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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Defence Exports

The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Mr. John Hutton): The Prime Minister’s statement of 25 July 2007, Official Report, column 83WS announced a machinery of Government transfer moving responsibility for defence trade promotion from the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) to UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). As outlined in my ministerial statement of 11 December 2007, Official Report, column 16WS, this transfer takes place today, 1 April 2008, with the launch of the new UKTI Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO).

This statement is made in close consultation with my colleagues the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. With this transfer, ministerial responsibility for trade and investment in the defence and security sectors now rests with the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, a joint BERR and FCO Minister. Close links with MOD Ministers will be maintained.

The Government remain fully committed to supporting the defence sector and its continued export success. Defence equipment manufacture is highly important to our economy and the creation of the new UKTI Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) will allow us to develop our support for the defence sector building on the good work of DESO in the past and taking advantage of UKTI’s experience in helping other sectors.

In line with normal machinery of Government transfers, the relevant resources transfer at current levels from MOD to UKTI (and its parent departments BERR and FCO). Some 240 posts and the associated resources transfer with effect from 1 April, 200 in the UK and 40 overseas. To ensure UKTI DSO has continued defence expertise, around half of the posts will be filled by military and civilian staff on loan from the MOD. The remaining posts will be filled by staff transferring permanently.

A new security directorate is being established within UKTI Defence and Security Organisation, to enhance the support provided to business in the military and civil security sector. This will bring together support previously provided separately by DESO and UKTI into a coherent and co-ordinated national effort to help UK companies in this increasingly important area of the economy to win business from overseas Government and business customers.

This transfer will also enable us to enhance support for defence exports in a way that emphasises our commitment to the highest business standards. UKTI Defence and Security Organisation will seek to assist
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the defence industry to achieve a more consistent performance across industry as a whole, demonstrably supporting good governance and responding to the compelling business case for transparency and ethical behaviour.

The UKTI Defence and Security Organisation will continue to have strong links to the MOD. Arrangements have been formally set out in a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between UKTI and MOD (published today, 01.04.2008, and a copy of which will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses). The terms of the SLA include the provision support for overseas campaigns, ongoing engagement of Defence Ministers, and the loan from the MOD to UKTI of both military and civilian personnel.

In line with the Prime Minister’s statement and my previous statement, no changes are envisaged to existing and planned agreements between the MOD and other Governments. The MOD export licensing function, previously part of DESO, is being retained within MOD.

Children, Schools and Families

Schools Revenue Balances (2006-07)

The Minister for Schools and Learners (Jim Knight): Following my statement of 30 October 2007 on school finances, the Department for Children, Schools and Families has today published information on the end of financial year revenue balances of all local authority maintained nursery, primary, secondary and special schools for the year 2006-07.

This information is presented alongside information on schools’ revenue balances for the financial years 1999-2000 to 2005-06, published on 15 March 2007. The information is taken from local authorities’ published section 52 outturn statements for the years in question but presents this in summary form. Copies of the information have been placed in the Libraries and will be accessible from the TeacherNet website, with supporting information, at: www.teachernet.gov.uk/schoolbalances/.

Communities and Local Government

Gypsies and Travellers

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Iain Wright): I am today publishing the Government’s response to “The Road Ahead: The Final Report of the Independent Task Group on Site Provision and Enforcement for Gypsies and Travellers”.

In 2006, the Government appointed Sir Brian Briscoe to chair a task group to examine the barriers local authorities face in taking effective enforcement action against unauthorised encampments and developments by Gypsies and Travellers. We were pleased to accept the task group’s request that their terms of reference be amended to also include an examination of the barriers to effective site provision. The task group published their final report in December 2007 and
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made 36 recommendations which covered the roles of central and local government as well as a range of other stakeholders.

The Government’s approach balances firm but fair enforcement against those who camp on land without permission or who breach development control, with proactive measures to increase site provision. We are pleased that the task group agreed that this is the right approach.

In our response, the Government are today announcing our intention to provide an annual policy update to Parliament on Gypsy and Traveller issues, as well as to co-ordinate an annual meeting between Communities and Local Government and the organisations represented on the task group, or their successors.

Copies of the publication are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Defence

Executive Agencies

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): With effect from 1 April 2008 the Defence Analytical Services Agency (DASA) and the Defence Medical Education and Training Agency (DMETA) will cease to have the status of executive agencies of the Ministry of Defence.

DASA was established as an executive agency in 1993 to provide professional analytical, economic and statistical services and advice to the Department, and defence-related statistics to Parliament, other Government Departments and the public. The case for a change in status arises primarily from its developing role in supporting the exploitation of the substantial information resource which new departmental systems will provide. For the Department to fully exploit the additional value of these new systems it will have to adopt a more co-ordinated, cross-MOD approach than previously. DASA’s ability to play its full role in these future developments will require greater flexibility of role and responsibility than is compatible with agency status.

DMETA was established in 2003, as part of the Defence Medical Services. Its principal objective has been to make available secondary care personnel for deployments who are medically educated and trained, to meet military operational requirements. The agency has also taken on additional roles, beyond its original mission, in the delivery of secondary and tertiary healthcare and operational capability at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine and the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre. As part of planned improvements to the structure of the defence medical services, we have decided to subsume DMETA’s roles within a new joint medical command (JMC), which will be formed on 1 April. The JMC’s wider role will in due course make it responsible for the delivery of all joint medical services, including joint medical and dental outputs, force generation, healthcare acquisition, training and education. We are planning for the JMC HQ, which will be established initially at Fort Blockhouse, Gosport, the current home of the DMETA HQ, to be re-located to Whittington Barracks, Lichfield as part of the Midland Medical Accommodation project.


