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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 20 January 2011


Armed Forces Allowances

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Andrew Robathan): A part of the strategic defence and security review, the Government announced that the amount spent by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) each year on personnel allowances would be reduced by over £300 million. Reductions to civil service allowances will necessarily be dealt with separately to those affecting the armed forces. I am now able to detail the changes to armed forces allowances, which will achieve a reduction in spend of some £250 million by financial year 2014-15.

A strong economy is a national security imperative, and the Government conducted the strategic defence and security review (SDSR) against the background of a dire fiscal situation, which requires difficult decisions on reducing public spending. Proper support to our service personnel is equally essential. An appropriate set of allowances is an important element of that support, and will remain so in the future. However, it cannot be immune from careful scrutiny to ensure that it remains appropriate. While reductions in this area will never be welcome, the package of changes which we are introducing has been developed in full consultation with the service chiefs of staff and represents the best balance between affordability and fairness.

Service personnel are entitled to appropriate notice of changes to allowances, and there will be a minimum of three months notice before any alterations which affect those currently serving take effect. In specific cases the notice will be longer (up to 12 months).

The changes affect the following allowances:

Incidental Expenses Allowance-This a contribution to minor expenditure incurred during temporary duty involving overnight absence; it is paid at a flat rate of £5 per day. In future this allowance will only be paid to personnel in hospital. All personnel will continue, as now, to be reimbursed for the actual costs of travel, food and accommodation.

Local Overseas Allowance-This allowance contributes towards the cost of living, when service personnel are required to serve overseas. We will be modernising the way in which the allowance operates by re-evaluating the items used to construct it, and by reducing the number of rank-based bands from 13 to three. In view of the significant impact of these changes on some service personnel and their families, they will be staged over two years.

Food and Incidentals Allowance-This is a contribution to the additional costs which are incurred by unmarried service personnel and those serving unaccompanied, if they do not have access to service accommodation or messes. In future the allowance will be based on more
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realistic assumptions and a reassessment of the extra costs incurred. As a result the allowance will reduce from £12.41 to £8.50 per day.

Living out Supplemented Rates of Local Overseas Allowance-This allowance achieves the same aims as food and incidentals allowance but for personnel based abroad. The allowance has been removed and replaced with food and incidentals allowance paid in local currency.

Home to Duty Travel-This assists service personnel with the cost of daily travel between their home and place of duty. At present, individuals are responsible for the first three miles of their journey. In future, this will increase to nine miles, even when they have no choice in the location of either home or duty premises. This change will be introduced over a period of three years to mitigate the affect on individuals.

Recruitment and Retention Allowance(London)-This allowance is designed to encourage personnel to serve in London. Since changes to this allowance would have the greatest impact on those on the lowest salaries, the allowance will be maintained for all those of the rank of corporal and below. For all others it will be removed. To allow adequate preparation for this change, it will not be introduced until 2012.

Disturbance Allowance-This flat-rate allowance was intended to compensate for the necessary additional expenses that arise when service personnel are required to move to take up new assignments. In practice, many significant costs associated with moving (removals, storage etc) are covered through other allowances. It is therefore appropriate to reduce the value of this allowance by 10%. For those with children, the additional elements previously paid will be reduced by 53%.

Daily Subsistence-This allowance reimburses actual allowable subsistence expenditure. We have reduced the maximum rate payable to £25 per day, in line with the rates paid by other Government Departments, and made similar percentage reductions in overseas rates.

Get You Home (Early Years)-This allowance is designed to enable junior members of the services to maintain links with close family as they adjust to service life by funding four journeys to the family home per year. In future it will be available only to those undergoing initial training and for all personnel under the age of 18.

Get You Home (Seagoers)-This allowance is designed to support retention of seagoing personnel by reducing the impact of routine separation. The current provision of 12 journeys to the individual's place of residence will be reduced to 10.

Motor Mileage Allowance-There are three rates of motor mileage allowance currently in use. These will be unified to a single rate of 25p per mile, in line with the HMRC basic rate.

Commitment Bonus-Commitment bonuses are paid at specified career points, and reward completed service. Due to current service manning levels and the redundancy programme we announced in the SDSR we have decided to reduce the value of these bonuses by 50% for all new entrants, implemented with immediate effect.

Specialist Pay (Reserve Banding)-Specialist pay is paid to service personnel with specialist skills in order to help recruit and retain them. Reserve banding is used to facilitate a gradual reduction in specialist pay when individuals are in positions not requiring specialist skills.
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The period of gradual reduction has been changed from six years to three, and will cease after the recipient has spent three years out of specialist assignments. Additionally, we will remove specialist pay from those who give notice of resignation. We will not implement this change until 2012. Outwith these changes, we have asked the armed forces pay review body to review all specialist pay as part of its 2011 programme of work.

