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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Communities and Local Government

Ministerial Group for Regeneration in Manchester

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears): I am today reporting on the ad hoc ministerial group on regeneration in Manchester that met for the first time on Monday 17 March 2008. This fulfils the commitment made by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport during the debate on gambling policy on 26 February 2008 that the group would produce its first report by the end of March.

The group, which I chair, includes the Secretaries of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Innovation, Universities and Skills; Work and Pensions; Transport; Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform; and Health, as well as the Regional Minister for the North-West, the Leader of Manchester city council and the chair of the North-West Development Agency. Other Secretaries of State or the chairs of key partner organisations (such as English Partnerships) may be invited to take part in the group.

The Government are committed to further regeneration in Manchester, and the group exists to co-ordinate this task. The aim is to help generate an equivalent number of jobs to those that a regional casino could have delivered and to foster greater long-term growth that benefits the people of east Manchester. The agenda is therefore an ambitious and wide-reaching one which will offer real benefits to the residents of east Manchester and beyond.

The knowledge economy and innovation

The group supports Manchester’s emerging role as a centre in the international knowledge economy, and believes that the residents of east Manchester should be a part of this. The Secretary of State for Health announced on 19 March 2008 that a national Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) will be created in Manchester, attracting top-flight research expertise, generating jobs and improving outcomes for local people. The group will look at how residents of east Manchester can benefit from improved health outcomes and jobs from this investment.

The NWDA is developing plans to improve higher speed broadband provision and access, targeted at those places, such as Manchester, which are internationally competitive in the knowledge economy. NWDA and its partners will work to ensure that the residents of east Manchester benefit from any improvements.

Regeneration through sport

The group has prioritised development of the Sportcity area of Manchester and supports the creation of a partnership between Manchester city council and English Partnerships to oversee public investment in this. CLG and EP have worked together to secure an additional £10 million funding so we can see early and substantive progress.

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Housing-led regeneration

Increased spending on housing will be a vital ingredient of this regeneration. Some £52 million additional funding is available for housing market renewal in Manchester and Salford in 2008-09, bringing the total to £230 million since 2003. The group will look at further additional funding, and Ministers are currently considering an application for growth point status.

A world-class workforce

The Government’s ambition is that residents of deprived areas should compete at the highest level in filling current vacancies, setting up new businesses and attracting inward investors. The group will prioritise work on a potential National Skills Academy for Hospitality in Manchester, which could provide 9,000 training places and 200 jobs. Additional Skills Academies are a possibility, although as with the proposed Hospitality Academy, the process is competitive and so the outcome cannot be guaranteed.

HEFCE are undertaking an important study of demand for higher education in east Manchester, and the group expect to receive that report by September and will take forward its recommendations.

The highly successful Urban Regeneration Company (URC), New East Manchester Ltd, has created and safeguarded 3,000 jobs. The group supports plans to extend its life so that it can build on this success and ensure that east Manchester residents benefit from further new jobs and opportunities.

Government and the Greater Manchester local authorities are working hard to create a multi-area agreement, one of the aims of which is to improve the way people are supported from worklessness into employment. The group cannot pre-empt these discussions, but would factor the MAA into its work. There are major potential benefits to the people of east Manchester from a successful MAA.

The bigger picture

The ambition of the group is to join up the many ways Government and the public sector already work to ensure better outcomes for the people of east Manchester. This is not another “strategy”, but practical co-ordination and leadership to make the most of opportunities and build on existing strengths. For example, the group will take an active interest in the Network Rail study of the Manchester Rail Hub, given the potential regeneration benefits. The group welcomes the creative thinking from Manchester about further developments, for example a possible BMX centre and rugby centre of excellence. All proposals obviously need to find funds according to relevant criteria, but the group is there to offer support and ensure that the process is co-ordinated.

The group will be alert to other opportunities that may arise. For example, if any public agency decides to relocate in accordance with the Lyons review the group will be supportive of Manchester city council and its partners in seeking to maximise the benefits for east Manchester.

We must learn the lessons from this work with Manchester so other cities and communities can themselves advance their regeneration plans. Some of what works for east Manchester may work as well in other places, and we are grateful to Manchester for engaging with us in this exercise.

