30 Oct 2007 : Column 29WS

30 Oct 2007 : Column 29WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Children, Schools and Families

School Finances

The Minister for Schools and Learners (Jim Knight): I am announcing today our decisions following the consultation on schools’ revenue balances which ended on October 26 2007.

All local authorities and schools have a responsibility to spend every penny of taxpayers’ investment on children’s learning. I want head teachers and governors to manage their schools’ own finances, plan ahead with confidence and invest wisely. That is why we are funding them with the first ever three-year school funding settlement from 2008-2011.

My Department is absolutely right to take action when the net revenue surplus in school balances has more than doubled since 1999-2000 to £1.7 billion on 31 March 2007, with some schools’ surplus balances running into seven figures and still growing. This revenue funding should be spent on today’s children. It is intended for teachers’ pay and day to day running costs, not capital spending which is funded separately.

I have already given local authorities clear powers to redistribute excessive and uncommitted surplus revenue. Our guidance judges as ‘excessive’ a secondary school carrying over more than 5 per cent. of its annual school income at the end of the financial year; and 8 per cent. of a primary or special school’s income.

My Department has been consulting on an additional proposal for local authorities to be required to redistribute 5 per cent. of all surplus revenue balances held by schools in their area. It was never proposed that this money should come back to Whitehall or damage schools’ financial independence. It would be recycled to local schools, for the benefit of local children and decided by local head teachers, through the local School Forums.

However, I recognise schools’ concerns raised during the consultation. These included the retrospective use of end of year 2006-07 balances to redistribute a small proportion of those surpluses to other schools in 2008-09. I have listened carefully to that concern and I have ruled out any such retrospective proposal.

Schools were also concerned that the proposal would apply to all schools’ revenue surplus balances and would not include a minimum level of surplus to be carried over from year to year; and could include the proceeds of schools’ fundraising. These are all reasonable concerns that require further investigation.

I know that where schools retain a small surplus they are using sound financial management, such as putting money aside for extra staffing costs the following year or against unforeseen changes.

30 Oct 2007 : Column 30WS

I have listened carefully, based on the responses from a range of stakeholders, and rather than proceed now we will continue to discuss these detailed concerns with schools and work with local authorities to lower excessive surplus revenue balances.

My Department will continue to monitor the overall level of surplus balances during the forthcoming spending review period. If the levels reported do not show a significant reduction we will come forward with further action, having resolved the technical issues, for implementation during the following spending review period.

This demonstrates our clear support for schools to invest wisely and use public money responsibly.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office


The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): In my statement of 9 October, I outlined details of ex gratia assistance to be provided to Iraqi staff working for our armed forces and civilian missions in Iraq. This statement gives further details of the categories of staff who will be eligible to apply, the assistance which will be offered, and the procedures for applying.

In designing this policy, interested Departments have taken into account a number of factors. As I made clear in my statement of 9 October, we owe our Iraqi staff an enormous debt of gratitude for their dedicated service. HMG has directly employed many thousands of Iraqis since 2003 and has had indirect employment relationships with many more. Both fairness and realism demand that we focus on that sub-set of staff who have had the closest and most sustained association with us, in circumstances which we judge to be uniquely difficult. We have therefore established clear and transparent eligibility criteria which are, as far as possible, objective in nature.

In addition, the operational effectiveness of our armed forces and civilian missions, which depends in large part on the continued contribution of our Iraqi staff, must continue to be paramount. We need to preserve our ability to recruit and retain qualified Iraqi staff as we continue to discharge the obligations and responsibilities set out in the Prime Minister’s statement of 8 October. Both the overall policy, and the design of the scheme in respect of serving staff, have been decided with this in mind.

Finally, we have taken into account the need to ensure that any assistance scheme, in particular in respect of admission to or resettlement in the UK, is practical, realistic and preserves the integrity of wider immigration and asylum policy. For these reasons, we have sought to ensure that admission to the UK is managed as far as possible in line with existing processes and programmes.

The assistance detailed in this statement is offered ex gratia and goes above and beyond the confines of what is lawfully or contractually required. It does not recognise
30 Oct 2007 : Column 31WS
an obligation, or imply a commitment, to assist locally-employed staff in other countries or theatres of operation, past, present or future. It reflects our judgement that the circumstances in which Iraqi locally-employed staff have served have been uniquely difficult.

