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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 17 July 2007

Children, Schools and Families

Flood Damage to Schools and Children's Services

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): The recent flooding has brought widespread damage to large areas of central and northern England.

The Government are very grateful to the committed staff in schools, early years and childcare settings and local authorities who have worked so hard to contain and reduce the effect of the floodwaters, to get many schools and early years settings back in use, and to provide places in temporary or alternative accommodation where necessary.

In the flood-hit regions, numbers of schools which lost teaching days included 91 in Kingston-upon-Hull, 72 in East Riding, 72 in Doncaster, 66 in Sheffield, 27 in Lincolnshire, six in Nottinghamshire, four in Derbyshire and two in Rotherham. Only eight of Kingston-upon-Hull’s 99 school sites were unaffected:—65 primary schools, 13 secondary schools, 10 special units and three nurseries were all temporarily closed. Nine sites were still closed last week. The local authority has found temporary premises for the children affected. Kingston-upon-Hull calculates that the flooding resulted in losing 107,000 pupil-days, but prompt action by the schools and council avoided losing-up to 90,000 more. In Doncaster, six schools were damaged and closed at some point—but only one is still closed. In the East Midlands, five schools have all their pupils in temporary premises.

Our main aim is to help as many of these schools and early years settings as possible to re-open at permanent premises by the start of the September-term; and, where that is not possible, to help ensure satisfactory alternative arrangements so that no child suffers educationally because of flood damage. There is still an immense amount of hard work to do. The immediate dangers are over, but every child and young person and their parents will rightly expect no let-up in efforts to get back to normal as quickly as possible.

To that end, my Department is working closely with the regional government offices and local authorities, to:

Already the Government have allocated £14 million and have widened the rules on Bellwin funds to deal with flood damage. In addition my Department will
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make available an initial sum of £10 million for flood- affected schools and children’s services. My officials, with colleagues from Government offices, will hold detailed discussions on an area-by-area/case-by-case basis to determine how best to provide both interim and long-term solutions. As part of these discussions, we will:

and look to fund, in particular:

In addition, I have already written to:

The Minister for Schools and Learners (Jim Knight) is working closely with the Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Beverley Hughes) to oversee implementation of the above programme of DCSF work on flood recovery. These Ministers are seeing daily progress reports from Departmental officials. DCSF is playing its part in the flood-recovery inter-ministerial group chaired by the Minister for Local Government (John Healey).

“Staying Safe”

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Kevin Brennan): I am today giving Parliament advance notice of a major consultation on children and young people’s safety. Keeping children and young people safe is a top priority and the responsibility of us all. The consultation document, “Staying Safe”, seeks views from parents, children and young people, our partners and the children’s workforce on the issues. I am today placing a copy of the document in the Libraries of both Houses.

“Staying Safe” has been developed working across Government and signals Government’s strong collective commitment to the safety of children. It has four key objectives. These are to:

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The consultation will run until 31 October 2007 including a range of activities for all interested parties to explore this vital area of work, and respond to the questions and issues set out in the consultation document. After the consultation, Government will produce a response and decide on follow-up action.

We hope that by talking about these issues, and by proposing new work in some areas, we can do even more to improve the safety of children and young people.

Communities and Local Government

Formula Grant Distribution

The Minister for Local Government (John Healey): I am today publishing a consultation document looking at proposals for reviewing the formulae used to distribute Formula Grant to local authorities. Formula Grant underpins the provision of a wide range of local services.

The Formula Grant Distribution System was last reviewed following the introduction of multi-year settlements. This first multi-year settlement round covering 2006-07 and 2007-08 is now coming to an end, and we have taken the opportunity to consider updating and modifying some of the formulae to be used in the distribution system for the proposed three-year settlement covering 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Following the last review of grant distribution formulae, the Government have been working with local government and other interested parties to explore possible ways of updating the formulae where necessary, and fine-tuning some of the elements of the distribution mechanisms.

Over the last five months the official level Settlement Working Group, consisting of representatives from all types of local authority in England along with interested parties from central Government, has considered some 53 technical papers and reports looking at options for changes to the distribution formulae. A separate technical group has examined the formulae for the police.

Following the work of this Settlement Working Group, the Government are now publishing this consultation on options for updating the formula grant distribution system. I have placed copies of in the Library of the House and in the Vote Office. The consultation document is also available today on the Communities and Local Government website at:


We look forward to receiving views on our proposals. The consultation period will close on 10 October 2007 and the Government will then decide on the formula grant distribution system for the next three years.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture and Fisheries Council

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): I will be representing the United Kingdom at this month’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels.

This being the first Council of the Portuguese presidency, the first item on the agenda will be the presentation of
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the presidency work programme by the new chairman of the Council. This presentation will lay out the agriculture and fisheries objectives of the Portuguese presidency.

The Council will vote on a proposed Council decision whether to authorise the marketing of a potato product (Solanum tuberosum L. line EH92-527-1) genetically modified for enhanced content of the amylopectin component of starch.

The Agriculture Commissioner will present a proposal for a fundamental reform of the EU wine regime to improve the sustainability of the sector. Following the presentation, the Council will hold its first exchange of views on the proposal.

The Council will hold a policy debate on a proposal establishing a temporary scheme for the restructuring of the sugar industry in the Community to provide a sustainable future for the EU sugar sector.

