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"Commissioning Children's and Young People's Palliative Care Services"

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Liam Byrne): I am pleased to announce that the Department is publishing a guide today entitled "Commissioning Children's and Young People's Palliative Care Services".

The provision of palliative care for children and young people has often been raised in both Houses of Parliament. We have made it clear that we want improvements in the choice and quality of services available to children with life-threatening or life-limiting conditions and their families.

Children's palliative care needs are different from those of adults. Their conditions often entail much longer-term provision, often intermittently throughout their lives, and their needs can be complex.

The new guide provides important information about the key aspects of children's palliative care which will stimulate improvements in quality of provision and commissioning. It also aims to promote choice for children, young people and their families, for example whether to receive palliative care at home, in hospital or in a hospice.

Standard eight of the national service framework for children, young people and maternity services (NSF) has set very high standards of services for disabled children and young people and those with complex health needs, including palliative care. The new guide will help primary care trusts and practice based commissioners and their local authority and voluntary sector partners to implement the NSF standards as they develop and deliver children's palliative care, bringing together a range of providers to achieve a seamless service for children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions and their families. It promotes the choice to die at home that so many children, young people and their families want.

Copies of "Commissioning Children's and Young People's Palliative Care Services" will be placed in the Library.
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Police Pensions

The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Hazel Blears): After considering the responses to the consultation document published earlier this year I am pleased to announce the introduction of a reformed system of financing police pensions with effect from 1 April 2006.

The new arrangements will cover both the existing police pension scheme and the new scheme to be introduced next April, but will not affect officers as members of those schemes. The new system of financing pensions will benefit police authorities by keeping the pension payments they make to retired officers separate from their operating costs. The new system will facilititate operational budgeting and planning based on the real cost of serving officers, including the cost of their accruing future pensions. The new arrangements will also prevent any future rises in the cost of pensions in payment, as more officers retire, from impacting directly on police operating costs thus helping to keep council tax precepts to a minimum over the coming years.

Currently the police pension scheme, which is administered locally by the police authority for the force concerned, is financed on a pay-as-you-go basis. Police authorities do not hold specific pensions accounts and officers' contributions are therefore paid into their operating accounts, from which the pensions of retired officers are paid. This means that police authorities have to meet the cost of the pensions of retired officers from the same source that funds operational policing. Although authorities currently receive an element in their police grant to support these pension payments there can be volatility from year to year in pensions expenditure, depending on the number of officers who retire, which can have an impact on operational expenditure.

In 2001, a working party from the Treasury, the Home Office and the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions completed a joint review of arrangements for the financing of police and fire pensions. Following the recommendations of the Joint Review, a Home Office-led working group of officials drew up the consultation document "Report of the Working Group on Police Pensions Finance Reform" which we published on 24 March. We have now considered the responses to the consultation document and the outcome is that all respondents wish the new system to be introduced next year essentially as proposed. Support for the proposals was subject to specific comments and I am placing in the Library a copy of a summary of the results of the consultation exercise and of the Home Office response.

The new arrangements for financing police pensions will be based on officers' contributions and a new employer contribution that will be paid by the police authority into a separate pensions account. Any shortfall would be made up by a central Government grant and any surplus in the account recovered by central Government. To facilitate a smooth transition
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adjustments will be made in the level of Government funding through the police grant to ensure that there is no disadvantage to either the local or national taxpayer as a result of the change in the financing system.

The new arrangements are similar to those currently being used by other unfunded public service pension schemes, for example those for teachers, civil servants and NHS staff. The changes are also very similar to the changes being made to the financial arrangements for firefighters' pensions, also announced today.

We are in close touch with the Association of Police Authorities and the Association of Chief Police Officers about the changes and we will shortly issue police authorities with detailed guidance on the new arrangements.


Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): The biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) took place in Valletta, Malta from 25 to 27 November.

Her Majesty The Queen attended the meeting in her role as Head of the Commonwealth. She also paid a state visit to Malta where she was most warmly welcomed by the Maltese people. The outgoing Commonwealth Chairman-in-Office, President Obasanjo of Nigeria, paid tribute on behalf of all Commonwealth members to the Queen's commitment and dedication to the Commonwealth.

This year, for the first time, Commonwealth Foreign Ministers met in advance of CHOGM to receive reports from Commonwealth bodies and to prepare the communiqué. The UK was represented by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development and my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Commonwealth Heads of Government last met in Abuja, Nigeria in December 2003. At Valletta, Heads reviewed developments since then.

As in 2003, Heads issued a separate statement on multilateral trade. This highlighted the contribution that international trade makes to global prosperity, poverty elimination and sustainable development. They reaffirmed their commitments to the objectives of the Doha development agenda of the World Trade Organisation and to its conclusion by the end of 2006. While they welcomed the progress achieved since 2003 they stressed their deep concern about the pace of negotiations. The Commonwealth pledged its global influence to correct this and Heads committed to inject urgency into their negotiators at the WTO, encouraging them to be flexible and place priority on a genuinely development-oriented outcome for the round.

The importance of agriculture to developing economies was highlighted, with a call for the end of export subsidies by 2010 and time-bound commitments for substantial reductions in trade distorting domestic support and significant improvements in market access.
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The importance of differential treatment for developing countries was highlighted in this context. Heads of Government also called for phased adjustment and other transitional measures to help vulnerable states, including small states and those traditionally dependent on preferential market access arrangements, to meet the trade and development challenges facing them. This was noted with particular reference to the impact on some Commonwealth members as a result of the liberalisation of the EU sugar regime. The G8 initiative on "Aid for Trade" was applauded as a means for meaningful market access.

Heads discussed other development issues, including the millennium Development Goals, where there is mixed progress in the Commonwealth. Heads welcomed the G8 proposals for debt cancellation and commitments by many developed countries to achieve the 0.7 per cent. target. Heads confirmed their commitment to root out corruption. There was particular concern for vulnerable small states, which need help to diversify their economies. Some small states have been very badly affected by natural disasters. Heads endorsed a proposal from Bangladesh for the Commonwealth to develop proposals to address how it can help with disaster risk-reduction and responses.

Heads also discussed terrorism, incitement and tolerance and reaffirmed their condemnation of all acts of terrorism. They emphasised that targeting and deliberate killing of civilians through acts of terrorism cannot be justified or legitimised by any cause or grievance. They commended the various initiatives to promote dialogue, tolerance and understanding among civilisations.

Heads discussed how to use information and communications technologies to support development, reduce poverty and contribute to the attainment of the millennium Development Goals.

During the summit, I met with the leaders of sugar producing Caribbean states and a number of other leaders, including the Prime Ministers of Malta, Mauritius, Pakistan and Singapore.

The Commonwealth expressed its concern about recent developments in Uganda, including the detention of Kizza Besigye. As Secretary General McKinnon said on Sunday 27 November, Uganda knows what must happen between now and 2007 when it expects to host the next CHOGM. I also raised our concerns directly with President Museveni.

It was agreed that the United Kingdom should return to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), the body charged with monitoring Commonwealth nations' compliance with the Harare principles.

I participated in the Commonwealth sports breakfast and thanked Commonwealth leaders for supporting London's Olympic bid. Heads of Government looked forward to the Melbourne Commonwealth games in 2006 and I presented Glasgow's interest in hosting the games in 2014.

Copies of the concluding communiqué, the separate statements on trade and small states and the declaration on networking for development have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
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