Kelly report have caused anger and dismay both in the public and among honourable Members.
Our responsibility is to continue to take the action needed to sort the situation out. To make the changes that are necessary:
the payback system is underway;
the new restrictive allowance system will remain in place for the time being;
Sir Christopher Kelly has recommended a new framework for our allowances; and
the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is up and running and will set up the new allowance system and administer it.
Sir Christopher Kelly’s report is another important step on the road to the public knowing that the allowance system has been put on a proper independent footing, and that we are getting on with our important task of serving our constituents and this country.
This House of Commons has yet fully to resolve this damaging episode. But with clear acknowledgement of the public anger, with firm action already taken, with the Kelly report and the establishment of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, this will be resolved.
I commend this Statement to the House.
Independent Monitoring Commission
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Shaun Woodward) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
I have received the 22nd reports of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). This report has been made under Articles 4 and 7 of the international agreement that established the commission and it reports on levels of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. I have considered the content of the report and I am today bringing it before Parliament. I have placed copies in the Library of the House.
The IMC reports on the serious threat posed by dissident republicans. It concludes that the activities of both the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, including the murders of Sappers Quinsey and Azimkar and PC Carroll in March, and a number of other extremely serious incidents, are designed to undermine peaceful political progress.
The IMC notes that the completion of devolution could be a potent intervention “because policing and justice would no longer be a point of contention across the political divide” but rather be “a platform for co-operation against those trying to undermine the peace process”. The Government remain committed to do all they can to provide a solid foundation for a devolved Department of Justice.
The IMC also acknowledges the very real progress towards decommissioning made by loyalists. It concludes that the UVF is an organisation on its way to going out of business, and that the leadership of the UDA has given a significant lead to change the organisation and shown remarkable commitment and progress in community development. I, too, hope that the UDA will follow through on the commitments it has made and complete the decommissioning process.
My honourable friend the Minister of State for Pensions and the Ageing Society (Angela Eagle) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am pleased to announce our intention to introduce amending regulations to align the payment arrangements for state pension and pension credit with the arrangements for working age benefits.
We plan to introduce a new part-week payment for people who move onto state pension from a working age benefit, to ensure that they do not experience a break in payments. DWP customers would also be able to keep the same pay day and pattern of payments when they reach pension age.
In line with current practice for working age benefits, people who reach state pension age on or after 6 April 2010 will be allocated a pay day based on the last two digits of their national insurance number, and will be paid in arrears. Customers will continue to have a choice around how frequently they are paid.
This is not a savings measure, and existing recipients of state pension and pension credit will not be affected by these changes.
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
My honourable friend the Minister of State for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (David Hanson) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) marked a major step in the protection of privacy. Prior to RIPA, many of the more intrusive techniques which it regulates could be used by any public authority and authorised at any level, for any purpose. There was no comprehensive system of independent oversight, no independent judicial complaints mechanism available in relation to all these techniques, and no means by which Parliament could prescribe the ranks of authorising officers or limit the purposes for which the techniques could be used. In addressing this situation, RIPA ensured that only specified public authorities could continue to use certain key techniques to protect the public, and only if they could do so compatibly with the European Convention on Human Rights and, particularly, the Article 8 right to respect for private and family life.
Nevertheless, a small number of local authorities have authorised techniques under RIPA in circumstances when most of us would say it was not necessary or proportionate for them to do so. In order to prevent this happening again, my department published on Friday 17 April a consultation paper entitled Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000: Consolidating Orders and Codes of Practice. This paper set out proposals to ensure that techniques regulated in RIPA can continue to be used when they are necessary and proportionate, but that there is no repetition of the small number of cases when they have been misused.
Today I am publishing a summary of the responses submitted as part of this consultation exercise. The summary explains how I intend to develop the proposals set out in the consultation paper in light of the responses received.
