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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 25 June 2007


Security Normalisation (Northern Ireland)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): As part of the announcement of normalisation made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on 1 August 2005, we undertook to reduce the number of military bases in Northern Ireland to the 14 core sites named in the Security Annexe of the Joint Declaration. We have since reported that we will in future only require 10 of those 14 core sites.

Since 1 August 2005 we have successfully undertaken a major programme of work to remove 37 years worth of military infrastructure. At one time there were 106 military sites in Northern Ireland and even at the beginning of the security normalisation period less than two years ago there were 44 sites.

The departure of troops from Bessbrook Mill today marks a key step in the delivery of tranche 3 of Security Normalisation as set out in the revised Annexe to the Joint Declaration on 1 August 2005. Of the other sites to be closed in this tranche, the observation posts at the Police Service of Northern Ireland Rosemount and Masonic Base in Londonderry have already been vacated and, in the case of Masonic Base, handed to Defence Estates for return to the landowners. We are on schedule to vacate Harmony House, Lisburn; Drumadd Barracks, Armagh; and Lisanelly Barracks, Omagh by 31 July 2007. This will mark the completion of the work set out in the Joint Declaration with the exception of Moscow Camp, Belfast, which will be vacated by the end of the year. Following my statements of 10 May 2006, Official Report, column 20-21WS, and 12 October 2006, Official Report, column 34WS, work to vacate St Lucia Barracks, Omagh; and to close Laurel Hill House, Coleraine is expected to be completed by 31 July 2007; and plans to close St Patrick's Barracks, Ballymena by 31 March 2008 and Shackleton Barracks, Ballykelly in April 2008 remain on schedule.

Education and Skills

Schools, Early Years and 14-16 Funding (2008-2011)

The Minister for Schools (Jim Knight): : This statement relates to funding for schools, early years and 14-16 funding for 2008-09 to 2010-2011.

1. In March of this year the Department launched a consultation on changes to the school funding system to be implemented over the coming comprehensive spending review period—2008-09 to 2010-11. The proposals
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continued the programme of reform we started when we introduced the Dedicated Schools Grant and multi-year budgets for schools for the period 2006-08. They set out a series of evolutionary changes to the distribution of funding to local authorities and schools, alongside more far reaching proposals to deal with the significant developments at 14-16 and for early years.

2. I am today publishing a summary of the responses to the consultation and placing a copy of that summary in the Library of the House. I am grateful to all those who responded to the consultation, and in particular to our national partners with whom we have been discussing detailed implementation issues in parallel with the consultation.

3. Many of the Government's proposals were welcomed by respondents to the consultation. But it is also clear from some of the responses, and from the discussions that we have had with stakeholders throughout the consultation period, that there remain issues where further work will be required: the distribution methodology for Dedicated Schools Grant in the long term, and the role and functions of the Schools Forum are two examples.

4. Over the past ten years the Government have invested record amounts in education: funding per pupil has increased by £1,800 per pupil—a 66 per cent. increase in real terms. The comprehensive spending review settlement will mean that schools funding will continue to increase for each of the next three years, although not at the high levels seen in recent years. This demonstrates our continuing commitment to raise standards for all young people, and schools and local authorities have a key role to play over the next three years, and three of our key priorities for them are: taking the next steps on personalisation of learning; ensuring every school provides access to the core offer of extended services; and implementing the extension of the free entitlement to early years education, while increasing its flexibility.

5. That is why we have decided that the Dedicated Schools Grant will continue to be distributed using the spend plus method for the next three years: all authorities will receive a basic per pupil increase each year; and all authorities will receive funding for our priorities on top of that. We will announce in the autumn the basic increase and the funding for Ministerial priorities for each of the next three years. This will deliver the funding to all authorities for our priorities - reverting to a single formula at this time would not do so.

6. But we appreciate there are arguments in favour of a single formula, primarily that it provides a more transparent way of distributing schools funding to local authorities; and our long term aim is to move back to a single formula for distributing DSG. That is why we are announcing a fundamental review of the formula for distributing schools and early years funding to local authorities: the outcome of the review will be a single transparent formula available for use from 2011-2012 onwards. We will set out terms of reference for the review in July, and will work closely with external partners on it.

