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 reviews 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 programmeannounced 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:
there should be at least one mathematics specialist in each primary school, in post within 10 years, with deep subject and pedagogical knowledge, making appropriate arrangements for small and rural schools. Implementation should commence in 2009 and be targeted initially to maximise impact on standards and to narrow attainment gaps. We are investing £24 million in this over the next three years;
local authorities should upskill their field force of mathematics consultants; and
Every Child Counts should take place in Year 2 and generally be taught by a qualified teacher and involve one child.
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
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 Pitts final report on last summers floods, but I wish to inform the House that it is the Governments intention that the draft Bill will:
streamline current flood and coastal erosion risk management legislation, including the interrelationship of roles and responsibilities between the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards. In line with the Governments strategy Making Space for Water, I can confirm that the Environment Agency will take on a new strategic overview role for flood risk management in England from whatever source;
revise existing legislation which talks in terms of defence from flooding, to provide for a more comprehensive approach to managing all flooding risks. A new Floods Bill will allow us to reflect all types of flooding, including surface water flooding and coastal erosion. We are preparing the draft Bill on the basis that local authorities will be given the responsibility for surface water flooding, under the Environment Agencys overview. In particular, local authorities will have lead responsibility for surface water management plans;
review reservoir safety legislation which dates from the 1930s, to reflect current risk-based approaches, new threats, and the ageing nature of reservoirs in this country; and
explore the potential for reducing administrative burdens by addressing the complex legal instruments that DEFRA has to use under current legislation.
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:
The Commission gave an update on the revised timetable for delivery of the second generation of the Schengen Information System (SIS II). Member states reaffirmed their commitment to the project but stressed the importance of the Commission delivering on time.
The Council Secretariat reported some minor delays in the implementation of the SIS Communication Network and stated that better preparation from Member states would ensure that there were no further delays.
The Council agreed a compromise text on the Returns Directive, which could enable a first reading agreement providing it is approved by the European Parliament later this month. The UK has not opted in to this directive.
Discussion continued on the directive for Beneficiaries of International Protection. Member states could not reach consensus on the scope of the directive and the qualifying period for
long-term residence. The presidency concluded that there would be no further attempts to secure agreement under the Slovenian presidency.
The Commission supported calls for EU action to resettle refugees from Iraq in principle, although they wanted United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) involvement as they were concerned about resettling people directly from Iraqi territory. The UK noted its own efforts in this area and supported the involvement of more Member states in resettlement, but stated it must be a permanent solution, not just a temporary humanitarian evacuation. The incoming French presidency said that it would consider pursuing further EU resettlement activity.
The Council reached a general approach on the package of PrĂ1/4m-related legal instruments, which provide an improved mechanism for the sharing of DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data for the purposes of preventing, investigating and prosecuting serious crime. The Commission underlined its support.
The EU Counter Terrorism Co-ordinator introduced his reports on the implementation of the EU counter-terrorism strategy and action plan, emphasising the importance of technical assistance to third countries and of information exchange. He stated that radicalisation and recruitment was the main priority in the next six months and urged the Commission to issue its communication on this subject as quickly as possible. The Commission confirmed that it would do so. Member states welcomed the work of the co-ordinator and supported his recommendations. The UK particularly welcomed the focus on radicalisation and recruitment and prioritisation of work with Sahel/North Africa and Pakistan. The UK had launched its national strategy on Prevent the previous week, and would share its experience in leading the workstream on communications. The presidency noted that the new ad hoc Council group on information exchange would contribute to work on counter-terrorism.
The Council endorsed the EU-Australia passenger name record agreement and the Commission remarked that the Australian PNR agreement should be a reference point for future PNR agreements.
The presidency reported on the successful outcome of negotiations with the European Parliament about the proposal for a directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law.
The presidency outlined the background to the proposal to amend the Ship Source Pollution Directive to include criminal penalties for breaches of the rules.
The Council reached a general approach on the framework decision on the enforcement of decisions rendered in absentia. Many delegations intervened fully to support the compromise agreement. The Commission stressed that the instrument must come into effect without delay and called on Member states to lift parliamentary reservations as quickly as possible. They noted that Parliaments opinion was still due and that the form must be finalised by Justice and Home Affairs counsellors. The UK and other delegations warmly congratulated the presidency on their work on this initiative.