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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

FCO Services

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): FCO Services today becomes a trading fund of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Mr Christopher Moxey was appointed as chief executive when FCO Services became an executive agency in April 2006 and will continue in that role for the FCO Services trading fund. The necessary statutory instrument comes into effect today (SI 2008/590).

FCO Services is our in-house support organisation, delivering key services to enable our global network to function efficiently. It protects our staff, buildings and communications from the wide variety of threats they continually face in many parts of the world and has particular expertise in secure logistics, secure IT and in the security of buildings. It is already a substantial business employing nearly 1000 staff and with an estimated turnover of around £125 million in 2007-08.

As an executive agency FCO Services has made real progress in customer satisfaction, internal efficiency and financial performance. I am now moving it to trading fund status where the additional commercial disciplines and freedoms will enable it to enhance service delivery and innovation and improve overall value for money. FCO Services will remain part of the FCO as a trusted partner under our overall strategic direction. The FCO will be assured of a continuing reliable supply of vital support services.

At the same time we will ensure that all the services FCO Services provides will be regularly tested and benchmarked for value for money; FCO Services will be encouraged to increase business with non-FCO customers, enabling it to finance its own investment plans and deliver economies of scale to the FCO. The more arms-length management arrangement will free up FCO resources to focus on the Government’s strategic priorities abroad. This move is in the best interests of the FCO, the Government and the taxpayer.

In his written ministerial statement of 18 March, my noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown announced a set of key targets for FCO Services in 2008-09 to encourage the creation of a stable business and improvements in performance. FCO Services will report to Parliament on its success against these targets in its 2008-09 annual report.

Copies of the new framework document covering FCO Services’ role and responsibilities will be placed in the Library of the House. A copy will also be available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at: www.fco.gov.uk.

Health

NHS Foundation Trusts

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The chairman of Monitor (the statutory name of which is the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts) announced this week that, in accordance
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with section 35 of the National Health Service Act 2006, Monitor has decided to authorise the following NHS acute and mental health trusts as NHS foundation trust from 1 April:

Monitor’s announcement brings the total number of NHS foundation trusts to 92. A copy of Monitor’s press notice has been placed in the Library.

The Government remain committed to offering all NHS acute and mental health trusts the opportunity to apply for foundation status as soon as practicable. Monitor is now authorising trusts on a monthly basis, and further waves of NHS foundation trusts are set to follow.

Vascular Disease

The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): The Prime Minister set out his vision for the NHS earlier this year: a more personal service supporting people to stay well and maintain good health. It placed individuals’ centre-stage, engaged and taking greater control over their own health. He promised to set out plans for a “predict and prevent” approach to identify vulnerability to vascular disease—heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

I am pleased to announce the development of a systematic programme of vascular checks for everyone between the ages of 40 and 74. “Putting prevention first” explains this in more detail and has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Home Department

Independent Safeguarding Authority

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): Further to the written statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and families on 17 March 2008, Official Report, column 36WS, I am pleased to announce plans for the work of the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), together with the fee to be charged for applications.

The Independent Safeguarding Authority was established in January this year under powers in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. It will meet the aims of one of the key recommendations made by the Bichard inquiry, which pointed to the need for a scheme to register those seeking work with children or other vulnerable groups.

The ISA’s role will be to consider all relevant information relating to the risk of harm posed by persons seeking to work with children or vulnerable adults, in either a paid or voluntary capacity, and to bar those considered unsuitable for such work. The transition to the new scheme is now under way. From 31 March this year, the
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ISA began to advise the Secretaries of State for Children, Schools and Families and for Health in connection with new cases arising under the existing barring arrangements, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 of schedule 8 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act. From 7 April this year, cases will be referred to the ISA under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (Transitional Provisions) Order 2008., under which ISA must include, or consider including, in the new barred lists those individuals who are barred under the current schemes.

From October 2009 the new ISA scheme will “go-live”. From that point, the scheme will consider new applications in relation to persons seeking work with children or vulnerable adults. The fee charged for ISA scheme applications has been set at £28. This is based on cost recovery of the operational costs for the scheme over its first five years of operation, estimated at £246 million. The scheme will cost £84 million to set up.

Taken together with the fee required for a Criminal Records Bureau disclosure check, the total fee for an initial application will be £64. Under the planned arrangements, the ISA element of the fee will be payable only on first joining the scheme. Once registered, employers will be able to verify an applicant's registered status in the scheme by means of a free on-line check. No fee will be payable by those in unpaid voluntary work. The need for subsequent CRB checks will remain a matter for employers, except in those sectors where it is a legal requirement.

The establishment of the ISA plays an important part in the Government’s agenda to meet the Bichard recommendations and ensure the most robust procedures are in place to safeguard children and other vulnerable groups.

Justice

Probation Trusts (Implementation)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. David Hanson): I wish to inform the House that from 1 April 2008, there will be established six new probation trusts operating in England and Wales: Dyfed Powys; Humberside; Leicestershire and Rutland; Merseyside; South Wales; and West Mercia. The Government will be continuing to work closely with and to support those first six probation trusts in the learning year of 2008-09 as they develop and evolve.

There remain 36 local probation boards that continue to operate in all other areas of England and Wales. The Government are currently assessing the performance of all the local probation boards while considering the implications of wider issues around efficiency and effectiveness. We will continue to learn from, and with, our first probation trusts during this time.

In accordance with sections 7, 8 and 10 of the Offender Management Act, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice has published national standards for the management of offenders; his annual plan for discharging his functions in relation to the provision of probation services; and guidelines for the
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qualification of officers supervising offenders. Copies have been made available in the Libraries of both Houses and are also available on the NOMS website at www.noms.justice.gov.uk/about-us/OffenderManagementAct/.


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