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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 7 July 2008


Financial Capability

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Yvette Cooper): The Treasury and the Financial Services Authority are today publishing “Helping you make the most of your money: a joint action plan for financial capability”. This sets out how the Government and the FSA will support people in the short term with practical help on their money questions and worries—before they turn into problems—and to equip them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to manage their money well, now and in the future.

Copies have been placed in the Library of the House and are available in the Vote Office.

Communities and Local Government

Ordnance Survey (Performance Targets 2008-09)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Iain Wright): The following performance targets have been set for Ordnance Survey in 2008-09.

Ordnance Survey will report externally against a set of agency performance monitors as required of all Executive agencies in Government:

These targets reflect Ordnance Survey’s continuing commitment to customers, improved value for money for all of its stakeholders and commitment to Government policies.


Ministry of Defence Agencies

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg): Key targets for the financial year 2008-09 for the following Ministry of Defence agencies have been placed in the Library of the House:

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Key targets in respect of Service Children’s Education will be published shortly.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Food Security

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): In summer 2007, the Prime Minister asked the Strategy Unit to take forward a project on food and food policy.

The terms of reference for the project were: to review the main trends in food production and consumption in the UK; to analyse the implications of those trends for the economy, society and the environment (including analysing the main drivers of change); to assess the robustness of the current policy framework for food; and to review what should be the objectives of future food strategy and the measures needed to achieve them.

Today the Strategy Unit has published its final report on food. It sets out a series of proposals that will be taken forward within Government.

DEFRA will be leading work with the agriculture sector to look at ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change, with the food supply chain to reduce food and packaging waste, and with stakeholders in the food system—primary producers, food manufacturers, retailers, and consumers—to develop ideas for the future.

The Department of Health will be taking forward work to promote healthier eating with consumers and working with the food industry to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables. They will also lead on developing nutritional standards for food provided through public sector catering.

The Food Standards Agency will take forward work to make it easier for consumers to get Government information and advice on a healthy, environmentally sustainable diet. The FSA will improve information on healthier choice options from shopping for food to eating out, and will develop a “whole food chain approach” to food safety.

The Cabinet Office will take a central role in co-ordinating the implementation and delivery of the actions announced in the Strategy Unit’s report, through a new Food Strategy Task Force.

In addition, DEFRA will shortly publish a discussion paper on the UK’s food security.

A copy of the Strategy Unit report will be deposited in the Library of the House and is available on the Cabinet Office’s website.


Modernising Medical Careers

The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): Today, the Government have laid before Parliament their response to the report from the Health Select Committee on Modernising Medical Careers (MMC), Cm 7338.

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The Department has already apologised for the difficulties encountered in 2007. It is crucial that Government learn lessons from these problems, rebuild their relationship with the medical profession at all levels and, in consultation with them, design the best possible structure and systems for recruiting and training doctors in future.

We are grateful to those who have carefully investigated the background to what went wrong in 2007. This includes the Health Committee itself and also Professor Sir John Tooke who was commissioned by the Department to carry out an independent review of MMC and who published his final report in January this year.

While acknowledging that we have some way to go, it is important to record that much progress has been made over the past year—not least through the crucial work of the MMC England programme board which has produced a recruitment and selection process which is both more equitable and has the broad support of the medical profession.

We are grateful for the Select Committee’s recognition that the MMC England programme board has offered the medical profession a more meaningful role in decision-making, and that MMC governance arrangements have been simplified and improved.

We agree with the Committee that the “mixed economy” model for specialist training structures—offering both run-through and uncoupled training posts—should continue for the time being.

A stakeholder event on this important issue was held on 3 June to meet the aim of working with the profession and building consensus on the way forward. There was broad agreement from participants that there should be no rush to introduce changes in 2009 although further work and debate are needed.

With regard to recruitment and selection, we agree that responsibility should be devolved to deaneries with some elements of central co-ordination and guidance and we further agree that there should be a staged recruitment process established in the future, expanding the additional flexibility which has already been built into the process for this year.

The House of Lords ruling on 30 April prevented the implementation of long-standing policy guidance for managing access to specialty training posts by doctors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). However, there is wide consensus that Government intervention is necessary and justified to maximise the training opportunities for UK-trained doctors. The changes to the immigration rules announced by the Home Office in February 2008 have been well received by the medical profession and will stand while we discuss with all those involved how best to resolve this issue.

We have noted and considered carefully the proposals put forward by both Sir John Tooke and the Health Committee regarding the establishment of NHS Medical Education England (NHSMEE) and the future of the MMC England programme board.

There is a clear future for both types of organisation, NHSMEE providing high-level direction setting and scrutiny and the programme board continuing its successful focus on the operational implementation of policy.

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Our proposals for NHSMEE contain some changes to the remit originally envisaged by Sir John but both the original case and counter-arguments both had strengths. In respect of the programme board, responsibility for operational requirements and the implementation of policy will be devolved to the NHS and operational elements of the existing Department of Health MMC team devolved to the control of a strategic health authority (SHA) on behalf of the NHS in a way that carefully ensures business continuity of a function which is recognised as having made progress.


Illicit Drugs (Prisons)

The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): In the “Prison Policy Update” document published in January this year I announced a major drive to overcome some of the principal barriers to the reform and rehabilitation of offenders. As part of that I asked the director general of the then Prison Service to commission a review of the supply of illicit drugs into prisons. As a result, Mr. David Blakey, a former inspector of constabulary and chief constable of West Mercia, was commissioned to conduct a review into the effectiveness of HM Prison Service’s measures for disrupting the supply of drugs into prisons, and to make recommendations for improvements. I am grateful to Mr. Blakey for his considered and well-targeted report.

The report makes 10 recommendations, ranging from suggestions to roll out mobile phone blocking technology to fostering the good work we have been taking forward in intelligence. The director general of the National Offender Management Service and I have accepted all of the recommendations and I have asked him to implement them as soon as practicable.

Disruption of supply is just one part of the NOMS drug strategy for prisons. The strategy has three key elements:

NOMS has in place a comprehensive drug treatment framework, based on the national treatment agency’s revised “Models of Care”, to address the different needs of drug misusers in prison. Treatment interventions include: clinical services (detoxification and/or maintenance prescribing); CARATs (counselling, assessment, referral, advice and throughcare services)—a range of interventions that, following assessment, deliver treatment and support; and drug rehabilitation programmes which focus on addressing the attitudes and behaviour of drug misusers.

Copies of the Blakey report and the full, detailed Government response have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. Both documents are also available at: http://www.justice.gov.uk .

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