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Surface Ship Support

The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): The House will wish to be aware of an update to the alternative contracting arrangements for surface warship maintenance and repair. These arrangements were signalled as part of the wider defence industrial strategy and today’s announcement is an important step towards ensuring that the capability requirements of the Royal Navy continue to be met now and in the future.

In 2004, the Ministry of Defence (MOD), in consultation with industry, launched a study (the Surface Ship Support Study) to identify the optimum approach for the future maintenance and repair of surface warships (aircraft carriers, major amphibious vessels, destroyers, frigates and mine warfare vessels) that would deliver the most efficient, effective and sustainable support policy and offer best value for money for defence as well as to taxpayers. Previously, surface warship upkeep contracts had been awarded following competition while operational (or fleet) time support was delivered through partnering arrangements under the Warship Support Modernisation Initiative. While these arrangements have delivered value for money to the MOD, force level reductions coupled with over-capacity in the surface ship repair market prompted a review.

In 2005, the study concluded that the option best able to meet the needs of both the Department and industry would be the formation of a surface warship support alliance, which would include current providers of surface warship upkeep and fleet time support. To take this forward, the MOD entered into detailed dialogue with industry to explore the feasibility of delivering such support through an alliance. My predecessor’s written ministerial statement of 14 February 2006, Official Report, column 72-73 WS, announced this exploratory phase. During this time, competition policy would be suspended to enable the alliance concept to be developed and tested progressively in a controlled manner.

An order was made by the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (now Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) excluding the maintenance and repair of surface warships from the UK Competition Act 1998. While good progress has been made on exploration of the options, it has been necessary to review these in the light of emerging findings from the naval base review and the formation of Babcock Marine and the joint venture between BAE Systems and VT. As a consequence, the exploratory phase has been extended for up to one year. This extension will have no impact on current and future support of complex warships.

An MOD project team will continue to take this work forward with the clear objective of identifying the optimum solution that would provide effective, affordable and sustainable support to Royal Navy surface warships.

The new contracting arrangements promote a sustainable industrial base that retains key operational support and system upgrade capabilities within the UK, and are therefore vital to our ability to maintain and support the Royal Navy. We will continue to work closely with industry in a spirit of transparency and
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trust to improve the delivery of surface ship support, securing the capabilities of the Royal Navy into the future.


Health and Adult Social Care Providers

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Today we are publishing a consultation document, which is the latest stage in the development of the new system we are introducing for the regulation of health and adult social care.

“The Future Regulation of Health and Adult Social Care in England: A Consultation on the Framework for the Registration of Health and Adult Social Care Providers” takes forward our commitment to provide a clear and refocused approach to regulation of the health and adult social care systems.

Subject to parliamentary approval, the Health and Social Care Bill will establish the Care Quality Commission. From April 2009, the new Commission will take over the functions of the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and the Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC).

The Care Quality Commission will be an organisation responsible for regulating services across the health and social care sectors that spend over £100 billion of public money and involve about 2.9 million people employed in delivery of services in over 25,000 establishments.

Integration of care pathways—across different health care providers and between health and social care—and variety in types of service provision are both increasing. Greater joined-up working will provide better outcomes for patients and service users.

But service users and patients want to be assured that all the services they receive are fair, personal, effective and safe, wherever they are provided. An integrated and flexible regulatory system that focuses on the needs of service users will help provide the consistency and assurance that the public expects and enable local service innovation.

The Bill defines the functions of the Care Quality Commission in safety and quality assurance, periodic review of commissioners and providers, monitoring the operation of the Mental Health Act and ensuring that regulation and inspection activity across health and adult social care is co-ordinated and managed.

This consultation seeks views on: which health and adult social care services should require registration with the Care Quality Commission; and what the requirements for registration should be. Without registering with the Care Quality Commission, it will be illegal for health and adult social care organisations to provide services that come within the scope of registration. The registration requirements will therefore cover essential levels of safety and quality. The scope and requirements for registration will be set in secondary legislation, following a further consultation on regulations later in the year.

