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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 2 June 2008

Children, Schools and Families

Non-EEA Pupils (Academies)

The Minister for Schools and Learners (Jim Knight): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools and Learners (Lord Adonis) has made the following written ministerial statement:

Young People (Alcohol)

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): I am today laying before Parliament, with the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Health, the youth alcohol action plan, which fulfils a commitment made in the children’s plan last year. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The youth alcohol action plan sets out the Government’s plans to tackle young people’s drinking in five ways: working with the police to improve how we deal with young people drinking in public places; working with the alcohol industry to develop tougher standards in relation to young people; developing a national consensus on young people and alcohol; supporting parents through better information about alcohol consumption by young people; and supporting young people to make sensible decisions.


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Our Departments have called for views on these proposals. The relevant materials are available from the DCSF website at: www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations/.

This exercise will run until 30 June 2008.

Defence

Training

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): I am pleased to announce the award of a contract to Ascent valued at £635 million, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and VT Group, for the UK military flying training system, which is designed to meet the long-term flying training needs of the UK armed forces.

Ascent has been appointed as training system partner to work with the Ministry of Defence to incrementally procure and deliver flying training capability, the first part of which is a ground-based training environment, funded under a private finance initiative, for the advanced jet trainer, Hawk 128. Our intention is to add other elements of flying training in due course so that all flying training is brought within a single training architecture, making UK military flying training system the first step in a 25-year programme.

This contract signals our intention to overhaul our training schemes and bring them together into one modern and cohesive programme. The focus, as it always has been, will be on delivering first-class training to produce high-calibre, well-trained personnel for Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Army aircrew. We will continue to ensure that our flying personnel are equipped to meet contemporary and future threats, but the new contract should allow us to reduce overall costs and also improve training throughput to frontline units by improving the overall training times for aircrew and reducing delays between flying courses.

This is a significant milestone for UKMFTS, which will enable us to exploit the strengths of the Ministry of Defence, the armed forces and the private sector to deliver outstanding military capability.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Exceptional Assistance Measures for Victims of Terrorist Incidents Overseas

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Meg Munn): Since 2004, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has offered specific consular assistance for British victims of terrorist incidents and their families. This assistance, known as the Aftercare Plan, recognised that in many cases travel insurance explicitly excluded acts of terrorism from cover. The plan provided support to victims of terrorist attacks overseas and family members in the exceptional circumstances where travel insurance was not available to meet support and repatriation costs.


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Acts of terrorism overseas, as opposed to other crimes, justify this level of support because we consider terrorism to be acts taken against society as a whole, in which individuals are usually random victims. Although the same might be said of other serious, violent incidents, these measures are distinctly for incidents we deem to be acts of terrorism.

The Aftercare Plan, now more than three years old, has been revised to reflect the FCO’s experience with victims and families, and to reflect that travel insurance is now more likely to cover terrorism. Our new policy is called “Exceptional Assistance Measures for Terrorist Incidents Overseas”, in order to more accurately describe the purpose of this financial assistance and our role in providing support to victims and their families.

As was the case with the Aftercare Plan, this provision is not a form of compensation. It is a means by which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can recompense for actual expenditure, following a terrorist incident overseas, where there is no other available source of financial assistance. The measures aim to alleviate the immediate needs of those affected.

FCO Ministers will only consider activating the assistance measures for those British nationals who have taken all appropriate steps to provide for themselves in case of an emergency abroad, but find themselves without resources as the result of a terrorist incident.

Key elements are:

Innovation, Universities and Skills

EU Competitiveness Council

The Minister for Science and Innovation (Ian Pearson): I am pleased to confirm the agenda items for which DIUS is responsible, at the forthcoming EU Competitiveness Council on 29-30 May in Brussels. The research session of the Council will be held on 30 May and will be chaired by Mojca Kucler Dolinar, Slovenian Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology. A ministerial dinner will also be taking place on 29 May to discuss the location of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

I will be attending both the ministerial dinner and the EU Competitiveness Council. There are five substantive agenda items:


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There will be four further items taken under any other business:

At the ministerial dinner the presidency is aiming to reach common agreement on the location of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (BIT) administrative headquarters.

International Development

AIDS Strategy

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Douglas Alexander): I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses a copy of DFID’s AIDS strategy 2008-2015.

This strategy sets out the UK’s priorities for “Achieving Universal Access—Halting and Reversing the Spread of HIV in the Developing World”. The seven year strategy, which replaces “Taking Action”, the UK’s successful strategy for HIV and AIDS from 2005-08, is the product of an extensive consultation process, with extensive inputs from those working on HIV and AIDS in developing countries—in the UK and internationally—including other funding agencies and the United Nations, including UNAIDS.

Building on the success of “Taking Action”—galvanised international support, increased funding, improved results—this strategy focuses on addressing
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the latest challenges. If we are to achieve universal access and to halt and reverse the spread of AIDS, the evidence demonstrates we require a long-term approach, across a range of health systems and services. Our new commitment to spend £6 billion on health systems and services up to 2015 demonstrates the UK’s determination to remain at the forefront of global efforts to achieve universal access. This is in addition to the unprecedented long-term commitment by the UK, announced in September 2007, to provide £1 billion to the global fund between 2008 and 2015.

This strategy commits £200 million over three years to expand social protection programmes, which will help ensure that more orphans and vulnerable children have access to better child nutrition, health and education. The UK remains committed to meeting the needs of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). “Taking Action” helped increase global funding for OVCs. But we now need to ensure the needs of OVCs are systematically met. Evidence shows that this can best be achieved through integrating OVCs’ needs into health, education and social protection plans. We will regularly review this approach by publishing a report following the biennial global partners forum on children affected by HIV and AIDS, to ensure that the approach outlined here supports the most effective ways of meeting the needs and rights of OVCs.

The strategy outlines the key role the UK Government can play in achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010. Within this comprehensive package, the strategy sets out that more effort is needed on HIV prevention. To achieve this, action is required in three main areas:

DFID will work closely with overseas Governments and other agencies, particularly UNAIDS, World Bank, the EU and bilateral agencies, NGOs and civil society groups, including people living with HIV, to ensure progress towards universal access.

The strategy sets out key commitments that the UK will make as our contribution the global response:

Finally, the document outlines how DFID will monitor and measure the outputs of the new strategy and be accountable for achieving results.

I warmly commend this strategy to the Members of both Houses and thank them for their continued interest and support of DFID’s programme to advance global action on AIDS.

Leader of the House

Written Answer (Correction)

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Helen Goodman): It has been brought to my attention that the reply I gave the hon. Member for Fareham (Mark Hoban), 14 May 2008, Official Report, columns 1586W was incorrect.

The correct answer should have been:

The pension contribution of hon. Members increased from 9 per cent. to 10 per cent. of salary in April 2004 for those opting for one fortieth pension accrual. It remained at 6 per cent. of salary for one fiftieth accrual. These pension contribution rates also applied to ministerial salaries.

As for many public sector pensions, the increases applied each April to pensions in payment under the parliamentary contributory pension fund, in excess of the guaranteed minimum pension, were linked to the increase in the retail prices index as at the previous September. These increases applied to pensions paid to former Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries.

The percentage increases for the last ten years were as follows:


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