7. Narrowing the achievement gap between children of different backgrounds will remain one of our key aims—we want all children to succeed, whatever their background. Ensuring that the distribution of funding
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takes account of deprivation will therefore continue to be a critical issue over the next three years, at both national and local level. Where our priorities demand that funding be weighted to take account of deprivation we will use a new measure to distribute Dedicated Schools Grant, based on tax credit data, which will reflect much better the circumstances of the children in an authority's schools. Alongside this, we will make available additional funding for children from deprived backgrounds who go to school in authorities where the overall level of deprivation is low.

8. These two measures complement the action we are already taking on deprivation funding: we have asked all authorities to review their formulae for funding schools to ensure that they properly reflect the funding for deprivation distributed to them through Dedicated Schools Grant in 2007-08. We are monitoring progress on this, and have made guidance available to local authorities; in addition we will be asking them to submit a further statement in the autumn setting out in detail their plans for the CSR period. Where progress is not adequate there will be further challenge and support.

9. Multi-year allocations of funding for local authorities and schools have been welcomed as providing a better basis for forward planning, and for longer term, more strategic decision making. However, there is a need to reflect changes in circumstances that could not be foreseen at the beginning of a three-year funding period. We will therefore make available a grant to local authorities who, during the three year period, experience exceptional increases in pupil numbers, both in overall terms and in the numbers of children for whom English is not the first language.

10. There will be a sharper focus over the next three years on achieving the greatest possible value for money from the resources we invest schools: that is a shared responsibility for schools, local authorities and central government. Schools will need to think carefully about how they use the funding we make available to them, and we will work closely with them and their local authorities to ensure they have the tools they need to plan and use their resources most efficiently and effectively.

11. The Minimum Funding Guarantee will continue to deliver a minimum per pupil increase in each of the next three years. However, the assessment of cost pressures will reflect our expectation of a substantial improvement in efficiency from schools. That will reduce the cost to local authorities of implementing the Minimum Funding Guarantee, so that more of the increase in resources across the next three years can be used to support our key priorities. This balances continued stability of funding for schools with greater flexibility to target new resources at our key priorities.

12. We will also take further action on school balances, to follow up the clawback mechanism for excessive balances that we introduced this year. Our aim is to ensure that the £1.6 billion currently in school balances is substantially reduced, and is used to support the education of today's children rather than sitting in schools' bank accounts. Local authorities will be required to redistribute to schools a small percentage (5 per cent.) of all surplus school balances through the local authority funding formula. This broadly equates to the interest that accrues on balances. We will consult on the
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detailed implementation of this measure in the autumn, but local authorities and schools forums will take final decisions on how this funding will be reinvested locally.

13. We will broaden the membership of the schools forum: they have a key part to play in the implementation of our reforms of early years funding and the roll out of diplomas for 14-16 year olds. Local authorities will be expected to have non-schools members, including representation from the early years sector and from 14-19 partnerships. The limit on the proportion of non-schools members will be raised from one fifth to one third: that will allow us to broaden the membership to reflect the full range of interests in the decisions it takes, without the need to recruit significant numbers of extra schools members; and it retains the schools character of the forum.

14. The private, voluntary and independent early years sector is diverse, so its membership of the Schools Forum is only one part of ensuring greater involvement and consultation with the sector on funding decisions. As well as setting out in guidance that representation on the Schools Forum should reflect the amount of early years provision delivered through the PVI sector, we will expect all local authorities to consult a group of early years providers on local implementation—and it will be an option for this group to be a sub group of the schools forum

15. We also need to consider how schools forums will relate to the developing arrangements for Children's Trusts, and the wider Every Child Matters agenda. We have therefore announced today a review of the scope and functions of the Schools Forum, to start at the same time as the review of the distribution formula for Dedicated Schools Grant.

16. We will adopt a staged approach to reforming the funding system for early years provision.

17. Funding for 14-16 year olds taking diplomas will be distributed through a specific formula grant. The formula will reflect the costs faced by local authorities from: the diploma lines being offered, the number of children taking up diplomas, the higher cost of provision in high wage areas, and the additional costs in sparsely populated authorities. How this funding is delivered to the front line will be left mainly to local
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discretion: there are already a number of local funding models in operation, and we want to allow those to continue where they are working successfully. But our guidance will set out the benefits of a partnership level approach: retaining much of the funding allows for economies of scale in commissioning and paying for provision, and it also gives schools more budget certainty if they can draw on funding from a central pool, rather than having to meet all the costs of diplomas from their delegated budgets. Finally, we will set out a framework for the costs that schools should be charged for diplomas, based on the LSC funding methodology, but with local flexibility to reflect the differing levels of funding for 14 to 16 pupils across local authorities.

