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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Minister for Pensions (Steve Webb) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am pleased to announce that later today we intend to lay regulations to amend the Cold Weather Payment scheme. The changes detailed in these regulations will come into force on 1 November this year, in time for the beginning of the winter period.
Following advice from the Meteorological Office the amendments will introduce one new weather station, Rostherne, to the scheme for winter 2012-13 and withdraw the current station at Woodford. As a result of the changes the postcodes that are currently linked to the withdrawn station will be re-assigned to different weather stations.
The amendments resulted from the department's annual review of the Cold Weather Payments scheme. The review drew on expert advice from the Meteorological Office and took account of representations from benefit claimants and Members of Parliament.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Crime Prevention (Jeremy Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Government support the use of surveillance cameras in tackling crime. They are committed to ensuring that any deployment in public places of surveillance cameras, including CCTV and ANPR, is appropriate, proportionate, transparent and effective
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The code of practice will contain guidance for system operators. Relevant authorities specified in Section 33(5) of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 have a duty to have regard to the code, and other system operators will be encouraged to adopt it on a voluntary basis. Preparatory work on the code of practice is underway, ensuring it is positioned appropriately alongside existing regulatory arrangements under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. We anticipate a period of statutory consultation over the draft code of practice in the autumn of 2012 in advance of laying the draft before Parliament for approval. Subject to parliamentary approval, we aim to bring the code of practice into force from April 2013.
A key element of the effectiveness of surveillance camera systems is their ability to provide images and associated information of an evidential standard which supports both the investigation of crime and bringing perpetrators to justice. We are therefore continuing the arrangements that have seen the role of Interim CCTV Regulator combined with that of the Forensic Science Regulator, and are appointing Mr Andrew Rennison who currently holds both these appointments as Surveillance Camera Commissioner with immediate effect. This will enable him to build the necessary capacity to fulfil his statutory functions in full when the code of practice comes into force.
The term of appointment has been synchronised with that of the Forensic Science Regulator and will run until 10 February 2014. An open competition will be held in due course to fill both posts from that date.
The functions of the commissioner are set out in Section 34(2) of the Protection of Freedoms Act. In advance of the code of practice being brought into force the commissioner has been tasked with: delivering a three year business plan setting out how these functions will be fulfilled; reaching an agreement over the operation of gateways with both the Information Commissioner and the Chief Surveillance Commissioner who also have regulatory responsibilities relating to surveillance cameras, and then making that agreement publicly available; and, establishing an advisory council with a suitable range of skills and experience to support him in his work.
The Home Office is making a small team of civil servants available to support the commissioner in carrying out his functions, along with accommodation within its offices at 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF.
The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 provides for an incremental approach to regulation which will secure continued public confidence in the use of surveillance cameras in what is a complex area of practice. It gives the commissioner no powers of enforcement or inspection, nor any powers for the investigation of complaints. The commissioner is, however, charged with reviewing the operation of the code of practice and providing advice, including advice to government on its effectiveness
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The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 also requires in Section 35 that the commissioner publishes a report about the exercise of his functions on an annual basis and presents a copy to the Home Secretary, which must then be laid before Parliament.
Through these arrangements, we intend to ensure that surveillance camera systems continue to be an important tool available to communities to help tackle crime and prevent terrorism while balancing public safety objectives with the individual's right to privacy.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Minister for Disabled People (Ms Esther McVey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am pleased to announce that later today we will publish two documents as part of our disability strategy, Fulfilling Potential. These set out how the Government will work in partnership with others to enable disabled people to achieve their aspirations and play a full role in society.
The London 2012 Paralympic Games have challenged outdated perceptions of disabled people. They have provided a platform for greater understanding and inclusion, and a stronger focus on ability rather than disability. Fulfilling Potential will build on this and is about making the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People a living reality for disabled people in Britain today.
We will also publish Fulfilling Potential: Next Steps, which will take us further forward. It sets out our vision and principles; outlines further public sector reforms; and announces a new disability action alliance, involving organisations from across the private, public and voluntary and community sectors.
Convened by Disability Rights UK and supported by the Office for Disability Issues, the alliance will put disabled people and their organisations in influential roles. It will lead the way in promoting local communities which include disabled people, and identify action to change attitudes and behaviours, increase choice and control and encourage early interventions to support independent living.
We will continue to work with disabled people and publish in the autumn, an analysis of the latest statistics and research, to help build a deeper understanding of disability in our society today; and in 2013 a further strategic document and action plan.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Marland): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, (Dr Vince Cable) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The coalition Government made a commitment to review employment legislation to ensure it provides the flexibility for employers without compromising fairness for employees. We have reported to Parliament at various points during the course of the Employment Law Review and the Employment-related law Red Tape Challenge, the steps we are taking to reform UK employment legislation.
The Government have already taken significant steps in reforming employment law including extending the period for eligibility for unfair dismissal from one to two years, streamlining Employment Tribunals, creating a universally portable Criminal Records Bureau check and removing the default retirement age.
We are today taking a number of further steps which will lead to further changes and reforms that will help reduce burdens on, and increase certainty for, businesses, especially small businesses. We are seeking to address both the perception and the realities of the burden of employment legislation through the Employment Law Review, and are implementing a strong package of reforms. The set of measures which we are announcing today respond to business concerns that we need to do more to help them tackle issues at the end of the employment life cycle. Building on work that has already been implemented, such as the doubling of the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from one year to two years, we are now seeking to put in place a range of further measures to help businesses to effectively deal with dismissal, which will:
These measures will reduce risks to employers, increase their flexibility to deal with workplace issues and decrease the costs of resolving disputes. Business will have the support to resolve workplace disputes earlier and, if they proceed to employment tribunal, they will experience a quicker, more efficient process.
We are already taking a power in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (ERR) Bill to facilitate the greater use of Settlement Agreements, and to amend the cap on Unfair Dismissal awards. This consultation will seek views on the principles underpinning the use of Settlement Agreements, guidance on their use and model documents for use by employers.
The consultation will also propose reducing the Unfair Dismissal compensation cap, including the option of a cap of 12 months' pay alongside an upper limit.
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There were more than 250 responses to the Call for Evidence. The majority of respondents did not support no-fault dismissal and fewer than 40% of employers thought that it would be beneficial to business. Concerns were raised about the potential negative consequences of the proposal, including the potential for it to damage employee morale (which in turn could decrease productivity) and the risk that micro businesses would find it more difficult to recruit. Furthermore, no fault dismissal would not protect an employer from discrimination claims and so would not secure peace of mind.