The Council will hold a policy debate on a proposal on the financing of the common agricultural policy.

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on a Commission proposal banning the use of methomyl in plant protection products.

A number of issues, as follows, will be raised under any other business:

The Agriculture Commissioner will give an update on the WTO agricultural negotiations.

The Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner will update the Council on developments with regard to avian influenza H5N1.

Sweden will request that the Commission draws attention to a report of the Council of the Baltic sea states on the need to reduce nutrient leakage into the Baltic sea.

The Netherlands will call upon the Commission to introduce legal measures against illegal logging and related trade in relation to the EU action plan for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT).

Air Quality Strategy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jonathan Shaw): The Air Quality Strategy will be laid before Parliament and published today.

Government are committed to delivering cleaner air to protect people’s health and the environment. Protecting and improving air quality is a key objective for DEFRA and the devolved Administrations.

Our national Air Quality Strategy, last published in 2000 with an Addendum in 2003, contained policies for improving air quality and set standards and objectives for the main pollutants of concern to be met between 2003 and 2010 and beyond.

The quality of our air in the United Kingdom has improved considerably over the last few decades, and much has been achieved through implementation of tighter controls over emissions of harmful pollutants from industry, transport and domestic sectors. These measures have helped to reduce by many thousands the numbers of people dying prematurely and being admitted to hospital as a result of air pollution. We are now meeting the strategy’s objectives for four of the
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pollutants throughout the UK and meeting all the strategy’s objectives in most parts of the country, although not at some hotspot problem areas, such as along some busy roads and in some cities.

But air pollution still has a significant impact and is estimated to reduce the life expectancy of every person in the UK by an average of seven to eight months, with estimated annual health costs of up to £20 billion. It can also seriously damage our ecosystems.

Over the last year or so an extensive review of the strategy was undertaken to examine what more might be done. This review has involved one of the most comprehensive environmental analyses ever carried out by the Government. stakeholders were closely involved at each stage of the review, both in forming and responding to the official consultation process last year.

The new Air Quality Strategy, which I am publishing today in partnership with the devolved Administrations, draws conclusions from the consultation. It sets out a way forward for work and planning on air quality issues, sets out details of the objectives to be achieved and introduces a new policy framework for tackling fine particles, similar to the approach being proposed in the new European air quality directive, which is currently under negotiation. The strategy also identifies new measures which modelling shows could help achieve significant health benefits and help us move closer towards meeting our targets. These measures have been subject to a thorough analysis of the estimated reductions in air pollution, and quantification and valuation of costs and benefits.

The strategy’s policies have been considered for their impact on climate change, and there are many co-benefits that can be achieved. Over the longer-term, policies to address both climate change and air pollution emissions together can potentially deliver further significant improvements air quality and public health.

The strategy recognises the important role for industry, transport and local authorities in helping to deliver air quality improvements. It also follows the better regulation agenda for adopting the most effective ways of delivering outcomes without placing unnecessary costs on those who are regulated.

We will now start the process for detailed consideration of the potential new measures to develop them further and co-ordinate and align with other policy measures yet to be implemented. Each new measure will be subject to the full policy scrutiny process and formal impact assessment. I will continue to keep the House informed about these and other air quality developments.

Home Department

Protective Services Demonstration Sites

The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr. Tony McNulty): I am today announcing that 30 police forces across England and Wales will be taking part in a new programme aimed at establishing new collaborative arrangements for combating serious organised crime and other threats to public safety (also known as protective services).

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The Home Office will support 10 separate initiatives by police forces and authorities to become demonstrator sites for joint working solutions to deliver greater capability and capacity in a range of protective services.

The initiatives that will be supported are:

Police Forces and AuthoritiesInitiative

Avon & Somerset/Devon & Cornwall / Dorset / Wiltshire / Gloucestershire

South West Region Shared Services Programme delivering operational and back office services through collaboration.

Cheshire / Cumbria / Lancashire / Merseyside / North Wales

North West Regional Cross- Border Crime Team establishing a joint team tackling serious organised crime

Cleveland / Durham

Police Firearms Resources developing a joint firearms unit.

Derbyshire / Leicestershire / Lincolnshire / Northamptonshire / Nottinghamshire

Witness Protectionestablishing a dedicated joint Witness Protection team including the refinement of policies, procedures and best practice.

Dyfed-Powys / Gwent / North Wales / South Wales

Public Protection improving the delivery across the region of public protection (child protection, sex offender and serious offender management, domestic violence, vulnerable adult abuse and missing persons).

Dyfed-Powys / Gwent / North Wales / South Wales

Major Crime and Serious Organised and Cross-Border Crime exploring collaborative approaches to delivering these services across the forces in Wales.

Essex / Kent

Project Forefront developing and implementing a co-ordinated and integrated strategic command capability, improving operational delivery of policing services to the Thames estuary, sea ports, air ports and the strategic roads network

Hertfordshire / Bedfordshire

Major Crime Collaboration establishing a co-located major crime capability.

Humberside / North Yorkshire / South Yorkshire / West Yorkshire

Regional Undercover Unit / Human Resources Policies creating a unit to provide a policy lead, training and support infrastructure to undercover officers and exploring the potential for integrating employment frameworks, terms and conditions and human resources policies.

Surrey / Sussex

Joining Forces Programme drawing together protective services into an integrated specialist operations command covering both force areas.

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