My department received 222 responses to the consultation exercise. As explained in the summary, most of the responses were broadly supportive of the proposals in the consultation document. Subject to minor changes set out in the summary, I intend to take forward the proposals for secondary legislation described in the consultation document as soon as possible. The secondary legislation, and the related codes of practice, will include measures to:
clarify the test of necessity and proportionality so techniques will not be used for trivial purposes such as investigating dog fouling or people putting bins out a day early;
raise the rank of authorising officer for RIPA techniques in local authorities to senior executive at a minimum of director level;
give elected councillors a role in overseeing the way local authorities use covert investigatory techniques;
require constituents’ communications with MPs on constituency business to be treated as confidential information, and therefore subject to authorisation by a higher rank of officer;
treat covert surveillance of legal consultations as intrusive rather than directed surveillance, meaning that it can be carried out only by a very limited number of public authorities, primarily the police and intelligence agencies, and only with independent approval; and
clarify how provisions currently in the Policing and Crime Bill will reduce bureaucracy relating to RIPA in police collaborative units comprising two or more forces.
Following a proposal by the Local Government Association, I intend to require each local authority to appoint a single official to be responsible for ensuring that all authorising officers are of an appropriate standard. This new role will have to be filled by a member of the corporate management team to whom authorising officers will report.
A number of respondents suggested that the key to effective and appropriate use of RIPA techniques was training, rather than the rank of authorising officers. With this in mind, I have asked my officials to work with the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Local Government Association and the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services to establish a package of accredited training for local authority authorising officers, and, in addition, to prepare bespoke written guidance on how local authorities should use RIPA.
It is absolutely clear that a wide range of public authorities need to be able to authorise key techniques under RIPA in order to protect us from those who would do us harm. It is equally clear that public authorities must respect our right to privacy and use techniques under RIPA only when it is necessary and proportionate to do so. I believe the measures outlined in the summary of responses will ensure that both objectives can be met.
My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Phil Hope) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State issued a Written Ministerial Statement on 20 July (Official Report, col. 96WS) about the discovery of a backlog of conduct cases which had been identified by the General Social Care Council (GSCC). He announced that we would be asking the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) to undertake a review of the GSCC’s conduct functions. CHRE today published the report of its review of the GSCC. The Government welcome this report.
CHRE’s report sets out a series of serious operational failings in the conduct function by the GSCC, which investigates complaints about social workers. Insufficient attention was paid to a growing backlog of conduct cases, despite additional funding being provided by the department for three years to enable GSCC to address a growing number of complaints. Of particular concern was the decision to suspend, for a period of time, any new referrals to the GSCC’s Professional Conduct Committee.
The Government have today broadly accepted all of the recommendations made by CHRE and a full response to its report is available at www.dh.gov.uk/en/ Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/Publications PolicyAndGuidance/DH_107882.
I met the GSCC’s chair, Rosie Varley, on behalf of both the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families to express Ministers’ concerns about the issues raised in the report and to set out clear expectations for the GSCC going forward.
Significant progress has already been made in handling cases on receipt of complaints and addressing any ongoing risks to the public resulting from the poor management of conduct since July. Ministers have been assured by the chair of the GSCC that all cases are now routinely risk-assessed and allocated to a responsible manager who ensures that risk is continually reviewed as new information arises. Interim suspension orders, which suspend the registration of social workers against whom serious complaints have been made while they are investigated, are now being applied for where appropriate.
The GSCC has also begun the process of reforming its operational processes and strengthening its infrastructure to support performance management of its conduct function. A remedial plan to address the backlog of cases is now in place and Ministers have asked for monthly reports on progress to be provided to the department.
Ministers have made it clear to the chair of the GSCC that they expect to see significant operational improvements as a result of the implementation of the council’s action plan by the end of March 2010, including the resolution of the oldest cases. The chair of the GSCC has been asked personally to oversee reform of the GSCC’s procedures, to ensure effective governance and to report on progress to Ministers in March 2010.
The Department of Health will continue to work closely with the GSCC to assure and assist in the delivery of its recovery plans.
The CHRE’s report and the Government’s response have been placed in the Library and copies are available for honourable Members from the Vote Office.