The issue of no-fault dismissal has been subject to much debate in the press over recent months. Officials have examined the responses carefully, alongside assessing international comparisons, and summarised the feedback and our analysis in the government response. The Government have considered, or is already taking forward, the majority of proposals from Adrian Beecroft's report on employment law, published earlier this year.
The call for evidence also considered the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance. A number of issues were raised and we will work with ACAS to ensure these are addressed. In particular, there is a need to make the Code more accessible to small business and clarify how their size and resources should be taken into account. This includes making it clear that small businesses can move straight to a final warning if an issue is having a serious impact on their business. The Government are amending the Business Link guidance to more accurately reflect the contents of the ACAS Code and Guidance. The revised guidance will be published shortly.
Mr Justice Underhill has made a number of recommendations to simplify and streamline the employment tribunals system. We are today launching a ten-week consultation. That would allow us to implement changes to the rules through secondary legislation next year.
In addition to the consultation will be introducing amendments to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to implement three of the additional recommended changes to primary legislation identified by Mr Justice Underhill.
The call for evidence closed earlier this year, and we have completed our analysis of the responses. These broadly reflect a number of common concerns from business and business organisations, for example that:
We will be publishing the government response to the call for evidence and signalling our intention to consult on potential changes. We will be developing proposals for a consultation later in the autumn.
Also in line with the introduction of employment tribunal fees next year, the Government will extend the current HM Courts and Tribunals Service system to protect access to justice for those who cannot afford to pay the fee. Given the concerns raised by business respondents to the employment tribunal fees consultation, such as whether to take into account access to savings and capital, the Government will undertake a review of remissions as part of a wider review required for the introduction of Universal Credit. The review will aim to produce a single remissions system for courts and tribunals which is simpler to use, more cost efficient and better targeted those who can afford to pay fees do so, while continuing to provide access to the courts and tribunal system to those who cannot.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Marland): My honourable friend the Minister for Employment Relations and Consumers Affairs (Jo Swinson) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am today publishing the Government's response to consultations on amending the Estate Agents Act 1979 (EAA) and repealing the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 (PMA). A limited deregulation of the EAA to take private sale intermediaries out of scope of the Act will provide clarity which the Government expect will also promote competition and potentially innovation, while retaining adequate consumer protection. Repeal of the PMA will remove duplication with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs).
The amendment to the EAA arose from the Disruptive Business Models theme of the Red Tape Challenge process. It will end the perceived uncertainty, confirmed by the range of views in the consultation about the
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The Government's view is that some private sale portals may currently be in scope of the EAA, if they act on instructions of the prospective seller or buyer and provide a means for the prospective seller and buyer to make initial contact or to continue to communicate with one another. This is because although publishing advertisements and disseminating information is exempted from the scope of the EAA, facilitating such communication goes beyond this even though it may not amount to any of the services traditionally associated with estate agents.
Taking the consultation responses into account, the Government believe that a limited deregulation of the EAA would bring benefits to consumers and to the industry without reducing consumer protection. It should provide confidence to existing private sales intermediary businesses and potential new entrants, thereby stimulating competition and innovation leading to more consumer choice and better standards of service. The Government recognise that property sales are significant and occasional transactions for consumers with a risk of consumer detriment if businesses which influence or are directly involved transactions are not regulated. The Government believe that a limited amendment to legislation, combined with guidance, will provide clarity and draws the appropriate balance between the interests of businesses and consumers.
The Government have therefore decided to amend the EAA to take out of scope intermediaries such as private sale portals which merely enable private sellers to advertise their properties and provide a means for sellers and buyers to contact and communicate with one another. The Government recognise this is a limited amendment-many respondents have commented that the choice for consumers to sell property privately already exists-but the Government are concerned by the uncertainty and range of views as to the legal position of private sales portals that the responses demonstrated.
This amendment will enable the intermediary to provide a means for the seller and prospective buyer to contact one another, for example online, a branded For Sale board to the seller to assist this process, and to pass on to a buyer solely the information provided by the seller in their advertisement, by whatever channel of communication. If, however, the intermediary offers any personal advice to a seller or a buyer or other ancillary services such as preparing property particulars or photographs or an Energy Performance Certificate, then the intermediary will be in scope of the EAA and bound by its obligations.
Businesses outside the scope of the EAA will also be out of scope of the PMA (although see below). The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) applies to all businesses that deal with consumers. They could therefore be relevant where a
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The definition of "estate agency work" is also incorporated in other legislation. The Money Laundering Regulations 2007 require estate agents to guard against and report any suspicion of money laundering. The Terrorism Act 2000 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 incorporate the definition from the EAA in applying particular standards to 'regulated sectors' which include estate agents. The limited amendment will also apply to these pieces of legislation.
The Government believe this limited amendment will strike the right balance between deregulating low risk services which do not actively involve the business in the property transaction and retaining the consumer protections of the EAA where agents act on behalf of a party to the transaction.
The PMA makes it an offence to make false or misleading statements in the course of an estate agency or property development business about property offered for sale. The CPRs which came into force in 2008 implemented the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive in the UK. These regulations provide similar protections for consumers in a wider range of sectors and their introduction meant that consumers were protected by two broadly equivalent pieces of legislation.
The Government's consultation elicited responses both for and against repeal. The Government understand the reasons why opponents to repeal of the PMA favour it over the CPRs. The PMA deals specifically with property and as such is easy to apply. The CPRs by contrast are not specific to the sector and, being principles-based, require traders to consider how they apply to their particular circumstances.
The Government remain of the view, however, that the CPRs provide broadly similar protection to the PMA. The queries and concerns raised are similar to those that were raised when the CPRs were first proposed and these fears do not seem to have materialised in other sectors. The Government believe this situation will continue so long as the PMA remains in place and that repealing the PMA would not significantly reduce levels of consumer protection. This is disputed by some stakeholders but not others and the Government do not find the arguments for a loss of consumer protection convincing.
The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills will therefore lay an order under the European Communities Act 1972 to repeal the PMA. The current intention is that this will come into force not before October 2013.
Today I am publishing our response to the comments received in the consultation on our proposals to implement Articles 7a to 7e of the EU Fuel Quality Directive (Directive 98/70/EC as amended by Directive 2009/30/EC). The directive requires suppliers to reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas intensity of many transport fuels.
The response sets out our decision to introduce new secondary legislation to transpose requirements of the Fuel Quality Directive, including new annual reporting requirements for fossil fuels and biofuels.
The document also details our commitment to amend the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order 2007 ("RTFO Order 2007") to include fuels used in non-road mobile machinery, a policy already announced to the House on July 16 when the department published a related consultation response (Official Report, 16.7.12, col. WS 112).