Categories of staff

Assistance will be offered to Iraqi nationals who meet the eligibility criteria set out below and who work, or have worked, in Iraq in the following capacities:

and to contracted staff who work or have worked in Iraq in the following capacities, provided that such staff worked in particularly close association with the UK as an integral and visible part of HMG operations, including having regular, substantial and sustained contact with UK official personnel and regular, substantial and sustained attendance at UK official sites:

Eligibility criteria for serving staff

Staff who are currently serving in these categories, or who were doing so on or after 8 August 2007, will be eligible to apply for assistance provided that:

Forms of assistance for serving staff

Staff in the prescribed categories who meet these criteria will be able to apply for one of the following three forms of assistance:

Procedures for serving staff wishing to apply

In the first instance, serving staff who meet the criteria and who wish to apply upon being served with notice of redundancy or upon being forced to resign their job in extraordinary circumstances should contact their UK-based manager or supervisor.

Staff who have left our employ since 8 August 2007 may apply either to their former UK-based manager or supervisor, or follow the procedures set out for former staff. No applications for exceptional leave will be accepted unless directly referred by employing Departments. Staff outside of Iraq wishing to avail themselves of the opportunity for resettlement via the Gateway programme should also approach UNHCR.

Eligibility criteria for former staff

Staff who formerly worked for HMG in the capacities set out above will be able to apply for assistance provided that they fulfil all of the following criteria:

We may review these criteria for former staff in the light of experience.

Forms of assistance for former staff

Former staff who meet the above criteria will be able either to apply for a one-off package of financial assistance, as set out above; or to avail themselves of the opportunity for resettlement in the UK, together with their dependants, via the Gateway refugee resettlement programme as set out above. Having taken one package they will not be eligible to apply for other forms of assistance.

Details of telephone numbers and e-mail addresses for former staff who meet the above criteria and wish to apply for assistance will be released during the course of this week through a variety of means, including employing Departments’ websites and the local media.

30 Oct 2007 : Column 33WS


For the purposes of this scheme, the following will be automatically considered as dependants:

In addition, relatives who fit the categories below, who are also wholly or mainly dependent financially on the principal applicant, and have no other close relatives in their own country to whom they could turn for financial support, may be considered for inclusion on a case-by-case basis:

Home Department


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): Following a review by the Identity and Passport Service, I have decided that the present requirement for parental consent to passport applications for people aged 16 or 17 should be dropped.

This brings the requirements into line with the age at which adult passports are issued. The decision recognises the fact that many people of that age have left home and are taking day to day responsibility for their lives. The age of 16 is recognised in Scottish law as the age from which young people have the right to determine their own needs and court orders in respect of young people elsewhere in the UK normally expire when the person reaches 16. It is also the age at which the Child Abduction Act 1984 no longer applies, at which National Insurance numbers are issued and compulsory education ends.

Parental consent will still be needed where a court order requires it or the young person has a mental disability.

The Identity and Passport Service will also no longer enquire into whether all those with parental responsibility have agreed to a change of name by a person aged 16 or 17. A person of 16 or over may legally change their own name and there is no requirement in law for parental consent.

At the same time a new requirement will be introduced for applications for passport renewal to be countersigned for applicants aged 11 or under. This is to confirm identity when passports originally issued to very young children are renewed five years or more later when their appearance will have changed considerably. It is important that we do positively
30 Oct 2007 : Column 34WS
identify children as a safeguard against child substitution to facilitate abduction or illegal entry. At present parents applying to renew passports for children are advised to obtain a countersignature if the child’s appearance has significantly changed; this will be replaced by the new simple objective requirement.

These changes will be brought into effect during December, when the necessary changes to application forms and IPS systems have been made.

G6 Meeting

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): The informal G6 group of Interior Ministers from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland and the UK held their most recent meeting in Sopot, Poland on 17-18 October. The Home Secretary attended on behalf of the United Kingdom. A copy of the meeting’s conclusions has been placed in the Library of the House.

Ministers agreed that the G6 was not the best forum to discuss the future of justice and home affairs (JHA) business in the European Union. They did however share a common interest in seeing future developments within the EU focus on effective and practical co-operation.

In discussing the external dimension of JHA, the Ministers agreed there was a real need for operational dialogue with third countries to be fostered in all policy areas, in particular in the fight against drug trafficking and illegal immigration. In particular all noted that it was not possible to deliver on security in the European Union without such engagement. Within that context there was an emphasis on taking forward the EU's Global Approach to migration in Africa and the East and South-East neighbourhoods.

On counter-terrorism, Ministers discussed the terrorist threat and measures to counter it, including the deportation of suspected terrorist to third countries. Ministers reaffirmed in the conclusions of the meeting their commitment to working together to strengthen States’ ability to combat terrorism. The Home Secretary also expressed our continued support to the EU police mission to Afghanistan.

The next meeting of the G6 will be held in Spain in the first half of 2008.

Next Section Index Home Page