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NHS and the Private Finance Initiative

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): In my Answer on 10 June I announced our intention to review the 43 major acute sector Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes in the National Health Service. We have today arranged for copies of the full results of the review to be placed in the Library. My honourable friend the Minister for Health (Mr. Milburn) has also written to all Members and stakeholders in health PFI, enclosing copies of the results. Fourteen major acute schemes have been selected, representing almost £1.3 billion of new capital investment in NHS hospitals.

The review was undertaken by officials and all schemes were graded according to three criteria: (i) their service need; (ii) status--how far and well negotiations have progressed and (iii) "PFI ability"--how well the scheme fits with the PFI process and hence its likelihood of delivering a successful outcome.

This process was both fair and open. Officials from the Department of Health shared with the trusts the criteria against which the projects were judged and their relative markings. My honourable friend the Minister for Health and my right honourable friend the Secretary

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of State for Health, as far as the schemes in the Northern and Yorkshire region are concerned, examined the gradings and the reasons why officials recommended schemes either be included or excluded. We also received representations from many Members.

The 14 schemes which most successfully met the three criteria will be asked to continue with their PFI proposal, with the objective of reaching an early and acceptable financial close over the next 18 months. A complete table listing all the scores, along with a note explaining the criteria, has been placed in the Library. We have instructed officials to prepare programmes and milestones for every successful scheme. The schemes will be subject to the normal rigorous approval processes and any of these 14 schemes that subsequently fail to deliver to time or price will be cancelled.

Those schemes not selected will be asked to cease any further action on their contract. They should stand down their partner if they have selected one and cancel all tendering procedures.

Any trust or consortium whose scheme has not met the three criteria and which wishes to make representations to the Secretary of State should do so within the next 10 days. Otherwise such trusts should now take steps to stand down their partners or cancel the tendering procedure.

Those schemes not selected will be eligible for consideration as part of a national capital prioritisation exercise by the NHS Executive's Capital Prioritisation Advisory Group. This group will review major acute schemes for health service need and will recommend those which should go forward either as part of the next tranche of PFI schemes which we plan to announce in spring 1998, or for funding from the public sector capital that is available.

The exercise did not consider the schemes affected by the London review, which is due to report in the Autumn. These schemes are also listed in papers deposited in the Library.

The longer term review of the PFI product and process will report its recommendations later this year. This will look to consolidate the improvements in the PFI begun with this prioritisation exercise.

Cookham Wood Secure Training Centre

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for Cookham Wood secure training centre.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government are committed to ensuring, as a priority, that courts have appropriate powers to deal with the small group of persistent young offenders who wreak havoc in their communities. Our aim is to provide the courts with a more coherent and flexible set of powers to deal with persistent juvenile offenders than those left by the previous government.

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In the meantime the Government have inherited a contract signed by the previous government in March 1997 for a secure training centre at Cookham Wood, Kent for persistent offenders aged 12-14. The contract involves significant monthly payments to the contractor from April 1998 whether the facility is used or not.

To avoid the waste of public money which would be involved in withdrawing from the previous government's commitment and to enable the courts to deal with those persistent young offenders, who fail to respond to community sentences, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary intends to continue with the contract to develop Cookham Wood. This will involve introducing the secure training order provided in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and taking forward plans to procure four other centres to provide facilities across England and Wales. However, he is determined to ensure that Cookham Wood provides a high standard of education and training and that it helps young offenders to face up to their crimes and address their offending behaviour.

My right honourable friend is commissioning a review of the whole range of secure accommodation for young offenders, and he will be receiving advice on this issue, and on the nature of the custodial penalties available to the courts, from the new Youth Justice Task Force. He will ensure that plans for the four other secure facilities, and the use of Cookham Wood, are sufficiently flexible to be consistent with the outcome of this review.

The Government remain committed to ending prison remands for 15 and 16 year-old boys as quickly as possible and hope that their review of secure accommodation will help in this regard. The original commitment was made in February 1991. Although a building programme of 170 new secure local authority places is nearing completion, the number of 15 and 16 year-old boys held in prison has increased substantially since 1991. This makes implementation of the provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 1991 for court ordered secure remands, which would end the need for prison remands for juveniles, much more difficult.

Local Government Duties

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to the statement in the Labour Party manifesto that "we will place on councils a new duty to promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of their area", when detailed proposals for this change will be published.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): We intend to consult the Local Government Association and all other interested parties on the proposed new duty for councils to promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of their area as we implement our manifesto programme for good local government.

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Sixth Form Colleges

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the practicalities of the present legislative and administrative arrangements are such that it is unlikely that any further local education authorities will institute a system of sixth form colleges; and whether, given the performance of such colleges where they have been established, this is a situation they regret.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Yes.

Environmental Education: the Spiritual Dimension

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to ensure that the spiritual dimension is included in environmental education being undertaken in primary schools.

Baroness Blackstone: Last year the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority issued a document of guidance for primary and secondary

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schools in England on good practice in teaching about the environment in the context of the National Curriculum and religious education. The authority is now developing guidance for schools in England on pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. This will cover values in the context of society, relationships, the self and the environment. It will help identify the potential for exploring the spiritual dimension of environmental education across the curriculum and beyond it in the wider work of schools.

In Scotland, the National Guidelines 5-14 for children between those ages offer a number of opportunities for schools to explore the spiritual dimension of environmental education. The guidelines on environmental studies recommend study of the various ways that people and places are interdependent and the background to global issues. The guidelines on religious and moral education emphasise an awareness of human responsibility towards the natural world and environmental issues. Those on personal and social development include reference to the themes of interdependence with the natural world and conservation.

In Northern Ireland, the core syllabus for religious education requires children to learn that, in the Christian tradition, God created and cares for the environment, and that they should respect and care for all living things.

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