An amendment made in December 2011 to the RTFO Order 2007 means that only biofuels meeting minimum sustainability criteria count towards renewable energy targets. Sustainable biofuels play an important role in our efforts to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector. However, concerns remain about the sustainability of some biofuels, especially around the issue of indirect land use change ("ILUC") and we are pressing the European Commission and other member states to produce a robust method to address this issue. Pending that clarity we are taking a cautious approach to implementing the Fuel Quality Directive.
The Fuel Quality Directive introduces the requirement for many transport fuel suppliers to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of the fuels they supply by 6% in 2020. We will not impose on suppliers a greenhouse gas reduction obligation at this point. Instead, we will place an ongoing legal duty on the Secretary of State to propose any further measures necessary to ensure delivery of the requirements of the Fuel Quality Directive. We will rely on the amended RTFO Order 2007 to deliver the greenhouse gas savings necessary under the Fuel Quality Directive for the period up to 2014. We will also put in place a requirement for fuel suppliers to report on the greenhouse gas intensity of both the biofuel and fossil fuels they supply for use in land-based transport and for the associated uses listed in the directive.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Anna Soubry) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The committee gave a positive welcome overall to the Government's alcohol strategy and welcomed in particular the decision to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol. The committee made some important points about the need to set out the evidence behind this policy and its implementation. We will address these points when we consult on the level of minimum unit price and other proposals set out in the strategy during the autumn.
We welcome the committee's argument that the alcohol industry's participation in the Responsibility Deal is "intrinsic to responsible corporate citizenship". We fully agree with the committee that it is not a substitute for government policy.
We are committed to reversing the long term rise in both health and social harms from alcohol misuse and have set out in the strategy a number of challenging ambitions by which our success will be judged.
We welcome the committee's support for effective local action, such as that in Birmingham, and the opportunity they recognize for local authorities and others, supported by Public Health England, to address the serious problems caused by alcohol misuse in local communities.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
In 2010, the Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity made a number of recommendations aimed at increasing the diversity of the judiciary and legal professions, in response to concerns that the judiciary did not reflect the make-up of society. The Judicial Diversity Taskforce, comprising the Ministry of Justice, senior members of the judiciary, the Judicial Appointments Commission, the Bar Council, the Law Society and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, was set up to take those recommendations forward.
proposals being included in the Crime and Courts Bill to introduce flexible working patterns into the senior courts, and enabling the JAC to appoint a candidate from an under-represented group when two candidates are equal on merit.
Even though we are making good progress, all members of the taskforce recognise that there is still a lot of work to be done and we must not lose this momentum. We will continue to work together to implement the remainder of the recommendations and provide strong leadership so that we start to see real change in this area.
The document is also available online, at http://www. justice.gov.uk/publications/policy/moj/improving-judicial-diversity-judicial-diversity-taskforce-annual-report.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Marland): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise (Michael Fallon) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
BIS Minister of State for Business and Enterprise (Michael Fallon) and the DCLG Minister of State for Housing (Mark Prisk) are today announcing that £25 million of government funding will be made available to support local enterprise partnerships in their pursuit of economic growth.
Government's goal is to promote strong, sustainable and balanced growth across the UK. Local enterprise partnerships are central to our approach to driving local economic growth and for ensuring that every locality is able to fulfil its potential. Local enterprise partnerships are voluntary partnerships of business and civic leaders, working across local economic areas, and have a vitally important role in identifying opportunities for private sector growth and addressing local barriers to growth through the united efforts of their partners.
Local enterprise partnerships have also been encouraged to identify local barriers to growth where government action can address some of the specific barriers. Ministers across government are committed to supporting local enterprise partnerships achieve their local growth priorities and tackle the barriers to progress.
In response to recent strong representations, BIS and DCLG have decided to offer jointly up to £250,000 per annum of matched core funding to local enterprise partnerships for the remainder of this Parliament (until 2014-15), subject to satisfactory proposals being received. We will offer each local enterprise partnership a one-off initial payment of £125,000 for the remainder
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Local enterprise partnerships will remain voluntary business and civic partnerships to drive sustainable private sector growth and job creation in their area. This offer of core resource funding will provide more capacity for local enterprise partnerships to drive forward their growth priorities, allow them to do longer-term resource planning and strengthen support and autonomy of the business-led boards.
In March, the Government published Green Light for Better Buses, in which we set out our plans for improving local bus subsidy arrangements and regulations in England outside London. We undertook to consult on these proposals and I can inform the House that the consultation has been launched today and will last for eight weeks. Copies of the consultation document are available in the House Library.
I would like to inform the House of the decision that has been made in relation to London Midland's application to change Schedule 17 of the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement (TSA), which was referred to the Department for Transport for arbitration.
The TSA sets out the various arrangements between train operators relating to the carriage of passengers and the retailing of tickets. London Midland's proposal was to change the minimum opening hours of a number of ticket offices, including the closure of nine offices altogether. These changes would not affect the level of train services in any way.
I have decided to approve London Midland's proposal in part, but reject some elements where the case for changes has not been made. Ticket offices at Small Heath, Jewellery Quarter, Bescot Stadium, Duddeston and Adderley Park, which were proposed for closure, will remain open. However, I have agreed four of the nine proposed ticket office closures, at Wythall, Witton, Lye and Cheddington.
Several ticket offices will have their opening hours extended, while a number of other stations will have their ticket office opening hours reduced. A full list of the changes has been published on the department's website.
In arbitrating this decision, we were careful to ensure that the proposal was in line with the criteria set out in the TSA, whereby passengers continue to
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The changes reflect the change in the way passengers are buying tickets, with more choosing to purchase their tickets online or at ticket vending machines, and the changes that have been approved will not generally affect stations during periods in which the ticket office is currently selling more than 12 tickets an hour.
As a condition of the changes, London Midland will also be required to provide a total of 29 additional ticket vending machines at stations that do not currently have this facility. This will be an improvement in availability at stations where the ticket office is currently only open part-time, with passengers in future able to purchase tickets whenever they wish to travel.
We have also ensured that London Midland will keep lifts in operation when stations are unstaffed. LM will also improve safety and security at stations, including through the provision of upgraded CCTV at 11 stations and will provide additional shelters and upgraded signage as a condition of this approval.
In addition, London Midland will invest in 30 new train boarding ramps to improve access to trains for wheelchair users. Passengers who require assistance in making their journey can now book this via the new industry website, which was launched by the Association of Train Operating Companies on 24 August.
There are currently many ticket offices open for very long hours, while selling very few tickets indeed. In an era where passengers are telling us that they need fares to come down and investment in services to rise, these sorts of costs simply cannot be justified.
