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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 15 September 2004


Key Stage 1

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Stephen Twigg): The trial of the new assessment arrangement at key stage 1 has now concluded and a decision about extending the new arrangements to all schools has been made.

In 2003, we asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) to trial an approach that placed more emphasis on teacher assessment and national reporting of teacher assessment levels. Schools taking part in the trial administered the national curriculum tasks and tests in reading, writing and mathematics and the outcomes of these, plus all the evidence from work done throughout the year, were used by teachers to make judgments about children's progress in each subject, which were reported to parents and LEAs.

An independent evaluation of the new arrangements was carried out by Leeds university on behalf of the QCA. The evaluation proved favourable and we have accepted the QCA's recommendation to extend the new arrangements to all schools at key stage 1 from the current academic year.


M26 Taser

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Caroline Flint): Five police forces have been trialling the use of Taser since April 2003 on a strictly limited basis. In the light of the results of the trial, I have authorised chief officers throughout England and Wales to deploy Taser for use in the same strictly limited circumstances. Chief officers can now make the M26 Taser available to authorised firearms officers in their force as a less lethal alternative for use in situations where a firearms authority has been granted in accordance with criteria laid down in the ACPO manual of guidance on police use of firearms.

The Defence Scientific Advisory Council (DSAC) sub-committee on the medical implications of less lethal weapons (DOMILL) was invited to provide a second statement on the medical implications of the use of the M26 Advanced Taser. The DOMILL statement confirms that the risk of death from the M26 Taser is very low. I have placed a copy of the statement in the Library of the House.
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National Service Framework (Maternity and Children's Services)

The Secretary of State for Health (Dr. John Reid): In February 2001, we announced that the Department would be developing a new national service framework (NSF) to set in place new standards for children's services. I am pleased to announce that the children's NSF is today being published. Copies have been placed in the Library.

This NSF is the most complex to date, covering maternity services and the full range of issues for children and young people across health and social care, as well as the interface with education. It has been developed in active consultation with young people and the direct participation of over 250 experts and practitioners from the field. We also sought the views of key stakeholders through a major consultation exercise.

The children's NSF is an evidence-based, 10-year strategy that advocates a cultural shift in the provision of care, with services being designed and delivered around the needs of children and their families. The NSF recognises that children's needs are different and that it is important they have personalised services that take account of their individual views and beliefs, and enable them to make informed choices about their care. Setting standards for maternity care will also enable women to make real choices about the birth of their babies. It highlights the need for high-quality services that offer choice and are prompt, convenient and responsive and that look at the whole child, rather than as a presenting illness or problem.

The broad remit of the NSF is covered in 11 standards, which are:

The children's NSF has been developed in line with the Government's wider public sector reform, to devolve power and responsibility to local agencies. Consequently, although this NSF sets out the levels of service quality that we expect services to attain by 2014, it is to be left to local discretion to determine how change should be effected.
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Regional Assemblies Information Campaign

The Minister for Local and Regional Government (Mr. Nick Raynsford): In August we sent a leaflet to every household in the north-east entitled "An Elected Assembly for the North East—Have Your Say". The leaflet provided information about the regional assembly and local government referendums to be held on 4 November, including details of the options for local government reorganisation.

An error has been discovered in the information provided about the cost of local government reorganisation in County Durham. The cost figure for option A—one single tier local authority for the county of Durham—was correctly shown. However, the upfront cost of implementing "option B"—that is, of restructuring local government to create three unitary authorities to take over the functions currently exercised by the existing county and district councils—was stated as £38 million. It should have been £49 million.

We will shortly be writing to all households in County Durham correcting this error. The Government will meet the costs of implementing either option, as stated in the leaflet.
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Network Rail

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): Network Rail plans to launch a Debt Issuance Programme (DIP) later this autumn. This will provide a long term, flexible financing platform for Network Rail. It will allow the company to raise finance at a lower cost than the previously envisaged securitisation. Details of the DIP and the support Government intends to provide for it by means of a financial indemnity are set out in Minutes laid before the House today.


Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards Accounts 2002–03

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Barry Gardiner): The 2002–03 accounts of the Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards were deposited in the Libraries of both Houses today.