The consultation also seeks views on when providers of regulated services should be required to have a registered manager, and how primary care services
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should be included in the new registration system. The document sets out plans for transition to the new registration system: the new registration system will come into force from April 2010 with the exception of regulations on healthcare-associated infections, which will come into force during 2009-10.

The registration system will operate alongside a wider quality improvement framework that encourages not just good care, but excellent care. The Care Quality Commission’s general role within that wider quality improvement system is clear from the Health and Social Care Bill and includes provision for its periodic reviews to provide information to the public about the general quality of service providers across health and adult social care. The rest of the system around the new Commission—the role of standard setting for improvement, knowledge management, incentives, commissioning and other “levers”—is the subject of the NHS next stage review, which is due to report by the end of June.

This publication will be of interest to anyone working in health and adult social care and to patients and service users who are interested in how the reforms are going to improve the services they use.

I commend this document to the House.

Today’s publication and the impact assessment have been placed in the Library. Copies of the publication are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

Education (Student Support) Regulations

The Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Mr. John Denham): On 7 February, I informed Parliament that I had identified a long-established but unjustifiable provision in the student support regulations that allowed prisoners on full-time courses in higher education to receive financial support in the form of loans and grants for maintenance.

Following my statement, revised Education (Student Support) Regulations came into effect on 28 February and prevent anyone who is, or has been, a prisoner during the 2007-08 academic year from receiving further payments of maintenance loans or grants. We are working to ensure that, from the 2008-09 academic year, maintenance support for any student who has spent part of a year in prison is reduced pro rata.

At my request, the Student Loans Company and officials have now identified and reviewed cases where maintenance payments were made to prisoners. This investigation has shown that, in many of the cases provisionally identified in my statement, the individuals in question did not receive any student support payments while in custody. Our assessment of the number of prisoners who have received support, and the sums of money involved, have therefore been revised downwards significantly.

Based on a search of the SLC’s database using prison postcodes, and a survey of prison governors, we have identified that 154 individual prisoners received some form of maintenance payment while a full-time student since 1998. In total, these prisoners received £570,000 in
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maintenance loans. They also received £160,000 in maintenance grants. By comparison at the time that I made my statement on 7 February, preliminary investigations suggested that approximately 250 prisoners had received up to £250,000 in maintenance grants since 1998. There is also evidence of some maintenance payments made to prisoners between 1990 and 1998.

In the current academic year, the review has identified 44 prisoners who have received some form of maintenance payment while in prison. All further maintenance payments to these individuals have been stopped. Where appropriate, payment of tuition fees to higher education institutions have been reinstated.

The review has shown that assessments for student support were carried out in accordance with the rules that applied at the time.

I will be considering the future management of financial support for offenders in higher education, based on recommendations from my Department and the Ministry of Justice.

Northern Ireland

Devolution of Policing and Justice: Report of the Northern Ireland Assembly

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Shaun Woodward): In accordance with section 18(2) of the Northern Ireland (St. Andrews Agreement) Act 2006, I have today laid before the House a copy of the report submitted to me by the Assembly under section 18(1) of that Act.

The report is another important step towards the transfer of responsibility for policing and justice to the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the completion of devolution in Northern Ireland.

The transformation of Northern Ireland from conflict to peace has progressed with speed and confidence since the restoration of the Assembly on 8 May last year. I have no doubt that all parties, and the people of Northern Ireland, are committed to maintaining the momentum of change and to completing the formal process of devolution by transferring policing and justice powers from Westminster to the Assembly. The first steps towards this were taken last year with Sinn Fein taking up seats on the Policing Board and on District Policing Partnerships. The next step is for the Assembly to agree a date on which they will accept their responsibility for the delivery of local policing and justice services as they did last year in respect of other local public services and in respect of the Northern Ireland economy. The Assembly report, which I am today laying before Parliament, helps to pave the way for such a decision.

The report sets out in some detail those subject matters that all parties agree should transfer to the Assembly as part of the policing and justice package. The Assembly also agreed that there should be a single Department of Justice overseeing these matters once they devolve. I welcome this important progress.

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