18. This statement sets out the key decisions on school funding for the next three year period. They put in place a firm foundation for the school funding system to meet the challenges of the CSR period: there is further devolution to the local level; there is a programme of change for early years funding, coupled with local flexibility; and there is reform of the MFG, coupled with a focus on efficiency to free up resources for our priorities.

19. The Department will be issuing further detailed guidance, including details of all the decisions on the consultation, to local authorities and other key stakeholders, in the near future. A copy will be placed in the Library.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)

The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The 2006-07 Annual Report and Accounts for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) will be laid before Parliament today.

Copies will be available in the Libraries of the House.

Radioactive Waste (Disposal)

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson): I am pleased to announce that the UK Government, along with the Welsh and Northern Irish devolved Administrations have today published a framework for the long term management of higher activity radioactive waste. These are set out in a consultation document entitled “Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: a Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal”. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The UK Government and devolved Administrations' response to the independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) on 25 October 2006 committed to consult on how implementation of the geological disposal programme can be taken forward. We are seeking views not only on the technical aspects of developing a disposal facility, but how we can engage most effectively with those communities that might have a potential interest in hosting the facility.

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The consultation is not about potential new nuclear build. That is the subject of a separate consultation announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 23 May 2007. Irrespective of whether or not there is any new build, the UK has a radioactive waste problem that must be solved.

The proposed disposal facility will not only help to solve a major national environmental problem for future generations but will be a high-technology, multi-billion pound project that will bring investment and high quality jobs for generations. It will also provide significant economic and social spin-off benefits for both the host community and the surrounding area. It is a means of dealing with the radioactive waste problem that many other countries are also following.

Planning and development of geological disposal will be based on four pillars:

We recognise that, despite the work CoRWM has done, there will be those who may still harbour doubts about the geological disposal of radioactive waste. We shall address such concerns in an open and transparent way, on the basis of sound scientific and technical evidence, as the process moves forward. CoRWM has set the standards for openness and transparency, and we are committed to maintaining them.

I must stress that there is no site selection or voluntarism process underway at this point nor will there be until the outcome of the consultation is available and Government have established and published their view of the way forward in light of it. That said, we are happy to discuss the issues set out in the consultation document with any community with an interest.

The date for response to the consultation document is 2 November 2007. Although the Scottish Government have decided not to sponsor this consultation, organisations or individuals in Scotland who wish to respond may do so and UK Government will discuss these responses with the Scottish Government through the appropriate devolution mechanisms.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC)

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary (Margaret Beckett) and Sir John Grant, UK Permanent Representative to the EU, represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Luxembourg.

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The agenda items covered were as follows:

General Affairs

Pursuing the Treaty Reform Process

The Council discussed reform of the EU treaties in preparation for the June European Council. It considered a report by the Presidency and looked at possible ways forward.

Preparation of the European Council on 21/22 June

The Council discussed the draft Conclusions for the European Council, covering justice and home affairs, economic and social and external relations issues.

Global Approach to Migration

The Council adopted Conclusions on the EU's Global Approach to Migration. These underline the importance of working closely with African, EuroMed and other partners, including the EU's eastern neighbours, on migration and migration-related issues.

External Relations


The Council was briefed by the Commission on progress in trade negotiations under the World Trade Organisation's Doha Development Agenda. The Council will meet in extraordinary session on 25 June in Geneva to discuss the outcome of a meeting of the EU, US, India and Brazil, to be held in Potsdam from 19-23 June.


The Council adopted Conclusions calling on the Government of Cuba to undertake the political and economic reforms needed to improve the daily life of the Cuban people. It emphasised the importance of democratic reform and of respect for human rights, while setting out the EU's willingness to engage in dialogue with the Cuban Government.

The EU and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership

The Council approved a draft strategy for the EU's relationship with Central Asia, which will now be submitted to the European Council. The strategy sets out the EU's interests in the region and possible avenues through which to pursue an enhanced relationship.

Strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy

The Council discussed the European neighbourhood policy on the basis of a report by the Presidency and welcomed the progress made in strengthening the policy.

EU Anti-Death Penalty Initiative

The Council decided that the EU would, as part of a cross-regional alliance, introduce a resolution against the death penalty during the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly.


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