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Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 14 March 2008

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

NATO Foreign Ministers

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and Stewart Eldon, UK permanent representative to NATO, represented the UK at the informal meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Brussels on 6 March 2008.

The agenda items covered were as follows:

Afghanistan

Allies decided that a public statement that clearly defines NATO’s achievements and objectives in Afghanistan would be needed at the Bucharest summit on 2 and 4 April. Ministers agreed that this should include input from troop contributing nations (that is, including partners such as Australia and Sweden) and other international organisations involved in Afghanistan.

NATO Enlargement

Ministers discussed the membership aspirations of Croatia, Albania and Macedonia. Decisions on each country’s respective applications would be made at Bucharest, based on their progress towards meeting accepted standards. NATO’s relationships with Ukraine, Georgia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia were also raised and discussion will continue at the Bucharest summit.

Kosovo

Ministers discussed the role of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) following Kosovo’s declaration of independence and the evolving relationship between KFOR, the UN’s mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the EU’s rule of law mission in Kosovo (EULEX).

NATO-EU Relations

Ministers acknowledged the need to strengthen and deepen NATO-EU co-operation. This would be an important factor in the success of KFOR’s mission.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

Income-contingent Student Loans

The Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education (Bill Rammell): The Sale of Student Loans Bill is currently before Parliament. It creates the legislative framework for the programme of sale of income-contingent student loans announced at Budget 2007. The Bill has completed its passage through the House of Commons and had its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 19 February 2008. The Government’s intention, as
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announced at Budget 2007, is for the sales programme to commence in 2008-09. The Government want the flexibility to make sales at times that offer the best value for money, including the period immediately after Royal Assent to the Sale of Student Loans Bill.

To that end, the Government seek to incur expenditure on external expert services on work that comprises the preparatory phase of implementation, in advance of an initial transaction. Whereas the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has already incurred preliminary expenditure on legal and financial expertise to refine the policy intention to conduct a sale programme, from existing funds, it seeks advances from the Contingencies Fund to be able to incur expenditure on preparatory implementation work.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources for this new service will be sought in a supplementary estimate for 2008-09 for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £5 million will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

Work and Pensions

Flexible New Deal

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Purnell): I am pleased to announce today my plans for implementing the flexible New Deal. The new employment programme will build on the success of the various existing New Deals for jobseekers it replaces, helping to underpin our objectives for full employment and eradicating child poverty.

I want to make these opportunities available to jobseekers everywhere as soon as possible. Based on our previous experience in successfully implementing Pathways to Work in just two phases, we will adopt a similar approach for the flexible New Deal, with phase 1 being delivered from October 2009 and phase 2 from October 2010.

The flexible New Deal is a key part of implementing the vision set out in David Freud’s report, “Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity” published last year. It will be the first programme commissioned under the new DWP Commissioning Strategy that I announced on 28 February, and through which we will engage specialist back to work providers in the public, private and third sectors to offer more creative and innovative ways of helping jobseekers to overcome their specific problems with the clear aim of getting into sustainable employment.

Providers will be paid by results, focused on helping long-term unemployed people into jobs that last, and focusing on every individual and not just the well motivated.

Providers will match the type and length of activity to each participant’s needs resulting in an individually tailored support package. Our vision is that everyone who can work should do so. I have made it clear that all jobseekers joining this programme will be required to do at least four weeks of work or work-related activity
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if they fail to find work within 12 months of support from their provider, and we will be looking for bidders who can offer even more for those who will benefit.

Advertisements for organisations interested in bidding for phase 1 contracts will be published in the press from next week.

The Jobcentre Plus districts to be included in each phase are:


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Phase 1Phase 2

Birmingham and Solihull

Merseyside

North and East Yorkshire and Humber

Forth Valley, Fife and Tayside

Tees Valley

Glasgow

South Yorkshire

West London

Derbyshire

City and East London

Surrey and Sussex

North and North East London

Kent

Essex

Leicestershire and Northamptonshire

Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire

Nottinghamshire

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire

Central London

Cumbria and Lancashire

Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth

South London

Devon and Cornwall

Dorset and Somerset

South Wales Valleys

West of England

South East Wales

Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Swindon

South West Wales

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

North and Mid Wales

Highland, Islands, Clyde Coast and Grampian

Cheshire, Halton and Warrington

West Yorkshire

Black Country

Northumbria

Greater Manchester Central

South Tyne and Wear Valley

Greater Manchester East and West

Coventry and Warwickshire

The Marches

Staffordshire

Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire

Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders

Ayrshire, Dumfries, Galloway and Inverclyde

Cambridgeshire and Suffolk

Norfolk

Lincolnshire and Rutland


Transforming Britain’s labour market: “Ten Years of the New Deal” is available at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/welfarereform/docs/PMNewDeal2-01-08.pdf.

DWP “Commissioning Strategy” is available at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/publications/dwp/2008/com-strategy/cs-rep-08.pdf.


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