These changes will provide savings to taxpayers and passengers far beyond the life of the existing franchise, and will ultimately save millions of pounds. I believe that this is a necessary step in improving the efficiency of the rail network, and reducing the cost of rail travel for everyone.
Individuals who engage in terror-related activity travel across borders to plan, finance, train for and commit attacks. Examining people at ports and airports is necessary to protect public safety and an essential part of our border security arrangements. However, the operation of these powers must not erode the freedoms which terrorists seek to undermine.
We would welcome a wide response to the consultation to support us in ensuring the changes address these principles, particularly from those who may be affected by the use of these important powers. A copy of the consultation document has been placed in the House Library and is available on the Home Office website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/schedule-7-review.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Minister for Employment (Mark Hoban MP) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
We have a statutory commitment to an annual independent review of the Work Capability Assessment for the first five years of its operation and appointed Professor Malcolm Harrington in June 2010 to start these reviews.
Professor Harrington has to date carried out two independent reviews of the Work Capability Assessment and is currently undertaking a third. As part of his second independent review Professor Harrington asked Macmillan Cancer Support to look in detail at how the Work Capability Assessment assesses people with cancer in order to provide him with evidence for further recommendations for improvement.
As a result of the evidence received from Macmillan we decided to conduct an informal consultation to seek a wider range of views and evidence. The consultation, Work Capability Assessment: Accounting for the Effects of CancerTreatment, was announced on 24 November 2011 as part of the Government's Response to Professor Harrington's second review.
Today's document outlines the responses received to that consultation and provides further information on how we intend to change the way the Work Capability Assessment works for people receiving cancer treatment based on consideration of those responses.
The revised proposals expand the categories of cancer treatments under which a claimant may be treated as having limited capability to undertake work-related activity to now include individuals who are: awaiting, receiving or recovering from treatment by way of chemotherapy irrespective of route; or awaiting, receiving or recovering from radiotherapy.
I will place a copy of the full government response to the consultation in the House Library and it will also be available later today at www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is today publishing the 20th progress report on developments in Afghanistan since November 2010.
On 8 July at the Tokyo Conference the international community, including the UK, agreed to help the Government of Afghanistan meet their country's development needs for the years up to and after security transition in 2014. Specific pledges were made to 2017, with strong commitments from the international community to provide financial assistance to Afghanistan through the "Transformation Decade" to the end of 2024. This support is vital to ensure that the Government can provide continued stability and prospects for their people when international military troops withdraw at the end of 2014. Our support will depend on the Government taking forward key governance and economic reforms, including on protecting the rights of women and girls, outlined in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF). At the request of the Government of Afghanistan, the UK agreed to co-chair the first ministerial review of the TMAF benchmarks in 2014,
The insurgency remains a tangible threat in Afghanistan as the separate attacks in Nimruz and Kunduz provinces on 14 August demonstrated. However, as transition progresses and the ANSF increasingly move to the fore on operations, we are seeing more evidence that violent incidents are being evermore displaced away from the protected communities where the majority of Afghans live. While there are still areas where the insurgent has relative freedom of movement they are finding it hard to concentrate their forces as they would wish. It is likely that they will continue to rely on IEDs, high-profile attacks and assassination attempts as means of conducting their campaign and maintaining relevance.
Insider attacks (incidents where members of the ANSF attack their ISAF partners) remain a serious concern. We are working with ISAF and our Afghan partners to reduce the potential for such incidents, but while being adamant that they will not derail our strategy for transition.
The UK continued to support the development of the local economy in Helmand province. UK Aid has delivered technical and vocational education and training to more than 7,300 Helmandis, giving them the skills to get jobs and start businesses in the emerging private sector. Our assistance is also helping local government officials in Helmand take control of vital infrastructure, including roads, canals and irrigation systems.
I am placing the report in the Library of the House. It will also be published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk).
I am today announcing the start of the Triennial Review of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL). Triennial reviews of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are part of the Government's commitment to ensuring that NDPBs continue to have regular challenge on their remit and governance arrangements.
The review will be undertaken by an independent external reviewer, Peter Riddell, Director of the Institute for Government, who will want to consult widely with relevant stakeholders, including Parliament, the devolved Administrations, the main political parties, academics, ethics regulators and others with an interest in the work of the Committee. He will be issuing an Issues and Questions Paper in due course and the findings of the review will be published. Peter will be supported in the review by the Cabinet Office. At his request, he will not be paid for his time.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Don Foster) made the following Written Ministerial Statement on 18 September 2012.
Today my department is publishing the 13th group of reports presenting the findings from research projects commissioned by the previous Administration. This Administration inherited a significant backlog of unpublished reports that were commissioned by the previous Government which we have been publishing in groups themed on a particular topic. The reports and findings are of general policy interest, but do not relate to forthcoming policy announcements. We are publishing these documents in the interests of transparency and as part of our Freedom of Information commitment to publish the results of all commissioned research.
(i) Evaluation of minerals policy statements (2 volumes). This report by the British Geological Survey considered the implementation of a number of the Minerals Policy Statements and Minerals Policy Guidance notes, and evaluated the impacts of the policy's implementation. This report was commissioned in January 2010 at a cost of £60,000.
(ii) Investigating the influence of settlement pattern and morphology on the sterilisation of shallow coal resources. This report by the British Geological Survey assessed the impact on shallow coal resources of using separation zones around urban areas. This report was commissioned in January 2010 at a cost of £9,000.
(iii) Research to understand the rural impacts of Regional Spatial Strategies. This report by Land Use Consultants noted that the Regional Strategies were not rural-proofed, had an urban-centred approach and planned housing provision in rural areas was on a declining trend. This report was commissioned in 2009 at a cost of £21,542.
(iv) A quality local development management service. The last Government's Killian Pretty Report recommended that Government should review the then existing national planning indicator (National Indicator 157) on timeliness for progressing planning applications and proposed a new satisfaction with the planning application service indicator. There was concern from applicants, local planning authorities and others that the performance regime focused on the eight-week and 13-week timescale targets had unintended effects on behaviours and outcomes. In response the Department commissioned research into alternatives. The research report by Addison & Associates with Arup recommended monitoring 37 different indicators. This report was commissioned in November 2009 at a cost of £72,816.
(v) A tool to assess the Impact of EU Directives on UK Sub National Planning Policies (2 reports). This research by Ove Arup aimed to develop a tool to assess the impact of future EU directives on national planning policies. Directives used in developing this tool included the Marine Strategy Directive, the Water Framework Directive and the Habitats Directive. It noted that EU Directives create significant tensions with the need for development to meet demand. The Marine Strategy Directive would cost key business sectors between £439 million to £1.2 billion in additional costs. The research was commissioned in 2009 at a cost of £81,025.