The UK welcomed the progress made on the draft Eurojust Council decision and supported the overall package proposed on Articles 5a, 9a-9g, 12 and 13 concerning: on-call co-ordination within Eurojust; the powers of national members; the establishment of a Eurojust national co-ordination system; and the exchange of information, noting that it struck the right balance. With the exception of one member state, which retained a reserve on article 9, all could accept the compromise text and the presidency therefore concluded that a general approach had been reached. The presidency also concluded that the outstanding reserve could be dealt with in a recital to be discussed at a later date.
The Council agreed a compromise package on a number of aspects of the proposed maintenance regulation. In particular, to accommodate UK concerns, it was agreed that the applicable law rules should be removed from the regulation and that those Member states that wish to apply such rules will use the optional protocol to the recently agreed Hague convention on
maintenance. The UK confirmed that this solution removed the main obstacle to future UK participation in the adopted regulation.
It has been accepted that it will not be possible to agree Rome IIIchoice of law in divorcein its current form as there is no unanimity in the Council. It was agreed that there should be a period of reflection to explore how work in this area can be taken forward. One option that will be considered will be the use of enhanced co-operation.
The presidency provided a report on the progress that had been made on e-justice and the priorities for future work. This was followed by a presentation from the Commission of a recent communication which sets out a strategy for e-justice work including proposals for how this will be financed.
The presidency reported on the implementation of the JHA external relations strategy. The Commission said there would be a review of the external strategy under the French presidency. The third report, due out in 2009, would be the basis for a new strategy. The incoming French presidency confirmed that implementation of this strategy would be a priority over the next 18 months. The presidency also reported on the EU-Russia JHA ministerial troika and EU-Ukraine ministerial troika.
Greece outlined the challenges posed by high levels of asylum applications and illegal immigration. They welcomed EU financial assistance but would prefer increased burden sharing. Priorities also included more work in countries of origin; information on legal migration opportunities; and more work on readmission agreements. Some member states offered practical assistance, but emphasised the need to uphold the integrity of the Dublin system and opposed any form of intra-EU resettlement. Further discussion on migration challenges at the EU border states will take place under the French presidency.
The Rome I regulation on choice of law in contracts was formally adopted without discussion. The UK did not opt in to this proposal, but the Government are consulting with a view to accepting the measure post-adoption.
Over lunch there was a discussion of the proposal for an EU PNR agreement, with the presidency seeking views on what member states would wish to achieve under the incoming French presidency. All agreed that adoption of the measure would not be possible this year, leaving the possibility that it would have to happen under the Lisbon treaty if that were to enter into force in 2009. The UK urged progress during the French presidency. The Commission wanted to press ahead with discussion at both a technical level as well as politically.
Member states also congratulated the presidency on the work of the interior future group, considering ideas for inclusion in the new JHA work programme when the current programme expires at the end of 2009. Migration was stressed by many as the top priority for future work in JHA.
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 Governments aim is to target custody as precisely as possible upon those cases
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.
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, CBEthe retiring chair of SSRBto conduct a review and make proposals on options for consideration.
to examine options and make recommendations for a mechanism for independently determining the pay and pensions of Members of Parliament which does not involve MPs voting on their own pay; the appropriate comparator; and the frequency with which reviews of the use of the comparator take place;
to ensure that the independent mechanism takes account of the Governments policy on public sector pay and its target for inflation; and
to have regard to the need for any independent mechanism to maintain the support and trust of the public and Members of Parliament.
examine comparable international mechanisms and the resulting experience;
address the constitutional framework alongside legal and legislative considerations;
consider the range of evidence that should be considered by the recommended independent mechanism in determining an appropriate comparator;
consider the membership and remit of any independent body that may be part of the pay setting process;
give due consideration to consistency with other public service wage setting mechanisms and wage settlements across the public service; and
outline a recommended timetable for transition to any new system.
endorsed the proposal that Sir John Baker should be invited to make recommendations on both the comparator and mechanism for setting MPs pay;
agreed that the system for determining the salaries of Members of Parliament should be reviewed, in particular with a view to removing the need for final decisions on salaries to be subject to approval by the House of Commons; and
agreed that particular recommendations on allowances in the SSRB report be referred to the Members Estimate Committee for further consideration following consultation with the Advisory Panel on Members Allowances.
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.
The Government accept Sir Johns 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 Johns 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.
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 fundexcluding payments to amortise the accumulated deficit identified in the 2005 valuation of the Fundwould rise above 20 per cent. of payroll, that there should be a major review of the fund(recommendation 9).