In addition to the changes described above, we have made alterations to a number of other smaller allowances, to simplify the allowance system and contribute to the reductions in our allowance expenditure.


National Curriculum (England)

The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): I am today announcing the Government's intention to review the national curriculum for both primary and secondary pupils in England.

It is my ambition to reduce unnecessary prescription, bureaucracy and central control throughout the education system. That means taking a new approach to the curriculum.

The Government believe that it is teachers, not Ministers and civil servants, who know best how to teach. We must give our teachers more time and space to create lessons that engage their pupils and enable students to fulfil their potential. The national curriculum will be slimmed down so that it properly reflects the body of essential knowledge which children should learn. Individual schools should have greater freedom to construct their own programmes of study and develop approaches to learning and study which help us to catch up with high-performing education nations.

It is important to distinguish between the national curriculum and the wider school curriculum. The national curriculum was originally envisaged as a guide to study in key subjects which would give parents and teachers confidence that students were acquiring the knowledge necessary at every level to make appropriate progress. But as it has developed, the national curriculum has come to cover more subjects, prescribe more outcomes and take up more school time than originally intended. Reforms to the national curriculum that have been introduced in recent years, such as the inclusion of skills development and the promotion of generic dispositions, have also distorted the core function of the national curriculum and diluted the importance of subject knowledge. International surveys of educational achievement show that in the same period our standing has declined.

The review will therefore revise the national curriculum in line with the best international practice so that it sets out clearly the essential knowledge that all children should be expected to acquire in key subjects during the course of their school career. The new national curriculum should embody for all children in England their cultural and scientific inheritance, enhance their understanding of the world around them and introduce them to the best that has been thought and written. I intend to ensure that our national curriculum is informed by the best international practice, as well as evidence about the knowledge children need to deepen their understanding at each stage of their education.

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The Government recognise that there are a number of important components of a broad and balanced education for which it would be inappropriate to prescribe national programmes of study. This applies, for example, in the case of religious education, where what is taught needs to reflect local circumstances. Religious education will not, therefore, be considered as part of the review of the national curriculum. The Government do not intend to make any changes to the statutory basis for religious education.

Similar considerations apply to PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) education. The Government recognise however that good PSHE education supports individual young people to make safe and informed choices but that often schools need more support and help in the way that they cover the important topics that are dealt within PSHE education, including sex and relationships education. We will therefore conduct a separate internal review to determine how we can support schools to improve the quality of all PSHE teaching, so that teachers are in a stronger position to deliver appropriate PSHE education.

The new national curriculum will represent a standard against which all schools can be judged. It will be a national benchmark, to provide parents with an understanding of what progress they should expect. It will inform the content of core qualifications, and it will inform the new basis of assessment in primary schools. Academies will retain the freedom to disapply the national curriculum, but it is crucial that we have a national curriculum against which all schools can measure themselves

The new national curriculum will begin to be taught in maintained schools from September 2013. In order to allow schools time to manage the transition to the new curriculum effectively, the new programmes of study for English, mathematics, science, and physical education will be introduced from 2013, with programmes of study for other subjects coming into force the following year. The review will also advise on how the new curriculum should be phased in for each key stage.

The review will be led by my Department, supported by an advisory committee of respected and successful head teachers and employer and higher education representatives. The review will be informed by an expert panel of academics who will construct an evidence base and ensure that the new curriculum is based upon the best international practice. The review will also be shaped by the views of teachers, subject communities, academics, employers, higher education institutions, parents and other interested parties as it develops its proposals. As a first step my Department has today launched a call for evidence. I would invite all interested parties to contribute to the review and the development of the new national curriculum.

I have today placed a copy of the remit for the national curriculum review in the Library of the House.

Home Department

Independent Review Crime Statistics

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I am today announcing a review led by the national statistician to decide which independent body should have future responsibility for the publication
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of crime statistics and to oversee the implementation of recommendations last year from the UK Statistics Authority.

I am concerned that our existing measures of crime are confusing and offer the public only a partial picture of the true level of offending. It is in the public interest that we have measures of crime that are clear, meaningful and in which the public can have confidence.

The UK Statistics Authority reported on barriers to trust in crime statistics and made six recommendations in their report published in May 2010. I welcome the UK Statistics Authority's report and have given careful consideration to their recommendations to improve public trust in the statistics.

