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I pay tribute to the work that the hon. Gentleman has done on this subject. I know that he is interested not just in port security, but in the security of our borders more generally, and it is right for me to
acknowledge that work in the House. I hope that he will acknowledge that since 2004 security at ports has improved significantly. We monitor security at ports, but they are also independently audited by the EU. Since its last audit, it has said that results have been positive. However, if the hon. Gentleman says that it was not evident what was being done at a particular port, I will take it upon myself to go and examine the situation, or to make sure that it is examined. I will report back to him in writing with my findings.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): Is it not time that this country unified not only Customs and Excise, but the police forces responsible for aviation and those responsible for ports, and created a proper security system, capable of resisting the real threats posed to this country by terrorism?
Ruth Kelly: I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. It is absolutely right that we work together across Government to protect our borders in the most effective way possible. She will have followed closely the latest reorganisation of the Home Office, which means that it can concentrate on counter-terrorism. My Department, which has responsibility for transport, co-operates extremely closely with Home Office officials. On the front line, under the border management programme, we are making sure that the police, the Border and Immigration Agency, Her Majestys Revenue and Customs, and UKvisas work together to share information appropriately, and take action in specific locations as required. I hope that my hon. Friend will agree that that is a serious step forward in making sure that our borders are secure, because protecting our citizens must be one of the most fundamental duties of any Government.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): The Government are in denial on that point, and the hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) and my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) are absolutely correct. Is Project Cyclamen now working in all our container ports 24 hours a day? If not, why not?
Ruth Kelly: I have already set out how the security of our ports is enforced and audited, and the results are broadly positive. Clearly, the extent of the security measures taken at any port will depend on the threat level, and it will be determined accordingly
The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Edward Miliband): Since 1997 social exclusion has fallen, but we need to do more, so we plan to tackle it through a focus on particular groups of people, such as ex-prisoners and those with mental health problems. Just as through Every child matters we have seen better local co-ordination for childrens services, so too through our work we will seek better local co-ordination for adults to tackle peoples multiple and complex needs.
Mr. Devine: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, and I welcome him to his new Department and his well-deserved promotion. As he knows, I worked in psychiatry, and people with mental illness are extremely difficult to place in the workplace, not least because of the prejudice of some employers. Can he reassure me that he will co-ordinate work through all Government agencies and the CBI to ensure that we get those people back in the workplace, which is not only good for their self-esteem, but is therapeutic, too?
Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In the past 10 years, our recognition of the role of mental health problems in society and the extent to which they affect employment and a range of other issues has increased a great deal. He is right, too, to say that we need to do more work with employers, and that is the focus of the review under way as part of the comprehensive spending review. As part of our employment programmesthis was recently emphasised in the pathways to work programmewe need to ensure that when people on incapacity benefit come to us with a set of problems their mental health problems are recognised. That needs to happen across the board if we are to tackle the problems that my hon. Friend identified.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the last reckoning, no fewer than 2,063 young adults in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Milton Keynes suffered social exclusion by virtue of the fact that they were not in education, employment or training? Does he share my particular concern that 1,000 of those 2,063 people were in that position because of untreated speech, language and communication impairments? Will he give an undertaking to work across government to improve massively the quality and earliness of intervention, so that many of the problems that manifest themselves at a later stage, to such disadvantage to our society, can be avoided?
The hon. Gentleman makes his point extremely eloquently, and I know that he takes a personal interest in those issues. He is absolutely right about the importance of treating and addressing special needs issues early. If those needs are not addressed
earlyhe raised the issue of individuals who are not in education, employment or trainingthey are not solved, and they come back to haunt those people for the rest of their lives. I will endeavour to work across government on those issues, and I am happy, too, to meet him to talk further about those and other issues.
Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): In welcoming my right hon. Friend to his new position, may I ask whether he has seen the proposal from the Opposition about a transferable tax allowance, and [ Interruption. ]
Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham) (Con): I congratulate the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and his colleagues on their appointments, and I look forward to many discussions at the Dispatch Box. The new Prime Minister said in the 1990s:
We will reverse the gap between rich and poor that has affected our society.
After 10 years in which the right hon. Gentleman had unparalleled powers as Chancellor of the Exchequer, with huge parliamentary majorities, is the Minister proud that todays report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says that
Britain is moving back towards levels of inequality in wealth and poverty last seen more than 40 years ago?
Edward Miliband: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his welcome. Over the past two years, he has tried to make the Conservative party address seriously the issues of social exclusion and social justice. That is an uphill struggle, so he is to be congratulated. On his specific question about inequalityyes, it is a problem in our society, and we should all read and acknowledge the Rowntree report. I would point out, however, that its author, Danny Dorling, said today of the poorest of the poor that
that group had actually reduced in size in the last ten years and it also became less geographically concentrated. And that almost certainly is due to Government policies.
The hon. Gentleman is right: inequality is a big challenge that we face in our society, but I believe that on the basis of long-term investmentSure Start and other things that we are doingwe will start to tackle it, and we should all acknowledge that. Finally, a transferable tax allowance will not help to tackle those issues, which is why the Labour party will not adopt that proposal.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Phil Hope): A sustainable local voluntary sector is essential for vibrant communities. The Office of the Third Sector is introducing a new £80 million programme of small grants to support small community and voluntary organisations, and the community assets fund, with an additional £30 million, will make it easier for community groups to take on the management or ownership of assets.
Ann Coffey: Many small community and voluntary organisations in my constituency would benefit from, for example, an accountancy service that could do the books of several organisations, or from training to help them when they sit on partnership boards, so I welcome the Governments recognition of that need through the funding that they have given to Capacitybuilders, but I am concerned that the funding does not always reach a very local level. Will my hon. Friend ensure that any future funding for building capacity benefits small organisations and helps them to develop the services that they need at local level?