(vi) Mapping the standard of existing stock and its turnover. This report by Building Research Establishment considered the work to develop a model of the existing housing stock in England and Wales, which could be used in assessing the impact of current and future policy in relation to energy use, carbon emissions and water consumption. This report was commissioned in 2008 at a cost of £56,305.
(vii) Case studies of change of use of dwellings. This report by Faber Maunsell looked at achieving satisfactory acoustic performance for buildings to be converted from industry or commercial use to residential use. Although sound insulation was the main concern of this project, all other relevant requirements of the Building Regulations were to be considered and methods of compliance outlined. This report was commissioned in 2003 at a cost of £115,860.
(viii) Lessons from Stamford Brook: Understanding the gap between designed and real performance. This report by Leeds Metropolitan University conveyed the results of a research designed to evaluate the extent to which low carbon housing standards could be achieved in a large commercial housing development and incorporated into future Building Regulations. The report was commissioned in 2002 and the department's contribution was £215,000.
(ix) The safety of stairs investigated over a range of rise and goings. This report by Building Research Establishment considered people's use of stairs. It conducted analysis of subjective opinions, objective behaviour on stairs and foot placement data to establish the effect of guidance within Part K (Protection from falling, collision and impact) on the design of public, private and institutional stairs and the risk of falling. The report was commissioned in 2003 at a cost of £219,682.
(x) Investigation of real fires. This report by the Building Research Establishment provided feedback on the performance of real buildings in real fires. The findings noted the overall effectiveness of the Building Regulations in providing for the safety of life in the event of fire and most of the significant issues that have been identified during this study fell outside the scope of these regulations. The report was commissioned in 2007 at a cost of £241,067.
(xi) Modelling the current and potential accessibility of the housing stock. This report by Building Research Establishment considered the accessibility of the existing housing stock in England with particular reference to its utility for older and disabled people. The report uses data from the English Housing Condition Survey to identify the frequency and suitability of a range of built features within homes to arrive at an overall assessment of their accessibility and future adaptability. The report was commissioned in 2006 at a cost of £56,305.
(xii) Future administration of the Energy Performance Buildings Directive Quality Assurance regime. The objective of the work was to set the long-term standards and quality assurance arrangements for the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (regime and infrastructure, including Accreditation Schemes and energy assessors) to ensure that robust, repeatable and accurate Energy Performance Certificates, Display Energy Certificates and Air Conditioning Reports were produced in a consistent manner. It was commissioned in June 2009 at a cost of £75,280.
(xiii) Review of the impact of the draft European Basic safety standard Directive on Building Regulations. This report by the Building Research Establishment examines the implications of the proposed European
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(xiv) Glazing under abnormal loads. This report by Buro Happold and the Building Research Establishment addressed the issue of abnormal loads on glazing and the response of glazing systems. The research was commissioned in particular to examine the role of building regulations in mitigating the risks involved from abnormal loads on glazing. It reviewed structural assessment methods currently used to design buildings with glazed systems and assess their adequacy in the area of abnormal loadings. This work was commissioned in October 2003 at a cost of £157,052.
(xv) Safety of Masonry Parapets. The overall aim of this project was to determine and analyse the most common structural problems associated with masonry parapets and the potential hazards and dangers that may arise. Having identified the problems, conclusions and recommendations require to be made regarding measures that ought to be taken in the specification, design, construction and maintenance of masonry parapets to ensure that they remained safe and structurally sound over the service life of the building. This work was commissioned in October 2003 and cost £61,212.
(xvi) Radon: Current and Future Performance of Radon Protective Measures. This report by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) reviews the performance of radon protective measures in new buildings. The research notes that radon protection measures installed 20 years continue to provide a high degree of radon protection, and were not adversely affected by improvements such as extensions, conservatories, double glazing or insulation. This work was commissioned in February 2010 at a cost of £53,505.
These reports and findings are of general policy interest, but do not relate to forthcoming policy announcements and are not necessarily a reflection of the current Government's policies and priorities. Copies of these reports are available on the Department for Communities and Local Government website. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.
Guidance has today been issued to civil servants in UK departments on the principles which they should observe in relation to the conduct of government business in the run-up to the elections for police and crime commissioner roles in England and Wales outside London. The elections will take place on 15 November 2012.
The guidance sets out the need to maintain the political impartiality of the Civil Service and the need to ensure that public resources are not used for party-political purposes. The period of sensitivity preceding the elections starts on 25 October.
Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Libraries of the House and on the Cabinet Office website at www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/election-guidance.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Crime Prevention (Jeremy Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Following the debate in the House of Commons on 12 June the Government decided not to opt in at this stage to the Draft Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the freezing and confiscation of proceeds of crime in the European Union (European Union Document No. 7641/12).
The Government welcome the overall aims of the Directive and recognise the benefits of increased international co-operation to recover assets held overseas. However, having analysed the contents of the Directive, and consulted with policy and operational partners, the Government identified a number of issues with the Directive, including a serious problem with Article 5 of the Directive which introduces provisions on non-conviction based confiscation in limited circumstances.
The UK has strong powers which are successfully used to tackle criminal finances. Our powers are already compliant with or stronger than many of those contained in the Directive. As the Directive offers no direct benefit and the risk to our domestic regime posed by Article 5 is sufficiently serious, we decided that the best course of action is not to opt in at this stage.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Europe (David Lidington) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 12 September the German Constitutional Court announced its decision not to grant temporary injunctions relating to the proposed ratification in Germany of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty, the Fiscal Compact and the Decision amending Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. We welcome the Court's decision, which will allow the German Government to proceed with its ratification of the ESM Treaty and the Article 136 amendment Decision.
The Court added caveats to its decision: first that the Bundestag must be fully involved in the relevant decisions and give formal approval to use of the ESM; second that there should be a ceiling for German
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During the Committee stage of the EU (Approval of Treaty Amendment Decision) Bill I referenced the anticipated 12 September German Constitutional Court decision, stating that it related only to whether the ESM treaty and the Fiscal Compact are compatible with the German constitution [Official Report, 10 September 2012; col. 63]. To clarify this, the ruling was in relation to six separate cases brought before the Constitutional Court. These cases were directed primarily against the ESM, which, it was contended, would among other things jeopardise the constitutionally guaranteed right of the Bundestag to control the budget and the use of taxpayers' money, and would turn a stability union into a transfer union. They also dealt with the Fiscal Compact and, in two of the cases, the Decision amending Article 136 TFEU to which the Constitutional Court gave the go-ahead to ratification without conditions.
