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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 17 June 2008

Children, Schools and Families

The Teaching of Mathematics

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): On 10 July 2007, I announced that Sir Peter Williams had agreed to undertake a review of the teaching of mathematics in early years settings and primary schools in England (Official report, columns 1319 and 1320). Today the review’s final report has been published and I have written to Sir Peter Williams to confirm that we will implement the recommendations the review panel has made.

The review, over the course of almost a year, has explored the important areas of: effective pedagogy of mathematics teaching; the range of provision required for pupils of all ability levels; the Every Child Counts programme—announced by the Prime Minister in May 2007; the conceptual and subject knowledge which should be expected of primary school teachers and early years practitioners; the most effective sequencing and design of the mathematics curriculum; and how parents should be helped to support young children's mathematical development.

All children should receive the quality of mathematical teaching during their primary school years that ensures they reach their potential and have the opportunity to enjoy mathematics. We must build on the progress made since the introduction of the national numeracy strategy in 1998 and ensure that we address the problem set out in the report that it is culturally acceptable to admit to being poor at mathematics. Raising the profile of mathematics and attainment in all schools will begin to do this. I believe we will achieve this through implementing the key recommendations as follows:

I am placing in the Library a copy of the final report and also the letter I sent to Sir Peter Williams confirming that we will be implementing all recommendations.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Flood Management Responsibilities

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): The Prime Minister announced on 14 May in the draft legislative programme that the
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Government intend to publish a draft Floods and Water Bill for consultation in 2009. The provisions of the Bill are currently being scoped, and will need to reflect the recommendations in Sir Michael Pitt’s final report on last summer’s floods, but I wish to inform the House that it is the Government’s intention that the draft Bill will:

These steps are consistent with Sir Michael Pitt’s interim report which recommended that flooding legislation should be updated and streamlined under a single unifying Act of Parliament.

The current timetable is for a consultation draft of the Bill to be published in Spring 2009, with the Bill being available for introduction in a later parliamentary Session.

Home Department

Justice and Home Affairs Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council was held in Luxembourg on 5 and 6 June 2008. My right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice; my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General; the Scottish Solicitor-General, Frank Mulholland, and I attended on behalf of the United Kingdom. The following issues were discussed:


Bail and Murder

The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): In January this year, a man killed his mother-in-law before taking his own life. At the time, he was on bail awaiting trial for the alleged murder of his wife. On 16 January 2008 my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, answering a question about the case (Official Report, Col. 925), said that the Government would be looking at the law on bail.

Bail decisions in murder cases will never be easy; the vital thing is to ensure that the courts strike the right balance between respecting individuals’ rights to liberty and protecting the public. The Government’s aim is to target custody as precisely as possible upon those cases
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where there is a risk of harm to the public. We are today publishing a consultation paper that sets out possible ways of helping the courts to achieve that aim. We shall take account of views expressed in response to it in deciding whether to pursue these ideas. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. Copies are also available on the internet at http:// www.justice.gov.uk/publications/consultations.htm.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that “if any changes in the law are necessary, we will make them”. The Government do not take it for granted that it will be necessary to amend legislation, but we shall not hesitate to bring forward whatever changes in guidance, rules or the law that may be needed.

Leader of the House

Baker Report

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): On 16 January 2008, in publishing the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) report “Review of Parliamentary Pay, Pensions and Allowances 2007” (Cm 7270), I announced in a written ministerial statement (Col. 32WS) that the Government would “examine options that find objective criteria for determining the appropriate comparator used for MPs’ pay awards within a framework that does not require MPs to vote in future years, and accordingly have asked Sir John Baker, CBE—the retiring chair of SSRB—to conduct a review and make proposals on options for consideration”.

On 23 January 2008, I set out in a written ministerial statement (column 56WS) the terms of reference of the Sir John Baker review, which were as follows:

Review of the mechanism for determining the pay and pensions for Members of Parliament

The review should seek to:

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On 24 January 2008, in the debate on the Senior Salaries Review Body report (Cm 7270), the House of Commons:

I am today publishing the report from Sir John Baker CBE on “Review of Parliamentary Pay and Pensions” (Cm 7146). It makes recommendations about the current pay of MPs and the mechanisms for future uprating. Copies are available in the Vote Office. I am grateful to Sir John Baker for his work.

To support the publication of this report, the Government are also publishing their memorandum (Cm 7418) which was sent to Sir John to form part of his review on 20 May 2008.

The Government have considered Sir John’s report and will table motions in advance of the debate on 3 July which will enable the House to vote on resolutions to express and implement their views.

The Government accept Sir John’s recommendation that the SSRB should remain the independent body which conducts reviews of MPs’ pay, that these reviews should occur once in each Parliament and that the outcome of these reviews should be implemented without the need for further debates or votes in the House.

The debate comes at a time when it is vital for economic stability that there is a disciplined, responsible approach to pay in both the private and the public sector to hold down inflationary pressures. It is important that senior figures in the public and private sector lead by example in taking a disciplined and restrained approach to pay.

The Government do not accept Sir John’s recommendation that MPs’ salaries should be increased by £650 a year for the next three years. MPs should set the example at a time of public sector pay restraint. The Government will also not be supporting a link between MPs’ salaries and the three-month average public sector average earnings index. Instead, the Government propose, in line with an alternative proposal provided by Sir John Baker, that MPs should receive the median average of the settlements of a wide basket of public sector workforces.

The motions tabled will offer the House the opportunity to vote to support either the Government’s proposal or the options put forward by Sir John.

In addition, the SSRB report also recognised that “if it becomes likely that, unless action is taken, the Exchequer contribution to the cost of accrual of benefits for MPs in service in the parliamentary contributory pension fund—excluding payments to amortise the accumulated deficit identified in the 2005 valuation of the Fund—would rise above 20 per cent. of payroll, that there should be a major review of the fund”(recommendation 9).

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