Phil Hope: First, I commend my hon. Friend for the work that she does in championing the voluntary sector in her constituency. She is right. The £33 million ChangeUp funding programme, which funds local infrastructure organisations, allocates those funds. Allocations are made by an independent body called Capacitybuilders, and it is local consortiums that identify the local priorities. That is under review, and I will draw my hon. Friends concerns to their attention. I emphasise that we want to get financial help to the very small volunteer-led community groups as well, and the £80 million over four years in the new small grants programme will start to be allocated this financial year. Grants, from £250 up to £5,000, will be allocated to the smallest front-line community groups that make such a difference to the lives of our constituents.
Anne Snelgrove: Will the Minister join me in congratulating Voluntary Action Swindon on its 75th anniversary? It is good to hear what he said about small organisations. Will he give his full consideration to the request from the chief executive, Chris Lau, that the bidding process be made as simple as possible for small charities, which want and deserve access equal to that of larger charities to commissioning funds and the system?
Phil Hope: Many congratulations to Voluntary Action Swindon: 75 years must be close to a track record in this country! My hon. Friend is right to highlight that concern, which is one reason why we have created a national programme for third sector commissioning. This is a training programme for some 2,000 staff who commission public services across the country; half of them will be from local councils. The purpose is to spread best practice in commissioning arrangements, which will deliver better results for third sector providers and, most importantly of all, for the people whom those third sector organisations serve.
Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): Does the Minister accept that small community organisations face two problems? One is the tendency of funding agencies to want to fund projects rather than providing core funding, so the key officials and employees who work for those small organisations are not funded. The other is the difficulty that small organisations have with often complex and time-consuming form filling, which is not guaranteed to provide any funding at the end of the process. What are the Government doing about those two issues?
Phil Hope: The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight those concerns, which have been brought to our attention. That is why we have undertaken the third sector review. We will shortly publish our report on the proposals there. Measures such as three-year funding, for example, will be of great benefit to many voluntary and community groups, ensuring that instead of annual bidding rounds, three-year funding grants and contracts are entered into. That gives local organisations some security, and also means that they do not need to go through the bureaucracy of completing application forms every year. We can be pleased with the measures that the Government have taken. There is always more that can be done, but I hope that the third sector will see the benefits in the very near future.
Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con): The Minister will know that small community organisations rely heavily on volunteers. He will also know that yesterday Capacitybuilders, an organisation in receipt of £150 million of taxpayers funds, which is a Government agency, has scrapped its separate dedicated programme to encourage and help voluntary organisations. Does the Minister approve of that decision, has he consulted the new volunteering tsar, Baroness Neuberger, and does it have her support?
Phil Hope: The hon. Gentleman has got his facts wrong. Capacitybuilders has done no such thing as scrapping that programme, but is looking at ways to organise itself better. It is an independent body making decisions to ensure that it can serve and meet the needs of organisations and those who recruit and deploy volunteers to best effect. I am delighted to say that in another place Baroness Neuberger is leading the Governments work on ensuring that we can engage volunteers in public services, not only for the benefit of users of those services but for the benefits that undertaking voluntary activity can have for people who work in those public services. I am greatly looking forward to her work and her energy in championing that cause.
Lynda Waltho (Stourbridge) (Lab): I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware of the chaos caused in my constituency when Tory-controlled Dudley council cut all funding to youth organisations. I am glad to say that it has seen the error of its ways, and the announcement of further funding is excellent. However, continuity of funding is important. Will my hon. Friend agree to come to visit two organisations, the What? Centre and KIDS Orchard Partnership, which now have service level agreements but are worried about the continuity of their funding?
Phil Hope: My hon. Friend, too, champions the voluntary sector loud and clear in her constituency, and it is great that she is drawing my attention to two successful projects in which she has taken a personal interest. I would be delighted to come to her constituency when I can, to see the great work that they do. She is absolutely right to say that local voluntary organisations rely on continuity of funding. That is not helped when a political party makes one set of announcements supporting the voluntary sector but then, at local level, councillors in that same political party decide to cut budgets to try to deliver public services on the cheap. That is something that Labour Members rejectand I only hope that the same signal will go out loud and clear from the Conservative Benches.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Gillian Merron): Early intervention is key to tackling social exclusion and is a guiding principle for the social exclusion action plan, which proposes a range of ways to offer help and support during a childs early years, such as the family nurse partnership pilot schemes.
Helen Jones: I welcome my hon. Friend to her new post. Could she tell the House what she is doing to ensure that the very successful Sure Start programmes reach out to the families who are most socially excluded but may well not attend a Sure Start centre, so that those parents and their children are supported and the children are given the best possible start in life?
Gillian Merron: My hon. Friend is correct to raise that point. I thank her for her kind comments to me in my new role. She is a tremendous supporter of Sure Start, which is indeed about making life better for children, families and communities. However, we know that we could do more. That is why I welcome the recently published families at risk review, which talks about how public services can be better organised so that we can better service the small but significant number of families whose problems cannot be dealt with in isolation. I look forward to my hon. Friends support in doing that.
Mr. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con): Has the Minister had discussions with Ministers from the Department for Children, Schools and Families to see how resources can be channelled through schools that have been proactive in this respect, such as George Pindar community school in Eastfield, which is tackling the problem of social exclusion on a whole-family basis?
Gillian Merron: The school that the hon. Gentleman mentions is a clear example of the kind of good work that we want to see. I have heard the Department for Children, Schools and Families referred to as the Every child matters Department. That explains the importance of our work in ensuring that every child, no matter what their background or circumstances, will have support to be healthy and safe and to prosper. Schools are absolutely integral to that.
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