The Government's position on the ESM remains. The ESM alone will not solve the eurozone crisis, but will play an important role, providing the eurozone with a permanent financial assistance mechanism to assist eurozone Member States in financial difficulty. And financial stability in the eurozone is crucial to our own economic recovery in the UK.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Davey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
In March 2012, Professor John Hills from the London School of Economics published his final report into the issue of fuel poverty in which he recommended that the Government move away from the current definition of fuel poverty, which he argued was not fit for purpose. At the time we committed to moving to a new framework for measurement and consulting on that approach. Today I am laying before Parliament a consultation which seeks views on the approach we intend to take.
On the definition of fuel poverty, I intend to adopt the overall framework that Professor Hills proposed in his Review. I believe that this is a better measure of the problem of fuel poverty than the indicator we are currently using because it will allow us to properly understand the problem, and therefore design effective solutions. By adopting a more accurate measure, this will help us to target our resources at those most in need.
The consultation also considers the question of implications of a change to the definition for the fuel poverty target which is set out the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act. The definition of fuel poverty
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Finally, I am also announcing my intention to publish an updated strategy in the New Year, which will set out the final decision on the new definition of fuel poverty, our intentions on the target and will be an opportunity to set out a refreshed plan for tackling fuel poverty, to ensure we the Government are using their resources as effectively as possible.
Meanwhile we will continue to deliver policies that we know are making a difference, through the Warm Home discount scheme requiring energy suppliers to provide support to low income and vulnerable customers with their energy costs, and the new Energy Company Obligation, which will run in parallel the Green Deal, and is intended to focus particularly on households that cannot achieve financial savings without additional support, including the poorest and most vulnerable, and those in hard to treat homes.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Jeremy Wright) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
During Commons Consideration of Lords Amendments stage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill, the Government undertook (17 April 2012, col. 226) to consider whether to extend legal aid for advice and assistance to welfare benefits cases in the First-tier Tribunal where these involved a point of law. The vast majority of Tribunal appeals do not involve points of law, but the Government said that where these could be identified by an independent person it would consider making legal aid available.
Having considered the matter carefully, the Government consider that a system of independent verification is not feasible. But it will make available, subject to merits and means tests being satisfied, legal aid in the form of advice and assistance for those welfare benefit cases in the First-tier Tribunal where the First-tier Tribunal has itself identified an error of law in its own decision.
Under tribunal rules, when the First-tier Tribunal receives an application for permission to appeal, it must first consider whether to review its own decision. The Tribunal may only undertake a review of its decision if it is satisfied that there was an error of law in the decision. If the Tribunal reviews its decision, it may invite representations from parties as part of that review. Alternatively, it may take action as a result of the review (in effect, to change its earlier decision)
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Legal aid will be available to assist appellants in these two situations: to make representations when invited by the Tribunal, and in relation to an application for action to be set aside and for the decision to be reviewed again where representations were not sought. We intend in due course to lay an Order under section 9 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, for approval by each House, to reflect this position.
The Legal Services Commission intends to begin a tender for welfare benefits work in 2013. The tender will cover the work described above, and advice and assistance for onward appeals on a point of law in the Upper Tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court as described in paragraph 8 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. One of the criteria for awarding contracts in this tender will be price competition.
Existing welfare benefit contracts are due to expire in March 2013. In order to ensure that advice and assistance will be provided for welfare benefit cases within the scope of legal aid, we will put in place appropriate interim measures from April 2013.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My right honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Eric Pickles) made the following Written Ministerial Statement on 18 September 2012.
I would like to update honourable Members on changes to the publication of the department's statistics. Today my department has announced its response to the consultation on proposed changes to the department's statistics. From October this year, we will no longer publish statistics at a government office regional level. Instead the department will plan to publish, where appropriate, statistics for Local Enterprise Partnerships and upper-tier local authorities, complementing existing statistics by local authority.
The coalition Government have abolished regional government. The unelected Regional Assemblies/Regional Chambers, the Government Offices for the Regions, the Regional FireControl programme and the Regional Development Agencies have been terminated, as is intended for the Regional Spatial Strategies, subject to the strategic environment assessment process outlined in my statement of 3 September 2012, Official Report, Column 5WS.
The government office regions were an inefficient tier of administration based on arbitrary boundaries. They did not reflect the areas that local residents most identified with, nor were they areas with common economic problems and market conditions, nor were they the most sensible boundaries for coordinating functions such as fire and resilience.
The continuing use of the former government office regional boundaries no longer provides a coherent framework for assessing public policy. Many of the Government's policies now use alternative local geographies, for example Local Enterprise Partnerships, the New Homes Bonus and City Deals. Publishing statistics at a regional level is no longer necessary or informative, and we see little point in producing statistics at taxpayers' expense for their own sake.
The old regional classifications are also misleading-they fail to quantify both the pockets of deprivation that can exist within regions or the differences between rural and urban England, and there is an inconsistency of approach to the size and population of each government region. They are arbitrary lines on a map that have no resonance-in contrast to England's longstanding cities, boroughs and counties which have a real sense of local identity and popular support, dating back centuries in many cases. England has no history of regional government, whereas it does have a great tradition of local governance that this Government wish to strengthen.
There is also a European dimension to the regions in the form of Eurostat's Nomenclature of Units for Territorial Statistics standard (the appropriately named 'NUTS Regulations'). It is the view of Ministers that the NUTS1 hierarchy is no longer appropriate for Structural Funds in England moving forward from 2014. Ministers reject the notion of a 'Europe of the Regions' where nation-states and national Parliaments are sidelined, and replaced with distant regional governments answerable only to a federal European super-state. Dismantling such arbitrary, unelected regional administrative structures will assist in that goal.
Ministers have carefully considered all the representations made in the consultation. I would note that, for the purposes of historic comparisons, nothing prevents academics and other interested parties from compiling and analysing the open local authority data by the old regional government boundaries, if they wish.
The consultation response also notes the implementation of a new form on local authority housing statistics which reduces and rationalises the data we are asking local authorities to provide, reducing burdens on local government. It also reports on the responses on Land Use Change Statistics which confirmed their importance for monitoring the outcomes of planning policy. A copy of the response has been placed in the Library of the House.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): My honourable friend the
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It was a real honour for the UK to have the responsibility to promote the Olympic Truce message. We worked closely on delivering an international response to the Olympic Truce, working with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Department for International Development, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Culture Media and Sport.