While the UK Statistics Authority saw no evidence of political interference in crime statistics published by the Home Office, I believe bolder action is needed to more clearly demonstrate their political independence. For that reason, I have decided to move future formal responsibility for the publication of crime statistics to an independent body.

I have asked the national statistician to provide advice on this together with the future arrangements for the data collection systems that underpin the statistics as part of a wider review of crime statistics that she has agreed to lead. The review will report back by the end of April 2011 so that changes can be implemented from April 2012.

I have placed a copy of the terms of reference for this review in the Library of the House.

Wanstead Flats (2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games)

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): On 16 September, Official Report, columns 62-63WS, I announced that the Government were undertaking a three-month public consultation on a proposed legislative reform order to make a temporary amendment to the Epping Forest Act 1878.

The proposed legislative reform order (to be made under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006), will enable the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to construct a temporary muster, briefing and deployment centre on Wanstead Flats, part of Epping forest. It is proposed that this will take place for a period of 90 days during the summer of 2012 to support the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.

The consultation closed on 9 December and I am grateful to those who responded. Twenty-four responses were received (as well as a further seven responses, which may have been from the same people, sent to the Home Office website) during the course of the 12-week public consultation. Of these 31 responses, 18 were against, eight were broadly supportive of the proposal or had no specific objections and five were ambivalent or did not address the consultation questions.

The main points to emerge from the consultation were:

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The Government are confident that these points will be met:

One other issue to emerge during the course of the consultation was the proposed use of the legislative reform order temporarily to remove the "burden" of the criminal offence in section 34 of the Epping Forest Act. During the consultation it became apparent that section 34 of the 1878 Act has in fact lapsed and that the criminal offence relating to enclosure of land on Epping forest (which needs to be removed on a temporary basis by the proposed legislative reform order) arises under byelaws made under section 36 of the Epping Forest Act 1878 rather than section 34 of the Act. We consider that the consultation remains valid and the proposed legislative reform order can proceed.

Muster, briefing and deployment centres are a tried and tested feature of large-scale police operations and will be a vital element of operational policing plans for the games. Given that the Government and other parties are in a position to meet the points made during consultation, it will now bring forward the proposed legislative reform order during 2011. As the consultation document made clear, the order will remove the prohibition on the enclosure of land for the fairground site part of Wanstead Flats in the summer of 2012 on a temporary basis only. The proposed legislative reform order will make no permanent changes to the 1878 Act nor will any lasting powers relating to Wanstead Flats or Epping forest be conferred on the police or any other public body. Full protection under the Act will resume at the end of the period.

A draft legislative reform order and accompanying explanatory document will be laid before Parliament under section 14 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 for scrutiny and consideration. The consultation responses have also been published in full on the Home Office website and copies have been placed in the House Library.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

EU Business Enhancing (Parliamentary Scrutiny)

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): The imminent annual report on EU Justice and Home Affairs has provided a useful point of reflection on current arrangements for parliamentary scrutiny over Justice and Home Affairs decisions. The Government have come to the view that the current arrangements are not adequate and Parliament has too small a role.

I am therefore pleased to announce that the Government have agreed an important package of measures to strengthen parliamentary scrutiny of EU business, including in the important area of Justice and Home Affairs, to be elaborated and implemented in close consultation with the business managers and the relevant parliamentary committees. This Government are committed to upholding the right of Parliament to hold the Government to account on EU issues and this package will provide Parliament with further tools to enable it to do this job effectively.

The treaty of Lisbon provides for a five-year transitional period after which the infringement powers of the European Commission and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will apply to all unamended police and criminal justice instruments adopted under the pre-Lisbon "third pillar" arrangements. The transitional period began on 1 December 2009 and will end on 30 November 2014. The UK has until 31 May 2014 to choose whether to accept the application of the Commission's infringement powers and jurisdiction of the ECJ over this body of instruments or to opt out of them entirely, in which case they will cease to apply to the UK on 1 December 2014.

Parliament should have the right to give its view on a decision of such importance. The Government therefore commit to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before they make a formal decision on whether they wish to opt-out. The Government will conduct further consultations on the arrangements for this vote, in particular with the European Scrutiny Committees, and the Commons and Lords Home Affairs and Justice Select Committees and a further announcement will be made in due course.

The Government are fully committed to rigorous parliamentary scrutiny of opt-in and Schengen opt-out decisions in relation to new proposals from the Commission. The Government will continue to honour the arrangements that are currently in place following the undertakings of the then Government Minister, Baroness Ashton, for enhanced parliamentary scrutiny of JHA opt-in decisions. The Government will also undertake to extend scrutiny of opt-in decisions with the following commitments.

