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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Children, Schools and Families

Rose Review (Primary Curriculum)

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): In a written statement on 9 January 2008, Official Report, column 9WS, I summarised the remit of Sir Jim Rose’s independent review of the primary curriculum. Among other things, his remit includes making recommendations on introducing greater flexibility to help schools narrow the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

In the Children’s Plan, the Government acknowledged that more needs to be done to improve outcomes and provision for children with special educational needs, to increase parental confidence that children’s educational needs are being met, including for children with dyslexia.

To encourage schools’ development of best practice in improving outcomes for children with dyslexia, my Department is:

In this context, we have now additionally asked Sir Jim Rose, in the light of evidence, to make recommendations on the identification and teaching of children with dyslexia, and on how best to take forward the commitment in the Children’s Plan to establish a pilot scheme in which children with dyslexia will receive reading recovery support or one-to-one tuition from specialist dyslexia teachers.

We have asked Sir Jim Rose to include the following sources of evidence in developing his recommendations:

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Sir Jim Rose will also consult with the No to Failure project and other dyslexia organisations in considering his recommendations. He has agreed to prepare a report containing his recommendations early in 2009.

Communities and Local Government

Flood Recovery Update

The Minister for Local Government (John Healey): Last summer’s exceptional floods caused widespread damage and misery for thousands of people. But the response was equally exceptional—from local authorities and other local agencies, the police, fire and rescue services, the military and neighbours helping each other. Government have been committed to playing our part and we have already made up to £88 million available so far to flood-hit communities to support their efforts to get back on their feet.

The costs of the floods to the country were significant. That is why in August we submitted an application to the European Union solidarity fund, which was set up specifically to help countries that have experienced extensive damage from natural disasters such as floods. We have worked closely with the Commission on this application and I can confirm that the European Commission gave clearance for the funding to be paid to the UK when it approved the amended EU budget on 7 April. I welcome this clearance and recognise the key role played by Commissioner HÃ1/4bner in the EU’s decision to approve our UK application.

The European Commission’s clearance was for payment of around £110 million as a contribution to the cost of recovery from last summer’s floods. However, the UK’s special “abatement mechanism”, agreed between Government and the EU and in place since 1984, means that the net value to the UK of this allocation is an extra £31 million.

I therefore announce today that all this extra funding will be paid to flood-affected local areas. The money will be distributed through a new one-off £30.6 million restoration fund to local authorities, police authorities and fire authorities in England, with the balance allocated to the Northern Irish and Welsh devolved Administrations. I propose that eligibility for payments from the new fund will be based on the costs incurred in dealing with the flood problems since the summer and that local authorities will be free to spend this money according to the local priorities they determine. I am starting a short consultation on this basis today.

The restoration fund will mean the Government have made up to £118 million available so far to local areas hit by last summer’s floods.

The Government will account for the spending of the EUSF payment directly to the European Commission so that local authorities eligible for payments from the new fund will not have to deal with the strict rules that govern EUSF and can concentrate on the job of leading the full recovery efforts in their communities.

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Parliamentary Question (Correction)

The Minister for Housing (Caroline Flint): The hon. Member for Peterborough (Stewart Jackson) asked for a copy of all correspondence relating to the purchase by the Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation (TTGDC) of (a) the Grays TA headquarters and (b) industrial land at Purfleet in the financial year 2007-08 to be placed in the Library of the House.

In my response on 18 February 2008, Official Report, columns 645-46W, I said that the correspondence would be placed in the Library of the House, subject to the exclusion of any information that may compromise commercial negotiations or contravene the Data Protection Act.

I have now been advised that in order to meet this undertaking, officials of the Department and the Thames Gateway Development Corporation would have to scrutinise thousands of documents at a significant cost to the public purse. In the light of this further advice, I do not consider this to be an effective use of my Department’s resources and I will not therefore be able to provide a copy of the correspondence. I regret this has occurred.

I am writing to the hon. Member for Peterborough to say that TTGDC will invite him to visit the sites at Grays and Purfleet and to meet with them. They have said that they are happy to discuss progress on these projects.


Headley Court

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): I am pleased to inform the House of the outcomes of our review of Defence Medical Rehabilitation. The review concluded that Defence Medical Rehabilitation is a success story, returning service personnel, whenever possible, to full fitness faster than in the past.

The Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) at Headley Court is widely recognised as delivering first-class specialist rehabilitation of complex cases. The enormous benefit of bringing together service personnel, both those wounded on operations and those injured in training, contributes to the astonishing recovery that so many of our patients make.

The Government recognise that continuing investment is needed to ensure that Headley Court retains its reputation as a centre of excellence.

With the increase in the numbers and complexity of military casualties over recent years, we have steadily enhanced DMRC’s capabilities:

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Our review has confirmed that the DMRC Headley Court should continue to be the specialist centre for rehabilitation, and has recommended further improvements so that it can continue to deliver first-class care.

In the light of the review we have now decided to invest an additional £24 million in the Headley Court site over the next four years to maintain and enhance DMRC’s capabilities. This will enable us to:

I pay tribute to the charitable bodies that have also contributed to the work of DMRC and its predecessor organisations since Headley Court first opened its doors to RAF patients shortly after the second world war. The estate is owned by a charitable trust, which has itself contributed generously to the improvement of facilities on the site.

The Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Family Association has purchased a house in nearby Ashtead that was opened earlier this year as a “home from home” for families visiting patients at Headley Court, supplementing accommodation that we had already provided on site.

Last year a new charity, Help for Heroes, generously offered to raise funds for a swimming pool and gym, which would together form a new rehabilitation complex, with additional space for rehabilitation and assessment. The charity has already made impressive progress in its fund-raising. We are working closely with Help for Heroes in planning the new facility.

We warmly welcome the contributions of charities to the welfare of the services. Support for them enables the public to demonstrate their appreciation for the work of the armed forces in tangible ways.

The new investment I have announced today, together with current funding for new facilities, means that Headley Court will see investment over the next four years totalling some £28 million in addition to the substantial funding that Help for Heroes intends to provide for the new rehabilitation complex.

Our review also looked at the Services’ Primary Care Rehabilitation Facilities (PCRFs) and Regional Rehabilitation Units (RRUs). The review recommended enhancements to the permanent capability of RRUs, and improvements to the referrals process. The roles and locations of some of the RRUs should be adjusted to align better with current and future population centres. I have agreed that we should provide an additional £1.5 million per year from financial year 2009-10 to establish the necessary permanent manning uplifts at the RRUs, and commissioned further work to take forward the other recommendations.

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The outcomes of the review demonstrate our commitment to rehabilitation. The review charts the strategic direction we shall now follow, to build on our success to date in returning service personnel to mobility and usually to duty. In partnership with the charity sector, we are ensuring that service patients, particularly those severely wounded on operations, receive the best treatment that is available and that it is delivered in an environment that supports their rehabilitation in every way possible.

Our servicemen and women deserve no less for the efforts that they are making on our behalf.

I shall place a copy of the review’s top level report and recommendations in the Library of the House.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

General Affairs and External Relations Council

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): I represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Luxembourg on 29 April 2008.

The agenda items covered were as follows:

External Relations


I agreed Council conclusions that underlined the EU’s deep concerns at the delay in announcing the results of the general election, condemned violence and called for moratorium on arms sales. Ministers agreed that SADC but also the AU had a crucial role to play and the EU should continue to work closely with African states to encourage their efforts to deliver a credible and genuinely democratic solution to the crisis.

I intervened to underline that it was clear President Mugabe was in the process of trying to steal the election and that the EU needed to remain robust in exposing and condemning the violence and human rights abuses on the ground.

Middle East Peace Process

Ministers discussed developments since the Annapolis conference, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in London on 2 May and looked ahead to the Berlin conference in support of Palestinian security and the rule of law on 2 June. Ministers underlined the importance of continuing to support the political process, and expressed concerns over the humanitarian situation in Gaza.


Ministers had an exchange of views on the situation in Iraq, following the Iraq neighbours’ conference in Kuwait on 22 April. Ministers welcomed security improvements and progress on national reconciliation, but recognised that the situation remained fragile. Ministers also looked forward to the annual review of the international compact with Iraq in Stockholm on 29 May.


High Representative Solana gave a read out of his recent visit to Islamabad. I agreed the Council conclusions reaffirming the importance of EU-Pakistan relations,
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including support for the development of regional and bilateral trade, education and democratic institution building. Ministers supported the Pakistani Government’s fight against extremism and progress on reinforcing democracy since the election on 18 February. Ministers also underlined the importance of supporting the Government of Pakistan to implement the Electoral Observation Mission’s recommendations for electoral reform to support the democratic process in Pakistan, improve transparency and help ensure participation of citizens in the election.


The Council adopted a common position renewing restrictive measures against Burma for another 12 months. I also agreed Council conclusions on Burma, which highlighted the Council’s ongoing concern about the situation in Burma, and in particular the deep flaws in the regime’s 10 May referendum on a new constitution aimed at entrenching military rule. The Council underlined its readiness to consider further restrictive measures in the light of developments. Ministers had an exchange of views on the text of the draft constitution and referendum on 10 May.

Piracy off Somali Coast

Ministers noted recent piracy incidents off the Somali coast, which they condemned.

Western Balkans

Discussion of the Western Balkans focused on Serbia. The Council agreed on the signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia, which President Tadic signed in the margins of the Council. I intervened to stress the importance of full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia remaining a condition in Serbia’s EU accession process. The requirement for full co-operation was fully recognised in the Council’s conclusions, which make clear that ratification of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and implementation of the Interim Agreement will be dependent on a Council decision that Serbia is fully co-operating with the ICTY.

The Council also expressed its readiness to sign the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina, following the recent adoption of legislation on police reform. The Government welcome Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress against the conditions for signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and hope that signature will take place rapidly.


Ministers agreed that the EU should reaffirm its support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty in the light of recent developments. The Government support the presidency’s initiative to organise a visit to Georgia, to highlight the EU’s concerns and offer support in resolving tensions with Russia.


Ministers discussed adoption of the mandate for negotiation of a successor to the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement with Russia. Agreement was not possible at this GAERC, Ministers are expected therefore return to the issue at the May GAERC.

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