On 17 October 2011, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office secured unanimous co-sponsorship, by all 193 United Nations Member States, for a UN General Assembly Resolution on the Olympic Truce entitled "Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal". Since then we have taken the conflict prevention and peace ideals of the UN Resolution internationally as part of our diplomatic work to build stability overseas.
The UN Resolution calls upon UN Member States to undertake concrete actions at local, national, and international levels to promote and strengthen a culture of peace. The unanimous co-sponsorship of the Resolution afforded an important foundation for the UK to work in partnership with a broad range of international actors that included governments, parliamentarians, National Olympic Committees, the UN and civil society, including faith groups and NGOs.
We wanted to show that the UN Resolution could be translated into international action. Our diplomatic missions across our network and the FCO in London arranged over 70 events and activities which showed how important the contribution of youth, women and those with disabilities is in promoting peace through sport, culture, education and wider public engagement. Whilst activities took place in every continent, we specifically wanted to bring the Olympic Truce to life in conflict affected and fragile countries.
For example, in Sri Lanka we hosted a Paralympic style sports day for disabled soldiers, disabled ex-LTTE combatants and disabled civilians. Sport demonstrated its mediating influence, bringing together former adversaries to understand each others' perspectives, embracing diversity and encouraging inclusivity. In Khartoum we brought together young people from different communities in Sudan and South Sudan, specifically refugees and residents from Darfur met to play in a football tournament, which supported ongoing work to create a youth football league. In Mindanao, in the Philippines, we co-hosted with the Zamboanga City Government and Zamboanga Football Association "Time out for football", a football tournament and clinic bringing people together from a diverse range of communities, bridging gaps between Christians and Muslims. In Armenia, Pakistan and Trinidad and Tobago, children portrayed what the Olympic Truce means to them through art.
As the Foreign Secretary said when speaking at the International Paralympic Inclusion Summit on 6 September, "We wanted to create a legacy that
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The UK is the first Games host to deliver this level of international ambition for the Olympic Truce. The UN Secretary-General, in the presence of the International Olympic Committee, recognised the UK's Olympic Truce work on the eve of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Games. Now others are seeking to build on our experience. We are currently sharing our experience with the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser's Office on Sport and Development for Peace, as well as with Russia, which will next take stewardship of the Olympic Truce in 2013, ahead of the Sochi Winter Games in 2014. This level of international interest, paired with our continued engagement, will help cement our legacy of encouraging future Games hosts to promote the ideals of the Olympic Truce in their own ways.
Today I am publishing an interim response to the consultation that closed on 24 August detailing proposals to streamline the process of applying for the stopping up or diversion of a highway, where this is required for the purpose of property development.
This interim response is considering only option 1 of the consultation. The remaining options and consultation responses will be considered and a full response, including proposals for a way forward, will be published by the end of November.
The large majority of respondents, comprising three main groups, namely developers, local authorities and those affected by stopping up decisions, gave broad support for allowing stopping up and planning applications to be made concurrently, with agreement that it would speed up the process and reduce burdens. We will seek an early legislative opportunity to implement this change.
The Government committed to improving the stopping-up application process in the 2011 Autumn Statement and this will help to deliver the Government's growth agenda, by removing unnecessary burdens faced by businesses, speeding up the application process and removing unnecessary bureaucracy. The change will play a useful role in encouraging investment and therefore growth in local communities.
The decision to proceed took account of a range of evidence including analysis by my department and High Speed Two Ltd of issues raised in consultation as well as comments from a wide variety of interested parties through a range of engagement approaches. The Government's independent response analysis consultants, Dialogue by Design (DbyD), carried out a detailed analysis of the consultation responses and a summary of their analysis was published alongside the Government's January decision, with an addendum report published in July:
High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain's Future-Consultation Summary Report, available at www.dft .gov.uk/publications/hs2-consultation-summary/
High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain's Future-Addendum, available at www.dft.gov.uk/publications/high-speed-rail-addendum/.
Since publishing the Addendum report in July, it has become apparent that a further very small proportion of responses were not fully analysed by DbyD. For these responses, the answers to one or more of the seven consultation questions were omitted from DbyD's analysis. In total, approximately 0.4% of answers provided to individual consultation questions were affected.
|Number of question responses not analysed||Number of respondents|
My department asked for supplementary analysis from DbyD and this work concludes that the responses "do not provide any information that was not already included in the previous Consultation Summary Report or would have made a difference to the substantive content or balance of that report". Inclusion in the original analysis would not have changed the substance of DbyD's findings, nor affected the considerations which informed the decisions following the consultation.
The examination which the overwhelming majority of young people sit at 16-the GCSE-was designed with the best of intentions. It sought to broaden the numbers engaging in academic study and prepare for an expansion of further and higher education.
In the years since it was established we have undoubtedly seen improvements in our education system, and those responsible-heads, teachers, parents, students and reformers like Kenneth Baker and Andrew Adonis-deserve our praise.
But the GCSE was conceived and designed for a different age and a different world-a time before majority participation in higher education, a world where information technology was in its infancy. When the GCSE was first taught the school leaving age was still 16, state-planned economies dominated half the globe and the internet was a work of science fiction.
Now that we are raising the education participation age to 18, now that nations which were slow developers 20 years ago are outstripping us economically, and now that ways of learning have been so dramatically transformed in all our lifetimes, it is right that we reform our examination system.
Because we know that the old model-the 80s model -is no longer right for now. We know that the record increases in performance at GCSE have not been matched by the same level of improvement in learning-while pass rates have soared we have fallen down the international education league tables.
We know that children's achievements are not properly recognised, with even the honourable Member for West Derby, an Education Minister in the last Labour Government, admitting under duress that there was grade inflation under that Government.
And we know, most recently and most tellingly, that changes made to GCSEs under the last Government, specifically the introduction of modules and the expansion of coursework in schools, further undermined the credibility of exams, leaving young people without the rigorous education they deserved.
We have already taken steps to improve vocational qualifications. Following on from the Wolf review we have ensured there is proper assessment, more rigorous content and tighter quality controls on vocational courses. And we are reforming post-16 funding to improve the education of those taking vocational courses.
We want to remove controlled assessment and coursework from core subjects. These assessment methods have, in all too many cases, corrupted the fair testing of all students. We want to ensure that children are tested transparently on what they and they alone can do at the end of years of deep learning. Where individual practical work needs to be assessed, we will be flexible. But we cannot have a system where some students enjoy an inbuilt and unfair advantage over others because of the exam design.
And, critically, we will end the competition between exam boards which has led to a race to the bottom with different boards offering easier courses or assistance to teachers in a corrupt effort to massage up pass rates.