First, following the existing process of parliamentary scrutiny of all JHA measures under title V of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Government commit to make a written statement to parliament on each opt-in decision to ensure that Parliament is fully informed of the Government's decision and of the reasons why they believe their decision is in the national interest. Where appropriate and necessary, this statement may be made orally to Parliament.

Secondly, the Government urge the Committees to take full advantage of their existing right to call a debate on an amendable motion on any opt-in decision
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and expresses their willingness to participate in these debates to ensure full transparency and accountability of opt-in decisions.

Thirdly, in circumstances where there is particularly strong parliamentary interest in the Government's decision on whether or not to opt in to such a measure, the Government express their willingness to set aside Government time for a debate in both Houses on the basis of a motion on the Government's recommended approach on the opt-in. The precise details of these arrangements to allow such debates and the circumstances in which Government time would be set aside will be the subject of further consultation with the European Scrutiny Committees, business managers and the Commons and Lords Home Affairs and Justice Select Committees. These discussions will also need to determine how arrangements would operate during periods of parliamentary recess and dissolution of Parliament. However, the Government believe that as a general rule, it would be appropriate to do so in circumstances where they propose to opt in to a measure which would have a substantial impact on the United Kingdom's criminal or civil law, our national security, civil liberties or immigration policy. The Government will also put in place analogous arrangements for parliamentary scrutiny of decisions to opt-out of measures under the Schengen protocol.

As currently, the Government will not override the scrutiny process unless an earlier opt-in decision is essential. Where the Government consider an early opt-in to be necessary, it will explain its reasons to Parliament through the statement set out above. In these circumstances, it would usually be appropriate for the statement to be made orally.

The Government are committed to strengthening its engagement with Parliament on all European Union business as part of our wider work to reduce the democratic deficit over EU matters. It will review the arrangements for engagement on EU issues in consultation with Parliament, and make a further announcement in due course.

These measures will significantly strengthen Parliament's oversight of EU Justice and Home Affairs matters and make the Government more accountable for the decisions it makes in the EU.

I have discussed the terms of this statement with the Home Secretary and the Justice Secretary who agree with its contents.

Leader of the House

Members' Salaries

The Leader of the House of Commons (Sir George Young): On 3 July 2008, the House of Commons passed a resolution linking future annual increases in Members' salary to the median pay increase received by a basket of 15 public sector work force groups in the preceding year. The correct figure for this increase is determined each year by the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) and takes effect automatically at the beginning of the relevant financial year, having been notified to the House by the SSRB, through the Speaker. I am grateful to the SSRB for undertaking this work on behalf of the House.

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The chairman of the SSRB has written to the Speaker and the letter has been laid before the House. The increase for 2011-12 is 1%, according to the formula. In the absence of a further review by the SSRB to specify a different formula (for which provision was made in the 2008 resolution), only a further decision of the House can stop the increase from taking effect from 1 April 2011.

The Government support the independent determination of Members' remuneration. However, in light of the decision to impose a two-year pay freeze on all public sector workers earning more than £21,000 per annum, a motion will be brought forward to invite the House to rescind the 2008 resolution, so that the 1% pay increase will not take effect.

The 2008 resolution also requires the SSRB to conduct a review of Members' salaries in the first year of each new Parliament. By rescinding the resolution in its entirety, the motion removes the requirement for the SSRB to conduct such a review this year. The review of Members' salaries will instead take place following the commencement of the relevant sections of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, which provides for the future independent determination of Members' salaries.

Prime Minister

Intelligence Services Commissioner

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): In accordance with section 59 of the regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, I have agreed to appoint the right hon. Sir Mark Waller as Intelligence Services Commissioner from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2013.

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Work and Pensions

Sure Start Maternity Grant

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): The Government announced in the emergency Budget that, from April 2011, payment of the Sure Start maternity grant would be protected at the current rate of £500, but limited to the first child. Amending regulations were laid today restricting payment to families where their new baby, or babies if it is a multiple birth, will be the only child under 16 in their household. The regulations will come into force on 24 January and apply to babies born, expected, or the subject of an adoption or other analogous arrangement, on or after 11 April 2011.

Sure Start maternity grants are available to families in receipt of income support, income-related employment and support allowance, income-based jobseeker's allowance, pension credit, child tax credit at a rate above the family element, or working tax credit that also includes a disability or severe disability element. This broad eligibility ensures that the grant is as widely available as possible among families with lower incomes both in and out of work.

Restricting payment in this way ensures that the limited resources available support families when they need it most. Expenditure is inevitably highest when a new baby is the only child in the household and there are no baby items that can be reused or recycled.

This measure will save £73 million a year as part of the Government's deficit management plans.

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