In each subject area only one exam board will offer the new exams. Ofqual, as the independent exams regulator, will assess all the exams put forward by the exams boards. From those which Ofqual accept, the winner will be the board which offers the course which best meets the criteria, benchmarked to the world's best, informed by academic expertise, and capable of both recognising exceptional performance and allowing the overwhelming majority of students to have their work recognised and graded fairly.
We plan to call these new qualifications-in these core academic subjects-English Baccalaureate Certificates, recognising that they are the academic foundation which is the secure base on which further study, vocational learning or a satisfying apprenticeship can be built. Success in English, maths, the sciences, a humanities subject and a language will mean the student has the full English Baccalaureate.
Some will argue that more rigorous qualifications in these subjects will inevitably lead to more students failing. But we believe that fatalism is indicative of a dated mind-set-one that believes in fixed abilities that great teaching can do little to change.
And we know that great teaching is changing lives even as we speak. We have the best generation of teachers and head teachers we have ever had. Their
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So even as exams become more rigorous, more students will be equipped to clear this higher bar. Indeed, we are explicitly ambitious for all our children and we believe that over time we will catch up with the highest performing nations and a higher proportion of children will clear the bar than now.
We expect that everyone who now sits a GCSE should sit this new qualification. But of course there will be some students who will find it difficult to sit these exams, just as there are students who do not sit GCSEs today. We will make special, indeed enhanced, provision for these students with their schools required to produce a detailed record of their achievement in each curriculum area at 16 which will help them make progress subsequently-and we anticipate some will secure EBacc Certificates at the age of 17 or 18.
These reforms are radical and so we will consult widely. Their introduction will require careful preparation. So we propose first teaching of new certificates in English, maths and the sciences in September 2015 with other subjects following.
And to ensure that the benefits of this more rigorous approach to the English Baccalaureate subjects are felt across the whole curriculum, we will ask Ofqual to consider how these new higher standards can be used as a template for judging and accrediting a new suite of qualifications, beyond these subjects to replace current GCSEs.
These changes will also require us to consider afresh how we hold schools accountable, so we will consult widely on replacements for existing league tables-and we are determined to have even better ways of recognising schools which add value and help the poorest and to recognise the best vocational as well as academic qualifications.
Just as we were left with a legacy of mismanagement, poor incentives and wasted talent in economic policy by the last Government and this coalition is turning the economy round, so we were left the same legacy in our examination system and this coalition is now modernising our exam system so we can have truly rigorous exams, competitive with the best in the world, making opportunity more equal for every child.
Transport is vitally important to local economies, and new infrastructure can provide the missing links that are often so crucial in getting economies moving and creating opportunities for new investment and employment.
We want to ensure that decisions on new transport infrastructure are made more efficiently, and at a more local level than previously. Local Enterprise Partnerships are well placed to understand how transport investment can be used to boost economic recovery and growth and that is why we want them, working with Local Authorities, to have a key role. Indeed more government funding was announced yesterday for Local Enterprise Partnerships to boost their ability to contribute to the growth and jobs agenda.
I am pleased to say that our consultation proposals were met with approval from the majority of respondents, particularly Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships. A summary of the responses received was published in July. I have today published firm proposals, confirming that, in all of the key areas, the department will proceed on the basis as set out in the consultation paper.
I fully support the key objective of removing Whitehall from the process of making decisions on which local schemes should or should not go ahead. However we have a responsibility to ensure that the new local decision makers have arrangements in place to achieve the value for money that we know the right schemes can deliver and to take account of other important factors such as environmental impact. Most respondents accepted the need for robust local assurance frameworks and we will shortly publish detailed guidance on this, to enable local areas to submit their draft frameworks by December.
Transparency is also essential, to ensure that priorities are widely publicised and understood and can be effectively shaped by local people that have a key interest in them. Evaluation will also assume an even greater importance, to enable all parties to look critically at whether key outcomes were achieved and to learn lessons for future investment decisions.
We have asked local areas to confirm the geographical basis for their local transport bodies by 28 September. When they have done so I will set out indicative funding levels that each area should use as a planning assumption. I can confirm that the distribution of funding between different areas will be on a simple per-capita basis. The total level of funding available will of course be subject to decisions made in future spending rounds.
I look forward to working with local transport bodies over the coming months as we embark on this transition to a truly decentralised system and they begin developing their infrastructure plans for post-2015.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Mark Simmonds) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:
Following discussions between the UK and its EU partners, the EU announced on 23 July its decision to suspend with immediate effect the restrictions on appropriate measures covering EU development assistance and indicated that it would respond to a peaceful and credible constitutional referendum in Zimbabwe with a suspension of the majority of EU restrictive measures on all but a small core of individuals around President Mugabe, particularly those who will most directly influence the potential of violence in the next election.
This followed the EU announcement in February 2012, where 51 people and 20 companies were removed from the list of those subject to an EU visa ban and asset freeze on the grounds that they were no longer involved in human rights abuses and in recognition of progress made so far in Zimbabwe and regionally in preparation for credible and peaceful elections in Zimbabwe. In February 2011, 35 people were removed from the list following significant progress in addressing the economic crisis in Zimbabwe and improving the delivery of social services.
There has been further progress in the last six months in Zimbabwe, including on the drafting of a new constitution; legislative progress such as the Electoral Amendment Bill and Human Rights Commission Bill being passed; and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) under the leadership of President Zuma reiterating their commitment to facilitate agreement among the parties in Zimbabwe on creating an
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Our aim is clear: we want to support the process towards free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. A peaceful and credible constitutional referendum would represent an important step along that path and it is right that the EU responds appropriately. The proposed move is not an endorsement of the content of the draft constitution itself but will demonstrate to reformers across the political spectrum that the EU is serious about responding to real progress on the ground and reflects our confidence in the facilitation process being undertaken by President Zuma and the leaders of SADC.
It also puts the onus on Zimbabwe to live up to their commitments. The constitution-making process has been and continues to be, much delayed and the way forward is uncertain. The international community is monitoring developments closely. We will ensure there is a robust review process following any EU move on measures and that the EU has the ability to respond appropriately should the situation deteriorate.
Britain remains a committed friend to the people of Zimbabwe. UK aid to Zimbabwe in the 2011-12 financial year was £89 million-our largest ever programme. The funds are being delivered through multilateral partners and civil society partners and the EU decision on Appropriate Measures has no impact on the UK aid programme. Between 2011 and 2015 UK aid to Zimbabwe will provide almost one million more people with clean water, give more than 700,000 women access to family planning, create 125,000 new jobs and help 80,000 children complete primary education.
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